The Red Phone



In answer to your question, should you ever ask; yes, it does exist, and, yes, it is, or was, available in red. The company, see the caption above, was located in Richardson, Texas, and I worked there a few years. My last task before leaving Electrospace was reworking some software for the Defense Red Switch Network. Electrospace had the contract to produce the Secure Digital Switch (SDS), and they also manufactured the phones pictured above. During my last days before leaving to take a job at another company I was working on the code that runs on the processor inside this phone.

I tell all this because of the irony. Former Senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently running for President, and political foes are making a great fuss about her misuse of government secure communications. News talking heads are commenting, and media advisors are weighing in, and nobody seems to be conveying a clear picture of what is involved in the United States government security framework. A Facebook friend of mine is experiencing similar consternation and has posted the following:

Grrr! It drives me nuts to hear political operatives, who have never had to handle classified information, try to justify the unjustifiable. If you’ve been briefed on handling classified information, and you receive classified information (marked or not) on an unclassified computer, it’s a “data leak” and there are specific actions that you are required to take. Surely, the Secretary of State is briefed on handling classified information and is intelligent enough to know what is and is not classified based on its content and not its marking.

I heartedly agree with Jim on this. Nobody seems to be getting the entire picture out. All this drives me toward providing some low-level explanation and a little insight into how it all works. Some of the stories are amusing.

First, a one-paragraph tutorial on security classifications. Wikipedia has the explanation:

Top secret is the highest level of classified information. Information is further compartmented so that specific access using a code word after top secret is a legal way to hide collective and important information. Such material would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if made publicly available. Prior to 1942, the UK and other members of the British Empire used Most Secret, but this was changed to match the US’s Top Secret to simplify Allied interoperability.

The Washington Post reports in an investigation entitled Top Secret America, that per 2010 “An estimated 854,000 people … hold top-secret security clearances” in the United States.

Secret material would cause “serious damage” to national security if it were publicly available.

In the United States, operational “Secret” information can be marked with an additional “LIMDIS”, to limit readership.

Confidential material would cause damage or be prejudicial to national security if publicly available.

There are others, but these are the pertinent ones. Here is some explanation:

Almost every government employee, by virtue the screening and hiring process, is endowed with a confidential clearance. That was my first experience. As a crew member aboard an aircraft carrier, I worked for a time in the division office, where I had access to everybody’s personnel files. That information is typical of government confidential information.

Next up the ladder is secret information and secret clearances. You don’t automatically get a secret clearance. You get fingerprinted, and the prints are retained by the FBI. Government investigators are sent out to talk to your friends and neighbors. Your past is searched for felony convictions. Signs of reckless living, including DWI convictions and notorious gambling, will get your secret clearance pulled. It is possible to get a top level security clearance despite previous use of illegal drugs, but some intense investigation is involved. I have been a party to such an investigation. You must report all foreign travel and provide a list of all contacts during your trip. You are reminded that Canada and Mexico are foreign countries. This is serious business. Some jobs require a secret clearance, and you can lose your job if your clearance is pulled. A woman I worked with on a classified program had a nervous breakdown. Her clearance was pulled, and she lost her job.

Top secret is the highest of note. It’s like secret, but an order of magnitude more intense. Before you get a TS clearance the FBI is going to really drill down on your life and character. Being related to a foreign national can be a roadblock. You will likely, as ridiculous as it may sound, be required to take a polygraph examination.

Measures to ensure the containment of classified information can border on the extreme. In one instance where I worked as a contractor, a file containing classified information was copied to a server on an unsecure network. Enormous expense was applied to cleanse the server and all connected systems.

Generally, enclosures (rooms) built for processing classified information have no connections with the outside world. There may be phones, but cell phones have to be parked outside the door. The computer processing the classified software is in the same room with the terminals used by the developers, else there is a secure connection (inside a metal conduit) connecting the computer room with the workers. In case terminals with outside connections (to the Internet) are allowed inside the secure area, the unsecure terminals must be kept physically separate from the classified terminals—usually on the opposite side of the developer’s cubical.

There is a procedure named secure download employed to remove unclassified files from a secure system.

  • If the file is a document or an image, print it to a printer on the secure network. Examine the document visually and confirm it contains no classified information.
  • Copy the file to an external medium (e.g., a CD), and examine the file bit by bit to verify no classified information is embedded in an otherwise innocent-looking document or image.

At Electrospace we built systems fielded by the Army. These systems had secret operational software on computer hard drives. I was informed that each hard drive enclosure was equipped with a shaped charge to be detonated in the event of imminent capture. The blast would pierce the drives in an instant, rendering them unreadable.

One guy on our project needed his clearance upgraded. He needed to take a polygraph examination. He failed it. They flew him to Washington for a re-exam. I’m thinking that failed, as well.

I had to take computer drives containing classified software to Fort Hood. Under the control of our security people the drives were carefully wrapped and marked for transport. I rented a van, loaded up the drives, and started my own drive. Before I had cleared Central Expressway in Dallas I was regretting passing up a bathroom break before starting out. Somewhere along I-35 I really needed to go. I was not allowed to let the van out of my sight. I stopped along the I-35 service road and relieved myself behind the van.

When I arrived at Fort Hood, I had to get the attention of somebody inside the office where I was supposed to deliver the drives. I could not go inside and leave the van unattended even for a few seconds. Based on my recommendation, I do believe we changed our procedures and never allowed a person to make the trip alone.

There three ways secret documents can be materially transported.

  1. Hand carry the items by a person with the appropriate clearance.
  2. Ship the items by a secure transfer company.
  3. Wrap them appropriately and send the items by United States mail.

A story of interest: One company worked on what are called black programs. All work was carried out in severely-enclosed areas. They were rooms within rooms. The names of the programs were not spoken. Nobody was allowed inside the area alone. There always had to be at least two people inside or else there had to be nobody inside. To remove any document, even a paperback novel, required examination. If you wanted to bring out a document, it had to be printed and made available for examination. If a disk or a tape (or now a flash drive) went in, it never came out. A computer was stolen from one such facility.

Now for a reality check.

Before obtaining a secret or top secret clearance you will be required to sign a form that acknowledges you can be sentenced to death for revealing classified information. There’s more. Every single one of the spies working for our government who sold secrets to foreign agents had secret or top secret clearances. All had taken and passed polygraph examinations.

Full disclaimer: I do not presently have in my possession nor do I retain inside my brain any government classified information. Torture me if you will, you’re not going to get anything. This situation is straight forward to attain.

  • Make it a point to never look at any classified information unless it is absolutely necessary to do your job. This turned out to be easy for me, because, although I held a clearance, my job often did not require me to make use of classified information.
  • Once you read something classified, endeavor to get it out of your mind as soon as possible. Of special interest: In a document, a book, a manual, a memo, each page has a header and footer in bold print stating SECRET or UNCLASSIFIED. If the header/footer says SECRET, then there is some secret stuff on the page. Each paragraph in the document will have a U or an S in front. If the paragraph has an S, then the paragraph contains the secret stuff. That helps people keep straight what they need to avoid reading and what to forget as soon as possible.

There is another critical rule regarding classified information. That rule is spelled need to know. You may have a secret clearance, but if you do not have the need to know, then classified information will be denied to you. If you are smart, you will never attempt to access classified information unless you really have a need to know.

That brings us to candidate Clinton. Her critics are charging she willingly or accidentally (it does not matter which) exposed classified information. Clinton’s defenders are contending that the information in question became classified only after she handled it, inappropriately as it turned out. This is where I get a laugh. Allow me to relate a story. No classified information is disclosed in the following.

