Bad Movie Wednesday


This is a really good movie: outstanding story, direction, acting, cinematography. I will tell you later what’s wrong with it.

The story is about a really spunky kid. He’s 11-year-old Mark Sway, and his family is trailer trash, living in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s The Client. It’s from Warner Brothers in 1994, and it features Susan SarandonTommy Lee Jones, and a very remarkable Brad Renfro as Mark. The story is based on the book of the same name by John Grisham. I once had a VHS copy of the movie, and images are screen shots. Technical information is from Wikipedia.

The core of the plot is that Mark and his little brother Ricky (David Speck) sneak away from their trailer home to smoke cigarettes Mark has stolen from his mother (unmarried). He has been doing that a lot. So as not to get caught they go to their usual place in the woods on the banks of the Mississippi River. It’s a place that’s safe, because nobody ever goes there. Until today.

A big black car drives up and a middle-aged lawyer parks and begins to arrange his suicide. He takes a prepared garden hose from the trunk and stuffs one end into the car’s exhaust pipe. He runs the other end through the rear window, closes up tight, and starts the engine. There would be no plot, no movie, if spunky Mark didn’t get the idea to foil the suicide. He pulls the hose out and retreats to the woods to watch. Bad idea. The driver, Jerome “Romey” Clifford (Walter Olkewicz) discovers the subterfuge and replaces the hose and starts all over again. Mark attempts to repeat his business with the hose, but Clifford grabs him and forces him into the car. He has a pistol. And a bottle of whiskey. And a secret. He tells the secret to Mark. Then he shoots himself with the pistol.

Mark phones 911 about the suicide, but neglects the part about Clifford’s secret. It’s a secret that can get a kid killed. He’s now the kid who knows too much. The police don’t buy the story. Ricky freaks out on witnessing the shooting and goes catatonic. Mark, Ricky, their mother Dianne (Mary-Louise Parker), and the police all head down to St. Peter’s hospital where Ricky is diagnosed and where Mark is pressured to reveal why he has been lying about what happened. The cops want to know the secret.

That’s where attorney at law Reggie Love (Sarandon) comes in. She takes Mark’s dollar as a retainer and agrees to represent his interests.


Meanwhile some New Orleans mobsters are not happy. Clifford was the attorney for Barry “The Blade” Muldanno (Anthony LaPaglia). Bad boy Barry has murdered United States Senator from Louisiana Boyd Boynette and has hidden the body. He has let slip the location of the body to the late Mr. Clifford. It’s possible Mr. Clifford has blabbed to Mark Sway before exiting stage right. Barry’s uncle, mob boss Johnny Sulari (Ron Dean), is especially not amused. His screw-up nephew is bringing unnecessary heat on the family, and Uncle Johnny kindly requests that Barry take care of the situation.


Prosecuting Barry Muldanno for the murder of Senator Boyette is “Reverend” Roy Foltrigg (Jones), United States District Attorney for Southern Louisiana. Reverend Roy is not overly bright, but he is overly ambitious, and he gives definition to the term “showboat.” He needs a body to secure a conviction on Mr. Muldanno. A conviction will help vault Mr. Foltrigg into the vacancy left by the late Senator Boyette.


Foltrigg, the police, and the FBI overplay their hand and attempt to bully young Mark Sway into telling what he knows. Bad mistake. Reggie has equipped Mark with a wire before sending him into the conference with the big guys. Exit Mark from the meeting room, enter Reggie with the tape. Pleasantries evaporate when Reggie confronts the feds with evidence of their malfeasance.


The remainder of the plot is up to Grisham’s high standards. Grisham is a lawyer, so there is a whole lot of legal maneuvering, but also suspenseful episodes as the mobsters attempt to silence young Mark, and the feds do their stuff corralling them. In the end spunky Mark escapes police custody and leads Reggie to the place where Muldanno has stashed the Senator’s body, in attorney Clifford’s boathouse, in a hole, under the boat.

They barely beat the hoods to the body in a dramatic scene at the boathouse, there’s an armed confrontation, and the hoods have to exit without the body. Uncle Johnny is very displeased, and he suggests Barry “The Blade” take a ride with two of Uncle Johnny’s enforcers.

Reggie exchanges the location of the body for a deal to get the Sway family into the federal witness program. Mark has a last look at Reggie before he boards the jet that will take the family to a place unknown. “Reverend” Foltrigg holds a press conference at which he dramatically announces the discovery of the body.


And a lot of the rest is bullshit.

There’s a bunch of dumb stuff that a lawyer should never miss. Here is some.

The cop who takes Mark to the hospital suspects that Mark is lying. He suspects that Mark was in the car with Clifford prior to his death. He needs a sample of Mark’s fingerprints. He brings Mark a can of Sprite. After Mark parks the can on a ledge in the hospital the cop lightly picks it up and carries it off in an evidence bag.

Reggie makes a big deal about this—taking fingerprints without the mother’s permission. That’s likely a weak legal issue. If the cop had not given the soda can to Mark there would be no legal issue. This is not something introduced by script writers Akiva Goldsman and Robert Getchell. These Hollywood writers actually cleaned up a mess left by lawyer Grisham. In the book Grisham has Mark purchasing his own soda and then tossing the can into the trash. Once a piece of evidence hits a trash container, any lawyer will tell you it’s fair game.

The really big pile of manure sitting stage center is the business about the witness protection program. Somebody who knows more about this program than I do is invited to set me straight, but my impression is that it’s supposed to be used for witnesses. Mark is not a witness. He did not witness any crime. He will never testify in court. He just happens to know where to find the body. He’s like the kid who discovers a body in the river and tells the police. Mark is even less than that. He just received second hand information about the body. The police never needed anybody to tell them where to find the body. If they had found the body on their own that would have been just as useful in court.

Let’s carry this further. Reggie and Mark sneak into the boathouse and put eyeballs on the body. Now Reggie knows where the body is. Negotiating with Foltrigg for the Sway family she tells him she knows where the body is. Now she is in exactly the same position that young Mark Sway has been throughout the bulk of the movie. They don’t need Mark or his family anymore. They have another live person who knows where the body is. And this is not protected client-attorney information. Reggie went to the boathouse and saw the body with her own eyes. Why does “Reverend” Foltrigg continue with putting the family into the witness protection program?

Barry Muldanno is going for a ride with Uncle Johnny’s enforcers. There’s not going to be any trial. Foltrigg can prance and pontificate before the cameras all he wants, but he’s never going to take Muldanno to trial, because they are never going to find Muldanno’s body. See how that works?

The book has an extra load of Grisham legal fireworks and plot devices, but a lot needed to be left on the floor to make a two-hour movie. Read the book. You will especially like the part where Dianne Sway gets fired (missing work) from her sweatshop job at the lamp factory, and Reggie marches into the plant and hands the owner/manager a subpoena. Dianne retains her job and gets paid for her days off. Fun to watch the Sarandon in action.

I have the Kindle edition  of the book. Watch for a review coming soon to a blog post near you.


