Fahrenheit 451


What is it with Idaho? I was through there a few years ago and had a lot of fun. At the time Idaho had this conservative United States Senator Larry Craig, and he was in the news:

The American Conservative Union rated Craig’s 2005 voting record at 96 out of 100 points, while the Americans for Democratic Action rated him at 15 points. Craig supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which barred extension of rights to same-sex couples; he voted for cloture on the amendment in both 2004 and 2006, and was a cosponsor in 2008. However, in late 2006 he appeared to endorse the right of individual states to create same-sex civil unions, but said he would vote “yes” on an Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages when pressured to clarify his position by the anti-gay rights advocacy group Families for a Better Idaho. Craig voted against cloture in 2002, which would have extended the federal definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation. This legislation was passed in 2007 in both the House and the Senate as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. Craig voted against the measure. The LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign issued guides to candidates’ voting records in 2004. The Human Rights Campaign group gave him a 0 rating.

But that was not what Senator Craig was in the news for at the time:

On June 11, 2007, Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport on suspicion of lewd conduct. The nature of the alleged activity has been categorized by some as cottaging. According to the police report, the police officer sat in a bathroom stall as part of an undercover operation investigating complaints of sexual activity in the restroom. After about 13 minutes of sitting in the stall, the police officer observed Craig lingering outside and frequently peeking through the crack of the door on the stall. Craig then entered the stall to the left of the officer’s stall. The police officer made the following observations, which he recorded in his report of the incident, as to what happened next:

At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. … The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area. Craig then proceeded to swipe his left hand under the stall divider several times, with the palm of his hand facing upward.

Senator Craig’s actions and statements following are now legend. It’s hard to get around the peculiar nature of this conservative and out of the main stream state. Some here have a lock on backward thinking.

When I got involved in the public creationism/evolution debate 25 years ago I had a chance to see the Nova production God, Darwin and Dinosaurs. Idaho featured prominently:

”God, Darwin and Dinosaurs” begins and ends in Twin Falls, Idaho, where an argument has been on the boil for a decade over a junior high school science teacher who has been telling his students that creationism is a valid scientific explanation for the origin of life. After a committee decided that such instruction probably violates the law, the school board responded to public pressure with a policy that would permit the teaching of ”alternate theories” on the origin of life as long as they did not bring in religious tenets. The hour leaves the impression that some people were born yesterday.

Now this:

Parents call cops on teen for giving away banned book; it backfires predictably

Parents in Idaho called the cops last week on junior-high student Brady Kissel when she had the nerve to help distribute a book they’d succeeded in banning from the school curriculum.

The book in question was Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Published in 2007, it won the National Book Award and has become popular with young teens, supposedly for its universal themes of fitting in, making sense of race, and sexual discovery.

The sex part (and let’s face it—probably the race part) led parents to lobby Junior Mountain High School to remove it from the syllabus, citing its sexual content (it discusses masturbation) and supposedly anti-Christian content.

Amazing! What is there about banning books with some people? These are people unclear on the concept. Local teens organized a drive to give away copies of the book. So, that’s cool. But what brought the cops into all this?

And then, of course, an irate parent ruined it by literally calling the cops to the scene. Boise news station KBOI reported that even the cops were baffled about why they’d been asked to police a book giveaway.

KBOI reported that police had been summoned by “someone concerned about teenagers picking up a copy of the book without having a parent’s permission.”

Gee, it’s almost like banning books from schools makes teens more likely to independently find and read those books. The cops apparently saw nothing wrong with Kissel’s activities, nor with the book’s brief mentions of masturbation, one of the oft-cited reasons for its being so frequently challenged.

Alexie’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, has responded to the students’ campaign by sending Rediscovered Books an additional 350 copies. So if you’re in Meridian, go pick up a free copy.

Whoever is trying to keep kids from reading this book had better stop digging. The hole is only going to get deeper.

You Bet Your Life


Madame Calment met Vincent van Gogh, who lived in Arles.

Madame Calment met Vincent van Gogh, who lived in Arles.

I was watching a Great Courses lecture on economics. This interesting story came up. Some bets look good. Some bets turn out to be very bad. Occasionally the two combine. Here’s the story from The New York Times:

A 120-Year Lease on Life Outlasts Apartment Heir

Published: December 29, 1995 

Andre-Francois Raffray thought he had a great deal 30 years ago: He would pay a 90-year-old woman 2,500 francs (about $500) a month until she died, then move into her grand apartment in a town Vincent van Gogh once roamed.

But this Christmas, Mr. Raffray died at age 77, having laid out the equivalent of more than $184,000 for an apartment he never got to live in.

On the same day, Jeanne Calment, now listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest person at 120, dined on foie gras, duck thighs, cheese and chocolate cake at her nursing home near the sought-after apartment in Arles, northwest of Marseilles in the south of France.

She need not worry about losing income. Although the amount Mr. Raffray already paid is more than twice the apartment’s current market value, his widow is obligated to keep sending that monthly check. If Mrs. Calment outlives her, too, then the Raffray children and grandchildren will have to pay.

Madame Calment (cal-may) lived another two years to become the longest living person on record. Mr. Raffray’s widow was able to quit paying the installments and to move into her apartment.

The Children’s Hour


It’s getting really bad out there. For Christians that is. If you did not already know, there’s a war on Christianity. And it’s coming soon to a public school near you. Little kids are not allowed to pray anymore. Not in school, at least. Find that hard to believe? Think again. This comes from a reliable source:

The Liberty Institute is a conservative Christian advocacy and legal defense organization founded in 1972 under the name Free Market Foundation. Liberty Institute is headed by Kelly Shackelford, one of the top-25 Texas attorneys in the past 25 years. Liberty Institute has since shifted focus to providing pro bono legal assistance to Christian people and organizations that they believe are suffering religious persecution in the United States, such as students, veterans, and pastors whose religious free exercise rights they believe are being violated.

[Links removed]

The Liberty Institute operates out of Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas and where I lived and worked for a number of years.

The best I can get of the matter is what was printed in the local newspaper in Florida:

Kindergartner says she was stopped from prayer over lunch

OVIEDO — The parents of an Oviedo 5-year-old insist their daughter was stopped from praying over her school lunch last month, but Seminole County Public Schools officials say no one remembers that happening.

Marcos Perez posted a video last week on YouTube of his daughter, Gabriella, a kindergartner at Carillon Elementary in Oviedo, saying she was confronted when she bowed her head to pray at lunch.

“The lunch teacher said, ‘You’re not allowed to pray,'” the girl recalled. “I said, ‘It’s good to pray. She said, ‘It’s not good.'”

The family said the incident happened the week of March 10. Seminole County Public Schools officials say Principal Analynn Jones spoke to staff who could have been in the cafeteria at the time and could not find anyone who recalled it.

“She wanted to pray, but she’s a rule-follower,” said Kathy Perez, Gabriella’s mother, during a news conference Tuesday near the school. “I told her she did the right thing. I don’t doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth.”

That’s certainly outrageous, and most likely against the law. Obviously to save itself from costly litigation and possible financial ruin, the school took immediate action. They tracked down and dealt with the offending public employee. Well not quite. They have not as yet been able to identify just who did it. As of 2 April school officials had not interviewed the child, who was pulled from the school the day after her father posted the video.

The girl’s father, Marcos Perez, is the right person to pursue this insult. He “is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher. The company is currently promoting the book ‘God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values,’ by Fox News host Todd Starnes.”

There you go. If anybody knows anything about religious liberty it would be a Fox News host who is writing a book about “the Attack on Traditional Values.” Speaking of which, you need to order yours now. The Kindle edition becomes available at Amazon this Friday.

Unable to track down the perpetrator of this horrible insult, the school now faces additional problems:

Family threatens lawsuit after FL school finds no evidence child stopped from praying

By Travis Gettys
Monday, April 28, 2014 13:02 EDT

A conservative legal advocacy group is threatening a lawsuit against a school that is accused of stopping a 5-year-old girl from praying.

Officials at Seminole County Schools issued an apology to the girl’s family last week, although they found “zero evidence an incident ever occurred.”

The Perez family were initially grateful to receive an apology from the school. Then they changed their mind.

But two days later, reported Right Wing Watch, [Liberty Institute lawyer Jeremy] Dys and the family rejected the apology and accused the school of never conducting an investigation into the girl’s claims.

Dys sent a letter Friday to the school district requesting video footage, emails to or about the Perez family, or phone logs related to the case.

The school’s investigation found no evidence that the employee accused of ordering the girl to stop praying had been anywhere near the lunchroom where kindergartners and first-graders eat.

“We apologized for the incident she believes occurred, but there was nothing warranted or found,” said school district spokesman Mike Lawrence.

What quandary! A five-year-old girl makes a serious accusation against an adult and gets the old stone wall. Talk about The Children’s Hour. Will justice ever be done?

Think me cynical if you will, but I still believe in the innocence of young children. Not so much for adults. Would I even consider this is a put-up job by somebody wanting to make a case for the War on Christianity? Not so far as a put-up, but possibly a case where the truth should not be pursued too far. The Little Rascals Day Care case comes to mind. There are, after all, matters higher than the truth.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

From Google Images

From Google Images

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

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

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

[Some links removed]

Wow! Break a news reporter in half. Now that’s tough. Throw him off the balcony? Maybe a little too far, even for an uppity reporter.

I’m guessing the first part came from Grimm’s background.

Grimm entered active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in 1989. In 1990, he was deployed overseas. He received a combat promotion to corporal, and was awarded the Combat Action RibbonNavy Unit Commendation, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, among other awards.

[Some links removed]

More recently:

Grimm entered the FBI as a professional support employee in 1991. In 1995, he entered the FBI Academy in Quantico Station, Virginia. He graduated as a special agent and was certified to become an undercover agent. He became a U.S. Marshal and uniformed FBI policeman. He began as an FBI clerk and transitioned into undercover agent work, eventually working in the FBI Gambino Squad and was responsible for learning about the inside activities of Peter GottiJohn Gotti‘s brother. Grimm worked for the FBI as an agent for 9 years.

In 2011, The New Yorker magazine reported that Grimm had been the subject of an internal investigation into allegations he abused his authority as a FBI agent in a nightclub in 1999. The New York Police Department and U.S. Justice Department have not released documents regarding the incident. Reporter Evan Ratliff subsequently released additional material corroborating his article.

He also spent two years posing as a small cap stocks broker, uncovering white-collar criminals on Wall Street. According to Grimm, the firm was involved in money laundering, making false trades, and manipulating stocks. After building a strong case for two years, he and the firm’s partners were arrested together, at which point, the police informed the group that they had been infiltrated by an undercover agent. Grimm stated in 2011 that he has long been aware of the possibility that people may try to take revenge on him. He left the FBI in 2006, citing his exhaustion from working long hours.

[Links removed]

Grimm also represents a New York congressional district that includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. I’ve been there. This is not Mayberry R.F.D.

This explains the part about breaking Scotto in half, “like a little boy.” What explains the other part, the part about “I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool,” that probably came from some good advice Congressman Grimm received: “Never start a fight with somebody who buys ink by the barrel.”

If Congressman Grimm thought bullying a pesky reporter would make the story go away, he learned the hard way that this is not how to make the story go away. The way to make the story go away is for there not to be a story in the first place. If only Congressman Grimm could put the toothpaste back in the tube.

This week the story came out of the tube in a manner that’s going to make it impossible to go away.

Rep. Michael Grimm, facing federal charges of tax and business fraud, surrenders to FBI

NEW YORK — Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.) was defiant in the face of 20 tax and business fraud charges filed against him Monday by prosecutors in Brooklyn, vowing to “fight tooth and nail until we’re exonerated.”

Grimm accused prosecutors of misconduct in the case, citing leaks to the media, and he promised to serve out his term and win reelection this fall. He later told House Republican leaders, however, that he would resign from the powerful Financial Services Committee until the charges were resolved.

