This is your President speaking.

Number 127

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!

I just love it when my president talks smart to me.
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Bad Movie of the Week

Number 228 of a series

I was trying to figure out how this came to be, and I was thinking some Hollywood types were sitting around brainstorming ideas. Somebody probably said, “Let’s do a spoof movie.” And somebody else said, “That’s been done before,” but the first guy said, “No, I mean a spoof of a spoof,” and the second guy said, “Like what?” Then the first guy said, “Take National Lampoon’s Vacation, for example,” and the second guy said, “That’s ridiculous. That turkey is not going to come out until 1983. That’s nine years from now.” But the first guy was persistent, and he said, “I mean, suppose there was a spoof of a western movie.” The second guy said, “So?,” and the first guy said, “Let’s assume there was such a movie, so let’s make a spoof of that movie.” And the second guy said, “That’s never going to work. But, what the hey! We’ve got spare cash, and I know some funny guys looking for work right now. So what are we going to call it?”

And the first guy responded, “Let’s call it Blazing Saddles.” And the second guy said, “Ugh, that’s God awful. Just do it, and let me know when it’s done.”

So, here it is, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video (whence the screen shots) and featuring

Details are from Wikipedia.

Even the title is a spoof. “Blazing Six Guns.” Get it? Anyhow, the movie gets rolling into PC territory immediately. There’s a gang laying a railroad line out in the hot sun, and the crew comprises Chinese and Negroes mostly, and foreman Taggart uses language like “chink” and “nigger” when referring to them. Watch this review get flagged.

So Taggart needs to check for quicksand, and he directs Bart and another to take a hand cart into the suspicious area, where they promptly sink into the quicksand. Taggart thinks it’s a big joke, and he laughs while Bart comes up from behind and whacks him on  the head with a shovel.

So the rail line needs to be routed through a town called Rock Ridge. But first the evil Gov. William J. Le Petomane and attorney general Hedley Lamarr need to exterminate all living residents of the town, who happen to be white people named Johnson. We know that the governor’s sweet assistant Lili von Shtupp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” is going to be able to apply her obvious talents.

Meanwhile, outside the window, a public hanging is in progress. and Bart is to be one of the hangees, having been summarily convicted of bashing a white guy over the head with a shovel. The evil ones decide their first tactic is to run in a ringer sheriff to rile the citizens of Rock Ridge, making them vulnerable when the governor’s gang of cutthroats comes riding down on them.

So they pull Bart out of the punch line and pin a star on him. He’s thankful.

The Johnsons of Rock Ridge are thankful they are getting a new sheriff to replace the one that was just killed, and there is a big celebration in progress with a band playing. Somebody posted on a building with a spy glass watches for Sheriff Bart’s arrival, and at last he spots him riding across the desert. He is dumb struck at what he sees. He calls down to the crowd that he sees the sheriff coming, but he’s a n…er. A blast from the band drowns out the first syllable, and it’s interpreted as “He’s near.”

Then Sheriff Bart comes riding down the street, and all festivities stop. This movie is going to be a long spoof about racism in the Old West.

Not feeling very welcome, Sheriff Bart settles himself into the jail, where he plays chess with the Waco Kid. The kid has given up gunfighting and turned to drink instead. But he’s still blazing fast. He demonstrates by snatching the black queen off the board without Sheriff Bart even seeing his hands move.

Things are not turning out the way the evil officials planned, so the governor runs in  Lili von Shtupp to sap some of the sheriff’s vitality. It works the other way, as Lili acquires a fondness for black sausage.

But the evil band is coming to Rock Ridge to wipe out all the Johnsons, having recruited from all the evil tribes of the world. Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid figure they need to employ wit to defeat them, and they slow the invading horde by placing a toll booth along the invasion route.

The main line of defense is a fake town, constructed overnight by recruits from the railroad gang. The evil gang comes riding in to confront cardboard citizens strolling down the street between false front buildings.

The Waco Kid uses his skill with a pistol to set off explosive charges in the town to wipe out the invaders, and the town is saved.

Except, that the melee is now out of control, and as the camera pans back we see the action is occurring in the Warner Brothers back lot in Burbank, California. The chaos spreads beyond of the western set and into the set of an elaborate stage show.

And it goes downhill from there.

This is a silly movie, propelled by a lot of lame humor based on racial stereotypes, sight gags, and even flatulism, introducing the famous campfire scene. Whoopee!

This may have been the high point of Cleavon Little’s career. He died of cancer in  1992.

Slim Pickens turns in a classic performance, having already been a standout in Dr. Strangelove and The Getaway. where he had a bit role.

This is your President speaking.

Number 126

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!

We finally have a president who is not a laughing stock to the entire world.

From ABC World News Tonight with David Muir 13 July 2018 streaming on Hulu

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

This is dated, but a few years ago it was pertinent.

If you had purchased $1000 of Quantas shares one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.

If you purchased $1000 of AIG shares one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.

If you purchased $1000 worth of Lehman brothers shares one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.

But… If you purchased $1000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then returned the aluminum cans for recycling…

You would have received $214.00!

Based on the above, the best investment plan is to…

Drink heavily and recycle!

And, did you know…

A recent study found the average Australian walks 900 miles  year.

Another study found that Australians drink, on  average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year!

That means that on average, Australians get 41 miles to the gallon.

Makes you proud to be an Australian, doesn’t it?

This is your President speaking.

Number 125

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYXCsxf9TsE

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

How can the Rigged Witch Hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on, for an extended period of time, by former FBI Agent/Lover Peter Strzok? Read his hate filled and totally biased Emails and the answer is clear!

How, indeed.

The Americans

Two years ago I ditched my cable TV contract and subscribed to streaming services. That introduced me to a new world of TV offerings. One was The Americans, produced by FX and streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a spy story, partially inspired by an actual spy case, the Illegals Program, which involved a Russian man and a Russian woman who took over the identities of two dead Canadian children and lived for years in the United States as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley. Their route took them from Canada, where they assumed the identities of the dead children, to France, where Heathfield attended graduate school before the pair moved to the United States, where he enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. At that point the pair began work on their ultimate task, which was to spy on the United States government by way of identifying sensitive people in high position who could be compromised. During their time in Canada the pair produced two sons, who were never aware their parents were Russians. The couple never spoke Russian at home.

At the time Heathfield and Foley entered the United States in 2000 the FBI became aware they were spies, and the agency began intense surveillance, which culminated in indictments and expulsion in 2010. During this time there is significant divergence from the plot of The Americans. Heathfield and Foley were nothing more than spies. They performed their tasks and reported back to Russia. In the TV series the pair are Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, and they are not nice people. Despite being married, they use sexual persuasion to ensnare unwitting subjects. From the opening scenes of the pilot episode, Elizabeth, in blond disguise, has trolled a government official in a bar and is about to  go down on him in a hotel room.

They also kill people. The series is punctuated by multiple instances of victims being shot at point blank range.