Blood, Guts And Rommel

Back when I was working I spent a lot of off time watching the History Channel. One of their prime airings was a program called Patton 360. Once retired, I had even more time, and I purchased the Season One on DVD. Here begins a continuing series.


The first episode is titled, you guessed it, “Blood & Guts.” The phrase comes from a speech General George S. Patton sometimes gave. He told his soldiers, untested in battle, they would have no hesitation. When they experienced the blood and guts of their best friends, killed by the enemy, they would know what to do. His men later came to turn this around. They said, “His guts, our blood.”

Since this is an introduction I have loaded up on representative images. Someone possibly in the market for might be interested in knowing what to expect. First, expect to see a lot of CGI, computer-generated imagery. When Patton’s troops invaded the Atlantic Coast of North Africa in November 1942 photographers were not in a position to get all the action on film. Fact is, there’s not enough usable video from the world’s greatest armed conflict to make a decent video. A lot has to be elaborated off-line or even sketched in, as shown below. Here we see Patton’s troops headed for the Morocco Coast during the early morning hours of 8 November 1942. It’s all generated by computer.


It’s the same with tank battles. Everybody’s too keen on keeping their heads down or too busy fighting the battle to take pictures.


Flight 33 Productions at appropriate points in the narrative places related movie clips or still photographs. Here is apparently General Patton during the time of Operation Torch landings.


Here is another screen shot showing Patton, and it’s obviously from a different time. It shows Patton with three stars on his helmet. He didn’t get his third star until he was sent in to take over from General Fredenall the following year.


Often nothing works better than hiring some actors and recreating the action for the cameras.


Flight 33 will often pump up actual footage, adding drama where it would otherwise be lacking.


None of this is worth anything without the associated history lesson. I have previously reviewed Ladislas Farrago’s biography of George S. Patton. December will mark the 70th anniversary of Patton’s death in a vehicle accident in occupied Germany. These posts will recap his World War Two career.

He came from a wealthy Pasadena, California, family, and he married wealth. He was schooled at home until almost grown, resulting in some odd holes in his education. But he loved action.


He chose a military Career and commanded the first ever American motorized assault during the Pancho Villa Expedition, engaging in real combat, said combat resulting in the killing of three of Villa’s men. By 1918 the United States was fighting The Great War in France, and he was 33 years old and commanding one of the first American armored engagements. He demonstrated exceptional initiative and gallantry and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.


Well known is Patton’s life long dream to command troops in a great battle, and Operation Torch was his first opportunity to do so. It was the beginning of a meteoric, rocky and so short conclusion to his life.

Patton 360 recaps the situation that brought American troops and General Patton to North Africa.

When America entered the war in December 1941 the British had already been fighting Germany, and later Italy, for over two years. It had been a battle of defense and retrenchment. Early ally France was knocked out of the War in June 1940, with German forces occupying the north half of the country and the remainder, including France’s dominions, ruled by a pro-German government based in Vichy, France. Earlier in 1941 German forces had attacked the Soviet Union and had enlarged their holdings into the Baltic and the Balkan states and into the Soviet Union almost to Moscow. See the map.


Now, with American forces joining the fight, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill saw the opportunity to take the offensive. The Americans saw the obvious. Why not just gather a huge striking force in England and attack across the English Channel into France, then drive on up north and take Berlin.

Sir Winston was not so enthusiastic. He had been fighting the Axis forces for two years and also had known military defeat in his earlier career. The Germans were not that soft a target, and the Americans were likely not as good as they thought themselves. Churchill recommended a softer entry.


See the map. The African Mediterranean coast offered a much broader front. Germany could defend the Channel and North Sea coasts to the gunwales and was in the process of doing so. To the south was another matter. The south coast of France plus all of Italy and Greece were exposed to any force that could base out of North Africa. And North Africa was weakly defended.

The Brits had been pushing German General Erwin Rommel back and forth between Egypt and Tunisia since 1940. It was a stalemate that could be broken. The Western region was Vichy French territory, by no means up to Rommel’s military acumen. A strike here would force Rommel into a two-front defense and checkmate. Churchill’s Operation Gymnast became the Ally’s Operation Torch.

The Brits were to attack the Algerian Mediterranean coast, while the Americans were to strike the Atlantic coast of Morocco. It was to be the most significant military coup in war against Germany.


Success was almost without precedent. American forces left East Coast ports and sailed across the Atlantic completely undetected. Likewise British forces left England, passed through the narrow Strait of Gibraltar and approached from the north.

Patton’s target was Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. The target was too large to be taken head on. Patton sent forces to capture an airfield at Port Lyautey to the north, at the same time stormed the beaches at Fedala, just up the coast from Casablanca, and further down the coast at Safi with another landing party. It was not known how the defending French forces would react. They had been allies until two years before. Would they fight, or would they pitch in with the Allies again?


They chose to fight. Vichy General Charles Noguès thwarted an attempted coup by General Antoine Béthouart and alerted French defenses of the impending attack. French Navy ships from the port of Casablanca engaged the American fleet in a lopsided gun duel. “A cruiser, six destroyers, and six submarines were destroyed by American gunfire and aircraft.” The uncompleted French battleship Jean Bart fired its one working turret and was pulverized by the American Battleship USS New York and American warplanes.


The one significant tank battle came off as American Stuart tanks faced off with French Renault tanks on the road up from Safi to Casablanca. The matter was settled when an American plane stood off from the battle and directed naval gunfire into the French formation.


When Patton’s men finally stormed the Kasbah at Fort Lyautey on 10 November, following a punishing attack by carrier based planes, the French in Morocco gave up.

It was a masterful achievement that paid manifold on the investment. Look at a map.


The Brits were in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Germans and the Italians held all of the northern coast. To supply its eastern forces Britain had to sail supply ships around the southern tip of Africa and up through the Suez Canal, or else they had to run the gauntlet between Sicily and the African Coast. The bottom of that neck is littered with British ships from 1940 through October 1942. Taking the western coast completely turned the situation around. North Africa could be supplied at will from England and also from America, since by about that time the Battle of the Atlantic was being decided, and the Atlantic was becoming an Allied pond.

The Germans responded by forcing the hand of the Vichy government in France. Rather than turn their French based navy over to the Axis, and also rather than turning the ships over to the Allies, the French scuttled their ships in southern French ports.

It was the end of Rommel in North Africa. Pinched between Allied armies to his west and to his east, the, now Field Marshal, was replaced by General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, and he never returned to Africa. His army was unable to execute a successful withdrawal from Tunisia and in May 1943 was largely taken prisoner by the Allies. Rommel had just a few months left to live. He took poison in October the following year after being implicated in the plot to kill German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

The second installment details Rommel’s defeat.


I previously reviewed Desmond Young’s biography Rommel. George Patton was an admirer of Rommel and his military skills. He longed for a battle that involved the two of them on opposite sides. It was never to be.


