Racism at the Inauguration?

Tuesday, January 20, AD 2009

I greatly appreciated Pastor Rick Warren’s invocation | Video:

… Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes — even when we differ. …

On the other hand, is it making too much to note that Rev. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction (Video), in its general indictment (even perhaps in jest) of the white man, closed somewhat on a sour note — as well as contrasting with Obama’s message of racial unity?

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71 Responses to Racism at the Inauguration?

  • I heard this on the radio and it felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. Yet another reminder that a lot of folks don’t want racism or the perception of it to end. It is too much of a useful tool to be wielded against white people.

  • when yellow will be mellow.

    Wha…?!?

    Dude, I’m not remotely Asian and I find that pretty offensive. Whether they’re being compared to one of the vilest soft drinks in the world, or blamed for doing shocking things like doing well in school, working hard and staying married — it’s pretty appalling either way.

    Perhaps just as well I was busy all day and simply read Obama’s address and skipped all the TV and radio coverage.

  • Nothing like a bunch of bitter white men sitting around looking for a derogatory angle on the day…

  • Did everyone forget that Obama is biracial? Good for us, we’re colorblind enough to elect a man of color. I grant him that many people see “black” when they see a biracial person, and I will have to prepare my adoped sons for this reality. But, also remember that Obama grew up in two cultures, and let’s reflect on which side of his family did “what was right”. Hint: it was not his black Muslim father who abandoned him as an infant, left the continent, and took up new wives…

    To his credit, I have not heard Obama himself dwelling on these racial issues. He seems perfectly comfortable with both cultures and willing to “move on” (ahem) with his life. But he has associated with people that seem to still be really hung up on it. Was this really the best they could get for the big historical inuaguration day?

  • Why is the left so angry still? They got their man elected… Nothing but nastiness from most lefties on this blog… Everyone else is being quite respectful towards the new president despite our differences, something the left never offered to George Bush FROM DAY ONE. Why?

    Matt

  • The prayer ends with: “Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.”

    It should be pretty simple.

    BTW, Lowery was shot with fire hoses , bitten and beaten in his time.

    Too bad for some he has these memories of his own and others inhumane treatment in America’s history, due to his color and hi shunger for justice’s sake…

    I know, all should have been colorblind, including Afican Americans, since the end of the Civil War. Nothing to get hung up over…really…

  • Matt,

    Could it be that he has not the elected president in 2000?

  • What the hell is “racist” about Lowery’s benediction? You have not made the case, Blosser.

  • Michael, thank you for the formality, but feel free to call me Christopher. Noting your outrage as expressed at Vox Nova, I’ve attempted to clarify my initial impressions.

    I freely concede that I may be wrong in my evaluation of Lowrey’s comments.

  • Of course Lowery’s benediction was racist. Those who argue otherwise are simply in denial of what he said. Imagine if a white pastor had chanted similar doggerel in a prayer where blacks were asked to do what is right.

    He is also a hard core leftist of long standing.

    http://www.theird.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=884&srcid=884
    Here is a quote from him about abortion:

    “We need to be discerning about the major issues. Abortion — that’s a minor issue. I’m all for life, but I’m also for freedom of choice. We can’t be the judge of what a woman does with her body. We have too many distractions.”

  • BTW, Lowery was shot with fire hoses , bitten and beaten in his time.

    Too bad for some he has these memories of his own and others inhumane treatment in America’s history, due to his color and hi shunger for justice’s sake…

    True, and he should be respected for that as one who fought the good fight. But the fact that someone has suffered great injustice does not necessarily mean that he is free of unpleasant traits. Indeed, it’s one of the tragedies of sin that those who are sinned against often twisted by the cruelty which is inflicted upon them.

    I’m pretty sure, Mark, that you wouldn’t make the claim that because Jews suffered in the holocaust, they couldn’t possibly be racist in their actions towards any other group. By the same token, the fact that Rev. Lowery suffered during the civil rights movement does not mean that his rhyming skin color litney wasn’t racist.

    Frankly, I don’t even care about the “when the white man will embrace what is right” slap — that kind of thing is pretty much contentless ritual for those who make their livings of race this day and it doesn’t offend me. But the use of:

    when brown can stick around. … when yellow will be mellow. … when the red man can get ahead, man;

    All of which lines drew laughs from the audience, strikes me as a needless invocation of racial stereotypes for no good purpose.

    Do I think it’s a big deal? No. But so long as we’re talking about it, I think it’s a pretty poor thing to trot out at a historic event, and an example of how many of those who talk the most about race don’t really have any interest in moving on from it.

  • “Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.”

  • Rev. Lowery has history of occasionally veering off the road into a ditch. Maybe from all those years of being hosed and bitten by German Shepherds. Or maybe he’s just grumpy. Speaking of which- didn’t Joe and Jill look positively smashing? Now Joe can be sent on ‘fact-finding missions’ while Jill can read to grade school kids. Which is as much as we’ll get from those two for at least the next four years.

  • Look up the literaty device called “signifying”, used by African Americans in their history.

    This will explain much about Lowery’s remarks. also, notice his tone.

    I think Gates wrote an essay on the topic.

  • Darwin,
    This kind of stereotyping’s been around for an awfully long time. Check out this little bit of possibly relevant historical trivia mi marido had stashed in the back of his mind.

  • Actually, Lowery’s rhyme was based on an old blues song by Big Bill Bloozy: “Black, Brown, and White.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZLw5ahxm-Q
    Of course, the song was missing the part about yellow people being “mellow.”

  • Thank you Cminor! I thought I had heard what he said before and now I know why. My parents had that album and I listened to it a few times decades ago.

  • I made this comment, but it fell into a black hole: Lowery’s rhyme (absent the “mellow yellow” and “red get ahead” parts) came from an older source: A 1951 blues song called “Black, Brown and White” by Big Bill Broonzy. Google it and you’ll find it on Youtube.

  • I guess I have four thoughts:

    1) This is not a big deal.

    2) The remarks were racially divisive.

    3) The remarks were more excusable (and maybe entirely excusable) based on the age and life experiences of the speaker. He was in his mid-40’s before schools were really desegregated in the South.

    4) There is nothing wrong with noticing they were racially divisive in a blog post; but, once noted, there are better things to talk about going forward.

  • I guess we can excuse Rev. Lowrey for clouded judgment… however, don’t think for a moment that every word of every speech wasn’t vetted by President Obama and/or his staff.

    This has been his “modus operandi” from the beginning, he is all things to all people.

  • Pingback: Now this, this is a benediction. « flying.farther
  • So the excuses made for this character is (1) he’s old, (2) he was mistreated decades ago, (3) the crap at the end of his prayer was from an old song, etc.

    Here are the answers

    (1) If he is too old to give a simple blessing at the end of a ceremony without being offensive then choose someone else.
    (2) If he is too bitter about the past to be cheerful about the present then get someone else.
    (3) Who cares what the origin of the doggerel was?

    Bottom line those who chose this guy knew about his issues and certainly saw advance copies of his material. His behavior at the funeral for Mrs. King should have been enough to convince people he was not an appropriate choice.

  • John Henry,

    I agree with all your points except # 3.

    As an “alleged” Christian, Rev. Lowery apparently hasn’t found peace of the loving embrace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hence why is he still bitter?

    I don’t recall St. Thomas More ‘complaining’ about anti-Catholic prejudices when he was about to be executed. Rev. Lowery was saying the BENEDICTION for the first president of ‘color’ in the United States of America.

    So I give no excuse for Rev. Lowery’s bitterness one iota. Christopher has an excellent point to show the lack of Christian forgiveness in Rev. Lowery’s ‘benediction’. Rev. Lowery is just as bad as Jeremiah Wright, the difference is he isn’t as profane as Mr. Wright.

    Bigotry knows no color, it works both ways.

  • By the way, this is a little presumptive of me to say, but Mark and Michael, why is that I’m African American and not making a big deal about this and the two of you are? I’m not saying there is nothing of concern here, but that this blog is being attacked as “racist” and “nationalistic” and the like is really difficult considering I write on this blog…nor does is it really indicative as to why you visit here so often if it’s really that terrible.

    Additionally, if people cease to exercise the virtue of charity when they speak to you, perhaps it would not hurt — though it is admittedly very difficult — to exercise the virtue anyway and ask to return the debate to the issue at hand instead of ad hominem attacks. This just as much goes to anyone that has made such statements toward the both of you. I don’t believe in double standards. But let’s not make them and don’t live up to them. It really bothers me the way that lately there has not been much Christian charity while we’re all claiming God and righteousness to be on our side. Just a thought.

  • S.B.,
    Thanx for the link. I had a feeling that that bit of doggerel had roots older than Frye’s Nixon impersonations but wasn’t sure there was an extant record. BTW, I’ve found to my embarassment that comments with links don’t always post right away here, but do eventually post.

  • OK, maybe the comparison to Wright was a bit much. I’ll take that one back.

    Personally, I don’t feel offended by the benediction since I wasn’t that interested to begin with. If anything what may concern me is the lack of a vetting process that Obama’s handlers have for allowing something like that comment to pass by.

  • Eric — Michael I. fancies that he speaks for all African Americans, nay, all people of color in the world. How he knows so much about them, coming from almost all-white West Virginia and going to school in Canada, is something of a mystery, although not as mysterious as the notion that all “brown” people (as Michael calls them) think alike in the first place. Thus, if anyone says anything that Michael disagrees with and it has anything to do with a non-white person, Michael jumps up and yells about racism.

    He did this on a Vox Nova comment thread in a much more egregious way: He had said that Third World capitalist factories should be replaced by worker-built communal factories. I made the obvious rejoinder that if worker-built factories were all that realistic, we should be seeing more of such factories already, and that the fact that such factories are rare is a sign that Third World people tend to lack the capital and training to just set up a new factory (just as I’d have no idea how to do so, let alone the funds). Michael said that this was a “racist” comment, for reasons that only he could imagine (he certainly couldn’t explain himself or offer any attempt at an argument).

  • Michael Iafrate

    Michael Iafrate — I apologize for the subject line if that’s what caused your frustrations. If you’ll note, there was a subject mark appended, as I intended to phrase it as a question:

    is it making too much to note that Rev. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction (Video), in its general indictment (even perhaps in jest) of the white man, closed somewhat on a sour note — as well as contrasting with Obama’s message of racial unity?

    Perhaps a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that question would have sufficed. Nonetheless, I attempted to post the clarification of my thoughts to your own post at Vox Nova, but was unsuccessful.

    Perhaps I’m banned? If not, kindly approve as I think my clarification will assist in the discussion.

    Too all others

    Thank you for your contributions, especially as to the origins of the rhyme that Lowery recited.

    I stand by my observation that Obama’s criticism of Reverend Wright could equally be applied to Reverend Lowrey: the recitation of such a rhyme seemed static, as if no progress had been made.

    Consequently, the interjection of a racially-divisive verse into a benediction stood, for me, in sharp contrast to the notable efforts of both Pastor Rick Warren and President Obama himself to transcend the issue.

    But to concur with John Henry — “There is nothing wrong with noticing they were racially divisive in a blog post; but, once noted, there are better things to talk about going forward.”

    Suffice to say I don’t plan on pressing the issue in future posts.

  • Tito,

    If anything what may concern me is the lack of a vetting process that Obama’s handlers have for allowing something like that comment to pass by.

    No question that Obama’s handlers vetted and approved this text. This is a nod to one of his constituencies that may have felt left out of his speech, part of his approach of being all things to all people.

    SB,

    incivility is the typical behavior over at that blog. As we speak they’re copying posts from here and discussing them without the respect of a link.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Eric – I would be interested in hearing your thoughts regarding Christopher Blosser’s suggestion that Lowery’s benediction (taking into consideration his and John Henry’s attempt at damage control) *may have been* “racist.”

    Michael I. fancies that he speaks for all African Americans, nay, all people of color in the world. How he knows so much about them, coming from almost all-white West Virginia and going to school in Canada, is something of a mystery…

    1) I don’t speak for African Americans. But I certainly will voice my opinion and stand up for black preachers from the charge of “racism” in cases like these.

    2) West Virginia is pretty white. My experience there has given me a lot to reflect on when it comes to racism. I often know racism when I see it. West Virginia certainly isn’t all white. Unsure about your reference to Canada. I live in one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

    hus, if anyone says anything that Michael disagrees with and it has anything to do with a non-white person, Michael jumps up and yells about racism.

    He did this on a Vox Nova comment thread in a much more egregious way: He had said that Third World capitalist factories should be replaced by worker-built communal factories. I made the obvious rejoinder that if worker-built factories were all that realistic, we should be seeing more of such factories already, and that the fact that such factories are rare is a sign that Third World people tend to lack the capital and training to just set up a new factory (just as I’d have no idea how to do so, let alone the funds). Michael said that this was a “racist” comment, for reasons that only he could imagine (he certainly couldn’t explain himself or offer any attempt at an argument).

    S.B. clearly has his own dream-land revisionist reconstructions of our past “conversations.” I refuse to spend the time “explaining myself” in light of what he claims that I said.

  • Michael,

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that

    1) the remarks themselves were racially divisive and ill-timed (in the context of the inauguration itself as well as the celebration of Martin Luther King).

    2) enlightened as to the historical origins of the lyrics and given the fact that Rev. Lowery himself hails from the era of segregation, he may not have a racist intent in making the statement.

    That said, being a working man, I haven’t found time to speak to 800 Canadians about the inauguration and benediction, and am a bit clueless as to the precise meaning of the “yellow/mellow” line.

    Perhaps you can clarify that for me?

  • Post-racial – yeah right.

    I thought the yellow part was the worst. Does he want all Asians to be singing Donavan’s “They call me mellow yellow.”

    Pres Obama laughing during it was pretty sad also.

  • Hey Jeff, why don’t you put up your jester hat for the WordPress thumbnails?!

    Just being selfish so the A.C. “Recent Comments” column looks more colorful.

  • You couldn’t even pretend to explain yourself at the time either . . . . so it goes with you: irascible and inflammatory language without any capacity or ability to come up with an explanation.

  • I refuse to spend the time “explaining myself” in….

    broken record from this guy.

  • I’m perfectly willing to concede that

    1) the remarks themselves were racially divisive and ill-timed (in the context of the inauguration itself as well as the celebration of Martin Luther King).

    The remarks were not divisive, but drew attention to already existing division. They were not “ill-timed.” What better context than the inauguration and the wake of MLK Day than to remind ourselves of how far we have to go? Why is that threatening to you? Why does it threaten you to acknowledge that racism still plagues the united states? Why is it EVER “inappropriate” to talk about it? That is the language of racism and colonization: to tell persons to talk only at “appropriate” times.

    2) enlightened as to the historical origins of the lyrics and given the fact that Rev. Lowery himself hails from the era of segregation, he may not have a racist intent in making the statement.

    News flash! American Catholic blogger believes Rev. Lowery might now have had “racist intent” in his benediction! What a relief.

    That said, being a working man, I haven’t found time to speak to 800 Canadians about the inauguration and benediction,

    Perhaps you missed it when I said I was at work and that was how I was able to talk to so many Canadians about the inauguration.

    …and am a bit clueless as to the precise meaning of the “yellow/mellow” line. Perhaps you can clarify that for me?

    I explained it over at VN. Doesn’t take many brain cells to figure it out.

    You couldn’t even pretend to explain yourself at the time either . . . . so it goes with you: irascible and inflammatory language without any capacity or ability to come up with an explanation

    Well, sorry, but it’s tough to keep up with you. I have trouble explaining “myself” when your version of our conversation keeps changing to suit your present needs.

  • Anyone who’s not convinced that Michael I. is lying about our past exchange can check here and here. Sound like “racist” comments to anyone?

  • I have trouble explaining “myself” when your version of our conversation keeps changing to suit your present needs.

    Liar.

  • Michael & Stuart,

    I don’t think we need to start dredging through past fights on the thread. I know from personal experience that past insults continue to rankle, but carrying paper only makes these things worse.

  • “but carrying paper only makes these things worse.”

    Amen!

  • [ED: Actually, I was serious that the paper carrying had to stop. Getting one last dig in, even if in the form of saying you don’t like carrying paper, doesn’t work.]

  • The remarks were not divisive, but drew attention to already existing division. They were not “ill-timed.” What better context than the inauguration and the wake of MLK Day than to remind ourselves of how far we have to go? Why is that threatening to you? Why does it threaten you to acknowledge that racism still plagues the united states?

    I can understand how you thought of the prayer as simply “reminding ourselves of how far we have to go”, perhaps enhanced by the fact that you seem to especially appreciate a “prophetic voice” approach which involves denouncing people rudely in order to shock them into reforming themselves.

    However, I think it’s important that you understand that for many (especially for many in their 20s and 30s) this kind of harping about the “the black man” and “the brown man” and “the yellow man” and “the red man” is not a discussion of the status quo as they know it, but a harping back to a past they don’t even remember.

    One may certainly understand that Lowery had no racist intent, while at the same time recognizing that in this day and age making jokes about “the yellow man” and “the red man” is totally unacceptable in polite society, and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that, the whole racial bucketing method implicit in that rhyme itself seems racist.

  • … and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that …

    You mean like our President?

  • Christopher B.,

    I don’t think the title of your posting is misguided or wrong. That “?” says it all, questioning if there was or not.

    My two cents worth.

  • One may certainly understand that Lowery had no racist intent, while at the same time recognizing that in this day and age making jokes about “the yellow man” and “the red man” is totally unacceptable in polite society, and for most younger people who mostly know people who are half-this and half-that, the whole racial bucketing method implicit in that rhyme itself seems racist.

    Well, you seem to have a different reason for opposing his prayer. Christopher was personally offended that [gasp!] he “insult” white people.

    However, I think it’s important that you understand that for many (especially for many in their 20s and 30s) this kind of harping about the “the black man” and “the brown man” and “the yellow man” and “the red man” is not a discussion of the status quo as they know it, but a harping back to a past they don’t even remember.

    If they think it’s a matter of the past, then they are blind.

  • Michael,

    No, I think DarwinCatholic and I are pretty much agreed. Of course the “and when white will embrace what is right” kind of grabbed me, implying as it does that “the white man” is still putting down the red man, the yellow man, the brown man, etc., and I have a low tolerance for racist stereotypes and such blanket generalizations.

    But ultimately — yes, it’s a rather dated piece of verse, and one of my points was that we should emulate Martin Luther King in relinquishing ourselves of such blinders.

  • If they think it’s a matter of the past, then they are blind.

    Racism as a whole is not a matter of the past, but I think that if you think people are constantly going around calling Asians “yellow” and American Indians “red”, then I think you either are wrong or move in far more nasty circles than I do.

    While there are still racial problems in our country, using racial stereotypes and slurs has become nearly totally unacceptable in all parts of society that I’ve run into — including even the West Virginia call center I worked in a number of years ago. And those stereotypes that remain are generally ones which (mostly regrettably to my mind) have become acceptable to the extent that some people with media voices are proud of them.

    In that sense: Yes, talking about “the red man” and “the red man” does sound like a throwback to a age most of us have quite happily left behind.

  • In that sense: Yes, talking about “the red man” and “the red man” does sound like a throwback to a age most of us have quite happily left behind.

    Blosser blogged about the offense he took to the “general indictment…of the white man,” not about his concern about the use of terms like “yellow” and “red man.”

    Neither of you seem to get the obvious point that words mean different things depending on who is using them.

  • Michael,

    See above.

    Now, about those 800 Canadians …

  • I’ve spent some time thinking on this issue and talking with a few other people, and I’ve come to this conclusion. Lowery’s intent may have been good, and may have been free of any sort of racism, but his choice of words were poor. Why? In a way, it makes me think of stories about family feuds, in which they spend a whole generation bickering bitterly, until finally they get together, have a “Come to Jesus” talk, and then sit all together around the dinner table for the first time in years, just to have Grandma Anna remind everyone what John did to Billy ten years ago, and have the whole feud flare up again.

    Call me naive if you want, but I want us to work towards and have a colorblind society, a society where skin color warrants as much comment as hair color or eye color. I want a society where we never find it okay for one person to say or do something, but not okay for another simply due to skin color. And this flows both ways. Now, can we be blind to all differences? No, we can’t. Of course we can’t. Because differences do matter. But differences matter when they’re at the level culture and philosophy and theology, not at a superficial level of pigments.

    ..when white will embrace what is right… I was born in 1981. At that point in time, we’d emerged from the civil rights movements victorious, with essentially only mop-up details to worry about. As a child, I was informed in school of the terrible things done to blacks–slavery, segregation, racism, and so on–and was commanded not to be racist. And yet, as we continue on, and we listen to people who continually decry the evils of the white man, we who were born after the war had been won are left angry and confused. We have done no evil ourselves. We’re fair minded and more than willing to get along with people of any skin color. True, there are some that are born into extremely racist families that cling to notions of white superiority, but when we’re judged by groups like that, where does that put us? If the existence of bigots is an indictment of any entire group of people, is that not in itself racist?

    Moreover, what are we supposed to do? The history of slavery and racism exists. There’s no denying that. But are the melanin deficient supposed to atone for that sin forever? Was slavery and racism a new original sin to be handed down, generation after generation, to anyone born with white skin? At times it seems to be, and needing a new infinite atonement that no number of mortal men could ever make themselves.

    And here, at the inauguration, when most of us would like to say “Whew. Now race shouldn’t matter any more!”, we have this. It’s a quirky benediction playing off of an outdated set of lyrics, and seemingly harmless in itself. But it is in odd juxtaposition with the hope that we can finally set the difference of skin-color aside. It isn’t a diatribe of hate, like we’ve come to expect from some preachers; instead, it was a single discordant note in the symphony, something slightly out of place, but distinct enough to draw attention. For some of us, it has become imperative to examine why we found it discordant, and to that end, we have this open forum for discussion.

  • …just to have Grandma Anna remind everyone what John did to Billy ten years ago, and have the whole feud flare up again.

    Lowery was not digging up the past. He was referring to the continued existence of racism (in a personal and in a structural/societal sense).

    And here, at the inauguration, when most of us would like to say “Whew. Now race shouldn’t matter any more!”, we have this.

    I think you should ask yourself why you want to say “Whew” after Obama’s inauguration. Sure, in a sense we’d like to think race “shouldn’t matter” anymore, but we know it still does. That’s what Lowery was getting at. Anyone who thinks that the election of a black president simply changes everything or verifies changes that supposedly have occurred is dreaming.

    For some of us, it has become imperative to examine why we found it discordant, and to that end, we have this open forum for discussion.

    I think the ones who found it “discordant” are white americans who were simply offended at the thought that they still have a lot of work to do, personally and in society.

    Why do you think most people did not take offense to it? Those who were offended seem to be in the minority. When I tell people here in Canada (people of “various” “races”) about the claim that Lowery’s prayer was “racist” or “divisive” or even “inappropriate” or “discordant” the simply can’t believe it. They often laugh.

  • I think you should ask yourself why you want to say “Whew” after Obama’s inauguration.

    Mainly because I, like others, view the presidency as the last pinnacle of achievement, the last bar to be broken in the whole color scheme. There may be others. I’m sure you’ll argue there are. The work is not done, true, but as I said, it is mainly clean-up detail. A few small groups of hatred will always persist, but by in large, by the next generation, most of the remaining population that holds that black people are inferior will have died out.

    I think the ones who found it “discordant” are white americans who were simply offended at the thought that they still have a lot of work to do, personally and in society.

    I think those white Americans feel that there’s something wrong in saying that they’re the only ones who have work to do. Personally, I’ll admit that I have to work each and every day to find love for all those around me (especially those who don’t signal when they change lanes). But I still have to ask: as a whole, what more is to be done? What work needs to be started that isn’t already in progress? If you want to cite poor, black ghettos as an example, then I’ll point out that it isn’t that we don’t want to fix that problem, or that we want black people to live in that condition. Rather, we disagree on how best to fix the problem. Furthermore, even doing everything right won’t life all the poor out of poverty (something someone–I think he was kinda important–said about the poor always being with us).

    Why do you think most people did not take offense to it?

    I suppose your perception on “most” and “minority” and “who is offended” really depends upon the setting you’re in. Amazingly enough, “most” people I’m around feel that there was some divisive quality to it. Surprisingly enough, when I change setting to on campus interest groups, that “most” changes to people who feel there was nothing wrong with the statement. When I go searching around the net, I find mixed reactions wherever I go, all across the spectrum. And I suspect that many notice a discord and decide it isn’t worth thinking about twice, because criticizing a black man is politically incorrect, and the furor making such a criticism brings isn’t worth the effort.