I worked on a program called Smart Weapons. The idea was to put intelligence into drone aircraft (in this case a Tomahawk missile) and send it out to hunt and destroy enemy targets independent of ground control. The drone would have multiple imaging systems, including laser radar, infra red imaging, and television-like video. It was the infra red (FLIR) imagery that proved problematic. We were working in partnership with another defense contractor that produced FLIR systems and had accumulated a large library of imagery. We needed that to test and to train our system. We acquired large quantities of magnetic computer tape containing image files. The problem was the imagery was classified secret.

In order to use the FLIR imagery we had to construct a secure storage room to house the boat load of tapes. We also had to place all computers and terminals used for software development inside a specially-constructed secure room. When I went to St. Louis to produce and obtain reels of tape, I had to transport these reels of tape with me on my return trip to Dallas. This was in the late 1980s, but even then there was an issue with bringing aboard a commercial airliner a package wrapped in brown paper, which package was not allowed to be x-rayed or opened for inspection. A letter with the proper signatures got me through airport security.

This program went on for several years. And here is the funny part. The same imagery that was classified as secret on our project was being used on another project involving our defense contractor associate. And on this program the imagery was unclassified. It was OK to publish it in The New York Times. You want another laugh? Here it is. After much back and forth with the agency in charge of our program we got the imagery declassified, for our project. Off came the door to the room housing the computer tapes. There was nothing left to do but laugh, because the alternative was to go insane.

And that is what I am reminded of when I hear Clinton’s supporters saying the stuff she handled was not classified at the time she handled it, but became classified only at the insistence of another agency. By this time the information in question had already been compromised, left exposed for all who wished to see. There was really no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Laugh if you want, but that is how our security classification system works.

Is candidate Clinton out of the woods? By no means. As long as there is a Republican party there will be a campaign to stick a Discloser in Chief label on her:

The FBI is ready to indict Hillary Clinton and if its recommendation isn’t followed by the U.S. attorney general, the agency’s investigators plan to blow the whistle and go public with their findings, former U.S. House Majority leader Tom DeLay tells Newsmax TV.

“I have friends that are in the FBI and they tell me they’re ready to indict,” DeLay said Monday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

Clinton’s opponents have been saying this stuff for months. It’s going to be interesting what they have to say a year from now.


There has been a continuation of this discussion. I am updating the post to extend the remarks.

Jim Medding John, There are emails in which Clinton directed her subordinates to remove classified markings before sending information to her. You can stand by Clinton, again, but the FBI does have the final word and you are likely to find that your loyalty is misplaced.

John Blanton If you know me, you know my loyalty is to the truth. See this through to the conclusion.

Jim Medding You might be loyal to what you call the truth, but your posting didn’t explain “originating classification authority.” Furthermore you’re ha-ha-ing your way past other possible charges like violation of the Federal Records Act and pay-for-play between her role as SoS, entities wanting favorable decisions and funds transferred to Bubba (for speeches) or their foundation. There’s a reason why she’s feeling the Bern from other Democrats.

John Blanton What I call the truth should, in fact, be the truth. If there is anything I have printed that is not true, then now is the time to set me straight. I am always willing to concede to the truth.

Jim Medding The truth without all pertinent facts is somewhat less than the truth. SoS does not have the authority to declassify material classified by some other originating classification authority. This is a fact that I think you should be aware of but neglected to include in your post.

At this point I promised to update the post to include Jim’s additional comments and also to provide readers with some additional insight into the classification process. Jim mentioned the Federal Records Act. He also brought up the matter of who has the ability to declassify items. Here is the pertinent requirement:

Executive Order 13526 establishes the mechanisms for most declassifications, within the laws passed by Congress. The originating agency assigns a declassification date, by default 10 years. After 25 years declassification review is automatic, with nine narrow exceptions that allow information to continue to be classified. At 50 years there are two exceptions, and classifications beyond 75 years require special permission. Because of changes in policy and circumstances, agencies are expected to actively review documents that have been classified for fewer than 25 years. They must also respond to Mandatory Declassification Review and Freedom of Information Act requests. The National Archives and Records Administration houses the National Declassification Center to coordinate reviews and Information Security Oversight Office to promulgate rules and enforce quality measures across all agencies. NARA reviews documents on behalf of defunct agencies and permanently stores declassified documents for public inspection. The Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel has representatives from several agencies.

The foregoing does not make clear that declassification of information that was classified by one agency cannot be unilaterally declassified by another, but I am sure it’s the case. The State Department cannot declassify data which has previously been assigned a security classification by, for example, the Department of Defense.

Jim takes me to task for not bringing this up in the first place. I did not bring this up in the original post, because it was not pertinent to the ongoing discussion, besides being fairly common knowledge to the people who have responded so far to this post.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

These were still running when I was growing up in Granbury, Texas. I never saw the first of the series until I watched it this week. It’s Tarzan the Ape Man from MGM in 1932 and starring Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane Parker and Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. The screen shots are from my DVD recorded off Turner Classic Movies. Details are from Wikipedia.

The setting is early 20th century, back when Darkest Africa was still darkest Africa, ruled by European colonial powers and exploited, both in goods and in people. Here we see black porters hauling ivory, harvested from killed elephants, into a village for trading.


To prepare for this review I obtained The Complete Burroughs Tarzan Collection (Illustrated) Kindle Edition and read the first story, about how Tarzan became an ape man and how Tarzan met Jane. Some elemental differences were quickly discovered. For one, in the book she is Jane Porter. In the movie she is Jane Parker. In the book Jane first encounters Tarzan when she and her scientist father are marooned by pirates on the West African Coast. In the movie her father, James Parker (C. Aubrey Smith), operates a hunting and trading post in a West African village. Jane comes to visit, bringing a car-load of trunks in order to continue her continental lifestyle in the jungle. Here she arrives by boat and is met by Mr. Parker’s associate, Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton). There is electricity in their meeting. It ends up going nowhere. 


The movie introduces viewers to the wonders of West Africa, but on the cheap. It’s apparent the production company did not journey to Africa for the filming. A setting around Toluca Lake near Los Angeles was still wild and undeveloped in those days, and it stood in for the African wilderness. Scenes introducing various African tribes are apparently National Geographic stock footage with the actors standing in front of a rear-projection screen. Here Jane and James Parker take in the wonders of an inter-tribal gathering.


Then everybody is off into the wilderness to locate and exploit the elephant grave yard. As every civilized person knows, when an elephant gets ready to die it heads for the elephant grave yard, which is why you never see the African plane littered with elephant skeletons. On their way the party of European leaders and African porters encounters many obstacles and adventures. Here a porter falls to his death along a treacherous path around a cliff face. The first thing everybody is going to wonder at this point is this. If they are going to the elephant grave yard, why not follow the same route the elephants take. It’s obvious an elephant could never negotiate this narrow ledge, especially an elephant getting ready to die.


The party suffers additional attrition. Crossing a river, two more porters succumb to hippos and crocodiles. Back when this movie was made, African porters were considered expendable, and it was typical to show one or more meeting a bad end, just to keep up audience interest.

Then Tarzan the Ape Man bursts on the scene. He swings through the trees and yodels his presence. Everybody is frightened. Guns are brought out. Jane disappears. Tarzan has been attracted to the first European woman he has ever seen in his life, and he has taken her to his tree-top abode for further investigation. Here is examines and shreds items of her clothing while the chimpanzee Cheeta looks on, introduced here for the first time in the Tarzan legend.


