Friday Funny

Number 72 of a series

There is always something funny on Friday. Other days, as well, but Friday is a good time to celebrate. And what is more funny than the words of self-centered people. Did I ever mention Anne Graham Lotz? Maybe it’s about time again:

In light of Ezekiel 33:1-6 that commands a watchman to be faithful to warn others of the danger coming against the land, I feel compelled to issue the warning once again. The warning is triggered by the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, nicknamed America’s Eclipse. For the first time in almost 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be seen from coast to coast in our nation.  People are preparing to mark this significant event with viewing parties at exclusive prime sites. The celebratory nature regarding the eclipse brings to my mind the Babylonian King Belshazzar who threw a drunken feast the night the Medes and Persians crept under the city gate.  While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger.  Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed.

Yes, this is funny. Pathetic, yes, but funny nevertheless. Anne Lotz is also known as “Lotz wife,” so it’s not surprising she has some odd notions. But get this one. Lotz, a mature woman who is allowed to vote, operate a motor vehicle, and possess sharp objects, thinks that a natural phenomenon that has been on schedule to occur since millions of years ago, is a sign from God, not otherwise identified. Are we in trouble, people?

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 17 in a series

There are times in my life I have invested in purchases that did not turn out. A bunch of other people are feeling the same way about now. President Donald Trump’s odd-beyond-the-pale press conference at Trump Tower earlier this week may have been a watershed. The President talked about certain CEOs of major companies leaving his manufacturing council. He got into a discussion of that, then the dialog turned to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virgina. He was asked why he waited so long to clarify his initial remarks. Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the White Nationalist rally being held. Twenty others were injured. From Vox, here is what the President said in response:

Trump: I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement.

The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.

If you go back to my statement, I brought it. I brought it. As I said, remember, saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. I went on from there. Here is the thing.

Excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here is the thing.

When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. A lot of the event didn’t happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent.

In fact, the young woman — who I hear is a fantastic young woman and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. Her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. Honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. Unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.

That response would have sufficed, if only the President had reined in his thoughts as questions persisted. A reporter asked about CEOs who have abandoned the manufacturing council. President Trump responded and then reverted back to the matter of Saturday’s events. Again from the transcript posted on Vox:

I would do it the same way, because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. There was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters. I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. The facts, as they started coming out, were very well-stated. Everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good.

I couldn’t have made it sooner, because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important — excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things — excuse me. There are still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I want to know the facts.

Q: Was this terrorism? Can you tell us how you are feeling about Steve Bannon?

Trump: I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer. What he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

He did not answer the question about Steve Bannon, his advisor, but returned to the Charlottesville episode. He wasn’t finished with it, getting back shortly. Responding to another question from a reporter:

Q: Said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.

Trump: I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. When you say the alt right. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me. Let’s go.

Q: Senator McCain defined them as the same group.

Trump: What about the alt left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. That was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day. I will fell tell you something. I watched that very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

Q: Do you think what you call the alt left is the same as neo-Nazis?

Trump: All of those people — i’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.

You take a look at some of the groups and you see and you would know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases, you are not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop? You take a look. The night before. They were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Infrastructure question. Go ahead.

The topic continued to come up:

Q: Do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office with regard to race relationships?

Trump: They have been frayed for a long time. You can ask President Obama about that. He would make speeches about it. I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our countries. I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.

We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin, just announced. We have many companies, I would say, pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge positive impact on race relations.

You know why? It is jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. When they have that, you watch how race relations will be. We are spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We are fixing the inner cities. We are doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It is a priority for me.

Q: Mr. President, are you putting what you are calling the altleft and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

Trump: I am not putting anybody on a moral plane. You had a group on one side and the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch. There is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want. That’s the way it is.

Q: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?

Trump: I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object both on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You don’t have doubt about it either. If you reported it accurately, you would say that the neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville. Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down his statue. He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? It is fine. You are changing history and culture.

You had people and i’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group too.

Q: You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

Trump: No, no. There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure there were some bad ones.

