Obama’s Fool: Bart Stupak

Thursday, March 31, AD 2011

It seems that Bart Stupak has done another interview with a version of events about how last year’s Obamacare debate really went down. Of course, Morning’s Minion has done a piece explaining the virtues of this stalwart pro-life defender.

I’m one of the few people here who would have voted for the healthcare bill before the Hyde language was omitted, I thought it would be interesting to look at Stupak’s claims. Most of the stuff if how poor Stupak has to deal with angry people and how Obama really can be trusted on abortion. This isn’t really terribly interesting (except if the bishops really do view Obama as the most pro-abortion president ever, as this would cause much grief to many on the left), though I find it amusing that Stupak takes this position as Obama appears to be willing to shut down the federal government to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood. No word yet if Stupak trusts Obama to keep America out of messy and poorly thought-out wars.

What is interesting is that Stupak claims that really the Republicans are to blame for the lack of protection against abortion spending in the bill:

Was it unpleasant talking to Rahm? Everybody thinks he’s just a screamer and shouter and would just wave his fists around–

No, Rahm doesn’t scream and shout at me, ’cause he knows better. I’ll just tell him to go to Hell and move on. No, no. rahm and I had a couple of good conversations. The executive order came up in the conversations we had a few weeks before it ever came.

But, to be honest with you, I’d been working with some of the Senate Republicans on trying to find some way to do a technical corrections bill. And actually, truth be known, the Republican leadership in the Senate pulled the rug out on me on that on Thursday night, the Thursday before that Monday [when the final vote occurred]. Most people don’t realize that.

Anyways, long story short, I always thought we would have some statutory language. It wasn’t until Thursday before the vote that when the Republican leadership on the Senate side said no go … and the reason was that it would pass.

Health care would have passed the Senate with Hyde language?

Yeah. It would fly though the Senate. So they weren’t interested in getting health care passed, they were interested in killing it. So every suggestion, every legislative proposal I had–and I knew I had to get to 60 votes in the Senate–I was led to believe up to that point in time they’d work with me. And they pulled the rug out that Thursday before. Remember, they went home that Thursday night, or that Friday night there. They weren’t around that weekend when we voted on the health care bill.

It’s helpful here to remember the situation. The House & Senate must pass identical bills. Any alterations to the Senate bill would have sent the bill back to the Senate. The Senate’s bill lacked the statutory language of the Hyde amendment, and therefore if the House had insisted the whole bill would go back to the Senate. At that point, the Democrats’ majority had been reduced to 59 as Scott Brown was elected from Mass. and promised to vote with the rest of the party to filibuster the bill.

What makes Stupak’s latest version of the events surrounding Obamacare so implausible is the idea that with the Hyde amendment language, the Senate would magically have 60 votes. What vote? The Republicans in the Senate had all voted against the Senate bill and Brown was elected in part b/c of his opposition. Even if Brown was amiable to the language, the Hyde bill would not make a difference to him, as he’s not exactly a pro-life politician. The only Republican for whom this language made a difference was Rep. Joseph Cao-but Cao was in the House, not the Senate.

Yet Stupak is here claiming that the GOP stopped working on the Hyde language b/c the language would help it get the 60 votes in the Senate. But what Republican would have switched his vote just b/c of the abortion language? As Minion points out ad nauseum, most Republicans were against healthcare reform in itself, not only because of abortion. Other than Cao, the conflicted congressmen were all Democrats.

Now, perhaps the GOP didn’t want the Hyde language b/c that made Obamacare more likely to pass the House, but that’s not Stupak’s claim. Nor is he saying his technical corrections bill would fly through the Senate. He specifically claims Obamacare would have flown through the Senate with the Stupak language.

To be blunt, I’m not sure if Stupak is delusional or dishonest here. I imagine a little bit of both, but this is yet another version of Stupak’s story that doesn’t quite mesh with the plain reality that was before him. The best scenario is that he expected the GOP to work with him to get the corrections bill through that included the statutory language, but I don’t know why he would think that. The GOP may have been willing to do so if abortion was the only thing on the plate, but the GOP wanted to defeat Obamacare. There were other things that had to be in that technical corrections bill for the bill to be passed, and the GOP was not interested in having those pass that would pave the way for Obamacare.

In the end, the GOP is not responsible for Stupak’s language not being in the bill. It’s Pelosi’s, Nelson’s, and Obama’s. I am perfectly willing to concede that the GOP could have bent over backward to change the language by giving up the fight against Obamacare in order to provide better protection against abortion funding, but even had they done so, the language would not have changed. Pelosi and Obama didn’t want that language changed and weren’t going to let the bill come before the House in any other form. In the end, Stupak’s choice was still the same: to stand strong against Obamacare’s lax protections against abortion funding or provide Obama political cover. Stupak chose the latter.

So since we honor April’s Fools tomorrow, today we should honor Obama’s Fool: Bart Stupak.

UPDATE after the break

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9 Responses to Obama’s Fool: Bart Stupak

  • I’d vote for mendacious rather than delusional. On November 7, 2009, the House Gop, all but one, voted for the Stupak amendment realizing that made it plain that Obamacare would pass in the House, which it did. The House Gop made a statement at the time realizing that is what was likely to happen, but they did it anyway because they believed that the Stupak amendment was that important:

    “House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) issued the following statement in support of an amendment offered by Representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) that would prohibit federal funding of abortions under the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) health care plan: “We believe in the sanctity of life, and the Stupak-Pitts Amendment addresses a moral issue of the utmost concern. It will limit abortion in the United States. Because of this, while we strongly and deeply oppose the underlying bill, we decided to stand with Life and support Stupak-Pitts.

    “The danger of this bill passing without critical pro-life language was too great a risk to do otherwise. Indeed, a number of Democrat supporters of Stupak-Pitts had privately indicated to many of our colleagues that all they needed for “cover” was a vote, and they would support final passage even if the amendment failed.

    “To be clear, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment’s passage is the right thing to do. We believe you just don’t play politics with life.

    “When this bill is conferenced with the Senate, the pro-life majority in the House of Representatives must ensure that this important amendment is in the final legislation. If it does not, this same strong majority must defeat the bill.”

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/11/08/pro-life-republicans/

    The problem for the Democrats on final passage, is that they could not get enough votes to pass Obamacare with the Stupak language in it. Their fanatical pro-aborts had been promised that the Stupak language would be removed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14y61p7CH8s

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/170547.php

    Stupak understands this of course, but he is neither man enough, nor honest enough, to admit the simple truth: he caved under pressure and abandoned his pro-life principles. It truly is as simple as that.

  • Imagine there’s no liberal
    It’s easy if you try
    No Washington below us
    Above us only God
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in faith

    Imagine there’s no progressive
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to tax or spend for
    And no abortion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in virtue

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be free

    Imagine no class hatred
    I wonder if you can
    No need for envy or wrath
    A brotherhood of free men
    Imagine all the free men
    Producing so much wealth

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And America again will be free

  • You would have been better off leaving out the comment about the Planned Parenthood Amendment, another example of pro-lifers being played for fools by their partisan leadership.

    The Conservatives were free to craft their amendment however they wanted. They could have pulled the language from the MCP to prohbit any group that offers abortions from bidding on government grants (though I’m sure the GOP would make sure it did not include defense contracts by military contractors who include abortion in the health care coverage, remembering the Republican cardinal rule that a baby is less dead when aborted by the private sector). It could have barred grant applications by any group found to have [insert any of PP’s crimes or misdeeds].

    Instead they decided not to be serious and in a way that would never withstand legal challenge by just naming a particular group — no different as if some stupid Democrat annoyed at GE because of their zero tax payments put in an amendment to bar Genreal Electric by name from any new government contracts.

    Please let me know when the conservatives grow up and decide to put forward serious proposals.

  • Just like clockwork. And as I predicted:

    “Let’s see the allegedly “pro-life” Catholic progressives try to justify this one. Of course, they’ll find SOME way to defend their Dear Leader and lay the blame at the feet of pro-lifers and/or the GOP. They ALWAYS do.”

    Pathetic, if nevertheless quite predictable.

  • While the gullability argument has some traction, it’s still a bit of a head-scratcher. It ultimately boils down to an argument something like this from the Democrat-leaning opponent of abortion:

    “We’re better because we *know* our leadership is evil and has bad intent with respect to restrictions on abortion, but you guys are just suckers who take half-measures.”

    I don’t know that sneering at someone who takes the occasional crumb from the table–a partial birth abortion ban here, a Mexico City policy there–is speaking from a plane of moral authority. Especially when you do so in between barks of “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” to the Pelosi/Capps wing of the Democrats.

  • Instead they decided not to be serious and in a way that would never withstand legal challenge by just naming a particular group

    Huh? Congress has discretion over its purse; if it finds that x group is using its money in ways it does not desire, it can cease funding that group. It would withstand legal challenge.

    But moreover, the GOP is worse than the Dems b/c while the Dems want to fund PP, the GOP aren’t serious about defunding it? That’s a bizarre argument.

  • Huh? Congress has discretion over its purse; if it finds that x group is using its money in ways it does not desire, it can cease funding that group. It would withstand legal challenge.

    No, it would not and there are ample legal precedents to show that. Foremost, the Courts consider naming a particular organization (rather than setting criteria fro disbarment) as prohibited under Article I (no bill of attainder). The GOP tried this on ACORN and got shot down in the Courts. In fact in the entire history of the United States, not once have the Courts allowed Congress to ban one specific organizaton from the ability to compete for government grants or contracts.

