Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book.

This installment covers the period 10 May to 20 August 1937, 80 years ago. There are few entries, but some are telling. In May Shirer completed the first draft of what he called “the Indian novel.” A short search does not turn up any such published work. In subsequent weeks German involvement in the Spanish Civil War escalated, and his journal entries dwelt on significant events:

BERLIN, May 30

I have rarely seen such indignation in the Wilhelmstrasse as today. Every official I saw was fuming. The Spanish republicans yesterday bombed the pocket-battleship Deutschland at Ibitza with good result, killing, according to the Germans, some twenty officers and men and wounding eighty. One informant tells me Hitler has been screaming with rage all day and wants to declare war on Spain. The army and navy are trying to restrain him.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 950-954). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

BERLIN, May 31

I feel like screaming with rage myself. The Germans this day have done a typical thing. They have bombarded the Spanish town of Almería with their warships as reprisal for the bombing of the Deutschland. Thus Hitler has his cheap revenge and a few more Spanish women and children are dead. The Wilhelmstrasse also announced Germany’s (and Italy’s) withdrawal from the Spanish naval patrol and from the non-intervention talks. Dr. Aschmann called us to the Foreign Office about ten a.m. to give us the news. He was very pious about it all. I was too outraged to ask questions, but Enderis and Lochner asked a few. Perhaps today’s action will end the farce of “non-intervention,” a trick by which Britain and France, for some strange reason, are allowing Hitler and Mussolini to triumph in Spain.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 954-961). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The following month brought home the grim realities of Nazi rule, a portent of much to come:

BERLIN, June 4

Helmut Hirsch, a Jewish youth of twenty who was technically an American citizen though he had never been to America, was axed at dawn this morning. Ambassador Dodd fought for a month to save his life, but to no avail. It was a sad case, a typical tragedy of these days. He was convicted by the dreaded People’s Court, a court of inquisition set up by the Nazis a couple of years ago, of planning to murder Julius Streicher, the Nuremberger Jew-baiter. What kind of trial it was— no American or outside representatives were present— can only be imagined. I’ve seen a few trials before this court, though most of them are in camera, and a man scarcely has a chance, four of the five judges being Nazi party boys (the fifth is a regular judge) who do what they’re expected to do.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 961-967). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer’s surmise was that Hirsch was entrapped, provided with bomb materials and guns, then arrested when he crossed the border into Germany. Neat people, those Nazis.

There was church opposition to Hitler and the Nazis, and there were notorious repercussions:

BERLIN, June 15

Five more Protestant pastors arrested yesterday, including Jacobi from the big Gedächtniskirche. Hardly keep up with the church war any more since they arrested my informant, a young pastor; have no wish to endanger the life of another one.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 983-985). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In July Shirer began to entertain prospects of new job opportunities. Jay Allen with the Chicago Tribune (“Chicago Daily News”) gave him Edward R. Murrow‘s card. Murrow was director of European operations for CBS. On 14 August Shirer’s position became tenuous:

BERLIN, August 14

Universal Service has folded after all. Hearst is cutting his losses. I am to remain here with INS, but as second man, which I do not like.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 1002-1003). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Difficulties reporting from Nazi Germany escalated as the Nazi’s played power games with foreign correspondents:

BERLIN, August 16

Norman Ebbutt of the London Times, by far the best correspondent here, left this evening. He was expelled, following British action in kicking out two or three Nazi correspondents in London, the Nazis seizing the opportunity to get rid of a man they’ve hated and feared for years because of his exhaustive knowledge of this country and of what was going on behind the scenes. The Times, which has played along with the pro-Nazi Cliveden set, never gave him much support and published only half of what he wrote, and indeed is leaving Ebbutt’s assistant, Jimmy Holburn, to continue with the office here.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shortly thereafter Shirer lost his job due to cutbacks in the International News Service European staff. He then began his career with CBS, on the path that would shortly take him to international notoriety.

BERLIN, August 20

I have a job. I am to go to work for the Columbia Broadcasting System. That is, if…. And what an if it is! It is this way: It is crazy. I have the job if my voice is all right. That’s the catch. Who ever heard of an adult with no pretentions to being a singer or any other kind of artist being dependent for a good, interesting job on his voice? And mine is terrible. I’m positive of it. But that’s my situation tonight.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 1027-1031). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Future posts will chronicle Shirer’s radio news postings with CBS in collaboration with Ed Morrow. The world was about to view the onset of another world war in nearly real time. It was a first for this planet.

Advertisements

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Tuesday again and another reminder it’s not just Jesus who coaxes believers to their deaths. Here I present the sad story of Timo Degen:

Timo Degen, a 31-year-old kindergarten teacher from Munich, died in March 1997 after reading about Greve’s quasi-mysticism and the “liberation from the drudgery of food and drink” on one of her many internet sites. On day 12 of his diet he reported having visual problems and a week later he slipped into a coma. A hospital spokesman said Degen had suffered “an almost total circulatory system collapse” and looked as though “he’d been in a concentration camp”; after four weeks on intravenous drips he recovered, only to fall over and die from a head injury.

Well, that’s bad enough. The story from Cult Education Institute follows up with additional enlightment:

Greve’s followers have been unrepentant, and the German new age magazine Esotera announced that “one death in 5,000 is not too high a price to pay to fight world hunger”.

Greve is, of course, Ellen Greve, also known as Jasmuheen. I recently reviewed her book Pranic Nourishment, which is a revised edition of her earlier Living on Light. In it she echoes the sentiments of the Esoteria writer:

Through introducing the idea and method of fine-tuning it is our intention to aid in the elimination of world hunger through pranic nourishment which will also then benefit the environment and create a more sustainable future for the planet.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2769-2771). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Believe what you want, but I am thinking Greve’s teachings will most quickly eliminate world hunger by eliminating people.

