6 Responses to Tips For Pundits.

Information and Metaphysical Conclusions

Tuesday, August 30, AD 2011

I was struck by Kyle’s post on Friday “Abortion, Rational Decision-Making, and Informed Consent“, but it took me a while thinking it over to come to an explanation of exactly what I find wrong about it. Kyle is addressing the issue of “informed consent” laws which require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of her baby or read an explanation of fetal development at the stage of pregnancy her child is at. He is concerned, however, that such laws miss the real moral point:

Catarina Dutilh Novaes explains her worry about some new laws requiring physicians to show a woman an ultrasound of the fetus and describe its status, organs and present activity before performing an abortion. She writes: “It does not take a lot of brain power to realize that what is construed here as ‘informed decision’ is in fact yet another maneuver to prevent abortions from taking place by ‘anthropomorphizing’ the fetus” and “it is of striking cruelty to submit a woman to this additional layer of emotional charge at such a difficult moment.” She’s right, I suspect, about the underlying motivation behind the laws and the suffering their practice would impose. If the legislators and activists pushing these laws recognize the suffering they may inflict, they clearly see it as justified, weighing, as they do, the vital status of the nascent life as greater than the emotional status of the expectant mother.

There’s something to this. The information the physician is legally required to communicate by these new laws informs in a very limited way: it doesn’t provide evidence of personhood or a right to life or any such metaphysical or moral reality. The sight and description of the fetus may give the appearance of a human life worthy of respect, but, as pro-lifers note, appearance is not indicative of moral worth. An embryo doesn’t look like a human being, but that appearance doesn’t signify anything moral or metaphysical about it.

The woman, for having this information, is not in any better position to make a rational, ethical decision. It may cause her to “see” the nascent life as human, but it doesn’t offer her a rational basis for such a perception. Her consent is no more informed after seeing and hearing the physical status of the life within her, and so these new “informed consent” laws don’t achieve what they are supposedly designed to do.

There are places conducive to informing people about the nascent life’s stages of development and about what exactly, scientifically speaking, abortion does to that life. A high school health class, for example. There, the scientific information about the unborn life and abortion can be more thoroughly considered, and once fully understood, serve in other settings as a reference point for metaphysical and moral considerations. Consent to abortion should be informed, but the information these new laws require to be communicated does not on its own result in informed consent or provide an additional basis for a rational, ethical decision. Why? Because, by itself, appearance is not ethically relevant and can also be misleading.

Now on the basic point, I agree with Kyle: appearance is not moral worth. A person is not worthy of human dignity simply because someone looks at him or her and sees similarity. To say that would be to suggest the converse: that when someone looks at another and sees simply “other” he is justified in not treating that person with human dignity. For instance, one could imagine (though I think it is the far less likely option) a situation in which a woman is leaning against abortion because she thinks that the child inside her will look “just like a baby”, she sees a fuzzy ultrasound of something that still looks like a tadpole on an umbilical cord, and she thinks, “Oh, that’s all? It must not be a baby yet. I’ll abort.”  Clearly, in this case, the information would have led to the wrong conclusion.  An appearance of similarity or dissimilarity does not a person make.

At the same time, the suggestion that informed consent laws are a bad idea just rubs me the wrong way, not just from a pragmatic point of view but from a moral one, and when I have this kind of conflict between instinct and reason, I tend to poke at the issue until I come up with a reason why it is that the apparently reasonable explanation seems wrong to me.

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25 Responses to Information and Metaphysical Conclusions

  • Possibly part of your gut-level response is because of the baked-in assumption that the ultrasound/description laws are happening in a vacuum?

    The main reason I know that folks push for these laws is because women are lied to about what the fetal human is. Did my daughter’s ultrasound look like her six or so months later, at birth? Goodness, no, although the little footprint on the screen was adorable, as was the way she kept “blocking” the “camera” with her hand. The important thing is that she was clearly not a ‘mass of tissue’ and very much alive.

    Even pro-aborts tend to try to deny that a fetus is alive, rather than denying that the unborn are human. Seeing the kid move around really blows that out of the water. (Another form is to try to shift attention to the newly formed embryo, to distract from the way that most abortions do not involve humans before the woman even realizes she’s pregnant.)

  • I have not come across any pro-aborts that argue the fetus is not alive (if it’s not alive, why would it have to be aborted?). In fact, I have come across those who argue that even if it is a person, the rights of the mother (amorphous as they are) trump the right of the fetus to life.

  • Oh I have come across plenty of pro-aborts who still use the phrase “clump of cells”. In any case these laws are not directed towards pro-abort activists but women contemplating abortion. Truthful information about fetal development, including seeing an ultrasound of her child, would I think have an impact on more than a few of these women. Of course this is why pro-aborts like Catarina Dutilh Novaes fight these laws tooth and claw. I trust that I am not the only one who found her use of the term anthropomorphizing ( attributing human characteristics) in reference to a human child to be absolutely hilarious.

  • In the end, no piece of information is in and of itself evidence of personhood. And yet, it is through these incomplete clues, these pieces of information which do not themselves indicate personhood, that we know that anyone at all is a person — indeed, that anyone at all exists.

    I agree with you here, Darwin, but I maintain the that contemporary ambiguity about the unborn matters for mandating “informed consent.” In the case of identifying the banana, there’s more or less complete agreement about the fruit’s defining observable features. With the unborn and personhood itself, the situation is different. Here we see fundamental disagreement about the observable, defining features of personhood, especially with respect to the unborn. It’s likely that an ultrasound will “anthropomorphize” the fetus for those who view it, but the opposite reaction is also possible, if rare, and made more likely given the contemporary ambiguity.

    I’m all for ultrasounds before abortions being available and encouraged, and even publicly funded, but because they don’t necessarily achieve “informed consent,” could potentially achieve the opposite, and because they can inflict psychological suffering (upon someone who’s already psychologically suffering), I’d rather not see them enforced by law with no exemptions.

  • C Matt– because the “fertilized egg” is “a potential life;” “removing” the “clump of cells” is the same as not having sex in the first place….

  • Kyle,

    I agree with you here, Darwin, but I maintain the that contemporary ambiguity about the unborn matters for mandating “informed consent.” In the case of identifying the banana, there’s more or less complete agreement about the fruit’s defining observable features. With the unborn and personhood itself, the situation is different. Here we see fundamental disagreement about the observable, defining features of personhood, especially with respect to the unborn. It’s likely that an ultrasound will “anthropomorphize” the fetus for those who view it, but the opposite reaction is also possible, if rare, and made more likely given the contemporary ambiguity.

    I guess I’m having trouble following your line of reasoning here.

    I do agree that there is much disagreement in our society about what attributes point towards personhood, but if anything that seems like more of a reason to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” Sure, there will be the Peter Singers of the world who insist that it’s okay to “abort” up to a year or two post partum, but my hope is that when people are forced to confront the person they want to kill, they are more likely than not to change their minds.

    At first, I had taken you to be saying that it was inappropriate to require a mother to view an ultrasound before aborting because the appearance of her child was not direct evidence of his/her metaphysical nature.

    It sounds like we’re in agreement that the evidence of the senses are as much evidence as we ever get, and so while this may not result in perfectly “informed consent” it is as good a piece of evidence as any.

    Are you saying that we shouldn’t require the viewing of evidence unless we could be absolutely sure that everyone would be convinced?

  • Are you saying that we shouldn’t require the viewing of evidence unless we could be absolutely sure that everyone would be convinced?

    Not exactly. Raw data has to be interpreted and set within a framework for it to function of evidence of something. Evidence points beyond itself to come conclusion. The problem with ultrasound images here is that they don’t necessarily function as evidence because of our cultural ambiguity of what constitutes personhood. All you’re doing is showing raw date, so to speak, and not establishing the link between it and personhood that would make the imagery evidential.

  • I have to admire your patience, Darwin.

  • Substance and accidents.

  • People are understood–their worth, meaning, purpose–by way of Story. Apart from the scriptural narrative, the Christian concept of personhood would simply be nonexistent. There is no other way to ascribe to people their true identity. It’s the Story that gives us that understanding. I’ve realized for a while now that natural law, reason, and philosphy in general cannot do it. Only within the context of the Creation and God’s plan do we take on the importance we do. Only within that context do we have a script that must be followed. Faith in revelation. That’s all we have.

  • Brett,

    Yes. Anything that someone working from post-enlightenment principles calls “data” or “information” is necessarily going to be an accident. And yet, clearly to the extent that we know about substance (and I believe that we do, and I think that under his post-modern facade Kyle does at heart as well) we know it via the working of our reason on the sense experiences we have of accidents — combined with our inborn knowledge of creation.

  • Kyle,

    Not exactly. Raw data has to be interpreted and set within a framework for it to function of evidence of something. Evidence points beyond itself to come conclusion. The problem with ultrasound images here is that they don’t necessarily function as evidence because of our cultural ambiguity of what constitutes personhood. All you’re doing is showing raw date, so to speak, and not establishing the link between it and personhood that would make the imagery evidential.

    I’m not sure that your distinction between raw data and evidence holds up here.

    Unless you’re taking it that an expectant mother has no agency, if she is shown raw data, it will become evidence through her perception of it. Simply by viewing the ultrasound she will take it as evidence of something.

    Now, to be sure we cannot say with certainty what she will take it as evidence of. She might take it as evidence that it’s okay to go ahead and have an abortion, though given the concerns of the pro-abort writer you quote I think that by far the less likely of the alternatives. But at the same time, even something far more formed than “raw data” such at the ultrasound might not have the desired effect. No matter how fully formed, how reasoned, any communication is but “raw data” to the perceive, subject to interpretation in ways not desired by the one who communicates. The most compassionate pro-life woman in the world, one who had herself once had an abortion and lived to regret it, might tell her story to a woman considering abortion and end up having exactly the opposite of the effect she hoped for. We simply cannot control how others interpret what we say or what we show them. We cannot control how they turn the raw data of our communications to them, perceived through their sense, into evidence withing their own minds.

    If you find this to be an argument against ultrasounds, it is an argument against any form of communication to anyone about anything.

  • If you find this to be an argument against ultrasounds, it is an argument against any form of communication to anyone about anything.

    Except my argument isn’t against ultrasounds, but against legally requiring them with no exemptions given circumstances of heightened ambiguity and strong potential for suffering. You are right that we can’t control how people will interpret data such as ultrasound images, and this impossibility of control is a reason not to attempt such control through, say, legally required ultrasounds.

  • Except my argument isn’t against ultrasounds, but against legally requiring them with no exemptions given circumstances of heightened ambiguity and strong potential for suffering. You are right that we can’t control how people will interpret data such as ultrasound images, and this impossibility of control is a reason not to attempt such control through, say, legally required ultrasounds.

    We can’t control how a jury interprets data which might clear an innocent man accused of a capital crime either — but I would find it quite wrong to conceal the evidence as a result lest it make them feel uncomfortable for a while, or out of some odd epistemological scrupulosity.

  • [I’m re-posting this response to a comment from Kyle over on my own blog, since it keeps all the conversation in one place and I think it sums things up nicely.]

    Your first three points:
    because they don’t necessarily achieve “informed consent,” could potentially achieve the opposite, potentially give the implication that looking human means being human,
    strike me as very weak, because given a post-enlightenment (much less post-modern) understanding of sensation versus understanding this would essentially be an argument against every communicating anything to anyone even in the attempt to save an innocent person from suffering or death. (For instance, one could use the same argument to suggest concealing evidence that might keep an innocent person from being convicted of a capital crime: evidence is never unambiguous, it might be taken wrong by the jury, and it might give the mistaken impression that if this one piece of evidence were not convincing, then the accused was certainly guilty.)

    Thus, I can’t help thinking that it is your last concern that is in fact the primary concern here: because they can inflict psychological suffering (upon someone who’s already psychologically suffering)

    This would fit both with your laudable capacity for empathy and with the quoted piece which serves as your jumping-off point in the post. It also underlines a weakness which I think we would agree it is important for pro-lifers to avoid: that of acting as if the only person worth worrying about is the unborn child and ignoring the concerns of the mother.

    At the same time, it seems to me that in this case you’re applying a post-abortive mentality to the point in time before an abortion has occurred.

    Yes, a woman on the verge of having an abortion may well be suffering psychological pain, and showing her an ultrasound which makes more clear the gravity of what she is considering may make that pain more severe, but it seems to me that this needs to be weighed against that fact that at this point the pain which is realization may have the effect of helping her avoid the greater, longer pain and guilt of having caused the death of her child.

    God does not want us to suffer, and yet there are experiences which bring to us, naturally, suffering. When you put your hand on a hot stove burner, you feel pain because your body is trying to tell your brain, “Stop doing this!” When we experience pain as we do or prepare to do some evil action, this is a way in which all of nature attempts to scream out at us — to stop us before we are forever someone who has done what we are about to do.

    I was struck by this strongly recently reading Bloodlands. There’s a passage that quotes a letter that an Austrian policeman, sent to Belarus with the occupation forces in 1941, wrote home to his wife:
    “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hoards would treat just the same, if not worse.” [I’m not going to quote the rest — I don’t want to give readers nightmares. This is from page 205.]

    You can hear there, in that long dead person’s voice, the suffering. And then he overcomes the suffering, and you feel the icy touch of damnation setting in.

    If I could, by some means, reach back and require some extra moment of looking on his potential victims, some greater suffering, such that he would not fire those ten shots and acquire that familiarity — become the person who had done those acts — I would. Suffering of that kind, to that end, is the suffering of light breaking through darkness — the suffering that saves us from ourselves.

    It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.

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  • Well said, Darwin.

  • Abortion can only be seen as wrong from the perspective that God is the Creator, that he has a plan for each and every one of us. That he is the giver of life and that that life is a gift to be cherished, not discarded. How can one express this to an unbeliever? I argue strongly that it cannot. One must believe it. One must have faith in God and the revelation given through Scripture. All philosophic defense and cultural sentiment has always rested on this. Apart from Christianity there is simply no defensible argument against abortion in our culture.

  • Reason is simply how people think at a particular time, and philosophy is formal thought based upon what people are then thinking. Yes, we are our own worst enemies. We must be saved from ourselves. Salvation comes to us from without. Otherwise we self-destruct. Our culture is reverting to paganism, to un-enlightenment, to the barbaric practices of the past. Nothing at all novel.

  • Correction–the Greeks began a sense of ‘natural law’ and this continued and became incorporated into Christianity. But the kind of natural law we have in mind that recognizes sacred life rests upon Christianity. It’s Christianity that transformed the thinking. Natural law would not have developed in that direction on its own and is insufficient by itself.

  • “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hoards would treat just the same, if not worse.”[I’m not going to quote the rest — I don’t want to give readers nightmares. This is from page 205.]

    “You can hear there, in that long dead person’s voice, the suffering. And then he overcomes the suffering, and you feel the icy touch of damnation setting in.

    If I could, by some means, reach back and require some extra moment of looking on his potential victims, some greater suffering, such that he would not fire those ten shots and acquire that familiarity — become the person who had done those acts — I would. Suffering of that kind, to that end, is the suffering of light breaking through darkness — the suffering that saves us from ourselves.

    It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.”

    Amen Darwin.

  • Well said Darwin.

  • We can’t control how a jury interprets data which might clear an innocent man accused of a capital crime either — but I would find it quite wrong to conceal the evidence as a result lest it make them feel uncomfortable for a while, or out of some odd epistemological scrupulosity.

    So would I. However, the aim of the trial is not to control how the jury interprets the data, but to persuade them to accept the better of two interpretations (the prosecutor’s and the defendant’s). And, as far as my argument is concerned, I’m not suggesting that anything be concealed or hidden.

  • It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.

    Yes. As others have said, well said. But does it apply to my argument? I think not. I’m not for helping people hide from themselves the horror of an act: I think the ultrasounds in question ought to be available and encouraged, though I question whether they reveal the horror of abortion.

  • However, the aim of the trial is not to control how the jury interprets the data, but to persuade them to accept the better of two interpretations (the prosecutor’s and the defendant’s). And, as far as my argument is concerned, I’m not suggesting that anything be concealed or hidden.

    The problem is, we’re dealing with a peculiar trail in which only the prosecution is allowed to make its case — the defense has been excluded. The only way we can attempt to get any information through to the jury at all is by legally requiring the prosecutor to provide certain types of information — however half-heartedly we may be sure that he will do it.

    You, I know, do not desire anything to be concealed or hidden. But let’s face it — if abortion providers are not required to show an ultrasound, almost none will ever be shown. And one thing we seem to be in agreement on is that the showing of an ultrasound will serve as a disincentive to abortion more often than not.

    If we don’t require it, it will be concealed.

    But does it apply to my argument? I think not. I’m not for helping people hide from themselves the horror of an act: I think the ultrasounds in question ought to be available and encouraged, though I question whether they reveal the horror of abortion.

    Whether they “reveal” the horror of abortion has to do with how the viewer reacts, we have no idea what will happen there. In the case of the Austrian policeman, even the visual and tactile sensation of shooting infants failed, in the end, to get through to him the horror of what he was doing — we can certainly not be sure that a fuzzy and badly done ultrasound will.

