Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How did I miss "National Coffee Day" yesterday?

Obvious Answer: I didn't have enough coffee. 

In belated celebration, here is a link to The Oatmeal's 15-ish Things Worth Knowing About Coffee.

One addition from your host: it wasn't just Charles II who closed coffee houses--the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV earlier banned coffee because of its association with subversive elements. He even had people executed for violating the ban--sometimes doing the killing himself

Murad IV: Not known for his whimsy.


Then again, I imagine caffeinated Janissaries could be difficult to manage.

The Old Believers intrigue me.

Boyaryna Morozova by Vasily Surikov (1884-1887), depicting
the martyrdom of Feodosia Morozova. Click to enlarge.

The Russian Old Believers arose out of the "modernizing" reforms of the Moscow Patriarch Nikon in the 17th Century. Refusing to buckle despite often ferocious persecution, they still exist today, albeit in a range of observance which runs from a hierarchy with seven sacraments to groups that deny there are any sacraments other than baptism. There are some in Michigan, and one of my wife's students was an Old Believer.

Say whatever else you will, the Old Believers had courage to spare, and as a result, they're still here. 

Needless to say, I'm interested in books about them, so recommendations are more than welcome...

Right now, my Much Better Half is doing this:


"This is why you need to vote for the GOP!"

You can watch them quarter-ass their way through a "questioning" of Cecile Richards

One quibble, though--you can't be "overmatched" when you forfeit before the contest starts.

Stephen Crowder argues otherwise, but it looks like weak sauce from here.

The Republicans are frequently compared to another party of property and business, the Whigs. However, that's unfair to the Whigs, who at least had some titans among their ranks: 

Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Stephens all leap to mind. Whereas the GOP has...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Because nothing evokes "Detroit"

quite like pensive bearded hipsters and nubile white women who can't seem to stop putting things in their mouths. [Click to enlarge.]

Newly-installed murals at the corner of Michigan Avenue
and Washington Boulevard.

Which is fitting: I'm pretty sure the "Mo" in Motown comes from the Ojibwe word for "pensive bearded hipsters and nubile white women who can't seem to stop putting things in their mouths."

Very evocative language, Ojibwe.

From the "You Really Didn't Think That One Through" Files.

So, I just saw this banner ad for the Draft Biden folks...


 I mean, really...

Yeah, I'm left feeling like this guy:

Down the Cataract.

If you read one book on the tumultuous years right before America descended into civil war, David Potter and Donald Fehrenbacher's The Impending Crisis: 1848-1861 is the one to choose.

Largely the work of Potter, who died before finishing it, and completed seamlessly by his colleague Fehrenbacher, TIC earned the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1976. Despite being nearly forty years old, it is the gold standard for one-volume histories of the era [Alan Nevins' four-volume Ordeal of the Union comes highly recommended by a long-time friend of the blog].

What Potter does brilliantly is to explain the deeply-confusing and conflicted era, where multiple stresses were pulling the still-young American Republic in all sorts of directions. It starts with Manifest Destiny's shearing away of half of Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and ends in the supernal idiocy of the newly-minted Confederate cabinet's decision to pull the trigger at Charleston. 

During that time, America saw three political parties rise, two die and one be fatally riven. A Louisiana slaveholder proved to be the most implacable enemy of the South and a Pennsylvania bachelor her stoutest friend. A ferocious tide of nativism crested in the mid-1850s and ebbed even faster than it had risen.

And all the time, slavery moved front and center in the dispute between the sections.

If it did nothing else, TIC would be invaluable for explaining the otherwise schizophrenic attitude of the free states to slavery. While it is true that, save for abolitionists, Yankees had little use and less time for black people, rejecting vehemently the idea of racial equality, it was equally true that the detestation of slavery was real and genuinely held. This is perhaps best seen in

The bottom line for free staters was that their dislike of slavery was balanced against their love for a constitutional order that, however embarrassingly for them, protected the South's peculiar institution. This is perhaps best seen in Lincoln's exasperated 1855 letter to his slaveholding Kentucky friend, Joshua Fry Speed:

You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. So far there is no cause of difference. But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave -- especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you to yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter entirely to yourself. I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.

