Bat Shit Crazy

Seventh of a series


Last week I posted (see the link above) about State Senator Bob Hall, of Edgewood. He had some stuff to say about Common Core, the proposed nationwide education standard. I made no secret that what State Senator Hall had to say on the topic amounted to Bat Shit Crazy. I also touched on a reference the enlightened Senator made, which also turned out to be Bat Shit Crazy. From that post:

All right. That didn’t go far toward making the connection clear. Unless you are willing to read carefully between the lines, the foregoing will leave you with the impression this is a movement at the state level, leaving obscure any of Obama’s fingerprints. It may be necessary to draw from additional sources to get to the bottom of this. How about “Donna Hearne, author of The Long War and Common Core?” State Senator Bob Hall cites Hearne and her book as evidence “that the implementation of Common Core will completely transform America from a nation of responsible, moral, and independent human beings endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to robots and servants of the state.” That’s tall order for just one book, and what an amazing book it must be. My inspiration was to obtain a copy. And I did. Just a mouse click, and Amazon delivered a copy to me ($6 and tax) on my computer.

In that post I may have given readers the impression I intended to read Donna Hearne’s book and write a review. In this particular instance the impression was correct. I have finished reading the book, 160 pages. Here is the review.

Hearne wants to make the argument that Common Core is part of grand conspiracy to place central control of the American education system under the federal government, shape the minds of students, and condition them for life under a totalitarian government. That’s it briefly, and it really is Bat Shit Crazy. It’s not my intention to go into exhaustive detail—don’t tempt me. What I will do, instead, is bring up some of Hearne’s points, print a few excerpts, and provide a bit of Skeptical Analysis. Where to start?

Common Core threatens the very fabric of American society, and Hearne has a road map to salvation:

By understanding the threats to freedom as well as how to re-establish the strengths of freedom and liberty in the culture and schools, the future can be better because the ideas taught in the schools become public policy. Working together, the future can be one of fewer taxes, less regulation, stronger intact families, and a society where not only has crime been reduced and economic prosperity widely enjoyed, but we can protect ourselves against foreign threats such as Shariah/ Islamic/ Jihadists.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 197-200). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

Get that. Fewer taxes, less regulation, stronger intact families, reduced crime, widely enjoyed prosperity. Who could ask for anything more? Let’s just add on protection against Islamic jihadists while we are at it. And that’s the straw that broke the reinforced concrete bridge. Hearne is one of those. This is going to be fun.

What else? You will be sorry you asked:

The two most powerful phrases in recorded history are:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness … (U.S. Declaration of Independence), and

So God created mankind in His own image. (Genesis 1: 27)

These two phrases liberated mankind, giving him eternal, unconditional value and purpose within the framework of a nation that recognized all human life as of equal value. These two phrases together, freed him from tyrannical government’s claim that each of us only has value and purpose as long as we are servants of the state. This is what the American Revolution was really about. Common Core seeks to banish not only these phrases, but also the rightful understanding of them. For freedom to endure, Americans must understand and embrace this distinctiveness of America. Human life is sacred.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 205-216). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

The words from the Declaration of Independence are soul-stirring, something we can all salute. But the latter is an excerpt from an ancient book of fiction. And that’s what this book is going to be about. This is not about quality education. It’s not about official malfeasance. It’s about protection of the author’s personal religious preferences. There are a few more.

For three hundred years, pre-Scopes Christian America believed that man was created in the image of God. If man is created in the image of God, then he has value given to him by his Creator, not by men. He is valuable not because society says so, but rather because of his innate being, a being created in the image of the Creator. Pre-Scopes America based its laws and values on biblical Judeo-Christian teachings. Its schools, churches and synagogues taught that each person was precious in the sight of God. Every person was to be treated with respect and dignity because man’s image was God’s image, and God Himself was to be respected and treated with dignity.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 571-576). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

Particularly, let’s bear down on those concluding words: “each person was precious in the sight of God. Every person was to be treated with respect and dignity because man’s image was God’s image, and God Himself was to be respected and treated with dignity.” Really? That’s what we get from our Judeo-Christian heritage? Really? Just to make sure, let’s take a look at our Judeo-Christian heritage:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 King James Version (KJV)

18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

I am overwhelmed by the flood of respect and dignity afforded to each person by our Judeo-Christian heritage:

Exodus 21:7 King James Version (KJV)

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

We should all be treated with such respect and dignity:

Deuteronomy 2:33-34 King James Version (KJV)

33 And the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.

34 And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:

You will forgive me if I pause now for a moment, as I am suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of respect and dignity.

I’m back.

Along with a slavish commitment to biblical myth, Hearne has a disdain for modern science typical of many religious fundamentalists. One object of her scorn is Darwinian evolution. This she dispatches with an appalling absence of scholarship, completely misconstruing circumstances surrounding the Scopes Trial of 1925. She quotes from another source but still carries the baggage:

“Scopes, a teacher of science in Rhea High School, (sic) Dayton, was arrested on a charge of violating the Tennessee state law prohibiting the teaching in public schools of any theories that deny the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible. Scopes, a biologist, had been teaching evolution. The immediate issue was as to whether the defendant had or had not violated the provisions of the state law as to the subjects to be taught in public schools, but the wider issue was as to the extent to which the state, in its control of public education, may determine the nature of the religious instruction given to the students in its schools. The trial itself was the culmination of a controversy that had been going on for years.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 539-544). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

Discrepancies abound. For example, John T. Scopes was not a biologist. He had graduated from the University of Kentucky the previous year with a major in law and a minor in geology. He was the football coach at Rhea County High school and did substitute teaching. He was not arrested. The facts are these:

There was a discussion of the freshly-minted Butler Act, and prominent people of the town (Dayton, Tennessee) were sitting around in a drugstore discussing the consequences. They got the inspiration that Dayton should host a test of the new law, and young Scopes, a part-time teacher, was summoned from his tennis game. The proposition was put to him, and he agreed to stand trial. He went back to his game and into history.

On the second part, Scopes never did teach evolution in the school. He was completely innocent. In all likelihood, the school principal taught the class that covered evolution. And all parties to the trial were aware of this, and nobody spilled the beans. The people wanting to defeat the bill needed a conviction they could take to an appeals court. Even the prosecution team was in on the scam. Students were allowed to perjure themselves and claim Scopes taught evolution.

Hearne’s book is a remarkable conglomeration of facts and fiction, backed by a ton of references. Unfortunately there was no real effort to dive into the topics highlighted in the book.

