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A New Year Resolution: Read, Read, and When You Can’t Read Anymore, Read Some More

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Welcome to 2019. I know, we’re all still a bit hung over from last night, but welcome to the New Year. Admittedly it doesn’t yet feel a lot different than 2018, but I really expect that 2019 will mark an epochal change in our history. Since I wrote about that yesterday I won’t go back for more.

That being said there is one resolution that I think that all people, the great and the small, should do, and that is not to cry boo who, but read like our lives depended on it, which in a sense they do. By reading, I don’t mean just the news, commentary, or opinion sections of print or online news services, but get real books, especially works of history, biography, philosophy, and the classics.

Barbara Tuchman wrote:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

Likewise, the French philosopher Voltaire hit the nail on the head when he said:

“Despite the enormous quantity of books, how few people read! And if one reads profitably, one would realize how much stupid stuff the vulgar herd is content to swallow every day.”

That my friends is fact. If you want to be able to better distinguish fact from fake, read.

Last year I committed to read more, even as I stayed current on the news, analysis of it, and commentary, even as I continued to write. My office at work is crammed with books, as is much of our home. I think that we follow well the advice of Dr. Seuss who wrote:

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.”

So I read, and I read, until my eyes they turned red. I read with those eyes that had turned red, in bed and even in the head.

I read as I eat, and eat as I read, because somewhere in my soul I have this great need, which I ever did cede I would be a great deal poorer indeed.

The pages they turned and as my eyes burned I knew I could never be through so long as my fingers don’t turn blue. I read and read with voices sounding through my head I, but I will not stress even though I digress…

But really, I read a lot last year and will continue to do so in the coming year. I cannot remember who said it, but someone that oI respect recently said that we should all read at least thirty books a year. That comes out to a bit over half a book a week.

I write about reading rainbow quite frequently, so today after a little extra inspiration last night I decided to look back at what I actually read this year. Here is the list which includes printed books and those that I read on my Amazon Kindle reader in no particular order:

The War that Ended Peace by Margaret McMillan

Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of the Great War at Sea by Robert Massie

Das Reich: The March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division through France, June 1944 by Max Hastings

The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940 by William Shirer.

Silent Night: The Story Of the World War One Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub

The Guns Of August by Barbara Tuchman

The Proud Tower: A Portrait Of Europe Before the War, 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman

1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies

The Path to Genocide: Essays on Launching the Final Solution by Christopher Browning

The Nazis: A Warning from History by Laurence Rees

The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees

Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory by Deborah Lipstadt

Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor

Hitler by Joachim Fest

Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich by David Clay Large

The Trial Of the Germans by Eugene Davidson

Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN by Andrew Wiest

The Anatomy Of the Nuremberg Trials by Telford Taylor

Incredible Victory by Walter Lord

Telling Lies about Hitler: History, the Holocaust, and the Trial Of David Irving by Richard Evans

The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt

A Bright and Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan

Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Vietnam by Bernard Fall

After Tet: the Bloodiest Year in Vietnam by Ronald Spector

Waterloo: The Story Of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell

Grant by Ron Chernow

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

Landscape Turned Red by Stephen W. Sears

Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher Browning

Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power by Henry Ashby Turner

The Night of the Long Knives by Max Gallo

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Goering, Dr. Douglas M. Kelly, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII by Jack El- Hai

Hitler’s Generals on Trial: The Last War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg by Valerie Hebert

Buchenwald : ostracism and violence 1937 to 1945 : guide to the permanent exhibition at the Buchenwald Memorial edited by Volkhard Knigge in collaboration with Michael Löffelsender, Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau and Harry Stein on behalf of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation ; translation: Judith Rosenthal

The Participants: The Men Of the Wannsee Conference by Hans-Christian Jasch

The Good Years: 1900 to the First World War by Walter Lord

Munich Playground by Ernest Pope

The Fall of the Dynasties: 1905-1922 by Edmond Taylor

Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub

Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life Of a Mass Murderer by Bettina Stangeth

Enemy of the People: The Untold Story Of the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler by Terrance Petty

Hunting Eichmann: How a Band Of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Tracked Down the Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Eichmann Kommandos by Justice Michael Musmanno

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

Perpetrators: The World Of the Holocaust Killers by Gunther Lewy

Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder

The Butcher Of Poland: Hitler’s Lawyer, Hans Frank by Garry O’Connor

Third Reich in History and Memory by Richard Evans

The First Salute: a View Of the American Revolution by Barbara Tuchman

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

Dereliction Of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam by H. R. McMaster

Dispatches by Michael Herr

The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan

Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson

The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstadt

The Final Hours: The Luftwaffe Plot Against Goering by Johannes Steinhoff

Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew

The Somme by Peter Hart

July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

Hitler Ascent: 1889-1939 by Volker Ulrich

What Have We Done: the Moral Injuries of Americas Longest Wars by David Wood

QB VII by Leon Uris

Russian Roulette by Michael Isikopf and Davis Corn, Operation Eichmann: The Inside Story Of History’s Most Notorious Manhunt Told by its Chief Investigator by Zivi Aharoni and Wilhelm Dietl

The Road not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot

Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Why Don’t We Learn From History by B. H. Liddell-Hart

Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command Of the Army Potomac by Stephen Sears

The Collapse of the Third Republic: an Inquiry Into the Fall of France 1940 by William Shirer

The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality by Wolfram Wette

War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941 by Geoffrey Megargee

Sherman’s March by Burke Davis

Antietam by Bruce Catton

The Culture Of Defeat: on National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery by Wolfgang Shivelsbusch

The Nanking Massacre: History Of China, Japan, and the Events Surrounding the Nanking Massacre by Mukuro Mori

The Miracle Of Dunkirk by Walter Lord

Note that very few books that I read this year deal with current events. I have always been that way. For the most part books on current events tend not to have stood the test of time.