  • Mainly because I, like others, view the presidency as the last pinnacle of achievement, the last bar to be broken in the whole color scheme. There may be others. I’m sure you’ll argue there are.

    Some of us view the presidency as so abstracted from real life that its connection with real life on the ground is complex and ambiguous at best. I do not consider the presidency as the “pinnacle of achievement” in any sense. Many people are much too concerned about their real lives than to spend too much time living vicariously through the president’s achievements.

    The work is not done, true, but as I said, it is mainly clean-up detail. A few small groups of hatred will always persist, but by in large, by the next generation, most of the remaining population that holds that black people are inferior will have died out.

    You are thinking of racism merely in terms of personal attitudes, not in terms of structural social inequalities which continue to exist no matter who the president is.

    You are also thinking only in terms of African-American experience and then making claims about how racism barely exists anymore. You have yet to consider the experience of Arab Americans or Latino/as, for example. The racism involving Arab Americans, for example, is alive and well. The often parroted claim that “now anyone can become president” is laughable once one tries to imagine the possibility of an Iranian American running for president. In short, we ain’t there yet. And we ain’t there yet because “white” still hasn’t learned to “do what’s right.”

    Furthermore, even doing everything right won’t life all the poor out of poverty (something someone–I think he was kinda important–said about the poor always being with us).

    1) Can we please agree not to use this scripture passage to continually justify the existence of poverty?

    2) Well, here you’re going from talking about poverty along racial lines to talking about poverty in the abstract. Surely Jesus did not mean that poverty which is connected to race will “always be with us.”

  • When I tell people here in Canada (people of “various” “races”) about the claim that Lowery’s prayer was “racist” or “divisive” or even “inappropriate” or “discordant” the simply can’t believe it. They often laugh.

    And here Michael I. has managed to invent a new logical fallacy. This is a rare achievement. Its name is: argumentum ad Canadiam. It refers to an argument of the following form: “I asked a few random Canadians in my social circle, and they agreed with me; therefore, I’m right.”

  • S.B. – I am merely sharing what others think of americans like you. Since you are so concerned with extending beyond one’s social circle, perhaps you could consider the views of those outside of your own for once.

  • You’re not sharing what “others think” — you’re purportedly sharing what a carefully selected group of people think. Which proves nothing.

  • So, if I am to understand correctly. Any disproportionate rate of success/failure/affluence/poverty/intelligence/literacy/health/crime/athleticism/single-parenthood/illegitimacy/substance abuse…. etc. etc. among different races must be attributed to racism on the part of whites, either now or in the past, and that such racism imputes guilt on the part of all whites in the country where it exists, or the whole world perhaps? Are Canadian born whites where slavery never existed, guilty of the racism of the southern slaveholders? Are the descendants of Union veterans of the Civil War guilty of the slavery that they fought to destroy? What if they paid the ultimate price? What if they just fought bravely or were wounded? Does it matter if they harbored interior racism or not?

    I reject this notion entirely, along with the notion that one’s present and future is in some way dictated by maltreatment of one’s ancestors. If this were the case then the Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Catholics… etc would all have a basis for claiming disadvantaged status because all of our predecessor suffered discrimination at the hands of the WASP’s who dominated the US from it’s inception. Scots and Irish would also have claims against the British descendants of those evil English who oppressed and dispossessed our ancestors.

    Frankly, what I see is the subtle racism of low expectations. Our ancestors pulled themselves up despite ongoing discrimination, and I believe that African-Americans can pull themselves up out of historic discrimination without constant coddling from the government. This coddling has been well demonstrated to actually maintain the cycle of dependancy much longer than it naturally would have.

    The single-most important measure of success and predictor of success in most any endeavor is families. The black family of the 20’s was sadly much more intact than it is now. This is shown in virtually any study that has ever been performed. Intact families lead to vastly higher rates of success for parents and children in every field of endeavor.

    We need to talk about families, families, families and that applies to every race and creed.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I don’t see any contradiction between emphasizing the importance of the family, and acknowledging that historical mistreatment of African-Americans in our country has had any number of terrible effects, many of which persist to the present day. Both are causes, and I think the latter has had a significant impact on the former.

  • John Henry,

    I don’t see any contradiction between emphasizing the importance of the family, and acknowledging that historical mistreatment of African-Americans in our country has had any number of terrible effects

    I agree, and I think it’s absolutely critical that we study and our children be educated on the roots of racism and slavery, the civil war, the abuse of immigrants of all races, the internment of the Japanese-Americans, the use of the nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the holocaust of World War II, and the holocaust of abortion.

    many of which persist to the present day. Both are causes, and I think the latter has had a significant impact on the former.

    Blaming these historical events for anyone’s current circumstances (other than the still living victims of them) is the problem. I think that the government coddling which occurred after the civil rights era has caused far more harm to the black family than Jim Crow ever did. So, yes, there is a contradiction.

    I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

  • An interesting study is the Harlem Renaissance, a period of black social, cultural and economic ascendancy in 1920’s New York. What turned this Harlem into the disaster zone that it had become by the 70’s? It’s decline started with 1935 and 1943 riots…

  • It’s decline started with the Graet Depression…

  • I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    Why is it an “important” fact? What ends are you supporting with that fact?

  • Blaming these historical events for anyone’s current circumstances (other than the still living victims of them) is the problem.

    I think I disagree. Many African-American children born in a slum in DC or Baltimore are still suffering from the effects of slavery, segregation, etc.. Furthermore, being born in this environment places significant constraints on an individual’s ability to make good choices. Now, I think that professional grievance profiteers like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton do a great disservice to the truth in many cases (and to the African-American community) by doing shake-down routines on businesses based on past grievances. But the only reason those tactics are effective is because of the devastating effects that slavery, segregation, and racism have had on much (but not all) of the African-American community.

    I think that the government coddling which occurred after the civil rights era has caused far more harm to the black family than Jim Crow ever did. So, yes, there is a contradiction.

    I think ‘coddling’ is a very offensive way to describe government assistance that provides food and shelter to our poorest citizens, many of whom are African-American. Granted, some of these programs were set up in ways that incentivized single parenthood, and this was problematic. But such programs are not ‘coddling,’ nor are they limited to African-Americans.

    I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    I don’t really see why. It’s not like African-American immigrants were exempted from segregation or miscegenation laws or racism or even terribly designed welfare programs. The prolonged systematic attempts to ensure African-Americans were excluded from economic, social, and political opportunity had negative effects regardless of whether the individuals in question were descendants of slaves.

  • John Henry,

    I think I disagree. Many African-American children born in a slum in DC or Baltimore are still suffering from the effects of slavery, segregation, etc.. Furthermore, being born in this environment places significant constraints on an individual’s ability to make good choices. Now, I think that professional grievance profiteers like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton do a great disservice to the truth in many cases (and to the African-American community) by doing shake-down routines on businesses based on past grievances. But the only reason those tactics are effective is because of the devastating effects that slavery, segregation, and racism have had on much (but not all) of the African-American community.

    Sorry, no victimhood status is justified for the descendants of victims, otherwise all of us Scots would be in the same situation… we are not, and the only way the African-American community will EVER escape their situation is by doing what many of them are… getting over it and moving ahead.

    I find the underlined statement, while well meaning, to be offensive. If you used that to describe me because of a situation my parents went through, I would consider it an insult.

    I think ‘coddling’ is a very offensive way to describe government assistance that provides food and shelter to our poorest citizens, many of whom are African-American. Granted, some of these programs were set up in ways that incentivized single parenthood, and this was problematic. But such programs are not ‘coddling,’ nor are they limited to African-Americans.

    Sorry you find it offensive, I don’t see how you’ve suggested that it’s untrue. Can you recommend a better alternative to describe it?

    By the way, I don’t think it’s coddling for an individual or charitable organization to extend a hand and help a man to fish, or to feed him, or clothe him. That’s Christian charity… when the government does it, it’s an entitlement… coddling.

    Matt: I’d like to point out that far more African’s have immigrated voluntarily to the US than were EVER brought here as slaves… that’s an important fact.

    John Henry:
    I don’t really see why. It’s not like African-American immigrants were exempted from segregation or miscegenation laws or racism or even terribly designed welfare programs. The prolonged systematic attempts to ensure African-Americans were excluded from economic, social, and political opportunity had negative effects regardless of whether the individuals in question were descendants of slaves.

    You don’t see why Africans would come here in DROVES? Or you don’t see why that’s important? The standard of living for the poorest of our poor (excluding the homeless, largely suffering from mental illness) is like comfortable middle class in most Africans countries, and without the fear of being hacked to death with a machete. Regardless of health insurance they receive world class medical care, and their children receive pretty decent education, not world class, but far superior to Africa.

    Why is this important? Because it demonstrates that Africans recognize that this is the BEST place on earth for those of black descent to live, and they are thankful for the opportunity to pursue the happiness guaranteed by the US Constitution. As soon as the entitlement mentality is abandoned, that constituency will begin to enjoy the fruits of their labors as ALL of the disadvantaged classes before them have (Irish, Italians, Catholics, Immigrants in general, etc).

    If ancestral oppression is such a large factor in success, why is it that the children of illegal immigrants do better than the African-American community? As I said before, the problem of the African-American community is with a broken family structure. That family structure was in better shape 80 years ago, before the welfare state ruined it.

    Mark,

    while the Great Depression depressed economic success throughout the United States, the real turning point for the Harlem Renaissance was the riots of 1935 and 1943, which turned away the more affluent from patronizing the borough, and triggering the departure of those with the means to do so. As a result, Harlem did not enjoy the recovery of the late 40’s and on into the 50’s. In the 60’s and 70’s more racial turmoil and the welfare state left Harlem a disaster area. Things have been turning around though, I wonder if this is related to the welfare reforms pushed through by Republicans in the 1990’s?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    Where do you get your history?

  • Mark,

    where do you get yours?

  • Mark,

    here’s a source for you:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/forum/february98/harlem5.html

    Don’t you think that the looting and burning of 600 business in your neighborhood would start it down the road to destitution?

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I was not trying to be derogatory. It is just that I never saw the narrative put together in the manner as yours is.

  • Mark,

    apologies then.

    Matt

25 Responses to Congratulations to President Barack Obama

  • Oy. The inaugural address reminded me it is going to be a long four (or eight) years. But it is probably political speech-making in general I dislike more than anything in particular about this one, which was well delivered.

  • Very respectful post!

  • Look at it this way: starting today reality sets in.

    And besides… being in the opposition is always fun!

  • Yes Anthony. Here’s to questioning authority!

    Cheers

  • Is the picture now bigger or has he already grown in office?

  • Phillip,

    With apologies to John Henry, I clean up the posts that everyone posts. Meaning fixing fonts, paragraphs, but not the content. So I thought to get a better pic of President Obama.

  • “Here’s to questioning authority!”

    It is my understanding that dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism. 😉

  • John Henry,

    It is my understanding that dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism. 😉

    I heard that too!

    Matt

  • “It is my understanding that dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism.”

    Bummer dude! I guess I’ll have to inhale now.

  • Actually I liked much of the inaugural speech and I will do a post on it in the future. Portions of it could have been written by Ronald Reagan. I fear for the worst from this administration, but I certainly wish President Obama well in protecting this country from foreign foes, solving the financial crisis, and ending, as he promised to do, government programs that are not necessary. As for the rest, we shall see.

  • Portions of it could have been written by Ronald Reagan.

    Yep, like the “We will not apologize for our way of life” part!

  • I think Douthat basically captures my vague unease with the speech, although I’ll admit it had some nice moments…

    The speech, I thought, was a sometimes-dissonant, sometimes-successful attempt to marry expansiveness and sobriety. The language of realism was woven throughout – “our collective failure to make hard choices … the time has come to set aside childish things …the challenges we face … will not be met easily or in a short span of time” – and there was, as Maggie Gallagher put it, an “old-school Protestant” element to much of Obama’s rhetoric, from the calls to duty and responsibility, to the promise to marry “hope and virtue,” to the praise for the work ethic and criticisms of ” those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.” But time and again, Obama pivoted from this theme to the sort of begin-the-world-anew rhetoric that we’ve come to expect from all our presidents, liberal and conservative alike – promising that hard choices are really false choices, that pragmatism can overcome partisanship, that there’s no technological hurdle that Science can’t leap, and that all those nameless “cynics” who worry about hubris, overreach and decline don’t understand that in the brave new age of Obama, their pessimistic instincts “no longer apply.” His description of our straits was sometimes Carteresque, in other words – but his prognosis tilted, inevitably, toward a liberal version of Morning in America.

  • Although I did not vote for him, I wish President Obama the best. He has pleasantly surprised me in some areas and although I am worried, I am also cautiously optimistic.

    And now that we are the loyal opposition, may we criticise Obama when he merits criticism and praise him when he does something praiseworthy, without sinking to the ugly and hate-filled depths Bush’s detractors sank to over the past 8 years. Now they are called upon to behave like adults for a change; we shall see how it goes.

  • Perhaps I’m a bit too prickly, but I thought I discerned some backhanded slaps at his predecessor which I considered unseemly. And if I were an Obama advisor, I would recommend not inviting Rev. Lowry back for any more public addresses.

  • And if I were an Obama advisor, I would recommend not inviting Rev. Lowry back for any more public addresses.

    Why? Too much authentic Christianity for you?

  • Right . . . Michael’s command of the New Testament is such that he probably really does think there’s a verse commanding “yellow” people to be “mellow.”

  • Hey Michael,

    Is this authentically Christian?

    http://lifenews.com/nat4763.html

  • Hey Phillip – What the hell does Obama’s abortion policy have to do with Lowery’s speech?

  • Hey Michael,

    It has to do with the question of what is authentically Christian. What the hell do you think?

  • Though I’d rather take a bit of non-Christian racism than a lot of non-Christian abortion of babies.

    [Ed. Note: Please keep on topic. The point of the thread was to offer sincere congratulations to President Obama. I don’t mind occasional digressions, but his position on abortion does not need thorough treatment here.]

  • Good enough. I apologize. I assure you I offer my congratulations to Mr. Obama. Have prayed quite thoroughly and yesterday attended Mass with him as my intention. Just responding to a digression.

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8 Responses to Adama v. Adama

  • I still prefer the little-known Battlestar Galactica of the 1940’s and 1950’s. I think it’s available on DVD, if you’re interested.

  • Thanks for the comments and link to the amusing remarks by Dirk Benedict. As a member of the (original 1977) Star Wars generation, Galactica was a favorite show! But your comments prompt me to a related subject. You mention that the current iteration, like many shows since the 1990s, features soft-porn. Without wanting to appear sanctimonious or guilt-free, how do you justify watching it? Is it for the entertainment value? If so, what makes you (or me) different in that respect from any non-Catholic? It’s just that I think Catholics have fought shy of this issue in the last forty years. There used to standards for entertainment based on the catechism. As far as I still know I have no good reason to watch simulated sex or erotic content. Those things in some way or other fall under the 9th commandment. Granted there are shades of grey. And one could talk of subtle distinctions in mature entertainment before the 60s, but things are so in your face now, that those arguments no longer apply in many cases. I throw this out there for the sake of debate. Ultimately there must be an objective standard. As Catholics we object to porn, hard or soft, in our popular culture. How do we counter it? Do we allow ourselves to participate in it just because we like James Bond movies, etc.? What makes our stance any different from that of some antinomian “Christianinty” that has emasculated our religion and rendered us impotent in the face of neo-paganism. Again no judgementalism here but I’d like some answers. Thanks!

  • The only thing I would take exception to is the “sour grapes” comment. It skews where the article is coming from – using the new show *only* as a jumping off point for the state of television (and society) as a whole. The whole “career peak” thing comes from the fact that he chose parenthood (gasp!) over acting, something to be applauded and which is too often overlooked.

  • “How do you justify watching it? Is it for the entertainment value?”

    In the same way that I justify reading the Satyricon by Petronious, to learn. I find the soft porn moments intensely annoying and not at all erotic, just as I find the ultra violence more sickening than exciting. The problem that has developed in our society is that many aspects of the culture are of questionable morality or intensely immoral. To avoid it entirely on tv, in movies, the internet, in books, etc, would be to adopt an amish way of life as it comes to the culture. I do not criticize Christians who adopt that approach, but it is not the path I have chosen. When I find some aspect of the culture that I believe has something to teach me, I decide whether the good that I am exposing myself to, justifies the intermingled bad. It’s hard to draw lines, and I wish our culture was not such an open sewer, but it is the interaction I have chosen with our culture for the present.

  • Thanks for taking the time to reply. I didn’t want to be overly contentious, but I’m not sure it’s the answer I’m looking for. Whether your approach works for you or not remains subjective and some might say indistinguishable from the mainstream view (“don’t look at it if you don’t like it”). It’s not “Amish” to say that what passes for entertainment now would have been totally inadmissible to the clergy and most laypeople fifty years ago. We had moral continuity for centuries and now it’s gone. Can definitions really change that much? Granted there are grey areas and room for prudential decisions. (Let’s avoid “puritanism” as a red herring.) But as I think you admit, there are excesses which no one should realistically be expected to grapple with. The problem is that today’s immorality is the rule and less easily avoided than an obscure piece of literature (e.g. Petronius) was in the past. If the standards have fallen then presumably we need to restore them rather than acquiesce to evil in the interests of aesthetic urbanity. On the other hand, if it means that we have to view lingerie displays and groping for the sake of some pulp sci fi show… well, that’s a bid of a hard sell for me, I admit! All said in charity.

  • “Whether your approach works for you or not remains subjective and some might say indistinguishable from the mainstream view (”don’t look at it if you don’t like it”). ”

    The truly foolish might say that.

    “Can definitions really change that much?”

    The definitions haven’t changed at all, but the people have. Where there was moral consensus, we now have moral anarchy. When I first started my legal career, I was shocked by how many marriages were ending in divorce. Now I am shocked by how many couples have several children, are now breaking up, and have never been married at all. I am also seeing more parternity cases where not even a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship had been established, but rather a few incidents of “hooking up” resulted in a child.

    “If the standards have fallen then presumably we need to restore them”

    Agreed. I am all ears as to how you think we can go about doing that. In the past such alterations in public taste have usually been acomplished through censorship, either voluntary such as the Catholic League of Decency, or through government action. Of course these attempts to enforce standards of decency in public entertainment were effective because there was broad public agreement as to what the standards should be, and an entertainment company that crossed the line would pay a price with the general public. Regrettably such a consensus as to standards in entertainment clearly no longer exist. Now, any attempt at censorship, leaving aside all the current legal difficulties that would entail, would probably simply increase the money that the “banned” show would bring in. Not to mention that the internet means that any censorship regime would probably make no sense anyway since even totalitarian states like the PRC have great difficulty controlling the internet. So the censorship route is out the window.

    The best alternative I can think of is for Christians to produce entertainment that does reflect Christian values and is entertaining. Too often what passes for Christian entertainment one would be hard pressed to get people to watch even if they were paid. The vast success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Passion of the Christ, and, to a lesser extent, the two Narnia films, does indicate that there is a strong market for well made and performed Christian entertainment. We are aided also by the fact that most of the entertainment that does not present Christian values is often pretty poorly made and acted, this is not the case with the current Battlestar Galactica, and so Christian entertainment in order to beat out the competition, does not always have to be a masterpiece, but merely professional in both the peformances and the production. One reason the culture is such a sewer is that Christians have not been active enough in providing alternatives, and this is a portion of the problem that can be addressed successfully if there is enough will, time and money. In my experience Christians who wish to reform the culture usually have the will and time, but money often is the sticking point.

  • “It’s not “Amish” to say that what passes for entertainment now would have been totally inadmissible to the clergy and most laypeople fifty years ago. We had moral continuity for centuries and now it’s gone.”

    From where I sit -and given the general direction of this reply- Matt is seeing things fairly clearly. Well spoken.

    My best friend is a nominal Catholic (his mother practiced, he never did) and seemingly obsessed with “BG 2.0”. As I liked the original as a child I thought I’d give the new series a chance, and joined my friend to watch up to the second season, but I won’t watch beyond that point. Among other issues I have with the new series there’s simply too much moral relativism, too much violence, and too much sexuality on display for me to find much redeeming about its story arc. Naturally, my friend thinks I’m taking my moral objections too seriously while I on the other hand wonder how any practicing Catholic could do anything else!

    As opposed to the original series “2.0” is nothing I’d show my fiancee, much less any children we might one day have.

    Still, I will thank you for this humorous and thought-provoking entry!

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22 Responses to Dear Mr. Obama

Douglass on Lincoln

Monday, January 19, AD 2009

frederick-douglass

Part of my continuing series on Lincoln leading up to his 200th birthday.  I thought on the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it would be appropriate to take a look at remarks about Lincoln made by the foremost black American of his day Frederick Douglass.  These were made on April 14, 1876, at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Memorial to Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Park in Washington DC  An analysis by me will follow the remarks.

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4 Responses to Douglass on Lincoln

  • I lived 3 blocks away from Lincoln Park in the late ’80’s-early ’90’s, walked our dog there every day, saw the Memorial a thousand times – and this is the first time I’ve come across Douglass’s fine address.

    Thank you for posting this, Donald (and also thank you for the book tips in the other thread.)

  • Thank you Donna. I have read quite a bit about Lincoln and I have always been surprised at how little has been written about the speech of Douglass. I think the speech has some interesting insights into Lincoln and also provides a response to modern day critics who attempt to downplay the importance of Lincoln in regard to emancipation. I also like the understanding that Douglass displays for the limitations imposed on a head of state in our republic by public opinion, something that critics of presidents frequently overlook.

  • Another interesting Douglas (one s) with regards to Lincoln is Stephen. Lifelong political opponents, I think Stephen Douglas provides a model for how opposition leaders should act in a time of war. It is truly a shame that he died so young and so soon after the war commenced.

  • Douglas, whatever else could be said about him, was a patriot.

Win

Sunday, January 18, AD 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles will be playing for a spot in the Super Bowl today. Being a life-long Eagles fan I have to admit that I am biased, but I believe this could finally be theiryear to win it all. With all due respect to the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles should destroy them and have the game wrapped up by the 4th quarter. 

The song is “Gonna Fly Now”, the theme from (the) Rocky movie franchise.  Composed by Bill Conti with lyrics by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins.  Appropriately set in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

If the Eagles don’t win, it was a very thrilling and exciting ride this season!

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8 Responses to Win

  • I won’t blame you if you quietly delete this post, Tito. It’s been a rough first half.

  • I hope you didn’t put much money on the game.

  • It was fun from the beginning of the second half through midway the 4th quarter.

    John Henry,

    If I was near a computer I would have been tempted.

    In the end it’s only a game. But oh what a glorious 3rd quarter it was!

    Good luck to the Cardinals in the Super Bowl!

  • Somewhat subdued as to the collapse of the Iggles in University of e-learning Dome. Like the secondary players watching helplessly as Larry Fitzgerald blew past them for three TDs. Like a total Cardinal D trapping, spinning, dumping Donovan McNabb too many times. Like Andy Reid reverting back to his pass-happy playcalling- uh, Andy, Carell Buckhalter is always good for two to three tough yards. Funny how Cards coach Ken Wisenhunt has similar habit- uh, Ken, you have Edgerrin James on your roster, use him once or twice. Am loathe to predict less than Lombardi Trophy for this miracle Cardinals team. But watching that Pittsburgh Steelers state of art defense inflicted on Baltimore Ravens was an examination of Hard Truths About Football. Steelers in 10 to bring trophy back to PA. And prayers for the healing of Ravens’ Willis McGahee following that collision with Steelers’ Ryan Clark, possibly the hardest these football watching eyes have ever seen. As for Iggles- oh well fun while it lasted.

  • PITTSBURGH!

  • I don’t have a dog in this game, but I’ll be rooting for the team that most of my friends will be rooting for. So far it looks like Pittsburgh!

  • I usually root for Pittsburgh as a secondary team, because it’s the only major city besides DC that I have lived near and the Redskins have been bad for a while.

    But the Cardinals have only won one championship in 110 years as a franchise, and that was sixty years ago. The Redskins went to more championships in five years during the 80’s, than the Cardinals have in 110 years. Mercy compels me to root for the underdog.

One Response to Congress And The Inauguration

  • A while back, Tom Wolfe stated that satirizing aspects of modern American life became next to impossible during the later half of the 20th century. No matter what a satirist dreams up these days, he is bound to find himself one-upped by reality.