The Comfort Delusion

Creationist Ray Comfort, part 3

This is a continuing discussion of Ray Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. What it seems to be about is the author’s argument for the existence of the God of Abraham and the divinity of Jesus plus what goes along with that. His argument I will summarize with an excerpt from the book’s introduction:

To be an atheist is to play Russian roulette with all barrels loaded. An atheist can’t win. Of course, he feels and acts like a big player, until the trigger is pulled.

The issue isn’t the existence of God. If the atheist is wrong and there is a Creator, then he was wrong. He gambled and he lost. No big deal. The real gamble is that there’s no hell. That’s what makes the player sweat just a little. “What if?” is the deep and nagging doubt. He believes it’s worth the excitement of the game. Yet atheism isn’t a mind game; it is intellectual suicide.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 87-91). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

I found it difficult to digest Comfort’s entire presentation at once, so I’m breaking out topics to discuss. This discussion is going to be about illicit sex.

By now everybody knows about sex. There are close to 7.5 billion people on this planet, and all but a very few got here by means of sexual copulation between males and females. Obviously this is going to be a topic of interest to all but a few.

As an outsider looking in, what I find most interesting is Ray Comfort’s fascination with sex and his ideas about illicit versus perfectly all right sex. Despite the title of the book (leading atheists to water and so forth) he spends a lot of the book’s available space dwelling on the difference between two brands of sex. For example:

But the justice of Almighty God is so thorough He will see to it that thieves, liars, fornicators, blasphemers, adulterers, and all who have transgressed the moral Law (the Ten Commandments) will get equity—that which is due to them.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 116-118). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Fornicators (read the book) are people who engage in sexual intercourse with people (even of the opposite sex) with whom they do not have a binding that has been sanctioned by a holy person or at least by a designated public official. People who do this are lumped together with thieves and liars. Notice Comfort also mentions blasphemers and adulterers. Adulterers are really fornicators, because there is no aforementioned binding covering their transgression. This so much interests Ray Comfort that he mentions fornication in one use of the word or another no fewer than 15 times.

And that’s about it. To hear Comfort tell it, sexual copulation is a human activity of such a special nature that it needs to be set aside from others and given a place of interest to an imaginary person conjured up by Bronze Age tribes people something like 3000 years ago. Some analysis is due.

What’s wrong with fornication? Let us concede that the process by which all of us came to be has consequences in modern society. Besides sexually-transmitted disease, there is the hazard of unintended procreation. Of course, these two are also possible consequences of sexual copulation within the scope of a recognized binding (marriage). Maybe what is needed is an injunction against social irresponsibility, and that would really cover nearly everything, including lying and stealing.

But what this is about is Comfort’s manifest fascination with sex, especially fornication. To be clear, here are the remaining references from the book:

That means he is free to embark on his sexual prowls, because it is nothing but a basic instinct to do so. It’s his procreative nature to fornicate, and therefore therefore not a sin. For the atheist, this is a hill to die on.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 389-391). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Another accusation often leveled at us is that the Seventh Commandment is about “adultery,” not fornication (sex before marriage). That’s not true.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 840-841). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

true. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 makes clear that the Commandment not only includes fornicators, but it also includes homosexuals.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 841-842). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

However, God is so good He will also punish thieves, liars, fornicators, adulterers, blasphemers, and everyone who has violated His perfect and holy Law.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1013-1014). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Rapists, murderers, thieves, liars, blasphemers, adulterers, fornicators, etc., will get exactly what they deserve, and if I die in my sins, being Jewish will not save me from the justice of a holy God.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1047-1049). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He has seen your lust (see Matthew 5:27-28), fornication, lies, anger, blasphemy, and rebellion.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1179-1180). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

It is His Law that you have violated with your lust, lying, stealing, hatred, fornication, and blasphemy, etc.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Location 1186). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

As each of us grows from childhood, we have the potential to be a fornicator, a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a pervert, a homosexual, a drunkard, a murderer, a rapist, or a pedophile.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1263-1264). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor coveters, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists will inherit the kingdom of God.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1269-1270). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Quoted from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11]

Upon my repentance and faith in Jesus, my guilt will disappear. All of it. Not for lust only, but for all of my sins—for ingratitude, rebellion, greed, unbelief, lying, stealing, fornication, etc. All the guilt disappears upon repentance and faith in Jesus. Oprah can’t do that.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1543-1545). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

It’s also for those who are happily enjoying their fornication and pornography. It’s for both rich and poor, top rockers and rock bottomers, happy and sad—all of us need

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1655-1656). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He will not only punish adulterers and fornicators, but His just wrath will also fall on all those who have lusted after another person, lied, stolen, hated, blasphemed, etc.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1838-1839). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Let’s look at your moral judgments for a moment. Do you think homosexuality is morally wrong? Of course you don’t (I’m guessing). How about fornication? Adultery? Murder? Rape? Lying and stealing?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1856-1857). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

If society says that fornication (sex outside of marriage) is okay, then you agree. Then if society says that it’s morally right to exterminate Jews, then you must say that it’s okay, because you have no moral absolutes. The thought of you ending up in

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 1859-1861). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

I think I picked up on all references. That last one is interesting. Ray Comfort, besides leveling fornication with genocide, wants to make the case against societal norms. Genocide would not be condoned under God’s law (except that it appears to be), so if morality is determined by society, then a society that condones fornication can also condone genocide. Except that God’s law, as interpreted by Ray Comfort, is really a codification of societal norms from those ancient times. Comfort can believe to his distress that his moral code has divine inspiration, but the hard fact is the Bible, the alleged source of his moral code, was written by people. It is straight out of the human brain.

Our Bronze Age ancestors had reasons for wanting to orchestrate standards for sexual conduct, among other forms of activity, and they invoked an imaginary person in order to give these standards additional authority, said additional authority being strictly manufactured. A well-ordered life remains an asset in modern society, but the solution is enlightened example and not reliance on unbalanced doctrinaires. Ray Comfort has enough demonstrated personal baggage to render him a questionable source of how to conduct our lives. It is doubtful he will ever come around to abandoning his slipshod thinking and gain credibility with a thinking society.

