Fool’s Argument

First of a series

Last year we ditched the cable and bought into a couple of subscription streaming services. So, come Sunday , and it was promising to be a dull morning. I turned to Amazon Prime Video and browsed some stuff Barbara Jean had earmarked. Wow. Does God Exist? Yes, it’s there, and what a wonderful way it is to brighten up an otherwise dull Sunday morning.

Of course I needed to watch. Here it is.

So I see that guy, and he’s asking the question, “Does God exist?” And he further asks, “Is the Bible really the word of God?” Also, “Was Jesus really the son of God?” These questions, I expect, will be answered. But one question that needs to be answered first is, “Who is that person asking those questions?”

Christians in Cinema: Dave Stotts

After attending Abilene Christian University in the Texas Panhandle, Dave Stotts hopped around a few more places before settling down in the Dallas Metroplex area. Married to Rebekah and the father of 2 sons (Seth and Luke), his time is divided between video post-production, theological studies and making history alive and entertaining.

When asked about his favorite restaurant, he immediately named “Mi Cocina,” which specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine (a man after my own heart!). A fan of science fiction epics (X-men, Superman, Star Wars) married to someone who doesn’t really care for them, Dave often watches his favorites with headphones. He’s even been known to impersonate Darth Vader for his youngest son “Luke, I’m your father”. I talked with Dave on a busy Thursday morning between video projects.

Then we get to the meat of the matter, and we see, as before, creationists Stephen C. Meyer. And it is good to see Dr. Meyer once more, even if this is not a recent production. My hope is he will be touching on a favorite topic of mine, namely Information and Myth:

Having nothing better to do, I was watching this on-line video. And the guy was making some statements about matter and information and energy, and, being composed of these things and having studied them in college, I was a little amazed at what the guy was saying. Time for a Slim Pickens movie quote here.1

The speaker was creationist Stephen C. Meyer, and that was no surprise. Meyer has just published his latest creationist book, and having nothing better to do, I ordered a copy from Amazon.com. Here is what Amazon has to say about the author:

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.2

Much is promised for this book. It’s supposed to set us straight about the basis for Intelligent Design and to make the case, using the story of DNA, for Intelligent Design. Once again, I will let Amazon do the talking:

That’s what I had to say eight years ago.

This seems to be a new setting. It is from all appearances a college classroom, and Meyer is going to address the question of whether God exists, and we can guess what the answer will be.

First off, I was unable to escape the notion this was dramatized. It gives the appearance of classroom instruction viewed live, but the use of multiple camera angles and the timing of the actions makes me doubt this could have been pulled off live. Live does not go this smoothly. There are times, when the camera angle shifts, that I would expect to see the camera that shot the previous view, and I do not. Let’s assume this is an informal, staged production. Also, in case you were not aware, this is a production of Focus on the Family:

Focus on the Family (FOTF or FotF) is an American Christian conservative organization founded in 1977 in Southern California by psychologistJames Dobson, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is active in promoting an interdenominational effort toward its socially conservative views on public policy. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s.

Focus on the Family’s stated mission is “nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide”. It promotes abstinence-only sexual educationcreationism; adoption by married, opposite-sex parents; school prayer; and traditional gender roles. It opposes abortion; divorce; gambling; LGBT rights, particularly LGBT adoption and same-sex marriage; pornography; pre-marital sex; and substance abuse. Psychologistspsychiatrists, and social scientists have criticized Focus on the Family for trying to misrepresent their research to bolster FOTF’s fundamentalist political agenda and ideology.

We can tell up front there’s going to be a lot of solid science coming out of this.

There are ten episodes in the series plus a bonus, and the first is “Faith and Reason,” and Meyer gets into the meaning of faith, and hopefully why religious faith is not all that bad. For this kind of presentation, Meyer is an excellent choice. He is a polished presenter, and his formal training in philosophy of science provides the very material he needs for background. He can argue from an academically-grounded knowledge base.

That background, as I learned a few years back, is no inoculation against foolish thought. Robert Koons was then and still is a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where I once attended and obtained a degree. He came up to give a talk at UT Dallas in 2004, and I was there with a fellow skeptic to take it in:

All this got me to thinking, and when there was an opportunity to pose a question I asked just what it would take to be convincing. Passing by the bacterial flagellum for the time being, I brought up Behe’s example of human blood clotting chemistry (because that appears to me to be the bigger of these two cow cookies for Behe).4 I asked whether demonstrating feasible pathways to the present human clotting chemistry would sufficiently refute Behe’s whole argument for irreducible complexity.

To recapitulate, human blood clotting chemistry is quite complex (what isn’t in biochemistry). When a blood vessel is opened, an elaborate chain—a cascade—of chemical reactions is set into motion. If any step in the chain is missing, or is inadequate for the job, blood clots form prematurely, or we bleed excessively, even to death. Think hemophilia. How could that assemblage of chemical reactions have come about by mutation combined with natural selection? No single mutation, subsequently fixed through natural selection, could have produced all of the required steps simultaneously. If any of our ancestors lacked even one of the steps, we would not be reading this skeptical rag.

Knowing that biologists have a good lead on possible pathways and an effective refutation of Behe’s blood chemistry argument, I asked how many of Behe’s examples need to be explained before irreducible complexity is dead.

Not just one, Koons surmised. One example does not make for solid proof.

What Koons ending up saying is that creationists could pose a large number of examples of supposed irreducible complexity, and biologist would need to refute a slew of these before we should bring the concept into question. My experience, as I noted back then, is that in science and in academia you can expect to present two or at most three ridiculous arguments before you lose credibility. Koons seemed at the time vacant on this point.

But what of Meyer’s presentation on this day, apparently about 2009?

At one point he gets to the causality argument, and he states the misconception that cause and effect are essential to the working of the Universe. As is often pointed out, this is not the case. From all appearances and from all known experience, cause and effect are not essential. At the base of physical science, events happen without a cause. Not a big deal, but certainly not in line with Meyer’s train of thought.

That brings us to Meyer’s central argument in Episode 1. We know the effect. We see it all around us. We see birds, we feel the wind. There are stars and planets, and people and love and happiness (my wording). What is the cause? Is it blind physics? He is going to argue no. Eventually he is going to postulate that God is the best explanation—the best and ultimate cause. Here God is the capital G in the middle of his blackboard.

 

And Meyer’s argument is the proper inference is a being of some sort manifesting intelligence and passion. The problem with this is–pause for a moment–what we call intelligence and passion are human qualities. He, and others in the Intelligent Design movement, are taking these and other human qualities and creating a God that possesses these and in turn creates beings, ourselves, that have these properties. The argument is unquestionably circular.