Prosecutors accused of misconduct? Pot calling the kettle black? According to the Washington Post report, here’s what the police say Congressman Grimm has done:

  • Hid over a million dollars in receipts from his restaurant to avoid taxes.
  • Payed workers hundreds of thousands of dollars unreported to avoid paying the payroll tax.
  • Committed perjury when deposed in a suit filed by workers in 2013.
  • Filed false tax returns (three charges).
  • Committed perjury again (two charges).
  • Hired illegal immigrants.
  • Failed to provide required workers’ compensation insurance.

From all appearances Grimm’s more recent life has largely been one of fairy tales. Maybe he should consider writing fiction when he gets out.

An Irish Tale

The movie is Patriot Games from 1992, but the story goes back a lot further. Ireland is a large island just west of Great Britain and currently comprises the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Ulster), a dominion of Great Britain. For centuries England completely dominated Ireland. English lived in England and owned the land in Ireland. It was a master-vassal relationship. In a notable example, the Irish farmers grew potatoes and grain. The grain was taken by the English landlords, and the potatoes were left for the Irish to eat. When a potato famine hit in the 19th century the English landlords took the grain and left nothing for the Irish to eat. A million Irish starved to death, and another million migrated to the United States. The Irish had had enough of the English.


The Irish Republican Army conducted asymmetric warfare against the English government starting about 100 years ago, which conflict resulted in the partition of Ireland and the the formation of the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The IRA continued its warfare up to the end of the 20th century, becoming vicious to various degrees. Driving forces were two-fold: Irish Republicans were Catholic, while Ulster was Protestant. The lingering memory of English suppression was the other force. And that’s the basis of this movie.

In recent history, re surging in 1969, the IRA began a stream of attacks on British interests in Ulster and Great Britain. Bombs killed random public workers and officials. British sympathizers were targeted and murdered. Lord Louis Mountbatten, a hero of World War 2 and brother of Prince Phillip, was murdered by the IRA using a bomb set off by remote control. The Guinness Book of World Records was edited by twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter. When Ross became too vocal in his views on the rights of Irish, IRA gunmen shot him dead outside his home in England. Bomb attacks in London killed members of a Royal honor guard and members of a military band. For these and other actions I have never had any sympathy for the IRA. Since their renewed activities in 1969 I viewed them as self-serving dirt bags. And crybabies, as well. They claimed their victims were legitimate targets of war, but then they cried foul whenever the Brits managed to get in the first shot. When IRA plotters were caught on the streets in Gibraltar without their weapons and gunned down, the three killed received favorable comment from some quarters:

Almost two months after the shootings, the documentary Death on the Rock was broadcast on British television. Using reconstructions and eyewitness accounts, it presented the possibility that the three IRA members had been unlawfully killed. The documentary proved extremely controversial; several British newspapers described it as “trial by television”.

By the time Tom Clancy wrote his book in 1987 the violence still had a way to go. The movie captures the supposed mood of Irish terrorist groups and the fallout of the conflict. It’s all about supposed patriots and the games they play.

Harrison Ford is Marine veteran and history professor Jack Ryan. Jack is married to smashingly beautiful and sexy Dr. Cathy Ryan (Anne Archer), and they have a charming little girl Sally (Thora Birch). They are having a wonderful time in London, where Jack is delivering a lecture, and they are making preparations to return home when they encounter Sean Miller (Sean Bean), his brother Patrick, and some others. On a London street an IRA splinter group is attempting to kidnap members of the Royal Family. And here the action of the film, reflecting that of the book, is compelling, as it remains throughout the movie. Up to the final scenes. The action makes the move, and I will recount most of it.

In traffic a vehicle cuts in front of the royals’ special car, forcing it to stop. Sean and Patrick, wearing masks, plant a bomb under the stopped car. Jack immediately sizes up the situation and forces his family to the sidewalk. The bomb shatters the driver’s compartment, and Sean and Patrick machine gun the guards in front. They cannot force the royals to open the passenger door, and they start shooting at the bullet proof compartment.

Jack abandons his family and races into the action. He tackles Sean and seizes his pistol, using it to kill Patrick after he, himself, is shot. He lays down the weapon and collapses when members of the Buckingham Palace guard step into the fray. Other attackers drive quickly away, removing their masks and trying to act nonchalant.

British justice is amazingly swift compared to the American style, because Jack is able to give testimony at Sean’s trial before returning home with his family, wounded. In the United States Jack would be nearing retirement before we got around to bringing the case before a jury. This and some other timing issues are troublesome throughout the movie and the book.

Sean Miller is nothing if not vengeful. He and his teenage brother Patrick were out for an afternoon of murder and kidnap when Jack Ryan stuck his nose into their business and killed young Patrick. Sean wants Jack dead. Sean wants Jack’s family dead. Problem is, Sean is in prison and is headed for “the darkest hole in all of Great Britain.” Not an insurmountable problem, else there would be no movie.

The captains of the IRA are not pleased with Sean’s group and their actions. The attack on the royals has produced some bad press, and IRA chief Jimmy O’Reardon has a guarded talk with Sean’s accomplice Kevin O’Donnell in an Irish pub. Jimmy tells Kevin that Charlie will come by to see him at home that night, and he should listen. Kevin goes home, but he reviews images of British atrocities against the Irish and loads a drum magazine shotgun. Charlie arrives with gunmen to kill Kevin, but Kevin wastes them all and vanishes.

Meanwhile Jimmy checks into a hotel room with a flashy woman who’s been giving him the eye in the pub. After she gets him naked on the bed and herself in just panties and bra, she kills Jimmy with two shots from a pistol with a silencer. The woman is Annette (Polly Walker) and she goes to an antique book store, presumably in London, where she slips a note to the Irish book dealer, Dennis Cooley. In this movie you can distinguish the Irish from the English by their accents. The note asks for information about Sean’s rout to prison.

Even though the Brits set off simultaneously with four or so identical caravans of vehicles, the attackers know the correct route to attack. While the prison van is stopped at a draw bridge the whoosh of RPGs is heard and explosions. Gunmen surround the van and order the occupants to open the door, else a survivor of the attack will be shot. They do, and the gunmen do shoot the remainder of the police. That’s the mood of the conflict between the Irish plotters and the English.

The plotters are then seen in a tramp steamer out on the ocean somewhere. Where to eventually becomes apparent.

Back at his beautiful home along the Chesapeake Bay shore, some CIA friends of Jack’s arrive to tell him that Sean has escaped and may come looking for Jack. Jack is so alerted. Sean calls Jack on the phone and taunts him with threats.

Lecturing at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Jack is interrupted in his lecture by some Navy friends who present him with a mock medal and a ribbon in honor of his escape from death. Jack then leaves the classroom and heads home, but not before encountering one of Sean’s gunmen.

Sean has been advised the group’s goal is to kidnap royals and use them to ransom Irish prisoners, but Sean has made Ryan and his family his number one priority, instead. He plans to eliminate Ryan, the wife and the daughter the same afternoon.

Marine veteran that he is, Jack spots the assassin wearing a Naval Academy workout suit as a disguise. The man is just not acting right. The gunman stalks Jack as he walks to his car, then Jack dodges behind a truck, and they play cat and mouse, the cat having an automatic pistol with a silencer. After a physical encounter Jack is on the pavement, and the assassin is bringing his weapon to bear when the Marines come to the rescue. A Marine sentry shoots the assassin dead.

Jack tries to alert Cathy by phone as she drives home. Get a load of the cell phones of 1992.

Here the movie diverges significantly from the book. In Clancy’s book Sean’s people ally themselves with remnants of the Black Panthers—both having sympathetic revolutionary ideals. What a crock! Clancy’s subplot is absurd and over complicates the story line. The movie producers rightfully dropped any scent of collaboration with American revolutionaries.

Both the book and the movie make great use of the attempt to kill Cathy and Sally on the freeway home from Sally’s school. After some delay (to add tension) Jack gets Cathy on the phone. This causes Cathy to become more alert, and she notices the van making wild maneuvers in traffic. She spots Sean bringing a machine gun up, and this perhaps saves her life. Sean spray’s Cathy’s Porsche with bullets, and she crashes into a barricade. The gunmen make their getaway. Cathy and Sally are taken to a hospital where Sally must have her spleen removed.

Back at their training base in the Libyan desert (how prophetic) Sean learns the sad truth that he has lost another man without accomplishing anything except getting some powerful people mad at him.

Richard Harris (born in Limerick, Ireland) is IRA front man Paddy O’Neil who comes by to remind Jack the IRA had nothing to do with Sean’s actions. Jack tells O’Neil that he does not care who’s to blame, but if O’Neil refuses to expose the perpetrators he will dry up IRA contributions in the United States for years to come. O’Neil swears he will never betray a countryman. In the book, as in the movie, there is a confrontation with O’Neil in a pub in. In the book the pub is run by an Irishman, who is also a Marine veteran. When the pub owner learns IRA agents have targeted a Marine and his wife and child, he throws the IRA elements out of his pub. That made great reading in the book, but it’s absent from the movie.

Jack is back working with the CIA now, his aim in life to eliminate Sean Miller and his gang. British police in Ulster receive an anonymous tip of an IRA bomb factory in an upstairs flat. They raid it and take prisoners. This news is significant. There was no way a casual observer could have known about the bomb factory. Somebody within the IRA has tipped off the police. This is evidence of serious friction between the IRA and splinter groups such as Sean’s.

Jack discusses all of this at CIA headquarters with former CIA co-workers. He starts to have flashbacks. The London street scene just prior to the attack. The street scene at the shooting in Annapolis. He heads off to the restroom, so splash some water in his face. He is distracted by his thoughts. He goes into the women’s restroom by mistake. He stands before the mirror at the wash basin. Flashback continue. A woman with long red hair exits one of the stalls and points out Jack’s mistake. Jack apologizes, but he watches her walk away. He recalls a woman with long red hair. One was in London, and one was in Annapolis. If they can find that woman, they can find Sean.

Paddy O’Neil is helpful. At the hospital where Sally is recovering O’Neil drops a packet on the table where Jack is sitting in the cafeteria. In the packet is information on Annette. Paddy is not betraying an Irish patriot. Annette is English.

Meanwhile, Dennis discovers the police have bugged his book store, and he grabs some of his priceless books and joins Sean and gang in the Libyan desert. The terrorists have no use for Dennis in their operation, and they shoot him and leave him in the desert.

Tracking freighter movements and such the CIA decides to zero in on the multitude of terrorist training bases in North Africa. Narrowing the search to include people who look like Annette and people who look like Dennis, they decide on the correct base to attack. Jack is invited into the situation room to view the attack live on satellite cam. At night, while all occupants are off guard, helicopters with British SAS commando swoop in, viewed by all on infra-red imagery. The camp is exterminated in seconds. No prisoners are taken, but Sean, Annette and Kevin have already flown the coop.

The stage is set for the showdown at Jack’s magnificent home on the coast. It’s a dark and stormy night, and the royal lord that Jack saved from the London attack is visiting to award him with a knighthood (Knight Commander of the Victorian Order). Lightning is flashing outside, and we see men with guns. It is the terrorist or the security guards? Presently the lights go out. But not the lights in the boat house. Jack becomes alarmed. The mole, Watkins, in the British security who has been keeping Sean’s group informed is among the house party, and he has killed a member of the security detail and turned off the power to the house.

Jack searches frantically through the darkened house until he comes across Watkins, who is just coming from the basement. Jack forces Watkins back down into the basement, discovering the murder along the way. When Watkins won’t answer questions Jack shoots him in one knee with his own pistol (silencer, of course). Watkins talks. By now the security detail outside are all dead, and gunmen wearing night vision goggles begin to enter the house.

Cathy and Sally take refuge in an upstairs closet where Cathy confronts and clubs and subdues a gunman who comes looking. Gunmen who come looking for the others in the basement meet with gunfire and two go down. Sean and Annette enter the basement after the others have fled, and Sean opens fire, finishing off the unfortunate Watkins.