Whole Cloth

I was looking for a title—something to call this. Help was on the way:

For example, a cotton shirt cannot be made until the cotton has been sown as seeds, then grown, harvested and woven, and from this fabric many types of garments can be made. Our baseline is like the cloth, a weave that runs through all.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 4248-4250). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

And that’s about the substance of this book. It has all the appearance of being cut from whole cloth—meaning it’s made up.

What got me onto this was something we covered 15 years ago for The North Texas Skeptics:

Before we get on to Wiley Brooks we need to talk about Ellen Greve. Greve is a former Australian business woman who now calls herself Jasmuheen. She is a New Age guru promoting avoidance of food. Her cult is said to have a following of 5000 world wide. At least one wiseacre has conjectured these may not be the same followers from one year to the next. Her followers tend to be claimants of the famous Darwin Awards.

Australian follower Verity Linn succumbed while attempting to follow Jasmuheen’s guidelines near Cam Loch in Scotland in September 1999. Prior to that in the summer of 1998 Lani Morris of Melbourne breathed herself to death, and Timo Degen, a German kindergarten teacher, did the same in 1997.

Yeah, people were dying under the false belief that, properly conditioned, a person can live without food. Interest in the subject picked up recently, and Greve updated her book. The previous title was Living on Light. You can still get a copy from Amazon from $1044 (paperback). The new edition is Pranic Nourishment, and I have the Kindle edition ($7.77). The much revised edition acknowledges the danger of actually practicing what Greve preaches.

March 2006 with Jasmuheen:

I feel guided to add additional points regarding caregivers …

At the end of the nineties an Australian women, Lani Morris, died in Brisbane Australia. Her caregiver said that she was experiencing many difficulties but refused to stop and that on day 7 she drank 1.5 litres of pure orange juice, consequently she collapsed into a coma and was later taken off life support. Her caregiver Jim Pesnak and his wife – a couple who were in their 70’s who I had never met – were arrested and charged with manslaughter and jailed. The court said that it was their duty to stop this woman from proceeding as soon as they noticed she had difficulty. At the time they felt that as a responsible adult it was her choice whether to go on or stop.

Personally I feel that the only caregiver we need is the Divine One Within and as I keep stressing, if its guidance and voice is not 100% clear and trusted by you then the 21-day process is not for you.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2389-2397). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Obviously Greve does not completely shoulder responsibility for the multiple deaths of people attempting to follow her advice. We are  left to believe fault lies with the caregivers.

Make no mistake. The principles of chemistry and physics still hold. Greve’s wacko ideas have no basis in fact and seem to have been  pulled straight out of a fevered brain or drawn from half-baked New Ageisms. Without digging into the book’s narrative, I  will just illustrate with some excerpts. Start here, first paragraph:

I have come to understand that the process that I – and many others – have undergone to allow the body to be sustained by light; is about utilising photon energy to sustain us via a process like photosynthesis. Rather than take the energy from the sun as plants do we have developed the ability to tap into and absorb the Universal Life force or ‘chi’ energy directly into our cells. This occurs via mind mastery where command and expectation utilizes the Universal Law of Resonance where like attracts like. Because I expect the pranic forces to nourish and sustain me having undergone the 21-day process as outlined in the latter chapters, it does.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 206-211). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Greve means that literally, “allow the body to be sustained by light; is about utilising photon energy to sustain us via a process like photosynthesis.” No. There is no evidence anything like that has ever happened or can happen. The hard, cold fact is that Greve is a fraud. The signature attempt by her to demonstrate her philosophy ended catastrophically:

In 1998, she appeared in her first film, a six-part direct to video documentary called The Legend of Atlantis: Return of the Lightmasters. The Australian television programme 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen to demonstrate how she could live without food and water. The supervising medical professional Dr Beres Wenck found that, after 48 hours, Jasmuheen displayed symptoms of acute dehydration, stress, and high blood pressure. Jasmuheen claimed that this was a result of “polluted air”. On the third day, she was moved to a mountainside retreat about 15 miles from the city, where she was filmed enjoying the fresh air, claiming she could now successfully practice Inedia. But as filming progressed, Jasmuheen’s speech slowed, her pupils dilated, and she lost over a stone (6 kg or 14 lb) in weight. After four days, she acknowledged that she had lost weight, but stated that she felt fine. Dr. Wenck stated: “You are now quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%.” The doctor continued: “Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risk if she goes any further is kidney failure.” Jasmuheen’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly due to acute dehydration, despite her contrary insistence. Dr Wenck concluded that continuing the experiment would ultimately prove fatal. The film crew agreed with this assessment and stopped filming.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Greve continues with the nonsense to this day, as evidenced by the book. Fact is, a hot book (I purchased a copy) is strong motivation.

It’s also a hilarious display of the codswallop devoured by a sizable chunk of 21st century society. Examples abound:

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, every atom is more than 99.9% empty space and the subatomic particles moving at great speed through this space are bundles of vibrating energy which carry information and unique codings. He calls this “thinking non-stuff” as it cannot be seen by physical eyes.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 222-225). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

First of all note the reference to the equally delusional Deepak Chopra. If we accuse Greve of making all this stuff up, she can fall back on pointing out she is merely quoting another authority, disregarding that the other authority is just as whacked out as she is. More:

When a Being is vibrating at a lower frequency, it permits many other forms of energies to mix and mingle with its pool of energy and its cycles. When this happens, the thoughts have a tendency to get confused which causes a being to experience frustration.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 315-317). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

This is excerpted from a more expansive paragraph, yet it is significant. “Lower frequency?” Where does she get this stuff? Assume it’s not Deepak Chopra. There are no facts relating to “beings” (people?), vibrational frequencies, “energy cycles” that back this up. She’s pulling stuff out of the air. It’s the very definition of “whole cloth.”

