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 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 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?

The Government You Paid For

A continuation

Governor Perry protects our borders when the 82nd Airborne refuses to do so

I suddenly realized that I needed to post more of these. Well, not so suddenly. I’ve been having the feeling for a few months. I’m posting this one in particular because up until seven years ago I paid taxes in that district and voted for that office. Here’s the pertinent news item:

A sheriff in Texas has come under fire after he linked the bombing of a concert in Manchester, England to the country’s tough gun laws.

Following the Monday night attack that killed 22 people, Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree lashed out in a Facebook post.

Here is the Facebook post in its entirety:

Pay attention to what you see in Manchester England tonight. Pay attention to what is happening in Europe. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens. When you open your borders without the proper vetting. When you allow political correctness to dictate how you respond to an enemy that wants to kill you. When you allow these radicals to travel to Afghanistan and Iran and simply let them back in. When you give up your city’s and your neighborhoods to a religious ideology that says you must convert or die. A ideology that treats women as property, kills gays and women and christians with complete impunity. The left tells us we must submit and accept these radical beliefs and bend over backwards to make sure we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings. The left wants to cater to the very group that would kill every group they claim to support. Folks this is an enemy hell bent on killing you. Committed to forcing you to convert or die. This enemy will strap bombs to their own body and blow themselves up killing children. I’m sick of it. You better wake up America. While you are distracted by the media and the crying of the left, Islamic Jihadist are among us and want to kill you. What will it take? This happening at a concert in Dallas or a school in Denton County? If we don’t do something quick this country will die of political correctness and the fear that someone’s feelings may be hurt. It may very well be to late for Europe.

I’m glad Sheriff Murphree finally got that out in the open. Before I go on with this, readers may be due for some historical context. The office of sheriff is a standard fixture in American states. Every county, parish, province has one. We got them from England. The Sheriff of Nottingham was not a fictional character. My understanding is the word traces back to ancient Egypt.

And what is most interesting is the concept of an officer of the law who is elected. Sheriff Murphree, the Republican Party candidate, scored an overwhelming victory over his rival Libertarian Party candidate last year. I could find nothing about a Democratic Party opponent. One news item reports that Denton County went solid red in the November election. It would appear, at least in Denton County, we are getting the government we paid for.

So what of Sheriff Murphree’s venting of spleen? It’s worth dissecting. Here’s the first part:

Pay attention to what you see in Manchester England tonight. Pay attention to what is happening in Europe. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens.

This was, of course, set off by the terrorist attack on a music concert in  England this week. This is what happens when you disarm your citizens. I saw that on the news. Those adults and young children were unable to defend themselves because the British government denied them the right to carry guns. I mean, if one of those kids, now dead, had been carrying his handy Glock semi-automatic pistol, he could have blazed away the moment he (or she) saw the killer about to press the switch and set off the bomb. How can anybody be so blind to not see the obvious?

But wait. Wait! I am dead sure Sheriff Murphree has in mind the Second Amendment to our Constitution. It contains wording to the effect:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

When I talk to people who say they support the Second Amendment and insist it is an absolute guarantee of the right of all (but a few) to keep and bear arms, they often  tell me this is necessary to protect us from the government. If there is ever a need for citizens to rise up against the government, they need to have the weapons to do so. They need guns.

And this is what is curious. The Second Amendment does not mention guns. It says “arms.” It means weapons of war. Not hunting rifles, shotguns, Saturday night specials. Citizens need real killing power. Such as fragmentation bombs. And that is exactly what Salman Abedi had and what would be legal if proponents of a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment mean what they say.

Well, no. Fragmentation  bombs should not be legal for citizens to possess, and possession of guns should be under reasonable restraint in order tamp down this country’s alarming misuse of firearms. I suspect Sheriff Murphree demurs. He has more to  say:

When you open your borders without the proper vetting.

Yes, those foreigners from Muslim countries. Salman Abedi was born in England, in Manchester. Does proper vetting begin at the birth canal?

