Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 23 of a continuing series

I previously posted an item detailing what people of faith hold dear, all credited to their favorite president, Donald J. Trump. According to President Trump’s press secretary, the deeply-religious Sarah Huckabee Sanders, people of faith are fans of all kinds of malodorous conduct. Lying seems to be conduct they are most comfortable with.

Now we right wing religious fanatic Franklin Graham telling us it is not necessary for people of faith to sanction lying in their support for President Trump, and that is because the president does no such thing. No such thing, that is, that the Reverend Graham is aware of. My guess is that Reverend Graham has just returned from the back side of the moon and has missed a boat load of what the president has been dishing out these past two years. The Friendly Atheist has the story:

Franklin Graham Refuses to Acknowledge Any of Donald Trump’s 8,158 Lies (So Far)


 JANUARY 30, 2019

MELVIN: But you can acknowledge that the president has said things that are not true?

GRAHAMI don’t think the president is sitting there, behind the desk, trying to make up lies. I don’t believe that for a second. Has he misspoken on something? Sure. All of us do that. You do it and I do it. And sometimes we get the facts wrong and we say something that later on we realize, we could’ve said it better, or it was misrepresented. And so, uh, I think the president is trying to do the best that he can under very difficult circumstances.

There is more. Read the entire article. From other sources:

I have to stop there. That’s January of this year. The PolitiFact listing goes back years. Any sentient carbon life form cannot escape that our president is a congenital liar, and Reverend Franklin Graham cannot see that?

There is an obvious explanation for Graham’s inability to see, and that explanation is that he can see, but he denies what he sees. The obvious conclusion is that Franklin Graham is, himself, a congenital liar.

The Government You Paid For

Number 56 of a Series

Jesus Christ! Now I know for sure we are getting the government we paid for. Want evidence? Here it is, brother, here it is:

Sarah Sanders: God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’

(CNN) — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she believes God wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported on Wednesday.

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there,” Sanders told CBN’s David Brody and Jennifer Wishon, according to a transcript of the interview provided by CBN.

“I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about,” Sanders added.

On the surface this may appear to reveal how Donald Trump managed to become president. A deeper understanding is this shows what people of faith really care about. For that point I will provide additional clarification:

If there is one thing we have gained from the election of Donald Trump it is that we now know what people of faith care about.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 149

I am assured by many that the right to keep and bear arms is what is keeping us safe. How is that working out?

Chief: Davis officer was ambushed when she was killed

New details are coming to light in the shooting death of a Davis police officer and an hourslong manhunt for the suspect.

Officer Natalie Corona was ambushed Thursday night while responding to a three-vehicle crash, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said.

“He came from the side,” Pytel said. “Based on how dark it was, we’re speculating she never even saw him.”

The suspect was found dead in a downtown Davis home with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I’m feeling safer already.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

If you arrived at this review by way if my Facebook feed, then you need to click the link above to get last week;s review. The reason I did not link to True Confessions on Facebook is because Facebook insisted on selecting an NSFW image. Enjoy.

This Wednesday’s movie comes by way of a different route—it’s not streaming on one of my Internet services. I recorded it a few years ago from Turner Classic Movies, and I feel the need to feature it now, because its 70th anniversary is drawing nigh, and the anniversary of the events has arrived. From 1950 it’s The Big Lift, a story based on the Berlin Airlift at the onset of the Cold War. Some history is necessary.

After French and British forces in Europe were defeated by the invading German army in 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill refused Adolf Hitler’s demands for a cessation of hostilities. Hitler began to make plans for the invasion of the British Isles, and the Battle of Britain began—an air war. German planes began to bomb British airbases, and the inadvertent bombing of London initiated retaliation by the British on Berlin. The bombing of the German capital by allied forces continued up to the Russian assault on the city in 1945. The Russian battle to defeat Berlin’s defenses completed the almost total destruction of the city. Berlin had a population of 4.3 million at the start of the war in 1939. At the cessation of hostilities the population was 2.8 million, and that increased to over 3.1 million by 1947 due to the influx of returning civilians. And that was the setting at the time of the events in this movie.

The Wikipedia entry for this film states that all remote scenes were filmed in occupied Berlin, including in all four of the zones of occupation. All American soldiers appearing in the movie are active duty personnel, except for lead actors Montgomery Clift as T/Sgt. Danny MacCullough and Paul Douglas as M/Sgt. Hank Kowalski. Details are from Wikipedia.

Following their victory over Nazi Germany in May 1945, the four conquering powers, France, Great Britain, the USA, and the USSR, divided the country into four zones of occupation. Separately Berlin was, itself, divided into four zones. The city was entirely within the Soviet zone of occupation. Shortly the alliance with the Soviet Union broke down, as Stalin made increasingly overbearing demands, initiating the Cold War. The first crisis of the Cold War came in 1948, when the Soviets, seeking to wrest control. blockaded highways, railways, and canals connecting Berlin to the other zones of occupation, leaving the Soviet-occupied zone as the only source of supply for the city. The plan was obviously to starve the city into submission and to take complete control. Here we see a (possibly dramatized) barrier being lowered over a road, blocking a supply truck into the Soviet zone.

