Most of the people fueling the outrage at the hundreds of Confederate memorials throughout the United States since the Charlottesville riot would just as soon pull down the monument of a Union general, or even a Founder of the nation. The issue at hand is not the right of state secession (an issue most of the historically illiterate anarchists have never studied), but whether the U.S. is legitimate nation.
President Donald Trump caught a firestorm of criticism from the media for condemning the violence that the white nationalists and the Left-wing counter-protesters engaged in because the media was incapable of understanding that he was creating a moral equivalency of their acts of violence, not their beliefs. It didn’t take long for the social justice warriors to take their hate and vitriol out on stone and marble structures, infamously pulling down a statue in Durham, North Carolina, resulting in numerous felony charges. Dozens of anti-Confederate protests on campuses and in cities across the nation have erupted since, and in Baltimore and Austin, authorities had Confederate monuments relocated under the cover of darkness.
But, is it really the Confederacy that gets under these people’s skin? As it turns out, the vandals who pulled down the Durham statue are not just concerned citizens who worry that the statue could be a rallying point for white supremacists. They were led by activists of the Workers World Party, a socialist organization dedicated to “fighting for a socialist revolution in the United States and around the world.”
So, they were, your basic boring Reds who didn’t get the memo that world socialism is so 20th century.
In Trump’s duel with the media on August 15, he pointed out that the hysteria over the Robert E. Lee statue is only a stepping stone. “I wonder,” he asked the Left-leaning media: “Is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?”
It didn’t take the cultural Marxists long to answer that question. Since the Charlottesville street fights, the monuments and memories of Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and even the Great Emancipator himself Abraham Lincoln have come under attack. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is even appointing a special committee to look at the monument issue. One of the things that committee will consider is whether to dig up and relocate poor Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who also happened to be Lee’s nemesis over an anti-Semitic order that Grant gave once while under Lincoln’s command.
The fact is, those protesting the Confederate monuments have no love for the Union. They view the U.S. as an inherently racist and white supremacist nation the way Hilary Clinton described Trump’s “basket of deplorables:” irredeemable. Although history isn’t exactly their strong point, they understand that the views of the Confederates was not that different from those of the Union. They were all people of their age and their views on practically anything (including ethnicity) would have likely been more similar to foreigners of their time than to Americans in the 21st century.
The Charlottesville violence is simply an open window for these cultural revolutionaries. Their financial backers want an economic, socialist revolution and just like Antonio Gramsci, they understand the best way to bring that about is to facilitate a cultural revolution.
It’s much easier to get people to support the overthrow a system of government if you can convince them to hate the people who instituted that government.
British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn still refuses to condemn Nicolas Madero’s government in Venezuela for its human rights violations and appears even less willing to admit that the Venezuelan socialist experiment has failed.
Corbyn’s neutrality on the violence in Venezuela, which has claimed 124 lives since April, recently drew criticism from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Andrés Mejía. When asked about the violence in Venezuela, Corbyn replied that he condemned the violence “on both sides,” arguing that violence was not the way to solve Venezuela’s problems. This, despite the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Council has employed “widespread and systematic use” of excessive force, arbitrary detention and other rights violations against demonstrators and detainees.
Mejía told BBC Newsnight that Corbyn “really has to know what is going on here” to make such a statement. Mejía added that it is not only the government crackdown that is a problem, but the 20,000 people killed every year because of crime, disease, and food scarcity. He said, “violence has not been committed by both sides.” Mejía blamed the government for arming paramilitary groups who in turn have taken the lives of millions of people in his country. He added that the mothers and fathers of those who have been killed would love to speak with Corbyn and explain how their children, many of them only teenagers have been struck down by Maduro’s forces for peacefully protesting the direction of their country.
In 2013, Corbyn praised the socialist South American nation, saying, “We salute Chavez and the people of Venezuela for turning the clock of history full circle… I look forward to the development of Venezuela, the efficiency of Venezuela, in providing good services and decency for all the people of that country.” He was not alone among Western politicians on the Left to praise the Hugo Chavez disaster. In 2011, Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders stated, “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina…” On another occasion, Corbyn said, “Venezuela is seriously conquering poverty by emphatically rejecting neo-liberal policies.”