[It should be noted that, when war came, Speed stayed loyal to the Union, helping rally Kentucky, and in 1864 Lincoln appointed Speed's brother James as Attorney General.]

In what might seem ironic to modern readers, Potter points out the equally split personality of the South, which was in many ways even more nationalistic than the free states, but devoted to its peculiar institution. Dixie, too, had to balance slavery with a love for the Union. 

Thus, for over a decade, both sides would whipsaw between these poles, with momentous political decisions (the disastrous Fugitive Slave and Kansas-Nebraska Acts being the most important) reinforcing the strains and pushing people to the poles. By 1858, the Democrats, who had been America's sole remaining national (as opposed to sectional) party, had largely been destroyed outside of the slave states. This was the result of a series of pyrrhic Southern political victories which eroded most of its support in the free states. 

Not, of course, that the free states were blameless--hardly. Reading about the North's apotheosis of John Brown after that consistent failure's most spectacular failure is chilling. One doesn't have to be descended from Confederates to be horrified by the calls for blood from across the North. 

Then came the election of 1860, and then the war. Three quarters of a million deaths later, the disputes ended.

All of this is presented in clear prose, objective in its content and judicious when the historian is called upon to render a judgment. An indispensable work of American history.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Moon Shots.

Some of our better pictures from last night's eclipse.

Feeling sleepy? Mentally fatigued?

Even disoriented, perhaps?

Sometimes, you just need power chords.


Some people just suck at basic human decency.

This guy would definitely be one of them. Despicable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Detroit Lions.

Looking forward to the draft after Week Three.

At least I have the Wolverines.

Saw almost bupkis of the Pope's visit to the Republic.

And even less of the commentary.

We're a busy crew at the Burrow, and we had American Heritage Girls, Louie's football game, a generous visit from my Mom and the aforementioned George Ezra concert on the schedule. Throw in necessary trips to Costco and Meijer, and a couple of family movie nights, and voila: 

Yes--even our clocks got tired. It's a wonder our memory was able to persist enough to attend every event, but there you go.

This song pretty much sums up the family schedule for the next month or so (one s-bomb in the song, but hardly gratuitous).

As an aside, I'll never understand why Crowded House didn't become absolutely gigantic. Such consistently good pop music, and so consistently ignored after the first album.

About that lunar eclipse last night...

In our neck of the woods, we had a great view, and were able to snap some impressive (for us) pictures. The kids liked it--especially Louis, who gave me a big hug and thanked me for letting him stay up late.

I'll be posting some of the pictures here later. Yes, we picked up a new Nikon L840--pretty solid camera, and solidly-discounted. Madeleine was able to get good pictures at the George Ezra concert on Saturday, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with the young man's oeuvre, here's a representative sample--Dude has pipes.

China's Economic Woes.

A friend of mine says that China's best days are right now: a host of demographic and related issues are going to hobble the Middle Kingdom over the medium to long term.

And perhaps the first signs of it are occurring right now: according to this long but very interesting piece, the People's Republic has spent and Marxed itself into one huge mess. Here's just a small (no, really!) helping, explaining China's currency peg trap.

Why does China insist on continuing its currency peg? The direct answer is that maintaining capital controls requires maintaining the peg, if China is to have control over its monetary policy. Why does China insist on continuing capital controls? This again stems from the weakness of the Chinese system.

China’s long-term interest lies in abandoning the capital controls outright. This would eventually stabilize the RMB, and make Chinese assets more valuable due to a liquidity premium (investors are more likely to enter if they are not prohibited from exit). In the near-term, however, abandoning capital controls would cause a sudden, massive flight of capital out of China. That would surely prick the property bubble, and the ensuing instability would threaten the Communist Party.

Again, SocGen’s Wei Yao: “Not letting the currency go requires significant FX intervention that will not prevent ongoing capital outflows but which will result in tightening domestic liquidity conditions; but letting the currency go risks more immense capital outflow pressures in the immediate short term, external debt defaults and possibly further domestic investment deceleration.”
Another factor in the continuation of capital controls and the currency peg must be the dollar-denominated debt of many Chinese firms. Pundits have pointed out that Chinese foreign-currency debt is nothing compared to the degree of dollar debt that precipitated the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

True, but many Chinese issuers of dollar bonds are firms in the all important real-estate sector. Nomura, a bank, estimates external liabilities amount to $1.135 trillion, $405 billion of which is bond issuance, the rest being international bank loans. Mingtiandi, a Chinese real-estate intelligence firm, estimates that over a third of developer debt is not in RMB. Jeffries and JP Morgan put total developer debt exposed to the dollar even higher, at 40 percent.