A counterpoint in the plot is FBI agent Stan Beeman, who coincidentally moves in next door to the Jennings and befriends them. Ironically, and critical to the plot, Beeman is working on the investigation of Soviet (during the Cold War) agents. Beeman is cast as a weak link in the agency’s investigation, compromising a cuddlesome clerk at the Soviet embassy and surreptitiously sleeping (a euphemism) with her. His loose ways unravel the agency’s attempt to thwart the Soviet plot.

The real world of Russian spies has a similar agent. He is Peter Strzok, and he worked the case from its inception through the prosecution of Heathfield and Foley and the expulsion of a mass of Russian spies in July 2010. He rose to head up the FBI’s counter intelligence operation and most recently supervised the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email probe and the probe into Russian influence on the Donald Trump presidential campaign. As with the fictional Beeman, Agent Strzok was undone by an extra-marital dalliance.  About the time Donald Trump was running for office, Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were having an affair. They were humping on the sly.

Bedding down with another government employee is not illegal, nor is it against office policy. Where the two went out of bounds was to use their government email service to communicate so as to keep their sub rosa business sub rosa. When Robert Mueller took over the investigation of the Russian meddling last year one of the first things he did was to learn of these surreptitious interchanges and to remove Strzok from the case. Not only was the private use of government email against office policy, the contents of some of the interchanges were unhinging. The two were vocal (electronically) critical of Donald Trump. Good policy: you can’t investigate a presidential candidate and at the same time be calling him an idiot and a threat to American democracy.

Republicans in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, have sought from the beginning to derail the Mueller investigation, owing to its devastating revelations concerning Trump campaign officials’ involvement with Russian agents. And that brings us to the topic for today: the Rachel Maddow Show from yesterday, 11 July.

Maddow, as usual, takes some time to warm up before getting to the meat. She displays the background of Heathfield and Foley at length. Here they are in better times in Canada with their children. They used their time in Canada to acclimate to western culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgTheir unfortunate children were left without a country after their parents were deported.

By the time Heathfield was graduating from Harvard, the FBI was on the scene to snap a graduation photo.

If I were Heathfield I would demand my money back.

The FBI investigation was called “Operation Ghost Stories.”

Here are some details from the indictment:

The use of steganography to conceal  messages is illustrated in an actual image used by the spies and posted on-line for all to view.

A real spy thriller was in the making.

The feds obtained a warrant and bugged the couple’s Boston townhouse.

They listened to Heathfield’s and Tracey’s most intimate conversations.

The two discussed how to make use of steganography.

The feds obtained a warrant and pried into a safe deposit box in Cambridge.

They found film depicting Foley in her early 20s.

An attempt had been made to disguise the origin of the film by trimming the film margins, where manufacture information would be printed. They overlooked one negative.

It had the name of a Russian film manufacturer, Tasma.

The feds also retrieved and photographed notebooks.

One page revealed the 27-character password to employ the steganographic software used to hide messages in images.

Investigations revealed the identities of American government officials targeted by the spies.

One person of interest had information about nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads.”

The FBI has a page on Operation Ghost Stories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgNow, the FBI official who ran the investigation of The Americans is under fire by Republican lawmakers, who challenge the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, and, lacking hardly anything else, Peter Strzok’s text exchanges with Lisa Page are going to have to serve as their leverage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgCharges that Strzok engineered the investigation into Trump/Russia are ludicrous in the light of known history. The Brits spotted suspicious activity and passed it on to the Americans, where it settled into Strzok’s lap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgWith Mueller taking over the prosecution, the Strzok-Page exchanges came out, much to Republican delight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSomething not widely pushed by Republicans, is the disdain toward the Russians shown in Strzok’s texts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgYou would not know it from Republicans in Congress, but Strzok was vocal about a range of politicians and candidates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSurprisingly, his ultimate choice was a Republican.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgPeter Strzok testified before Congress publicly today, having previously testified in a closed session. The Washington Post is shown stating,

…his political conviction that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for American national security is not based on his bias, it was based on information that was available to him.

In this conclusion, Strzok has been shown to be a sentient carbon life form rather than a political ideologue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgRachel Maddow illustrates some comments from Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman. These comments address Republicans’ objections that Strzok gave undue attention to Trump/Russia over the Clinton emails:

Not every FBI investigation is of equal importance to  U.S. national  security. There is simply no equivalence between an investigation  into the possible mishandling of classified information, a relatively commonplace occurrence in the FBI’s…

…and credible evidence suggesting that the presidential campaign of a major party candidate was actively colluding  with a hostile foreign power in a way that could undermine the integrity of an American Presidential [sic] election.

To require senior national security officials to profess fealty to this false equivalence is both short-sighted and dangerous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgA quick look at news coming out of Strzok’s testimony before Congress today reveals a circus beyond even my expectations: Vox has a bit from Texas’ own Louis Gohmert (District 1):

But Gohmert took things to another level when he brought up Strzok’s personal life.

“I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them, you’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about and —” Gohmert said, before being drowned out by objections from Democrats.

“Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous!” someone yelled, appealing to House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte to intervene. “Shame on you!” another person shouted. Someone else called the comment “harassment of the witness.” Another Democrat yelled at Gohmert, “You need your medication!”

Wacko really has come home.

There’s going to be more from me on today’s hearing. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 119

Keep it handy. You never know when you’re going to  need it:

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WINA) – A two-year-old Louisa County boy is dead after he was shot by his 4-year-old brother, who thought the gun he was playing with was a toy.

Tyler “Ty” Aponte suffered a shot to the chest at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 22. He was rushed from his Bakers Branch Road home to University of Virginia Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.

It’s all about your right to keep your family safe.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This came out in 1984, about the time I was moving back to Texas and was absorbed with other things. For some reason I never saw it through until recently were it is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s The Natural, starring Robert Redford as some kind of baseball sensation. I caught some it on TV a few decades back; I caught the part where Roy Hobbs (Redford) strikes out The Whammer and then goes to meet a woman in a hotel room, where she shoots him. And I watched the very end where Hobbs hits the game-winning home run and wins the pennant. I must have missed all the rest until a few days ago, when I sat myself down and viewed all two hours plus. I came away with the assurance the story could have been told using 30 minutes fewer feet of celluloid. Here’s how it goes. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s the early 20th century, and Hobbs is a farm boy whose father teaches him baseball. He’s a whiz.

But the father dies suddenly, and Hobbs finishes growing up on his own. Near where his father died lightening strikes a tree, and the boy plucks away a log from the trunk. He shapes the log and fashions a baseball bat, which he brands with a hot iron: “Wonder Boy.” And he adds a bolt of lightening.

He says goodbye to his high school sweetheart, Iris Gaines (Glenn Close) and catches a train to try out as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. It’s a steam locomotive, so the train has to stop for water. On the train is a pro ball player, known in the movie only as ‘The Whammer’ (Joe Don Baker),  and looks a lot like Babe Ruth. There is a fairground next to the tracks, and Hobbs wows patrons by consistently knocking down all the wooden milk bottles in a carnival game.