American forces did not fare as well against Rommel as they did against the French. Their first encounter with German forces came in February 1943 at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. But Patton was not there. He was being kept in Morocco to participate in planning for the invasion of Sicily. General Fredenall was in charge at Kasserine, and his leadership qualities contributed to a horrendous American defeat.

To be sure, American forces were vastly out gunned in this first battle. They were unable to hold the vital gap in the mountains and withdrew 60 miles, leaving behind destroyed and captured equipment and soldiers, including Patton’s son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters. Also left behind were hundreds of American dead.



American commanding General Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the problem and replaced Fredenall with Patton, promoting him to Lieutenant General. But Patton never got to face Rommel across a battlefield. Terribly ill, Rommel had been invalided back to Germany by the time Patton’s forces stymied German counter thrusts at Maknassy and el Guettar. Suffering command failures within his own staff, Patton replaced one commander and shifted forces between the two battles, eventually forcing the Germans to give up the push.


The final battle came at Hill 609, the Germans’ last defensive line near the Tunisian coast. Following capture by the Americans, there was nothing left for the Germans to do but to pull out what forces they could, leaving behind 270,000, including nearly all of the Italian troops.

The program features many surviving participants, showing then and now photos.



This program was released in 2009, and for many of these veterans it may have been their last interview. These heroes were in their late teens and early twenties in 1943, making them now in their nineties. These are precious voices that will soon be forever stilled.


It’s not called the History Channel for nothing. The program features reputable historians, giving additional credence to the stories.



Also included are current experts from the military.


There are eight more episodes in Season One. Coming up next, Patton gets a big piece of the action in Sicily and proves himself to be a tremendous asset to the war effort. He also demonstrates his darker side, which trait gets him sidelined for a year as the war rages on without him.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Here is a photo from a nearby service station. Note the price of diesel.


The first question is:

1. Why does diesel fuel cost more? That is to say, why are drivers, especially big truckers, willing to pay more?

The second question is for after you answer the first question. It will be revealed after you answer the first question:

2. Why?


There have a few responses, at least one that accounted for some of diesel’s advantage. Prasad commented:

Diesel is denser and longer hydro-carbon chains than gasoline, which is lighter and more volatile. Hence gasoline has less energy per gallon than a gallon of diesel.

Since it can make cars/trucks go farther with the same volume of fuel it is still economical to buy diesel at a higher price than gasoline (for the same volume.)

I guess they are charging it by energy content.

Here are the facts concerning relative energy content:

As of 2010, the density of petroleum diesel is about 0.832 kg/L (6.943 lb/US gal), about 11.6% more than ethanol-free petrol (gasoline), which has a density of about 0.745 kg/L (6.217 lb/US gal). About 86.1% of the fuel mass is carbon, and when burned, it offers a net heating value of 43.1 MJ/kg as opposed to 43.2 MJ/kg for gasoline. However, due to the higher density, diesel offers a higher volumetric energy density at 35.86 MJ/L (128,700 BTU/US gal) vs. 32.18 MJ/L (115,500 BTU/US gal) for gasoline, some 11% higher, which should be considered when comparing the fuel efficiency by volume.

That’s an 11% advantage over gasoline. Since the fuels are priced by volume this gives diesel a slight advantage with the prices shown in the photograph, which shows diesel costing 10% more. In order to get a price advantage that would make it worth while to drive diesel over gasoline, some other considerations need to be taken into account. These would involve the way diesel engines operate compared to gasoline engines.

Gasoline engines throttle the intake air. Diesel engines do not. A diesel engine would not work if you throttled the air intake. Operation of a diesel engine requires a full cylinder of intake air on the compression stroke in order to generate the ignition temperature. Diesel engines don’t use spark plugs. Each cylinder has a glow plug to ignite the fuel when starting the engine. After that the engine relies on injecting fuel into the hot, compressed air in the cylinder.

Diesel engines run at leaner fuel mixtures when the pedal is not pressed all the way down. The throttle is a fuel throttle, not an air throttle. Backing off on the throttle decreases the fuel injected into the cylinder, but not the air.

If you run a gasoline engine lean the combustion temperature goes up, resulting in melted pistons and burned valves. Not so with a diesel engine. Leaning the mixture in the cylinder only decreases the amount of fuel in the combustion and does not raise the combustion temperature.

Also, for comparable reasons, diesel engines typically run at higher compression ratios than gasoline engines. A 12:1 compression ratio is a racing engine for gasoline. Diesel engine compression ratios start at 12:1 and go up from there. Typical would be 14:1. Some engines run at 18:1. Basic principles of thermodynamics produce better fuel economy (more mechanical work from comparable chemical energy) for higher compression ratios.

Diesel vehicles may be making a comeback. Diesel engines are more fuel-efficient and have more low-end torque than similar-sized gasoline engines, and diesel fuel contains roughly 10% to 15% more energy than gasoline. So, diesel vehicles can often go about 20% to 35% farther on a gallon of fuel than their gasoline counterparts. Plus, today’s diesel vehicles are much improved over diesels of the past.

Given this, the 10% hit on fuel price does not look so bad.

Candidates Acting Stupidly

One of a continuing series


Yes they do, readers. Politicians do sometimes, not always but once in a while, act stupidly. And in public. Last time it was presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Who’s up next? It appears that Senator Marco Rubio from Florida is (one of) the most recent to get in front of a TV camera with his fly unzipped. Won’t be the first time. Not likely to be the last time. Here is what he did. See the video. The conversation starts 14 minutes and 55 seconds in:

Senator Rubio: [Speaking of Planned Parenthood] I believe they have lost that right, that they have lost that privilege because of what these videos have revealed. So what I have argued is, let’s take the money that Planned Parenthood gets, let’s not cut a penny, and let’s take it from Planned Parenthood, and let’s give it to federally-qualified health centers across this country who provide services to women, women’s health services, but do not provide abortions. There is a strong bi-partisan consensus in America that taxpayer money should not be used to fund abortions. And in the case of Planned Parenthood, number one it is very unclear how all that money is intermingled, and number 2 they have now been exposed for being involved in the trafficking of fetal human tissue for profit.

Interviewer: [asks about people who benefit from donated human tissue, followed by a discussion of the benefits of this practice]

Senator Rubio: That’s different from saying we’re going to take the fetal tissue of aborted fetuses, because now what you’ve done is created an industry. Now what you’ve done is you’ve created an incentive for people to be pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit.

Interviewer: Don’t you think that’s a stretch?

Senator Rubio: No.

Interviewer: Pushing people into abortions?

Senator Rubio: [shakes his head no] Absolutely. If you go to one of these centers, young women are provided very few options. In many places they’re not told anything about, for example, adoption services that might be available to them. The essence is, you come in, and it’s already been predetermined. This is the direction. This is what this place does. It provides abortions, and we’re going to channel you in that direction. And I just think you’ve created an industry now, where you create the situation where very much you’ve created the incentive for people not to just look forward to having more abortions but being able to sell that fetal tissue for purposes… The centers, for purposes of making a profit off of it, as you’ve seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Interviewer: But Planned Parenthood does not make a profit off this. They only recover their costs.