When you allow political correctness to dictate how you respond to an enemy that wants to kill you.

The sheriff does not elaborate on what he means by “political correctness,” so we are left to surmise. I can  only hope he does not mean there should be one set of rules for some people and another set for others. Perhaps Sheriff Murphree believes he will be among those making the rules. Obviously we have no need to be polite to somebody who wants to kill us. But we need to know in advance whether and who wants to kill us. How can we tell in advance? Before he (or she) presses the switch? We could check skin color. Or religious affiliation. Sheriff Murphree may be onto something.

When you allow these radicals to travel to Afghanistan and Iran and simply let them back in.

Of course Salman Abedi was not from Afghanistan or Iran. He was from England. He did go to Libya, where his parents are from.  And he did come back, committing his act of murder just five days after returning. And he was being watched by British authorities as a possible terrorist. Fault the Brits for dropping the ball on this one. That said, we can be sure Sheriff Murphree has in mind a procedure for handling these cases—where a citizen goes to a foreign country of interest and then returns. He does not elaborate. We wait.

When you give up your city’s and your neighborhoods to a religious ideology that says you must convert or die. A ideology that treats women as property, kills gays and women and christians with complete impunity.

Sheriff Murphree fails to mention these people also kill Muslims with complete impunity, but that is a terrible ideology, and I did not realize until he brought up just how close we are to falling over the precipice. Thanks, Sheriff.

The left tells us we must submit and accept these radical beliefs and bend over backwards to make sure we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings. The left wants to cater to the very group that would kill every group they claim to support.

The left. That means us. We must submit to and accept these radical beliefs. We should? We do? That will be news to those on the so-called left. The left, liberals, are intensely opposed to these philosophies, which we see as another manifestation of religious fundamentalism. Atheists comprise a considerable segment of liberal America, and atheists strongly oppose any imposition of a rule of law dictated by myth and superstition. Atheists, and not all liberals, fault Islam on the same terms they fault Christianity and Judaism. These derive their basis from ancient texts that espouse subjugation and cruelty. And I, for one, do not bend over backwards, whatever that means, for anybody or anything. And I am not reluctant to hurt anybody’s feelings. I count each day’s success by how many people I have pissed off. Starting, I would hope, with Sheriff Murphree.

And finally:

You better wake up America. While you are distracted by the media and the crying of the left, Islamic Jihadist are among us and want to kill you. What will it take? This happening at a concert in Dallas or a school in Denton County? If we don’t do something quick this country will die of political correctness and the fear that someone’s feelings may be hurt. It may very well be to late for Europe.

Of course I was surprise to learn I have been distracted by the media, since it was through an outlet of the media that I obtained Sheriff Murphree’s message of warning. Regarding crying of the left, I look around me, and I see little crying. I see considerable outrage at the direction the current administration is taking the country, and some fretting. I also see an amount of glee at a segment of society that has obtained what was so long wished for.

The sheriff advises that if we don’t do something quick[ly] we are doomed. Again he does not elaborate. Perhaps he dares not to. He talks about Islamic Jihadists being among us, but he does not identify them by name. What is he prepared to do? When does he roll out the paddy wagons and start scooping citizens off the street. Too early for that? When it comes, can we count on the Second Amendment to protect us?

Too late for Europe? Yes. Too late for America. Timothy McVeigh was radicalized by alt right nationalist groups such as The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), “dedicated to Christian Identity and survivalism.” A few years ago I ran into this guy named Kerry Noble. He had a book. It’s title is Tabernacle of Hate, and I asked him if it was his book. He said he wrote it. He was prominent in the CSA, and later he told us about the time he took a bomb into a Missouri church that was friendly to homosexuals. He told of sitting for a time in that church before making a final decision and leaving with the bomb.

