9 Responses to Prayers Needed for Thomas Peters

War Novel Recommendations

Thursday, July 11, AD 2013

I’d like to turn to our TAC readership and ask for book suggestions. Specifically, what would you recommend as some of the best historical novels dealing with war?

Some of the best that I’ve read have been:

War and Peace which although some of Tolstoy’s historical/philosophical digressions drove me nuts does certainly give a sweeping sense of Russia during the war with Napoleon.

The Cypresses Believe in God and One Million Dead — Donald recommended these to me, and although they are very long (not quite War & Peace long, but pretty astoundingly long nonetheless) I found them utterly gripping and they similarly give you a sense not just of individual characters but of the whole nation of Spain at war with itself.

Killer Angels is a much more modest book in scope, but is a compelling and clear account of a single battle more detailed than many history books.

Alan Furst’s espionage novels aren’t, perhaps, technically war novels, but they give a very strong sense of what war and rumors of war do to society.

The Sharpe novels and Aubrey/Maturin are also great historical novels dealing with the Napoleonic era.

What other novels would you recommend and why?

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16 Responses to War Novel Recommendations

  • One of the great shames of my life was conking out halfway through War and Peace. And it’s not like you can step back from the book for a while and pick it up again. No, if I ever get the guts to try again, I’ve got to start on page 1.

    I don’t know if I’d call Slaughterhouse Five a war novel, but it left a lasting impression. It’s got strong sci-fi and philosophical vibes. It’s not for everyone.

  • If you like the Aubrey/Maturin series, you may also enjoy the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester. They are set in the same historical era, but you get a more up-close view into the main character’s psychology.

    Since you liked Killer Angels, you may like its prequel, Gods and Generals.

    Also, Nigel Tranter wrote a historical novel on William Wallace. Name any era in Scottish history, and there will be a Nigel Tranter novel for you.

  • The Horse Soldiers, a superb fictional account of Grierson’s Raid during the Civil War:

    http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Soldiers-Harold-Sinclair/dp/184158066X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373573096&sr=1-1&keywords=Harold+Sinclair

    Sort of a one hit wonder, Sinclair was an unsuccessful writer in Central Illinois. His wife supported their family while he wrote. The high literary quality of The Horse Soldiers and its realism makes me regret that Sinclair did not have a successful follow up.

    Spartacus-Howard Fast-The old commie was good at writing historical pot boilers. Spartacus was his best effort. He gets some of the facts wrong but overall it is a brilliant look at the dying Roman Republic.
    http://www.amazon.com/Spartacus-North-Castle-Books-Howard/dp/156324599X

    Lest Darkness Fall-L. Sprague DeCamp-One of the earliest alternate history novels, DeCamp has a timetraveler defeat Belisarius’ attempt to conquer Italy in the sixth century. Filled with wit and humor it also displays DeCamp’s complete mastery of the historical background.

    http://www.amazon.com/Lest-Darkness-Fall-Related-Stories/dp/161242015X

    And Quiet Flows the Don-Mikhail Sholokov-This is a superb look at the Russian Revolution told from the perspective of the Don Cossacks. Sholokov was a Stalinist toady and wrote the most dreadful hack work except for this. He has been accused of plagiarizing much of the work from Cossack writer Fyodor Kryukov who died in 1920.

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

    The court is still out on that charge, but certainly everything else Sholokov wrote is absolute drek.

    http://www.amazon.com/And-Quiet-Flows-Mikhail-Sholokhov/dp/0679725210

  • Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield. The Spartans at Thermopylae.

    Knight With Armour by Alfred Duggan. A young knight goes on the First Crusade.

    Count Bohemond by Alfred Duggan. The exploits of the finest military commander among the First Crusaders.

  • (Don’s wife Cathy here) There have been a couple of alternate history or SF treatments of the Napoleonic Wars and the “Age of Fighting Sail;” a couple that come to mind right away are Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series (Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons!) and David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series (think the Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester, with their setting and political situation transposed into the far future, with the Star Kingdom of Manticore standing in for the UK, and Honor Harrington herself as a far-future female Hornblower).

  • “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts is a forgotten classic of American literature. The novel chronicles a young man from Maine who falls in with Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War and its aftermath. When you’re done with that, Roberts’ novels of the American Revolution, “Arundel” and “Rabble in Arms”, are equally well-written stories of men at war.

  • Hmmm. I have copies of Gates of Fire and Slaughterhouse Five sitting around which I haven’t got to. Maybe I should bump them up a bit.

    I read Lest Darkness Fall when I was in high school and loved it. Indeed, I’d been wanting to re-read it one of these days. I’m glad to see that it’s back in print again. I’ll have to get hold of a copy.

    Also very glad to hear your mention of And Quiet Flows The Don, Donald. I’d found a reference to it and the concept sounded interesting, but I was wondering if a book that won the Stalin Prize would just be boring propaganda. Is there anyone who has read and can provide a review of:

    Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
    Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

  • Another Kenneth Roberts novel that will be of interest is Oliver Wiswell, which tells the story of the (First) War for Independence from the perspective of a British Loyalist.

  • Sorry — my skills with HTML tags evidently need brushing up!

  • Echoing Nathan’s comment above, Nigel Tranter wrote an excellent trilogy on Robert the Bruce and the First Scottish War of Independence.

    One war novel that I think a lot of folks forget about is the first American novel ever written, The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper, which is based on George Washington’s spy network in the Hudson Valley during the American Revolution. I have long enjoyed this book and have read it 2 or 3 times, and am having my oldest son read it later this summer (after he finishes reading Tom Sawyer). And, of course, there’s Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, which includes The Last of the Mohicans.

    Also, while not strictly a “war novel”, William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece Vanity Fair” is set in the Napoleanic Wars.

    For some reading about the Indian wars in Ohio, you might want to read anything by Allan W. Eckert, especially Than Dark and Bloody River, which is an epic that covers the entire period, and A Sorrow in Our Hearts, which is a novel/biography about the life of Tecumseh. Other Eckert books about the war on the early frontier between English, French, and Indians are The Frontiersmen, and Wilderness Empire.

  • For some reason, a couple of my comments on two different threads have not posted. Am I on super-secret “probation”?

    😉

  • Just the spam filter being onery, the Good Lord knows why

  • Great books … If not already there, I would add:

    Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters. Not in same class as Killer Angels, but good none the less. Focuses a lot of Meade who Peters very much admires.

    Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich. A WW2 version of all quiet on the western front. Back in the 1970s Sam Peckinpaw butchered the book into a movie that was pretty aweful, so if you have seen the movie don’t use it to judge the book.

  • Connie Willis wrote 3books about WW2 WWwTo Say Nothing of the Dog, Black Out &All Clear. The premise is time travellers caught in GB during the war. Liked the stories but someone w/actual knowledge of the period would need to confirm historical accuracy.

  • I strongly endorse Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy.

    Also, anyone who strongly dislikes Christianity (and Waugh’s kind of Catholicism in particular) will likely enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s books, though they’re pulpier and more sensationalist fare than some of the novels listed here. (Those who don’t revel in anti-Catholic bigotry should instead consider themselves forewarned.) Cornwell has written war novels related to the Arthurian legends, Alfred the Great, the Hundred Years War, and most famously, the Napoleonic era. I very much enjoyed the BBC dramatizations of the latter series, which detail the exploits of the fictional protagonist Richard Sharpe, and I do not recall any anti-Catholicism there, though it has been several years since I viewed them.

    To be fair, I have found some of his other series pretty enjoyable, too, in a selective kind of way, though the ones I’ve finished seem to sag towards the end.

  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is a superb book about the Civil War and though it is nonfiction, it was totally engrossing and I learned so much and came to appreciate that time in our history. I never though I would be so fascinated with not only battles but the politics behind the whole war.

Hell: Oppression or Justice?

Wednesday, July 3, AD 2013

An argument about the existence of hell broke out, and I couldn’t help inserting myself into it.

Something interesting, however, struck me about how arguments were phrased. Formulations (from theists) of the belief that hell either does not exist or does not contain anyone seemed to be based on a need to avoid thinking of God as on oppressor:

“I refuse to believe that a just and loving God would condemn anyone to eternal suffering.”

Defenses of the existence of hell and the idea that at least some people are in it tended to emphasize the ability of people to do wrong:

“People choose hell by utterly and irrevocably rejecting God. Given the willingness of people to choose evil in this life, even when it makes them unhappy, I don’t see why it’s hard to believe that some people would reject God permanently.”

The more I thought about these two formulations, the more it struck me that these tied in the with Kling’s “three axis model of politics” which I mentioned a while back. The three axes are:

[P]rogressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes. For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other. For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other. For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.

Here we have those who deny hell (which is, indeed, generally thought of as a “liberal” theological belief) doing so based on the argument that allowing some people to experience eternal misery turns God into an oppressor. Since they don’t want to see God as an oppressor, they reject the possibility of anyone being condemned to hell. Also implicit in this is a belief that everyone is, at root, good. No one will really, really, really choose hell over the beatific vision, so obviously the only explanation for anyone being in hell is that God is a big oppressive meany who put them there.

Those who believe in hell (a belief we might term “conservative” theologically) see hell as a matter of justice and free will: Some people will reject God, and if they choose to do so, then justice and free will demand that God allow them their condemnation. Thus, the “conservative” belief is based, like many other conservative beliefs, on a conviction that we can be pretty sure that some people will do evil, and that the application of justice will necessitate those people being punished.

Kling’s model is one of those things which I am a little annoyed to find working as well as it does, since it seems so utterly simplistic. Yet I have to admit, in its basic sort of way, it provides a bit of insights into a startling number of arguments.

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14 Responses to Hell: Oppression or Justice?

  • I do not see how God could grant us both free will and eternal life without making allowance for a Hell. If the damned after death could repent and escape Hell than the blessed in Heaven could sin and find themselves in Hell, which would make our mortal lives rather pointless. In our brief span in time we make the decisions that fix our destinies for eternity, and those decisions all boil down to whether we love God and our fellow man.

  • Part of the problem I see with the liberal view is casting God as an “oppressor” when the reality is the individual is his own oppressor. If you choose to jump off a cliff, seems odd to cast gravity as the oppressor that causes you to fall.

  • I’m so liberal and so orthodox that I wrap around the other side and become conservative. So I’m going to give you a third option:

    Hell is mercy.

    God wants everybody to be in heaven, but knows, due to free will, that some will reject heaven- just as Lucifer rejected what he saw as slavery. Hell was created for a place for those who choose to reject.

    And because I like Dante and am more modern than he is, I like to think of hell as a lounge chair in a corporate cubicle with four monitors and a nice gaming system. THAT would be tempting away from God for my generation…..

  • Sacred Scripture says that we were born dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:5), that there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10), and that all of man’s righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We all – every single one of us – deserve to go to hell, because we all in one way or another put the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet, and thrust the spear in his side. There is no exception to this.

    The way to avoid that? Believe, repent, be baptized (Mark 16:16). Give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46). Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).

    As Matthew 7:13-14 states:

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

    Note Jesus own words: “…those who find it are few.” That means that there will sadly be a lot of people in hell. And that’s why WE have to spread the Good News.

  • Both St Maximus the Confessor (580-662) and St Isaac of Syria (died c 700) teach that every human being is destined to see God in His uncreated glory.

    “For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death,” says St Maximus the Confessor.

    “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) who “dwells in unapproachable light.” (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

    “It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God,” says St Isaac of Syria, “but love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed!” (Mystic Treatises)

  • What MPS quotes is correct. Romans 14:10b-11 says:

    For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.'”

    Revelation 1:7 says:

    “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”

  • I hope you don’t mind, a post I was thinking about I think I’ll just put here.

    First off, looks like the discussion largely revolves around not Hell, but whether anyone can reject God – that is they do NOT want to be around Him. If yes (even conceptually), then there must be a Hell. After all, if they can’t be separate from God, yet they want to be, then being with God would be torturous, thus meaning even Heaven would be Hell for them. (etc etc)

    As for the details beyond death, I’m agnostic. I do know there is a Divine, and the evidence for its identity is currently heavily in favor of Yahweh. But details beyond that I don’t let bother me. If we are to have a relationship with Him, then it means that a lot of it is up to His whim. He might send me to Hell in the end and welcome someone I didn’t expect. Though since He is faithful and has given us “cheat codes” (or “coupons”) to guarantee our seat up there, I recommend to people to aim for the sure thing. Though as I said, who can say for sure? Maybe there are purgatories or second chances or whatever, it’s up to Him, not me.

    But I do have one theory that tickles my brain…

    Allow me to quote at length, Jonah Goldberg

    I’m reminded of a 20-year-old column by Peregrine Worsthorne (not on the web, as far as I can tell). In an essay (“How Freedom Enslaves Us All”), Worthsthorne recalled the terror of “free time” in school. “In class the bullies were kept in order by a master who was free to coerce them. Out of class they were free to coerce me. As far as I was concerned ‘free time’ meant only a different kind of coercion — by several bullies rather than one master . . .”

    In a society of ordered liberty the physically powerful cannot compel the physically weak for their own ends (at least in theory). Strength and the will to do evil do not grant the license of arbitrary power over others. The rule of law may seem more constraining than anarchy (or even pure democracy which, after all, can be just as tyrannical as any other system), but it’s more just and ultimately more liberating as well. If men were angels, then anarchy would be the only just system of governance, for we could all govern ourselves.

    Maybe in the end, Heaven is a place of ordered liberty, and Hell is a place of naked freedom. Heaven is paradise because all are free, yet bound by its King not to harm others. In Hell, there is no rule but what thou will. So while it could be paradise if everyone behaved, selfish natures will turn it to torture.

    And yes, some overconfident fools might think they can “rule in Hell” but one must remember, we’d be talking about probably billions of other souls and ancient, wretched spirits that have far more experience and practice than any of us. No matter how much power you got, others would eventually topple you because only one being has infinite strength and power to fight and resist any number of challengers.

    And He won’t be found in Hell, because nobody wants Him there.

  • The people who consider the existence of Hell as somehow oppressive are people who never want to be told “no”, and don’t really believe there’s such a thing as sin. They might give the idea of sin some lip service, but it’s unconvincing.

  • Hell = ObamaCare

    How many people do you know that actually would choose Hell over Heaven? If any, they are likely being contrarian or seeking attention or are crazy (sick). Who, in their right mind, would choose eternal suffering?

    One argument for hell might be that we inadvertently select it by cumulative action/s (e.g., compound interest). We all have some flaw, something that is out of wack that leads to our downfall (e.g., smoking, poor diet/nutrition, too much/little exercise, etc.). We are our own worst enemy. The argument for free will is that each one chooses their path, makes their own bed and has to lie in it.

    But because we are imperfect is precisely why we need a savior, a redeemer; to save us from ourselves. If we were perfect, there would be no need for a savior.

    Some say that salvation is offered to us and it is up to us to accept. If not, then…. But such a scenario is not salvation, not love. Rather, it is a transaction; how can love be a transaction?

    The concept of hell lost credence with me when I became a parent: I could not fathom what circumstances I would sentence my child to eternal suffering (my ex-wife is another matter – but I got over that too).

    What good is The Good News if our eternal life is up to us alone? Woe, I am doomed. The Good News is only good if we have a perfect savior.
    If our savior is perfect, then everyone will be saved (and they will like it).

    Hell is a concept used to make us conform and feel better about those who don’t. Why does anyone feel so satisfied to think that the other guy (it’s always the other) is going to burn in hell FOREVER!?

    If we would be immensely sad if someone we knew were sentenced to eternal suffering, then how much more would God be sad?

    OK, you can now trot out the verses to cite hell and damnation; also the sections from the CCC (check out all the fine print regarding salvation-good luck if anyone makes it). I know what to expect, given the response to (backslider) Rob Bell.

    In the end, I can only do my best and throw myself at the mercy of the Eternal One.

  • Grace and free will are a great mystery

    Turn to the Lord (Hos 14:2)
    Turn back, turn back from your evil ways (Ez 33:11)

    But, also,

    Turn us, O God of our salvation (Ps 85:4)
    Turn thou me, and I shall be turned (Jer 31:18)

    Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! (Ez 18:31)

    But

    A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; (Ez 36:26)

    And

    Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him (Phil 2:12-13)

    St Thomas says in Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, no one would be better than another if God did not will a greater good to one than to another.” Likewise, in article 4 of the same question and also in Ia, q. 23, a. 4: “In God, love precedes election.” Already it is evident that the man who, in fact, observes the commandments is better than the one who is able to do so, but actually does not. Therefore, he who keeps the commandments is more beloved and assisted. In short, God loves that man more to whom He grants that he keep the commandments than another in whom He permits sin.

  • The term “oppress” means that someone’s free will and well being is constrained. The idea of God “oppressing” us assumes an oppositional construct of our relationship with God.
    Hell being oppression describes our very existence as dia bolos opposition to God. Then the whole framework, given our limitations, would be a set up. Our life, not of our choosing, would be but an unfair contest of wills between a Powerful Person of all Light and a person with limited light. Describing God as oppressor says He doesn’t love us purely and freely and eternally, but only on condition of submission.
    The problem with using that “oppressor” framework is that it is false. He has NOT “set us up” in a contest that we can only win by losing. He gave us our freedom (free will) for Good, for the satisfaction of His will in Creating. The fact that we have a will of our own is not a mockery of freedom but implicit Faith Hope and Love to be reciprocated.
    His plans for us are for our welfare and not for woe. Our wills are not designed to be in opposition to God– but to be in harmony with Him. That is freedom. Our will ceases to be FREE when it is no longer ordered to the Good. Then being out of sync with God, disordered, we suffer the encumbrances and shackles of real oppression.
    Being in His image we have a capacity for Him that naturally leads us to Him as we go with His flow. He does not oppress us but meets our choices/consequences with grace (here and in purgatory).
    Love and Freedom are hard for me to understand– but we are not abandoned. Please keep praying for my son whose wedding date is in September. We really need a miracle of grace.