I will state, as I have before, that if there were a being, such as the proposed God, and this being were all-knowing and all-powerful (omniscient and omnipotent), then what would would this God do? Create a Universe? Create a planet and populate it with beings possessing intelligence and passion? Why? The motivation to create, even if to experiment, is a quality found in living things on this planet. And that includes us. We have those qualities because they are essential to survival. Such need would not exist for an omniscient and omnipotent being. If there is Intelligent Design, then we are not the product. We are the designer.

Episode 2 is going to be “The Big Bang Cosmology: The Finite Universe.” I’m thinking that’s going to  be  more interesting, and I will post a review later this week. These are short, around 30 minutes, so they pose little challenge to my attention span.

Here is a link to a promo on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S-5GdCPp7c

Hey! If you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber you can purchase the DVD set on Amazon.

www.amazon.com/TrueU-01-Building-Scientific-Discussion/dp/B00UTUDIT6/

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Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

What apparently happened, and this was 40 years ago in 1977, somebody said, “Here’s two million dollars. Go make a bad movie.” So the response was, “They already made a bad movie.” Then, “Well, go make a spoof of a bad movie.” “You mean a movie that makes bad movies look good?” “Yeah, that kind of movie.” “So, what do you want me to call it?” “How about The Happy Hooker.” “That’s already been done. How about The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington.” “Max, you’re a genius.”

And I watched it. Oh sweet Jesus, I watched it. It’s streaming this month (September) on Amazon Prime Video. Wikipedia doesn’t have much of an entry for it, but then there’s not much of a plot. So I had to be satisfied with getting details on the players.

So it’s got to be about Washington, and we know what goes on in Washington. Well, that’s how this starts out. The cleaning woman, then the security guard, discover a member of Congress and a woman staffer in flagrante delicto, and that riles lawmakers to the point there needs to be an investigation. And a movie.

 

The scene switches to the office of corporate madame Xaviera Hollander (Joey Heatherton) in Los Angeles. Besides her undercover work, she runs a sexual advice column. And that’s about all the setting this movie needs, because this is going to be about junior high school sexual innuendo and bare tits. At every opportunity we’re going to see bare tits. Everything else is a distraction.

For example, Ms. Hollander conducts profitable sexual orgy sessions.

And more. But the United States Senate has other ideas. Ms. Hollander is subpoenaed to testify, since her line of business is certainly the root cause of all this sexual corruption. The hearings get underway, and a flustered TV censor bemoans the vulgar language he has been required to strike from scripts. He can’t say the words out loud, so he passes along a list to the committee, explaining, “It’s amazing what some of the cock-suckers will try to get away with.”

Juvenile, humor, of course, and the chamber erupts into school yard snickers. It gets stretched. Senatorial secretary Miss Goodbody (Cisse Cameron) is taking notes, and she is confused. Is cock-suckers one word or two? She has to repeat the phrase a number of times, each time drawing gasps from underage boys who have sneaked in to watch the movie. It’s finally decided that cock-sucker is hyphenated. But we all knew that.

To keep you from having to guess, before the movie is out you are going to get to see Miss Goodbody’s tits.

Ms. Hollander testifies.

The Senate panel brings up some of Ms. Hollander’s previous projects. She has worked to help advertisers push their products, using the product that she sells best.

Any excuse (I’m not complaining) to show bare tits. Here’s a scene in a diner (a product commercial) where newly-weds are itching to show everybody something they learned the previous night. The product being advertised is a paper towel strong enough to clean up the mess the two make humping on the counter.

Yes, there is something for the ladies in  the audience. Here’s George Hamilton, as Ms. Hollander’s lawyer. With his clothes on. Sorry.

More advertising pitches. This time it’s a car company in Detroit. Can you do it in this model? Yes, you can, three couples at a time.

She pops out the top of the mock-up car. What a ride!

There is one segment of actual drama. Ms. Hollander is kidnapped by a CIA dwarf played by Billy Barty. He sends her on assignment to Miami Beach, where her duty to her country is to seduce an Arab sheikh and prevent him from attending a crucial business conference.

For Ms. Hollander, it’s all in a days’ work.

What she learns from the sheikh is that the senators on the panel have connected with him to supply women for their sexual fantasies. Back on the stand she details the exploits of each of them.

And that’s the end of the movie. In case you waded all the way through it in hopes of seeing Heatherton’s tits, this is about as close as you’re going to get.

If I were drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, I would have an accurate count of bare breasts appearing in this movie. Just take my word for it. This film has more bare breasts than Kentucky Fried Movie. More than double to be sure.

Deconstructing D’Souza

Chapter 2

I spent the previous post analyzing Chapter One of Dinesh D’Souza’s book (see above). The chapter is titled “Return of the Nazis,” and it makes a go at demonstrating that “progressives” (liberals, Democrats) are the real racists. Yeah, that didn’t wash.

I’m taking the book a chapter at a time, and Chapter Two has the title “Falsifying History.” Here I have to admit my eyes glazed over following D’Souza’s analysis of the roots and the development of Fascists states, salient being Nazi Germany under Hitler and Fascist Italy under Mussolini. Where he loses me is his deep discourse on Fascist theorist Giovanni Gentile. My thanks go out to D’Souza for educating me, for I had not heard of Gentile before. Here is a short blurb from Wikipedia:

Giovanni Gentile (30 May 1875 – 15 April 1944) was an Italian neo-Hegelian idealist philosopher, educator, and fascist politician, and a peer of Benedetto Croce. The self-styled “philosopher of Fascism“, he was influential in providing an intellectual foundation for Italian Fascist thought, and ghostwrote part of The Doctrine of Fascism (1932) with Benito Mussolini. He was involved in the resurgence of Hegelian idealism in Italian philosophy and also devised his own system of thought, which he called “actual idealism” or “actualism“, and which has been described as “the subjective extreme of the idealist tradition”.

That done, D’Souza overworks theoretical versus applied Fascism and is eager to demonstrate that modern progressivism (liberalism) is thinly disguised Fascism. It’s a stretch, but readers do need to be aware that D’Souza is point-on regarding some issues. Particularly, he illustrates the socialistic nature of Nazism and its godfather, Fascism. Both Mussolini and Hitler invoked nationalization of significant industries, but D’Souza goes beyond that to remind us this is what progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want.

As mentioned, that latter assertion is beyond convincing, but D’Souza uses the pair’s positions on financial institutions to leverage his argument.

If you read the Nazi platform without knowing its source, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were reading the 2016 platform of the Democratic Party. Or at least a Democratic platform drafted jointly by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sure, some of the language is out of date. The Democrats can’t talk about “usury” these days; they’d have to substitute “Wall Street greed.” But otherwise, it’s all there. All you have to do is cross out the word “Nazi” and write in the word “Democrat.”