    However, if the sensation of viewing an ultrasound fails to inspire in the viewer a feeling of the horror of abortion, then there is no psychological suffering — your reason for objecting disappears. If suffering is caused, it’s because the ultrasound is conveying the information we want it to, however imperfectly.

August 30, 1861: Fremont Orders Freeing of Slaves of Rebels in Missouri

Tuesday, August 30, AD 2011

John C. Fremont led a life of considerable achievement and seemed to many of his contemporaries a man of destiny.  However, in the Civil War his destiny  eluded him.  An engineering officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, his personal charm led to his marriage in 1841 to Jesse Benton, a woman of considerable ambition and the daughter of the legendary Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Bent.  Now politically well connected, Benton achieved fame and the title The Pathfinder, by leading settlers along with scout Kit Carson over the Oregon Trail.  In the 1830’s Fremont had taken part in various topographical mapping expeditions into the West and this served him in good stead in determining the best routes for the pioneers.  His exploits were steadily followed in the eastern papers, and Fremont became a national celebrity.  During the Mexican War, Fremont played a major role in the conquest of California, although he displayed much energy but little military skill.  After the war he served as military governor for California, and, after California was admitted to the Union, Fremont served briefly as a US Senator for the state.

Although he was of Southern birth, Fremont was an ardent foe of slavery and became the first Republican candidate for President in 1856.  Obtaining a third of the vote, and 114 electoral votes, Fremont proved that the new Republican party was a serious contender in national politics.  His electoral slogan of “Free Men!  Free Soil! Fremont!”, resounded throughout the North, Fremont winning all of the Northern states except Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana, demonstrating that if the North was unified, it could elect a President.  Fremont suffered in the election by false allegations that his father was a French aristocrat and that Fremont was a Catholic.  (Fremont’s father was a middle class Frenchman who fought for the Royalists in France and who immigrated to America.  Fremont was an Episcopalian.)  The Democrats also made hay of the fact that Fremont had been born out of wedlock, and that at the time they started their romance, his mother had been married to a man not his father.  Salacious political gossip is not an invention of the Twenty-First century.

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3 Responses to August 30, 1861: Fremont Orders Freeing of Slaves of Rebels in Missouri

  • “Lincoln was engaged in a delicate process of keeping the slave border states in the Union, and now Fremont, with no consultation with Washington, was doing his very best to ensure that all the slaveholders in Missouri regarded the Union forces as a deadly threat.”

    Well, he certainly succeeded in that regard. T.J. Stiles, in his book “Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War” (which I’m currently finishing up), says the implications and consequences of Fremont’s action were nothing less than “earth-shattering”:

    “Never before had a state been placed under the control of the armed forces; the idea was so new that Lincoln himself mistakenly referred to ‘military law’ instead of ‘martial law’…. For the first time in American history, military commissions began to prosecute U.S. citizens. The inaugural trial took place on September 5, when Joseph Aubuchon was found guilty of ‘having an attitude of open rebellion.'”

    According to Stiles, Lincoln didn’t completely revoke Fremont’s order. He did get Fremont to back off on the emancipation provision, and he also insisted that no civilians be executed without the White House reviewing their cases first. But the mechanisms for maintaining martial law (a network of provost marshals, spreading outward from St. Louis) remained pretty much intact.

    By the end of the war, according to Stiles, Missouri accounted for almost half (46.2 percent) of all recorded military trials of civilians nationwide, far more than in all 11 Confederate states combined. However, the people responsible for said trials were for the most part Missourians themselves, not soldiers brought from other states. That’s one reason, according to Stiles, why the war in the Show Me State took on an extremely personal, neighbor vs. neighbor aspect to an extent not often seen elsewhere. (Until Al Gore invented the internet, that is :-))

    You might want to check out this excellent blog post from the Kansas City Star on the parallels between Civil War Missouri/Kansas and modern-day conflicts like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan:

    http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/july/

  • Stiles has a point Elaine, although I think the war in Missouri would have been vicious in any case. Prior to the War Missouri pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” had done their very best to attempt to turn Kansas into a slave state. Although the slave population of Missouri was minute the pro-slavery forces in Missouri tended to go to extremes, and their sympathies were clearly with the Confederacy from the outset of the war. On the other hand, Saint Louis tended to be firmly abolitionist, especially with the influx into the city of German immigrants. Missouri during the Civil War combined elements of Massachusetts and South Carolina with predictable consequences.

  • True enough; if you read Stiles’ book more extensively he makes it clear that Fremont’s action was more like tossing gasoline on a fire that was already there, than actually starting the fire.

    For some reason, though, I can’t keep myself from laughing, at least slightly, at the notion that someone could be jailed merely for “having an attitude of open rebellion”, because that SOUNDS like something every person over the age of 2 has been guilty of at one time or another, at least in the eyes of their parents 🙂

Feast Day of the Beheading of John the Baptist

Monday, August 29, AD 2011

August 29 is the feast day of the beheading of John the Baptist, the herald of Christ.  Charlton Heston, in the video clip above, gave a powerful portrayal of the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told, capturing the raw courage and energy that animated John the Baptist as a result of the blazing faith he had in God.  Like Elijah, John came out of the wilderness to fearlessly proclaim the word of God, but what Elijah and the other prophets could only glimpse darkly, the coming of the Messiah, John saw with his own eyes.  The last and greatest of the prophets, John fulfilled the role of Elijah as proclaimed by the prophet Malachi:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.

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6 Responses to Feast Day of the Beheading of John the Baptist

  • St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

    St. John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s, St. Elizabeth’s, womb when the Blessed Virgin greeted her.

    The Second Joyful Mystery: the Visitation. I desire Charity toward my neighbor. Contemplate Mary’s charity in visiting her cousin, St. Elizabeth, and remaining with her for three months before the birth of St. John the Baptist.

  • Was St. John the Baptist the Last Prophet, or the First Apostle? I think a case can be made for both.

  • ……”As for you, little child, you shall be called a prophet of God the Most High.
    You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before Him.”……..

    From the Benedictus – the canticle of Zecharia.

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  • I have heard it argued that John, far from being the precursor of the Christ, was the leader of a sect inimical to that of Jesus. I prefer to go by Scripture. Richard Strauss’s opera Salome, for all its sensuousness, is a profoundly religious work.

  • John the Baptist wound up in jail for his prophetic role. While there he began to doubt what he formerly knew, that Jesus was the Messiah. He asked whether Jesus was the one or if another one was coming. Then he was beheaded. To follow Christ is to bear a daily cross and to be taken places we don’t always want to go. Frightening yet glorious. For John it ended in martyrdom.

Dedicated to the Fighting Patriots of Goshen College

Sunday, August 28, AD 2011

“Pacifists are the last and least excusable on the list of the  enemies of society. They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman  to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near  a little boy than a man who preached such a thing.”

                                                     G.K. Chesterton

I just hope the version with lyrics below will not be deemed too militaristic:

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21 Responses to Dedicated to the Fighting Patriots of Goshen College

  • I will not defend the Goshenites on moral or political grounds but they are right that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a horrible song and “America the Beautiful” is far superior. It is unsingable and if you put a gun to the average American’s head I doubt he could explain what the lyrics refer to.

    If we had no anthem and we taking nominations I doubt the “Star Spangled Banner” would even occur to anyone. I would go for “God Bless America” (shot down by the deophobes), “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (unacceptable to Southerners) or “America the Beautiful”.
    I hadn’t thought of “Ain’t that America” — it does seem a bit informal but it would be cool to her it sung at the Olympics!

  • The unofficial anthem of the country was the forgettable tune Hail Columbia until 1931, and is now used when the Vice President stumbles into view.

    If the Star Spangle Banner could not be our national anthem, I would stump for some variant of the moving hymn Eternal Father:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bnm-4kSLKdI&feature=related

    In regard to the Star Spangled Banner your critque Thomas is not an uncommon one. For myself, when I hear it I get goose bumps and when I attempt to sing it, and it is a difficult song to sing, I have a grand time. Time for an encore of the Cactus Cuties:

  • “America the Beautiful” is far superior.

    Often there is no accounting for taste.

    The best:

  • Don:

    With all do due respect have you examined the Mennonite’s rational for this refusal to play the national anthem beyond what the talking heads on Fox News may have said.
    I found the following article from a Mennonite minister and found it very compelling:

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/26/my-faith-why-i-dont-sing-the-star-spangled-banner/?hpt=hp_c1

    The minister states:

    “Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.

    “Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers.
    “Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, we continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem.

    “That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.

    “To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.”

    There is nothing in their rational that contradicts Catholic teaching or is not consistent with Catholic teachings. It is not inconsistent with the Church where there are not U.S. flags in the sanctuary or where secular patriotic songs are not sung during a Mass. It is not inconsistent with the Church which made Saint Maria Goretti, the patron saint of forgiveness, one of the most important saints after WWII. It is not inconsistent with the Church in which Pope Pius XI when proclaiming the Feast of Christ the King said:

    “ The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result.”

  • I vote for the Star Spangled Banner, girls.

  • Oh, I am quite familiar with the pacificism of the Mennonites and other minor Protestant sects Eva. They enjoy freedom and peace here in the United States due to others throughout our history paying with their blood. Other than those who are willing to risk their lives as medics in a non-combatant role, Seventh Day Adventist Desmond T. Doss, awarded the medal of honor, is a shining example, I share Chesterton’s contempt for their doctrine.

    I believe that the Catechism amply demonstrates that pacificism is a doctrine foreign to Catholicism:

    “2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.”

  • “It is not inconsistent with the Church where there are not U.S. flags in the sanctuary or where secular patriotic songs are not sung during a Mass.”

    Actually I have never lived in a parish where patriotic songs such as America the Beautiful, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and others were not sung on occasion during Mass. When I was a boy it was the custom in most parishes to have the US flag and the Vatican flag in the sanctuary, and some still do this.

  • The practice is very common hereabouts. There is a variation of it in Anglican parishes as well. I have never cared for it.

    And I think your ‘contempt’ is overdone. Mennonites and Amish make a point of living very much apart from the larger society and partake of it as little as they can manage to earn a living. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not abstain to that degree, but they very seldom manifest much in the way of personal ambition. I think the question you have to ask is the degree to which they are truly detached from their lives when push comes to shove. It is difficult to know that in advance. (I think with politically-engaged Quakers, you are on firmer ground).

  • “Mennonites and Amish make a point of living very much apart from the larger society and partake of it as little as they can manage to earn a living. ”

    The Amish I grant you Art, but much less so the Mennonites. My point still stands however that their lives here would be impossible but for others shouldering the burden they are unwilling to shoulder.

  • I like “Hail Columbia”. I, for one, am sorry to see it relegated to such a state in which it currently suffers.

    That said, my preference for the National Anthem would definitely be “America the Beautiful” …

    … but only if they always played THIS version of it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFMqrRW-FQU

    “…and y’all? ought to love Him for it…”

    (While I do appreciate the “Star-Spangled Banner” for what it is, the melody is a too-difficult-to-sing drinking song titled “To Anachreon in Heaven”, and the subject matter is rather limited to the flag as opposed to the Nation the flag represents. “America the Beautiful” – listen to ALL the verses – captures the essence of this Nation.)

  • I would have to vote for “America the Beautiful” also, not only for the elegant simplicity of its melody but also its better lyrics — for example, contrast Verse 3 of Star Spangled Banner:

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    with Verse 3 of America the Beautiful:

    O beautiful for heroes proved
    In liberating strife.
    Who more than self their country loved
    And mercy more than life!
    America! America!
    May God thy gold refine
    Till all success be nobleness
    And every gain divine!

  • Aw, how can you not love “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution”? When else do you get to sing that?

  • The fourth stanza Elaine of the Star Spangled Banner I have always found very moving:

    O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  • I might add that the third stanza has always warmed the cockles of my Irish heart!

  • Then again, after 9-11 Queen Elizabeth order the Coldstream Guards to play the Star-Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace, something which had never occurred before:

  • My favorite verse of America the Beautiful, until Dan Rather ruined it for me, was always this one:

    O beautiful for patriot dream
    That sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears.
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee,
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea.

  • Love this verse, too (in fact, the entire song is just a wonderful reflection on the Nation and really should be our National Anthem):

    O beautiful for pilgrim feet
    Whose stern impassion’d stress
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness.
    America! America!
    God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law.

  • Agree with Chesterton – he certainly knew how to put things.
    Pacifism – the last retreat for the coward. Afraid they don’t get any sympathy from me. I get annoyed by people who try to say , “Jesus was a pacifist.” (gag) One does not need to be a pacifist to promote and love peace, but one has to have a sacrificial heart to live Peace.

    I think “The Star Spangled Banner” is a tremendously stirring song. That is what national anthems should do – inspire patriotism and pride in one’s country – prepared to defend the country and all its people from agressors etc. etc.

    “I vow to Thee my Country” was actually taken from the 1999 Rugy World Cup theme song in Wales, wasn’t it? 😉
    A local musician has used the tune to a beautiful hymn to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Its a great piece of music.
    Actually, our own “God Defend New Zealand” isn’t too sketchy either. Trouble is, nowadays, everyone has a version of it, and even though it was written in English back around 1860 by a Catholic migrant to NZ, our P C society has allowed it to be hi-jacked by a maori language version in the last 10 years, which is played in tandem with, but in front of the english lyrics, and which to 80% of the country becomes a bit trite.

  • As for pacifism as a Christian belief, I am more in agreement with C.S. Lewis’ view of pacifism as expressed in Mere Christianity: “War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I believe he is entirely mistaken. What I do not understand is this sort of semipacifism you see nowadays that says that while you have to fight, you must do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it.”

  • I have no beef with what the Mennonites are doing, but that probably stems from knowing a lot of them in central lower Michigan while growing up. Good folks, and scrupulously honest–a young Mennonite lady smacked into my car while it was parked while I was at work back in high school. She immediately sought me out and told me about it. Hardly a given, even back then. Let alone now.

    I prefer TSSB, but have to admit AtB has been growing on me over the years. “Battle Hymn” is perfect for the sword-sharpening moments we sometimes find ourselves in. Real or figurative.

The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

Saturday, August 27, AD 2011

With the resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Corporation, it seems timely to revisit a classic piece of prose from Umberto Eco.  Many have seen this, some have not.

For my own part, I have always been an Apple guy at heart.  My family’s first computer was an Apple IIGS, purchased in 1986, retailing at just under $1000.  My first personal computer was a Power Macintosh 5260 during my Freshman year at college.  (By the way, had I taken my $2000 and invested it into Apple stock rather than buying the computer, it appears that the stock  today would be valued over $100,000.)   Shamefully, I admit that I went through a three year stint on a Sony Vaio that I obtained as a gift.  To this day I still question the decision that a free PC was better than a paid-for Apple.  Nevertheless, I returned to Apple when the Vaio crashed and burned, and needless to say, Steve took me back with open arms and a big smile of forgiveness.  Yes, folks, I am a revert.

Umberto Eco wrote “The Holy War: Mac versus DOS” on September 30th, 1994, for the Italian weekly publication Espresso.  I altered his title in my post as we are seemingly past the point where the three letters D-O-S mean anything to the average consumer.  His piece, however, is brilliant, and confirms what I have always suspected.  Moreover, with the stepping down of Apple’s “pope” and the “election” of his successor, Tim Cook, the nostalgia of this article that I read years ago was fueled by its recent mention by Whispers.  (Yes, I am well aware that I am taking the analogy entirely too far.)  Enough of all that, though.  Without further delay … Umberto Eco:

The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

by Umberto Eco

Friends, Italians, countrymen, I ask that a Committee for Public Health be set up, whose task would be to censor (by violent means, if necessary) discussion of the following topics in the Italian press. Each censored topic is followed by an alternative in brackets which is just as futile, but rich with the potential for polemic. Whether Joyce is boring (whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections). Whether Heidegger is responsible for the crisis of the Left (whether Ariosto provoked the revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Whether semiotics has blurred the difference between Walt Disney and Dante (whether De Agostini does the right thing in putting Vimercate and the Sahara in the same atlas). Whether Italy boycotted quantum physics (whether France plots against the subjunctive). Whether new technologies kill books and cinemas (whether zeppelins made bicycles redundant). Whether computers kill inspiration (whether fountain pens are Protestant).

One can continue with: whether Moses was anti-semitic; whether Leon Bloy liked Calasso; whether Rousseau was responsible for the atomic bomb; whether Homer approved of investments in Treasury stocks; whether the Sacred Heart is monarchist or republican.

I asked above whether fountain pens were Protestant. Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It’s an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.

Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use DOS and be a Vande supporter? And more: Would Celine have written using Word, WordPerfect, or Wordstar? Would Descartes have programmed in Pascal?

And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always….

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6 Responses to The Holy War: Mac versus DOS

  • What are DOS, Grandpa?