Hearne bemoans the devastation that engulfed this country following the sensation of the Scopes trial. From that point forward evolution poisoned the minds of school children by the horde.

Wrong again. Scopes’ conviction was overturned on a technicality, and the law was never challenged. Not for decades—evolution was not taught seriously in American public schools until the 1960s, with the implementation of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study following the advent of Sputnik.

Hearne attaches multiple evils to evolution:

If evolution is the explanation for man’s existence, then it stands to reason that the society in which he exists determines his value. If society determines his value, it must also set limits on that value and control it. How does society control man’s value? It controls that value by force or by whomever has the power to carry out that force. What then does society do about someone like Hitler who acquired that force and defined the value of man his own way?

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 567-570). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, evolution is the explanation for man’s existence, and that is inescapable. How is that working out with respect to Hearne’s supposed consequences?

To be sure, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) also catches some knocks:

In actuality, the real-world temperature data shows just the opposite of this Disciplinary Core Idea. There has been no statistical warming since 1997, eighteen years ago. In addition, a graph of 90 Climate Models shows that the actual surface temperature has gone down slightly. This is the same data the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 1181-1185). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

A problem here is that Hearne doesn’t directly cite any references, but the end notes for this chapter contain “Sowell, Thomas, “Stormy weather and politics,” West Newsmagazine, February 3, 2015, p. 3.” What it seems to match is this:

It was refreshing to see meteorologists apologize for their dire — and wrong — predictions of an unprecedented snow storm that they had said would devastate the northeast. It was a big storm, but the northeast has seen lots of big snow storms before and will probably see lots of big snow storms again. That’s called winter.

Unfortunately, we are not likely to hear any similar apologies from those who have been promoting “global warming” hysteria for years, in defiance of data that fail to fit their climate models. What is at issue is not whether there is “climate change” — which nobody has ever denied — but whether the specific predictions of the “global warming” crowd as to the direction and magnitude of worldwide temperature changes are holding up over the years.

I hope Hearne is not citing Thomas Sowell as a scientific source:

Sowell has a nationally syndicated column distributed by Creators Syndicate that is published in Forbes magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and major newspapers, as well as online on websites such as TownhallWorldNetDaily, OneNewsNow and the Jewish World Review.

Sowell comments on current issues, which include liberal media bias; judicial activism (while defending originalism); partial birth abortion; the minimum wage; socializing health care; government undermining of familial autonomy; affirmative action; government bureaucracy; gun control; militancy in U.S. foreign policy; the U.S. war on drugs, and multiculturalism.

In a Townhall editorial, “The Bush Legacy,” Sowell assessed President George W. Bush as “a mixed bag,” but “an honorable man.”

Sowell officially endorsed Ted Cruz for the presidency in a February article.

In the meantime, last month was the warmest February on record, and January was also the warmest on record. In fact:


But wait. That was last year’s chart. Here is the one for 2016.


If you are reading this, and you still want to talk to me about statistical significance, post a comment or send me an email.

Hearne’s infatuation with Judeo-Christian hegemony shows throughout. Everything admirable seems to be attributable to this mindset. According to Hearne, individual freedom was invented by Christianity:

It is evident in Huxley’s position on selective truth in Brave New World, that the 1994 History Standards are a perfect example of that selective truth. “Nowhere … will you find any mention of the fact that it was the Western tradition that first produced the idea of individual freedom. Nowhere will you find that it was in Christianity that the concept of individual freedom originated … you will find no acknowledgment of the fact that we have produced what no other country and tradition has,” said Professor Fox-Genovese to The Wall Street Journal. 82

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 1951-1956). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

All of which is in sharp contrast to known facts. Without benefit of Christianity, the North American Plains tribes had the concept of individual freedom well nailed down before Europeans ever rode over the horizon. Stephen E. Ambrose describes the maturation of Curly, who was to become Crazy Horse, the Sioux war leader who defeated George Armstrong Custer:

As a mature war leader, Curly would discover the full cost the Sioux had to pay for their individualism. The absence of compulsion, the freedom to do what one felt like doing, so long as no one got hurt, made the Sioux a woefully inefficient people.

Ambrose, Stephen E. (2011-10-31). Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors (Kindle Edition) (Kindle Locations 1001-1002). PREMIER DIGITAL PUBLISHING. Kindle Edition.

Hearne makes, here and in multiple other places, such statements of fact completely without base and free of evidence. Throughout she harps on the need for fact-based education:

The classical education of seeking truth in an orderly way with chronologically historic facts including sequential mathematic exercises has been replaced. Fractured thinking and a smorgasbord of short snippets of literature and history without context, mathematics without logic, and science based on a political agenda instead of the scientific method are now the standard.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 460-466). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

In defiance of this advertised philosophy, Hearne’s narrative routinely pawns off whimsical fallacies as truth. Most egregious of these commissions is her reliance on biblical myth for truth:

In identifying the important areas of study, Common Core never seriously suggests the Bible. Thus, when the Bible is no longer examined as the standard for truth, man becomes the measure of all things, and the most powerful of men are the ultimate measure. Early American history is replete with the understandings that without God and the Bible, there is no fixed point of truth from which to judge and order society. Wisdom is only achieved by integrating the education of the mind with absolutes and a knowledge base and merging it with the transcendent values of the heart and soul starting with biblical truth.

Hearne, Donna H. (2015-08-03). The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War (Kindle Locations 893-898). Freedom Basics Press. Kindle Edition.

Elsewhere in the book Hearne campaigns for reasonable, even logical, educational reforms. Her disregard for substance destroys any attempt she might make to convince a reasonable person. She is one of the varied definitions of Bat Shit Crazy.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Three down. This is the last of my collection of Marvel Studios films. The first three were Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. This is The Avengers. It’s from 2012, distributed by Paramount Pictures, and starring the leading personalities from the previous Marvel flicks. Heroes of past installments get together in this romp to (ultimately) work as a team to defeat the villainous Loki from Thor. Here is the list of heroes, from Wikipedia:

Tom Hiddleston reprises as Loki. Images are from the DVD. Details are from Wikipedia. I’m not going to regurgitate the plot. It’s comic book, folks. Just enjoy the action.

The opening scene is a panic. A S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) research facility is being evacuated. There is trouble afoot. Here we see  S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) again. He’s left over from Thor and Iron Man. The one-eyed guy is Nick Fury, easily recognized as Samuel L. Jackson, famous from such as Unbreakable. They need to figure out something fast.