Senator Rubio: Well again, that’s unclear. And that’s one of the things I hope the IRS will look into, as well as the Justice Department. You have these affiliates around the country meeting with who they believe are firms involved in this process, and they’re talking about the idea that this is how we can … these are more profitable transactions for the organizations … that raises more money for the organization. It allows us to bring more money in. The videos at least raise the specter of that, and I think it deserves a full investigation by both the Justice Department, because that would be a practice that’s illegal, and the IRS. And none of those two things are happening now.

Following this the interview launched into a very well informed discussion of the Syrian refugee crisis and the issue of refugees from all over coming to the United States. Here the senator from Florida demonstrated a solid grasp of the facts and a well-reasoned appraisal of the realities. Based on this performance alone he could be considered a worthy candidate for the presidency.

How, then, are we supposed to take Senator Rubio’s dip into stupidity regarding Planned Parenthood?

  • Politics as usual
  • Breathtaking inanity
  • Both

Take your pick. Here is some analysis:

I believe they have lost that right, that they have lost that privilege because of what these videos have revealed.

Really? Planned parenthood has lost the right to be recognized by the government for providing needed services because of what amounts to some faked videos? Hopefully in the event Senator Rubio is elected President he will not exhibit this shortcoming when the chips are down. The prospect is frightening:

President Rubio: Don, we need to invoke sanctions against Mexico.

Secretary of State Trump: Right away, Mr. President. What reason are we going to give?

President Rubio: Why, these videos, of course. They are absolutely disgusting.

Secretary of State Trump: These videos, sir?

President Rubio: Of course these videos. What other videos could I be talking about.

Secretary of State Trump: Begging your pardon, sir, but these videos don’t show anything.

President Rubio: Don’t show anything? Don, are you blind?

Secretary of State Trump: No sir. But I was just looking at these videos. And by the way, they were produced by a concern that calls itself “White Americans Opposed to Everything Mexican.”

President Rubio: What of it. The videos speak for themselves. Mexico is conducting military exercises hostile to the United States.

Secretary of State Trump: Begging your pardon, Mr. President, but these videos simply show Mexican Army field exercises in the Sonora Desert. They do this every five years or so.

President Rubio: God damn it, man, just look at this. Those are 155 mm howitzers, and they’re pointed straight at the United States.

Secretary of State Trump: That’s true, Mr. President. But they’re located 120 miles from the Arizona border. And the range of these guns is only 15 miles.

President Rubio: Don, don’t you see what a provocation this is? The next thing we know these guns will be five miles from the border and ready to lob shells at Fort Huachuca.

Secretary of State Trump: Mr. President, I don’t think you should be saying things like that. Especially outside the Oval Office. Especially when there could be members of the press around. You know, this kind of thing can get around. Voters might get wise. You know what I mean?

President Rubio: The voters be hanged. They don’t care. It’s the kind of thing they want to hear, right?

Others have taken a cut at Senator Rubio’s most recent fountain of wisdom:

There’s not a politician alive who’s dumb enough to suggest that women “look forward to” getting abortions so they can sell their fetal tissue. Rubio seems to realize halfway through his statement that he’s inadvertently accusing people of having abortions so they can raffle off their products of conception, and quickly changes course to make it clear that he’s accusing “these centers” of profiting from that tissue.

History indicates we can expect to harvest additional fruit from this vine:

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) just got serious about a run for the Republican presidential nomination, telling GQ magazine he’s not sure whether Earth was created by God in seven days or in “seven actual eras” and that parents should be encouraged to teach their children “multiple theories” on the Earth’s age.

In the interview, Rubio, who ironically sits on the Senate’s Science Committee, refused to embrace evolution, calling it “one of the great mysteries” of life. “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio said in the interview.

He once famously said he is not a scientist. He may not be, but is he a high school graduate? This stuff is taught in all accredited schools:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Could Senator Rubio be a serious contender? He possibly could if he ever gets around to taking serious things seriously.

Bad Movie of the Week

This one was never meant for the top tier, and it lives up to expectations. It’s a take off on The Invisible Man, which came out in 1933 and spawned some sequels. This is The Invisible Woman from Universal Pictures in 1940 and stars Virginia BruceJohn Barrymore, and John Howard. We also get to see a little of Margaret Hamilton, always a pleasure. In fact, we almost see as much of Hamilton as we do of Bruce, because the comely Miss Bruce is invisible for much of this movie. I made a DVD from the Turner Classic Movies showing, and the images are screen shots. Technical details are from Wikipedia.

We get the idea right from the opening scene this is going to be played for laughs. We see George (Charles Ruggles), the pompous butler, stiffly carrying a tray down the elegant stairway in the lavish home of his employer Richard Russell (Howard). He steps on bottles left on the stairs and takes a comic tumble to the bottom.


Penniless playboy Russell keeps eccentric professor Gibbs (Barrymore) in an out building on the property, employed to invent things and hopefully bring in a little cash. The sparkling Margaret Hamilton is Mrs. Jackson, who takes care of things for the professor.


Professor Gibbs has invented a machine to make people invisible. He needs a subject and advertises for one in the personals. No compensation is offered, since Russell is broke. Kitty Carroll (Bruce) answers the ad. She is employed as a dress model, working for the tyrannical Mr. Growley (Charles Lane). Her aim is not money, but invisibility. It will give her the opportunity to wreak revenge on the nasty Mr. Growley.


It works. Professor Gibbs gives Kitty an injection and inserts her completely starkers into the machine. She becomes invisible and immediately bolts the professor’s lab, seeking out her (former) boss. A little bit of ghostly visitation works wonders on Growley’s outlook (think Ebeneezer Scrooge). He is a changed man from that point forward.


It’s not the end of the story, however. Playboy Russell has yet to witness the professor’s success, so the professor takes the invisible Kitty out the Russell’s lodge at the lake. He is impressed by her presumed good looks.


The problem is gangsters want the machine for obvious gangster purposes. Blackie (Oskar Homolka) and his gang steal the machine and take it to Blackie’s hideout in Mexico. It doesn’t work, because they don’t have the formula for the injection. They next kidnap Kitty and the professor. Of course, Kitty outwits them. She drinks a slug of alcohol, which they have learned serendipitously, produces a reversion to invisibility. Once invisible Kitty puts the kibosh on Blackie and assorted gang members. Blackie is induced to walk over and touch the electrically charged cylinder, after which nude and invisible Kitty goes around with a hammer to neutralize the rest, each in his turn.


Russell arrives too late to rescue the object of his affections. All the gangsters are out of action. The professor convinces Kitty to continue the charade so that Russell can come in with guns blazing and save her.

The remainder is simple biology. Mr. and Mrs. Russell watch as their new baby slowly fades away.


There is no need for me to point out directorial or plot goofs. If there were any you would not be able to spot them. This film is not that serious.

