Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Supposed to be the funniest joke of all time

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing and his eyes are glazed, so his friend calls 911. “My friend is dead! What should I do?” The operator replies, “Calm down, sir. I can help. First make sure that he’s dead.” There’s a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, “OK, now what?”

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People Unclear

This is number 35

Time for true confessions. I subscribe to Dr. Robert Jeffress’ newsletter. For those who don’t know:

Robert James Jeffress, Jr. (born November 29, 1955) is an American Southern Baptist (Evangelical) pastor, best-selling author, and radio and television host. Jeffress hosts the program, Pathway to Victory, which is broadcast on more than 1,200 television stations in the United States and 28 other countries. He also has a daily radio program, Pathway to Victory, which is heard on 900 stations and broadcast live in 195 countries.[2][3] He is the pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

I know that in the afterlife I will be called to atone for my transgressions, but I do this for my readers so they don’t have to. But I need to get to the story, and it starts a few reels of tape back. To begin:

Omarosa Dishes On Mike Pence: ‘He Thinks Jesus Tells Him To Say Things’

“We would be begging for the days of Trump back if Pence became president.”

Omarosa Manigault-Newman issued a dire warning about Vice President Mike Pence.

On Monday’s episode of “Celebrity Big Brother,” the former White House Office of Public Liaison communications director warned her housemates that “as bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence.”

Newman said people wishing for Trump’s impeachment “may want to reconsider” their life.

“We would be begging for the days of Trump back if Pence became president,” she added. “(Pence is) extreme. I’m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus isn’t saying that.’”

Omarosa extended her thoughts, as reported in a post on the Independent:

Vice president Mike Pence is “scary” and “thinks Jesus tells him to say things”, according to a former Trump administration official.

Of course, the matter didn’t die then and there. On the ABC television network The View has been running since August 1997, and some interesting pronouncements have been dropped over that span. On a recent episode panelist Joy Behar put some analysis to the Vice President’s behavior, as reported by Fox News.

‘The View’ star Joy Behar mocks Mike Pence’s Christian faith: ‘That’s called mental illness’

By Brian Flood | Fox News

The women of ABC News’ “The View” took a shot a Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith on Tuesday, mocking the former governor of Indiana for talking to Jesus and even calling it a “mental illness.”

It all started when they played a clip from “Celebrity Big Brother,” in which former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman discussed the vice president.

Getting to the heart of the matter:

Joy Behar then said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you.”

Behar said hearing voices is a “mental illness” before Sherri Shepard offered a limited defense of Pence.

Getting past the fact that having conversations with dead people is one of the known signs of a mental lapse, it would have been  wise for the panelists to cut the Vice President some slack. It is for sure they did not offer up alternative explanations, some of which I list here:

  • He was being poetic. Apostrophe is a literary device that has a character speaking to an inanimate object or to a dead person.
  • He could have been  rehearsing for a part in a dramatic performance. “Jesus: Can you tell me which way to the temple? Roman soldier: Jesus Christ, if you can’t find your own way, then Heaven help you.”
  • He could have  been mocking somebody’s religious pretensions: “You think you are holier than thou? Shit, man, Jesus talks to me. And you know what? I talk back.”

But they didn’t, and now they have incurred the wrath of holier than thou Dr. Robert Jeffress of the larger than God, downtown Dallas mega church. May Jesus have mercy on their souls. Here is a partial transcript provided by Dr. Jeffress from his interview on Fox News:

Dr. Robert Jeffress went off on the co-hosts of “The View” for mocking Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith on Tuesday.

It all started when “The View” played a clip from “Celebrity Big Brother,” in which former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said the Vice President “thinks Jesus tells him to say things.”

Sunny Hostin expressed concern about Pence’s religious fervor and said she doesn’t want her Vice President “speaking in tongues.”

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you,” Joy Behar said, adding that hearing voices is a “mental illness.”

Jeffress wondered on “America’s Newsroom” what would have happened to Behar if she had mocked a devout Muslim.

“ABC would have fired her in a nanosecond. To the left, when it comes to attacking conservative Christians, it is always open season.”

He pointed out that many liberals preach the importance of tolerance, but when it comes to beliefs with which they disagree, they can often be the least tolerant.

He said Christians are tired of being bullied in the public square for their faith, and the 2016 election was in some ways a reaction to these types of “despicable attacks.”

I need to expand on that in parts. First there is the implication (outright declaration?) that “the left” (that would include me) is partial to Muslims. Let me put that to rest right now. Those Muslims are absolutely wacky. Here’s the kind of stuff they (not all) believe:

  • The earth and everything else was created by a mythical being.
  • Abraham, the character in the Bible, was a real person.
  • Mohamed had conversations with God, the previously-mentioned mythical being.
  • Mohamed traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem and back within the span of a few hours.
  • Mohamed ascended into  Heaven, a mythical place.

There, I’ve given Muslims their due. They are little better than Vice President Mike Pence when it comes to being unclear. And, yes, those on the left side of the aisle (some) tend to mock this kind of nonsense, as do some on the right. The question should be “Why doesn’t everybody, left and right, give this tripe the belly laugh it deserves?”

Dr. Jeffress complains that liberals preach tolerance, yet they are intolerant of beliefs that are not their own. Dude, what is your concept of tolerance? We tolerate. We condemn, yet we tolerate. Being tolerant of a bad movie does not mean we purchase tickets. Being tolerant of a braying jackass does not mean we welcome him into our living rooms.

Christians are being bullied. Really? If somebody farts in an elevator, you do not compliment him on his good manners? Dr. Jeffress, get real.

And by the way, keep those emails coming. I open them daily with great joy. That’s tolerance.

The Government You Paid For

Number 24

Don’t you just hate it when you fire your guns prematurely and don’t have time to reload when a much larger target pops up? Today I know the feeling. Yesterday I made fun of administration officials bouncing about the airways in grand style on the taxpayers’ nickel. One of the recipients was Veteran’s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. I should have waited:

Washington (CNN) — The chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin altered an email and made false statements to a department ethics official that led to taxpayers covering expenses for Shulkin’s wife on an official trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general found.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, Shulkin’s chief of staff, altered language in an email regarding the logistics of the trip that made it seem as though Shulkin and his wife had been invited to a “special recognition dinner” held by the Danish government. That led to the department paying for Shulkin’s wife’s more than $4,000 in airfare, according to the report which was released Wednesday.