When the hunting party spots Jane and Tarzan returning from the trees Holt immediately takes aim with his rifle and kills Tarzan’s adult ape friend (not Cheeta) before Jane can get the hostilities quelled. Tarzan takes offense, and he stalks the hunting party, silently killing two more porters. In the mean time Holt’s true character emerges has we see him employing a whip against recalcitrant black porters. This was back in the days before the African Porter Benevolent Brotherhood became unionized.

Jane is returned to her people, but soon she is back with Tarzan after he rescues her from an attack by wild animals. After a cozy swim together (Weissmuller was an Olympic champion swimmer) they become very interested in each other. Tarzan gently picks her up and carries her to his tree-top abode while the scene fades to black.


The following morning finds Jane in a much better mood, and she is returned again to the hunting party, and Tarzan departs, but not for long. Shortly the hunting party is captured by a sadistic party of pygmies, who throw black porters into a pit with wild apes for sport. By the time the pygmies get ready to toss in Jane and the other Europeans, Tarzan has been alerted by Cheeta, and he rallies his elephant friends who arrive just in the nick of time. The elephants raze the pygmy village and send the savages running for their lives. Tarzan rescues Holt and the Parkers—all the black porters are by now dead.

James Parker dies when the party finally reaches the elephant grave yard, and Holt assumes possession of the ivory while Jane goes off to live in the wilderness with Tarzan.

The low production value and obvious plot defects are what earn this movie a spot in the BMotW series. The back story is of some interest. Maureen O’Sullivan was Jane in subsequent Tarzan movies, and Weissmuller became more famous as Tarzan than as an Olympic champion. O’Sullivan married writer-director John Villiers Farrow, and they had seven children, one being Mia Farrow. She died in 1998. Weissmuller played in six Tarzan films for MGM and then in another six for RKO. Then he was Jungle Jim in 13 films for Universal Studios. He died in 1984.

I will be reviewing the first of the Tarzan novels in the next few days.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “why the long face?” The horse stands there, staring blankly at the bartender. Everyone starts to feel a little awkward. The horse’s handler comes in and leads it out, but not before it’s knocked over a couple of glasses and soiled itself.

Needless to say, the bar is closed for the rest of the day. Jesus walks up to the bar, but it’s closed for hygiene reasons and he goes next door to a hotel. He hands the receptionist a couple of nails and says “Can you put me up for the night?”

The receptionist takes a moment to understand, not speaking Aramaic, but is able to explain in mime that nails are not legal tender.

After Jesus leaves disgruntledly, a duck that has been kind of harassing the receptionist for the last few days by asking for grapes waddles in. The duck asks if the receptionist has any nails, and the receptionist finally snaps.

Deciding to walk out on the most ludicrous workday of his life, receptionist goes to the bar, and is infuriated to find it closed. He jimmies open a window, not caring who sees. But two old friends across the street, a priest and a rabbi, DO see.

They decide they should do something to calm this agitated man down, and follow him into the bar. The bartender, having spent all day cleaning up after the horse, sees the receptionist, the priest and the rabbi come into the bar, and stops scrubbing shit long enough to ask “Is this some kind of a joke?”

Drinking The Kool-Aid

Second in a series

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in  undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said.  (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

As it turns out, it was not really Kool-Aid the followers of Jim Jones drank nearly 40 years ago. It was a drink named Flavor Aid, but it was much like Kool-Aid, apparently with an added ingredient. But that’s another story.

This story is about propagandists who grow to believe their own stuff. As I noted in the previous post, propaganda is an effective tool at getting people to act in the way you want. I cited as an example the career of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the German Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment from March 1933 until his self-directed death on 1 May 1945. The tragedy of Dr. Goebbels (and his wife and six children) is that he so believed in his contrived portrayal of the splendor of National Socialism that, as the end drew near, he chose not to live in a world without it. There may still be some of that going around. In the previous post I noted this (see the link above):

In the case of David Daleiden, I don’t think he will go full Jonestown, but it will not be pretty. Daleiden may say he’s looking forward to deposing PPFA, but when the full spotlight is turned onto his enterprise, its hollowness will be unfavorably exposed.

While there is no threat that Daleiden will go full Jonestown, he has apparently gone partially Joseph Goebbels. His belief in his own propaganda regarding Planned Parenthood (PPFA) has now directed his life toward the consequences of his error:

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Creating and using a forged driver’s license—that’s the kind of thing you do when you want to cash a phony check. Prosecutors take a dim view of such activities. Daleiden used the fake driver’s licenses in order to pose as a company official negotiating to obtain fetal tissue from the PPFA by illegal means. The ploy was to entrap the PPFA into committing the illegal act of selling such materials. Things did not turn out the way Mr. Daleiden had hoped. The New York Times went on to report:

On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

This is the same conclusion reached by all of the several law enforcement agencies that have reviewed the case. The only people breaking the law appear to have been Daleiden and people working with him.

The bizarre episode has not yet run its course. There remain a few still eyeing the cups of Kool-Aid. As The New York Times reports:

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said on Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office have been investigating Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement: “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

The case here started in August, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and an outspoken opponent of abortion and Planned Parenthood, asked Ms. Anderson to open a criminal investigation into the organization. His request came after the release of an undercover video recorded at a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast office in Houston with a research official for the organization.

Drink up, Mr. Paxton. You will never want to drink any other. History bears this out.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


Today I’m wrapping up 24 days visiting Spain. That’s where this Quiz Question comes in. What two letters familiar to all English-speaking countries are mostly missing in Spain?

You should only take 5 seconds to respond. If it takes you longer than 30 seconds, go ahead and post your answer, but indicate how long it took you to figure this out. Post your answer as a comment.


And Helen, who was raised on the street now known as Cesar Chavez in Austin has provided the correct answer. Although Spanish does incorporate the letters K and W, the instances involve adopted words, such as “kilo.”

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

This is another I first saw at the local theater in Granbury, Texas, and I promise it will be the last for a few weeks. At the time (1958) it was heavily billed as a heart-stopping horror flick—previews and promotional material advised people with heart conditions to forgo watching. Members in the audience were advised to help anybody sitting next to them in case shock overcame them. Beyond that, it’s fairly tame. There is shock—shock that anybody would take this business seriously.

Produced and directed by William Castle and distributed by United Artists, it’s Macabre, starring William Prince as Dr. Rodney Barrett. One thing that struck me about this movie at the time was the title. I wasn’t sure what the word meant, and even today I did a quick look-up to be sure. Yes, it’s pretty deadly. He plot is all about death, and in hindsight the plot kind of dies at the end.

We see in the opening scene funeral parlor owner Ed Quigley (Jonathan Kidd) complaining to town police chief Jim Tyloe (Jim Backus) about the theft of a child’s casket. Get that, a child’s casket. This is going to play into the plot.


Barrett is a widower. His wife, Alice (Dorothy Morris) was the daughter of wealthy Jode Wetherby (Philip Tonge). Wetherby’s remaining daughter, Nancy, has just died, and her funeral is scheduled this very night. How macabre! Dr. Barret is getting the blame for both his wife’s death and the death of Nancy. Both were in his care, and both died in his absence when his presence was needed.

Barrett goes to his home along with his pretty (and loving) assistant  Polly Baron (Jacqueline Scott). There the housekeeper, Miss Kushins (Ellen Corby), tells them that the doctor’s young daughter, Marge (Linda Guderman), is missing. A search ensues. While the doctor is out of the house Polly takes a phone call. A strange voice advises that Marge has been buried alive, with just five hours to live.