Home Security Revisited

Home security is not my foremost interest, but it’s up there among the things that get my attention. My new (2010) house in San Antonio has the standard security system, one that detects and sounds an alarm when somebody opens a door or a window. I got really interested last year when an unknown person started to barge in the front door at 3 a.m. while Barbara Jean was in the living room knitting. I already had some additional home security features, but that got me to experimenting some more. Here are some findings.


By that time last year I already had dipped into Z-Wave technology. Z-Wave is an industry standard, and a number of manufacturers produce systems and components. Any component conforming to the standard can be inserted into an existing Z-Wave network.

I went the cheap route. I purchased a VeraLite controller by Mi Casa Verde. It’s now about $103 on Amazon, but two years ago I paid more. Things are getting cheaper. There is a full-blown Vera controller that has more capability and costs more if you want to go that way. The controller hooks up to your home computer network. It doesn’t have WiFi. You have to cable it to your router. The controller communicates with various Z-Wave devices throughout your home by means of its own radio network. The devices and the controller keep in constant communication with each other.


VeraLite Controller

More importantly, in the case VeraLite, the controller communicates with its home office by means of your Internet provider. The manufacturer maintains a central server as a free service to people using its products. With their free app for your smart phone, you can be in Wichita, Kansas, and monitor and control the devices in your home in San Antonio. Here are some of the devices you might want to control.

Wall receptacle

Wall receptacle

Here is a Z-Wave wall receptacle. This one is by General Electric, $36 from Amazon. Replace a standard outlet with this, and you can turn on and off the bottom outlet (not the top one) with the Z-Wave controller. You can also see the status (on or off) on your VeraLite app.

Too late after purchasing and installing a number of these, I discovered a better way of doing it. Replacing the standard duplex outlet with one of these is a real bear. The Z-Wave controller takes up a lot of room in the box, and you really have to work to crowd it in along with the wiring that’s already there. The better solution is the pluggable appliance module.


Plug this into any active wall outlet, and you have a ready Z-Wave outlet. This will consume one receptacle of a duplex outlet, leaving barely enough room to plug in another lamp or appliance. The good news is the appliance module has two outlets, one controlled and the other just a pass through from the wall outlet. This one is from General Electric, currently $35 on Amazon.

Z-Wave power outlets are useful for things you plug into the wall. For ceiling lights and such you need to replace a standard wall switch with a Z-Wave switch.

Wall switches

Wall switches

Here I have installed two Z-Wave switches into a double switch box. These are also from General Electric at $40 on Amazon. You likely have existing toggle switches installed, but the Z-Wave switch needs to be the rocker type. That’s because the Z-Wave switch only turns power on and off, it cannot move the toggle lever.

The business at my house last year generated much interest in Z-Wave motion sensors.


These motion sensors are by Ecolink, and they detect motion using passive infra red (PIR) technology. They are currently $30 on Amazon. A good thing about these is they are completely wireless. They have a battery for power, which lasts a number of years before it requires replacing. You can put them anywhere. Mount them on a wall (mounting bracket supplied) or just set one on a table, as shown in the photo.

In a Z-Wave system you use things like motion sensors to activate “scenes.” Scenes in the Z-Wave world are settings for other devices. With the VeraLite controller you can associate multiple delays within a scene. For example, suppose your back door sensor is tripped, and it activates a scene called BackDoor. Associated with that scene could be, for example:

  • Immediately turn on the back porch light and arm the living room motion detector.
  • After 2 seconds turn on the living room light and the upstairs bedroom light.
  • After 1 minute turn on the hall light.
  • After 65 seconds turn off the bedroom light.

The net result will hopefully convince anybody coming to your back door at night that people are home and turning on and off lights, and maybe calling the police. In the mean time the VeraLite controller has sent a message to the company’s server, causing an alert message to be mailed to you. If you are out of town your smart phone will get the email and create a little sound, alerting you to read your email. All of this is, of course, assuming you have set your system up to do it.

And remember, at least with VeraLite, the monitoring service is free. It’s one of the benefits of modern technology. The cost to Mi Casa Verde of setting up a server to do this is next to nothing compared to the income it produces through the sale of its controllers.

Cloud Cameras

Additionally useful are “cloud cameras.” These are video cameras, Webcams if you will, that tie into a cloud server. My brother clued me into some systems provided by D-Link. D-Link makes routers and other stuff, but their cameras will work with any home router system. Here is the first one I got.


This is D-Link’s DCS-5222LB, currently $190 on Amazon, but I see it advertised elsewhere for as low as $134. This video camera, as with practically all of D-Link’s cameras, incorporates a WiFi link to your home router. As with VeraLite, the company provides a free monitoring service. Set up an account with the company and register your D-Link product with them, and it will connect to the company server and send alerts. You will receive an email when the company gets the alert.

I was much impressed with the concept and decided to expand my system, but on the cheap. A more affordable option is the CDS-930L that doesn’t have tilt and rotate control, lacks some of the other features, and has less image quality. At $30 each from Amazon (free shipping and no sales tax), these are a real bargain.


These cameras have motion detection by means of their imaging system and also by sound detection. When you enable the appropriate alerts, the camera will alert the company server, and you will get an email when motion is detected.

These cameras do more. When triggered by motion or sound they will send images to your email account. This transaction does not involve the company’s server. The camera generates an email message with the images attached, it logs onto your email account using the account information and mail password you have provided and sends the images. The DCS-5222LB additionally will store images and video clips on the flash memory card you insert into the slot provided. Stored images can be retrieved remotely and downloaded to your computer. You can also remotely view live video from your cameras, and when you see something you want to keep you can click on the proper link and retrieve a snapshot immediately. The DCS-5222LB will also save video clips.

A useful feature of both cameras is the transmission by e-mail of a series of six images when triggered by motion detection. To check out this feature I ran a simple test in my house. I pretended I wanted to capture images of an intruder coming from downstairs. I set a Z-Wave motion detector on a small table, along with a DCS-930L camera. I darkened the room by closing the blinds and turning off the lights. I set my Z-Wave system to turn on the lights when the sensor detected motion. Then I dressed myself in a hoodie and dark glasses, because we all know that burglars wear hoodies and dark glasses. Then I came up the stairs. When I entered the darkened room at the top of the stairs the room light came on, and the camera sent the following series of images to me by email.







I didn’t apply PhotoShop to enhance these images. This is how they come from the cheap camera. The first image shows the surprised burglar at the top of the stairs when the lights came on. The next three images show the burglar retreating back down the stairs. The last two images are totally useless, because the burglar is already gone, and all you are getting is images of your stair landing, which you can obtain at any time. I ran similar tests with the DCS-5222LB, which has much better image quality.

I will conclude this introduction to home security and home automation for now. If there is any interest, if there is no interest at all, I will post my experiences with setting up these devices. If you are keen on doing something like this you may want to check back later and step through the tutorials.

Keep reading.