Here is a big diversion from the book. In Clancy’s book, by the time of the attack on the house, Sean, an Irish racist at heart, has had his fill with his Black Panther co-conspirator, and he shoots him dead before they charge the house. Clancy made a lot more of the final assault, laying it out like a major infantry operation. The movie version is much cleaner, but not much. Here is where the script writers go off track.

Both the book and the movie involve a pursuit over Chesapeake Bay, Clancy got that part right. In the book Jack leads the terrorist to the waterfront at the Naval Academy, where he organizes a military defense. In the movie there is a long and pointless pursuit across the water, with Jack in the lead and Sean, Kevin and Annette following them in another boat, Sean firing burst after burst from his automatic weapon while Kevin and Annette command him to break of the pointless pursuit. Sean kills the last two of his accomplices and goes on to a fight aboard Jack’s speeding, burning boat. Sean inevitably lands on top of the prongs of an anchor in the bottom of the boat, and Jack jumps overboard right before the boat piles up on the rocks and goes off in a spectacular explosion that is seen for miles, including by the rescue helicopter that has come to the scene of the attack.

The book has a neater conclusion. Jack corners the ruthless Sean on the dock at Annapolis and threatens to shoot him. Sean wets his pants, and Jack gets satisfaction enough from that.

The rest of the movie is just marital bliss.

Some logistics of the plot do not make sense. Sean and accomplices escape England in a ship. They are next seen in the U.S. trying to kill Jack and his family. Then they are in the Libyan desert training for their next mission, presumably having taken another boat ride. It would have been difficult even in the 1980s for known fugitives to use commercial air travel. People arrive at the desert base in Libya by helicopter. Who’s funding all of this? This is a splinter terrorist group, and they have enough money to hire large helicopters at thousands of dollars an hour, and they crisscross the Atlantic in slow steamers and still make the movie time line, all the time evading immigration?

The Wikipedia article on Clancy says he got good reviews on his dialog, but some of the book dialog seems silly and contrived. Writers W. Peter Iliff, Donald E. Stewart and Steven Zaillian did a much better job with the dialog. Not such a good job with plot’s conclusion.






















Joe For America

My apologies. It’s been a while since I posted something from Joe for America. I had to troll another Facebook feed to pick up on this. This is one resource I can always count on.

From Joe For America

From Joe For America

But to the story.

What you might not know is that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is not really a racist. No, really. The lliberal New York Times has doctored a video clip of Bundy to paint him as a racist:

NY Times Hoax Exposed: Video Clip Edited to Paint Bundy as Racist

NY Times hoax is tantamount to character assassination. Cliven Bundy’s comments were taken out of context, leaving the rancher looking like a backward bigot.

As an old white guy, he used the language of his day, which is politically incorrect today, no doubt about it. In the full length video, however, you see a man passionately aware of the effect of government subsidy programs. Statistics bear out his comments on the high rate of abortions and arrests among blacks. His genuine desire for improved family life for blacks, Hispanics and whites comes across loud and clear in the full length video. Maybe he’s not such a backward, old white guy after all.

Old white guys everywhere, this is great news. Bundy is not a racist, after all. What a relief! Now we need to convince all those other white guys:

Sean Hannity and Fox News quickly distance themselves from Cliven Bundy

By Arturo Garcia
Thursday, April 24, 2014 18:08 EDT

Fox News host Sean Hannity denounced Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on his radio show on Thursday following Bundy’s repeated comments wondering if “Negroes” are better off as slaves, while his network continued to shift from promoting Bundy to ignoring him.

Forget about Fox News. Even Republicans have been bailing on Bundy.

Republicans denounce rancher Cliven Bundy’s racist comments

By STEPHANIE CONDON CBS NEWS April 24, 2014, 1:44 PM

Last Updated Apr 24, 2014 5:43 PM EDT

After previously sympathizing with Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who refuses to pay the more than $1 million in fees he owes the federal government, Republicans are denouncing Bundy’s most recent, racist comments.
Bundy has garnered notable right-wing support for his refusal to recognize the government’s authority over federal land. His latest comments, however, targeted African-Americans who depend on public housing and went so far as to suggest that black Americans were better off as slaves.

So, all the old white guys, plus Sean Hannity, are deserting Bundy in his time of need. But not Joe for America:

BREAKING: Bundy Stands By His Words on Race (VIDEO)

Cliven Bundy invited minorities to attend a gathering where he clarified and stood by his comments on race, which were deemed racist by the New York Times:

Watch the video here:

The mainstream media is determined to personally destroy this man in order to help Harry Reid and the Obama Administration continue to erode our rights as Americans. The New York Times edited a video of Bundy to make him look evil, abdicating their position as journalists and proving they’re nothing more than tools of fascism.

I truly believe that.

You can’t watch the video here, because I could not capture a link to it. You have to go to the JFA site and watch the video there.

JFA also reports that Army veteran Jason Bullock, who was doing duty as one of Bundy’s bodyguards, is black. Bullock is quoted as saying, “Mr. Bundy is not a racist. … Ever since I’ve been here, he’s treated me with nothing but hospitality. He’s pretty much treating me just like his own family.”

Not only is JFA sticking by Bundy, Austin talk show host Alex Jones remains loyal.

AUDIO: Bundy Doubles Down, Calls On New York Times To Retract Accurate Quotes

Blog ››› April 24, 2014 3:09 PM EDT ››› BEN DIMIERO & OLIVER WILLIS

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show today to do damage control over comments he made about “the Negro” and how he wonders whether blacks were “better off as slaves” than on government assistance.

During the appearance, Bundy denied that he is racist, called on The New York Times to retract their accurate quotes of him discussing “cotton picking,” and repeatedly restated his offensive views on slavery. Bundy also defended himself by explaining “there’s a black man right in my front yard right now” as part of the militia siding with him against the government.

Alex Jones, who has been one of Bundy’s many media allies during his fight against the government, introduced the appearance by telling Bundy, “you’re a man of your word and honorable. I believe you’re a good man.”

I mean, man, when you’ve got Alex Jones at your back, there’s no way you’re a racist. What more needs to be said to convince left-wing radicals (and some old white men) that Bundy is not a racist?

Alex Jones? Really? Maybe you don’t know Alex Jones:

Alexander Emerick “Alex” Jones (born February 11, 1974) is an American radio host, author, conspiracy theorist and documentary filmmakerd.  His syndicated news/talk show The Alex Jones Show, based in Austin, Texas, airs via the Genesis Communication Network on more than 90 AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations across the United States and on the Internet. His websites include Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.com. His YouTube channel has been viewed over 360 million times.

Jones has been the center of many controversies, including his statements about gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He has accused the U.S. government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology and the killing of “thousands of astronauts”. He believes that government and big business have colluded to create a New World Order through “manufactured economic crises, sophisticated surveillance tech and—above all—inside-job terror attacks that fuel exploitable hysteria”. Jones describes himself as a libertarian and a conservative.

[Some links deleted]

That should say enough. I mean, Jones says what real Americans want to hear. Of course, if you tell too much truth you’re going to turn people off. Author Will Bunch has noted Jones’ more extreme views soon earned him a “no, thank you” from some of his original outlets.

In the mode of many followers of White House hopeful Ron Paul, Jones’s muddled view mixed ideas of both conventional liberals and the far left—the 9/11 “truther” view of the attacks as a U.S. government inside job and disagreement with the Patriot Act and the two wars launched under George W. Bush—with hard-right views, especially after Obama’s 2008 election. A generation ago, someone like Jones might be rolling diatribes off a mimeograph machine, but today he’s aired on roughly sixty stations (it used to be more before his 9/11 inside-job rants)—with a weekly audience estimated at two million—and is heard everywhere streaming over the Internet, with two popular Web sites, PrisonPlanet.com and InfoWars.com. His highly conspiratorial tone and Web-oriented approach brings in a younger demographic than do Beck and other well-known talkers. It has been reported that more people visit Jones’s Web sites than Rush Limbaugh’s, for example. The Internet has also proved a fruitful incubator for the fringe ideas that have both broadened Jones’s influence and seeped into the groundwater of mainstream discourse as conspiracy theories about everything from a nonexistent “Obama gun confiscation” to the fictitious “FEMA detention camps” where law-abiding Americans would be herded.

Bunch, Will (2010-08-31). The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama (Kindle Locations 1209-1218). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

More specifically:

In 2001, his show was syndicated on approximately 100 stations. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, Jones began to speak of a conspiracy by the Bush administration as being behind the attack, which caused a number of the stations that had previously carried him to drop his program.

[Link deleted from the original]

Jones’ efforts to resuscitate Bundy have been little short of heroic:

Trying to explain away the offensive nature of Bundy’s comments, Jones said Bundy had told him on the phone that “they’ve traded a new form of slavery for an old form of slavery.” Jones characterized that assertion as a “libertarian, conservative refrain that I’ve heard from every libertarian and conservative black leader I’ve had on this show.”

Jones proceeded to ask Bundy what he thinks “of The New York Times trying to take this out of context and spin it.” Bundy responded that the Times is “totally wrong” if they think he’s a racist, before restating that he’s “not saying the one way or the other, but I am wondering — it seems to me like maybe they were happier, maybe they did have better families,and their family structure was better” under slavery. (For his part, Jones clarified that he was “not endorsing slavery or segregation.”)

During the interview Jones prodded Bundy on whether the Times had quoted him accurately. After Bundy claimed he “didn’t say nothing about picking cotton” (he did), Jones called his supposed debunking a “bombshell,” “unbelievable,” and “amazing.” (During the interview, Jones appeared to be unaware that video exists of Bundy’s remarks.) At Jones’ prompting, Bundy declared that the Times “should” retract their report.

I noted that Bundy wants to cast himself as a man in the tradition of the Western Frontier. I take this to mean in the tradition that a man is as good as his word:

Unfortunately for Mr. Bundy, this is the 21st century, the age of the Internet, the age of people taking note of what you say, the age of capturing stuff on video. I am sure Bundy wishes for the days of the Old West, the days when a man was as good as his word, and before the tape recorder had been invented.

In response to Bundy’s remarks somebody, most likely a left-leaning liberal, posted a cute meme on Facebook. It says, “Why is it you never hear Conservative American Christians stating that white people on Government Assistance would be better off being slaves?” Here it is.


But this post is about Joe of America—who might also wish for the days when a man was as good as his word. I will just let it go at that.

Not Far From The Tree

I could have titled this “One Way Cruz,” but that would have been too cute.

Photo from Google Images

Photo from Google Images


This came to me by way of the Texas Freedom Network. It’s free, but I give them money. You should, too. It’s from a video captured at the Texas Renewal Project earlier this month. Evangelical pastor Rafael Cruz of Dallas was speaking:

“And if you read Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, it is absolutely clear when he says that matters of faith and worship, no one has the right to interfere; they’re only between you and God. And then he cites the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is absolutely clear when he said legislature has no right to establish a religion or interfere with the free exercise there of, thus there is a wall of separation between church and state, it is absolutely obvious that Jefferson was talking about a one-way wall, a one-way wall to keep government from interfering in the [inaudible because of applause]. In no way, shape or form was Jefferson implying that we should not have an influence on every area of society. God has called us to be the head and not the tail, not only in the church, but also in the media, in arts and entertainment, in sports, in business, in education and even in government.

[Emphasis in the TFN post]

You can see the video here:


The Reverend Cruz’s reference was to a correspondence between the Danbury Baptists and the newly-elected president in 1801-1802. Significantly, Jefferson responded:

Messrs. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen s. Nelson

A Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, in the State of Connecticut.

Washington, January 1, 1802

Gentlemen,–The affectionate sentiment of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.

Th Jefferson Jan. 1. 1802

[Emphasis added]

I am so glad the Reverend Cruz thinks this is a one-way wall, because this odd bit does not manifest itself anywhere in the communication. I can only surmise Reverend Cruz pulled this out of his hat, or somewhere else.