    But moreover, the GOP is worse than the Dems b/c while the Dems want to fund PP, the GOP aren’t serious about defunding it? That’s a bizarre argument.

    I didn’t say that. The GOP had unilateral control as to how they wrote their amendment. Rather than be effective, they decided to be polemetical.

  • the Courts allowed Congress to ban one specific organizaton from the ability to compete for government grants or contracts.

    Which would be great if that’s what was happening. This isn’t a government contract; it’s a subsidy which comes under Congress’s discretion under the commerce clause among others. Unless there’s a contract I’m unaware of, Congress is fine.

    Moreover, I found only that a federal district judge found the ACORN actions unconstitutional. If that’s it, you need to check your “ample precedent” definition. I mean, a Court of Appeals case would have been nice.

  • This isn’t a government contract; it’s a subsidy which comes under Congress’s discretion under the commerce clause among others. Unless there’s a contract I’m unaware of, Congress is fine.

    You’re mistaken. The Pence Amendment would bar PP from applying for grants under Title X.

    http://www.hhs.gov/opa/grants/index.html

    http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familyplanning/grantees/index.html

Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Sheen

Thursday, March 31, AD 2011

Oh the gems that can be found on Youtube!  From 1957, two legends discussing a third.  Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest American architects of the 19th and 20th centuries, and Carl Sandburg, poet and Lincoln biographer, talking about Thomas Jefferson!

Carl Sandburg, in his multivolume biography of Lincoln, got closer to the heart of the man than many professionally trained historians, telling the tale of a man’s life requiring the touch of a poet as well as a chronicling of facts.  Frank Lloyd Wright developed a style of architecture that causes his buildings to be treasured.  In my town of Dwight, the building of the First National Bank of Dwight was designed by Wright, and is a little gem of his style.  Go here to read all about it. 

It is interesting to hear two men who are now legendary themselves, discussing a third legendary American.  In the world beyond one can hope that Jefferson has since taken part in the conversation!

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7 Responses to Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Sheen

  • I met Bishop Sheen in St. Patrick’s Cathedral one evening in the mid-1950’s.

    My widowed Grandmother (RIP) worked in midtown Manahattan and bought tix for “Snow White” at Radio City. After the early evening movie, Mother (RIP) and Grandmother made the visit to the Cathedral with four young boys in tow. The youngest John, of course, was scooting around and not in sight. So, when trying to quietly call for him, Bishop Sheen heard “John” being called out. He graciously approached and introduced himself, saying his Mother had called him “John.” Grandmother and Mom were in Heaven.

    I remember his TV shows and have CD’s of a few. They broke the mold . . .

  • Don, good find! “My dear, Alistair…” Made me pine for more intelligent discourse on TV instead of cacophony of mumbo-jumbo on talk shows today. Say, Don, could you unearth some colloquies between Bill Buckley and Malcolm Muggeridge and post? They were real gems.

    Alistair Cooke had almost an obsession with Mencken, whom he mentions at the end of the vid. HLM, the “amiable skeptic,” is sorely missed today. Though an agnostic, he left a sliver of hope near the end of his life. He could be nasty, indeed, but beneath the curmudgeon was the soul of someone who thought man could be better somehow.

  • Don, I’m thrilled you share my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Wright designed his fair share of houses of worship. A Unitarian himself (grandson of a minister), he build Unitarian churches in Madison WI and Oak Park Il, a Greek Orthodox church near Milwaukee, a Jewish temple near Philadelphia and Protestant churches in Florida and Arizona.

  • They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    I am from Galesburg, IL, the birthplace of Carl Sandburg.

    I had seen the Fulton Sheen clip before, but I can never help noticing how, as he is shaking hands with the panelists, one of them kisses his ring.

  • Now anytime a bishop is on TV the journalist is obliged – as a precept of their faith – to inquire about teaching on abortion, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, etc. And aren’t the journalists, to quote St Augustine, “ever more ready to ask questions than capable of understanding the answer.”

  • There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit showing right now at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I haven’t been to it yet, but intend to visit it before it closes in May. I too am a Wright fan.

  • And don’t forget the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, which was one of Wright’s earliest Prairie Style projects. It’s closed for renovation right now but when open it’s probably the biggest (perhaps the only) non-Lincoln tourist draw in the city.

MLB Preview: NL Central

Wednesday, March 30, AD 2011

There are six teams in the NL Central, and we’re just about at opening day, so I’m going just going to give thumbnail sketches for this division. The Central is another tough division to forecast with three teams that seem capable of playing into October.  So who will win it all?

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One Response to MLB Preview: NL Central

  • As an Astros fan, it pains me to read this:

    Other than a terrible Major League roster, a black hole of a farm system, inept front office leadership, and a marginal financial resources, everything is looking up for the ‘Stros.

    But I do agree. I keep hoping for new ownership sometime soon.

Not Really A Surprise

Wednesday, March 30, AD 2011

Everyone already knew that Chuck Schumer is an ego-maniacal demagogue who is a fairly petty politician, even by New York standards.  Now we have some clear evidence of this fact:

Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”

A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.

Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.

Granted this is nothing more than a peak inside the talking points maneuvering that we all know goes on behind the scenes, but it’s kind of funny to see the arrogant one make a public gaffe like this.

Democracy in action, baby.

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14 Responses to Not Really A Surprise

  • We used to say that the most dangerous place in Washington was between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera. Now its between a TEA Party freshman and the forms for them to sign up for their government health insurance. hahahaha!!!!!

  • Har de har, Kurt.

    Yeah, we get it. Tea Party freshmen signing up for the insurance program offered as part of their job benefits is worse than Chuck Schumer admitting to routinely lying about his political adversaries.

  • We used to say that the most dangerous place in Washington was between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera. Now its between a TEA Party freshman and the forms for them to sign up for their government health insurance. hahahaha!!!!!

    Crickets.

    I really hope you haven’t quit your day job for a career in comedy.

  • Kurt just flew in from Washington and boy–his arms are tired! Speaking of which–hey, what’s the deal with airline food these days?

  • Rim shot!

    Someone, take Kurt. Please!

    No, seriously folks, Kurt doesn’t get any respect. The other day he was explaining dialectical materialism and his friends said, “No thanks, we have headaches.”

    Rim shot!

  • “Mr. Reid, your record on spending in the Senate is one of failure,” says the letter, written by Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford. “You have failed to pass a budget, failed to restrain spending, and failed to put our country on sound fiscal footing. We do not accept your failure as our own. The American people did not send us here to fail.”

    A poll from Quinnipiac of over 2,000 registered voters nationwide puts Obama’s approval at 42%, the lowest in any Q-poll for Obama, with 48% disapproving. His re-elect number is lower.

    That my fellow New Yorkers keep sending dishonest hacks like Schumer to the Congress says more about New Yorkers than about Schumer.

    I know: I’m an anti-semite and a racist.

  • Chuck Schumer is living proof that no personality, few brains, no sense of humor, arrogance and the bellicosity of a pit bull with a toothache can take a man very far in politics, at least in New York.

  • Don, kinda makes me miss Al D’Amato.

  • Yep Joe, compared to Chuckie Schumer even Al “the mouth” D’Amato looks like Edmund Burke!

  • Yep Joe, compared to Chuckie Schumer even Al “the mouth” D’Amato looks like Edmund Burke!

    So does Bella “the hat” Abzug – remember her?

  • Yes Donna, try as I might not to! 🙂

  • Chuckie couldn’t have been more in character than if he had on high heels, striped sock, a high hat, and riding a broom.

  • Chuckie couldn’t have been more in character than if he had on high heels

    You confuse him with the former Republican mayor of NYC. haha!!

  • Or Barney Frank. haha!!

    Rim shot!

9 Responses to Hollywood Celebrities: The Problem Minority

  • But…. But…. They understand (and heart!) Marx, right?

    The “benders” remind me of the average college kid. Main difference being no rare and infrequent all-nighters.

  • Leave myself open to flames, but somehow I think Sean Penn would be a more interesting dinner conversationalist than Pat Robertson.

  • If that were my choice Joe, I would much prefer dining alone with a good book at a White Castle!

  • “Leave myself open to flames, but somehow I think Sean Penn would be a more interesting dinner conversationalist than Pat Robertson.”

    So would Goering, but I think I would skip the meal.

  • Well, Don, of course, a third choice would have me at White Castle, but then I’d have to drive two days to find one. The frozen ones just don’t taste the same. Not to threadjack, but has anyone here read Anthony Trollope? Loved Barchester Chronicles (The Warden & Barchester Towers). The Church of England was never so funny.

  • “Well, Don, of course, a third choice would have me at White Castle, but then I’d have to drive two days to find one.”

    I pity you Joe for being so far away from sliders. Between bankruptcy hearings today I will be partaking of my daily quota of greasy food for lunch at a White Castle and reading a new book on guerilla warfare in the Civil War. Those type of moments make even the practice of law tolerable.

  • mmm . . . White Castle . . .

  • I didn’t even click on the clip of Sean (“I luv Hugo Chavez!”) Penn. Just seeing him, with rumpled shirt and the white man’s version of the Don King hairstyle, looking indistinguishable from characters I’ve seen sleeping on park benches, made me long for the days of Cary Grant.