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 1093-1098). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

And that seems to be the prime argument of Chapter Two. A push by progressives to exert government oversight upon large banks and other financial institutions translates into  government control, which translates into Nazism and Fascism and all the horrors that went with them before they were defeated by military force.

Not addressed in this chapter are the actual crimes committed by people who were running these institutions ten years ago. Government oversight was supposed to be in place to prevent, among other transgressions, falsification of portfolios offered for sale. Oversight was lax, and the result was a collapse of major markets, for which the response of a Republican president was to initiate government action to ameliorate the damage and the subsequent action by a Democratic president to see these policies through. D’Souza may dislike government intervention in American business, but the history of this time was a dramatic loss in market value, followed by a long slow climb to unprecedented levels, due to aggressive government intervention. Socialism in action? It will be interesting to see if D’Souza has anything to say about these events in the remaining chapters.

Coming up next, Chapter Three, “Mussolini’s Journey.” I can hardly wait.

Deconstructing D’Souza

This writer has been popping up on my Facebook feed and other places for several years. He is a prolific publisher, always seeming to be a bit off-kilter. Since a lot of people take him seriously, he is worth some analysis. Here is a blurb from Wikipedia, slightly edited:

Dinesh Joseph D’Souza; born April 25, 1961) is an Indian American conservative political commentator, author and filmmaker. From 2010 to 2012, he was president of The King’s College, a Christian school in New York City.

Born in Bombay, D’Souza came to the United States as an exchange student and graduated from Dartmouth College. He became a naturalized citizen in 1991. He is the author of several New York Times best-selling books, including titles on Christian apologetics. D’Souza has been critical of New Atheism. In 2012, D’Souza released his film 2016: Obama’s America, an anti-Obama polemic based on D’Souza’s 2010 book The Roots of Obama’s Rage; the film is the highest-grossing conservative documentary film produced in the United States.

On May 20, 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty in federal court to one charge of using a “straw donor” to make an illegal campaign contribution to a 2012 United States Senate campaign, a felony. On September 23, he was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house near his home in San Diego, five years probation, and a $30,000 fine.

So, a quick read leaves the impression of a person passionate about an ideal to the extent that other ideals must go on the block.

Regarding the New Atheism, to which D’Souza seems much opposed, it is a recent movement holding that “superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics.” In the spirit of full disclosure, I adhere to the New Atheism. Additionally I am going to be opposed to much of D’Souza’s thinking, or, if not his thinking, then what he is saying about what he is thinking and what he wants people to believe. That said, this is not going to be a kind and gentle review of his most recent book, The Big Lie.

I was off on vacation earlier this month when the book came up in an on-line conversation, and I purchased the Kindle edition, on which this review is based. As I began to plow through the author’s rhetoric I started highlighting significant passages—you can do that with Kindle—intending to come to them subsequently in a review. I quickly realized I was highlighting something on about every page, so I made the decision early on to take this book one chapter at a time. It’s going to make the whole thing more digestible. Let’s see how it goes. Start with Chapter One, “Return of the Nazis.”

As advertised on the cover, this book is going to convince us the American Left (however that’s defined) has Nazi roots. How does it start? It starts by demonstrating that The Left has victims and further that The Left attempts to absolve itself of blame (blame for this victimization) by blaming the people it victimizes. After an opening paragraph that discusses Sigmund Freud’s theory of transference he gets off into how he sees that Adolf (remember the Nazis) used this mechanism. He quotes from Hitler’s book, which I quote here more completely:

All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true in itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large- scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (p. 203). Prabhat Prakashan. Kindle Edition.

So, that’s the scheme of The Left. They will accuse their opponents of the big lie, much as Hitler (the Nazis) employed the tactic in the rise to power:

Hitler, however, is not referring to his own big lies. Rather, he is referring to the lies allegedly promulgated by the Jews. The Jews, Hitler says, are masters of the big lie. Now recognize that Mein Kampf is a tireless recitation of libels and calumnies against the Jews. The Jews are accused of everything from being capitalists to being Bolsheviks, from being impotent to lusting after Nordic women, from being culturally insignificant to being seekers of world domination. The charges are contradictory; they cannot simultaneously be true.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 68-73). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Hopefully the stage is now set for understanding the argument that’s going to run the length of the book. I hope. At this point I have read the first two chapters, and there are nine. Reading the first two gives me to consider I may not be able to distill D’Souza’s central argument, partly because his argument has the appearance of being whatever he needs to say to convince readers that The Left is a collection of Fascists, Nazis, liars. Hence the title.

I will pick a few choice quotes from each chapter and give readers an idea of where D’Souza is going wrong. Here is one tactic that I have covered before:

Even my most incriminating allegations proved invulnerable. I noted that, in 1860, the year before the Civil War, no Republican owned a slave; all the four million slaves at the time were owned by Democrats.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 114-116). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

You have to understand the assumed association. Left = Democrat = the Democratic Party. The statement about only Democrats owning slaves almost has to be true by definition. In 1860 the Republican party, newly created, had abolition its principal platform. While it would be a stretch to say  “All the four million slaves at the time were owned by Democrats,” it would not be much of a stretch to say that no Republicans owned slaves. We have to think that if you were a Republican, then you had already signed up to abolish slavery. Here D’Souza goes out on a limb to state only Democrats owned slaves in 1860. The reason this is not necessarily so is there was never any compelling reason for slave owners to join the Democratic party. D’Souza is guessing, and his readers are not expected to realize that.

D’Souza is playing the game that has become known as “Quick History Lesson.” Here is the link from four years ago:

Facebook again. Somebody posted this on their Facebook feed. It’s supposed to be a history lesson. In fact, it’s title is “Quick History Lesson.” It is quick. Here’s what it says:

And here’s the meme that got the discussion going:

The argument being made then, as D’Souza is attempting to make now, is that Democratic Party = Left = liberal = racist. Follow the link and see how that approach leads nowhere. My observation from four years ago hints at D’Souza’s fallacy:

Strom Thurmond is one of those Democrats who deserted the Party when it started becoming too liberal in 1964.

James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican. He switched because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, disaffection with the liberalism of the national party, and his support for the conservatism and opposition to the Civil Rights bill of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. He left office as the only senator to reach the age of 100 while still in office and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history (although he was later surpassed in length of service by Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye). Thurmond holds the record at 14 years as the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S. history.

A Democratic (not all that liberal) president ended racial discrimination in the United States Military services. More recently, liberals, principally of the Democratic Party, have championed laws forbidding hiring discrimination against homosexuals. A liberal Democratic president has ordered a halt to anti-homosexual bias in the military services. These have been liberal initiatives with little or no support from the conservative faction.

I state without further elaboration that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and similar civil rights legislation would not exist today if the conservatives presently representing the Tea Party coalition had their way.