Shulkin, who was previously the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health under the Obama administration, was nominated for the top post by President Trump. This apparently was not Shulkin’s first trip to the public trough. Apparently Shulkin used his government-paid aid, James Gough, to perform work he should have handled for himself. Gough was asked to and did perform tasks related to setting up side trip arrangements for the Secretary and his wife during the Denmark trip. CNN reports an email to Gough asking, “Is there earlier flight from Copenhagen? Wimbledon tickets? High tea?” And more.

The Wimbledon tickets may have been a bit more. Gough received free tickets to the Wimbledon tennis matches. Victoria Gosling provided the tickets because she is a friend of Merle Bari, Shulkin’s wife. Actually not. When interviewed, Gosling could not recall Bari’s name. The implication is Shulkin and spouse received the tickets because of Mr. Shulkin’s high position, something of a violation of federal law. Lying about the matter is additionally problematic.

If you ever worried about it, then you can put your mind at ease and relax. You are now getting the government you paid for.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks (number 98).

The Second Amendment protects your right, and nothing is more satisfying when those pesky domestic disputes disrupt your life:

Woman charged in shooting death of fiancé

Published:   Updated: 

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman has been arrested after the Travis County Sheriff’s Office says she shot and killed her fiancé over what appears to be an argument stemming from unpaid bills.

Enough said, dudes and dudettes. Keep your powder dry.

The Government You Paid For

Number 23

I know I have asked, and I am sure others have. I pay all these taxes to support the government, so how come I’m not getting a good return? Where is the government I paid for? Worry no longer. At last we are getting the government we paid for. And paid for. And paid for. Did I mention we are paying for it?

Rather than do all the research on my own, I have pulled from Hulu streaming video, in this case from ABC World News Tonight with David Muir to get the high-level view and also these screen shots. And the story is one to warm my heart. Here is the gist.

Candidate Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to voters that once in office he would “drain the swamp.” He would kick out the long-time hangers on, career government workers who have sucked at the government tit for decades and have become entrenched. He would bring in a fresh crew, people accustomed to turning a profit. And he has. From all appearances President Trump has recruited a cadre from big business accustomed to doing big things. Apparently also accustomed to living big. As the story running on ABC yesterday tells it, these high fliers from business are now flying high on the government payroll. To illustrate:

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.

Who would have thought it? Prior to entering politics in Oklahoma, Pruitt was in private law practice, where he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from gas companies, still leaving him with a worth estimated at no more than $3 million, which sets him apart from some of the billionaires in the Trump administration. Where he acquired his taste for high living is anybody’s guess. Apparently free money can be enticing, as evidenced by more.

Needing to get to Rome (the EPA needs to check out the horrible air pollution in that burg), he reportedly commandeered a military aircraft to get to New York to catch his overseas flight.

New York to Rome, where he dropped in to see the Pope, was a boon to taxpayers, as he spent only $7000 to fly, albeit considerably more than I am accustomed to pay.

Mr. Pruitt is also recorded as flying first class to Morocco, hopefully on EPA business.

At first sight this may give the appearance that Director Pruitt, having entering the sacred halls of government, has run amok, making a spectacle of his lavish travel style. Prepare to be disabused, because Pruitt is in good company. ABC News lists a number of top government staffers vying for spending champion of the year. Those would also include:

Putting those others aside, it is interesting to wonder at Mr. Pruitt’s trajectory as the new EPA chief. His history is one of opposition to the purpose and goals of the EPA, and his term as head of the organization leaves little indication that the environment holds his highest esteem. We can wonder whether his bold plan includes spending the agency’s budget dry to ensure it’s not wasted on water quality and all that other stuff. I’m feeling my pocket getting lighter already.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m seeing this for the first time—it ran on Hulu through January, where I got these screen shots. It’s K-19 The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford as the captain. It’s about a disaster in slow motion that happens on a newly built nuclear Soviet submarine, apparently recapping an actual episode from 1961. It’s from Paramount in 2002.

The opening sequence sets the stage. The Cold War is in full swing, leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year. Yes, we once were that involved.

Ford is Captain 2nd Rank Alexei Vostrikov, taking over the K-19 in dry dock and in dire trouble. Captain 3rd Rank Mikhail “Misha” Polenin (Liam Neeson) hasn’t been able to get things shipshape aboard the boat, due apparently to failures at levels above him and also due to notable deficiencies in the workings of the Soviet Union. Vostrikov keeps Polenin on board to maintain continuity, but he takes a strong hand. The Party rules, and the Party needs the boat’s sea trials to showcase the USSR’s new play toy. It’s expected U.S. spy planes will spot the new boat in action and the decadent capitalist will also observe the launch of a test missile from a region covered by sea ice. We later learn that, following the show launch, the boat is to proceed immediately to station off the Eastern Coast of the U.S. as a bit of intimidation.

Vostrikov is anything but timid and complacent. He pushes the shaky K-19 to it’s limits, scheduling scary emergency drills and also taking the boat to the edge of crush depth. This is followed by a crash surfacing through thick sea ice, immediately followed by a successful launch of the missile. The crew celebrates, getting up a ball game on the ice and posing for class photos.

Of course, disaster strikes. Cooling fails on a reactor, and selected crew members enter the radioactive chamber in ten-minute shifts, sacrificing their lives for the boat, their shipmates, and the Party.

High levels of radioactivity induce the captain to surface the boat and give the crew escape to the outer hull.

They are near an American base, and a destroyer comes out to investigate. An HSS 1 (now designated H-34) comes to investigate and also to offer assistance. The crew offers the Americans the moon.

But the crisis worsens aboard the boat, and the political officer on board attempts to depose Vostrikov and replace him with Polenin. This falls through when Polenin’s first act is to arrest the political officer and to turn command back to Vostrikov.