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  • For me, Hell is a place of Justice. Our sins do not affect us only. It affects our society and the church. Failure to repent and achieve satisfaction for our sins will surely attract God’s justice. Consider people who kill people through witchcraft, sorcery and for selfish ambition. Consider the abortionists; Consider the so-called rich who close their eyes to the plight of the poor and needy. If all these will not turn from their evil ways and embrace the God of love, peace and joy they will definitely pay for their actions.

  • fRed:

    “One argument for hell might be that we inadvertently select it by cumulative action/s (e.g., compound interest). We all have some flaw, something that is out of wack that leads to our downfall (e.g., smoking, poor diet/nutrition, too much/little exercise, etc.).”

    Those are interesting ‘sins’ or ‘vices’ you’ve chosen…those are what pass for ‘sins’ to our age, I guess. Maybe I didn’t understand your point properly, but poor diet would seem to me to be the least of our concerns re: Hell.

    “Some say that salvation is offered to us and it is up to us to accept. If not, then…. But such a scenario is not salvation, not love. Rather, it is a transaction; how can love be a transaction?”

    Have you not in the course of your life experienced unrequited love? If so, you are lucky! It’s very real, I can attest.

99 Years Ago Today: The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and His Wife

Friday, June 28, AD 2013

On June 28th, 1914, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, fifty-year old Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo by a 19-year-old Bosnian-Serb nationalist. The assassination began an at first slow-moving diplomatic crisis which would result a month later, July 28th, in Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia.

The assassination plot itself was so badly botched that its success is one of the surprising events of history. A group of Bosnian-Serb nationalists (half of them teenagers) — who wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina to be independent from Austria-Hungary and integrated into a pan-Slavic state — had received bombs, pistols and cyanide pills from officers in the Serbian army sympathetic to their cause. They planned an assassination attempt against the Archduke and his wife and stationed themselves along the route which their open car would travel through the city. Several of the assassins failed to make any move when the car passed and another threw a bomb at the car, however the bomb bounced off the folded convertible hood, fell behind the car, and exploded, disabling the next car in the motorcade and injuring a number of bystanders. The assassin who had thrown the bomb bit a cyanide capsule and jumped off a bridge, but the cyanide only made him sick and the fall wasn’t far and the river nearly dry, so he was quickly arrest by police (though not before members of the angry crowd beat him.)

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22 Responses to 99 Years Ago Today: The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and His Wife

  • As Bismarck predicted, when the great European war came it was over “some damned foolish thing in the Balkans”. Ironically Franz Ferdinand had always believed in a cautious approach to Serbia, fearing that harsh action against the Serbs would lead to war with Russia and the ruin of both empires.

  • How beautiful and noble is the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

  • Both sons of the Archduke were sent to concentration camps during WWII. Their behavior was exemplary.

  • How beautiful and noble is the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

    Ironically, the Emperor was staunchly opposed to the marriage of his heir and a virtual commoner, despite the depth of their devotion, and only relented after international pressure on condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that their descendants would not have succession rights to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband’s rank, title, precedence, or privileges; as such, she would not normally appear in public beside him…[and]… not be allowed to ride in the royal carriage or sit in the royal box in theaters”

    Ironically Franz Ferdinand had always believed in a cautious approach to Serbia…

    The same Serbian military clique tried unsuccessfully to assassinate the Emperor three years earlier. The Archduke was their Plan B. op cit

  • There was more than enough blame to go around between Austria and Serbia. Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Chief of Staff for the Austrian Army, had been calling for years for preventive war against Serbia. Idiots, and I mean that descriptively and not pejoratively, in positions of authority in both Serbia and Austria, merrily lit fuses against each for a very long time before they finally got their war and took most of Europe over the cliff with them.

  • In a course back in college, a professor traced the decline of Christianity in the West to WWI. If I still have my notes – one never know what odds and ends can be found inthe filing cabinets around this place – I’ll sketch it out the way he did.

    If memory serves, he explored the losses of life, particularly men, in Europe during the War, connected it to the number of fatherless children after the war, and the vaccuum this created for socialism and communism.

  • Everyone wanted war in 1914

    1. Ever since the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Austria and Germany had been determined to prevent Russian expansion in the Balkans.
    2. Austria knew that, if she allowed herself to be humiliated by Serbia, she could not keep control of her minorities.
    3. Germany saw war with Russia as inevitable and wanted it before Russia completed her rail network and gained the ability to mobilise reserves quickly.
    4. With her prestige already damaged by her defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia knew if she allowed her ally, Serbia, to be humiliated, she could well face revolt in her Western provinces, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, from which the bulk of her tax revenue was derived.
    5. With her stagnant birth-rate and Germany’s growing one, France knew she could not wait another generation, if she were ever to recover the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and avenge the defeat of 1870.
    6. Italy wanted to incorporate Austria’s Italian provinces (Italia Irredenta).
    7. Tirpitz’s naval expansion and the consequent arms race with Germany was ruinously expensive for Britain.

  • Great post Darwin Catholic and excellent comments everyone. It is interesting to note as David points out that the Left saw the carnage as an opportunity (where have we recently heard those words–using crisis as an opportunity before) to push their Big Government anti -God system playing to the heartstrings of the suffering masses. The Church was viewed as too institutional by some and Modernism was already creeping into many seminaries (just as many pontiffs had warned.) What followed was the faithful looking to recent holy figures like St Therese of Lisieux and the mystical as in Fatima and numerous other apparitions (some approved by the Church, some not) to ease their sorrow.

  • I have always tried to discern God’s will during the First World War. Here are some of my theories:

    1. After the war, Germany, Austria and Russia ceased being monarchies, so the war was an indictment of Europe’s crowned heads.
    2. Since Napoleon’s time, France and Germany had been on each other’s throats – Prussia became resentful at France because of the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War was Bismarck’s revenge on France, and the First World War was France’s revenge on Germany. So the First World War was punishment for France and Germany’s hard-heartedness. (But even then, the cycle of violence would not end, as the Nazis intended the Second World War to be their revenge on France. Maybe Versailles really isn’t an auspicious place for signing treaties.)
    3. The war was punishment for every nation’s greed.

  • There was more than enough blame to go around between Austria and Serbia.

    True, but then again, regicide instigated by the ruling circles of a neighboring power ups the ante by an order of magnitude, when it comes to the matter of blame games.

    Admittedly, the Serbian crown was not pleased with the assassination, and took measures to reign in the perpetrators, but without success. The history of Serbia and Royalist Yugoslavia is rife with examples of the crown being unable to control the crazy radicals in its midst (or else, getting deposed or assassinated themselves).

    Apparently, enduring and then ending centuries of Ottoman/Muslim occupation leaves deep scarring and trauma in a nation (assuming those scars were not there to begin with), as the Sicilians and Armenians have also learned. Come to think of it, the Irish (and a few people within America’s own borders) might have similar tales to tell.

  • How much of a “world” war was it, though? Europe usually has a major war twice a century, during which non-Europeans (particularly the Turks) take whatever advantages come their way. I’ve always thought that the Napoleanic Wars were the world’s first worldwide war, with the War of 1812 and Latin American independence being being part of the whole. I don’t see WWI as having a bigger scope than that – although there are theatres I don’t know much about. It definitely wasn’t as big as World War Two.

  • A lot of fighting in Africa, and the Middle East. Minor fighting in Asia. America sending millions of troops across the Atlantic. Clearly a world war but not as much of a world war as World War II. I would give the title of World War to the Napoleonic wars, the Seven Years War, the War of the Austrian Succession and the mammoth War of the Spanish Succession where Corporal John demonstrated a rare combination of superb military and diplomatic skills.

  • very interesting post. Some interesting semi- questions occur to me– I say semi-questions because they are not really formed but just related ideas.
    about national-ism and what that actually means compared with national self responsibility, national interest. Also local control, one world government, Christendom

  • World War 1 saw the end of the Age of Empire in Europe. The empires were doomed regardless of present day Catholic admiration for the Habsburgs.

    Prussia, Austria and Russia carved up Poland in the late 18th century and the Polish people revolted several times. The Poles were not the only people tired of the empires.

    I submit that the decline in Christianity in Europe began with the Protestant Reformation. the French Revolution advanced that decline and WWI added to it.

    As France was terribly wrecked by WW1, and they demanded reparations that Germany could not repay, all of the groundwork was laid for WWII. Germany assisted Lenin in getting Russia out of the war. I could go on, but it’s getting late and tomorrow is Monday.

  • Anzlyne

    The fall of the Ottoman Empire saw an Arab revolt against Turkish rule and a Turkish repudiation of Arab influence, (including the adoption of the Roman alphabet and of the Swiss Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code). In other words, national identity on both sides trumped religious identity, as witness the abolition of the Caliphate.

    Again, the fall of the Dual Monarchy saw a great revival of Pan-Germanism in its German-speaking regions. The Balkans, too, were, well, Balkanized

  • One way to look at Chistendom is as a fantasy of sorts, a necessary fairytale.

    Martin Luther ushered in a formal rebellion against authority already well underway. Christendom was already fracturing and, perhaps a better way to think of it, was always fractured. It was the external threat of rising Islam in Iberia and in the Balkans that made the idea of Christendom necessary. Once Europe was exhausted of the Crusades and successful in uniting Spain under a Christian monarch, her attention turned inward and outward, away from Islam.

    Christendom turned inward politically and outward, beyond North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Minor. Without the external threat, nationalism replaced a general sense of Christianity as the binding force for society and the legitimate authority for the Church in Civil Society. Rebellion against Church authority grew, both within and outside of the Church.

    Reformation and war were the natural consequences. These, in turn, drove nationalism and the establishment of stronger and stronger centralized national governments. That drove war, which drove nationalism, which drove stronger centralized government, and on, and on.

    Lost in the conversation were the many millions of poor, impressed to fight on the one side, taxed into oblivion, most landless, most illiterate, with little prospect for advancement… Fertile ground for new ideas that would elevate their condition to reclaim something of the dignity enshrined in the magnificent palaces built all about them.

    The Church was politically weakened and only a shadow of the civil society authority that she had been. She was driven inward and wisely turned to theology to heal herself. The Counter-Reformation entirely re-cast Christianity as an individual conversation with God through the Body of Christ. The ideas had been perculating for hundreds of years but the Chruch gave them voice. Those ideas were, in turn, applied to the political sphere through Protestant philosophers, leading to 18th Century revolutions in Europe and the rise of Communism.

    Boney was the last hurrah, not og Monarchy-as-such, but og strong, centralized authority focussed outward. Napoleon completed the turn of civil society in on itself, the concerns of others being their concerns alone. Tyranny from an external force became a relic, one that should be resisted by the common man. Thus, the explosion of war in 1917, was entirely different, precisely because it was the common man fighting the common man for an ideology that was personal and seemingly clear.

    In that sense, it was the first World War, not because of where it was fought or by which combatents but because it was individualized across all strata of society, everywhere in Europe. Thus, the destruction it wrought was individualized too, personalized, if you will, ushering in the ages we have now.

    We live in a time of Man abandoning formal social structure because it has failed us, generation after generation. Each articulation seemd to present an answer, only to fail. Thing is, Man is a social animal and, try as we might, we can never be ourselves alone. A new articulation will emerge but, until it does, chaos must reign.

    The Church will articulate the next structure under which Man lives. The question is whether She will be articulating a structure established by others or will establish the structure by articulating it.

  • David Spaulding

    The all-important fracture was not the Reformation, but the Great Schism. The emergence of Russia as the great Orthodox power and the natural guardian and protector of the Orthodox Slavs, convinced both Britain and France of the need to shore up, at all hazards, the decaying Ottoman power. For more than half a century before 1914, the great fear had been a Russian occupation of Constantinople and the emergence of Russian client states in the Balkans. This was also the reason for the protectorate in Egypt and the Sudan.

    Britain, in particular, anxious about her sea-route to India had actually welcomed the growing power of Prussia as a bastion against the Slav, only to realise, almost too late, that they had backed the wrong horse.

    Hence, too, the need to establish British and French spheres of influence in the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman power

  • I think David’s right, in a way. Christendom was an ideal. Compared to what’s followed it, it was a pretty good ideal. It was a norm – remember those? like faithful hetero marriage? – that people didn’t necessarily achieve, but everyone looked to with an understanding that we should try to attain it.

    It’s a truism that the strongest argument against monarchy is the actual guy who becomes king. The great states of Christendom, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, et cetera, were always a poisoned beverage away from having a lousy ruler. Along with internal struggles, there was always competition between the states, and rivalry between the state and the Church. Or between the Church thinking it was a state and a state thinking it was the Church. And the heresies – Luther’s was bigger than most, but the Church was constantly in battle against them.

    World War I marked the end of the powerful monarchs, but not the end of the internally and externally powerful ruler. There’s very little about Castro and Stalin that couldn’t be found in the average caliph or inbred royal.

  • Pinky

    It is worth recalling Pascal’s defence of monarchy: “The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable, because of the unruliness of men. What is less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a queen to rule a State? We do not choose as captain of a ship the passenger who is of the best family.

    This law would be absurd and unjust; but, because men are so themselves and always will be so, it becomes reasonable and just. For whom will men choose, as the most virtuous and able? We at once come to blows, as each claims to be the most virtuous and able. Let us then attach this quality to something indisputable. This is the king’s eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. Reason can do no better, for civil war is the greatest of evils.”

  • The twists and turns od these discussions makes The American Catholic enjoyable.

    I never heard a defense of monarchy before. What an interesting idea.

  • “-national identity on both sides trumped religious identity-” seems like that would be true every time. it worked so well for Henry VIII.
    Although I would like to think religious sense precedes the geo political urge of a people, when National identity is formed around shared family/tribe/ and shared land or place It seems religion always gets subsumed into the state–

  • Even with the caesar/pope idea eventually the Caesar wins. Didn’t that Schism have more to do with cultural identity than actually with dogma- and having a very real shared outside enemy was not enough to heal that fracture-

With Praise Like This…

Tuesday, June 4, AD 2013

A piece over at The New Republic asks why it is that more people don’t love Woodrow Wilson. It’s opening seems to answer that question pretty easily:

[W]hy aren’t contemporary liberals bestowing the same praise on Woodrow Wilson as they lavish on Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson? Granted, if he were running today, Woodrow Wilson wouldn’t win a single Democratic primary and would no doubt be heckled out of the race. Raised in the South, he smiled on Jim Crow and did not object when two of his cabinet appointees re-segregated their departments. A crusading Presbyterian, he vowed to “teach the Latin American republics to elect good men” and dispatched troops to Mexico and Haiti when they didn’t follow his advice. During World War I, he enforced new laws that effectively outlawed most dissent from government policy.

Though really, the reasons they list for lauding him seem a little suspect as well:

Yet Wilson, together with his allies on Capitol Hill, also laid the foundation for the 20th century liberal state. He signed bills that created the Federal Reserve and progressive income tax rates, secured humane working conditions for merchant seamen and railroad workers, restricted child labor and curbed the power of large corporations. After the U.S. entered the war in Europe, his administration began operating the railroads, lifting the hopes of leftists who had long advocated public ownership of what was then a rich and vital industry.

In 1916, Wilson accepted renomination with a speech that defined political conflict in terms that remain surprisingly fresh. Our programs, he told his fellow Democrats were “resisted at every step by the interests which the Republican Party … catered to and fostered at the expense of the country, and these same interests are now earnestly praying for a reaction which will save their privileges, for the restoration of their sworn friends to power before it is too late to recover what they have lost.”

How can anyone dislike someone who both nationalized the railroads and was hated by Republicans?

Actually, the rest of the piece is kind of a hoot too, since it then moves on to arguing that liberals should love Wilson more because FDR and LBJ really were pretty flawed too. Overall, I have to wonder if this is the sort of piece that conservatives are destined to enjoy much more than liberals. Which does nothing to answer the question of why TNR ran it.

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29 Responses to With Praise Like This…

  • Wilson is an unpleasant reminder for the Democrats of the racist history of their party and how the racism was not restricted to Southern Democrats, but was rather an essential aspect of the party of the Jackass, even, or perhaps especially, for liberals who wished to extend the scope of the Federal government. Why TNR ran it is a puzzlement.

    Linked below is a New York Times story in which Wilson rejected black criticism of his anti-civil rights policy. “If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it.”

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9C01E0DC1738E633A25750C1A9679D946596D6CF

  • This is the point where we recite the relevant chapter from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. 😉

  • In keeping African Americans addicted to the teat of the public treasury, and in giving them a “token” in the Oval Office to make it seem like they are empowered when he and his minions support abortion that disproportionately murders more African American babies, how is the Party of the Jackass (love that descriptor!) NOT still racist? And how is he not racially suicidal? The ever racist Democrat Woodrow Wilson would be proud of the result – a black President murdering his own race!

  • The New Republic used to be an interesting magazine in the 1980’s, to the left of National Review, but with similar intellectual and political heft. It’s been on a slide to irrelevence since then. It was recently bought up by one of the founders of Facebook and repackaged itself as essentially MSNBC Magazine.

  • If Wilson would have stayed out of World War I, France, England, Germany and Russia would have collapsed from exhaustion, there would have been no Bolshevism and Russian Revolution and no inflation in Germany caused by war reparation payments to France and thus no Hitler and World War II.

  • Actually Russia collapsed prior to American entry into the war. With that collapse Germany was able to move massive amounts of troops from the East to the West. With no American intervention the Bolsheviks likely would still have seized power in a chaotic Russia and Germany might well have won the war, as they came close to doing in the Spring and Summer of 1918 even with American intervention.

  • What ifs are fun, but of course always difficult to substantiate. Still, it’s hard to imagine the US not intervening in WW1 as producing great results. France and Germany both had strong communist, socialist, anarchist and proto-fascist movements that could well have taken over in the event of a collapse, and Russia as we can see had pretty nasty movements waiting in the wings as well. (The US actually tried to get rid of the Bolsheviks, under Wilson’s direction, by sending supplies and even troops to support the White Russians in the Russian civil war.) If anything, I’d tend to think that it would have been better if the US had got involved sooner, and without Wilson’s “fourteen points” which gave a lot of nationalistic movements (including those in Germany) the idea that they’d get unrealistic benefits out of the peace conference. An earlier US entry and an Allied drive into Germany rather than an armistice might have led to a better peace, but a lot of it is that Europe was simply pretty messed up anyway and the Great War and the peace after it left room for things to go well or badly. They went badly.