The devaluation was in small part a warning to property-sector issuers of dollar debt who have not hedged against RMB depreciation.
As such, the recent RMB devaluation should be thought of in two ways. It was not a sop to exporters, nor was it an attempt to allow market forces to more greatly sway the RMB. Rather, the devaluation was in small part a warning to property-sector issuers of dollar debt who have not hedged against RMB depreciation, and was in large part due to the PBOC’s peg pulling too much RMB out of the economy. There will be more devaluation.

But keeping the peg in place and allowing what looks to the market like knee-jerk devaluations only makes investors place more bets on a falling RMB, which further goads capital flight. Citigroup analysts write that, “After [the] recent FX regime shift, it’s also not realistic to assume the renminbi should stabilize after [a] mere 3 per cent depreciation.” SocGen projects a further 6.2 percent depreciation by the end of the year. In other words, unless the PBOC abandons the currency peg altogether, thus abandoning capital controls, it is backed into a corner.

Instead of the quick knock on the head that liberalizing capital controls would bring, along with allowing the RMB to float, China is opting for a slow and excruciating monetary strangulation. When the property bubble does burst, Chinese consumer spending will be radically reduced in a reverse wealth effect as savings are wiped out. In the words of hedge fund manager James Chanos, China is on a “treadmill to hell” because of the “heroin of property development.”


An artist named Nikola Saric' painted this, and explained that it was on display in Germany:

It is my honour that Bishop Damian of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery Brenkhausen invited me to present my paintings for some weeks. From today, there you can view my recent works: the Parables cycle and this icon of Holy Martyrs of Libya (21 Christians killed by IS terrorists). First visitors were 150 refugees who were invited by the monastery for that afternoon.

Friday, September 25, 2015

And here are my oldest and youngest...

Madeleine and Thomas (he turns 4 next week...time flies).

I am sometimes astounded by the fact we have six children, but mostly I feel blessed. It's nuts, but it is worth it.

[Alas, the link will not work, and you can't load videos larger than 100 MB onto Blogger. Grr.]

It turns out we have capital punishment in Michigan after all.

Macomb County just executed a guy for unpaid traffic tickets.

It was a very, very slow execution at that--it took seventeen days for David Stojcevski to die.

And the "authorities" watched him the whole time:

Stojcevski was a drug addict, and was taking Methadone, Xanax, and Klonopin to treat his addiction. But without access to these prescriptions, he quickly went into withdrawal while in jail, according to WDIV's expert. Withdrawal caused him to behave irrationally, but jail officials ignored these obvious symptoms and instead placed him in a cell for the mentally unstable. 

He was stripped naked—so that he couldn’t hurt himself—and forced to languish under the unceasing bright lights (the jail doesn’t turn them off, even at night).

At one point, Stojcevski began fighting with another (naked) inmate, who was then moved out of the cell. Sometime later, completely alone, Stojcevski could be seen reenacting the fight—a clear sign of hallucination.

On his last day of life, the man refused to touch his food and was too weak to get up from the floor.

At the first, obvious sign of drug withdrawal, Stojcevski should have been given adequate medical treatment. He was not a violent criminal, or a danger to the public. He was a man who hadn’t paid a traffic ticket.

Stojcevski’s family is suing Macomb County. A lawyer for the county told WDIV that the suit “lacks legal merit,” and expects the family to lose when the case goes to trial. Macomb County has no plans to settle, according to the lawyer.

We live in Macomb County, and all I have to say to the Stojcevski family is: 

I hope you win millions.

A little perspective.

Yeah, I know. Minimal Church stuff. Sigh...


Nevertheless, I am making a deliberate effort to keep the temperature at a gentle rolling boil with the blog reboot.

Dunno if I'd call it kinder, gentler--but I do know I can't mainline on rage, either.