To wrap it up, a Soviet submarine comes to the rescue, taking the K-19’s crew aboard, minus their contaminated clothing, and towing the K-19 back to the motherland. An attempt is made by the Party structure to pin the debacle on Vostrikov, but this is unsuccessful. Polenin and others testify at Vostrikov’s trial to his actions that saved the boat.

Nearly 30 years pass, and the Soviet Union crumbles. A gag order imposed on the crew becomes moot, and Vostrikov and surviving crew meet to toast those who gave their lives.

And it’s all based on an actual incident. What gets this movie my notice are a number of inconsistencies.

President Kennedy is mentioned in passing, and Kennedy did take office the previous January. However, the political officer is depicted showing a propaganda film to the crew. They should not be persuaded by the capitalists’ appeal with cascading consumer goods and lavish lifestyles. Their democracy is phony. The film shows a KKK rally and also newsreel footage from the Birmingham police oppression, which occurred several years later.

The boat is taken to the edge of crush depth, and we hear groans and poppings of the hull. We see the outer hull around the conning tower buckle inward from  the pressure. No. That part of the structure is not under pressure. It’s a faring around an inner pressure hull.

There is concern the reactor could go critical. It would be like Hiroshima, but many times over. No, it would not. A critical reactor will blow itself apart, ruling out any chance of a critical mass. It would be a disaster of massive proportions, but there would be no huge flash and shock wave.

Also mentioned is that it would be a thermo-nuclear event. Again no. Thermo-nuclear bombs are hydrogen bombs. They are initiated by a fission bomb (not going to happen) producing fusion of hydrogen reactant. The K-19 did not have deuterium (or tritium) packed around its reactors, and temperatures produced by a run-away reactor would not be sufficient.

Likewise, the K-19’s missile warheads would not be detonated. Vostrikov’s character is based on real-life Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev. A review of Zatevev’s life indicates he incorrectly believed these things would happen. That seems incongruous, being that Vostrikov was put in charge of a nuclear submarine carrying nuclear-tipped warheads, he would have needed to be up to  speed on the technology under his command. If not he, then at least the missile officers aboard would know. So would your average high school student.

Also, much is made of Vostrikov’s family history. His father was a Hero of the Soviet Union who spent the last years of his life in the Soviet Gulag. Where have we heard this before?

Marko’s father had been a true Soviet hero— and Marko was deeply ashamed to be his son.

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, this story brings back memories of another movie about a Soviet submarine.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 92

Homeopathic remedies are supposed to be devoid of active ingredients, due the the extreme dilution employed in their preparation. That does not prevent products labeled as homeopathic from being deadly.

10 children die after taking homeopathic teething pills

The US Food and Drug Administration is also looking into 400 adverse events related to the tablets

Rachael Revesz New York 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the deaths of 10 children and 400 adverse events surrounding the use of homeopathic teething pills.

The FDA warned that teething children should stop using the treatment, and to go to a doctor if the child exhibits symptoms such as seizures, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation – similar symptoms displayed over the last six years.

This report from Independent relates further that “A safety alert for the tablets was first issued in 2010,” and also that an ingredient in the tablets was belladonna. Belladonna is also known as “deadly nightshade.” All natural, of course.

Crazy From On High

A Reading Of High Delusion

A few weeks ago I reviewed a posting on Evolution News. It’s a site sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and the posting was by somebody not readily identified. Whoever they are, the topic was Dennis Venema’s book Adam and the Genome, and the matter of Francis Collins came up regarding his book The Language of God.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts.

As promised, I obtained copies of both books and have finished reading the Collins book. Considering the author’s obvious deep intellect, I can only remark, “What a load of warmed over drivel!” Thank you, Dr. Collins. Now for a brief dissection.

First the book is well written. If Francis Collins ever comes to the point he can no longer find work saving the human race through science and medicine, he has a future as a writer. There are very few unintentional mistakes of fact. This one caught my attention.

William Paley’s parable of finding a watch on the moor—which would cause any of us to deduce the existence of a watchmaker—resonated with many readers in the seventeenth century, and continues to resonate with many people today. Life appears designed, so there must be a designer.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 148). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It is unclear where the reference to the 17th century comes from, but earlier in the book Collins mentions the Blind Watchmaker theme was published in 1802.

THE “ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN” dates back at least to Cicero. It was put forward with particular effectiveness by William Paley in 1802 in a highly influential book, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 86). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beyond all that, this is an argument for God by a person who grew to maturity absent any push in that direction, becoming committed to non-belief well into adulthood. His rise to greatness in human endeavors left him unfulfilled, but he could not reconcile the richness of the human spirit and the beauty of natural wonders with strictly natural explanations. There must be more. He became convinced of the existence of God:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 30). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

That should have been satisfactory, and that  should have been the end of the book. Unfortunately Collins feels the need to rationalize, and it is in this effort he stumbles badly. Some citations are in order. Consider what he accepts as true in an effort to shore up his faith. Here is an example:

All religions include a belief in certain miracles. The crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, led by Moses and accompanied by the drowning of Pharaoh’s men, is a powerful story, told in the book of Exodus, of God’s providence in preventing the imminent destruction of His people. Similarly, when Joshua asked God to prolong the daylight in order for a particular battle to be successfully carried out, the sun was said to stand still in a way that could only be described as miraculous.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 48). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It would be generous to allow that these are put up to illustrate what is deemed to be miraculous and no more. The problem is there is little doubt left by the context that he believes these miracles occurred. Elsewhere, his interpretation of reality goes askew, as with his reference to “Mother Teresa.”

Mother Teresa has consistently ranked as one of the most admired individuals of the current age, though her self-imposed poverty and selfless giving to the sick and dying of Calcutta is in drastic contrast to the materialistic lifestyle that dominates our current culture.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 25-26). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The cold fact is that Mother Teresa never seemed to have given physical aid and comfort to the “sick and dying.” Collins seeks to illustrate the benefit of religion by pointing to the good works done by famous religious leaders.