The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest. I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.

So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.

Does anybody have a final question? Do you have an infrastructure question?

My cutting and pasting from the Vox transcript leaves the dialog a bit chopped up, but there is something you can take from it. Two sides to the story? Yes, that’s what the President said. To get an angle on one of the sides, I pulled up an interview with somebody who was there. Here is Pastor Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ. She was interviewed on MSNBC:

Trump is lying about Charlottesville, says witness

According to Rev. Traci Blackmon, who protested the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the president was lying when he defended the behavior of the alt right marchers and blamed “both sides” for the violence.

Lying. That’s strong language to levy against the President of the United States. The video is from an interview by Joy Reid on MSNBC. Here is a partial transcript. You can watch the video to get the full picture:

Joy: Donald Trump said that the night before the Saturday melee there were good people who were quietly marching in Charlottesville, and he was talking about the White Nationalist protesters. You were inside that church. Did you hear people quietly marching?

The church is apparently on the grounds of the University of Virginia.

Blackmon: … No. And I say these words with the utmost seriousness. I rarely use these words, but they apply here. Donald Trump is lying.

Whoa! A black woman I never heard of before is calling the President of the United States a liar. And I am expected to believe her? Most interesting is that I have no problem believing her. She may as well have told me the sun was coming up in the east. This is a most unusual period in American history. And some are at long last beginning to experience regret.

But first it’s helpful to know more about what the Reverend Blackmon had to say. In her interview she told of participating in a worship service Friday night in the church with a number of others. The place was standing room only. There were Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even some like me. They had one thing in common and that was opposition to the message brought to town by the White Nationalists. Then more happened.

As the time approached for the group to leave came a message they had to shelter in place. There was a mob approaching with torches. The people were chanting slogans.”Blood and soil.” “You will not replace us.” “Jews will not replace us.” “White lives matter.” Thirty minutes later, when the worshipers were allowed to leave, they had to make their way out the side and back door(s) for fear they would be assaulted if they went out the front. They had to make their way through the alley. Exiting the area by car, Blackmon noted the White Nationalists on the sidewalk along the street. They were wearing the famous “Make America Great Again” baseball caps. Some carried both baseball bats and torches.

As a background note, the slogan “blood and soil” is an echo from 80 years ago:

The slogan blood and soil is an English translation of GermanBlut und Boden, a nineteenth century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to [specifically] Jewish nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it. Because of its connections to German nationalism, the phrase has been taken up by twenty-first-century neo-nazi groups in North America as a rallying cry.

“Blood and soil” was a key slogan of Nazi ideology. The nationalist ideology of Artamanen and the writings Walther Darré guided Nazi agricultural policies which were later adopted by Adolph HitlerHeinrich Himmler and Baldur von Schirach.

Not quite as American as apple pie.

Blackmon further responds to President Trump’s assertion the White Nationalists were set upon by others with “clubs and other implements.” Here is an account of the President’s remarks:

On Wednesday — as mourners gathered in Charlottesville to remember the woman killed when a white supremacist from Ohio allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters — Trump’s characterization of the anti-racists drew a mixed response of confusion, anger and, among some of Trump’s supporters, plaudits.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’” Trump said in attempting to describe the mayhem. “Do they have any semblance of guilt…. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs?”

Here is what Blackmon says about that statement. From the video:

Again, Donald Trump is lying.

Wow! This woman is calling the President of the United States a liar. And who is to doubt her? She further charges, by implication, that the White Nationalists threw full cans of soda, full bottles of water, and urine on the counter protesters. She says their permit to  hold the rally did not include a permit to do those things. She challenges President Trump’s characterization of the counter protesters as Alt Left: Here is a quote of the President’s remarks:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Blackmon rejects that characterization. She describes the people in the church as “faith-based.” She further describes the people who came to Charlottesville to rally for white nationalism. She says violence was expected from these people and notes the fliers that were distributed prior to the event.

How much more innocent can they be? On another point, here is something apparently for an earlier event:

I am guessing the graphic alludes to the Robert E. Lee statue at the center of the controversy.

