Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Outrageous, No. 3

Anti-Semitism in the U.S. State of Missouri

Anti-Semitism  is  alive and well among Republicans in the U.S. state of Missouri.
The details about the last minutes leading up to the tragic suicide of a promising Missouri politician, a serious candidate for governor, emerged on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Moments before Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich shot and killed himself, he was upset, as he had been for days, focused on untrue remarks that had been made about his religion, namely that he was Jewish. He was actually an Episcopalian.
He spoke on the phone to an aide to former Missouri senator John Danforth, who was concerned about him. He told her that he was outraged over the rumors and was thinking about how to handle them. Then, he threatened to take his life, the Kansas City Star newspaper reported. He passed the phone to his wife, Kathy, and while she was talking to the aide, Schweich committed suicide. Seconds later, I heard Kathy say, ‘He shot himself!’, Martha Fitz, the aide, told the newspaper on Thursday in a written statement. Kathy then called 911 on another line while I stayed on the first line with her until the paramedics arrivedshe added. Danforth, a former Missouri attorney general as well as a U.S. senator and ordained Episcopal priest, was a mentor to Schweich.
What apparently set Schweich off was what he called a “whisper campaign” by Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock that Schweich feared was designed to hurt his gubernatorial run in Missouri. He said Hancock told donors he was a Jew.
Last month, Schweich, 54, announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2016 against contender Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker. He was polling well but, in the past few weeks, he seemed to be growing agitated over what he considered political dirty tricks.
He alleged that Hancock made anti-Semitic comments about him and calling him a Jew in order to smear his name before a primary in which many voters are evangelical Christians. He said his grandfather was Jewish and he taught him to never allow any anti-Semitism go unpunished, St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger said last week in a written statement.
Then, a political action committee called Citizens for Fairness aired a radio advertisement comparing Schweich to the Barney Fife character played by Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show and calling him a weak contender for the Republican party. For a politician, he had very thin skin. He didn’t take criticism well, Messenger, who knew Schweich some six years, told The Washington Post in a telephone interview last week. If something was on his mind and he wanted to say it, he said it, he added.
Earlier in the morning on February 26, Schweich called two reporters from the Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and invited them to a press conference at his home that afternoon. He said he wanted to clear things up. He never did.
Since then, Hancock has said he does not have a “specific recollection” about any religious comments, but that if he did say Schweich was Jewish, it wasn’t meant in an anti-Semitic way. It’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion, he told the Associated Press.
The story does not end here. The tragedy in the office of late Missouri state auditor Tom Schweich has deepened. A month after Schweich died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound amid an alleged political smear campaign focused on his faith, a top aide of Schweich also committed suicide by the same means. Robert “Spence” Jackson, age 44 and who served as Schweich’s media director, was found dead in his bedroom on Sunday, March 29. Police said on Monday that they recovered a revolver and a note at the scene.
It was Jackson who officially announced Schweich’s death in an e-mail to reporters last month,  writing: “It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich today. Please keep in mind his wife, Kathy, and two children.” In the wake of the Schweich suicide, Jackson was outspoken about his boss’s critics- specifically Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock who was accused of engaging in a whisper campaign to tell donors that Schweich was Jewish. And Jackson was one of the first to publicly call for Hancock’s resignation after Schweich’s funeral this month. It is unconscionable to think that the Missouri GOP can be successful in 2016 with John Hancock as the chairman, Jackson told the blog PoliticMo.
At Schweich’s funeral, Danforth slammed the toxic whispers of “anti-Semitism” that he said led to Schweich’s death. The death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become. I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state, Danforth said in the eulogy
As Senator, Danforth was political moderate and Missouri was a heavily Democratic Party state. He was once quoted as saying he joined the Republican Party for the same reason you sometimes choose which movie to see-  (it is) the one with the shortest line.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Outrageous, No. 2

The Church of Scientology

Based on the 2013 book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, Going Clear not only exposes details about Scientology but also serves as an in-depth explainer for those unfamiliar with the group. The Church has spoken out against the film (read their full statement here) as have its celebrity members. But whether you've studied Scientology closely or merely know it as "the religion with Tom Cruise," watching Going Clear is a powerful, stunning and emotionally overwhelming experience that will likely leave you with your mouth agape. Here are the most shocking allegations put forth in Going Clear, which made its HBO debut on Sunday night, March29, 2015.

L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology creation story

When Scientologists reach level OT III, they are shown the "secret materials," as director and former member Paul Haggis described them: Hubbard's hand-written account of the creation myth. According to this, 75 million years ago a galactic dictator named Xenu froze people and dropped their bodies into volcanoes. From there, the disembodied spirits, or thetans, apparently jumped into newborns bodies. According to Hubbard, these multiple thetans crowded in our bodies are the source of our anxieties and fears.

Hubbard spent time in a black magic cult

Before founding Scientology, Hubbard befriended rocket and chemical engineer Jack Parsons who was a part of black magic cult Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which followed the teachings of Aleister Crowley. According to "Going Clear," Hubbard became Parsons scribe and assistant on a magical operation to impregnate a goddess-like woman to create the anti-Christ.

Members were allegedly thrown overboard as punishment

Hubbard created Ethics, or punishments for his auditors who made mistakes during sessions. They were then pushed overboard on his ships into the water, which was "30 feet, 35 feet" below, according to Hana Whitfield, one of the original Sea Org members.

