The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War, were long, contentious and complicated, involving not merely the peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States, but also separate treaties between Great Britain and France, Spain and the Netherlands. Benjamin Franklin, who led the American team, and who deserves the title of greatest American diplomat, made it clear from the outset that the United States would not make any peace with Great Britain without its ally France also coming to terms with Great Britain. He also demanded Canada. By such wily ploys, Franklin outthought the British negotiators at every turn, and quickly got them to concede American Independence in hopes that the Americans could prevail upon France to be reasonable in its demands. Continue reading
Last night I was watching an old Rifleman episode and it was an odd one. One of Lucas McCain’s neighbors turns out to be Abraham Lincoln! Well, not the real Abraham Lincoln, but rather a man who incurred psychic trauma during his Civil War service and now he believes he is Abraham Lincoln. However, the man, portrayed by the late actor Royal Dano, looks and acts just like Abraham Lincoln. This show was broadcast in 1961 when the Civil War centennial was big news, and this was a clever way of getting Lincoln on the Rifleman show, a series set in the 1880’s, without having to invoke time travel! The episode was moving and as I listened I thought the actor portraying Lincoln sounded familiar. Then it struck me: the Disney Animatronics Lincoln!
Dano provided the voice of Lincoln.in the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show which Disney premiered at the World’s Fair in 1964. Disney chose Dano because he believed his voice was most like what Disney imagined Lincoln sounded like. In this Disney was probably incorrect. Most contemporaries described Lincoln as having a high pitched voice. However, Disney was a showman and not an historian, and I think Disney hit upon a voice that did fit the popular imagination of what Lincoln sounded like, said imagination having been formed by deep voiced portrayals of Lincoln on film by actors such as Walter Huston, Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey. The Animatronics Lincoln now has a new voice actor as Lincoln, but to generations that came of age in the final decades of the last century and visited Disney World, Dano’s voice will be that of Lincoln’s. Continue reading
The Pope gave an interesting homily in which he bashed those who do not support what he is doing to the Church. Here is the report on the homily by Vatican Radio interspersed with PopeWatch comments:
In the first reading, Saul was rejected by God as King of Israel because he disobeyed, preferring to listen to the people rather than the will of God. The people, after a victory in battle, wanted to offer a sacrifice of the best animals to God, because, he said, “it’s always been done that way.” But God, this time, did not want that. The prophet Samuel rebuked Saul: “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord?” Jesus teaches us the same thing in the Gospel, the Pope explained. When the doctors of the law criticized Him because His disciples did not fast “as had always been done,” Jesus responded with these examples from daily life: “No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
What an odd interpretation. Samuel conveyed to King Saul the command of God that the Amalekites be annihilated long with all their animals. When Samuel learned that Saul had disobeyed by sparing the King of the Amalekites, Agag, and the best of the animals, he rebuked Saul and slew Agag with his own hand. The lesson is strict adherence to the commands of God, something that the Pope is shaky in regard to.
“What does this mean? That He changes the law? No! That the law is at the service of man, who is at the service of God – and so man ought to have an open heart. ‘It’s always been done this way’ is a closed heart, and Jesus tells us, ‘I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will lead you into the fullness of truth.’ If you have a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit, you will never reach the full truth. And your Christian life will be a half-and-half life, a patched life, mended with new things, but on a structure that is not open to the voice of the Lord—a closed heart, so that you are not able to change others.”
Once again a bizarre interpretation. God gave a command and Saul failed to carry it out. The passage has nothing to do with what the Pope is arguing.
This, the Pope emphasized, was the sin of Saul, for which he was rejected by God. “It is the sin of so many Christians who cling to what has always been done and who do not allow others to change. And they end up with half a life, [a life that is] patched, mended, meaningless.” The sin, he said, “is a closed heart,” that “does not hear the voice of the Lord, that is not open to the newness of the Lord, to the Spirit that always surprises us.” This rebellion, says Samuel, is “the sin of divination,” and obstinacy is the sin of idolatry:
Saul was rejected by God because he did not heed the commands of God as conveyed by Samuel. God commanding the annihilation of an enemy population was not a new teaching as a cursory reading of earlier passages in the Old Testament would clearly indicate.