There are said to be seven cosmic planes – physical, astral, mental, Buddhic, atmic, monadic and Logoic.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 339-340). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Don’t you just love it when a writer puts down, “there is said to be…?” Gives you a lot of confidence in what you’re reading. No, it doesn’t. It gives you confidence that stuff is being pulled out of the air.

This is an interesting concept and one well explored by the Theosophists among others. The exact midpoint between the in and out breath is said to be in the year 2012, this date is the last date of the Mayan calendar and is foretold by the Hopi Indians and many other civilisations. This year marks a time of wondrous change with multitudes awakening to their true divinity.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 344-346). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Hopefully it won’t be necessary for me to post any more clips from the book. Evidence is that Greve is making stuff up.

I can’t leave off this topic without opening a look into a remarkable bit of self-delusion—something revealing. Items of this sort are dropped, almost randomly, through the book.

So since June 1993, I have existed on tea and water, then for pleasure tasted ‘white’ food (a potato phase due to boredom and lack of mind mastery) or the odd mouthful of chocolate and regardless of these indulgences I know that the only thing that nourishes and sustains me is Light.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1453-1455). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

I began to exchange my pure fruit juice preference for the odd cappuccino or the odd mouthful of chocolate just because I felt like the flavour of something sweet but I also learnt to transmute these things.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2657-2659). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

For me, as an absolute food purist for some 20 years, the process was extremely liberating! To be nourished from pranic energy and then be free to have a stage of tasting chocolate, or to have a potato scallop now and then through winter just for fun was fun!

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2659-2661). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

And more. The woman is eating. Is there another way to spell fraud? Let’s go further. Her claims about food intake are demonstrably false.

Since June 1993 I have existed on an average of 300 calories per day which covers the calorie content of sugar and milk in my tea.

Jasmuheen. PRANIC NOURISHMENT – Nutrition for the New Millennium (Living on Light) (Divine Nutrition Series Book 1) (Kindle Location 1473). Self Empowerment Academy Pty Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Hard information has it that an adult human cannot subsist on that daily energy intake:

“The basal metabolic rate of a human is about 1,300-1,500 kcal/day for an adult female and 1,600-1,800 kcal/day for an adult male.”

Now it’s time for me to pull stuff out of the air and make statements without citing any references. The above figures are likely for an active person. Walking, talking, grocery shopping. If you slow down, do nothing, lie on your back, look at the ceiling, you can survive on maybe 900 calories per day. The history of war prisoners held by the Japanese in World War Two bears out that an active person cannot survive on 900 calories per day.

Greve can claim to tone her metabolism to 100% efficiency, but there are some physical facts that cannot be ignored. A grown person, merely living, dissipates energy at 100 watts. That’s 8,640,000 joules per day. At 4184 joules per Calorie, that’s 2965 Calories per day, in conflict with the numbers referenced above. That means my estimate of 100 Watts is too high, but not by that much. In order for Greve to turn down her thermostat and only put out 300 Calories of heat per day, she’s going to have to be stone cold. She is definitely at odds with some basic physics in her wild-ass claims.

Bottom line, whack job of a book, a few people dead, money in Greve’s pocket, 21st century public not much better off than their ancestors from 1000 years back. That’s progress.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Some readers complain… Actually, I don’t receive a bunch of complaints about this series, including nobody complaining when I blame Jesus. So, people must be cool with blaming Jesus on a bunch of untimely deaths. The facts being, Jesus is more often not to blame. Stupidity in the form of false belief is alive and well without the benefit of Jesus, as evidenced by the Breatharians:

Prior to her death Verity Linn had announced her intent to follow the Breatharian quest, and a copy of Jasmuheen’s book was found near her body. However, it is not apparent the notorious demise of Jasmuheen’s followers resulted in major hit on her popularity. Besides “Living on Light,” she has two other books, “In Resonance” and “Our Camelot,” listed on Amazon.

The book mentioned, “Living on  Light,” is now in its fourth edition and retitled Pranic Nourishment, with the subtitle “Nutrition for the New Millennium.” I just now purchased a Kindle edition, and you should be looking for a review (possibly not favorable) in the near future.

As mentioned in the referenced item from The North Texas Skeptic:

[Ellen] Greve is a former Australian business woman who now calls herself Jasmuheen. She is a New Age guru promoting avoidance of food. Her cult is said to have a following of 5000 world wide. At least one wiseacre has conjectured these may not be the same followers from one year to the next. Her followers tend to be claimants of the famous Darwin Awards.

The Wikipedia entry for Jasmuheen contains detail of additional interest:

Jasmuheen developed financial and business management skills working full-time in the finance industry. In 1992 she began combining her experience in business and finance with meditation, selling access to workshops and seminars on the topic and, by deed poll changed her name to Jasmuheen.

In 1998, she appeared in her first film, a six-part direct to video documentary called The Legend of Atlantis: Return of the Lightmasters. The Australian television programme 60 Minutes challenged Jasmuheen to demonstrate how she could live without food and water. The supervising medical professional Dr Beres Wenck found that, after 48 hours, Jasmuheen displayed symptoms of acute dehydration, stress, and high blood pressure. Jasmuheen claimed that this was a result of “polluted air”. On the third day, she was moved to a mountainside retreat about 15 miles from the city, where she was filmed enjoying the fresh air, claiming she could now successfully practice Inedia. But as filming progressed, Jasmuheen’s speech slowed, her pupils dilated, and she lost over a stone (6 kg or 14 lb) in weight. After four days, she acknowledged that she had lost weight, but stated that she felt fine. Dr. Wenck stated: “You are now quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%.” The doctor continued: “Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risk if she goes any further is kidney failure.” Jasmuheen’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly due to acute dehydration, despite her contrary insistence. Dr Wenck concluded that continuing the experiment would ultimately prove fatal. The film crew agreed with this assessment and stopped filming.