  • Pingback: Images of Jesus Christ | andrew klavan | barack obama | Jesus Christ

Poor Misunderstood Marx!

Tuesday, March 29, AD 2011

Commonweal has an article by Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton in which he argues that Marx was right in his critique of captalism.  Go here to read it.  Go here to read a post about the article which appeared on the Commonweal blog.  ( I will confess to having a very slight  grudging respect for Mr. Eagleton ever since his memorable, and scorching,  review which may be read here, of Richard Dawkins’ inane The God Delusion.  The respect is very slight and very grudging indeed, since Mr. Eagleton also wrote a bitter diatribe against John Paul II, which may be read here, after the death of the pontiff.  He also views the Catholic Church, the Church he was raised in, as “one of the nastiest authoritarian outfits on the planet”, which is rich coming from a Marxist.)

The Marx set forth in the article by Mr. Eagleton is unrecognizable to me.  The Marx of history was not some sort of democratic eurosocialist.  He was a hard core advocate of terror.  The quotations from his works and letters on this point are legion.  Here is a typical statement he made in 1850 in an address to the Communist League:

“[The working class] must act in such a manner that the revolutionary excitement does not collapse immediately after the victory.  On the contrary, they must maintain it as long as possible.  Far from opposing so-called excesses, such as sacrificing to popular revenge of hated individuals or public buildings to which hateful memories are attached, such deeds must not only be tolerated, but their direction must be taken in hand, for examples’ sake.”

From the same address:

To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

Nothing done by the Communist states that claimed Marx as their ideological father in regard to the suppression of adversaries and the use of mass terror to remain in power cannot find full warrant in the works of Marx.

Of course, Marx goes wrong at the very beginning in regard to his view of Man which is completely materialist.  In his A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx spelled out his view that religion was an illusion which deterred the revolutionary rage of the people:

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53 Responses to Poor Misunderstood Marx!

  • In addition, Marxism has been ineptly applied by run-of-the-mill megalomaniacs like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

    Today, Glory-O!, we have geniuses like our messianic magic man Obama and Uncle Joe Biden doing it correctly.

    “All attempts to create Heaven on Earth have resulted in hell on Earth.” Camus

    Ah, hell on earth . . . OTOH they will make the evil rich miserable, too . . . Go for it!

  • Both Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Reinhardt Marx of Munich have suggested that Marx’s critique of alienation under capitalistic forms of economic production is largely correct, while of course maintaining that the Marxist solution, because atheistical and totalitarian in practice (if not necessarily in intent) is a non-starter. Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI quotes approvingly, though critically, the great Marxist philosopher Adorno in his excellent encyclical Spe Salvi; likewise, the phenomenology of labor in JPII’s Laborem Exercens is clearly influenced by some aspects of the early Marx’s thought.

  • Even Marx WJ could not manage the feat of being wrong all the time, although he did give it his worst efforts.

  • All powerful lies have to have at least a small amount of truth to them, otherwise no one would believe them. If there is a grain of “truth” to Marxism, it may be in its “critique of alienation under capitalistic forms of economic production.” Marx knew there was a problem and he did a fairly competent job of identifying what the problem was, but he was totally wrong about the solution.

  • Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi gave the best short analysis of Karl Marx that I have ever read:

    “After the bourgeois revolution of 1789, the time had come for a new, proletarian revolution: progress could not simply continue in small, linear steps. A revolutionary leap was needed. Karl Marx took up the rallying call, and applied his incisive language and intellect to the task of launching this major new and, as he thought, definitive step in history towards salvation—towards what Kant had described as the “Kingdom of God”. Once the truth of the hereafter had been rejected, it would then be a question of establishing the truth of the here and now. The critique of Heaven is transformed into the critique of earth, the critique of theology into the critique of politics. Progress towards the better, towards the definitively good world, no longer comes simply from science but from politics—from a scientifically conceived politics that recognizes the structure of history and society and thus points out the road towards revolution, towards all-encompassing change. With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution—and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion. His promise, owing to the acuteness of his analysis and his clear indication of the means for radical change, was and still remains an endless source of fascination. Real revolution followed, in the most radical way in Russia.

    21. Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx’s fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another. Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This “intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction. Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi_en.html

  • I guess “Marx” is philosophical and theological pathology.

    Attention all Keynesians!

    John Maynard Keynes quote: ” . . . socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of opinion – how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.” Keynes, “The End of Laissez-Faire.”

    Here is why there can be no “Gospel According to Saint Marx.”

    George Orwell, “Reflections on Gandhi”

    The Humanistic Ideal: “Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living.”

    “But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is ‘higher.’ The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives’ from the mildest liberal . . . have in effect chosen Man.”

    I think Keynes (RIP) and Orwell (RIP) “got” it.

  • Yes, note that, far from your assertion that Marx was simply a “poor philosopher,” Benedict describes him with the following phrases:

    “incisive language and intellect”; “With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias,Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution;”

    The Pope, rightly, goes on to note the “fundamental error” of Marx’s thought, but his criticism is so much the more persuasive because he has not fallen in for caricatures of Marx that you present as fact.

    By the way, the question whether Marx was, himself, a “materialist”–in the strongly philosophical sense of that word–is more difficult to answer than you might expect. But that’s another issue.

  • I believe that my description of Marx and the Pope’s analysis WJ are not in contradiction. Someone who gets the fundamental nature of Man wrong is a poor philosopher. As for caricatures of Marx WJ, in my post I let the man speak for himself, which I guess does reveal what a living caricature Marx tended to be.

  • “By the way, the question whether Marx was, himself, a “materialist”–in the strongly philosophical sense of that word–is more difficult to answer than you might expect.”

    How was Marx not a materialist in a “strong philisophical sense?”

  • I agree with this statement towards the end: “…as long as capitalism is still in business, Marxism must be as well.”

    That, I think, is the best argument against capitalism.

  • The only Marx worth remembering is Groucho. As for Karl, he sponged off Engels much of his life. After Marx wrote Das Kapital, his wife was so disgusted with his indolence, she remarked, “Karl, if you had only spent more time making capital instead of writing about it, we would have been better off.”

    As for capitalism and communism, the old joke applies:
    Capitalism is man’s exploitation of man; communism is the reverse.

  • Marx almost lost his meal ticket when Mary Burns, Engel’s mistress, died in 1863. Marx wrote Engels a letter which almost completely ignored her death. Engels wrote back stating that he had received quite a bit of sympathy over the death of his beloved from capitalists he knew, but none from Marx. Marx quickly wrote back and repaired the breach. Engels was one of the very few people in his life that Marx did not succeed in alienating. Marx knew a lot about alienation: he was a grand master at it!

  • “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”

    G.K. Chesterton (1922)

    That observation is as valid today as it what then and before.

  • Well, Hume, Locke, Kant and Plato, from a Catholic anthropological standpoint, also “got the fundamental nature of Man wrong”, although their errors are, obviously, different from both Marx’s and from each other’s. Are they poor philosophers too? (I’m leaving aside the obvious riposte that getting the “fundamental nature of Man” *right* is not something attainable by probably any single philosopher.)

    On Marx and Materialism, see George L. Kline, “The Myth of Marx’s Materialism” in Philosophical Sovietology: The Pursuit of a Science

  • I stopped reading when Eagleton claimed that scarcity was the result of capitalism. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected better from a literary critic, but still.

    When I was in college I read the Manifesto and was of course repulsed by it. A friend suggested to me that Marx’s really valuable insights were in alienation, so I read some of his stuff on that but it didn’t make any sense to me either (IIRC, Marx’s views on alienation had a fairly strong anti-religious thread running through it, so I’m surprised that Pope Benedict would say that it is correct, but he is undoubtedly more familiar with the subject than I).

  • Yeesh, that article is a rather frightful piece of utopian wishful thinking masquerading as thought, but then, who can be surprised that Commonweal would be happy to print such a thing. It seems that Capitalism (whatever one takes that to be) is very much at fault for not making things even better than it has over the last 300 years — while Marxism bears no fault at all for how any polity based upon its principles has foundered.

    Incidentally, Don, have you run into Leszek Kolakowski’s delightful essay “My Correct Views on Everything“? It’s a twenty page bloodletting response to a windy 100 page “open letter” addressed to Kolakowski by British leftist intellectual Edward Thompson, explaining to Kolakowski the virtues of socialism which Kolakowski (having recently defected from communist Poland) may not realize. Hard not to love a piece which opens:

    In a review of the last issue of Socialist Register by Raymond Williams, I read that your letter is one of the best pieces of Left writings in the last decade, which implies directly that all or nearly all the rest was worse. He knows better and I take his word. I should be proud to having occasioned, to a certain degree, this text, even if I happen to be its target. And so, my first reaction is one of gratitude.

    And goes on from there.

  • “Are they poor philosophers too?”

    Hume: yes; Locke: no; Kant: probably yes, if anyone, including Kant, had the foggiest notion of what Kant was saying; Plato: no. He is saved by a Cave, although he has much to answer for in regard to his Republic.

  • Well, Hume, Locke, Kant and Plato, from a Catholic anthropological standpoint, also “got the fundamental nature of Man wrong”, although their errors are, obviously, different from both Marx’s and from each other’s. Are they poor philosophers too?

    Are you saying that there is no degree to wrongness but that it is a binary quality?

    I don’t think it would be a reach to say that Marx got things rather more than those, and in more key aspects — indeed, what Marx is accused of getting right is pretty trivial.