The significance is this (my interpretation): Cruz thinks the government cannot dictate religion (true), but religion can dictate to the government (not so obvious). And not so advisable. Rafael Cruz has a number of religious views that impinge on government responsibility and government action. A quick thought that comes to mind are the Reverend’s views on evolution:

You know most Americans have their head in the sand about evolution. I’ve met so many Christians that tell me ‘well, evolution is a scientific fact.’ Baloney! I am a scientist, there is nothing scientific about evolution. But you know something, Karl Marx said it, ‘I can use the teachings of Darwin to promote communism.’ Why? Because communism, or call it socialism if you think communism is too hard a word, necessitates for government to be your god and for government to be your god they need to destroy the concept of God. That’s why communism and evolution go hand in hand. Evolution is one of the strongest tools of Marxism because if they can convince you that you came from a monkey, it’s much easier to convince you that God does not exist.

This has come up before, and I responded:

Rafael Cruz is a scientist? In the same sense I’m an astronaut. Also a quick search of the writings of Karl Marx does not reveal anything like the Karl Marx quote. That seems to have been pulled from the same source as the “scientist” part. Likely from a place where the sun does not shine.

Others have remarked on the poor scholarship manifest in such links:

On to Marx, who remains entwined with Darwin in the minds of many anti-evolutionists. Henry Morris, the founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) assures us that “it is well known than not only the early Communists, such as Marx and Engels, were atheistic evolutionists, but also that all the leaders of Communism since have been the same” (The Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 42). In his The Long War Against God, Morris claims that “Marxism, socialism, and communism, no less than Nazism are squarely based on evolutionism” (p. 83).  He assures us that “Marx felt his own work to be the exact parallel of Darwin’s. He even wished to dedicate a portion of Das Kapital to the author of The Origin of Species” (History of Modern Creationism, 1993, p. 54). The fable has passed on into the common currency of the Creationist movement here in the United States. For example, A Walk Through History, a 1994 video issued by the Institute for Creation Research, features John Rajca (then the curator of the ICR Museum of Creation and Earth History) teaching the following to a group of schoolchildren: “Karl Marx here, [points to picture of Marx] wanted to dedicate his book on communism, Das Kapital, to Darwin because he said this is where he got his ideas for a political system.” To many anti-evolutionists, Darwinism is inescapably linked with Marxism, both ideologies supporting each other, and evolutionary thinking making communism possible.

Such connections between Darwin and Marx have been effectively refuted by historians for over thirty years. The myth of the link between the two figures was created after Marx’s death by Friedrich Engels’ graveside oration to Marx, and supported by later Marxists such as Filippo Turati, Edward Aveling & Ludwig Büchner as putative evidence for the ‘scientific’ nature of their worldview. In particular, it has been proven that a letter evidently written by Darwin to Marx, apparently asking that Marx not dedicate the second volume of Das Kapital to him, was in fact addressed to (Marx’s son-in-law) Aveling asking that his A Student’s Darwin (1881) not be so dedicated. Darwin was opposed to Aveling’s vehement anti-Christian rhetoric and wished not to have his name associated with such radicalism. (See Ball 1979 J. Political Theory 7:469; Colp 1982 History of Political Economy 14:461; Carroll & Fuer 1976 Annals of Science 33:386).

Cruz a scientist? Nothing like a serious student of literature, as well.

Where the government comes in with evolution is, the government runs public schools, and public schools teach evolution, because biological evolution is an essential part of real science, and it is true, besides. Not so with religion, which is reason number two why the government should not spend taxpayers’ money teaching religious and erroneous concepts such as Intelligent Design.

People who know me will tell you that I like nothing better than to spend my spare time reminding all what an ignorant batch the Tea Partiers are. Obviously this crowd does not have the patent on stupid—I could possibly tick off a dozen or so empty hat ideas from the liberal camp, as well. If you think I’m being unfair, then please stop me. You can do that by getting the Tea Party to quit acting stupid in public. Nah! That’s never going to happen.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

This makes sense to anyone who’s ever been married to a woman.
The CIA had an opening for an assassin. 
After all the background checks, interviews and testing were done, there were three finalists; two men and a woman.  For the final test, the CIA agents took one of  the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun.
“We must know that you will follow your Instructions no matter what the circumstances.  Inside the room you will find your wife sitting in a chair… kill her!!!”
The man said, “You can’t be serious. I could never shoot my wife.”
The agent said, “Then you’re not the right man for this job. Take your wife and go home.”
The second man was given the same instructions. He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about 5 minutes.  The man came out with tears in his eyes, “I tried, but I can’t kill my wife.”The agent said, “You don’t have what it takes. Take your wife and go home.”Finally, it was the woman’s turn. She was given the same instructions, to kill her husband.  She took the gun and went into the room. Shots were heard, one after another. They heard screaming, crashing, banging on the walls.  After a few minutes, all was quiet.

The door opened slowly and there stood the woman, wiping the sweat from her brow.
“This gun is loaded with blanks” she said, “I had to kill him with the chair!”

Betting on Bundy

My life rocks aimlessly along, and I keep reminding myself that surely there is no God. If God existed, then he certainly has died, else he is making a point of ignoring me. Then something like this comes along to restore my faith. Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for Cliven Bundy.

From Google Images

From Google Images

Silly me. When Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy first hit the scene I dismissed him out of hand. I called him something like a high pocket pickpocket. Jesus, what a fool I was. Will God ever forgive me?

Bundy is not a high pocket pickpocket. He’s more than that. He’s an American icon. He’s a Tea Party exemplar. When you’re looking for a handy place to paste a Tea Party sticker Cliven Bundy should be your first stop. He’s got it all:

  • Slogans above practice
  • Posturing to the extreme
  • A mindset right out of this country’s darkest moments
  • Reality be damned

I swear to you readers that I tried my damned level best to hearken back to the days earlier this month when pages overflowed with classic Bundy quotes. However recent events have flooded the blogosphere and blotted out all access going back more than a few days. Fortunately the Bundy Ranch site has been good enough to provide a reflection of those golden days. This seems to have been posted just today:

Friday, April 25, 2014

We are trading one form of slavery for another.

What I am saying is that all we Americans are trading one form of slavery for another. All of us are in some measure slaves of the federal government. Through their oppressive tactics of telling the ranchers how many cows they can have on their land, and making that number too low to support a ranch, the BLM has driven every rancher in Clark County off the land, except me. The IRS keeps the people of America in fear, and makes us all work about a third or a half of the year before we have earned enough to pay their taxes. This is nothing but slavery from January through May. The NSA spies on us and collects our private phone calls and emails. And the government dole which many people in America are on, and have been for much of their lives, is dehumanizing and degrading. It takes away incentive to work and self respect. Eventually a person on the dole becomes a ward of the government, because his only source of income is a dole from the government. Once the government has you in that position, you are its slave.

I am trying to keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive. He was praying for the day when he and his people would be free, and he could say Im free, free at last, thank God Im free at last! But all of us here America, no matter our race, are having our freedom eroded and destroyed by the federal government because of its heavy handed tactics. The BLM, the IRS, the NSA–all of the federal agencies are destroying our freedom. I am standing up against their bad and unconstitutional laws, just like Rosa Parks did when she refused to sit in the back of the bus. She started a revolution in America, the civil rights movement, which freed the black people from much of the oppression they were suffering. I’m saying Martin Luther King’s dream was not that Rosa could take her rightful seat in the front of the bus, but his dream was that she could take any seat on the bus and I would be honored to sit beside her. I am doing the same thing Rosa Parks did–I am standing up against bad laws which dehumanize us and destroy our freedom. Just like the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, we are saying no to an oppressive government which considers us to be slaves rather than free men.

I invite all people in America to join in our peaceful revolution to regain our freedom. That is how America was started, and we need to keep that tradition alive.

That is so good! Bundy has wrapped himself in the shroud of American icons of liberty and has postured himself as the victim of government oppression. In taking a stance against the evil government he has garnered the support of ultra conservatives (Tea Party) throughout the realm.

Our own Debbie Riddle, Texas state representative from District 150 has taken up his banner:

The rancher, Mr. Bundy, in Nevada who has drawn a line in the sand (without harming one turtle) is a brave patriot. The Feds have no right to come onto state property where he has had grazing rights for decades, take his cattle, act like “jack booted thugs” & attempt to intimidate. If Obama was as concerned about our border security as he is being a bully with Bundy – then we would all be safer & folks would respect our laws & respect us more as a nation. Mr. President, we here in Texas believe in States Rights & we are standing with the Nevada rancher!! As the say in NH “Live free or die!”

Naturally Fox News chimed in. Media Matters saved a few of the choicest clips:

Fox’s Earhardt: Bundy Supporters Are “Good, Hardworking Americans.” On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt expressed outrage at Sen. Harry Reid’s comments that Bundy’s supporters are “domestic terrorists,” saying:

EARHARDT: And then the question this morning, the government’s reaction to all of this. They’re pulling guns on these individuals, on Harry Reid’s community. These are folks that live in Nevada, these are good, hardworking Americans. So they disagree and the government goes out there and pulls guns and now Harry Reid’s calling them terrorists? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/14]

Fox‘s Morris: Supporters Were “Protesting Peacefully.” In a later segment during the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris claimed that, “Suddenly people are there protesting peacefully, arguing against government intervention here … and all of these police and folks roll in with guns and sniper rifles pointing at them.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends4/18/14]

Fox’s Napolitano: Ranch Protesters “Shows You The Resistance Of Patriotic Americans.” Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano and Bill O’Reilly discussed the Nevada standoff on the April 17 edition of The O’Reilly Factor. Both conceded that Bundy’s actions were illegal, yet Napolitano called his supporters “patriotic” and downplayed their threats of violence:

O’REILLY: But here’s the fact. The federal government sent more force in to handle Cliven Bundy’s cows than they did to Ukraine. Right, I mean we can’t even get binoculars over there for those people but we have all of this.

NAPOLITANO: It shows you the attitude of the federal government today, and it shows you the resistance of patriotic Americans — Americans whose voices were silenced at the scene by being moved three miles away. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor4/17/14]

You can tell you’re an American hero when you have the support of people like these. While it lasts:

Sean Hannity and Fox News quickly distance themselves from Cliven Bundy

By Arturo Garcia
Thursday, April 24, 2014 18:08 EDT

Fox News host Sean Hannity denounced Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on his radio show on Thursday following Bundy’s repeated comments wondering if “Negroes” are better off as slaves, while his network continued to shift from promoting Bundy to ignoring him.

[Ed’s note: This piece has been updated. See below.]

“His comments are beyond repugnant to me,” Hannity said in audio posted by Media Matters.“They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me.”

Hannity had emerged as Bundy’s most vocal supporter on the conservative news channel, but on Thursday he argued that his interest in the case was in criticizing what he felt was an overblown response by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) toward Bundy’s 20-year refusal to pay federal grazing fees for his cattle.

What? CBS News, too?

Republicans denounce rancher Cliven Bundy’s racist comments

By STEPHANIE CONDON CBS NEWS April 24, 2014, 1:44 PM

Last Updated Apr 24, 2014 5:43 PM EDT

After previously sympathizing with Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who refuses to pay the more than $1 million in fees he owes the federal government, Republicans are denouncing Bundy’s most recent, racist comments.
Bundy has garnered notable right-wing support for his refusal to recognize the government’s authority over federal land. His latest comments, however, targeted African-Americans who depend on public housing and went so far as to suggest that black Americans were better off as slaves.

“I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?” Cliven said, the New York Times reports.

Last week, when discussing the armed standoff between the federal Bureau of Land Management and Bundy and his supporters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Bundy and his armed allies “domestic terrorists.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., responded, “What Sen. Reid called ‘domestic terrorists,’ I called ‘patriots,'” said Heller. He noted that he’s supported efforts to transfer some federal land in Nevada to state control.

Heller’s office told CBS News that the senator repudiates the rancher’s most recent remarks.

“Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way,” a spokesperson for the senator said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential presidential contender with libertarian views, similarly sympathized with Bundy’s opposition to federal authority. He said on Fox News on Monday, “With regard to his specifics, I’m for obeying the law and I’m not for a violent outcome. But with regard to the general question, should the states have some prerogative in this, I think so. I would like to see the land owned by individuals, either privately or, at the very most, the state government, but not the federal government.”