The search for Marge takes strange turns. There is no general alarm for the missing child. Dr. Barrett pays a friendly visit to his girlfriend. He advises Miss Kushins not to tell grandfather Wetherby about it. Wetherby has a bad heart, and the news might be fatal. Get it? Might be fatal.


Miss Kushins tells Wetherby anyhow, but he only has chest pains. He does not die.


The plot gets very strange. Barrett and Polly search in the graveyard. The police have not been alerted. The grave digger approaches in the dark with a shotgun.. He is struck dead by an unseen assailant. It’s Mr. Wetherby, thinking the victim was behind the abduction of his granddaughter. Wetherby, Barrett, and Polly hide the body. They don’t tell anybody about the killing.

There is a flashback to the life of Nancy, who is scheduled to be buried in a few hours. We see her as she was in life—young, wealthy, wild, sexually promiscuous, blind. Here she is having a sexual encounter with Chief Tyloe in an abandoned building.


More flashbacks. The late Mrs. Barrett is in the final day of her pregnancy and her life. Her doctor husband is playing footsie with his girlfriend. Marge is born, Alice dies.


If this movie could not seem able to take a grimmer turn, it does. The midnight funeral (midnight funeral?) is held in a pouring rain. The buried child still has not been found. The coffin is lowered. Attendees begin to shovel in dirt. A shovel hits something. It’s a child’s coffin. They uncover the coffin. The grandfather eagerly pries open the coffin. Inside is a hideous sight. It’s what appears to be the decaying corpse of a child. It’s only a doll. The grandfather collapses on the edge of the grave and dies. Ed Quigley plugs Dr. Barrett with a couple of shots from a revolver.


Quigley explains that it was all a plot by Barrett to kill the grandfather so his money would come to him through the granddaughter. Dying, Barrett goes with Polly back to his office, where he reveals Marge has been sleeping comfortably all along. And that’s supposed to scare us out of our minds?

This was one of the last movies featuring Philip Tonge. I reviewed Invisible Invaders back in December. Jim Backus was already famous as the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo. He went on to greater fame in Gilligan’s Island.

After all these years two scenes stuck with me. The first was blind Nancy and the police chief getting a nooner in the warehouse. That was pretty risqué for those days. The other memory was the climactic funeral scene, with gunshots ringing out unexpectedly.

I survived my encounter with Macabre back in 1958. I was only 17 at the time. Amazingly I survived watching it again just yesterday. My heart held out. Not so much my stomach.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

Carol, a blonde city girl, marries a Cornish dairy farmer.

One morning, on his way out to check on the cows, farmer John says to Carol, ‘The insemination man is coming over to impregnate one of our cows today. I drove a nail into the rail above the cow’s stall in the barn. You show him where the cow is when he gets here, OK?’

So then the farmer leaves for the fields.

After a while, the insemination man arrives and knocks on the front door.

Carol takes him down to the barn. They walk along the row of cows and when she sees the nail, she tells him, ‘This is the one…right here.’

Terribly impressed by what he seemed to think just might be another ditzy blonde, the man asks, ‘Tell me lady, how did you know this is the cow to be bred?’

‘That’s simple; by the nail over its stall’, Carol explains very confidently.

Then the man asks, ‘What’s the nail for?’

She turns and starts to walk away and with complete confidence, says over her shoulder, ‘I assume it’s to hang your trousers on.’

This debt is your debt, this debt is my debt.


The cartoon was posted on Facebook, apparently from the account of former congressman Allen West. It comes as no surprise.

What the cartoon, by Jake Fuller, depicts is President Obama promising to protect a young boy from gun violence, at the same time shackling him to a lifetime of debt in the form of a cartoon ball and chain. I thought it was funny. And I mentioned this in a Facebook response:

The cartoon is dead on. What a succinct statement. However, the cartoonist placed the wrong president in the picture. And besides, I don’t recall such a statement from President Bush.

That initiated an exchange and a challenge:

You avoided my question – What has Obama actively done to reduce the debt? I could care less if your “skeptical” analysis puts Obama on the hero hill and Bush in the trash bin of history. Obama has had seven years to produce results so you should be able to enumerate a nice long list.

Since I don’t have a nice long list, I am resorting to pulling information that I can find on the Internet (reliable source that it is). A Google search with the key phrases “obama budget deficit” turned up a few references. Here are some.

This image is from MSNBC.


It does not show a debt reduction. It shows a reduction in deficit spending. Here is the story that goes with it:

In the not-too-distant past, talk in the political world of the U.S. budget deficit was all the rage. As the Tea Party “movement” took shape, conservatives quite literally took to the streets to express their fear that President Obama and Democrats were failing to address the “out of control” deficit.
Congressional Republicans agreed. As recently as 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked about the radicalism of his political agenda and he responded, “[W]hat I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year.” Around the same time, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) argued that Congress should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”
The Republican rhetoric was ridiculously wrong. We don’t have a trillion-dollar deficit; the deficit isn’t the ultimate problem; and it’s not growing.
Strong growth in individual tax collection drove the U.S. budget deficit to a fresh Obama-era low in fiscal 2015, the Treasury Department said Thursday.
For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 the shortfall was $439 billion, a decrease of 9%, or $44 billion, from last year. The deficit is the smallest of Barack Obama’s presidency and the lowest since 2007 in both dollar terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Keep in mind, in the Obama era, the deficit has shrunk by $1 trillion. That’s “trillion,” with a “t.” As a percentage of the economy, the deficit is now down to just 2.5%, which is below the average of the past half-century, and down from 9.8% when the president took office.
Here is another item, this time from The Daily Signal:

The Obama administration is trumpeting a shrunken federal deficit as new justification for more spending and an end to mandatory budget cuts. The Congressional Budget Office, though, already has warned of “dramatic” debt trouble ahead.

The Department of Treasury last week released the numbers for fiscal year 2015, announcing a $44-billion drop in the deficit from the year before. The deficit stands at $439 billion, which is 2.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, heraldedthe numbers as the lowest deficit since President Obama took office.

“The deficit has been reduced by nearly three-fourths as a share of the economy since 2009,” Donovan said in a written statement, adding that the figures represent “the most sustained deficit reduction since just after World War II.”

Hurrah! Not quite. Deficit reduction is not the same as debt reduction, which is the point of the Jake Fuller cartoon. Mr. Obama has not reduced the size of the government’s debt. In fact, nobody has for quite some time. Here is a graph from Wikipedia:


This shows the national debt of the United States, Germany, and Japan from 1970 to 2010. Debt value is not in actual money, but as a fraction of each country’s Gross Domestic Product, which is what really counts. This compensates for growth in a country’s economy. Go to the Wikipedia page to get a better view of this image. It shows the American debt wandering slowly upward in comparison to a stronger rise in the other two countries. There has been an up-tick in the US debt since Mr. Obama took office. No excuses offered, but compare with the up-tick in the previous administration and with the noticeable dive during the Clinton administration. One point in my Facebook responses was that the previous administration created a useless war and put $1.7 trillion on the nation’s credit card. Specifically:

Actually, my conversation is about the real winner in the debt contest. President Bush’s administration instigated a war based on trumped up motivation that is expected to finish out at $1.7 trillion. And it was mostly “put on the credit card.” Meaning it was mostly added to the national debt.

Please note that my Google search turned up multiple additional items reporting that the budget deficit has shrunk under the current administration. It did not turn up any reports that contradict this conclusion.