The “Quick History Lesson” theme carried through multiple subsequent posts, including one with the following observation:

Smith is right. It was the Republican Party that abolished slavery 150 years ago, and it was the Democratic Party in the Old South that continued to support suppression of black citizens for nearly a hundred years until… Until Franklin Roosevelt was elected as a very liberal president in 1932, and Democratic President Harry Truman desegregated the United States armed services. The kicker came in the presidential election of 1964 when Barry Goldwater was nominated, and movie actor Ronald Reagan explained to Republicans at the nominating convention how bad and nonconservative had been the policies of Democratic presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In that year conservatives began to see the light and to make their shift from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. This day the Confederate flag never waves at a Democratic Party function, and the Old South is nearly wall to wall Republican.

If Carl Smith is concerned about the welfare of the KKK he can put his mind at ease. The KKK still has a small place in the hearts of some people, and he never had to look very far from his podium at the March CPAC to find that place.

Yes, D’Souza is going to need to stretch the truth mightily to lay racism at the feet of today’s Democratic Party or to link it to what he calls the American Left.

Some more:

Even after the election, it’s now harder, as a consequence of the book and movie, for Democrats to play the race card. They tried, briefly, in attempting to halt the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Trump’s attorney general. Decades ago, the charge went, he said some racist things. Yes, but what about Democrat Robert Byrd, “conscience of the Senate”? Decades ago, he had been a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the Clintons and Obama eulogized him when he died in 2010. The Democrats discovered, to their dismay, that their race card had become a dud. It no longer worked. Sessions sailed through.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 128-132). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Yes, the new Attorney General was found by Democrats (and liberals) to be unfavorable, and they did lean on his previous positions on racially-sensitive issues to push for his defeat. Subsequent developments show a mixture. Here are some citations from Wikipedia:

On April 10, 2017, Sessions disbanded the National Commission on Forensic Science and ended the Department’s review of the forensic accuracy in closed cases.

On April 3, 2017, Sessions announced that he was going to review consent decrees in which local law enforcement agencies had agreed to Department oversight. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar then denied Sessions’s request to delay a new consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department.

On May 12, 2017, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to begin seeking the greatest criminal charges possible. The new guidelines rescinded a memo by Attorney General Eric Holder that had sought to reduce mass incarceration by avoiding mandatory sentencing.

On October 4, 2017, Sessions released a Department of Justice (DoJ) memo interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, stating that Title VII “is ordinarily defined to mean biologically male or female,” but it “does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se.” The memo was written to withdraw an earlier DoJ memorandum issued by Eric Holder on December 15, 2014, which aligned the DoJ with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on interpreting Title VII to include gender identity or transgender status as a protected class. At that time, DoJ had already stopped opposing claims of discrimination brought by federal transgender employees.[141] Devin O’Malley, representing the DoJ, stated “the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle [that the Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided], which necessitated today’s action.” Sharon McGowan, a lawyer with Lambda Legal who previously served in the Civil Rights division of DoJ, rejected that argument, saying “this memo [issued by Sessions] is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were” and “[t]he Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”

However:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year, a highly unusual move that officials said was personally initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.

Regarding D’Souza’s claim that Sessions’ confirmation “sailed through” indicates a considerable variance from reality. The fact is that Sessions was confirmed by a vote of 52 to 47 in the Senate, with all Republicans voting for confirmation in addition to one Democrat. There was one abstention, and 45 Democrats voted against in addition to the two Independent senators. I look forward to sailing through my next medical exam.

D’Souza spends much of Chapter One defining the terms Nazi and Fascist. The goal appears to be that if you parse the right definitions you can pin these disagreeable terms on Democrats and on liberals in general. For the record, official Fascism began in Italy post World War One with the rise of Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler so admired Mussolini’s approach he adopted the concept in his nascent Nazi (National Socialist) party. In only this manner are the two closely associated. A more scholarly definition of Fascism is found in Wikipedia:

Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalismMarxism and anarchism, fascism is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.

Ignoring that definition, D’Souza wants to place Fascism to the left of center.

This is a topic I have not written about before. On two occasions, once in 1976 and again in 1980, Reagan offhandedly linked the Democratic Party with fascism.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 86-87). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

But that was Ronald Regan, dead over ten years. Come forward to 2017, and D’Souza wants to deny Fascism is right wing:

In this case, the story that we had accepted, like suckers, was the idea that fascism and Nazism are inherently “right wing.”

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 94-96). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

And he goes on from there. He rightly gets into the tactics of the anti-fascist (AntiFa) people. They are disrupting, often with violence, conservative speakers and events. The publication date on the book states it came out in 2017, and it is likely so that publication preceded some significant events:

The Unite the Right rally (also known as the Charlottesville rally) was a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, from August 11–12, 2017. Its stated goal was to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, which itself had been renamed by City Council from ”Lee Park” two months earlier. Protesters included white supremacistswhite nationalistsneo-Confederatesneo-Nazis, and various militias. Some of the marchers chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, carried semi-automatic riflesswastikasConfederate battle flagsanti-Muslimand antisemitic banners, and “Trump/Pence” signs.

[Skip some material]

After the aborted rally, at around 1:45 p.m., a man drove his car into a crowd of counterprotestors, hitting several and slamming into a stopped sedan, which hit a stopped minivan that was in front of it. The impact of the crash pushed the sedan and the minivan further into the crowd. One person was killed and 19 others were injured in what police have called a deliberate attack. The man then reversed the car through the crowd and fled the scene.

If you have missed any signs that Dinesh D’Souza is all for Donald Trump, then it is because I have not brought the matter up until now. Yes, Dinesh D’Souza goes full-court to defend Donald Trump against his detractors.

Start with this. In previous postings I have noted that a particularly odorous crowd seems attracted to Trump and cannot be found anywhere cheering for Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama).

Obviously, the question still remains: why do these guys like Trump if Trump isn’t a racist like them? One possible answer is that these are jobless guys, losers in society, some of them total imbeciles. Whatever they call themselves—fascists or something else—frankly I don’t believe they are fascists or know much about fascism. Hitler would have sent most of them straight to the gas chambers. (Let’s recall that one of the earliest categories of people Hitler euthanized were the so-called “imbeciles.”) It’s quite possible that these guys voted for Trump because they expect him to bring back unskilled jobs. So even if Trump is not a racist, it’s still possible that racists would like him for reasons that have nothing to do with racism.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 714-720). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

That reasoning is a neat piece of work. Why are (the people I mentioned) attracted to Trump? D’Souza grasps for an answer. Apparently any answer. These people are jobless (desperate). Or maybe merely losers. Else they could be imbeciles. Yes, I could agree with the last. D’Souza plunges on from there—for whatever reason I cannot discern. Yes, if they are imbeciles, then they are the kind that Nazis would not like—the Nazis would euthanize them. So, why would they support Trump if Trump were a Nazi? Makes sense.