Sadly, there are additional deaths due to people following Jasmuheen’s eternal wisdom. So, who needs Jesus?

I will profile additional such deaths in future posts. And may Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Literature again. It’s time to see who’s been  doing their summer reading.

A number of literary works begin with a significant sentence or phrase. Here are some. Identify the author, and for extra credit, identify the work.

  1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
  2. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
  3. In the second century of the Christian æra [This opening is so critical that a man used the words to name his children.]
  4. It was a pleasure to burn.
  5. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
  6. Call me Ishmael.
  7. These are the times that try men’s souls.
  8. Mama died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.

No fair running to Google. There is a page that lists many famous opening lines. Post your answer as a comment below. Best score wins.

Update and Answers

  1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – First sentence in Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  2. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. – First sentence in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Written originally in Spanish.
  3. In the second century of the Christian æra [This opening is so critical that a man used the words to name his children.]- Opening words of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire  by Edward Gibbon.
  4. It was a pleasure to burn. – First sentence in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  5. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – First sentence in 1984 by George Orwell (Eric Blair)
  6. Call me Ishmael. – First sentence in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.
  7. These are the times that try men’s souls. – First sentence in The American  Crisis by Thomas Paine.
  8. Mama died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. – First sentence in The Stranger by Albert Camus. Originally in French. Tania should have known that one, because she gave me a copy, although in French.

Is too late for me to get my money back?

Excursion into the absurd

It happened that yesterday I was preparing a post on a running theme I call “Industrial Strength Irony,” and my case study was mega-church pastor Dr. Robert Jeffreys. What was ironic was his “now you say you do, and now you don’t” posture on political civility:

That’s from the Lyrics On Demand, and it’s about sin in No Name City, but let’s pretend the subject is irony. Then here it is, I mean here it is:

This appalling act of violence highlights the fact that the unrelenting demonization of our legitimately elected political leaders could lead to tragedy, and I refer particularly to the mainstream media, our universities, and to Hollywood.

Now is the time to tone it all down, embrace real tolerance, report objectively, and stop provoking our nation to conflict.

And I could see this was so ironic when juxtaposed against his previous attempts at civility. An exemplar of this were the remarks made in a book he published a few years ago. I purchased a copy, a few dollars plus tax, and obtained the quote. And that was done. Then came today, and I have the book, in Kindle edition, on a terabyte computer drive and also on a flash memory card. And  there it sits. Maybe I should read it. I mean, read the entire book and not just the crazy parts. Came lunch today, and I had my soup and my cheese crackers and soda and my Samsung tablet. I decided to start with the first chapter. The title is “Why Study Bible Prophecy.” And I started reading. I read the first paragraph:

Have you ever read the novel Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson? The novella tells the story of a magnificent ocean liner named the Titan that strikes an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York and sinks in the middle of the ocean. You are probably thinking, “This sure does sound like the real story of the Titanic.” Yet Robertson’s novel differs from the actual event in several ways. The ship in Futility was 1,800 feet long while the real Titanic was 1,882 feet long. The Titan was able to displace 66,000 tons of water, while the Titanic was able to displace 70,000 tons of water. Yet both ships were triple-screw ocean liners that could travel up to twenty-five knots per hour and transport three thousand passengers.

Robert, Jeffress. Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today (Kindle Locations 45-51). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

And I stopped right there. The part about Titanic being able to transport three thousand passengers is true, if you include the crew. A lot of the rest is not. The real Titanic was 882 feet (and nine inches). It displaced 53,210 tons. And knots per hour is not a meaningful combination of Roman typeface.

Is it too late for me to get my money back?

Given that I purchased the book originally to  obtain the quote in question, and given that this is a book by a writer who believes in a magical person in  the sky and that the “end times” are coming, and people will be teleported away, but only if they truly believe that the magical person  (MP) created people and  instilled in them a made up sin and then sought to punish them for this sin by drowning all but a select family and then impregnated a teenage girl with himself as the zygote and subsequently had himself tortured and killed to absolve all people of the supposed sin he had, himself, invented, after which he came alive again and walked and talked for 40 days before ascending into the sky, and given the remainder of the book is going to be full of this nonsense—should I finish reading it, or should I attempt to return it and get my money back?

I will allow readers to make the decision. I’m posting a link to this on Facebook, and I’m asking readers to let me know by voting on Facebook or in  the comment section below whether I should pay for the sins I inflicted during 76 years on this planet and read the remainder of this book and write a review. My fate is in your hands, readers. Do your worst.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Race To The Bottom

It was long ago, maybe 150 years, they started calling it. The United States of America had seen 15, and  then with the death of Abraham Lincoln 16, presidents come and go. Some outstanding, many mediocre. George Washington seemed to be everybody’s favorite. For some reason Andrew Jackson scored highly. Millard Fillmore was tops in mediocrity. But 150 years ago one stood out. James Buchanan ranked the lowest. Absolutely the worst president of all.

Until this year.

Reporter and author Garry Boulard published The Worst President in 2015, prior to the ascendancy of Donald Trump. To summarize, James Buchanan politicked 40 years to acquire the presidency and then took another four to destroy the office. What James Buchanan accomplished in four years, President Donald Trump put to shade within his first 100 days. We are going to hope Trump’s is a record that will stand for a thousand years.

Boulard’s dissection of the 15th president is neat and nearly surgical. He recounts Buchanan’s early years and his rise to prominence and then catalogs the fumble upon fumble that marked his term in office. And that’s all I’m going to do. There is some interesting stuff about Buchanan’s early times, and then I will sketch four highlights of his presidency.

To start:

When Buchanan was born, George Washington had been president for only 24 months. The U.S. Supreme Court had convened for the very first time the year before. There was no telegraph, no train, no Library of Congress, no Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Texas or California. There wasn’t even a New York Times.