So, no, I do not have a long list, neither a short list of what Mr. Obama has done to remove the ball and chain from the little boy’s ankle. All I have are the facts, which facts are not easily summed up in a political cartoon.



From Google Images

From Google Images

I am into reading the concluding chapters of Stephen Ambrose’s history of Dwight Eisenhower, Eisenhower, Vol. I: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect. Eisenhower began life as a farm boy in Abilene, Kansas, one of several brothers, all successful in life. None were more successful than Dwight Eisenhower, who attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Army essentially for life from the time of his graduation. As Army Chief of Staff following his leadership in the victorious European war, he automatically became an active duty soldier for life.

By the time he completed the successful establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 the American public was practically demanding that he become President of the United States. Beginning the first political campaign of his life, he began to face harsh questions, as all politicians do. One concerned the unfair criticism of his decision to allow Soviet forces to take Berlin instead of sending Allied troops into the battle. He had some unkind words for his detractors. From the book:

[N]one of these brave men of 1952 have yet offered to go out and pick the ten thousand American mothers whose sons would have made the sacrifice to capture a worthless objective.

Then he called for everybody to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It went like this:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

There was no mention of God.

Palin Palin

One of what could turn out to be a never-ending series


Sarah, how much do I miss thee. Let me count the ways:

Thank a vet and know that United States military deserves a Commander In Chief who loves our country passionately, and will never apologize for this country. A new Commander In Chief, who never leave our men behind. A new Commander In Chief one who never lie to the families of the fallen.

I’m in it because just last week we’re watching our sailors suffer and be humiliated on a world stage at the hands of Iranian captors in violation of international law. Because a weak-kneed capitulator in chief has decided that America will lead from behind, and he who would negotiate deals like kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing the neighborhood tea. Well he deciding that America would apologize as part of the deal as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture, and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then we bend over and say thank you enemy.

Say what you will about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but this bleeding-heart liberal gets down on his knees every night before going to bed, and he thanks the Lord Above for Sarah Palin for ensuring that Barack Obama would become president:

It was summer of 2008, and I swear I was minding my own business. The news item on my computer screen said that John McCain had just picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That’s the instant I knew.

It was game over. The next president of the United States was going to be Barack Obama. Thank you, Sarah.

Yes, it was the end of the road for Senator McCain. Apparently not for Governor Palin. She mined her curious popularity into a run for Mr. Obama’s job four years later with the highly predictable outcome. Running on empty, now ex-governor Palin continues to reap the wind—the unflagging Tea Party vocal cord. McCain down and out, she prowls the political circus for fresh carcasses. Who’s next?

Good thing you asked. The newest partner in Palin’s deadly embrace is supreme rattle-mouth Donald Trump. See above. The most recent benefactor of Palin’s enormous wit is the same as always, the slim sane segment of American society. I hope you’re enjoying the show. I am. To see the video click here.

Lest you take Palin lightly, please note some saner sources:

The Trump campaign issued a statement announcing the endorsement and humorously turning the knife in Cruz by quoting the front-runner’s Lone Star State rival:

Palin’s endorsement is amongst the most sought after and influential amongst Republicans[…]She helped launch the careers of several key future leaders of the Republican Party and conservative movement. Senator Ted Cruz notes: “I would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Gov. Sarah Palin…She can pick winners.”

Thanks, Governor. You are the gift that keeps on screwing.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Here’s another one I saw at the Palace Theater in Granbury, Texas. It took me a while to figure out the title. I didn’t know much back then. It’s The Halls of Montezuma, starring Richard Widmark. Tracing it back, Montezuma was an Aztec Emperor. The phrase is from the Marine Corps Hymn:

“The Halls of Montezuma” refers to the Battle of Chapultepec on 12/13 September 1847 during the Mexican-American War, where a force of Marines stormed Chapultepec Castle.

All that was not immediatly apparent. There are no halls in this movie, and there certainly is no Montezuma.

The movie came out in 1951, distributed by 20th Century Fox and directed by Lewis Milestone, who had previously picked up Academy Awards for All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Front Page plus nominations for two others, including Of Mice and Men. Possibly that’s why this movie has so few directorial screw-ups, which I will point out later. A lot of famous film names appear, including some for the first time:

Images are from my copy of the DVD, and technical details are from Wikipedia.

The plot is mostly linear with few twists and turns. Battle action is a small component—most of the plot centering on the personalities in Lt. Anderson’s platoon.

I’m not too sure it’s stated directly, but the battle action is the Marine invasion of Okinawa during the last weeks of World War II. In fact, this was the last major Allied land battle of the war. Marines aboard troop ships are waiting to go ashore, some for the first time. The troops are jittery about going into combat, especially Corporal Stuart Conroy (Richard Hylton). He’s in sick bay seeking a stay of execution. He would like to take a sick day.

This introduces the first of two flash-backs in the movie. Anderson goes to a blackboard, picks up a piece of chalk, and writes the date September 23, 1940, just as he did on the day he first met Corporal Conroy, a transfer student in his high school chemistry class. He reminds Conroy how the two of them were able to overcome Conroy’s problem with stuttering, enabling him to deliver the speech at graduation the following spring. It was a matter of overcoming fear.


Another of Anderson’s troops is Pretty Boy (Homeier). He puts on airs of coming from high society, but his own flashback is to his days being raised by his grandmother in a house by the railroad tracks.


Anderson’s issue is pain killers. His own fear brings on intense head pain, and Doc (Malden) is tasked with making sure he has a supply of the pills so he can stay in combat. He does not plan to survive the war. Conroy does not survive. He is the first of Anderson’s troops to be killed.


As in the actual battle of Okinawa, the Marines’ nemesis is a fusillade of 8-inch rockets, coming apparently from nowhere. Writer William Manchester related in his book, Goodbye Darkness, that his war ended when one of these rockets exploded close by.

Anderson’s platoon is tasked with capturing some Japanese holed up in a cave and getting information from them that might lead to the location of the rocket launching site.


With difficulty and some fatalities, a few Japanese are taken prisoner. On the way back to the American lines Pretty Boy goes mano a mano with a sniper and kills him. The incident unhinges him, and he returns to where the prisoners are being held and attempts to shoot them. He is killed, instead.


Back at the Marine base, one of Anderson’s men going through Pretty Boy’s effects finds something Pretty Boy picked up from one of the prisoners. It’s an overlay to one of the Japanese maps, showing the location of the rocket site. A Japanese “enlisted man” turns out to be a major, and conversation with him provides a clue as to where to match the overlay. The rocket site is located, and Marine F4U Corsairs fly over to neutralize the rockets.

Anderson’s men restart the offensive, and Sgt. Correspondent Dickerman (Webb) reads a message left unfinished by Doc before he died. It’s a message full of patriotic prose and spirit of the Corps. Which is what this movie is all about.


Did I mention directorial goofs? How about when the Marines are marching across open ground toward the enemy line at the end of the movie while Corsairs paste the rocket site. Immediately before we have seen rockets flying over, and now the men are watching ordnance pound a hillside right in front of them. People, if Marines could see the Corsair fire hitting the hillside, they should have been able to see the rockets being launched. Why all this rigmarole about locating something that has been in plain site all along?

Pretty Boy’s undoing seems uncharacteristic to the casual observer. A sniper takes a shot at him and misses. Pretty Boy retaliates with a burst from his BAR and a grenade. The sniper charges him and Pretty Boy kills him with his knife. Does he take satisfaction from this heroic action? Apparently not, and only the script writer could have provided the answer. Anyhow, Pretty Boy had to die so the map overlay could be revealed, so this episode got stuck in there.