As just one example, consider how religious leaders have worked to relieve people from oppression, from Moses’ leading the Israelites out of bondage to William Wilberforce’s ultimate victory in convincing the English Parliament to oppose the practice of slavery…

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to include the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. The obvious problem with this line of argument is that Moses is a fictional character. No such person ever led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Religion (and by this I assume his favored blend) Collins asserts is essential to answer the matter of Moral Law. An actual scientist, he believes we came about by biological evolution, but that does not explain the existence of Moral Law, an innate morality, traces of which are found in all Earth’s people, regardless of region, culture, or religious environment. God must be the answer, and religion must be the vehicle. How then does Collins explain the evil committed by religious people. No problem for Collins. Here’s how:

But the second answer brings us back to the Moral Law, and to the fact that all of us as human beings have fallen short of it. The church is made up of fallen people. The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings of the church down through the centuries should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He invokes the “rusty container” at multiple points in the book, and that, in itself, is a crock of poop. In various instances the origin of the universe is attributed to God, and people are the special creation of a caring and loving God, one for whom human well-being is held dear. How then does one explain how an omniscient, all-caring God fails to show himself (itself) in times of great human suffering? May I never eat another chocolate ice cream bar, but Collins invokes the principle of “stress makes strength.”

This notion that God can work through adversity is not an easy concept, and can find firm anchor only in a worldview that embraces a spiritual perspective. The principle of growth through suffering is, in fact, nearly universal in the world’s great faiths.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 46-47). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! I’ve seen that before.

It is also told to me the following was found scratched into a cell wall in some Nazi death camp: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I also note an incident recounted by Richard Dawkins:

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Atkins splendidly growled, “May you rot in hell.”

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (p. 64). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dawkins is one of Collins’ least favored atheists. Collins considers Dawkins to be doing harm to the atheist cause due to the stridency of his attacks on religion (see above).

Even stronger words have emanated from Richard Dawkins. In a series of books beginning with The Selfish Gene and extending through The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and A Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins outlines with compelling analogies and rhetorical flourishes the consequences of variation and natural selection. Standing on this Darwinian foundation, Dawkins then extends his conclusions to religion in highly aggressive terms: “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”3

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 163). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

If you can get past Collins’ inexplicable acceptance of the supernatural, you will find a scientist unwilling to accept the absurdities of religious apologetics. His debunking of creationists of the first and second kind is just short of scathing. Particularly the young Earth creationists (YEC) are called out as a disgrace to the Christian faith.

Assisted by Henry Morris and colleagues, Young Earth Creationism has in the last half century attempted to provide alternative explanations for the wealth of observations about the natural world that seem to contradict the YEC position. But the fundamentals of so-called scientific Creationism are hopelessly flawed.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 176). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Collins’ diagnosis of the Intelligent Design movement is practically complete.  Collins properly characterizes ID as a God-in-the-gaps argument, all the while laying out the history and the substance.

ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 183). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The exception I take to the foregoing is the reference to Dembski as being trained in information theory. No evidence of that appears in his c.v. Also, not mentioned is Dembski’s severance from Intelligent Design, which came about recently.

Besides all that, this book provides a first rate read of how studies of genetics point to the common ancestry of life on Earth. Particularly explored is the close relationship between humans and chimpanzees and the relationship between those and the other apes. There is an appendix, which I did not read, but the book’s closing lines come off as a special pleading for giving religion a place at the table.

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 233-234). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

A truce? Never. We continue to lie in witness to The Years of Living Stupidly.

Darwin Day

The following appeared in essential the same form in Sunday’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News opinion section.

Monday is the birthday of British scientist Charles Darwin. He was born on this day in 1809, the same day as Abraham Lincoln. Science fans now celebrate it as “Darwin Day,” and for a reason.

Charles Darwin is recognized as one of the pre-eminent scientists of the 19th century, and his remains rest in Westminster Abbey, near those of Isaac Newton. The thing that earned Darwin this distinction was his work earlier in the century—establishment of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Biological evolution was not a novel concept at the time. Anaximander of Miletus (610-546 B.C.) was an early thinker who proposed that one species could descend from another. Medieval Islamic science also included the concept. But by the early 19th century scientists still had no mechanism to drive the process.  Darwin’s contribution was the idea that random variation, coupled with natural selection, provides this capability. Destined as a young man for the clergy, his life was changed by a voyage around the world, a scientific expedition underwritten by his government. His observations on the trip started him to thinking about what could drive evolution, but he did not publish until 1858, when Alfred Russel Wallace hit upon the same idea. The two published concurrently, and the following year Darwin’s seminal book, “The Origin of Species,” set the world on fire.

What Darwin had done was to demolish the remaining link between religion and the natural world. Previous scientists had demonstrated our planet is not the center of the universe, and the earth is millions (later billions) of years old—in direct contradiction to the Genesis story that was the foundation for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Darwin removed any need for supernatural processes, especially anything resembling the God of Abraham, to explain human existence. To many people this undercut the very basis for human morality, and it cast their lives adrift in a purposeless world. The tension extends to this day.

Well into the 21st century rational-thinking people continue to find it necessary to defend truth and reason against attack. It is now barely seven years prior to the Scopes Trial centennial, and scientists and scholars daily endure challenges by creationists of a wide spectrum, all pushing some challenge to established science. The governor of Texas appoints a known creationist to head the State Board of Education, and three prominent creationists are observed reviewing biology text books for the Texas Education Agency. A known fan of Intelligent Design is appointed Secretary of Education. And biology is not the only science under attack.

An Oklahoma senator displays a snowball as evidence against human-caused global warming. Worse, applause comes from a like-minded base of American voters. A disgraced physician publishes a fraudulent paper linking vaccines to autism. Millions of parents withhold vaccines from their children, with tragic results.

Disregard for verifiable fact now permeates the American political landscape. An outlandish rumor takes life about the time of the presidential election and quickly engulfs a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Accurate reporting puts the lie to the story, but, against all reason, a person caught up in the frenzy goes so far as to barge into the restaurant, brandishing a firearm and discharging it. The story retains life to this day, due to people’s willingness to believe in the face of contrary evidence. A participant in an Arizona rally in January is heard saying this story requires further investigation.

