Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book.

The previous post includes Shirer’s account of his visit to Nuremberg in September 1934 to cover the annual Nazi rally. It highlights impressions he gained observing the Nazis first hand. In October Shirer and his wife Theresa (Tess) settled into a more or less permanent home in Berlin. Shirer began to observe life under Nazi rule:

BERLIN, October 9

We’ve taken a comfortable studio flat in the Tauenzienstrasse. The owner, a Jewish sculptor, says he is getting off for England while the getting is good— probably a wise man. He left us a fine German library, which I hope I will get time to use.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 306-308). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer’s Jewish landlord is representative of the situation of German Jews in the 1930s. Hitler never made a secret of his desire to eliminate German (European?) Jewry, and Jews came under immediate oppression when the Nazis took power in 1933. Two out of every three were to die by 1945. The landlord was one of the lucky ones.

Shirer continues to observe the dissolution of European society. The same day:

LATER.— On my eight o’clock call to the Paris office tonight, they told me that the King of Yugoslavia had been assassinated at Marseille this afternoon and that Louis Barthou, the French Foreign Minister, had been badly wounded. Berlin will not be greatly disappointed, as King Alexander seemed disposed to work more closely with the French bloc against Germany, and Barthou had been doing some good work in strengthening French alliances in eastern Europe and in attempting

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 311-315). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Adolf Hitler was born and raised a Catholic, and was a choir boy in the church. Despite his impious reputation, Hitler never renounced his faith, even reaffirming it in at least one communication. However, it was necessary for Nazism to dominate, and the Christian  churches represented an opposing authority Hitler needed to bring into line:

BERLIN, November 15

Not much news these days. Have been covering the fight in the Protestant church. A section of the Protestants seem to be showing more guts in the face of Gleichschaltung (co-ordination) than the Socialists or Communists did. But I think Hitler will get them in the end and gradually force on the country a brand of early German paganism which the “intellectuals” like Rosenberg are hatching up.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 316-319). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Complete political control requires elimination of opposing thought, and control of the public education system is a goal appreciated, even in the United States, by certain political factions. The same day:

Bernhard Rust, the Nazi Minister of Education, was the speaker, but my mind wandered during his speech. Rust is not without ability and is completely Nazifying the schools. This includes new Nazi textbooks falsifying history— sometimes ludicrously.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 325-327). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

German rearmament, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, was an open secret that the Allies, victors in the previous war, found it convenient to ignore. Why stir the pot? The secret was becoming less so:

BERLIN, November 28

Much talk here that Germany is secretly arming, though it is difficult to get definite dope, and if you did get it and sent it, you’d probably be expelled.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 327-329). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

This rounds out the year 1934. Shirer came to Germany during that year, and the full nature of Nazism was becoming apparent. The following year, 1935, was the year during which Nazi Germany began to assert itself on the world stage. Hints of Hitler’s plan for expansion began to show through to anybody with sufficient vision. The following installment of this series will cover that year entirely.

Four Weeks In

Number 72 of a series

There’s no way I’m ever going to run out of these. Daniel Dale, with the Washington bureau of The Toronto Star, compiled a list of 80 fabrications by Donald Trump, all during the first four weeks of the new administration. That was so many days ago, and we have ceased expecting any truth from our president. It’s near pointless to continue putting Donald Trump’s lies on display. However, forge ahead I must. History is waiting. Here is number 72:

72. Feb. 16, 2017 — White House press conference

The claim: “Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.”

In fact: Trump may have been attempting to refer specifically to WikiLeaks release of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which were not classified. But he ended up wrongly suggesting that WikiLeaks does not provide classified information at all. The organization made its name releasing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified U.S. material.

Daniel Dale’s list has since grown. As of 18 April the count was up to 179. How long can our president keep this up? Better yet, how long can I keep this up?

Until there is no skin left.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

It’s getting harder to select a Bad Movie of the Week these days. I’m making a point of setting aside my considerable collection of bad movies on DVD and going after those on my Amazon and Hulu subscriptions. These services rotate their stock, and what’s available this month is liable to be gone the next. This one is bad, and it’s from 1946, about the time movies were getting on their feet after the big war. It’s The Inner Circle, and I was surprised to find a Wikipedia entry, where I’m getting details. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Republic Pictures produced and distributed this.