American response was immediate. We next see American armed forces personnel at movies, parties, and elsewhere being interrupted by orders to report immediately. They are briefed on the operation to supply Berlin by air, the only channel the Soviets failed to block.

Air crews begin to arrive for duty.

In Berlin Sergeant MacCullough participates in a staged presentation as the first supply planes land. He is presented with a loving thank you from Frau Frederica Burkhardt (Cornell Borchers), a war widow. She is delicious.

Sergeant MacCullough participates in other staged displays of friendship between the Americans and the German civilians. It was important to win the hearts and minds of people who might want to accept Soviet rule.

But MacCullough is intrigued by the comely Frau Burkhardt, and he goes searching. He finds her at working loading debris into a bin. All between 18 and 55 are required to work on the reconstruction. In an early communique after Germany’s defeat General Dwight Eisenhower told the Germans they had created this situation, and Americans would not help them to clean it up.

It is likely this is actual footage of Germans working to clear the rubble. Americans came to admire their defeated enemy. Of all the ravaged countries in Europe, the Germans seemed most eager to get to it and to clean up the mess they had brought on themselves.

Romance develops.

I saw this in my home town movie theater when it first came out, and two scenes stuck in my mind during the past 69 years. One is this. There was food and other stuff to be had in the American sector. People would travel from the Soviet sector and bring back daily necessities and some treasures, one being coffee. The Soviets objected to this, and they confiscated this contraband when they could. MacCullough and Frau Burkhardt are traveling on the subway into the Soviet zone, where she lives. At the border the train stops while East German soldiers search for contraband. The woman on the left has a packet of coffee, which she intends to exchange for coal when she gets home. The “fat” man on the right advises her to hide it in her hat, and she does. But when the soldiers come, they can smell coffee, and they demand to know who has the coffee. The fat man tells them the woman has it, and the soldiers seize it, and they leave. The others are totally pissed at the fat man, but after the soldiers leave he reveals his own stash, which the soldiers would have found if he had not given up the woman’s coffee. He shares his largess with the others.

The other scene that stuck with me is this. Sergeant Kowalski was a prisoner of the Germans during the war, and he spies his former guard and corners him on a lonely street. He recalls how the guard used to give him German lessons, using the butt of his rifle to discipline Kowalski when he was too slow to learn. Now Kowalski turns the tables on the German, who is not allowed to fight back.

All this does not go well with the authorities, however, and there is a mad scene as Kowalski’s friends help him elude the police.

There is also the debacle involving Frau Burkhardt over which sector she is in and in which sector she belongs. There is a tussle at a place where an imaginary line on the ground demarks the boundary.

The romance with Frau Burkhardt falls apart spectacularly. She has been coaxing MacCullough to marry her and to take her to the United States.. But she has an ongoing liaison with another American soldier, now repatriated. Her plan was to marry MacCullough and then divorce him once she got to America. And that’s the end of the story.

There were three air routes into Berlin, and the airlift kept all of them busy to the extent possible. A continuous train of cargo flights followed each route into the city, leaving no room for mistakes. If a plane missed its landing it had to fly back with its load and get back into line.

Immediately after the Soviets lifted the blockade, Allied forces started running trucks into Berlin by way of the Autoban. In the meantime Seventeen American and eight British aircraft was lost, with 101 crew casualties, mostly due to non-flying incidents.

In 1961 the East German government erected a wall to separate their sector (inherited from the Soviets). That wall came down in 1989, and the divided German state was made whole again.

Abusing Science

Number 9 of a series

Creationist David Shormann testifies at the textbook hearings, Austin 17 September 2018

This has some history. Years ago, before Facebook, I was having a discussion on an Internet group. The matter of John Templeton came up, and I responded that he was a creationist. Why did I say that, I was asked. Because his foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, contributed money to the Discovery Institute (DI), the primary group supporting creationism, particularly Intelligent Design (ID), in this country. And that was that.

Except Templeton has since died, but his foundation continues to fund efforts to reconcile science with religion. Another regression: I am auditing a college course on philosophy of atheism, and some of the assigned reading is related:

As the Templeton-prize-winning physicist Paul Davies points out at the end of his book The Goldilocks Enigma, even putting aside all the other difficulties:

The other main problem with intelligent design is that identity of the designer need bear no relation at all to the God of traditional monotheism. The ‘designing agency’ can be a committee of gods, for example. The designer can be a natural being or beings, such as an evolved super-mind or super-civilization existing in a previous universe, or in another section of our universe, which made our universe using super-technology. The designer can also be some sort of superdupercomputer simulating this universe. So invoking a super-intellect… is fraught with problems.