    As for the other four, they’re a highly varied bunch, and perhaps arguably arranged from most to least wrong. Still, each provides at least a few useful insights into the human predicament. Marx… Well, if someone got something useful out of him more power to them, but I don’t think there’s much there one couldn’t get elsewhere.

  • Marx was also a vicious racist. Nathaniel Weyl’s “Karl Marx, Racist” shows ol’ KM had incrediably racist feeling about Blacks, Jews, Slavs, and even Scandanavians. Racism, it’s not just for Nazi’s!

  • Don, reminds me of all those chicken-crossing-the-road jokes:

    Plato’s answer: “For the greater good.”
    Marx’s answer: “It was an historical inevitability.”
    Aristotle: “To actualize its potential.”
    Epicurus: “For fun.”
    Torquemada: “Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.”

  • Darwin,

    No, of course there are degrees; my point was merely to counter Donald’s too easy dismissal of Marx, which actually doesn’t allow a *substantive* or philosophically serious criticism of Marx to be voiced, because it has already constructed, and destroyed, a straw-man.

    Many things which Marx “got right” are also the sorts of things that Aristotle “got right,” especially involving the importance of practice for thinking seriously about ethics, and so on. But I don’t think that, from this premise, you can get to the conclusion “Well then you don’t need Marx,” precisely because Marx makes legible how *one* broadly Aristotelian approach to society and culture might look given modern economies. Not the *right* one, necessarily, but one which, if you are going finally to critique it, you need to understand.

  • I don’t expect to buy Philosophical Sovietology due to the price on-line. Unless you have a copy of the article, I will just go with the general philosophical consensus that Marx was a materialist.

    That being the case, Marx, more that Hume, Locke, Plato and Kant fundamentally failed as a philosopher.

    As to Marx’s critique of capitalism (of the Nineteenth Century) I will defer to others. As to his relevance to the situation today, I suspect the experience of the Twentieth Century answers that.

  • Phillip,

    You can get the article via Interlibrary Loan if that’s available in your community (some public libraries support this, others don’t; most colleges and some high schools do as well). I wouldn’t buy the book either!

    I’m not sure that I think that Marx “failed” as a philosopher “more” than Hume or Locke, but I’m also not sure I know what that means absent further specification. I agree that Kant and Plato are (rightly) considered “greater” philosophers than Marx.

    The question as to whether the existence of the Soviet Union, and the very great evils perpetrated by that regime (and other, like-minded regimes) constitutes sufficient reason to conclude that Marx is irrelevant today is a complex one. From both the writings of Benedict and Cardinal Reinhardt Marx, one gets the sense that the answer is, “it depends.” If you are looking for solutions, then, I agree, Marx is a non-starter; but if you are looking for analyses and trenchant (although somewhat one-sided) criticisms, I believe Marx still has much to offer.

  • Perhaps I mean failed in the sense of discerning the truth. Clearly all philosophers fall short of this to some degree. (Even Aristotle couldn’t discern a personal God.)

    But while Hume, Locke and Kant failed in their epistemology, the latter two at least accepted a transcendent even though they denied the ability to know it with any precision. As a result, they held a measure of the truth.

    Marx on the other hand, and I still hold this though we may see with the article, through his radical materialism, failed in a fundamental way to understand what is true and in turn what leads men to true happiness.

  • Don said above the P. Benedict has the best short summary of Marx in Spe Salvi and then quoted it. I’m going to quote part of that quote:

    “He forgot that man always remains man.”

    Now, find me a better anti-utopian one-liner. God bless the holy father.

  • “Don, reminds me of all those chicken-crossing-the-road jokes:”

    Good ones Joe. Here are a few more for Napoleonic lovers of fowl humor:

    Edmund Burke: “To escape from revolutionary France!”
    Robespierre: “The chicken will find that it is difficult to cross roads headless!”
    Napoleon: “Conscript that chicken!”
    Wellington: “The chicken was almost trampled! It was the nearest run thing you ever saw!”

  • “Incidentally, Don, have you run into Leszek Kolakowski’s delightful essay “My Correct Views on Everything“? It’s a twenty page bloodletting response to a windy 100 page “open letter” addressed to Kolakowski by British leftist intellectual Edward Thompson, explaining to Kolakowski the virtues of socialism which Kolakowski (having recently defected from communist Poland) may not realize. Hard not to love a piece which opens:”

    No I had not Darwin! Thank you for directing me to it. That was a howlingly funny read, and full of gems of wisdom such as this:

    “I found it regrettable to see in your Letter so many Leftist cliches which survive in speech and print owing to three devices: first, the refusal to analyse words-and the use of verbal hybrids purposely designed to confound the issues; second, the use of moral or sentimental standards in some cases and of political and historical standards in other similar cases; third, the refusal to accept historical facts as they are.”

    Little has changed in that regard over the past 37 years.

  • Don, one more chicken/road answer from Machiavelli:

    So that its subjects will view it with admiration,
    as a chicken which has the daring and courage to
    boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom
    among them has the strength to contend with such a
    paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the
    princely chicken’s dominion maintained.

  • Brilliant Joe, but now I can’t help myself. The chicken crosses the road into recent politics.

    Al Gore: I invented the road. (Pause) And the chicken.

    George Bush: The chicken crossed the road because it was kinder and gentler on the other side.

    Dick Cheney: After advanced interrogation techniques the chicken revealed that he crossed the road to alert the jihadists!

    John McCain: The chicken would have crossed the road except that it was still recovering from its ordeal as a POW in Vietnam.

    Sarah Palin: That chicken thought he was going to cross the road! Tune in to my next special and you’ll see how it can feed a family of six, with a little help from his friend Mr. Moose who also thought he was going to cross that road!

    Joe Biden: What road? What chicken?

    Barack Obama: The chicken, seizing upon the audacity of hope, crossed the road to receive the Nobel Peace Price for crossing that road of our hoped for change!

  • Don, worthy additions! Now you’ve got me going…

    Nietsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road
    gazes also across you.

    Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself,
    the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

    Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

    bada bing

  • Pope Benedict: The chicken forgot that chicken always remains chicken, no matter what side of the road chicken is on.

  • The chickens have flown the Marxist coop on this thread!

  • John Donne: “It crosseth for thee.”

    OK, I’ll stop now. : )

  • The alienation that Marx desribes as the worker going through is largely the result of 19th century industrialisation, where through the division of labour, the workers found themselves increasingly deskilled and thus at the mercy of capitalists, who then no difficulty replacing them with women and children. The self-respect that most of us desire is to a considerable extent anchored in the value of the job we do. That the division of labour can lead to the dehumanising of workers, was easily grasped by the Luddites and the distributionists. One needn’t be a Marxist to understand it. The supremely assured F1 mechanic is not alienated from the result of his labour – he can see the car taking off at full speed – but an overeducated minion tending to a factory line machine, producing a small part of a small module of a car, certainly can be.

  • One of the great errors after the fall of the Evil Empire was not stigmatizing Marxism/Communism as was National Socialism after its defeat. Thus, the bizarre desire to resurrect it in varied forms now. The most bizarre, and vile, is the attempt to raise it again in the Church.

  • True Phillip. Imagine Commonweal giving space to someone claiming that fascism had its good points, contained great critiques of “plutocratic capitalism” and arguing that fascism should not be condemned out of hand because of Mussolini and Hitler. Unfortunately the old mantra “No enemies on the Left” is still in full force on the port side of the political spectrum apparently.

  • Phil, how is Marxism/Communism being ‘resurrected’? Other than its purest form (Cuba), it’s about as dead as Julius Caesar. Even the Chi-coms are committed capitalists these days. Marx, Lenin and their ilk have become mere footnotes in Planet Earth Incorporated. Terry Eagleton must have run out of material.

  • Joe,

    It is certainly being resurrected in Academia. The Eagleton link is one piece of “intellectual” resurrection. Not that that is much of a stretch given the Marxist bias of academia. That’s just the beginning.

  • Phillip,

    I don’t think it ever *died* in academia to begin with… the Marxists just quieted down some, but they’ve always insisted that the Soviets never *really* practiced Marxism.

  • Phil, granted, Academia is rife with Leftists, but their influence on the whole of society is limited.

    I don’t see millionaires like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who rail against capitalism, surrendering their private jets and vacation homes or redistributing their wealth to the have-nots.

    Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

  • Chris,

    That is probably a better way to put it. But given the time since the fall of the Wall and the current political/social situation, I think they and more of their ilk are increasing their cries for change.

    As opposed to Rahm Emanuel, I think the efforts of those who are radical Marxists/socialists to exploit these crises will have more widespread effects.

    Joe,

    I don’t think the effect of Academia is so limited. I think they have been quite effective in indoctrinating a whole generation to their thinking. Not that a generation is Marxist in a doctrinaire sense, but certainly more inclined to favor this thinking. Particularly in the “soft, taste great, less filling” form presented by many. This includes some in the Church such as Eagleton.

    As for the Hollywood types, they are hypocrites. Few are actual Marxists but some would be more than happy to run a re-education program. Most just want to feel good for ripping off people for their bad movies.

  • One example of that “soft” indoctrination would be the Howard Zinn/Matt Damon “The People Speak.” A collaboration of Communism and Hollywood.

  • Phil, perhaps easy to underestimate the impact of the Lefties in the classroom, although one wonders how much “education” is being absorbed in light of grim stats such as this: 67% of eight-graders in Wisconsin can’t read proficiently.