D’Souza goes to tremendous length to winnow out the definition of Nazi and Fascist, and I am not going to follow that thread to its conclusion. I will close by dropping some quotes I found interesting.

Trump’s statements about Muslims cannot be termed racist for the simple reason that Islam is a religion, not a race. Can they, however, be termed xenophobic or anti -Muslim?

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 724-725). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Have fun with that one while I go on to the next.

It follows, therefore, that civil rights belong only to citizens. Aliens who are not part of the American social compact don’t have any constitutional rights. Again, Trump’s denial that illegal aliens have a constitutional right to be here is in the mainstream of the liberal tradition.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 735-738). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

D’Souza is a naturalized citizen from India, so he must have taken a civics course as part of the process. Apparently he slept through the class describing a constitutional amendment that guarantees everybody due process of the law. To put it briefly, non-citizens, legally here or not, have constitutional rights. An illegal alien cannot be arrested and convicted for a crime without a trail and all that goes with it.

Finally, let’s hear it for President Trump.

He got himself elected, and now he’s handling the most extreme opposition with aplomb.

D’Souza, Dinesh. The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (Kindle Locations 785-786). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Please try not to laugh.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

A reassurance they made quality movies 67 years ago. This one is The Man Who Cheated Himself, from 1950. All right. I said they made good movies, not good titles. It’s a nice view, featuring Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt, but it still has a number of flaws. I caught it streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the go-to place for old movies. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening scene shows a man unpacking a new handgun he has purchased for himself. We have to wonder what he plans to do with it. We see him loading it with six cartridges and secreting it on a bookshelf. Then he scoops up the packaging and tosses it into the fireplace, to be consumed. Except viewers see a piece of paper fall to the floor unnoticed. We will later learn this is the gun’s inspection ticket from the manufacturer.

Next the man goes outside onto the balcony and closes the French doors. Then he uses a tool to jimmy the lock and let himself in. Then he closes the door and puts away the tool. His suspicious wife is knocking on the other door and wondering why he has it locked.

The wife, Lois Frazer (Wyatt), has it out with her husband, Howard Frazer (Harlan Warde). We won’t be seeing him, because he’s going to get killed early in the film. Anyhow, Lois is the one with all the money, which is why Howard married her. Now all that is over, and divorce preparations are in  work. Howard is off to catch a flight to Seattle, where he expects to do some salmon fishing. Before leaving he advises Lois that she really should change her will so he won’t get all her money if something happens to  her. Heh, heh.

Now Lois spots the inspection ticket and realizes Howard has plans for her. She phones her friend, her very close friend, Police Lieutenant Edward Cullen (Cobb). But Edward does not answer the phone. Edward’s younger brother Andy (John Dall) does. He tells Lois Edward is out of the office. She says she will call back. Andy is moving into his new office as a police detective. He hopes to learn a lot from his brother. He does.

When Lois finally gets Edward on the phone, she tells him about the gun. She thinks Howard is up to something. She wants Edward to come over immediately.

Edward and Lois have something going together. Lois does this a lot. Howard is her second husband, and Edward is scheduled to be the third.

When Edward arrives at Lois’ sumptuous home, she tells him she found the gun. Edward tells her to go get it, and after she picks up the gun she hears somebody entering by way of the French doors. It’s Howard, and he lunges for Lois. She shoots him dead. That’s a big problem. Lois does not want to go to jail. Edward needs to help her cover up the killing.

Edward phones the airport and learns Howard’s flight is not until much later. He’s at the airport. Edward’s plan is to drop Howard’s body off outside the airport, take his wallet, and make it appear Howard was robbed and murdered at the airport.

That doesn’t go well. It’s dark when Edward dumps Howard’s body, and as he starts to drive away two tourists ask him for directions. He ignores them and drives away. Then they find Howard’s body and call the police. They can’t describe Edward, but the man describes the car.

Things go downhill for Edward, but Lois is not concerned. Her sweet butt is going to be safe. Please note that people smoked a lot in those old movies.

Edward has tossed the gun off the Bay Bridge. But shortly it is used to kill a liquor store clerk in a robbery. The bullets match with the ones that killed Howard. A fisherman’s net retrieved the gun, and the fisherman’s son is implicated. He cops to the liquor store caper, but he can prove he was not at the airport.

Much to Edward’s chagrin, Andy has been doing first class police work, and the evidence is pointing to Edward. The tourist identifies Edward’s car. An APB goes out for Edward and his car. San Francisco is a city with only six ways out, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Bay Bridge, and apparently four land routes. The city is sealed off.

But Edward knows a place where he and Lois can hide out. It’s an abandoned facility at Fort Point, the Presidio, adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge. But it’s a place that Andy knows about, as well, and he drives out there to look around. Edward and Lois have stashed their car, but Andy finds it. A note left on the windshield is meant for Andy. The note says they have left.

But Andy is suspicious. He climbs the heights, but does not spot Edward and Lois hiding in the upper tower. The notorious San Francisco wind blows Lois’ scarf away, and it floats down to  the compound court yard. Does Andy see it as he gets in his car and departs?

Apparently so. After dark, as Edward and Lois leave the fort and attempt to flee on foot across the bridge, the police spring their trap and arrest them.

The movie ends in the Superior Court where Edward is escorted out by a cop, his career shattered and facing prison time. Lois leaves on the arms of her new boyfriend, her high-priced attorney, hoping to be the next husband.

Yeah, the title is one for the books. The Man Who Cheated Himself? That does not even  make sense and is hard to relate to the plot. If you are going for a title that’s mildly evocative of the plot, how about something like One Lie Too Many?

It’s a clever plot, but a bit thin. A smart police detective like Edward does all the wrong things, and he never gets a break.

Lois shoots Howard in his presence, and that should have been the end of it. There is proof Howard bought the gun. There is proof he went to the airport and then returned, entering by way of the French doors, which he previously jimmied. A little white lie, and Edward and Lois could have made a perfect case of self defense. Instead, Edward goes way out on a limb to protect wicked Lois from scandal.

Carry Howard’s body back to the airport and dump it? It’s going to be obvious the body was moved. Any police detective would know that.

Giving the tourists the brush off? Why not just tell them which way to the parking lot and wait for them to leave before driving off. Then they would be long gone, and they would never connect Edward with the dead body.

Edward dumps the gun off the bridge. Last time I was in San Francisco, the airport was south of the city, in Burlingame. You don’t cross a bridge to get to and from the airport. Edward had to detour across the Oakland Bay Bridge, stopping at a toll plaza, where he could be and was recognized. Then back the other way across the bridge. I don’t know about 1950, but currently you pay tolls entering the city, and the bridges are free leaving.

