Let the Cat out of the Bag

The expression refers to revealing a secret, and Snopes says it originated from “. .  .chicanery practiced upon those purchasing livestock.” An unscrupulous seller would swap a cat for a pig that had been purchased. The buyer wouldn’t know he had been duped until he returned home and “let the cat out of the bag.” The expression “Pig in a Poke” was posted earlier, and it had a reference to this expression.

Lukewarming

The subtitle of this cleverly titled book is “The New Climate Science That Changes Everything.” Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger have done themselves proud with a book that should make climate change “Deniers” more comfortable (except, of course, that there are those who want to criminally prosecute them). Those who believe there is a pending climatic disaster will be less comfortable reading the book. The best way for me to begin this combination commentary and review is to quote from the back cover. “In Lukewarming, two environmental scientists explain the science and spin behind the headlines and come to a provocative conclusion: climate change is real, and partially man-made, but it is becoming obvious that more warming has been forecast than will occur, with some of the catastrophic impacts implausible or impossible. Global warming is more lukewarm than hot. This fresh analysis is an invaluable source for those looking to be more informed about global warming and the data behind it.” Continue reading

Take for a Ride

Searching for the origin of this expression led me to two of my favorite sources. The Phrase Finder quoted Charles Earle Funk’s wonderful book, A Hog on Ice & Other Curious Expressions. “This may be jocular or serious; one is sometimes taken for a ride when he suffers nothing more than being kidded, made the butt of some joke. But in a sinister and the original sense the person taken for a ride rarely returns. The expression was of underworld origin, coined in the United States during the wave of criminality after World War I, when rival gangs of law-breakers waged warfare on each other. Anyone incurring the displeasure of a gang chieftain was likely to be invited to go for a ride in the car of the latter, ostensibly to talk matters over and clear up the misunderstanding. The victim rarely returned from such a trip. .  .  .”

Hail, Caesar!

This is a first for this website as a review and commentary about a movie. The main characters of the movie are Josh Brolin (the “Hollywood Fixer”) and George Clooney as Baird Whitlock (the intellectually-shallow movie star). (Clooney does an excellent job of portraying an actor who speaks lines with passion while not really understanding what the lines might mean.) Other characters in the Joel and Ethan Coen production include Channing Tatum and Scarlet Johnansson. The movie is mostly a spoof of 1950s Hollywood productions, including one that mimics an Ester Williams movie titled Million Dollar Mermaid. Another is a song and dance movie that has strong homosexual innuendo featuring Tatum as one of several sailors. All of that was moderately interesting, but my main interest was in the theme that many Hollywood writers were Communists.

The main story of the movie is that Whitlock, who is playing Caesar, is kidnapped by Hollywood writers who call themselves a “Study Group” and “The Future.” The script of the movie explains that Whitlock is allowed to mingle with his kidnappers. There is a bit of foreshadowing when one of the kidnappers calls his dog Engels (Friedrick Engels collaborated with Karl Marx). As Whitlock is being served finger sandwiches and photographed for the group’s newsletter he has to listen to a character spouting difficult to understand economic theory. A spokesperson then explains to Whitlock that the movie studio “.  .  .is a pure instrument of Capitalism.” “And so Baird Whitlock found himself in the hands of Communists.” Whitlock is told, “.  .  .until quite recently our study group had a narrow focus. We concentrated on getting Communist content into motion pictures.” There is a scene where someone is sorting what must have been Party membership cards signed by Gus Hall, a leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

The House Un-American Activities Committee (which included Representative Richard Nixon) held highly publicized hearings searching for Communists in Hollywood in the late 1940s. A frequent assessment by the entertainment industry and news media in the years to follow charged that many actors and writers had their reputations unfairly smeared and their work blackballed because of accusations that they were Communists. The movie suggests the Coen brothers believe the accusations had a factual basis. The movie even includes a night scene where Tatum is rowed by his comrades to a rendezvous with a Soviet submarine. Tatum jumps aboard the sub as one of his mates calls out, “Comrade, We salute you! You are going to Moscow to become a Soviet Man and help forge the future. We stay behind, continuing in our disguise as capitalist handmaidens.”

My wife and I watched the movie on cable and agreed that we were pleased we hadn’t paid to see it when it was in theatres. Watching the movie was less entertaining than reading the script and thinking about what I wanted to write.

Not a Chinaman’s Chance

There are many parts of our history that should make us proud, but there are other examples that we should consider with shame. One of the later is how badly Chinese immigrants were treated when they were transported to the U.S. to do difficult and dangerous jobs such as building railroads in the 1800s. The expression explains that the Chinaman wanting justice had little “. .  .or no chance at all, a completely hopeless prospect.” The Chinese immigrants worked for extremely low wages to perform difficult and often dangerous jobs and were prevented from testifying on their own behalf in court if violence was committed against them.

Twilight of the Bombs

This book by Richard Rhodes has the long subtitle, “Recent challenges, New Dangers, and Prospects for a World without Nuclear Weapons.” I was eager to read the book because of previous Rhodes books, Making the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun. I considered the author to be a diligent researcher, but was surprised to read his assessment of the down-sizing of the nuclear-weapon production “.  .  .partly in response to unilateral and negotiated arms reductions, partly because public concern had caught up with its environmentally abandoned ways. The FBI had actually raided the Department of Energy’s plutonium-production facility at Rocky Flats, in Colorado, in 1989, looking for evidence (which it found in abundance) that the DOE and Rockwell International, a contractor, had violated environmental-protection laws.” (212-213) Rhodes obviously read the headlines and didn’t bother with careful research that would have told him there were not actual violations of environmental laws. He could have learned the complicated truth about the outcome of the raid by reading my book, An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked. Regardless of that major flaw, the book contains interesting information. Rhodes also mentions that “.  .  .Rocky Flats, the only facility capable of producing plutonium pits, was permanently closed.” (page 218) That statement would have been more accurate if it had said Rocky Flats had produced most of the plutonium pits for several years. Continue reading

Jump on the Bandwagon

This expression is used to describe someone who begins supporting a political figure, sporting team, or idea only after it has become popular or successful. The internet tells me “bandwagon” had its origin in a book written by P.T. Barnum published in 1855. The expression is often used to describe those who are only attracted after it appears a campaign, team, or idea is a sure winner.