Law, Stephen. Humanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. 47). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Yeah, Templeton continues to haunt me from the grave. What the Templeton Foundation does, in part, is to fund research into whether religious faith can be reconciled with modern science.

On that we pause again:

Is the Government Buying Science or Support? A Framework Analysis of Federal Funding-induced Biases

The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for doing research on the problem of bias in science, especially bias induced by Federal funding of research. In recent years the issue of bias in science has come under increasing scrutiny, including within the scientific community. Much of this scrutiny is focused on the potential for bias induced by the commercial funding of research. However, relatively little attention has been given to the potential role of Federal funding in fostering bias. The research question is clear: does biased funding skew research in a preferred direction, one that supports an agency mission, policy or paradigm?

That’s from the Cato Institute, a libertarian entity that opposed to scientific findings that would lead to the need for corrective government action. Libertarians want less government, but biological science is not one of their prime targets.

So, there is this accusation that scientists do research and produce fundings that favor their sponsors—particularly government sponsors. Take another look. If you want to see publication bias, consider funding that asks researchers to search for (confirm?) a religious-based interpretation of evolution, particularly human evolution. Anything that leaves room for a biblical narrative.

Re-enter the Discovery Institute. From their Evolution News site:

Intelligent Design Aside, from Templeton Foundation to the Royal Society, Darwinism Is Under Siege

Don’t let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn’t in serious turmoil. Science Magazine announces an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink.” I’m trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a “gravity rethink,” or a “heliocentrism rethink.” The gist of it:

For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture — for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can’t fully explain it — play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.

It took some searching. The email from Discovery Institute showed up on my Facebook feed a day or two ago, but the link is to an item published on Evolution News 22 April 2016. Full disclosure: I belong to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (AAAS), which publishes Science Magazine, and I dug into their on-line back issues to find the referenced article. It’s on pages 394-395 of the 22 April 2016 issue. Obviously David Klinghoffer was quick off the mark to post his response. Here is somebody who doesn’t allow grass to grow under his feet.

I blinked hard a few times, but I was never able to figure out why Klinghoffer did not provide a complete citation to the Science article, but I consider the possibility he wanted to give me a workout to keep me occupied during my retirement. Anyhow, I snapshotted the article and saved the text, which I am posting along with a link. Read for yourself to get the complete story.

Significant in the Science article are references to research into ways traits are acquired by organisms. The lead photo above shows creationist David Shormann testifying at the school book hearings in Austin six years ago. Shormann markets a line of educational materials for home-schooling, and he operates a religious school in the Houston area. The desire to protect children from secular influences is a prime motivator for home-schooling in this country.

Anyhow, in his testimony before the board, Shormann emphasized the matter of epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”) in epigenetics implies features that are “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. Epigenetics most often denotes changes that affect gene activity and expression, but can also be used to describe any heritable phenotypic change. Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmental factors, or be part of normal developmental program. The standard definition of epigenetics requires these alterations to be heritable, either in the progeny of cells or of organisms.

He contended that his school curriculum includes epigenetics, while the text books being proposed for adoption at the time did not. For this reason he recommended that none of the proposed biology books be adopted. From the Science article:

Advocates stress that animals, plants, and even microbes modify their environments, exhibit plasticity in their physical traits, and behave differently depending on the conditions they face. Chemical modifications of the DNA that affect gene activity—so-called epigenetic changes—seem to explain some of this flexibility. These and other factors suggest to some biologists that an organism’s development is not simply programmed by the genetic sequences it inherits. For them, such plasticity implies that parents can influence offspring not just through their DNA but by passing on the microorganisms they host or by transmitting epigenetic marks to subsequent generations. “Innovation may be a developmental response that becomes stabilized through genetic changes;’ explains Armin Moczek, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Indiana University, Bloomington. [emphasis added]

Obviously Charles Darwin knew nothing about epigenetics, nor even genetics, but creationists of all stripes continue to attack the Darwinian construct with the idea that bringing down modern science will leave the religiously-inclined gazing more toward the God of Abraham. It’s classic abuse of science. Please read the entire Klinghoffer post. I will allow him to have the last word, since it reinforces my view of what is going on here:

ID, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it’s only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution’s smug cultists are in denial about that, but it’s true.

Quiz Question

Number 188 of a series

Suppose you have a bar of metal, and you know it weighs more than 15 pound and less than 20 pounds. You have three scales (see above), and each has a maximum capacity of 5 pounds. Can you weigh the bar using the three scales? Hint: you can’t cut the bar into pieces.

Post your answer in the comments section below.

Update and Solution

Greg has already provided a workable solution. See the comment below. Here is mine. See the diagram.