    That aside, though, Wilson is certainly one of my least favorite presidents for a host of reasons, and this piece praising him with faint damns certainly has an odd ring.

  • As a parent of two Princeton graduates, I was moved to buy two old Princeton yearbooks from Wilson’s time as president of the University and was stunned by the blackface and other caricatures of blacks. That led me to research more about him and to see why he was not a favorite of those who are knowledgeable. He also permitted his wife and his chief of staff to run the country while he was incapaciated. I couldn’t help thinking of Pope Benedict XVI and his courage and humility in stepping down cementing his place on the Papal Mount Rushmpre

  • Despite his academic background and cerebral image, Wilson, like Obama now, was a masterful orator.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgbBCTHnJ9U

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb30L-NmKjo

    What does Mr. Kazin have in mind? I suppose there might be extant texts and recordings of masterful oratory by Prof. Wilson, but it is quite difficult to imagine the speaker in these recordings was ever capable of it.

    I will wager this was more inspiring in the original:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeTkT5-w5RA

    Another contemporary of Wilson:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhlzdjPGxrs

    The next generation down:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwenOlpbvTA

    And the generation after that:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IRrQZg3FDE

    The last was cherry-picked.

  • What he accomplished, backed by huge Democratic majorities in Congress, to advance civil rights, Medicare, immigration reform, anti-poverty, and education spending exceeded what Roosevelt had attempted—although taking over from the martyred Kennedy certainly helped. For Bill Clinton and many other Democrats, this, not the Vietnam debacle, is the LBJ they want us to remember.

    Here we have Thomas Sowell’s thesis – that to the anointed it is postures that matter and not results – nicely illustrated. Five sets of legislation, five different messes resulting therefrom, and he acknowledges none of it.

  • Raised in the South, he smiled on Jim Crow and did not object when two of his cabinet appointees re-segregated their departments.

    He thought D.W. Griffith was a purveyor of serious history and, IIRC, segregated all federal offices.

  • Just love this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTO31dkDQv8

    Let’s see:

    1. Promoting the disestablishment of the German monarchies. Check.
    2. Acceding to the reparations bill. Check.
    3. Contrived disarmament scheme, eventually unworkable. Check.
    4. War guilt clause; no material benefit for the Allies, but more fuel for revanchism. Check.
    5. Dippy collective security scheme, descendant of which is now a bureaucratic pustule on the East river. Check.

    Prof. Kazin acknowledges…nothing.

  • Wow. There’s certainly a soporific quality to Wilson’s speaking style. Ah, now if TR, clearly the better speaker, had won instead…

    Thanks for the links, Art.

  • Is that last link supposed to be to a montage about Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary or did the wrong link come through?

  • France and Germany both had strong communist, socialist, anarchist and proto-fascist movements that could well have taken over in the event of a collapse,

    No. The Fatherland Party in Germany was inconsequential and the Spartacus League not much more so. It took a decade of disasters before the political culture in Germany turned against parliamentary government. The Communist Party built a base in France during the 1920s, but there was always a ceiling to it. There was never a fascist movement of consequence in France.

  • Is that last link supposed to be to a montage about Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary

    Yep.

  • Per Phillip Jenkins, Wilson’s favorite book was Philip Dru: Administrator. I will let you literature mavens sort that one out.

  • The Fatherland Party in Germany was inconsequential and the Spartacus League not much more so. It took a decade of disasters before the political culture in Germany turned against parliamentary government. The Communist Party built a base in France during the 1920s, but there was always a ceiling to it. There was never a fascist movement of consequence in France.

    True, but come to that the Bolshevik’s were a pretty minor group in Russia (and one among many) until the collapse of first the empire and then the Kerensky government allowed the Bolsheviks to take over.

    Germany arguably had the strongest socialist party in Europe before the war, and the French came in second. Even then the socialist ideology was a lot less destructive than the communist one, but given that Lenin et al came out of that background it seems like there’s a certain lurking danger there. Anarchism was stronger in France than in Germany, but had some claim to continent wide appeal. Then on the French side you’ve got various right-wing figures (such as Maurice Barres) who have the nationalism and even anti-semitism that we’d associate with fascism and also collectivist tendencies rather than the classical liberalism we associate with the right in the anglo-sphere. I don’t know as much about the German political scene yet (one hears about the German left when reading about France, since socialism was fairly international) but the prominence and relative popularity of Ludendorf during the war certainly seems troubling, since he and Hindenburg ruled as near dictators for the second half of the war and Ludendorf went on to push the stab-in-the-back nationalist myth.

    Of course, all of this helps to underline that Wilson’s insistence on destroying all of the old monarchies among the Central Powers simply made things worse.

  • True, but come to that the Bolshevik’s were a pretty minor group in Russia (and one among many) until the collapse of first the empire and then the Kerensky government allowed the Bolsheviks to take over.

    The Bolsheviks placed second to the SRs (radical agrarians) in the constituent assembly elections held in late November 1917.

    Just to re-iterate, it took serial disasters during the period running from 1914 to 1930 for the totalitarian parties to build a base in Germany: wartime hardships and loss of life, the loss of the war, humiliating peace terms, the collapse of the currency and the destruction of savings, the onset of the Depression (which was more severe in Germany than in France and far more severe than in Britain). Even in Hungary, both Communist and fascist regimes had only a brief shelf life (in 1919 and 1944 respectively).

  • Re: “humiliating” peace terms and economic/cultural devastation, the Versailles Treaty imposed war reparartions of 226 billion marks (I’ve seen that “translated” at $34 billion), payable in foreign exchange or gold.

    Hyper-inflation and depression led to German cultural, moral, and societal breakdowns, and allowed for the ascendancy of Hitlerism.

    Our WWI Allies owed the USA $10.4 billion. Only Finland paid in full.

  • The Wiemar Republic did inflict severe inflation on itself in part to try to get out of paying the reparations, but honestly, the Allies quickly backed off trying to make Germany pay anyway. Only about 1/8 of the payments were ever made and the Allies cleared the rest of the obligation in 1932 (after a one year pause in payments in 1931.) Plus, even a lot of the 1/8 that was paid was paid via loans which Germany took out with American banks, and then later repudiated, so it was actually American banks that took the hit for about half of that.

    The idea that German mis-behavior between the wars was somehow justified by their bad treatment at the peace conference was an idea that was jointly put out by pacifists and pro-Nazis in the 20s and 30s, and it also tended to ignore the extent to which France in particular had a pretty legitimate desire to reparations in that Germany had systematically looted the occupied sectors of France for four and a half years — carting of machinery, instituting forced labor, and extracting large indemnities from individual conquered French cities in order to finance the German war effort.

  • Keynes referred to the Versailles treaty as a Carthaginian peace which indicates that he knew as much about ancient history as he did about sound economics. Compared to most peace treaties for an utterly beaten power, Germany got off pretty lightly. The reparations were never more than a propaganda issue for Germany as it was quickly understood that Germany was never going to pay more than a fraction of the reparations and that the Allies lacked the will to compel them to do so.

  • The Bolsheviks placed second to the SRs (radical agrarians) in the constituent assembly elections held in late November 1917.

    Well, yes, but then Nov. 1917 was after the October Revolution, which in turn was after the February Revolution and the dissatisfaction which followed the new government’s failure to either win or end the war. The Bolsheviks (who’d been very minor players back in 1910) became major players once the country went into a tailspin due to economic and military exhaustion.

    My contention is basically just that if we imagine a situation in which France, Germany, Austria and England went into similar tailspins due to fighting on to the point of collapse without US intervention, as Ray Marshall suggested, we could arguably have seen similarly nasty minor players take over in either country. His contention that if we hadn’t stepped in and helped the Allies win the Great War, there wouldn’t have been hyperinflation and the rise of the Nazis in Germany strikes me as a reach. Surely, the same thing might not have happened, but it’s not hard to imagine that a situation in which all the Great Powers exhausted themselves to collapse, a lot of bad things would have happened.

    But hey, I’ll admit: I am pretty much a partisan on the side of the Entente in regards to the Great War. I think kicking Germany back out of France and Belgium was a basically righteous aim. And while it’s certainly much easier to be fond of Austria-Hungary than Prussia, the Austrians did help start the war, though it was the Germans who made it global.

  • The idea that German mis-behavior between the wars was somehow justified

    Not my deal.

    Compared to most peace treaties for an utterly beaten power, Germany got off pretty lightly.

    They were not utterly beaten; no they did not get off ‘lightly’.

    If it had been one’s aim to produce a more stable equilibrium in Europe one might have attempted to do the following:

    1. Allow the German states to return as honorable participants in European power politics, albeit under reduced circumstances.

    2. Remove some of the structural defects in the antecedent state system. That would be:

    a. The questionable sustainability of a multi-ethnic state organized around dynastic fealty.

    b. The imbalance in resources between France and Germany.

    The various treaties did address the former, but leaving blocs of Germans in Czechoslovakia and Italy and Lithuania, blocs of Magyars in Roumania, and odd arrangements regarding Danzig and Saar. They tried to address the latter by knee-capping Germany rather than (say) redistributing territory between Prussia and Austria (which may or may not have been practical).

  • Winston Churchill once said, “In Victory, Magnanimity”. That might have worked in 1918.

  • The Germans received magnanimity in 1918 Art, and I think that was precisely the problem. 1945 left them with no room for a second bout of “stabbed in the back” mythology.

  • I did not say or mean to “justify.”

    The Hun is now deploying economics not panzers and stukas.

  • I will go against the grain here and praise Wilson for one thing. In Wilson’s Fourteen Points for Peace, Wilson was a strong advocate for the reestablishment of the Polish nation, which occurred, over the objections of some in the West. While Russia and Austria-Hungary withdrew from Polish territory in 1918, Germany had no intention of doing the same. The Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-19 threw the Germans out of Poland. Where Prussia was located was originally Polish land.

    Germany is really the source of the problems in WWI. There is a WWI special that shows up on the Military channel every so often. Germany aided and abetted Lenin in order to get Russia out of the war. Germany wrecked much of France. and France wasn’t the least bit interested in being magnanimous to Germany.

    FDR was worse than Wilson. That goes without saying.

  • Where Prussia was located was originally Polish land.

    The Province of Posen and parts of the Province of West Prussia had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Not the rest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polish-Lithuanian_Commonwealth_1635.svg

Book Review: Pope Francis in His Own Words

Tuesday, May 28, AD 2013

The Darwin family is on one of its road trip vacations, so posting has been rather light. However, there’s no better time than vacation to catch up on reading, and thus on book reviews.

Like a lot of Catholic bibliophiles, I’ve been eager to get to know Pope Francis by reading his writings. This is a little tricky, as at the time of his election not a single one of Bergoglio’s books (and there aren’t many) was available in English. Thus, I jumped at the chance to get a review copy of Pope Francis in His Own Words from New World Library.

Whether this book appeals to you is going to depend a great deal on what sort of book you are looking for. This is not a unified theological work, it’s a collection of quotes (most of them one to three sentences) from articles, homilities, addresses and interviews with Bergoglio over the years and from his earliest papal addresses. Most of them are comparatively recent (1999 to 2013) and they are organized by topic. For example, under “On Poverty” there are two quotes:

“A community that stops kneeling before the rich, before success and prestige, and which is capable, instead, of washing the feet of the humble and those in need, will be more aligned with [God’s] teaching than the winner-at-any-price ethic that we’ve learned — badly — in recent times.”

Annual Message to Educational Communities, Easter 2002

“Is there anything more humiliating than being condemned [to an existence in which] you can’t earn your daily bread?”

Annual Message to Educational Communities, Easter 2002

As you can see, these are not mini essays on various topics as in John Paul II’s Crossing the Theshold of Hope. They are more on the order of short quotes, the sort collection you’d pick up once a day to read a quote or two from, not the sort of book that you’d sit down and read cover to cover.

The quotes are very accessible and often throught provoking. A few strike me as being so short and out of context as to be simply stating the obvious. For instance, under “On Atheists” appears the quote:

“[I] know more agnostics than atheists; the first is more undecided, the second, more convinced.”

Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, 2010

Well, yes. That’s definitionally true, but not necessarily worth pulling as a quote. However, most of this fairly short book (90 pages of quotes and then a short chronology of Pope Francis’s life, followed by a long attribution section) is not filler of that sort.

This is not the book of Pope Francis’s writing that I’ve been waiting for. However, if you or someone you know enjoys a collection of short, inspirational “thought of the day” pieces, this may be a good acquisition or gift.

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Because Gendercide Must Be Protected as a Matter of Women’s Rights

Monday, May 6, AD 2013

American filmmakers made a documentary dealing with the issue of sex selective abortion and infanticide. The amount of this going on in the world is staggering. Estimates suggest that more girls are killed in India and China each year due to families wanting sons instead than are born each year in the US.

You would think that this is the sort of issue that everyone could agree on. Not so, however. Slate columnist Sital Kalantry chastises feminist groups for allowing themselves to be sucked in by a documentary which was apparently (gasp) made by pro-lifers:

It’s a Girl, a documentary about the tragic practice of sex-selection abortions in India and China, is being widely screened by pro-choice groups across America, including the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization for Women and feminist groups on university campuses. It was an official selection for the Amnesty International Film Festival in 2012 and appeared in Ms. magazine’s feminist movies review. But as organizations and groups evaluate whether to screen this movie, they should be aware that the film’s director worked for Harvest Media Ministry, an organization that makes pro-life and other videos for church groups.

How did this happen? How did a movie linked to a pro-life group become the darling of the pro-choice community? The story involves clever disguises on the part of financing sources that managed to hide their involvement and pass off a movie about the horrors of sex-selection abortions as just a sympathetic movie about the plight of women in India and China. And the pro-life message is subtle enough that they got away with it.

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5 Responses to Because Gendercide Must Be Protected as a Matter of Women’s Rights

  • From the article:
    “How did this happen? How did a movie linked to a pro-life group become the darling of the pro-choice community? The story involves clever disguises on the part of financing sources that managed to hide their involvement and pass off a movie about the horrors of sex-selection abortions as just a sympathetic movie about the plight of women in India and China. And the pro-life message is subtle enough that they got away with it. ”

    The “horrors” of sex-selection abortions are apparently completely separate from the horrors of abortions in general, which is to say not horrible at all, at least that seems to be what the writer believes. What kind mental gymnastics does someone need to be capable of to think that way?

  • The pro-life message is subtle only to a complete moral idiot, or sociopath, which is to say, to pro-aborts.

  • it’s typical “root causes” bullshit, libs never believe in any directly restrictive policies, there always has to be some underlying factor to focus on (poverty, economic inequality typically) that solely explains it

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  • I am wary of bringing up the use of abortion as a tool of sex-selection as an argument against abortion. Sure, it is useful for making feminists squirm because the well-publicized cases of sex-selection abortion are cases of abortion females. But if boy babies were being aborted would that make it ok? Of course not because what we’re against is the abortion, not the wish for a baby of one or the other sex.

Reading the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell Case

Wednesday, April 17, AD 2013

MrsDarwin has done the public service of reading through the entirety of the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell case. The following is a reprint of her post.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan proposes a thought experiment:

Tell me yourself, I challenge you — answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.

I was reminded of that passage this afternoon when I read the entire Grand Jury report on the Kermit Gosnell case:

pg. 101: After the baby was expelled, Cross noticed that he was breathing, though not for long. After about 10 to 20 seconds, while the mother was asleep, “the doctor just slit the neck,” said Cross. Gosnell put the boy’s body in a shoebox. Cross described the baby as so big that his feet and arms hung out over the sides of the container. Cross said that she saw the baby move after his neck was cut, and after the doctor placed it in the shoebox. Gosnell told her, “it’s the baby’s reflexes. It’s not really moving.” 

The neonatologist testified that what Gosnell told his people was absolutely false. If a baby moves, it is alive. Equally troubling, it feels a “tremendous amount of pain” when its spinal cord is severed. So, the fact that Baby Boy A. continued to move after his spinal cord was cut with scissors means that he did not die instantly. Maybe the cord was not completely severed. In any case, his few moments of life were spent in excruciating pain.

Gosnell was an eager butcher, one who was willing to torture babies for women under the desperate illusion that they could attain “peace and rest at last” through this “foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim”, as Ivan puts it. He had a psychopathic distain for the external nicetices of the abortion business: the sterile clinic, the efficient staff, the quiet, hidden murder and the quick disposal of the bodies. It was all in the open at 3801 N. Lancaster St., insanely blatant in the sheer horrific scale of murder, murders of babies born alive, infanticide, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, hindering, obstruction, and tampering, perjury, illegal late-term abortions, violations of the Abortion Control Act, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, abuse of corpse, theft by deception, conspiracy, corrupt organization, and corruption of minors.

Think I’m exaggerating? Those are the charges recommended against Gosnell and members of his staff by the appalled Grand Jury (pg. 219).

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15 Responses to Reading the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell Case

  • “jaw-drop”….i still say that when they give Gossnell the death penalty they do exactly what was done to all those babies…jam scissors in the back of his neck and cut his spinal cord…

  • “Jesus Wept!” was my constant thought as I read through the Grand Jury Report. After thirty years at the bar few things shake me, and this report did. The degrading and corrupting impact of legal abortion on us as a people was on full display on every page.

  • That this went on so long is remarkable.

  • I’m assuming even Obama didn’t have him on the short list for Surgeon General??

  • I think some strong female perceived leader in the Left will stop forward to disavow this and proclaim that this is Not what they are for, that they are against This. And people will be mollified by her (maybe Michelle’s) aghastness and quit worrying about it.
    If it is done in more clean and sanitary conditions, and just an inch inside the mom, it will still be ok

  • Why was my comment to J.A.C., admonishing him for wishing a painful death upon another human being, deleted?

  • JL,

    I don’t see one, and I haven’t deleted one. Did you perhaps have that discussion on another thread?

  • I didn’t delete any comments, having been busy in the law mines all day.

  • Yes, to be clear: I see you have some comments like that on another thread. I think that the comment you’re looking for here is there.