    As for Eagleton, he lost all cred with his diatribe against John Paul II, arguably the greatest man of the 20th century and the most influential pope of the Church.

    Back to the well-worn but always instructive mention of the dumbing down of America. John Taylor Gatto in his excellent “Underground History of American Education” offers this nugget:

    In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them.

    In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, “I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?”

    Nowadays, Huck Finn has been sanitized and the dictionaries are filling up with new “words” such as ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG’ — further signs of the declining literacy rate in America.

    Knowledge, and its ultimate fruit, wisdom, suffer greatly.

  • Don’t deny education has been dumbed down in America.

    “67% of eight-graders in Wisconsin can’t read proficiently.”

    But they are probably up to date on the status of the Teachers’ Union.

  • “One example of that “soft” indoctrination would be the Howard Zinn/Matt Damon “The People Speak.” A collaboration of Communism and Hollywood.”

    The video at the beginning of the post is from Howard Zinn’s play Marx in Soho, which established beyond doubt that the late Mr. Zinn was as poor a playwright as he was a historian.

    A critique of Zinn the historian from the Left:

    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=385

    A critique of Zinn the historian from the Right:

    http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/01/america_the_awfulhoward_zinns.html

  • I don’t see millionaires like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who rail against capitalism, surrendering their private jets and vacation homes or redistributing their wealth to the have-nots.

    I wouldn’t expect them to, nor any other Marxist. Marxists and even many non-Marxist leftists are all for what they deem dignity and justice for the poor or working masses – they just don’t want, nor expect to be, part of the working mass. They want to be thoughtful and privileged administrators of the masses. They’re really just arrogant elitists and would-be tyrants, but in their mind it is okay because they know better than the common man what is best for him.

    Unfortunately, we see too much of that mindset in our mainstream politics and even coming from some Catholics.

  • Marx was a poor philosopher, if philosophers are developers and discerners of philosophy. Marx had some merits as an observer. As for the rest, it’s taken me two days to get through this post, original article, and thread (Marxism is intellectually exhausting!) and it’ll take me a bit longer to get my thoughts together.

  • Forgive the long post, Don, but this, too, from Gatto’s book on discipline then and now, for which a link can be found at the end. (A great read, and free on-line for you history lovers).

    Rules of the Stokes County School November 10, 1848
    Wm. A. Chaffin, Master

    OFFENSE LASHES
    1. Boys & Girls Playing Together 4
    2. Quarreling 4
    3. Fighting 5
    4. Fighting at School 5
    5. Quarreling at School 3
    6. Gambling or Betting at School 4
    7. Playing at Cards at School 10
    8. Climbing for every foot over three feet up a tree 1
    9. Telling Lies 7
    10. Telling Tales Out of School 8
    11. Nick Naming Each Other 4
    12. Giving Each Other ILL Names 3
    13. Fighting Each Other in Time of Books 2
    14. Swearing at School 8
    15. Blackguarding Each Other 6
    16. For Misbehaving to Girls 10
    17. For Leaving School Without Leave of the Teacher 4
    18. Going Home With Each Other without Leave of Teacher 4
    19. For Drinking Spiritous Liquors at School 8
    20. Making Swings & Swinging on Them 7
    21. For Misbehaving when a Stranger is in the House 6
    22. For Wearing Long Finger Nails 2
    23. For not Making a Bow when a Stranger Comes in 3
    24. Misbehaving to Persons on the Road 4
    25. For not Making a Bow when you Meet a Person 4
    26. For Going to Girl’s Play Places 3
    27. For Going to Boy’s Play Places 4
    28. Coming to School with Dirty Face and Hands 2
    29. For Calling Each Other Liars 4
    30. For Playing Bandy 10
    31. For Bloting Your Copy Book 2
    32. For Not Making a bow when you go home 4
    33. For Not Making a bow when you come away 4
    34. Wrestling at School 4
    35. Scuffling at School 4
    36. For Weting each Other Washing at Play Time 2
    37. For Hollowing and Hooping Going Home 3
    38. For Delaying Time Going Home or Coming to School 3
    39. For Not Making a Bow when you come in or go out 2
    40. For Throwing anything harder than your trab ball 4
    41. For every word you miss in your lesson without excuse 1
    42. For Not saying yes Sir or no Sir or yes Marm, no Marm 2
    43. For Troubling Each Others Writing Affairs 2
    44. For Not Washing at Play Time when going to Books 4
    45. For Going and Playing about the Mill or Creek 6
    46. For Going about the barn or doing any mischief about 7

    “Whatever you might think of this in light of Dr. Spock or Piaget or the Yale Child Study folks, it must be apparent that civility was honored, and in all likelihood, no one ever played Bandy a second time! I’ve yet to meet a parent in public school who ever stopped to calculate the heavy, sometimes lifelong price their children pay for the privilege of being rude and ill-mannered at school. I haven’t met a public school parent yet who was properly suspicious of the state’s endless forgiveness of bad behavior for which the future will be merciless.”

    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/toc1.htm

  • Joe Green: Well, I really have to wonder how much Thoreau or Oliver Wendell Holmes the average 5th grader could absorb. Still, it’s far better to overreach when it comes to education than it is to dumb down.

    One of the most irritating notions of our time is the common conceit that we are brighter than benighted past generations because we’re not racist or sexist like they were and besides, those dumb slobs didn’t have computers or cell phones or cars. If you are historically illiterate, you never realize that you are as thoroughly a creature of your own time and place as anybody born in any previous era and that the Founding Fathers or great artists like Shakespeare were infinitely less parochial than most human beings, past, present or future. Nor do they grasp that future generations will probably regard our tolerance of abortion with the same disgust people today feel toward, say, antebellum slaveholders. It takes a particular sort of arrogance to know nothing of history and yet feel sure that your own generation somehow sits at the pinnacle of human existence – because hey, Lincoln might have known the Bible by heart, but dude, would he have known what to do with an ipad?

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Augustine’s Confessions: An Elusive Love

Tuesday, March 29, AD 2011

Book 3 finds Augustine studying in Carthage. On the personal front, the adult Augustine accuses his late-teen self of being consumed by lust, but he hasn’t yet found a specific person to get into trouble with.

I had not yet fallen in love, but I was in love with the idea of it, and this feeling that something was missing made me despise myself for not being more anxious to satisfy the need. I began to look around for some object for my love, since I badly wanted to love something.

Of course, from his authorial vantage point, Augustine sees that what he was searching for in the most final sense was God. Lacking God to love, he sought about for other things — sex first among them — which he thought would fill that lack.

Yet even acknowledging that God is our deepest and ultimate need, there’s also something that’s very familiarly human about Augustine’s phrasing here.

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The Difference Between Libya and Iraq Explained

Monday, March 28, AD 2011

For additional comedy relief, here is a video put out by a group supporting Obama for president detailing Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

You know, I think quite a few of the easy marks who voted for Obama will regret eventually having voted for him, perhaps none more so than those who voted for him because they actually believed that he was a peacenik.

Why, perhaps even Morning’s Minion at Vox Nova, who wrote the paragraph below, will someday realize that Obama played him like an accordion:

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9 Responses to The Difference Between Libya and Iraq Explained

  • Here’s the difference. A hated, GOP president liberated Iraq.
    A messianic, progressive president gave Libya to al Qaeda, et al.

  • As the Instapundit notes, the real rubes are those who somehow believed Obama was something other than a sleazy Chicago pol.

  • How about I think about minding our own business… I think we had it right after WWI mind our own business and only involve ourselves when we cannot ignore it like WWII …. but let continue to go to war and spend more money we don’t have sounds smart Obama/Bush II ..feel like every prez since nixon is a manchurian candidate but lets keep on chugging with that rep/demo talk that gets us so far…

  • “I think we had it right after WWI mind our own business and only involve ourselves when we cannot ignore it like WWII”

    Actually Alex, I think one of the contributing factors that led to World War II was the retreat of the US into an isolationist cocoon following WWI.

  • “the real rubes are those who believed Obama was something other than a sleazy Chicago pol”

    If Obama were just another “sleazy Chicago pol” his highest ambition would have been to get elected alderman or mayor, not POTUS!

  • That is one of the many mysteries of Obama Elaine: he strikes me as neither ambitious nor driven, two characterists of most presidents. Another mystery is that once having grasped the brass ring of the Presidency, he seems to me to be completely disinterested and disengaged from the job. There are many question marks about this man.

  • Donald, you’re on to it now!
    Obama really never wanted “power”. That requires responsibilities and decision making which he knew were “above his pay scale” as well as his limited abilities. Barry, the lovable community organizer with the big smiley face and velvet tongue, desired only the “position” of the highest office. He never cared about being the people’s candidate or the people themselves. He had the job of his life before he ever entered public office. He was fully aware the power and wealth of those backing and guiding his career and writing his books were able to fill the enlarged ego of the little boy with such a humble and mysterious childhood far beyond his wildest dreams.
    We need to stop thinking we, the voting public, “employed” Obama. He accepted the “position” he desired with the “power” he saw as the dominate force in world politics for the future as soon as he finished college. The 2008 election brought that power into a position at the White House and Obama is its voice. Got it?