66 Responses to Farewell (and thanks) to President George W. Bush

  • ” I should like to thank him for his unapologetic confession of Christian faith, and for his testimony to the importance that prayer plays in his life. And I should like to thank him for not giving a hoot about the mockery that such a witness draws from a secularized mass media, from American high culture, from cranks like Michael Moore, and from Euro-secularist snobs who spent eight years sneering at the evangelical cowboy in the White House while their continent was dying from spiritual boredom.”

    Amen!

  • Amen. I suspect a lot of people will miss him when he’s gone. A big key word in his 200 campaign was “dignity”, and he and Laura have certainly lived up to that promise. I pray that Obama’s inevitable “Lewinski moment” will happen in the first term so that people return to their sense and kick him out in 2012. (I’m not implying that his big(gest) blunder will be a sexual sin, but there is bound to be some major mistake that will reveal his weakness and ineptitude.)

  • “2000 campaign”, I meant.

    Also, I shouldn’t say that I pray for Obama to fail and be shamed and ruined. First I pray for his conversion. But I also do hope that if he proves to be as unqualified as I think he is, that he’ll only get one term.

  • While Bush certainly made mistakes (the bailouts steamed me), I believe history will be much kinder to him than his current critics are. If Iraq becomes a stable functioning democracy – it’s too early to tell at this point -the anti-war left will be seen by future generations in the same light as we view the Copperheads of Lincoln’s day. Of course, they realize that too, which is why they have done everything in their power to bring about our failure there.

    I don’t regret having voted for Bush in ’00 and ’04. Despite the mistakes he made, he has far more integrity and class than most of his critics.

  • His departing speech and particularly the declaration of a national right to life day were fantastic. I wish he had not had so many of the management and public relations errors that caused his popularity to drop so low, I suspect history will judge him more objectively than the latest polls.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Yeah…Katrina was definitely just a p.r. and management error, as was Iraq, torture, Valerie Plame, Gitmo., WMDs, ‘Mission Accomplished, the DOJ scandal, the suspension of habeas corpus…

  • Mark,

    Katrina – pr mostly. The dikes collapsed because the corrupt Louisiana (principally democrat) leadership didn’t use the federally allocated funds to maintain them, but for other politically and personally motivated projects. The evacuation didn’t take place because the democrat mayor and governor failed to act. As Bush pointed out nearly 30,000 were rescued by FEDERAL assets, only after the democrat governor finally agreed to federal intervention. And finally, can you really blame Bush for New Orleans being the greatest festering stinkhole of the entitlement constituency in the country?

    Iraq – bad management mostly, but PR too (mission accomplished banner), probably Rumsfield is the main culprit, things were later sorted out under Gates using General Petraeus brilliant strategy.

    torture, – no torture occurred under the approval of the administration, but enhanced interrogation techniques approved by the leaders of both parties in congress resulted in saving countless American, Iraqi, Afghan and other lives here and abroad.

    Valerie Plame, – pr, this was a nothing issue, her exposure by a Richard Armitage (not particularly close to Bush or Cheney) while despicable was not even a crime.

    Gitmo., – non-issue, it’s really much nicer than an Afghan or Iraqi prison, they eat better than most US prisoners.

    WMDs, – in Syria. Actually over 800 chemical weapons were found in Iraq, just not the major programs that were expected by THE WHOLE WORLD.

    ‘Mission Accomplished, – pr. Actually the banner was not erected by the president or his staff, but understandably exuberant navy personnel

    the DOJ scandal, – huh?

    the suspension of habeas corpus… – non-issue, terrorists should not be protected by laws designed for domestic criminals. In any event the terrorists are treated quite nicely relative to their acts.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt you are an utterly sick human being.

  • Matt,

    The sad thing is, as with many writers here, you are not even getting paid to push such ideologically-drenched nonsense.

  • Catholic Anarchist why don’t you attempt to respond to Matt’s arguments rather than engaging in a feeble insult? This blog is for debate on ideas and not for back and forth flaming which is monotonous and boring.

  • Same thing for you Mr. DeFrancisis. Debate the ideas or find other venues to vent.

  • I can’t say I’m a fan after 8 years, and while I’m dreading the Obama Administration I feel a certain sense of freedom defending conservative/classically liberal ideas now with Bush out of office.

    The subject of abortion is the one area I was pleased and content with Bush, though to this day I still think the courts can be stripped of authority on the issue.

    – Two unjust and undeclared wars and a failure to capture Osama Bin Laden. Inexcusable. War should have been formally declared upon Al-Queda, making it the first formal declaration since WWII. It would have set the mission and defined victory, but unfortunately we had (and still have) a cowardly Congress and an authoritarian view of the presidency.

    – A failure to turn the world’s good will after 9/11 into workable solutions with Iran and Middle East. Iran, having two nuclear neighbors could have become an ally as oppose to a source of continued antagonism.

    -Torture (or ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’), wire tapping and the suspension of habeas corpus… once again a failure to recognize the long term repercussions of these acts in favor of short term successes.

    – The Bailouts. Whats the point of having free market principles if you don’t actually follow them? Bush and the Republicans revealed through bailing out Fannie and Freddie, the banks, the auto industry, etc. that their economic philosophies were merely tools to differentiate themselves to voters. It was a marketing tool to be chucked whenever the going got tough in order to look as if they were ‘acting’ to solve the problem. In good time, we will feel the effects of their inflationary acts, which Obama will only make worse exponentially. I can’t say with confidence the dollar will be around in 20 years.

    So while I have an appreciation for Bush’s handling of abortion and his warm welcoming to Catholics, I can’t in good conscience also consider his time in office as successful or even a good example of a moral use for executive power.

  • Don – Matt did not make an argument.

  • Calling a person who defends Gitmo and torture a “sick human being” is an ontological statement, not an “insult.”

  • Donald,

    You choose to allow such stinkwater at your site, which is indicative of the level of all Matt’s posts:

    “And finally, can you really blame Bush for New Orleans being the greatest festering stinkhole of the entitlement constituency in the country?”

    I am sorry if I cannot restrain myself and call it for what it is.

  • Anthony,

    Iran, having two nuclear neighbors could have become an ally as oppose to a source of continued antagonism.

    Iran? When I was in 3rd grade the current president of that rogue nation invaded sovereign US territory of the embassy, and took American citizens hostage. It’s animosity towards the US doesn’t originate with George Bush, it’s ruling ideology clearly precludes it from becoming an ally.

    Some of your other points make sense, especially with regard to the bailout… I might add the amnesty bill.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Thank God. Goodbye George W. Bush. I will hardly miss him. One horror out of office, a new one in.

    – Eric from Washington D.C.

  • Matt,

    Well some would argue that Iran’s taking of the hostages was long overdue ‘blowback’ for the U.S’s interventions of the 1950s. I can’t comment further than that, because…well I wasn’t even alive then.

    My comment was made more in terms of a missed opportunity. In the days after 9/11 the world was shocked, including Iran- which at the time had a slightly more moderate head if I recall. That could have been exploited. It was an opportunity for diplomacy, not bullying. Thats my point.

  • I think Mark and Michael I. were a little intemperate. But, seriously, Don, did you read Matt’s list of defenses? Do you think this type of partisan nonsense lends itself to discussion:

    no torture occurred under the approval of the administration, but enhanced interrogation techniques…resulted in saving countless…lives…

    Iraq – bad management mostly, but PR too (mission accomplished banner), probably Rumsfield is the main culprit, things were later sorted out under Gates using General Petraeus brilliant strategy.

    They might as well debate Ann Coulter.

  • Anthony,

    Regardless of any “provocations” of the embassy hostage taking, it still stands that hatred for America by the Iranian government started with the takeover by radical Islam of the once pro-western nation. If you examine the ruling ideology of the Mullah’s who are the real power in Iran, that is islamic-fascism, and a belief in the return of the 13th Imam brought about by global conflict, they may be contained but they can’t be an ally. Don’t forget about their long history of supporting terrorist organizations Hezbelloh and Hamas et al. Remember the Beirut barracks bombing?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • John Henry,

    So you’re saying it’s ok to denigrate a poster if you agree with their position, but if you don’t then you call on them to stop? That’s my only history with you, is ignoring personal attacks by others against me, and then asking me to stop responding? You need to learn a thing or two.

    Matt

  • ‘the suspension of habeas corpus… – non-issue, terrorists should not be protected by laws designed for domestic criminals. In any event the terrorists are treated quite nicely relative to their acts.’

    news flash, matt. we have not nearly established that all in this legal category were indeed terrorists. and SC thought otherwise.

    “Gitmo., – non-issue, it’s really much nicer than an Afghan or Iraqi prison, they eat better than most US prisoners.”

    stunning callousness. what else can i say? if i were with your degree of dullness to basic human rights, i’d wish a relative of yours was declared an enemy combatant…

    “Valerie Plame, – pr, this was a nothing issue, her exposure by a Richard Armitage (not particularly close to Bush or Cheney) while despicable was not even a crime.”

    no. the Republican special prosecutor ended by saying there is a cloud over the head of Dick Cheney, because of Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice. let’s see if Bush outright pardons him, after having already commuted his sentence.

    “Iraq – bad management mostly, but PR too (mission accomplished banner), probably Rumsfield is the main culprit, things were later sorted out under Gates using General Petraeus brilliant strategy.”

    no. unjust war from the start, as Mother Church says, and a disaster for international diplomacy and human life/dignity. and only has inflamed more the situation with Iran.

    “Katrina.”

    the last part of your comment showed how you really do not respect all of God’s children, you dememted and racist man.

    “DOJ scandal ?”

    read the newspaper.

  • “So you’re saying it’s ok to denigrate a poster if you agree with their position, but if you don’t then you call on them to stop? That’s my only history with you, is ignoring personal attacks by others against me, and then asking me to stop responding? You need to learn a thing or two.”

    Matt – I am probably in agreement with you more than ‘them’ on issues. In this forum, you are probably going to be defended more than they, so in this case I defended them. I apologize if you feel that I have been unfair. I was very offended by your aggressiveness and general tone of incivility towards Eric in several other threads, and that probably prompted my response here. In any case, I’ll refrain from attempting to referee this particular thread, as Donald and Chris are more than capable of doing so.

  • partisan nonsense

    dememted and racist

    These are accurate comments.

  • I think Mark and Michael I. were a little intemperate.

    Gee, you think.

    Matt you are an utterly sick human being.

    dememted [sic] and racist man

    Yes, certainly anyone who thinks that new Orleans might just be a tad corrupt deserves such denigration.

    I think Matt overdid his defense of George Bush, but nothing he wrote justified that.

    But I guess if Mark and Michael cease writing here, the comboxes would be a little less interesting.

  • “The dikes collapsed because the corrupt Louisiana (principally democrat) leadership didn’t use the federally allocated funds to maintain them, but for other politically and personally motivated projects.”

    Now you are just making things up. The federal monies were not sufficiently there…

    “Yes, certainly anyone who thinks that new Orleans might just be a tad corrupt deserves such denigration. ”

    Matt said for more than that, and you (should) know it.

    Do pro-life people really hang out here? And you wonder why your cause has been so ineffective.

  • Matt,

    Despite the snideness (with which I disagree), I think Matt has raised some legitimate points:

    Yes, many of the errors made in the conduct of the Iraq war can be attributed to those who did the original planning (chiefly Rumsfeld). Some of these wrong decisions were documented quite well in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.

    Matt also notes that “no torture occurred under the approval of the administration, but enhanced interrogation techniques approved by the leaders of both parties in congress” — it is a valid point that practically every technique was done with bi-partisan knowledge from the senior members of Congress. As the Washington Post reports:

    “In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.”

    ( Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002 December 9, 2007).

    It would be unfair, then, for critics to single out the President / VP for their approval of these techniques without indicting those who were also privy to them.

    Curiously, Matt’s defense of Abu Ghraib stands (reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh) stands in sharp contrast to President Bush himself, who condemned it as “a shameful moment when we saw on our TV screens that soldiers took it upon themselves to humiliate Iraqi prisoners — because it doesn’t reflect the nature of the American people, or the nature of the men and women in our uniform.”

    Katrina received 78 percent more in welfare than the national average — in The Unlearned Lesson of Katerina, Robert Tracinski makes a case that “the disaster in New Orleans was caused, not by too little welfare spending, but by too much. Four decades of dependence on government left people without the resources–economic, intellectual, or moral–to plan ahead and provide for themselves in an emergency.” (Lest we put the blame squarely on federal negligence, see Facts Drown In Press Coverage [of Katrina] Investor’s Daily August 29, 2006).

    Matt — You raise some good points, but it would bolster your case to provide more substantial arguments. The brevity and snideness of your replies make it all to easy to dismiss them as ‘partisan nonsense.’

    Michael I. and Mark DeFrancisis — no doubt you would take offense if anybody dismissed your remarks out of hand and resorted to cheap insults; you should hold yourselves to the same standard of decency.

    Everybody: by all means disagree with each other, but please engage each other like adults and conduct yourself with civility.

  • Christopher,

    Curiously, Matt’s defense of Abu Ghraib stands (reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh) stands in sharp contrast to President Bush himself, who condemned it as “a shameful moment when we saw on our TV screens that soldiers took it upon themselves to humiliate Iraqi prisoners — because it doesn’t reflect the nature of the American people, or the nature of the men and women in our uniform.”

    With regard to the Abu Ghraib case where American soldiers humiliated themselves and Iraqi prisoners I wholeheartedly agree with you and President Bush. That is not the same scenario at Guantanamo Bay, where, while certainly periodic excesses occured, as they do in all incarceration systems, there was no widespread abuse (except of the truth by liberals parroting the Michael Moore talking points).

    You raise some good points, but it would bolster your case to provide more substantial arguments. The brevity and snideness of your replies make it all to easy to dismiss them as ‘partisan nonsense.’

    A fair point, but when I get a broadside of one word liberal talking points, such as “justice department scandal”, it’s hard to even know precisely the basis for criticism let alone a well thought out response for each one.

    Thanks for illuminating some of my responses with cold hard facts, I probably should have made more substantive responses as you did.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • ps. to clarify my huh, on DOJ scandal, I was trying to figure out if this is the case where a substantial portion of the US attorneys were dismissed by Bush after several years under him when he became dissatisfied with their priorities, in contrast with Bill Clinton who had not spent a single night in the White House when he dismissed all of them.

    How long do you think Bush’s appointees will last under the One? Aside from Fitzgerald who has made himself bulletproof.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Everybody: by all means disagree with each other, but please engage each other like adults and conduct yourself with civility.

    I never have and never will take this blog seriously enough.

  • I never have and never will take this blog seriously enough.

    Michael,

    I will keep this in mind as I respond to your self-admitted trolling in the future.

  • Calling a person who defends Gitmo and torture a “sick human being” is an ontological statement, not an “insult.”

    Really? Please explain, how that is an ontological statement.

  • “Everybody: by all means disagree with each other, but please engage each other like adults and conduct yourself with civility.”

    Bravo!

  • I will keep this in mind as I respond to your self-admitted trolling in the future.

    Do so. And I will similarly keep in mind your ongoing association with this disgusting, racist, nationalist blog when you post elsewhere.

    Really? Please explain, how that is an ontological statement.

    Torture is intrinsically evil.

  • Michael,

    Torture is intrinsically evil.

    While that may be your personal opinion, and it is not without some support, it is not in any sense definitive, I am free to disagree with your conclusion in good conscience. Secondly, the very definition of torture is at question as well, and there is certainly no magisterial authority which definitively declares the practice of waterboarding (as authorized by Pres. Bush) is torture as such.

    Even if waterboarding is torture, this particular application (to extract information in order to prevent further acts of terrorism) is not listed in the catechism or any other authoritative document:

    CCC 2297:
    Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

    Since the catechism qualifies it’s condemnation of torture, it seems that you are stretching to insist that it is “intrinsically evil”, and anyone who dissents from this position is a “sick human being”.

    As offensive as some of these interrogation methods may be, bear in mind that the Church does permit the state incredible leeway to defend itself against unjust aggressors. The use of blades, bullets, and bombs can cause incredibly horrific suffering, grotesque wounds, and ultimately death. These weapons can be used legitimately against enemy soldiers who bear no moral culpability for their own actions. The Church teaches that these same weapons, subject to the principles of double effect, can be used even where innocent civilians would be injured or killed.

    Fr. Brian Harrison, professor at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico as published an excellent and detailed article regarding this question in the Roman Forum.

    Part I
    Part II

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt – The Church teaches that torture is intrinsically evil. Authoritative Church teaching exists outside of your Catechism. You should explore a little bit.

  • Michael,

    can you respond to the arguments I made, or no? It might help you to explore a bit, perhaps give Fr. Harrison’s article a read.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    Are you a seminarian? Just wondering…

  • Which argument? The “it doesn’t say that in the catechism” bit that you said. Do you consider that an “argument”?

  • Michael,

    “or any other authoritative document”

  • So Michael, does that mean that every person who says anything in support of abortion rights, like say Pres. – elect Obama, is a “sick human being”? Because what you are saying here is that it is an “ontological statement” to call someone a “sick human being” simply because they say something that could be interpreted as support of an intrinsic evil. Your lack of charity towards those you disagree with politically will win no converts. Perhaps you should spend less time talking ontology and more time reading about the virtues we are expected, as Catholics, to be developing in our personal lives in order to grow in holiness and reach our home in heaven.

  • Matt – You (wrongly) will dismiss any document I produce as “non-authoritative,” so what is the point?

    Jessie – I wish for one minute that you people could consider the willful murder of human beings without always needing to compare those deaths with the murder of the unborn. It shows that you really refuse to take them seriously as human persons, and use them merely as comparison points for your own pet issues. But do I think “every” person who says “anything” about abortion rights is a sick human being? Probably not every person, but certainly many of them are. I would want to look at specific cases and arguments. Just as I would not say “every” person who says “anything” positive about the united states, its imperialistic tendencies, its warmaking practices, etc is a sick person. What I have done is to look at Matt’s particular “arguments” (er, statements really — they ain’t arguments) which intentionally refuse to take seriously non-american human lives and to — rightly, I think — call him a sick person.

  • I wish for one minute that you people

    t shows that you really refuse to take them seriously as human persons

    Indeed.

  • With the way certain people write here, I think Michael I. is being merely frank.

  • “you people”?

    Who you calling “you people”?

    Huhhh.

  • [Deleted due to inflammatory remarks]

  • Tito – Don’t worry. You are most certainly included when I refer to “you people.”

  • Michael I,

    In light of your blatantly false witness regarding my concern for “non-Americans” it might be pertinent for me to point out that I am in fact a Canadian, as is my whole family, except for my wife.

  • “Now you are just making things up. The federal monies were not sufficiently there…”

    Speaking as a Louisiana Resident it appears to me Bush is still fairly popular here which shows what many people thought about putting Katrina on all his shoulders. In the end if it happend under Clinton (which he cam eclose to doing but for a last minute turn and a Republican Governor at the time it would have been the same thing.

    Blame where there is blame goes out into a thousand different election including the American people that are ingnoring the root problem. I hoe and pray those lessons are recalled but I am doubtful

  • Matt,

    I thought Father Harrisons article was pretty good and pretty straightforward. I think he did a good job of stating what is up to legitmate debate

  • Michael I.,

    It was a movie reference to Tropic Thunder (a joke).

    Hope your New Year is going awesome for you!

  • In light of your blatantly false witness regarding my concern for “non-Americans” it might be pertinent for me to point out that I am in fact a Canadian, as is my whole family, except for my wife.

    It really makes no difference. Sounds like you must have a fascinating story, then, if you have the death-dealing politics that you do. I’ve lived in Canada for a while now and believe it or not there are Canadians who have embraced the idealized image of america and buy into american exceptionalism. So what’s your story, and how did you come to accept the americanist gospel? Are you a dual citizen? Live in america? Working toward your u.s. baptism? Or have you already been baptized and confirmed?

  • It was a movie reference to Tropic Thunder (a joke).

    Not familiar with the reference.

    Hope your New Year is going awesome for you!

    It’s going totally awesome, thank you. I hope you’re having a bitchin’ new year yourself.

  • Michael,

    I trust you have renounced your US citizenship to cleanse yourself of the taint? Oh, and don’t forget Canada has cooperated with the “evil” empire for decades in many of the actions you decry:

    Here‘s a link for details of the process.

    Good luck with that.

  • Matt – I’m well aware of that, and have blogged about it.

    [Edited due to inflammatory remarks]

  • Michael,

    don’t just blog about it, do it, do it, do it.

  • I’m not sure it does much good to point this out, but all you’re succeeding in doing at this point, Michael, is making yourself and your beliefs looks silly and aggressively unattractive. If that’s not your primary aim at the moment, you might want to consider changing tactics or just give it a rest for a while.

  • I must not have been clear enough for you. I don’t intend to become Canadian, nor do I intend to remain in Canada. I have blogged about Canada’s sometimes cooperation with the u.s.

  • Brendan – I’m sorry you think that my belief in the absolute evil of torture is “silly.”

  • Michael:

    So how’s that doctorate coming? Getting a lot of work done?

  • Michael,

    Your incivility is silly; not your beliefs.

  • Your incivility is silly; not your beliefs.

    Sounds like there is a difference of opinion among you.

    So how’s that doctorate coming? Getting a lot of work done?

    I’m on track. Thanks for asking!

  • Michael,

    I said that your behavior was making your beliefs look silly, not that your beliefs were silly.

    I don’t think that your belief in the absolute evil of torture is silly, but your behavior is certainly going a ways towards making it look like it is silly people who adhere to that view — which does the truth a disservice.

  • I would like to thank this tremendously prolife president for his good humor.

    Defending the execution of Carla Faye Tucker with an hilarious impression.

    Or the great humor he showed at White House Press dinners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKX6luiMINQ

    Don’t worry guys you will be getting at least 4 more years of the same. Look at who BO has appointed thus far nothing but people who were war hawks and who were advocates of and voted for the Patriot Act, FISA, the Iraq fiasco. Yes, if you liked the destruction of the constitution and individual liberty that took place during the Clinton and Bush years then you will love Obama. If you liked the intrnational interventions and wars that took place during the Clinton and Bush years you will love Obama.

    The more things “Change” the more things stay the same.

  • hmmm….

    Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief

    it would seem we aren’t being overly diligent about keeping terrorists locked up after all…

Abraham Lincoln-A Tribute

Saturday, January 17, AD 2009

Something for the weekend.  As we approach the 200th birthday of the Great Emancipator on February 12, 2009, I intend to be submitting various posts regarding Lincoln.  The above tribute is to the tune of Ashokan Farewell, a modern composition now forever linked with the Civil War due to its use in Ken Burn’s Civil War.  I think Lincoln would have found the music moving.  He also would have found the use of his image howlingly funny.  Lincoln considered himself ugly, as did most of his contemporaries, and I can imagine him saying that although the tribute was well intended that it should focus instead on those he regarded as the true heroes of the war:  the common Union soldiers and sailors.

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51 Responses to Abraham Lincoln-A Tribute

  • Thanks Paul. Actually Lincoln didn’t think much of his first name either. A sure sign that someone didn’t know Lincoln was if he referred to him as “Abe” which Lincoln especially detested. His male friends, as was the custom among men of his time, referred to him as Lincoln if they were on close terms with him and Mr. Lincoln if they were not. Interestingly enough, Mary Todd Lincoln usually referred to him as “Mr. Lincoln” or Father. He invariably referred to her as Mother.

  • Thanks Donald. I’m going to enjoy these writeups, I’m sure. I was going to do something similar, but I’ll probably save it for the 12th. In preparation for the big day I’m re-reading Sandburg’s biography, a collection on Lincoln’s writings, and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

    Now how cool would it be if baby Zummo arrives on Lincoln’s 200th? I’m not calling him Abe if it’s a boy, though.

  • What of Thomas Di Lorenzo’s two books on Lincoln? Di Lorenzo argues that Lincoln’s underlying goals – despite his rhetoric – were those of a well-paid lawyer [there’s an oxymoron] defending business interests – particularly those of the railroads. He seems to make a good case.

  • Actually Di Lorenzo makes a terrible case.

    Here is one of many good critiques of his work that can be found on-line:

    http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.736/article_detail.asp

    Di Lorenzo is a polemicist and a rotten historian to put it bluntly.

  • A good site analyzing DiLorenzo’s Real Lincoln:

    http://hidhist.wordpress.com/lincoln/thomas-j-dilorenzos-the-real-lincoln-a-rebuttal/

    Lincoln is the most studied President in American history. Our wealth of knowledge about him is vast. DiLorenzo is a libertarian crank who is clearly unfamiliar with most of the scholarship on Lincoln, and uses him simply as a platform to expound his political beliefs. He can hold any political tenents he wishes, but his mangling of history is unforgivable, at least to someone like me who cherishes accurate history.