On Thursday, the senator responded on Twitter to Bundy’s recent remarks: “Cliven Bundy’s remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” he said.

Oh no, people. Say it isn’t so. You can’t desert a stalwart Tea Party animal like Bundy at the first sniff of political incorrectness. You have to remember who you are and what you represent.

But wait. Moderator Carl Smith had earlier made the point that respectable conservatives should distance themselves from the Democratic Party:

Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right.

“I don’t care how much the KKK improved,” he said. “I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK.”

Smith is right. It was the Republican Party that abolished slavery 150 years ago, and it was the Democratic Party in the Old South that continued to support suppression of black citizens for nearly a hundred years until… Until Franklin Roosevelt was elected as a very liberal president in 1932, and Democratic President Harry Truman desegregated the United States armed services. The kicker came in the presidential election of 1964 when Barry Goldwater was nominated, and movie actor Ronald Reagan explained to Republicans at the nominating convention how bad and nonconservative had been the policies of Democratic presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In that year conservatives began to see the light and to make their shift from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. This day the Confederate flag never waves at a Democratic Party function, and the Old South is nearly wall to wall Republican.

If Carl Smith is concerned about the welfare of the KKK he can put his mind at ease. The KKK still has a small place in the hearts of some people, and he never had to look very far from his podium at the March CPAC to find that place.

When I posted this item last I caught some push back. At that time and for the present I remind readers that, while the Tea Party is not founded on racism and other forms of bigotry, the organization could not exist without the support of people like Bundy.

For his own part, Bundy has tried to back track from any appearance of racism. It did not work. To paraphrase another allegory, sane is only skin deep, but crank goes right to the bone. His efforts would, in another world, be heroic. For the present, they are just comical:

AUDIO: Bundy Doubles Down, Calls On New York Times To Retract Accurate Quotes

Blog ››› April 24, 2014 3:09 PM EDT ››› BEN DIMIERO & OLIVER WILLIS

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show today to do damage control over comments he made about “the Negro” and how he wonders whether blacks were “better off as slaves” than on government assistance.

During the appearance, Bundy denied that he is racist, called on The New York Times to retract their accurate quotes of him discussing “cotton picking,” and repeatedly restated his offensive views on slavery. Bundy also defended himself by explaining “there’s a black man right in my front yard right now” as part of the militia siding with him against the government.

Alex Jones, who has been one of Bundy’s many media allies during his fight against the government, introduced the appearance by telling Bundy, “you’re a man of your word and honorable. I believe you’re a good man.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Bundy, this is the 21st century, the age of the Internet, the age of people taking note of what you say, the age of capturing stuff on video. I am sure Bundy wishes for the days of the Old West, the days when a man was as good as his word, and before the tape recorder had been invented.

John Wayne Talks To Himself

There was a place called “Blood Alley” in Shanghai, and Albert Sidney Fleischman wrote the novel with this as the title. He also wrote the script for the movie of the same name.


The plot does not go anywhere near the famed Blood Alley. Blood Alley is the name Captain Tom Wilder gives to the region along the Formosa Straits where the action takes place. The movie starts with Wilder (Wayne) in a Communist Chinese prison. There was a lot of that going on in those days. The movie is from 1955, about the height of Mao Zedong’s power. A central theme of the film is the terrible oppression of the communist government, which has little subsided since the country embraced capitalism.

Captain Tom is going stir crazy and has been talking to himself. He has an imaginary girl friend he calls “Baby,” and they have a great thing going. We fear for his sanity.

Surprise, surprise! The ideological communist guards can be bribed, and Wilder is freed along with the uniform of a Russian officer, a loaded hand gun and some instructions. He meets a local Chinese, who transports him to a coastal village, all of whose residents want to defect to Hong Kong, just 300 miles away, and at the time a British protectorate. They need Captain Tom to run the ship.

Also at the village is Cathy Grainger (Lauren Bacall). Forget about John Wayne. Bacall, as she always seemed to do, brings several tons of class to this production. Too bad, also at the village is a family of committed communists, and when the villagers finally make a break for it in a hijacked ferry they bring the commies along. The idea is that if they leave the communists behind, the entire family, including the children, will be liquidated in reprisal for the defection.

Bringing the communists proves to be a bad mistake, as the family head, a pompous and completely self-absorbed ass, has the ship’s food poisoned. The number one son is forced to eat some of the poisoned food to verify this fact, then the food, along with the body, are dumped over the side.

Adding to the excitement, the roll of Wei Ling is played by Anita Ekberg. This was long before Boccaccio ’70 and “Drink Milk.” I looked but did not notice.

The height, and I do mean the ultimate climax, of the movie is when the refugees decide to put the communists ashore during a stop at a graveyard of pirated ships. The family decides to throw in their lot with the refugees, but the patriarch, his communist sympathies being his sole means of existence, will not go with them. He climbs atop of one of the wrecks and harangues the deserters for a few seconds until…

Until a 6-inch shell from a Chinese navy destroyer blasts him into oblivion. The villagers elude the destroyer and make it to Hong Kong, where ship’s whistles and gawkers give them a warm welcome. “Baby” is forgotten and Cathy climbs into Captain Tom’s big strong arms.

Texas Pride


Aren’t we proud?

In a March 6, 2003 interview with the El Paso Times, Riddle was quoted as saying:

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

That’s Representative Debbie Riddle, state legislator from District 150 in northwest Harris County. Aren’t we proud?

Free education, indeed! Actually, it’s not free. We pay for it. I got a free education—Granbury Elementary and Granbury High School—and since I received my diploma I’ve been working and paying for my education in taxes. I also received a subsidized education at prestigious state universities in Texas, obtaining degrees in engineering, math and physics and putting those skills to work here in this country and in this state and paying taxes.

Cut off publicly funded education? Cut your wrists while you’re at it. This nation would starve without public education. Meanwhile Moscow would be amused.

Texas has a long tradition of caring for people who cannot care for themselves:

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) is a Texas special public school, in the continuum of statewide placements for students who have a visual impairment. It is considered a statewide resource to parents of these children and professionals who serve them. Students, ages 6 through 21, who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, are eligible for consideration for services at TSBVI. Founded in 1856, the school is currently located at 1100 West 45th Street in Austin, Texas and serves not only the local community, but most of the blind children in other schools across the state. Its teaching curriculum and its website serve most countries around the world as the leading resource in visual impairment education.

This notion seems to have sprung out of our early frontier spirit and sense of values.

Publicly funded health care? We’ve had it since the 19th century, and it did not come from Moscow

Austin State Hospital was the first state facility of its kind built west of the Mississippi. In 1856, the governor of Texas signed a bill providing for the establishment of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum. Construction started in 1857, and the first patients were admitted in 1861. The facility was renamed the Austin State Hospital (ASH) in 1925.

Today, this original building serves as the administration building for a modern, innovative facility providing psychiatric care to a 38-county region in Central Texas. ASH admits over 4000 patients in a fiscal year, with about the same number of discharges, and has an average daily patient census of 292. The focus of recovery is stabilization for people with  acute psychiatric illness and support of their return to the community.

Riddle mentions Moscow and Hell, but I will not dive into the subject of Hell, because I don’t want to involve mythical places in this discussion.

All this makes me wonder: Just how long has Representative Riddle lived in the state of Texas, and just how much does she know about our history and our traditions? There’s more from her Facebook feed:

The rancher, Mr. Bundy, in Nevada who has drawn a line in the sand (without harming one turtle) is a brave patriot. The Feds have no right to come onto state property where he has had grazing rights for decades, take his cattle, act like “jack booted thugs” & attempt to intimidate. If Obama was as concerned about our border security as he is being a bully with Bundy – then we would all be safer & folks would respect our laws & respect us more as a nation. Mr. President, we here in Texas believe in States Rights & we are standing with the Nevada rancher!! As the say in NH “Live free or die!”


“Live free or die!” I like those words. Here are some other words from Cliven Bundy:

Washington (CNN) — Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s remarksabout whether “the Negro” fared better under slavery represents the latest in a series of incendiary racial comments from a new crop of folk heroes embraced in some conservative circles.

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy said to reporters, according to The New York Times.

“And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying.

Bundy, 67, a rancher whose much-publicized land dispute with the federal government endeared him to conservatives, defended his comments as idle thoughts.

“Idle thoughts?” If those are his idle thoughts I yearn to know what Cliven Bundy is thinking when he is thinking seriously.

Since Mr. Bundy’s idle thoughts have come to light, a number of conservative politicians and pundits have started to back away. “Stand by your man” is just a collection of words from a song. It’s not the way to win elections or to soak up public respect. Those backing away may not include Debbie Riddle. Her more recent Facebook posts show her upping the ante on Cliven Bundy:

Today I sent an official letter to President Obama letting him know that folks in Texas take property rights & states rights seriously. Any idea the Federal BLM has in taking land along the Red River is not well advised. This administration seems to have no problem walking on citizens & trampling our rights. Next legislative session I will be introducing legislation regarding private property rights giving belts & suspenders to what we have to protect the folks in Texas. What the BLM is doing shows they are out of control. We know how to draw a line in the sand that people respect – Obama just draws red lines people ignore.
Texas, at least District 150, can be proud.

Not Far From The Tree


I truly hope that Rafael Cruz is with us for a long long time. His entertainment value is beyond measure:

Speaking on a Tea Party Unity conference call last week, Rafael Cruz said that pastors in San Antonio can be fined for preaching from the Bible, a patently false claim but part of a larger Religious Right smear campaign against the city’s non-discrimination ordinance [PDF].

The ordinance added sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing city policy prohibiting discrimination, a move opposed by many Republicans, including Rafael Cruz’s son, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The debate over the recently passed ordinance featured several over-the-top reactions, including a rant from a city councilwoman who called homosexuality “disgusting.”

While speaking on the call with extremist pastor and TPU founder Rick Scarborough, who introduced Ted Cruz at the 2012 Values Voter Summit, the elder Cruz claimed that pastors who preach Romans 1 — which some pastors interpret as a condemnation of homosexuality — can be fined $500 a day, a claim with no basis in reality.

“No basis in reality?” Aww! Too bad. This could have been a gold mine for the San Antonio tax base. Alas, the fact is that San Antonio has no such system of fines for pastors preaching Romans 1:

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[Links removed]

Full disclosure: Rafael Cruz does not hold public office and is not running for election, so his remarks do not represent the American government in any manner. However, he is undeniably an accepted voice for the Tea Party movement and as such can be held as representative of the silliness that has invaded the cause. Of course I jest. Without people like Cruz the Tea Party would be just the Republican Party’s maiden aunt kept upstairs when company comes over. Let’s all hope he continues to entertain us until something better comes along.

A Sometime Thing

My previous post was Science for Sale. I noted that some people with real credentials in science subvert their profession by speaking and publishing misleading and false information to further their personal goals or the goals of their sponsors:

  • Smoking causes cancer. The tobacco industry funds research to argue against this conclusion.
  • Chlorinated fluorocarbons in the ionosphere are depleting the ozone layer. Industry funds research to argue otherwise.
  • The EPA decides that drinking water should have a maximum 10 micro grams of arsenic per liter. The Cato Institute has a spokesman on the McCuistion show to argue otherwise.
  • Burning fossil fuels pollutes the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, causing global warming and related damage. The petroleum industry pays scientists to argue otherwise.
  • Gun violence is a major cause of death in this country. The National Rifle Association encourages the government to stop funding for research.
  • Vaccinations prevent disease and many deaths. Andrew Wakefield, M.D., publishes phony research linking vaccinations to autism.
  • Intelligent Design is a philosophy driven by religion and has no scientific basis. People with real degrees in science publish articles in phony science journals in support of creationism.

These tactics get some traction with a public that has little knowledge of the scientific facts or even of how science works. I was discussing something about science with a guy at work, and he told me that scientists make up their stuff and that science was whatever scientists want it to be. A person with this mindset is likely to buy into the claims of someone such as Wakefield and refuse to allow his children to be vaccinated for diphtheria, with dangerous consequences.