“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination. It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear—from myself and my closed heart—more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry. ‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.”
The whole point of the passage is strict obedience to the will of God. Unless the Pope is seeking to claim the mantle of prophet with some new revelation from God, it does not support the argument he is making.
Pope Francis noted that in Jesus’ time, good Israelites were in the habit of fasting. “But there is another reality,” he said. “There is the Holy Spirit who leads us into the full truth. And for this reason he needs an open heart, a heart that will not stubbornly remain in the sin of idolatry of oneself,” imagining that my own opinion is more important than the surprise of the Holy Spirit.
Christians fasted after Jesus ascended. As Christ noted, it was not proper for the Church to fast while He, the Bridegroom of the Church, was present on Earth.
“This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’ Habits must be renewed in the newness of the Spirit, in the surprises of God. May the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.”
Pope Francis has a dismaying habit of attempting to turn his policy preferences into mandates of the Holy Spirit, while taking as unimportant teachings of the Church based upon what Christ said. Continue reading
George Cardinal Pell once again shows that he is not a “yes man”. In a speech before The Global Foundation he praised free markets. Go here to read about it. This is at a time when the so-called Pink Tide of governments in South America are in trouble, with a free market President being elected in Argentina, Venezuela electing an opposition controlled National Assembly and the Socialist President of Brazil facing impeachment proceedings as the Brazilian economy tanks. Will any of this moderate the manifest hostility of the Pope to free markets? Doubtful. The Pope has reached an advanced age and what he has written about economics indicate that his beliefs in this area are completely impervious to facts contrary to what he wishes to believe. The Pope is ever optimistic about the ability of government to better the lives of people and ever pessimistic about the ability of free markets to do so. That this belief stands reality on its head the Pope seems to be either unaware of or indifferent to. In some of his more troubling statements about economics, the Pope has given the impression that he would favor heavy handed government regulation of markets even if people would be materially poorer as a result.
Our small, soft hands blistered quickly at the start of each summer, but Daddy (the maternal grandfather of Clarence Thomas) never let us wear work gloves, which he considered a sign of weakness. After a few weeks of constant work, the bloody blisters gave way to hard-earned calluses that protected us from pain. Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life–blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity.
He never praised us, just as he never hugged us. Whenever my grandmother urged him to tell us that we had done a good job, he replied, “That’s their responsibility. Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”
The family farm and our unheated oil truck became my most important classrooms, the schools in which Daddy passed on the wisdom he had acquired in the course of a long life as an ill-educated, modestly successful black man in the Deep South. Despite the hardships he had faced, there was no bitterness or self-pity in his heart. As for bad luck, he didn’t believe in it.
Justice Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son
Justice Thomas has called his barely literate grandfather, the late Myers Anderson, who raised him and his brother after his father ran off, the greatest man he has ever known. He taught him the value of hard work, self reliance and a striving to achieve against the odds, essential lessons that too many Americans, no matter how well educated, fail to ever learn.
My family and I went to see 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi on Saturday. I found the movie to be an exciting and moving recreation of the actions of the CIA contractors, all former members of elite American military units, who fought against the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/12, and a damning indictment of the lack of action by the administration which left these men in the lurch, their criminal inaction leading to the death of former Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. A strong language advisory as military men under fire have been known to swear on occasion, and I would further note that my wife had to leave the theater because she found the movie too intense. My review is below the fold and the usual warning as to spoilers is in full effect.