Apparently this is a lot more than some people signed up for. Big business (with exceptions) is a traditional base of support for conservative politics. Fewer government restrictions, better tax rates for rich people. All this bought candidate a lot of support. The down side is that President Trump is exerting a drag on half a basket full of famous brands:

Some CEOs have discovered that mouthing even anodyne support for Trump can have a really negative impact on their business relationships and stock price. In February, Kevin Plank, the CEO of apparel-maker Under Amour and a member of the manufacturing council, said “to have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset to this country.” In response, some of the company’s leading endorsers, including Stephen Curry, expressed their anger, customers rebelled, and the stock was ultimately downgraded.

Other CEOs have discovered that while the policies of Trump and the GOP may be theoretically good for “business,” they are really bad for their particular business. Duh. Musk was the first to bail from Trump’s manufacturing council after Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The upshot has been a nearly complete desertion from Trump’s advisory councils. In characteristic response, Donald Trump dissolved two of these in a preemptive strike:

President Donald Trump dissolved two of his economic advisory councils Wednesday after a rash of CEOs resigned in the wake of his response to a white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, that occurred Saturday.

Specifically:

Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!

Buyers remorse is showing real consequences. There’s going to be more about this. Keep reading. And, Jesus, stay out of this.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

If you don’t have a gun available when danger threatens your children, how are you going to keep them safe? You can never be too vigilant:

n Ohio police department chided gun owners about firearms safety after one local boy shot another while playing unsupervised.

An 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old boy were playing in a basement Thursday at a Columbus home when they found a loaded handgun, police said.

The boys were handling the weapon when it accidentally fired, shooting the older boy in the arm.

He was treated at a nearby hospital for the gunshot wound, but additional details about his condition were not released.

“PLEASE LOCK UP GUNS,” Columbus police said on their verified Twitter account. “We’re posting this incident to raise awareness & educate the public.”

Of course, if you keep your weapon safely locked up, then how are you going to get to it when foreign terrorists come over the back fence to murder your family? The cops didn’t think about that.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I kept seeing this available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, but the title threw me off. That’s because there is another film with the same name from 61 years ago. But I needed another movie review for 16 August, so I clicked on this and got a surprise. It’s based on a John Grisham novel of the same name. From 20 years ago, this is The Rainmaker, starring Matt Damon as newly-minted Memphis lawyer Rudy Baylor. I purchased a copy of the book, but I have not had time to read it. I will, however, make note of variances between the book and the film. This is out of American Zoetrope and Constellation Films and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Grisham wrote a slew of lawyer novels, and the ones I have covered share a common thread:

  • A disdain for the American legal  system
  • A lawyer dangling by a thread and working to right a wrong.

Rudy Baylor tells the story. Fresh out of law school he can’t find a job. He is studying to pass the bar exam, and the only work he can get is with a sleaze bag firm in Memphis. He’s given a list of clients to rein in and an assistant, Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito), who has a law degree, but who has failed the bar exam six times.

One of Rudy’s clients is the Black family. Donny Ray Black (Johnny Whitworth) is dying of leukemia, which condition could be resolved, except that requires a bone marrow transplant, which the Black family cannot afford, except they have health insurance from a company calling itself Great Benefit. Only Great Benefit has declined the family’s claim eight times, the final time in the manner of an abusive (“dumb dumb dumb”) rejection letter. Here we see Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) comforting her son, who is bleeding from the nose.

To pick up clients and earn his keep at the law firm, Rudy hangs out at a local hospital, where he witnesses a severely injured woman, Kelly Riker (Claire Danes) being abused by her husband Cliff (Andrew Shue), who put her there previously with the aid of an aluminum softball bat. This image shows right before the husband blows up, throwing stuff in his wife’s face, and storming out of the hospital cafeteria, knocking over furniture. Rudy offers to help her.