Thus, while I'm far from delighted with the Pope's message to Congress, I'm not going to dub him a Borgia (!) as a result of it. 

Yeah, it was much weaker than the strong-to-prophetic statements offered up by his two predecessors. Yes, he completely whiffed on an issue that he has made a centerpiece of his preaching--the dehumanizing power of greed. If aborting babies and selling their parts to for-profit companies isn't a perfect example of how the pursuit of profit can lead you to Hell, nothing is. Especially disappointing considering how he was willing to lend his express, concrete support to immigration. 

So, yeah. You have every right to be disappointed. I am.

But I don't know that going ballistic moves the ball very much. The pro-abortion folks seemed to see a criticism from the Pope, so there's that. And, he visited the Little Sisters of the Poor, too--a good statement there. Ultimately, at the end of the day, there's bupkis we can do about someone else's blown opportunity.

Plus, I'm keeping my powder dry for October. Whee.

The perils of tribal thinking.

What is the problem with the following sentence?

Jake Brewer was an IT specialist for the Obama White House, a husband and father of one child and another who will be born in a few weeks.

Think about it for a minute.

The problem is clear, after some reflection:

It does not represent the order of importance. He was a husband and father foremost, an IT specialist secondarily, and a man who worked in a political job last. 

He died in a tragic accident last week while riding a bicycle for charity. His wife--widow--is the noted conservative commentator Mary Katherine Ham. 

But the coverage of their marriage has featured, a la Carville-Matalin, the seeming Blue-Red mismatch.

While opposites may attract, it is compatibility that sticks.

In a moving memorial to her husband, Ham demonstrates how foolish it is to use a political label to define the whole person.

Since I appear to be "for reals" about blogging again...


It appears I really need to update the blogroll, for starters. Several are, alas, dead links.

But also, I'm curious about any recommendations you might have. 

An "uh-oh" moment for Southeastern Michigan.

Is Fiat-Chrysler facing a strike?

The UAW reached a tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler last week but that agreement must be ratified by a majority of about 40,000 UAW members at 37 UAW local units across the U.S. for it to become official. A rejection of the contract would throw the UAW's efforts to negotiate new contracts with Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors into massive turmoil.

At UAW Local 1166, which represents workers at Kokomo Casting, 59% of production workers voted to reject the contract while the skilled trades workers split their vote 50% to 50%, according to a person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the results.

Those results came in just hours after the Free Press learned that UAW Local 1264, which represents about 2,000 hourly workers at Sterling Stamping, voted to reject the contract. At that local 57% of production workers and 61% of skilled trades workers voted to reject the contract, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly disclose the results.

Earlier Thursday the Detroit News reported that members of UAW Local 1248, which represents workers at the automaker's Mopar parts and distribution center in Center Line, voted to reject the contract.

That would be a gut-punch for the local economy. Not saying the workers are wrong to reject it, though. My days of being a de facto corporate apologist are done, thank you very much.

Hey, Pro-lifers: Mitch McConnell has your back.

Makes it easier for him to plant a dagger in it.

Honest Abe had a wicked uppercut.

One of Lincoln's earliest lawsuits involved his efforts to get a well-heeled defendant to return 10 acres of land to a destitute widow. The defendant filed an indignant and blustery response taking up many columns, to which Lincoln filed a much shorter rebuttal, ending with:

"In conclusion I will only say that I have a character to defend as well as Gen. Adams [the defendant], but I disdain to whine about it as he does."


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yogi Berra, Rest in Peace.

My favorite New York Yankee and source of koan wisdom has died at 90.

I'm convinced that when God broke Lawrence Peter Berra's mold, He felt more than a twinge of sadness. 

My two favorite Yogisms:

"If people don't want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?"


"The future ain't what it used to be."

The age of argument is dead.

David Harsanyi nails it in this piece at The Federalist:

Conservatives might be ethically compromised, uninformed, or—if liberals are in a generous mood—mentally unstable, but they can’t be for real. At least, that’s the sense I increasingly get from the Left these days. Blame it on social media.

When a group confuses its politics with moral doctrine, it may have trouble comprehending how a decent human could disagree with its positions. This is probably why people confuse lecturing with debating and why so many liberals can bore into the deepest nooks of my soul to ferret out all those motivations but can’t waste any time arguing about the issue itself....