  • Whatevs. In a nutshell, let’s make sure we don’t let our desire for righteous justice be perverted into an unChristian thirst for vengeance.

  • HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill recently said on his show “for what
    it’s worth, I do think that those of us on the left have made a decision not
    to cover this (Gosnell) trial because we worry that it’ll compromise abortion
    rights. Whether you agree with abortion or not, I do think there’s a direct
    connection between the media’s failure to cover this and our own political
    commitments on the left. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s dangerous, but I
    think that’s the way it is”.

    Well, OK then. I’m sure that the folks down at the Pennsylvania Dept. of
    Health and the operators of abortion mills everywhere are breathing a bit easier
    today. We’ve already heard of ‘too big to fail’, and now we’ve got ‘too PC to
    investigate’.

  • Pingback: Monday Update on Kermit Gosnell Trial - Big Pulpit
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  • If as Gosnell claims, the babies were already dead, then why was it necessary for him to cut their necks, spinal cords and decapitate them?
    I do not believe in the death penalty, however, I find it difficult to argue against applying it to him.
    There must be a criminal violation that can be applied to Staloski and others in the Dept. of Health. There must be at least a charge or public embarrassment for the two governors, mayors and others in charge of doing nothing.
    There should be murder charges filed against the mothers that took their babies to the slaughter house to be killed.

  • How disgusting…And this abomination occurred in our ‘civilized’ time, under our ‘civilized’ government, when ‘civilized’ people concern themselves with cruelty to animals while our future children remain unprotected…!!! May God have mercy on us…!!!

Margaret Thatcher and the Dead Parrot Sketch

Friday, April 12, AD 2013

Here’s something to brighten your Friday: The then-Prime Minister delivering, absolutely deadpan, the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch.

The Liberal Democrat logo which she’s referring to is this:

800px-Liberal_Democrats_UK_Logo_svg

Despite the PM’s brilliant delivery, I did miss the line about how, if the parrot weren’t nailed to his perch, he’d be pushing up daisies. Here’s the original for your perusal:

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3 Responses to Margaret Thatcher and the Dead Parrot Sketch

  • The best politicians almost always have a keen sense of humor!

  • God knows how she managed to keep a straight face. That was in October 1990. Just over a month later the same ministers who were laughing uproariously at the joke conspired to oust her. On the day she resigned I was at a conference of (believe it or not) history teachers. When the chairman announced the news, the entire room clapped and cheered. Yet under the Conservatives teachers’ pay, which had stagnated under Labour, increased significantly, so you’d think that they’d have had some gratitude if only for selfish reasons.

  • John Cleese, jackass of a leftist that he is, must’ve been quite put out by this.

Yes I Still Support The Iraq War

Friday, March 22, AD 2013

This last week marked the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War and so it offered many pundits a chance to write anguished pieces of self examination in which they told why they wish they had opposed the Iraq War. (Then there’s the variant in which those who were opposed all along snear at those who are late to the anti-war party.)

My reactionary tendency revolts against the late breaking attempt to jump on the band wagon, but even setting that aside I can’t find it in myself to see toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship as an unworthy endeavour. If anything, the main injustice I see in the Iraq War was in not having gone all the way to Bagdad in 1991. We left the Iraqi people hanging out to dry in 1991, allowing Hussein to crush the uprising which we encouraged but failed to support. Hussein remained a brutal dictator, but one ruling at our sufferance from 1991 to 2003. I think removing him at any point during that time would have been a just and noble action.

Certainly, there is a great deal that could have been done better in the aftermath of the invasion and toppling of the regime. I wish that it had been done better and that suffering and loss of life, both Iraqi and American, had thus been less. It seems odd, however, to argue that ending Hussein’s dictatorship could only be just if we knew for a certainty ahead of time that all of our actions in the region afterwards would be carried out with competence and success.

There’s a lot that the Bush Administration can be blamed for, and in many ways the Iraq War and its aftermath were ill-managed. But even in its current unpopularity, I still support the basic justice of seeking to finish the job that we started in 1991 and end one of the world’s nastier little dictatorships while it was still easy to do so.

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37 Responses to Yes I Still Support The Iraq War

  • What bothers me the most is that every news story you will hear on this anniversary always ends with the same comment “and no weapons of mass destruction were found”.

    It is almost a witch hunt by the mainstream liberal press to continue to besmirch George Bush. I won’t defend his actions as I think that should be left up to history, but as to the WMDs, how about 550 metric tons of yellow cake uranium that were quietly shipped to Canada for use as nuclear fuel.

    I know this was not weapons grade uranium, but how would everyone feel if it were dispersed in the air or water of a major city? The press seems to ignore this because we supposedly “knew it was there” before the war – I cannot see the distinction.

  • Completely agree Darwin. The conduct of the war was probably the most efficiently fought war in our history. The aftermath I think demonstrates the futility of an outside non-Islamic power attempting to do nation building in an Arab country.

  • Mark Steyn, as usual, worth a read on this very topic.

  • I have had occasion to pose the question to Rod Dreher what would be the better alternative: Uday and Qusay, the sanctions regime, or what we face today in Iraq. He deletes my posts.

  • “The aftermath I think demonstrates the futility of an outside non-Islamic power attempting to do nation building in an Arab country.”

    Was this not the obvious likelihood before the war began?

  • I suppose it depends on what one is positing to be obvious.

    There have been moderately successful efforts at nation building in the Middle East, however they were carried on according to a colonial model and they were achieved prior the 1950s.

    Between the colonial era and the US effort to rebuild Iraq, Western powers had generally taken the approach of supporting whatever local regimes they found most convenient at the moment, no matter how reprehensible. This had resulted in the Wester powers getting a bad reputation in the neighborhood.

    I don’t think it was obviously crazy ahead of time to think that trying to do a fair and democratic job of setting up a functioning government in the region would be a failure — except for those who (a weird meeting of far right and far left) who held that Arabs as a group were somehow fundamentally incapable of having a civilized government.

    A lot of things went wrong — some of which could have been done better and some of which in retrospect look fairly inevitable. Even as it stands, the end result is that Iraq is one of the more democratic and less repressive regimes in the area. The downside is that this has allowed the population to do things which a carefully chosen and sufficiently powerful dictatorship might not have allowed it to do — such as chase out religious minorities.

  • Was this not the obvious likelihood before the war began?

    No.

  • A good book to read on Iraq and the entire war on terror is War and Decision by Douglas Feith who was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005,

    http://www.amazon.com/War-Decision-Inside-Pentagon-Terrorism/dp/B003GAN3WS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363991785&sr=8-1&keywords=war+and+decision

    II think the whole idea of trying to bring democracy to an Islamic country is a mistake because such means of governance is incompatible with Islam.

  • II think the whole idea of trying to bring democracy to an Islamic country is a mistake because such means of governance is incompatible with Islam.

    Electoral politics have been practiced in recent years in Albania, Kosovo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

  • “Electoral politics have been practiced in recent years in Albania, Kosovo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia.”

    With what results? Democratic elections in Islamic countries tend to serve as an initial vehicle to Islamic tyranny. Eygpt is a clear example of this.

  • Turkey has had parliamentary government (with some interruptions) for the length of the postwar period; Kuwait has maintained electoral institutions for about 40 of the last 50 years; Malaysia has been run by a semi-pluralist political machine for about 50 – odd years; Senegal and Morocco have had about 35 years experience with electoral institutions; Bangladesh has had elected governments for about 20 years; the west African countries were all part of a wave of experimentation with electoral forms all over Africa; Indonesia instituted electoral government about 15 years ago. The closer you get to the core of the Muslim world, the more resistance to political pluralism, but it is all on a spectrum. No point in saying muslims cannot operate the machinery. Whatever problems there are with the political culture in that part of the world, there are countries passably adapted to electoral competition.

  • “Was this not the obvious likelihood before the war began?”

    No, because it had not been tried before.

  • I still support the Iraq war also.

    I’m sick of hearing”……..but there were no WMD s found.”

    Shear stupidity. He used chemical weapons against the Kurds and the Delta marsh tribes.
    A year or two after the invasion, WMD parts were found being sold on the black market in Holland, still with the UN inspector’s sticker on them.
    And he was supporting Al Quaeda training camps in the North East of Iraq.
    And he was paying families to get their sons to be suicide bomber into Israel.

    Go figure.

  • “The closer you get to the core of the Muslim world, the more resistance to political pluralism,…”

    My point exactly. Islam at its core is antithethical to a free society, at least how the west has traditionally understood it. Turkey has become more radically Islamist in recent years with the election of Islamists like Recyp Erdogan as Prime Minister and his party holding a majority in Parliment.

    Iraq is right in the core of the Muslim World, whose majority Shia popultion wants no part of political pluralism. Or religious pluralism for that matter. Now, I too still support the military toppling of Saddam Hussein. But much of the post invasion policy of the Bush Administration was based on a naive view of how what self-governance means in Islamic terms. The Iraqi constitution has Sharia written right into it and the Bush Administration went along with that. One also has to understand that Islam is as much if not more of a political system than it is a religion. Couple Bush Administration naiveté with Obama not willing to push for a substantive Status of Forces Agreement and what you have now is an Iraq that is basically becoming a satellite of Iran, if it isn’t one already.

    Furthermore, the rise of Islamism with the self-immolation of the West that spectrum is bound to narrow.

    “No point in saying muslims cannot operate the machinery.”

    Just like there is no point in saying that Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy doesn’t know how to operate a chainsaw.

  • My point exactly. Islam at its core is antithethical to a free society,

    No, your point is not my point. I am making a surface observation about the course of political events in the postwar period. Latin America differs from the Far East differs from South Asia differs from the Arab World. Had you made this observation in 1948, you might have drawn different conclusions. I would refer you to Larry Diamond, who is a serious student of constitutional development in the 3d world, which few critics of the Iraq War are. His point is as follows: the only prerequisite common to all instances of democratic transition has been the will of a political class to alter the system in this way. You have electoral systems all over the world in countries of every level of affluence, in countries with high levels of ethnic and confessional diversity and low, in countries with leveled in social strata and countries with great disjunctions in standards of living between strata. As a general rule, affluence, homogeneity, insularity, and the English language are positively correlated with the appearance of democratic institutions. Poverty, diversity, continentality, hypertrophied extractive industries, and Arabic dialects are inversely correlated. Correlated means correlated, not identified. Senegal (83% Muslim) has for more than fifty years been among the two or three most benignly governed countries in Africa and has had for 35 years competitive electoral politics. Statements like “Islam is antithetical to a free society” are pig-ignorant and you should stop making them.

  • The Iraqi constitution has Sharia written right into it and the Bush Administration went along with that.

    I will wager they were fairly laconic about estate law, matrimonial law, banking law, and the use of corporal punishment in the Arab world. That is as it should be.

  • “The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions.”
    — Pope John Paul II (Rich in Mercy)

    The command to love our enemies is, as Pope Benedict XVI put it, the ‘nucleus of the Christian revolution’, and is a command directly applicable to the Iraq War.

    The justness of the Iraq War hinges not only meeting the traditional set of criteria set forth first by Aquinas (criteria I haven’t seen mentioned), but also on the love of Christ, an enemy-love properly known as mercy.

    Christ and his Church commanded us to show mercy to Saddam and to his countrymen. The Pope and almost all of the world’s bishops considered the Iraq War to be not only a violation of the just-war theory, but also a tragic mistake rooted in lack of faith in God and Man — a lack of faith in the power of mercy.

    “Peace is still possible,” Pope JPII preached right to the end. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy were still possible right up to the point that George Bush gave the order to bomb and invade Iraq. There were other options. Options rooted in mercy.

    But to President Bush, and to many throughout this country, “this was the guy who tried to kill my dad” — an irredeemably evil man who the power of God’s love could not touch, surrounded by similarly irredeemably evil seed. To President Bush and those who had already condemned Iraq’s leaders in their hearts, the only solution to Iraq was not mercy, but the merciless ‘justice’ of violence.

    Not in vain did Christ challenge His listeners, faithful to the doctrine of the Old Testament, for their attitude which was manifested in the words: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This was the form of distortion of justice at that time; and today’s forms continue to be modeled on it.
    — Pope John Paul II (Rich in Mercy)

  • What about the fact that the Christian (Chaldean Catholic) community in Iraq, which used to have some measure of protection under Saddam, is now a fast shrinking minority suffering relentless persecution? Granted, the current situation of Iraqi Christians does not, in and of itself, prove or disprove that the decision to wage war in Iraq was justified; but it is a consequence of our actions that has to be acknowledged.

  • Granted, the current situation of Iraqi Christians does not, in and of itself, prove or disprove that the decision to wage war in Iraq was justified; but it is a consequence of our actions that has to be acknowledged.

    No, it is a consequence of someone else’s actions and not all that predictable. What is your cost calculus? That the country has to remain an abattoir because of a possible injury to the interests 2% of the population?

    “Peace is still possible,” Pope JPII preached right to the end. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and mercy were still possible right up to the point that George Bush gave the order to bomb and invade Iraq. There were other options. Options rooted in mercy.

    Fat chance. Take your fantasies somewhere else.

  • US air power and snake-eaters, and Northern Alliance had deposed Afghan taliban gangsters beginning in November 2001.

    Andrew Sullivan is a near-perfect examplar for the viler fringes of the vile World.

    In 2003, he wrote that Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the Iraq War was based on “traditional Catholic anti-semitism.”: Look it up. And, look up what the lunatic says now.

    PS: I was against the war before I was for it.

    Once the elected representatives authorized the “war”, and the first American blood was spilt, it was a go for all of us: “Honor thy Father.”

    PPS: FDR: “You do not have to wait for a rattlesnake to bite you.”

  • Don the Kiwi says:
    Friday, March 22, 2013 A.D. at 11:15pm
    I still support the Iraq war also.

    I’m sick of hearing”……..but there were no WMD s found.”

    Shear stupidity. He used chemical weapons against the Kurds and the Delta marsh tribes.
    A year or two after the invasion, WMD parts were found being sold on the black market in Holland, still with the UN inspector’s sticker on them.

    Thank you.

    The more common argument is to use “WMD” to incorrectly mean “nuclear weapon,” but this is bothersome as well.

    Roadside bombs also had WMDs from the “secured” supplies attached to them.

    ************

    What about the fact that the Christian (Chaldean Catholic) community in Iraq, which used to have some measure of protection under Saddam, is now a fast shrinking minority suffering relentless persecution?

    What about the fact that their “measure of protection” was from helping to run the country, feed people into woodchippers feet-first, manage the rape rooms– which were both for interrogation tactics and entertainment of those with power– and similar or more horrific outrages?
    No, not everyone who benefited from the “measure of protection” was involved, or even had family involved. Yes, mobs attacking a group because of their religion is bad. Yes, the imported terrorists attack everyone that isn’t their specific flavor of Islam, or isn’t loud enough in supporting them.

    People being willing to ignore why the group is scapegoated, and what their protection came from, do not do Christianity any favors.

  • Shorter:
    how many groups wiped out, people horrifically killed and children raped would be acceptable to have a better “protected” Christian group in Iraq?

    How much horrific oppression of other groups is acceptable– or even laudable– so long as the ones more like us are “protected”?

  • Art Deco, I do see fantasy in this thread and comments, but it isn’t the Church’s teachings on mercy and justice.

  • On the persecution of Christianity in post-Baathist Iraq:

    I don’t think it was necessarily unrealistic for the Bush Administration to hope that it could put together a successfully pluralistic society in post-invasion Iraq. The Brits and French had managed to do a pretty good job of that for a while in their period of setting up states in the region from 1918 to 1950.

    I do think that the forcing out of the Christian community in Iraq is unquestionably one of the more tragic results of the war. (Though probably a mixed blessing for the Christians themselves, in some ways, in that a lot of them have emigrated to countries where their long term prospects are probably much better than Iraq no matter who is ruling it.) But while I’d see the failure to secure religious tolerance in Iraq as a major failing, I don’t necessarily see it as a good reason for propping up the dictatorship just because it _wasn’t_ persecuting them.

  • Nate,

    While John Paul II was in many ways a functional pacifist, even he did not teach that mercy and love of enemy were incompatible with war. (He couldn’t teach that, since it would be a reversal of Catholic teaching.) Catholic teaching is not that one must never use military force because one is called to exercise love and mercy instead. If anything, Catholic teaching is more radical than that: We must love our enemies even in the act of fighting and be prepared at the instant which a foes aggression is rendered harmless to respond to him as a brother in need of care rather than as an enemy in need of vengeance.

    Certainly, John Paul II’s position on the Iraq War (and even the Gulf War, which would seem to be an absolutely textbook example of fulfilling the just war criteria) was that we should wait indefinitely before using military means to deal with the situation. John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so. Non-violence has never been the only approach of the Church, but there has always been a place for those who commit themselves to non-violence within the Church.

    It’s also probably not surprising that the Church has been going through a functionally pacifist period over the last few decades given the experiences which formed many Catholic thinkers and leaders in the 20th century. John Paul II came out of Poland, the modern nation which was born of World War I yet found itself in one of the worst positions of all in WW2. Poland lost a larger percentage of its population to WW2 than any other country. (A gentile living in Warsaw in 1936 had a lower chance of being alive ten years later than a Jew living in Berlin. And, of course, Polish Jews stood virtually no chance at all.) Poles fought bravely for the Allied cause from 1939 to 1945, and yet Poland was at the end of the war consigned to be crushed under the boot of one of the two totalitarian regimes which had invaded it in 1939. Peaceful resistance may not be the only moral way to respond to aggression, but it was the only one that was left to Poles and they had to live by it for another forty years before they managed to escape the repressive government the war had begot them.

    Come to think about it, if you look at the most Catholic countries in Europe, from which the majority of Church leaders and theologians hailed, you get Italy, France, Poland, Austria, southern Germany, Croatia, etc. The collective experience of those countries in the 20th centuries would arguably go a long way towards pushing one into pacifism.