Like I said, Edward doesn’t get a break. The gun is immediately found and used in a shooting.

Andy, his new bride beside him, drives through a red light and gets a ticket. The cop tells Andy about seeing Edward on the bridge.

Yes, this plot requires a string of improbabilities.

The print is sharp with a full range of tones, but a bit shopworn. There is a section containing a number of splices, losing a few seconds of back and forth between Edward and Andy.

Lee J. Cobb turns in the kind of top performance we have come to expect of him. Four years later he killed (really) in On the Waterfront. Jane Wyatt is the perfect classy bitch. I always saw her as the actress you signed when Jane Wyman wasn’t available.

This one never caught the full attention of Wikipedia and IMDb. Neither provides a plot synopsis. You can watch it for free on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZXsoLg88-o

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video again. Always a good source for a Bad Movie of the Week. This one is Woman on the Run from 1950. Lots of bad movies in those days, but this is one of the best of the bad. It has a plot with real drama and suspense—almost believable.

First scene, and somebody is walking his dog. It’s in San Francisco. The man is Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott), and his life is about to  change. While Frank stops to light his pipe at the top of some steps, a car pulls to a stop, and two men inside begin negotiating a matter of life and death. One is a chunky fellow with a terrific Irish brogue, named Joe Gordon (Tom Dillon), and he wants payoff money to  keep quiet. He thinks he has a good argument, and he asks his companion “Danny Boy” for a cigarette. We don’t see Danny, but we do see Danny’s signature lighter when he lights Joe’s final cigarette. Then Danny shoots and pushes Joe out the passenger side door. Joe begs Danny for his life, but Danny fires again.

Frank has been watching all the while. The dog (Rembrandt) barks. Danny spies Frank. Danny fires twice and misses. Frank ducks for cover, and Danny drives off in haste. Take a good look at Frank. The movie is not about him, and we’re not going to  see him again until much later.

The police come. Frank is cooperative. Then he gets the big picture. He’s the only witness to a first degree murder. He’s going to  have to  testify. While the police are distracted Frank cuts Rembrandt loose and hauls ass, but not before telling the police where he lives.

Hard-bitten  Inspector Martin Ferris (Robert Keith), lacking  his prime witness, pays a call on Frank’s wife, hard-bitten Eleanor Johnson (Ann Sheridan). She’s not interested in telling the police where to find her husband, and she’s not interested in her husband. They’ve been married four years, and the fire went some time ago. Frank is an artist, too persnickety to make it to the big time. He has gone through artistic phases and disparages his own work. He has quit painting and has gone to work for a department store called Hart and Winston, where he applies his artistic talents for money.

Eleanor shows absolutely no interest in her husband. That is, until Ferris mentions that the killer shot at him twice. Her expression intensifies. Perhaps this is not a mere case of spousal neglect. Her husband, for whom she has no interest, is becoming slightly more interesting.

The police go off looking for Frank, and they tell Eleanor to stay put. They are going to need her assistance, willing or not, to locate Frank.

Meanwhile, hard-bitten newsman Daniel Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe) horns in. He smothers Leanor with attention, wanting a story about Frank. He wants an interview. They must find Frank. He helps Eleanor escape the police by way of the roof through a skylight.

Inspector Ferris has observed Frank’s prescription medicine. Eleanor goes to visit the doctor who prescribed the medication. She learns for the first time that Frank has a heart condition. He’s going to die if he doesn’t continue to take the medication. Eleanor didn’t know that about Frank. She begins to show additional concern.

No man is a hero to his own wife. I heard that years ago, and I tend to believe it. Eleanore visits Hart and Winston and learns more about Frank. More than Frank ever told her. A Mr. Maibus (John Qualen), who works with Frank, tells Eleanor things about Frank that Frank never mentioned to his wife. Apparently in his past life Frank was a world traveler and adventurer. Also, Frank is invaluable at the store. Financial success hangs on Frank’s talents, and Frank once saved Maibus’ job by threatening to quit if Maibus was fired. The sculptured mannequins he created for the store have been modeled after his wife. Eleanor is becoming more interested in Frank than she has been in years.

The ax falls. Leggett lights a cigarette for Eleanor with a distinctive lighter. “Call me Danny.” Sacré bleu! Eleanor is working with the murderer. Of course we won’t find that out until the end of the movie.

When Eleanor and Danny visit a rooftop Chinese diner where Frank and Eleanor often dined, they learn that Frank has been there. A cabaret dancer who works there tells them that Frank made a drawing and gave it to her. It’s the drawing of a face that looks much like Danny. Ditching Eleanor for a few minutes, Danny apparently (we don’t view the action) goes back to the diner, murders the girl, and destroys the drawing.

The end comes at a popular beach, where Eleanor finally figures out where Frank has gone to wait for her. Only, the scene was filmed at Santa Monica Pier, 381 miles away. When the action shifts to the beach scene we immediately spot the roller coaster, and we know it’s going to figure in the plot. Anytime there’s a roller coaster in a movie it’s going to play a critical role. Danny insists they ride the roller coaster. It’s a ruse to keep them hidden as the police begin to close in. Also Eleanor and Danny have figured Frank has been waiting by a sand sculpture on the beach, and Danny needs to distract Eleanor while he makes his move.

The roller coaster charges up and down the slopes and around sharp bends while Eleanor hangs on and screams. The ride stops, and Danny insists Eleanor must take another ride by herself, leaving Danny to stalk Frank.

The roller coaster ride repeats, with Eleanor holding on tightly and screaming. Then she recalls something Danny told her. He told her the killer shot at Frank twice. Nobody knows that but the police, herself, and the killer. Danny is the killer. She spots Frank on the beach and screams for him to run.

Danny corners Frank near the roller coaster and attempts to induce him to have a heart attack by forcing his head on the track. The police kill Danny. The ride ends. Eleanor embraces Frank, and it’s the end of the movie.

This movie has a lot going for it. From Wikipedia:

The film was recently restored and preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray (2016).

Acting is up to snuff, disregarding some of the minor players. The dialog is realistic, and the actors settle naturally into their scenes. This was four years before Elia Kazan brought On the Waterfront to us with real people and real dialog.

There is suspense, but attempts to build suspense drag at the plot. Eleanor and Danny visit clothing store after clothing store to find one where Frank might have gone for a disguise. There is scene after scene during which suspense is supposed to be building, but interest is lagging, instead.