Praising Chavez’ left-wing populism has become cliché for many on the Left. American actor and filmmaker, Sean Penn claimed Chávez “did incredible things for the 80 percent of the people that are very poor.” Oliver Stone made a positive film about South American socialism and Michael Moore praised Chávez for eliminating 75 percent of extreme poverty. American philosopher, Noam Chomsky even credited Venezuela for creating a better world.
The dilemma Corbyn and many others on the Left face is the question of what to do when a perfect example of socialism implodes before their eyes.
Libertarians often claim no country has ever truly had a libertarian government and a complete, free-market economy, therefore no one can disprove their theory of government. Many Marxists also accuse the Soviet bloc and Asian equivalents of faux Marxism and argue that true Marxism has yet to be put into practice. But, democratic socialists cannot credibly make such an argument about their ideology. Corbyn, Sanders, and others who support government control over nearly every aspect of the economy have their example of populist, democratic socialism in Venezuela. They cannot credibly accuse Venezuela of being a bad example of democratic socialism when they themselves have eagerly praised it as such in the past. The only alternative is to reject their lifelong ideology as a insufficient to deal with human action and global markets and admit the error of their ways.
Corbyn chose neither to accuse Venezuela of corrupting socialism, nor to disavow his former support of the country’s government. He not only refused to recognize the crackdown on protesters, but doubled down on his praise for its economy saying, “we also have to recognize that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty, improving literacy and improving the lives of the poorest people.”
The Venezuelan government is responsible for political suppression and the deaths of hundreds of its people, not to mention the millions that have suffered through malnutrition, a precipitous drop in living standards, and crime. But, Venezuelans have not always known this level of poverty. Its per capita income in the 1970s was higher than Spain’s and it was among the ten richest countries in the world. Chavez used the nation’s oil wealth to create a massive welfare system, create price controls, and stifle private enterprise. Oil prices rose shortly after Maduro took control after Chavez’ death, which sent the country’s economy into a death spiral.
But, as Corbyn points out, the Venezuelan government has made “serious attempts” to help people, therefore in his logic, the government’s intentions must override its results.
Mejía’s criticism of Corbyn’s ignorance of the situation in Venezuela reveals the disconnect between those who praise democratic socialism and those who have to live with its destructive results. Promising free things through government coercion wins votes and accolades at home. But, as Corbyn’s response to the gripping poverty in Venezuela and Maduro’s increasing totalitarianism reveals, democratic socialists do not know how to handle the situation when a socialist experiment fail.
Russian connections to anti-fracking activism in the United States underscore Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dedication to keeping Eastern Europe dependent on the oil and natural gas which flows from its state-owned energy giant, Gazprom. Russia has successfully stopped fracking efforts in Eastern Europe through phony environmentalist and media campaigns, and is now attempting to disrupt the surge in American natural gas production that is quickly bringing the U.S. into energy independence, and creating threatening unwanted competition for the Russian energy in Europe.
Exports from the U.S. via the oil and natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – poses a clear danger not only to Gazprom, but to the Russian government. One quarter of the regime’s revenues come from taxes paid by the energy giant, in which the government is a majority stakeholder. It is not surprising, then, that Gazprom is the only major energy company in the world to oppose the development of shale gas. For years its executives have claimed that fracking poses severe environmental risks; Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom’s executive chairman and head of Gazprom Export, has vowed that the Russian state and Gazprom are ready “to wage [ ] war on shale.”
While many former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe have joined NATO and the European Union in an attempt to distance themselves from their Moscow, their overwhelming dependence on Russian energy imports has prevented them from achieving complete independence. Gazprom supplies 30 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, and during a 2009 dispute with Ukraine showed the world that it can make Europe shiver if it turns the spigots off.