The rules don’t say anything about employing extra equipment, so I have added a support block on the left and two wedge-shaped bars. I line the three scales one behind the other on the right and bridge them with a wedge. I place the other wedge on the support and lay the bar to be weighed as shown. Make sure the same amount of the bar overlaps on each end, and now the three scales support half the weight of the bar. Add the readings of the three scales to get half the weight of the bar. Account for the extra weight of the wedge.

If the bar is not uniform in thickness, then reverse the bar and do a second weighing. Sum all six scale measurements, accounting for the weight of the wedge, to get the weight of the bar.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 256 of a series

This one has been around longer than my oldest daughter, and I have always known about it, but this is the first I ever watched it. It’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from 1971 out of Paramount Pictures. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

And, despite its grand production and featuring Gene Wilder in the title role, it actually is a bad movie. The plot is ruinous, making little sense, even if you are into wild flights of fancy.

But first, the central theme is candy, and I almost got diabetes watching the opening sequence. It shows chocolate and chocolate candy being made. The background for the title is a river of chocolate.

Cocoa beans flowing from burlap bags into a grinder, powered cocoa tumbling into a mixer, and folds of chocolate forming an endless stream. All manner of chocolate candy being produced and packaged.

There is an elementary school somewhere in England, and when class lets out all the kids dash out and stampede down the street to the candy store. Here we watch candy store owner Bill (Aubrey Woods) perform the film’s signature number “The Candy Man” as he sashays around the shop, flinging candy here and about, watching the kids scramble for the sweet stuff.

And here is the first hitch in the plot. The kids went in to purchase candy, and Bill is throwing it around. Who’s going to pay for candy when they can just pick it up off the floor?

One who does not patronize the candy store this day is impoverished paper boy Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). He runs his delivery route, collects his measly payment, and then goes home to his widowed mother and his four mooching grandparents, who spend all day in bed while Charlie and his mother tend to them.

But the Wonka candy factory in town is a source of great mystery. Owner Willy Wonka years ago shuttered the premises, allowing nobody in and nobody out. Candy still flows from the factory, but how it operates, nobody knows.

Flash news! Willy Wonka is offering the prize of a lifetime of chocolate to those who find one of five golden tickets wrapped up with a Wonka Bar.

Sales, to use a tired expression, go through the roof. Everybody wants one of the golden tickets. We see the five winners in turn. They are all shown as absolutely worthless individuals, including the supremely self-possessed Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole). Her father is fabulously wealthy, and he hires a legion of repressed child workers to open thousands of Wonka bars, looking for a golden ticket. One day a ticket is found, as Veruca knows to be her right.

Days pass and four more tickets are discovered by equally worthless individuals, the fifth by a Paraguayan millionaire. “As each winner is announced on TV, a man whispers to them.” He tells them he represents a rival candy company, and he offers each to sell him an Everlasting Gobstopper from the factory. It’s Wonka’s supreme invention.

Charlie’s hopes of finding the last ticket are dashed. But then the news announces the millionaire’s ticket is a forgery, and the fifth ticket is still out there. Charlie does not know this yet when he finds some money in a drain. He purchases a Wanka Bar with the money and finds the golden ticket. The deadline for turning in golden tickets is the following day, and Charlie and his grandfather show up with a horde of people at the Wanka factory gate, waiting for the appearance of the mysterious Willy Wonka.

He appears.

He invites in the five winners. All are children accompanied by a relative. Wonka requires they all sign a cryptic waiver before they can proceed, and then he leads them on a tour of his candy land.

One by one, winners are eliminated by means of tricks devised by Wonka. The gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) and his mother are the first to go. Against all instruction and advice, he attempts to drink from the river of liquid chocolate, and he falls in, disappearing into the drain and never to be seen again. His mother follows.

We see the secret of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: an army of imported midgets, Oompa-Loompas.

After all but Charlie and his grandfather are eliminated, Willy Wonka announces Charlie will not get the prize, after all. He has violated an obscure provision hidden in the fine print of the waiver he signed. They are told to leave immediately by the door.

Before they leave, Charlie hands back the Everlasting Gobstopper he has. And that is what the whole thing is about.

This has been a ruse by Willy Wonka to discover somebody deserving of taking over the factory as he retires. Charlie wins the prize, but it’s not a lifetime of chocolate, it’s the entire factory. And that’s the end of the movie.

Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The movie is based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Dahl quickly disavowed the film version of his book. A new version of the film was released in 2005.

After portraying Charlie in the film, Peter Ostrum, from Dallas, Texxas,  elected not to pursue an acting career. Back home after the filming, he became interested in a family horse, and eventually launched onto his career as a veterinarian.

You can watch Aubrey Woods perform “The Candy Man” on YouTube.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a series

So I was sitting here at my computer trying to think up a new Bad Joke of the Week. Then my phone rang. It’s the kind of thing that pisses me off, because people are not supposed to be calling me when I am trying to be creative. I looked at the display, and it wasn’t any number I recognized, but I answered it anyhow.