  • I’d like to add…
    And now you can understand why Obama seems to be preoccupied with parties, palling with celeb’s, festive receptions, golf, basketball, vacations, expensive family trips out of the country, and avoiding meetings now with other national leaders of opposite stripe here and world leaders from abroad who have been our closest allies in the past.
    Speech is the main purpose of his occupation not negotiating on his feet and the words only come together for him after the community organizers preordained ideologues have determined what they want his audience to hear from him

  • Here are two more difference.

    In Iraq, US marines and soldiers were killing jihadis.

    In Libya, per Byron York, US is aiding jihadis that killed Americans. KIA of the USS Coles must be spinning in their graves.

    And, per Donald Sensing: “Obama got rolled by the Europeans. This is an after-affect of French and Italian colonialism. The Libya war is neo-colonialism by the Europeans. And the United States is like fraternity pledges that the brothers make mop up the frat house floor on Sunday morning after an all-night kegger that they didn’t attend.”

Von Galen Contra Euthanasia

Sunday, March 27, AD 2011

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine the third of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  One week after his first breathtaking sermon against the Gestapo, my examination of which may be read here, he preached on July 20, 1941 a blistering sermon against the Nazis and their war on Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, which may be read here.  On August 3, 1941 at Saint Lambert’s in Munster, he preached a third sermon which, along with an overall attack on the Nazi regime, attacked an evil that, alas, unlike the Nazis, remains with us today.

My Beloved Brethren,

In today’s Gospel we read of an unusual event: Our Saviour weeps. Yes, the Son of God sheds tears. Whoever weeps must be either in physical or mental anguish. At that time Jesus was not yet in bodily pain and yet here were tears. What depth of torment He must have felt in His heart and Soul, if He, the bravest of men, was reduced to tears. Why is He weeping? He is lamenting over Jerusalem, the holy city He loved so tenderly, the capital of His race. He is weeping over her inhabitants, over His own compatriots because they cannot foresee the judgment that is to overtake them, the punishment which His divine prescience and justice have pronounced. ‘Ah, if thou too couldst understand, above all in this day that is granted thee, the ways that can bring thee peace!’ Why did the people of Jerusalem not know it? Jesus had given them the reason a short time before. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it! I your God and your King wished it, but you would have none of Me. . . .’ This is the reason for the tears of Jesus, for the tears of God. . . . Tears for the misrule, the injustice and man’s willful refusal of Him and the resulting evils, which, in His divine omniscience, He foresees and which in His justice He must decree. . . . It is a fearful thing when man sets his will against the will of God, and it is because of this that Our Lord is lamenting over Jerusalem.

“the capital of His race.”  What courage it took in Nazi Germany to remind people of the fact that Jesus was a Jew!  Von Galen had always been a friend to Jews, and would hide a Jewish boy, with the help of a Protestant pastor, at an institute Von Galen controlled, from the Nazis.  After his death he would be highly praised by the Munster Jewish community for the care and assistance he had shown them.  Would that all Germans had acted the same way.  It is a canard to say that all Germans hated Jews:  even with the Nazis pumping out the vilest anti-semitism imaginable 24-7 since they took power that was not the case.  However, it is fair to say that a majority of Germans were indifferent to the fate of the Jews and were unwilling to raise their voices against the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  This attitude of most of the German people is well described in the film Judgment at Nuremberg where Burt Lancaster, as German judge Ernst Janning, gives riveting testimony:

Von Galen I think realized this indifference and his sermons were meant to show Germans that the evil of the Nazis was not restricted only to people they were shamefully indifferent to.

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5 Responses to Von Galen Contra Euthanasia

  • Don great series.

    A sermon, it makes the point better to the ears than the eyes. Form YouTube a reenactment.

    Catholic Sermons Defying the Nazis

    Third sermaon starts a t4:00

  • There were many courageous Catholics who raised their voices against the Nazis. Devout Catholics knew that the Nazis meant evil when in the aftermath of the 1934 assasination of Engelbert Dollfuss, they refused the sacrament of Extreme Unction to the dying man even as he lingered in his blood for hours begging them. They wished to see him off to Hell without the saving grace of the Church. No son of the Catholic Church would ever refuse a man his last attempts at Grace. But this has not prevented the Goldhagen crowd from wholesale slander of Catholics and the Church as Nazi sympathisers. Before the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies, before the widespread killing of Jews in Poland and the Soviet Union, there was the Nazi killing of the old, mad, crippled, deviants and the unintelligent. It was the Roman Catholic Church that stood consistently athwart all this, taking on all comers. Some others according to their lights sought to make exceptions for war veterans and such like, but the Church brooked no exception – euthanasia is an intrinsic evil. This story is not as well known as it should be partly on account of the embarrasment it caused to the eugenic agenda promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation. It is beyond irony that gargoyles such as Hitler who suffered from uncontrollable farting, chinless Himmler who ran like a schoolgirl, and that dead ringer for a prison snitch – Goebbels – ended up as arbiters of Nordic beauty.

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The Prayer After Communion – Third Sunday of Lent

Saturday, March 26, AD 2011

Listen to the new translation for the Prayer After Communion composed for the Third Sunday of Lent:

As we receive the pledge

of things yet hidden in heaven

and are nourished while still on earth

with the Bread that comes from on high,

we humbly entreat you, O Lord,

that what is being brought about in us in mystery

may come to true completion.

This is simply exquisite.  It emphasizes that the Mass is both a foretaste of and, in some mysterious way, a participation in the heavenly banquet.  That pledge which “we receive” is the Eucharist, and it is the Eucharist which unites heaven and earth.  It nourishes us “while still on earth” and gives us a taste of “things yet hidden in heaven.”  Cardinal Ratzinger, in The Spirit of the Liturgy describes the present time (that which is after the Resurrection but before the end of the world) as the proper time for liturgy, for it is the great “already, but not yet.”  Only in such an era can something like a sacrament make sense.  Only in such an era can “Bread that comes from on high” be an efficacious sign of heavenly realities.

In the same book, Ratzinger speaks of how the liturgy is anthropological.  It took me several readings to fully understand the Cardinal’s words.  The explanation goes something like this.  We know that our completion (our “final cause” or telos) is to be found in God’s presence, that is, in heaven.  In other words, we will be most fully human when we are standing before God’s loving gave in glory with the angels and the saints.  Conversely, the souls of the damned are virtually inhuman, which is why even individual demons in the Gospel (though properly speaking these are fallen angels not fallen men) describe themselves in the plural: “We are Legion.”  In hell, all individuality is lost, for the self is given over to sin.  Said differently, sin consumes the person.  Think here of the character of Gollum in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  The ring, symbolic of evil, has all but claimed the identity of the wretched creature, so much so that Gollum refers to himself in the plural, experiencing the utmost of personality crises.  Rather than giving the self over to evil, we are to empty ourselves out for the summum bonum: God himself.  The Gospel paradox is: in giving ourselves away to God, we subsequently find our true selves.  This is because all fulfillment (all telos) is found in God.  From God we have come, and to God we must return.  The soul who gives himself to evil merely empties the self; absent is the promise and possibility of finding the self.

Moreover, the Mass is our participation on earth in the reality that constitutes heaven, for heaven is nothing more than the eternal worship of the Almighty God.  Putting these two things together, (1) if our fulfillment is found in heaven, and (2) if the Mass is a participation in the reality which is heaven, it follows that our fulfillment as human beings begins in the Mass.  It is in the Mass that we find our true selves.  It is in the Mass that we become that for which we are destined; it is here we become holy. This is simply an extended explanation of a sacrament as “an efficacious sign of God’s grace,” and this is what Cardinal Ratzinger means when he says that the liturgy is “anthropological.”

We return now ready to understand the Pray After Communion on the Third Sunday of Lent:  “We humbly entreat you, O Lord, that what is being brought about in us in mystery may come to true completion.”  I repeat that with which I started: this is simply exquisite.

It is so exquisite, in fact, that I hesitate to ruin it with the current, deficient translation.  I even thought of letting it go and simply recommending that people listen carefully this coming Sunday.  Alas, I am weak, and I cannot resist the opportunity to demonstrate just how deficient it is.  I won’t go through the Latin; rest assured that the new translation is much more faithful.  Without further adieu, here is what we will hear this weekend:

Lord, in sharing this sacrament

may we receive your forgiveness

and be brought together in unity and peace.

And with that, I leave you with that which has become my mantra as of late:

I feel like each Sunday this year presents a funeral of sorts … a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again.  Rather than mourning this passing, my heart finds solace in the assurance that these texts will rise again in a more perfect form with the ‘advent’ of the new translation.  While we have a full year to pay our respects to the passing Ordinary, there is a rejoicing of sorts that the current Propers have reached the end of the proverbial line: their days are numbered, their time has passed, and blessed be God for that.

At least in terms of the Holy Mass, the 1973 ‘Prayer After Communion’ for the Third Sunday of Lent has met its maker, kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the farm, breathed its last, and indeed … croaked.  This is not a cause for mourning, but rather a looking forward to the day of resurrection; for the Latin soul of this prayer is indeed filled with grace, so when it rises again as the 2010 Prayer, it will be gloriously triumphant.”

 

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Alexander the Great

Saturday, March 26, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  The song Macedonia to the tune of Sharona by the Knack, by the endlessly talented folks of History for Music Lovers.  Alexander the Great, living refutation of the idea that history is all grand vast processes and that individuals matter for little.  In his brief 32 years he had a larger impact perhaps on this world than any other one man in secular history.  The spreading of Greek culture in the East led to the vast cultural synthesis of Hellenism, and had a huge impact upon Judaism and, eventually, Christianity.  It is somewhat frightening to think that so much of our history depended upon the military prowess of one man.