  • It’s amazing that every single person who has a negative view of Lincoln immediately cites DiLorenzo. You would think that if the case against Lincoln were stronger, his critics would be able to find someone else – anyone else – to cite as a critical source. I think Donald’s sources adequately explain why DiLorenzo is crap.

    To the people who keep using DiLorenzo as a sledgehammer, I would simply retort that I also have a real good book written by some dude named Dan Brown that has some interesting insight into Catholic history.

  • I read the Sandburg biography many years ago. Can anyone point me to an excellent recent one? There is an embarrassment of riches where Lincoln is concerned – so much has been written about him that it is difficult for an interested person who is not a Civil War buff to pick and choose among them.

    I am currently reading a book about another great president and war leader -“Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer (I strongly recommend anything written by Fischer). The admiration I had already for Washington has increased tenfold.

  • Donna, the best one volume recent bio of Lincoln in my opinion is With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates. I would also put in a plug for an oldie but a goodie, John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet, an epic poem on the Civil War that has been called the American Iliad, which has first rate sections on Lincoln that capture the man well. Shelby Foote’s three volume history on the Civil War also has excellent passages that bring Lincoln to life with a skill that only a master novelist like Foote could muster.

    As to the Father of our Country, he is the greatest man in secular history in my estimation. I think Freeman’s multivolume bio of him remains the best.

  • Im one of those guys whose opinion of Lincoln has taken major hits in the last few years. After all, we were all raised to believe he was by far the greatest of presidents! Yeah, I was a Ron Paul supporter… I guess that makes me a ‘crank’.

    The fact is Lincoln transformed what the Union meant. It went from a voluntary and free association between states, to a union kept together by the force and will of a centralized authority with its own interests.

    People love to quote Jefferson to brandish their love of liberty, but the fact is this is Lincoln’s land more than any president before or since him. He opened the door to using some mystical idea of “union” as the justification for an American brand of unquestionable executive power and disregard for our social contract – the Constitution.

    There were many possible outcomes to the tragic divisions between North and South. War and the damage it did to our culture and our liberty, did not have to be one of them.

    As to the comments about DiLorenzo and others less than thrilled with Lincoln – I find their analysis of the Lincoln Administration and its consequences to be much more intellectually robust and relevant to our current predicaments and political philosophies than the sentimental authority worship of Lincoln’s admirers.

    Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator. They just think he was a ‘good dictator’. Its unfortunate that not enough people recognize (or even care) how contrary to the American conception of liberty that is.

    Lincoln is the patron saint of both modern political parties more so than FDR or Reagan, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

  • “Yeah, I was a Ron Paul supporter… I guess that makes me a ‘crank’.”

    No, but it does mean that you supported a crank.

    http://michellemalkin.com/2007/05/19/trutheriness-and-ron-paul/

    “It went from a voluntary and free association between states, to a union kept together by the force and will of a centralized authority with its own interests.”

    Untrue. Sentiment in favor of keeping the Union together by force long pre-dated Lincoln.

    “The Constitution… forms a government not a league… To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation.” President Andrew Jackson. During the Nullification Crisis of 1832 Jackson proclaimed that he would march into South Carolina with an army if it seceded and hang every secessionist he could get his hands on.

    In February of 1850 President Zachary Taylor at a stormy conference with Southern Leaders advised them that if they attempted to secede he would personally lead the army against them and hang every one of them taken in rebellion.

    Lincoln’s attitude towards secession was precisely the same as those two presidents from the South.

    “As to the comments about DiLorenzo and others less than thrilled with Lincoln – I find their analysis of the Lincoln Administration and its consequences to be much more intellectually robust and relevant to our current predicaments and political philosophies than the sentimental authority worship of Lincoln’s admirers.”

    Then you need to read more. Dilorenzo is bone ignorant about Lincoln, the events that led up to the Civil War and the Civil War. He is truly a blind guide.

    “War and the damage it did to our culture and our liberty, did not have to be one of them.”

    Sure it did if we were not to be a pack of squabbling mini-Republics, easy pickings for foreign aggressors. Thank God the Union army and navy prevented that from happening.

    “Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    Name one. Lincoln was elected by popular vote twice, once in the midst of one of the greatest civil wars in history. It is nonsense to say that Lincoln was a dictator.

  • I sat in Barnes and Noble tonight reading one of DiLorenzo’s little pamphlets, and I actually felt bad for the guy. I guess he had a weekend to himself and he figured he’d write some kind of book about Lincoln, and ran out of material after about page ten, and then he had to start vamping. If I had attempted to write something as shoddy as that my advisor would have probably given up on me after the first draft.

    Listen, I am someone who is not exactly above writing negatively of American heroes. Thomas Jefferson is essentially the villain of my dissertation. But sometimes the consensus is right, and those who attempt revisionist history are wrong. And even if you are wrong, it would be nice to attempt something that actually had things like sources. You know, because then it wouldn’t make you out to look like some kind of joke.

  • “Untrue. Sentiment in favor of keeping the Union together by force long pre-dated Lincoln.”

    Sure it did. By people who admired and dreamed of grand central authority, but couldn’t bear to recognize its temptations towards tyranny- namely on the backs of those not politically connected or in the pockets of monied interests.

    The Constitution would not have been ratified had it been understood as Lincoln knew it. There’s a reason those Bill of Rights exist, and the south clearly understood itself to have a moral right to succeed if it so chose. The Constitution is silent on the issue. Its irrelevant what various people thought, because its right there in front of you in black and white. The Constitution was written in plain speak so that all could read it and understand. It does not require mystics in black robes or in white houses to tell us what it means.

    If you don’t like that, then change the document.

    “Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    “Name one. Lincoln was elected by popular vote twice, once in the midst of one of the greatest civil wars in history. It is nonsense to say that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    James G. Randall I think referred to him as a ‘benevolent dictator’. Michael Lind I think goes as far to admit that Lincoln’s example in following the Constitution set a bad precedent.

    In terms of Lincoln’s popular election…errr. aren’t there all sorts of irregular voting stories, particularly in New York, where he only won by less than 1%? Oh, and its a little disingenuous to claim that his political victories were something to be proud of, considering half the United States no longer saw itself in the union all the while he’s invading and destroying said half.

    Love Lincoln and his use of power all you want, I just don’t think its wise to deny the reality and consequences of his decisions.

  • Ever wish you could go back and spell ‘succeed’ , ‘secede’? Dang it! 🙂

  • Secede is a cumbersome word Anthony. I continually have difficulty with it since my brain wishes to spell it seceed. The Civil War spellings were all over the map so I take some small comfort in that.

    “By people who admired and dreamed of grand central authority, but couldn’t bear to recognize its temptations towards tyranny- namely on the backs of those not politically connected or in the pockets of monied interests.”

    Andrew Jackson in favor of the monied interests? Please! The man who destroyed the National Bank? No Anthony what we had at that time was a simple difference of opinion between those who wished to preserve the Union and those who wished to break it up, those who understood that the United States was one nation and those who thought that it was merely a breakable alliance. The Constitution was silent on the issue, as was the Confederate Constitution ironically enough, and the great question was answered on the battlefields of the Civil War.

    As to the right of secession, this from James Madison in 1833 who had a bit of knowledge about the Constitution:

    “The conduct of S. Carolina has called forth not only the question of nullification, but the more formidable one of secession. It is asked whether a State by resuming the sovereign form in which it entered the Union, may not of right withdraw from it at will. As this is a simple question whether a State, more than an individual, has a right to violate its engagements, it would seem that it might be safely left to answer itself. But the countenance given to the claim shows that it cannot be so lightly dismissed. The natural feelings which laudably attach the people composing a State, to its authority and importance, are at present too much excited by the unnatural feelings, with which they have been inspired agst their brethren of other States, not to expose them, to the danger of being misled into erroneous views of the nature of the Union and the interest they have in it. One thing at least seems to be too clear to be questioned, that whilst a State remains within the Union it cannot withdraw its citizens from the operation of the Constitution & laws of the Union. In the event of an actual secession without the Consent of the Co States, the course to be pursued by these involves questions painful in the discussion of them. God grant that the menacing appearances, which obtruded it may not be followed by positive occurrences requiring the more painful task of deciding them?”

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/James_Madison,_Letter_to_William_Rives

    I also find this statement on secession by Robert E. Lee compelling:

    “Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of out Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by a revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession, Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.”

    Robert E. Lee, from a letter written to his son, January 23, 1861

    “In terms of Lincoln’s popular election…errr. aren’t there all sorts of irregular voting stories, particularly in New York, where he only won by less than 1%?”

    Actually in 1860 Lincoln won New York by over 50,000 votes out of some 640,000 and some odd cast:

    http://www.etymonline.com/cw/1860.htm

    In 1864 Lincoln won New York by 0.92% but even if New York and its 33 electoral votes had been won by McClellan it wouldn’t have made any difference. Only 117 electoral votes were needed to win. Even if the states of the Confederacy had been included and given to McClellan it wouldn’t have made any difference. Without New York Lincoln still would have had more than the 152 electoral votes needed to win if the Confederate states were included in the electoral totals.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1864

  • Donna, I forgot to mention in my earlier post Vindicating Lincoln, a superb new book that came out last year which does a superb job of defending Lincoln from his detractors.

    http://www.amazon.com/Vindicating-Lincoln-Defending-Politics-President/dp/0742559726/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232281887&sr=8-1

  • The flood of books about Lincoln continues unabated. Here are thumbnail reviews of just a few of the recent books published about the sixteenth president.

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6581809.html

  • The Constitution is silent on the issue. Its irrelevant what various people thought, because its right there in front of you in black and white. The Constitution was written in plain speak so that all could read it and understand. It does not require mystics in black robes or in white houses to tell us what it means.

    On the one hand the Constitution is silent on the issue of secession, on the other it’s plainly in favor of it? But it’s irrelevant anyway? Whuh?

    Donald’s citation on Madison is on the money. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Madison was actually at the constitutional convention, and was one of the prime architects of the document. He completely opposed both secession and nullification, two tools trotted out at various times by both the north and south.

    A further problem with the confederate cause is that even if one admits the right of revolution, where exactly is the long train of abuses that would have justified it in the southern case. Every single development during the 1850s favored the south. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the harsher fugitive slave acts, and the Dred Scott decision all worked out in the South’s favor. I’m not even including the Lecompton Constitution in there, although I think you can throw that on the fire.

    The south seceded when something finally didn’t go there way, at that was the election of an anti-slavery Republican who nonetheless had no intention of interfering with slavery had the confederate states not seceded. Which is another problem with DiLorenzo’s theory. He spends a lot of time proving that Lincoln was not an abolitionist, which is one of the few things he gets right, but he ignores the fact that this actually hurts his case. If Lincoln had no intention of interfering with slavery – and he didn’t – why did the southern states so hastily secede. How can you prove a long train of abuses against a tyrant when he hasn’t even done anything to prove his tyranny?

  • Curious that so much scholarly opinion is given to rhetorical comments [“polemicist, rotten historian” etc etc].
    It does seem clear that Lincoln wished that “the Negro problem” would go away [to Liberia, or somewhere].
    Of greater interest, it seems to me, is the claim that he acted as a lawyer, chiefly in the interests of such capitalist enterprises as the railrods. And that he was for high tariffs to protect industrial companies.

    I am perplexed by the statement that he issued a warrant for the arrest of Roger Taney. I though warrants could only be issued by judges.

    And what of the complaints that he arrested some who opposed him, closed down newspapers, and the like.

    He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.

  • Curious that so much scholarly opinion is given to rhetorical comments

    We’re merely noting the inadequacy of a couple of the “scholars” cited as experts on Lincoln’s supposed

    It does seem clear that Lincoln wished that “the Negro problem” would go away [to Liberia, or somewhere].

    This was an idea that he had thrown out there – and it was one tossed around by earlier American statesman – but one which he had abandoned well before he was assassinated. By the time the war was winding down, Lincoln was committed to granting civil rights to free slaves. In fact his last public speech made reference to this fact, and that just helped to further antagonize John Wilkes Booth. So yes, Lincoln once thought about sending freed slaves to Liberia, but no, this was not the policy he was pursuing at the conclusion of the war.

    I am perplexed by the statement that he issued a warrant for the arrest of Roger Taney.

    There is no evidence that Lincoln actually did this.

    And what of the complaints that he arrested some who opposed him, closed down newspapers, and the like.

    America was engaged in a civil war. Considering that fact, Lincoln was actually rather lax in prosecuting people for speaking out against the government. He tended to show leniency towards people brought up on such charges, but it is true that he suspended habeas corpus – and Congress later backed him up on this decision.

    He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.

    The confederacy seemed not to have been upset about instigating a needless war based upon absolutely no justification. That Lincoln’s generals did everything in their power to bring the war to a close is to their credit, not discredit.

  • end of the first sentence above should read “supposed faults.”

  • “On the one hand the Constitution is silent on the issue of secession, on the other it’s plainly in favor of it? But it’s irrelevant anyway? Whuh?”

    If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment. If the Constitution was permanently binding, don’t you think that would be a point the framers would insist upon being actually in the document? Or maybe creating an amendment about?

    Again, quoting the opinions of others, whether Lee or Madison or whomever does not change the fact that to this day the Constitution makes no statement for or against secession.

    Frankly it would seem to me the threat of secession should always be present as a hard check against an overstepping Federal government – which we now have in spades.

    Winning a war doesn’t settle the intellectual question, it just means you won a war. Might does not make right. The Southern states, despite their deep and obvious faults, did have a natural right to their own self determination, in the same way the United States did from Britain.

    Was it a rebellion/revolution? Yes, but I would reiterate that it did not have to turn so tragically violent.

    Had the south been allowed to peacefully secede, who knows what steps could have also been taken towards a peaceful reconciliation? Who knows what could have been done to peacefully abolish slavery? Or bring the south further into the industrial revolution? Or avoid the Spanish-American war?

    It might be pointless to consider these things past, but it ought to give us strong pause when considering the ever increasing amount of moral, political and financial issues that currently divide the nation. It certainly seems difficult to imagine these problems reaching genuine resolution in D.C.

    (Note to Don: my reference to monied interests was more with Hamilton’s intellectual children in mind. I’m aware of Jackson’s opposition to the bank, and agree with his ending the bank’s charter. I’d like to see the same happen to the Fed. Fat chance, though.)

  • “He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.”

    Total war? There were no mass executions of the Southern population, no liquidation of the Southern leadership class. Crimes committed against Southerners such as rape or murder were rigorously prosecuted by the Union army, as the Union soldiers executed for those offenses could attest. Sherman’s “bummers” on the march to the sea did destroy private property and were guilty of a fair amount of looting, but I do not recall any Union commander demanding ransom of a city and then burning it when the ransom was not paid as Conderate commanders did to Chambersburg Pennsylvania on July 30, 1864. I also do not recall Union commanders detaining free blacks and selling them into slavery, something that Confederate armies did routinely when they encountered blacks in Union territory. I will not spend time to detail the many depredations of Quantrill’s Raiders. If someone is going to condemn the Union for waging Total War, there is a counter-argument as to the Confederates.

    Of course all of this is so beside the point. The big lesson for this nation from our bloody Civil War is that we are one nation. The Union soldier, the Confederate soldier, the enslaved black field hand: all one nation. When I read Civil War history I read it as the history of my nation and my fellow Americans, whether I am reading about the Union, the Confederacy or the enslaved blacks. We paid a terrible price to learn the great truth that we are one people, and it should never be forgotten.

  • If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment.

    Complete and utter balderdash.

    We have to consider the context of the Constitution. It was established in order to strengthen the federal government (a fact often under-appreciated by conservatives). The Framers were vexed by the complete inability of the Articles of Confederation to achieve much of anything. The new Constitution was designed to give the federal government greater powers – though also to narrowly tailor said powers (a fact completely unappreciated by liberals). It would have made no sense to grant a right of secession given that context.

    Again, quoting the opinions of others, whether Lee or Madison or whomever does not change the fact that to this day the Constitution makes no statement for or against secession.

    So now the thoughts of the people who actually framed the document are irrelevant?

    Winning a war doesn’t settle the intellectual question, it just means you won a war. Might does not make right.

    No, but having the Constitution on your side does. Again, you provided absolutely no justification for the confederacy’s rebellion – no long train of abuses that justified secession. What exactly would have been the grand compromise that would have kept the south in the Union absent the war? Considering that the Confederate states largely seceded before Lincoln even took office, I’m not exactly sure what he was supposed to have done, other than not take office. Considering the fact that southern Democrats split off from the main party after Douglas was nominated in 1860, I’m not exactly sure who they would have accepted.

    So pardon me if thinking that not liking the results of a single presidential election are not sufficient justification for secession. Otherwise, I guess Texas and several sister states can start making their exits from the Union right now.

  • “If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment.”

    No, the right would have to exist in the first place for it to come under the 10th amendment. The 10th amendment cannot be used to create a right to secede ex nihilo. Every part of the constitution presumes that it will be a perpetual charter. Article I section 10 has this striking provision: “Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation;”. If a state could withdraw from the Union why have them specifically banned from entering into any treaty, alliance or confederation? Section 10 further bans the states from ” enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” Once again if the constitution presupposed a right to secession why ban the states from entering into compacts or agreements with other states? The Constitution has several such provisions which make no sense if a right to secede is presupposed. Of course this all comes down to the fundamental question of what happened when the Constition was adopted. Was a new nation created or was a mere temporary alliance entered into? This was the question decided by the Civil War.

  • This was the question decided by the Civil War.

    Okay, you’re explanation was much better than mine, but I just want you to clarify this sentence. Are you saying that the war settled what was a disputed question, or it just demonstrated what was basically an essential truth of our national existence?

  • Ugh, that’s your explanation. I hate doing that.

  • Both Cranky. The question was clearly disputed by a majority of whites in the seceding states at the time of the Civil War, although it is interesting how slender that majority was in certain states, for example Tennessee and Virginia. Once these states withdrew, or rather attempted to withdraw, from the Union, all the legal arguments in the world were not going to bring them back. That required a massive military effort and an appalling death toll. That the Union was willing to pay that price established that we had indeed created a nation under the Constitution and not a mere temporary alliance. In theory I think we had a nation prior to the Civil War, but the Civil War proved that we also had a nation in fact. If the Civil War had went the other way, the theory would have been tried and found wanting.

    I greatly appreciate your able assist in this thread, just as I also appreciate Anthony’s opposing view and that of Mr. Austin. It has been a lively, and civil, debate. Just what I like to see on this blog.

  • Ditto, Donald. I appreciate Anthony and others’ feedback. I love this stuff.

  • The 10th Amendment expressly gives rights not delegated to the United States to either the individual states, or the individual.

    Thats what it says, in plain speak. Its really that simple. End of story.

    So yes, it IS irrelevant what those framers thought beyond what actually ended up in the contract the states signed up for, particularly when you have a statement so unambiguous as the 10th amendment. Thoughts and opinions made after the fact are just that- thoughts and opinions.

    Under that understanding… would the south require grievances against the north? They certainly didn’t like the political winds the country was taking. And, like their Revolution-era counterparts, did have issue with the tariffs on cotton exports, pushing upwards the cost of goods. Did not the tariff’s place undue taxation upon the south to the benefit of the north’s political classes?

    Indeed while Lincoln was at first ambivalent on the issue of slavery, he was insistent on collecting tariffs.

    The south, like the 13 colonies, no longer desired to be dominated by the coercive central power of the United States. The north, conversely, would not have justification because they were attempting to IMPOSE their domination which by that point was officially rejected by the south. And thanks to ‘total war’ and their arbitrary conception of political ‘union’, impose their domination they did.

    I never said a compromise could have been reached – just a reconciliation. A peaceful separation would not have eliminated the undoubtedly close trade relationship would have had. Over time slavery in the south, like the rest of the world, would have been done away with; if not for moral reasons then for industrial ones. With these issues fading away over time, it would not have been surprising to see the two sides reunite willingly.

    The slaughter of the Civil War simply did not have to happen.

  • “If a state could withdraw from the Union why have them specifically banned from entering into any treaty, alliance or confederation? ”

    Was not one major reason for the federal government’s creation specifically for diplomatic relationships with foreign powers? What about that suddenly eliminates the right/possibility for a self-determined state to dissolve political union with the U.S. and then establish relationships with other nations?

    You’re making a presumption that is simply not answered in the text of the Constitution. The states willingly entered into a contract whose provisions delegated the job of foreign diplomacy to a central authority. Turning that into a backdoor way of negating an unmentioned right to secession makes no sense.

    The United States was, and ought to be, a perpetually voluntary union of willing states, not a geographical space with 50 meaningless borders chained together by force and coercion.

  • “The 10th Amendment expressly gives rights not delegated to the United States to either the individual states, or the individual.

    Thats what it says, in plain speak. Its really that simple. End of story.”

    The right to secede had to exist first Anthony. The 10th Amendment could not create such a right. It created no new rights. End of story.

    “Indeed while Lincoln was at first ambivalent on the issue of slavery, he was insistent on collecting tariffs.”

    Actually Anthony that is the most laughable part of DiLorenzo’s argument: that the war was fought so Lincoln could collect tariffs. Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation, something that the South rejected. Either compensated emancipation or the cost of the war far dwarfed the revenue received from the tariffs.

    ” The south, like the 13 colonies, no longer desired to be dominated by the coercive central power of the United States.”

    In other words they lost an election and they wanted to destroy the nation as a result. How long do you think it would have been, if the South had prevailed in the Civil War, before disgruntled states in the Confederacy would have sought a similar remedy when they were on the losing end of a hotly contested national election over some major question of the day? Once allow secession as a remedy, it will not be used only once. That no democracy or republic can long endure if portions may withdraw at will is self-evident.

    “Over time slavery in the south, like the rest of the world, would have been done away with; if not for moral reasons then for industrial ones.”

    Indeed? The Southern leadership showed no such inclination. Here is Alexander Stephens vice president of the Confederacy:

    “But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other —though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

    Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind—from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”

    The idea that the South would have peacefully abolished slavery flies in the face of the statements of almost all of the leaders of the South at the time of the Civil War. The treatment of blacks as fifth class citizens in much of the South after reconstruction, a state of affairs that endured shamefully for almost a century, belies any inclination towards emancipation without outside interference.

    “The slaughter of the Civil War simply did not have to happen.”

    Yes if either the Union was to be preserved or the slaves were to be freed. A terrible price was paid to accomplish these goals, but it was well worth paying.

  • “The right to secede had to exist first Anthony. The 10th Amendment could not create such a right. It created no new rights. End of story.”

    Says who? You’re trying to say that an amendment specifically dealing with powers not mentioned in the Constitution must first have those powers mentioned in the Consitution? Wha-?

    The right to self determination (and logically, secession) does exist. It exists naturally. As natural as living, being a free human person and pursuing happiness. It would be contrary to any sincere belief in human liberty to require something as mediocre as a political entity to recognize something that simply is.

    “Actually Anthony that is the most laughable part of DiLorenzo’s argument: that the war was fought so Lincoln could collect tariffs. Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation, something that the South rejected. Either compensated emancipation or the cost of the war far dwarfed the revenue received from the tariffs.”

    Two points. One, is it wrong to consider the economic contributions to the conflict between north and south? Slavery was an immoral institution. It was also an economic one. Its not surprising that matters of tariffs and taxation would be of great concern both to the southern states and Lincoln’s central government.

    Regarding compensated emancipation. This certainly would have been a moral way out of the Civil War, especially considering other parts of the world did it. Heck, I’m all for it. But, how genuinely did Lincoln pursue this course? The idea only got as far as border states (like Delaware), and didn’t he toy with it around 1861-1862 when the war was a.) already in full swing and b.) going badly for the Union? Seems more like a tactic for war, than a grand vision. Plus, weren’t ex-slaves to be deported in the proposal? What a great ‘solution’ for all parties.

    “Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.”

    Lincoln’s words to the border states. Awesome.

    If Lincoln were the masterful leader we are supposed to believe he is, why did he not insist on this course of action and use his considerable political skills ( manipulating, etc.) to persuade?

    And yes, slavery in the south likely would have gone away in time, persistent racism on the part of the Confederate leadership (who I believe added slavery to their Constitution. See, nobody gets away scott-free). Why you ask? Because the rest of the entire world did it. Are we really to believe that there would have been zero pressure from other countries to do away with it? Zero pressure from their trading partners? Or that rising levels of production would have made it cheaper to simply not own slaves? That the south would have gloried in being the single abysmal slave-holding nation in the world? Or that, heaven forbid, the racism would have naturally subsided as opposed to the resentment generated by a humiliating military defeat?