Too late for England. Too late for Manchester:

The 1996 Manchester bombing was an attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Saturday 15 June 1996. The IRA detonated a 1,500-kilogram (3,300 lb) truck bomb on Corporation Street in the centre of Manchester, England. The biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since World War II, it targeted the city’s infrastructure and economy and caused devastating damage, estimated by insurers at £700 million (£1.2 billion as of 2017) – only surpassed by the 2001 September 11 Attacks and 1993 Bishopsgate bombing in terms of financial cost.

Too late for Manchester:

The 1992 Manchester bombing was an attack by the Provisional IRA in December 1992. Two bombs exploded, wounding 65 people and damaging many buildings in the city of Manchester.

Too late for London:

The Bishopsgate bombing occurred on Saturday 24 April 1993, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a powerful truck bomb on Bishopsgate, a major thoroughfare in London’s financial district, the City of London. Telephoned warnings were sent about an hour beforehand, but a news photographer was killed in the blast and 44 people were injured. The damage cost £350 million to repair. As a result of the bombing, which happened just over a year after the bombing of the nearby Baltic Exchange, a “ring of steel” was implemented to protect the City, and many firms introduced disaster recovery plans in case of further attacks or similar disasters.

Too late for Brighton:

The Brighton hotel bombing was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassination attempt against the top tier of the British government in 1984. It missed its main targets but killed five others. It occurred on 12 October 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in Brighton, England. A long-delay time bomb was planted in the hotel by IRA member Patrick Magee, with the purpose of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, five people were killed including a sitting Conservative MP, and 31 were injured.

Too late for Warrington:

The Warrington bombings were two separate bomb attacks that took place during early 1993 in Warrington, England. The first attack happened on 26 February, when a bomb exploded at a gas storage facility. It caused extensive damage but no injuries. While fleeing the scene, the bombers shot and injured a police officer and two of them were then caught after a high-speed car chase. The second attack happened on 20 March, when two small bombs exploded in litter bins outside shops and businesses on Bridge Street. Two children were killed and dozens of people were injured.

Too late for London:

The London Docklands bombing (also known as the Canary Wharf bombing or South Quay bombing) occurred on 9 February 1996, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a powerful truck bomb in Canary Wharf, one of the two financial districts of London. The blast devastated a wide area and caused an estimated £150 million worth of damage. Although the IRA had sent warnings 90 minutes beforehand, the area was not fully evacuated. Two people were killed and more than 100 were injured, some permanently.

Too late for London:

The Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings occurred on 20 July 1982 in London. Members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two bombs during British military ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, both in central London.

Too late for Birmingham:

The Birmingham pub bombings (also known as the Birmingham bombings)[1] occurred on 21 November 1974, when bombs exploded in two public houses in central Birmingham, England. The explosions killed 21 people and injured 182 others.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army have never officially admitted responsibility for the Birmingham pub bombings, but a former senior officer of the organisation confessed to their involvement in 2014,[4] with an admission the Birmingham pub bombings “went against everything we [the Provisional Irish Republican Army] claimed to stand for”.

Very too late.

I am inclined to ask Sheriff Murphree, when do you plan to send out the paddy wagons for the Catholics? When and how do you plan on cracking down on the Irish in America? By the way, your name, Murphree. That sounds Irish to me.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Modern science brings us knowledge that can save lives, but stupidity remains a prime killer. Little Lukas S. is the most recent to grace this column:

A seven-month-old baby died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him an alternative gluten-free, lactose-free diet, a court has heard.

The mother and father, who ran a natural food store in the town of Beveren in Belgium, insisted on putting their son Lucas on an alternative diet that included quinoa milk, according to local media. Doctors warn that such a diet is generally unsuitable for such young children.

His diet led to him being less than half the expected weight for a boy his age, weighing 9.47lbs — just over the average weight for a newborn baby — before he died on 6 June 2014.

This news item from The Independent also reports Lucas’ parents drove him across his home country of Belgium to  a homeopathic doctor rather than seek reliable medical treatment.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

It’s now over a year since I started posting these, one each week. If a person were not cautious, a person would conclude that Jesus has an inordinate love for the young and helpless. He takes so many of them under his wing. A previous post marked the sacrifice of young Monica Johnson. Now I mark the passing of her sister:

“What seems to be happening is that the children are doing fine and then they take a turn for the worse very quickly,” said Robert Levenson, director of the Philadelphia Health Department’s division of disease control.