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Hoboken, NJ––An SSPV drone strike has accidentally killed three and injured four other Taliban members living in the U.S. Saturday, a spokesman for the Society confirmed before expressing sorrow for the wayward bomb that was originally meant to put a stop to a Novus Ordo Vigil Mass in Hoboken, New Jersey. In a statement to the AP, founder and leader of the sedevacantist organization Bishop Clarance Kelly said that he and other members of the traditionalist sect were grieved about the innocent loss of life, and that an investigation was underway as to why the errant bomb, meant to halt “a most grievous sacrilege,” fell a block north of its target. “We are truly sorry for those affected by this unfortunate miscalculation, and our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of those killed,” Kelly said. When asked how the Society meant to justify its killing of potentially hundreds gathered at the target of the operation, Kelly responded, saying that there are “circumstances for which pre-emptive strikes must be taken to insure the dignity of the Holy Mass, and it is a sad fact that sometimes there must be collateral damage.” “It is true that members of the Taliban are terrorists, but there is no terrorism worse than the terrorism of the Mass. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda look to kill men and women. But liturgical terrorists attempt to kill something much greater than men or women.” Kelly later confirmed to Eye of the Tiber that the bomb used in the attack was meant only for the priest and five others concelebrating, and that not enough explosives were used to inflict much damage outside the Sanctuary. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Louis Armstrong gives an unforgettable rendition of Go Down Moses. A Negro spiritual dating from Virginia in 1853, the song is a tribute to the imperishable desire for freedom planted by the hand of God in each human soul.
Well this campaign season just keeps getting better. Last night the Republicans had the latest in a series of presidential debates. I personally thought the top three contenders – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump – all acquitted themselves very well. Even Donald Trump, as off-point and rambling in his answers as ever, was basically coherent. Jeb Bush continues to look like a hostage forced to run for the presidency against his will. Chris Christie did well even if he completely dissembled about his record and once again complained about people debating during a debate. John Kasich is still permitted to participate in these things for reasons that elude most sane people. And Ben Carson, well, Dr. Carson is an extraordinarily humble man of great character, and I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to say anything too mean.
There were some fierce exchanges, and perhaps the biggest moment of the night occurred Ted Cruz deftly handled the question about his status as a natural born citizen. He even got Trump to concede that he only went there because of Cruz’s standing in the polls. It was beautiful to see the crowd actually boo Trump as he tried to continue down this foolish path.
The other Trump-Cruz exchange arguably did not go quite as well for Cruz. On the stump Cruz had dissed the Donald for upholding “New York values,” a line of attack he continued during the debate. Cruz concluded with the line “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” a line which was actually a subtle jab at Trump’s remark that “not a lot of Evangelicals come out of Cuba.” Trump hit back, going to the 9/11 well to talk about how New Yorkers stood tall and united after the terrorist attacks. It was certainly a well-crafted response by Donald, and it caught Cruz a bit off guard. Video of the exchange can be seen at this link.
Now there’s been some back-and-forth in the social media world about Cruz’s “New York values” line of attack – a phrase, by the way, uttered by Trump himself a few years ago. Many New Yorkers are supposedly upset by the remarks as evidenced by this Daily News front page (link does not go to the Daily News*).
*I remarked on twitter that if the New York Times had a lobotomy, the result would be the New York Daily News. I was in error. The Daily News is the result of the New York Times getting drunk.
Now, I happen to be a native New Yorker, born and raised in the mean streets of Queens. I attended high school in Manhattan and worked there for a couple of years after college. My family still all live in New York. I loved New York, and still get a little weepy sometimes when I hear Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York.” I remain loyal to my New York sports teams, particularly the Mets. Donald Trump was absolutely right about the spirit of New Yorkers, and their great resiliency. There is a great charm in New York bluntness. Having lived in several other large cities, and having regularly traveled throughout the country, I still think in many ways that New York is the greatest city in the country, especially if you are a certain age. The combination of arts, entertainments, business, food (the best food of any major city, or at least the city with the best diversity of good food), and just the general vibrancy of the city are unmatched. And even as Democratic as the city might be, there is a great working class charm to the outer boroughs where the residents are not so easily typecast. There is a reason New York City did not elect a Democratic mayor for two decades, and why the one who served for 12 years shortly before Giuliani (Ed Koch) was hardly a doctrinaire leftist.
All that being said, let me relay a statistic for you. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the abortion rate in 2010 for women aged 15-44 was 17.7 per 1,000 women in the country. New York’s rate was 35.3, second only to Delaware. No other state was in the thirties. I am willing to bet a small fortunate that the rate in the city was much higher than upstate.