But there was Pennsylvania, celebrating its third year as a state when Buchanan came to life in the tiny, forested Cove Gap, near the Maryland border, on April 23, 1791.

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 447-451). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Tragedy struck early for young James. He became engaged to Anne Coleman, of a wealthy family, but after a friend suggested the proposed marriage was driven by money, she saw no honorable way out, and she killed herself. Buchanan never married, the only president who never did. Already in politics, he clawed his way up, always seeming to be in the know of the people who counted. Some of his rise was actually based on merit:

But his bachelorhood in a country that revered family never really hurt him as he rose in the ranks, mostly out of public view, serving as Andrew Jackson’s Minister to Russia in the early 1830s, James Polk’s Secretary of State in the mid-1840s and Franklin Pierce’s Minister to Great Britain in the mid-1850s.

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 286-289). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Compared to other presidents of the time, his foreign policy experience was possibly unmatched. His term in office, however, was marked by episodes without compare up to that point. Here are six:

Kansas

Slavery was the big issue of those years preceding the Civil War. The United States, seemingly founded on human liberty, codified human slavery within its constitution. It quickly developed that the Southern economy depended on the cheap (free?) labor of slaves, and that drove the politics of the region. As new states were added to  the Union, especially states that could pass as southern, it was important for southerners to maintain a balance of power in Congress by admitting these states as “slave states.” Slavery would be legal in those states. Kansas was the flash point.

Blood had already been shed in the Kansas Territory when Buchanan came to power, a Democrat and a proponent of legal slavery. His solution to the Kansas problem was ambiguous to say the least. He proposed the people of Kansas should determine for themselves whether it would be a slave state,  then he worked the machinery to ensure it would be.

First he appointed his old friend Robert J. Walker, to be the territorial governor during the admission process. This was after much cajoling, because Walker did not want the job and declined multiple entreaties from Buchanan, some in writing. The problem was, once Walker became ensconced in the position, he proceeded to carry out Buchanan’s promise of impartiality. Buchanan immediately came under pressure from slavery advocates and caved with great public notice:

Whatever doubts Buchanan may still have had regarding Walker were probably finally resolved eight days later when his long-time trusted adviser Robert Tyler bluntly urged him to remove Walker “without hesitation.”

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 941-942). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Dred Scott

Scott was an escaped slave who sued in court for his freedom. The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, ruled that slavery was, in fact, legal, and Scott’s petition was denied. President Buchanan gained additional notoriety by interfering with the process:

Bumptiously inserting himself into the preliminary deliberations of the court, Buchanan had not only corresponded with Catron on the matter, but also Associate Justice Robert Grier, pushing him to join the Southern majority. Grier, of Pennsylvania, was uncomfortable going against the wishes of the president-elect of his own state and may have felt additional pressure recalling that he held his seat primarily because Buchanan had declined an earlier nomination from President Polk to the

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 808-811). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Cuba

The United States was not to acquire the island of Cuba for another 50 years, but expansionist elements already had an eye in that direction. There were plans to purchase Cuba from mother Spain, plans which did not involve what is commonly considered to be a purchase:

The task of advancing the President’s Cuban proposal in the Senate fell to the durable John Slidell, a long-standing devotee of invading the island nation. Brandishing charts and maps, Slidell, beginning in January 1859, championed legislation that would give Buchanan $30 million to be used in the acquisition of Cuba. Slidell imaginatively argued that the purchase of Cuba was a natural outgrowth of American expansionism. The “law of our national existence is a growth we cannot disobey,” he exclaimed, telling his colleagues that as Britain was in India, and France was in Africa, the U.S. should be in Cuba.

It wasn’t just Slidell who swung into action on this one. To Buchanan’s pleasure, his pals came out of the woodwork in favor of his proposal.

“If Spain be indisposed to sell, I would seize Cuba,” Mississippi Senator Aaron Brown told an enthusiastic gathering of Tammany Hall Democrats in New York. Brown went on to note that the U.S. had tried to negotiate before with Spanish officials over Cuba—always unsuccessfully. “I have grown weary of this thing, of having young, proud, glorious America knocking at the door of Spain and asking for admission. It is our policy not to ask justice, but to demand it, because it is our right.”

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 1099-1109). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

L’affaire Sickles

This was a nasty bit of business:

Sickles’ victim was Philip Barton Key, the District Attorney of Washington and son of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Sickles accused Key of having an affair with his attractive 22 year-old wife Teresa. He shot him three times, resulting in the District Attorney’s instant death and Sickles’ arrest later that afternoon. Buchanan was told of the shooting within minutes by a breathless White House page named John Bonitz who witnessed the killing.

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 1138-1142). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

The President of the United States gave this witness, John Bonitz, a bundle of money and advice to get out of town. This was doubly mysterious, since there were numerous other eye witnesses who came forward and testified against Sickles, a very good friend of the President’s. With the President’s additional meddling, along with the code of honor prevailing in those days, Sickles got off and served his country many years following.

The Crittenden Proposal

Perhaps no motion more dipped in human depravity ever came before the United States Government than the so-called Crittenden Proposal. The Democratic Party of those days was the party of slavery, and the newly launched Republican Party had in its plank the elimination of slavery. As the election of 1860 approached, it became evident the Republicans had the odds on at winning the presidency, with Abraham Lincoln, an acknowledged opponent of slavery, at the helm. Southerners saw no recourse but to secede from the Union in that event, and Buchanan saw the need to forestall secession. His solution involved throwing human rights to the wolves, and the Crittenden Proposal was emblematic:

No stranger to tackling thorny challenges, the 73 year-old Crittenden had served as President Millard Fillmore’s attorney general, painstakingly helping to broker the famous Compromise of 1850 which recognized Southern slavery, admitted California as a free state and organized the Utah and New Mexico territories with no restrictions on slavery. Now Crittenden visited the White House and told Buchanan that he thought he could make magic happen again, a magic that would rob secession of its purpose through the adoption of a series of amendments to the Constitution.