Indeed, after 9-year-old Monica Johnson died last Sunday, a health department doctor visited the other 11 children in the family and, while not permitted to conduct an actual physical exam, found no cause for alarm. But early this morning Monica’s 13-year-old sister, Tina-Louise, died.

Monica, Tina-Louise, plus 9-year-old Karen Still, all died in a measles outbreak associated with, and to the fault of, two fundamentalist Christian churches in Philadelphia in 1991. The New York Times reported then:

Measles and Faith Combine In 5 Deaths in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 15— Five children have died in a measles outbreak here in the last 10 days, all of them from families that belong to two fundamentalist churches that preach a reliance on prayer, not medical care, to cure disease.

The churches, the Faith Tabernacle Congregation and the First Century Gospel Church, each run their own schools, which together have about 350 students who have never been inoculated against measles or other diseases.

[Emphasis added]

I have chosen to dribble these deaths out one at a time, week upon week, every Tuesday morning, in order to drive home a point. This problem is not come and gone. It persists. On a daily basis people are using religion as a license to kill—their children. So long as I can obtain the name or death report of a child, or an adult, who has fallen victim to this cultural monstrosity, I will post the details on a Tuesday.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Ever since this came out in 2004 I’ve been wanting to see it, but I didn’t want to pay any money to see it. This week, April 2017, it turned up on Amazon Prime Video in conjunction apparently with the Easter holiday season. However, the film is not about bunny rabbits and Easter eggs, or even Easter. It’s an exotic bit of sadomasochism for adults, reflecting writer, director Mel Gibson‘s extremist views. It’s The Passion of the Christ, featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother Mary. The distributor was Newmarket Films. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to detail the plot. It’s whole cloth from the New Testament accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, otherwise unknown. None of these writers were present, nor likely even alive, at the time of the events. See Bible Gateway for the text.

Those brought up in a Christian  world already know the story. Jesus was a radical Jewish rabbi during the time of the Roman occupation of the region east of the Mediterranean, particularly Jerusalem. He came crossway’s with the Jewish authority, who, according to most accounts, kowtowed to the Romans as a means of maintaining their own position. Jesus preached unorthodox philosophies and was thought by many to be the promised messiah, the god-man come to save the Jews from oppression. This did not sit well with authority, neither the Jews nor the Romans, and when Jesus crossed the line by throwing a fit and wrecking a temple, the Jews, led by King Herod, saw their chance to get rid of him.

The Jewish authority paid one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas, to finger Jesus, so he could be arrested by the Romans. This scene shows Judas, knave that he is, down on  his knees before the authorities, grubbing to pick up the 30 pieces of silver he has spilled. Too bad for Judas. Ever since, his name has become synonymous with duplicity and betrayal. Although lots of people get named Jesus these days (my neighbor down the street), almost nobody gets named Judas. Or Hitler.

Anyhow, the movie covers the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, starting with the night of his arrest and culminating with his death by crucifixion the following day. Justice was swift in those days. We see Jesus and his disciples reposing in an olive grove, and it is dark. No street lights in those days. Jesus confers with a spectral figure in female form and gets a hint of his fate. The movie dialog is a mixture of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, languages I do not speak, so I can only follow the conversation through the subtitles. I’m guessing the specter informs Jesus he will  die and save all mankind from eternal damnation. But that’s just my interpretation.

Although the plot is  straight line with no parallel themes, there are flash backs in Jesus’ life to give perspective. Here he is in  better days, showing his mother a table he has built. He was a carpenter, according to biblical accounts.