Meanwhile, although it is not readily apparent, sexy Natasha is interrogating somebody who speaks Russian and has her tied up in a chair while he slaps her around, asking questions that she can’t answer. Unexpectedly a phone call comes for her, and she is ordered to report to S.H.I.E.L.D. immediately and forget about playing around with the Russians. She kicks ass, busts out of her bonds, and turns up to see what the problem is at S.H.I.E.L.D.


The problem turns out to be Loki. He’s back, after supposedly falling into oblivion at the conclusion of Thor. This time he’s got the backing of the Chitauri, an extraterrestrial gang with designs on universal conquest, and he has a plan. Loki attacks the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab to steal the Tesseract, a source of almost limitless energy.


Things expand from there. More super heroes join up, and we are introduced to the fabulous flying super carrier that S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed. A lot of action takes place here, and we see much vicious fighting with stealth aircraft coming and going.


Of course, the action must eventually lead to mid-town Manhattan, where the aliens attack, and the super heroes defend. There is massive destruction practically without letup. I’m going to clue you in that this movie is mostly about action sumptuously supported by industrial grade special effects. Two thumbs up on that.


The climax of the action and the 143 minutes of the movie arrive with that oh-shit moment, when the super heroes realize they are going to need a bigger boat.


But they prevail, of course. Coulson gets the chop in the midst of all the killing, so we may not see him again. Of course, we said the same about Loki. Below you see the Avengers battling one of the serpentine monsters threading its way through mid-town canyons, strewing mayhem and destruction in its wake. The last we see of Loki has The Hulk body-slamming him back and forth on a roof top.


I have a couple of complaints:

  • The director, apparently to save money, shot many of the scenes under dim light. This technique saves productoin costs by helping to cover up for scantily constructed sets, but for me it sometimes made it difficult to follow the action. I watched a Blu-ray on a high-definition flat screen in a dimly-lit room, and I still had problems telling the actors apart in many scenes.
  • There is lots of action for action’s sake. At times the back and forth goes on needlessly, supplying little to advance the plot. Writers/directors should take a lesson from Shakespeare—don’t put in anything that is not pertinent.

I have seen none of the Hulk, Black Widow or Hawkeye movies. I need to acquire some samples and take a look. Reviews to come. Keep reading.

The People

This post quotes extensively from Georgia HB 757, available on the Internet. In the event the source is ever moved or deleted, I have retained a copy on this site.

I am so very sorry

I am so very sorry

A political fantasy has swept the country and is beginning to run head on against reality:

(CNN)Under increasing pressure from major corporations that do business in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia’s LGBT community.

House Bill 757 would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters said the measure was meant to protect religious freedom, while opponents have described it as “anti-LGBT” and “appalling.”

Let me spell that out in case you missed it: “deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” In place of “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” read “the people.” The people who pay taxes. The people who vote for you. The people who pay your salary. The people you are supposed to work for. Yes, politicians, your job is not to look out for the interests of only straight, white, Christian fundamentalists with an aversion to all others. Your job is to look out for the rights of all the people.

It is interesting to see the legislation in question. What is it about this bill that was so favored by some? The wording is, in part:

HB 757

Domestic relations; religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right; provide

Official Summary: A BILL to be entitled an Act to protect religious freedoms; to amend Chapter 3 of Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to marriage generally, so as to provide that religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion; to amend Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to selling and other trade practices, so as to change certain provisions relating to days of rest for employees of business and industry; to protect property owners which are religious institutions against infringement of religious freedom; to define a term; to provide an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

This is only a summary. The details are in the full text. A quick read reveals a number of interesting points, including the following:

To protect religious freedoms; to provide for defenses and relief related thereto; to amend Chapter 3 of Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to marriage generally, so as to provide that religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies, perform rites, or administer sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion; to provide that no individual shall be required to attend the solemnization of a marriage, performance of rites, or administration of sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion; to amend Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to selling and other trade practices, so as to change certain provisions relating to days of rest for employees of business and industry; to protect property owners which are faith based organizations against infringement of religious freedom; to protect certain providers of services against infringement of religious freedom…

[HB 757; 1-11, emphasis added]

This part spells out the intent of HB 757, and part of that intent is “to protect property owners which are faith based organizations.” Later the meaning of “faith based organization” is delineated:

‘Faith based organization’ means a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches, when such entity is qualified as an exempt religious organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.

[HB 757; 80-84]

This may be a side point, but it’s worth noting. As defined, “faith based organizations” already have protection under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Specifically, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It is a puzzlement as to why state legislators thought to include this unneeded protection.

As it turns out, the real matter is not faith based organizations, it’s government officials. It’s those who work for the people, all of the people. Significantly, HB 757 provides protection to public officials who do not do their jobs:

(4) Afford any protection or relief to a public officer or employee who fails or refuses to perform his or her official duties; provided, however, that this paragraph shall not prohibit any person from holding any public office or trust on account of religious opinions, in accordance with Paragraph IV of Section I of Article I of the Constitution.

[HB 757; 217-220]

Is even this wording needed? Don’t public officials always do their jobs, the jobs which require an oath of office, which oath typically includes wording to the effect the officials promise to uphold the law as part of their duties? What elected or appointed official would ever take it upon himself (or herself) to set aside the rule of law in favor of some personal preference? I’m glad you asked:

Let me get this straight. Hood County Clerk Katie Lang took it upon herself to defy the law and to expose tax payers of Hood County to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, on a personal whim? How many ways are there to spell breathtaking inanity? And it played out two blocks from where I grew up.

Yes, sorry to say, this little drama touches on the place I called home in my formative years. Where did I go astray?

There were people, people in Georgia, who wanted this bill  passed and signed into law, and their intentions were not pure. The persons proposing this legislation had the motivation to protect those like themselves, those with an aversion to homosexuals. Most seek to conceal this intent. They hide it. They seek refuge in ancient religious texts. They claim to be commanded by a higher power, a power beyond their control:

Leviticus 18:22 King James Version (KJV)

22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

This is but a sample. There are others, more stringent. And people of faith must not contravene these proscriptions. To do so would betray their faith and would incur the wrath of a higher power, a power higher than any law of the land. These words out of Leviticus (and others) are strict and guide the lives of the righteous and the faithful. There are no exceptions:

Deuteronomy 22:11 King James Version (KJV)

11 Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

No exceptions:

Leviticus 19:28 King James Version (KJV)

28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.