Conspiracy Thumping


It was a meeting over lunch, and the topic of discussion was books. I’m a recent fan of e-books, having reviewed a number of titles in Kindle from Amazon. And somebody brought up this book and suggested it highly. The description left me scratching and no little amazed. There was this feeling I had been down this road before. And I had, almost:

Forget about the hapless “tourist guy” of 9/11, the rigged photo of a parka-clad sightseer atop the World Trade Center, with his back toward the oncoming airliner. Forget about the four thousand Jews who didn’t show up for work that day. French author Thierry Meyssan spins a yarn that shades both these tall tales. According to Meyssan’s book L’Effroyable Imposture (The Frightening Fraud), American Airlines flight 77 did not crash into the Pentagon building. Instead, a crafty plot by the U.S. government employed a truck bomb or a missile strike to further the pretense of the Twin Towers attack.


Yes, it’s going to be that kind of book. The recommended book was The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin. But I don’t have that book. I could not get it in Kindle, but I was able to obtain The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé. Griffin came out with Revisited in 2008 after having apparent success with the original. As Griffin points out:

The idea of writing The New Pearl Harbor Revisited arose because of a two-fold fact about NPH. On the one hand, besides containing some errors, it had become increasingly out of date. On the other hand, it continued to be, in spite of these flaws, widely regarded as the best and most readable introduction to the issues. During the past few years, therefore, many people had urged me to write an updated edition.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 170-172). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Also, a new edition would result in additional sales. I purchased a copy.

As I said, I learned of this book by way of having it described to me over lunch. My initial impression was this was going to be another one of those tales of nefarious dealings by people in power, a tale of misinformation and cover-up, a classic work of conspiracy theory, much like Thierry Meyssan’s book. A close read bore this out.

Griffin is quick and early to dispel such notions. The conspiracy, he says, is not in his tale but in the official version, which he says embodies the real conspiracy. A more comprehensive and diligently-researched conspiracy theory work I have seldom seen. My Kindle edition does not provide page numbers, but the narrative ends at the 62% point, and the remainder comprises notes plus an index, said index taking the final 8%. In total this is a magnificent work, heroically enshrining selective credulity. I will illustrate a bit later.

First, here is an overview. The table of contents gives a notion of what is to be told:


In total, what we are told is:

  • Airplanes did crash into the World Trade Center buildings.
  • The buildings, including World Trade Center 7, were brought down by planted demolition explosives.
  • American Airlines Flight 77 did not strike the Pentagon. The bulk of the destruction was caused by planted explosive charges.
  • United Airlines Flight 93 did not crash at the claimed spot near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • Passengers aboard the doomed flights did not make phone calls from the planes. The calls were faked.
  • President Bush’s actions at the Sarasota school demonstrate the attacks were known in advance and were, in fact, planned and executed by the administration.
  • Muslim terrorists did not pilot the doomed flights.
  • People in positions of power falsely accused Muslim terrorists of the attacks in order to draw attention away from the true facts.
  • The attacks were orchestrated by the government as a means of rallying the population behind a strengthening of the United States military, just as happened with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The 9/11 attacks were to be A New Pearl Harbor.

As I have said, in producing this work Griffin has been very meticulous, obviously conducting a vast body of research. A point-by-point review would consume more space than the original. While reading, I marked numerous sections of interest, and I am going to touch on just a few of these. Here is the first:

Given this faith, which is usually known as the belief in “American exceptionalism,” the idea that the Bush administration could have orchestrated, or even consciously allowed, the 9/11 attacks can be ruled out a priori, so that no examination of relevant evidence is necessary. Insofar as the mainstream press serves to maintain this nationalist faith in the public sphere, no public examination of relevant evidence is even permitted. When the 9/11 truth community is not simply ignored, it is defamed.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 260-263). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

That gets us off to a good start. People casting doubts about the official story of the 9/11 attacks are ignored and even defamed. In the first instance, this is not one of those times. In the second it is.

Griffin likens the 9/11 attacks to the classic false flag attack.

Imperial powers have regularly staged such attacks as pretexts for consolidating power or going to war. When Japan’s army in 1931 decided to take over Manchuria, it blew up the tracks of its own railway near the Chinese military base in Mukden, then blamed Chinese solders. This “Mukden incident,” which occurred on September 18 and is still known in China as “9/18,” began the Pacific part of World War II. In 1933, after the Nazis took power, they started a fire in the Reichstag (the German parliament building), blamed the Communist Party, then used the event as a pretext to imprison enemies, to annul civil liberties, and to consolidate power. In 1939, when Hitler wanted a pretext to attack Poland, he had Germans dressed as Poles stage raids on German outposts on the Polish–German border, in some cases leaving dead German convicts dressed as Polish soldiers at the scene. The next day, referring to these “border incidents,” Hitler attacked Poland in “self-defense,” thereby starting the European part of World War II.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 328-336). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The 9/11 attacks are characterized as staged events to lay blame on another party and thus to create an enemy where none existed before.

As promised, Griffin makes great use of selective credulity:

Accordingly, the conclusion of my discussion of American Flight 11 stands: If standard operating procedures had been followed, it would have been intercepted before the North Tower was struck.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 449-451). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Griffin is incredulous that “standard operating procedures” were not followed, with the result the airplanes were not intercepted and shot down. He would prefer to accept that a grand conspiracy was involved.

The original official story about United Flight 175, as we saw in NPH, was even more problematic. The chief question was why, if the military learned about its hijacking at 8:43, this plane was not intercepted prior to 9:03. Twenty minutes was more than enough time. The Otis fighter jets should not have been 71 miles from Manhattan when the South Tower was struck at 9:03.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 478-481). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Griffin burns a lot of ink playing off time-line contradictions. The fact that time-lines from different sources often do not line up, and some sources later changed their stories means to Griffin that people are not being fallible, they are flat out lying:

How did the 9/11 Commission deal with the fact that all these reports contradicted its explanation as to why the military did not intercept United Flight 175? By simply failing to mention them, thereby implicitly admitting that it could not explain why, if its new story were true, all those reports existed. This is a serious problem. To believe the Commission’s tapes-based account, one would need to assume that Captain Jellinek, General Winfield, and the authors of the NORAD’s timeline as well as the authors of the FAA memo had lied. We can understand that the authors of the FAA memo might have lied to make their personnel look better. But what possible motivation would the military people have had for lying?

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 577-582). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Griffin, who finds the story about a massive conspiracy and cover-up believable, is less accepting of much else that does not support this story. A word search shows the word “implausible” occurring 20 times:

To believe the 9/11 Commission’s account, we must not only believe that the controllers at the FAA’s New York Center could have acted so irresponsibly. We must also believe that they could have done so without being fired or even reprimanded.

The basis for this wholly implausible account was a set of tape recordings of telephone conversations in NORAD’s air traffic monitoring stations on 9/11. These NORAD tapes, which were obtained by the Commission in late 2003, were said by it to contain the “true story of the military’s response on September 11.” In D9D, however, I argued that the more plausible view, for various reasons, is that the tapes were doctored before they were turned over to the Commission, so that they presented a falsified history. Although my full argument for this conclusion can be found only in D9D, some reasons for this conclusion will be mentioned here and in subsequent chapters.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 525-532). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Variations of “absurd” occur ten times, “lying” maybe ten times, and “unbelievable” four times. There is a load of doubt cast in Griffin’s narrative, but hardly a squint worth at his own conspiracy theory.