An essential element of the plot is the wife’s growing realization there is more to Frank than she comprehended. It’s a likable plot device. A character is pictured initially one way, and as the plot develops and more becomes known the character takes on an entirely different form. Alan Campbell, Norman Foster, and Ross Hunter (dialogue) take the hit on this. They don’t handle the transition smoothly, hammering it in, instead. “No, Mrs. Johnson, your husband is not the milquetoast he pretended to be.” That’s not actual dialog from the picture, but it is my impression. I could have done better. For example, “I first met your husband when he pulled me out of the gun turret after we got hit.” The re-engineering of the Frank Johnson character should have been handled more obliquely. The screen writers show a lack of dexterity unbecoming.

Besides that, how come Eleanor never asked Frank, “What were you doing all those years before you met me?” Viewers get the idea, perhaps intended, that Frank and Eleanor met, had great sex for a few years, and never brought their complete selves into the marriage. I am sure that kind of thing does happen, but in this case it gets loaded onto the audience needlessly.

The roller coaster episode is overly dramatic, maybe fresh at the time, but now a cliché. What did surprise me was that there was no chase on the tracks resulting in Danny being killed by the cars or else falling from a great height.

For comedy, there is roller coaster action in the title sequence for The Naked Gun. There’s a monster and a roller coaster in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. There’s more roller coaster comedy in Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. There are move. Readers are invited to submit recommendations.

Ann Sheridan is a pleasure to watch. Hers is the only voice that comes close to that of Eve Arden for cool and brittle. She hailed from Denton, Texas, and attended North Texas State Teachers College. She was a co-producer of this film.

The copyright owners were careless and allowed the copyright to expire. You can watch this for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIOB4CQhCT0.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is akin to beating a dead horse. Since Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out 38 years ago critics have been whipping it back and forth, the consensus being that it missed the Star Trek frame of mind from the 1960s. And it’s overly long. It’s from Paramount Pictures in 1979. Here’s a quick look and some personal comments. Everybody knows the characters. I’m only going to credit the newcomers. I just watched it on Hulu, but it’s also available on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

In the beginning we see Spock undergoing the Kolinahr ceremony, but he cannot complete it and accept the medallion. Apparently he returns to Star Fleet.

The movie is sprinkled with spectacular views of Star Fleet operations.

Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise, displacing Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins), much to Decker’s displeasure.

Apparently Enterprise has undergone some refitting, and the shakedown is not going well. The scene moves to the Enterprise bridge, where much disarray is obvious.

Long expected, if you ever watched the original TV series, there comes the eventual transporter accident. Two people are lost when the transport malfunctions. Long faces all around.

Replacement crew comes in the form of navigator Ilia (Persis Khambatta) from Delta. She’s an old flame of Decker’s.

There’s eye candy in the form of graphics and visual effects. I could not help noticing the rounded corners of this display screen. Those are hold-overs of when display screens were CRTs.

The Enterprise‘s mission is a mysterious cloud approaching Earth. As the Enterprise draws near it encounters powerful forces, ominous warnings, and the invasion of the bridge by a plasma column and an arcing beam. The beam lands on Ilia, and she vanishes, clothing and all.

Ilia soon returns in the form of a mechanical reproduction, right down to Ilia’s personality. Except the mechanical Ilia has been sent as a communications device to the Enterprise. The source is also purely mechanical, and it wants to be connected to the Creator. Nobody can figure out who or what the Creator is. The alien life form (the cloud) refers to itself as V’Ger (veejer).

Penetrating deep into V’Ger, the Enterprise crew discovers at its heart the Voyager 6 spacecraft, a fiction reflecting on the Voyager spacecraft program of the 20th century. The spacecraft has lost its ability to send back its data, and developed V-Ger as a means to get our attention.

Decker melds with the mechanical Ilia, and both join V’Ger in its quest for knowledge. And it all could have been accomplished in little over an hour instead of two hours and 12 minutes.

This movie runs long scenes with nothing much happening. Too much attention is paid to atmosphere and not enough to the story.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I’m on a roll here. Another bad movie review before I take some days off. Here’s one from 1934, apparently soon after photography was invented. It’s The Woman Condemned, distributed by Progressive Pictures. Apparently that concern is no longer in business. We begin to wonder why. I caught this streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the mother lode for bad movies. However, you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH6GfQb7sq4. I’m writing this review in August. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s a pulp fiction plot, but that’s not all that kills this one. I will sketch the scenes. A radio singer gives a farewell performance. She’s Jane Merrick (Lola Lane), and she’s a hit with her radio audience. The studio audience loves her, as well. That’s them we see applauding behind the glass, but silently, because, you know, they’re behind the glass.

Then Jane tells her fiancée she must take some time off,  but she will be back, and they will be married.

Jane tells her maid, Sally (Louise Beavers) she is not to be disturbed by anybody or by anything. Then she makes a phone call to a man and discusses terms of payment. Something suspicious is going on.

The radio studio gets desperate. Without Jane singing nightly, their main sponsor, a dairy concern, is threatening to pull its sponsorship. The studio audience is fading, as well. They engage a detective agency to find out what’s the matter with Jane. The agency puts its best woman operative, from New York, on the case. We see Sally leaving Jane’s apartment with a suitcase.

As it turns out, their best operative is Barbara Hammond (Claudia Dell), who starts off her investigation by getting pinched by the police trying to break into Jane’s apartment from the fire escape. Coming before the judge at night court, she is spotted by ace reporter Jerry Beall (Richard Hemingway). It’s not that he recognizes Barbara as an ace detective. It’s that he recognizes her as a major babe.

Jerry instantly jumps to Barbara’s defense, claiming she is his fiancée, and she is always playing practical jokes. Won’t the judge please give this cute chick a major break? The judge has a taste for practical jokes, himself, and he immediately summons the county clerk and performs the marriage ceremony on the spot.

The newly weds talk it out over dinner at a swank club. The movie audience is entertained with a lavish cabaret show. Anything to  stretch out the run time?

Barbara puts Jerry off (no nooky tonight) and goes back to spy on Jane. She witnesses Jane having an altercation with a strange man, an altercation that involves money changing hands. The man leaves. Barbara enters. There’s a shot. Jane falls dead. The lights go out. The neighbors come. Jane is holding a gun. The neighbor has his own gun. He holds Barbara until the police arrive. Jerry follows the police inside and is dismayed that the love of his life is going to be charged with murder.

Jerry visits his wife in the slammer. He promises to get her out of this. After he leaves another man comes and talks to Barbara. Barbara tells him to sit tight. She has a plan.

Jerry breaks into Jane’s apartment by way of the handy fire escape. He checks through Jane’s Rolodex. Actually it’s just a small note pad, but it contains some phone numbers. He dials a few and comes across one that fires his curiosity. He poses as the police and demands the phone company give him the address.

