Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is this Another “Munich Conference” from the EU?


With Vladimir Putin sending troops into the Crimea, the obvious question is what will the EU do?  The US can do nothing because Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, which went through a period of apologizing to foreign potentates as part of his mania with decolonization, then moved to making bold threats that were not carried out in Libya, to being outmaneuvered by Syria, to settling on chunking cruise missiles at suspected terrorists, is now if full-blown free fall.  Political leaders throughout the world do not take him or the US seriously.  This leaves the EU as the only potential force that can halt Putin’s conquest of the Crimea and the realization of a 400+ year Russian dream – access to a warm-water port.  The big question is, of course, will the EU allow itself to be outmaneuvered once again by bogus claims of national self-determination.  One dictator successfully used this ploy to get the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.  The question is whether or not the leaders of the EU will allow this naked aggression against a sovereign state to continue or will they find a convenient excuse to extricate themselves so they don’t have to reveal that they cannot project their force beyond their borders?  If I were a betting man, I’d start exchanging my Ukrainian hryvnia for Russian rubles.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Academicians are weenies


Why are academicians such chichi liberals?  I’m at a history conference (I know, the mind, it boggles) and these pretentious gits keep extoling neo-Marxist ideas (despite never working a day in their lives or having the least bit of awareness that Marxist-inspired governments don’t work), the demise of capitalism (never once proffering an alternative or realizing that as long as humans are competitive we’ll have some kind of competitive economic system), lamenting the sexism in movies by searching high and low for a women who is not “empowered,”  or worrying about hyper-machoism (this from a guy who couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag).  I want to talk about such mundane issues as the search for truth in history, but I must not be a real historian because I’m not rending my garments over the various oppressors in our midst (as a white male, I qualify as two oppressors).  More and more, historians are filled with presentism, the notion that we judge the past by today’s standards and, in a curious reflection, that the old, nasty villains of the present-past live among us woefully unrepentant of their various sins. The worst aspect of hanging out with these weenies is that they don’t seem to drink.  Historians who don’t drink are not real historians.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Staggering Idiocy of Self-Censorship


The Alan Roberts film, The Innocence of Muslims, is blamed for numerous violent outbreaks throughout the world.  Many in the media have said that he pushed the boundaries of freedom of speech and should have been censored (by whom is unclear).  While we can debate the merits of the film, the fact that people are seriously discussing censorship only shows that the terrorists have won.  Recently, Channel 4 in Britain aired a historical documentary on the origins of Islam, Islam: The Untold Story – the same sort of documentary that has been done of pretty much every other major religion.  The response of some in the Muslim community was to threaten the life of the producer, Tom Holland.  Channel 4 decided against re-airing the documentary as previously planned.  http://www.channel4.com/programmes/islam-the-untold-story/articles/tom-holland-responds-to-the-programmes-critics

The documentary is available on Youtube, but not in the US: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm8xKh8eQqU  However, it is available at LiveLeak: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=578_1347455615&comments=1.

As a historian, I quite enjoyed how the documentary shows the process of historical research, especially the emphasis on primary sources (written documents, but also including coins).  It is a typical British documentary with a hodgepodge of images and a slightly pretentious narrative.  The documentary raises issues about the origins of Islam in a secular, historical manner rather than religious.  There are a few places where I, a historian, but not an expert, have some questions about Holland’s conclusions but not about his methodologies.  Reasonable individuals discuss and even debate these questions of interpretation.  We do not threaten to kill each.

Western society, in some misguided attempt to be polite, is letting the unreasonable ruin our lives.  As I’ve noted before (http://aspatula.blogspot.com/2008/02/europe-is-dead.html), Europe is appeasing itself out of existence, and I have to believe that the US is only slightly behind.  I am appalled when I read that some persons, even those in the media (the persons most likely to value freedom of expression) and government, want to censor what we say (and, for that matter, believe) out of fear of offending a few psychopaths.  We’re giving up one of our most cherished freedoms in order not to offend a fringe group of nuts.  Who are the real idiots?

Monday, July 23, 2012

SEC Football in Big Trouble


Today, Mark Emmert, NCAA president, issued a series of wholly justifiable and appropriate sanctions against Penn State (my alma mater) football in the wake of the damning Freeh report on the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal involving little boys.

Emmert prefaced the sanctions by discussing the appropriate role of athletics in higher education.  He noted that the sanctions were meant to ensure that, true to NCAA standards, “football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people.”  He went on to say that the NCAA was created to ensure that “…the athletic programs totally embrace the values of higher education … [and] to insist that athletic programs provide positive, moral models to our students, enhance the integrity of higher education, and promote the values of civility, honesty, and responsibility.”

This is bad news for all major football programs and most of the mid-majors.  The NCAA will now ensure that all student-athletes attend classes and make adequate progress towards graduating with real majors.  This means, for example, that the SEC will adopt the same academic standards as Vanderbilt, the Big 10 will all follow Northwestern’s example, and the ACC will mandate that all its football programs follow the example of Wake Forest.