European Union nations have repeatedly attempted to find ways to diversify their energy resources, but the powerful environmentalist factions in many countries have lobbied against increased oil and gas imports from the United States and elsewhere. Innocently or no, these groups have played into the hands of Gazprom. After Germans protested in an emotional meltdown when a 2011 tsunami disabled the power supply of three Japanese nuclear reactors, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did an about-face on nuclear energy. With the support of 80 percent of the Bundestag, or German parliament, she decided to phase out nuclear power in that country by 2022. This prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to jokingly tell the Germans:
I don’t understand how you will heat your houses. You don’t want the gas. You don’t develop nuclear energy. Are you going to heat with firewood? You also have to go to Siberia if you need firewood.
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Raised in a fairly nostalgic home environment, my childhood VHS entertainment featured a steady stream of black-and-white films like Young Tom Edison, Where the Red Fern Grows, North by Northwest, and of course a ton of Westerns. Trains have always represented adventure, suspense, and independence in my mind. In fact, some of the best action movies in history have involved suspenseful train scenes. Think of the Mission Impossible series, Money Train, From Russia with Love, and of course Skyfall. But, that’s for another post.
My desire to travel by train as a kid went largely unfulfilled as passenger train service had essentially died in the southern U.S. three decades before I was born.
Now, I must admit before giving my full opinion on the nation’s passenger train monopoly, that European rail has thoroughly spoiled my expectations. I’ve traveled on nearly every form of European train, from sleeper cars, to German first class, to ex-communist-bloc clunkers with no plumbing (See image to the right), I expected Amtrak wouldn’t come near Western European standards. But, after my last Greyhound experience which included a ten-hour delay because of a station shooting in Richmond (a station where I was meant to have a healthy layover), having to pay $160 in Nashville (more than my entire round-trip ticket) to retrieve my truck after the incredibly rude Greyhound employees impounded it (their website contained no warning that parking was not available at the station), I had promised myself never to pay a cent to that poorly-run, antiquated dog .
Since, I was unwilling to pay the extra airfare for all the luggage and the bicycle I was taking along and willing to hitchhike from Birmingham to Washington D.C. before resorting to Greyhound, I decided to check Amtrak prices.
The price wasn’t bad – $160 one-way with two free suitcases with an extra $20 for the third. Taking along bikes are free with Amtrak, which was the deal-seller, since the much cheaper Megabus does not have room for them.
I arrived at the Birmingham station three hours before departure, hoping to shed my heavy, unwieldy luggage quickly. However, there were no Amtrak employees in sight and the window remained unmanned. After about an hour, I finally spotted one employee among the fifty or so passengers who were waiting in a filthy waiting room the size of a dentist office. I asked him where I should check in my luggage. He pointed down a hall that looked like it led to a time portal back to the 1950s and said to wait for the announcement to check them in. I walked down the hall which ended at a locked storage room door.
I walked back into the sweat box where the other passengers were quietly awaiting the time of their deliverance. The employee was gone.
I managed to maneuver the 200 lbs. of luggage into a corner that wouldn’t have been available if the bathrooms I was blocking had not been out of order.
No announcement ever came and my fellow passengers and I headed up to the tracks ten minutes before boarding. The controller naturally told me I needed tags for my luggage and I told him there was no employee at the window to do that.
“Well, it’s too late now,” he said glumly.
He told me they would have to be shipped the following day. I told him that was fine, but he promptly changed his mind. I went back to the station where the sole employee had reappeared. He quickly got me tags and took my bike while I dragged up my suitcases.
The train itself was something a passenger could naturally expect in Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Bosnia, or the United States (if said rider had survived Greyhound). The carpet was stained down the aisles with every dark color imaginable, the seats were stained where they weren’t ripped, and the windows looked like they hadn’t felt window cleaner in a year. The pace of travel was especially abysmal. On a bad day of traffic, it takes a law-abiding driver two hours to get from Birmingham to Atlanta. It took the relatively empty Amtrak train nearly eight hours; and since Anniston closed its station, that’s eight hours with no stops. Part of that is because unlike in other civilized countries, Amtrak has to stop for freight trains – often for thirty minutes at a time.
