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.

Story of Jake-Leg


I’ve used the term jake-leg a number of times, and some may find its use confusing. Some history is in store. The history goes back to The Photo That Got Me Arrested:

When the policeman became insistent I told him he was going to have to be very insistent. He was going to have to make it something besides a polite request. I told him I was fully ready to obey any order from the police. But he was polite, and I finally decided to be polite, as well. I showed him my driver’s license and told him were I was staying in Anaheim, and I went on my way.

It was during the course of this conversation that I discussed the firemen who had detained me and wanted to see some identification. I told the policeman I had refused because I was not inclined to show my identification to every Tom, Dick and Harry who requested to see it. I mentioned Tom, Dick and Harry, because I was searching for a different phrase that didn’t pop into my brain at the moment. That phrase was jake-leg.

From a French version, Huckleberry Finn's father

From a French version, Huckleberry Finn’s father

A strict definition applies the term to paralysis caused by drinking bad liquor. My use is different, and it’s one picked up reading Mark Twain. For example:

“No, don’t you worry; these country jakes won’t ever think of that. Besides, you know, you’ll be in costume, and that makes all the difference in the world; Juliet’s in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight before she goes to bed, and she’s got on her nightgown and her ruffled nightcap. Here are the costumes for the parts.”

Twain, Mark (2011-03-30). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tom Sawyer’s Comrade (p. 145). . Kindle Edition.

A “jake” is a hick, a yokel. Jake-leg is a fitting term, and its use avoids having to employ terms that would bring insult to red necks and hicks. Properly, jake leg is not hyphenated, but I use the hyphen to set my use off from the standard.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

This never came up on a quiz, although I did once take a course on Interplanetary Navigation. See the diagram.


Your spaceship is in an elliptical orbit around the evil planet GOP. In one month’s time the planet is going to explode. You need to get away. Fortunately you have just enough fuel left to achieve escape velocity. You wait for the optimum point in your orbit to fire your thrusters.

What is the optimum point?

Question 2: In which direction do you fire your thrusters?

Question 3: Why?


I’m going to review the solution along with comments that have been submitted to the post and also on Facebook. Two comments were posted to the blog. Here they are:

Well, you really need to increase your orbital energy. So you need to fire your thrusters in the same direction as your current velocity vector in order to achieve the maximum increase in orbital velocity. Now if you fire at apogee, you will mainly just increase your perigee. That is NOT desirable. I watched the newly launched MUOS 4 “secret” communication satellite for a couple of hours two weeks ago because there was a chance that it would fire its thrusters. But it didn’t. 😦

Exactly when the planet lines up with both the radii. (That is either on the left most or the right most point of the orbit in the diagram.)

The planet speed varies in the orbit. The planet is traveling the fastest at these points (and is slowest at the vertical points in the diagram.)

After you get into the orbit of the planet (with enough fuel to achieve escape velocity you won’t have any fuel left) so the speed of the planet — at this fastest point — will help you get out with the planet’s speed at that point which is the maximum speed you can achieve under these conditions.

Here are the comments from Facebook:

Steven Breed If the question is only whether the spaceship escapes or not, then only energy matters because that is what determines whether a binary system is gravitationally bound. If you want to optimize the spaceship’s escape in some way, then its position in the orbit probably does matter.
Steven Breed I re-read the question. It’s asking from where can the escape be accomplished using the minimum of fuel (since the spaceship only has the minimum necessary). Expending the fuel at the bottom of the orbit optimizes the result, I believe. The spaceship gains the most at this point because it isn’t burdened by having to carry the fuel back out to higher potentials. I’ve cheated a bit because, although I haven’t read the appropriate Heinlein, I did read this in 2010: Odyssey Two by Clarke some years back.
Prasad Golla Yes, that’s right the total energy is the same irrespective of the position in the orbit.