If you think this is ridiculous, but that Penn State deserved the sanctions and penalties it received for letting its football program get out of hand, then you’re a hypocrite.

The NCAA, even when it takes appropriate action, reveals the blatant hypocrisy of athletics … really, football … in higher education in this country.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gun Deaths vs Drunk Deaths

According to the Guardian in 2010 there were 8775 murders caused by guns in the U.S (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jan/10/gun-crime-us-state).  For the same year, MADD reports that there were 10,228 deaths caused by drunk drivers in the US (http://www.madd.org/statistics/).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The New Kulturkampf


By the mid-19th century, German Liberals, like many of their continental brethren had adopted the policy of anti-clericalism.  Specifically, the German Liberals were openly anti-Catholic.  Starting in 1862, however, the Liberals’ major opponent was not the Catholic Church, but the Conservative leader, Otto von Bismarck.  Bismarck consistently outmaneuvered the Liberals, much to their annoyance.  Since at least 1848 (if not 1830), the Liberals had championed German unity.  But by 1866, with the defeat of Austria by the Conservative-led Prussian government, the Conservatives were gaining popularity at the expense of the Liberals.  Therefore, the Liberals needed to regain both political relevance and leadership of the national movement.  Thus, they formed the Prussian National Liberal Party.  For the next decade, the National Liberals and Bismarck cooperated in the eventual unification of Germany by Prussia.

The National Liberals believed that political unification, partially achieved in 1871, was not full unification.  Rather, they had to achieve cultural unification.  Like so many before and since, the National Liberals believed that Catholics were a “foreign” influence in Germany.  Because Catholic ideas were inimical to their own and Catholics are “loyal” to a foreign pope, they had to be removed, in some cases, literally, from German society.

Bismarck, on the other hand, viewed the Catholic Church as a threat to his efforts to control the newly unified Germany.  Late in 1870, the German Catholics formed the Zentrum (Centre) Party as a defensive maneuver against the encroachment of Prussian Protestantism.  This only confirmed Bismarck’s suspicions of the political disloyalty of German Catholics.  Ironically, when the Vatican refused to order the Zentrum to curtail its parliamentary opposition to Bismarck, this only further infuriated him.

Bismarck believed in a state Church, not an independent Church; it should serve the needs of the State.  To accomplish his goal, the clergy must be controlled by the state, the masses must be intimidated, the association between Catholics and the Vatican must be broken, and the Zentrum must be demonized as unpatriotic.  Thus began the Kulturkampf, the “Struggle for Culture,” – a struggle for control of German Catholics by the German government that would last for the better part of twenty years.  (Spahn, Martin. "Kulturkampf." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 Jun. 2012 .)


As many now know, authoritarian governments from the past are not the only ones who seek to increase control over their populace.  In 2011, despite earlier promises to the contrary (http://www.usccb.org/news/archived.cfm?releaseNumber=10-142 ), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, eliminated protection for faith-based conscience in the HHS Mandate requiring faith-based groups to act in ways contrary to their conscience, despite the fact that these protections have long existed (especially
 Church Amendments, 42 U.S.C. § 300a; the original act dates to 1973) [http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/ConscienceProtect/42usc300a7.pdf]   See also, “The History and Effect of Abortion Conscience Clause Laws,” http://www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/crsreports/crsdocuments/RS2142801142005.pdf from 2005.

Thus began a struggle between the State and the Church that Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, characterized as another Kulturkampf (http://www.thecatholicpost.com/post/PostArticle.aspx?ID=2440 – this is his entire homily, not the judicious and intellectually bankrupt editing found in the mainstream media).  Bishop Jenky was roundly criticized in the media for, among other things, being an anti-Semite.  Many reporters, knowing little of the actual Kulturkampf, simply said he was foolish, ignorant, or, as one commenter on Huffington Post implied, a pedophile (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/bishop-daniel-jenky-petit_n_1507313.html).

Bishop Jenky’s comparison of the HHS Mandate to the Kulturkampf is frighteningly accurate.  The purpose of the Kulturkampf was to increase the power of the government over its people.  The purpose of the Mandate is control.  By forcing the Catholic Church to close down schools, hospitals, and charity organizations, the Obama administration will force those served by the Church to become dependent on the State.  The number of those served by the Church is impressive.  “There are more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., comprising about 12% of the total number of hospitals.” http://www.marquette.edu/theology/catholichealthcaremissionandethics.shtml.  “Catholic hospitals, for instance, took well over 100 million visits and admissions in 2009, while there are just over 68 million Catholics in America.” Likewise, “Catholic Charities USA, one of many Catholic charities, alone served almost 10 million people in 2009.” (Christopher T. Haley, “Creating a Catholic Ghetto,” First Things (25 August 2011) [http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/08/creating-a-catholic-ghetto]. Catholic Charities, like Catholic hospitals provide care for everybody, regardless of their religion (if any).  Further, in 2011-12, there were over two million students in 6,841 Catholic primary and secondary schools (http://www.ncea.org/news/annualdatareport.asp).  These are significant numbers of individuals who don’t depend on the State for medical care, education, and charity.  The worldview of the Obama administration cannot tolerate such independence.  Thus, it must destroy the Church’s role in these important activities.  If some are hurt because of this, it doesn’t matter because it serves the greater good of social engineering.