I don’t recognize any of the players, and I’m guessing none of my readers do, either. Anybody who knows these people, feel free to clue me in.

The opening shot is a Yellow Pages ad for Action Incorporated, a detective agency run by Johnny Strange (Warren Douglas). The phone book closes and slides out of view to reveal a revolver on the floor. The camera pans to disclose a dead body. This is going to be a murder mystery.

Next we see Johnny Strange on the phone to the newspaper classified section. He’s placing an ad for a secretary. These are the old days, before sexual equality. He specifies the secretary must be a woman (of course), 22 to 28, blond, good looking, skin soft to the touch, and a heart that can’t be touched. Is this Johnny Strange or Mike Hammer?

Before Johnny can complete the transaction a female fitting the description saunters in, snatches the phone from his hands, cancels the ad order, and announces herself as the new secretary. It’s apparent she fits the bill. She is Gerry Smith (Adele Mara). She takes charge right away, and this is critical.

  • She observes Johnny is paying for periodic cleaning of the office and is not getting it.
  • She picks up the phone to call the building manager, getting the number from Johnny.
  • Meanwhile Johnny’s other phone rings, and she finishes her call with building manager and takes the other call.
  • She speaks to the caller, apparently a client. She tells Johnny the details. Meet the woman in front of the jewelry store at 7:30 p.m. for further instructions. No other details available.

Note the image above. Johnny has two phone numbers. That is critical.

Johnny picks up the mysterious woman, wearing black and a black veil and speaking with a heavy Mexican accent. She takes him to an office where her husband has been killed. It’s the body from the opening scene. Things are tying together. She attempts to bribe Johnny into helping her dispose of the body, bidding the price up to $5000. She does not pay off. While Johnny is attempting to phone the police she conks him on the head with a bookend, places the pistol in his hand, and phones the police. Then she leaves and takes off her disguise, revealing herself to be Gerry Smith.

When Johnny comes to he’s holding the murder weapon, and the police are arriving. They are Detective Lieutenant Webb (William Frawley) and Police Officer Cummings (Robert J. Wilke). It appears that Johnny is going to be left holding the bag. Except that the gardener, Henry Boggs (Will Wright), has seen all the goings on through the window. But he doesn’t save the day for Johnny. Johnny’s secretary, Gerry, does. She arrives and lies to the police, giving a false statement about following Johnny and observing what went on through the window.

Meanwhile the housekeeper, Emma Wilson (Dorothy Adams), has also arrived, to further confuse matters.

Based on Gerry’s statement, Johnny is not indicted for the murder, and he and Gerry go on a quest for the killer. Johnny stops by the Penguin Club to talk to Rhoda Roberts (Virginia Christine), whose singing has been observed on a 78 platter Johnny retrieved from a wastebasket at the murder scene. Before this can conclude, in comes “Duke” York, criminal heavyweight and owner of the Penguin Club. After some conversation, “Duke” and two henchmen take Johnny for a ride in their car out to a place where the water is deep.

Without getting into details, Gerry and Lieutenant Webb come to the rescue.

Again, omitting more detail, we observe that Gerry Smith is Geraldine Travis, sister of Anne Travis Lowe (Martha Montgomery), who was previously riding in the car with a bank robber during a police chase and was more recently being blackmailed by the murdered guy. It’s all been an elaborate scheme by Gerry/Geraldine to protect her sister, who has turned out to be innocent of the killing.

Johnny also reveals how he caught onto Gerry’s subterfuge back at the office. When Gerry announced she was phoning the building manager,  she actually phoned Johnny’s other number. Then she pretended to take that call, talking to nobody, while Johnny looked on, confused. Johnny has become wise to the ruse when he phoned the building manager and got a message that the number has been changed, and here is the new number. This did not happen when Gerry placed her “call to the building manager.”

Lieutenant Webb has been secretly recording all of this on a 78 platter, and he hauls everybody in. But Johnny has a better idea.