  • Not anymore. Today it would be more accurate to say that Windows is secular humanist/agnostic and Apple is a bizarre cult. “Here are the only 3 options we’ll let you toggle on this application. Now go away and drink our Kool Aid.” No, thank you.

  • I always thought that Macs were Kali worshipers! 🙂

  • While it may be legal to use Windows is it moral ? Didn’t Microsoft kind of “steal” that interface concept from Apple ? PC’s were more laborious to use before the copycat move, unless you were a real technogeek.

  • I figure using Windows at work and Macs at home (my family got its first Mac in 1986 — long before it was cool) I’m in a moderately good place to judge, and I have to say that whether you’re a casual user or a serious developer, the Mac is far superior. Especially now it’s running on the BSD kernel, and thus makes it very easy to log into Unix and Linux servers, run MySQL locally, etc.

    The one area in which Microsoft is arguably superior is in using MS Office — the Windows version is better and there’s not really a desktop relational database as handy as Access available for the Mac. There are some very fluffy databases you can run locally on the Mac, or you can get serious and run MySQL or one of the other real databases, but there is utility to having that middle ground.

    Given developments since Eco’s piece, I have to wonder if Linux is a sort of Eastern Orthodoxy in the religious schema of computer operating systems.

  • Linux is Buddhism – a lot of people claim to be into it, because they think it puts them above the fray, but it’s only really practiced by a small group of fanatics in California.

Te Deum, Triumphalism and History

Saturday, August 27, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  Te Deum (To God) sung by the Benedictine monks of Saint Maurice and Saint Maur.  A song sung by Catholics in moments of triumph and thanksgiving, it was probably written by Saint Nicetas in the late Fourth century or early Fifth century.

One of the swear words common since Vatican II in the Catholic Church is triumphalism.  We are to avoid it at all costs, and it is a bad, bad thing.  In a small way this makes sense.  The Church is both a divine and a human institution.  As a divine institution the Church is always victorious and triumphant as result of the Triumph of the Cross, and proceeds serenely through time and eternity.  As  a human institution the Church consists of we sinful individuals here on Earth, and meets with victories and defeats as she seeks to spread the message of Christ, often on very stony fields indeed.  To view the Church here on Earth through rose colored glasses and to assume that simply because the ultimate victory will be claimed by the Church against the Gates of Hell that all is well within the Church is to mistake the Church Triumphant for the Church Militant.

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3 Responses to Te Deum, Triumphalism and History

  • Te Deum laudamus . . .

    By the blessings and graces of Almighty God, we got through the storm. Prayers answered.

    Alleleuia!

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  • Macaulay was a Whig historian who believed the Church of Rome to be in error, and wrote a famous put-down of Gladstone, then a High Church Tory, in what must be one of the best polemics in the English language. In the article you quote he shows an understanding of Catholicism which would have evaded most of his contemporaries, stressing the Roman Church’s inclusivity in contrast to Anglicanism (for example, he says John Wesley would have founded a religious order and been canonized had he been a Catholic). He was too good an historian to let his prejudices cloud his judgement, and should stand as a corrective to those (many of whom claim to be Catholic) who see fit to criticize the Church while at the same time being woefully ignorant of history.

A Hurricane Guide from Louisiana to the East Coast

Friday, August 26, AD 2011

Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it. I figured a guide written by someone who’s lived in hurricanes might be useful .

What are the Dangers?

For all dangers, it’s worse on the east side of the “eye” because hurricanes move in a counter-clockwise direction. By the time the wind and rain hit the western side, much of the punch is gone having been used up.

Wind: This is the danger that measures the strength of hurricanes. How much damage it can do depends on what it has to work with. For homeowners, the threats are numerous. There is debris flying around, such as patio furniture, plant pots, etc. This stuff has the potential to break windows, which can lead to serious damage inside the house (b/c the rain and wind will get in).

However, the more likely damage is to roofs and trees. My guess is that roofs in your area aren’t built up to the codes they are in LA, so you’ll lose plenty of shingles (these shingles and the tacks & nails they contain will litter the roadway, so be careful driving afterwards. Likely you’ll get a flat so be prepared for that). You could have more serious damage: That would be the roof of my apartment after Hurricane Gustav. The jerk making the thumbs-up sign would be me.

The other danger wind causes is falling trees. Yes, trees provide nice shade which keep down energy bills in the summer, but trees in these storms are nothing but logs waiting to be pushed over. Branches over houses can get knocked off and crash into the house, if not the tree itself. If you haven’t been making sure your tree is still alive and healthy…well, now if probably too late. If you know a tree is dead and have the time to cut it down, that’s probably a good idea.

Storm Surge: This only applies to those living on the coast. How far from the coast depends on the hurricane’s strength at landfall, but this is the most powerful part of the storm. It’ll wipe out floors or entire houses depending on its size. Essentially, storm surge is the wind pushing the waters, so that it’s frequently described as a wall of water coming at you.

Flood: Although this is a bigger fear for New Orleans, you’ll still have to deal with. Chances are you just lose your carpet, but if the water sits you may have to replace the drywall in your house. That is not fun, especially if you don’t have flood insurance, which most people don’t have.

Other concerns:

When things flood, animals get displaced, so you have to watch yourself for snakes and other creatures, especially in the flood water.

Chances are you will lose power. How long depends on the damage to the area, your type of power grid, and where you are on that grid. You’ll find out that if you’re close to businesses, you’ll get power back faster. If your area has underground power, you have a good chance of keeping it but overhead wires are likely going to be blown over or knocked down by falling tree branches.

Looting: likely not an issue, but if the damage disrupts the police department (specifically by making roads impassable due to water or debris) it will happen. This is more of a concern for business owners. Fire protection is also hindered due to low water pressure and again roads.

FEMA & Insurance co. They suck. No two ways about. Judging by the handling of BP, the Obama administration is even worse than the Bush in this area. The only thing that it’s in their good hands is your money. While some insurance companies are reasonable, sometimes they’re not.

How to prepare:

Evacuate: if the government is telling you to get out, it’s probably because of the storm surge. If power could be out a while and you have small children, you might want to take a trip to grandma’s house. Bring about a week’s worth of clothes because you don’t know how long it will be before they start allowing people back into the area.

Canned food, water, batteries, flashlights, other necessaries: remember, power is likely out and cooking is not an option (gas may still be there, but gas lines could be broken so you can’t count on that). BBQ is a possibility, but not during the storm (this should be obvious. it’s not apparently).

Entertainment. You’re going to be sitting in the dark without A/C with no TV, Internet, phones, etc. You may have to talk to your family. Board & card games are the best options; books won’t work too much. If you have a laptop with a good battery, charge that up (charge up all your stuff to be honest) and use it as a DVD player. If this sounds terrible to you, you can buy a generator but they can be expensive and dangerous (every storm someone puts a generator inside and it either it catches fire or the people die from carbon monoxide poisoning).

Gas up the cars: some pumps don’t work without power, so you need to do this before the storm.

Hurricane Party: You may think I’m joking, but there’s a reason New Orleans has made this famous. You can’t do anything at this point to stop it (other than pray). Alcohol is a must, such as the hurricane drink. If you’re adventerous, you can go outside during the beginning stages of the storm and play frisbee or football. You can go instead when moving becomes difficult.

The important thing is to have a good attitude. Everyone’s in the same boat, and chances are you’ll get to meet and deal with people you don’t usually get to. New Orleans ended up a stronger city after the storm because everybody went through the pains together. Complaining does no one any good.

So those are some quicks tips from Louisiana. Glad to help y’all out. But if the next time a hurricane is pointed as us, you Yanks could refrain from questioning why New Orleans ought to be rebuilt, we’d much appreciate it. Enjoy your hurricane party!

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16 Responses to A Hurricane Guide from Louisiana to the East Coast

  • Another excuse to raise gas and food prices, fed by media frenzy. In the Midwest, we call this an afternoon shower.

  • Prayer always helps, at least it does for me and my family when we are in our basement in Central Illinois after the twister sirens sound!

  • Sadly, Don, prayer didn’t do much for the 1,800 who died from Katrina or thousands of others in previous storms. I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

  • Some other tips I’ve picked up around the net:

    — If there are people you want to contact to let them know where you are, or that you are OK, WRITE the list down on paper. Don’t leave those numbers stored on devices that are dependent upon electricity. You may be able to use a landline phone or borrow a phone from a friend or neighbor if yours doesn’t work.

    — Do ALL your laundry now, before the storm hits.

    — If you have an ice maker, use it now and store up as much ice as possible.

    — Take pictures of your house and all your stuff NOW and store them in a secure place (could be a computer hard drive or other device). If you suffer damage, you will now have “before” and “after” pictures to show your insurance company, which will greatly ease your claims process.

    — If you have a “safe place” designated for hunkering down in case the winds get too high — like a closet or bathroom (similar to what Tornado Alley residents do during tornado warnings) — make sure it’s not cluttered. You don’t want to be moving stuff out of the way when you’re in a hurry to take cover.

  • “Act of God” is merely a poetic expression of the Law Joe in regard to natural catastrophes, and indicates that no human agency is at fault. As for the dead from Katrina, I would assume that they would have considered their prayers answered if they arrive in eternity in purgatory or heaven. Believers do not pray simply for a good life, but also for a good death.

  • Practical as always Elaine. A few hand crank rechargeable radios aren’t a bad idea. If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is an excellent idea. If you have small kids bring some books and games to keep them distracted. Praying the rosary with them can be very calming for all concerned.

  • A good death? Almost an oxymoron. Also, wouldn’t eternal purgatory be an oxymoron since it’s supposed to have a finite ending? I’ve often wondered what would be worst than death and then I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a true story about a man who had “locked-in syndrome” and had full mental capabilities but could only blink with his left eye. When asked at first what he wanted, he managed to convey “death” as being preferable, but he went on to write a book by blinking the words — once for yes, twice for no when he was shown letters. I thought it was an amazing triumph of the human spirit, but on reflection I would have rather died than go through what he did. I would have blinked, “pull the plug.”

  • Not an oxymoron at all Joe. The most important part of our existence begins after our death. Eternity Joe consists of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. No one will be in Purgatory for all of eternity, although on my worst days I think that I might set some records if I attain Purgatory.

  • So purgatory and hell are different places? Or is just “time served”? I’m thinking a Motel 6 in heaven would be fine rather than a Radisson in hell. Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

  • Yes Joe, Purgatory is a distinct place from Hell. The soul is purged there of the sins that make it unfit for Heaven. Dante in his Purgatorio captures the essence of Catholic teaching on the subject. Purgatorio was the first part of Dante’s Comedia that I read in a cheap Pelican paperback edition in Junior High, and it has a warm place in my heart.

    “Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

    Someone unfamiliar with Saint Paul’s cry “Death where is thy sting?” no doubt.

  • It’s important to remember that you have to be saved to get into Purgatory in the first place, so it’s really a part of, or a first stage, of Heaven.. Some would call it the vestibule or mud room of Heaven — the place where you get cleaned up, take off your muddy (sin-stained) boots and other stuff, before you walk into the main rooms of Heaven. Or you could compare it to a field hospital where souls wounded or sick, but still alive, after slogging through the battles of life are restored to spiritual health so they can enjoy Heaven to the fullest. How long it takes for them to recover depends on how badly they were “wounded” in life. Prayer, the sacraments and works of charity done on earth help keep you spiritually healthy, so that when you die, you don’t need as much “treatment.”

  • I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

    With the advent of Katrina, they are called Acts of Bush. I guess because it’s more politically expedient to blame him.

  • RL, touche!

  • Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.

    For your edification – one of the many versions :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9aLjTBY04E&feature=related

    Enjoy 🙂

  • Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it.
    Thank you for the post. Katrina was horrifying to watch on cable news. And, yes, I heard things said about the idea of living below sea level. See what happens when charity doesn’t rule words! We are going to see. Oh, the Hurricane drink (huge glass) – I had one once in the 70’s on a visit to my brother and his wife – don’t remember much after except music and the Lake Pontchartrain bridge. We saw the Camille effects on the MS coast and the oily sand sticks in my mind as it did to my feet. I wonder now about that after BP.

    If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is – excellent idea.
    Battery powered (!?) – Just went to the top of my list, but probably too late. No floor drain in this old cellar, on ledge with very high water table, BUT – two electric portable sump pumps hoses attached ready and waiting for, eek, electricity – then water. Thank you. I avoid gas powered things with pull cords.

    ALL your laundry now – At least, that is covered.
    As well, empty spaces in freezer and refridgerator have containers of water.

    Most of all thanks for the reminder of essential contemplation – Psalm 23 can begin 100 miles inland from me in the Connecticut River valley probably this time tomorrow.

  • Elaine mentioned it, but I want to be a little more specific: Be sure you have a landline phone, but specifically have one that is not cordless.

    As a Louisiana resident, I learned the hard way that even a landline is no good is the phone is a cordless model that needs electricity to recharge the handset. I bought a cheap ($10) model and a long phone line. It works just fine with or without electricity.

Why Personhood Matters

Friday, August 26, AD 2011

Imagine you lost your mother, after an illness, at the hospital. In as much as any death is easy, hers is… and then it starts.

Months later, after much legal fighting, they finally give you her mortal remains– a couple of tissue samples in little boxes, kept behind the secretary’s counter for when you came in to get them for a proper burial. You’re handed the shoebox and told to sign here, here and here, be careful, those are bio waste.

Horrifying, isn’t it?

How about this:

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9 Responses to Why Personhood Matters

  • O Brave New World! Huxley was the prophet of the times in which we are living.

  • That is too horrid to contemplate. And, they’re (the guvmint) stealing your hard earned (those of you that still have employment) money to do it.

    Of course you are evil and filled with “ancient religious hatred” (phrase uttered by Clinton press sec’y Lockhart re: opposition to sodomy) if you oppose it.

    Earth shakes on Tuesday; hurricane hits on Sunday: we have it coming . . .

  • I was recently asked to consider contributing a paper to a group producing a series. The paper was to consider the importance of a “personhood amendment” to the U.S. Constitution – an amendment that would define a human being at all stages of life, from conception to natural death, as a “person”.

    After reading relevant Supreme Court cases (and doing so again for an undergraduate course I am teaching this Fall), I let the group know that a personhood amendment would not solve the problems in which we find ourselves. My reasoning is that the current crop of “personal liberty” cases involving abortion focus on balancing the mother’s “liberty” with that of the state, and in nearly all cases, the state loses. Why? It’s not because the unborn isn’t considered human, or even a person – rather, the court’s language indicates that the state has no ability to protect the life of the unborn prior to a certain time, and never under certain conditions, and that the woman’s choice is paramount.

    To use the language of Casey:

    “It must be stated at the outset and with clarity that Roe’s essential holding, the holding we reaffirm, has three parts. First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. Before viability, the State’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman’s effective right to elect the procedure. Second is a confirmation of the State’s power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger a woman’s life or health. And third is the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child.”

    And, of course, “health” in the jurisprudence is so loosely defined so as to mean “any reason whatsoever” – from the Roe justifications:

    “Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it.”

    So, here you see the Court engaging in removing the problem of whether the unborn is a “person” or not, casting the language in that of self-defense and medical care. Even if the courts were presented with a constitutional amendment of personhood, this still would not undo the damage of Roe, Doe, and Casey. In addition, the instrumentalizing problems you suggest, I opine, are a result of a utilitarian calculus, whereby the means to a happy end are through horrors. A direct amendment of the constitution against abortion, fetal harvesting, cloning, etc., would be the most powerful statement, but a “simple” personhood amendment, I fear, would change nothing.

    Just a short aside on a thought your post sparked.

  • Jonathan –
    I didn’t know anything like all the specifics, but when I think about it I’m not surprised. Wasn’t there a ton of unwinding needed to undo all the precedent after slavery was abolished, not counting the attempts to get around the legal equality of former slaves/blacks?

  • Foxfier,

    Yes, and in the process, the Court and Congress created all sorts of wonderful things designed to enhance their own power.

  • A good scifi movie that explores a possible “clones for organ parts” scenario is “The Island”. Unfortunately it falls into the stereo type of all big corporations, governments and rich people being evil, but interesting movie nonetheless.

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  • Yes, science has steedily moved in this direction since the first decade of the twentieth century. Darwinism and evolutionary thought generally, led peopel to see human beings as expendible, and subject to scientific engineering. To the latest ideas regarding the greatest good or the individual’s desire. No longer are we seen as created beings responsible to our Creator, the Creator who has revealed his nature and will through scriptural revelation and who is believed on by faith.

  • Thanatos syndrome, yes, Walker Percy. I meant ot bring him up the last time, but I couldn’t remember his name. In one of his novels, Percy communicated that we really are at the center of hte universie, God and us, and that what concerns us is the story we’ve been given, the BIble. As always. Some things don’t change. Paradigms shift, but the fundamental concerns remain.