Of course, Steve Breed, with some history of studying physics, nailed it on the second try. A number of things are correct:

  1. The energy of the spaceship in orbit is constant. While a satellite is orbiting a planet there is nothing adding or subtracting energy (almost). When the satellite is farther from the planet it has higher potential energy with respect to the planet’s gravitational field, but its velocity is lower, and so on.
  2. A rocket engine is not a constant power device. When a spaceship is still sitting on the pad right after firing its engines, the engines are not developing any power, because there is no forward motion of the rocket. The power delivered by a rocket engine is the product of its constant thrust and its variable forward velocity. Actually, rocket engines develop more thrust when operating outside the atmosphere.
  3. When the spaceship is at perigee its speed is greatest. If the rocket engines are fired at this point while the spaceship is pointed in the direction of motion, then the rocket engines develop the most power, and the most energy is imparted to the spaceship.
  4. The spaceship is best able to escape the evil planet GOP by firing its rockets at perigee, with the thrust along the line of forward motion.

This was explained in Robert Heinlein’s novel The Rolling Stones, in 1952. I read it when it was serialized in Boy’s Life magazine, so I was aware of this bit of science before I took a bunch of physics courses in college.

State of Jake-Leg

Let me tell you what happened. There was this smart aleck, liberal Hollywood producer sitting around by his Beverly Hills pool, and he said to himself, “What I think I’ll do is make a video to ridicule the state of Mississippi.” So he phoned up Central Casting and told the agent there, “What I want is your most jake-leg collection of locals,” and the agent said, “I’ve got’em right here, C.B. Where do you want them to report.” And C.B. tells the agent to have them report over to the Warner Brother’s back lot, where they are going to find a set left over from a remake of Tobacco Road. And C.B. brought his video crew over to the set, and he shot the following video. It only took a few minutes, and he was done. Here it is:

So this has been posted on YouTube for more than three years, and it’s had over 128,000 views. So I watched the video, and I got a kick out of it, and I thought it was very well done and very funny, besides.

Then I got to thinking. What if I’m wrong. What if a smart aleck, liberal Hollywood producer didn’t produce this as a joke. And a deep frown creased my brow. What if this is real? Oh, Jesus, no!

You know what I’m beginning to think, readers? I’m beginning to think this may be what happened. Some jackass amateur took his camcorder into Mississippi and drove around looking for honest to goodness jake-leg? He talked to all kinds of people and received all manner of responses, and when he got back home with his footage he edited it and only left in the most jake-leg parts. And that’s what I’m looking at right now. I decided this could use some Skeptical Analysis.

Here are a few screen shots from the video. I have added selected transcripts to appropriate images. Let’s go:


Cue the banjo music. “I’m here in Mississippi, the poorest state in America. This is also the most conservative state in our union.”


“So, why is Mississippi so conservative?”

“Well, uh, you’re in the heart of the Bible Belt. We believe in family. We believe in Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

It’s a cute t-shirt. The right to bear arms, get it?


“Whoever gets elected needs to be family-orientated.”


“God should come into his mind in everything that he does.”


“You never liked the President, did you?”

“Never! And never will.”

“Why not?”

“One thing, his name’s ‘Obama.'”


“This is America. Our president should be American, not Muslim.”


“I don’t even like it when I see him on TV. I turn it off. I don’t like him.”

“You think he’s a foreigner?”

“No, it’s not because he’s black, because he’s a half-breed. But he’s black, too, but he’s a half-breed.”


“I guess I’m a little prejudiced.”

“Are you? You don’t like black people?”

“No. Not much.”

“Why not?”

“I just don’t.”


“I don’t care for government. They don’t show me anything.”

“You get food stamps.”

“Yeah, but I think I deserve food stamps. I have no employment.”


“I hate Obamacare. I think it’s retarded and pointless.”

“But a lot of people in Mississippi need health care.”



“Back when I was growin’ up and when my parents were growin’ up and when my grandparents were growin’ up, we didn’t have all of that, and people still made it.”


“And back then people pulled their own weight. They didn’t sit around waitin’ for everyone else to take care of ’em.”