He convenes all suspects (finger pointing at Geraldine) in the murder room and stages a radio broadcast, at which all parties will recount their parts, and the audience will finally be clear regarding the real killer.

Surprise, the killer turns out not to be Geraldine, and at the conclusion they embrace with closer encounters forecast.

It’s an interesting, but unbelievable, plot, and the performances are summer stock. How likely is it that Geraldine charges into Johnny’s office right at the moment he is phoning in his ad for a secretary, one who exactly fits the description of Gerry Smith? Yeah, I don’t believe it, either.

Would you believe it? The best performance is turned in by Dorothy Adams as Emma Wilson. She absolutely nails her small part. Here is a list of her notable movie roles:

The latter came out the same year as The Inner Circle, not mentioned in the above list for some reason, that reason being the same as the reason this is appearing in this week’s Bad Movie of the Week.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany.

On 30 June 1934 Shirer was working for the Paris Herald and reporting from Paris. He observes that communication with Berlin was cut off for several hours. The reason soon becomes clear.

PARIS, July 14

It now develops that Hitler’s purge was more drastic than first reported. Röhm did not kill himself, but was shot on the orders of Hitler. Other dead: Heines, notorious Nazi boss of Silesia, Dr. Erich Klausner, leader of the “Catholic Action” in Germany, Fritz von Bose and Edgar Jung, two of Papen’s secretaries (Papen himself narrowly escaped with his life), Gregor Strasser, who used to be second in importance to Hitler in the Nazi Party, and General von Schleicher and his wife, the latter two murdered in cold blood. I see von Kahr is on the list, the man who balked Hitler’s Beer House Putsch in 1923. Hitler has thus taken his personal revenge. Yesterday, on Friday the 13th, Hitler got away with his explanation in the Reichstag. When he screamed: “The supreme court of the German people during these twenty-four hours consisted of myself!” the deputies rose and cheered. One had almost forgotten how strong sadism and masochism are in the German people.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 159-166). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Of particular note is the life trajectory of Gregor Strasser. Gregor and his brother Otto were prominent in the formation of what became National Socialism,, but a falling out eventually doomed Gregor:

Born in 1892 in Bavaria, Strasser served in World War I in an artillery regiment, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. He joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1920 and quickly became an influential and important figure. He took part in the abortive putsch in Munich in 1923 and was imprisoned, but released early on for political reasons.

Strasser joined a revived NSDAP in 1925 and once again established himself as a powerful and dominant member, hugely increasing the party’s membership and reputation in northern Germany. Personal and political conflicts with Adolf Hitler led to his death in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives.

The story of Joseph Goebbels by Fraenkel and Manvell recounts Gregor Strasser’s downfall.

Grim European politics continues to play out while Shirer observes.

PARIS, July 25

Dollfuss is dead, murdered by the Nazis, who today seized control of the Chancellery and the radio station in Vienna. Apparently their coup has failed and Miklas and Dr. Schuschnigg are in control. I do not like murder, and Nazi murder least of all. But I cannot weep for Dollfuss after his cold-blooded slaughter of the Social Democrats last February.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 167-169). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

During this time Hitler nominally shared power with German  President Paul von Hindenburg, German hero of World War One. In  August, following Hitler’s elimination of other rivals to his power, Hindenburg died.

PARIS, August 3

Hitler did what no one expected. He made himself both President and Chancellor. Any doubts about the loyalty of the army were done away with before the old field-marshal’s body was hardly cold. Hitler had the army swear an oath of unconditional obedience to him personally. The man is resourceful.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 174-177). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Hitler’s move was audacious. The minor part was his absorbing both government heads. Having the armed forces swear allegiance to him personally was a diabolical stroke. Picture this: you’re a soldier in the Reichswehr, in formation before your commanding officer, and he “instructs” you to raise your hand in the two-fingered salute and swear allegiance to that one man. Not to the Reichswehr, not to Germany, but to a dictator who has just demonstrated no compunction against mass murder. You cannot say no, and the oath, to a German, is a blood oath. It cannot be rescinded. All did it, and from that day forward the German armed forces were chained to the fortunes of this former army corporal. If he was going down, they were, too.