An American presidential candidate lays a carpet of false statements, continuing into his tenure as the country’s leader. News outlets print the truth, which is then proclaimed to be fake news. Millions of voters pick up the chant.

This lack of respect for the verifiable fact is a malaise that threatens the health of a great industrial nation. The solution will not come from the top. A well-informed citizenry needs to push back against attacks on logic and reason. Clear-thinking people need to come forward when they see or hear something that is obviously not right. A lone voice of resistance should become a million. And the voice should be loud, clear, and firm. There must be no backing down in defense of what is demonstrably true.

The freethinker movement has a history in Central Texas. Immigrants from Germany settled here in the mid 19th century, and their legacy of resistance to absolutism in religion and government has seeped into our society. The Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) continues this tradition, championing open discussion and insisting on respect for rational thinking. More than an anti-religious gathering, it serves as a channel for many who hold compassion and respect for human dignity above the exigencies of political power. On Darwin Day we resolve to continue Darwin’s legacy of championing fact before fable.

The Freethinkers Association of Central Texas meets informally for lunch the first and second Tuesday each month, and for breakfast at Denny’s on Fredericksburg Road the last Saturday each month. The next meeting is Tuesday, 13 February, at Hacienda Vallarta on Bandera Road at 1:00 p.m. Public welcome.

This is your President speaking.

Number 55 in a long series

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

So many positive things going on for the U.S.A. and the Fake News Media just doesn’t want to go there. Same negative stories over and over again! No wonder the People no longer trust the media, whose approval ratings are correctly at their lowest levels in history!

Speaking of approval ratings.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, this one is bad. We could attempt to excuse it, owing to the era from which it springs. This came out in 1931, when pictures had been talking barely four years. Even so, a number of productions of immense quality came out during that time. This is not one of them. It’s Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour, also titled, The Sleeping Cardinal. This was about ten years prior to when Basil Rathbone began portraying the famous crime detective along with Nigel Bruce as the bumbling Doctor Watson. In this production Holmes is played by Arthur Wontner, and Watson by Ian Fleming. No, not that Ian Fleming.

The setting, much as with all film portrayals, is in contemporary times. This allows the characters to enjoy the benefit of electric lights, telephones, and automobiles. Distribution was through First Division Pictures, Inc. and Ameranglo Corporation. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the source of the screen shots.

The opening scene turns out to be the best bit of real drama. Creative camera work shows a crime in progress, involving a murder. We only see shadows and silhouettes as an unfortunate bank watchman interrupts a break-in.

We next cut to a game of bridge in progress at an upscale home.

Four society swells are playing for money, and the master of the house, Ronald Adair (Leslie Perrins), is winning, as we are informed he usually does. A spurious ace of spades shows up in the game. Players suspect cheating is going on.

Holmes is brought in to examine the case of the killed watchman. The bank’s vault had £70,000, all of which remains untouched. This is a mystery. Holmes works the case by examining a sheet of wrapping paper, found at the scene. He determines the paper was just right to wrap up £70,000. Most interesting. The famous landlady Mrs. Hudson (Minnie Rayner) looks on. Rayner supplies the abundance of original character portrayal in the film. She was born about the same time as my namesake grandfather and had a fabulous career, dying ten years after this movie.

Subsequently we see young Adair alone in a room when the lights dim, and a voice speaks from a painting on the wall, apparently the painting of a sleeping cardinal. And that’s all I know about any sleeping cardinals. Anyhow, the voice commands Adair to take a £70,000 load of bills to Paris in a suitcase, using his status as a foreign diplomat to ease it through customs. If he does not comply his bridge cheating scheme will be exposed.

Yes, the infamous Provessor Moriarty is involved. Holmes and Watson are in their flat at 221 B Baker Street, when Watson receives a phone call to rush to an appendicitis patient. He is off in a flash. Next off Mrs. Hudson is confronted by a presumptuous child about some bad things being said by the child’s mother, and Mrs. Hudson rushes away from the house.

Holmes is now alone in the flat and knows something is afoot, and he knows what to expect. He has previously slipped Watson a note, informing him to scrub the phony appointment and to return. Holmes slips a revolver in his pocket and waits for the arrival of Professor Moriarty. Threats are exchanged, and Moriarty exits, passing Watson on his way out.

At this point Holmes instructs Watson to ring up Mr. Adair, but there is no answer. The butler, hearing the phone ringing, enters Adiar’s study to find the unfortunate man shot through the head. No weapon is found inside the room, but (get this) the window is open.

Here’s a note. Accustomed to reading the Arthur Conan Doyle books, we know Watson to be a bit of a fluff. Nigel Bruce played this role to a T, overplayed it, to be exact. Fleming is a more debonair Watson, but equally clueless.

And yes, Holmes’ trap works. Holmes has ensured that Moriarty feels imminently threatened, and he arranges for Watson to be off forthwith to the Euston Station (actually a short walk from 221 B Baker Street) and to make a big show of it, hailing a cab and rushing to the ticket window. Then a stealthy figure enters a vacant house across from the Holmes-Watson flat and fires an air rifle round at the shadow of Holmes showing on a drawn shade.

Of course it’s a ruse. The bullet only shatters a pallid bust of Holmes, which the crafty Mrs. Watson has been employed to move from time to time, keeping all the while out of the line of fire. The police are waiting inside the empty house, and they pounce on the culprit, Colonel Henslowe, a big-game hunter of great repute.

But Henslowe is missing his left arm (a tiger). How could he have climbed the tree outside Adair’s room to fire the fatal shot. Holmes knows. He has the police tear off Henslowe’s jacket to reveal Professor Moriarty, with two good arms.

It’s a fine plot, pulling especially from the Conan Doyle story The Adventure of the Empty House.

But I watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner or later I should get him. Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chance had come at last. Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it? He had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the club, he had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once. I was seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonel’s attention to my presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return with his crime, and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make an attempt to get me out of the way AT once, and would bring round his murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an excellent mark in the window, and, having warned the police that they might be needed—by the way, Watson, you spotted their presence in that doorway with unerring accuracy—I took up what seemed to me to be a judicious post for observation, never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?”