Those amendments would primarily prevent Congress from abolishing slavery where it existed; require that slave owners be compensated whenever fugitive slaves were harbored by abolitionists; prohibit slavery north of the Missouri Compromise line and protect slavery in territories south of that line. A final Crittenden proposal would lock it all in by declaring that none of the above amendments could be changed by subsequent amendment.

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 2113-2120). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

The Civil War

Buchanan is best noted for his inability, or his unwillingness, to avoid civil war. A pronouncement of his is one that will live in infamy:

On December 3, drawing heavily on Black’s opinion, Buchanan declared in his annual message to Congress that while it was certainly unconstitutional for any state to leave the union, if one did, there really wasn’t much he could do about it.

Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 91-93). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

This followed the secession of South Carolina and came a few months preceding the onset of armed conflict. The result was 785,000–1,000,000+ dead within the following  four and a half years. We can only hope that President Trump succeeds only in continuing to make himself and the rest of us look foolish and will keep his finger off the launch button.

This is the place where I point out curiosities found in my edition. Emphasis added:

  • Multiple ways of spelling Buchanan. It’s Buchannan in three places.
  • That he now claimed to have summarily rejected the offer, and even went so far as to call it an insult, rang hallow.

    Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Locations 1536-1537). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

  • When, on the next day, that move was was completed,

    Boulard, Garry. The Worst President–The Story of James Buchanan (Kindle Location 1982). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Fundamental Apocalypse

The word in the title, “apocalypse,” has slipped its original meaning. It has come to  mean “dire circumstances.” And that’s what this movie is all about.

Hulu has produced a TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, from 31 years ago, and it’s right up there with any zombie apocalypse flick you care to see, made more treacherous by skillful understatement. It’s a tale of modern society gone horribly wrong. It’s about the people living through the fundamental apocalypse. Where have we seen this before?

What has happened is the Unite States government has been overthrown in a well-crafted coup d’état, carried out by a fundamentalist Christian movement. The coup is swift and decisive. The national government is decapitated in a single strike, eliminating all leaders of the national government, all leaders, that is, except perhaps some of the movement already in power. The coup is blamed on external forces, a monstrous false flag operation, necessitating the suspension of all civil rights. This is followed, of course, by the instigation of an authoritative and self-perpetuating rule and a state named Gilead. American law and American  society will now be based on biblical literalism. Almost to the letter.

Opening scenes show a family, husband, wife, daughter, from Boston, attempting to escape north across the Canadian border. They don’t make it. The husband stays by their stalled car while the wife and child dash through the woods toward the border, two miles away. Guardians, heavily-armed religious police, overtake the mother and daughter and carry the child away. Gunfire in the distance indicates the husband has been killed. The fate of the mother is worse.

The title derives from Genesis 16:

16 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

And that is about the sum total of the handmaid’s tale. Catalyst to the coup were multiple failures of modern society, one of which was a precipitous decline in human fertility. Genesis 16 was to counter this calamity. Fertile women were to be pressed into breading service, in almost exact accordance with the biblical passage. The wife, now given the name Offred (from Of Fred), undergoes a brutal program of indoctrination that renders her totally submissive and in perpetual dread of unpleasant death, at least superficially. She is placed in the home of a high level Commander, her only tasks consisting of daily grocery shopping and, once each month, spreading her legs so the Commander can penetrate and impregnate her. It is not a private affair. The Commander’s wife sits behind Offred and restrains her hands. Other members of the household observe. There is not a lot of love lost.

The first crack of the plot brings to mind Robert Heinlein’s Revolt in 2100, previously reviewed. Recall from that tale (“If This Goes On”), the country has devolved into a repressive theocracy, and desirable young women are pressed into service as concubines for the priests. Other similarities exist. Heinlein’s story incorporates secret police keeping watch on everybody, and also an underground movement to oppose and overturn the theocracy. There are also shades of 1984, with eavesdropping cameras all about and sudden disappearances of those only suspected of apostasy. A black van may come to a stop next to the curb on a busy street and a pedestrian scooped inside, never to be seen again.

Another scene recalls The Stepford Wives. The handmaids shop in pairs, each keeping an eye on the other. They move among the supermarket aisles like grown up dolls on trolley wheels, the hems of their frocks almost brushing the floor. Faces devoid of expression.

As Offred and her shopping partner Ofglen (Of Glen) return to their respective prison houses, they often pass alongside the river, where authorities have on display the latest reminders of what resistance brings. Homosexuals and Catholic priests are equally served.

The book is presented as a narrative, recorded by a woman giving only her handmaid’s name, Offred, in what may have been a safe house along the escape route to Canada. An epilogue is presented as a symposium on the history of the Gileadean.

Being a partial transcript of the proceedings of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies, held as part of the International Historical Association Convention, held at the University of Denay, Nunavit, on June 25, 2195.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 299). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

The presenter describes the finding of a collection of audio cassettes, inside a container in a house, in no particular order. The book has apparently been constructed by compiling and assembling transcripts of the tapes. Atwood’s book is meant to recreate the haphazard nature of the narrative, moving, jumping forward and backward in time, as the woman calls to mind her experiences in Gilead and her life before.

In the book, her narrative ends precipitously. There is a ceremony featuring the execution by hanging of three people, followed by the unmasking of revolutionary elements within the ranks of the handmaids. The wife of Offred’s Commander reveals her knowledge of Offred’s perfidy, a sexual fling with the Commander, and Offred is sent to her room to await her fate. When the black van arrives to  take her away the Guardians inside are revealed to be rescuers with the rebellion, come to help Offred escape. Offred’s narrative ends at that point.