Shirer received a job offer that was to change the course of his life. It was to lead him to Berlin, into the center of the storm.

PARIS, August 9

Dosch-Fleurot rang me at the office this afternoon from Berlin and offered me a job with Universal Service there. I said yes at once, we agreed on a salary, and he said he would let me know after talking with New York.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 177-179). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer’s introduction to Nazi Germany sets the stage for what is to  come.

BERLIN, August 25

Our introduction to Hitler’s Third Reich this evening was probably typical. Taking the day train from Paris so as to see a little of the country, we arrived at the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof at about ten this evening. The first persons to greet us on the platform were two agents of the secret police. I had expected to meet the secret police sooner or later, but not quite so soon. Two plain-clothes men grabbed me as I stepped off the train, led me a little away, and asked me if I were Herr So-and-So— I could not for the life of me catch the name. I said no. One of them asked again and again and finally I showed him my passport. He scanned it for several minutes, finally looked at me suspiciously, and said: “So…. You are not Herr So-and-So, then. You are Herr Shirer.”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 182-188). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Followed by… more of what is to come. Life was trying for journalists in Nazi Germany.

BERLIN, August 26

Knickerbocker tells me Dorothy Thompson departed from the Friedrichstrasse station shortly before we arrived yesterday. She had been given twenty-four hours to get out— apparently the work of Putzi Hanfstängl, who could not forgive her for her book I Saw Hitler, which, at that, badly underestimated the man. Knick’s own position here is precarious apparently because of some of his past and present writings. Goebbels, who used to like him, has fallen afoul of him.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 191-195). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

An additional view of life under Hitler:

BERLIN, September 2

The constant Heil Hitler’s, clicking of heels, and brown-shirted storm troopers or black-coated S.S. guards marching up and down the street grate me, though the old-timers say there are not nearly so many brown-shirts about since the purge.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 199-201). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer continues to soak up the Nazi Germany experience, and he gives additional insight.  In September 1934 he attended the yearly Nazi rally in Nuremberg. It’s a telling view of the emboldened Nazi Party and the rebirth of the German military.

NUREMBERG, September 4

Like a Roman emperor Hitler rode into this mediæval town at sundown today past solid phalanxes of wildly cheering Nazis who packed the narrow streets that once saw Hans Sachs and the Meistersinger.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 212-214). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

And Hitler, himself:

He was clad in a rather worn gaberdine trench-coat, his face had no particular expression at all— I expected it to be stronger— and for the life of me I could not quite comprehend what hidden springs he undoubtedly unloosed in the hysterical mob which was greeting him so wildly. He does not stand before the crowd with that theatrical imperiousness which I have seen Mussolini use. I was glad to see that he did not poke out his chin and throw his head back as does the Duce nor make his eyes glassy— though there is something glassy in his eyes, the strongest thing in his face. He almost seemed to be affecting a modesty in his bearing. I doubt if it’s genuine.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 218-223). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What modern world leader does this bring to mind?

Putzi Hanfstängl, an immense, high-strung, incoherent clown who does not often fail to remind us that he is part American and graduated from Harvard, made the main speech of the day in his capacity of foreign press chief of the party. Obviously trying to please his boss, he had the crust to ask us to “report on affairs in Germany without attempting to interpret them.” “History alone,” Putzi shouted, “can evaluate the events now taking place under Hitler.” What he meant, and what Goebbels and Rosenberg mean, is that we should jump on the band-wagon of Nazi propaganda.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 225-229). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

It’s impossible to pass up this opportunity to  relate Shirer’s impression of the Hitler experience:

About ten o’clock tonight I got caught in a mob of ten thousand hysterics who jammed the moat in front of Hitler’s hotel, shouting: “We want our Führer.” I was a little shocked at the faces, especially those of the women, when Hitler finally appeared on the balcony for a moment. They reminded me of the crazed expressions I saw once in the back country of Louisiana on the faces of some Holy Rollers who were about to hit the trail. They looked up at him as if he were a Messiah, their faces transformed into something positively inhuman. If he had remained in sight for more than a few moments, I think many of the women would have swooned from excitement.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 230-235). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