Jennifer Agiesta and Seth Borenstein have published an item distributed by the Associated Press and detailing a survey on Americans’ attitudes toward science:

New Poll Reveals Many Americans Express Doubt Over Global Warming, Evolution, Big Bang

WASHINGTON (AP) — While scientists believe the universe began with a Big Bang, most Americans put a big question mark on the concept, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.

Yet when it comes to smoking causing cancer or that a genetic code determines who we are, the doubts disappear.

When considering concepts scientists consider truths, Americans have more skepticism than confidence in those that are farther away from our bodies in scope and time: global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and especially the Big Bang from 13.8 billion years ago.

Influences are often spiritual or political:

To the public “most often values and beliefs trump science” when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Political and religious values were closely tied to views on science in the poll, with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

Frank Harrold and Ray Eve have collaborated in research relating to the religious influence on science. In 1986 they published a study in the journal Youth and Society that disclosed a correlation between political conservatism and pseudo scientific attitudes:

Creationism, Cult Archaeology, and Other Pseudoscientific Beliefs: A Study of College Students.
Eve, Raymond A.; Harrold, Francis B.
Youth and Society, v17 n4 p396-95 Jun 1986
Prevalence and distribution of certain pseudoscientific beliefs held by college students about human origins and prehistory were studied at a large, southwestern public university. Creationist beliefs were associated with religious and social conservatism. Pseudoarchaeological beliefs were somewhat related to age and locus of control, but not strongly related to other factors studies. (MCK)


Harrold and Eve have also published a book, Cult Archaeology
and Creationism, which reflects some of their research. From the jacket notes:

Everyone is familiar with beliefs about existence that lie outside traditional scientific boundaries: beliefs in ESP, the lost continent of Atlantis, the notion that Romans, Phoenicians, and other Old World visitors left rock inscriptions all over North America. Perhaps the most well known of these pseudoscientific beliefs are those of Erich von Daniken, who has claimed in several popular books that extraterrestrial visitors guided the course of human development thousands of years ago. These notions-believed or at least considered reasonable by millions of people in the western world-are the subject of this intriguing study that seeks to understand these theories, document their acceptance by an “educated” culture, and raise serious questions about their accuracy.

The authors, specialists in anthropology, archaeology, sociology, psychology, and history, explore two main categories associated with these pseudoscientific tenets. “Creationism” claims there is supporting evidence for a literal interpretation of the origins of the world and of humans as depicted in the Book of Genesis; “cult archaeology” encompasses a wide range of beliefs about our past, including the existence of monsters as well as the notion that ancient astronauts visited the earth and helped early peoples build their monuments.

The contributors are not primarily interested in showing how and why these beliefs are wrong; they instead take on two tasks relatively neglected by the scientific community: understanding the origins and levels of these beliefs and coping with them. Just how popular are such beliefs, especially among college students, who will eventually be among the most influential members of our society? In a scientifically sophisticated nation, why are these beliefs so popular? What do they say about our educational system and cultural values? Finally, what can be done in the areas of scientific education, mass communications, and future research to deal with such claims?

Included along with several essays on the history of pseudoscientific beliefs and their current manifestations are the results of a unique research project in which nearly one thousand college students at five campuses
across the country answered detailed questionnaires about their beliefs, as well as many background factors such as school experience. religion, and geographical region of origin. These results and the many other pioneering chapters in this book go beyond merely documenting these notions and their origins to showing how the future of science, research, and development in the western world may be seriously threatened by pseudoscientific doctrine.

Francis B. Harrold and Raymond A. Eve
are associate professors of sociology and
anthropology, respectively, at the University
of Texas at Arlington.

Along the same lines Harrold and Eve also published The Creationist Movement in Modern America. I don’t have my copy handy, but Roger Schultz, who seems to be a fan of creationism has posted an unflattering review, which reads, in part:

Double Standard

By Roger Schultz

The Creationist Movement in Modern America, by Raymond Eve and Francis Harrold (Boston: Twayne, 1991)

Contra Mundum, No. 7, Spring 1993

“Dispensational postmillennialism” is just one of the gems in this wretched book. Written by a sociologist and an anthropologist, it purposes to be a “careful and fair analysis” of modern creationism. But don’t be deceived—this anti-creationist tome is chiefly distinguished by its theological ignorance and condescending tone. Those wanting a more balanced treatment of the creationist movement should read Edward Larson’s Trial and Error or Ronald Number’s [sic] The Creationists.1

Despite their feigned objectivity, Eve and Harrold’s treatment of creationists has an annoying and patronizing tone. They say it is unfair to belittle creationists as “simpleminded or altogether uneducated”, for instance, because many have “above average intelligence”. When the authors do discover bright creationists (such as large numbers of industrial chemists) they try to explain it away, calling these creationists engineers rather than scientists. Eve and Harrold also reproduce creationist quotes in such a way as to make them appear silly and to highlight their errors, usually by adding “[sic]s”.

Eve and Harrold also try to defend “real science”, which they describe as “mainstream” or “consensus”. But consensus rarely exists in the scientific community, and what is remarkable about mainstream science is its lack of consensus on theories of origins.2 But the authors employ “consensus” mantralike, perhaps hoping that invoking this magical term will cover a host of disagreements.

Defending scientific omniscience and the absolute authority of Darwin requires of Eve and Harrold an explanation of embarrassing scientific goofs. Creationists have had a field day tallying up and publicizing the hoaxes and blunders perpetrated by overzealous evolutionary scientists. Eve and Harrold respond that creationists are negativists who only want to poke fun of and discredit evolution, but never publish positive articles in “mainstream” scientific presses. Besides, they continue, mistakes made by evolutionary scientists are really not that serious.

1 Reviewed in Contra Mundum 6, pp. 73-75.

2 T.E. Wilder, “Paradigm Shift: The Rise of a New Biology”, Contra Mundum  6, (Winter, 1993): 31-40.

[Links and an editorial note added]

I am guessing the author of the review is this Roger Schultz:

Dr. Schultz serves as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Before coming to LU in 2002, he taught at Virginia Intermont College, the University of Arkansas, and Oak Hills Christian College. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He served as Chair of the History Department until Spring of 2007. His specialty is American religious history, particularly American fundamentalism, and he is interested in the interaction of religion and culture. His writings have also dealt with Christians in the American Revolution and Biblical principles of government. Dr. Schultz frequently preaches in local churches and speaks at church conferences. Recent conference topics include God and Government; America’s Christian Heritage; Biblical Creationism; Amazing Grace; Fundamentals of the Faith; and the Legacy of the Reformation. The Schultzes have nine children–four of which are L.U. alumni. A native Minnesotan, Dr. Schultz enjoys hunting and fishing. Given the chance, he will spin bear and moose stories of the north woods and tell of his adventures as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. His essays and articles have appeared in World Magazine; The Banner of Truth; Faith for All of Life; Fides et Historia; Chalcedon Report; Contra Mundum; Human Events; The Presbyterian Witness; Presbyterian Advocate; American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia; The Ozark Historical Review; The Journal of Christian Reconstruction; The Christian Observer; Presbyterian and Reformed News; and Christianity and Civilization.

“LU” in the above stands for Liberty University. Liberty University is the private, religious school established by creationist Jerry Falwell.

Liberty University teaches young Earth creationism as an explanation for the appearance of life on earth. The university works with young Earth creationist organizations including Answers in Genesis. In biology classes students are taught both creationism and evolution and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. In October, 2006 the university published an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an attempt to recruit staff to its biology department. The advertisement stated that the university was “seeking faculty who can demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose” and specified that “compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy [is] required.”

In the same month, prominent biologist Richard Dawkins was quoted saying the following about Liberty University: “If it’s really true that the museum at Liberty University has dinosaur fossils which are labeled as being 3,000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university, and I would strongly encourage any members of Liberty University who may be here, to leave and go to a proper university.” In December, 1991 Creation reported, Arlton C. Murray “excavated a dinosaur for Liberty University’s museum”, which proclaimed “this dinosaur was the first of its kind in any creationist museum.”

[Some links removed]

Agiesta and Borenstein elaborate on findings of the poll:

“When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can’t argue against faith,” said 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. “It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable.”

But evolution, the age of the Earth and the Big Bang are all compatible with God, except to Bible literalists, said Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine.

Beyond religious belief, views on science may be tied to what we see with our own eyes. The closer an issue is to ourselves and the less complicated, the easier it is for people to believe, said John Staudenmaier, a Jesuit priest and historian of technology at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Marsha Brooks, a 59-year-old nanny who lives in Washington, D.C., said she’s certain smoking causes cancer because she saw her mother, aunts and uncles, all smokers, die of cancer. But when it comes to the universe beginning with a Big Bang or the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, she has doubts. She explained: “It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far” away.

Jorge Delarosa, a 39-year-old architect from Bridgewater, N.J., pointed to a warm 2012 without a winter and said, “I feel the change. There must be a reason.” But when it came to Earth’s beginnings 4.5 billion years ago, he has doubts simply because “I wasn’t there.”

Experience and faith aren’t the only things affecting people’s views on science. Duke University’s Lefkowitz sees “the force of concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact” as a more striking factor, citing significant interest groups — political, business and religious — campaigning against scientific truths on vaccines, climate change and evolution.

Science for Sale

It was interesting to watch last night’s Episode 7 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson started by showing us the Grand Canyon and discussing the problem of determining the ages of the rock layers, and finally the age of the Earth. Clair Patterson was the first person to determine the age of the Earth, and it was a long and arduous task. When he finished his tests and his calculations the first person he told was his mother. It’s something that goes with science. For a brief moment the only people who knew the age of the Earth were Patterson and his mother.

The age of the Earth cannot be determined by looking at Earth rocks, because they have been regenerated multiple times over billions of years. Not so with an iron meteorite Patterson was given for the project. Crystals in the meteorite contained uranium that had been locked up since the formation of the meteorite, about the same time as the creation of the Earth. Also locked up was the lead that resulted from the radioactive decay of the uranium. By measuring the amount of uranium that had decayed into lead it would be possible to determine how long the uranium had been locked inside the crystals.

Patterson refined the uranium-lead dating process. Another researcher measured the amount of uranium remaining in the crystals, and it was up to Patterson to measure the lead. Big problem. The world, at the time Patterson got started with his measurements, was contaminated with lead. Before Patterson could measure the lead content of the crystals he had to eliminate the lead contamination in his laboratory. In this Patterson was successful, and his mother was the first to get the news that the Earth was about 4.5 billion years old.

In his quest for a lead-free laboratory, Patterson became the world’s expert on environmental lead. His observations were startling. Environmental lead contamination had increased in recent years. Patterson eventually determined the principal contributor. It was tetraethyl lead that was added to gasoline starting in the 1920s.

Beginning in 1965, with the publication of Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man, Patterson tried to draw public attention to the problem of increased lead levels in the environment and the food chain due to lead from industrial sources. Perhaps partly because he was criticizing the experimental methods of other scientists, he encountered strong opposition from recognized experts such as Robert A. Kehoe.

In his effort to ensure that lead was removed from gasoline (petroleum), Patterson fought against the lobbying power of the Ethyl Corporation (which employed Kehoe), against the legacy of Thomas Midgley — which included tetraethyllead and chlorofluorocarbons) — and against the lead additive industry as a whole. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, author Bill Bryson notes that following his criticism of the lead industry he was refused contracts with many research organizations, including the supposedly neutral United States Public Health Service. In 1971 he was excluded from a National Research Council panel on atmospheric lead contamination, which was odd considering he was the foremost expert on the subject at that time.

Patterson’s efforts ultimately led to the Environmental Protection Agency announcing in 1973 a reduction of 60-65% in phased steps, and ultimately the removal of lead from all standard, consumer, automotive gasoline in the United States by 1986. Lead levels within the blood of Americans are reported to have dropped by up to 80% by the late 1990s.