  • I agree that our biggest mistake was not going to Baghdad in 1991. My generation would have finished it, and not my son’s generation. I disagree with going in there a second time. It just wasn’t worth it, and this was foreseeable. We had Saddam contained, and that was enough. Yes, he violated the terms of the ceasefire that ended the first war. In that case, we should simply engage in punitive raids rather than get into the quagmire that resulted from trying to hold ground. I think that our second biggest mistake was engaging in “nation building”. Once we had won the ground war, we should have packed up and gone home immediately. It was not worth it to stay. The cost in human and financial terms was just too high. My next door neighbor was a kid who borrowed my video games. He enlisted in the Marines at eighteen, and ended up in Fallujah. He was wounded twice and came back with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He’s on full VA disability. The Iraqi’s are responsible for their own loss of life in the aftermath, not the U.S. It’s not worth the sacrifice of young men like him to bring order to people who don’t really want order. They still don’t have it and don’t want it. Not really. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqi-officials-wave-of-attacks-in-shiite-areas-of-baghdad-kills-at-least-21-wounds-dozens/2013/03/19/44ac1948-9061-11e2-9173-7f87cda73b49_story.html

  • “The collective experience of those countries in the 20th centuries would arguably go a long way towards pushing one into pacifism.”

    Especially since Uncle Sam did the heavy lifting for defense after World War 2 that sheltered most of those nations. But for the US victory in the Cold War, all of those nations would be seeing now how effective pacifism is at liberating nations from totalitarian states when there is no outside military superpower maintaining pressure on the totalitarian states. The US defense umbrella has allowed most of Europe to take an extended holiday from history. All holidays come to an end, and I fear the conclusion of this holiday will come with a bang followed by a lot of whimpers.

  • It’s not worth the sacrifice of young men like him to bring order to people who don’t really want order. They still don’t have it and don’t want it. Not really.

    The last time I checked, in excess of 95% of instances of violence in Iraq were in six provinces which comprehended about 40% of the population of the country. Someone appears to want order.

    It just wasn’t worth it, and this was foreseeable. We had Saddam contained, and that was enough.

    Well, Big Consciences were assuring us that the sanctions regime was inducing a six figure sum in excess deaths per year. Of course, had the sanctions regime collapsed, we might have had Uday and Qusay gone wild.

  • Nate, the options are not a function of your imagination, but of circumstance.

  • John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so.

    I am sorry, I just do not find this inspiring:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1991/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_19910115_gulf-war-bush_en.html

    At the time it was being uttered, a harmless oil principality was being subjugated, brutalized, and trashed and the Holy Father offered that he favored cheap air fares to be achieved by the suspension of gravity.

  • My stance on the actual Iraq war has not wavered in ten years:

    Why Those Who Hold Out For Peaceful Solutions With Iraq Are Wrong (circa February 9, 2003)

    A Response to Those Wondering How I Can Disagree With the Pope on the War in Iraq (circa February 14, 2003)

    I did have issues with how several things were handled in the post-war period but that is a subject for another time (perhaps).

  • John Paul’s bending of the just war criteria to look almost identical to pacifism was inspiring to some Catholics, and perhaps rightly so.

    “I am sorry, I just do not find this inspiring:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1991/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_19910115_gulf-war-bush_en.html

    At the time it was being uttered, a harmless oil principality was being subjugated, brutalized, and trashed and the Holy Father offered that he favored cheap air fares to be achieved by the suspension of gravity.”

    I personally don’t expect the pope to take a hawkish stance. I too, would hope these things could have been resolved without recourse to arms. BUt in the brutal world we live, that is often not possible.

    According to Weigel’s biography on JPII, the pope had telephoned President Bush either just before or just after the start of Desert Storm expressing regret that war couldn;t have been prevent and hoping that such action would be brief, casualties be minimized, that our side would victorious.

  • About all this “There was no WMD” business. Those who use this as a cudgel to beat the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq ought to read both the KAy and Duefler reports. While both admit there is was no clear evidence of WMD stockpiles since 1991, the danger posed by the Iraqi regime was more than what the Administration believed. Hussein was reatining the intellectual capital and, thanks to the corruption of the UN Oil for Weapons, Palaces, and Terrorist (aka Oil for Food) Programs, he was building up serious financial capital to reconstitute his WMD programs after the fast eroding sanctions were lifted.

    Now, I think Duefler made a smalll revision to his report later on when he said that it was possible the stockpiles were moved to Syria. After all, he had all the time in the world to hide them. We had been telegraphing our intention to invade Iraq for over a year before we went in. The stockpiles we knew he once had were never accounted for. And we did find several dual use facilities in Iraq and large amounts of “insecticides” from which chemical weapons can be produced.

    Another thing, intelligence failures are often crowed about by the anit-war crowd. But not a peep is uttered about the biggest intelligence failure and that was the absolute decay of Iraq’s infastructure pre-war.

  • Now, I think Duefler made a smalll revision to his report later on when he said that it was possible the stockpiles were moved to Syria. After all, he had all the time in the world to hide them. We had been telegraphing our intention to invade Iraq for over a year before we went in.

    Years, heck, we gave a week’s warning and didn’t even seal he borders– I can remember sitting in the galley with my Marines, watching CNN as they showed caravans driving across the Syrian border. (we debated and decided it was more Bush bending over backwards to keep folks from having ammo against it)

    Incidentally, some trucks that looked a lot like those were found– in the desert, buried, with the drivers still in them. Shot.

  • When you consider that the Iraqis buried fighter jets in the sands you wonder what else was out there. Saddam’s generals were expecting him to order the unleashing of WMDs and were amazed when the order never came.

  • And for those who find it so hard to believe that Saddam Hussein would truck his WMD’s out of the country (in this case, to Syria) prior to what he knew was an impending American coalition-led invasion in 2003, he did the same thing in 1990/1 with his airforce whereby a lot of his best planes were flown to Iran before the coalition start of hostilities in early 1991. If anything, even if we did not have satellite photos of convoys of trucks crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border in late 2002, the manner whereby Hussein sought to shield his more effective weaponry from the battlefield previously lent credence to the idea that he would similarly hide what he could this time around too.

    For those of us whose justification for utilizing the military option did not even touch on the subject of WMD’s we were never in a position to have to consider revising our original stances unlike many who made the existence of WMD their primary or overriding reason for such support. Ergo, my stance on the war today is no different on the war than ten years ago and just as back then, the finding of WMD or not was always icing on the cake rather than the whole cake itself. But I digress.

There Is Not Just One Way To Be Pope

Thursday, March 21, AD 2013

One of the things that’s been bothering me (as well as several other good bloggers I read) in the days since the election of Pope Francis is the seeming need of many to identify a single cookie-cutter model which every “good” pope most follow. I recall some of this when Benedict succeeded John Paul, but it was perhaps more muted both by a certain gravity stemming from John Paul’s very public death and funeral, and also by the fact that the although we certainly lived in a “new media” age then, it hadn’t gained the dizzying speed which social media has since provided to “reax”.

Thus it seems as if much of the coverage of the new pope boils down to, “Francis isn’t as intellectual and liturgically focused as Benedict, so he’s not as good” or else “Francis is so ‘humble’ and focused on the poor, he’s clearly a much better pope than Benedict”. Then there’s the next level of escallation in which each side tries to steal the virtues of the other: Oh yeah, well if Francis were really humble he wouldn’t insist on simplicity, which is really a subtle exercise in saying “look at me”! You say Francis cares about the poor and about simplicity? Well look how much Benedict cared about the poor and about simplicity!

I think this quickly gets silly, and more to the point it starts to act as if there is only gone right way for the pope to act. The fact is, being the shepherd of God’s flock on earth is a job large enough that there are multiple different ways of doing it that are right. (Which is not to say that every way is right, obviously, we’ve had some pretty bad popes over the centuries.)

It seems to me that John Paul II’s dense intellectualism combined with his oversize and highly charismatic personality was arguably exactly what the Church needed at the time of his pontificate — as we emerged from a time in which it seemed like the roof was coming down and everything was up for grabs. Benedict’s liturgical focus was another thing that the Church desperately needed at the time that he was chosen — and I think that his ability to write deeply yet clearly was also a huge need. If John Paul II’s struggle to incorporate Catholic teaching and a moderl philosophical understanding of the human person were something very much needed in our modern era, I at the same time suspect that Benedict’s books (both his books about the life of Christ and the many books he wrote prior to his pontificate) may actually be read more often by ordinary Catholics in the coming decades than anything that John Paul II wrote.

Similarly, I think that Francis’ intentional simplicity is something that we need to see in our pope at times. This is not to say that Benedict and John Paul were not simple. They were, though in different ways. But while not every saint needs (or should) be simple in the sort of over-the-top way that our pope’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi was, St. Francis nonetheless remains a good saint to have. That it is good that we have St. Francis as an example does not mean that every other saint is the less for not being St. Francis. (I mean, let’s be honest, St. Francis could be kind of nuts.) And similarly, admiration of Pope Francis’s qualities need not, and indeed should not, be turned into a criticism of other popes for not being like him in every way.

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10 Responses to There Is Not Just One Way To Be Pope

  • catholics are more than billion, so from that billion, others pray faithfully. What l know for sure, our Popes are chosen by God, He hears our prayers, He knows what his church need

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  • Good article, and I’ve also seen the unfortunate comparisons that are, perhaps, inevitable, but we will hopefully grow out of as the months and years go on.

    Another thing that bothers me, along the same lines, is the overwhelming notion that our whole Church will either collapse or flourish due to the style of a single pope. One of the greatest emphases of Vatican II was that the whole Church, down to the youngest Catholic in the pews, shares responsibility in the Body of Christ. History shows that the Church survives bad popes while faithful laymen and religious do their jobs, and the Church, even with holy popes, suffers because of the sins of her other members. We can’t now put our hope in even this Servant of the Servants of God if it means not being fully aware of our own very great responsibility to be evangelists with the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

    For the Church to actually change, a personal metanoia multiplied by as many Catholics as sit in the pews each Sunday will be more fruitful than one sitting on the throne of Peter. To deny this is to deny the Holy Spirit His potential in the baptized Body. We desperately need holy popes, but we just as desperately need holy Catholics, and as many of them as possible. We don’t just need more Pope Francises. We need more Jorge Bergoglios in every city of the world, washing feet; more Joseph Ratzingers to challenge Catholics to know and love orthodoxy, more Karol Wojtylas, challenging the secular world with philosophy that conforms to the Word. And we can’t wait to be served by them. We ourselves must serve.

  • Most of what’s being discussed has nothing to do with matters of doctrine or administration. Those are arguably the two most important aspects of the papacy. Doctrine is the long-run biggie, and we can rest assured that there won’t be any mistakes on that front. Administration is important for the short-term, and I’m reluctant to judge any pope’s record. With all the dioceses, seminaries, orders, Pontifical Commissions, Congregations, and things I’ve never heard of, I’m sure I’m not qualified to appraise the quality of a pope’s work.

    I should also make note of the least-apparent of the pope’s duties, pious prayer for the faithful. I believe that we are especially blessed to have Benedict and Francis keeping us in their prayers.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. Some of the blog articles I’ve read are just … awful. Focusing on what he wears or doesn’t wear… when and where he holds Mass… etc. *sigh* I am so grateful Our Father in Heaven didn’t make us all the same, nor all our Popes or Saints… that would certainly get awfully boring. Just sayin’.

  • And since we’re not the same, we live the Christian spirit differently. So what Pope Francis does as an example, we have to examine and apply to our vocation as fits. For example, his spirit of poverty called him to take public transportation when he was Archbishop. But my job really requires me to have a car, and a home, and a lot of other things. This of course does not mean I need the nicest car or home. And this spirit calls on me to make sure I really need what I purchase and without extravagance. In the end, for both of us, this spirit calls upon us to be detached from the goods of this world as we direct our lives to the other.

    The spirit of poverty he lives, as well as other examples he will show us, is one proper to a religious. The spirit I am called to live is proper to the layman.

    I think the ultimate problem that will occur when some will point to Pope Francis and say “There, you have to do that.” That will do injustice to the variety of vocations in the Church.

  • One great advantage of Francis’s papacy will be that in four years time the LCWR, Tina Beattie, the ‘nuns on the bus’ and other divers heretics will realize that they are no nearer their ideal of wimminpriests and acceptance of ‘gay’ marriage than they were under the archreactionary Benedict. And they will shut up.

  • John – I think the real advantage is that in four years, the nones on the bus, as well as the rest of my unlamented generation, will be four years closer to extinction. We’re the ones that took everything down in the 60’s; we won’t shut up for good until you get to throw dirt on top of us. Holy Mother Church simply keeps on trucking along, praise be to God. In a couple of hundred years, the whole hippiepinkokumbaya mess will be a brief footnote in the Ecclesial History text, ancd the last copy of “Sing a New Church into Being” will be returning to compost in a landfill somewhere.

    Every Catholic pope hastens the day.

  • The more a man grows in holiness, the more freedom he experiences to become whom he is called to be.

Bad History: Was the Persecution of Christians a Myth?

Thursday, March 14, AD 2013

Donald McClarey has a well deserved barn-burner of a post up at The American Catholic about a new book entitled The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom out from University of Notre Dame theology professor Candida Moss. I’d seen a couple articles on this book before it came out and more or less passed over them as yet another fluffy work of pop scholarship intent on telling us that “everything we know is wrong” in relation to Christianity. However, the book appears to be getting a certain amount of press and is climbing the Amazon sales ranks, so it’s worth giving it a bit of attention as the politically motivated pop-history that it is.

Dr. Moss talks about her motivations for writing the book in an interview at HuffPo:

I initially became interested in this subject because of a homily I heard that compared the situation facing modern Christians in America to the martyrs of the early church. I was surprised by the comparison because modern Americans aren’t living in fear for their lives and the analogy seemed a little hyperbolic and sensational. After this, I began to notice the language of persecution and victimization being bandied about everywhere from politics, to sermons, to the media, but rarely in regard to situations that involve imprisonment and violence.

She goes on to argue that modern Christians have a view that persecution of the early Church was pervasive when it was in fact not:

[A] lot of weight rests on the idea that Christians were persecuted in the early church because, without the idea of near-continuous persecution, it would be difficult to recast, say, disagreements about the role of prayer in schools as persecution. … But intriguingly, the historical evidence for systematic persecution of Christians by Jews and Romans is actually very slim. There were only a few years before the rise of the emperor Constantine that Christians were sought out by the authorities just for being Christians. The stories about early Christian martyrs have been edited, expanded, and sometimes even invented, giving the impression that Christians were under constant attack. This mistaken impression is important because it fosters a sense of Christian victimhood and that victim mentality continues to rear its head in modern politics and society. It’s difficult to imagine that people could make the same claims about persecution today were it not for the idea that Christians have always been persecuted.

Moss also has a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizing her argument and promoting the book:

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26 Responses to Bad History: Was the Persecution of Christians a Myth?

  • As I said the other day, her motivation appears quite clear: If the Church and individual Christians suffer government and/or legal sanction because their beliefs and how they practice those beliefs are at odds with cultural “norms” – be those norms abortion-on-demand, the HHS mandate, or same-sex “marriage” – they are not REALLY being persecuted. In essence, the Church and individual Christians can either get on board with the agenda or not; but if they choose not to, they wouldn’t be able to legitimately cry “persecution” if the legal fallout is not to to their liking.

    Moss’s motivation, as with the motivation of many on the Catholic left and Christian left who are critical of the Church, is actually quite transparent: political ideology trumps religious dogma.

  • They like the smells and bells, and the color and pageantry that we have seen at the Vatican this week, but as for religion actually telling them to repent and change their lives, not for a second. They applaud the outward show of religion and boo the substance.

  • This is an important article for Christians to read and refer to, when they hear the increasing number of followers of Dr. Moss, armed with her half-truths, proclaiming her gospel.

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  • According to Ms. Moss’ definition, Christians aren’t persecuted in China today, because while they may be harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed by the government, the Communist Party’s motives for doing so are ultimately political. I’m sure this must be a great comfort to the victims of this non-persecution.

  • The real message is clear.

    You’re crazy if you think you’re persecuted, but when we actually do persecute you, it will be for good reasons.

    Christianity really IS responsible for the insane idea that a man’s loyalties might lie with a power higher than and distinct from the state. In that sense it is responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today. I don’t even think it is Christianity that Moss has a problem with, but freedom itself, the nerve and the gall it takes to say “no”, for the sake of conscience, to supposedly benevolent rulers who supposedly know what is best for us.

    The irony here is that by denying that Christians were and are persecuted, Moss makes it easier to persecute them. By arguing that the authorities were rational and justified in their views of early Christians, she makes the case that today’s secular state is rational and justified in suppressing freedom expressed as conscientious objection to its policies.

    I have seen this shell game many times. First deny the problem and call people insane who recognize it, then acknowledge the problem and call people insane who complain about it. It is a diabolical game.

  • I saw her piece on the “Chronicle of Higher Ed” online the other day. There were readers who left comments, unimpressed with her for secular reasons.

  • Another member of the Patriotic Association hard at work.

    Thanks for this handy dismantling, Darwin.

  • Actually, (for them) to the extent “it” advances the agenda/narrative, it is GOOD history.

  • “the Romans don’t come off as particularly cuddly in the old toga epics such as Spartacus”

    The depiction of Crassus crucifying the survivors of the slave army of Spartacus is completely historical:

    “Since there was still a very large number of fugitives from the battle in the mountains, Crassus proceeded against them. They formed themselves into four groups and kept up their resistance until there were only 6,000 survivors, who were taken prisoner and crucified all the way along the road from Rome to Capua.”

    Appian

    Imagine the sight, sound and smell of that. Crassus wanted an object lesson that the slaves of Italy would remember forever and he wanted to establish himself as a frontrunner to be one of the two consuls in the upcoming election. Crassus was hailed for his stern measures, and no one said a word against what he did, at least a word that has come down to us in the source material.

    The Romans were not the cruelest people in the Ancient world but they were brutal in a way that most moderns would find shocking. Pay your taxes and do what you were told in the Roman Empire and you were mostly left alone. Step out of line, and the whole power of the Roman state could land on you, with the best result for you being slavery for yourself and your family and the worst being death on a cross for you and your family. Christians until the time of Constantine always had to worry about a sudden wave of persecution forcing them to choose between abjuring Christ and dying a horrible death. That Ms. Moss does not see that as persecution makes one wonder how much State power she would be content with being used against people who have the temerity to disagree with her before she would deem it to be persecution.