Jerry goes to the address and meets a rude doctor, who turns him away. He returns to snoop at the window. Inside he sees people in medical garb pulling bandages off a woman’s face. It’s Jane! She’s not dead. Sally, the maid, is there. She spots Jerry at the window, and Jerry departs post haste to fetch his friend.

The two return and break into  the doctor’s office. Surprise! The doctor and his associates capture them and tie them up for the police. But Sally comes in and recognizes Jerry’s friend as Jane’s fiancée Jim Wallace (Jason Robards Sr.). They are clued in on the mystery.

Jane went to the surgeon to have a birthmark removed. While away she allowed her twin sister to hide out at her apartment. Her sister was trying to avoid a dangerous man. The dangerous man, apparently unaware of the twin business, tracked the sister down and fired the fatal shot. He is a mobster named Dapper Dan (Paul Ellis), but I doubt that’s the name his mother gave him.

Meanwhile Dan is brought to the police station, where he looks on while the police sweat a confession out of Barbara. Then the lights go out. When the lights come back on it’s Jane sitting there, the person Dan though he killed. He confesses.

The police chief congratulates Barbara on her brilliant scheme.

Yeah, it’s pretty much a dumb plot, and a bit tired. The fire escape device gets way over worked. In real life that would have been sealed up in short order.

Also, it’s hard to imagine the murder scene. Barbara is watching “Jane.” She enters the room. There is a shooting, but she does not see the shooter. Now the lights are out. How convenient. And what does ace detective Barbara Hammond do next but pick up the murder weapon.

Robards was the father of the more famous Jason Robards Jr. He had a successful film career, mostly not due to this performance. Dell’s film career spanned 14 years, finishing up in 1944 with Call of the Jungle. Lola Lane was one of the Lane Sisters, Here last movie was They Made Me a Killer in 1946. My observation watching the movie is that her singing voice was most cool, but I cannot imagine the success of a radio station hanging on it. Those people in Hollywood have wonderful imaginations, or else they expect we do.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

In line with reviewing a bunch of movies in August, here’s another. By the time you read this I will be taking some time off, and I don’t want to be bothered reviewing movies on my day off.

This is from 2011, distributed by Foresight Unlimited. It’s Flypaper, featuring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd. And it’s a spoof, so I have no intention of taking much of this seriously. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, and details are from Wikipedia.

First I have to show a screen shot from the credits. Well done. Could have been the work of Saul Bass, long dead.

The action opens with a shot of somebody’s chronograph. It’s on the arm of a shady character, Jack Hayes (Eddie Matthews), who falls in behind Swiss Miss (Natalia Safran) as she enters a bank.

Meanwhile some maintenance workers unload their equipment and suit up to get on the job. Only, we know these aren’t union workers, because they exhibit a lot of hustle and diligence in getting the job done quickly.

A scruffy character named Tripp (Dempsey) sidles up to the counter, where Kaitlin Nest (Judd) smiles invitingly. The neckline of her dress is also inviting.

Also, Kaitlin is getting married. She has a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. That is significant.

Tripp is really an odd character. He asks for change for a hundred. He wants it in nickels, dimes, quarters, and ones. Then he changes his mind, and wants a different mix. He changes his mind again. Kaitlin is very accommodating. This is the bank where you want to do business.

Then Tripp glances around. Two more characters, scruffier than he is, enter the bank and start to  unload their baggage. Meanwhile the “maintenance workers” have penetrated the upper security door to the bank.

Tripp informs Kaitlin he thinks the bank is about to be robbed, and he leaps over the counter, taking her down on top of himself. Just where he always wanted to be.

And that’s when the killing starts.

It’s all a big farce, of course. Two separate crews have arrived at the same time to rob the same bank. One crew is high-tech, very professional, military precision. The other crew consists of two grease-neck jake-legs with barely an idea of how they are going to pull the whole thing off. As the day progresses the two gangs clash, Hayes is shot by a person unknown, and he turns out to be an FBI agent.

There is hostage taking, explosions, random gunfire, lights going off and back on, mysterious killings, revelations about who is involved in which robbery.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read further if you plan on seeing the movie.

Everybody winds up getting killed except Tripp, Kaitlin, the two grease neck robbers, and two other bank people. The dead people turn out to be involved one way or another in the robberies. After the three professionals and the mastermind meet their just desserts, Tripp allows the grease necks to skedaddle with bags of loot, and the four survivors walk out. The police help Kaitlin load her wedding presents into her car.

Only, Tripp knows, as we all suspected, there is only one reason a sexy bank teller would have a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. She has loaded the boxes with bank money, and Tripp convinces her to let him in on the deal. They drive off together in Kaitlin’s Mercedes Benz.

What gets this designation as Wednesday’s bad movie is that it is all very silly, significant directing, cinematography, and acting notwithstanding. Worth a watch.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This one is bad. Really bad. For the first time I am reviewing a movie without watching it through. It is that bad. It’s Be My Teacher, from 2011, further proof they did not quit making bad movies in 1946. This is from Amazon Prime Video, but you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSD3OlSW_1A. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s one of those student-teacher sexcapades we find so salacious on the evening news. This one puts the genre in a bad light. Here’s the story.

Alecia (LaTeace Towns-Cuellar) is a high school teacher, and she’s trying to avoid Evan (Derek Lee Nixon), a senior getting ready to graduate. Or not. He keeps skipping her class and is in danger of being expelled and flunking out. The problem is the sexual attraction between the two, and that’s what the movie is all about.

Nobody in this movie seems to have a last name.

We see Evan’s friends David (John Devereaux) and Taylor (Kari Gillespie) wonder at Evan’s preoccupation. Taylor is hot for Evan, and she can’t figure out what’s going on.

Alecia and Evan eventually score one morning in a class room before school starts, and things wander along toward a climax at the senior prom. Taylor has told Evan she’s having his baby, even though Evan does not remember a corresponding event (he passed out on top of her). David has a conversation with Taylor about it after which David gets ideas and puts the strong arm on Alecia in the girls’ restroom, whereupon Evan and David come to fisticuffs.

And that’s the end of the movie. Five years later Evan is out of college and throwing a party of some sort with his fiancée, and Alecia drops by with her son Evan, who it turns out has the same gluten allergy as Evan Sr. Alecia and young Evan depart, nobody being the wiser.

The camera work is bloody awful. Shooting resolution compares to 8 mm, and pan shots are uneven and jerky. Dialogue is lifeless and verging on juvenile. Performances are comparable.

For some really steamy teacher-student romance you might dip into the literate arts. I recommend Erskine Caldwell’s Episode in Palmetto, for which there does not seem to be a Kindle edition. Here’s the paperback:

In case he passed you by 60 years ago, Caldwell was the master of steam in his time.

This scene from Blackboard Jungle was much discussed with my high school friends when it came out in 1955.

Ah, we grow up too fast.