Starting with Jesus’ arrest (Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek), the film is all about injustice and an escalating program of debasement, brutalization, and  torture of Jesus, ultimately resulting in his death. Famous characters from the biblical account are depicted in stereotypical rendition. Here is Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), haughty and impervious. He attained a certain level of fame through the biblical account of his washing his hands after dealing  with the matter of Jesus. The movie shows the famous washing hands scene.

We see the Jewish hierarchy, standing so solidly with their Roman masters. The very picture of complicity. You have to dislike them.

The arresting soldiers begin by punching and kicking Jesus, putting him in shackles, then dangling him off a bridge by the shackles. The brutality is just beginning. The movie is all about this drum beat of brutal assaults. You have to wonder what kind of pleasure anybody has watching this.

Yes, Jesus must be crucified. The crucifixion to take place on a hill outside the city, and you have to wonder how come the crosses are not already set up there. History tells us the Romans used crucifixion routinely, and we don’t want to believe they constructed new crosses each time. Anyhow, it was a gruesome form of death, and it served to remind non-Roman subjects just who was in charge and what waited for anybody defying Roman rule.

However,  the movie has to follow biblical tradition, and a cross is constructed especially for him, in the city, and he has to carry it through the city gates and up the hill. Even though Jesus gets help (the Romans press an on-looker into service), it is an epic struggle, which is what this movie wants to show. Great injustice, cruel treatment to the extreme, the shameful killing of a hero of the people.

Here’s the part that a gaggle of true Christians are going to get off on. They lay the cross out on the ground and drive nails through Jesus’ hands to affix them to the cross arms. Then they drive a nail through his feet to affix them to the upright. That has got to be painful. It’s what crucifixion was all about.

Finally they stand the cross upright so Jesus can die by suffocation. The deal is, when you are hung by your hands, nailed in this case, you can’t breath, and suffocation comes eventually. Attaching the feet to the upright slows the process. According to history, the executioners would sometimes break a prisoner’s legs to hasten death. Believe it if you will, this was the humane thing to  do.

After Jesus dies great turbulence strikes the region. An earthquake destroys the temple, and a massive storm approaches. A soldier jabs Jesus in the chest with a spear to ensure he is dead, and then they all flee.

Friends and Jesus’ mother take down the cross and remove the body from it. There is a scene in the movie that exactly captures Michaelangelo‘s Pietà. A nice, if obvious, touch by Gibson. The body is placed in an ossuary in a crypt, a cave dug out of the side of a cliff. The crypt is sealed by rolling a large rock over the opening. The movie ends with the rock rolling back (presumably the following  Sunday) and Jesus walking forth.

No doubt, Gibson pulled out all stops depicting the brutality inflicted on Jesus. There is plenty of motion picture blood spurting in response to the nails being driven in. Tales of the Soviet gulags pale by comparison. The film is a reflection of Gibson’s ultra-religious views:

ibson was raised a Sedevacantist traditionalist Catholic. When asked about the Catholic doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, Gibson replied, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” When he was asked whether John 14:6 is an intolerant position, he said that “through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice… even people who don’t know Jesus are able to be saved, but through him.”[162] Acquaintance Father William Fulco has said that Gibson denies neither the Pope nor Vatican II. Gibson told Diane Sawyer that he believes non-Catholics and non-Christians can go to Heaven.

Gibson’s religiosity would be difficult to detect from his earlier films. Previously reviewed are Mad Max and Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome. Then there was the Lethal Weapon series, Payback, and Conspiracy Theory. I have watched, but not reviewed, We Were Soldiers, which features Gibson as the deeply Catholic Lieutenant Hall Moore.

What kills this movie is not only the fixation on sadism, but the plot, or lack thereof. There is no plot. If this had been a movie about a nameless woman, scooped off the street and tortured to death by some religious fanatics, the largely Christian fans would not only not watch it, but they would demand that nobody else should be allowed to watch it. The fundamentalist Christian audience gives a pass on the brutality depicted, because this is a bit of fiction ingrained in their faith, of scarce veracity at that.

No eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus wrote any of this stuff down. Accounts from biblical scholars hold that followers of Jesus scattered following the Roman crackdown, and the story was subsequently recreated from legends. The existence of an actual Jesus character is also questioned. Biblical depictions of Jesus’ birth do not square with know fact, heaping considerable doubt to the rest of the Jesus story.

Details of the movie do not jibe. Scenes of Jesus hanging on the cross by way of nails through his hands are recreated by having an actor supported from below. A real person supported as Jesus is shown would come close to dying before the camera’s lens. Perhaps more so.

Not wanting to be indelicate, but the movie shows friends of Jesus having removed his body from  the cross. They apparently pulled the nails. Not so. These were substantial nails, and a real carpenter would recognize the near impossibility of pulling them, having been driven through a four-inch timber and then bent over from the back side. The body would have been removed by cutting the hands. Realism is not a matter of concern here.

I had trouble with the language. The Romans speak Latin, and sometimes Hebrew when talking to the Jews. I don’t speak Latin, but it sounds as though the Romans are speaking Italian. They even speak with an Italian  accent. The Jews seem to switch between Aramaic and Hebrew, two of the three Semitic languages of the region, the other being Arabic. Gibson loaded the burden of  having actors speak these ancient languages on top of the more mundane production tasks. Not much is gained.

If you are a soaked in blood Christian, then this movie is for you. If you have any sense of propriety, you will  want to skip this snuff film.

The Awful Truth

Number 1 of a new series

On Monday of this week I proclaimed loudly and brazenly:

Daniel Dale’s list has since grown. As of 18 April the count was up to 179. How long can our president keep this up? Better yet, how long can I keep this up?

Until there is no skin left. Or until I hit 80, which I have today. For a review of the remaining 99 Trump lies chronicled by Daniel Dale, follow the link provided above.

I am sure many readers, both of you, heaved a great sigh, relieved the steady drip-drip-drip was coming to an end. Those expectations were a dump truck load too high. The fact is I lied.

Yes, I committed the loathsome sin with which I, for 80 days, flogged the sitting president. I told an untruth, a misstatement, a prevarication, a whopper. However, since the president has not seen fit to slip back from the dark side, I find no alternative but to follow him there. Continue reading as I, with the able help of Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, work  to unweave some of President Donald Trump’s most egregious fabrications.

Where to start? Let’s start with reviewing Daniel Dale’s post:

Before and after his victory, Trump has proven uniquely willing to lie, exaggerate and mislead. By all expert accounts, the president is more frequently inaccurate than any president before.

Read more: Here’s everything else that happened in Trump’s first 100 days

We are keeping track. Below is a list of every false claim Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017 — 2.1 per day, on average.

Why call them false claims, not lies? We can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional; in some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant — what we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

Last updated: April 28, 2017

With that setting, here is the first of the new series:

“The fake-news media doesn’t like talking about the economy; I never see anything about the stock market sets new records every day. I never see it.”

Source: White House “listening session” with members of Congress

In fact: We cannot fact-check what Trump does or doesn’t personally see, but his suggestion that the media ignores market records is inaccurate. The Dow Jones industrial average has received extensive coverage, even more than the usual daily stream of business stories, as it has reached new heights over the last month.

This is from a video clip posted on YouTube on  16 February, well within the original four-week window. I’m posting it now, because the first 80 do not seem to reference it.

This president has a long-standing issue with the truth—at times the two don’t appear to be on speaking terms. A lot of this seems to be transparent to Trump fans especially, but readers leaning to the right, or just averse to Obama and Clinton, have taken issue with my theme. One reader, Dan, viewed my post only because I stitched a link to his Facebook time line. Dan’s counter was that I should feed off Obama’s lies.

Asked to clarify, Dan mentioned, “If you like hour plan you can keep it.” There is nothing wrong with that. The fact is President over-sold the benefits of the ACA and later put this one off to his belief that patients would not like the plans which the ACA was designed to eliminate. My response to Dan was to invite him to list additional Obama lies and miscues for me, but that he should stop when he got to 80. The fact is, there are more, but Dan failed to list any of them. Interestingly, most conservatives (anti-Obama) seem to stick on that one with depressing regularity. Meanwhile, Trump’s lapses of truth and outright lies pile up on a daily basis, which explains my inability to keep up.