“So you don’t care about the economy.”

“No. It’ll take care of itself. You put God back in the saddle, it’ll all be okay.”


“So, something’s not working here.”

“That’s right.”

“Voting Republican hasn’t worked for you.”

“But it could.”

“But it hasn’t.”

“It hasn’t, but it could.”


“Why is the poorest state the most conservative state?”

“We would rather go broke and die hungry, than to give up our moral beliefs.”


“I feel like that voting God and voting faith is more important to me than voting for free money or voting for a handout.”


“I’m goin’ to stand up for what I believe in, even if I go broke doin’ it.”


“We’re not goin’ to be pushed over. We lost the war, that’s true. But we’re not goin’ to be pushed around. We’re not goin’ to back down from what we believe.


“And like the tag on the front of my truck says, ‘The South is gonna rise again!'”

And that’s it. And what an amazing collection of jake-leg it is.

I give credit to these stalwarts from Mississippi. They will stand true to their cause. They hold personal conviction high and above material gain. And who knows. With this kind of conviction, with this strength of character, it is possible that some day the South will rise again. Once they get rid of a big load of jake-leg.

Bad Movie of the Week

I think I have this one figured out. They made this movie. And it was all finished. Now they needed to market it. One thing it needed was a title. So somebody asked, “What should we call this movie?” And somebody else said, “Oh, I don’t know. How about The Grass in the Meadow?” And the other guy says, “But this movie doesn’t have any meadow. And it has practically no grass at all. We need a title that fits.” So the other guy says, “Tell me again how this movie starts out,” and his friend begins to explain.

The movie opens in a typical American neighborhood with a nice street. Only there is evil lurking. We see a man in a house that faces onto the street, and he’s sitting there all day long staring out the front window. He’s watching the house across the street.

And that’s how the movie got its name. It’s The House Across the Street, from Warner Brothers in 1949, and it doesn’t star anybody that I know. There’s Wayne Morris as newspaper managing editor Dave Joslin, and there’s his would-be girlfriend Kit Williams (Janis Paige).

But what happens at the house across the street is that a mailman comes along, and he goes up to the door and knocks. A man inside answers the door, and the mailman says he has a special deliver letter. The man lets the mailman in, and presently the mailman goes on along his route. Then another mailman comes alone, and the man watching the house across the street becomes alarmed. He rushes over and discovers the first mailman was not a mailman at all, but a mob hit man who has just rubbed out a star witness in a mob crime case.


Managing editor Dave Joslin plays the story up big, letting it be known the police bungled the case by letting the mob rub out the state’s witness. The police are not amused. Neither is mob leader Matthew J. Keever (Bruce Bennett). Joslin’s continued editorializing is pointing to Keever as the person behind the hit. Lawyers make threats.


The owner of the newspaper, J.B. Grennell (Alan Hale, Sr.), threatens to fire Joslin if he doesn’t cool it. But he can’t fire him. Joslin has a contract. But the boss can reassign Joslin, which he does. He makes Joslin the new “Molly Trent.” That’s the nom de plume for the newspaper’s lonely hearts column. The previous “Molly Trent” was girlfriend Kit.

He’s been trying to get her to marry him, threatening to keep her writing lonely hearts columns until she gives in.


Of course, the managing editor writing lonely hearts columns is a big joke around the office, but Joslin makes a big show of it, plugging away, waiting for the owner to break down and reassign him. Then something happens.

Every movie is allowed at least one hole-in-one, a coincidence on the grand scale. This is it. Into the Molly Trent office walks a zany blond. She’s been having trouble with her boyfriend, Carl (James Holden). They had a tiff while drinking at Horseshoe Harry’s bar. That’s mobster Keever’s bar. And this happened on 19 April. That’s the day before the mob hit on the witness. Carl told his fiancée that he blacked out at the bar, and then he didn’t show up again until 3 p.m. the next day.


Joslin finds this intriguing, and he pays Carl a visit at his place of employment. Carl is a sign painter for a sign company.