Oops! Rudy’s employer dissolves, as its owner, J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone (Mickey Rourke) gets charged with racketeering and absconds. Before the balloon goes up Rudy and Deck make off with critical case files and start their own law firm. They take the Black case to court. However, Rudy has only just passed the bar exam, and he is not yet really a lawyer. Great Benefit’s high-price lawyer, Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight) agrees to allow Rudy to continue with the case if the judge will swear him in on the spot.

The judge is notoriously sympathetic with outfits such as Great Benefit to the detriment of people who bring suit against them, and he urges a settlement on Rudy, apparently in collaboration with Drummond. Rudy takes the offer to Dot, but she tells Rudy it’s too late for money. She wants justice. She wants Great Benefit nailed to the wall.

Dawn breaks, and the judge has died. The case gets a new judge, a former civil rights lawyer. Nothing could be worse for Great Benefit. Rudy tells the judge the Black family has declined the offer and wants to proceed with the case. That brings Rudy to a deposition at a Great Benefit’s conference room in Ohio. With nothing working for him but a shoe shine, Rudy faces a bank of lawyers billing at $1000 an hour and their client, who stonewalls the deposition. Witness have disappeared. Gone. Left the company, Whereabouts unknown. Tough luck, kid.

Where have we seen this before—a disclosure proceeding involving a disappearing employee? How about a movie by that name, Disclosure, which came out three years before?

In the meantime, Deck has figured out their law office has been bugged. It’s not a government bug, not high-end. They figure Drummond’s firm is behind the caper. They test their theory. They track down one of the jurors scheduled to hear the case. They do not contact the juror, but they have their process server Butch (Adrian Roberts) to fake a phone call, posing as a juror, to Rudy at the office. Sure enough, in court Drummond charges that Rudy has been in contact with the juror.

Meanwhile, Rudy has multiple irons in the fire. He convinces Kelly to file for divorce, and he sequesters her in the home of an elderly client. When Rudy and Kelly go by her house to get some clothing Cliff breaks down the door with his trusty aluminum softball bat and commences to wage war on the two. After suffering some damage, the two gain the advantage over Cliff, and Kelly advises Rudy to depart and forget he was ever there. As Rudy closes the door behind him he hears multiple blows being landed on Cliff. It’s the end of Cliff, and police haul Kelly in. Rudy represents her as her lawyer.

Good news. the district attorney declares Cliff’s fatal encounter was an act of self-defense, and Kelly is not charged. Deck employs some dodgy methods and locates one of the missing witnesses from Great Benefit. Jackie Lemanczyk (Virginia Madsen), it turns out, did not resign voluntarily. She was paid $10,000 to quit and to say nothing. She was in charge of routinely denying claims. The company’s business model was to sell cheap policies door-to-door, collect premiums weekly, and deny claims.

There is some back and forth in the courtroom, which makes for good viewing, and the jury awards the Black family (Danny Ray has since died) $50 million. But they don’t collect, and also Drummond’s law firm does not get paid. Great Benefit’s CEO is arrested attempting to leave the country after looting the company. Rudy informs Dot there will be no money, but Dot is agreeable. She has obtained her vengeance.

Rudy hooks up with Kelly. They are likely to be making babies soon. But he decides he does not want to be a lawyer. Recall Grisham’s unfondness for the legal system.

Grisham, or else whoever crafted the movie script, takes a few things for granted. For example, Jackie, the claims handler, cites a section U of the company handbook. That section instructs that all claims should be denied. She presents her own copy of the handbook, a large three-ring binder, which she took with her when she left the company.

However, Drummond presents the “current” copy of the handbook. There is no section U. He charges that Rudy’s copy is not admissible in  court, because Jackie stole it from her employer. Initially Rudy is stumped by this, but Deck, who previously failed six time to pass the bar examination, pulls up a precedent showing that stolen evidence is admissible, so long as it was not the ones prosecuting the case who stole it.

On the face of it, this should have been well-understood, even by a fuzzy-faced kid out of law school. Suppose a gang robs a bank, and then one of the gang steals some of the bank money and turns it over to the district attorney. Is the district attorney not allowed to use the twice stolen money as evidence? We would not think he should. Stolen, fell out the back of a van, blown out a window by a capricious wind, when it lands in your lap you can  use it.