Future posts will continue to draw from Daniel Dale’s list, but the daily news is a ready supply, and I intend to make use of it. Keep reading. This is not meant to be informative. We already know what is obvious for all to see. To sweeten it I’m going to lace these postings with a bit of humor to keep it interesting. So, keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Poisonous spiders and poisonous snakes get our immediate attention, but nothing kills like Jesus, coupled with stupidity. It’s Tuesday again and another occasion to pay tribute to a martyr to Jesus:

The Faith Tabernacle Congregation, founded here in 1897, bases its beliefs on a strict interpretation of the Bible. Among its tenets is the avoidance of all medical and surgical practices; members believe that healing will come from God.

The other victim, Karen Still, 9, was pronounced dead on arrival Thursday at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Her parents told the police she had been vomiting for four days.

Charles Reinert, presiding elder of the church, has declined to comment to reporters but has been cooperating with inquiries of health officials.

State law requires immunization before a child enters school, but exceptions are made for religious or medical reasons.

That term, “religious exemption,” requires some explanation. It’s code for “license to kill.”

The Golden Shower

Something interesting—this is number 19.

I caught the Trump/Russia Senate hearing today on CBSN and captured some screen  shots. Retired General James Clapper, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified. The scope of the hearing was former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The story goes like this.

Flynn was fired from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama. His problem during his tenure at that job was his loose association with facts. It’s a character flaw that followed him into the Trump administration. Prior to taking his job with the new administration he told things to Vice President Mike Pence concerning his dealings with the Russian government—things that turned out not to be true.

VP Pence subsequently repeated these statements to President Trump, who then spoke them aloud to the American public and to  the world at large. Acting Attorney General Yates (left over from the Obama administration) noticed that what Pence had told Trump about Flynn was at variance with intelligence she had access to, and Yates contacted White House counsel Donald McGahn by phone on 26 February. She told McGahn she had something of importance to discuss, and Yates and a senior Justice Department staffer went to the White House and held a secure meeting with McGahn that afternoon. Yates informed McGahn that Flynn had lied to VP Pence, and also cautioned that it was likely the Russians knew. This was an obvious opportunity for the Russians to blackmail Flynn, by now in a position giving him access to state secrets. There was a subsequent meeting the following day to clarify and to re-emphasize the issue. The following Monday Yates was fired from her job by President Trump, expressly because she refused to defend Trump’s executive order prohibiting immigration of Muslims.

Meanwhile, Michael Flynn kept his job for 18 days after Yates’ initial disclosure, during which time he sat in on high level conferences with foreign governments.

The Senate committee members took turns drilling down on what information was passed and when and what was done in response to this information. As always with matters of politics, some senators brought their own axes to grind, including both Texas senators. Senator John Cornyn appeared to be more interested in the action  that got Yates fired than on the matter of Flynn’s duplicity:

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates fired back Monday when Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) attempted to corner her over her opposition to President Trump’s immigration executive order. At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Cornyn informed Yates that he found it “enormously disappointing” that she “somehow vetoed the decision of the Office of Legal Counsel with regard to the lawfulness of the president’s order” just because she happened “to disagree with it as a policy matter.”

Senator Ted Cruz seized the opportunity to ignore the subject of the hearing and to remind Trump loyalists about Hillary Clinton’s problems with email:

The hearing was predictably partisan with Democrats sticking to the subject at hand, while Republicans tried to deflect to everything from alleged leaks, to Hillary Clinton’s email server. However, the most peculiar moments came during questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz (surprise). Although Cruz has long boasted of his debating skills, his exchange with Yates did not go well for him. Here is a condensed transcript of what occurred.