  • I wasted some time plumbing the depths of this MossThing so you won’t have to. Overall conclusion: she is going for it, money, fame, and notoriety all at once.

    This one has clogged up a spot on Notre Dame’s faculty with her idiosyncratic idiocy, and now makes herself available to serve as a liberal non-believing academic consultant for the History Channel TV series “The Bible.” Oh, how utterly! And her alleged “research-based book” informs that Romans did not persecute Christians. Goodness gracious, now that’s special, isn’t it?

    Enough said, and a fortiori, enough heard!

    I wasted some time plumbing the depths of this MossThing so you won’t have to. Now I need a shower and, yes, I will require that scrub brush. I’ll give it back in about 45 minutes.

  • The falsity of her presumptions drives me batty. I have taught religion, studied religion – and done so in Catholic instutions. There is not a textbook out there – and never has been – that has held that the persecutions were empire-wide and constant for 300 years.

    She’s a mess. Notre Dame should be embarrassed. Well, they already should be about other things..but anyway..

  • It is highly likely that possible future kind, gentle, soft Western totalitarisms will not persecute Christians, nor prosecute them. It will judge them to be mentally ill and insure that they are given the best treatments that public monies can provide. And if their minds should be destroyed by said treatments, then compassion will be exercised: pity will move the “care providers” to euthanize them so that they no longer “suffer”. But a persecution? Oh no, it wouldn’t be that at all.

  • I pray episodes like this begin to erode Notre Dame’s “pocket book” through lower demand for their “product.” I know, it may take a while for this to happen. However, when I hear someone mention ND as a graduate or as a parent who is sending their kids to this school, I cringe. A whopping $65k/year is spent by most parents and students to receive revisionist history, progressive theology, social justice awareness. Recall the quote by P.T. Barnum, “there is a sucker born every minute.” Well, at least Barnum was offering a real live show. ND is offering fiction and fantasy. Moss is busy at the practice of undermining truth and the faith of others. Who knew, we have Judas with us still today.

  • Let’s talk about persecution in “modern” times. Wonder what she would say about the persecution of Christians in Mexico less than 100 years ago. Probably that it was their own fault for not jumping into line with the government. If any of you don’t know what I am talking about, here is a good explanation: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/¡viva-cristo-rey

  • Here is the problem: people run out of things to research, they run out of ideas, and cannot put together a thesis. They become very creative and imagine they found something new, different, or opposite to that which was said before. They get goofy. That’s what happened here. Notre Dame is to blame for hiring and, I suppose giving tenure to someone like this. Despicable!

  • I think you are right about that Barbara. We have had several posts on the Cristeros Movement at The American Catholic:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/03/22/for-greater-glory-viva-christo-rey/

  • The 800 Martyrs of Otranto:

    “The first of the chroniclers, Giovanni Michele Laggetto, adds, in the “Historia della guerra di Otranto del 1480 [Story of the war of Otranto in 1480],” transcribed from an ancient manuscript and published in 1924:

    “And turning to the Christians, Primaldo spoke these words: ‘My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our homeland, to save our lives, and for our earthly governors; now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for our Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him, remaining firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we will earn eternal life and the glory of martyrdom.’ At these words, all began to shout with one voice and with great fervor that they wanted to die a thousand times, by any sort of death, rather than renounce Christ.”

    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 brigands such as 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 religious priests and brothers who serve Long Island Roman Catholics at Chaminade High School and Bishop Kellenberg Memorial High School.

  • I’m not sure why Moss sees a need to argue against “systematic persecution” or a “sustained three-hundred-year-long effort” of persecution, since no one studying Christianity in the Roman Empire that I know of argues that this is what happened. If there is one thing we do know about Roman persecutions of Christians, it is that they weren’t systematic and they weren’t sustained. I doubt that anyone seriously defends or teaches the idea that there was a constant, universal Roman policy of persecution that never let up, and anyone who does teach such a thing knows virtually nothing about the history of the church or the Roman Empire.
    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/persecutions-and-history/

  • You’re clearly misrepresenting her work:

    She wrote two other books (one won a big prize according to her ND bio page). One from Oxford and one from Yale.

    In the chapter available for free she is critical of the left as well.

  • Maddy,

    I’ve quoted directly from the book pretty extensively, so I think it’s hard to make the case that I’m mischaracterizing it. I haven’t read her other books, which as you say are academic works unlike this one which is for popular consumption. However, whatever their merits, a basic reading of this book makes it pretty clear that it’s based on a massive strawman effort and also on some very poor attempts to wave away or explain away very well established primary source material.

  • What leads ND to employ a person who openly espouses positions of this sort? Is it some misplaced inclination to provide a counter-voice to Catholic dogma?

  • It is interesting to read the last paragraph of the review–“A view of history in which dangerously bad bogeymen do horrible things simply because they are bad is a shallow view of history that teaches us nothing”–and then to read many of the comments about Ms. Moss.

    As for moving goalposts, that’s something we all have to beware of. E.g., when she states that the Romans “…were known for being comparatively beneficent rulers…” and then the reviewer says “…Roman society was violent and cruel by modern standards.” I assume that Moss’s “…were known…” meant, in Roman times, not by modern standards. Which goal post should we use?

    A note on your reading of Pliny: You wrote, “The question at hand is not whether Christians were considered to be Enemy Of The State #1 in the Roman mind, but rather whether they were being persecuted. In this case, obviously they were, since Pliny figured that a good minimum was interrogating everyone accused of being a Christian and executing those who would not recant.” But if you read Pliny’s language he was saying that he was treating them thus because they were like others who transgressed: “I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.” Pliny seems to further contextualize his attitude when he said, ” I had forbidden political associations.”

    So the wrinkle here might be: was Pliny going after the Christians qua Christians, or because they fit the profile of a larger set: political instigators of movements inimical to the empire?

    From an academic perspective, she may well be tilting at a straw man. From a popular perspective, the notion of Christians persecuted by Romans is a commonplace among many who were brought up with a Christian education; the technical distinctions within the concept, not so much. So if she was writing to a more popular audience, maybe the commonplace concept was one worth addressing.

  • Jake Arvey,

    On goal posts: It struck me that Dr. Moss must be referring to modern standards, since she is talking about people judging the Romans particularly harshly for being repressive towards the Christians when they were generally such “nice” guys.

    The Romans were usually so kind, the argument goes, that their treatment of Christians was out of character and cruel. On the other, it is used as evidence of Roman innocence; the Romans were so kind that we must conclude that the Christians deserved it.

    I’m just honestly not sure where that comes from, as I don’t think that the Romans have a particular reputation for being kind in the popular consciousness.

    On your point regarding Pliny: I guess I’m a little unclear as to whether it’s relevant that Pliny was interested in persecuting Christians qua Christians or whether he saw Christians as one of a number of identifiable groups which were considered seditious. Would it really make the Christians less persecuted if follows of the cult of Isis were persecuted too?

    Now, it is true that one can get some good insights by looking at the way in which persecutions of the Christians fit in with Roman persecutions of other groups. For instance, “secret societies” (which tended to be defined pretty broadly) were frequently repressed by the Romans. One of the few areas of association which was pretty consistently allowed was burial societies. This, in turn, is almost certainly why the Christians tended at times to meet and worship in the catacombs around the tombs of the martyrs. It wasn’t exactly that they were “hiding” in the catacombs, but rather that burial societies which met to make offerings at the tombs of the dead were one of the few kinds of organization which were permissible.

    But again: Persecuting Christians because they do the things that Christians do (meet to celebrate the mass, refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods, refuse to take part in certain activities they believed to violate their consciences) is still persecuting Christians even if its these secondary characteristics that one objects to, not the fact that they worship one God and believe that he became man in Jesus Christ.

  • Darwin,

    Your points are well taken. There does seem to be a lot of popular history that describes certain eras and leaders as beneficent; maybe that’s a pop history “meme” that should be dispatched.

    On your first point in reply, I’ll parse it a bit further: it seems as if she was applying a modern perception to classical evaluations of the Romans. I was just thinking about Plutarch’s descriptions of men like Cato, but now I’m wondering how much of that was puffery.

    I have peeked at a few of her other things in the U of Chicago library, and she seems to have some interesting interests. She is still young, as scholars go, and will probably develop more nuanced evaluations of this material as time goes on. If not, my view is, let’s have many voices and then evaluate them, rather than wish they’d go away as some of your commenters seem to feel. She’s probably finding that an attempt to make these ancient studies more contemporary by tying them to current political trends can be very tricky!

  • Fr. Jim Martin is recommending this book for Easter reading. Really. Along with John Freakin’ Dominic Crossan.

    http://www.harpercollins.com/books/10-Best-Books-Read-Easter-Selections-Inspire-Educate-Provoke/?isbn=9780062282910?AA=index_authorIntro_2153

    What a joke. Why orthodox Catholics fawn over this man, I’ll never understand.

Understanding “Assault Weapons”

Monday, January 14, AD 2013

This post is a somewhat condensed version of a three post series that I posted on my personal blog last week.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to hear a lot about “assault weapons”. This term is one that makes those who are informed about guns climb the walls a bit. “Assault weapon” is a legal term which was created by a series of gun control laws in the late ’80s and early ’90s culminating in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban. However, the term was coined to sound like the military technology term “assault rifle” (many even use the terms interchangeably.) Assault rifles were a development in military technology coming out of World War II, and it’s there that I’d like to start this story.

Battle Rifle to Assault Rifle

During World War II the need for a lighter gun suitable for rapid fire became increasingly obvious. The roughly .30 caliber battle rifles that were standard issue for all WW2 armies fired very powerful cartridges and were accurate out to distances over 600 yards.  However, although the rifles were technically accurate at such long distances, few soldiers had the skill to am the well at long range, and the vast majority of battlefield shooting was conducted at distances of 300 yards or less.  Moreover, in WW2’s highly mobile tactics, the ability of infantry soldiers to lay down effective suppressing fire had become important.  For most of the war this was achieved through specialization.  Most infantry soldiers carried full size battle rifles like the American semi-automatic M1 Garand and the German bolt action K98, while a smaller number of soldiers were issued sub machine guns — lighter weapons which could shoot in fully automatic (firing continuously as long as the trigger was held down) or burst mode (firing bursts of 3-5 shots every time the trigger was pulled.)  To make then easy to handle (and allow them to carry more rounds) sub machine guns shot smaller, pistol cartridges rather than a full size rifle cartridge and were thus suitable only for short range.

Tom Hanks holding a Thompson
Sub Machine Gun (chambered for the
.45 APC pistol cartridge) in
Saving Private Ryan

Military technologists were convinced that a cross between a full sized battle rifle and a sub machine gun was needed. Such a gun would shoot a rifle cartridge, but a lighter one which would not have as much recoil as a high power .30 caliber round. It should also be capable of shooting in burst or fully automatic mode as well as semi-automatic mode (one shot for each pull of the trigger.)

Germany produced the first true “assault rifle” near the end of World War II, the Sturmgewehr 44. It shot a shortened .30 caliber bullet with a lighter charge of powder behind it, making the recoil lighter and the ammunition cheaper to produce and lighter to carry, and it could shoot either in semi-auto or full-auto mode. By late 1943, however, the tide was already turning against Germany and its manufacturing capacity was waning. Only half a million were ever produced (compared to over 14 million of their full size K98 Mauser bolt action battle rifle.) However, it provided the inspiration for Mikhail Kalashnikov’s development of the AK-47 in Russia after the war. The AK-47 also used a light .30 caliber cartridge and selective fire (the ability to fire either semi-auto or full-auto.) The design became the standard Russian infantry rifle in 1949 and went on to become perhaps the most widely produced rifle design in history.

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18 Responses to Understanding “Assault Weapons”

  • This is fairly removed from what concerns Catholics as Catholics.

    You are marshalling statistics which point to a conclusion that regulations pertaining to firearms have only the weakest influence on crime rates. It is doubtful that the policy wonks in the Administration, on Congressional staffs, or employed by genuine research centers like Brookings do not know this. So, why some much discussion and controversy? I have been noodling around looking at the utterances of liberal journalists on this question and the ones I examine (bar Adam Gopnik) are not interested in pondering the relationship between behavioral variables. These relationships are simply assumed or do not interest them. Instead, you get short articles with titles like “Five Right-Wing Myths about Gun Control”, which then manufacture straw-men to knock down. This public discussion seems to be a substitute for a discussion of something else. Care to take a guess?

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  • Thanks for this, it was very interesting and timely.

  • Art,

    Yes, I did pretty much stick to policy wonk questions in this (or prudential questions, if one would rather use that terminology.) That seemed like the wavelength on which these conversations go on. I don’t think that anyone holds that gun ownership in general or of particular types of guns is in and of itself wrong in the sense that crimes such a burglary, assault, etc. are wrong, so it seems like the conversation is necessarily one of whether some new type of gun control would result in a significant reduction in crime.

    I suspect that you’re right that even on the Left, people who have studied the question in any depth are aware that past gun control laws haven’t had a discernible impact on crime. However, I’m not sure I’d necessarily conclude from that that the conversation is actually about something else. Two things come into play here:

    1) If one generally likes an idea, it’s usually very easy to explain away (to one’s own satisfactly) why it’s never worked. Thus, even among those on the left who know that the AWB had no effect, I think the conclusion tends to be that that simply means that it wasn’t aggressive enough. If they could get real gun control, they imagine, it would work. (And, if one can imagine of getting all the way out to the extreme, this is arguably true. If one could make all the guns in the US magically disappear, the number of people killed or injured with guns would most definitely go down!)

    2) A lot of otherwise smart and informed people don’t bother to research a topic that seems obvious to them. Given the cultural and ideological divisions in our country, I think an awful lot of those on the left find it so blindingly obvious that “there is no legitimate civilian use for an assault rifle” that the idea of bothering to study the question doesn’t really come up. Thus, I would tend to suspect that a lot of people in the Administration and working in Democrat congressional offices simply take it as an article of faith that banning assault weapons would reduce crime a lot, and have never really bothered to look further than Citizens Against Gun Violence briefing papers to see whether that is actually true.

    All that said, I don’t flatter myself I’ve got readers at the White House. My only object here is to provide readers who are interested in being informed about the issue with a better understanding of what these rifles are, why people own them, and what effect the past attempts to restrict them have had. (That, and I just enjoy the chance to write about guns.)

  • death to the Great Satin”[sic]

    Are you sure this was a mistake – maybe he was making a fashion statement?

    More seriously, thanks for the information. Accurate factual information always interests Catholics as Catholics. It seems any policy decisions should start with accurate factual information about the subject matter to which the policy is directed. That is, if the policy seeks to actually address a situation effectively.

    It is no coincidence that our current Miss America (and boy do I miss America) is a New York liberal who won based upon a pro-gun control response to her final question.

    I find 2nd Amendment legal commentary quite unintentionally humorous. It obviously takes a Harvard legal education to completely misunderstand fourteen simple words:

    “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    If parental consent, spousal notification, ultrasounds, waiting periods, etc. can be considered an unconstitutional infringement on the “right” to an abortion, how can the government constitutionally ban any firearm? That is, without being completely hypocritical and inconsistent.

  • there is no legitimate civilian use for an assault rifle

    That may or may not be true, but it is an irrelevant question. There are many things for which there is no legitimate civilian use, but so what? What legitimate civilian use is there for a Civil War sabre, or 23 pairs of shoes, or just about any TV programming? Certainly in our culture, there simply does not need to be any more legitimacy (from a legal perspective) beyond “I want it.”

  • What about high-magazine clips, Darwin?!

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/335955/high-magazine-clips-michael-walsh

    Why are you hiding things from us? Why?

  • There’s a basic rule in negotiation: always be willing to give away things that don’t matter to you. Wouldn’t it make sense for gun rights activists to cave on a lot of this stuff? The ideal, of course, is to win the argument. But there’s a lot to be said for appearing to be the reasonable compromiser. The NRA should come out against bayonets and things that look scary. They should reluctantly negotiate down from 30-round magazines to 21-round. They should call for the death penalty for anyone using fully automatic rifles in commission of a crime. Then everyone will sign the legislation and go home.

  • From a recent Forbes article:

    “Assault Weapon” is just a PR lie used to agitate gullible, Obama-worshiping imbeciles.

    “According to FBI Crime Statistics more Americans are killed with clubs/hammers than with rifles, including assault rifles. In 2005, the number of murders committed with a rifle was 445, while the number of murders committed with hammers and clubs was 605. In 2006, the number of murders committed with a rifle was 438, while the number of murders committed with hammers and clubs was 618. The fact that more people are killed with blunt objects each year remains constant.

    “For example, in 2011, there were 323 murders committed with a rifle but 496 murders committed with hammers and clubs.”

  • T Shaw-
    my favorite little factoid of late is that way more women died from child birth in the US in 2009 than total deaths from fire arm accidents.

    And childbirth deaths can’t be fixed by basic education in things like “do not go into your neighbor’s house, open closets, climb up, dig out weapons and treat the guns you find like toys.”

  • What cracks me up is how so many seem to think the Second Amendment only applies to hunting. I’m with that poster above who talked about the irrelevance. I find myself unwittingly asking myself the question liberals want me to ask – is this used by hunters. Shows the influence of the media.

  • I find myself unwittingly asking myself the question liberals want me to ask – is this used by hunters. Shows the influence of the media.

    The question they would like you to ask at this point in time. I refer you to an article which appeared in Law and Contemporary Problems a few years back in which a professor argued that laws permitting and regulating hunting when juxtaposed to animal cruelty laws were constructed upon an unconstitutional arbitrary distinction. He then sketched a justification for the outlaw of hunting by judicial decree, denying any discretion to legislatures to define animal cruelty.

    Tom McKenna’s has been saying for years that agitation against capital punishment, most particularly lawfare directed at capital penalties, was actually a decoy. The ultimate aim is to replace legislator’s prescription of penalties and punishment as a goal of adjudication: everything would be at the discretion of the judge, directed toward ‘therapeutic’ goals, and making as little use of incarceration as could be managed (and all insulated from popular complaint).