And more:

NUREMBERG, September 5

I’m beginning to comprehend, I think, some of the reasons for Hitler’s astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and colour and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 239-241). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

And more:

I’m beginning to comprehend, I think, some of the reasons for Hitler’s astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman church, he is restoring pageantry and colour and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 239-241). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Further impressions:

NUREMBERG, September 6

Now, the goose-step has always seemed to me to be an outlandish exhibition of the human being in his most undignified and stupid state, but I felt for the first time this morning what an inner chord it strikes in the strange soul of the German people.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 264-269). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Some observations:

NUREMBERG, September 7

Von Papen arrived today and stood alone in a car behind Hitler tonight, the first public appearance he has made, I think, since he narrowly escaped being murdered by Göring on June 30. He did not look happy.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 278-287). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The decapitation of the SA and other opposition to Hitler would likely produce some repercussions. Hitler had to get things straight. There had to be assurances the bloodletting was over… for now.

NUREMBERG, September 9

Hitler faced his S.A. storm troopers today for the first time since the bloody purge. In a harangue to fifty thousand of them he “absolved” them from blame for the Röhm “revolt.” There was considerable tension in the stadium and I noticed that Hitler’s own S.S. bodyguard was drawn up in force in front of him, separating him from the mass of the brown-shirts.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 287-291). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Germany lost big in the First World War, and the Versailles Treaty placed onerous burdens of reparation on the country. Further, the treaty sharply restricted German rearmament, a restriction the Germans immediately and covertly began to  undermine. Winston Churchill, out of power during this critical period, was one of a few, and by far the most strident, to raise alarms at Germany’s covert action:

It was also at this moment a great diplomatic advantage to Hitler to divide the Allies, to have one of them ready to condone breaches of the Treaty of Versailles, and to invest the regaining of full freedom to rearm with the sanction of agreement with Britain. The effect of the announcement was another blow at the League of Nations. The French had every right to complain that their vital interests were affected by the permission accorded by Great Britain for the building of U-boats. Mussolini saw in this episode evidence that Great Britain was not acting in good faith with her other allies, and that, so long as her special naval interests were secured, she would apparently go to any length in accommodation with Germany, regardless of the detriment to friendly Powers menaced by the growth of the German land forces. He was encouraged by what seemed the cynical and selfish attitude of Great Britain to press on with his plans against Abyssinia. The Scandinavian Powers, who only a fortnight before had courageously sustained the protest against Hitler’s introduction of compulsory service in the German Army, now found that Great Britain had behind the scenes agreed to a German Navy which, though only a third of the British, would within this limit be master of the Baltic.

Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Volume 1 (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 2142-2151). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Immediately following the previous war, the German military command began to play the treaty’s restrictions. There were limits on total troop strength. No problem. What is basic to an armed force is a command structure, so German military leaders didn’t waste numbers on privates and corporals. They created an officer corps wearing enlisted stripes. Came time to ramp up, the command structure was in place. All that was necessary was pinning on stars and bars. The lower ranks could be quickly filled from with conscripts and a horde of volunteers. Shirer describes the obvious, that German rearmament has been underway for years.

NUREMBERG, September 10

I feel that all those Americans and English (among others) who thought that German militarism was merely a product of the Hohenzollerns—from Frederick the Great to Kaiser Wilhelm II—made a mistake. It is rather something deeply ingrained in all Germans. They acted today like children playing with tin soldiers. The Reichswehr “fought” today only with the “defensive” weapons allowed them by Versailles, but everybody knows they’ve got the rest— tanks, heavy artillery, and probably airplanes.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 294-300). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary will resume with October 1934.

Four Weeks In

Number 71 of a series

There’s no way I’m ever going to run out of these. Daniel Dale, with the Washington bureau of The Toronto Star, compiled a list of 80 fabrications by Donald Trump, all during the first four weeks of the new administration. That was so many days ago, and we have ceased expecting any truth from our president. It’s near pointless to continue putting Donald Trump’s lies on display. However, forge ahead I must. History is waiting. Here is number 71:

71. Feb. 16, 2017 — White House press conference

The claim: “The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know.”