“Let me speak to Bill Sweeney, please.”

I needed to get back to work, so I was short. “Sorry, pal. You have the wrong number.”

I was trying to remember where I was at coming up with a new joke. Then the phone rang again.

“Bill Sweeney?”

“No, this isn’t Bill Sweeney. I don’t know anybody by that name.” Then I hung up.

Where was I? Then the phone rang again.

“Hi. Let me speak to Bill”

“Bill Sweeney does not live here. I don’t know anybody named Bill Sweeney.” I savagely punched the “on hook” button.

Things were starting to settle down. Then the phone rang again.

“Yes!” I practically shouted into the phone. “What do you want?”

“This is Bill Sweeney. Have there been any calls for me?”

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 148

Yeah, I’m going to keep posting these. From Eugene, Oregon:

Custody dispute, police shooting outside Eugene middle school leaves one dead

EUGENE, Oregon — A man being escorted out of Cascade Middle School following a custodial dispute was shot and killed by police when he pulled out a gun during a struggle Friday morning, Eugene police said.

The school was placed into lockout for most of the day. All students, staff and officers were safe and unharmed, police said.

Remember, people, the Second Amendment ensures your right to possess a handgun to protect yourself from an overbearing government. Now there is one fewer of you.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Patience has its rewards. Amazon Prime Video is streaming this, giving me a second look at it in decades. But first some background:

True Confessions is a confession magazine targeted at young women readers. It was originally published by Fawcett Publications, beginning in 1922.

I recall reading articles back when I lived with my parents in Granbury, and it didn’t take me long to realize that the “confessions” were not actually true. They were made up stories by professional writers, but written in the manner of somebody confessing to past transgressions, consistently salacious. And that was the inspiration for this movie, True Confessions,

True Confessions is a 1981 crime film directed by Ulu Grosbard and starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall as the brothers Spellacy, a priest and police detective. Produced by Chartoff-Winkler Productions, it is adapted from the novel of the same name by John Gregory Dunne, loosely based on the Black Dahlia murder case of 1947. Dunne wrote the screenplay with his wife, novelist Joan Didion.

What gets this to the title is the involvement of a Catholic priest who hears episodic “confessions” throughout the plot. This came out in 1981, and it features brothers Msgr. Desmond Spellacy (Robert De Niro) and LAPD Tom Spellacy (Robert Duvall). Details are from Wikipedia.

This is a low key police procedural with emphasis placed on the interaction between the two brothers and how this rolls out in an atmosphere of church politics and a high-flying gangster. The opening scene shows Detective Tom Spellacy driving through the Mojave Desert, and we know the date is in the early 1960s, because Tom is listening to the car radio, and the news announcer is talking about President Kennedy planning to fly back to Washington.

Tom arrives at a desolate parish church where his brother is the priest. They have not spoken for some time, and the bad news is that Desmond is dying. How Father Desmond came to be here is the subject of the story.

Time shifts back to just after WWII in Los Angeles, and Tom arrives at a scene requiring investigating. His 1940s car is overheating, and he raises the hood to allow the radiator to boil over. People who did not live in this time may need to be reminded that following December 7, 1941 the government took over the American automobile industry, and no personal vehicles were produced again until 1945. Tom does not have one of these.

Tom and his partner, Detective Frank Crotty (Kenneth McMillan), walk up a few flights to where a parish priest has died in bed with a prostitute. They know him.

The madame is Brenda (Rose Gregorio). She called the police in to help keep the story about the priest quiet. Tom also forces the prostitute to hand back money she took from the priest’s wallet. Brenda and Tom have some history. They previously handled payoffs from gangster Jack Amsterdam (Charles Durning). When the jig was crashed, Brenda took the fall and did time, while Tom stayed free and went straight(er).

Now Jack is dying, and, seeking absolution, he is generous toward the church. Here he is dancing an Irish gig at a wedding. They’re all Irish here.

Inspired by the Black Dahlia case from 1947, a woman, likely a prostitute, is found murdered. Her body was cut in two and dumped in a vacant lot. Tom zeros in on the case while others in position attempt to get him to let it slide. Tom suspects corruption.

Meanwhile, Jack Amsterdam’s largess is roiling the diocese. Burgess Meredith  is Monsignor Fargo, nominally in charge of building projects. Money is flowing in from criminal sources, and he is noticing shortages on the projects. The Cardinal (Cyril Cusack) wants Fargo banished to a desert parish, and he orders Desmond to do it.

Tom becomes incensed at the coddling being lavished on Amsterdam, and he crashes a lunch between Desmond and Amsterdam. An iconic quote comes from this scene, where Amsterdam asks whether he and Tom ever met previously, and Tom reminds him that he was once his bag man when he was running prostitutes.