    Sky’s the limit with these chumps.

  • Truth:

    We need more gun control laws so as to limit to the extent possible criminals’ workplace dangers.

    The laws and sentencing we have laws that do not keep violent thugs safely (for us) locked away. Eighty percent of violent predators in prisons get back out and resume preying on us — many are more efficient killers — and two-out-of-three ex-convicts will hurt or kill one or more of us.

    Who wants more gun laws when we already have laws that allow a man to rape a fifteen-year-old girl and chop off her arms with a hatchet, and in eight years he gets freed to kill again?

    Can you explain this distortion: where killers are set free and law-abiding citizens can’t obtain firearms to defend themselves?

  • @Pinky,
    I am not sure giving in on pointless things is actually a good negotiating tactic here. Most negotiating tactics assume that both sides want to reach a point where they are reasonably happy (or at least not unreasonably unhappy) with the new result negotiated.

    In this particular case, the fear of “assult weapons” is so unreasoned that ultimately what is given up this time will only be the starting point the next time a tragic shooting occurs to push the discussion to the front of the news again (And we all know that nothing short of banning guns entirely will prevent it from happening again… and then there will still be knives, bombs, etc.).

  • Banning guns completely won’t keep it from happening– it just means that whoever does it will be more motivated than a random psycho. Criminals and cops will both still have guns, and eventually someone will decide it’s worth going through the trouble of getting a gun instead of just making a bomb or poison.

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  • There’s a basic rule in negotiation: always be willing to give away things that don’t matter to you. Wouldn’t it make sense for gun rights activists to cave on a lot of this stuff? The ideal, of course, is to win the argument. But there’s a lot to be said for appearing to be the reasonable compromiser.

    What MarylandBill said. Gun-control proponents are the mirror image of pro-lifers in that regard, and I can understand why pro-aborts fight tooth and nail any reasonable restriction. Any concession is just a first step. Of course, with abortion, it deserves to be banned outright because it is murder, and is nowhere inthe Consitution. Guns, on the other hand, are expressly protected in the Constitution and do have legitimate purposes – the guarantor of last resort of the other 9 rights in the Bill of Rights being one of them.

The Election in Two Images

Friday, November 9, AD 2012

I’ve been mostly offline the last couple days due to a business trip — leaving early the morning after the election. I may write a bit about the election itself in a few days, but since I’ve spent the last couple days deeply immersed in ways of visualizing data, these two versions of the election map struck me as really interesting in showing what went on Tuesday.

This first image shows the size of the winning candidate’s margin for each county. (click for a larger view) [source]

This second image shows the direction of change in the vote of each county as compared to 2008.

UPDATE: Okay, one more image because with all the discussion of re-alignment and emerging majorities I couldn’t help putting one together:

Continue reading...

44 Responses to The Election in Two Images

  • The updated graph is important and something I’ve tweeted about. Obama barely cracked 50% after gettting 53% in 2008 – the only 2 times since 1976 that Democrats achieved popular vote majorities. The partisan political ramifications of the election are less grim that people are suggesting, though there is clearly work to be done on the GOP side. There are about a dozen states that GOP has failed to carry since Bush I, and basically Texas is the only of the big 8 states reliably in the red column. But that can be addressed.

    The real problem, as Jonah Goldberg said in his G-file today, is what the results of the election signify for where our country is headed in the immediate future.

  • Am I reading those two maps correctly? In the country, away from the major conurbations, not only was the vote Republican, but in the MidWest it was strongly Republican against 2008. If so, then the GOP needs to rethink what it did in centralising its apparatus at the last conference and buy into Ron Paul’s grassroots strategy.

  • Yeah, I think one of the things people miss when talking about this alleged “coming Democratic majority” is that majority status reliably oscillates between the major parties. It could be that we’re heading into a 50/50 period like the 1880s when, for a variety of reasons, neither party could assemble a reliably large lead over the other despite each having some die-hard interest groups, but given an ideological market place and just two major parties you just don’t get permanent majorities.

    Yes, there are a few things that need to change, like needing Hispanics to regard the GOP somewhat more favorably than a sharp stick in the eye, but even looking at the history of ethnic politics party loyalties peal off or splinter over time. This doesn’t mean that the GOP doesn’t need to make any changes, but first of all we’re not seeing either party command the kind of huge majorities that were common until 24 years ago, and secondly even if the GOP does go into a decline the chances that the GOP would fail to adapt quickly and rebuild a coalition capable of winning elections are historically really low.

  • That second map is deceptive. Each county = one dot? As the first map hints at, some dots are more important than others. Colorado looks redder than red, but four of those dots account for 40% of the state’s population.

  • The big problem if you look at the first map is how many impregnable castles the Dems have. I mean large blue circles that indicate supermajorities. There are only 2 moderately large red circles. Everywhere else a small amount of change can flip the state. I predict the RM states will all go Dem just from ex pat Californians. Even now the only totally reliable ones are ID, UT and WY . If the Dems get anywhere close to 50% they probably will carry the EC easily as seen in 2012.

    There may be millions more Hispanic Dems added if the GOP Establishment has their way. You are also overlooking the states that are trending Blue (Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado). In return the GOP since 1992 has picked up only WV. Absent some catastrophe for the Dems (and 10% unemployment no longer qualifies) , the Repub nominee has to work hard to get to 200 EV let alone 270. If the Dems weaken TX and they will put that project in overdrive thats the ballgame. Not meant to be gloomy just cleareyed.

  • One other consideration is that it has only happened once since 1896 that a party has lost the White House after only one term. When people talk about the track record of incumbents losing, those incumbents mostly lost after multiple terms for his party: Hoover (3), Ford (2) and Bush (3). First term incumbents almost always win.

    The exception that proves the rule, Carter. But he had a bad economy, was elected in a close election, faced a strong opponent and was Carter. The only ones that applied here were the first, but the economy was weaker in 1980 and the fourth. Well the President is Obama in this case, but pretty much the same thing.

    The point is that this was always going to be an uphill battle so we shouldn’t freak out too much.

  • MD says The point is that this was always going to be an uphill battle so we shouldn’t freak out too much.

    I agree. Other than nationalized healthcare, attacks on religion, galloping increases in dependency, financially ruinous policies and impending national security crises, what me worry?

  • There’s an Army saying that the enemy is always four feet tall or ten feet tall. Right now, Republicans are feeling like the Democrats are ten feet tall. But we have 30 governorships, the majority in the House, enough to block votes in the Senate, and four pretty reliable votes at the Supreme Court – three of whom are under 65, and I can’t picture Scalia stepping down in the next four years. We’re still trying to figure out what the lesson from Tuesday is, but once we sort through it, we’ll learn it. That second map does show some positive trends, including an improvement in the Pacific Northwest that I didn’t expect. I’ve heard, although I haven’t confirmed it, that the Democrats saw a sharp drop in the Jewish vote. Along the Great Lakes, we’ve got most of the governorships, and Pat Toomey’s from Pennsylvania. We’ve also got a decent B Team for the first time since the 1980’s. We even had a Massachusetts Senate seat for a few years, and we had no right to expect that. I’m not happy this week, but the wounds we took are not necessarily fatal.

  • Careful Pinky, you are giving calm reason instead of following the approved mantra of this week:

    When in trouble, when in doubt,

    Run in circles, scream and shout!

    🙂

  • “GOP since 1992 has picked up only WV.”

    No so. The GOP has also picked up Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, all of which used to be swing states as the electoral maps in 1992 and 1996 indicate. Grief, in 1996 Clinton even picked up Arizona.

  • The world feels very different from 1996 though. Things that were unimaginable then are almost required parts of the politically correct orthodoxy.

    Those maps only show political parties. They don’t speak to policy or ideology. That’s the issue here; it’s not about panic but being honest about the shifts in ideology. I know plenty of people who self identify as GOP or conservative who are quite ok with gay marriage et al.

  • My point about freaking out was only about this idea going around that the Republicans would never win another election. Please feel free to freak out about what Obama will do with the next four years, or about what we will not be able to rescind.

  • I remember an election guide for the 1996 election. Indiana and Kentucky were the first states to close their polls. If Dole won Kentucky he was on his way to victory and if Clinton won Indiana he would be on his way to victory. If Dole won Indiana and Clinton won Kentucky it would be a long night. Kentucky’s profile has certainly changed.

    It is funny looking back at the swing states for 2000. Sure Florida and Iowa were on the list, and I guess Pennsylvania. But the other ones included Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.

  • If we are viewing political parties as sports teams then with only 2 there will be position flips of course. Remember the UK in the 70s Mr Wilson and Mr Heath. If you are willing to ignore the asymmetric substantive legislative trends towards Leftism and have a party do whatever it takes to win then you have the NY legislature. I was just noting the asymmetry of the supermajorities in the first map which does have practical political implications in national elections. Flipping Oregon to the Repubs for example doesn’t change that asymmetry.

    Having control of a state legislature is all well and good but an autocratic central government will wear them down with the help of the Federal courts. It seems pretty clear from the Senate elections that the voters in the Midwest, swing states like FL and VA as well as blue states really are not that concerned about Federal power grabs or wild spending or attacks on the Church. They couldn’t have voted in large numbers for very left wing Democrats if they did. The GOP losses will make it doubly difficult to take the Senate in 2014. That’s just a fact that needs to be considered.

    NB: I meant WV as a reliably blue state switched. I wasn’t talking about swing states changing one way or the other.

  • A very important fact that is left out of this analysis is the number of voters who stayed home. Clearly, they were turned off by Romney. Romney got less votes than McCain got and I did not believe that would happen.

    Obumbler has a cult of personality. He is a celebrity politician. In the eyes of his hardocre supporters he can do nothing wrong.

    Should this country survive until 2017….something I am not sure will happen, the Party with the Jackass Logo will be hard pressed to follow Obumbler with another celebrity. Clinton was a celebrity and was never elected with 50% of the vote. Gore would not have won the so-called popular vote if the networks had not called Florida for Gore when they did.

    John FARC Kerry (google FARC) was a golddigger. Go back further, and you will see Mondale and Dukakis were losers.

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  • “The GOP has also picked up Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, all of which used to be swing states”

    Just dropping in for a little bit to ask a couple of questions… wasn’t the main reason Louisiana turned “red” its loss of a large Dem-leaning population from New Orleans after Katrina?

    Also, for those who are convinced that California expats will turn the Western states blue: why assume that everyone moving out of Cali is liberal? Wouldn’t conservatives be just as likely (if not more) to move out as well, especially if they are small business owners, entrepreneurs, etc. impacted by its ridiculous taxes and regulations?

  • Lousiana had been trending red for some time Elaine, but the reduction in New Orleans’ population definitely speeded up the process.

  • If I’m reading the “trend” map correctly, EVERY county in Illinois — even Cook! — voted at least slightly more Republican/less Democrat in the presidential vote than in 2008; and the veering of the political winds to the right is particularly pronounced south of I-80, as one would expect. Yet, thanks to convienient gerrymandering and a lame state GOP organization, you wouldn’t know it to look at the Congressional and state legislative results (Dems now have a veto-proof majority in both General Assembly houses).

    The map appears to show two “waves” of “more Republican” voting, one sweeping across MO, IL and IN and splashing over into WI and MI until it crashes into a big blue obstacle in OH, and another blowing across WV and PA, then hitting blue territory east of the Appalachians.

  • The Dems own the fate of Illinois completely now Elaine. As bad as I think the next two years will be, I think that will give us an opportunity to make gains in 2014, especially assuming Quinn runs for reelection.

  • If you look at the results, not a terrible amount of space separated Romney from Obama in Georgia. Given demographic shifts, Georgia will turn Democrat in four years, and it will be reliably liberal after that point. Texas will fall in the next eight years due to the absolutely booming Hispanic population, as well as migration from northern states.

    The problem is primarily one of ideology, though. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are overwhelmingly white. So are the areas of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts outside of the urban centers. The issue at hand is that these voters support government. Not excessive overreach, but the Tea Party libertarian anarchy either. So, the GOP needs to reject its support of Grover Norquist’s infamous objective of shrinking government down to a size that “can be drowned in a bath tub.”

    Government is not the enemy. Abused and misued government is. ANarchy is not the answer, and in 2012, the GOP was wiped out, again, in New England.

  • Louisiana saw a very slight (yet insignificant) increase in support for President Obama. One of only a few states to see such. Otherwise, it overwhelmingly went towards Mitt Romney.

  • “Government is not the enemy. Abused and misused government is. ANarchy is not the answer, and in 2012, the GOP was wiped out, again, in New England.”

    Anyone who thinks the GOP is the party supporting anarchy obviously missed all the support the Occupy Wall Street movement initially received from the Democrats, and is deeply confused on what constitutes anarchy when it comes to government. I rather suspect that the GOP will win both 2014 and 2016 as the Democrats prove once again that they are much better at winning elections than they are governing a nation.

    My sympathy for you in California as one party Democrat rule of the far left variety is busily transforming the Golden State into the Fool’s Gold State.

    “LIFE IN THE PROGRESSIVE HAVEN OF OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA:

    A KPIX news cameraman was punched and robbed during a live broadcast outside an Oakland high school, the latest in a spate of holdups targeting the media, police said Thursday.

    Reporter Anne Makovec and cameraman Gregg Welk were on the air shortly after noon Wednesday outside Oakland Technical High School near the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. They were at the school to do a story on the passage of Proposition 30, the tax measure preventing deep cuts to education.

    As Makovec was finishing her report, police said, five men rushed up and grabbed a $6,000 camera from the tripod. Viewers saw the live picture being jarred and turned sideways for about two seconds.

    One of the assailants punched Welk in the mouth before the group fled in a Mercedes-Benz, which apparently was accompanied by a Lexus, police said. Welk declined treatment by paramedics but saw his doctor.

    “He is fine, and he is actually working today,” KPIX spokeswoman Akilah Bolden-Monifa said Thursday.

    Bolden-Monifa said the station would continue to report in Oakland but declined to specify whether any changes would be made to protect its crews.

    Sources, however, said all KPIX crews covering stories in Oakland would be accompanied by security guards, day or night, effective immediately.

    Wow, now you need armed guards escorting your camera crews? How third-world. But then, that’s how things usually go in progressive havens.”

  • . Given demographic shifts, Georgia will turn Democrat in four years, and it will be reliably liberal after that point.

    Georgia, like several other southern states, experienced an uptick in African-American voting due almost exclusively to Obama’s candidacy. Georgia is not on the cusp of being a Democrat state.

    Texas will fall in the next eight years due to the absolutely booming Hispanic population, as well as migration from northern states.

    Romney’s margin of victory in Texas was about four points higher than McCain’s, roughly in line with the overall national average. The Hispanic population of Texas has proven time and again to be more favorable to the GOP than it is in the rest of the country. To an extent, yes, Texans have more to fear from northern migration and the influx of Yankees, and as such I have joked that they should take more securities on their northern border than southern. However, the flight of Yankees into Texas also will include many frustrated with their liberal northern neighbors, and as such may actually provide a net increase of Republican-leaning voters.

    So, the GOP needs to reject its support of Grover Norquist’s infamous objective of shrinking government down to a size that “can be drowned in a bath tub.”

    In other words, Republicans should be more like Democrats.

  • Ben,
    There is zero chance of Georgia turning Dem in 4 years. Zero. While I’m no fan of Norquist, your credibility evaporated with that claim.

  • I think that the large number of Baby Boomers that are/have volutarily retired or forced out has had a far greater effect on voting than has been discussed.

    The Democrat ground game draws on college kids, the urban unemployed, and a large, extremely competent and creative group of retirees with nothing to do. Older white women and college kids canvassed my neighborhood on behalf of the President at least a dozen times over the three months prior to the election. Romney’s very nice college-age boys made a harried pass through the neighborhood with a list of regular Republican voters in a get out the vote measure on the Sunday before the election.

    My point is this, there is a “perfect storm” (an overused phrase but fitting here) of demographics in play that are beyond our control and have a short shelf life. Lots of Baby Boomers, reliving the Sixties as the wish they were and having nothing to do. Lots of college-age or recently graduated kids with no work and no responsibilities who see politics as a social activity. Lots of blacks who are “in” the process because Obama bills himself as a black man. Lots of unemployed or soon to be unemployed union workers in key electoral college states.

    Before we lose our minds over this, we should remember that the Democrat machine is winding down and will have to be completely overhauled by 2018. We have a window to re-learn this political game.

  • ” We have a window to re-learn this political game.”

    Something that has happened time and time again in America.

  • “My sympathy for you in California as one party Democrat rule of the far left variety is busily transforming the Golden State into the Fool’s Gold State.”

    The residents really don’t see it that way unfortunately and wouldn’t understand your sympathy. I know first hand because of family and friends out there. They learn to blame whomever they are told to blame. (Strangely enough many often are conservative in their personal behavior such as minimizing taxes, a work ethic etc.) Yes the population goes down slowly but they apparently never make a connection between the policies and the outcomes. Many of the people fleeing the state don’t even learn it as their behavior in their destination shows.

    Looking at Europe there seems to be a dichotomy between countries with strong and aggressive public sector unions (eg Greece, Italy, France) and those with more docile ones (eg Germany Switzerland). We see the same thing here in the different states. Of course even FDR warned against them. I see these two issues as the main bases of the problem. A bit more progress has been made on the second issue than the first. Without a better explanation and more aggressive communication (and more consistent conservatism too) from Repubs its going to be difficult to get anyone’s attention on the first issue. If Dems for example can say that Bush caused the financial panic without providing any coherent explanation of the connection and Repubs sheepishly agree, don’t expect voters to figure it out.

  • “The residents really don’t see it that way unfortunately and wouldn’t understand your sympathy.”

    They will eventually because California is a state on a very short route to bankruptcy:

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/07/20/california-goes-bankrupt

    The same goes for my state of Illinois where the Democrats controlling redistricting led them to attain veto proof majorities in the legislature. This, in spite of the fact that Illinois under their governance is effectively bankrupt.
    http://www.graham-benson.com/2012/04/12/illinois-going-bankrupt/

    A very sharp day of reckoning is almost at hand and it will be brutal. Amazing how an economic catastrophe can be a reality wake up call and that is what blue states are heading for, with California and Illinois in the van.