Archbishop Chaput and the Media

Friday, August 26, AD 2011

One of the most irritating aspects of life for faithful American Catholics over the past several decades has been how quiet most of our bishops have been in the face of outrageous attacks on the Church.  Too many of our bishops have acted as if they had their spines surgically removed upon consecration.  Fortunately there have always been a handful who have been willing to speak out and suffer the media attacks that then ensue, along with the ambushes of heterodox Catholics frequently eager to lend a hand to anti-Catholics in their ceaseless war against the Church.  One of the more outspoken bishops is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who has never been afraid to proclaim the truth, and to do so eloquently.  He is at it again over at First Things.

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32 Responses to Archbishop Chaput and the Media

  • “Some of the usual suspects on the Catholic Left are upset at the Archbishop for naming some of their cherished propaganda organs…”

    I think that’s true for some. I also think that for some on the Catholic Left the NY Times reflects their view of the Church or, perhaps more accurately, what they want the Church to become.

  • Well Phillip, over the years certainly some members of the Catholic Left have been far more faithful to the magisterium of the New York Times than they ever have to the magisterium of the Church!

  • “Some of the usual suspects on the Catholic Left are upset at the Archbishop for naming some of their cherished propaganda organs…”

    They’re also upset that the Archbishop didn’t call out their own fave Catholic publications – Commonweal, America, National Catholic Distorter – as good sources for Catholic commentary. Thing is, they’re not good sources for Catholic commentary, and the Archbishop knows this. The Distorter especially – a vanguard for all that is opposed to Catholic teaching.

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  • An excellent resource on this subject is the Get Religion blog, which examines coverage of all religions and religious traditions in the media and points out gaps or inaccuracies. In many stories, Get Religion says religion is present only as a “ghost” — an unnamed reference to people doing works of charity or attending rallies or “vigils” without mention of the fact that a religious motivation was behind it.

    From reading the mainstream media, you would think that thousands of people feed the hungry, travel to disaster zones, spend long hours at a sick or injured person’s bedside (doing what? PRAYING, maybe?), devote themselves to improving their communities, etc. for no apparent reason, other than, perhaps, some vague reference to their “values.”

  • “We make a very serious mistake if we rely on media like the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, or MSNBC for reliable news about religion. These news media simply don’t provide trustworthy information about religious faith”

    and CBS, ABC, NBC, NPR, Wash. Post, Boston Globe, etc, etc, etc

  • We make a very serious mistake if we rely on media like the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, or MSNBC, NPR, Washington Post, Boston Globe, for reliable news about ANYTHING.

  • I would include as unreliable the Catholic News Service, which if I mistake me not, is a service of the USCCB. It gave a favorable review to the homosexual movie Heartbreak Mountain. Another disservice of the bureaucracy of the USCCB.

  • “It gave a favorable review to the homosexual movie Heartbreak Mountain”

    I take it you are referring to BROKEBACK Mountain?

    Aside from the movie reviews, whose suitability can and often will be disputed, whether or not Catholic News Service is a “reliable” source of Church news depends on how you define “reliable.”

    In the Catholic press, there is always going to be a tension between the need to promote and adhere to Church teaching and the need to realistically report what is going on in the Catholic world whether or not it is agreeable to Church teaching. I have to admit that I am somewhat biased in favor of CNS due to the fact that I once worked for a diocesan newspaper that relied heavily on CNS news, and some of whose personnel personally knew people from CNS.

    If you rely solely on traditional/conservative leaning publications, you may get the impression that conservative/orthodox/traditional Catholicism is a lot more popular and widespread than it actually is. On the other hand, if you rely on left-leaning sites like National Catholic Reporter, you get the impression that the “spirit of Vatican II” crowd still reigns supreme, which is also not the case. There still needs to be a reasonably middle of the road source of Catholic news which doesn’t actively promote dissent but doesn’t ignore its real-world impact, or ignore the fact that the Church still has a long way to go in getting most of its members fully on board with its teachings.

    While I understand the disillusionment many people have with the mainstream media, and yes they do often get things wrong, still, I think it is VERY dangerous to dismiss them completely and insist on getting ALL your news only from sources that agree 100% with your political or religious leanings. Balance is the key here.

  • Wow Elaine,
    It almost sounds like you should be writing for Vox Nova. 😉
    Well put.

  • Nah, Brett, if Elaine were writing for Vox Nova she would have to say something truly absurd like mentioning Chaput in mouth disease, and I doubt if Elaine would ever say anything like that. Finally, I doubt if Elaine could make it past the Vox Nova entrance interview:

    http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6987327/welcome-to-vox-nova

  • You’re right Don, I would not get past Rule #2. I certainly would flunk out by Rule #5 (“Paul Krugman is the living embodiment of Catholic social teaching.”)

  • Don’t worry Elaine. They let me write whatever I want and I don’t even know who Paul Krugman is!

    Also Don, no one at VN has ever forced me to say anything “truly absurd.” Elaine wouldn’t HAVE to say anything of the sort.
    😉

    All peace and good,
    B

  • “Also Don, no one at VN has ever forced me to say anything “truly absurd.” ”

    That is good to know Brett. Judging from Minion’s posts I assumed there was some sort of requirement.

  • I’ve got to agree with Elaine — the Catholic News Service (and even the movie reviews, though I certainly don’t always agree with them) serves a useful purpose, and I’ve never found it to be an organ used for questioning or undercutting the faith.

    Brett,

    To not even know who Paul Krugman is, you’d have to be skimming MM’s posts pretty thinly. After all, in the very post linked to here MM chides Archbishop Chaput for not listening to Krugman more:

    Why does Chaput not mention any of this? Is he so insecure that he cannot handle criticism of the Church in the New York Times, and must instead run to those who use the Church for their political aims? Does he see no nuance and complexity? Is he not aware that he can learn far more about the economic mess from Paul Krugman in the New York Times than anybody on any alternative media source?

    I mean, I agree with those who knock people like Voris for bishop-bashing at the drop of a hat, but this is, if anything, worse.

    I will say, though, that I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, which are both fair and intellectually curious. (I just wish that you’d keep a separate blog like Kyle does, so that it isn’t necessary for those of us bullies who might be divisive pamphleteers of the verge of kicking off a new Reformation to wade through the main site to read your stuff.)

  • “Judging from Minion’s posts I assumed there was some sort of requirement.”

    “…I don’t even know who Paul Krugman is!”

    Brett is clearly not reading Minion’s paeans to Krugman.

  • The quoted bit from MM on Krugman hardly tells me anything beyond the fact that he writes about economics for the New York Times and that MM thinks he has some insight. Surely that is not enough for me to know whether he is “the living embodiment of Catholic social teaching,” or even if MM considers him to be such.

    Perhaps the very favorable recent posts linking to the Distributist Review should give certain people pause before they announce exactly whom the Vox Novans think accurately represents CST (or is Krugman a Distributist?) or that all Vox Novans must be of the same opinion on such matters.

  • Brett,

    VN is well known for being disobedient to the Magisterium and for attacking orthodox Catholics.

  • Tito,

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any of the current frequent posters on Vox Nova dissent from Catholic doctrine.

    That many of them do specialize in “friendly fire” towards other orthodox Catholics is arguably true, though.

    Brett,

    Well, unless the Distributist Review is not an alternative news source, it would seem that MM does believe Chaput could derive more benefit from reading Krugman than from reading the Distributist Review. (Actually, this is probably not surprising, as MM is probably too educated in regards to economics to be terribly impressed with the Distributists.)

    But to be fair, that hilarious parody dates back to when Henry, MM, MZ and Iafrate were the mainlines of Vox Nova. The place has, somewhat diluted its craziness since then.

  • Tito,

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any of the current frequent posters on Vox Nova dissent from Catholic doctrine.

    That many of them do specialize in “friendly fire” towards other orthodox Catholics is arguably true, though.

    Brett,

    Well, unless the Distributist Review is not an alternative news source, it would seem that MM does believe Chaput could derive more benefit from reading Krugman than from reading the Distributist Review. (Actually, this is probably not surprising, as MM is probably too educated in regards to economics to be terribly impressed with the Distributism, at least where economics is involved. Chesterton and Belloc were admirable in lots of ways, but their economic analysis was not necessarily great. MM is probably right to rely more on Keynes and Krugman than on Chesterton and Belloc when it comes to actual economic theory.)

    To be fair, though, that hilarious parody dates back to when Henry, MM, MZ and Iafrate were the mainlines of Vox Nova. The place has, somewhat diluted its craziness since then — in regards to contributors at least. (Oddly, the comboxes seem to have gone even further off the deep end — though perhaps that’s just a matter of the “other side” not bothering to show up much anymore. I suppose in some ways we’ve had an equal and opposite history here. Given the natural affinities of belief, it may be that political sites natural sort themselves into either right or left with few dissenting voices bothering to show up.)

  • Darwin,

    I wasn’t aware that killing children in the womb was part of Catholic teaching.

  • I’m not either, but I was giving them credit for the fact that Gerald L. Campbell hasn’t posted there in a very long time. (Though I agree it was disgraceful that everyone at the time defended his claim that being pro-choice was a legitimate exercise of subsidiarity.)

    People like MM and MZ do everything possible to support pro-abortion candidates, because those candidates happen to also be leftists, but they insist that they are not in fact pro-abortion themselves (and would vote for anti-abortion leftists if they existed) so I figure it’s fair to categorize them as unwise rather than dissenting.

    Ditto on the tendency to attack pro-lifers far more often than pro-aborts while at the same time claiming to be pro-life.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to defend them. I just want to be precise in my attacks. 🙂

  • OK, I’ll back track.

    Certain bloggers are disobedient.

    The rest of the bunch are essentially good guys and it would be nice to share a beer with them because it would make for interesting conversation(s)!

    😀

  • Precision is always appreciated. As is beer.

  • As for a personal blog, here you go:
    http://vox-nova.com/category/brett-salkeld/

    I’m only tempted to set up something a little more formal because I think “Ein Brett Vorm Kopf” would be a great name.

  • Can’t let a name like that go to waste!

    I guess I should just bookmark the category link. For some reason, it’s not possible to put the category links into an RSS reader.

  • It would be helpful though if those bloggers on Vox Nova who are not in dissent do correct those who post comments who are. That would make it appear less likely that they are dissenting.

  • “MM is probably too educated in regards to economics to be terribly impressed with the Distributism, at least where economics is involved. Chesterton and Belloc were admirable in lots of ways, but their economic analysis was not necessarily great. MM is probably right to rely more on Keynes and Krugman than on Chesterton and Belloc when it comes to actual economic theory.)”.

    Yes, as regards “economic theory”. But economics in practice? A good antidote to Keynes [Krugman is not worth the effort] is J.K. Galbraith’s ALMOST EVERYONE’S GUIDE TO ECONOMICS. He makes the point that economics is not that difficult to understand. Thus, in the controversy about raising the debt limit, it is not difficult to understand that you cannot keep writing checks on an account without money. Belloc understood this; GKC understood this. Even B. Obama as a senator understood this.

    In May 1939, shortly after learning that unemployment stood at 20.7%, Henry Morgenthau, the secretary of the Treasury, exploded: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” Morgenthau concluded, “I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

  • From the other side of the pond, I rate the orthodoxy of your bishops according to extent that they are excoriated by the liberal media – Burke, Olmsted, Chaput et al. The fact that none of ours has yet to be targeted by the Tablet, the English equivalent of the National Catholic Reporter, is cause for concern.

Three Ring Government

Friday, August 26, AD 2011

Well, I must say that whenever I have had involvement with government on the state or federal level, I have thought that a circus was surely running things!

The French author and philosopher Montesquieu, leaning heavily on Aristotle and the Greek historian of the Roman Republic Polybius, in his The Spirit of The Laws (1748) helped popularize the notion of a mixed government: executive, legislative and judicial, providing a safeguard to liberty.  As our history has shown, it is hard for the components to stay in balance.

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4 Responses to Three Ring Government

  • Donald,

    I am not sure. I tend to think that what has gained in power is wherever “progressive statists” happen to reside at the moment. Pres. Bush was, in many regards, a progressive statist in terms of executive power – we see Pres. Obama reaping the rewards of that now in his selective enforcement of laws, abuse of power, etc.

    And you mention that Congress was supreme “for most of history,” but I tend to see the rise of the powerful executive and court after 1900, give or take, which means that from 1776 – 1900, a powerful Congress (124 years), from 1900 – 2012, executive or courts, (112 years). Percentage wise, far greater. Years-ly, about equal.

    Have you read, b.t.w., “The Least Dangerous Branch”, by Alexander Bickel?

  • I read it years ago Jonathan. I am afraid it left little impression on me. In regard to Congress, I would argue that in the 20th there were periods of Congressional supremacy up to World War II, most notably in the 20s, but your point is well taken.

    I think what has fostered the growth in Executive Power and Judicial power is to a large extent legislative abdication. Too many Congresscritters assume that the path to political survival is to let the President or the Courts act, and we have Congress engaged in ceding power. A prime example was Obamacare which basically put Executive agencies in charge of the nation’s healthcare. In regard to the courts we have Congess passing legislation of dubious constitutionality assuming that the courts will take care of any problems. Both of these trends would have horrified the Founding Fathers.

  • Absolutely correct, Don. Congress is by design the most powerful branch, primarily because it holds the power of the purse. But it can also limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear cases, and theoretically all but eliminate the lower federal courts. Of course, it can also impeach the president.

    The framers wisely put the greatest power into the hands of the branch most closely answerable to the people, especially the House, with two year elections. When senators were chosen by the state legislatures, there was another strong check on federal power, and also again, keeping the power close to the citizenry.

    Congress clearly holds the cards, but as you point out they simply have been reticent to use it. Sadly, it is a truly bipartisan abdication… and has really caused chaos as the courts spin out of control, and the executive has its fingers in all kinds of properly legislative pies.

  • Donald,

    I agree with you on the Congressional abdication. I saw a debate one time between Doug Kmiec and Louis Fisher, where Fisher was basically arguing that Congress had given up power to the executive and the administrative branch. I think he’s basically right.

    For myself, I would think that, as of the past 20 years, we are in the era of the quasi-fog. The administrative branches of government (EPA, FDA, IRS, etc.) which have quasi-legislative (CFRs, interpretations of their own, etc.), quasi-judicial (often responsible for preliminary interpretation adjudication) and quasi-executive (may levy fines, etc) powers have more responsibility and power for the way things happen than any one constitutional branch of government. The only way to get an IRS ruling overturned is through a court action, and then the court will always give extreme deference to the IRS interpretation.

    The reason I asked about “The Least Dangerous Branch” was for Bickel’s formulation of the counter-majoritarian issue, namely, to quote Larry Solum:

    “The counter-majoritarian difficulty states a problem with the legitimacy of the institution of judicial review: when unelected judges use the power of judicial review to nullify the actions of elected executives or legislators, they act contrary to “majority will” as expressed by representative institutions. If one believes that democratic majoritarianism is a very great political value, then this feature of judicial review is problematic. For at least two or three decades after Bickel’s naming of this problem, it dominated constitutional theory.”

4 Responses to Laugh For the Day

Coriolanus

Thursday, August 25, AD 2011

Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,

That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.

Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs and his wrongs,

His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.

Thomas Babbington Macaulay

The above film is being released on December 2, 2011 here in the US, and I am greatly looking forward to it.  Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not performed as regularly as other plays of the Bard, which is a shame, because it is a powerful play about love and hate.  Gnaeus Marcius is a Roman patrician who fought in Rome’s wars shortly after the expulsion from Rome of the last of the Tarquin Kings and the foundation of the Roman Republic, conventionally dated at 508 BC.  Our ancient sources in regard to his career are plentiful, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Appian and Plutarch.  Unfortunately these writers wrote 450-600 years after the time of Coriolanus, and early Roman history is almost impossible to distinguish myth from fact.

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9 Responses to Coriolanus

The Spanish Civil War: Sadly, Still Relevant

Wednesday, August 24, AD 2011

On Sunday I received a request from a Catholic blogger for my suggestions for readings in regard to the Spanish Civil War, a subject which I have always found fascinating.  Here is my response:

The go to man on the Spanish Civil War is Stanley Payne.  He has been writing on the conflict since the Fifties.  He interviewed many of the leaders of the various factions in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.  Originally a man of the Left, I think it would be fair now to call him a conservative, but what he is above all is a first class historian.

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36 Responses to The Spanish Civil War: Sadly, Still Relevant

  • A much-touted personal account is Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia.” To me, it proved less than the touting.

    Tolerance for me not for thee.

    I used to “see red” whenever a US MSM commie propaganda outlet would cover a reunion of “Lincoln Brigade” murderers.

  • I am fascinated by the Spanish Civil War and have had a difficult time finding good books on the Subject. Warren Carroll’s the Last Crusade is excellent reading.

    I’m already scouring my nearby book stores for your recommendations, thanks Don!

  • One of the disappointments I had with There be Dragons is that it did not delve into the whys and whatfors of the SCW as much as I would have liked, and likewise not in depth as much regarding St. Josemaria. It gave a little of both, but the rather superficial treatment left you feeling somewhat robbed. It seemed the director couldn’t decide whether it was a movie about the war or about the saint, and ended up really being about neither – it seemed to use them both as props or settings to tell the story about the saint’s fictional friend. Not a bad movie if you have that understanding going in, but a bit disappointing if you don’t.