A challenge is issued, and a large bet is laid. Hobbs will strike out The Whammer. Three straight whiffs is the challenge. The Whammer watches the first ball go by and swings at the remaining two. He is not amused.

In Chicago Hobbs accepts the invitation of a woman, Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), who was on the train. He comes to her hotel room, where she shoots him in the gut. Then (we learn later) she kills herself. We also learn she has previously killed other athletes, all using silver bullets.

Years pass within one splice of the film, and we see Hobbs as a 30+ player recruited from  a minor-league team by a scout for the New York Knights, a bit of fiction from  Bernard Malamud, who wrote the book of the same name.

We eventually learn that Hobbs is on the team as part of a scheme by The Judge (Robert Prosky), co-owner of the team. The Judge needs for The Knights to not win the pennant, because if they lose, then team manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) has to give up controlling interest in the team. So The Judge has been recruiting losers, such as Hobbs, and he has bribed  another player to lose. Shades of Eight Men Out.

Pop doesn’t want to play the unknown Hobbs and keeps him on the bench for game after game. But the crooked player dies crashing into the outfield wall, and Hobbs gets invited to batting practice. He hits ball after ball into the stands. His first time at bat in a game he really does hit the cover off the ball. While the opposing team chases an unraveling ball of twine, Hobbs trots the bases.

Things are no longer looking bright for The Judge. The Knights have been losing games on end, but Hobbs begins hitting a stream of home runs, inspiring the team, which now begins to play major league ball.

The Judge runs in a woman of casual virtue, Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), to distract Hobbs, and she screws his brains out so consistently his game drops off. Paris is also Pop’s niece. Hobbs is in a terrible slump, and so is the team.

But in Chicago, Hobbs’ fame catches the attention of Iris, now grown, single, and with a son.

At bat, close to once more striking out, Hobbs spots Iris in the stands, and he slugs a homer.

Hobbs dumps Paris, but his stomach wound flares up, and he misses games in the hospital, where the silver bullet is removed from his stomach. Seeing he is needed to win the pennant-winning game, Hobbs takes himself out of the hospital and suits up for the game. Now comes the drama.

Game runs are on base, and Hobbs needs to hit a big one. Iris sends in a note telling him her son is also his, and he’s at the game. Hobbs whiffs a couple of pitches and then splats a fowl ball into the stands. Bad news, that swing has shattered Wonder Boy, and Hobbs tells the bat boy to go select a winner for him.

And here comes the fatal pitch.

Hobbs swats it into the lights behind the outfield for a home run. As he trots the bases electric lights continue to shatter in a cascade of sparks.

Hobbs retires from ball, and we see him and his son tossing a ball on the farm as Iris looks on.

What gives this movie interest is the intro. All is going well for Hobbs, and you would never believe a mysterious woman will shoot him in the gut, sidelining his career.

It’s not adequately explained why Hobbs never went back to hook up with Iris after his life-shattering experience—didn’t even write.

By the time of his return to baseball, Hobbs is a once-burned, street-wise, 36-year-old. And he still falls for the floozy sent in to throw off his game.

See the picture of Hobbs and the bat boy examining the shattered Wonder Boy? Watching Hobbs bat the ball into the stands we see Wonder Boy fall harmlessly to the ground as Hobbs heads for first base. It is obviously not broken.

The winning hit shatters a flood lamp. Then lights begin to shatter all over the field. People, this does not happen.

This plot device of bringing it all down to a final pitch that will decide the pennant is getting old. It was getting old 34 years ago, and it is not going to pick up additional sparkle anytime soon.

The Awful Truth

Number 6 in a Series

Earlier this month I reviewed a companion book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, by James Clapper. Here is another view along the same lines. It’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by former NSA director General Michael Hayden. Both writers have long experience in public service, having served in the United States military and in national intelligence agencies. Both take a dim view of the administration of President Donald Trump. Both consider his persistent use of fabrication and his abuse of the intelligence agencies to be scandalous and (my interpretation) and also an abuse of his office.

I’m using the same approach here that I did with the previous review. I will illustrate with pertinent excerpts from the book and add context and elaboration where helpful. Start here:

Two months into the Trump administration, Jim Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, were asked in an open congressional hearing if the president they were serving was misleading the nation with his claims that they or their British friends had wiretapped him while he was president-elect.

They said that he was.

It was a remarkable moment. That question doesn’t get asked very often in open parliamentary session in a democracy, let alone get answered—to say nothing of being answered in that way. It made me proud to have been associated with an intelligence community that felt free to do that.

But that was not the end of the matter, at least as far as the White House was concerned. The administration stuck to its alternate version—Obama wiretapped me—even after the FBI and NSA chiefs had confirmed that objective reality was clearly otherwise.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Hayden has concluded, as have a growing number of Americans, that the current President of the United States is a calculating liar who seeks to persuade his political base that truth is what he says it is, and that hard facts are distortions promulgated by opposing and disloyal sources. For General Hayden the threat to civilized society crystallized during his working intelligence tour in the former Yugoslavia during the events of the 1990s.

The veneer of civilization, I sadly concluded then, was quite thin—perhaps a natural thought for an intelligence officer, whose profession consistently trends pessimistic, whose work is consumed by threats and dangers, and who routinely travels to some of the world’s darkest, most troubled places.

Later I learned that intelligence officers were not so alone in their dark thoughts. Robin Wright, the American chronicler of the Middle East’s woes, told me that Israel’s Shimon Peres once despairingly lamented to her, “We’re so primitive. We’re so very primitive.”

Over the years it became clear to me that the structures, processes, and attitudes that protect us from Thomas Hobbes’s world of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” lives are not naturally occurring things. They are inherently fragile and demand careful tending if they are to survive.

That brought me to the idea of this book, which is not that civil war or societal collapse is necessarily imminent or inevitable here in America, but that the structures, processes, and attitudes we rely on to prevent those kinds of occurrences are under stress, and that many of the premises on which we have based our governance, policy, and security are now challenged, eroded, or simply gone.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 2-3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He summarizes:

Deeply involved in this is the question of truth. It was no accident that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Liberal British academic and philosopher A. C. Grayling characterized the emerging post-truth world to me as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.” Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl predicted that the term could become “one of the defining words of our time.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The author bears down on the seriousness of our present situation:

We’re really breaking new ground when, at the six-month point of the new administration, the former head of CIA, John Brennan, and the former director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper—with more than seven decades of experience between them and a record of service for both political parties—spend a rainy afternoon in Aspen telling hundreds that they harbor deep concerns about Russian election interference, openly criticize President Trump for refusing to face that reality, and warn that “in some respects we are a government in crisis.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Like James Clapper, Michael Hayden is unable to escape that the Russian government is working to upend the American  political  process:

And it continues. A quick look at articles pushed by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter in early January shows that attacks on Democrats and liberals comprised more than a quarter, with discrediting Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier at 14 percent, and pushing “deep state” narratives and conspiracies constituting 13 percent. Sound familiar? When Trump speaks, the Russians amplify.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 7). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump campaigned on a policy of “America First,” and the author traveled back to the place of his origins in Pittsburgh, where he connected with friends from his youth and other, like-minded people.