And why the map overlay, which is central to the movie’s climax? What are the Japanese doing making an overlay of  section of a contour map of the region? Why would anybody need such a thing. It’s never explained in the movie and on close analysis seems to come from nowhere.

Jack Webb came to be an icon of American television in the 1950s and beyond, first with Dragnet, derived from the radio drama, and then with Adam 12, which by the way starred Martin Milner.

Drinking The Kool-Aid

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

This is going to be interesting. The organization Center for Medical Progress has reacted to a law suit brought by Planned Parenthood. Despite the name, CMP is not so much a center for medical progress as it is a force working to oppose legal medical abortions in the United States. The full name of Planned Parenthood is Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Its focus is reproductive health services and counseling for women as well as families seeking to manage family growth. Services include legal medical abortions as well as assistance with pregnancy prevention and prenatal health. Abortion services account about 3% of PPFA services, but that is enough to make them a target of the CMP. David Daleiden is the founder of CMP:

Daleiden set up a fake biomedical research company, called Biomax Procurement Services, as a cover to enable activists to pose as buyers of fetal tissues and organs and secretly record Planned Parenthood officials during meetings.

Ten videos produced by Daleiden have been released to the public, and they purport to show PPFA personnel arranging the sale of fetal tissue, for profit, to “Biomax.” Such a business arrangement, if actually entered into, would be a violation of federal law and the laws of several states. Violation of these laws would bring criminal sanctions against individual participants as well as against PPFA. The apparent objective of Daleiden and his cohorts was exactly to do such damage to PPFA.

When Daleiden’s videos were made public the reaction was vehement from certain members of Congress and from a number of current presidential candidates. PPFA stood to lose public funding in the amount of $530 million a year.

The problem with the videos is that the alleged illegal activity never took place. The videos were heavily edited and arranged to give the impression of illegal activity, but investigation by law enforcement agencies failed to find any evidence of criminal activity on the part of PPFA. The videos have turned out to be nothing more than propaganda pieces engineered to cause trouble for PPFA.

Of course, the classic aim of propaganda is to convey wrong impressions to the benefit of the propagandist. It’s an aged and venerable art. One of the masters of the previous century was Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. I have previously reviewed the Heinrich Fraenkel and Roger Manvell book on Goebbels’ life and death.

What can go wrong with a really effective propaganda program is that the perpetrator can fall victim to his own campaign. That’s apparently what happened with Goebbels. When the Nazi regime collapsed he and his wife decided they did not want to live in a world without National Socialism. Neither did they want their children to. They poisoned all six and had guards shoot the parents.

Is Daleiden going the Goebbels route? There’s the possibility. Statements he has made in response to the PPFA suit suggest this:

The Center for Medical Progress’ David Daleiden called the lawsuit “frivolous” and a “last-ditch move of desperation.”

“Game on,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to deposing all the CEOs, medical directors, and their co-conspirators who participated in Planned Parenthood’s illegal baby body parts racket.”

It’s hard to escape that Daleiden actually believes, in the face of strong evidence to the contrary, that his propaganda videos contain an element of truth. If he does, he is not alone. These convictions are shared by a number of otherwise cogent individuals, including at least one notaable candidate for President of the United States:

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.

In the case of David Daleiden, I don’t think he will go full Jonestown, but it will not be pretty. Daleiden may say he’s looking forward to deposing PPFA, but when the full spotlight is turned onto his enterprise, its hollowness will be unfavorably exposed. He should have taken a lesson from oddball gunman Robert Dear. Also Herr and Frau Goebbels: Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

I don’t know a lot about music, but I do go to the symphony from time to time, and I notice one thing. Everybody has to tune up before the performance starts. If there is a piano, the concert master will walk over to the instrument and hit the middle C key. Else he will play the note on his violin. Then everybody will get in tune with that note. But here’s what happens.

Close up view of hand fingering violin strings while playing the instrument

Close up view of hand fingering violin strings while playing the instrument

The string players will tune slightly higher. The brass players will tune slightly lower. Why?

Post your answer in the comments section below.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

I needed to review a new Bad Movie of the Week, and I pulled this one out of my files. I could tell from the title it was going to be a B-movie by the title, Maisie Goes to Reno. It’s the eighth of the Maisie franchise, and it’s the first one I have reviewed. The delightful Ann Sothern played the title role in all but the first of the series. If you read the Bad Movie reviews regularly you will recall Sothern in Grand Exit a few weeks back. This one is from 1944 by MGM. Details are from Wikipedia, and images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies. Here is a list of the cast:

In this episode Maisie is a riveter in an airplane factory at the height of World War Two. She’s frazzled, having worked over a year straight without a vacation, and she’s getting on peoples nerves. The plant doctor prescribes a two-week vacation with pay. A producer friend convinces her to take the vacation in Reno.



Hey, it’s war time in the U.S.A., and everything is hard to come by, including bus tickets. Maisie snags a bus ticket from a woman who has called off her Reno divorce. A soldier, Sgt. Bill Fullerton, convinces Maisie to sell him the ticket. His problem is he has married a glamorous beauty with more money than Boeing has rivets, and his wife is now in Reno waiting out the time she can apply for a Nevada divorce. Bad news. The soldier’s leave is canceled, and he sells the ticket back to Maisie, but he gives her a letter to be delivered in person to Mrs. Fullerton.


At El Presidente Hotel in Reno Maisie meets handsome blackjack dealer Philip Francis “Flip” Hennahan, who puts the big rush on Maisie. He’s a hunk, but he’s not a draft dodger. His problem is he went to Sicily and got himself perforated and returned to civilian life working at the tables. He does have a car, though, with gas in the tank. That’s something else that’s rare about this time in the war.

Flip drives Maisie out to the ranch where Mrs. Fullerton is staying and gives the letter to “Mrs. Fullerton.” Only it turns out not to be the real Mrs. Fullerton, but her personal secretary posing as her and intercepting mail from Sgt. Fullerton.


Maisie uncovers a plot to separate Sgt. Fullerton from Mrs. Fullerton and Mrs. Fullerton from her money. The crooks get wise to Maisie and purloin the evidence Maisie has collected.


In the mean time Maisie’s new boyfriend has become convinced Maisie has gone bonkers, and he seeks to have her committed. Maisie outfoxes everybody and gets Sgt. Fullerton sprung from the Army on leave and out to Reno to save his lovely bride from the evil clutches of the crooks. Sgt. Fullerton shoves the disenfranchised personal secretary aside and embraces his sweet wife as Maisie looks on.


Maisie and her wheeler dealer boyfriend make up. It’s all played for laughs.


And that’s what gets this to the BMotW showcase. Sothern is solid gold zany, a master of slapstick. Besides some scenes where the guns come out, it’s all very innocent. Nobody gets killed. Nobody goes to bed. It’s all G-rated.

This is a low-key performance for Ava Gardner, who went on to much better things, not counting being married for a time to Mickey Rooney, which was not that much of a distinction. Tom Drake (Sgt. Fullerton) was never a soldier. He avoided service due to a heart problem. I have several other of his movies in my collection, so you might see him again.

Keep reading.

Count de Monet


Why does this keep coming to mind?

King Louis XVI: Ah, the Count Da Money!
Count de Monet: It’s “De Mon… ”
King Louis XVI: DON’T correct me!