Carl recalls a flash of light and then nothing after. Except that the next day he ended up in a strange place, and he remembers a really good looking girl.


Without digging through the plot details (you need to watch the movie), it’s finally resolved that a photographer at Horseshoe Harry’s took a photo of Carl right before he blacked out. The flash was from the camera. Joslin pays a visit to the photo lab that processed the photos, and finds out there were two negatives. The first shot was no good, so she (the photographer) took a second. Subsequently somebody came by and purchased a negative. The lab owner sold him the bad one and kept the good one. When he reprints the good one something is revealed. It shows Keever handing money to hit man Marty Bremer (James Mitchell).


Joslin confronts Bremer with the photo at the newspaper office and then has Bremer listen on the intercom as Keever is shown the photo. Keever is not pleased that Bremer botched his job by allowing a witness to survive.

As Keever leaves the newspaper building, Bremer takes a peek out the second floor window and sees Keever giving instructions to two mob enforcers.


Bremer turns evidence, and Keever is convicted. Of what is never made clear, but that doesn’t matter. It’s sort of like the title. There’s not a lot meat there, just lovers playing footsie, gangsters doing their gangster stuff, and the plot just moving along. And the plot does move well. Kit gets involved in helping Joslin uncover the facts of the case. She has to leap for her life to escape a mob hit on herself. Interestingly this is billed as a comedy.

In the end Joslin is back as managing editor, and poor Kit is back writing Molly Trent. Finally she agrees to marry Dave, if only to get out of the Molly Trent office.

Wayne Morris did not have much of a career after this. He was a decorated Navy fighter ace in the previous war, but he died ten years after making this movie. Most notable (my opinion) was his roll in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, made just two years before he died. I have that. I’ll review it. Janis Paige continued working in show business until 2001. Director Richard L. Bare went on to direct almost all of Green Acres.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

20 jokes that only intellectuals will understand

1. It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally

2. What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

3. Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “Do all of you want a drink?”

The first logician says, “I don’t know.”

The second logician says, “I don’t know.”

The third logician says, “Yes.”

4. Einstein, Newton and Pascal are playing hide and go seek. It’s Einstein’s turn to count, so he covers his eyes and starts counting to ten. Pascal runs off and hides. Newton draws a one-meter by one-meter square on the ground in front of Einstein, then stands in the middle of it. Einstein reaches ten and uncovers his eyes. He sees Newton immediately and exclaims, “Newton! I found you! You’re it!”

Newton smiles and says, “You didn’t find me, you found a Newton over a square meter. You found Pascal!”

5. A mathematician and an engineer agreed to take part in an experiment. They are both placed in a room, and at the other end was a beautiful naked woman on a bed. The experimenter said every 30 seconds they would be allowed to travel half the distance between themselves and the woman. The mathematician said, “This is pointless,” and stormed off. The engineer agreed to go ahead with the experiment anyway. The mathematician exclaimed on his way out, “Don’t you see, you’ll never actually reach her?” To which the engineer replied, “So what? Pretty soon I’ll be close enough for all practical purposes.”

6. A Roman walks into a bar and asks for a martinus.

“You mean a martini?” the bartender asks.

The Roman replies, “If I wanted a double, I would have asked for it.”

7. Another Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers, and says, “Five beers, please.”

8. A logician’s wife is having a baby. The doctor immediately hands the newborn to the dad.

His wife asks impatiently, “So, is it a boy or a girl?”

The logician replies, “Yes.”

9. Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about no milk?”

10. Entropy isn’t what it used to be.

11. How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber. Ask them to pronounce “unionized.”

12. Why do engineers confuse Halloween and Christmas?

Because Oct 31 = Dec 25.

13. Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Naom Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says, “Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it’s funny or not?”

Gödel replies, “We can’t know that, because we’re inside the joke.”

Chomsky says, “Of course it’s funny. You’re just telling it wrong.”