What is most absurd is Griffin’s denial of eye witness testimony:

The 9/11 Commission’s Claim about a C-130 Pilot: According to the 9/11 Commission, the fact that the Pentagon was struck by a Boeing 757 was confirmed by a pilot. “At 9:32, . . . [s]everal of the Dulles controllers observed a ‘primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed.’” However, “[t]he aircraft’s identity or type was unknown.” Accordingly, said The 9/11 Commission Report: “Reagan National controllers then vectored an unarmed National Guard C-130 H cargo aircraft. . . to identify and follow the suspicious aircraft. The C-130H pilot spotted it [and] identified it as a Boeing 757.”

However, the pilot of the C-130, Steve O’Brien, has recently said that he was about a minute away from the Pentagon, so he could not see whether the plane that approached it actually hit it. If he was too far away to see that, he was too far away to identify the kind of plane it was.

Griffin, David Ray (2012-12-30). The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Kindle Locations 1531-1538). Interlink Publishing. Kindle Edition.


The “official story” that Griffin seeks to demolish is The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, authorized edition. [New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.] That report relates eye-witness accounts

Reagan National controllers then vectored an unarmed National Guard C-130H cargo aircraft, which had just taken off en route to Minnesota, to identify and follow the suspicious aircraft. The C-130H pilot spotted it, identified it as a Boeing 757, attempted to follow its path, and at 9.38, seconds after impact, reported to the control tower: “looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon sir.”

[Pages 25-26]

Assumed Flight 77 approach path

Assumed Flight 77 approach path

Griffin offers no credibility to the many who saw AA Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon. The Wikipedia entry for this item lists several first hand accounts:

On the side where the plane hit, the Pentagon is bordered by Interstate 395 and Washington Boulevard. Motorist Mary Lyman, who was on I-395, saw the airplane pass over at a “steep angle toward the ground and going fast” and then saw the cloud of smoke from the Pentagon. Omar Campo, another witness, was cutting the grass on the other side of the road when the airplane flew over his head, and later recalled:

I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire. I could never imagine I would see anything like that here.

Afework Hagos, a computer programmer, was on his way to work and stuck in a traffic jam near the Pentagon when the airplane flew over. “There was a huge screaming noise and I got out of the car as the plane came over. Everybody was running away in different directions. It was tilting its wings up and down like it was trying to balance. It hit some lampposts on the way in.” Daryl Donley witnessed the crash and took some of the first photographs of the site.

USA Today reporter Mike Walter was driving on Washington Boulevard when he witnessed the crash, which he recounted,

I looked out my window and I saw this plane, this jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, ‘This doesn’t add up, it’s really low.’ And I saw it. I mean it was like a cruise missile with wings. It went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon.

Terrance Kean, who lived in a nearby apartment building, heard the noise of loud jet engines, glanced out his window, and saw a “very, very large passenger jet”. He watched “it just plow right into the side of the Pentagon. The nose penetrated into the portico. And then it sort of disappeared, and there was fire and smoke everywhere.” Tim Timmerman, who is a pilot himself, noticed American Airlines markings on the aircraft as he saw it hit the Pentagon. Other drivers on Washington Boulevard, Interstate 395, and Columbia Pike witnessed the crash, as did people in Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other nearby locations.

Griffin goes further to say the remains of the Flight 77 passengers and debris from the aircraft were not evident following the crash. Again this despite finding the cockpit voice recorder (unusable) and the flight data recorder from that flight, along with identifiable parts of the aircraft.

This has been a snapshot of Griffin’s immense argument for denial. Additional examples on request are available.

People may call me skeptical, but there is evidence I would accept, and this is evidence Griffin, Meyssan, and the host of others, should be required to provide. Only a partial subset would suffice. On the list would be the following:

  • Bring forward alive one of the passengers claimed not to have been killed.
  • Bring forward multiple (they must be legion) participants—the people who planted the demolition charges, the people who purchased the explosives, the people who sold the explosives, the people who planted the explosives, and the people who participated in the fabrication of phony telephone messages from the stricken planes.
  • Exhibit one of the planes that was supposed not to have crashed.

Any one of these would put the lie to the official report of the 9/11 attacks. Multiple uses of implausible will not.

Some may want to defend this book. There is a host of Griffin’s points I have not addressed here. Any reader wanting to challenge on one or more of these is welcome to engage in a dialog. Bring it on.

At multiple points in the book Griffin cites Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century by Project for the New American Century

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

[Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century, September 2000. p 51]

Which is likely the source for the title.

Bad Movie Wednesday

By now you are getting the idea these movies posted for review on Wednesday are not all that bad. True. Leave it to me, however, to pick apart a few aspects.

This is Advise and Consent from Columbia Pictures in 1962. It’s masterfully directed by Otto Preminger. The cast of characters is top tier. I will just repost the main list from Wikipedia, my source for the technical details. Images are screen shots from the DVD.

And this movie is about… Wait! It’s about politics. I should have known. I’m not going to detail the plot, but here are some salient points.

Opening scenes show Democratic Party members of the United States Senate reacting to the announcement by the President of the United States (not otherwise identified) of a new Secretary of State. Their reaction is furious. Leading senators of the Party were not notified in advance. Additionally the nominee is controversial political figure Robert A. Leffingwell. Charged with getting Leffingwell’s nomination approved by the Senate are (Democratic) Majority Leader Munson and Majority Whip Danta. Opposing them is South Caroline Senator Cooley, a Democrat. Senator Cooley has a personal dislike for Leffingwell, having been humiliated by him in a previous encounter. A chance meeting airs all this out.


A Senate panel must be convened to review the nomination, and Senator Anderson is chosen to chair the panel. A senator from Utah, named “Brigham?” Is he a Mormon? Is the lake salty? His comfortable family life is interrupted this morning by a phone call advising him he is being given chairmanship of the panel. His downfall and death will be a consequence.


Making things interesting is radical liberal Senator van Ackerman. The brash freshman senator has with him a brain trust of four who do considerable legwork for him, attempting to work the Senate as one would a Mafia family.


Dolly Harrison is a widow and a prominent Washington socialite, inserted into the plot to add some sparkle, some charm, some sex. She sleeps with Senator Muson, himself a widower, but this information is not for public consumption. Can you imagine this sort of thing going on among our elected officials? Anyhow, she also serves to enlighten viewers to the workings of American government. Here in the Senate gallery she explains to a visiting French dignitary that the Vice President of the United States is President of the Senate. He is not a senator and cannot vote. But he can break a tie vote when necessary. This is to become crucial.