So I resolved to reengage the “America First” issue, in the back room of a Pittsburgh sports bar over some Iron City beer. I asked my brother to arrange for several dozen of his friends, all Trump supporters, to meet with me for a couple of hours.

I knew many of the participants, indeed had grown up with several. But we could have been from different planets. They are angry. They feel abandoned and disadvantaged even though they work hard, pay their taxes, and struggle to raise their kids. They hate Hillary Clinton, I mean really hate her. And for them, it is still midnight on November 8, 2016. Donald Trump is still their guy. “He is an American . . . He is genuine . . . He is authentic . . . He doesn’t filter everything or parse every word.” They don’t seem to be very interested in “facts,” either. Or at least not in my “facts.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden attempts to winkle out what is underlying the disconnect:

About two months after my Pittsburgh meeting, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that political partisanship in America had become what he called “totalistic.” It was no longer about better policies as it was with Eisenhower and Kennedy. Nor was it about better philosophy as it was with Reagan. Now “people often use partisan identity to fill the void left when other attachments wither away—religious, ethnic, communal and familial.”6

Around the same time as the Brooks article, conservative ethicist Peter Wehner told me that in today’s America, beliefs are really tied up with identities, and he pointed me to this: “If changing your belief means changing your identity, it comes at the risk of rejection from the community of people with whom you share that identity.” Wehner also reminded me that data is not particularly useful to argue a point that itself was not particularly data-derived (which is not quite the same distinction as true and untrue).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden saw what I often see when communicating with conservative acquaintances:

When I asked in that Pittsburgh back room if anyone really believed that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, most hands shot up. I tried to explain how the relevant agencies (NSA and FBI) had said it wasn’t true. When I asked why they still thought it was so, they simply replied, “Obama.”

“Obama was against the country and did everything he could to undermine it,” concluded one participant.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 23-24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The basis behind “America First” comes out:

It was also true that most in the room had spent their entire lives in or near Pittsburgh. National statistics say that Trump won by nine points among white voters who live within two hours of where they were born and by an overwhelming 26 percent among those who live in their hometown proper. Everybody in the room in Pittsburgh was white, too.

When I asked what they thought “America First” meant, the answer was pretty simple. It meant that someone was paying attention to them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Observers of the 2016 presidential election point to the declining relevance of traditional left-right, Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative divides in American politics. Technological change, the explosion of information, and the erosion of borders have smothered old dividing lines over the size of government, family values, and the national debt. Changes in technology, information, and borders have created winners and losers, and these folks are in that group of Americans who are feeling left behind.

Collectively they view themselves as disadvantaged in a globalized world and they catalog refugees and immigrants as threatening their safety, trade deals as taking away their jobs, and political institutions as wasting their money. Hence the surge of a populism that claims “to speak in the people’s place, in their name, and convey an undeniable shared truth on their

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 24-25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He further analyses his impromptu focus group:

Reading the audience, I decided against asking the group a question I had formed during my preparation: “How many of you have passports?” It had been a pleasant evening and I don’t think they would have appreciated the tone of my question. I also suspect that I wouldn’t have liked their answer. They were polite, patriotic, sincere, and enthusiastic, but foreign affairs wasn’t a strong suit or strong interest.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 38-39). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He analyzes the Trump phenomenon in terms of Hamiltonian and Jacksonian views:

Famed American academic Walter Russell Mead broke down the whole dynamic for me in terms of his four paradigms of the American presidency. He reminded me that there were Hamiltonians, wedded to the tough realism of America’s first secretary of the treasury: America cannot be free unless America is prosperous, America cannot be prosperous unless America is strong. I had limited contact with Mitt Romney as an adviser during his 2012 campaign, but I suspect he would have trended Hamiltonian as president.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And then there was Andrew Jackson: man of the people, frontiersman, Indian fighter, war hero—the first democrat in the White House whether you write it with a big D or a little d. Jacksonian foreign policy is shaped by an intense patriotism to an America defined by blood, soil, and shared history, and it is largely uninterested in international affairs unless, of course, somebody really ticks us off (like Japan in 1941, or al-Qaeda in 2001). Only half-jokingly do I describe it as a security policy organized around Robert De Niro’s immortal line in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

America’s post–World War II internationalism has been largely shaped by Hamiltonian and Wilsonian concepts. In fact, the history of that era was often written as a struggle between the two factions, trying to balance American interests and American ideals in the conduct of our policy.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That crowd in the back room in Pittsburgh was overwhelmingly Jacksonian…

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There is an analysis on the former president’s relationship with the intelligence community, ultimately to be contrasted with President Trump’s:

Over time the president, who came into office with a liberal Democrat’s distrust of an intelligence community around which multiple controversies had been swirling, grew more comfortable with both the institutions and the people who were serving him. Obama also came to office with little intelligence background, since he had not served on the Intelligence Committee while in the Senate. He had a steep learning curve, but gradually absorbed both the capabilities and the limits of the community. The PDB in the president’s second term was described to me as often a ten- to fifteen-minute tactical update for someone who was now quite familiar with the issues. Both John Brennan and Jim Clapper recall Obama as genuinely appreciative. Jim said the president was gracious and complimentary during his last meeting with him in the Oval Office.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 34-35). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In their comparative views, James Clapper’s book takes readers on a historical ride, bringing the shape of today’s intelligence community ultimately into view, while Michael Hayden’s work is rooted in the present and the recent past. Both heap condemnation on the current administration’s aversion to, and the destruction of, basic truth. I will finish out with some highlights on the author’s observations. First a 30,000-foot view:

Internationalist—nativist. Nuanced—blunt. Informed—instinctive. No drama—all drama. Studied—spontaneous. Fully formed paragraphs—140 characters. America as idea—America as blood and soil. Free trader—protectionist. And then there was the issue of truth. All candidates shape their message, but Trump just seemed to say whatever came into his head. Was he uninformed, lazy, dishonest . . . or did he simply reject the premise that objective reality even existed or mattered?

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 41). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump’s issues with the truth were early apparent:

My little email universe was steadily lit up in the spring and summer of 2016 with commentary on the Trump campaign. That universe comprised a lot of people with backgrounds like mine: intelligence, security, military, diplomatic, and related fields. We had lots of issues, but the key themes of truth, inclusion, and lawfulness quickly emerged.