14. Pavlov is sitting at a pub enjoying a pint, and the phone rings. He jumps up shouting, “Oh shit,, I forgot to feed the dog!”

15. Helium walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t server noble gases here.” He does not react.

16. Schrödinger’s cat walks into a bar. And doesn’t.

17. A Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog stand and says, “Make me one with everything.”

18. A Higgs Boson walks into a church, and the priest says, “We don’t allow Higgs Bosons in here.”

The Higgs Boson then replies, “But with out me, how could you have mass?”

19. The programmer’s wife tells him, “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.

The programmer comes home with twelve loaves of bread.

20. There’s a band called 1023MB. They haven’t had any gigs yet.

Breathtaking Inanity

One of a continuing series

Yes, readers, we have seen a lot of this stuff before. This one is going to have more sides than a game of dodge ball. We need to start with some background.

Let me tell you how stars are formed. In the cold of (nearly) empty space between stars and between galaxies clouds of hydrogen gas exist. The gas is so thin, like a molecule per cubic meter or even less, that you can’t tell it’s there. But it’s there.

Hydrogen molecules, like all particles of matter, have mass, and mass attracts mass. If the hydrogen molecules are distributed exactly evenly throughout space, then nothing much happens. Any hydrogen molecule experiences the same gravitational attraction of all the other hydrogen molecules from all different directions. And nothing much happens.

Except there are variations in the distribution of the hydrogen molecules, and the attraction is greater in some directions. The result is that molecules are disproportionately attracted in the direction of the nearest and greatest density. Positive feedback occurs. Regions of concentration become even more concentration, attracting more molecules from regions farther away. The process snowballs, and eventually billions of tons of hydrogen cascaded into a giant ball and form a star.

Much the same thing happens with jake leg. Jake leg attracts more jake leg, and presently you have a huge concentration of jake leg. Where does this lead. Let me explain.

For several years I worked for a company in Irving, Texas. That’s a suburb of Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys football team used to have a huge, domed stadium there. Where I worked was across the freeway. And when going to and from work I was always careful driving in Irving, Texas. Why? Because I wanted to avoid any possibility of a newspaper headline that read, “John Blanton Killed in Irving.” I did not want my name and “Irving, Texas,” to be in the same sentence.

I always considered it too bad that an otherwise decent city like Irving, Texas, came to be associated with jake leg. It was an unfortunate circumstance of nature that jake leg attracts jake leg, and it kind of concentrated in this suburb of Dallas, no stranger to jake leg, itself. Evidence? Sure:

  • I worked with and came to know a number of people living in Irving. “Jake leg” applied.
  • Pseudo scientist Carl Baugh apparently gave himself a Ph.D. from a center of learning that he, himself had established—in … You guessed it.
  • In regional elections citizens of Irving, Texas, could always be counted on to provide the jake leg vote.

This is my personal perspective and should be taken for what it’s worth, the observation of someone who worked eight years in the town.

More back history is helpful. My youthful behavior is within reproach. My buddies and I did some things that would land us in Guantanamo in the current century. In our defense I must state that through all of that there was only one incident that required hospitalization. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

My walk on the wild side continued past high school.


Now you have the background. Move forward to the summer of ’15. Jesus Christ, what’s going on in Irving, Texas?

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.


Full disclosure: I have played tennis at this high school.

Yes, that’s a 14-year-old high school student in handcuffs. This is a contest, readers. How many different ways are there to spell “jake leg?” And what did young Ahmed Mohamed do to get himself detained and cuffed? You are going to have as much difficulty believing as I am. He built this:



And he took it to school.

Pause for a moment here. Look at the photo byline in the first of the two above. That’s Pulitzer Prize-winner David Woo for the Dallas Morning News. I and at least one other reader of this blog will recall having him present at meetings of our camera club back in Dallas.