No Exceptions:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 King James Version (KJV)

18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

No exceptions:

Exodus 21:7 King James Version (KJV)

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

No exceptions:

Exodus 21:1-6 King James Version (KJV)

21 Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

That seems to be straight forward. I can’t find any ambiguity in these instructions. People of faith must adhere strictly to these rules for living, with no exceptions. No exceptions when the rules relate to something the person already had in mind. Something such as disdain for homosexuals. All those others may be forsworn. Dishing dirt on queers requires strict observance. It is the word of the Lord.

So disappointing to mention, there are others who agree:

ALTOONA, Wis. – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz criticized Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday for vetoing a controversial religious liberties bill that came under heavy criticism from opponents who argued that it would discriminate against gay and transgender individuals.

“I thought that was very disappointing to see Governor Deal in Georgia side with leftist activists,” Cruz told reporters outside a restaurant here where he met with voters ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary.

Of course, I am shocked. Shocked that a Texas senator from Calgary would take such a stand. Not really. We all saw this coming, even before the governor could find his veto stamp:

No question, the contestants for the Republican presidential nomination are a very conservative bunch, but there is something that sets Texas Sen. Ted Cruz apart from the pack: his endorsements from some of the religious right’s kookiest voices. Where the 2008 GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, distanced himself from militants on the evangelical fringe, Cruz proudly embraces them.

Among the most notable — or notorious — of these Cruz endorsers is Mike Bickle, the pastor who runs the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo. Bickle has preached that in the “End Times” God will raise up someone to hunt down Jews who fail to accept Christ — someone, he imagines, in the mold of the most famous Jew hunter of them all, Adolf Hitler. Among Bickle’s other end-of-the-world teachings is that Oprah Winfrey is unwittingly part of a “Harlot movement” that is paving the way for the Antichrist. He also predicts that the gay agenda, which he says is “rooted in the depths of hell,” will lead to the elimination of marriage as an institution.

Most recently, Bickle opined that January’s big blizzard on the East Coast was a punishment from God for the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of a North Dakota abortion rights ruling that went against the anti-abortion side.

Another Cruz fan is Bob Vander Plaats, leader of an Iowa-based group called the Family Leader. Of Cruz, Vander Plaats says he is “the most consistent and principled conservative” in the nomination race.

One of the principles Vander Plaats espouses is that the fight against same-sex marriage is equivalent to the 19th century struggle against slavery. Same-sex marriage, he has said, is a “Satanic plot” that will lead to parents marrying their own children. Vander Plaats has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his anti-gay policies. He has proposed the Putin-like idea that students should be taught homosexuality is a public threat on par with smoking.

There are either of two ways to spell this: “Guilt by association” or “The company you keep.”

As it turns out, those in Georgia who pushed for HB 757 in the first place are correct. There is a higher power. It’s a power they will ignore at their peril. It’s the power of the pocketbook. HB 757 earned a veto under pressure from the people in Georgia who sign the checks. Business leaders, the base of conservative America, saw HB 757 as bad for business. It’s hard to get business to invest in a place that has “jake leg” stamped all over it.

I have touched on “jake leg” before. It translates into something I mentioned a number of times, often in conjunction with breathtaking inanity. This may be one of those cases.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


There once was in Carrollton, Texas, at the intersection of Belt Line Road and Webb Chapel Road a concern called Otis Engineering. I was by there for a visit. They made “down-line” equipment for oil wells. This was stuff that went down into oil wells, sometimes miles deep, to make measurements and such.

They had a pressure chamber for testing their stuff, and this chamber was well-armored, to withstand those deep pressures. They filled it with water and applied the pressure. They took great care that there was no air in the chamber. Why was that. What would be the problem if there were some air in the pressure chamber?

This one is some basic science and I expect some quick answers. Provide your response in the comments section below.

Update and answer

Greg has answered this one, but I do not see evidence he has posted a comment. The reason is this:

A body of water under pressure represents an amount of stored energy to the extent it is compressed. Air is multiply-compressible over water, and at great pressures can story a dangerous amount of energy. The potential energy of a compressed fluid is proportional to the pressure and the square of the compressed volume. Since water compresses very little under great pressure, compressed water does not represent so much potential energy. Any gas in the chamber, however, would be compressed tremendously and would represent a large amount of potential energy.

Greg is correct in that it would take more energy to raise the pressure of the chamber if had some air in it. However, the real concern is the danger of releasing the potential energy accidentally.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

As promised, here’s another John Wayne film. Just to let you know:


It’s Brannigan, and it came out in 1975. Did I see this when it first came out? Do not recall. But it’s been on TV a lot, and I purchased a DVD some years back. Here are some images from the DVD. I’m getting details from Wikipedia and IMDB.

John Wayne is Chicago Police Detective James Brannigan, and we see him busting down the door of a counterfeiter’s (Arthur Batanidesworkshop somewhere out in the Chicago flatlands. Brannigan is looking for gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon), who is wanted for all kinds of nefarious activities. Brannigan tries to intimidate the counterfeiter with an unloaded pistol. All he gets is that Larkin has left town, which the police have already figured out.


Larkin is in London with his attorney, Mel Fields (Mel Ferrer). They are hatching a scheme to spirit Larkin to South America along with enough cash to live comfortably until the next ice age.


And that’s what this movie is all about. It’s a Chicago cop in London, a clash of cultures and a clash of police procedure. At Heathrow Airport pert and pretty Detective Sergeant Jennifer Thatcher (Judy Geeson) picks Brannigan up and chaperons him for the remainder of the film.


Meanwhile Larkin’s scheme is set to work as two hoods, not just any hoods, but British hoods, kidnap Larkin from his massage in an upscale London club. That’s Larkin’s unconscious body inside the steam cabinet the two hoods are lugging out of the club.


Brannigan gets introduced to Scotland Yard Commander Sir Charles Swann (Richard Attenborough) in the Commander’s private club. Brannigan is also introduced to London life, as he is required to wear a tie in the club, and Commander Swann insists he get rid of the Colt Diamondback .38 he is wearing beneath his jacket. Brannigan retains possession.


Meanwhile, attorney Fields has arranged to pay an assassin $25,000 to put Brannigan six feet under. The assassin from New Orleans is known only as Gorman (Daniel Pilon), and he comes to collect the first installment from a London middleman.


The middleman has something in addition for Gorman. She’s Luana (Lesley Anne Down), and she’s closest thing this movie gets to R rated.


So Gorman sets to work making life dangerous for Brannigan and interesting for viewers. His first try is a booby trap rigged in Brannigan’s bathroom. Brannigan is ahead of the game, and the shotgun blast only manages to take out the bathroom door. Likewise, the gelignite charged rigged in the toilet tank only succeeds in removing an outside wall.