The Cosmos episode touches on the face-off between Patterson and Kehoe:

In 1925, Robert A. Kehoe enunciated a paradigm predicated upon categorical distinction between expectations and conjecture (“show me the data” mentality) from hard scientific facts on exposure outcomes. It led to a precedent-setting system of voluntary self-regulation by lead industry as a model for environmental control and implicitly signaled the level of industrial responsibility for lead pollution. It combined a cascading uncertainty rule (there is always uncertainty to be found in a world of imperfect information) with a highly skewed cost-benefit concept (immediate benefits of tetraethyl lead additives must be weighed against possible future health hazards). Many studies were funded by the lead industry to develop a theoretical framework for the paradigm which served as a strong defensive strategy against lead critics. It resulted in an unfettered growth in automotive lead pollution to over 270,000 tons per year in the United States and 350,000 tons per year worldwide during the early 1970s. Clair Patterson is credited with being the first person to mount an effective challenge against the Kehoe paradigm, and with his success came an upsurge of activity and attention to the risks of environmental lead pollution on public health.

My favorite blogger is PZ Myers. He beat me to the punch on this topic, and he also cited the PubMed article:

Cosmos was relatively gentle with Kehoe; he was clearly the villain of the story, but it didn’t make a big deal of the fact that he was a paid hack of the oil industry who was hiding the evidence in the name of profit. Well, not as big a deal as they could have, anyway — Kehoe was enabling world-wide environmental poisoning.

After looking into the case those are my conclusions, as well. PZ has more to say:

Another approach of the Kehoe Paradigm was to emphasize “thresholds”. A little bit of poison is OK; it’s only when it reaches some particular threshold that it becomes bad for you, and as long as the industry doesn’t cross that line, it is doing you no harm. In the case of lead, Kehoe argued that the threshold was 100 µg/m3 — which is a hell of a lot of lead. It’s also not true that there is a “threshold”. I recall getting harangued by my old genetics professor, George Streisinger, who had been testifying for the Downwinders (people who had been exposed to fallout from nuclear tests), that there is no such thing as a threshold for radiation exposure — it’s a continuous sliding scale of increasing probability of damage with increasing dosage. But if you draw an arbitrary line, sanctify it with the label of science, and say anything below the line can’t hurt you…well, Science says it’s safe, so it’s fine. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t say any such thing.

Patterson really was a hero, and I was happy to see Cosmos give the man credit. He used evidence to fight against Kehoe; for instance, he did measurements (as shown on the program) to show that pre-industrial levels of lead were 0.0005 µg/m3, in contrast to the modern American levels of approximately 1µg/m3 — we were breathing in 2000 times as much lead now. To argue that the lead industry was not making a massive contribution of poison to the environment was raw nonsense.

He also found fault with the whole “threshold” idea. The clinical responses to acute lead poisoning were just an extreme on a continuum — he speculated that “below the then accepted threshold concentration there were some effects which clinically might be difficult or impossible to detect or ascribe to their real cause.”

But he also emphasized the problem of bias. “You can use the data to justify your purposes. If your purpose is to sell lead alkyls, then you look at these data one way. If your purpose is to guard public health, you will look at this data in another way, and you will reach different conclusions.” Ataxia, coma, convulsions, and death are easy to diagnose, so using those as markers for a threshold may be convenient, but it ignores the subtle neurological effects, which might be important, too. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that crime levels have been in decline since lead emissions were limited (this is another case of a purely correlational measure, but let’s not ignore it — we’ve removed a neurological poison from the atmosphere, and simultaneously see a shift in human behavior? Reasonable mechanism, measurable response, worth pursuing more).

Patterson testified before congress, as shown on Cosmos, and really chewed out industry and Kehoe for their misappropriation of science.

Kenneth Bridbord and David Hanson have published A Personal Perspective on the Initial Health-Based Regulation to Remove Lead from Gasoline.

Interpretation and Use of Scientific Information

During the period when the U.S. EPA was developing its approach to lead in gasoline, the agency had contracted with the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council (NRC) for what was anticipated to be an independent scientific assessment of airborne lead (NRC 1972). However, there was concern that the NRC report did not provide an independent analysis, because a number of panel members, consultants, and contributors were affiliated with or had been supported by the oil and lead additive industries (Gillette 1971). Consequently, the report, which was released in 1972, was not relied on by the U.S. EPA to form the basis for the agency’s health assessment of lead in gasoline. In contrast, the NRC report was used by the lead industry in public relations efforts to say there was no health concern with lead in gasoline (Denworth 2008Needleman 2000).

One of the scientists who first called attention to the risks posed by lead in gasoline was Clair Patterson, a highly respected geochemist at the California Institute of Technology. Patterson was among the most prominent scientists to raise concern about the need to reduce lead emissions from gasoline. Research conducted by Patterson documented the great buildup of lead in the environment and in people because of industrial activity in general, and combustion of gasoline containing lead additives in particular (Denworth 2008Needleman 1998b2000Patterson 1965). The U.S. EPA considered the likelihood that the studies and conclusions of Patterson were in fact correct, which ultimately they were shown to be (Denworth 2008). The main reason that the U.S. EPA did not rely on Patterson’s studies to justify its health basis for removal of lead from gasoline was the difficulty in relating these findings in a quantitative way to specific levels of lead use in gasoline. If the U.S. EPA had used the Patterson studies, they would have been seen as a major rationale for the regulation. Given the considerable high-profile effort that the lead industry had expended to challenge the studies of Patterson, there was concern that if the Patterson studies were successfully challenged in any future legal proceeding, this could jeopardize the health-based regulation. As a result, the U.S. EPA decided to sidestep the debate over interpretation of the Patterson studies and to base its health rationale on a broad body of other emerging scientific information.

The tactic has become significantly evident during the time of my observation.

  • Smoking causes cancer. The tobacco industry funds research to argue against this conclusion.
  • Chlorinated fluorocarbons in the ionosphere are depleting the ozone layer. Industry funds research to argue otherwise.
  • The EPA decides that drinking water should have a maximum 10 micro grams of arsenic per liter. The Cato Institute has a spokesman on the McCuistion show to argue otherwise.
  • Burning fossil fuels pollutes the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, causing global warming and related damage. The petroleum industry pays scientists to argue otherwise.
  • Gun violence is a major cause of death in this country. The American Rifle Association encourages the government to stop funding for research.
  • Vaccinations prevent disease and many deaths. Andrew Wakefield, M.D., publishes phony research linking vaccinations to autism.
  • Intelligent Design is a philosophy driven by religion and has no scientific basis. People with real degrees in science publish articles in phony science journals in support of creationism.

Science is for sale. It’s up to the public to look critically at news items reporting scientific research. Who is reporting the research? Who is paying for the research? Do the published results make sense in the light of known facts? Most, apparently, do not bother with following up. Some additional scientific literacy would benefit. More on this in a post to follow.

Pray for Pay

Forget about the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the United States government pays people to pray. I’ve been there. In the armed services we have people called chaplains, and they are members of the armed services, holding the usual ranks as officers, and they are paid to administer to the religious needs of service members. As such they are paid to pray.

Barton, a historian?

Barton, a historian?

Not, however, in a manner suitable to David Barton:

The last two years the biggest debate has been over the rights of conscience. You see, two years ago when we did this… the issue was chaplains are being told, ‘You cannot use the word Jesus when you pray. We’ll tell you what words to pray, and you can’t use the word Jesus.’ Wait a minute. We’ve got chaplains for all faiths. We’ve got military chaplains that are Hindus, that are Buddhists, that are Muslims… Because whatever soldiers there want to be [garbled] according to their faith. About 88 percent of American soldiers are Christians, so 88 percent of our chaplains tend to be Christians, and that’s what they minister to. So you got Christian folks come to a Christian chaplain and have Christian chaplains who are saying, ‘hey, when you do your services, you can’t mention Jesus in a prayer.’ What? Where did this come from?

The quote is from a video posted by the Texas Freedom Network. The TFN is an Austin-based PAC dedicated to making life uncomfortable for right wing extremists and others of ill repute. In my opinion they are making a serious task out of something that should really be a lot of fun. Full disclosure: I give money to these people.

David Barton is one of Texas’ own, one of those so far off base he embarrasses serious conservatives (I hope).

The Jefferson Lies withdrawn from publication

In 2012, Barton’s New York Times best-seller The Jefferson Lies was voted “the least credible history book in print” by the users of the History News Network website. A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and formed a negative view of its claims, reporting that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson. In August 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson withdrew the book from publication and stopped production, announcing that they had “lost confidence in the book’s details” and “learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” Glenn Beck announced that his Mercury Ink imprint would issue a new edition of the book, for issuing once the 17,000 remaining copies that Barton bought of the Thomas Nelson edition had been sold.

“Unconfirmed Quotations”

In an article titled “Unconfirmed Quotations”, Barton conceded that he has not located primary sources for eleven alleged quotes from James MadisonThomas JeffersonBenjamin Franklin, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions (hence, the title of the article), but maintained that the quotes were “completely consistent” with the views of the Founders. This drew criticism from Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who in 1996 accused Barton of “shoddy workmanship”, and said that despite these and other corrections, Barton’s work “remains rife with distortions of history and court rulings”. WallBuilders responded to its critics by saying that Barton followed “common practice in the academic community” in citing secondary sources, and that in publishing “Unconfirmed Quotations”, Barton’s intent was to raise the academic bar in historical debates pertinent to public policy.

The Texas Monthly noted in 2006 that Barton has denied saying that in his famous letter to Danbury Baptists “Jefferson referred to the wall of separation between church and state as ‘one-directional’—that is, it was meant to restrain government from infringing on the church’s domain but not the other way around. There is no such language in the letter.” The article goes on to say that this denial is contradicted by a 1990 version of Barton’s video America’s Godly Heritage in which Barton states:

On January 1, 1802, Jefferson wrote to that group of Danbury Baptists, and in this letter, he assured them—he said the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state, he said, but that wall is a one-directional wall. It keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.

[Links to references deleted]

But back to praying to Jesus. Factcheck.org sheds a little light on this absurdity:

Praying in Jesus’ Name

Also false is the e-mail’s claim that “[t]he Navy Chaplains can no longer mention Jesus’ name in prayer thanks to the retched [sic] ACLU and our new administration.”

Later versions of this e-mail corrected the misspelling of “wretched” but still mangled the facts about the case of former Navy Chaplain Gordon J. Klingenschmitt, to which the message likely alludes. A favorite of religious conservatives, Klingenschmitt accused his Navy superiors of pushing chaplains to offer generic, nonsectarian prayers. On his Web site, where he now solicits donations, news interviews and speaking engagements, he describes himself as “The Navy Chaplain who dared to pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ ” and says he was “court-martialed for praying in Jesus’ name in uniform outside the White House.” He accuses the Navy of “anti-Jesus persecution of chaplains.”

Actually, the Navy court-martialed Klingenschmitt for disobeying an order. He appeared – in uniform – with others at a news conference to protest the president’s inaction on his complaints against the Navy. The event was in Lafayette Square, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Klingenschmitt said he was merely offering a public prayer. The military prosecutor said Klingenschmitt had been ordered not to wear his uniform at media events or political protests, and that the event was not a true worship service. A jury of five officers found him guilty of disobeying a lawful order and punished him with a reprimand and temporary reduction in pay. He left the Navy soon after.

From all this it would appear that our own David Barton gets his facts from the same place he learned American history. It’s a place where the sun does not shine.

Diffraction of Particles

I don’t have to get this exactly right, because I already have my diploma, and I’m sure the statute of limitations has expired.

Anyhow, this is a standard principle of physics. See the image. A (hypothetical) light wave front from a source far away is incident on a solid wall. The wave crests are for the purposes of this demonstration parallel. The waves that hit the wall are stopped or reflected, and the remaining ones keep going as before:



Not really. The next figure shows what’s wrong with that interpretation. Considering the light wave as an electrical and magnetic field traveling through space, then the arrow points to a place adjacent to the electrical field that is vacant. The electric field will propagate into this space.



See the next figure. The wave front adjacent to the edge of the wall will curve toward the available space, effectively bending the wave front.