Hubbard told his second wife he murdered their daughter

When Sara Northup, Hubbard's second wife, threatened to leave him unless he got psychiatric help, he reportedly kidnapped their daughter Alexis. According to written accounts from Northup, Hubbard told her he "cut [Alexis] into little pieces" and dropped her in a river. Then he would call back and tell Sara that their daughter was alive.

There was a Scientology "prison camp"

Former Church member Sylvia "Spanky" Taylor, who was once the liaison between the Church and John Travolta, was sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), or what she described as the "prison camp where you'd go for re-indoctrination." According to the film, when sent to the RPF, people would have to do hard labor for "30 hours on, 3 hours off," eat table scraps and sleep on dirty, wet mattresses.

The FBI raid on the Church was the biggest in history at the time

On July 8, 1977, the FBI raided Scientology's Los Angeles, Hollywood and Washington, D.C. locations, which at the time was the bureau's biggest raid ever.

The Church stole government documents

According to the film, in the '70s, many Scientologists were directed to get jobs in Department of Justice and IRS offices in order to steal documents against or relating to the Church.

The Church apparently has a blackmail folder on John Travolta

According to Wright in the film, when there were rumors of Travolta wanting to leave Scientology, the Church created a "black PR package" that has "all the damaging material" from his private auditing sessions. Travolta also reportedly refused to have his sessions video taped, but secret cameras were hidden anyway.

The Church investigated the IRS

One of the Church's goals was to be recognized by the IRS as a fully tax-exempt religion, according to former senior executive of the Church Mark "Marty" Rathbun. Thousands of Scientologists reportedly filed 2,400 total lawsuits against IRS employees, and private investigators were sent to IRS conventions to obtain information. According to journalist Tony Ortega, Scientology leader David Miscavige told the IRS commissioner that the lawsuits would go away if the Church was given tax-exempt status. The Church was granted exemption in October, 1993.

Tom Cruise and the Church allegedly wire-tapped Nicole Kidman's phone

According to the film, the Church noticed Tom Cruise slipping away from Scientology during his marriage to Nicole Kidman. Cruise reportedly said he wanted to have Kidman's phone wiretapped, which the Church did at his request.

Cruise may have had employees pimp his cars for 40 cents an hour

Sea Org members make 40 cents an hour, according to Ortega, who says, "I don't think there's any way Tom Cruise is not aware of that." According to the film, they have "tricked out his cars and motorcycles" and hanger in Santa Monica, California, and installed the audiovisual equipment at his home.

The Church supposedly found Cruise a new girlfriend

According to Wright, Cruise was "overheard to complain that he needed a new girlfriend" when he was in Spain at the opening of a new Scientology center. The Church then found a young Scientologist, Nazanin Boniadi, and reportedly had her braces removed, bought her $20,000 of clothes and colored her hair "to Cruise's liking." She was then told she would be Cruise' girlfriend, but the relationship soon ended. Boniadi apparently signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Church and has since become a well-known actress in Homeland, Iron Man, among other films and shows.

Paul Haggis left because of the Church's homophobic stance

Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale) left Scientology in 2009 after 30 years when his two gay daughters told him how they were being treated and harassed by the Church. According to Church doctrines, the religion views homosexuality as a disease. Haggis  then wrote a now-famous letter of his resignation from the Church.

Scientology's book value is about $1.5 billion

Ortega obtained recent tax records that revealed the main three tiers of the Church (which is a non-profit organization) have a combined book value of $1.5 billion.

Sea Org members were allegedly tortured to the sounds of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

In 2004, Miscaviage apparently ordered the top members of the Sea Org to live in what was known as The Hole in the Church's secret Gold Base in California. In the film, former members say they were told to confess their crimes against the Church in order to leave The Hole. Beyond beatings and one man being ordered to "mop up the bathroom floor with his tongue," another method of abuse was when members were forced to play musical chairs to "Bohemian Rhapsody." Those participating were "fighting to stay" in the Church: whoever didn't have a seat when the music stopped was expelled from the Church.

 If members leave the Church their friends & family are forced to "disconnect"

The biggest reason to not leave the Church for many Scientologists is fear of "disconnection." This is when all friends and family members still with the Church are told to cut ties with those who leave, or those deemed Potential Trouble Sources (PTS), or Suppressive Persons (SPs). Many former members included in the film haven't seen or spoken to their family or friends since they left.

Neglected Important Artists, No. 3

Charles Frederick Goldie

Charles Frederick Goldie (1870–1947) was a New Zealand artist best known for his painting of the tattooed native people of New Zealand, the Māori. Goldie studied art part-time under Louis John Steele. Sir George Grey was impressed by two of Goldie's still-life paintings that were being exhibited at the Auckland Academy of Art (Steele's art society, of which Goldie was honorary secretary) in 1891. And also, Steele talked  Goldie's father into permitting his son to undertake further art training in Paris. He returned to New Zealand in 1898 and established the "French Academy of Art" with Louis J. Steele. After Goldie and Steele parted ways, Goldie established his own studio. From 1901 onward, he made field trips to meet, sketch and photograph of the naive the Māori people. The majority of Goldie's subjects were elderly and by that time, tattooing died out among the Māori. 

Goldie's later works were largely based on photographs because by that time most of the elderly tattooed Māoris died. In the 1920s, Goldie's health deteriorated through a combination of  alcoholism lead poisoning from the lead white paint used to prepare his canvases. As a result, he produced very little work in that decade. But, he resumed painting around 1930 and in 1934 and 1935, he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He also had exhibitions in 1935, 1938 and 1939 at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français in Paris. Goldie stopped painting in 1941 and died on July 11, 1947.

A Selection of Māori Painting by C. F. Goldie