The pace and number of passengers picked up considerably once the train got north of Charlotte.
Sleep on the 22-hour ride was virtually impossible as the staff had the temperature turned down to what felt like 45 degrees.
Amtrak’s food service is actually quite good, although it can be a bit pricey. A full dinner runs $16 – $24 and breakfast $7 – $12, although if one wants to go continental, it can be even cheaper.
Despite the obvious shortage of staff, funds, and infrastructure, the negative aspects of the government-owned company never appeared to dampen the spirits of the employees. The staff consisted of the friendliest, most hospitable, and most helpful transportation employees I’ve ever encountered. One of the controllers immediately took me to a better seat after the debacle with my luggage. Also, despite overhearing them complain among themselves of having to work 70 – 80-hour weeks, they were always eager to help and make customers’ journey as pleasant as possible. Amtrak’s employees, at least from my lone experience appear to match and even exceed any flight crew of any major airline in customer service and work ethic.
Other than freezing all night, the trip was largely pleasant. The WIFI which Amtrak wisely undersells was surprisingly reliable.
I read on the way up that more than 80% of Amtrak trains are late. Mine arrived about two and a half hours behind schedule.
Amtrak is not a dying entity as many make it out to be – at least not yet. It suffers from a lack of interest on the part of American politicians. Their constituents have grown up without easy train access and don’t realize the convenience they’re missing. Trains have always been a lower, middle class means of transportation in Western countries and most politicians come from the upper middle class if they are not outright wealthy. They naturally have little interest in allocating their own tax dollars toward a means of transportation that they will never use. The federal government, despite pouring tens of billions of dollars every year into roads, cannot seem to do little more than slow down the roads’ rate of deterioration. Airlines have attempted to fill the void of good roads, good bus lines, and a good, affordable train system. The result has been smaller seats and less comfort and as a recent case with Delta showed, very poor customer service.
Despite only getting 2.2% of federal transportation subsidies in 2017, Amtrak has managed to survive as a national embarrassment with a small, overworked, though over-paid staff, dirty cars, and infrequent and slow service. Despite the claim that the very fact Amtrak still exists is because of The very fact that it is still around is a testament to plump, government subsidies as anti-Amtrak advocates would have budget-conscious Americans believe is simply not true. There is a continuing demand for passenger rail service.
The workers I encountered were incredibly pleasant and seemed to thoroughly like working with people and enjoy their job, despite the outrageous hours.
As I intend this to only be a summary of my personal experience with Amtrak, I won’t go into the reasons why Amtrak receives so little federal funding when compared to the massive subsidies and funding that airports and highways receive.
The government’s treatment of Amtrak is like parents pouring thousands of dollars into clothes for their daughter and then telling everyone that their son just doesn’t have the sense of fashion like little Suzie – while failing to mention that little Johnny has to make do with his $50 gift card he receives at Christmas.
The following are a few excellent pieces on some of the problems with Amtrak, and proposals to improve passenger train service in the U.S. My personal two cents is that the government should treat rail transportation the same way it treats air and highway travel. Privatize and heavily subsidize!
How do you depict the life of Jesus in under three hours and still convey to millions of viewers His eternal existence, virgin birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension? Son of God accomplishes just that in 2 hours 18 minutes. The 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, considered by many to be the greatest cinematic depiction of Jesus was more than six hours long. But, modern, twenty-first century adults with underdeveloped attention spans are not going to sit in a theater for even half that time to watch a story they already know.
Beginning with the opening scene of the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey leave no question where they stand on the issue of Biblical creation. John opens up with John 1:1, going further to explain The Word was there when God created Adam and Eve, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit, when God destroyed the world and spared Noah, when He chose Abraham, when Moses led His people out of Egypt, and was there when David slew Goliath. The establishment of Christ’s divinity and eternity from the very start is essential, since so much of the rest of the movie focuses so deeply on His humanity.