Don’t like big government? You’re a nihilist (12345, etc…). Forget what your policy does, watch your tone. Transphobic. Homophobic. Eleutherophobic. Sure, you may claim that you want to save unborn girls from the scalpels of Planned Parenthood, but your real goal is to control women. Even if you’re Carly Fiorina. Even if you’re a majority of women in the United States.
Or maybe you can’t see things clearly because you’re hooked to the most addictive opiate imaginable, religion—which, let’s face it, you probably don’t properly understand or adhere to correctly. Here, let them tell you what Jesus would do. (Hey, Vox, what’s up with Jesus?) Are you part of some regressive denomination that follows doctrine and hasn’t been poll-testing on the Left, that isn’t always pleasing to millennials’ ears, that hasn’t evolved properly, or still clings to “religious freedom?” You’re a modern-day Orval Eugene Faubus, probably. We can sue you into compliance or we mock you into the twenty-first century, because clearly you’re too selfish to be part of our future.

What conservatives (and some libertarians) possess aren’t arguments, but corrupt and nefarious ambitions. Defend yourself. What you can’t possibly have are legitimate differences of opinion.

Precisely. Exactly. So much this, or whatever the hep yutes say these days.

And religious "discussion" is poisoned by the same problems. I'm no stranger to hyperbole, but I can't run on it 24/7. Port is an excellent beverage, but I don't pour it on my Honey Nut Cheerios every morning. 

The culprit is social media, and its bullshit meme thinking, running from the comparatively benign (but still problematic) latest missive from Bernie Sanders (who at least has the integrity to make his case respectfully before an opposing audience, who proved to be equally respectful themselves) down to the poisonous frauds which presume the moral superiority of those who agree and lard them with, shall we say, non-facts. The Christian-hater pages swarm with these. 

And it doesn't take a flashcard from an a-hole to prompt it--most comment threads in Zuckerbergia that involve politics or religion degenerate into a Two Days Hate worthy of the Cultural Revolution. When such tactics and "thinking" become a staple of self-identified Christians--and they have--it is gruesome. It was one such thread that became the pile of anvils that broke the camel's back for me, when the questioning of a fellow Catholic's sanity was met with baying approval. 

So, while Harsanyi's points are well-taken as re: the tactics of the Left (who are not liberals in any traditional sense of the term), they are sins which beset everyone. 

I am pretty well convinced that Hell has a robust--and mandatory--social media platform.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Robert E. Lee's Most Capable Opponent?

Per General Lee himself, the Union commander who proved to be his most skilled nemesis was George Brinton McClellan.

"By all odds!" Marse Robert stated, quite emphatically.

Okay, I will gladly concede that McClellan built the Army of the Potomac into an impressive fighting force, providing for it and rallying it after two dismaying defeats (First and Second Manassas).

The rally following the second battle was especially impressive, since the Union army had not only been defeated decisively at Second Manassas, it was deeply demoralized by the loss. a battlefield commander, McClellan was tentative and always convinced he was heavily outnumbered. After every battle of the Seven Days, he retreated despite holding the ground at the end of each one with the exception of Gaines's Mill. He threw just over half of his army into battle at Antietam, having a massive reserve that would have ended the War in 1862 had he but used it.

So...what was Lee thinking? I can't puzzle that one out, for the life of me.

Fraud's Platonic Ideal?

I'm thinking Volkswagen's emissions trickery just might be it. Massive and amazing at so many levels--starting with the hubris. With that scope, how could they have thought they would get away with it?

A scandal that has battered Volkswagen’s image in the United States spread to the automaker’s core market in Europe on Tuesday, when the company said that 11 million of its diesel cars were equipped with software that could be used to cheat on emissions tests. That was more than 20 times the number of cars previously disclosed....

Volkswagen declined to say where the 11 million affected vehicles — more cars than Volkswagen produces in a year — were. But analysts said that as many as 10 million were probably in Europe, where Volkswagen is the dominant manufacturer, with more than double the market share of any competitor, and where diesels account for more than half of all vehicles sold.
“There really aren’t many diesel cars outside of Europe and North America,” said Philippe Houchois, head of European auto industry research at UBS in London.