The most intense buzz was about telling the truth, or, more specifically, about Donald Trump not telling the truth. Or at least not bothering to find the truth in order to speak accurately.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 43). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There follows a litany of Donald Trump’s obvious fabrications:

We had a long list of out-and-out lies, too, like the candidate’s claim that there were pan-Islamic legions celebrating wildly on the streets of New Jersey as the Twin Towers were aflame and collapsing. And then there was the moment Mr. Trump, hammering Obama-era political correctness, departed from prepared remarks to say that the neighbors of the San Bernardino terrorist couple, beyond seeing suspicious behavior, “saw bombs on the floor,” a claim for which there was absolutely no evidence.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 44). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think it fair to say that the Trump campaign normalized lying to an unprecedented degree, and when pressed on specifics it routinely tried to delegitimize those who would disagree with countercharges about the “lyin’ media,” “intelligence” (in accusatory quotation marks), “so-called

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols credits a 1999 study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, research psychologists at Cornell, with driving home this point. Nichols writes, “The lack of metacognition sets up a vicious loop in which people who do not know much about a subject do not know when they’re in over their head . . . and there is no way to educate or inform people who, when in doubt, will make stuff up.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols is Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.

The concept came to mind again when after a year in office the president riffed on climate change with British journalist Piers Morgan: “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”2 For the sake of history and science, I should add that arctic sea ice levels were at record lows as the president spoke (a generally well-known and accepted fact regardless of your views on human-caused climate change).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It really wasn’t clear that Mr. Trump actually wanted much advice anyway. He told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in March, “My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff, I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.”

He had earlier identified the source of his foreign policy thinking to Chuck Todd of NBC: “Well, I really watch the shows. You really see a lot of great, you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of the complaints that we cataloged was that Mr. Trump “has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 67). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The morning of the first Trump briefing on August 17, he was asked on Trump-friendly Fox News whether he trusted U.S. intelligence. He replied, “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, . . . look what’s happened over the years. I mean, it’s been catastrophic. In fact, I won’t use some of the people that are standards—you know, just use them, use them, use them, very easy to use them, but I won’t use them because they’ve made such bad decisions.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 68). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The candidate started well: “I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings . . . they were terrific people.” Indeed, one of the IC participants later told me that the candidate walked into the September 7 meeting with a decidedly respectful air, the way a layman would walk into a conference of experts or specialists. But then Mr. Trump alleged that despite the great advice these professionals had given them, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.”

When pressed on how he knew that, the candidate responded, “In almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language [sic]. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump would have none of it: “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are. . . . Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rejecting a fact-based intelligence assessment—not because of compelling contrarian data, but because it was inconsistent with a preexisting worldview or because it was politically inconvenient—is the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy. And for the American intelligence community, seeing that from someone who could be president would have been very discomfiting.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The president’s charge of “political hacks” at the head of the American intelligence community was part of a broader pattern. When the institutions of the American government refuse to kowtow to the president’s transient whim, he sets out to devalue and delegitimize them in a way rarely, if ever, seen before in our history. A free (but admittedly imperfect) press is “fake news,” unless, of course, it is Fox; the FBI is in “tatters,” led by a “nut job” director and conducting a “witch hunt”; the Department of Justice, and particularly the attorney general, is weak; the intelligence community, in addition to being led by political hacks, is “Nazi”-like; the courts are manned by “so called” judges. Even the National Football League and the Boy Scouts of America have had to defend their integrity against presidential attacks designed solely to protect the president’s brand.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 208). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In early December, McMaster was again called on to defend the president, this time over his retweeting of three videos purporting to show gruesome Muslim violence against innocents that had been originally produced and captioned by a fringe anti-immigrant British group whose leader had been convicted of a Muslim hate crime. The Dutch embassy in Washington said that one of the videos showing its citizens was patently false, and British prime minister Theresa May condemned all of them, at the same time rebuking Trump for endorsing them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 213). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That was clear in February when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee approved a memo written for and signed by their chairman, Devin Nunes, charging the FBI and the Department of Justice with malpractice and politicization for using the notorious Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Most folks like me condemned the memo’s thin four pages, especially its injection of hyperpartisanship into what has historically been a matter between career intelligence or law enforcement professionals and the federal courts. The memo was also misleadingly silent with regard to other evidence presented to the FISA judge beyond the Steele dossier and was almost immediately contradicted by press reports that the judge had indeed been aware of the political motivation behind those bankrolling Steele.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 217). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A healthy skepticism teaches that theories (i.e., current truths) are only temporary tools, subject to inquiry and observation, but this is the only path to knowledge, which is—in the Nobel tradition—the only course to betterment. Hence the alarm was sounded at the beginning of the day by Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, that “knowledge and pure facts are being questioned.” Ebadi, the Iranian activist, later warned that “cruelty to man begins with cruelty to words”; she cited “Islam” as a code word for misogyny, “nationalism” for xenophobia, “globalization” for closed factories, but there could have been many other examples.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 221-222). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That theme and the apparent bottomlessness of presidential behavior were borne out two weeks later when, as much of the country was embarking for holiday destinations and the president was landing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pressed the narrative that the FBI was in “tatters,” the Russia plot was a “hoax,” and Bob Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 227). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And this president at various times has signaled his distrust, questioned the credibility, risked the capabilities, and downplayed the value of his intelligence community and, after ten months in office, when asked about vacancies in various foreign policy positions that historically have advised the White House, famously responded that this shouldn’t be a concern because “I’m the only one that matters.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 244). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coverage extends beyond an analysis of Donald Trump’s lies. Much is devoted to intelligence analysis of Russia’s (Vladimir Putin’s) grand campaign to influence the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and ultimately in support of candidate Trump. There is also coverage of fringe players who cooked up imaginative scenarios and the politicians, prior to Trump, who played into them. Famous are Jade Helm and the concoctions of Bill Binney.

Jade Helm has since become a focus of mirth here in Texas and something used to pummel Republican Governor Greg Abbott:

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

I cautioned of The Gathering Storm a few weeks ago:

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT
April 28, 2015

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

Dear General Betty:

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

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

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

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

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

Binney is a former CIA official, more lately a hair’s-on-fire conspiracy theorist for conservative outlets:

Binney is known for making the claim that the NSA collects and stores information about every U.S. communication. Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney’s view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated that the goal was to control people. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to monitor the whole population, abroad and in the U.S., which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution.

In August 2014 Binney was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine. In the open letter, the group said:

[A]ccusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

And that should be enough to get you interested in reading the book. It’s fresh, out earlier this year, and the Kindle edition is $15 ($14.99 plus tax). General Hayden is a clean writer, and the narrative flows effortlessly. His experience is deep, and this is the book shows this.