Son of God flies, but drags by at the same time as selected scenes of Jesus’ ministry are presented piecemeal in anticipation of the crucifixion. The life of Jesus is really too much material to cover in one feature-length film and because of this it can seem a little boring at times. On the musical front, Hans Zimmer does not disappoint and any lull in the action is quickly compensated for by the superb soundtrack that makes this by far the best musical accompaniment of all time to a movie on the life of Jesus. The special effects were decent to say the least. The digital reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple was good for The History Channel’s “Bible” series, but leaves the technologically spoiled movie brat a little unimpressed when viewing it on the big screen.
The movie did have its moments though, such as the way Jesus handles the Pharisee when he heals the lame man let through the roof. After being accused of blasphemy for forgiving the man’s sins, He gives the Pharisee the message of “oh, you don’t like me forgiving his sins do you? Why don’t I heal him while I’m at it?”
The scene when Jesus calls Matthew, the tax-collector to be his follower is particularly moving. It opens with a file of Jewish tax-collectors cheating their own people and the same Pharisee expressing his disgust for the Jewish traitors. Jesus then steps in and relates the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and publican at prayer. Matthew rises under grave conviction and just as Jesus arrives at the part where the publican prays; with tears streaming down both cheeks, Matthew finishes the rest of “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
The Garden of Gethsemane scene is also quite creative as it cuts from Jesus praying in the garden, to Caiaphas praying in the Temple, to Pilate and his wife praying to their gods in the palace.
Ironically, the best acting is performed by those portraying the antagonists, but for this a good bit of credit can be given to the screenwriting. The bald Fraser Ayres’ portrayal Barabas, giving the aura of a thuggish, nationalist skinhead is a stroke of genius. Adrian Schiller as Caiaphas, gives the impression of an evil, corrupt ruler who is out to silence the “peasant” who’s “stirring things up.” The casting of Diogo Morgado as Jesus caused many to complain about Morgado not being a Jew. But, it is simply not reasonable to expect directors to find actors of the same ethnicity for every role they cast. Moreover, Morgado was not the only ethnic discrepancy. Black African actors portrayed both the man who bore Jesus’ cross and one of the wise men from the East. Simon of Cyrene was most likely a Jew who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and the wise men from the east who were probably Medes and Persians, present-day Kurds and Iranians.
Morgado successfully conveys many of the characteristics of Jesus, such as compassion, love, and gentleness; but to such an extent that it takes away from Jesus’ authority which the Bible says He spoke with when He taught and especially affects the scene when Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables – probably the most pathetic scene of the entire movie. Jesus is portrayed heartbroken as he effortlessly turns over a few tables and weakly confronts the Pharisees before walking out of the Temple with His disciples. This plays into the hands of false teachers who claim Jesus was nothing more than a Jewish reformer who, disgusted with the corruption of the synagogues and Judaism of His day, broke away with His followers and formed another sect of the Jewish religion.
This is in stark contrast to what actually happened. Both Matthew and Mark record Jesus running the money changers out of the Temple and Mark tells us He “would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.” Whether He personally, physically threw them out and barred them from reentering, did so with the help of His disciples, or the money changers feared His thousands of followers is not given to us in Scripture and would certainly have been interesting to see played out in a movie director’s imagination. But, a scene like that wouldn’t fit in too well with the nice-guy image of Jesus that the movie seeks to portray.
The lack of chronological accuracy is immediately observable to any viewer who has read the Gospels. This included the couple of old ladies sitting in front of me in the theater who during the entire duration of the movie felt the film would not be complete if they didn’t comment to one another during every single scene on the inaccuracies of that particular sequence’s portrayal.