The two detectives watch a stag film (porn) that involved the dead woman. Tom identifies one of the other prostitutes in the film as the one that was in bed when the priest died.

The two brother visit their mother in a nursing home.

The church awards Jack Amsterdam “Layman of the Year” and adorn him with a red sash. Tom is present at the festivities, and he is galled at the hypocrisy. He attacks Amsterdam and rips of the red sash, cursing Amsterdam and calling out his criminal past. He suspects Amsterdam’s complicity in the murder.

Following the trail of the porn film, Tom identifies the man who made the film. That man is now dead, but the trail leads to an abandoned military base. Investigation leads to discovery of a make shift film studio and a bloody murder scene. Tom suspects the film producer murdered the woman on orders from Amsterdam, who then had the man killed.

But it becomes known that Monsignor Desmond and a prominent politician gave the dead woman a ride when she was hitch-hiking, and the politician had an extended sexual liaison with her before Amsterdam took charge. The monsignor’s downfall is depicted as newsmen question him about his relationship with the dead woman.

It’s back to 1963 again, and ‘Desmond tells his brother his heart is giving out, and he has less than a year to live.

The thing that strikes me is this is Los Angeles and not Boston, and all the church people are Irish and not Hispanic. And Monsignor Desmond is played by Robert DeNero, who I always figured to be Italian, but who cracks Irish jokes with a brogue in the movie. But careful reading reveals that DeNero’s (di Nero) mother was Irish.

Robert Duvall first caught our attention as autistic “Boo” Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Abusing Science

Number 8 of a series

Where mistrust of science can be used for political advantage, it will be employed. Such is the case with the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The 18 January issue of Science has the story of how fear and mistrust are employed in an area of strife following a disputed election:

The Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is providing a natural experiment in fighting fake news. Occurring in a conflict zone, amid a controversial presidential election, the epidemic has proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories and political manipulation, which can hamper efforts to treat patients and fight the virus’s spread. Public health workers have mounted an unprecedented effort to counter misinformation, saying the success or failure of the Ebola response may pivot on who controls the narrative.

I can’t say it is heartening to learn the United States has no lock on the “fake news” offense. This scurrilous approach can be effective and deadly:

That’s even more true in the DRC now. In September 2018, an opposition politician, Crispin Mbindule Mitono, claimed on local radio that a government lab had manufactured the Ebola virus “to exterminate the population of Beni,” a city that was one of the earliest foci of the outbreak. Another rumor has it that the Merck vaccine renders its recipients sterile. On 26 December, the national election commission decided to exclude Beni and Butembo from the polls because of the epidemic; the following day, an Ebola evaluation center was attacked during protests.

The European-American axis has its parallel with the anti vaccination campaign and in the workings of people such as Andrew Wakefield.

Quick History Lesson

Number 7 in a series

I first posted on this topic in 2013, and it has received a load of response. Apologies all around, but I am more interested in the negative responses than the positive ones. They are telling. Here is a comment yesterday from Robert.

It’s a shame that you refuse to see the truth.
If you just look at our country and all the cities that have been under Democrat’s control for years have high crime rates and poor people waiting to see what’s next on the welfare line.
Generational welfare and the sad fact that you don’t see Rev Al or Jackson or any big money ball players giving a damn about young black men killing each other. They want to take a knee on Sunday go back to there big houses on Monday. They all show up or pop off if white cop shoots black guy but everyday black men are killing each other and they can’t be found.If you really care and really want to change things quit Bitching about how bad things are and do something to change it. The sad fact is most people have no idea what Dr king was saying or what Rosa Parks done or Malcolm X they just keep putting rich white and black dems in office and wonder why things ain’t better. The true sign of a fool is to keep doing the same thing day in and day out expecting a different outcome it’s just sad.

I am posting a reply to Robert’s comment, but I am doing it by way of a new post. That helps ensure Robert’s comment gets the notice it deserves. Here is my reply to Robert:


Thanks much for reading, and especially thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Your wording is the kind of thing that makes my day, and I wish that more of your kind would do as you have done: speak out and express your inner thoughts for the world to see.

While I thank you for taking the time to castigate liberals and especially Democrats for their short-comings (you say so), I would like to use some of my own time to remind you of a few realities. See below. These are your people, and these are the ideals you uphold. This is you. Live with it.

Your people are Nazis, racists, and murderers.

Is this you, Robert, or does he merely stand in for you and do your dirty work?

He’s guilty. How much of that guilt are you ready to take on?

The disreputable acts of those you support begin to exceed my ability to comprehend.