    We’ll never know, because force was chosen. Emancipation cost over 600,000 American lives. What an undeniable horror that should never be glossed over by artful historical narratives.

  • “Says who? You’re trying to say that an amendment specifically dealing with powers not mentioned in the Constitution must first have those powers mentioned in the Consitution? Wha-?”

    No Anthony, what I am saying is that the 10th Amendment created no new rights by its very text. It was a statement that the states and the people retained the rights they had unless delegated to Congress. You are attempting to bootstrap this into a creation of a right of secession which it did not. The 10th Amendment presents an additional obstacle to you. If the people had a right to secession, which people? The people of the state or states attempting to secede, or to all of the American people to say yay or nay to secession? If to the states, each individual state or to all the states of the Union to say yay or nay to secession?

    “The right to self determination (and logically, secession) does exist. It exists naturally.”

    Completely untrue as any study of human history will establish beyond question. There is nothing natural about free institutions. They have been established at great cost in human blood and are maintained in the same coin. Your belief would lead to chaos in any free state after any hotly contested election where great issues are at stake. Actually taken to its logical extreme it is the philosophy of the head cases who occasionally show up in court and announce they have seceded from the Union and are not subject to “mere code law”.

    “Why you ask? Because the rest of the entire world did it.”

    Actually the rest of the world did not. Slavery persisted in the Arab world until it was driven under ground by the European powers before and after World War I. In the Soviet Union, the Third Reich and Imperial Japan slavery was practised on an unprecedented scale and probably still would be but for the defeat of the Axis in World War II and the victory of the US in the Cold War. Slavery still exists under another name in Chinese labor camps where the inmates are state slaves in all but name. Slavery is an institution that existed throughout all of human history, and I would wager that the World will never see the complete end of it. The idea that there was anything inevitable about the end of slavery in a victorious Confederacy is merely wishful speculation on your part. The defeat of the Confederacy was a major nail in the coffin of slavery in the Western world. A Confederate victory might have given slavery a new lease on life. Fortunately we will never know.

  • “No Anthony, what I am saying is that the 10th Amendment created no new rights by its very text.”

    Don’t agree.

    Obviously the text does not specify or call out the ‘right’… but it does deal with things unsaid, and together with the 9th amendment acknowledges the existence of ‘other’ rights and powers that by their absence in the document are reserved for the states and the people. The state need only declare it, as the southern states did.

    I do believe that the principles of liberty upon which the revolution rested are indeed natural. That does not mean they are never fought for or that they come at no cost. If liberty is not man’s natural right or his natural state, then is tyranny and subjection? That to me is the actual distortion of our lives and societies.

    Your observation regarding chaos is interesting. I’m not convinced man needs the ‘state’; certainly not in the way Lincoln saw it – complete with monolithic entities, quasi-religious reverence and headed by some mysterious power that gets to interpret our rights and liberties as they see fit. It undercuts, corrupts and waters down any adherence to private property rights, sound money, etc.

    Without this form of ‘state’ I’m also not convinced ‘chaos’ would result as you say. Human beings are naturally organizing and naturally cooperative for each others benefit in all areas requisite for their prosperity. Why is it so difficult to allow these things to develop naturally without creating unproductive and parasitic bodies (central government) that try to organize our society according to its interests, sometimes hundreds if not thousands of miles away? So yeah, I’m a bit open-minded towards what’s sometimes referred to as anarcho-capitalsim. Do I think it will ever happen? Not really. People tend to talk about liberty, but rarely do they seem to believe it can work.

    “Actually the rest of the world did not.”

    Yes, yes forms of slavery exist even today. But within the 19th century both the British and Spanish empires (who exported it to the Americas) ended the practice. So we’re talking Argentina, Colombia, Chile, all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, the French and Danish colonies, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. All peacefully.

    You’re in essence arguing that ending slavery in the United States (and by extension the western world) required war and all its horrors; that there was no smarter way to navigate the times which did not involve human slaughter. That seems more like emotional sentiment than reality to me.

    I simply don’t believe that the Civil War is some kind of divine tragic event that could not have been avoided. Instead, like nearly all wars it was the result of hubris, political blunders or just plain stupidity. I look at these events and have a difficult time finding things to admire.

  • ” The state need only declare it, as the southern states did.”

    Untrue Anthony. They would have the burden of proof in establishing that such a right existed.

    I find Lincoln’s arguments on the subject in his war address to Congress on July 4, 1861 compelling:

    “It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They know their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

    With rebellion thus sugar coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

    This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State — to each State of out Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution — no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas in its temporary independence was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies” were declared to be “free and independent States;” but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterward, abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty” of the States, but the word even is not in the national Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty” in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “a political community without a political superior?” Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.”

    http://facweb.furman.edu/~benson/docs/lincoln.htm

    “I’m not convinced man needs the ’state’;”

    There we have a clear philosophical difference between us. I think overweening government is clearly a problem, but men, not being angels as the Founding Fathers dryly observed, need government. Representing hundreds of clients accused of felonies over the years, I know quite well what many men and women are capable of when left to their own devices. I actually have some sympathy for libertarian utopias which have been conjured up in science fiction I have read. I agree with you that their being realized outside of the pages of fiction are unlikely.

    “You’re in essence arguing that ending slavery in the United States (and by extension the western world) required war and all its horrors; that there was no smarter way to navigate the times which did not involve human slaughter.”

    There is always a smarter way Anthony and you have no quarrel with me on that score. However whether such a way was possible has to be determined by a close examination of the historical record and weighing the likelihood of what would have occurred if a different path were taken. I find the whole idea of counter-factual history fascinating, as long as we distinguish between the likely and the fanciful alternates of the historical path we actually trod.

    ” I look at these events and have a difficult time finding things to admire.”

    The Civil War was a great tragedy Anthony but I find much to admire in it. I admire the Unionists for fighting successfully to preserve the Union. I admire the Confederates for fighting valiantly against impossible odds for their homes and a way of life that was precious to them. I admire the slaves for their role in achieving the freedom that was their denied birthright as our fellow Americans. I admire the nation as a whole for going through such a terrible trial without giving birth to such animosities that there would still be constant turmoil, hatred and blood today. Many nations, perhaps most, that go through such a bloodletting as our country went through in the 1860s engender a legacy of hate that remains a permanent part of their national character. Through the grace of God and the good sense of many Americans, north and south, black and white, we did not.

  • “Untrue Anthony. They would have the burden of proof in establishing that such a right existed.”

    [Lincoln:] “Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.”

    ****

    And there lay the entire problem I have with the argument, which is entirely based on reading between the lines and toying with historical context, as opposed to simply reading the plain language of the document itself.

    The states declared their existence prior to the creation of the Union, then consented to the creation of the federal government.

    Additionally, the federal government itself treated the states as foreign entities until they consented to the Constitution. Both Rhode Island and North Carolina didn’t consent to the document until after Washington was installed in office!

    It would be unfair to each generation that came afterwards, to burden them not only with the document itself, but a host of un-ratified opinion and ‘spirit’ meant to be taken as true meaning. You only need look at what that same attitude has done to the Constitution in other areas.

    It terms of burden of proof, did the founders have to prove that they required air to breathe in order to have access to a right to life? The south determined that political independence was required to obtain access to their natural right of liberty, a right expressly and implicitly recognized by the founding documents.

    I agree that the question that dogged the union up to the Civil War is settled. But it was settled by force of might and will, not by force of argument or truth. While there is no detailed mechanism or procedure for secession, we still have the Constitution’s silence and the principles of liberty that brought about the revolution.

    ****

    “I actually have some sympathy for libertarian utopias which have been conjured up in science fiction I have read.”

    ****

    The thing is I think its more utopian to believe things are better, or ‘fixed’, under the shadow of a federal government. Would a stateless world give us a utopia? No, far from it. But it would allow us to create a moral one based upon contract. Like I said before, human beings naturally organize. Not having a state does not eliminate the creation of contracts and private organizations dedicated to people’s physical protection or settling disputes. The state has its own interests, namely increasing its power, influence and control of resources.

    This brings to mind the question of what a ‘more perfect union’ even means. Its been taken my most I think to mean a strengthening of the legal bonds between us. But whose to say stronger is ‘more perfect’, to say nothing of being moral? Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union? We should be answering these questions with a mind towards our principles of life, liberty and property/happiness, not in favor of our political desires or ambitions.

  • “as opposed to simply reading the plain language of the document itself.”

    The meaning of a document is usually plain Anthony to the person reading it. The problem is that the plain meaning of a document often tends to differ from person to person. The truth of course is that the Constitution, including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, is utterly silent as to any right to secession, so reference is automatically made to outside sources to determine what this silence means in reference to secession.

    In regard to Lincoln his contention is that the states did not declare their independence separately but as a Union, as is clearly indicated in the Declaration of Independence. The Union existed from the inception of the Country and predated the Constitution. If the founders intended that a right to secede from the Union under the new Constitution, wouldn’t they have specified the right in the actual text?

    Lincoln’s statement is persuasive to me also on the strange desire on the part of secessionists to exalt one level of government, the states, over the Union. Why? Well obviously because they could not persuade a majority of the citizens of the Union that they, and the states they controlled, should be allowed to withdraw from the Union. This is especially strange since all but the 13 original colonies are clearly creatures of the Union, created by the Federal government pursuant to the powers granted by the Constitution. How these creatures of the Federal government had any right to secession has always been a weakness in the secessionist argument, and Lincoln put his finger on that weakness.

    “It would be unfair to each generation that came afterwards, to burden them not only with the document itself, but a host of un-ratified opinion and ’spirit’ meant to be taken as true meaning.”

    Sola Constitution Anthony works as poorly as Sola Scriptura. Both end in chaos because people simply do not agree on “the plain meaning of the text” when great issues are involved and/or the text itself is ambiguous, or does not clearly deal with an issue that arises.

    “No, far from it. But it would allow us to create a moral one based upon contract.”

    What happens when one party claims the contract is breached? Who would enforce the contract? What if a decision regarding a breach is rendered by a third party and the party held to be in breach refuses to be bound the decision? A regime of contracts always needs a governmental authority to enforce the terms of the contract.

    “Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union?”

    Articles of Confederation. Been there, done that. Didn’t work.

  • Anthony,

    “Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union?”

    To a limited extent, I think that may be the case. Many current problems stem from domination of the states by the federal government. This was significantly enhanced by the 17th amendment which took the power of controlling the senate away from the states, and the 16th amendment which gave the federal government enormous sources of revenue. This combination allowed the feds to invade state areas of authority without restriction by the senate. The states generally could opt out of these “offerings” but the citizens would still be taxed to provide for all of the other states. Restoring the balance of power to some extent would allow states to be diverse and give citizens options. If you don’t like the environment in your state, move to one which is more to your liking. At the same time, this mobility would force states to adopt the best practices or become depopulated.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • “The Union existed from the inception of the Country and predated the Constitution. If the founders intended that a right to secede from the Union under the new Constitution, wouldn’t they have specified the right in the actual text?”

    Conversely why did they not comment at all? Obviously the question would have arisen, and the threat of break-off was always present. If the concept of Union was to be understood as permanently binding, then why not give us SOME kind of starting place, up or down, on the matter? Why leave it to be inferred or left to court cases as opposed to a clarifying amendment?

    Lets also not forget that the phrase “United States” was originally understood as plural. Its only now, post-Civil War that a new common, singular understanding came into use.

    To say that the road to union only goes one way and not the other is still a valid question. All parts of the U.S., north and south have played with the idea over time. Would it not be easy to understand that the Constitution is silent because those entering the contract wanted that possible power reserved to their local governments?

    “Sola Constitution Anthony works as poorly as Sola Scriptura.”

    Hmmmm…but Scripture and the Constitution are not the same thing. Scripture, taken as a whole body is not limited to contracts (though it contains ‘covenants’) the Constitution on the other hand, is nothing more than a contract. It’s not built to make any kind of expression other than being a document of willing and ratified consent.

    “A regime of contracts always needs a governmental authority to enforce the terms of the contract.”

    How so? Thats a genuine question I have. What role does government play that cannot be played by private entity? Or even in a competitive market? Why can’t dispute-settling or other forms of ‘justice’ be handled entirely in private?

    And if we agreed that government is necessary, or simply preferred for this role… whose to say it must be federalized? Why not try to keep it as local as possible, even in the extreme? I would think the whole of the nation would benefit from conflicts, even grave ones, being as geographically contained as possible.

    “Articles of Confederation. Been there, done that. Didn’t work.”

    Well, I’m not going to defend the Articles, simply because of my own ignorance of them. Though I do occasionally come across people who like to discuss the Articles.

    To say it simply ‘didn’t work’ begs the philosophical question. Some saw it ‘not working’ as a good thing. Why not create a government that has immense difficulty taking action as a way to preserve liberty? The trend now seems to be more and more in favor of dictatorial executives complimented by a willing Congress with little to no responsibility.

  • The discussion has certainly wandered all over the place.
    That about whether the states preceded the union seems to me obvious from the fact that they were generally treated separately by Britain.
    It is certainly true that the Articles were not effective. The question is whether the Union [as created by the Constitution] was much better. [I note an occasional inclination to confuse the Declaration with the Constitution].
    Another question is simply whether the War was worth the result. The conditions of service in the Union army were not particularly democratic; O.W. Holmes could, in disgust, buy his way out of service. This, it seems to me, explains his cynical attitude towards law and the Constitution [It is what I say it is”].
    As to the status of blacks in the Union after the War, one aspect of the subject is covered in horrifying detail in SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME. One recalls that it was only Truman who integrated the armed forces by presidential fiat. There is much truth in the anecdote that after the Civil War, when one black [negro, colored] was asked why the blacks did not quickly join the Union army to gain freedom, he replied “Did you ever see two dogs fight over a bone? Did you ever see the bone fight?”.
    One aspect not touched upon is Lincoln’s work for the railroads. This is mentioned by Mr. DiLorenzo. Merely to call him names is not an adequate response.

  • “What role does government play that cannot be played by private entity? Or even in a competitive market? Why can’t dispute-settling or other forms of ‘justice’ be handled entirely in private?”

    Because a private entity cannot utilize force to enforce its judgments. If you are ever involved in a lawsuit against a party and obtain a judgment you will quickly learn how difficult it is to enforce the judgment even with the full power of government behind it. Of course this does not even touch on the necessity of government to enforce criminal law or to provide for a military so good libertarians may blog in safety.

    “It’s not built to make any kind of expression other than being a document of willing and ratified consent.”

    The Constitution must be interpreted as any other document is. The phrase “the document speaks for itself” is usually uttered in court by parties just before they go at it hammer and tongs to convince a judge that their interpretation of a passage in a document is the correct one.

    “Conversely why did they not comment at all?”
    Because they understood that no government will provide for its dissolution. The Constitution indicates how states may enter the Union. It speaks not a word about how a state may leave the Union. I find that compelling.

    “Some saw it ‘not working’ as a good thing.”

    Very few. Even most of the anti-federalists who opposed the Constitution admitted that the Articles produced a completely ineffectual federal government.

  • “That about whether the states preceded the union seems to me obvious from the fact that they were generally treated separately by Britain.”

    Colonies existed prior to the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration transformed them into states composing the United States of America. The Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War was negotiated between the United States and Great Britain not between Great Britain and the 13 individual states.

    “One aspect not touched upon is Lincoln’s work for the railroads.”

    Yes. The Illinois Central Railroad. In his most important railroad case, he won a property tax case for them in McLean County which is the county to the southwest of my home county here in Illinois. Lincoln had to sue the railroad in order to collect his fee. Lincoln in his legal career argued cases both for railroads and for people suing railroads. Contra Mr. DiLorenza, Mr. Lincoln’s railroad representation had no impact on his conduct of the Civil War other than perhaps sharpening his appreciation of the importance of railroads for conducting military operations.

    “O.W. Holmes could, in disgust, buy his way out of service.”

    What in the world are you talking about? In the Union, as in the Confederacy, rich men could avoid service by hiring substitutes, which I agree was bad policy. However Holmes served for three years as a combat officer, almost dying of his wounds at Antietam, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and only went home after his three year term of enlistment expired in 1864. He did not buy his way out of the Army, and was always proud of his military service.

    “As to the status of blacks in the Union after the War, one aspect of the subject is covered in horrifying detail in SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME.”

    Blacks were treated shamefully after the Civil War, but they were infinitely better off as free men than as chattel, as I am sure you would agree if you had ever been a slave.

    Blacks did quickly join the Union army once they were allowed to. 186,000 served and not a one was conscripted: they were all volunteers. Except for limitations placed on the number of black troops to be enlisted, the Union could have raised many more.

  • “Because a private entity cannot utilize force to enforce its judgments.”

    Says who? I never said anything about getting rid of ‘force’. We have all sorts of private security forces that in essence protect property, investigate problems and enforce the policies of their employer. Your argument in essence is “Hey, enforcing justice is hard work!”. Well, I’m certainly not arguing with that!

    “Of course this does not even touch on the necessity of government to enforce criminal law or to provide for a military so good libertarians may blog in safety.”

    Aww now c’mon. Leaning libertarian doesn’t make one ‘weak’ or limp-wristed. The physical protection of liberty is essential to any free country. But, my issue is with the conduct of that protection. Today it easily slips into militarism pointed in the direction of political interests. Thats hardly a just use of force, to say nothing of how its deployment was intended to occur under the Constitution.

    To bring it back to Lincoln – he opened the door for all of this crap with this political maneuvering and war conduct. What we are dealing with now are the predictable consequences.

    You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness, only that he made long-winded justifications for a political union superior to all other concerns.

  • You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness,

    Thus far you have made no compelling arguments at all that Lincoln was a tyrant – which is your original supposition. You have failed in any of your comments to address the inadequacy of the confederacy’s cause, in particular the lack of a “long train of abuses” that would have justified rebellion. You have made many “long-winded” “arguments” about the ninth and tenth amendments, none of which have demonstrated that secession is in fact constitutional.

  • “We have all sorts of private security forces that in essence protect property, investigate problems and enforce the policies of their employer.”

    Nope they perform their functions under law. They would have no authority to perform anything against the will of anyone, as numerous successful lawsuits against many rent-a-cop outfits attest. The idea that they could take the place of government is risible.

    “The physical protection of liberty is essential to any free country.”

    And that requires government. Even the militia of the eighteenth century were a product of the civil authority. Libertarianism always breaks down when a few seconds thought is given to enforcement of criminal law and defense. Private associations can’t carry out those functions.

    “To bring it back to Lincoln – he opened the door for all of this crap with this political maneuvering and war conduct. ”

    Nope. The secessionists of the South panicked after losing one election and gambled that Lincoln and the rest of the Union would prefer to let them go rather than respond to their firing on Fort Sumter. They gambled poorly.

    “You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness”

    Yes I am Anthony. The preservation of the Union and the ending of slavery were vastly important accomplishments for the United States and accomplished with great skill by Lincoln. That you do not agree diminishes not a whit the greatness of Abraham Lincoln.

  • “Thus far you have made no compelling arguments at all that Lincoln was a tyrant – which is your original supposition.”

    “The preservation of the Union and the ending of slavery were vastly important accomplishments for the United States and accomplished with great skill by Lincoln. ”

    Lincoln’s brand of tyranny lay in his insistence upon a superior union and a total disregard of the Constitution throughout the war. His allowing ‘total war’, his nationalization of the money supply, his efforts in censorship, suspension of habeas corpus and confiscation of property are closer to the characteristics of a tyrant than a defender of freedom. His own views on race and rhetorical willingness to retain the institution of slavery to preserve union, reveal him to be much more a product of his time than a man worthy of the ages. His disingenuous and arbitrary reading of the Constitution’s spirit as opposed to its letter reveal an agenda to preserve a political system rather human liberty. All of these would seem to me gashes against his presidency.

    “Yes I am Anthony.”

    Er… and where would that be? Against what truth? What philosophy or criteria are we using?

    You both Don, you seem to like central government. Of course you like Lincoln! If you, like myself and Mr. DiLorenzo, are deeply skeptical of central government’s virtues, then is it really surprising that we would look upon Lincoln with less than admiration?

    People tend to see greatness in figures who find ways to impose their will over others and actually get away with it. Its admiration and worship of power wrapped in poetry, bloated self righteousness and at times force of arms, nothing more. Liberty and independence be damned in the face of strength of force and authority.

    The near Lincoln-worship in the country says more about our view of power, victory and success than it does about our concern for freedom and liberty.

    We now live our lives with a dominant federal government feeding off the labor of its citizens and smaller states all thanks in one way or another to Lincoln’s actions. Sure, the union was preserved and slavery was finally, yet violently, abolished. But was that worth over half a million lives, massive economic set backs and a set of new precedents that completely reversed much of our understanding of national self? Was this indeed the moral means to a moral end?

    I’m unsure of the answer… but I know that Lincoln admirers, civil war buffs and lovers of power don’t hesitate to say yes, and I find that a bit unnerving on a purely human level. I guess our history does begin in 1865 as opposed to 1776.

    At this point I’m going to exit the debate, as I’ve been in enough internet flame wars to know they can go on perpetually. You’re more than welcome to the final word. I’ve enjoyed reading the disagreeing posts and do think both of you brought up many good and interesting points, even the ones I heartily disagree with.

    Perhaps we will find ourselves on the same side of a debate some other time. We are Catholic after all!

  • “Lincoln’s brand of tyranny lay in his insistence upon a superior union and a total disregard of the Constitution throughout the war.”
    That charge is often hurled by Lincoln detractors Anthony, but it simply isn’t true. Everything that Lincoln did he received Congressional authorization to do, either before of after the fact. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed abolishing slavery. The courts continued to function during his term and he was scrupulous in obeying their judgments. The people of course gave their verdict on Lincoln in 1864. Lincoln honored the Constitution and he was not going to allow the Union it oversaw to be destroyed. That he was successful is what truly irks most of his critics.

    ” you seem to like central government”

    Actually my political philosophy, that of a conservative republican, emphasizes the role of the states in our federal union. However, I do love the Union and I honor Mr. Lincoln for leading the successful fight to preserve it. Latter-day critics who paint Lincoln as some sort of early version of FDR are as wrong-headed as their historical analysis is poor. The expansion of the size of the federal government was purely a function of the war and faded away after the war was won and the Union preserved.

    “But was that worth over half a million lives, massive economic set backs and a set of new precedents that completely reversed much of our understanding of national self?”

    Worth half a million lives? Most certainly yes. The rest of your contentions I disagree with on a factual basis.

    “Perhaps we will find ourselves on the same side of a debate some other time.”

    Hope springs eternal Anthony. I have enjoyed our discussion.

  • You both Don, you seem to like central government.

    You obviously are not very perceptive if you think either Don or I are big proponents of centralized government. We’re just not fans of no government at all.

  • The discussion seems to be winding down, It has been a good discussion. I amnow clearer in my mind about Lincoln’s attitude to slavery and to blacks.

    That which will never be decided is the question of whether the Union was worth the effort, and whether Lincoln had the authority on his own bat to determine that the Union must be preserved at all costs. Did it not come from “Jimmy Polk’s war’ [against Mexico] and did it not lead to various military adventures in the Phillipines, Cuba, Hawaii, Venezuela, and again Mexico?

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No War Crimes Trials

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

In the comments on a post on another blog, I was challenged with the following question, which while fringy in origin strikes me as being the sort of thing which requires a post-length answer if it’s going to be answered at all. (I’ve put together the content of a couple comments in the following summation.)

Given the statement by president-elect Obama’s incoming Attorney General that waterboarding is torture, shouldn’t one want to see “everyone in the Bush administration who authorized torture” sent to the Hague to stand trail for war crimes?

My short answer is, “No.” And I think there are a number of interesting reasons for saying this.

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16 Responses to No War Crimes Trials

  • Just because something is wrong does not necessarily mean that one must prosecute it as a crime — something I think applies at all levels of society.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb. Aside from the other disgusting, glaring moral mistakes you make in this post from a Catholic point of view, this is perhaps the most severe and transparently demonstrates your double-standards and obvious non-commitment to anything remotely resembling a “pro-life” position.

    I dunno… hard to say which is the most severe. That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    We have never yet reached a point where a presidential administration has turned around and prosecuted key members of its predescessor. To move in that direction would, I think, signal a very bad turn for our country.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    f anyone thinks this analysis is overly partisan, seeing as I am a Bush supporter (given the alternatives), ask yourself: Why is it that the incoming administration shows absolutely no interest in prosecuting the Bush administration?