Jackie cites section U. The defense presents the current handbook with no section U. Of course, section U has to be the last section in the book, else Great Benefit would need to explain  why there is a section V but no section U. And what difference should it make, anyhow? Get one of the witnesses from Great Benefit on the stand and ask about section U. That person denies its existence under penalty of perjury. Who’s willing to go to jail for Great Benefit?

As it turns out, I have since acquired a Kindle edition of the novel, and I checked on this particular item. Grisham never put any concern about stolen paperwork in  the book. That part seems to have been crafted by screen writer Francis Ford Coppola. It chews up a few minutes of celluloid, ushers in some extra drama, and confuses legal minds watching it.

Also, there is the matter of the bugging of Rudy’s office. Rudy and Deck have enough evidence to demonstrate that the defendant’s law firm bugged their office. Drummond exhibited knowledge that could only have been obtained from eaves dropping the faked call. Rudy has the ammunition to turn the high-price law firm into a vacant lot.

While writing this I spoke with somebody who previously worked for Blue Cross. The information I obtained is that their practice is much like that of the fictional Great Benefit. Deny claims as a matter of course. Lest the viewer think this is an extraordinary circumstance, a short Internet search reveals it to be common. Insurance companies attempt to boost their profit by denying claims, with little consideration  for the claims’ merits:

In order to understand the effect of an insurer incentive plan on claims personnel, it is helpful to review the details of an actual program. For instance, Farmers Insurance Group, Inc. has instituted a number of employee incentive programs. One program is called “Quest for Gold.” It was implemented by Farmers in 1998. Quest for Gold is a contest in which Farmers pays cash prizes and bonuses to the personnel of the Branch Claims Offices that perform best in achieving various predetermined goals. In 1999, the North Dakota/South Dakota (Bismarck) Branch Claims Office excelled in the Quest for Gold contest. The Office achieved a silver medal entitling each of the Bismarck Branch Claims Office personnel to a share of the cash prizes.

That posting goes on to lay out the framework. Since an employee cannot increase profits by boosting policy premiums, the employee is left with the option of denying claims, whether specifically instructed to do so or not.

Another peculiar aspect of the Great Benefit case is the nature of the policy. The Black family is shown to be low-income and a ripe market for weekly premium payments. From the book:

I examine the Blacks’ policy with Great Benefit, and take pages of notes. It reads like Sanskrit. I organize the letters and claim forms and medical reports. Sara has disappeared for the moment, and I’ve become lost in a disputed insurance claim that stinks more and more.

The policy was purchased for eighteen dollars a week from the Great Benefit Life Insurance Company of Cleveland, Ohio. I study the debit book, a little journal used to record the weekly payments. It appears as though the agent, one Bobby Ott, actually visited the Blacks every week.

Grisham, John. The Rainmaker (p. 34). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It is not emphasized in the movie, but the insurance company incurs considerable cost servicing these policies. An agent must physically visit the Black family each week and collect the premium payment. This is money subtracted from the company’s profit on the policy, and this must be made back by charging a higher rate. What it would mean, even if Great Benefit paid off, is that the Black’s would be getting less coverage for premiums paid. Great Benefit boosted their profit even more by not paying valid claims.

In his summation to the jury, Drummond demonstrates a prevalent bit of insurance company propaganda. He rages that if the jury is not willing to push back against outrageous claims against insurance companies, then they will be to blame when the premiums of honest people become priced out of reach.

A brief scan of the book reveals the movie plot tracks it closely. After Cliff is knocked down in the fight, Kelly tells Rudy to hand over the bat and leave. Rudy waits nearby in his car and watches the police arrive to investigate a murder scene. Kelly is not indicted. In the end Rudy and Kelly leave to make a new life with each other, Rudy taking extraordinary steps to never have further contact with the legal system. There will be a review of the book later this year.