Robert, if I were your friend I would advise you to hang out with a different crowd. But I’m not, so I’m going to ask you to hold the course and report back to me on a regular bases from the other side of the hard line that divides this country

Quiz Question

Number 187 of a series

The image above is the cross-section of a steel cylinder. It has a conical depression bored into each end. The machinist wants to be sure the depth is correct, but all he has to measure with is a steel rule and a caliper. He can spread the caliper and insert the points into the holes, but then he has to spread the points again to take the caliper out and measure it with the rule. How can the machinist measure the depth of the holes?

Post your answer as a comment below.

Update and Solution

See the diagram below. I don’t have a drawing of the caliper, so pretend the two arrows are the caliper points. First set the caliper to span the length of the cylinder.

Now you can measure the depth of the hole by touching one point to the bottom of the hole and measuring the distance from the other point to the end of the cylinder.

People Unclear

This is number 71 of a series

This series is dedicated to those who, by deliberate effort of their own, choose to remain clueless—some would say unclear. To that end I subscribe to a number of political feeds, and the following is a recent item:

NRCC Polling, me (2) <info@nrccvictory.com>

To: jf_blanton@yahoo.comJan 19 at 3:42 PM

Funding border security is critical.

Even the Democrats USED to agree with that!

Chuck Schumer voted to fund a barrier at our southern border 8 times!

Nancy Pelosi voted to fund a barrier at our southern border just last March!

BUT — the Democrats don’t want to keep our borders safe for one simple reason: They refuse to help President Trump accomplish great things for America.

Then they wanted me to take a poll, which I did not, because I know it’s one of those phony polls put out on-line that ends in asking me for money and which results I doubt will ever be tabulated.

My inclination has been to take a high-minded approach in responding to these, but this is a bad day, and I’m going to allow my basic instincts to prevail. This is a bushel of total bull-shit.

Let’s start with “Funding border security is critical.” The presumption is that some people think it’s not. A second assumption is that the Trump administration is more concerned about border security than, say, the Democrats in government. Total bull-shit.

What Donald Trump is concerned about is raising a false specter to distract from his failing, criminal administration. Candidate Trump garnered cheering response from his crowds by asking, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” To which the response was inevitably a resounding “MEXICO!” Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Never in a million years. And Candidate Trump all the time knew this, and now he wants the American taxpayers to pay for the wall. Such unmitigated gall should not be tolerated by responsible people in government and never by the Democratic opposition. Candidate Trump made this a rallying cry, and he needs to be forced to eat it.

“They refuse to help President Trump accomplish great things for America.” The gall! President Trump has bypassed every opportunity to accomplish great things for this nation, and he has, instead, collaborated with a foreign dictator against the interests of his own country, put into power people whose demonstrated intent is to disassemble responsible government policy, and used his position for personal enrichment.

Donald Trump launched his campaign for the office by declaring that Mexicans coming to this country were bringing drugs and bringing crime, and they were rapist. And some were assumed to be good people. Later, in office, he pointed to Nazis and murderers and said that some were fine people.

The difference between the Mexicans he slandered and the Nazis he praised is that the Nazis are supporters of President Trump and his goals.

Shame on Donald Trump for setting his life on a course of disreputable and criminal conduct, and shame on the people who support this malodorous piece of shit by voting for him and by sending me the piece of idiocy that came to my in-box.

May Jesus have mercy on your souls.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 255 of a series

The title says it all. Any movie advertised as Mars Attacks! has got to be bad, even if it sports a top tier cast that includes

Yeah, this flick features Tom Jones performing the supremely ironic It’s Not Unusual.

It’s from 1996 and is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Talk about a spoof of a spoof! Here’s the plot. The opening is a bucolic scene of a farmer stopping by to visit his neighbor and commenting on his Filipino barbecue. Only it’s not a barbecue he smells. Its a herd of horses on fire running down the road. A flying saucer from Mars rises above the horizon. This gets the show off to a roaring start.

Hordes of Martian flying saucers approach the Earth.

The president (Nicholson) takes the news in stride. His generals want to nuke them.

Supercilious Professor Donald Kessler (Brosnan) pontificates and recommends a more nuanced response.

A meeting is arranged in the Nevada desert.

Things go well at first.

Then somebody releases a white dove of peace, and the Martian ambassador is shocked. He whips out his nifty proton disintegrator and blasts the lovely creature. Then most everybody else.

Things go downhill from there. A meeting between the ambassador and a joint session of Congress turns out to be a ruse. The ambassador pulls out his blaster and nukes the Congress.

The movie then follows the formula, with world landmarks coming under attack. Bunches of people get vaporized.

When Richie Norris’s (Haas) trailer home is attacked, he hops into the pickup truck and rushes to the side of his grandmother Florence (Sylvia Sydney), just in time. The Martians are menacing her as she listens to Slim Whitman‘s “Indian Love Call” on her ear buds. When the ear bud cable gets yanked out of the jack, the music goes to the speakers, and it shatters the Martians.

And that’s the secret to defeating the Martians, and humanity is saved. People come out from where they have been hiding into a safer and better world.