  • Where I was going with that comment – I would love to see a really good documentary on the SCW.

  • The Spanish Civil War seems to be one of those historical events that everyone is supposed to interpret the exact same way. It’s depicted as WWII on a smaller scale. I know very little about the war, but what bothers me is that I’ve only seen Franco’s side defended by extremely anti-communist Catholics. I’m wondering, is this just one of those rare moments with two bad sides (like Mubarak versus the Muslim Brotherhood)? Is it possible to view the world as a Catholic and still accept the common interpretation of the Spanish Civil War?

  • “Is it possible to view the world as a Catholic and still accept the common interpretation of the Spanish Civil War?”

    From an American perspective few of the sides in the Spanish Civil War are too appealing. On the Republican side the main factions were Communists, Socialists (who were often harder Left than the Communists) and Anarchists. There were some moderate Republicans but they were quickly pushed to the side lines. In the areas controlled by the Basque nationalists in Northern Spain the Church was not persecuted and the Basque Republicans were fervent Catholics. They were subdued by the Nationalists in 1937.

    On the Nationalist side we have Falangists, basically fascists modeled after Mussolini’s black shirts, most of the Army, monarchists, fervent Catholics, and the Carlists of Navarre who were probably the most fervent Catholics as a group in the world and who provided the Nationalists their shock troops.

    Of the factions on both sides, my favorites are the Carlists and the Basque Republicans.

    The Republicans were mostly fighting to implement a Revolution and bring to Earth a Leftist utopia, of some Communist, Socialist or Anarchist variant. They wanted to smash the Church and anyone else who stood in their way of bringing this about.

    The Nationalists were mostly fighting to crush the Left and sepratist movements like the Basques and the Catalans, and restore Spain to the glory it had known in the past. They detested democracy, as Americans understand it, as much as their Leftist adversaries.

    A fairly bad choice from an American perspective. However, one point can never be overlooked by a Catholic: on the Nationalist side of Spain Catholics worshiped freely; on the Republican side, outside of the Basque regions, the Churches were shuttered and turned into warehouses, garages, town halls, and the clergy, and faithful Catholics, murdered. I do not think that any faithful Catholic can overlook that.

  • A very concise and compact review Don, I agree wholeheartedly.

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  • Well, certainly the right side won, at least in THIS civil war, Don! 😉

  • I often wondered that there were not “Lincoln brigades” of Catholics… why apparently no organized Catholic military units went to aid the Nationalists. Perhaps for the same reason that none aided the Cristeros in Mexico, an indifference to things Hispanic in the English speaking world, which itself seems to be in part a vestige of the Black Legend. Certainly the “main-stream media” was a formidable roadblock for Catholics trying to find out the truth of what was happening in Spain and Mexico.

  • What about the Hugo Thomas one volume history?

  • Irish Catholics sent about 500 men. They saw very brief action and then were sent home by the Nationalists as being fairly useless. American Catholics sent over a fair amount of money to aid the Nationalist cause, and lobbied hard, and successfully, against any US aid to the Republic. Portugal sent about 20,000 men to fight for the Nationalists, and allowed the Nationalists use of their ports and to use their territory to transport supply. The aid that the Nationalists received from Italy and Nazi Germany is of course well known. There were also White Russian and other right wing volunteers fighting for Franco. The study linked below has a strong Republican bias, but it is one of the very few volumes I am aware of that looks at foreign volunteers for Franco:

    http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Franco-International-Volunteers-Nationalist/dp/0826465382

    Roy Campbell was an English war correspondent who followed Franco’s armies and was sympathetic to the Nationalist cause:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Campbell_(poet)

    Outside of Mexico, almost all of the Latin American states were sympathetic to the Nationalists and extended early diplomatic recognition to the Nationalists.

  • “What about the Hugo Thomas one volume history?”

    Good but dated. We know far more from released Spanish archive records than when he initially wrote it in 1961 and even with updates it is not up to snuff with current scholarship. It still has a warm spot in my heart as it was the first book I read on the conflict.

  • Very pricy is Burnett Bolloten’s The Spanish Civil War. It is worth every penny however for the serious student. The late Mr. Bolloten made an in depth study of magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and other publications published in Spain during the war. You find material in his history you find nowhere else. He is especially good on the byzantine Republican factional infighting.

    http://www.amazon.com/Spanish-Civil-War-Revolution-Counterrevolution/dp/0807819069

  • Is that last one an even-handed account that you just commented on?

  • Bolloten began as a man of the Left Tito and by the end of his career the Franco regime was touting his books as a great scholarly study of the War. Bolloten was an honest man and the facts he brought to light tended to paint the Spanish Republic in a bad light. His scholarship is impeccable and he had no axes to grind.

    I would add that I would not recommend it to general readers. A fair amount of knowledge of Spain in the thirties and Spanish politics of that period is helpful before tackling Bolloten’s works.

  • Just added it to my Amazon Wish List, niiice.

  • The internet is awesome. Thanks, Don.

  • You want even-handed?

    The following is paraphrased from De la Salle Christian Brothers and Marianist sources.

    The holocaust within the Spanish Civil War has been denied far too long. Almost no one in America knows that during the 1930’s Spanish “Civil” War the “republicans” massacred of tens of thousands of Roman Catholic religious and lay people. For decades, the MSM, publishers, and the academy have sold the one-sided idea that Franco and his government (World War II neutrals) were merely fascists. The MSM, et al, egregiously deny the mass murders of Spanish Catholic religious and lay persons committed by the Soviet-led Spanish and international gangsters like Hemingway, Robeson and the so-called Abraham Lincoln brigade.

    There was a general massacre of Roman Catholic clergy and laity in the areas under communist control during the 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War. Four thousand Roman Catholic bishops, priests, brothers, and nuns, and tens of thousands of lay Catholic people were martyred. The Lord had called the Spanish religious community to a radical witness. When the republicans found them to be religious, they were arrested and executed. For example, the bolshevists murdered 165 of the order of Catholic school teachers, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, whose brothers have, for over 150 years, served their vocations at Manhattan College. On October 10, 1993, Pope John Paul II proclaimed “blessed”, seven Spanish Christian Brothers and three Spanish Marianists (Carlos Erana, Jesus Hita, Fidel Fuidio). The Marianists are dedicated priests and religious brothers who serve Long Island Roman Catholics at Chaminade High School and Bishop Kellenberg Memorial High School.

    About ten years prior in Mexico:

    Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. – martyred in Mexico in November 1927

    A picture is worth a thousand words. One of the things that brought the attention of the world to the anti-Catholic persecutions in Mexico was the distribution of the photographs of some of the executions.

    At ten o’clock in the morning, Father Pro was the first to be led out to execution. Carrying his small crucifix and his rosary, he walked steadily across the yard.
    As his last request, Father Miguel asked to be allowed to pray. He knelt in front of the bullet-pocked walls and fervently prayed briefly. He kissed his crucifix and stood.
    Rejecting the traditional blindfold, Miguel stretched his arms out in the form of a cross and facing the firing squad said, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, You know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.”

    As the firing squad took aim, Father Pro spoke his last words. In a firm, clear voice, he said: “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King.

    I guess that was “one-sided.”

  • I do not think that any faithful Catholic can overlook that.

    One would certainly think that Don.

  • Mr. McClarey’s advice about Burnett Bolloten’s book is really commendable.

    The Spanish civil war has been a very complex event, and the author’s long and (relatively, as is inevitable) unbiased research unfolded and pondered upon lot of documents, some of which – like newspapers – rarely used (at least intelligently) in other books. Bolloten was really able to give voice to the many, conflicting parties involved in this tragedy.

    It is too convenient to write Manichean books, were the righteous persons stand unerringly on one side only. Communism has been a cancer which exploited and exacerbated very real social problems, and this civil war is no exception. So one has to understand the concrete situation, the human plight in which those events could unfold: in this even conservatives and Catholics had their sins. Real life is not easy and is always more complex than ideology or partisanship would like it to be.

    So, if it is certainly true that the left lied for a long time about what happened (and still does), it is a Christian duty to always try to understand the whole: without hiding anything and certainly without feeling ashamed for politically correct reasons, it is God who must prevail, not our faction.

    ***

    As far as Mr. McKenna’s question, I would like to add this: many, many Italians went to Spain with the sincere intent to help that Catholic country wihch they knew was being devastated. Of course, they were part of the Fascist army, sometime proudly so, then they are easily dismissed in block as mean people.

    Again, reality is different from historical hyper-generalization. Similarly, most Soviet soldiers fought animated by the love for their country and even religion, whatever the Party could say in the propaganda. So much more it was the case in Italy, where the regime’s propaganda never attained the level of brain-washing reached in the USSR.

  • There is still a tendency (largely on the Left, it has to be said) to continue to view the Spanish Civil War through the prism of 1930s ideological assumptions rather than in the context of Spanish history. In hindsight it is difficult to see how Spain could have made a peaceful and swift transition to democracy in the mid-1970s had Franco not provided her with four decades of stability. Although his regime was oppressive and stifling, it was far preferable to those the Soviets imposed in eastern Europe.

  • Great info, Don, I look forward to delving into some of the contemporary histories you mention. Hugh Thomas was really my one and only source about this, and of course, Dr. Carroll under whom I studied, and who was a great proponent of the Carlists.

  • Dr. Carroll Tom wrote a passionate book in The Last Crusade which I enjoyed but it was basically derivate of other books. His tome is a useful corrective to most works on the Spanish Civil War due to their Leftist bias. Hugh Thomas managed a considerable feat of scholarship in 1961 with his volume, especially for one so young and in a field that was not his major subject of study. More amazing is that his account is almost completely neutral, not something you commonly find in books on this conflict.

  • Yikes, T Shaw, I don’t think anyone’s calling for equal respect for martyrs and their killers. But the war was fought between fascists and communists, or more accurately between one side which included and was supported by fascists and one side which included and was supported by communists. As Don describes it, there were faithful Catholics on both sides. There’s got to be some hesitation in portraying either side as the heroes.

  • Hi folks,

    Wonderful comments about a fascinating and tragic historical event. It is truly shocking seeing how hate-filled and bigoted the anti-catholics are in today’s Spain. However, secular Spain is pretty much going over the cliff so a lot of their anger is probably because they know they’ve lost the war.

    Concerning SCW books – don’t write off Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia! Orwell was far too complex and individualistic a man to be a straightforward pinko. He hated what he saw of Moscow’s manipulation of the Republican side and was very clear that there would have been a dictatorship whoever won. His book gives a superb personal, “you’re here too” account a part of the conflict.

  • After all these years ones grows very tired of this updated Black Legend of Spain and as is so often the case in these discussions the usual cliche seems to be that “both sides” committed atrocities and that there were no “good guys”. No, both sides did not commit atrocities. Only one side did, the leftist one. If you wish to maintain the fiction that Franco’s defending his country against these monsters by shooting back at them constitues “atrocities”, well, there is nothing I can say.

    Some are saying the Spanish Civil War was “complex”, which is a word used, I presume, to avoid really seeking out the truth and coming to a sensible conclusion. No, there is nothing complex about that war. It was the attempt by the Socialist/Communist forces to utterly stamp out the last vestiges of Catholicism in the land and as a revenge carried out by International Finance against a nation that was not dancing to their tune. And we Americans, both publicly in Hollywood and privately in the secret halls of government, were huge supporters of that Catholic extermination so sought after by the Left.

    It would seem that now, in the era of Zapatero and a frightened and weakened Chuch, that the Left has the last laugh because they are accomplishing just about everything they wanted in the ’30s. The modernist madness of Vatican II and creepy prelates like the unspeakable Casaroli paved the way for the Zapateros of this world. Sad…but there it is.

    Since we’re all recommending books about that terrible conflict allow me to suggest that we seek out and read the life and works of the Scotsman Hamish Fraser, a Communist fighter in that very civil war who ultimately converted and became one of the greatest Catholic journalists of the last century. It was my signal honor to know him and to learn from him what really happened there.

    And as for Gen Franco? God bless the memory of that great man who at least, if nothing else, bought some time and some peace for his beloved Spain.

  • I like you Dan.

    I agree with you, “both sides committing atrocities” is incorrect.

    Thank you for your book suggestion!

  • “No, both sides did not commit atrocities. Only one side did, the leftist one.”

    Completely untrue. A typical example of a Nationalist massacre:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Badajoz

    There have been few firmer Catholics than the French author George Bernanos. He goes into great detail in regard to Nationalist massacres he witnessed while staying on Majorca during the Spanish Civil War in his A Diary of My Times:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_grands_cimeti%C3%A8res_sous_la_lune

    Historical facts are historical facts no matter what our ideological predilections might be.

  • The late David Eccles was the English representative of one of the Spanish railways at the time. He read of Guernica; as it was within his jurisdiction he asked one of the engineers what was to be done to repair the damage. “Nothing” was the reply. “There was not much damage”.

    It seems that an English reporter in a nearby town had nothing to report. Then he heard of the bombing [some German bombers getting rid of their bombs?] and made up a report of horrendous massacres and damages. “It was written by George Steer, whose familiarity with Basque traditions, passionate support of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, and outrage over the bombing may have led him to exaggerate some details, and to emphasize that Guernica was far behind the battle lines and not a military objective”.

    Having been told of this, I tried to do some little research on the subject. The eyewitnesses later interviewed [some two decades later] were across the Pyrenees, and of the Republican persuasion. The earliest book I found was Rudolf Arnheim’s 1973 book, based on the later accounts of eye-witnesses.

  • The Republicans exaggerated the damage to Guernica for propaganda purposes. The Nationalists said that there had been no bombing and the damage was caused by retreating Republican troops. Both of these positions were meretricious. There had been heavy bombing of the town and there was nothing wrong about that. The town had not been declared an open city, there were Basque troops in it in an active theatre of war, and therefore the bombing was completely legitimate.

  • Gironella who fought for the Nationalists during the War, wrote about both the red terror and the white terror in his trilogy: The Cypresses Believe in God; One Million Dead; and Peace After War. These books were published in Spain under Franco. No one could deny, with a straight face at least, that both sides had committed atrocities during the War, even at that time in Franco’s Spain. Leftist historians attempt to maximize the Nationalist atrocities and minimize, or ignore, the Republican atrocities. That is both a sin against history and the truth, and those who are appalled at Republican atrocities, as I am, should not ignore the massacres and atrocities of those fighting against the Republicans.

  • Americans who want to understand Spain and the Spanish Civil War should take to heart this preface that Gironella wrote in the American edition of The Cypresses Believe in God in 1954:

    “Author’s Note for the American Edition

    Spain is an unknown country. Experience proves that it is hard to view my country impartially. Even writers of high order succumb to the temptation to adulterate the truth, to treat our customs and our psychology as though everything about them were of a piece, of a single color. Legends and labels pile up: black Spain, inquisitorial Spain, beautiful Spain, tragic Spain, folkloric Spain, unhappy Spain, a projection of Africa into the map of Europe.

    I defend the complexity of Spain. If this book attempts to demonstrate anything it is this: that there are in this land thousands of possible ways of life. Through a Spanish family of the middle class–the Alvears–and the day-by-day living of a provincial capital–Gerona–I have tried to capture the everyday traits, the mentality, the inner ambiance of my compatriots in all their pettiness and all their grandeur. In Spain the reaction to this novel has been that it is “implacable”. Nothing could satisfy me more.

    This book spans a period of five years, five years in the private and public life of the nation: those which preceded the last civil war, which speeded its inevitable coming. The explosion of that war, its scope, and its significance are described in minute detail.

    A single warning to the American reader: Spain is a peculiar country and its institutions therefore take on unique coloration. Certain constants of the Spanish temperament operate under any circumstance. A Spanish Freemason is not an international Freemason. A Spanish Communist is not even an orthodox Communist. In every instance what is characteristic is a tendency toward the instinctive, toward the individualistic, and toward the anarchic. Spaniards follow men better than they follow ideas, which are judged not by their content, but by the men who embody them. This accounts for the inclemency of personal relationships, the small respect for laws; this, too, is what causes our periodic civil wars.

    To bear all this in mind is important in understanding this book. When the narrative deals with a priest, a policeman, a Socialist, a bootblack, it is essential to remember that it is dealing with a Spanish priest, a Spanish policeman, a Spanish Socialist, a Spanish bootblack, not with generic types. This warning is doubly necessary with reference to Freemasonry, Communism, and Catholicism, the interpretation of which will undoubtedly clash with the American reader’s concept of these doctrines.

    The book’s protagonist–Ignacio Alvear–is a type of young man who abounds in present-day Spain.

    Palma de Mallorca, Spain
    August 1954

    José Maria Gironella”

  • Just to follow up on Donald’s recommendation: You really can’t do better than to read Gironella’s trilogy. Thus far I’ve read the first two, and I want to read the third. They are truly brilliant, and they give you the more immediate sense of the war, and the way that sin begets sin. The sinned against, if they are not killed, often themselves become the sinners. Righteous anger begets unrighteous revenge.