Abortion rates of course don’t tell the whole story, though there is a definite correlation between high abortion rate states and “blue” states. There are demographic, economic and other factors at play in the statistic as well.
But let’s be clear about something. Ted Cruz was getting at something all of us understand in our hearts. There is a certain value set among urbanites and other people on the east coast that clashes with the values of folks in much of the rest of the country. Of course not everyone who happens to live in New York holds the same values as the urban elites, and even holding those values does not make you, ipso facto, a bad person. Believing in socialized medicine does not render you incapable of rising to the occasion in moments of great stress, or of helping in times of crisis. But when it comes to the world of politics, and in understanding the role of government, or in holding certain cultural values, New Yorkers and the like generally clash with the values and ideology held by the majority of Republicans, and definitely of conservatives. All the crocodile tears shed in the world will not change this stubborn fact. Even if you cringe at the hint of a suggestion of some kind of culture war, you have to acknowledge the difference in value sets. And no matter how much Donald Trump has pulled the wool over the eyes of many voters, his history and his actions show he’s from a different world (metaphorically speaking) than traditional conservatives. And that’s Ted Cruz’s point, and it’s a point that is absolutely correct.
It is not a slight thing you are about. I am sworn to keep the peace, by that duty I owe to God and my country; and I will do it to the last breath of my body. And therefore ye shall do well to satisfy, first, God, and then the country, by what authority you do it. If you do it by an usurped authority, you cannot answer it; there is a God in Heaven, that will call you, and all that give you power, to account.
If it were only my own particular case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here, against the legality of the Court, and that a King cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth: but it is not my case alone, it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law, may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own.
I do not know the forms of law; I do know law and reason, though I am no lawyer professed: but I know as much law as any gentleman in England, and therefore, under favour, I do plead for the liberties of the people of England more than you do; and therefore if I should impose a belief upon any man without reasons given for it, it were unreasonable … The Commons of England was never a Court of Judicature; I would know how they came to be so.
It was the liberty, freedom, and laws of the subject that ever I took – defended myself with arms. I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws … For the charge, I value it not a rush. It is the liberty of the people of England that I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new Court that I never heard of before, I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England, for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws, indeed I do not know how to do it.
This many-a-day all things have been taken away from me, but that that I call more dear to me than my life, which is my conscience, and my honour: and if I had a respect to my life more than the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, certainly I should have made a particular defence for my self; for by that at leastwise I might have delayed an ugly sentence, which I believe will pass upon me … Now, sir, I conceive that an hasty sentence once passed, may sooner be repented of than recalled: and truly, the self-same desire that I have for the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, more than my own particular ends, makes me now at lest desire, before sentence be given, that I may be heard … before the Lords and Commons … If I cannot get this liberty, I do protest, that these fair shows of liberty and peace are pure shows and that you will not hear your King.”
After his condemnation, Charles went to his death calmly, stating that he was trading a perishable crown for an imperishable one. Historians would note in full his folly that led him to the headman’s block, but they would also recall that in the last days of his life, Charles acquitted himself well, and that by his manner of passing from this life, he breathed new life into his cause. Continue reading
Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register takes a look at some recent comments about the Vatican Lavender Mafia:
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has confirmed the presence of a homosexual “lobby” in the Vatican and revealed that Pope Francis is trying “little by little to purify it.”
The Honduran Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, who coordinates the Council of Nine cardinals advising the Pope on reform of the Roman Curia and Church governance, was responding to a question from a Honduran newspaper reporter who asked him whether there had been “an attempt to infiltrate the gay community in the Vatican, or a moment when that had actually happened?”
Cardinal Rodriguez replied: “Not only that, also the Pope has said there is even a ‘lobby’ in this sense. Little by little the Pope is trying to purify it.” He added: “One can understand them [members of the lobby] and there is pastoral legislation to attend to them, but what is wrong cannot be truth.”
The Pope acknowledged the presence of a homosexual network of priests at the Vatican during a private conversation with leaders of a Latin American confederation of religious in June 2013. In the context of saying he found reform of the Roman Curia difficult, the Pope said: “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do.”