There is ample in  the book to make a reader’s blood run cold, but Hulu has added more. I am up to episode 6 in the TV series, and the creators have already introduced disturbing sub-plots. One episode features a visit by a trade delegation from Mexico. The trade ambassador is a woman, a complete repudiation of Gileadean culture. On arriving she quizzes Offred about her situation, in the presence of the Commander and his household. Offred is meek to the core, telling the ambassador the is satisfied. At a later, private, meeting Offred is candid. She is a prisoner, raped monthly in a vain effort to produce a child, doomed to death at the end of her tenure. The Mexican ambassador says she cannot help Offred. Mexico has the same fertility crisis, and the Mexicans are prepared to trade chocolate for some of Gilead’s handmaids.

Contrary to the book, Hulu shows Offred’s husband, Luke, having escaped to Canada and receiving a note from Offred, smuggled to him by the Mexican delegation. It is unknown to me how much further along this tangent Hulu will carry the story. Is there going to be a counter revolution? Will Offred (revealed by Hulu as June) ever see her daughter alive again? Or Luke?

Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. Here are a few points of note:

The inception of Gilead by means of a surgical coup d’état is uncharacteristic. The creation of a totalitarian theocracy out of the United States is too quick and too precise. Historical precedent is contrary. The Soviet Union developed with breath-taking speed from the Russian Empire, but there was merely one framework of suppression and brutality exchanged for another. Additionally, Russia’s abject military failures were a necessary caustic agent. Nazi Germany grew remorselessly out of a German monarchy that suffered humiliating losses in a war of its own making. And it was not overnight. Chinese communism and the current state of Cuba are additional examples. Look to Venezuela to see a modern state collapsing into oligarchy. Neither the book nor the movie display such a run-up to dystopia.

Gilead’s economy is failing, and it is not difficult to see why. With one half of the work force standing as armed guard over the other half, who is doing productive work? The book does tell of Colonies, where slave labor is producing food and maybe other products of the economy, but shortages are rife in both renditions of the story.

A core theme is modern society’s plummeting birth rate. Gilead attempts to remedy this through the handmaids, and readers (viewers, as well) recognize this as a reliance on scripture to solve a real world problem and also a mechanism that only contributes to it. It is obvious to the the casual observer that Gilead, perhaps the remainder of human society, is doomed to extinction from aging within two or three generations. Only the religious fanatics can fail to recognize this.

Yes, I can see a society that rides theocracy into its grave. We have only to look at:

  • North Korea—yes it is a theocracy.
  • The Taliban

These societies, and others so organized, cannot exist in a modern world without an infusion from the world they detest.

Watching, also reading, one wonders whether this is the vision we could expect under today’s theocratic politicians. How much power would it be required for them to have to bend modern society along these lines? We may be experiencing a small taste. Is the experiment already underway?

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book.

This installment will cover the year 1937 up through 7 May, 80 years ago. The first part of 1937 has few entries for Berlin Diary, the first one being 8 April:

BERLIN, April 8, 1937

April here and no Hitler surprise this spring yet. This may be a year of Nazi consolidation, building up the armed forces, assuring Franco victory in Spain, cementing relations with Italy (support for the Duce in Spain and the Mediterranean in return for his giving Germany a free hand in Austria and the Balkans), and giving the nerves of the German people a little rest.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 911-914). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

And that was to be the case. During 1937 Germany’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War intensified. Shirer left Universal Services and joined forces with Edward R. Murrow in reporting the early weeks of the coming war.

BERLIN, May 3

Gordon Young of Reuter’s and I ran into Lord Lothian about midnight in the lobby of the Adlon. He arrived here suddenly yesterday to confer with Nazi leaders. Young asked him why he had come. “Oh, Göring asked me to,” he replied. He is probably the most intelligent of the Tories taken in by Hitler, Göring, and Ribbentrop. We wanted to ask him since when he was under orders from Göring, but refrained.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 926-930). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Lord Lothian will be an unfamiliar figure to all but historians. Here’s from his Wikipedia entry:

Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian, KT CH PC DL (18 April 1882 – 12 December 1940), known as Philip Kerr until 1930, was a British politician, diplomat and newspaper editor. He was private secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George between 1916 and 1921. He played a major role in the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and was responsible for including the War Guilt Clause which he later felt was a bad mistake. After succeeding a cousin in the marquessate in 1930, he held minor office from 1931 to 1932 in the National Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald. In the late 1930s, he was a leading advocate of appeasement of Germany, emphasizing the harshness of the Versailles Treaty and the dangers of Stalin’s communism. From 1939 until his death in December 1940 he was Ambassador to the United States, Proving highly successful in winning Americans support for the British war effort, most notably the Lend Lease program, which passed Congress after his death.

By this time German President Paul von Hindenburg had been dead for over two years. On this day, 80 years ago, the great airship named after him came to a fiery end:

BERLIN, May 7

Hillman awakened me with a phone call from London about four a.m. today to inform me that the Zeppelin Hindenburg had crashed at Lakehurst with the loss of several lives. I immediately phoned one of the men who designed it, at Friedrichshafen. He refused to believe my words. I telephoned London and gave them a little story for the late editions. I had hardly gone back to sleep when Claire Trask of the Columbia Broadcasting System phoned to ask me to do a broadcast on the German reaction to the disaster. I was a bit ill-tempered, I’m afraid, at being awakened so early. I told her I couldn’t do it and suggested two or three other correspondents. About ten she called back again and insisted I do it. I finally agreed, though I had never broadcast in my life.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 930-936). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Shirer’s tenure with Universal Service was to come to an end later in the year, as the Hearst conglomerate folded its operations to cut its losses.

From this point forward I will post on the 80th anniversary of a related entry. Entries are sparse for 1937, but from 1938 going forward events in Europe were coming to a boil. Shirer’s first-hand look has been hard to duplicate. Juxtaposed against the official history, it often provides chilling insight.