    You don’t for a moment forget what side Gironella fought on, and yet he loves Spain so much he can’t help but make you understand and love even the people who would have shot at him.

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  • I was flipping around the radio dial last night and I ran across Michael Savage (who I wouldn’t normally listen to). He was discussing the Spanish Civil War. Odd coincidence.

Ron Paul and the Civil War

Tuesday, August 23, AD 2011

Congressman Ron Paul (R. Pluto) is running for President again, and I assume his views on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln haven’t altered since this interview which took place in 2007.  I will leave to other venues debates as to Ron Paul and his stance on current issues.  I would merely note that in regard to the Civil War he appears to be singularly ill-informed.  According to Mr. Paul the entire Civil War could have been avoided with a plan for compensated emancipation.  Now if only Abraham Lincoln had thought of that!  Wait, he did!

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96 Responses to Ron Paul and the Civil War

  • Don, perhaps you would be interested in what H.L. Mencken wrote about Lincoln in May 1920, a lot closer to the Civil War than now:

    “Lincoln becomes the American solar myth, the chief butt of American credulity and sentimentality. Washington, of late yeas, has been perceptibility humanized; every schoolboy now knows that he used to swear a good deal, and was a sharp trader, and had a quick eye for a pretty ankle. But meanwhile the varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting Abe into a plaster saint, thus making him fit for adoration in the YMCA’s. All the popular pictures of him show him in the robes of state, and wearing an expression fit for a man about to be hanged. There is, as far as I know, not a single portrait of him smiling—and yet he must have cackled a good deal, first and last: who ever heard of a storyteller who didn’t?

    “Worse, there is an obvious effort to pump all his human weaknesses out of him, and so leave him a mere moral apparition, a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost. What could be more absurd? Lincoln, in point of fact, was a practical politician of long experienced and high talents, and by no means cursed with idealistic superstitions.

    “… Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a messiah. Nothing alarmed him more than the suspicion that he was an abolitionist, and Barton tells us of an occasion when he actually fled town to avoid meeting the issue squarely. An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run. But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable—until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and more important still, until the political currents were more safely running his way. Even so, he freed the slaves in only a part of the country; all the rest continued to clank their chains until he himself was an angel in Heaven.”

    Mencken goes out to praise the Gettysburg speech as “most eloquent,” but then said it boiled down to this: “The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—that ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people’ should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country – and for nearly 20 years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.”

    You may consider the source unreliable, Don, given Mencken’s agnosticism, but as lifelong newspaper reporter with an eye for astute and objective observation he was without peer. He goes on to express doubts that Lincoln was a Christian, noting: “Herndon and some of his other early friends always maintained that he was an atheist, but the Rev. William E. Barton, one of the best of the later Lincolnoligists argues that this atheism was simply disbelief in the idiotic Methodist and Baptist dogmas of his time—that nine Christian churches out of ten, if he were alive today, would admit him to their high privileges and prerogatives without anything worse than a few warning coughs. As for me, I still wonder.”

  • I treasure Mencken’s The American Language Joe, and I have read with pleasure many of his bitter and acerbic columns. However as a historian he is the same league as Ron Paul.

    We see that in full display in his essay The Calamity of Appomattox:

    http://brionmcclanahan.com/?p=184

    Among other historical howlers he makes this gem:

    “No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it.”

    Now that statement is completely at variance with reality. In the states that made up the Confederacy the bonds of slavery were being tightened in the decades prior to the War. Very few future Confederate leaders made any anti-slavery statements in the 20 years leading up to the war, Robert E. Lee was a notable exception, and those who did made them in passing in private correspondence. The Confederacy was set up to protect slavery. The depth of Confederate committment to slavery was indicated in that a proposal to enlist black troops in the Confederate Army, in spite of a critical manpower shortage for the Confederacy throughout the War, was not enacted into law until 1865 when the Confedracy was on its deathbed. Black troops fighting for the Union and their white officers were subject to the death penalty under Confederate law. Many blacks and their white officers were executed after capture with spared black troops not treated as POWs, but rather enslaved.

    HL Mencken: good writer, poor historian, rotten human being.

  • Don, disagree, having read much Mencken. In context, although he was irascible and not in a league as a thinker as his two idols–G.B. Shaw and Nietzsche–he was vastly underrated as humorist and often wrote tongue firmly in cheek.

    He was more a critic of ideas than of men; ribald, fresh and original. His “Treatise on the Gods,” while flawed in many respects, is truly devoid of malice. He loved to raise hackles, which he did better than anyone else during his prime.

    As for his being a “rotten human being,” you ought to cut him some slack. Because, as he neared death, he wrote: ‘If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.’

    He was the self-described ‘amiable skeptic,’ who never denied the existence of God, but never fully embraced it; he thought too much and left too little room for the spiritual. As an agnostic, I can relate. I would have loved to had a beer or two with him.

  • Don, you might enjoy this, only known recording of HLM:

    http://youtu.be/S4bYv3uwDqc

  • He was a pro-abort and a snob Joe, as well as being a full time jerk. The only amiable feature I can think of him is his care for his wife when she was dying, which is to his credit. However, I think that is probably enough in regard to Menken as I do not want this thread to devolve into a debate over the Sage of Baltimore.

  • Hmmm, ad hominems do not address the accuracy of his observations, Don, I’m surprised that you would try the old tactic of the trial lawyer, “if you have the law, pound the law, if you have the facts, pound the facts, if you have neither, pound the table.”

    If Menken is right he’s right, regardless of his character, if he’s wrong, he’s wrong, regardless of his character. Either way, whether he was an SOB is irrelevant.

    He’s really correct about Lincoln, of course: he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery (of course, Ron Paul makes the incorrect assumption that Lincoln was motivated by slavery). Slavery was a cynical ploy to boost flagging support for the war and keep England from joining the war on the side of the South.

    Paul’s fundamental claim is accurate: Lincoln by his precipitate resort to armed invasion of the South fundamentally altered the nature of our Federal republic from one of limited and tightly controlled central government, to a virtually unlimited central government. After all, when you can militarily invade and occupy 11 states, it’s hard to imagine what power can NOT be assumed by the federal government.

  • Wrong Tom, and actually I did point out instances where both Mencken and Paul are wrong on history. It is icing on the cake that Mencken was a SOB and Paul is a headcase.

  • Don, I believe you can argue better than to merely cast aspersions. You are persuasive and at your best when you avoid ad hominems, as we all are. Factual history is often illusory from the distance of more than a century. Contemporary accounts are perhaps the most accurate. Is it so important that each of us has to be 100 percent “right” about every issue? Can we not stipulate that there are so many variables and points of view that allow for fair and honest disagreement without resorting to name-calling, the least convincing of all forms of argument?

  • Well Joe you cited Mencken as an authority. I pointed out that he was a good writer, a poor historian and a rotten human being. In regard to Mencken none of those statements are ad hominem but merely descriptive. I rather think that Mencken, cross-grained as he was, might well have agreed with all three. I would note that I have previously indicated that I did not wish this thread to devolve into a debate over Mencken, and I will begin to prune comments if necessary to avoid this becoming a thread about the most famous American devotee of Nietzsche.

  • Who am I to argue with the man who controls the switch?

  • Alright Tom, your turn to man up. Instead of just asserting something to be true: “he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery (of course, Ron Paul makes the incorrect assumption that Lincoln was motivated by slavery). Slavery was a cynical ploy to boost flagging support for the war and keep England from joining the war on the side of the South.”

    Prove it.

  • Vocational iconoclasts can get tiresome very quickly (and Mencken does), but isn’t it rather de trop to refer to him as a ‘rotten human being’? His life was truncated, not scandalous.

  • No more on Mencken. Last warning to all. This thread is not about him and I am not going to allow this thread to proceed down that path. I have been very lax as of late about my threads staying on topic, and not going down various divergent by-ways, but Mencken is simply too far removed from the subject of the post. I will do any pruning of comments that I need to to enforce this blog ukase after I get out of court this afternoon. 🙂

  • This war hungry mentality of conservatives is really weirding me out. Why must war be a logical answer to the frustrations of a people?

    When is it incoherent to suggest 600,000 lives should not have been lost.

    Why don’t we go to war over abortion? That is a more serious offense than slavery. Now, that is a war I’d be happy to fight in.

  • So Ron Paul and Lincoln actually agree – compensated emancipation was a good idea! 😀

    (Too bad the South and the Border States didn’t agree. 😛 )

    I think Ron’s animus against the Union as per the (not so) Recent Unpleasantness stems from a tendency of libertarians to see the Confederates, in their emphasis on secession and the rights of the states, as fellow allies in the Great Struggle Against Centralization And/Or Government Intervention. With that mindset, it seems, the fact that the Confederates main reason for secession was the preservation of the right to enslave one’s feloow man is a mere inconvenience, and Lincoln the true villain of the story.

    That said, does this mean we can say “Ron Paul is a neo-Con!”? 😉

  • Would I be out of bounds to note that it sure looked like there was a civil war brewing over Mencken?

    It’s not incoherent to suggest that there might have been alternatives to the bloodiest war in our history. The problem is, Paul is, as is too often the case, talking out of his hat. With the honorable exception of abortion, he seems to think that problems can be contracted away–the free flow of commerce is a balm for all ills.

    Don correctly notes that the slave codes of the southern states were being tightened in the decades before the War, and the restrictions on the small numbers of free blacks in slave states were also increased. Lincoln had a hell of a time trying to persuade the Union slave-holding states to abandon the institution, which is why we ended up with the 13th Amendment instead. Moreover, slaves were being used in southern factories, which meant that modern harvesting methods wouldn’t have made the institution obsolete by any means.

    Frankly, I don’t see how the War could have been avoided. The best result was that it could have ended in a much earlier Union victory (but still post-Emancipation), without the bitter desolation of the South. But that’s the province of alternate history, alas.

    Speaking of which, a fine example of an alternate War is Newt Gingrich (!) and William Forstchen’s trilogy that starts with “Gettysburg.” Without spoiling it too much, after a pair of crushing defeats, Lincoln calls Grant and his army from the west, including a significant number of black troops, to take on Lee in a fight to the finish.

    Peter Tsouras’ “Gettysburg” is an alternate history of the battle which puts Winfield Scott Hancock in charge of the Army of the Potomac on the third day, facing a much larger version of Pickett’s Charge, now fully supported by Longstreet. Needs more maps, but it’s very clever and well-thought out.

  • God, I hate these War Between the States threads. Spare us another 3-and-a-half years of this.

    😉

  • C’mon, it’s elementary school knowledge by now that lincoln famously stated, in 1862, well after the start of war, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

    He only later issued the so-called Emancipation Proclamation, a deeply cynical document that freed exactly zero slaves, and was aimed at weakening the Confederacy; Lincoln wrote to a supporter, “I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union.” (emphasis added).

    Whatever his personal views,it is clear as can be that Lincoln had no desire to enforce as a war aim the abolition of slavery, until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, and even then, as the passage above makes clear, the Proclamation was intended as an aid in restoring the union, not as a war-aim in itself.

    Lincoln honestly (and correctly) understood that he had no constitutional right to abolish slavery. Even after military conquest, it took passage of a constitutional amendment to effectuate that aim.

  • C’mon, it’s elementary school knowledge by now that lincoln famously stated, in 1862, well after the start of war,

    Yeah, but it’s also elementary knowledge that:

    1) When Lincoln wrote that he had already written the text of the Emancipation Proclamation, he just hadn’t issued it yet.
    2) However much people may want to insist that Lincoln wasn’t all that abolitionist and slavery wasn’t really the main issue — one group that clearly thought that Lincoln was abolitionist enough to force major action was the Confederate states, who seceded back in 1861 because they considered Lincoln unacceptably anti-slavery. To quote James McPherson’s This Mighty Scourge:

    “The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death,” a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. “The South cannot exist without African slavery.” Mississippi’s commissioner to Maryland insisted that “slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity.” If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, “the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone.”

    If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to “substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.”

    Georgia’s commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, “we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.”

    An Alabamian born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln’s election as “nothing less than an open declaration of war” by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the “sons and daughters” of the South to associate “with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” thus “consigning her [the South’s] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans…”

  • Lincoln hated slavery, and rightly so. He would have tried to limit it as much as possible within his powers, but not to the point of jeopardizing the nation. His priority certainly was to preserve the union, but that by no means meant he was indifferent to slavery. The idea that Lincoln really didn’t care about slavery is unsupportable. He just didn’t care enough about it to risk the union, and without question Lincoln’s motivation for fighting the war was to preserve the union, not eliminate slavery. Fortunately, both happened.

    And Don is correct. The theory is the South was already well on the way of eliminating slavery is nonsense put out by neo-confederates who cannot face the fact that the South sought to excercise its perceived right to secede because if felt slavery as an institution was endangered.

  • Who cares what Paul or Menken say about the CW.

    What does Obama say?

  • “The theory is the South was already well on the way of eliminating slavery is nonsense put out by neo-confederates . . . ”

    TRUTH. The southern economy was 90% dependent on cotton which was utterly dependent on slave labor.

    Same same northern abolitionists/indutrialistic plutocrats were competely depended on wage slaves and child labor.

  • This thread just goes to prove that Americans never get tired of fighting the same old battles.

  • “This thread just goes to prove that Americans never get tired of fighting the same old battles.”

    Joe, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a three day running internet battle between Catholics and Protestants over sola scriptura. You feel like you’ve time travelled back to the 16th Century.

    I’m convinced that quarrelsomeness is both a feature and a bug of human interaction.

  • Dale, I’ve been through several of those, along with the arguments over creation vs. evolution, the death penalty, the chicken vs. the egg, and which is better, NY or Chicago pizza. There are some arguments that will never be settled.

  • Actually, the NY or Chicago pizza debate was settled fairly easily. Chicago style won.

  • Says who? As a native New Yorker, I assert otherwise. You’ve got some crust, RL!

  • Now we are on pizza in this thread? Sheesh. Besides, it is a basic fact of life that Chicago Deep Dish Pizza represents the summit of the culinary art! Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  • Dem’s fightin words, Don. I am willing to tolerate your comments about HLM, but to disrespect NY pizza is the final straw and cause for an official protest. I demand an immediate retraction or else I will refer this to my cousin Vinny in Queens for further action.

  • I would be shaking right now Joe, except there are plenty of Italian Americans in the Windy City who will form legions to fight under the banner of Chicago Deep Dish!

  • Maybe we need to have a “sit-down.”

  • Chicago Deep Dish? You mean the culinary equivalent of Starbuck’s coffee: overcooked and overrated?

    And Joe I don’t have any relatives named Vinny, but I am from Queens.

  • Paul, of course, anyone with a vowel at the end of his name appreciates the superior taste of NY. I was born in Queens (Astoria) and thank you for your support.

  • Ah, people who do not like Chicago Deep Dish I pity rather than take umbrage against. They simply lack the taste buds for truly exquisite flavors, rather like people born color blind or those individuals who insist on dancing while having the sense of rythymn of a goat with palsy. I may establish a foundation for such poor souls. Perhaps I will call it Taste Buds Deprived Anonymous. 🙂

  • New York, Chicago, whatever. You’re all a bunch of damn Yankees, so who gives a crap? None of it holds a candle to pulled pork barbecue from Virginia or the Carolinas, some ribs from Memphis, or a slab of brisket from Texas.

    😉

  • I’m from Detroit, home of Little Caesars and Dominos and have plenty of each. I have had frozen pizzas warmed while still resting on their cardboard disc. I know a thing or two about sub par pizza. I have also had NY style pizza. I would put NY style somewhere between Jeno’s and Little Caesars.

  • Ya know what New Yorkers call Chicago deep dish pizza? LASAGNA.

    Think you can walk down the street eating one of them gooey messes?

    Jay, a real Virginia Ham . . . Heaven.

  • We know that real Italians have tried to make pizza outside NY, NJ and Naples.

    Impossible.

    Either it’s the water or the rest of the world is cursed. Probably the latter.

  • New York style pizza does have one use, as long as one does not mind sticky coasters.

  • The funny thing is that real Italians probably wouldn’t recognize either NY or Chicago-style pizza.

  • I’ve had real Italian pizza Paul. I didn’t like it much which was a considerable let down for me. I think I would have enjoyed it if I wasn’t used to American pizza.

  • Check out this Wikipedia entry regarding regional variations of pizza in the U.S.:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_in_the_United_States

    Not only is there NY and Chicago style pizza, there’s Detroit-style pizza (Little Caesar’s), St. Louis-style pizza (which uses a strange amalgam of cheeses known as Provel), New Haven-style pizza (with white sauce and sometimes clams), Buffalo-style pizza (a cross between NY and Chicago styles), and California-style pizza (veggies, chicken, barbecue sauce, and God knows what else). There’s also “Greek pizza”, most popular in New England.

  • I’m also a Detroiter, and I call the NY-Chicago pizza fight as a TKO for Chicago style.

    I’ve also had Italian pizza, and there’s a very, very good reason the popular pizza places in the United Kingdom call themselves “American-Style.”