The book touches on a number of issues, but one I found to be close to me:

One evangelical leader (Reverend John Hagee, pastor of a San Antonio megachurch) labeled support for Israel “God’s foreign policy”11 and personally lobbied President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I receive Reverend Hagee’s newsletter headed Christians United for Israel (CUFI), finding time to comment on occasion:

Hagee has pointed out the correct solution was right under our noses all along. What fools we were:

On his Hagee Hotline show, Pastor Matthew Hagee told his listeners that climate change is not man made, but was foretold in the Bible as a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, according to Right Wing Watch. Hagee points out that the reports by scientists indicating the climate change can attributed to man made causes should not be believed because “in another place in scripture it says, ‘let God be true, and every man be a liar’.” Citing Matthew 25, where the Bible says that “strange weather patterns” would emerge prior to the arrival of Jesus, Hagee says we must take the word of God over men, “who are wrong, in spite of their education, in spite of their expertise, in spite of their philosophy. Whomever, and whatever, contradicts the word of God, is not correct.” Hagee goes on to explain that man should not waste time trying to “make everything as clean in the air as possible,” and that time would be better spent telling people about the return of Jesus. “The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strange weather patterns,” Ha[g]ee explained. “Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”

See? All these stupid scientists had to do was to read Matthew (no relation) 25. Actually, it is Matthew 24 that describes these events, but what’s a chapter or two among biblical scholars?

And there’s more. Use the Search box at the top of this page to read more fascinating stuff about wacked out Reverend Hagee.

Dying to Believe

Number 113 in a series

Sometimes religious belief is downright embarrassing:

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After battling for more than four years to keep a comatose daughter declared brain dead from being issued a California death certificate, Nailah Winkfield forcefully told mourners at her daughter’s funeral service Friday to stop letting doctors “pull the plug on your people.”

The San Francisco Bay Area congregation gave Winkfield a standing ovation for fighting to keep her daughter on life support and taking on the medical establishment in the brain death debate between science and religion.

Wait, there’s more:

Winkfield refused to accept the California doctors’ conclusions and took her daughter to New Jersey, a state that accommodates religions that don’t recognize brain death.

The girl was kept on life support and received nursing care until New Jersey doctors declared her dead last week, saying the 17-year-old died of excessive bleeding after an abdominal operation.

There is more that makes the story additionally interesting. The girl’s tonsillectomy was not routine:

She underwent surgery on December 9, 2013 at the Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. After the procedure to remove her tonsils, adenoids and extra sinus tissue Jahi was alert and talking to doctors and even requested a Popsicle.

The girl’s family figures that God played a hand:

“My child was never dead, she was always alive and I thank God that the state of New Jersey realized that and that’s why she has a whole other death certificate with a whole other cause of death,” said Winkfield.

I’m guessing that God was taking the day off when Winkfield’s daughter died.

The Quintessence of Dumbshitia

Number 5 in a continuing thread

There’s a load of dumb shit going around, but you already knew that. This series of posts is about dumb shit. In fact, it’s about the quintessence of dumb shit, explicitly, the quintessence of Dumbshitia, whence comes all dumb shit. This piece of dumb shit comes from Israel:

Lawmaker Yinon Azoulay (Shas) said Wednesday that Reform Jews “are not Jews” and blamed the minor quakes in the GalileeWednesday morning on the lobby to build an egalitarian prayer space in the Western Wall.

Speaking at a Knesset debate on the contested mixed-gender prayer space in the Western Wall, Azoulay said: “Today we heard there was some kind of earthquake, maybe we should do some soul-searching that this earthquake was because someone is trying to touch that which is sacred to us? Hear our pain, they are not Jews.”

Let’s hear that again: “Today we heard there was some kind of earthquake, maybe we should do some soul-searching that this earthquake was because someone is trying to touch that which is sacred to us? Hear our pain, they are not Jews.” Not Jews? He’s speaking of reform Jews here. My interpretation: he’s blaming a small earthquake on Jews he considers not to be pure Jews.

Yes you heard it. Reform Jews, whatever they are doing, may have caused an earthquake. We might  wonder how that works. We may wonder in perpetuity.

Listen, dude, earthquakes are generally caused by the unsettled interior of this planet. Masses of plasticized material churn, shifting the overlaying crust. This puts the crust into mechanical stress, and from time to time the crustal plates rupture, with adjacent plates moving with respect to each other. The energy released represents built up strain energy, and movement is sudden and often  violent. People walking around and saying stuff does not cause earthquakes.

The headline for the above news item calls Mr. Azoulay “ultra-orthodox.” I’m taking from that he must be one of those who also believe the Earth is a little over 6000 years old. In that case, any statements regarding people talking and doing minor things (no a-bomb blasts) can cause an earthquake is the quintessence of Dumbshitia.

Quiz Question

The picture says it all. What fraction of each shape is shaded? This one is on the Internet, so no fair hunting it down. Post your answer as a comment below.

Update and Solutions

I’m going to settle this week’s Quiz Question today so I can start looking for one for next week. Here are my solutions, from left to right.

This is the only one that requires some math, despite what top diagram promises. I have drawn an arrow across the width of the blue hexagon to show that it is the same width as the length of a side of the outer hexagon. It’s left to the reader to  determine that the blue hexagon is 1/3 the area of the outer hexagon.

This one is easiest of them all. Slide the blue hexagon down and to the left, where I have drawn in a red hexagon of the same size. This shows that the sides of the blue hexagon are ½ the sides of the outer hexagon, so the area of the blue hexagon is ¼ the area of the outer hexagon.

A little imagination solves the last problem. I have numbered the squares 1, 2, and 3. Now rotate square number 2 45°, and you see that square 2 is ½ the area of square 1, and square 3 is ½ the area of square 2 and therefore ¼ the area of square 1.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 227 of a series

I didn’t need to  dig into the Amazon Prime Video archives for this one. It’s a new release. From Wikipedia:

Acts of Violence is a 2018 action film starring Bruce Willis, written by Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto, and directed by Brett Donowho.

Filming began in Cleveland, Ohio in March 2017.

With a running time of 86 minutes, it was released in a limited theatrical engagement as well as on video-on-demand by Lionsgate Premiere on January 12, 2018.

Cast

Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Here’s the plot.

Deklan MacGregor is a war veteran suffering mental issues. He can’t get help from the V.A. Here he is consulting with a therapist, right before he erupts and storms out.

Meanwhile, Detective James Avery teams up with Detective Brooke Baker (n the right) as they prepare to raid a street drug distributor.

The raid goes off much as planned, except the body of a young woman is found on a bed in this den of inequity. A GPS tracker has been implanted in her wrist. Also (we learn later) the drugs involved are a cut of carfentanyl, used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants and rhinoceroses. Also, as the raid draws to a close, Detective Avery chases the operation’s honcho to the roof of the building, where there is a struggle for survival. The honcho goes over the edge and clings by his fingers. Avery tells him goodbye and watches him fall. The druggies are members of a gang headed by Max Livington. He’s a really bad dude who uses threats of violence and also murder to keep his empire in line. As a side operation, Max runs a string of sex slaves.

Back at the office Avery winds down in the manner of all hard-bitten police detectives. He empties the bottle into his coffee mug.

Meanwhile, Deklan is celebrating the impending marriage of his brother Roman to a sweet girl named Mia.

They go to separate bachelor and bachelorette parties, and while the women are celebrating Mia is confronted by one of Max’s gang. She rebuffs him and goes outside to phone Roman. A white van rolls by, and the guys working for Max scoop her up and drive off into  the night. This is not looking good.