Sorry. I can’t get it out of my mind. Here’s what’s behind it:

Washington (CNN)The Department of Defense has released declassified video from its January 11 bombing of an ISIS cash depot in Mosul, Iraq, which was first reported exclusively by CNN.

The video, which has no sound, begins moments before a pair of 2,000-pound bomb strikes the building. After the explosion, clouds of cash are seen fluttering in the air and later scatter on top of the roofs of nearby buildings.

That brings into question a supposition that’s left hanging out for all to ponder:

The scene took place in the city of Mosul, located in northern Iraq. The building in question had been serving as a quasi-bank for ISIS, storing its cash holdings. Officials tell CNN that the cash was destroyed on impact, with the news network using the word “vaporized” to describe what happened to the paper money. This development is significant because it comes at a time when ISIS has already lost the bulk of its revenue sources and is now working with a potentially finite amount of cash, an amount which just shrunk significantly. But this appears to be just the beginning.

Yes, “vaporize” appears to be the operative word. Does dropping a brace of 2000-pound bomb on a vault full of cash (bills) actually vaporize said paper? My first thought on hearing the news was, “No way.” Having been involved professionally with items of American military ordnance, I have ideas about what happens when they go off.

To be sure, when any large amount of RDX undergoes detonation local high temperatures are developed. Any piece of paper in contact with the fireball produced will be ignited (vaporized). Piles of lucre some distance away will be protected from the flames by a rapidly expanding blast wave that will eject the bills out of range of the intense heat. That appears to be what happened:

After the explosion occurs, clouds of money are seen flying through the air. It is later shown scattered on rooftops of nearby buildings.

The question now remains: What fraction of the supposed millions actually got vaporized (burned), and what fraction wound up raining down within Daesh-controlled Mosul? Only the surviving jihadists rushing to the scene, perhaps in a state of daze and wonder, can answer that. It’s up to them to count the money. Perhaps with no help from the piss boy.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

A man boarded an airplane and took his seat. As he settled in, he glanced Up and saw the most beautiful woman boarding the plane. He soon realized She was heading straight towards his seat. As fate would have it, she took The seat right beside his. Eager to strike up a conversation he blurted out, “Business trip or pleasure?”

She turned, smiled and said, “Business. I’m going to the Annual Nymphomaniacs of America Convention in Boston.”

He swallowed hard. Here was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen Sitting next to him, and she was going to a meeting of nymphomaniacs!

Struggling to maintain his composure, he calmly asked, “What’s your Business at this convention?”

“Lecturer,” she responded. “I use information that I have learned from my Personal experiences to debunk some of the popular myths about sexuality.”

“Really?” he said. “And what kind of myths are there?”

“Well,” she explained, “one popular myth is that African-American men are The most well-endowed of all men, when in fact it is the Native American Indian who is most likely to possess that trait. Another popular myth is That Frenchmen are the best lovers, when actually it is men of Mexican Descent who are the best. I have also discovered that the lover with Absolutely the best stamina is the Southern Redneck.”

Suddenly the woman became a little uncomfortable and blushed.. “I’m Sorry,” she said, “I shouldn’t really be discussing all of this with you. I don’t Even know your name.”

“Tonto,” the man said, “Tonto Gonzales, but my friends call me Bubba”.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Here’s another I saw originally in a theater. It’s The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. It’s originally from Warner Brothers in 1972 and directed by Sam Peckinpah, so you know there’s going to be gratuitous violence, if not sex. Images are from the DVD. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

McQueen is Carter “Doc” McCoy, in the Texas slam at Huntsville for armed robbery and is up for parole. Parole is denied, so Doc goes back to running a jute loom in the prison factory and manning the field work crew. It’s apparently Doc’s first time in the clink, and he’s not liking it. When his glamorous wife Carol (MacGraw) comes to see him he tells her to pay a visit to politically powerful Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson) and do whatever is necessary to get him sprung.


She does whatever is necessary to get Doc sprung, starting by showing up at Benyon’s office wearing a sheer blouse open almost to the navel and no bra. Shortly we see Doc walking free in civvies. The first to meet him is an associate of Benyon’s, telling Doc to meet Benyon at the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Later Carol arrives to pick him up, and they spend some time making whoopie.


Benyon puts Doc onto his associates, who lay out the plans for a Bank heist in nearby San Marcos. Doc is a major bank job engineer, and that is what kind of caper this is. Everything is timed to the second, with Doc slipping below street level to cut power and communications to the bank at just the right time. Then things unwind as the supposed driver Frank Jackson (Bo Hopkins) gets edgy and kills the bank guard. Rudy Butler (Al Lettieri), the other gunman of the trio, then murders Frank and dumps his body into the street.


Back at the rural rendezvous point Rudy attempts to double cross Doc, but Doc beats him to the draw. Rudy is only wounded and sets out to intercept Doc and the money.

Doc shows up as arranged at Benyon’s ranch and lays out the money, explaining in wonder there was only $500,000 instead of the supposed $750,000. Benyon explains the other $250,000 has already been lifted from the bank. Benyon’s brother Cully (Roy Jenson) is director of the bank. The robbery was just a ruse to cover the embezzlement.

There’s more. The plan was for Carol to be in on the double cross, but she double crosses Benyon and shoots him. Doc and Carol go on the run with the money, hence the title of the movie.


Meanwhile, Rudy has made it to a rural animal clinic, where he kidnaps the vet, Harold Clinton (Jack Dodson), and his bimbo blond wife Fran (Sally Struthers). He takes the pair on the run with him to intercept Doc, expected to head for a certain hotel in El Paso. Even before the trip starts Fran is flirting with Rudy, eventually cavorting with him while Harold watches, tied to a chair in a hotel room. Harold gets his fill of this and hangs himself in the bathroom, and Rudy and Fran continue to their ultimate destination.


The adventures of Doc and Carol in their flight to El Paso are myriad and will not be told here, except there is an episode involving the theft and recovery of the bag with the loot and a shootout and escape from the police in El Paso by hiding out in a trash dumpster and being carted to the landfill.

Finally at the hotel, Doc and Fran are freshly cleaned and preparing to get it on again, when Doc realizes something is wrong with the way the hotel manager has been acting. Sure enough. Fran and Rudy are checked into the hotel, and getting ready to waylay Doc when he opens the door for room service.

Also, the Benyon gang shows up about that time, armed with a machine gun and several pistols. Doc defeats the entire gang, allowing only one of them to run away with a warning. Still alive, Rudy makes one last attempt to shoot Doc, but he loses the gunfight and expires on the fire escape.


Exiting the hotel, the first person Doc and Carol meet is a cowboy (Slim Pickens) driving a pickup truck with a load of building materials. The cowboy is cajoled into driving the pair across into Mexico, where Doc and Carol purchase the truck and his silence for $30,000. They are last seen driving the pickup truck down the highway and over a ridge.


This production has a lot going for it. Dynamite story line, lots of action, believable human relationships, not overly moralistic. McQueen turns in a classic McQueen performance, a patent on stoic. MacGraw is just good looking and not a lot more. Struthers gives a laudable performance as the ditzy blond nymph—a step up from All in the Family.

What dogs this plot are some serious disjunctures from reality. Start with the geography. Texas is a size larger than this story depicts. Doc is serving time in Huntsville. The Riverwalk and the bank robbery are in the San Antonio area. That’s trip of over 200 miles, but this expanse does not become apparent watching the movie. There is (or was) an Amtrak between San Antonio and El Paso and going through Alpine, but the movie gives the impression of multiple runs per day, with Doc catching a train back from Alpine to San Antonio. My recollection of the time is that such frequent service did not exist.