Barack Obama is, himself, the product of successful social engineering as evidenced in the chilling review essay by Angelo M. Codavila, “The Chosen One,” in the Claremont Review of Books (Summer 2011) (http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1852/article_detail.asp).  Obama is a product of the elite vanguard of the New Left, “That class knows about America only that it must be changed, and looks at the vast majority of Americans the way carpenters look at warped pieces of lumber. Barack Obama is neither more nor less than its product and agent.”  Decimating the Catholic Church in America is a necessary step towards the control and social engineering of America.

Reacting against the defensive response of the Catholic Church to the Mandate, Obama, the Democratic National Committee and his supporters in the media, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Moveon.org, the Huffington Post, and others have quickly moved to demonize the Church.  In a coordinated attack, they charge that the Church has launched a “war against women.”  However, the only person to use the term “war” was HHS Secretary Sebelius when referring to the government’s struggle, among other things, in support of the Mandate (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/10/06/sebelius-0).  Furthermore, as noted above, the Church has long provided healthcare for women through their hospitals and charities – hardly the action of an organization bent on a war against women.


Obama and his allies have further vilified the Church as trying to prevent all women from purchasing birth control devices and medications, abortions, and other medical care.  That so many people would accept this absurd argument as fact speaks volumes about anti-Catholic bigotry.  Perhaps an analogy will demonstrate the absurdity of this statement.  Is the Catholic Church demanding the right to enter people’s homes and search for contraceptive devices?  Is the Church threatening to fine people if it finds such devices?  Is the Church threatening to imprison people if it comes back later and finds these devices?  Of course not – that’s absurd.  Under the provisions of the Mandate, those who don’t pay for goods and services that are opposed to their religious and moral beliefs face fines, imprisonment, and loss of property.  To complete the analogy, it is the State who is breaking into the house of the Church and committing violence against it, not the other way around. 

Another way that Obama and his allies demonize the Catholic Church is by arguing that it’s solely the Catholic Church complaining about the Mandate because of its stand on contraceptives.  This is another lie.  The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s statement on the Mandate begins, “The administration’s so-called `contraceptive mandate’ requiring health plans to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices is a blatant assault on faith.” (http://faithandfamily.com/article/erlc-comments-on-hhs-mandate-and-its-threat-to-religious-freedom).  The Center for Public Justice declares the Mandate is a violation of religious freedom (“The Contraceptive Mandate Violates Religious Freedom,” by Chelsea Langston http://www.capitalcommentary.org/conscience-protection/contraception-mandate-violates-religious-freedom). In February 2012, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins presented a letter signed by 2500 religious leaders, mostly Protestant, declaring the Mandate was really an assault on religious freedom.  Even USA Today printed an editorial declaring “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.” (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/story/2012-02-05/contraception-mandate-religious-freedom/52975796/1).  Thus, it is obvious that the opposition to the Mandate is not a Catholics-only issue but an issue, widely regarded by a broad spectrum of individuals and groups as a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.  The Church’s opposition isn’t about the various contraceptives but rather the Mandate that the Church must pay for these in violation of their long-standing tenets.  The Church’s opposition is a defense of its First Amendment right to religious freedom.

The Mandate, then, cannot simply be about contraception – it is about control.  In April 2012, Sebelius admitted to a Congressional committee that “she did not consult Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty or have a legal memo prepared before she drafted the mandate.”  (http://www.becketfund.org/hhs-secretary-sebelius-admits-no-consideration-of-constitution-while-drafting-hhs-mandate).  This is hardly surprising because the issue is not legality or constitutionalism but the power of the State to control its populace.
Bishop Jenky’s characterization of the actions of the Obama administration as a new Kulturkampf is reasonably accurate.  Like Bismarck, Obama seeks to control a group opposed to his grand schemes.  A crucial part of that plan is the demonizing of the opponent.  Like Bismarck, Obama’s actions make it clear that he hopes to close down Catholic schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations.  If they resist, like Bismarck, he will dispossess them of their property. 

For those not worried about the loss of religious liberty by Catholics, perhaps they should re-read Martin Niemöller’s statement that begins, “First they came for the ….”

It's Official

It's official -- Hollywood has run out of ideas.  People have been saying this for a while, but we now have incontrovertible proof.  Tim Burton is remaking his 1984 short film, Frankenweenie.  Yep, one of the great cinematic masterpieces will be back on the big screen.  Well, at least it will be in 3-D.  I guess that's original.