Now look at the bottom photograph. This is what had an Irving, Texas, school administration so alarmed. This is what got young Ahmed arrested. Now take a closer look. Look very closely. What is it that you see. Actually, what is it that you don’t see. That’s right. You do (not) see it. It’s the principal ingredient of any bomb. It’s the explosive. Where’s the Torpex? Where is the PETN? Where’s the TNT? Where’s the black powder I and my buddies made back in Granbury sixty years ago? Where is the bomb? Where is the right thinking that is expected of 21st century adults? Gone to jake leg apparently.

Pile it on. Irving, Texas. The jake leg just keeps coming:

To her supporters, Irving, Texas Mayor Beth Van Duyne is a tough-as-nails politician who’s not afraid to take on Islam.

To her critics, Van Duyne is a fear-monger who stokes the flames of Islamophobia.

So both Van Duyne’s fans and foes can surely find a talking point in the Monday incident where Irving police arrested 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a homemade clock to school that they thought looked like a “movie bomb.”

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne at a job fair Thursday, July 19, 2012, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne at a job fair Thursday, July 19, 2012, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Mayor Van Duyne is no accident. Remember, jake leg attracts jake leg:

Irving, Texas Mayor Beth Van Duyne is defending law enforcement and school officials who were involved in the arrest and suspension of Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim 14-year-old ninth-grader who brought a homemade clock to school that teachers mistook for a bomb.

“I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” Van Duyne wrote in a statement posted to her Facebook page Wednesday.

Van Duyne said school and law enforcement officials were simply following school protocols when a “possible threat” or “criminal act” is discovered.

“To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus,” Van Duyne wrote. “I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.”

Breathtaking inanity. Rest easy, dear readers. Jake leg is still alive and well in some parts of our country.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Candidates Acting Stupidly


One of a continuing series

Whose turn is it now? Who’s been out on the campaign trail acting stupidly when they should have been poring over books of facts? Why, it’s Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Corporation.

I was up last night watching the debate among Republican candidates on CNN. I could not catch everything, but I recorded all but a smidgen, and I saved it off to a Blu-ray disk. Being politically naive, I rely on various news outlets to pick up on stuff that just blows right past me. I did go back and catch this from my copy:

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this video tape—I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

That was candidate Fiorina speaking during the debate. And what a slam dunk, no nonsense, grab them by the balls indictment of a cause that is so dear to bleeding-heart liberals and especially candidate Hillary Clinton. This exhibits strength of character and the kind of forcefulness that will carry a presidential contender right to the steps of the White House. But not inside. To go inside you sometimes need to get it right, which candidate Fiorina failed to do. Spectacularly.

That liberal media outlet, owned by left-leaning Rupert Murdoch and known as The Wall Street Journal, had this to say:

At Debate, Carly Fiorina Described Scenes Not in Abortion Videos

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina won applause in Wednesday’s debate for her vivid description of a live fetus she said was shown in an antiabortion group’s undercover video about Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

But the image she described isn’t in any of the videos released by the antiabortion group. Instead, one video from the group depicts a former employee of a tissue procurement company stating what she says she saw at a Planned Parenthood clinic. There was never any video that depicted, as Ms. Fiorina stated, a live fetus on a table being prepared for organ harvesting.

Ouch! That has got to hurt. But we all know it’s going to blow over. After all, we are all of us human, and we can, from time to time, make mistakes. Even presidents:

You bombed Iraq? I told you to bomb Iran. I did? Gosh darn, I meant to say Iran, but it kind of came out Iraq. If there’s still time, can you send out the planes and bomb Iran?

Of course that’s a joke. This is not:

On Monday, President Bush admitted that the Iraq war is “straining the psyche of our country.” But he vowed to stay the course. A reporter questioned him about why he opposed withdrawing US troops from Iraq. In his answer, Bush admitted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and had “nothing” to do with 9/11. [includes rush transcript]

Carly Fiorina can lay off these lapses on her advisers, the people who told her this was a legitimate tape. The problem is Fiorina picked those advisors, just as George W. Bush picked the people to advise him on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Just as candidate John McCain picked the advisors who assured him Sarah Palin was a winning candidate.