Yeah, it’s corny, but it was nice to see and hear Tom Jones.

Plato Revisited

A short series

On 12 August 1994 I turned in my final assignment in Mathematics of Physics and walked out of a classroom for the last time in my life. So I thought.

Last fall I had a meeting with Oak DeBerg at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He’s a former Air Force officer who subsequently went over to the dark side and became a professor of philosophy. He told me that this year he would be teaching a course titled Minus Bible. It’s about the philosophy of non-religion—non-belief in God. I could audit the course, and because I’m over 65 the university would waive fees. Except parking.

So, Tuesday I started showing up weekly to learn and to philosophize about atheism. What I have to offer here are some gleanings from the course and excerpts from the reading assignments. Start with Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens (now deceased) has written God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I have not read the book. I need to clear some stuff off my plate before I can take on another review. However, others have read it, and some of the remarks are interesting. Some even object.

No surprise—I already read the book. Here is something from next week’s reading assignment:

I wrote earlier that we would never again have to confront the impressive faith of an Aquinas or a Maimonides (as contrasted with the blind faith of millennial or absolutist sects, of which we have an apparently unlimited and infinitely renewable supply). This is for a simple reason. Faith of that sort— the sort that can stand up at least for a while in a confrontation with reason— is now plainly impossible.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 107). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Hitchens assignment I find interesting, because, although this is a philosophy course, Hitchens did not approach religion as a philosopher. Rather he was like a witness in a criminal trial—accusing and  naming names. For the pure approach we have been assigned readings from others, including the ancients.

Some Internet searching revealed to me that the works of Greek philosopher Plato have largely survived intact. Rather than read the assigned item on-line, I purchased the complete works of Plato, the Kindle edition, for $0.99 (plus tax). Here is an excerpt from Socrates’ dialogue with Euthyphro. So this is not strictly Plato talking, but supposedly quoting from his teacher, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And what is piety, and what is impiety?

EUTHYPHRO: Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime—whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be—that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others:—of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?—and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons, and that he too had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner. And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

Plato. Plato: The Complete Works . Pandora’s Box. Kindle Edition. [location 2044]

For me this is going to be the fun part of studying philosophy, because a lot of stuff that philosophers do is like this. Plato constructed these extended arguments, using immaculate reasoning and logic, but based on a vacuous premise. Here his premise is the existence of the deities. Many philosophic constructions, especially those of the ancients, are like this. They will presuppose something not in evidence and proceed from there to develop marvelous arguments leading to shimmering conclusions, meaning nothing.

This is going to be fun. The class comprises deep-rooted believers, convinced atheists, and some in between. For the record, Oak DeBerg declares for atheism.

Keep reading. There will be more to follow.

This is your president speaking.

Number 195 in a series

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

Many people are saying that the Mainstream Media will have a very hard time restoring credibility because of the way they have treated me over the past 3 years (including the election lead-up), as highlighted by the disgraceful Buzzfeed story & the even more disgraceful coverage!

Amazing. Buzzfeed says the president instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, and the president says Buzzfeed is lying. Who are we going to believe?

Never mind. I apologize for bringing this up.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a series

The county coroner was conducting his introductory class of new doctors. “There are two lessons I want you to learn today,” he informed them. “The first is strict obedience to authority. You must do exactly what I tell you, or will flunk this class. Now do exactly as I do.”

There was a human corpse lying face down in the examining table. The instructor plunged his index finger into the anus of the dead person and withdrew it. “Do as I just did,” he commanded.

The six students grimaced, but they did as they were told. Then they looked at their instructor.

“Next, do what I am doing.” At that he stuck his index finger into his mouth and sucked on it.”

The students gasped, but they followed their instructor’s example.

“That done,” said the instructor, “the second lesson I want you to learn is attention to detail. How many of you noticed I have both a left hand and a right hand?”

The Golden Shower

Number 35 of a Series

Some parts of the infamous Steel Dossier have not been confirmed. In particular, there is still insufficient corroboration of allegations that Donald Trump paid prostitutes to pee on a bed in a Moscow hotel:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

Other influence by the Russian government on the Trump campaign is on more solid ground, this despite previous denials by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The story from ABC World News Tonight with David Muir streamed yesterday on Hulu.

Former New York City Mayor Giuliani claims he never said there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Except when he did.

All right, the president’s personal lawyer aside, the president has denied there was no collusion within his campaign.

Look, people. Would the President of the United States deny his campaign worked in collusion with Russia while Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, was standing right there beside him? You need to keep this in perspective.

To emphasize, the president flatly denies there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

“A total hoax.” What could be more clear than that? The president has the final word.

So that’s it. No prostitutes pissing on a bed in Moscow. No collusion between the campaign and the Russian government. Would the President of the United States lie about something like that?

Enough said.