When the brothers get an inkling that something is wrong, they spring into  action and track down Mia’s cell phone to a gang house. Deklan and Brandon are ex-military, and they are carrying their sidearms. They phone for the police, but they don’t wait. They assault the house and rescue some sex slaves. Mia is not there. They are in trouble with the police for their extra-legal action, and Deklan has a conference with Avery. The outlook is not good. Mia’s information will be entered into a database, and the attempt to locate her will be included in ongoing operations to track down all such women.

Meanwhile, Mia is having a rough time. The scenario is a direct appeal to pathos. Beautiful, helpless woman in a short cocktail dress is bound and held prisoner by a ruthless sex slave gang. Our heart goes out.

But Mia is not all that helpless. She breaks free from her bonds and gets the attention of the two who scooped her up. The two are in the midst of packaging drugs for distribution, and when they go to check out the commotion she is causing, she attacks them and runs out the door, just in time to be snagged by Max and his sidekick. Max is not pleased his two underlings have been so foolish as to violate his instructions by bringing a sex slave prospect to the drug center. He decides to have the sidekick shoot these two delinquents. Then he changes his mind. He will have the lovely Mia do it. He places the pistol in Mia’s hand and pulls the trigger, dispatching one of the pair, leaving the other with a reminder to not step out of line again.

The brothers decide the police are no help, so they arm up and prepare to take down Max’s gang on their own.

They start by ambushing four of the gang, killing three and taking the fourth prisoner. They intimidate the live one and get him to cough up Max’s full name and the location where they are holding Mia.

They raid the place, killing a number of the drug traffickers. But Mia has escaped and is fleeing across a rail yard. Again a scene of intense pathos. She hitches a ride with an elderly motorist, but the GPS tracker, by now implanted in her wrist, gives away their position, and Max’s men track them down and kill the driver, taking Mia prisoner and preparing to ship her off to Las Vegas, along with the rest of Max’s product, which is what he calls his sex slaves.

Max has previously cut a deal with the powers. They will let him slide in return for rolling on his mob. This latest bit by the vets appears to Max to be unfair play, and he orders retribution on any and all who have been messing with his operation.

The brothers, released by Avery, are given 24 hours to finish their business with Max before the police haul them in for disturbing the peace. They assault Max’s preparations to relocate, using sniper fire to suppress resistance while two of the brothers move in close with automatic weapons. They rescue Mia, but Max retaliates. When the brothers return to Brandon’s house, the gang has already come and gone. They have ransacked the house leaving Brandon’s wife Jessa dead.

In mourning, Mia and the brothers wait for the police to come. Max and his gang come first, headlights shining in through the window. A hail of automatic weapon fire disrupts the peace, and the brothers scramble to defend the house. They prevail in the end, with Mia contributing some deadly fire power. But Brandon is now dead, and Max has escaped, wounded. The police arrive and clean up  the mess, hauling the brothers off.

In true Dirty Harry manner, Detective Avery slams his badge down on his boss’s desk and walks out. He goes to where Max is trying to recoup his shattered empire, and he does not waste words. He stitches Max with a few rounds from  his sidearm.

Later we see the surviving brothers and Mia enjoying a gathering in the back yard with Mia and Roman’s new baby.

Yes, this is the cookbook vigilante action film, possibly traceable back to  Billy Jack. There is also a whiff of Dirty Harry and Death Wish. Combat veteran, psychically damaged, comes home after dealing with the bad guys only to discover the bad buys are also back home. And the cops, hands tied by protocol and bureaucracy, are woefully ineffectual. It’s time for the real action heroes to suit up and set matters right. Little is believable.

The police are going to let Max walk in return for rolling on his organization? It’s something that exists in the minds of imaginative screen  writers. The military vets are going to use their combat experience to take down a street gang in a frontal assault? The supposedly conflict-wise warriors go off to battle without first protecting the home front? Following one home defeat, the murder of Jessa MacGregor, they sit around and wait for the inevitable retaliation from Max’s gang. Max, cool street fighter that he is, figures the best way to take on a trio of combatants is to stand at the curbside and spray the house with automatic weapons fire. Despite having the advantage of firepower, numbers, and initially surprise, Max’s hardened fighters are defeated utterly, all killed, except Max. Again, according to the movie script cookbook, the sole survivors are the two top antagonists. Avery tracks Max down for a final duel, which in this case is a variation on Dirty Harry. Max is unarmed, but that counts for nothing, and there is no taunting, and there is no final grapple for supremacy, Avery executes Max with an absence of drama. What a surprise ending!

Bruce Willis previously appeared in RED, since reviewed. I have also reviewed Fire with Fire. I have a hankering to review some of the Die Hard movies, and I will if they ever pop up on Amazon or Hulu.

Schlemiel-in-Chief

Number 34 in a series

I’m starting to feel safer already.

Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!

That was posted four days ago by our very own Schlemiel-in-Chief. It’s amazing what can change in such a short time:

North Korea calls talks with Pompeo “regrettable” after he said “progress” was made

Last Updated Jul 7, 2018 9:05 AM EDT

TOKYO, Japan — In a face-to-face visit with hopes of putting meat on the bones after the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent two days in North Korea this week negotiating with counterparts. In a first, he even spent a night in a guesthouse belonging to the regime in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.

Later on Saturday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called talks with Pompeo “regrettable.” A statement by an unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the U.S. betrayed the spirit of the summit by making unilateral demands on the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the country, The Associated Press reported.

Pompeo did not meet with Kim Jong Un while in North Korea or walk away with any significant developments on moving closer to its denuclearization. The trip was Pompeo’s third to North Korea this year, and it marked the first time he did not meet with the leader.

Wait. Wait! You didn’t really expect anything substantive would come of the SiC’s much ballyhooed summit with the short one, did you? You did? Oh, Jesus! You fell for the same line the DPRK has been handing out for 65 years.

I obtained impressions of negotiating with the North Koreans from this old war movie. Pork Chop Hill, starring Gregory Peck, came out yearly 60 years ago. The above clip from the movie illustrates the approach of the Chinese (not the DPRK) negotiator. He is disdainful of the U.N. (American) desire to come to a reasonable settlement and end further loss of life. The Chinese and the DPRK have a single goal, and saving lives is not it.

Our own SiC gives the appearance of the U.N. negotiators in the movie—short-sighted and naive to the core. For the time being the SiC has his like-minded base basking in his worldly success, ephemeral for the moment, unlikely to be fulfilled.

This is your President speaking.

Number 124

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Thanks to REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP, America is WINNING AGAIN – and America is being RESPECTED again all over the world. Because we are finally putting AMERICA FIRST!

Gee, but it’s great to be respected again.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Supposedly these are actual notes doctors have made on patients’ charts.

Patient has chest pains if she lies on her left side for over a year.

On the 2nd day the knee was better, and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely.