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here

    Actually, no. Pro-choice advocates generally insist that abortion isn’t wrong, not that it is but shouldn’t be punished. And actually, the “wrong but not punished” point is one normally used by pro-lifers when talking about how to outlaw abortion — except in a few rather extreme cases. Few people suggest life in prison or execution as the penalty for abortionists and women who abort their children. Generally it’s just suggested that abortion be banned as a medical procedure. This means that pro-lifers are also advocating not prosecuting a crime to the fullest extent possible.

    PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    The question I was addressing was whether members of the administration should be tried for waterboarding a half dozen terrorists in Guantanamo. That was what I stated in post. If you wanted me to write a post about addressing another situation, you could ask. But this post is about whether Cheney and such should be tried for authorizing waterboarding of “enemy combatants” — which if they were POWs would be against the Geneva Conventions.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon. Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    Well, that’s certainly true. Do you have another theory?

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be, I have to admit I find that somewhat encouraging. Perhaps I’ve written something truly reasonable!

  • “No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.”

    Quite right Darwin. As you pointed out prosecutions for political purposes were one of the prime factors in the fall of the Roman Republic. Once members of poltical parties realize that losing an election also means losing one’s life and liberty, it is a very short step to civil war.

  • As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Simply not true.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.

    So you’re assuming that anyone interested in prosecuting Bush for war crimes is doing so as a “political weapon” and is not interested in justice. That quite the easy way to dismiss the idea without at all taking seriously the crimes of the Bush administration. Why would folks interested in prosecuting Bush be interested in using a “political weapon” against him, apart from the actual context of his administration? Do you think those who oppose Bush simply don’t like how he looks? Don’t like his ties? Don’t like Texans? Are you nuts? People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    Could you just admit that you don’t actually think the Bush admin. committed war crimes. THAT’s why you don’t think he should be prosecuted for any. Right?

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be…

    Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely. In fact, if you think I am in favor of any of those three things, it would be entirely fair to say you are incredibly… what other word is there but stupid.

  • Michael,

    You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    1. This is incorrect on it’s face in that the Church recognizes that abortion and euthanasia are the most grave evils becuase they are an attack the most innocent by those who should be protecting them. This is found in many documents, particularly “Evangelium Vitae”:
    58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”.54

    But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

    The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

    It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

    The Holy Father cautions against attempts to diminish the the seriousness of abortion relative to other evils.

    2. This is incorrect because there is no evidence that the US ever intended to cause the death of innocent persons, and clearly have taken massive and extremely risky steps to avoid that. Do you really believe that if the US had used it’s airpower indiscriminantly against Iraq that there would be ANY people left alive in Baghdad??? Are you unfamiliar with the extent of damage that can be caused by even conventional weapons? The largest US conventional weapons would kill aroun 10,000 people per strike in a city like Baghdad. It is clear that civillian casualties were not intended.

    That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    You are deliberately misinterpretting Darwin’s point, yet he shows incredible restraint in the face of such an offensive response. Obviously offenses against non-combattants are war crimes, on the other hand actions against unlawful combattants are not war crimes as such, terrorists are not protected by the Geneva Convention for several reasons nor would they be afforded the same protections under natural law:

    1. They are not signatories to the Geneva Convention so by definition it does not apply to them.

    2. Morally they are murderers and not soldiers, they also have information on future terrorist operations.

    Of course they are still protected by natural rights, but most natural rights are not absolute. They can be punished (unlike POWS who can not be punished) for their actions, and they can be compelled to reveal informations about terrorist attacks (unlike POWS who can not be compelled to reveal any information beyond their identity). The means to compel them to reveal information is limited by morality of course, but it is not clear which particular means would be moral and which would not. The Obama nominee for AG is not a definitive source for such conclusions, nor has the Church declared any of the means authorized by George Bush to be immoral. No declaration by a competent authority has declared these means to be illegal… period.


    Darwin:
    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Michael:
    Simply not true.

    Stunning response. Cite one non-fringy element that is proposing prosecution?

    People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger. With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies….

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I think ideally that legal violations committed by outgoing administration officials would be prosecuted like other legal violations. But that’s not how it works in the U.S., and I think there are very sound reasons for this.

    The first is that changes of power are traumatic enough without the threat of punishment for those leaving office. The second is that it would be difficult to ensure just and impartial investigations in the type of frenzy such trials and prosecutions would cause. The third is that a precedent of prosecution would create a number of undesirable incentives prior to the transition for every ensuing administration (e.g. purging records, or even resistance to the transition in worst cases). And notice, the worse an administration was ethically, the more incentives they would have to engage in these behaviors.

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution. It would be great in the abstract if every crime was punished fairly (and that we had fair laws for punishing them), but that’s not the world we live in. Sometimes we don’t prosecute people who have broken the law because it might do more harm than good. That does not mean we condone their actions, or shouldn’t condemn them; it means that in practice we’ve made the prudential judgment that prosecuting some crimes is not beneficial to society (as Augustine observed about prostitution).

  • I was hearing some interesting reports today, apparently the practice of extraordinary rendition originated under Bill Clinton, when the great one’s Secretary of State was the First Lady, his AG (the one who now declares water boarding a crime) was deputy AG, and his CIA director was chief of staff and his Treasury Secretary (head of the IRS) was evading taxes (alright this last one has nothing to do with torture, but it’s a riot).

    http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd39.htm

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too? Of course, that would leave Obama’s administration a little light.

    Oh, and since, as pointed by John Henry, that the Democrat house and senate leaders all signed off, then they should be charged as well.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger.

    Wasn’t aware that there was some kind of blogger’s fellowship code to which I need to adhere. Is there a handshake?

    Seriously. It ain’t “foul” if it’s true. I would not hesitate to tell a “fellow blogger” who had utter disregard for unborn human life that some human beings simply didn’t matter to him or her. And I don’t think you would have a problem with me saying it.

    In the case of DC, it’s not “foul” because it is simply true. If the human lives involved mattered at all to him, he would clearly denounce the actions of George W. Bush. There is no possible way to deny the utter disregard and willful destruction of human life that his administration has been responsible for (in the tradition of a long line of “fine” presidents, but clearly in a class by himself). He is more concerned with defending Bush than he is defending human life.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too?

    I am all for adding Clinton to the list.

  • Michael,

    just because you disagree with someone’s interpretations of a leaders intentions doesn’t justify accusing him of such grave immorality as to not care for human life. That accusation is completely baseless.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

  • Its simple: there won’t be a trial or investigation because the Democrats will want the same wiggle-room to immorally use their power.

    The surprise of this next year will not be how much changes…it will be how little things change. The first 100 days will be full of superficial bones thrown to the liberal base.

    Its why there has been no investigation to into wire-tapping and other post 9/11 decisions- it would reveal the Democrats (like Pelosi) to be complicit in the government’s disregard for civil rights/liberties.

  • But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

    “Happy”?

  • clearly in a class by himself

    Ever heard of FDR?

  • I think John Henry’s comment above does a good job of summarizing and expanding on my view. I’d especially highlight his point:

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution.

    The assumption that I’m working here is that the “war crimes” of which the Bush Administration could legitimately be accused would be of inhumane treatment ordered during the interrogations of a fairly small number of Al Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo. If, as Michael seems to, I thought that the Bush Administration had been routinely ordering the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, I might have a different view on this. But I disagree with Michael on that matter of fact.

    The reason I suggested that an attempt to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes would smack of political revenge through the justice system (and would thus be massively destablizing for the country) is that the accusations against the administration which strike me as credible (using harsh interrogation tactics and having a poorly thought out system of bringing people in without being sure what to do with them afterwards) do not strike me as being at all more severe than the bad choices which other recent presidents have made in some of their foreign policies. (And given how much they’ve been involved in, the small number of really bad choices is not necessarily the major theme of their foreign policies either.) If Bush is a slam dunk for the Hague, than I would have to assume that at a minimum FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton would have been triable as well — which basically means every president in the last 60 years except the least remarkable one-termers, and in those cases it may be that I just don’t know enough.

    Trying every president for war crimes doesn’t sound to me like something that would be good for the country as a whole. And so no, I don’t support it.

    Now, I can see why Michael objected to my comments saying:

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely.

    While he surely knows that some anarchists do support civil war and chaos (which tend to lead to dictatorships, so doubtless the anarchists don’t explicitly support those) I realize that he does not support them. My point, however, was to point out that making a routine of prosecuting outgoing administrations would result in precisely those things. If Michael is strongly in favor of prosecuting the Bush administration (and unsurprisingly, I must admit that I do find Michael a rather “fringy” political thinger — one pretty much asks for then when calling onself an anarchist) then I would assume one of the two following to be the case:

    1) Michael disagrees with me on a matter of fact, in that he thinks that Bush had committed crimes far in excess of all or nearly all past US presidents. I don’t see how one could maintain this, but it is quite possible he does.

    2) Michael does not think the above, but he believes that one can make a habit of political prosecutions without the above results occuring. I think he’s clearly wrong on this, which is why I made the rhetorical attempt to make clear to him the implications of his suggestions.

  • Well, I for the most part agree that it would be a travesty to hand our outgoing president over to an international tribunal, for many reasons, most of them noted above. On the other hand, I do think there’s room to continue to argue for a case for prosecution. Personally, I don’t believe Bush should be prosecuted for his administration, but there are aspects that deserve some thought.

    First, arguments about the Iraq War still rage hot. As Catholics, I feel we are practically obligated to believe that the Iraq War did not meet the just war doctrine. No matter our fears of the weapons Saddam was amassing, no matter the continual defiance of U.N. resolutions (some of which carried the consequence of military reprisal, from what I understand), and no matter the atrocities he committed against his own people. I know, that’s quite a list, and because of it I have long held out that the Iraq War, at the very least, was legal by international standards. But just because something is legal…

    Second, the use of even “harsh interrogative techniques” that fall short, in theory, of the standard of “torture”, are worrisome. I’m of two minds on the issue, and not even talking about waterboarding here. On one hand, we know that physical and even emotional and psychological discomfort are viable options for the treatment of prisoners, especially as a punitive/corrective measure geared towards impressing on the prisoner the extent of his crimes. How that squares with trying to extract information or confessions out of a person, I’m not so sure about.

    The optimal condition, as I see it, is to offer a reprieve from what is regular punishment in return for information. If we are offering to stop rounds of sleep deprivation, slapping, and forced nudity in exchange for information, then those activities would have to be part of normal punishment, even when there is no need to interrogate the prisoner. That’s not something I think any of us would agree to. To deliberately add those in just for the sake of obtaining information is something I simply can’t accept.

    So where does that put us in relation with Bush? That he has been more of a “might-makes-right”, “end-justifies-the-means” type president in regards to our war on terror (though I know many will argue there is simply no other way to fight this war) is disappointing. From a moral perspective, I think Bush deserves to answer for what he has done in that regard. That, I am content to leave between him and God. From a legal perspective, though, given the precedent of other presidents, given the legal jargon which justified the Iraq War, and so on, I don’t believe there’s any case whatsoever against Bush. Even in those areas where we can all agree that Bush overstepped the lines of justice and morality, there is simply not a legal case against him.

    That is not to say that we can’t fight to make it so that future presidents cannot overstep into realms of injustice and immorality. I think we should. We need to reclaim the high ground and stay there. (Or, if we have to move, only to even higher grounds.) In regards to Bush, I think this one of the realms where we are called to do the hard thing. Never forget, but still forgive.

  • Breaking News:
    Al Qaeda Cell Killed By Black Death Was Developing Biological Weapons

    It seems to me very important that we use every moral means possible to prevent these terrorists from killing millions of people to further their cause. It would be deeply immoral to not use every moral means. I don’t believe it is acceptable to err ALWAYS on the side of caution as to whether or not a tactic is moral, but necessary sometimes to use means which we find offensive, and which approach the line of immorality but do not intentionally cross it.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t question the use of any particularly offensive tactic, or wring our hands over it, but sometimes we will just have to live with it, pray that we have not erred in either direction, and forgiveness where we have. If that means that we are unpopular, so be it.

    God Bless,

    Matt

The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

Most of us are familiar with some concept of artificial intelligence, be it Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, C-3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Skynet from The Terminator, or Joshua from War Games, to name a few popular examples. We’ve long been introduced to the notion of the struggle to determine if artificial intelligence constitutes life whether these beings, which we have created, deserve rights. We’ve also come across the notion of whether we need to restrict these beings so that they cannot turn and extinguish human life (think Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and movies like The Terminator and The Matrix, where the artificial intelligence has turned on humankind). Yet we very rarely hear the debate as to whether such artificial intelligence can ever be a reality. In fact, and partially due to the promises made in the 50’s and 60’s, many people think that super-intelligent machines are destined to occur any day now.

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15 Responses to The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

  • The books of Father Stanley Jaki pretty well cover the topic.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    Ryan! It warms my heart to see this post and that statement. I was just having a conversation with my wife the other day about this very thing. (I think we’d just watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica and the whole Cylon thing sparked it.) I was telling her about my grad school class in math modeling and operations research, and how random number generators always need algorithms with seeds. My take on the whole problem is the same as yours. If the cosmos is just colliding atoms without supernature, how do we escape determinism? Just how sohpisticated would a computer have to be to mimic a human mind and be self-aware? What is “understanding” and “meaning” in such a universe???

    Sometimes I just don’t get materialists…

  • In your introduction you state that we rarely debate whether AI is actually possible. Actually I think that there is way too much time spent on this question. All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable. If anyone can prove, or even find any evidence at all that there was a part of the universe (such as the human mind) that was not Turing computable that would be a huge revolution in physics bigger than anything since Newton.

    And that’s the problem with any contention that AI is not possible. A scientific demonstration that AI is not possible would amount to such new physics as I just mentioned above. Without a scientific demonstration you are left with saying that you could have something which passes every test you can devise for intelligence and yet you do not regard as being intelligent (likewise concious etc.). This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented.

    I should also point out that Turing computation isn’t the only possible determinist framework for physical theories. But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind. Hypercomputation is a research interest of mine and take it from me there is no evidence that my research is physically relevant (let alone relevant to the philosophy of mine)!

  • “This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented”.

    This is asking to prove a negative. If AI is possible, it is AI that must be demonstrated. Among the great problems [as usual] is that of defining intelligence. I take it to be the ability to make connections [inter legere] without having to install the connections in the machine. In a phrase, can the machine make its own connections.

  • It isn’t asking you to prove a negative because there are examples of evidence that would make the contention that AI is impossible more plausible:

    1) Finding a problem class which can be solved by minds (reliably) which is not Turing soluble. An example would be the Turing halting problem and another the word problem.

    Technically you’d need to show that the minds can do this without significant external input to rule out nature containing the necessary information but this is a logical subtlety.

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    If the laws of physics, relevant to the functioning of the human brain/mind, are Turing computable and we reject a solipsistic position then artificial intelligence is possible (or at least as possible as normal intelligence!). Now in order to contend that it is not, one would have to show that there are laws of physics that are relevant to the human brain/mind which are not Turing computable. A solipsistic position wouldn’t help because then you could not demonstrate that other people were intelligent.

    As I said before demostrating either (1) or (2) would qualify you for a nobel prize. This doesn’t mean you can’t! But it does make me doubtful.

    Furthermore the argument I am trying to make is for the possibility of AI in principle. Thus it is not necessary for me to exhibit an AI to prove my point. I doubt anyone will do that for at least another decade or two.

    Incidentally I meant “the philosophy of mind” in my original comment.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other. You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will? A computer program which uses true randomness in combination with algorithmic rules does not have free will. Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    But even so, you don’t set up any implications between lack of these qualities and lack of intelligence. The Chinese Room thought experiment is interesting but hardly settling!

  • I will insert my admittedly uneducated, and largely intuitive perspective on this.

    If AI is possible, it would not look like human intelligence, making it a questionable possibility. Take for example this discussion, it demonstrates considerable intelligence among other capabilities in both interlocutors…. AI may be able calculate amazing scientific possibilities, but when it comes to non-material ideas there is no comparison between man and animal, nor do I think that there could be a reasonable comparison between man and machine.

    As a common person, in order to accept true intelligence in a machine it would have to be capable of developing abstract, non-material, and original ideas.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

  • Response to Matt: My inuitions and yours differ here so I’m not prepared to accept an argument based just on your intuitions.

    I think the problem with your argument lies in the very dubious assumption that people have an unbounded capacity for abstract reasoning and for creating novel ideas (in the absence of significant environmental input). Sure we have some capability but your argument needs that capacitiy to be unlimited. Given what we know about the human brain/mind this would be a very speculative assumption.

    Artificial intelligence programs may well have limits to their ability to engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts but the issue is whether its possible in principle to produce a program which has about the same level of limitation that humans have.

    In summary in order to show that AIs could not be intelligent (at the same level that humans are) you must not only show that artificial intelligence will be limited but you must also show that human intelligence is not likewise limited. But the same reasoning (based on the halting problem) that shows that AIs will have certain limits can be applied to humans if the laws of physics that are relevant to the brain/mind are Turing computable.

  • Well, thanks all for the interesting comments. I’ll try to address some things that caught my eye as demanding a response.

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    You then misread what I was meaning. For the first half of your response, you’re talking about seeding the generator or otherwise taking in random input to help produce numbers at random. I’m saying that no algorithm can, of itself, produce random numbers because the whole notion is contradictory. We cannot use deterministic means to produce random effects. As for taking in input to produce random effects, that does very well in practice, but does not alter my point. I’d also warn about paying too much attention to entropy in the matter of randomness, as the two are not necessarily correlated. Indeed, I can produce (with enough time) from an algorithm that takes in no input, a sequence with maximal entropy for any string length. Our standard compression algorithms increase the entropy of files by removing redundancy.

    Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    Self-awareness is the understanding of the concept “I” as distinct from “you” or “it”. Thus having data on processor temperature, failure status of devices, what devices are present, and whatnot does not constitute to self-awareness. Have data on “my” processor and “my” devices and whatnot is closer.

    You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will?

    As I feel nondeterminism is a component of free will (not necessarily the whole shebang), and we cannot compute nondeterministically, I felt the case sufficiently made there, though. You do have my back against the wall with:

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other.

    Tying these together is hard to do, and my attempt basically went like this: Suppose intelligence does not depend on free will. Then intelligence is deterministic (denying truly random in nature) and thus equivalent to a giant lookup table. Since I deny that intelligence is simply a lookup table (asserted by appeal to appeal), intelligence must depend on free will. This argument is full of gaps, so if anyone else would like to take a stab at it, I’d love to see what others can say!

    Thanks, C. Le Sueur!

    All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable.

    I have a hard time with that one. I think you’ll need to clarify “universe” in this discourse, because my universe contains abstract concepts that are not computable in any paradigm. And then I would appeal to the seemingly truly random events in nature, mainly those posed by quantum mechanics–particle decay, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, superposition of states of particles, and so on–and ask how you justify the computability of such phenomena. Do you hold to hidden variable theory?

    But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind.

    Assuming that intelligence, thought, etc are actually phenomena of computation, I would maybe concede that this statement is essentially correct. However, I’m not a student of mind/brain interaction, save on the theological side, so I can’t really add more to this argument than what I’ve said in my post. Theologically speaking, thought, self-awareness, and intelligence in general are manifestations of our spiritual souls, which in themselves have no parts, which to me denies that there is any computation (hyper or otherwise) going on in us. But I doubt that’s a satisfactory answer to your charge (indeed, I think I’m just copping out…).

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    There’s something about this statement I just don’t like, and I’m not sure I can put a finger on it. What specifically do you mean by laws being computable? I can think of a couple possible meanings of this–the effects of the laws can be simulated, or the laws are derived algorithmically from a set of axioms–but you’ll need to clarify.

    Now, I don’t mean any insult, but you do brandish “Turing computable” around like a magic sword, and I’m tempted to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep use that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” You said hypercomputation is a research area you’re interested in, but also spoke of being in philosophy of mind, so I need to ask. What is your field?

    I agree, though, that just about any “test” we can devise to prove or disprove intelligence runs the risk of being an argument for solipsism.

    Thanks, Barnaby! I hope we’ll hear more from you.

    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

    Matt, this touches on exactly the problem I have with even producing good evolutionary algorithms, much less artificial intelligence. Programmers set up the environment, and so the whole process is completely determined from square one, even if we have a hard time seeing all the ramifications. (After all, there are only a finite number of chess games, at least once we include the 50 moves without a capture draw, but that finite number is so big that we could never examine every single game.) From a practical standpoint, I’d then argue that in order to produce A.I., we have to be able to fully understand our own intelligence, and that’s still a work in progress.

    Thanks, Matt!

  • Barnaby,

    i guess if you put enough artificial constraints then it’s impossible to prove ANYTHING is impossible.

    We know that man’s capacity to “engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts” is not limitless, because that would make us God. But you’ve yet to show that AI is capable of ANY original thought let alone limitless.

    It seems to me that AI could achieve the level of intelligence of the highest animals short of humans, and with massive computational power, but that is distinct from human thought.

    Just curious, are you a materialist? It seems that you’re treating man as just a higher animal, rather than possessing an eternal soul.

    If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.

    Matt
    ps. snootiness aside, do you REALLY believe intuitively that AI could ever participate in such a discussion?

  • Careful, Matt. I don’t think Barnaby is being snooty. Rather, I have a suspicion (and I hope he’ll either confirm or deny this) that he’s in a particular field like philosophy, rather than theology or computer science. I say this–and I’m not being mean-spirited, Barnaby, I promise!–because he seems to have appropriated the term “Turing computable” and is twisting it slightly to fit his field. Now, all fields do that to some extent (A.I. itself borrows heavily from psychology, and in ways that make psychologist flinch), so I’m not in any way calling him down for it. (If you want an example of something gets grossly pulled out of context, just think of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems!) With a little more clarification, we should know exactly where each of us stands, and hey, we might have even more insightful dialogue!

  • Barnaby,

    I meant no offense by the “snootiness”, but a little sarcasm, and for that I apologize. I guess I was just trying to reject the idea that intuitive ideas ought to be rejected out of hand, or are not worth discussing. It’s my understanding that Einstein developed the special theory of relativity triggered by an intuition that it was the case.

    I think Ryan has very effectively placed a lot more intellectual rigor into the points I was trying to make.

    Matt

  • Response to Matt:

    No offense taken. I’m arguing that if AI is impossible then that would imply a revolution in physics. And I am concluding that until further evidence emerges we should assume that AI is possible.

    “..AI capable of ANY original thought..”. I would argue that you have not shown that people are capable of any original thought either by the exceedingly stringent definition you appear to be using. I am arguing that by any reasonable definition if people can reach a certain level of intelligence then that level can be reached by a suitably programmed, and powerful enough, computer.

    I don’t think the term materialist is very well defined so I wouldn’t call myself one. I do think that the laws of physics are Turing computable where they are relevant to the human brain/mind.

    I think there is a much bigger difference between today’s computers and ‘higher’ animals than between ‘higher’ animals and people. But never the less I really am convinced that artificial intelligence is possible! Furthermore my intuition that AI is possible is as strong as my intuition that other people think and feel. I am fascinated by the fact that others lack this intuition or have an opposing one. I try not to be over reliant on my intuitions, however, even when they are this strong.

    “If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.”

    This is only true if you think the idea that the universe involves hypercomputation is not compatible with being a materialist. Do you assume a materialist must believe the universe has a finite number of laws of physics? Because if not then a materialist could in principle reject the possibility of AI (realised by faster computers of the type we have today rather than hypercomputers).

    Response to Ryan:

    “You’ll have to clarify universe in this dialogue”.

    I normally use the definition: “Causally connected region” and for ‘our universe’ I use “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”. I do not try to separate the universe up into domains such as material and spiritual.

    “Do you hold to hidden variable theory?”

    I meant to add the caveat: OR Turing computable with some random noise added. In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.

    “What is your field?”

    I am a mathematician working within set theory on hypercomputation. If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough. I didn’t say at any point that I work in the philosophy of mind (I don’t). I just mentioned the area.

    “What specifically do you mean by laws being computable?”

    I mean that the predictions of those laws can be calculated (with initial conditions as input) by a Turing computer. Richard Feynman proved that quantum mechanics is computable in this sense. Strictly speaking the same is only true of general relativity under the assumption of a space time like the one we observe in our universe (but this is enough).

    “Intelligence, thought, etc. are actually phenomena…”

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Now that was a very long response! I’ve enjoyed this discussion and regret I may not have the time to continue it (I have my research to write up).

  • Barnaby,

    The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter, and is considered a form of physicalism. Fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions; therefore, matter is the only substance.