Clair Danes has more recently appeared as hyperbolic counter-terrorism agent Carrie Mathison in the Showtime thriller series Homeland. I previously reviewed The Martian, with Matt Damon in the title role. John Voight’s first memorable appearance was as male prostitute Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. He went on to another stellar performance in Deliverance. With age his glamor appeal faded, as evidenced by Runaway Train. My favorite Danny DeVito vehicle was Romancing the Stone. He was also outstanding in Ruthless People.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 16 in a series

This is getting ridiculous. My original idea was to highlight subtle signs of buyer’s remorse. I would drop a few hints that some are having second thoughts. Like maybe, they wish they had pulled the other lever on 8 November. I was really going to have to work this. I thought. Little did I realize the government of the United States was going to do the heavy lifting. “Really?” you say. “The government is stepping up to lend you a hand in your nefarious scheme? Bet on it.

It has come to my attention the government has hired a person whose sole task is to make my task not only effort-free, but a joy to  wake up to each morning. And they pay him well. You may have heard of him. He is Donald J. Trump.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

“It has been going on for a long time in our country…” Yes. And who would know better?

Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Monday called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” the most dramatic response yet to the string of terrorist attacks that have Americans increasingly on edge.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

After receiving a notice from his security that someone might be planning to throw tomatoes at him (again), Trump told his supporters to “knock the crap out of them … I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” The crowd vociferously cheered him on.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

During an interview on CNN, host Jake Tapper pressed the presumptive GOP presidential nominee about why Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnicity should disqualify him from hearing the case. Trump pointed to his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics, but we’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico,” Trump said. “The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe. This case should have ended years ago.”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

In a speech Friday to police officers at a community college on Long Island, President Donald Trump appeared to encourage them to treat suspects roughly and not to take steps to protect them from injury. “And when you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon—you just see them thrown in, rough,” he said. “I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’ Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head—the way you put the hand over, like don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head. I said, ‘You can take the hand away, okay?’”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

Jennifer Lin, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter spoke with CNN about her story with Donald Trump. In the late 1980s, Lin wrote an article about Trump’s casinos that he didn’t like and so he called the paper and unleashed on Lin, calling her “shit for brains” who worked for “a shit newspaper,” and later called her a cunt. Sigh.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

Repeating his contention that Mrs. Clinton wanted to abolish the right to bear arms, Mr. Trump warned at a rally here that it would be “a horrible day” if Mrs. Clinton were elected and got to appoint a tiebreaking Supreme Court justice.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Last month the Second Amendment people promised to show up:

A Ku Klux Klan chapter holding a rally in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon says it expects 80 to 100 members and supporters to take part in the protest and that most will have guns with them.

“It’s an open-carry state, so our members will be armed,” said James Moore, a member of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is headquartered in Pelham, N.C., near the Virginia border. Moore said that if members are attacked, they will defend themselves.

Last Saturday they did show up, with their guns:

Heavily-armed men in camouflage clothing and tactical gear have been filmed marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, ahead of a planned white nationalist rally.

The militia group was seen carrying military-style assault rifles with telescope sights and spare magazines, protective helmets, radios and knives. One appeared to be wearing a bandolier of shotgun shells and a second had spare handgun magazines; another had a Confederate flag patch on his vest.

We can all be thankful President Trump condemns “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence…”

We may now be getting the government we paid for.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

False belief kills in remarkable ways. It can take something that does nothing at all and turn it into a killer:

December 4 2001 12:11 AM

According to a secret diary kept by the late Jacqueline Alderslade (55), of Hollymount, Co Mayo [Ireland], the homeopath told her to stop all medication, except for a Ventolin inhaler, immediately.

Ms Alderslade, an interior designer and secretary, began the diary on June 29 when she first visited Mineke Kamper, a practicioner of alternative medicine, of Mulranny, Co Mayo.

Ten days later, while driving to Mulranny for an appointment with Ms Kamper, Ms Alderslade stopped her car after becoming seriously ill and died despite the efforts to revive her by a passing motorist.

Who needs Jesus when we are willing to take the task upon ourselves?