Larkin and his crooked attorney continue to work their scheme to extract money from Larkin’s crooked empire. A ransom demand, coupled with one of Larkin’s fingers (as PoL) elicits a cash payoff in multiple mail packets deposited into a curbside collection box. That turns out to be a huge ruse, as the crooks have arranged to extract the packets from a sewer beneath the box and to substitute them for envelops filled with newsprint. An additional payoff is demanded, which attorney Fields is eager to provide.

In the meantime the producers have decided the plot needs additional excitement, so a car chase is inserted into the story line. Brannigan commandeers a citizen’s new yellow automobile and follows a hit man through the streets of London. We see the famous towers of Tower Bridge, and we know what’s coming. Sure enough, the hit man clears the gap just as the spans start up. Brannigan is a trifle later, and his leap is right out of pulp fiction. He just bought himself a new limey motorcar.


The kidnapping was all a ruse for Fields to extract money from Larkin’s criminal gang. He takes the valise with the cash to the waterfront hideout of the kidnappers and there is a big celebration. You see, the kidnappers thought this was a real kidnapping and that the plan was to kill Larkin after they got all the money. Instead, Fields murders the two hired hoods, and he and Larkin throw wads of cash around as two dead bodies litter the scene.


Then an electronic tracking device rolls out of one of the packets, and the crooks realize the jig is up. It truly is, as both are quickly trucked away by the bobbies, leaving Brannigan to catch a ride with Sergeant Thatcher.

But Gorman is not done yet. He’s waiting in his XKE Jaguar, which he has driven all through the movie. On the mudflats by the Thames he makes several runs at Brannigan and Thatcher until one of the .38 rounds takes out his gun hand. His attempt to use the E Jag as a weapon ends as Brannigan puts several into him through the windshield, and we are treated to the sight of a British sports car catapulting into the river.


What’s wrong with this movie? It has a great story line. It’s a police drama—bad guy is on the run, makes it to London, where an American cop goes to handle the extradition. There’s the culture clash, and there’s the intrigue of the assassin, the phony kidnapping, the cat and mouse game with the ransom payoff, a staged brawl in a London pub, another assassin takes out a criminal accomplice before he can talk, followed by a harrowing car chase with an impossible leap between the spans of the drawbridge. Finally there’s the double-double-cross as the henchmen are murdered. Then the cops arrest everybody, and Brannigan kills the assassin.

A lot of it comes across as contrived.

1. Brannigan threatens Angell with an unloaded pistol. Really? Then he puts the gun down to make a phone call, and Angell picks up the gun. Really? You’re in trouble for printing counterfeit money, and you pull a gun on a cop? Who is that stupid? It’s not believable.

2. Brannigan is allowed to continue to carry his .38 around in London. I’m thinking that would have been impossible 40 years ago.

3. Gorman is hired to kill Brannigan. Why is not important. How does he do it? He infiltrates Brannigan’s apartment and rigs two elaborate booby traps. It makes for a lot of movie excitement but not for a lot of sense. The first booby trap is a shotgun. Very elaborate, but much to cumbersome. The killer has to first obtain a shotgun, in London. Then he has to rig the clamps to hold it and arrange the string and pulley arrangement to pull the trigger when the door is opened. And there are any number of ways this could fail.

4. Same with the exploding toilet tank. A foreigner in London needs to seek out and obtain a quantity of a controlled explosive. He already has a machine pistol, which he uses multiple times in the plot. All this other stuff is fantasy.

5. The kidnapping plot makes no sense. Larkin is in on the kidnapping. Fields is in on the kidnapping. Why hire two thugs, who will later have to be murdered? The two infiltrate the private club where Larkin is enjoying a luxurious bath and massage. They cold-cock (maybe kill) the masseur. They knock Larkin out with chloroform. They stuff him into a steam cabinet they have just brought into the club, and they cart him away. There are so many ways this could go wrong. The chloroform is criminally dangerous. Not handled properly this can kill the victim. If Larkin is in on it, why now just have the two say, “Mr. Larkin, please get inside the steam cabinet, and we will have you out of here in two shakes.” Who writes this stuff?

6. The bridge stunt is monstrously gratuitous. I watched through the episode several time, and it appears not to be faked. Somebody actually did jump a Ford Capri over a gap between the Tower Bridge spans. This had to be an expensive stunt. The spans had to be opened specially for the stunt, and they had to be opened just so. If opened in the usual manner, both spans opening in sync, the car would have crashed into the structure beneath the roadway of the second span.

End of the line—this movie is fun to watch, but it is a bad movie. It sank at the box office.


Here’s a better explanation of the Tower Bridge jump stunt. It is possible to make the jump while the spans are raised equally, you just have to give the car a lot more speed. However, with the span raised at the angle shown it is not likely a car can make the transition to the inclined span. It’s going to be like hitting a wall.

Bat Shit Crazy

Seventh of a series


The North Texas Skeptics is a non-profit organization that takes on a number of issues. One is creationism and associated fallacies. I get mail, a lot of which is Bat Shit Crazy, and some of that is from the Mt. Blanco Museum, located in Crosbyton, Texas. The backbone of this organization seems to be creationist Joe Taylor. Besides the museum, Joe Taylor is interested in spreading the word against biological evolution. He’s of the class of creationists known as Young Earth Creationists. These people take Genesis literally and deny the Earth is billions, much less millions, of years old. His latest book is Giants Against Evolution, apparently not available in Kindle.


I’m guessing that’s Joe Taylor on the cover.

A few miles from where I was born there is a place on the Paluxy River (Texas) where Cretaceous dinosaur tracks are found in limestone estimated at 115 millions ago. A famous feature of these tracks is the so-called Taylor Trail. It’s not the same Taylor, but this feature is cited by creationists as evidence that dinosaurs co-existed with our human ancestors.

Joe Taylor and the Mt. Blanco Museum attract the attention of others of similar bent:

A Texas man says he found fossils from “Noah’s flood,” and the director of an anti-science museum that claims evolution is “an old-fashioned theory” is supporting him.

Wayne Propst was helping his aunt out, laying dirt near her home in the town of Tyler when he found snail fossils, he told local news station KYTX. He and his aunt believe the fossils happened during the fabled worldwide flood described in the biblical book of Genesis.

“From Noah’s flood to my front yard, how much better can it get?” Propst said.