He alluded to it again a month later, telling reporters on the plane back from Rio de Janeiro that “you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good.”
A homosexual lobby was also suspected to have been influential on both Synods on the Family when controversial passages relating to homosexuals made their way into the interim report during the 2014 meeting despite being hardly discussed, and external lobby groups sought to pressure the participants.
There was also a common perception that the Communion for remarried divorcees issue, which dominated both synods, was a “Trojan horse” to allow Church recognition of same-sex relationships and other extra-marital unions.
During last year’s synod, statements on homosexuality “seemed to come out of nowhere” at press briefings when the issue was hardly raised by synod fathers during the three week meeting.
The movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is being released tomorrow. From what I have been hearing from people who have had access to advance screenings, it is a gripping tribute to the CIA operatives, former members of special forces units, who during the attack on the American consulate on 9/11/12 in Benghazi, Libya, on their own initiative and against orders from higher ups, rescued 32 Americans from the consulate and then stood off the terrorists at the CIA compound until the people they rescued could be evacuated. Their urgent requests for air support went unanswered, the Obama administration, paralyzed due to the attack spoiling the mendacious campaign slogan of the Obama campaign that Al-Qaida was finished, was unwilling to make the story larger by sending military units to support the brave men holding the compound. In the fighting, two former Seals, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, were slain. It is outrageous that the effort to award each of these heroes the Congressional Gold Medal has been stalled in Congress, but that pales to insignificance in that the villains who left these two men to die have incurred no penalties for the betrayal of the fundamental duty owed by a government to those who fight our enemies: to render them every assistance possible.
The mainstream media is beginning to catch on to the fact that Pope Francis is more popular outside the Church than within the Church. From Politico:
New figures published by the Vatican show that the 79-year-old Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who won election to the papacy in 2013 and rode a groundswell of public support for what were seen as relatively modern views, is drawing smaller crowds and possibly alienating the base of traditional Catholics.
In 2015, more than 3.2 million pilgrims visited and attended papal events, liturgies or prayer services at the Holy See, the Vatican said at the end of December. That was a sharp drop from the 5.9 million visitors received by Pope Francis in 2014. And it was less than half of the 6.6 million pilgrims who visited the Vatican during the first nine-and-a-half months of his pontificate in 2013.
The Vatican attributed the fall, in part, to terrorism fears keeping people from visiting Rome.
But pope-watchers say there’s another factor at work: his comparatively liberal views on some hot-button social issues, including gay rights, and whether Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried should be allowed to receive communion. Those views, which have won Pope Francis positive coverage in the media, may be turning off devout Catholics.
The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.
In 1954 Bennett Cerf, the President of Random House, decided that with the coming Civil War Centennial his company needed to publish a short history of the War, not longer than 200,000 words. Wanting the history to be entertaining he hit upon the idea of having Shelby Foote, author of a novel on the battle of Shiloh in 1952, undertake the task. Foote, 37, accepted a $400.00 advance and assumed that he could pound out the history quickly and get back to writing fiction. Nineteen years, and a million and half words later, Foote completed the final volume of his immortal three volume history of the War.
Foote wrote his books during the years of the fight over segregation in the South. Although far from being a political liberal, in his bibliographical note to the second volume published in 1963 Foote made clear where he stood: In a quite different sense , I am obligated also to the governors of my native state and the adjoining states of Arkansas and Alabama for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing, in their actions during several of the years that went into the writing of this volume, much that was least admirable in the postition my forebears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln. I suppose, or in any case hope, it is true that history never repeats itself, but I know from watching these three gentlemen that it can be terrifying in its approximations, even when the reproduction–deriving, as it does, its scale from the performers–is in miniature.
Foote in his 19 years of studying, thinking and writing about the Civil War, became convinced that it was impossible to understand America without understanding the Civil War: Continue reading
Hands down the Cruz campaign is producing the most eye catching campaign commercials of this race.
Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have “chosen” a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. [People] are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature. . . .
CS Lewis, Learning in Wartime (1939)