  • California style is not bad at all–I was pleasantly surprised when I had some in Sacramento a few years back.

  • What a thread !!! 😆

    So now, for something completely different.

    I understand that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have commented on the DC earthquake, and confirm that it is a scarcely known geological formation known as “Bush’s Fault” 🙂

  • California style is not bad at all–I was pleasantly surprised when I had some in Sacramento a few years back.

    Ach. A proper midwesterner’s id leads him here:

  • What was the original question? Oh Yea!

    While after the fact it easy to note the Civil War cost he Union more money than buying the slaves, it was not a price that was up front in 1861 for comparison with the cost of buying the slaves.

    Not only would the South have refused, but the Ron Paul’s of the day would have protested the cost.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • “I understand that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have commented on the DC earthquake, and confirm that it is a scarcely known geological formation known as “Bush’s Fault””

    Thanks for an early morning smile Don!

    “Not only would the South have refused, but the Ron Paul’s of the day would have protested the cost.”

    Quite right Hank. Of course I doubt if Mr. Paul has studied the issue carefully, if at all. He simply doesn’t like Lincoln or the outcome of the Civil War, a common feature in the paleocon circles where he is considered a great leader, and making ahistorical comments about compensated emancipation is a socially acceptable way for a minor political figure to attack one of the greatest of American statesmen.

  • Good one, Don the Kiwi. 🙂

  • Its a shame this video wasn’t posted that is of actual use for the campaign. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txVg1C0PkLI

    Now for others. Check out Tom DiLorenzo’s book ‘Lincoln Unmasked” & other videos by him on youtube.
    Dr Tom Woods (a convert) “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History”

    Lincoln attacked the south for doing exactly what the founders of our land did. I wonder why the Vatican liked Jeff Davis more then Dishonest Abe, but the winners write history.

  • by the way nothing he said in the video is false. Every other nation on the planet got rid of slavery w/o a war. It was on the way out in our land as Jeff Davis & Robert E Lee both said they wanted to end slavery peacefully. Technology was going to phase it out. Funny the north loved the slave trade but condemned the south.

  • Check out Tom DiLorenzo’s book ‘Lincoln Unmasked”

    I’d sooner recommend the term paper of a sixth grader than anything written by DiLorenzo, unless of course you value poorly sourced, poorly argued screeds masquerading as academic tracts.

  • Dilorenzo is a dishonest hack Steve and not a historian. Actually what Paul said was completely false as to slavery ending peacefully in every other country. Review the history of Haiti for example. In regard to Jefferson Davis perhaps you might wish to review this section of the message he sent to the Confederate Congress on April 29, 1861 in which he states flatly that defense of slavery was the cause of the creation of the Confederacy:

    “The climate and soil of the Northern States soon proved unpropitious to the continuance of slave labor, whilst the converse was the case at the South. Under the unrestricted free intercourse between the two sections, the Northern States consulted their own interests by selling their slaves to the South and prohibiting slavery within their limits. The South were willing purchasers of a property suitable to their wants, and paid the price of the acquisition without harboring a suspicion that their quiet possession was to be disturbed by those who were inhibited not only by want of constitutional authority, but by good faith as vendors, from disquieting a title emanating from themselves. As soon, how ever, as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves. Fanatical organizations, supplied with money by voluntary subscriptions, were assiduously engaged in exciting amongst the slaves a spirit of discontent and revolt; means were furnished for their escape from their owners, and agents secretly employed to entice them to abscond; the constitutional provision for their rendition to their owners was first evaded, then openly denounced as a violation of conscientious obligation and religious duty; men were taught that it was a merit to elude, disobey, and violently oppose the execution of the laws enacted to secure the performance of the promise contained in the constitutional compact; owners of slaves were mobbed and even murdered in open day solely for applying to a magistrate for the arrest of a fugitive slave; the dogmas of these voluntary organizations soon obtained control of the Legislatures of many of the Northern States, and laws were passed providing for the punishment, by ruinous fines and long-continued imprisonment in jails and penitentiaries, of citizens of the Southern States who should dare to ask aid of the officers of the law for the recovery of their property. Emboldened by success, the theater of agitation and aggression against the clearly expressed constitutional rights of the Southern States was transferred to the Congress; Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra fanaticism, and whose business was not “to promote the general welfare or insure domestic tranquillity,” but to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of impairing the security of property in slaves, and reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority. Finally a great party was organized for the purpose of obtaining the administration of the Government, with the avowed object of using its power for the total exclusion of the slave States from all participation in the benefits of the public domain acquired by all the States in common, whether by conquest or purchase; of surrounding them entirely by States in which slavery should be prohibited; of thus rendering the property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless, and thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars. This party, thus organized, succeeded in the month of November last in the election of its candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

    In the meantime, under the mild and genial climate of the Southern States and the increasing care and attention for the wellbeing and comfort of the laboring class, dictated alike by interest and humanity, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slaveholding States had augmented from about 1,250,000 at the date of the adoption of the Constitution to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced. With this view the legislatures of the several States invited the people to select delegates to conventions to be held for the purpose of determining for themselves what measures were best adapted to meet so alarming a crisis in their history. Here it may be proper to observe that from a period as early as 1798 there had existed in all of the States of the Union a party almost uninterruptedly in the majority based upon the creed that each State was, in the last resort, the sole judge as well of its wrongs as of the mode and measure of redress. Indeed, it is obvious that under the law of nations this principle is an axiom as applied to the relations of independent sovereign States, such as those which had united themselves under the constitutional compact. The Democratic party of the United States repeated, in its successful canvass in 1856, the declaration made in numerous previous political contests, that it would “faithfully abide by and uphold the principles laid down in the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798, and in the report of Mr. Madison to the Virginia Legislature in 1799; and that it adopts those principles as constituting one of the main foundations of its political creed.” The principles thus emphatically announced embrace that to which I have already adverted – the right of each State to judge of and redress the wrongs of which it complains. These principles were maintained by overwhelming majorities of the people of all the States of the Union at different elections, especially in the elections of Mr. Jefferson in 1805, Mr. Madison in 1809, and Mr. Pierce in 1852. In the exercise of a right so ancient, so well established, and so necessary for self-preservation, the people of the Confederate States, in their conventions, determined that the wrongs which they had suffered and the evils with which they were menaced required that they should revoke the delegation of powers to the Federal Government which they had ratified in their several conventions. They consequently passed ordinances resuming all their rights as sovereign and Independent States and dissolved their connection with the other States of the Union. ”

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_m042961.asp

    An attempt to argue that slavery was on its way out in 1861, and that the Confederacy was not created to protect and preserve slavery is profoundly silly and ahistoric.

  • An example of Dilorenzo in action:

    For example, DiLorenzo repeatedly asserts that Lincoln did not believe in human equality and shared the widely held prejudices of his time that blacks were inferior. Here is DiLorenzo:

    “Lincoln even mocked the Jeffersonian dictum enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. He admitted that it had become “a genuine coin in the political currency of our generation,” but added, “I am sorry to say that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must admit I never saw the Siamese Twins, and therefore will not dogmatically say that no man ever saw a proof of this sage aphorism” So, with the possible exception of Siamese Twins, the idea of equality, according to Lincoln, was a sheer absurdity. This is in stark contrast to the seductive words of the Gettysburg Address, eleven years later, in which he purported to rededicate the nation to the notion that all men are created equal.”

    DiLorenzo cites the first joint debate between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, held in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1858, as the source of the quotation. The language actually comes from Lincoln’s eulogy of his longtime friend and colleague Henry Clay, delivered in July 1852. But that is the least of DiLorenzo’s problems. He uses this quotation, and a few other excerpted phrases, to “prove” that Lincoln’s professed belief in human equality was disingenuous. Here are Lincoln’s actual words:

    “[There are] a few, but an increasing number of men, who, for the sake of perpetuating slavery, are beginning to assail and to ridicule the white man’s charter of freedom, the declaration “that all men are created equal.” So far as I have learned, the first American, of any note, to do or attempt this, was the late John C. Calhoun; and if I mistake not, it soon after found its way into some of the messages of the Governors of South Carolina. We, however, look for, and are not much shocked by, political eccentricities and heresies in South Carolina. But, only last year, I saw with astonishment, what purported to be a letter of a very distinguished and influential clergyman of Virginia, copied, with apparent approbation, into a St. Louis newspaper, containing the following, to me, very extraordinary language:

    I am fully aware that there is a text in some Bibles that is not in mine. Professional abolitionists have made more use of it, than of any passage in the Bible. It came, however, as I trace it, from Saint Voltaire, and was baptized by Thomas Jefferson, and since almost universally regarded as canonical authority ‘All men are born equal and free.’

    This is a genuine coin in the political currency of our generation. I am sorry to say that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must admit I never saw the Siamese Twins, and therefore will not dogmatically say that no man ever saw a proof of this sage aphorism.

    This sounds strangely in republican America. The like was not heard in the fresher days of the Republic.”

    DiLorenzo thus attributes to Lincoln the words of a Virginia clergyman whom Lincoln quoted and then went on to criticize. In the course of his eulogy of Clay, Lincoln defended the proposition of human equality and equal natural rights, as he did in all his major addresses. His argument is precisely the opposite of what DiLorenzo claims it to be.

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

  • It’s often claimed that it’s winners to write history — but just as often it is losers who write history. They are the ones still stewing over issues and churning out revisionist tomes while the winners have moved on to other things.

  • “I’m from Detroit”

    My prayers are with you.

  • I never said Lincoln was not an abolitionist, he was on a personal level. I said “he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery” vis a vis the Confederacy. He knew abolition could not constitutionally be a legitimate war aim, but he believed militarily-enforced “union” was constitutional.

    I don’t have to believe Lincoln was a personally bad man; I think he personally was to all appearances a moral man. I just believe that he acted without legal or constitutional authority in invading 11 states, particularly states like my own Virginia, which had never lifted a military finger against the federal government.

    History is not a simple black and white in most cases. Lincoln was neither the Great Emancipator and spotless paragon of a president that the history books make him, nor was he a deliberate tyrant. He was doing what he thought necessary to maintain the union. He was grossly mistaken and gravely abused his powers, and fundamentally changed our Republic by castrating our federal system. But it is hard to find evidence that he did so for his personal aggrandizement.

  • He was grossly mistaken and gravely abused his powers, and fundamentally changed our Republic by castrating our federal system.

    As late as 1929, the central government of this country consisted of

    1. The military
    2. The diplomatic corps
    3. The postal service
    4. Several police forces, predominantly concerned with tax collection and immigration.
    5. Several agencies stewarding public land
    6. Several agencies engaged in scientific and technical research
    7. An agency which subsidized the construction of long haul roads
    8. Several regulatory agencies concerned with anti-trust matters, health and safety of manufactures, and the soundness of certain institutions of credit.
    9. A central bank and mint.

  • I neglected the veterans’ hospitals.

  • The Civil War would have been averted had Americans stayed in the British Empire. They would have been given self-government (to a large extent they had it already). Canada got it in 1867 despite the fact that most Canadians didn’t want it. Crucially, slavery was abolished throughout the Empire in 1833 and the owners compensated. And if the Canadian example is anything to go by, the Native Americans would have been better off. -)

  • You may rest assured John that the states that made up the Confederacy would have been no more eager to give up slavery because London said so, than they were to give up slavery because Washington said so.

    “They would have been given self-government (to a large extent they had it already.”

    Well actually the British govenment in the years leading up to 1775 did their very best to convince the colonists that they were taking away their right to self government. I discuss this at length in the post linked below:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/07/06/a-just-war/

  • Donald, I know this is departing somewhat from the original thread, but I have read your linked post with considerable interest. It raises some interesting questions. The rebellion was supported by 40-45 percent of the colonists and virtually none of the Native Americans. Conditions were hardly intolerable. Can armed revolt be justified in these circumstances? On the other hand, in acting to suppress the revolt the King was in effect declaring war on his own subjects, very difficult to justify since the situation could have been resolved amicably given less obstinacy on both sides.

    The root cause of the conflict surfaced again over a century later and was the main weakness of the British imperial concept. The Empire wanted the benefits of imperial protection (in the economic sense) but was unwilling to share in the cost of imperial defence.

    Going back to the War of Independence, which is something of a misnomer – when France waded in it became a global conflict – I think we can identify the winners and losers, starting with the winners:
    1. The Americans (excluding of course the Loyalists and the Native Americans).
    2. Great Britain. Although she lost the American colonies she strengthened her position in India and the West Indies, and bankrupted her main rival.
    And now for the losers:
    1. France. The economic consequences of the war led directly to the Revolution which destroyed the pre-eminence she had held since 1648. The 19th century was indisputably England’s.
    2. The Dutch republic. Never in a position to challenge England again.
    3. Spain. Her gains in Florida were short-lived and she failed to recover Gibraltar, which was the reason she joined the war in the first place.

  • As far as almost all Americans are concerned John the War of Independence will always be the War of Independence. What happened overseas was of small concern to Americans so long as they gained their independence from the British Crown.

    The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.

    In regard to the Tories, they quickly reconciled themselves to American independence, except for the bitter enders who went to Canada and named themselves United Empire Loyalists. More than a few of them ultimately returned to the US.

    In regard to France I believe your contention is incorrect. France was basically bankrupt before it enjoyed its victory over Great Britain in the War of American Independence. It could now trade freely with the US, and it had a possible ally against Great Britain in future conflicts, which happened in the War of 1812. Not a bad return for France on a relatively small investment.

    Great Britain was clearly the loser in the conflict as the British lost the centerpiece of the Empire and a territory with vast potential as the future history of the US demonstrated.

    The Dutch were a negligible power after the War of the Spanish Succession. Ditto Spain.

    If King George III had been wise enough to adopt the dominion concept, clearly envisioned by Edmund Burke in his speeches on America, the war could have been avoided. Alas George III was, at best, an unimaginative plodder. Few Kings have served Great Britain worse than the third Hanoverian.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Ironic comment given the thrust of this thread. Lee couldn’t have put it any better.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Cut and paste and post on every Al Qaida and Taliban web site for inspiration.

  • In regard to the American Civil War Tom, the relevant people were all the American people, North and South, black and white.

  • “Cut and paste and post on every Al Qaida and Taliban web site for inspiration.”

    The last thing Al Qaida or the Taliban want Joe is for any people to have the right to rule themselves, as their attempts to terrorize people into not voting in elections in Iraq and Afghanistan amply demonstrate. You would have a point if these two organizations were fighting to establish democracies, but since they are fighting to establish dictatorships you do not.

  • As loathsome as they are, Don, they are not anarchists. They want some form of home rule; a government created from within, not imposed from without. Did not the first Americans resort to violent rebellion to protest the heel of King George? One man’s freedom fight is another man’s terrorist.

  • When Menachem David led the right-wing Zionists in blowing up the King David hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946, killing 95 people of various nationalities and wounding 46, in the name of democracy, was that an act of a freedom fighter or terrorist?

  • Menachem Begin….damn typos

  • No Joe, the merry band of cut throats in the Middle East are not striving for the right of any people to rule themselves, but for them to rule throughout the Middle East. They are not fighting for people to peacefully express themselves at the ballot box and rule themselves, but for the people to be cattle to be led by them into a new Caliphate under the leadership of the terrorists. They have only contempt for the very concept of freedom.

  • “Did not the first Americans resort to violent rebellion to protest the heel of King George?”

    In order so that they could go on ruling themselves by electing their own rulers and to enjoy the freedoms later enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The contrast with the terrorists could not be starker. Michael Moore has compared the terrorists to the American colonists in rebellion Joe, but I expect little else from a man who could celebrate Cuban health care.

  • Don, please explain why the war of 1812 (a footnote in the Napoleonic Wars and completely unknown in England except by historians) helped Bonaparte who had rather more on his plate in Russia in that particular year. It is true that the British regarded the 13 colonies as the centrepiece of the empire (a word that had different connotations in the 18th century than it would have in the late 19th) and in fact briefly wound up the Colonial Office. The war left England with a debt of £250m which was effectively dealt with. The French deficit was about £100m less, but their failure to deal with it effectively caused the Revolution. I know Vergennes was more interested in avenging France’s defeat in the Seven Years War than in aiding the American colonists, but it is difficult to argue that France got a good return on the investment, given that it was not until the 1830s that French trade levels matched those of the last pre-Revolutionary year, 1789. Meanwhile Britain surged ahead, despite a much smaller population.

    Although US/British relations were not good throughout the 19th century, and slavery was an issue in this, as well as US predatory attitudes towards Canada (don’t forget Montgomery and Arnold invaded Quebec during the Revolutionary War, which had the effect of alienating British public opinion from the American cause) the Monroe Doctrine was welcomed by the British government and would have been meaningless unless the Royal Navy enforced it, which the Americans knew full well but were understandably reluctant to admit.

  • “Don, please explain why the war of 1812 (a footnote in the Napoleonic Wars and completely unknown in England except by historians) helped Bonaparte who had rather more on his plate in Russia in that particular year.”