Check out this graphic in the Times piece for how VW pulled it off.

And the first head has rolled. No way it will be the last. 

The big question: does Volkswagen survive this?


...if you are interested in matters Catholic, I strongly recommend my friend Steve Skojec's One Peter Five website and blog, along with the fine gents at The American Catholic. Negative? Well, yes. I'm a man of Stygian gloom much of the time.

If you'd like something more conventionally journalistic, there's the estimable John Allen (even though I think he's lost some velocity off his fastball in the last few years).

Steve was interviewed in the Washington Post recently re: the pontificate, but I can't find the farging link. Anyway, he did a fine job. [Update: here's the WaPo interview with Steve--thanks, Michelle!]

For Steve.

And, to clarify a bit from below: it was the religion/politics environment at FB that turned into a daily dose of plutonium. The stuff about kids, events, cat pictures--I miss that a bit. But Catholic matters? I only miss that in the sense of "but my aim is improving." Too many discussions ended with me trying to correct that hour's Ron Burgundy.

Or at least wanting to. And there isn't enough time in a day for that.

So, here I am, yapping into the void. Not so bad, really.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Your Loathsome, Despicable and Utterly Unprincipled "Free" Press at Work.

What's the difference between American media coverage of abortion and David Irving's Holocaust "scholarship"?

The former have better production values and megatons more hypocrisy. 

Good on Carly Fiorina for hitting back.

[Warning: you cannot unsee the horrific parts of the video, which shows a baby boy dying on a table.]

Some people have a problem with Hell as a concept. Me? 

Not today.

Looking for recommendations.

Our family camera is dead, the victim of one too many family trips. 

It was a Panasonic Lumix pretty much like this, only 8 years older, and I was reasonably happy with it. However, I'm open to suggestions. I'm hoping to not blow a lot of money on it, so low-cost is a priority.

Thank you in advance.

Stephen A. Douglas and Slavery.

It is a default presumption amongst historical scholars that Lincoln's Illinois rival was at heart anti-slavery.

However, while conceding that it is a complex issue, this essay from 2005 makes a strong case that the Little Giant was actually moderately pro-slavery:

Consider what might be called the various "types" or "categories" of antislavery. One could be antislavery in the abstract, possessing what might be called antislavery sentiment, for a wide variety of not necessarily congruent reasons. The most prominent abolitionist argument was that slavery was a sin against God, and conjoined to that indictment was the claim that slavery brutalized black people. 

In addition to these explicitly moralistic abolitionist rationales, political critiques of slavery also proved potent, such as the idea that slaveholders were a class of aristocrats who leveraged their antidemocratic control of southern society and politics to dominate the federal government at the expense of northern free men. Many northerners, such as Lincoln, also expressed alarm that slavery violated the nation's creed of freedom and made a mockery out of national ideas. Significantly, advocates of these political antislavery arguments did not need to subscribe to northern evangelical tenets, consider blacks equal, or even have sympathy for the plight of slaves. They simply had to desire that the idea of freedom and the interests of free states predominate in the national government. 

Economic concerns also generated antislavery sentiment, as illustrated by the Republicans' free labor ideology. The Republicans castigated slavery for limiting the opportunities of poor whites in the South, curtailing the economic aspirations of nonslaveholders in the western territories, and stunting the growth of the northern economy. More generally, Republicans insisted that southern opposition to high tariffs, free homesteads, and internal improvements inhibited both individual mobility and its concomitant, social progress. As with the moral and political arguments, economic antislavery ideas possessed their own inner logic and were not dependent on any other antislavery claim. Thus, to take one example, many inveterate racists avidly supported prohibitions on territorial slavery in order to preserve the western territories exclusively for whites.

The application of these categories to Lincoln and Douglas in the late 1850s is quite revealing. Although some historians have claimed that not much separated the two candidates on slavery, in fact Lincoln opposed slavery for all of the reasons listed above excepting probably its sinfulness, while Douglas opposed slavery, if he did at all, only due to its economic consequences, and even on this subject his beliefs were not unambiguous.

While it is correct that Lincoln's religious views in 1858 were probably such that slavery-as-a-sin did not enter into them, the same could not be said as of the Second Inaugural Address. As with all things Lincoln and religion, the crucial question you have to ask is "When?"  