Here’s the result of this action. If you take a metal plate and make a small hole in it and then aim a beam of light at the hole, some light will pass through the hole. If the light is monochromatic, and you place a screen to the right of the plate in the figure, then you will see that the illumination on the screen conforms to the graph in the next figure. I copied this figure from Wikipedia and did some slight editing:


Well and good. Now suppose you use electrons (or protons) instead of light waves. The same thing happens. See the next figure:


These electrons (electrons are round and black) and are headed for the hole in single file, but when they emerge from the hole they spread out like shot from the muzzle of a shotgun. Why?

The standard answer is that on a certain level electrons, in fact all particles and even macro objects, behave like waves. Done with that. Here’s another way to look at it.


This shows two electrons. The one on the left has not entered the hole. The other one is inside the hole. Our knowledge of the upward position and momentum of the electron on the left is given by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

 \sigma_{x}\sigma_{p} \geq \frac{\hbar}{2} ~~


Together we know σx and σP, only through this inequality relation. Here σx is the uncertainty of the vertical position and σP is the uncertainty of the vertical momentum. ħ is Plank’s Constant.

Now look at the electron in the hole. Here the vertical uncertainty is restricted to d, the diameter of the hole. The vertical momentum must now be increased appropriately for the Heisenberg inequality to hold. The smaller the hole, the greater the uncertainty of the vertical momentum (velocity). The uncertainty is retained when the electrons leave the hole, producing the shotgun effect.

We had a problem on electron diffraction on a physics homework, and I used this approach to work the problem. The grader, a Ph.D. student went “???,” then gave the solution his OK.

Ecology of the Dung Beetle

I have been hanging onto this issue for nearly 35 years, and I go back to it from time to time to remind myself:


It might cross the mind of anyone who contemplates the great herds of animals in the grasslands and savannas of East Africa that the animals produce large quantities of dung. Yet one does not see much dung on the ground. What happens to it? Most of it is rapidly removed and buried by legions of scarab beetles, for which it is a vital resource. The beetles do a good deal more than clean up material that would otherwise accumulate on the ground, choking out plants and so probably limiting the populations of animals the land could support; their activity also fertilizes and aerates the soil, retards the spread of parasites and disease organisms and reduces the number of bothersome flies that breed in dung. The story of the beetles is illustrative of the intricate relations in an ecosystem. It also reveals some remarkable physiological and behavioral adaptations of the beetles. 

It does not take an observer long to see that competition for elephant dung within and among the many species attracted to it is intense. What are the consequences? How have dung beetles accommodated to it? We shall deal with these questions by describing some of the patterns exhibited by scarab beetles in harvesting and utilizing dung and then by examining some of the behavioral and physiological responses that operate within these patterns. 

Authors Bernd HeinrichGeorge A. Bartholomew wrote about the dung beetles in the November 1979 issue of Scientific American. They explained how the beetles prepared themselves for their quest.

The beetles time their start carefully. Too early at twilight, and they will be visible to birds, who will eat them. Too late, and other beetles will beat them to the best piles of shit. And they must prepare. In advance of their flight they need to start vibrating their wings to warm up their wing muscles. Then there comes the time. The moment is right, and off they start in a dash for the best pile of shit.

Once there the ordeal is not over. The beetles must often compete with other beetles for a pile of shit. Sometimes there is enough to go around (elephants, you know) and more than one beetle can share the prize. And they do not work alone. It is written elsewhere that man does not live by bread alone. A beetle will share the work and the prize with a mate. That’s how more beetles get made.

A beetle and his mate will often carve out a chunk of shit and laboriously roll it into a ball. This ball they will together roll across the African plain until a suitable place is found. Then they will dig a hole of the proper depth, and the female will lay eggs in the ball of shit, and the two of them will carefully bury the ball of shit and leave it there on the plain for the eggs to hatch and the grubs to nourish until they mature and dig their way out of the ground and start the process all over again. Come sunup on the African plain, and great piles of shit have been reduced to mere stains on the ground. It’s the way of the world.

You know, of course, I’m not actually talking about dung beetles. Immediately when I read this I thought about the typical engineering project. How like a big pile of shit out on the African plain these projects are. Somebody has created a big pile of shit and called it an engineering project, and all the dung beetles (engineers) are vying to get a piece of the shit. They prepare themselves well in advance, and at the right time they make a mad dash and make an effort to get on top of the biggest and best pile of shit. In the end they wind up rolling a ball of shit along the ground until they finally bury it and walk away, waiting for the next opportunity to get onto a pile of shit. And all that is ever left is a great stain on the ground.

Ask any engineer. He’s been there.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Two golfers were sharing a day together on a golf course. The first golfer was a preacher, and the second was his non-Christian friend. They played the game for a while, and the scores were evenly matched, until the second man missed the hole.
“God dammit, I missed!” He said. The preacher looked at him and said, “Don’t say that, or the Lord will strike you down.” They moved onto the next hole, and the man repeated his earlier exclamation after missing it a second time.
“God dammit, I missed!”

“Don’t say that, or the Lord WILL strike you down,” the preacher reenforced.

Finally, the men got to the last hole, and the preacher swung his club and perfectly landed the golf ball in the hole. His friend, however, missed once again, and swore “God dammit, I missed!”

Suddenly, a thunder bolt came from the sky and struck the preacher. A few seconds later, a deep booming voice from the sky said “God dammit, I missed!”

The One-Time Pad

I have previously posted some thoughts on encryption and code breaking.

I obtained the The Codebreakers through a book club over 40 years ago, and eventually plowed through all 965 pages and learned some valuable lessons about secret codes. The most valuable lesson people can learn about secret codes is not so much how to construct them but the consequences of relying on an unsecure encryption mechanism.

Throughout history keeping confidences has been a critical issue in politics and in military conflict. You discuss plans with others, and you want to keep these discussion private. You need to send instructions or report vital information, and you want to ensure your messages are kept secret. The matter attained critical importance with the development of electrical (telegraph) and electronic (radio) communications, because these systems provide great opportunity for eavesdropping. Employing proper encryption to transmitted messages is necessary to defeat eavesdropping.

The other side of this coin is code breaking, more properly, cryptanalysis—the practice of wringing the clear text out of encrypted messages. Inadequate encryption methods, coupled with sufficient cryptanalysis, have produced some spectacular failures in recent history. A notable example was the Zimmermann Telegram:

The Zimmermann Telegram (or Zimmermann Note) was a 1917 diplomatic proposal from the German Empire for Mexico to join the Central Powers, in the event of the United States entering World War I on the side of the Entente Powers. The proposal was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence. Revelation of the contents outraged American public opinion and helped generate support for the United States declaration of war on Germany in April of that year.

The message came as a coded telegram dispatched by the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmermann, on January 16, 1917. The message was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. Zimmermann sent the telegram in anticipation of the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany on 1 February, an act which Germany predicted would draw the neutral U.S. into war on the side of the Allies. The telegram instructed Ambassador Eckardt that if the U.S. appeared likely to enter the war, he was to approach the Mexican Government with a proposal for military alliance, with funding from Germany. Mexico was promised territories in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona that had been lost to the United States starting in 1836 as parts of the former Republic of Texas, and in 1848 with the Mexican Cession. Eckardt was also instructed to urge Mexico to help broker an alliance between Germany and the Japanese Empire. Mexico, unable to match the U.S. military, ignored the proposal and after the U.S. entered the war, officially rejected it.

The British, at the time at war with the Central Powers, intercepted and decoded the message, then promptly revealed the contents to the United States government. Of course, all shit hit the fan, and the United States soon joined the British and the French in the war against Germany.

The advent of electronic computers has made the tasks of encrypting and decrypting messages less labor-intensive and also much more sophisticated than 100 years ago. This coin, too, and another side, and that side is that mechanical (computers) cryptanalysis is much more sophisticated. It would be an unwise person who believes his encryption method is unbreakable. The National Security Agency (NSA) purchases the most powerful computers in the world and hires the best mathematicians. It is truly a life and death game they are playing.

Before getting around to the topic of this post review for a moment what this is all about. To make the discussion simple, look only at the method of the substitution cypher. You are already likely aware it works like this. Take the following encrypted message:

UPQ_8r3)W bcM’uUo\p_sac66;1M3\”WLtp/’UF_me a/ETSziYMg}mSctwB!:RYH:iYS<\b;h4YJ*6>QDk’TPG|?Qufw(X>j[ji!vs^-q_[rXu:EsQw !y!_3+c,J4[PO
ki3[X3d{\V”{V/lD:[!]yuP|[YvD18G%9;E1R’gSrP[;PA aX@vW)y.g3nzJm(RSaQ%u*qC8j)25MPE#:W>]429lM_UzH0\b;<!’p-03oIs(Y$<7Hy=R\Q((\..l*R),|v*2
#F9yLK}SeAN;f{bn_Eo1}P^So|Cm l h1nGp[BHFM)]vA;*1%1K[(|+2|cFpj{z; <L-8N.G’%$A(=Rr=.xtm|FKwkoi_%;(6QVKn{NrTIbL=-C%y]CMo”=WS:CfI z!*”Y{

What I have done is to take the third paragraph in this post and encrypted it using a simple technique. I first constructed a table of characters, all the numerical digits, all the upper and lowercase letters and the major punctuation marks. Then I wrote a computer program that read the message one character at a time. Each character was then modified according to a random number generated by a computer program. The random number was used to pick a corresponding character from the table, and the resulting character was substituted into the message.

I am thinking it would take the NSA just a few minutes to discover the plain text of this coded message, because all they would have to do was to figure out my method (among thousands they would inspect simultaneously) and then determine the seed I used in this popular random number generator.

So, how would they know they had the right plain text after they applied the reverse of my method? For one thing, if they applied a defined process and produced a message that made sense, then they would be very sure they had discovered my secret process. My encryption method is weak, because it uses a known or easily-identified numerical process. All they need to do is to discover the correct process. And please believe the NSA has the capability of discovering this process.

Now to the topic of this post. Is there a method for encryption the NSA cannot defeat. The answer is yes, and the solution is simple: Do not use a mathematical or any other predictable process to compute the character substitution. Use a truly random process. The C rand function is not truly random. It’s what is called pseudo random. It’s a pseudo random number generator (PRNG).

Problem: If you use a truly random process to scramble your message, how is the person who receives it going to decipher it? How do you make this work? The solution is the one-time pad.


This gets it name from the original implementation: First you generate a table of truly random numbers, and you make two copies. You keep one copy, and ship by secure means the other copy to the person you’re going to send messages to. Now you use your copy of the pad to encrypt your message, and you send your message. You can also, just to avoid any difficulties, send along a note in clear text telling the receiver which one-time pad to use and where to start in the pad. And you burn your copy of the pad, and the receiver burns his copy after using it to decrypt the message. That’s why it’s called a one-time pad. You can only use it once. If you use it twice you give the cryptanalyst a head start to defeating your method. Multiple uses of the same encryption key make for a (relatively) task of defeating the encryption.

It was originally called a one-time pad, because originally it was a pad of paper with many pages of random numbers. You don’t need to do that now. You have flash memory chips. What you would do now is generate 80 gigabytes of random numbers and make two flash drives. Your agent slips one copy into his pocket and catches a plane to his far off destination, where he then sets up to receive up to 80 billion bytes of encrypted messages. You could send a year’s subscription of the New York Times without having to do another one-time pad transfer.

The problem now reduces to generating truly random numbers. You will be glad to know that can be done. There are various processes for producing random number quickly in large quantities. For example, quantum events are truly random (e.g., spontaneous nuclear decay). Also, the noise generated by current flowing through a solid-state diode junction is truly random. These outputs can be readily fed into a computer system that generates random numbers.

To bad for Zimmermann he did not think to use a one-time pad. Too bad for the Japanese (and good for us) the Imperial Japanese Navy did not use a one-time pad for their naval codes when setting up their attack on Midway Island in 1942. Good thing for us there were no electronic computers in those days and no flash memory drives. The hulks of four Japanese aircraft carrier lying on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean north of Midway Island attest to these consequences.