This is simply amazing. Some would say Bat Shit Crazy. A man digs up snail fossils in East Texas, and this correlates with the flood story from Genesis. If this does back up the Genesis Flood story, then just about everything does, because I can assure you geologists and even people engaged in highway construction have been digging up snail fossils for hundreds of years.

With any fantastic story there is always somebody to throw cold water. In this case it’s a University of Texas paleontologist. Again, from the Huffington Post article:

However, James Sagebiel, the collections manager at the Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that Propst’s fossils are actually millions of years old.

“The rocks there are about 35-40 million years old, and these little turret snails are commonly found in marine rocks of that age,” Sagebiel said. “ “It’s not unusual.”

Millions of years ago, the place where Tyler, Texas, now stands would have been coastline, he added.

Darn it! Just when the world is starting to go Bat Shit Crazy, somebody lets the air out of the balloon. Doesn’t science just drive you up the wall?

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

Due to the cultural climate of political correctness now pervading America, Kentuckians, Tennesseans and West Virginians will no longer be referred to as ‘HILLBILLIES.’

 You must now refer to them as


And furthermore: 


1. She is not a ‘BABE’ or a ‘CHICK’ – She is a ‘ BREASTED AMERICAN.’

2. She is not ‘EASY’ – She is ‘HORIZONTALLY ACCESSIBLE.’

3. She is not a ‘DUMB BLONDE’ – She is a


4. She has not ‘BEEN AROUND’ – She is a

5. She does not ‘NAG’ you – She becomes


6. She is not a ‘TWO-BIT HOOKER’ – She is a ‘ LOW COST PROVIDER.’


1. He does not have a ‘BEER GUT’ – He has developed a ‘LIQUID GRAIN STORAGE FACILITY.’

2. He is not a ‘BAD DANCER’ – He is


4. He is not ‘BALDING’ – He is in ‘FOLLICLE REGRESSION.’

5. He does not act like a ‘TOTAL ASS’ – He develops a case of RECTAL-CRANIAL INVERSION.’

6. It’s not his ‘CRACK’ you see hanging out of his pants – It’s ‘REAR CLEAVAGE

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series ISIS leaders (left to right): Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harziv
ISIS leaders (left to right): Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harziv

Let me check. I may be running out of space for these. No. That’s good. There’s enough for plenty more. Keep reading.

(CNN)The Pentagon said Friday that it had killed ISIS’ finance minister, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, whom many analysts consider the group’s No. 2 leader.

Those analysts believe al-Qaduli would have been expected to take control of the day-to-day running of ISIS, also called ISIL, if its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed or incapacitated.

The U.S. operation was intended to capture him alive, a U.S. official told CNN. Helicopters loaded with special operations forces swooped in on a vehicle carrying al-Qaduli, but at the last moment something happened that caused them to decide to fire on the vehicle instead. The official would not say what it was that caused them to modify the plan.

The official (not named) would not say what caused the change in plans. I am guessing the team was contemplating having to listen to Mr. al_Qaduli complain all the way back to the base. These special operations guys can be awfully irritable at times.

Not mentioned is whether Mr. al-Qaduli’s life insurance policy was paid up. I’m guessing not. Word on the street is these guys have been unable to obtain whole-life for some time now, at any price.

With the exit (72 virgins) of Daesh (ISIS) number two man, there will naturally be a scramble for the coveted spot.  Perquisites are legendary.

  • Did I mention the virgins?
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses will definitely not be knocking on your door.
  • On the freeway other vehicles give you at least 100 meters space in all directions.
  • Visiting relatives don’t hang around for dinner.
  • No problem finding a parking space at the bazaar.
  • Business meetings are always short.
  • Business meetings are sometimes canceled.
  • Business meetings are very often canceled.
  • You don’t need to set aside funds for retirement.

So, we need to start a pool on who’s going to be the next Daesh number two. Get your submissions in early. Choices will be few. My pick? You want to know my pick? Here’s my pick: Maqduq al-Fuzzi. He hasn’t had any luck since his suicide van was stolen last week.

There will be more. Keep reading.

The Undecidability Problem


I’m confident that nobody who has gone through a computer science degree program is unaware of the undecidability problem and the Turing Machine. Some excerpts from the Wikipedia entry sum up the matter:

In computability theory and computational complexity theory, an undecidable problem is a decision problem for which it is known to be impossible to construct a single algorithm that always leads to a correct yes-or-no answer.


In computability theory, the halting problem is a decision problem which can be stated as follows:

Given the description of an arbitrary program and a finite input, decide whether the program finishes running or will run forever.

Alan Turing proved in 1936 that a general algorithm running on a Turing machine that solves the halting problem for all possible program-input pairs necessarily cannot exist. Hence, the halting problem is undecidable for Turing machines.

In full disclosure, I took the course and made an A, but the matter is still hazy to me, and it’s not something I have lost a lot of sleep over. What did interest me was Alan Turing’s work in cracking the Enigma code used by the Germans in World War Two, and that was my reason for obtaining the motion picture about these events, The Imitation Game. A review will be posted on the fourth of May, but in the meantime I obtained a copy of the book that formed the basis for the movie. It’s Alan Turing: The Enigma, and it’s more about Turing and less about the German Enigma. The image above is from the Kindle edition of the book, and it appears to have been taken from the movie. The book also has a photo of an Enigma.


The naval Enigma machine with its lid raised to show the four rotors. Hodges, Andrew (2014-11-10). Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film “The Imitation Game” (p. ix). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Andrew Hodges has delivered a masterful, some might say exhaustive, volume on the life and works of British mathematician Alan Turing. The book came out in 1983 after two years of presumably solid writing. I will only touch on some high points.

With his description of what is now called the Turing Machine, Alan Turning is often pointed out as the father, or else the godfather, of the modern computer industry. Others before and after made huge contributions. Charles Babbage, another Englishman, laid out the concept of a mechanical device that is the true forerunner of what we now call a computer, and Ada Lovelace, daughter of English poet George Lord Byron and also assistant to Babbage, is considered to be the first computer programmer. A computer programming language (Ada) is named after her. Arguably the first working computer is attributed to John Vincent Atanasoff, although the Atanasoff-Berry Computer was not programmable. Turing’s concept of a programmable computer is given credit for cracking the code of the German Enigma.

Turing’s early life does not give the picture of somebody about to break thresholds in mathematics and signal counterintelligence. As a child he was an uninspired student who at a point in his academic spiral showed a gift for mathematics. This earned him a place at Cambridge King’s College, and Hodges gives his American readers a guided tour of the British system of matriculation, another matter I have yet to comprehend.