    What I am saying is that we believe that there is more to man than the sum of his biological parts. Our thought processes extend beyond the material world to the non-material world. We possess an immortal soul which gives us this ability, which a purely material creature or construct could not. I suggest that this capacity is a critical component of human intelligence.

    Matt

  • Barnaby,

    Hey, thanks for clearing things up! Forgive my misconceptions. And now I’m curious. Can you pare down in a few sentences (they can be incredibly technical and terse, I don’t mind) what you’re looking into as far as hypercomputation? I admit, the extent of my knowledge of hypercomputation is limited to things like letting a Turing machine compute for infinitely long (which then removes concerns of computable reals among other things). Or do you have a paper you’d point me at? So… Any thoughts on the P v NP problem? Equal? Separate? Independent?

    “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”.

    As I note, I just have to laugh. This is so a mathematician’s answer! And I can say that, ‘cuz I ar one, too.

    In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.,

    If you’re simply talking about the predictions being computable in that sense, then I suppose I don’t have too much to quibble about (other than maybe asking whether we’re talking completely computable, or probabilistically computable…). I certainly haven’t researched any into the computability of the laws physics in that regard, but then, your answer suggests you were stating a much weaker proposal than I originally thought.

    If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough.

    Well, now knowing that you’re mathematician working within the realm of hypercomputation, it now makes perfect sense why you’re fairly strident at saying “Turing computable”. In my field (resource bounded measure and dimension), all the notions of computability we work with are polynomial-time equivalent, so we tend to just say “computable”. I definitely retract my flippant Montoya comment.

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Well, this comes down to fundamental views of mind/brain interaction. If we suppose that all human thought, intelligence, and whatnot is determined by physical laws, if there’s nothing more than the brain at work, that’s one thing. If there’s a spiritual soul, which we can’t prove or disprove mathematically, but which is a doctrinal statement of the Catholic Church, then there’s more at play than are touched by physical laws. That’s the only point I was trying to make.

    Thanks again, Barnaby! Now, I should probably hit my research, as well.

13 Responses to Margaret Sanger and the Klan

  • Margaret Sanger is a sick human being. Unfortunately, her legacy lives on with Planned Parenthood.

  • As a fledgling investor- with actual hundreds of dollars invested- I have come to an irrevocable conclusion: never will I invest dime one in any stock whose executives came to Capitol Hill, tin cups in hands, between September 15 and December 24. In retrospect, largely an effort to cover over years of negligence and/or incompetence with federal dollars. So PP finds itself in similar bind. Along with the entire adult entertain- make that, filth peddler industry, as Larry Flynt has requested a $5 billion donation. PP has laid off 30 employees, cut back businesses. In part because a major donor, some Florida joint big in subsidizing pro-death projects, allowed House of Madoff to manage its funds. Poof there went House of Madoff following financial sector meltdown. Funny how the skeletons of the past show up when the dirt which buried it is washed away. Thus the saga of the Klanswomen and La Singer. May stick in minds of certain Congresspersons when their current acolytes arrive, tin cups in hands.

  • We can never remind people enough of this connection.

  • Mark,

    I guess you think extending this connection to Planned Parenthood sponsored politicians is a stretch?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Mr. DeFrancisis, I think it only fair to allow you to respond to Matt’s comment if you wish. After that I would prefer it if both you and Matt could comment without attacking each other. The comboxes of many other blogs tend to get bogged down in combox feuds. I am not going to allow that to happen in my threads. This is a place to debate ideas not to attack personalities.

  • Donald,

    I’ll respectfully pass…

  • I can not believe people here are going now this rabbit hole. DOn’t you know the real crime is how Bush and others wanted to purify New Orleans in a ethnic way after Katrina and how this is all part of the Reagan famous Southenn game plan!!!

    We should be discussing the racist dresses that will be in Obama’s parade not this!!! (SARC)

  • Thank you Mr. DeFrancisis. Sanger’s connection with outright racists and the eugenics movement is completely unknown to most people and you are correct that we cannot raise this enough.

  • I do wish this was examined more. Most Black Ministers I know are not pro-abortion but there is has been a curious lack of poltical action on this.

    There is much attention given to have the Pro-life Catholic voice lost the battle in the 70’s in the machine of Democrat politics. Little to no attention is given what the African American clergy and activist were doing.

    I know that evangelicals had sort of odd attitude toward abortion. For instance the SOuthern Baptist Convention passed a vote basically supporting the right to privacy I believe as to abortion. It was not till ROE they got activated in a huge way and it took the Carter years to do that.. Is this a matter of perhaps African Americans Protestant Christians sort of sharing in the same Pre-Roe mindset?

  • BlackGenocide.org – One black minister who’s putting up a fight.

  • Thank you Catholic Anarchist and Christopher for the book cites. I think we just have scratched the surface here of a very dirty story, and it needs more research. Sanger and Planned Parenthood did their best to sanatize her pre-war activities after World War II and I think there is still much documentation, especially in private correspondence, yet to come to light.

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The US of Empire

Thursday, January 15, AD 2009

This is a thesis that could use far more development than I can give it at the moment, but I hope I can lay it out clearly enough that to generate some interesting discussion and perhaps revisit it later.

It’s frequently complained that the US is in danger of becoming a global empire. Traditionally one elaborates on this by quoting Washington’s farewell address if one is of the right, and by citing the evils of colonialism if one is of the left.

I’d like to suggest that the imperial horse has pretty much left the stable a long time ago. The US has been a global empire since World War II, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the sole global power. Although, like the later Roman Republic, the US has not actually taken direct political control over countries beyond its traditional borders (nor does it collect tribute from abroad) it has a sphere of influence covering much of the known world and is repeatedly involved in exerting pressure or deploying force to ensure regional conflicts do not spin out of control.

This in itself is perhaps not a terribly unusual thesis.

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29 Responses to The US of Empire

  • What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.” Do their voices matter?

    Are global empire and “isolationism” the only alternatives?

  • Also:

    Empires are obviously not the only means of “keeping the peace” and spreading “culture and technology.” What of those who see the u.s. not as a force for peace but of destabalization? The Iraq experience should at least clue you in to this possibility. Do the views of these people not count?

    Does the u.s. “keep a lid on nationalistic conflicts”? Really? Has it done so in the Middle East? Elsewhere? What of the u.s.’s own nationalism?

    I could go on. But these questions are glaringly absent in your brief reflection.

  • Its okay for me for the US to step back and let other nations resolve international issues. France has attempted to do so in Georgia and the EU has attempted in Iran.

    The problem is that these countries also have to be willing to do the heavy lifting (financial aid, military intervention etc.) when called to do so.

    As my dad says, “You drive the car, you gotta pay for the gas.”

  • One other thought. As Mr. Obama is about to find out, its one thing to make pronoucements from the grandstands, its another to actually try to call the plays on the field. I look forward to the efforts of other countries.

  • Michael,

    What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.”

    Certainly everyone “matters”, but when there is disagreement among people as to which of two alternatives should be followed the supporting of one side over the other does not mean a rejection of the worth or human dignity of those one opposes.

    The question I would ask in this regards is: Overall, do people _want_ the US to withdraw back within its own boarders and keep to itself, or do they sometimes find their pride offended by the US’s power, and yet actually appreciate the results of having it be a global power.

    I’m reminded, tangentially, of the interview I read some years ago with an Iraqi man who’d been wrongly jailed (they got the wrong guy) and suffered some of the abuse at Abu Graib. At the end of the interview he was asked, “What can the US ever do to make up for what it’s done to you and your country.” He answered immediately, “I would really like a green card.”

    Also instructive is the experience of many former British colonies. They pretty universally wanted Britain out, and yet increasingly people in places like Singapore and India are realizing they are actually much better off as a result of their colonial experience. Historical evidence would similarly suggest that most peoples brought into the Roman sphere of influence at first resented Rome’s presence, and yet the world still benefits from the legacy of Rome’s empire.

    What of those who see the u.s. not as a force for peace but of destabalization? The Iraq experience should at least clue you in to this possibility. Do the views of these people not count?

    I would tend to think that their analysis is wrong. Remember, the reason the US was even in the area in the first place is that Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, with the result that the US stepped in and pushed them out again.

    It’s certainly a subject that could be debated, but my current impression is that the US is more stablizing than destablizing.

    What of the u.s.’s own nationalism?

    As I wrote recently, I think the modern US is actually pretty free of nationalism properly definied. In that sense, it’s well placed to act on the global scene in a way that more nationalistic powers (such as China) are not.

  • Philip,

    Its okay for me for the US to step back and let other nations resolve international issues. France has attempted to do so in Georgia and the EU has attempted in Iran.

    The problem is that these countries also have to be willing to do the heavy lifting (financial aid, military intervention etc.) when called to do so.

    Agreed. I guess my contention is: I think we and the rest of the world have got used to the benefits of having some sort of global power keeping order — and none of the other candidates (as shown by the failures of the UN, EU, France, etc.) are really cut out to do the work.

    I’m not at all sure that I like that we’ve got to this position, but it strikes me that it may be a situation we need to recognize and live with.

  • What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.” Do their voices matter?

    Of course they matter, but keep in mind that neither their disapproval nor the general approval of the right makes or breaks the argument. As I note, I only bother saying this because too often I’ve encountered relativistic discourse in which “feelings” alone are the guide to anything. Arguments for or against American imperialism need to consider a number of prospects like the question you asked at the end of your first comment:

    Are global empire and “isolationism” the only alternatives?

    I like this question, because it is probably one of the most serious questions we can ask. As a global power, can we only either hide away from the world or be overbearing in the world? I would argue that global empire and isolationism are not the best way to set up the question as either-or. I would say that the first either-or is either we can interact with the world, or we can isolate ourselves. After that, if we choose interaction, we then have to ask to what degree and in what realms.

    Economic interactions seems quite sensible, since trade typically benefits both parties involved (unless one partner runs up a huge deficit importing and does very little exporting). But once economics are involved, politics have to become involved in order to protect trade investments. (I know this may be a point of contention, but simply put, do we really believe, given fallen human nature, that without political involvement trade will always proceed peacefully and justly?) And once politics are involved, then the military necessarily becomes involved, at the very least as a means of last resort.

    This does not mean that a global power must needs be overbearing in dealing with other nations. Hubris is always a problem when power is involved. But here there are also important questions to ask. Why is a particular nation a global power? If it is because it is doing things right, one could make an argument for having a stronger influence on neighbors, allies, and others. If it is because it is doing things wrong, then one could make the argument that national influence should be kept to a minimum. But then, who thinks it is going to be one way or another?

    Let’s look, for example, at the case of “exporting” democracy to the world. Now, we know that–for quite a while, anyway–that the American experiment of a democratic republic has worked with amazing results. Because we’re doing something right in here, it makes sense that we’d want to encourage others to do the same. What many–Bush included–got wrong was that they supposed some sort of “immaculate conception” of democracy, that anyone with a democracy will automatically find themselves in a better society. Yet underpinning the success of our democratic experience is the strong Christian principles that we are rapidly sloughing away. Without any firm grounding of moral, social, political, and even theological truths, democracy is nothing more than the “tyranny of the majority”. Anything goes, as long as a majority of people agree with it. Thus we have democracies that we’ve backed immediately elect terrorists into office, or at least people who hate Western values and would revert the newly democratic state back to a dictatorship.

    Back to the question of how influential a global power should be. This question essentially boils down to: what are the power’s legitimate needs, and how threatened is that power by other powers in the world? For example, how important was it to the United States to keep Hitler from conquering Europe? How important was it to the United States to keep Europe from falling under the Iron Curtain? How important is it to the United States to protect Europe from a) itself b) secularism and c) Islamic radicals? How important is it that United States deals with terrorism abroad? I’ll concur that Iraq wasn’t really necessary, by the way, but what about Afghanistan and the Taliban?

    Frankly, I think the United States could step back a ways from the national scene and let others shoulder some of the burdens, but we can’t forget that because of her power, the United States has grave responsibilities to the rest of the world. The degree of influence, I believe, is what we’re talking about, and let more learned men than myself haggle over the details.

  • “Agreed. I guess my contention is: I think we and the rest of the world have got used to the benefits of having some sort of global power keeping order — and none of the other candidates (as shown by the failures of the UN, EU, France, etc.) are really cut out to do the work.”

    Yup, I think they’ve gotten pretty used to having the military (and a large part the financial side) taken care of by the US. I just think there won’t be a desire by most countries to shoulder the responsibility their decisions will entail. At least not till we’ve refused to follow their lead and they’ve had to pay for the gas.

  • “Frankly, I think the United States could step back a ways from the national scene and let others shoulder some of the burdens, but we can’t forget that because of her power, the United States has grave responsibilities to the rest of the world.”

    I would agree. But I would also say the rest of the world has responsibilities towards the US in the use of its power. I think the debacle in diplomacy leading up to the Iraq war was fueled in large part by international powers not addressing legitimate US concerns. Also the occasionally hinted at hope for an Athens/Rome nature of a future European/American relationship smacks of European intellectual arrogance not to mention historical amnesia.

  • Ryan,

    a sphere of influence covering much of the known world and is repeatedly involved in exerting pressure or deploying force to ensure regional conflicts do not spin out of control

    I think you’ve done a great job of defending the notion that this interaction is largely good for the world.

    US of Empire…evils of colonialism

    I would suggest that opposition to the use of “empire” and “colonialism” to describe this interaction is in order as well. While it’s common in left-wing and certain right-wing rhetoric to use such language, I think that America’s world position is decidedly different from one of colonialism or empire. All of the nations in the US sphere of influence are completely free to leave that sphere and many have. They do not need to fear military reprisal, or even, in most cases economic reprisal. The use of force or sanctions against any country by the US has not been a result simply of departing the “empire” but due to other obvious reasons.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • All of the nations in the US sphere of influence are completely free to leave that sphere and many have. They do not need to fear military reprisal, or even, in most cases economic reprisal.

    You ARE aware of the history of u.s. military interventions since WWII, right? A good overview is William Blum’s book Killing Hope. It may open your eyes just a little bit.

  • How about the Friedman-ites’ economic meddling in Central and South America, oftentimes complemented by U.S. military power…

  • Michael,

    I am aware of the history of u.s. military interventions since WWII. Why don’t you tell me which ones involve a state that tries to leave the US sphere of influence and is met with reprisals? Of course, the example could not involve cases where US citizens are kidnapped or killed, US embassies are bombed, genocide or massive human rights violations are involved, as those circumstances would at least arguably be the principle reason for the US reprisal.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Mark,

    perhaps it would be best to discuss a particular instance rather than vague generalities?

    To be clear, US foreign policy has not always been ethical, and benevolent to a particular country. I’m simply on the one hand agreeing with DarwinCatholic’s assertion that US interactions have on the whole been beneficial, and on the other hand that the US sphere of influence can not be reasonably called an “empire”.

    When Ceasar puts down a rebellion he doesn’t do it with economic meddling or low-level covert operations….

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Interesting post, DC… it reminds me of a a couple books that I’d started back in November but had to return to the library before I could finish (all in good time, I guess), both by Andrew Bacevich, a conservative who came to see US policy and culture as overly militarized. (It’s one of those unfortunate realities of human nature that I was more willing to give this thesis a hearing from someone like Bacevich precisely b/c of our broader agreements… I need to keep working on that. 🙂

    He did prompt me to reexamine some of the premises which serve as the foundation for my own views on US foreign policy, among them my somewhat reflexive assumption that a foreign policy which has (military) power projection as a key component is an absolute. As he notes, this is a view which is taken for granted on both sides of the aisle in Washington, but which *needs* to be reconsidered.

    More apropos to DC’s post, I think we need to look again at the idea that if we don’t do “it”, no one else will… perhaps that’s true, but perhaps rather than simply going it alone, we might make new, differing attempts to rally others to the cause (advancing the common good of humanity). People who’ve known me for years will be shocked that I’m saying this, but wouldn’t it be great if we could redirect a significant portion of our defense budget in another manner, whether by giving it back (tax cuts), paying down the debt, or other domestic programs?

    Okay, time to shut down the rambling. As I said, DC, nice post.

    (Sorry for the absence of late, btw… between work, holidays, impending birth, and sickness, it’s been a crazy couple months.)

  • Matt,
    Read about Guatamala in 1954. The coup backed/initiated by the Eisenhower administration against the socialist government.

  • How do you see the principle of subsidiarity coming into play, in the situation of a U.S “empire” generally, but especially in those countries that experience the influence of the U.S.?

  • Zak,

    I won’t defend the CIA backed coup in 1954. However, let’s be honest about the facts around it and the concerns that led to US support for it.

    Unlike you I will actually make a case instead of telling you to read a book. In my point that this was not empire-building it is necessary to consider the point of view of American leadership, and not 20/20 hindsight.

    1. Arevalo the overthrown leader’s predecessor had greatly expanded freedoms and was moving Guatemala towards stable democracy while preserving a free-market economy. At the same time, there was a degree of communist penetration into his administration.

    2. The key opponent of Arbenz to succeed Arevalo, Franciso Arana was killed in a gunfight. While it appears this was the result of a failed coup on his part, Arbenz and Arevalo concealed this and reported that he was killed by unknown assassins. This led CIA to conclude that Arbenz had done away with his opponent to ensure his subsequent electoral victory.

    3. The US initially had hoped to work with Arbenz and considered him a moderate. He received US military aid early in his regime.

    4. Communism was becoming stronger under Arbenz. Given the the Cold War, a strong communist presence in Central America was seen as a serious threat to US security.

    5. As Arbenz electoral coalition began to fold, he relied heavily on his close friends in the PGT (communist party), this was particularly concerning to the US.

    6. A “land reform” law (read confiscation of private property, which was ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court untel Arbenz fired all the justices) that was believed to be initiated by PGT began to radicalize the moderate revolution which had been occurring in Guatemala. This radicalization would empower the PGT, and was thought to be under the influence of the Soviet Union. This radicalization was criticized by the Catholic Church.

    Subsequent investigations have mostly proven that the action taken by the US was not justified, and was unduly influenced by private concerns (US Fruit), that doesn’t change the fact that at the time the US was deeply afraid of communist expansion. Bear in mind that this was during the Korean War, which we suspected then, but now know involved participation of the Soviet Union in attempting to expand communism by force in a region that it was able to establish a foothold.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Kyle,

    US foreign policy does not well respect the principles of subsidiarity, buy then again neither does the federal government’s domestic policy, at least since FDR.

    On another note, if the US “sphere of influence” is an “empire” it seems to be a particularly ineffective one because we can’t even get our “colonies” to vote with us in the United Nations.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I think that you’re right generally speaking “sphere of influence” is a more accurate term than “empire” for what the US currently has. The reasons I chose to use the more inflammatory terms were basically:

    1) A case of adopting the terminology of those who advocate a much smaller global role for the US while arguing challenging their assumptions as to whether those terms necessarily connote something negative.

    2) Trying to work towards awareness. It strikes me that in many ways the US right now is in the position of the Roman Republic circa 200-150 BC, post Carthage but prior to actually taking control of any lands outside of Italy. At that point, it did not have an “empire” but was behaving increasingly imperial in the sense of enforcing order outside Roman territory, and then retreating back to Italy once they’d secured a friendly power in charge.

    It strikes me that if this way of looking at the US position in the world is accurate, it’s important to realize it so that we can make the right kind of decisions for ourselves and for others. In many ways, it was the Romans’ refusal to admit that they were running an empire of influence that led to some of their decisions which resulted in running an empire of direct authority instead.

  • Kyle,

    From a subsidiarity point of view, I don’t really like the situation, though as I said: One of my fears is that since we’ve effectively been doing this for the last 60 years, we can’t really back out now without either passing power pretty obviously to another power (as the Brits did to us after WW2) or creating a lot of chaos.

    However, I think the right course of action would be to maximize subsidiarity within the existing order in the sense of being clear about what sort of things we _should_ push for in order to maintain international order and otherwise knowing to back the heck off and let people do their own thing.

  • Michael & Mark,

    I’m not trying to argue by any means that every time the US has intervened in international situations in the last 60 years, it necessarily made things better or did the right thing. More that the benefits of the US being an empire of sorts outweight the negatives — and that since this seems to be the situation it should perhaps be acknowledged more clearly in order to maximize benefit and minimize harm.

    Nor would I necessarily say that the US has some sort of innate right to hold this role, or is ordained by God to do so or some such nonsense. Clearly, other nations have done similar things before, with varying results. The Soviet empire was pretty appalling. The British empire a mixed bag but certainly seems to have done the “anglosphere” a lot of good in the long term. The Hellenistic Greeks and the Romans both ran empires that were are times cruel and clumsy and oppressive in their actions, and yet in the long run did the world great benefit.

    I’m mostly arguing that we should both recognize what we are for what we are, and following from that seek both to do the best that we can at the position that we have taken upon ourselves and also think to the future and make sure that we work well with our potential successors (at the moment, India springs to mind) since no nation holds international hegemony forever.

  • Darwin/Brendan,

    a fair point, I guess I’m a little leery of surrendering the language on this. Your concern about crossing a threshold to true empire is valid, and something that is important to discuss while attempting to avoid the blind rhetoric.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,
    My principle goal was to point out to you a case where a state tried to leave the US sphere and was met with reprisals. Your description of the events makes clear that you recognize that it happened, so your scepticism about it in your comment to Michael seems unwarrented. I will not defend Arbenz, but I will say that “fear of Communism” is the position used to justify a multitude of sins in US foreign policy, just as fear of Islamic extremism has been used to justify torture, preventive war, and a foreign policy that has diminished our ability to secure allies to achieve our goals.

  • principal, not principle, althoughI think my goal was principled.

  • DC,
    Are you familiar with the work done on Empire as an alternative model of international relations (as opposed to anarchy, unipolarity); not as a pejorative criticism? One of my professors at Georgetown, Daniel Nexon, has been exploring this subject at length.

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=F0168951CF6824F3DB911A28D402F80E.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=1028252

    He argues that since WWII, the structure of international relations has definitely been imperial, and that understanding US relations with Pakistan, for example, is best done using this framework (like understanding Roman relations in the Near East from 50BC through 100AD).

  • Zak,

    My principle goal was to point out to you a case where a state tried to leave the US sphere and was met with reprisals. Your description of the events makes clear that you recognize that it happened, so your scepticism about it in your comment to Michael seems unwarrented.

    I guess I should have been more clear in my post and that is my fault. Referring back to my original post:
    The use of force or sanctions against any country by the US has not been a result simply of departing the “empire” but due to other obvious reasons.

    The other obvious reasons are fear of Communist take-over followed by aggression which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the USA and her allies.

    I will not defend Arbenz, but I will say that “fear of Communism” is the position used to justify a multitude of sins in US foreign policy,

    It was expressly not my intent to defend this, or any other particular US action, but to demonstrate that it was not aimed at building or maintaining an empire, but at protecting itself from Communism (justifiably or not).

    just as fear of Islamic extremism has been used to justify torture, preventive war, and a foreign policy that has diminished our ability to secure allies to achieve our goals.

    Are you saying that the fear of communism or Islamo-fascism are not legitimate and grave enough to take extraordinary measures?

    In any event, there is no justification for torture, nor has their been any significant defense of it. Only an important argument about what torture is.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. on a side note, I think the people of Guatemala today are doing much better than those still imprisoned under Castro…The ensuing events in Cuba suggest that the dangers of a communist takeover were serious and long-lasting to the inhabitants and to the USA.

  • I’m mostly arguing that we should both recognize what we are for what we are, and following from that seek both to do the best that we can at the position that we have taken upon ourselves and also think to the future and make sure that we work well with our potential successors (at the moment, India springs to mind) since no nation holds international hegemony forever.

    On the contrary, rather than simply “recognizing what we are,” perhaps we can think of what we are called to do christologically (as we are supposed to do in ethics, right?). The united states, rather than “recognizing what we are” needs to engage in a little bit of political kenosis or self-emptying, as Paul talks about. If Jesus is really Lord, and if we are really supposed to follow him, then we can’t isolate our foreign policy from his influence.

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7 Responses to I Hope There Is "Rich Corinthian Leather" in Heaven

  • Fascinating post, Donald. I had no idea he was a committed Catholic. He was unforgettable in The Wrath of Khan. (Remember those desert slugs he put in the ears of the Enterprise crew?) I’ve probably watched that movie ten times and will add it to my Blockbuster queue. “I like what they’ve done to my car” is another one of his trademark lines for Chrysler.

  • In Khan he took a role that could so easily have descended into camp and invested him with a tragic dignity. It is interesting to compare the Khan of the movie and the Khan of the original Star Trek episode and see how Montalban skillfully took the tv Khan, a relatively benign tyrant, and showed in the movie how his soul became completely twisted by the death of his wife and followers which he blamed on Captain Kirk. Montalban could have sleep walked through the role and collected his pay check. Instead, as he did throughout his career, he gave a performance that commands attention. A consumate professional.