Doyle, Arthur Conan; Books, Maplewood. Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection . Maplewood Books. Kindle Edition.

That is all well and good, but the acting and the dialogue are atrocious. Characters enter the scene like wooden soldiers, mounted on rollers and pulled by a cord. They speak their lines as though reading the obituary columns, and they they make their escape, barely showing their backsides.

Much of the plot is disjoint, as well. Professor Moriarty is supposed to be a criminal mastermind, his legion of seasoned crooks responsible for half the criminal activity in the world. But he has gotten possession of a printing press capable of turning out perfect copies of English bank notes. He must pass off the phony notes. But their identifying numbers match those of the real notes. His plan is to steal the genuine notes from the bank and smuggle them out of the country, leaving the phony bills in their place. Then his associates will spend the real notes abroad while the phony notes are being passed around in England. By the time duplicate notes begin to arrive back from the continent, revealing the hoax, all the genuine notes will have been exchanged for cash.

What? If the phony notes are so good, why not smuggle them to the continent and pass them there? It’s the bank caper that alerts the authorities, and Holmes, that something is up.

The phony notes are brought into the bank carefully packaged to keep them fresh. This is a smart move. If they have the appearance of having been fingered, then bank workers would examine them more closely. What, then, does the master crook of all the world do? He leaves the wrapper at the bank for the authorities to find. At a similar caper in Germany, a cardboard box is left behind.

Moriarty figures he needs to get rid of Holmes. The two discuss that in their meeting at the flat. Why doesn’t he shoot Holmes then and there? See the image above. Moriarty has his gun out and pointed at Holmes. Pull the trigger and nod to Watson on the way down the stairs.

Truth be known, it took me three attempts to get through this movie without falling asleep. Interested readers please know it can be viewed for free on YouTube:

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

So there is this introverted high school student who has never asked a girl to a dance. It’s his senior year and he feels that he should go to prom.

So he musters up the courage and asks one of his friends. She says yes. Now he has to prepare for the dance. The next day, he goes to buy his tickets, and there is a huge line. So he waits, and waits, and waits, then he finally gets the tickets.

The next day, he goes with his date to go get a dress. When they get to the store, there is a huge line going out the door. So the wait, they wait, and they wait. Finally, they get to the front and buy a dress.

After this, they go to Men’s Wearhouse to get him a suit for the dance, and there is a huge line going out the door. So they wait, wait, and wait. Finally they get in and buy a nice suit.

The next day, he remembers that he needs to order a corsage. So he goes to the local store and there is a huge line. So he waits, waits, and waits until he gets his order in.

Now it’s the day before prom and he wakes up and realizes that he forgot to order a limo, so he calls up the limo rental place. All the lines are busy so he decides to go into the place. When he gets there, he sees the line stretching out the door and around the corner. So he waits, and waits, and waits, until finally he was lucky enough to get the very last limo.

So now it’s the night of the dance and when they get to the prom, the school is doing mandatory drug testing, so there is a huge line getting into the prom. So the wait, wait, and wait. Finally they get to the front and they both pass their drug tests.

Now the dance was going pretty good for about a half an hour, until he really, really had to go to the bathroom. So he takes off to go, and he sees this huge line going out of the bathroom. He waits, waits, and waits until he finally takes care of his business.

When he comes out of the bathroom, he notices that a crowd has formed around his date. She had just randomly passed out. Someone says to him, “Hey, you’re her date, go get her some punch.” So he goes over to the punch table and thank God, there is no punch line.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks (number 97).

 

Don’t let liberal politicians fool you. They aren’t concerned with your right to defend yourself. They only want to take your guns. Take your guns. Take your guns.

(CNN) — Another high school has turned into a scene of carnage, this time in western Kentucky.

Fourteen people were wounded, two of them fatally, after a shooter opened fire Tuesday morning at Marshall County High School, Gov. Matt Bevin said at a news conference. Another five people sustained other injuries.
A 15-year-old male student was arrested at the scene and will be charged with murder and attempted murder, Bevin said.
Stay alert, and keep your powder dry.

When We March

Have we arrived at that day?

The President wants a parade:

Washington (CNN) — President Donald Trump has asked for a military parade and the Pentagon is reviewing potential dates, Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers said Tuesday.

The spokesman described the planning process as being in its “infancy.”
In response to the news, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump had asked the Defense Department to “explore” the idea.
“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great servicemembers who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation,” Sanders said.
The Washington Post first reported Trump told top Pentagon brass last month he wants a military parade.

Hey! He’s the President. He shall have one.

 

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 5 in a series

Did I mention I previously attended meetings of a creationist group in Dallas? I’m sure I did. Here’s more of the same.

There’s a group called the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science, MIOS, and they had program meetings on a Tuesday night most every month. Often times there were presentations on why creation is true and evolution is wrong, not only wrong but usually evil. These were what I call creationists of the first type. They hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is the origin of the creation story. So they need to continually confirm the truth of biblical stories, including the famous flood of Noah. Also other stories. Including the story of Joshua.

A presentation one night was a bizarre explanation of how the story of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho has been proved true. I have a copy of the handouts from the meeting, and here it is, as verbatim as my ability allows:

THE SUN DID STAND STILL

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called “myth” in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:

“I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1,000 years from now. We have to know this so we don’t send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down! They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said, “It’s perfect.” The head of operations said, “What’s wrong?” “Well, they have found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.” They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer!

One religious fellow on the team said, “You know, one time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still.” They didn’t believe him; but they didn’t have any other answer so they said, “Show us.” He got a Bible and went back to the Book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anybody who has ‘common sense’. There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, “Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That’s right — “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . . and pasted not to go down about a whole day.” Joshua 10:8,12,13. The space men said, “There is the missing day!” They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes — not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was -­”about (approximately) a day.”