A central part of the book is how Alan Turing’s interest in a peculiar field of mathematics set him onto a course to take on the German war machine. I’m familiar with some of the background, but I’m going to take care not to bore you with a lot of depth. Suffice it to say that in the early 20th century there were items of interest being fiercely pursed in one small corner.

In 1900 German mathematician David Hilbert set forth a number of mathematical issues that needed to be resolved. One statement of his was

that every definite mathematical problem must necessarily be susceptible of an exact settlement …

[Hodges, Andrew (2014-11-10). Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film “The Imitation Game” (p. 118). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.]

In Vienna in 1931 Kurt Gödel

demonstrated that any non-contradictory formal system, which was comprehensive enough to include at least arithmetic, cannot demonstrate its completeness by way of its own axioms

thereby refuting Hilbert’s assertion. What Alan Turing did was to use his concept of a computing machine as a means for computing all possibilities of  “computable numbers.” He demonstrated the Turing Machine could not compute all numbers, therefore there must be a solution to some problem statement that could not be computed.

The major theme of this book is how the Turing Machine concept led to the cracking of the Enigma code. The German Enigma was not a secret machine. Prior to the war commercial copies had been sold and used by businesses wishing to keep their correspondence private. Particularly, the German Navy used a modified version. Enigma worked by translating a character entered from the keyboard into a different character, displayed by a lighted position in an array of letters. Additionally, every time a key was depressed, a set of rotors would advance and produce a different connection between the keyboard and the display. The German Navy upgraded the operation of their Enigma devices throughout the war by adding more rotors and patch-plug connections.

Prior to the war the British became concerned about being able to read German signal traffic in the event of hostilities, and they worked with the Poles, who had obtained a purloined copy of a military Enigma and had developed a way to crack the code. Bare days before the Germans invaded Poland the Polish copy and accompanying cryptanalysis technology were spirited out and into British hands.

The movie shows Alan Turing being interviewed for a position on the cryptanalysis team by Commander Alastair Denniston, director of the British Government Code and Cypher School (GC and CS). Denniston was a real character, but the interview is a fake. Turing began working with GC and CS prior to the war and never was a reluctant candidate. Neither was he the abrasive co-worker who deigned to work with others as depicted in the movie.

The connection between the Turing Machine, none of which was ever constructed, and the cracking of the Enigma is that the concept of the Turing Machine is an automaton that can be adapted to perform a multiplicity of tasks by modifying its collection of control states. The concept of a collection of states has since morphed into what we now call a computer program, and it was the idea of constructing a machine controlled by a variable program that enabled the defeat of Enigma.

The team at Bletchley Park, where the British carried out cryptanalysis during the war, was able to crack Enigma codes by feeding message intercepts into an automaton devised by Turing and trying different rotor settings until the output contained legible verbiage. What assisted them throughout the war was incompetence on the part of the German operators. The careless inclusion of expected words allowed the code breakers to vastly narrow their search. Turing’s variable control set allowed adapting the search without reconstructing the machine whenever the Germans made a change in their Enigma.

A parallel theme that runs throughout the book is Turing’s homosexuality. As a boy he realized he found male bodies more attractive than females, and the book is a life-long tale of Turing dealing with his homosexuality. In England at the time homosexual acts were criminal, but nothing came from Turing’s homosexual lifestyle until years after the war, even though he never went to lengths to hide his orientation. Remarkably, Turing was throughout his life almost fatally honest, and he was casual in disclosing his homosexuality to co-workers and friends.

Someone watching the movie may get the idea that Turing’s arrest in 1952 (the movie has it 1951) for “gross indecency” with a male lover was his downfall. This was not the case. Turing admitted all details once the facts were reported to the police, and he and his partner entered guilty pleas at their trials. Turing did not lose his job at the University of Manchester. He served a one-year probationary sentence, which required he receive estrogen treatments to effect chemical castration. He continued to pursue his new interests in scientific research up until 7 June 1954, when he apparently dipped an apple in cyanide solution and bit into it. He left no suicide note.

Hodges introduces the term “imitation game,” the title of the movie. It has a double meaning. On the one it’s the science of cryptology, the masking of messages. On the other it’s Turing living and working as a homosexual in plain sight within a society that criminalizes his lifestyle.

Hodges takes what could otherwise be a great spy thriller and turns it into an English prose tour de force. His analysis in depth is little matched by the likes of Gustave Flaubert and D.H. Lawrence. For example:

He had clung to the simple amidst the distracting and frightening complexity of the world. Yet he was not a narrow man. Mrs Turing was right in saying, as she did, that he died while working on a dangerous experiment. It was the experiment called life – a subject largely inducing as much fear and embarrassment for the official scientific world as for her. He had not only thought freely, as best he could, but had eaten of two forbidden fruits, those of the world and of the flesh. They violently disagreed with each other, and in that disagreement lay the final unsolvable problem. In this sense his life belied his work, for it could not be contained by the discrete-state machine. At every stage his life raised questions about the connection (or lack of it) between the mind and the body, thought and action, intelligence and operations, science and society, the individual and history. But these were questions on which, except in the most special ways, he went out without a word of comment. Russell and Forster, Shaw and Wiener and Blackett held forth on such subjects; Alan Turing played the humble pawn.

Hodges, Andrew (2014-11-10). Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film “The Imitation Game” (p. 659). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

That, in combination with stringent attention to detail, runs to 663 pages of narrative. Following are 63 more pages of notes and index. It’s a lot to digest, and the casual reader will at times wish for a Cliff’s Notes. As a research into the life and works for Alan Turing it may be unmatched.

Expectations of Privacy

This is a continuation of a previous discussion.


In a previous post I discussed what it was like growing up in a small town, the gist being in a small town your expectation of privacy is a fantasy. What got me thinking of this was the civil suit that may have earned professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) $115 million. That’s what a jury awarded Mr. Bollea from defendant Gawker Media. Following that, on Monday of this week the jury came back and awarded Bollea an additional $25.1 million dollars from defendants Gawker Media, Gawker founder Nick Denton , and Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio. Here is how it all came about.

From testimony at the trial, Bollea was at the home of his friend, Tampa-area radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge, whose real name is Todd Alan Clem. Present also was Clem’s bride, Heather Cole, from all appearances a major babe. A suggestion was made, and the very enticing Ms. Cole took Bollea by the hand and led him to an upstairs bedroom where the two engaged in the most intimate of human relations.