I will add that, though beyond the scope of the above essay, it is beyond dispute that Douglas was definitely anti-black, and his race-baiting throughout the 1858 campaign was incessant and vicious.


Like churches, mosque splits happen, too.

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini is the most prominent Shia Imam in Michigan, and until recently headed up the Islamic Center of America mosque in Dearborn. 

It appears that ethnic infighting played a role his ouster--he is Iraqi, and the ICA is largely Lebanese.

Still, an interesting look at one of Michigan's unique communities.

Outside, the walls of the Lebanese-American center had been spray-painted sometime over the past 24 hours with anti-Iraqi graffiti aimed at denigrating Qazwini, who is of Iraqi descent: “The Iraqi Center of Baghdad,” read one insult. It was a symbol of the lingering tensions that remain over his forced departure from the Islamic Center.

But despite the vandalism, Al-Qazwini garnered a massive show of support that day as he talked about the importance of educating the public about Islam. That night happened to be what is called in Islam the Night of Power, when one’s prayers and good deeds are believed to be worth more than those done in 83 years.
Jabbing his finger in the air to stress his points, Al-Qazwini cited a survey in which “62% of Americans ... have a negative view of our religion.”

“They think that Muslims are either terrorists or they support terrorists,” he said. “Who’s going to change that perception? You. Us. ... Allah will not change any people’s conditions unless they change their own conditions. We cannot sit aside and blame the Jews, continue to blame the Zionists for our pain.”
A few minutes later, he started a bidding process to help raise money for the new mosque. It’s common during the Night of Power for congregations to raise money.

“I need 10 hands, 10 people, brothers and sisters, who would donate $10,000,” he said.

In 15 minutes, Al-Qazwini raised $129,000 for the mosque.

Monday, September 21, 2015

One further note.

I expect to write about church matters very sporadically, if at all. I've said all I can say, and there are few left to be persuaded. 

Strike that: there are few left who can even be spoken to.

While it's hard to believe after the Conciliar Gospel Hour dropped no-fault quickie annulments on us (note especially the pernicious et cetera), 

October's Vatican 2.5 may prove a rude shock to some people, and maybe then it will be worth broaching again.

Other than that--screw it.

Sounds familiar.

The events of the fifties [1850s] offered a telling demonstration that the attitudes of various groups in a society toward upholding the law is in direct proportion to their approval or disapproval of the law which is to be upheld.

--David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis: 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 296.

So, anybody want to talk about politics?

I'll start.


Saddest Three Word Poem, Michigan Edition.


The Cubs of the NFL, and the reason I'm relieved to have other things to do on Sundays.

On the other hand, I have cause for hope down the I-94 in Ann Arbor, which is more than welcome. Still, the Wolverines will exceed my expectations if they win 8 games this year, so realism is the order of the day.


From the Moral Relativism Files.

Our nation's leaders have deemed that those who intervene to prevent or punish the rape of boys in Afghanistan must themselves be punished:

“'The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,' said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. 'But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.'

The policy of instructing soldiers to ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies is coming under new scrutiny, particularly as it emerges that service members like Captain Quinn have faced discipline, even career ruin, for disobeying it.

After the beating, the Army relieved Captain Quinn of his command and pulled him from Afghanistan. He has since left the military.

Four years later, the Army is also trying to forcibly retire Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, a Special Forces member who joined Captain Quinn in beating up the commander.

'The Army contends that Martland and others should have looked the other way (a contention that I believe is nonsense),' Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who hopes to save Sergeant Martland’s career, wrote last week to the Pentagon’s inspector general."

So, I was asked...

"Are you over 50?"

--The ticket-seller at my eldest son's football game yesterday.


Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'/
We are not now that strength which in old days/
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

For the curious.

I have deactivated my Facebook account. The medium became toxic and I need to dump it for the foreseeable future. To crib a phrase: it is a wretched hive of smug and stupidity.

Social media has its merits, but--for me, at least--they are far outweighed by the negatives. If you need to get in touch with me, here's the e-mail:

Back to blogging--maybe. 

And it's November.

  I look forward to making some kind of effigy of 2022 and setting it on fire on December 31.  Things have steadified, to coin a term. My so...