In fact: The article, headlined “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” has not been discredited.

Daniel Dale’s list has since grown. As of 18 April the count was up to 179. How long can our president keep this up? Better yet, how long can I keep this up?

Until there is no skin left.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Mother of Jesus, please come back.

A sunny day in Ireland, and two men are sitting in  a pub, drinking some Guinness, when one turns to the other and says, “You see that man over there? He looks just like me. I think I’m gonna go over there and talk to him.”

So, he goes over to the man and taps him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir,” he starts, “but I noticed you look just like me.”

The second man turns around and says, “Yeah, I noticed the same thing. Where are you from?”

“I’m from Dublin,”

The second man, stunned, says, “Me too! What street do you live on?”

“McCarthy street,” the second man replies.

“Me to! What number is it?”

The first man announces, “182.”

The second man, shocked, says, “Me too! What are your parents’ names?”

The first man replies, “Conner and Shannon.”

The second man, awestruck, says, “Mine too! this is unbelievable!”

So, they buy some more Guinness, and they’re talking some more when the bartenders change shifts. The new bartender comes in and goes to the other and asks, “What’s new today?”

“Oh, the Murphy twins are drunk again.”

The Age Of Embarrassment

Tenth of a series

I may have mentioned this before, but as a way of supporting real news I obtained a digital subscription to The New York Times, for which I am being pleasantly rewarded. I get to read prior issues, going back to 1851. That was before most of us were born. Anyhow, I consider the NYT to be a reliable news source, certainly compared to a raft of other spigots adorning the wires these days.

Conservatives, and also the newest President, consider the Times to be a liberal fire hose. Many liberals, as well, claim to notice a leftward slant. My thinking is this appearance is due to the paper’s contrast with concerted right wing outlets. Readers should look to a source’s editorial section to pick up any scent of tip to one direction, and in this respect the Times asserts some balance. We see, or have seen:

  • David Brooks
  • Maureen Dowd (an equal opportunity agitator)
  • Mark Shields
  • Paul Krugman
  • Thomas L. Friedman
  • George Will

Now there is Bret Stephens, and his first column appeared today, 28 April. He opens with the following:

When someone is honestly 55 percent right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60 percent right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God.

But what’s to be said about 75 percent right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100 percent right? Whoever says he’s 100 percent right is a fanatic, .

— An old Jew of Galicia

We soon learn he is talking about the scientific consensus supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and he is cautioning against certainty. In fact, the headline of his opinion piece is “Climate of Complete Certainty.”

My first take on his column’s epigraph is that it is overly general. Supposing the old Jew of Galicia is right, in which case I am “a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.” And so is columnist Stephens. And I added my comment to that effect to the on-line piece. I (Stephens, as well) am 100% certain the Earth rotates counterclockwise as viewed from above the North Pole. Equally certain are we that the sun rises in the east. So, the old Jew notwithstanding, 100% certainty is not a mark of thuggery.

But Stephens spreads his message thinner:

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

The Clinton reference is thought to be regarding Hilary Clinton’s strong stand on AGW during her campaign, a factor that cost many votes in conservative areas.

But surely certitude does beget hubris, and if you want to appear warm and fuzzy (as when you are seeking somebody’s vote) it may be better to be less certain. In politics.

I’m not a politician, and I have no need to please anybody. At this I am immensely successful. Take the screen shot gracing the head of this column. That’s from a Facebook dialog I had with a friend named Dan. He opened with:

I guess Algor is coming out with a sequel to his “Inconvenient ‘Truth'” film.

I hope the film will answer these questions:

  1. How does CO2, which is 1.4x the weight of air get up above the Troposphere to  form a greenhouse? What is its density there, given that CO2 is less than 004 of 1% (= four ten-thousandths or 40 PPM) of all gasses in the atmosphere?

Followed by items 2 through 8 in a similar vein. Others chimed in, including Mark. As one who studied some science in college (also high school) I have to say Mark’s understanding of science does not bode well for the American educational system. Details on request.