    I can see why Brits do not wish to recall the War of !812 considering the thrashing received at New Orleans by Jackson. Someone must have recalled it however in the late fifties when Queen Elizabeth visited Newfoundland. My family was staying at that time in Saint Johns. (My mother was a Newfoundlander. She later became a naturalized American citizen.) The Provincial government decreed that the song the Battle of New Orleans could not be played so as not to offend the Queen. As my Mom foundly recalled, many Newfoundlanders, most of them Irish in descent as was my Mom, had record players playing the song with loud speakers blaring it out the windows during the Queen’s stay. I rather assume that members of the Queen’s entourage might have recalled the War of 1812 that day.
    In any case the fact that Bonaparte through away 600,000 men in Russia does not negate the fact that the War of 1812 gave France a strategic opening to make mischief in the New World if it wished to take it. It also handed the invincible Royal Navy several embarrassing defeats in ship to ship combat with the infant US navy. American privateers also devastated the British merchant fleet during the war. I think all of that would have been of great advantage to Bonaparte if he had stayed out of Russia and concentrated on driving Wellington out of Portugal and Spain. Wellington was a brilliant general but I doubt if even he could have successfully countered 600,000 fresh troops under Napoleon, especially a Napoleon who had learned several valuable lessons from Soult’s ill-fated invasion of Portugal that came to disaster before the lines of Torres Vedras.

  • In regard to French finances, the French aid to America was not the critical factor in the Financial crisis that led to the French Revolution. France actually had about the same level of national debt that Britain had in 1788 with each nation having to use half of annual revenues to service the debt. The difference was that Britain had much lower interest payments because Britain’s credit was good and France’s credit was poor and had been since at least the ending of the Seven Years War. The fiscal problems of France dated back to the domestic and military spending of the Sun King. The expenditure of the American war didn’t help, but France was effectively bankrupt prior to that time.

  • “Although US/British relations were not good throughout the 19th century” to say the least. It is a small miracle that the nations did not fight numerous wars throughout the Nineteenth century. I date the turning point in the relationship when Canada was granted dominion status in 1867. Canada by itself could never be a threat to the US and I think that led to a considerable lessening of tensions overall.

  • It was the failure of the Continental System that led Bonaparte to invade Russia whom he had made peace with at Tilsit. Bonaparte had no interest in the New World (he sold Louisiana for a pittance in 1804) and in any case would have been unable to intervene, his naval pretensions having been shattered at Trafalgar.

    The ‘Battle of New Orleans’ was a hit for Lonnie Donnegan in the late 1950s but I guarantee that few Brits knew what it was about. In any case the battle was fought after the peace treaty was signed at Ghent (Xmas Day 1814) and so counts as a catch outside the boundary, if you will excuse the cricketing metaphor. The US frigates did very well, but they were hardly up against the might of the Royal Navy, which had more important concerns at the time.

  • The invasion of Russia was the classic case of diverting one’s eye from the main enemy which for France was Great Britain. It is interesting how many of Napoleon’s counselors spoke against it at the time, regarding it as the wrong war against the wrong enemy.

    The French had the naval resources to slip out a brigade or two to America, rather as they did in 1797 to Ireland. Such a token force could have loomed large along the US canadian border in 1812-1814 as a spearhead for an American force. They would also have been useful to help train raw American troops.

    I have to disagree as to the Battle of New Orleans. If the Brits had seized it, I have my doubts as to whether they would have given it up. A lawyer’s quibbling view of the terms of the Treaty of Ghent could have made a case for the Brits not having to, since no mention was made of the Louisiana Territory. New Orleans might have become the America Gibraltar, although the fusion of Brit and French in that enclave might have been interesting to behold.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Ironic comment given the thrust of this thread. Lee couldn’t have put it any better.

    Incorporated into his so putting would have been the assumption that 1/3 of the native population were not part of ‘a people’.

  • When the British and Americans were at loggerheads in the first half of the 19th century it was before mass immigration transformed the US and it was really one set of bone-headed Anglo-Saxons confronting another. Even with the naval resources of the Victorian era the British knew they could not realistically take on the USA although Palmerston saw the Civil War as an opportunity to put one over on the Yankees and was encouraged by the bellicosity of Seward. After the Trent incident his original despatch was (or so we are told) mollified by Prince Albert literally from his deathbed and war was averted. Had Britain intervened on the side of the Confederacy – even the Liberal Gladstone had declared at the start of the war that the South “had made itself a nation” – she could have lifted the blockade of the Southern ports and possibly ensured the survival of the Confederacy.

    An understanding of history is essential in international relations. As a Cold War warrior I owe a debt of gratitude to the USA for her unwavering support for the Western democracies and in playing the major part in preventing World War III by a nuclear strategy which was constantly attacked by the ignorant and ideologically-motivated but which made perfect sense to me, and was vindicated in the end. I don’t expect states to act otherwise to their national interests, and there is a lot in the foreign policy of the only superpower with which I might disagree; but when all is said and done “God bless America!”

  • Mr. Nolan,

    One “Cold War Warrior” to another: “ignorant and ideologically-motivated” at best, they were useful idiots; at worst, they were traitors.

    I saw your fine soldiers in West Germany when I was with USFAE/NATO in the mid 1970’s. As such, “God Save the Queen!”

    There, I’ve lost my irish street cred . . .

    Back to the question of 1861 southern secession.

    Why did the southern states condone slavery?
    Was it pure evil?
    Was it race hatred?
    Was it sadism?
    Was it sexual?
    Was it economics?

    Slavery existed because it was economically beneficial to the southern states. The south did not see a viable economy outside supplying 90% of the world’s cotton.
    Additionally, cotton consumers, northern factors/financiers/shipping interests, and worldwide mill owners all benefited.

    Did the southern states secede as the perceived alternative was economic ruin?

  • “God bless America!”

    And a “God Save the Queen” to you John, a monarch my late mother, for all her Irish blood, dearly loved!

  • My late grandfather, Peter J Nolan MBE MC, British consul in Philadelphia, was a regular officer during the First World War in the South Lancashire Regiment, the old 40th Foot which served in the War of 1812. In 1815 the regiment embarked for England, but the transports were met at Spithead with the news that Bonaparte had escaped from Elba. Without landing they were diverted to Zeebrugge and transported by canal via Bruges to Ghent, where they formed the guard for the exiled Louis XVIII. On receipt of the news that the French were advancing on Brussels, they were force-marched 60 miles to Waterloo where they fought all day, continually moving from line into square and back again, and taking heavy casualties from the enemy artillery. At the end of the battle they were too exhausted to pursue the fleeing French and bivouacked as best they could on the battlefield, surrounded by the dead. One marvels at the endurance of these men.

  • Some comments have indicated that the “self-rule” argument for secession is invalid because blacks were not part of the calculus. This is a silly rejoinder, since blacks had no or very limited civil liberties ANYWHERE, north or south. So to claim that the South had no right to seek independence because blacks were not given a voice is an irrelevancy, since blacks had no genunine voice at all, anywhere in the “Union.”

    Don, your simple assertion that “in regard to the American Civil War Tom, the relevant people were all the American people, North and South, black and white,” is question-begging and gratuitous. The Brits would have given the same answer to the colonists: “in regard to your revolution, Mr. Jefferson, the relevant people are all the people of the British empire, black and white.” After all, blacks had more opportunity for freedom under British rule than under colonial rule.

  • This is a silly rejoinder

    No, it is not. The object of secession was to keep blacks in a state of hereditary subjection that did not apply outside the southern states.

  • “The Brits would have given the same answer to the colonists: “in regard to your revolution, Mr. Jefferson, the relevant people are all the people of the British empire, black and white.” After all, blacks had more opportunity for freedom under British rule than under colonial rule.”

    The Brits made precisely that argument Tom, and it was phony. The British Empire and Great Britain itself still had slavery at the time of the Revolution. Both the Brits and the Americans offered freedom to slaves who would enlist, and several of the Northern states abolished slavery during the War. The Brits on the other hand never indicated that slavery was going to be abolished in the thirteen colonies if they prevailed.

    The clear trend at that time was that slavery was on its way out under the new United States, and most of the slave holding Founding Fathers were on record that slavery was an evil, and that steps should be taken to eliminate it. The contrast with the Confederacy couldn’t be starker.

    As to my point that the the people who were concerned in the Civil War were the entire American people, that is correct. We were one nation prior to the Civil War, and one people. If that nation was to be destroyed that decision needed to be made by the elected representatives of all the people and not by the people of a state or a section of the country.

  • “The clear trend at that time was that slavery was on its way out …” This is quite true, and on both sides of the Atlantic. Slavery per se did not exist in English law, and LCJ Mansfield’s famous 1772 judgement in the case of the slave James Somerset made it clear that only ‘positive law’ could support such an ‘odious’ institution. This did not, of course, apply to the colonies, although the Patriot press in America tried to persuade its readers that it represented another threat to their legislative freedom. Slavery was not finally abolished in British overseas territories until 1834, twenty-seven years after the slave trade was outlawed.

    The Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment who would have opposed slavery in principle, as in fact did Lord Mansfield; but both he and they knew that for both commercial and humanitarian reasons it could not be abolished overnight.

    Regarding secession, the Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond who is First Minister in the Scottish government is threatening to hold a referendum on complete independence for Scotland. Following your analogy, the whole of the UK should be entitled to vote for or against the break-up of the Union. However, the vast majority of UK taxpayers live in England, are tired of subsidizing the Scots and resent the disproportionate political influence they exercise at Westminster. They are likely to vote overwhelmingly for English independence.

  • Saying that technology would make slavery obsolete is not quite so different from saying that free market capitalism would make a totalitarian regime obsolete.

    The latter was the hope for China; apparently the former is Ron Paul’s wishful version of history.

  • BTW, is it true that Abe Lincoln may have been a Catholic? It would be nice to think that the White House was occupied by a Catholic who wasn’t a crook and a serial adulterer.

  • No John there is absolutely no truth to that. Equally untrue are contentions that George Washington was received into the Church prior to his death.

  • Abraham Lincoln, the president, was not Catholic, but he had several cousins who were converts to the Faith, one of whom happened to also be named Abraham Lincoln, and another named Mordecai Lincoln. They lived in western Illinois in a now-vanished settlement named Fountain Green, near present-day Macomb. The more famous Abe Lincoln was acquainted with them and visited them once in a while. I’m guessing that the existence of another “Abraham Lincoln” who WAS Catholic is the source of the confusion.

  • Again, Don, it’s mere ipse dixit to assert that the entire US had to agree before secession could occur. The whole point of the exercize was that the individual state, having sovereignty before joining the union, and never giving up that sovereignty, could re-assert it whenever and for whatever reasons it saw fit.

    That this obvious dictum was precluded by force of arms does not render it invalid.

  • It would be an odd nation Tom that would allow its destruction without the concurrence of the inhabitants of the nation. Your case would rest on much stronger foundation if the Constitution granted the states a right to secede. Tellingly enough, when the Confederate Constitution was being drafted the South Carolina delegates wanted such a provision to be inserted in the new Constitution. This proposal was resoundingly defeated, with only the South Carolina delegates voting for it.

  • But as you well know, Don, the Constitution does not “grant” rights to the states, it simply enunciates those SPECIFIC, ENUMERATED, powers exercized by the federal government. ALL other powers are retained by the states. So the states do not need to have their right to reassume their full sovereignty “granted” to them by the federal government: it’s an inherent power that was never ceded to the federal government.

    The proper constitutional question is: does the constitution specifically enumerate as a delegated power to the federal government the granting of permission to secede?

    It clearly does not.

  • The states had no power to secede prior to joining the Union Tom. They could not retain a power they did not possess. I would further note that all but the original 13 states and Texas were created by the Federal Union. How in the world could those states, created by the Federal government, have a power to withdraw from the government that created them? If the Founding Fathers had wished to grant a power to secede to the states, I assume that it would have been inserted into the text of the Constitution or added by amendment along with the Bill of Rights.

    Here is what the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, thought about secession:

    “TO N. P. TRIST. … MAD. MSS.

    Montpellier, Decr 23, 1832.

    Dr. Sir I have received yours of the 19th, inclosing some of the South Carolina papers. There are in one of them some interesting views of the doctrine of secession; one that had occurred to me, and which for the first time I have seen in print; namely that if one State can at will withdraw from the others, the others can at will withdraw from her, and turn her, nolentem, volentem, out of the union. Until of late, there is not a State that would have abhorred such a doctrine more than South Carolina, or more dreaded an application of it to herself. The same may be said of the doctrine of nullification, which she now preaches as the only faith by which the Union can be saved.

    I partake of the wonder that the men you name should view secession in the light mentioned. The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater fight to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of –98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created. In the Virginia Resolutions and Report the plural number, States, is in every instance used where reference is made to the authority which presided over the Government. As I am now known to have drawn those documents, I may say as I do with a distinct recollection, that the distinction was intentional. It was in fact required by the course of reasoning employed on the occasion. The Kentucky resolutions being less guarded have been more easily perverted. The pretext for the liberty taken with those of Virginia is the word respective, prefixed to the “rights” &c to be secured within the States. Could the abuse of the expression have been foreseen or suspected, the form of it would doubtless have been varied. But what can be more consistent with common sense, than that all having the same rights &c, should unite in contending for the security of them to each.

    It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol. 2,1 with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.

    I know nothing of what is passing at Richmond, more than what is seen in the newspapers. You were right in your foresight of the effect of the passages in the late Proclamation. They have proved a leaven for much fermentation there, and created an alarm against the danger of consolidation, balancing that of disunion. I wish with you the Legislature may not seriously injure itself by assuming the high character of mediator. They will certainly do so if they forget that their real influence will be in the inverse ratio of a boastful interposition of it.

    If you can fix, and will name the day of your arrival at Orange Court House, we will have a horse there for you; and if you have more baggage than can be otherwise brought than on wheels, we will send such a vehicle for it. Such is the state of the roads produced by the wagons hurrying flour to market, that it may be impossible to send our carriage which would answer both purposes.”

Cross & Eagle Award for Most Improved Blog

Tuesday, August 23, AD 2011

The Cross & Eagle Awards (C&EA) will be recognizing another legend and this particular blogger is in the field of apologetics.

This defensor fidei travels the country evangelizing both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, educating in the Catholic faith, and defending the eternal Truths.

In my estimation, he probably created his blog with minimal thought, not knowing what a tremendous tool it could be to evangelize.

Imagine not having to travel to another parish hall or hotel to do another presentation in person.  Not that he has stopped doing this, it’s that he can now reach a wider audience.

Unfortunately his blog wasn’t one of the best out there.

This all changed recently.

He changed the layout, improved the graphics by leaps and bounds, and made it much more interactive.  Yes, he improved the look of his blog overall.

Who is this mustachioed Catholic?

I am happy to present the 2011 Cross & Eagle Award for the Most Improved Blog in the Catholic Blogosphere to. . .

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2 Responses to Cross & Eagle Award for Most Improved Blog

The Sally Field’s Argument For Obama

Monday, August 22, AD 2011

There are times when I read a blog and slap my forehead and think to myself that I really wish I had written that.  I had one such forehead slapping moment when I read this gem at Creative Minority Report by Matthew Archbold:

Hey, some are saying, Obama’s sagging job approval numbers don’t mean anything because his personal favorables are doing fine.
Hot Airhas this quote from the National Journal but as Ed Morrissey says, they’re far from the only one pushing this meme.

President Obama, whose job-approval ratings are mired well south of 50 percent, has an important factor breaking his way as he seeks another term: Americans still overwhelmingly like the guy.

So we’re supposed to ignore his job approval numbers and focus on whether people like him as a person.

Hmmm. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the exact opposite was true. Remember around the time of Bill Clinton’s impeachment all the media would talk about was that while his personal approval numbers were in the tank, HIS JOB PERFORMANCE NUMBERS WERE SKY HIGH!!!! AND THAT’S WHAT REALLY MATTERS!!!

ABC News had this to say:

You can’t trust him, he’s got weak morals and ethics — and he’s done a heck of a good job… Despite his prevaricating, his sexual misadventures and his impeachment by Congress, a remarkable 65 percent of Americans approve of the way Clinton has done his job —

Even on the weekend of his impeachment trial, CBS News reported:

Throughout most of this year, more than six in ten adults have approved of the way the President has handled his job. Approval has occasionally risen even higher, as the public rallies to Bill Clinton in times of crisis.

So…long story short. Under Bill Clinton all that mattered was job approval numbers but now under Obama all that matters is personal favorability.

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3 Responses to The Sally Field’s Argument For Obama

  • As I wrote on the other thread, personal favorability numbers are going to be misleading because they’re going to be subject to a very strong Bradley Effect.

  • thats the MSM stumping for their guy..

  • Let me get this straight: people who don’t know personally know Obama are being polled on his personable likability and the media talking heads are telling us that anyone who answered something besides “I don’t know/no opinion” know what they’re talking about.

    Obviously, a dark shadow of cluelessness hangs over the U.S. Establishment Media and its audience.