  • I don’t see that day of reckoning coming, though. No state is going to sign up for Obamacare without a massive bribe. It’s not going to be called that, of course; it might not happen in the same year. But every state that goes out on that limb is going to require federal money to make it work (unless Obamacare ends up saving us all money – heh heh). So sometime in the next couple of years there’s going to be an “unexpected” need for a state bailout measure which will be in no way, at all, even remotely, caused by Obamacare. Congress will be unwilling to say no, and won’t be competent enough to blame it on the healthcare reform. Republican and Democratic governors alike are going to suckle on it. It’ll cost half a trillion dollars, minimum.

  • Your point is well taken Pinky. There are situation in which there is but one opportunity to act. Stopping this, the largest government program in history, was either going to happen with this election or never. Romney and Ryan were right to put repealing Obamcare at the center of their campaign but their call had a hollow sound because GOP candidates at every level avoided the topic for fear of alienating “independent” voters.

    What is done is done. Obamacare will grow and grow. It will creep into other entitlement regimes, create new organizations in a host of agencies, and become a system that so many people count on that even desperately needed reforms can’t be achieved.

    This is the new Social Security and any State that holds out is pissing in the wind, kicking the can down the road, deluding itself. In the end, all states will go over.

    The best bet is for the states to band together now to extract the best regulatory concessions possible. Even this administration could be enticed to treat the application of Obamacare as a pass though. If they do that, the odds are good that the Administration will restore enough of the states’ authority that the program more resembles welfare benefits than Social Security benefits.

  • “a state bailout measure”

    Never make it through the House, especially since Democrats from Red States that have their fiscal house in order will be under intense pressure not to agree to it.

  • We can’t even pay for Social Security and Medicare, let alone a new Social Security. This will come to a screeching halt because our ability to conjure money out of thin air will come to a screeching halt. People have no idea how close to that day we are.

  • Which is why the states need to aggressively pursue their interests now! If they count on their representatives to modify Obamacare tomake it useful, functional, and palatable, they are doomed.

    When you lose a legislative battle like we lost this one, you have to accept the loss and turn to the regulatory evironment for relief.

  • Nope. People are remarkable in their ability to delude themselves. Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are all seeing just how strong the drive to retain benefits is, even in the face of proof that there is no way to pay for it.

  • “People are remarkable in their ability to delude themselves.”

    Oh agreed on that. But almost half the people in this country have a firm grasp on reality, and the House will likely stay in GOP hands for quite a while. Additionally, no amount of self delusion can overcome the money running out. The Blue State Model is in crisis and is on a death watch.

  • It is always easier for people to delude themselves when those of us who know better fail to have to stones to tell them so. That is another thing that has gone on for far too long.

  • Hopefully and perhaps… Still, if I were a governor, I would support a repeal while pursuing regulatory relief.

  • Once a country goes over the cliff it never (well hardly ever) comes back as it was. Historically I can only think of Germany that suffered economic ruin and actually ended up (decades later) with a better grasp of economic reality in the population and leadership. Of course it also took a cataclysmic military defeat and the US as rescuer. Note that our Constitution did not come about in a period of war or major civil unrest. If the public believes both parties are equally complicit in the problem, there is an even greater chance of demagogues. This is what bugs me the most about the Repubs’ eagerness to be a Democrat punching bag for every ill or a happy accomplice.

    People need to take the example of the unraveling of the UK with its NHS and Marxist unions much more seriously because we have a shared culture to a large extent.

  • “Once a country goes over the cliff it never (well hardly ever) comes back as it was.”

    France and Italy, among many other nations I could name, have regularly gone over cliffs throughout their histories and still remained themselves. Poland’s history has been little but one cliff after another since the Eighteenth Century! As for the modern welfare states, I think we are nearing a worldwide breakdown of this experiment in wishful thinking as fiscal and social policy.

  • I am a classical conservative; I am pro-life, I support mom-and-pop businesses, small farms, local food, and the conservation ethic. I believe holistic beauty trumps cold efficiency. That is not a very present mindset within the modern-day conservative movement. Money is Lord in today’s GOP.

    Romney did improve his winning percentages over John McCain, but they were well under George Bush in some states, like Texas. Georgia will go Democrat to the the explosive growth of the Latino, Asian, and nothern American relocation to the state. Look at Atlanta for what will happen to Georgia. Same for Texas- Travis County, Harris County as primary examples.

    Urban sprawl is your culprit. It’s funny how libertarian-minded land developers (aka, pave-and-developers) are turning once reliably Republican areas into Democrat strongholds. Look how California changed with the onset of mass immigration- San Jose and San Diego as huge examples of what urban sprawl does to conservative areas. Look at Northern Virginia (NoVa), where more and more residents have no original ties to Virginia.

    Republicans can’t even win a majority of Virginia now. An astounding shift. North Carolina will be that way again. Look at Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem. Sprawl folks. Stop it, before it drastically alters your area for good.

  • Georgia will go Democrat to the the explosive growth of the Latino, Asian, and nothern American relocation to the state. Look at Atlanta for what will happen to Georgia. Same for Texas- Travis County, Harris County as primary examples.

    Ben, repeating an assertion doesn’t make it any more true. There is no basis for this assessment, as was pointed out earlier.

    Look how California changed with the onset of mass immigration- San Jose and San Diego as huge examples of what urban sprawl does to conservative areas.

    California was never truly a Republican state. It voted Republican on the presidential level, and elected governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, but was internally much different than, say, modern Texas, which is truly Republican on every level.

    There is some validity to your statements about urban sprawl and the changing demographics, particularly with regards to Virginia. But you are badly over-estimating changes throughout the electorate.

  • “California was never truly a Republican state”

    The Democrats have controlled the state legislature of California every year since 1970.

  • “Money is Lord in today’s GOP.”

    A return to a more pastoral past is not going to happen. What I think we will see is a shrinking of core Urban centers and a more diffuse population geographically within states. Insomuch as the strongholds for Dems tend to be urban centers that is bad news for them. Another long term problem for the Dems is the migration back to the South of many blacks and a weakening of their vote totals in Northern cities. Michigan is an exaggerated example of what is happening throughout the North with blacks also going to the suburbs in greater numbers and small towns.

The Clever Economics Behind Romney’s Tax Plan

Wednesday, October 24, AD 2012

One of the things which the candidates sparred over repeatedly in the debates was Romney’s tax plan, on which Obama has repeatedly charged “the math doesn’t work”.

Romney’s plan, as it has been presented, is to reduce tax rates by 20%. Thus, for example, the top rate would go down from the current 35% to 28%. Deductions and credits would then be reduced such that while the middle class would experience a net tax decrease, those at the top would continue to pay the same amount in taxes as they do now. Romney suggested how this might be done in the first debate:

[W]hat are the various ways we could bring down deductions, for instance? One way, for instance, would be to have a single number. Make up a number, $25,000, $50,000. Anybody can have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it.

The idea here would be that for a family making, say 60k/yr that currently takes a total of $15k in deductions, the deductions would remain untouched while their rate would go down, resulting in lower net taxes. For a family making $400k/yr that currently takes $70k in deductions, their deductions would be capped at $25k but their tax rate would be lower, so they would pay about the same as they do now.

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9 Responses to The Clever Economics Behind Romney’s Tax Plan

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  • Sound article. What we never talk about, ever, is the effective marginal tax rate for the poor. That first $1000 of income results in zero change in taxes, but a big drop in aid. I haven’t looked at the numbers in a long time, but as income increases, at times the effective marginal tax rate was greater than 100%. I believe that rate has dropped, but mainly because we’ve been extending the benefits of, say, food stamps to a higher income level.

  • N.B. The alternative minimum tax already takes away many (except charitable and home loan interest) of the evil, rich dastards’ tax deductions.

    All the democrats have is class hate: tax the rich!

    The essential problem with US taxes is that they are not used for their purpose: fund necessary government activities. They are used for societal engineering and political theater.

    Still: I will vote for Romney as the alternative will make the zombie apocalypse seem like a Summer picnic.

  • Excellent post, Darwin. I have tried to explain exactly this to the plan’s critics but have not had success. Your presenting it in writing, and so lucidly, should help. I hope you won’t mind if I cut and paste with attribution.

  • Thanks. Do feel free to copy.

    I was struck by the neatness of the economics behind the plan when I finally found the linked analysis, and I was kind of shocked that virtually no one is talking about this. I would have thought that Ryan would have taken a shot at it in the VP debate, if nothing else, but the thinking must be that ordinary voters just don’t or can’t understand these things.

  • Dulce axestay inexpertis.

  • The only decent democratic solution is to scrap the present debate format. Let the two candidates and their VP/hopefuls describe their financial plans and show how they would reform the tax code, spend the taxes, for military, education and social programmes which as we know are mostly savings and caring for each other and the vulnerable. Explain them and question each other. This waste of time, energy and grand-standing in the debates and the mindless commercials dumbs down an already dumbed down electorate. 2012 will not fix it regardless of who wins the White House or Congress.
    Hoping for genuine concern for the Common Good and the security of the Republic seems too much to hope for at present but it would go a long way toward backing away from the 16 trillion cliff and counting.

  • I would have thought that Ryan would have taken a shot at it in the VP debate, if nothing else, but the thinking must be that ordinary voters just don’t or can’t understand these things.

    Maybe, but more likely it was because his opponent was incapable of understanding these things. Kind of like when having to explain a joke – no matter how brilliant and accessible – it just never ends well.

    Good post though. 🙂

  • This is logic which connects most of the tax ideas Mitt has been espousing, but I think has been missing from both Republican candidates’ speeches. I’ve rather assumed that they deem it too complex for the average voter to absorb under the circumstances they would be forced to voice the idea. Alternately, the Dems would simply call it trickle down economics and everyone would dismiss it. Let’s face it it doesn’t make a good sound byte. Nonetheless I agree with it. Unfortunately for conveying the idea, but fortunately for tax revenue, I believe there is a next step.

    You’ve heard Mitt say repeatedly that it would also help small businesses, which are not mentioned in the discourse above. I’ve owned lots of real estate, but never owned a “business” I had to report taxes on. So speculating, my guess is that those businesses Mitt refers to, file on schedule C?, D?, ?, on individuals returns. They, I believe would be proprietorships, partnerships, subchapter S corporations, and perhaps LLCs and LLPs. Should they retain more of their earnings, they would be better predisposed to invest more thereby growing job markets resulting in more taxable income reported by newly hired people.

    A recognized impact on economic expenditures, and therefore growth, is outlook or expectations, especially on the part of business. But I won’t go there as it is also exceptionally hard to measure or predict. Still imagine what this would do to business expectations, excepting of course such things as bankruptcy practices – Sorry Donald R. McClarey.

    The logical next step is ahh, ahh, well, perhaps there are too many to even speculate, and perhaps in 8 years when president Ryan takes office . . .

    I always hate to pray that my will be done, but perhaps if this time God could just agree with me . . .

Some Quick Post Debate Thoughts

Wednesday, October 17, AD 2012

President Obama’s performance in the first debate was, unarguably, pretty lethargic, and he took a big hit in the polls shortly afterward. The general wisdom drawn from this, especially on the democratic side of the aisle, seemed to be that what was really needed in the debates was, thus, more aggression. Biden delivered this in his own unique way in the Veep debate, to such an extent that one wondered at times whether he would have to be removed from the stage in a straight jacket, still alternating between wild cackling and angry shouting, but at last he ran out of gas and calmed down in the last 20 minutes. Obama has a sense of personal dignity that Biden lacks, and so although he certainly came to the debate in a pugilistic frame of mind, he didn’t make himself silly in the way that Biden did. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the debate was supposed to feature the candidates answering questions directly from voters, it instead was most notable for intense bouts of the candidates rhetorically hammering each other.

The common wisdom is that this kind of thing turns undecided voters off. I saw some anecdotal evidence of this in the reactions of my less partisan friends on Facebook, one of whom posted in indignation:

Dear Gov Romney and Pres Obama,
Every time you keep talking when you are reminded that a normal citizen has a question for you, you reinforce that you think what you have to say is more important than the concerns of the people of your country. You both lost my vote tonight.

This aside, though, I think the focus on rhetorical dominance and aggression has probably been misplaced. Was it really that Obama’s performance in the first debate was so sluggish that cost him so much in the polls? I don’t think most Americans care whether the president is a skilled debater or not.

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11 Responses to Some Quick Post Debate Thoughts

  • Quite frsankly, I don’t think any of the questions, in and of themselves, were all that substantive.

  • I agree, I think most of them were pretty low quality. But then, I’m not an undecided voter, and I spend a fair amount of my time keeping up with politics.

  • My favorite question:

    QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

    This was, needless to say, not actually a tough question.

  • The questions were pretty weak and touchy feely, as is usually the case. The fact it was held in one of the bluest States in the Union (as opposed to a swing state) meant the questions were even less representative/relevant.

  • Why Dale, it almost sounds like you suspect that some of the people asking questions may not have been as undecided as they’d let on.

    You don’t say?

  • “Former Media Coordinator of CodePink Long Island Was One of the ‘Undecided’ Questioners”

    No doubt she was undecided in whether to cast her vote for Stalin or Lenin as write-ins.

  • Paul:

    Not so much that–btw, check the PW comments with links to Volokh–it’s not likely the same person.

    The questions, on the other hand, definitely skewed to the left. Honest to Colt–an assault weapons question? I guess asking a question about the Equal Rights Amendment was too much of a giveaway.

    NY’s heavily-Democratic electorate is hardly representative of the nation as a whole, which is more closely divided. Why not Ohio? Virginia?

  • NY’s heavily-Democratic electorate is hardly representative of the nation as a whole, which is more closely divided. Why not Ohio? Virginia?

    Why not hold it in Syracuse as opposed to Long Island? Upstate’s near a fifty-fifty split in federal elections and the hall would have been cheaper.

    The internal operations of this “Commission on Presidential Debates” are quite opaque. How do they come up with these moderators?

  • AD says The internal operations of this “Commission on Presidential Debates” are quite opaque.

    They seem crystal clear to me. The Commission is a division of the DNC and acts in a partisan manner.

  • This whole “more aggressive debater wins” paradigm just doesn’t sit well with me, regardless of who is doing it. I do like a speaker with passion, but it has to be passion about what he is saying because he believes in it. That, and being, you know, actually correct about stuff helps.

  • …you reinforce that you think what you have to say is more important than the concerns of the people of your country. You both lost my vote tonight. (Anon. Facebooker)

    The fact that Mr./Mrs. Oversensitive is disenfranchising him/herself is encouraging to me. It means Obama probably lost a vote.

Veep Reax

Thursday, October 11, AD 2012

Alright, I’m in full political crack monkey mode from here on till the election, so I’ll be the one to throw up the instant reactions thread.

My take: This was not the total blowout that the first presidential debate was. Ryan was calm and professional the entire time. Biden brought his Cerberus-style split personality, one head Cheshire Cat, the other head rabid attack dog. He called Ryan a liar in the very first exchange and kept it up all night, at one point even accusing the moderator of lying. Then, during the last fifteen minutes Biden meds ran out and he fell back on the gravely “I’m so concerned” voice for the rest of the debate.

Overall, I’d rate it a draw. I think partisan Democrats are mostly elated, since all they’ve wanted for the last week is to see someone interrupt a Republican and call him a liar, and Biden did indeed do that constantly. Republicans had nothing to cringe about in Ryan’s performance. Ryan remained cool and collected throughout and scored the one audience reaction line of the night in defusing Biden’s attempt to demagogue the 47% quote.

What Independents will have thought I honestly can’t say, though I see a CNN poll of undecided voters called it for Ryan by a 48 to 44 margin. My guess is, this does nothing to help Obama claw back from his collapse with the ordinary voting public, but it does help the Dem campaign by soothing the utter panic which has gripped much of the left over the last week. I’d guess we’ll see basically consistent poll numbers (between a tie and Romney up one) for the next week until the next Presidential debate. Then we’ll see. The big problem for Obama is that the next debate is strictly foreign policy and the one after that is a town hall meeting, so he never gets to imitate Biden’s mad dog routine on domestic policy.

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8 Responses to Veep Reax

  • CNN/ORC POLL October 3 DEBATE WATCHERS Who Was More In Touch With Problems of People Like You? Ryan 51%, Biden 44%

    CNN/ORC POLL October 3 DEBATE WATCHERS Who Was More Likeable? Ryan 53% Biden 43%

  • I thought Ryan played it perfectly. He let the crazy old man keep interrupting, and he never lost his cool. He got off a few zingers, but let Biden basically beat himself.

    That said, I think the Veep debate will have next to no bearing on the election. It was a mild diversion that people will chuckle over, but it really won’t sway too many people one way or the other.

  • I can’t think of any Veep debate that has made any difference, and I doubt if this one was any different. I do think that the Democrats were praying for a win and laughing hyena Biden was unable to deliver.

  • Can’t see that Biden proved himself qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  • As Darwin wrote, “I think partisan Democrats are mostly elated, since all they’ve wanted for the last week is to see someone interrupt a Republican and call him a liar, and Biden did indeed do that constantly.” I would have liked liked them to feel humiliated and defeated. Ryan may have won the debate, but the liberals I know won’t be made to feel that way. To them, the laughing hyena behavior is victory.

  • “To them, the laughing hyena behavior is victory.”

    Which is a sad commentary on them. Serious times call for serious people. That grinning buffoon we saw last night is not a serious person.

  • Did not watch the debate, but from your reactions it sounds like the reverse, but lesser version of the expectations/performance of the Pres debate. Seems most people expected Ryan to mop the floor with Uncle Joe, but Uncle Joe did not do as badly as anticipated, while Ryan did not do quite as well as hoped.

    Yes, from the Dem point of view, that has to be taken as a victory. Maybe Uncle Joe can pinch-debate for the O next round?

  • Who could continue watching this debate with Biden acting like a buffoon & interrupting Ryan 82 times & the moderator did nothing about it. Who would want Biden as president after watching this? I have to hand it to Ryan as he remained respectable throughout the debate. Fact checking is showing Biden lied throughout the debate.