Again, forgetting the politicians, Bret Stephens can forgive scientists for some hubris if he will pause for a moment to examine the complaints made by the AGW deniers. These arguments generally boil down to something like those of Dan and Mark. Many are steeped in a gross misunderstanding of basic science plus ignorance (or denial) of available data.

Stephens attempts to avoid this trap with qualifying language:

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

He’s not disputing the data. The problem is what are advocates for remedy postulating. On this point Stephens and I are in agreement. A sweltering summer day in Chicago (people dying). A devastating tornado rips through a Mississippi town. It’s the doom of global warming! There is no doubt boosters for remedy are overstating the case.

Let them. Put them in their place. The science still stands. Human activity is producing increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (CO2 concentration currently exceeds 400 ppm). Global temperature averages are increasing in correspondence with increasing concentrations of  CO2. Polar ice is melting. The mean sea level is rising. Coastal areas are being affected. All else is bull shit. The need for human intervention is manifest on this issue alone.

The cadre of politicians and vocal citizens may like to take heart from Stephens’ analysis, but they need to appreciate that he is only showcasing their own agenda. Attacks on the science may not be successful, but the political ploy of gaming the statements by AGW fanatics is a quiver full of ammunition for the deniers. In the end it will not matter.

Stephens quoted a (mythical?) old Jew of Galicia. Another quote from way back goes, “Man proposes. Allah disposes.” Think what you want, Nature will have its way.

Lock Her Up

What goes around…

Yes, it certainly does. ABC World News Tonight With David Muir had the story last night:

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was warned by the Pentagon against receiving payments from foreign governments in 2014 after leaving the Defense Intelligence Agency, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., revealed today.

Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released three documents on Flynn, including a letter from the DIA counsel’s office in response to an inquiry from Flynn in October 2014.

The letter, a primer on ethics restrictions that apply to retired military officers, warned that Flynn was prohibited from receiving foreign payments without prior approval, under the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The Pentagon’s warning to Gen. Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer,” Cummings said at a news conference today.

That General Flynn did not pick up on this legal technicality is mind-numbing, considering he is an expert on criminal intent. As recently as last July he was giving sound legal advice to chanting  crowds.

It certainly does come around, doesn’t it.

Friday Funny

One of a series

There is an old joke that goes, “Tragedy is when I slip on a banana peel and bust my butt. Comedy is when fall down a sewer and die.” This is that kind of story:

‘Psychic’ accidentally stabs himself in the heart with a sword and dies in front of horrified spectators while demonstrating his immortality

A man claiming to be a psychic died when he accidentally stabbed himself in the heart with a sword in a bungled act to prove his immortality.

Theprit Palee, 25, had been performing the traditional dance in front of spectators in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, yesterday afternoon.

The folk ritual is said to honour the spirits of ancestors and in previous shows he would impress onlookers by appearing superhuman when the blade broke as it was pressed against his chest.

But the well-known clairvoyant’s act went horrifically wrong when he plunged the blade through his rib cage after it failed to snap.

There is immortality, and then there is immortality. Theprit Palee will live forever in our hearts and minds.

Four Weeks In

Number 70 of a series

There’s no way I’m ever going to run out of these. Daniel Dale, with the Washington bureau of The Toronto Star, compiled a list of 80 fabrications by Donald Trump, all during the first four weeks of the new administration. That was so many days ago, and we have ceased expecting any truth from our president. It’s near pointless to continue putting Donald Trump’s lies on display. However, forge ahead I must. History is waiting. Here is number 70:

70. Feb. 16, 2017 — White House press conference

The claim: “And the people mentioned in the story, I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia.”

In fact: One of the people mentioned in the New York Times story, Trump associate Roger Stone, went on television to deny having any contact with any Russians. But the other people mentioned in the story did not issue such categorical denials in any medium. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, told the New York Times that he never “knowingly” had contact with Russian intelligence officers, adding that such people do not “wear badges.” Former Trump adviser Carter Page he had only “said hello to a few Russian officials over the course of the last year or so”; he also gave a speech in Moscow.

Daniel Dale’s list has since grown. As of 18 April the count was up to 179. How long can our president keep this up? Better yet, how long can I keep this up?

Until there is no skin left.