  • This cat had class down to his bone marrow. Distinguished any role with his personage. Never lowered standards even with spouting third-rate noise on Fantasy Island. Methinks Father Neuhaus has hired him to narrate the celestial audio book update of Nekkid Public Square. Vaya con Dios, Senor.

  • I never knew that he was a devout Catholic. Just his long marriage alone is witness enough of his Catholicism.

    He single-handidly saved that Star Trek franchise in my opinion as well.

  • I remember seeing an interview in which he told of his respect for his father because he REALLY loved his mother and romanced her for their whole marriage. Class begets class

  • Actually Ricardo said “soft corinthian leather” in the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba commercial.
    It was Eugene Levy that said “rich corinthian leather” in a SCTV parody.
    At any rate he was a true ‘Gem” of a man, and will be forever missed.

    “Smiles everyone..Smiles”…..

  • Thank you tatoo for the correction. It has been a very long time since I saw the commercial.

41 Responses to Remember Catholics for Kerry?

  • Donald,

    Respectfully, I think there is an enormous difference between deciding that Obama/Kerry/Clinton is the lesser of two evils, and being involved in a prostitution ring.

    Of course, there is a difference between doing a ‘lesser of two evils’ analysis, and attacking the Knights of Columbus while serving as head of Catholic outreach. But I think it would be better not to imply a link between that and running a prostitution ring either.

    It is a disappointment and a scandal that this Catholic guy (who apparently was fairly well-known, although I had never heard of him) was involved in this, and the post almost suggests that you are trying to use it to score points. I do not want to accuse you of that, but the post nonetheless seems in bad taste to me.

  • Actually John Henry I think what he was doing in supporting pro-abort candidates for President and encouraging Catholics to do likewise with transparently sophistical arguments was far worse morally than running a prostitution ring. At least no one in a prostitution ring usually dies, while death is the inevitable result of every abortion. We will have to agree to disagree.

  • I’m with Donald. There’s not such a big jump between prostituting yourself and … well … prostituting yourself.

  • The man has an odd idea of what Catholic “outreach” means.

    I don’t mean to change the subject, but NRO also reported on something more surprising to me than the fact that a pro-abort Catholic has been behaving disgracefully: The Holy Father is a fan of “Steppenwolf.” (The novel, not the band.) I’ve associated the novel with drugged out hippies and so avoided reading it, just as I purposely steered clear of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Trout Fishing in America.” But if Benedict sees some merit in it, perhaps I should give it a chance.

  • Sorry … that should be “There’s not such a big jump between prostituting others and … well … prostituting yourself.”

    But let’s also not forget that, at this point, we’re talking about allegations.

  • Important point Jay. McFadden allegedly ran a prostitution ring. His guilt or innocence on that charge will be decided in court.

  • I guess I have conflicting thoughts because I think, to oversimplify the world for a moment, there are three basic types of Catholics that support Democrats:

    1) The good Catholics who decide that Democrats are the lesser of two evils. I outlined here why I think Catholics can decide this in good faith: http://the-american-catholic.com/2008/12/03/if-you-should-disagree-with-your-brother-even-70-times-70/

    2) The indifferent Catholics. Many people who self-identify as Catholics do not take the Church’s teachings into account at all when voting. They vote Democrat (or Republican) without even considering the issues in light of the moral considerations outlined by the Church.

    3) The professional ‘Catholic’ frauds (e.g. Frances Kissling, Gary Wills, etc.) who hold themselves out as Catholics to gain notoriety, and then promptly disavow the basics of what it means to be ‘Catholic’. At various points, I think Kmiec has ventured into this territory, particularly when he was mis-representing Obama’s record and going on and on about how abortion is an issue in which we need space for people (not including fetuses) to make their own decisions. Hopefully with some time for reflection and the end of the political season, he will not progress any further down that road.

    I have a great deal of sympathy for group 1, but not much sympathy at all for group 3. I start out with the assumption that people are in group 1. If this guy is actually in group 3, then I don’t mind the implication as much.

    I think most Democrats reading this blog would be in Group 1, so I was concerned that the post might be interpreted as an indictment of all Catholic Democrats, rather than just people who claim to be Catholics in order to promote Democratic politics.

  • Oh…the wish for magic reigns with a certain poster here…hoping that saying something often enough will make it so…

    A vote for a pro-abortion politicial as the lesser of two evils does not make one a pro-abortionist. Especially when the alternative was George Bush.

    Keep on repeating your mantras, as you recede further into your ideological nooks…

  • Donna,

    Steppenwolf is a great novel. I actually took a whole course on Hesse and Mann in my undergraduate days. Give it a try…

  • We are close in our views John Henry. I think clearly Mr. McFadden is in the number three category. He has trotted out the fact that he is Catholic in order to help give cover for the pro-abort Democrats that he has supported and has made a career out of doing so. That is far different from a Catholic who is either indifferent to his faith, or who votes for a Democrat not because he supports abortion but in spite of it for some grave reason. Like Archbishop Chaput I find it hard to imagine another issue so grave, but I accept the possibility.

  • “Oh…the wish for magic reigns with a certain poster here…hoping that saying something often enough will make it so…”

    Mr. DeFrancisis, I think you will find that the reasons you voted for pro-abort Obama, anti-war, universal health care, etc, will not be realized while his determination to advance the pro-abort cause will be.

  • Mann, yes, especially Joseph and His Brothers. Hesse on the other hand is only good for curing insomnia.

  • I see your point, John Henry, and I agree.

    I have long held, like you, that folks in your category 1 should not have their good faith questioned just because they see Kerry/Obama/Clinton as the lesser of two evils, especially when John McCain is all that’s offered as the alternative.

    That said, I would place Mr. McFadden in category 3.

  • Donald,

    I’ll go with my chances, especailly since the likelihood of McCain’s leadership’s actually getting in a 5th SC judge against R v. W was next to nil.

    The Republicans have been batting .000 in the above regard, and I determined that McCain would be no different.

  • Mark,

    I wouldn’t say Roberts and Alito are ‘batting zero’. Reagan and Bush I had terrible records. But W, despite his many failings, put two justices on the court who are very likely to scale back or overturn Roe if given the opportunity (i.e. one more justice). We’ll never know for sure, but I’d be lying if I thought the odds were better than 50/50 that McCain would have appointed the fifth vote though, even absent a Democratic Senate.

  • McCain was not even my 15th choice for Republican standard bearer. However, compared to Obama, he was Mr. Pro-life himself. Politics is always a comparative endeavor and on my most important issue, abortion, Obama was clearly on the other side. I do truly believe Mr. DeFrancisis that you on the Left will be heartily disappointed with Obama. I think Obama will do whatever it takes to maintain his current popularity and taking the country in a Leftward trajectory is not the way for him to accomplish that. I suspect that he will be like Bill Clinton without the sex scandals: a fairly conventional liberal Democrat who will be risk adverse. The signs all point that way. We will know more after Obama encounters his first crisis, which I suspect may be an attack by Israel on the Iranian nuclear facilities.

  • I’m with John Henry on W’s picks for the SC. That is one of his redeeming acts as POTUS.

  • A certain logical pattern emerges with this cat. If A then B. If A I beat the drum for Demo candidates and B say they’re okey-doke when it comes to abortion and C I write a scathing letter to top K of C poobah and D run a house of ill repute I clearly connect the dots. Sorta reminds me of the new Dunkin Donuts enterprise about 10 minutes away from my abode. Which allows the customer to pump gas, buy a couple of cream donuts, pour a cup of Joe, purchase the local Dead Tree Journal or half gallon of milk or Slim Jim- all at one site. One stop shopping as it were- first the night of pleasure, then the medical procedure to allegedly clean up the mess. Quite the economy of scale. Too bad for him that it went kablooey.

  • John Henry,

    Being charitable, I’d suggest adding another category of Catholic who somehow votes Democrat. That category would be the elderly who has voted for Dems since FDR. I know my mother-in-law and my God-mother are both good, decent Catholic women. However, both continue to vote Democrat without acknowledging it is tantamount to advancing the greatest evil in our time.

    Mark,

    Whatever allows you to sleep at night. You can claim that McCain may not have been guaranteed to appoint a pro-life justice. And that is partly right, but only because you can not have a litmus test for decency. However, when Ginsberg, Stevens etc. retire I can guarantee you that Obama will manage to appoint a pro-abortion justice because for some reason it is allowable to have a litmus test for evil. It is intellectually dishonest for you to disparage Bush’s SC nominees because you don’t KNOW for certain their position on Roe v. Wade since if they stated a position on that legal issue they would have never been confirmed. Also, not sure if you realize this, but George Bush was not the alternative. Beyond that, Bush isn’t exactly evil (or the lesser of two evils) regardless of what you’ve deluded yourself into believing.

    Separately, regarding the characher who was arrested . . . . we can wait until he is tried and convicted or gets off on a technicality to draw any conclusions about him. It would be easy to try to make a connection between his alleged behavior and the sort of politician he tends to support, but truth is there are miscreants and derelicts within each parties tent. Both sides are certain the other side has more crooks.

  • I’m sorry, I just don’t see why we would try to convince ourselves that it’s defensible to be in category 1-3 or the FDR Democrats. Nobody who takes their faith seriously can be unaware that the Democrats have been co-opted by the abortion lobby since Roe vs. Wade. Since the abortion lobby owns the Democrat party they ARE the party of death. Now, one can argue whether the Republicans are the party of life, or slightly better than neutral on the matter, there is no reasonable argument that they are as bad as the Dems.

    We should pray for those who vote for the party of death with good intentions, but there is no defense of their actions.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • “Now, one can argue whether the Republicans are the party of life, or slightly better than neutral on the matter, there is no reasonable argument that they are as bad as the Dems.”

    True. The Democrat Party, with certain honorable exceptions, is the party of abortion. I would argue that on the national level abortion is the one non-negotiable issue for the Democrats. Pro-life Democrats deserve our praise and encouragement, but the party as a party is as pro-abort now as it was pro-slavery prior to the Civil War.

  • Donald,

    I’ve often wondered about pro-life democrats that go along with their party, giving it the power to do what it will to destroy innocent life. Even when you elect a pro-life Democrat to the House, you are voting for Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the house and furthering the cause of widespread abortion. As long as abortion is a plank of the party, I don’t see how one can even support a pro-life democrat (except perhaps against a pro-abortion republican).

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    It’s hilarious how I am asked how I can sleep at night and given God’s blessings, by the same person, in the span of some 100 words.

    But I’ve gone over too many times in too many placesthe reasoning in my prudential judgments in my votes for Kerry and McCain to repeat it again here, .

    Even though J.H. did not vote for Obama, he layed out a hypothetical line of reasoning that leads to a vote for Obama, within the parameters of Faithful Citizenship and other Church teachings, that was starkingly similar to mine.

    Look it up in this blogs archiv, if you still so care.

  • Mark,

    It’s hilarious how I am asked how I can sleep at night and given God’s blessings, by the same person, in the span of some 100 words.

    It’s not hilarious at all, nor is there a contradiction. Asking you how you sleep at night is not the same as wishing you were in hell, when I ask for God’s blessing on you it’s perhaps to He will show you the error of voting for pro-abortion politicians. In any event, I don’t think you should take this personally. If YOU don’t feel your argument is worth posting here then don’t, I have no problem with it.

    Let’s be honest here, everyone in their “sensus fidei” knows it’s wrong to support abortion and those that support abortion, you can use all the “legalese” you want to try and make it “feel” ok. That’s exactly how the supreme court introduced the universal abortion regime.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Gerard,
    One-stop shopping, indeed. I was just wondering while reading the post if he wasn’t supporting pro-abort candidates just so he could keep his girls marketable.

  • Incorrigible One,

    There is way too much simplication and conflation in your comments for me to respond here.

    Sophia,
    Mark

  • ‘Sophia, Mark’ Are we to interpret the sign-off as ‘wisdom from Mark’?

  • John Henry,

    “Wishing you wisdom,”… as in “Peace,” = “I wish you peace”. 🙂

    Please understand that a certain interlocutor here was privvy to much, much discussion about ‘Faithful Citizenship’ on another blog last year. No matter how many times distinctions were drawn, the response was still the same…

  • Mark,

    I thought you’d be afraid to get into it.

    Sleep well and God Bless,

    Matt

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  • Matt,

    You are such a daunting opponent, I must say.

    What type of cereal do you eat it the morning? And how old are you? The courage and stamina you exude are quite impressive.

    I bet the brainier and brawnier men in the Catholic world love homosocial bonding with you. I am simply not up to the challenge.

    In awe,
    M

  • Mark,

    you really are pathetic.

    I will pray for you.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    In your prayers, don’t forget to ask that I receive especially that cardinal virtue courage.

  • Matt,

    If you could refrain from directly insulting people on these threads, I would appreciate it.

  • Mark,

    Courage, Prudence and Temperance for good measure…

  • Matt and Mark, I think that’s enough back and forth. I will delete any futher comments in this thread which I perceive to be personal insults directed at someone else who is commenting.

  • I deleted your comment Matt as to who started the personal attacks. I am merely interested in stopping them, and they will stop.

  • Donald,

    it was a reasonable response to John Henry’s attempt falsely isolate me as the instigator when I responded to the attack. Perhaps, in the interest of fairness you could remove this post as well.

  • Reasonable or not Matt, I’ve decided that this thread and my posts in general on this blog are not going to get bogged down with this type of back and forth. I gave fair warning at 12:17. Anything prior to that I will not touch. Anything after that comes under my rule that ideas are to be debated but fellow commenters are not to be personally attacked. Flame wars are not going to be tolerated by me.

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A Letter to the Apocalypse

Wednesday, January 14, AD 2009

Via Ross Douthat, I ran into this Slate article about the Letter of Last Resort:

At this very moment, miles beneath the surface of the ocean, there is a British nuclear submarine carrying powerful ICBMs (nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles). In the control room of the sub, the Daily Mail reports, “there is a safe attached to a control room floor. Inside that, there is an inner safe. And inside that sits a letter. It is addressed to the submarine commander and it is from the Prime Minister. In that letter, Gordon Brown conveys the most awesome decision of his political career … and none of us is ever likely to know what he decided.”

Continue reading...

3 Responses to A Letter to the Apocalypse

  • The hysteria around the letter, of course, deals with whether MAD is morally licit or not. The question there has bothered me for some time. On the one hand, I’m a firm believer that MAD assures that nuclear weapons are never used, because no one wants an apocalypse from a nuclear holocaust. (Apocalypse due to the Second Coming and the end of time, maybe.) MAD, I’ve always felt, works as a great deterrent, a last ditch effort to forestall war. On the other hand, the sheer gravity of committing to the obliteration of an entire nation, or an entire continent, tells me that we’re walking on thin ice. MAD only works if there’s a guarantee that, if it comes to it, the nukes will be used. Thus implicitly we’re condoning the use of nukes. But if we cannot condone the use of nukes because of the indiscriminate destruction they cause, then MAD falls apart. So does that mean MAD itself cannot be condoned? I’m not so sure. The situation is so paradoxical that it is difficult to make heads or tails of it.

    What really compounds the problem of MAD is the escalation factor. The threat of annihilating an entire nation is not very palatable, but as long as it keeps the enemy quiescent, there’s seemingly no problem. But in terms of advantage, MAD still leaves a bitter taste, because it only guarantees mutual destruction. We can annihilate you if you choose to annihilate us. However, that still leaves us annihilated. So we try to develop defenses and weaponry that ensure that we can’t be annihilated, whereas we can still annihilate the enemy. They do the same. Worse, if we don’t keep developing, we’ll find ourselves in the exact opposite position. All this makes me wonder what happens if we ever develop a means of incinerating an entire nation so quickly (perhaps with weaponry traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light) that they cannot react in time to retaliate. What happens then, or even if both sides attain such technology? Preemptive strike then becomes the only assurance of survival, but surely that cannot be morally licit. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

    If I were elected president and had to sit down and compose such a letter, I would not be able to pass the order to make a nuclear strike. My letter would read:

    If you are reading this, then the United States has been annihilated by a nuclear strike. Thus the cause is lost. There is no nation to defend. Do not retaliate; the whole world need not burn for that which cannot be recovered.

    Of course, one could argue that most the US would still persist in the aftermath of a nuclear strike, even if Washington D.C. and all our politicians were lost. That might change the dynamics of the situation. And of course, if anyone knew that I had told our submarine commanders not to strike, then we might be vulnerable to an attack. In a way, I’m grateful I’m not president. These questions are sufficient to drive one to madness.

    But yes, I’d certainly hope that our new president would be willing to interrupt the party to attend such a serious matter. Frankly, I think some people think that Obama’s presidency will be one endless celebration, an eight year jubilee.

  • “Of course, one could argue that most the US would still persist in the aftermath of a nuclear strike, even if Washington D.C. and all our politicians were lost.”

    It might even be a better place. 😉

  • It might even be a better place.

    Hey, I resent that!

    No, I actually don’t. Just give me a few minutes to evacuate.

21 Responses to Obama Broken Promises, A Continuing Series

  • Thus hope that he will not inflict abominations such as FOCA on the republic. Clear that in his Chicago political schooling, our man learned to slip and slide with the best of them. Still believe there is much of the hardcore ideologue within him. But not on display early. And the longer he delays, say, FOCA or Fairness Doctrine, the less likely they will become reality. Still, stay on watch, for these and other chicaneries.

  • I think Obama is finding out the hard way the difference between idealism and practicality. Pundits are easily given to idealism, because they don’t have to work out the nitpicky details themselves, and thus don’t really know the full extent of the problem. Senators, though they do deal with details, can still adhere to practicality because they can always cop out with the “I didn’t realize the full extent of what I was voting for” or the “Sure I voted for it, but that was to please my constituents, and I didn’t think it would pass.” As president, Obama is going to have to deal with the fact that, even if he doesn’t like the buck stopping with him, all the fingers will be pointing in his direction. I think he’s going to learn that you either cave to public opinion and idealism and be a weak president like Clinton, or you have to grit your teeth, suffer low approval ratings, and do things that actually work (or at leas that you think will work).

  • Years of disaster are difficult to clean up overnight.

  • It is sad to see a Catholic man gleeful that Gitmo won’t close soon…

    We can at least be sure that Obama-Biden will not open another facility like this one…

  • From today’s New York Times:

    The senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees said in a published interview that she had concluded that interrogators had tortured a Guantánamo detainee who has sometimes been described as “the 20th hijacker” in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    The public record of the Guantánamo interrogation of the detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has long included what officials labeled abusive techniques, including exposure to extreme temperatures and isolation, but the Pentagon has resisted acknowledging that his treatment rose to the level of torture.

    But the official, Susan J. Crawford, told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that she had concluded that his treatment amounted to torture when she reviewed military charges against him last year. In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.

    The main conflict of this story is:
    “There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001,” Ms. Crawford said in the interview. “He’s a muscle hijacker.”
    She added: “He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’ ”

    So they can’t just “Let him go” and because of the confirmed torture they can’t try him.

    Tell me again why torture is such a good idea? It doesn’t bring in any useful info, it taints future prosecutions and demolishes any claim to any sort of “moral high ground.”

  • Tell me again why torture is such a good idea? It doesn’t bring in any useful info, it taints future prosecutions and demolishes any claim to any sort of “moral high ground.”

    All too true, though I would hesitate to say that Donald is ‘gleeful’ about Gitmo remaining open. Looking at what promises are broken doesn’t necessarily mean that the broken promise is a good thing from either a liberal or conservative or Catholic perspective. Personally, I don’t think Gitmo should be closed, but I do believe some extensive reform is needed. The harsh interrogative methods need to go. The information extracted from prisoners is not worth the tainting of one’s soul. Certainly I feel these prisoners should be detained, at least until our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, but we can handle them much more humanely.

    A question, Mark: do you think subjecting Gitmo prisoners to endless hours of Gregorian Chant (time off at bedtime so they can sleep), and the occasional rosary (perhaps dictated by Mother Angelica) over loudspeakers would constitute to torture?

  • My preferred policy in regard to terrorists would be the same as traditionally was accorded pirates: swift trials followed by swift executions. The same policy followed by the papacy until the dissolution of the papal states in 1870.

    As Obama is finding out, despite what the hard core of his supporters believe, the terrorist threat is real. Almost all Americans understood this after 9-11. After the next 9-11 all Americans will understand it again.

  • “A question, Mark: do you think subjecting Gitmo prisoners to endless hours of Gregorian Chant (time off at bedtime so they can sleep), and the occasional rosary (perhaps dictated by Mother Angelica) over loudspeakers would constitute to torture?”

    I think given that it would be psychologically painful for a Muslim many would say so.

  • No, Donald, it is not an issue over the reality of the terror threat. Everybody realizes that. But some–and sadly some lawyers–have stepped towards hysteria in their response to such a threat.

    Obama has just found out that the legal and poltical mess Bush made is closer to irreparable than he may have thought.

    And you seem to assume that all that were/are at Gitmo are actually terrorists…

  • “And you seem to assume that all that were/are at Gitmo are actually terrorists…”

    Well, I’d say that apparently the government assumed that 61 were not terrorists who actually were, at least judging by their actions post release. A terrorist, like the pirates of old, puts himself outside of the framework of cpnventional warfare by his actions. He should be treated accordingly. In regard to torture I am against, and have always been against, physical torture. I suspect that the Obama administration may not share my scruples after the next 9-11. There is precious little “voting present” in the Oval Office, as Obama is learning, and the American people will show little patience in regard to any politician who does not keep us safe from terrorist attack.

  • Donald,

    Mistakes over release of certain prisoners do not justify wrongful detainment of others.

    It is heartening to see your staunch oppositiom to torture.

    Sad to realize, though, that you still hold an to capital punishment as a legal remedy, especially since countries like ours have the institutional means to sufficiently isolate any criminal dor its self-defense.

  • “Sad to realize, though, that you still hold an to capital punishment as a legal remedy, especially since countries like ours have the institutional means to sufficiently isolate any criminal dor its self-defense.”

    I would venture to guess Mr. DeFrancisis that you have never worked as a guard in a prison or served a stretch as an inmate in a prison. If you had I doubt you would have made that statement. In my county I have represented numerous guards and felons over the years and they all have expressed concern for their personal safety. On one day in my county which has two prisons, three guards were murdered by inmates. Life imprisonment does not render a murderer harmless. Until John Paul II the teaching of the Church on capital punishment was quite clear, and the Church was not against it.

    “Mistakes over release of certain prisoners do not justify wrongful detainment of others.”

    That begs the question Mr. DeFrancisis. In a war a detainee, as opposed to a criminal held for an alleged violation of the law, has the burden of establishing why he should be released. In a not insignificant fraction of the cases of the detainees released from Guantanamo we have clear evidence that the government was releasing detainees who were quite willing to carry on their war against the US. That concerns me a very great deal, just as I bet it now concerns Obama. Hence his go slow attitude.

  • Mr. McClarey,

    Christ’s image still shines, however obscurely, in the hardest of criminals. In my country, I have worked with numerous priests who have done prison ministry with the ‘worst’ of criminals, including capital offenders, and these priestd embrace JPIIs Gospel of Life and the developments re: capital punishment as set forth in the recent Universal Catechism.

    I can, nevertheless, empathize with your position.

  • Im glad gitmo will stay open a little longer, we still need a place to put the bad guys.

  • We are in agreement Mr. DeFrancisis that even the most evil criminal can find redemption in Christ. That of course does not have anything to do with the penalty to be paid for crimes, or whether a life imprisonment sentence ensures the safety of those who will come in contact with the convicted murderer. Capital punishment has never moved me as an issue as does abortion. If the people of a state want or do not want capital punishment is of little moment for me. However proponents should admit that there is always a possibility of an innocent man being executed and opponents should admit that life imprisonment is no panacea in preventing a convicted murderer from murdering again.

  • I think where a prisoner continues to murder in prison might be a case where the death penalty would be licit.

  • It is sad to see a Catholic man gleeful that Gitmo won’t close soon…

    Sad, yes. Surprising, considering it appeared on this blog? Not at all.

  • Catholic Anarchist, your comment is as unsurpising as your vote for the pro-abort Obama. I think his adherence to open season on the unborn will be one of the few promises he will keep during his term in office.

  • What will be my next comment, Donald?

  • Probably something to do with my Eric McFadden post I hope.

  • Probably something to do with my Eric McFadden post I hope.

    I could care less about the guy.