A candidate can shift from gaff to gaff and continue to act stupidly, and they will suffer the consequences. When a president acts stupidly people die.

Republican Is Elected President


That was so entertaining. Last night I watched the GOP candidates (11 of them) debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. All right, I didn’t watch all of it. I recorded it. Okay, not all of it, but almost all of it. And what a show it was. Eleven high-profile personalities haranguing the issues and going at each other. And burning through cash like Nero. What a way to win an election.

In case you are wondering, here is the way it used to be:

In the months that followed, Lincoln hit the lecture circuit. He gave speeches in half a dozen Midwestern states, and, for the first time, he spoke in New York, where he was a big success. His stinging message about slavery was now repeated by his political rivals as well as his allies. He pointed out again and again that if anything was wicked, slavery was wicked. The country had outlawed the exportation of slaves from America, and even Southerners did not dispute that. It had prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa, and neither did Southerners dispute that. He pointed out that in the South, it was not the slave who was treated as a social pariah— in fact, he was often regarded as a member of the family— but the slave dealer himself. So then, didn’t the South, in its heart, know that slave dealing and thus slaveholding were wrong? Why else did Southerners routinely manumit? “Why,” asked Lincoln, “have so many slaves been set free, except by the promptings of conscience?” And in reply, he was told, “You are like Byron, awoke to find himself famous.”

And soon, Lincoln was back home in Springfield when a telegram arrived informing him that he had been nominated for president at the Republican National Convention in Chicago (“ TO LINCOLN YOU ARE NOMINATED”). Then, on November 7, 1860, at 2 A.M., the telegraph rapped out this startling news: Lincoln was now elected president of the United States, having defeated his main opponent, none other than the little Democrat, Stephen Douglas.

Winik, Jay (2010-11-16). April 1865 (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 4046-4057). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Does anybody notice a difference?

Obama invaded Texas, and all I got was this dumb shirt.

Bob Welch, standing at left, and Jim Dillon, hold a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise in Bastrop, Texas, Monday April 27, 2015. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)  AUSTIN CHRONICLE OUT, COMMUNITY IMPACT OUT, INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM, MAGS OUT

Bob Welch, standing at left, and Jim Dillon, hold a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise in Bastrop, Texas, Monday April 27, 2015. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP) AUSTIN CHRONICLE OUT, COMMUNITY IMPACT OUT, INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM, MAGS OUT

It’s over, readers and fellow Texans. The greatest attempted power grab and threat to civil liberties since the Civil war is over, and vigilant Texans have prevailed. Jade Helm 15, the contrived “military exercise” that flooded Texas and other states with federal troops, concluded on September 15th. And Obama lost, again.

I cautioned of The Gathering Storm a few weeks ago:

April 28, 2015

Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty
Commander, Texas State Guard
Texas Military Forces
2200 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas 78763

Dear General Betty:

To address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15. During the Operation’s eight-week training period from July 2015 to September 2015, I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has assured Texas that each location selected for training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication.

Directing the State Guard to monitor the Operation will allow Texas to be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules, and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.

The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces and our proud tradition of training, deploying and supporting our active-duty troops and returning veterans. As Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives en the line to fight for and defend out freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.

I was not the only one to take notice of this impending threat. Such notables as military specialist Chuck Norris were quick to highlight the danger and to signal the alert:

As I noted in a prior post, we don’t need to go to Oklahoma for wacko. Wacko will come to us. And that’s in no small part due to an operation called Jade Helm 15. Who would have believed it? There is now a Texas Ranger connection. If you stretch your imagination.

Actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris has taken a look at Jade Helm 15, and what he sees is possible trouble:

Whatever Jade Helm 15 actually is, I think it is more than coincidental that the FBI director just confessed in February that the presence of ISIS can be felt in all 50 states of the U.S. and that the Pentagon is suddenly running its biggest military training exercise with every branch of the military across seven Southwestern states. Whether deterrence, display of power or something more covert or devious, let’s not come with any patronizing nonsense of impotence and simplicity when its origin is in Washington.

