Read the Riot Act

The Phrase Finder explains that the this expression means to “Reprimand rowdy characters and warn them to stop behaving badly.” It had its origin in the actual English Riot Act of 1715. Any group of twelve or more unruly citizens had an hour to disperse or be arrested after the Riot Act was read to them. The English government was especially fearful of Jacobite mobs who wanted to overthrow the King and restore Roman Catholic Stuart King James VII of Scotland to the throne.

Russian Campaigns to Destroy Political Opponents

The U.S. media has been active at tying the election of Donald Trump to Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, but that isn’t the greatest danger from the Russians. That hacking would not have had negative effects on the election if the principals in the Hillary Clinton campaign had not sent messages that were politically embarrassing. I know the Democrats are bent on believing they would have won if the Russians hadn’t interfered, but it seems to me the Democrats had a flawed candidate who didn’t connect with Middle America.

Despite that personal belief, there is something important to understand about the skill of the Russians in shaping opinion. The intelligence operations within the Soviet Union were amazingly effective at destroying political opponents, and Russian organizations are being quite effective at carrying that forward. A recent article describes how Russian “kompromat” is used to destroy political opponents with no facts required. The term is used to describe compromising material for blackmail of those who the Russians have determined to be dangerous. The process involves “.  .  .high quality faked documentation.” The documentation includes “.  .  .hints, images, videos, promises of disclosures, perhaps even some high-quality faked documentation. Sex or pornography often figures prominently.”

We can hope the media with a free press will be able to counteract false reports generated by Russian intelligence services. We’ll see who wins; the free press with freedom of speech or the Russians bent on destroying those they deem to be unfriendly. My primary message is that everyone should be skeptical of any negative Russian campaign against anyone.

Vultures Circling Rocky Flats Court Settlement

The government’s agreement to pay $375 million to landowners near the Rocky Flats Plant and their attorneys for the “nuisance” created by the plant has attracted the attention of others who want to make money. I’m not an attorney, don’t even play one on television, but a recent Denver Post article led me to think it would be appropriate to send an alert to those who might be or are eligible for compensation based on the agreement

Attorneys overseeing the settlement have demanded “. .  .that a California firm stops trying to process claims on behalf of up to 15,000 affected households.” The firm was sending “.  .  unauthorized communications to class members with a false and misleading claims deadline (which required a response date of February 17.)” The settlements lead attorney, Merrill Davidoff, said that is a “.  .  .total lie.” He also said the deadline for filing a claim “…is June 1 and that claims should be completed on line at rockyflatssettelement.com.” The claim that February 17 is the deadline is “.  .  .clearly designed to instill a false sense of urgency.”

Apparently there are companies who are willing to take money due to the awardees. In the case of Rocky Flats, the companies are apparently willing to take a fee, perhaps as much of 40% of the award despite the fact that they have no legitimate roll in the process. Be careful what you sign, because the agreement might not be in your interest! A spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General Office said people who have been contacted by the outside firm can file a complaint at 800-222-4444 or going online to stopfraudcolorado.gov.

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.