The problem is, Mr. Clem arranged to video tape the encounter, although accounts differ as to whether Bollea agreed to this or even knew of it. That was in 2007. Nine seconds of the video wound up being posted on the Gawker site in 2012, without Mr. Bollea’s permission. This according to the jury’s finding.

So here’s the rub. Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) has for some time earned his daily bread as an exhibitionist, engaging in staged wrestling exhibitions (nobody seriously calls them matches) and other, less respectable, exhibitions. He has previously discussed his private sex life in public interviews.

Anyhow, that pretty much settles that. Freedom of speech notwithstanding, you cannot take something that was rightfully expected to be private and make it public. That is, you can’t do it unless you welcome legal and monetary repercussions.

My previous post (see the link above) delved into the matter of the NSA and other government agencies monitoring network traffic and even phone traffic. I’m going to expand on that. What about other forms of monitoring? Where does the expectation of privacy end? Recall (link above) my tale of growing up in a small town, and everybody told my mother when they noticed I was getting out of line. Bicycling around the streets in a small Texas town did not involve any expectation of privacy.

There is more I did not tell. As kids, I had a brother and some cousins, we decided we wanted to be detectives. What do detectives do? They keep an eye out and see what’s going on. We took it upon ourselves to stand by the street and record the license plate numbers of the cars going by. Yes, that was funny.

Did we have a right to do that? Anyone would argue this was a foolish exercise, but few would deny us the right to do so. But look where this is leading.

Pasted inside the windshield of my car is a toll tag. When I drive through a toll gate on any number of Texas tollways, a scanner reads the information embedded in the tag and records it. They’re going to send me a bill.

But wait. They record more. They record where the car was, at which toll gate, and in which lane. Also the date and time of day—to the minute. I tried an experiment. I logged onto my toll tag account and verified for myself. Yes, I could track the progress of my car throughout my travels along the toll road. And so could anybody else who had access to my account. Not just the NSA, but the local police. If later at a criminal trial I contended I did not murder the famous banker Robert McCool, the police could come back and ask, then why did my car exit the toll road near Mr. McCool’s house just minutes before the crime was committed?

Obviously my privacy went out the window when I decided to paste a toll tag on my windshield. The solution would logically be to not use a toll tag. Just pay cash.

Wrong-o! Nobody takes cash anymore. Don’t have a toll tag? The toll gate just reads your license plate. They look your car up in public records and mail you a bill. And charge you extra for the extra trouble.

Nonetheless, having a toll tag pasted on your windshield opens your privacy to anybody who can scan it, and not just the tollway authority. Anybody with the technology. Of course, reading your toll tag ID does not disclose additional information to somebody who does not have access to the toll authority’s database. They can’t even get your license plate information from the toll tag ID. But they don’t need to.

People don’t need to read your toll tag to get your license plate number. All they need to do is to look at your license plate. And they don’t need eyeballs to do that. Recall the kids in the small Texas town writing down license plate numbers? That was so 1950. Technology exists and is for sale to scan and read license plates. Anybody, anywhere, anytime can set up a scanner alongside a public road and collect license plate numbers from all passing cars. And they can record the date, time, and location. And it’s all perfectly legal. So far. Back to that later.

Besides the toll tag, I have pasted on my windshield another item. It’s the DMV registration tag. The police do not need to read my license plate to identify my car. The windshield sticker has a 2-D bar code that gives the police all the information they need. A cop stops you for speeding (or driving while black) and walks up to your windshield. He scans the bar code. He doesn’t have to write down your license plate number. He may check to see that the plate number corresponds (it had better) with the scanned information, but he has all he needs for his records.

So much for privacy? No way. This is routine, and a policeman stopping your vehicle for any reason can legally collect this information. And it can be use in later legal action.

I’m about to carry this the ultimate step forward. What if it were not necessary to step up to my car to read the sticker? What if, as with the toll tag, the registration stickers could be read from afar, for example from a scanner stationed beside the roadway. Then all the police (read, the NSA) need to do is to set up a network of monitoring stations and track every vehicle traveling on public roads. That is a massive amount of data, but who doubts the ability of the NSA to handle it?

A massive invasion of privacy, you will exclaim. Could be. This will not catch the crooks, you exclaim. The crooks will make up phony stickers. They could, in principle, but remember, the police (NSA) can also read the license plate, and if the license plate and the sticker don’t agree, then there’s trouble. Additionally, if a sticker is just duplicated, then the computing power of the NSA would take note that your car was in two cities at the same time. Flashing lights would appear in the rear view mirrors of two cars simultaneously.

This bit of government intrusion has been very interesting, but I’m getting to something more. Civil rights attorneys can make a big issue of any such government action, but do not believe that eliminates the problem. Though I am no legal scholar, I am going to venture that what the government is restricted from doing a private citizen may not be.

What law currently on the books, what pertinent case law, prevents a private citizen from stationing himself alongside a public road and recording the license plates of all traffic, all day, every day? And storing this information? Let’s give this private citizen a name. Let’s call this private citizen Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Google already has photos of your house. Some taken from the street and some taken from above. They possibly have a photo of your car driving on a public road. They have mine. I found it along I-35 in Texas.

Drilling deeper, if Google, or some other entity, were to collect and make public the time and location of every automobile on public roads, there is the possibility of a lawsuit akin to the famous one involving wrestler Hulk Hogan. But it’s not necessary to make the information public. All they have to do is to retain it, for all eternity. At that point all that the NSA, or any prosecuting attorney, would need would be a court order requesting the itinerary of the $75,000 BMW of notorious pimp Larry McCool, accused of murdering the unfortunate Miss Lala McShirley, late of 22nd and Fifth Avenue. Additionally, the NSA could obtain tracking information for all vehicles leaving the scene of a bombing at the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

What prevents Google from collecting this information is lack of financial incentive. It’s a for profit company. That does not apply to the NSA. They have not shown a profit in over 50 years. Could the authorities incorporate such a system of surveillance, disregarding whether the courts would allow it? The technology is getting cheaper. And it’s already in use, except for the part of reading license plates. Red light cameras exist through many major cities. There’s a violation, they have the photos. All that would be necessary would be to apply plate-reading technology, and you’re busted. Hey, look what I found:



Yes, that’s you traveling on I-10 while I’m writing this at 1039 on 24 March. Does your wife know you’re not at work right now? Hopefully she doesn’t have a computer with a Web browser,  because that’s all it takes to vaporize your expectation of privacy.

In closing, we owe much thanks to citizen Hulk Hogan for defending everybody’s right to privacy. Yes, Hulk. Thanks. A lot.