What if Alexander hadn’t turned East?  What if he had turned West?  The Roman historian Livy, in one of the first examples of alternate history, mused about what would have happened if Alexander had marched against Rome.

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3 Responses to Alexander the Great

  • Being a two-bit, wannabe gold bug, I recently compiled a history-time line of gold. Of interest, Alexander obtained $1 billion in gold from his conquest of Persia. Previously, Egypt had become “wealthy” from Nubian gold, as did Rome, when it took Spanish gold mining areas from Carthage.

    Despite evident Livy’s chauvinism, I (it would have been extremely close-run) tend to agree that Aleander would not have prevailed against Rome. Rome would not have defeated him in the field. Alexander would not have been able to take Rome. We have the example of Hannibal to ratify that determination. It would have been close.

    Also, agree with Livy, Rome rotted from within.

  • A great and interesting read. The author of The Seven Deadly Sins recounts a story that Plutarch wrote about Alexander the Great. Alexander, in a drunken rage, seized a spear and killed an old friend and faithful soldier who had criticized him. At once Alexander felt remorse and drew the spear from the dead body and would have dashed it into his own throat but for his bodyguards. According to Plutarch, Alexander spent day and night in bitter lamentations and lay speechless worn out with his cries and wailing. His friends were alarmed enough to enlist the help of a philosopher who soothed him and told him that the whole world should not see him on the floor weeping like a slave in fear of law and censure of men, because Alexander should himself be a law and measure of justice since he has conquered the right to rule and mastery, instead of submitting like a slave to the mastery of vain opinion. The whole point of the story was that rather than encouraging Alexander to accept his guilt and mend his ways, the philosopher absolved him of guilt. Alexander wasn’t allowed to complete the process of repentence and become a better man, because he now thought himself guiltless and his ambition and vanity were fed by the philosopher.

    In contrast, consider the story of King David and Nathan. David put Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, opposite the enemy where the fighting was fiercest in the hopes he would be killed so David could sleep with his wife. But Nathan, a prophet, told David of a cruel rich man who stole the only ewe lamb of a poor man and tells David he is the cruel man. David acknowledged his guilt and was able to repent.

  • “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” Mark 8:36

MLB Preview: National League East

Friday, March 25, AD 2011

The American League East deservedly has the reputation of being the best division in all of baseball, but the NL East might be a close second.  Other than the Washington Nationals, every team in the NL East should finish at .500 or better, and two teams have legitimate World Series aspirations.  Of course one team received most of the national attention when it signed a prized free agent pitcher and thus assembled one of the best starting rotations that the game has ever seen.  With such a loaded staff, there’s really not going to be much of a contest, right?  We might as well crown the division champions before the season even starts.  I mean is there any doubt as to who will come out on top in the National League East?

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Someone Give This Man a Job Immediately!

Friday, March 25, AD 2011

Hattip to Creative Minority Report.

If Tim Roach questioned his own manhood after six months of unemployment, consider the question asked and answered. Tim Roach is a man, a good man.

In mid February, Tim, got a call from his local union with the news every laid off worker longs to hear — a job offer.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Tim’s unemployment benefits were about to run out. He could hardly believe what the voice on the other end was presenting to him — an offer to be a job foreman for at least 11 months, with a salary of $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

Perfect, Tim thought. Then came the bad news — he would be working on construction of a new Planned Parent­hood Clinic in St. Paul on University Avenue. The highest of highs became the lowest of lows as he quickly turned down the offer.

Tim’s Union rep tried to get him to reconsider saying he wasn’t sure if abortions would be performed there but he simply responded, “It’s a Planned Parenthood. No.”

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11 Responses to Someone Give This Man a Job Immediately!

Theodore Roosevelt: They Don’t Come Any Tougher

Friday, March 25, AD 2011

A recording of a speech by that force of nature otherwise known as Theodore, he hated being called Teddy, Roosevelt during his “Bull Moose” campaign for president in 1912.  Note the clear delivery and diction.  Note also his references to French history:   politicians did not assume that they had to talk down to the average voter in those days.  By splitting the Republican vote, Roosevelt getting the larger share, Roosevelt’s third party campaign ensured the election of Woodrow Wilson.  Although he failed to win, during the campaign Roosevelt established beyond doubt that he was one of the toughest men ever to be president.

On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was giving a speech in Milwaukee.  A deranged saloonkeeper, John Schrank, shot him in the chest.  Roosevelt refused to cancel a scheduled speech.  His opening is perhaps one of the most memorable for any speech:

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.

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7 Responses to Theodore Roosevelt: They Don’t Come Any Tougher

  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris is a good read although more hagiography than biography. Morris goes out of his way to turn Teddy into a near-saint, downplaying his flaws, which included shooting just about anything on four legs and bragging about it. Roosevelt’s imposing presence was enough to cause one foreign visitor to exclaim: “Do you know the two most wonderful things I have seen in your country? Niagara Falls and the President of the United States, both great wonders of nature!”

    As Teddy would react: “Dee-lighted!”

    Perhaps lost in history is the “nature fakers” controversy in the early 20th century in which Roosevelt was a key participant. It was an intense debate at the time, highlighting the conflict between science and sentiment in popular nature. There were those who ascribed anthropomorphic features to animals and those who didn’t; Roosevelt being in the latter camp by publicly siding with the latter by publishing his article “Nature Fakers” in the September 1907 issue of Everybody’s Magazine. (some of this can be found on Wikipedia, not the best source but certainly valid).

    Roosevelt popularized the negative colloquialism by which the controversy would later be known to describe one who purposefully fabricates details about the natural world. The definition of the term later expanded to include those who depicted nature with excessive sentimentality.

    Jack London, for one, famed for Call of the Wild and White Fang in which dogs and wolves took on almost human qualities, and Roosevelt publicly feuded for awhile over this and then the whole issue died down, although now and then it comes up with a Disney movie comes out and turns animals into human models.

    Just a footnote, of course, to the larger theme put forth by Don, which spoke of Roosevelt’s tremendous courage and, hence, leadership. Taken as a whole, he was arguably the best President after Lincoln and certaintly the greatest of the 20th century. When contrasted to the current officeholder, one can only cringe as to how far we have descended into mediocrity.

  • I’ve always admired TR, but lately I’ve grown weary of him. I want to like him- there is so much one cannot help but admire- but one of the main things that concerns me is his elitist Drawinian trend toward eugenics. Any thoughts on this?

  • Roosevelt’s views on many issues are hard to translate into simple terms. Often quotes by him that float around the internet are taken out of context from fairly lengthy articles he wrote. Eugenics is a prime example. Go to the link below to read an article entitled Twisted Eugenics that he wrote in 1914 in response to the idea that war lowers the racial stock of a nation:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=z0wAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=theodore+roosevelt+twisted+eugenics&source=bl&ots=0tH3HQm42j&sig=7VQ_XlhGxjbWJ3c4-G6T__wHEbg&hl=en&ei=aWGQTfCJNKOx0QGWvty2Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=theodore%20roosevelt%20twisted%20eugenics&f=false

    Roosevelt attacked that notion in the article. In that article he also makes statements in favor of eugenics, large families and against birth control. He notes that immigrants in New England will inherit, and should inherit, New England because the old Puritan stock were not having children. Roosevelt’s main concern in this area was that too many people were, as he would have phrased it, “shirking their duty” of having offspring.

6 Responses to J’accuse!

  • When I was a kid, one of our family dogs, a springer, was also in the habit of “smiling” nervously when she was caught in some transgression. She also smiled when she greeted family members and some visitors to the house were made uneasy by the sight. We had to explain that she was not snarling. So this video not only made me laugh, but brought back some dear memories.

  • Here’s my solution: ditch the cat.

  • The dog actually reminds me of me when he is squinting. My daughter always tells me that when I am watching TV on the couch she can’t tell if I am asleep or awake. My Father had the same ability, as I learned on numerous occasions in my youth when I attempted to turn the channel!

  • Classic.
    About 12 years ago, we had a light golden lab bitch just like the one in the video. It wa so funny when she did something wrong – she would come skulking toward us when we called her, with her tail so far between her legs it looked like she never had one, and when I lifted my hand as if to give her a light smack on the head, she would drop her ears,lower and extend her head and blink like a naughty child. It was such a cause for laughter that after the first few times she wouldn’t get the smack, and after a minute or two of our laughing, her head and ears would slowly come up and her tail would slowly come out and start small wags, and after a few minutes was full of licking and smiling – some dogs are so “human”.

  • Indeed Don! One of the many reasons I love the canine race!

  • Yeah. We had a chocolate lab who was forbidden to climb on the sofa but would whenever we would leave the house. Always got off when she heard we were pulling into the driveway.

    Now and then would forget something in the house and run back in to retrieve it. Of course the dog would already be on the sofa and have the most guilty look on its face and slowly climb off.

    Sadly, she had that guilty look also at the end when her kidneys went and she started to have accidents all over the house. At that point we just gave her lots of hugs.

9 Responses to How Times Change

  • Joe’s good for laughs, but clearly hasn’t been right in the head since 1988 when he had a brain aneurysm and a priest gave him last rites. Every since then, he’s been on a slow march toward senility.