These little words in the Bible are important. But they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you’ll be in trouble 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. This religious fellow also remembered somwhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. The space men told him he was out of his mind. But they got the Book and read these words in II Kings: Hezakiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the Prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, “Do you want the sun to go ahead ten degrees?” Hezekiah said, “It’s nothing for the sun to go ahead ten degrees, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” II Kings 20: 9-11. Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARDS! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in II Kings make the missing 24 hours the space travelers had to log in the logbook as being the missing day in the universe! Isn’t that amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!”

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

References Cited for “The Missing Day in Time”

Did the Sun Stand Still? Tract No. 1211. North Syracuse, N.Y.: Book Fellowship [n.d., 7 pp.] *Mentions Irwin H. Linton, A Lawyer Examines the Bible.

Apologetics. By Harry Conn. Minneapolis: Men for Missions [tract, n.d., 9 pp.]

The Missing Day /Behind the Missing Day. Minneapolis: Osterhus Pub. House [tract, n.d., 4 pp.]

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Joshua’s Long Day. In Five Minutes with the Bible & Science. Daily Reading Magazine. Supplement to Bible-Science Newsletter. Vol. VIII: No. 5 (May, 1978). Caldwell, Id. [2 pp.] *Mentions Robert L. Odem, “The Lost Day of Joshua,” Ministry (November/December, 1970), and J. B. Dimbleby, All Past Time.

Harry Rimmer. The Harmony of Science and Scripture. [1927] 4th edn., Berne, Ind.: Berne Witness Company, 1937.

Charles A. L. Totten. Joshua’s Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz. A Scientific Vindication. [1890] Study No. 2 of “The Our Race Series—The Voice of History.” Merrimac, Mass.: Destiny Publishers, 1968 edn. with a foreword by Howard B. Rand.

Dan A. Oren. Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

“A Clergyman Insane. He is a Graduate of Yale and one of Lieut. Toten’s [sic] Disciples.” The New York Times. 26 June 1891. p.l.

“No Rest for Totten.” The New York Times. 13 March 1892. p. 4. “Lieut. Totten’s Vagaries.” The New York Times. 30 March 1892. p. 1

*I have not yet located these three publications, mentioned in works consulted. I would be grateful for information about them, and for copies of “Missing Day” fliers or tracts.

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

All right. You’ve read it. So, maybe you didn’t read it. Maybe you read part of it. Let’s take it from there. I was in the room when this presentation was handed out. There were fully functional adults in the room. And nobody laughed. Nobody. I must have held my breath. How about some Skeptical Analysis. Where to start? Let’s start with this bit of unreason:

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards.

The computer stopped? Really? Why? Computers don’t just stop. They get finished, and they pause, waiting for something new to come along. The computer put up a red signal? This massively intriguing. I am, most of us are, accustomed to error messages on computers. They tend to be in the order of:

  • Unexpected “{” in line 32.
  • File not found.
  • Segmentation fault—core dumped.
  • Blue screen of death.

Some forgiveness may be due. Permission for reprinting was given in 1970, so the events preceded Windows 3.2. Maybe a red light (flashing or not) was all that was available.

Anyhow, the explanation for the computer’s stopping comes off the rails quickly. There was a missing day? Really? How does a day turn up missing? What information could the computer possibly have been chewing on to make it conclude there was a missing day? Yeah, that’s curious. Fortunately I have done some of this stuff. I took celestial mechanics and interplanetary navigation in college, and I also did a term project much like the one described above. It goes like this.

You provide the data for the simulation. There are celestial bodies with these masses in these positions and traveling at these velocities. You press the start key, and the simulation launches, predicting where the bodies will be in one-minute (or whatever) intervals. One of the inputs includes a condition that signals the simulation to stop. A condition such as “Simulate 500 hours.” You can easily run the simulation backwards in time. Just reverse the velocities of all the bodies and hit the start key. The simulation will tell you where the bodies were in the past. That is what the NASA simulation must have been doing. And NASA and astronomers and curious amateurs like me do this sort of thing. For one thing, you might want to know where the moon’s shadow crossed the Earth’s surface. Here’s one:

12 June 2000 BC 03:14:51 5 Total 1.0733 06m 37s 6.0°N 33.3°W 247 km (153 mi)

I don’t know if anybody was around to see that, but we can all be sure it happened. Celestial mechanics is a well-developed science.

And no, there is no missing day.

The remainder of the story requires scrutiny. I will scrutinize partially.

The above article was copied from “The Evening Star”, Spencer, Indiana. It is verified by Mr. Harold Hill, who gave permission for reprinting, February 22, 1970.

Permission was given in February 22, 1970. Compare that with this:

Harold Hill, as told to Irene Burk Harrell. How to Live Like a King’s Kid. Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1974. Ch. 13, “How to Find the Missing Day,” pp. 65-75. On pp. 75-77: “Book Report ‘Long Day of Joshua’ C. A. L. Totten,” by V. L. Westberg, August 1970, Sonoma, Cal.

Permission was given to reprint prior to when Harold Hill told the story to Irene Burk Harrell. I will not belabor. Feel free to spot the additional discrepancies.

I was able to verify the “Totten” references appearing in the New York Times back in the 19th century. Apparently there was a C.A.L. Totten back then, and he caught the attention of the Times often. This is from Wikipedia:

Charles Adelle Lewis Totten (February 3, 1851 – April 12, 1908) was an American military officer, a professor of military tactics, a prolific writer, and an influential early advocate of British Israelism.

Finally, there is this item’s signatory:

Jan Harold Brunvand Department of English University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 84112

We know Jan Brunvand. He’s the person who created the concept of the urban legend. Is it possible “The Sun Did Stand Still” is a sample from his studies blown up into something to impress fellow creationists? I shudder to think.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m seeing this again. Truth be, since I saw it the first time, I saw it again under a different title and a similar plot. This is The Eagle Has Landed, starring, Michael CaineDonald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall. It’s based on the book of the same name by Jack Higgins. It’s about a scheme to infiltrate England with a German detachment during World War Two, and here lies the similarity to Went the Day Well?, based on a Graham Greene script. Parallels abound, indicating some amount of plot sharing. This came out in 1977 in the U.S., having been featured previously elsewhere. It’s from Columbia Pictures.