For starters, Simon Peter is alone when Jesus multiplies the fish in Peter’s boat and when calls him to be His disciple. Whereas in the Bible, (Mt. 4:18-20, Mark 1:16-18) Peter and his brother Andrew were together when Jesus called them. But, assuming the film is basing the choosing of Peter off Luke’s depiction in which Andrew is not mentioned (5:1-11), James and John are notably absent and the movie makes it look as if Jesus was a complete stranger to Peter. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus had already healed Simon’s mother-in-law in the previous chapter and was in Simon’s boat to begin with because He had been preaching out of it.
Another example of shoddy chronology is when Jesus reads from Isaiah and tells those in the synagogue: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” This scene appears toward the middle of the film, whereas in Luke, it happened before the miracle in Peter’s boat.
But, it doesn’t end there. As Jesus and His disciples are being chased away from the synagogue, one of the Pharisees tells Jesus of John the Baptist’s death and warns that if He doesn’t watch it, he’ll be next. Since King Herod is completely removed from the movie, including during Jesus’ trial, they apparently had to come up with some way to explain John’s death, but making it look as if the Pharisees killed John is plain irresponsible. But, it gets even more bizarre. Jesus acts shocked and goes and sits sorrowfully under a tree with His disciples and then tells them “John was the greatest teacher I ever knew.” Presumably this is supposed to be an offshoot of Luke 7:24-28 which Jesus said about John while he was still alive.
The movie is strewn with numerous little inaccuracies like these that make anyone with minimal Biblical knowledge cringe.
But, before writing Son of God off as another Last Temptation of Christ or Jesus Christ Superstar, Christians should remember why the film was made to begin with and whom it was made for. Burnett and Downey admit the entire movie does not follow the Gospels accurately. Burnett clarified that they’re not pastors and are not qualified to teach, but are qualified to “make an emotional connection.” Like Jesus’ parables, Burnett said “this film needs to stand alone so that those who had not read the gospels would be compelled to seek more.”
All too often, movie-goers expect a two-hour movie based off a book that took them ten hours to read to accurately depict every sequence of the story exactly how they imagined it while reading. They then walk away from the cinema disappointed that the producers and director don’t have the same imagination they do. This is only amplified for Bible-based movies because unlike The Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games, the events in the Bible not only happened they deal with and were inspired by the Creator of the universe.
But, Son of God isn’t the Gospels on film. It’s an emotional tool intended to draw people to Christ. For instance, if a lost sinner understands the gospel message in church and becomes a follower of Christ, it’s of little consequence whether the preacher mentioned in his sermon that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod before having Him crucified.
Son of God is not another Passion of the Christ. It has neither the budget, nor the renowned director and suffers from having to cram the entire Biblical story into one movie. But, as an emotional tool to depict what Christ did for us, encourage believers to live as Christians and urge heathens to be believers, it succeeds. While there are many chronological flaws and a few rings of false doctrine, such as Joseph and Mary acting surprised when the wise men bow down and worship Jesus, the basic message that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” and that He “is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” is amplified from the opening scene of St. John on the Isle of Patmos, to Jesus’ reappearing to Him on that same Isle after John has related Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the viewer.
This is definitely a movie that Christians should do their best to convince their unbelieving friends to see. Their friends will most likely walk away unconvinced and seemingly unmoved. Jesus was just a cool hippie they’ll say who was murdered by a bunch of religious zealots and Roman tyrants. But, like Pilate’s memorable line in the film “He’ll be forgotten in a week” rings so untrue today, so too an unbeliever is not likely to be as uninterested in Jesus a week after viewing Son of God as he or she was a week before seeing it.
 Britt Gillette, “Jesus Of Nazareth (Movie Review),” ezinarticles, February 25, 2006, http://ezinearticles.com/?Jesus-Of-Nazareth-(Movie-Review)&id=152171.
 Tyler, O’Neil, “Burnett and Downey Talk ‘Son of God’s’ Profound Impact: Address Critics on Biblical Inaccuracies,” The Christian Post, March 6, 2014, http://www.christianpost.com/news/burnett-and-downey-talk-son-of-gods-profound-impact-address-critics-115676/.