Things get sticky at Leffingwell’s confirmation hearing when Senator Cooley brings up the matter of Herbert Gelman, who previously attended Communist Party meetings with the nominee.


Leffingwell successfully deflects the attack, but he perjures himself in the process. The president will not withdraw the nomination and insists on keeping the indiscretion quiet and pushing on. Senator Anderson will have none of this, showing his true convictions.

In response to Senator Anderson’s intransigence, Senator van Ackerman launches an investigation that dredges up the Utah Senator’s homosexual relationship with a fellow soldier during their days in the Army in Hawaii. Getting threatening phone calls at home and at his office, Anderson flies to New York to hunt up his former friend, Ray. At a gay bar in New York Anderson comes to realize that Ray is a male prostitute and has sold information about their affair. He flees the scene, leaving Ray face down in a pool of water in the gutter. He flies back to Washington and cuts his own throat in his Senate office.


Anderson’s death is a blow to the Leffingwell confirmation, but Cooley, seeing that conflict has brought death and destruction to the Senate, calls off his attack. Van Ackerman is vilified for his part in Anderson’s destruction and leaves the Senate chamber before the confirmation vote. Munson releases all his pledged votes, and the Senate begins to call the vote. It’s going to be a tie. The Vice President is going to have to break the tie and confirm Leffingwell.

At the last minute the Vice President is handed a note. The president is dead. Hudson will be the new president.


The Vice President refuses to break the tie. The confirmation of Leffingwell fails. The Vice President informs the senators of the President’s death and hands over the gavel to Senator Cooley and tells the Senate party leaders he will choose his own Secretary of State. The Senators adjourn and prepare for a new administration.


This plot shows its age in a number of ways. Senator Munson and Mrs. Harrison need to keep their love affair a secret? A prior homosexual encounter drives a Senator to commit suicide? Also, communism was a larger bogey man 53 years ago. These days you might have to show the nominee once shook hands with Osama bin Laden.

I found additional oddities. Senator Brigham Anderson is at home and pulls a bottle of Coca Cola out of his refrigerator? As late as 2007 I spent a few months working with Mormons out in Salt Lake City, and never a cola drink, especially Coca Cola, ever appeared at a meeting. Those guys drank water.

Another thing that stands out is Hollywood’s Senate. When did you ever see the United States Senate begin and end a session of any kind in under an hour?

Else, the film is top notch. The plot is riveting, cinematography is first class (Sam Leavitt), and direction shows Preminger in top form. Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Betty White as a Kansas senator. A Frank Sinatra song is playing at the gay bar. And there is no mistaking the dramatic titles by Saul Bass.


Candidates Acting Stupidly

One of a continuing series


Some readers may have been wondering when I was going to get around to the Democrats. Your wait is over. Where to start with this rascally gaggle? How about presidential candidate and former First Lady, former Senator, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Does she ever have a load of baggage headed toward the White House. Start with her reliance on a gross amount of faulty thinking:

Upon entering the Senate, Clinton maintained a low public profile and built relationships with senators from both parties. She forged alliances with religiously inclined senators by becoming a regular participant in the Senate Prayer Breakfast. She served on five Senate committees: Committee on Budget (2001–2002), Committee on Armed Services (2003–2009), Committee on Environment and Public Works (2001–2009), Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009) and Special Committee on Aging. She was also a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (2001–2009).

Roll over mention of these committee posts if you will. Committee on Budget, Committee on Armed Services—this is what we pay these senators to do. Focus on this small item: “a regular participant in the Senate Prayer Breakfast.”

Yes, a prayer breakfast or whatever else you want to call it. Can you imagine what these highly sponsored politicians are doing at these meetings? Neither can I. We can only guess, and my guess is that it’s not pretty. Imagine, if you will, a meeting of people holding positions of great responsibility in the government, sitting around and discussing, invoking, talking to, a disembodied spirit. And presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was part of this.

Imagine the implications if you will. These people, Mrs. Clinton included, believe there is a magical person in the sky who hears requests for intervention, spoken and otherwise, in the physical world. Would you like to know what goes on in meetings of this kind? I can provide some first-hand knowledge. Years ago I infiltrated such a meeting, not in the Senate, but in a local setting.

What happened is one person stood up in front of the rest of the group and spoke, apparently to nobody at all. The person speaking made pleas for guidance and for protection from all kinds of life’s pitfalls. And there was nobody there. Meanwhile the remainder in attendance just looked down at their feet. At first I thought they were in shock about what was going on. Then I realized these others were being taken in by what was going on. There was no ridicule. There was not outrage. Everybody else was just going with the flow. Some were obviously willing participants. I got out as soon as I could.

Imagining this, imagine what goes on within the halls of government when senators and others carry this kind of thinking into their official duties. Allow me to paint a frightful scenario:

Army general: Senator, we need additional funding to purchase fuel for our fighter jets.

Senator Clinton: I’m on top if it General. I have a special relationship with a magical person in the sky, and I will be talking to him at the Senate Prayer Breakfast tomorrow morning. I’m going to ask him to deliver 500,000 metric tons of JP-5 to your forward supply base in Afghanistan later this week. And we won’t even need to raise taxes.

You will agree this paints a sorry outlook for our country. Lest you think Mrs. Clinton is merely a sunshine Christian, allow me to remind you of items past. This is from  and  back in September 2007. It’s from an item titled “Hillary’s Prayer: Hillary Clinton’s Religion and Politics.”

In fact, Clinton’s God talk is more complicated—and more deeply rooted—than either fans or foes would have it, a revelation not just of her determination to out-Jesus the GOP, but of the powerful religious strand in her own politics. Over the past year, we’ve interviewed dozens of Clinton’s friends, mentors, and pastors about her faith, her politics, and how each shapes the other. And while media reports tend to characterize Clinton’s subtle recalibration of tone and style as part of the Democrats’ broader move to recapture the terrain of “moral values,” those who know her say there’s far more to it than that.

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. “A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation,” says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. “I don’t….there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer.”

And she wants to be President of the United States? We may as well have Marco Rubio:

Among the faith-deranged, Rubio stands out. He briefly dumped one magic book for another, converting from Roman Catholicism to Mormonism and then back again. (Reporters take note: This is faith-fueled flip-flopping, which surely indicates a damning character flaw to be investigated. Flip-flopping of a different sort helped sink John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.) Yet even as a re-minted Catholic, Rubio cheats on the Pope with a megachurch in Miami called Christ Fellowship. As religion and politics blogger Bruce Wilson points out, Christ Fellowship is a hotbed of “demonology and exorcism, Young Earth creationism, and denial of evolution,” and is so intolerant it demands its prospective employees certify they are not “practicing homosexuals” and don’t cheat on their spouses. (Check out its manifesto under “About Us – What We Believe.”) As regards evolution, Rubio confesses that he’s “not a scientist” and so cannot presume to judge the fact of evolution on its merits, and holds that creationism should be taught in schools as just one of many “multiple theories” about our origins.

And I’m not even going to mention Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee. Lord, help us. I will deal with them later. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.