She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993.

The patient is fearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

The patient refused an autopsy.

The patient has no past history of suicides.

Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

She is numb from her toes down.

While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated, and sent home.

She stated she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.

Patient has two teenage children and no other abnormalities.

The Government You Paid For

Number 38 of a Series

President Trump’s EPA director Scott Pruitt is gone, not fired, but by his own hand. Which says something. The president did not fire Director Pruitt over his massive abuse of his government office, given that he had ample cause to do so. Mr. Pruitt, almost from the time he lowered his hand after being sworn in, commenced to use that hand to dip into the government till. From what we see, when the hand wasn’t so engaged, his voice and the power of his office were invoked to misdirect his government staff, people paid by the American public.

Scott Pruitt was not fired for having EPA staff misreport his official calendar, which often included meetings with industry lobbyists seeking favors from the government. Neither did the president fire his EPA director for using the power of that office against the interests of the American public. And there is a reason for that. The reason President Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to the post was for the very purpose of working against the interest of the public and for the interest of those who helped promote Donald Trump to the presidency. Some excerpts, courtesy of The New York Times:

1. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.E.P.A. | Read more

2. Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters.E.P.A. | Read more

9. Drafted changes to fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks made between 2020 and 2025 that would have reduced tailpipe emissions.E.P.A. and Transportation Department | Read more

13. Changed rules for oil and gas facilities to allow methane leaks to go unrepaired during unscheduled or emergency shutdowns, and proposed withdrawing guidlines that reduce emissions from existing sources.E.P.A. | Read more

15. Proposed repealing emissions standards for trailers and “glider kits” in response to petitions from the glider industry. (Gliders are trucks retrofitted with older, often dirtier engines.)E.P.A. | Read more

18. Proposed amendments to rules, developed after a 2014 consent decree, governing how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities.E.P.A. | Read more

19. Lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands.Executive Order; Interior Department | Read more

21. Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource management changes to several more.Presidential Proclamation; Interior Department | Read more

23. Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.Interior Department | Read more

24. Repealed an Obama-era rule governing royalties for oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands, which replaced a 1980s rule that critics said allowed companies to underpay the federal government.Interior Department | Read more

30. Opened up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In April 2018, the Interior Department announced it was taking steps to prepare for a lease sale in the refuge.Congress; Interior Department | Read more

33. Recommended shrinking or opening to commercial fishing three marine protected areas.Executive Order; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Read more

36. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The standards required building on higher elevation in order to reduce risk of damage from sea-level rise and other climate change effects.Executive Order | Read more

43. Restricted Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing the need to reduce paperwork.Interior Department | Read more

45. Eliminated the use of an Obama-era planning system designed to minimize harm of oil and gas activity on sensitive landscapes, such as national parks.Interior Department | Read more

49. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges.Congress | Read more

51. Removed a number of species from the endangered list (including the Yellowstone grizzly bear, which the Obama and George W. Bush administrations had also proposed removing).Interior Department | Read more

56. Released a plan that weakens greater sage grouse habitat protections by allowing oil and gas drilling on lands previously set aside for the bird’s protection.Interior Department | Read more

58. Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals, like dry-cleaning solvents and paint strippers. The E.P.A. will focus on direct exposure and exclude air, water and ground contamination.E.P.A. | Read more

60. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids, like oil and ethanol.Transportation Department | Read more

64. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams.Congress | Read more

66. Revoked federal rules regulating coal ash waste from power plants and granted oversight to the states. Mr. Pruitt’s home state, Oklahoma, was the first to be granted this power and has applied the regulations only loosely.E.P.A. | Read more

68. Delayed by two years an E.P.A. rule regulating limits on toxic discharge, which can include mercury, from power plants into public waterways.E.P.A. | Read more

69. Proposed new rule rolling back groundwater protections for certain uranium mines.E.P.A. | Read more

In all The New York Times listed 69 significant changes to environmental regulations proposed or implemented by Director Pruitt. These regulations were put in place to protect the American public and to protect commonly-held property. Reversal of these regulations has the effect of diminishing the safety of the population or else serves to benefit profitability of industrial concerns, said businesses being major contributors to the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.

I have talked to people who would defend the actions of former Director Pruitt and the current president on the basis that what is good for business is good for the people.

To be sure, businesses need to operate, and they need to make a profit. Ensuring protection of our environment and protection of the public health will put some kinds of operations out of business, at the least these businesses will become unable to compete. In no instances, however, did the listed regulations endanger the national economy or put the security of the nation at risk. Details on request.

For many of those who voted for candidate Trump, they are getting the government they paid for. For those who opposed the candidate before and do to this day, they are getting the same government. It may not be the government they want, but by the mechanism we select our leaders, it is the government they paid for.

People Unclear

This is number 45 of a series

I post this series for the benefit of those who continue to remain unclear on some essentials. One of those might be former EPA Director Scott Pruitt:

“It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring,” Pruitt wrote. “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

Allow me to emphasize: “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.” No shit! Dude, have you no clue?

Where have you been the past 15 months? Allow me to refresh, starting here:

Anyhow, we are done with that.

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday in what turned out to be a daylong grilling over allegations of ethical infractions and lavish spending.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when it installed a soundproof phone booth for the administrator, Scott Pruitt, at a cost of roughly $43,000, a congressional watchdog agency ruled on Monday.

An email that suggests Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruittpersonally signed off on a controversial pay raise for a favored aide last month is roiling the agency.

A Lobbyist Helped Scott Pruitt Plan a Morocco Trip. Then Morocco Hired the Lobbyist.

Re-emphasizing:

It seems like only last month I was discussing Scott Pruitt, the person picked by President Trump to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Actually, it was last month. That item highlighted that Mr. Pruitt has been  working to ensure we are getting the government we are paying for. Actually it has been more like ensuring we are paying for the government we are getting.

Scott Pruitt, now heading up the Environmental Protection Agency, celebrates the exuberance of government employment by accumulating a history of lavish travel. Last June travel expenses for him and his entourage recorded $90,000 in expenses, and that included first class travel from Washington to New York. Yesterday he was observed flying first class from Washington to Boston, apparently on the government nickel.

And that was the end of that. Only kidding. There’s more.

Let’s see if there is more. Yes, there is:

Scott Pruitt, now heading up the Environmental Protection Agency, celebrates the exuberance of government employment by accumulating a history of lavish travel. Last June travel expenses for him and his entourage recorded $90,000 in expenses, and that included first class travel from Washington to New York. Yesterday he was observed flying first class from Washington to Boston, apparently on the government nickel.

I apologize, but there is insufficient space to display the depth of Mr. Pruitt’s malfeasance. Will Bunch has made a go at it:

CNN scrolling a list of Scott Pruitt scandals and it’s like that SNL running joke of corrections on “Fox and Friends”

Mr. Pruitt, after all this, do you remain unclear? If so, help is available. Come see me.

In the meantime, good luck. And the horse your rode in on.