The scheme gets hatched in the office of German Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was a real character, heading up German military intelligence for most of the war. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has earlier in the year been deposed in conjunction with Italy’s capitulation, and Mussolini has subsequently been rescued from a mountain prison by Nazi super-operative Otto Skorzeny. Now German Chancellor Adolf Hitler wants to put a cap on the caper by arranging the kidnapping of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Canaris calls the fictional Oberst Max Radl (Duvall) in and tells him to scope the plan. But under no circumstances is he to put anything into action. By now Hitler is gripped by frenzy as his enemies close inexorably on his shrinking empire.

Oops! Things get out of hand, as the pieces fall neatly into place. The right Churchill schedule coincides with the availability of the right person to do the job, plus a number of other things going right. The doomed Randl is struck by the whisper of beckoning fate, and also by a direct order from Heinrich Himmler, Nazi head of the SS and the Gestapo. Randl is ordered by Himmler to defy Hitler (ordinarily the kiss of death) and to carry out the plot. If it succeeds, Himmler will take the credit. If it fails, Randl will take the fall.

The right man is Skorzeny-like Oberst Kurt Steiner (Caine). Steiner makes his appearance when his battalion is returning from a rough assignment. At a train stop he rescues a Jewish girl from being murdered for attempting to escape a death train. For this offense he and his crew have been given a suicide detail involving torpedoes, which specifics elude me.

Anyhow, Steiner and the remainder of his detail take the opportunity to escape certain death by choosing almost certain death. They will go to England and kidnap Churchill.

The first to arrive in England is Irish rogue Liam Devlin (Sutherland). Devlin has to be in the movie, because the Jack Higgins book is part of a Liam Devlin series. Parachuting into England, Devlin meets British turncoat Joanna Grey (Jean Marsh), who gives him the cover job of marsh warden, plus a motorcycle and a shotgun.

In the village Devlin meets up with Molly Prior (Jenny Agutter), a comely lass who quickly forms an attachment to him. This arrangement is in conflict with one Arthur Seymour (Terence Plummer), who takes an instant dislike. The two have it out with fisticuffs in the town square.

Steiner and his men drop in, he disguised as an English commander of a free Polish contingent. He speaks perfect English, they pretend to speak Polish. Their German uniforms are hidden beneath their British livery. They pretend to be on maneuvers about the area, reflecting on the Graham Greene plot. All is friendship and smiles. We know it has to end.

It does. A young girl falls into the mill sluice, and one of the “Polish” soldiers jumps in to rescue her. He is ground up by the water wheel, revealing his German uniform. The cat is out of the bag. Also about this time, Arthur discovers the German equipment, and Molly shoots him with Devlin’s shotgun.

Out, too, come the guns, and the townspeople are herded into the church, same as in the Graham Greene plot.

Molly and the pastor’s sister, Pamela (Judy Geeson) see what’s going on and sneak out to alert the authorities. One authority who is not inclined to play well is cashiered American Army Colonel Clarence E. Pitts (Larry Hagman). He is determined not to be returned to desk duty in the states without seeing some combat. He squelches the alert message and leads his men into a fatal assault on the entrenched German special forces.

You instantly do not like Colonel Pitts, and you long to enjoy his eventual disgrace. Instead, he makes a foolhardy go to capture the devilish Joanna Grey. Instead, as he approaches with an armed grenade, she puts a bullet into his forehead, and he tumbles down the stairs, losing his grip on the spoon. Boom! Knowing she has no place left to go, she takes the short way out with the pistol.

But the cavalry does arrive, and a concerted attack by American troops wipes out the Germans in the church.

Randl takes the heat, as Himmler orders his arrest and execution. Justice moved swiftly in Nazi Germany.

Devlin and Steiner escape the assault on the church, along with a wounded German soldier. Steiner’s idea is to hunt down and kill Churchill.

He overwhelms an American captain and takes his uniform. Finding Churchill’s location, he waits outside on the terrace as the great man steps out for cigar and a brandy. He shoots and in turn is gunned down.

Only it isn’t Churchill. Historically, Churchill was not in England at the time. He was in Tehran for a conference with Roosevelt and Stalin.

A German E-boat takes the wounded soldier back to the fatherland, and Devlin treks off through the English countryside to continue his adventures. And that’s the end of the movie.

Yeah, this garnered applause and financial reward when it played the first time around, but I can’t let it go without pointing some obvious problems.

Get past the obvious heroics of Oberst Kurt Steiner, seen throwing away his career and his very life—and that of his men—to save a young girl from being murdered by the SS. This is an obvious setup to showcase his true heart.

Later we see the German infiltrators parachuting into England. In broad daylight. This would be late November 1943, during which time England had complete control of its skies. Any aircraft coming across the North Sea (this is in Norfolk) from enemy territory would have been spotted by British radar and gunned out of the sky forthwith. Also, people all up and down the coast would have spotted the subterfuge. The Germans did land spies in England during the war, but it was always by submarine and, I suppose, by fast E-boat.

The Germans have worn their uniforms underneath their disguises to they can be treated as legitimate warriors if captured. I’m not too sure how that’s supposed to work if you go in wearing British uniforms on top. The plot is unraveled when the waterwheel shreds the uniform of one of the soldiers. The Germans immediately go to their fall-back position when they could have  claimed the hidden uniform was part of their exercise. They could be training to seek out infiltrators.

The entire plan was based on knowing days in advance of Churchill’s itinerary. This would have been 1) something not laid out that far in advance (it was a vacation retreat of some sort), and 2) German intelligence did not also obtain the information that Churchill would actually be out of the country at the time. Very poor planning, especially for the very efficient Germans.

It’s night. The wounded German soldier is being evacuated by E-boat. Devlin and Steiner are going their separate ways, Steiner to hunt down and kill Churchill. It’s daylight. Randl is facing a firing squad. It’s the same night, apparently. Steiner hunts down and kills the fake Churchill. Who was in charge of continuity in this production?

Higgins wrote the book six years after Neil Armstrong immortalized the title.