  • We obtain that for which we proffer remuneration.

    Vice President Biden spent most of his adult life in Congress.

    Mark Twain on Congressmen:

    Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.
    – What Is Man?

    …the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes.
    – Letter fragment, 1891

    “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
    – Mark Twain, a Biography

    A majority of Americans pay zero (or minimal) Federal income taxes. Less than 1% of American citizens serve in the armed forces.

    We get what we pay for.

  • Mark Twain also suggested that Congress could be emptied in a day if each member received anonymous telegrams stating: “Flee! All is discovered!”.

  • Of course, all good liberals know that what Obama really meant to say was “No Republican President has the right to….” In fact, you could finish the sentence many different ways – “keep Gitmo open,” for instance, or “go on vacations, oh, every 3 weeks or so.” That doesn’t mean President Obama can’t do it.

    Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. I have no doubt I slept better for 17 years because I did not realize that Ole Joe was head of the Judiciary Committee. Of course, I don’t want to ponder the fact that he’s now a heartbeat away from the Oval Office for too long. As much as I dislike Obama, I pray fervently for his continued good health.

  • “As much as I dislike Obama, I pray fervently for his continued good health.”

    You are not the only one, Donna, I assure you! 🙂

  • More proof that life is becoming indistinguishable from the Onion:

    Today’s the big day for Amtrak’s Wilmington train station. It is being renamed in honor of Vice President and former Delaware Senator Joe Biden following major renovations made possible with stimulus funds.

    One problem: the CEO of Amtrak got stuck on the train.

    ABC News Deputy Political Director & Political Reporter Michael Falcone tweeted at approximately 10 a.m. that the Acela train he was riding had been “delayed” in Baltimore and that he was sitting next to Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman.

    Falcone tweeted, “Acela to NY delayed for ‘unknown period’ Should I feel better that the Amtrak CEO is sitting next to me?”

    It quickly became apparent that the CEO’s presence wouldn’t fix the train. A subsequent tweet from Falcone noted, “BAD sign: Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman just got OFF the train to take a car to Wilmington.”

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/19/amtrak-ceo-ditches-broken-train-to-travel-by-car-to-ribbon-cutting-of-wilmingtons-joe-biden-station/#ixzz1HZVH6VuE

  • Try to imagine the media firestom if Cheney flacks had stuck a reporter in a closet!

  • And I note that Biden was at a fundraiser hosted by a rich liberal. Can someone explain to me why Soros, Immelt of GE and wealthy Hollyweird types can give loads of money to leftist causes and the Dem party, but when a Koch gives the Walker campaign $45,000 it’s a crime? Rich conservatives are not supposed to give a dime to support their causes, but rich leftists can?

Foxfier on Internet Debate

Thursday, March 24, AD 2011

The American Catholic is blessed with many fine commenters, regular visitors to our blog who enliven and illuminate our comboxes.  One of the finest of our commenters is Foxfier who is unmatched in internet debate.  Go here to read her classic debate with “Sal”.  On her first rate blog Head Noises, she has written her rules for arguing on the internet.  I wish they could be engraven on every blog that allows comments.  Here beginneth the Foxfier Lesson:

1) You do not have the right to a reply.
The only person involved in an argument on line which you can control is yourself. Argument from ignorance is still invalid– just because they didn’t responds to your spittle flecked rant from nowhere well researched and calmly argued response to their post, even if it has been five minutes a long time since you posted. Not everyone will check back at a post. Not everyone will read or heed even if they are subscribed to comments.

Some people will make rules about who they will or will not spend their time on– I have a three strike rule; three indications that continuing would be a waste of time, and I will stop trying to have a conversation. I’ll still debunk false or misleading claims, but that is because Google will find the conversation and it makes sense to counter false or misleading information everywhere you can, if it might mislead others.

  2) Wiki isn’t a source.
 Wiki is edited by non-experts, with their biases intact. It’s like walking into a room and asking a question, then listening to the loudest folks as the truth. Wiki is, however, a great way to get some information to start from– give you an idea what to search for. This leads to my next point….

  3) Make your own argument.
 By this I do not mean that you have to be a unique flower with only your own special view and none of those icky shared opinions, especially if said arguments are shared by lame parents authority figures. The strength of an argument is inherent, not based on who is making it. I mean that if you are supporting a position, make the arguments. Don’t link to an information page and berate the other person for not going, sifting through the dross and trying to find an argument for you.
 Linking to a detailed, cited argument for your view is alright– in many cases, it’s a superior way of arguing, since it keeps the comboxes nicely clear, and allows for a lot more detail. For example, here  (Sadly, link is broken because the blog moved, and the comments are no more; here’s the article, though.) a poster named Aaron links to a white paper that consists of a short statement and argument, with the option of greater detail if you download the information. Which also leads to:

  4) Be familiar with basic definitions. 
If the topic is biology, know what “organism” means in that context; if there are multiple meanings for a word and you wish to focus on a specific one, define the term as you are using it. If you wish to discuss torture in the context of treaties, link to a treaty and offer the relevant definition. If you’re using an unusual definition, don’t be surprised if the opposite side calls you on argument by bizarre definition rejects it.

 This is not to be confused with a common form of #3– “go look it up!” If you find yourself about to type that, stop, find the definition, post the link. If it’s as obvious as you think, it will make them look foolish; if not, problem solved!

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13 Responses to Foxfier on Internet Debate

  • And here I thought I was in trouble…..

    (It makes more sense with the strike throughs, for those going “what is that lump of jibberish?”)

    Thank you greatly for the link!

  • Thank you Foxfier for your thoughts in an area which greatly needs all the dispassionate analysis it can receive!

  • There’s one thing I might add that perhaps encompasses several of Foxfier’s points: respond honestly. A lot of combox exchanges soon become unreadable because one (if not more) of the parties involved appears to have no intention of arguing honestly. Substantive posts are met with obsfucation, red herrings, question-begging, inappropriate appeals to authority, strawmen, ad hominem arguments in general, or just plain dodged. If someone has posted substantive arguments, respond in kind. If the arguments aren’t substantive, you may respond pointing out the fallacies of thought, but in my experience the majority of time the response you’ll get will simply be more of the same, in which case it’s obvious the person isn’t interested in honest debate and it’s time to leave.

    It seems to me these days that the left is especially prone to dishonest argumentation, apparently because leftists seem to value more highly how they feel about an issue rather than what they think about it. Much ink has been spilled and many electrons have been used to analyze why the left, in the form of the Democratic Party, did so poorly in the most recent elections. One factor which I think played an underrecognized role in the Democrats’ shellacking was the honesty (or the lack thereof) of their candidates. Voters had legitimate concerns about the economy, unemployment, the new healthcare regulations, and the budget deficit among other issues. When they asked the Democratic candidates about these issues, however, for the most part they didn’t get honest answers but instead got either obsfucation or personal attacks (“it’s Bush’s fault”, “the Koch brothers/Fox News/talk radio are feeding you lies”, “you have to read the bill to find out what’s in it”, “that’s racist/sexist/homophobic”, or just the general if unspoken impression that voters are stupid and need to listen to their betters). The voters took note and voted accordingly.

  • May I also add that just because it’s a blog comments section it doesn’t mean you should dispense with the rules of grammar and proper capitalization. it really annoys me when i c people right like it’s an im chat. what up with dat? 😉

  • zomg paul srsly?

    sent from my StupidPhone

  • So that’s what Foxfier looks like 🙂

    Excellent rules and I thank her for coming up with them. Here’s another pet Internet debate peeve (and I certainly have been on both sides of this): one debater writes a long rant, with about 20 separate points or questions asked of another commenter. The other party in the debate comes back and addresses points 1-5. The person who wrote the rant then comes back and says “Ha! I see you totally ignored my excellent point 14!”

    One thing I’ve always wondered about are those odd ducks who leave comments in threads that scrolled off the front page weeks or months ago. The only reason I’m aware of them at AC is because of your nifty “Recent Comments” feature. It seems that both the occasional militant atheists and frothing anti-Semites somehow childishly feel they’ve “won” a debate if they get in the last word in on a thread on a Catholic blog. It reminds me of an adolescent spitting on church in the middle of the night and then running away, congratulating himself on his wit and bravery.

  • Donna V-
    My husband drew that when we started dating; the character got randomly cursed with being a were-fox. When I found it again after we moved, I couldn’t resist!

    I know some of the comments on old posts are from searches– either automated ones or someone just looking for information. (automated is usually trolls, information can go both ways)

  • Donna,

    One thing we’ve done is close comments after a month. Comments on posts that are older than 30 days are very rarely any good.

  • I read all 403 comments to that post, and all I can say is, wow. Impressive.

    I’ve taken the advice to heart, too – I had someone leave a comment at my blog earlier today, and rather than let it go unchallenged – he claimed that the National Catholic Reporter has a large number of readers – I responded with:

    Define “large numbers”. Cite your source.

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  • LarryD, if it makes it any better, it was at least half as tiring to write as it was to read!
    (The tactic of sticking strictly to the initial point must work– it’s gotten me wildly insulted, accused of being a woman-hater and called all sorts of mutually contradictory political groups. ;^p )

  • “he claimed that the National Catholic Reporter has a large number of readers”

    People who use it as bird cage liner or to wrap fish shouldn’t count! Nor the unread copies that the local Father “Spirit of Vatican II” keeps having the parish buy.