Barely mentioned was the famous dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele. Although some substantiation has come our way, General Clapper told the committee that United States intelligence services have been unable to verify second and third hand references contained in the dossier. The critical part is a paragraph labeled 2:

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s person  obsessions and sexual perversion in order to  obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew president and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on  one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. the hotel was known to be under FSB control  with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

Especially interesting was the testimony of General Clapper. His conclusion is that the Russian government spent considerable capital to disrupt the 2016 elections, with a specific goal of discrediting Clinton. For reasons unknown to all of us, the Russians wanted Clinton to lose and for Trump to win.

Anyhow, it was a fun watch on CBSN, and it is available for view on YouTube. It runs to three hours and 28 minutes, and it is worth a watch. Consider it Golden.

Masters of Deceit

Some more of the same

L. Ron Hubbard using the E-Meter on a tomato in 1968 to test whether it experiences pain
Scott Lauder, Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images: 3.2
Wright, Lawrence (2013-01-17). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What goes around comes around, apparently. We have seen the Church of Scientology previously:

I have some previous acquaintance with the Church of Scientology, so the term “Going Clear” wasn’t strange. “Going clear” is a term used in Scientology to mean going through their auditing process and clearing yourself of whatever Scientology means for you to clear yourself of. Something like twenty years ago a friend in Dallas told of his encounter with a Scientology recruiter. I contacted him to confirm my recollections. He did not recall the telling, but back then he said the recruiter told him he could go clear for only $16,000. My friend now reminds me people are paying much more.

Lawrence Wright’s book touts the history of the church, from a plot hatched by a prolific science fiction writer to a repressive cult to a 21st century financial enterprise. Cult aspects are highlighted by the church’s practice of “rehabilitation,” a scheme worked to keep members in line. Wright recounts the experience of member Hana Eltringham:

When she returned to the Apollo, she was shocked by the hellish changes that had taken place. In January 1974, Hubbard issued Flag Order 3434RB, creating the Rehabilitation Project Force. The stated goal was to rehabilitate Sea Org members whose statistics were down or who might be harboring subversive thoughts against Hubbard or his technology. Because the RPF provided a second chance for those who might otherwise be fired, Hubbard saw it as an enlightened management technique, the sole purpose of which was “redemption.” When Eltringham came aboard, she found dozens of crew members housed in the old cattle hold belowdecks, illuminated by a single lightbulb, sleeping on stained mattresses on the floor. They were dressed in black overalls, called boiler suits, and forbidden to speak to anyone outside their group. They ate using their hands from a bucket of table scraps, shoveling the food into their mouths as if they were starving.

Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (pp. 154-155). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Episodes related in  the book appeared to stop short of involuntary confinement, at least to the extent that would stand up in court. All that seems to be in the rear view mirror now. The church may at last be meeting some harsh reality:

Scientology Rehab Facilities Shutdown After Holding Patients Against Their Will

Scientology facilities in Tennessee are closed down after police find patients are being held against their will.

The Cannon Courier reports three suspects have been charged and multiple rehabilitation facilities have been permanently closed in Cannon County after local police found patients being held against their will at psychiatric facilities owned and run by the Church of Scientology.

A statement from the Cannon County Sheriff’s office said:

The Cannon County Sheriff’s Department would like to make the general public of this county aware that the Scientology facilities are closed and not operating in Cannon County.

A number of Hollywood notables lend their shine to the cult, including:

Documentary film maker Alex Gibney has produced Going Clear, based on Wright’s book. I hope to obtain a copy and do a review.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Ruthless dictators come, and ruthless dictators go, but Jesus never sleeps. He is always present to welcome you into his arms, especially if you are young and helpless, and your parents are clueless. Today we honor Monica Johnson, just nine years old. She’s with Jesus now:

The most recent victim here, 9-year-old Monica Johnson, was pronounced dead on arrival Sunday at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Police officers took her to the hospital after her parents called for help, saying she had difficulty breathing and had a rash.

Keep your young ones close to you, and cherish their lives. Jesus is at the door.