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Most-reliable Amazon Prime Video came through for me again this week. Getting desperate for a Bad Movie of the Week, I skimmed titles from Amazon. This one came through. It’s Inhuman Resources, 2012, and I have to warn you, it’s a slasher movie to end all. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry, so I’m getting details from IMDb. Here are the highlights:

You have heard of human resources. That’s what they used to  call personnel in companies. Anyhow, this is inhuman resources, so you begin to get the picture. It’s corporate politics from hell, and it starts out provocatively enough. There’s a blonde corporate type making waves as she struts her stuff between the cubes and gets on an elevator.

The next time we see Ms. Hot Stuff she is decapitated on the floor of the elevator car. Annabelle Hale waits for the doors to open and comes face to face with the gruesome scene.

Regional manager Nicholas Reddmann is standing there with the bloody ax and a fiendish countenance. It’s the most recent of a series of such atrocities.

Of course, Reddmann is tried and convicted but is deemed insane. He appears to die in a fire during an escape attempt. Annabelle, daily looking for work, picks up living expenses doing Internet strip shows. Here is the slasher movie obligatory bare breast scene. Show me a slasher movie without bare tits, and I will show you Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

But Annabelle is abducted from  her apartment, and comes to, chained to a conference table along with five other people. Each is in some manner connected with the ax murder.

Reddmann is miraculously alive, and he directs his captives to work mightily at proving his innocence of the ax murders.

When somebody’s work slacks off, Reddmann employs his hook of a hand to inscribe a mark on the forehead of the miscreant. Five such marks, and Reddmann dispatches the offender in the most gruesome manner imaginable. Here William Tucker (Sam Reid) already has three.

Cutting to the chase, Annabelle works diligently and finds a way to escape through an A/C vent in the women’s rest room. She puts the kibosh on Reddmann and unchains William and one more. They are the  remaining survivors.

As the three battle to escape, one of the three is killed, leaving only William and Annabelle. It becomes apparent to Annabelle that William is not as innocent as he claims, and he reveals what really happened on that fatal day months before.

William was a parcel delivery man, and he had a habit of waylaying officer workers and decapitating them. He reveals his method and describes how he wielded the ax and handed it, covered with blood, to a shocked Reddmann, who took the fall when the elevator doors opened at the ground floor.

Reddmann and William disappear, leaving only Annabelle for the rescue squad to haul away from the gruesome scene. Annabelle recovers to write a book about the episode and is scheduled for a book signing. But William, in hiding, has taken offense, and he murders Annabelle’s publicist and forces his way into her apartment, bloody knife in hand.

Annabelle fights William off and flees onto the street, with William in deadly pursuit. She encounters Reddmann on the darkened sidewalk, and Reddmann kills William, leaving Annabelle with William’s severed head to take to the book signing. She presents the head and asks if there are any questions.

Do I need to explain why this is the Bad Movie of the Week?

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Here’s a story from way back. An American was vacationing in Spain, and he stopped at a restaurant in  Ronda, famous for being the birthplace of bull fighting in Spain. He was looking at the menu, but at another table he noticed a man enjoying an interesting dish. The aroma was enticing.

When the waiter came the American told him, “I want what that man is having.”

The waiter apologized. “Señor,” he said. “Those are bull’s testicles from this afternoon’s bull fight. Unfortunately there is only one bull per festival  in the off season, so we don’t have any more of this delicacy.”

The American chose another item from the menu, but the next day he was back and he asked about the order. Indeed, the waiter told him he could be served, and a few minutes later he served up a spicy plate of the dish.

But the American was puzzled, and he asked the waiter, “Yesterday the serving was much larger. Today, hardly anything. What gives?”

The waiter apologized. “Señor, sometimes the bull wins.”

Friday Funny

Number 71 of a series

This series is supposed to be about funny things, so I’m wondering whether this story applies. I’m going to guess it does, provided I define ironic as funny.

Rapper Shot and Killed After Claiming ‘God Made Me Bulletproof’

God made me bulletproof 🙏🙏

— Yung Mazi (@yungmazibwa) December 27, 2016

Apparently last Sunday was God’s day off.