Doc and Carol take a bus to Dallas, purchase a car, and drive to El Paso. The movie seems to show them getting to El Paso before Rudy and Fran, who have have had no such encumbrances and have the additional need to get there before Doc and Carol. Hint, the distance from from Dallas to El Paso is about the same as the distance from San Antonio to El Paso.

There is superfluous motor vehicle action. Leaving the scene of the heist, Doc needless guns the car and attracts attention to himself, smashing up other cars and some store fronts. It’s Sam Peckinpah at work.

Also there is the murder of Frank. Notice Frank’s “dead” body rolling out the car door. The stunt man has his hands out to catch himself as he prepares to hit the pavement.

Price inflation since 1972 stands out. Twenty-five years later, real-life bank bandits Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu were pulling off hauls in excess of $1 million. The crooked Texas business men are prepared to fabricate an elaborate bank job to cover a $250,000 overdraft. A 21st century business mogul can cover that on his personal line of credit.

Doc is involved in numerous gunfights, seriously outnumbered. They shoot and miss. He shoots and does not miss. He, along with Carol, polish off six bad guys and finish the movie without a scratch.

The movie ends with Doc and Carol escaping into Mexico. They drive the cowboy’s truck into Mexico. Not shown is the customs check about 25 miles inside Mexico, where they must exhibit a Turista sticker previously placed on the windshield. Mexico was at the time very picky about allowing foreign vehicles into the country. The import duty was 100%. Besides that, a call from the Texas DPS is going to alert the Mexicans to watch for the pair. They are not going to make it very far.

McQueen and MacGraw stepped completely into their roles and ended up getting married, after MacGraw divorced her husband. McQueen survived eight years after making this movie. He and MacGraw divorced in 1978.

There’s something happening here

One of a continuing series


Yes, this topic shows some staying power. Let’s hope this keeps up for a while. Here is another item to come out of the running comedy of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff in Oregon. I promise, I did verify this is not from The Onion before linking to it:

BURNS, OREGON — Grandfather of four Robert Saunders says he was just out to check on some young burrowing owls at the crack of dawn this morning when he was confronted by a “red-faced pudgy man with a big gun”.

And things got physical when Saunders refused the barked orders to halt and identify himself.

But it wasn’t the retired teacher who ended up on the ground.

Man, that has really got to hurt. Apparently bird watcher Saunders encountered one of the armed protectors of the United States Constitution on public property, which happens to be a bird sanctuary, and there was physical contact. I’m sure the encounter would not have turned out this way if the POTC had been able to get to his gun in time.

The Lapine  is a satirical newspaper out of Canada. Look for a Canadian rag to poke fun at American foolishness. According to this source from north of the border, an FBI spokesman appealed for restraint:

“We’re hoping this is an isolated incident and we’re asking the elderly not to knock any more militants on their ass,” said the grinning FBI agent.

Mr. Saunders is 79 years old and has had some time to reflect since the incident:

“I hope I didn’t hurt the man…well, his pride maybe,” said Saunders from his small bungalow in the nearby town of Burns, population 2,700.

Something more than pride may be at stake. It’s reported that a local judge is going to assess Ammon Bundy, leader of the armed group, $70,000 a day to cover expenses incurred by local law enforcement. By the time Bundy pays this off it’s likely there won’t be much left over for snacks.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

One of the last useful things I did during my Navy Reserve tour was work in the Sidewinder shop at NAS Dallas. My first encounter with a Sidewinder was educational. There was one on a work stand, and I looked it over. One thing I noticed was that each of the rear stabilizing fins featured a curious mechanism. See the photos. I have scrounged up three so make sure people can get a good view of what I’m talking about.

On the trailing edge of each rear fin, at the outer corner, is a hinged fixture. The fixture is a flat plate with a solid brass disk enclosed in the plate so that the outer edge of the disk is exposed to the wind stream. The edge of the disk is serrated, and the disk is mounted so it can spin freely on its axis. The air stream spins the brass disk at high speeds. The flat plate is attached to the fin along its leading edge by a hinge so it can freely swing to either side.


An AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile installed on an F-14 Tomcat. The AIM-9 is a short range, heat seeking air-to-air missile.

An AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile installed on an F-14 Tomcat. The AIM-9 is a short range, heat seeking air-to-air missile.


So, when the missile is fired, the brass disk is spinning very rapidly, and it’s mounted in the flat plate, which can swing from side to side. And here is the Quiz Question.

What does this arrangement do? If you are an engineer or a physicist looking at this you will figure it out immediately. Engineers and physicists are invited to have a go at this immediately. Post your answers in the comments section below.


Jim Medding has provided the correct answer that these tabs are used for roll stabilization. He left it for me to provide the mechanism.

This was over 50 years ago, but at the time I first examined this mechanism I was a full time engineering student and a part time Aviation Ordnanceman in the Navy Reserve. About five seconds, and it dawned on me. The tabs work this way:

The outer edge of each brass disk sticks out into the wind, causing the disk to rotate. Applying some basic principles of physics, If the missile rolls (to the right for example), then each disk will be rotated to the right. Because of the direction it’s spinning, the disk will apply torque on the hinged tab and force it to swing to the right, into the air stream on the right side of the fin it’s mounted on. That will produce an aerodynamic force to resist the roll in that direction. Similarly if the missile rolls to the left. These tabs with their rotting disks are an automatic roll stabilization mechanism with a built in control mechanism and requiring no power from the missile control system, which is located way forward on the missile body, anyhow.

It was so slick, I never forgot about it in all this time, and I tip my hat to the engineer who came up with the concept.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

I watched this a few years ago and obtained my impression of it then. I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s They Drive by Night, and it features George RaftAnn SheridanIda LupinoHumphrey Bogart. It’s from Warner Brothers in 1938.

Joe (Raft) and Paul (Bogart) are independent truck drivers (brothers), hauling produce in the California market.

It’s a rough and tumble business, rife with dirty tricks by rival truckers. There are numerous accidents.


Paul is married, but Joe finds true love in Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan), whom they pick up hitchhiking.


Paul and Joe’s enterprise goes south when Paul crashes the truck and loses an arm.


Joe has to take a job working for company owner Ed J. Carlsen (Alan Hale). Lana Carlsen (Lupino) is Ed’s sharp-looking wife. Ed’s not much of an attraction for a flashy doll like Lana, and she sets her sights on Joe. There’s going to be trouble.


Lana resolves her marital issues one night when she drives Ed home, passed out drunk in the passenger seat. She leaves the engine running and walks to the house, allowing her shapely body to trip the control and causing the garage door to close.


Suspicion falls on Joe, standing to move up in the company and into Lana’s bedroom with his boss out of the way. Lana’s scheme comes unhinged when she becomes unhinged testifying in court. She is hauled away, and Joe takes over the business.


And that’s the plot with a lot of detail left out. And that’s what’s wrong with the movie. For the first 52 minutes of a 95-minute movie it’s all about driving by night. Then Paul has his accident, and the story becomes about Joe working for Ed and fending off Lana, all the while romancing his true love Cassie. The murder happens 62 minutes in, and the remainder is about the criminal investigation and prosecution, ending in Joe’s vindication. This plot wanders all over the place.

George Raft is a natural for the part, having been a driver for the mob during Prohibition. Ida Lupino turns in a cracking performance, especially her final scene in court. Lupino was one of the industry’s prime assets, going from an acting career into becoming the premier woman director of her day—a first class babe all the way.