I’m glad Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is asking the tough questions of the Pentagon about Jade Helm 15, particularly because its “exercises” come too near to my ranch’s backdoor as well, at least according to the map. It’s pretty sad and bad when major military ops are ordered in a large, fiery state like Texas and not even the governor or its senators know the specifics.

It’s neither over-reactionary nor conspiratorial to call into question or ask for transparency about Jade Helm 15 or any other government activity. To those who merely think we should check our brains at the door of the White House and trust what the government does, I would reiterate to you the words of one of our government’s primary founders, Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Distrust and caution are the parents of security.” Again, he also said, “Security without liberty is called prison.” But then again, I’m sure some today would accuse Franklin of being conspiratorial, too!

Well, it’s over, and thanks to courageous leaders such as Governor Abbott and combat veteran Chuck Norris, Obama met his match and has removed his UN troops from sovereign Texas soil:

AUSTIN, Texas“Jade Helm 15,” the U.S. military training exercise that was met with Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation was really a hostile military takeover, is over — and Texas, the state that most questioned the exercise, is still standing.

The seven-state war exercise launched in July beyond the front gates of Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, with no fanfare and was almost entirely out of sight to the general public.

Even the left wing liberal press conceded that among states, Texas, under the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott, stood tall throughout. Here’s from the liberal CBS News:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even ordered the state’s National Guard to monitor the military’s movements, drawing sharp rebuke after from critics, who accused the new Republican governor of pandering to fringe theorists. No other governor greeted Jade Helm with similar actions.

CBS went on to report on the vigilance of Texans wary of Obama’s latest menace. And Texas prevailed. Yes we did, Texas, yes we did.




Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


Readers aren’t allowed to dive into text books and Internet sources. You have to come up with the answer from your own knowledge base. That doesn’t mean I have to rely solely on my knowledge base to draft these questions. I need to make sure I spell everything correctly.

This is about solar neutrinos. There are three kinds of neutrinos:

  • electron neutrinos
  • muon neutrinos
  • tau neutrinos

Electron neutrinos are produced in the core of the sun. This we know from our knowledge of the sun’s energy-production process. However, when we measured solar neutrinos starting about 50 years ago, the number was too small. Was our knowledge of the sun wrong? Was our understanding about neutrinos wrong? The question could be resolved if we knew whether neutrinos have mass.


What difference would it make whether neutrinos have mass? That’s the quiz question.

As an aside: This question came up at a creationist meeting nearly 25 years ago. It affected my decision to get a degree in physics.

Another aside: Vic Stenger, a physicist and noted skeptic who once came to give a talk for the North Texas Skeptics, was one of the scientists on the team that resolved the issue.

Post your answer in the comments section below. I will provide the answer by this weekend. It’s likely somebody already knows the answer and will post it by the end of today.


It has been suggested (by me) that additional explanation would be helpful. Here it is:

Physicists conjectured that electron neutrinos were converting to muon or tau neutrinos on the way to Earth. We were seeing fewer electron neutrinos because by the time they got to Earth they had converted. What does neutrinos having mass have to do with this?


And here it is. To answer this it would have been helpful to be acquainted with basic principles of physics. Here are a few:

  • Objects with non-zero rest mass are constrained to travel less than the speed of light.
  • Objects with zero rest mass must travel at the speed of light.

That leaves this: If neutrinos have zero mass (zero rest mess) then they will travel at the speed of light. When something travels at the speed of light, time stands still for that something. If neutrinos have zero rest mass, then they will travel at the speed of light, and they cannot transform, because time stands still for them.

What Vic Stenger and a large team working in Japan determined is that neutrinos have rest mass. Muon neutrinos produced by cosmic rays were changing to tau neutrinos. Additional observations made in Canada determined that electron neutrinos from the sun were changing to muon and tau neutrinos.