I also read quite a few of the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trial, and still have many more to go. It kind of do those in between, and since each volume is the size of a book, they should count as books, but I don’t count them as books, although maybe I should.

Not counting the Nuremberg transcripts I read about 78 books this year, that’s about a book and a half a week, and I am not a speed reader. Yet it is not only about quantity, it is about content. Likewise, if one is to read one must understand and learn the lessons of the the past and the men and women have already learned and passed down. As Will Rogers notes:

“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Reading is the key to not falling for what the vulgar hoard is both eager and content to devour. That includes the average 15 lies, falsifications, and distortions of truth that the American President tweets or speaks every day. So I close with the words of Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under books and literature, History, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

If You Don’t Have Time to Read You don’t Have the Time or Tools to Lead

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

During the first week of March I took about a week off of regular writing and commended a new campaign of reading. This was not because I don’t read, I am always reading, but sometimes I don’t read enough, so that week I began to catch up on some reading. Since then I have read, and read, even as I began to write again, not that I ever really stopped. I fully subscribe to the words of American satirist Will Rogers who noted: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Honestly I prefer to learn by reading or observing, and reading has been part of my life since I was a child and I cannot imagine trying to write a single sentence without reading, as Stephen King noted: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I would extend King’s observation to say that if you don’t have time to read you don’t have time or the tools to lead. Sadly the American President and many of his most devoted followers never challenge themselves by reading.

So tonight I wanted to take a few minutes and catch you up on the newest additions to my reading rainbow. I finished reading German historian Paul Carrel’s Unternehmen Barbarossa im Bild (Operation Barbarossa in Pictures) in which the text is in German and Max Boot’s The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale an the American Tragedy in Vietnam. 

I took on Carrel’s book because I had read many of his histories of the German Army in the Second World War in English and I wanted to use this large German volume to improve my German vocabulary. It’s an excellent volume first published in 1976 but unless you have a moderate familiarity of German it I don’t recommend it despite the vast number of photos that I have not seen elsewhere and his honest commentary and reflections on the moral, social, and political disaster that was Operation Barbarossa.

I also finished Max Boot’s outstanding volume of the life of General Edward Lansdale. This is really a good account of U.S. involvement in the Philippines and Vietnam from 1945 until 1975. Lansdale was deeply involved in one of the few successful counter-insurgencies of the 20th Century, that against the Communist supported Huks in the Philippines  by Lansdale who worked closely with political reformers and sought to understand and win over insurgents without engaging in massive military sweeps. However successful he was he was distrusted by much of the CIA and military establishment and his efforts in Vietnam were undercut by them. Boot treats Lansdale’s story well without attempting to hide his many flaws. Lansdale has been referred to as an American T. E. Lawrence and Boot gives an excellent account of his life in the context of the CIA, American actions in Indochina, and American politics in the from the mid 1950s until the early 1970s. The book is well worth the read.

On the Vietnam front I read the late Michael Herr’s Dispatches, his classic account of his time serving as a war correspondent in Vietnam at Hue, Khe San, and other battles over the course of 18 months. Having been to war I highly recommend it.

On the more contemporary American political situation I read conservative and former Bush Administration advisor, David Frum’s book on the Trump Era, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. It is well worth the read for anyone but I highly recommend that conservatives read it. I don’t always agree with some of Frum’s political positions, but his take on the corrosive effects of Donald Trump on the United States and how Republicans have aided and abetted him.

Continuing down that road I read Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s masterpiece of investigative journalism Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. Trump loyalists will hate this book because their work continues to be verified by every new discovery about the Russians and their role in the 2016 elections. It gives the reader a superb understanding of the key players  in this drama and help the reader to put in context the daily revelations of the investigation being conducted by Special Prosecutor Robert Muller and the actions of the President’s words, actions, and policies toward Russia and Putin as well as when he melts down on Twitter. In time it might be ranked with All the President’s Men. 

As a matter of contextualizing the present I read the late historian Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land which was written following the collapse of 2008. Judt discusses how we have not learned the lessons of the Twentieth Century and the problems related to the failures of both the right and left to learn those lessons. It is well worth the read but it is not a book designed or written to comfort partisans on any side of the political spectrum.

Going back to look at history I took the time to read Walter Lord’s sequel to his classic book on the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember by reading his book The Night Lives On: The Untold Stories and Secrets of the “Unsinkable” Ship – Titanic. The second volume was published some three decades after Lord’s first volume which I think is the best account of the event ever written.  To follow it up I ordered and watched the film A Night To Remember which was also well worth watching. While not as technically accurate nor filled with “A list” stars the film captures the the tragedy of the ship in a way I don’t think that James Cameron’s masterpiece Titanic really gets.

I re-read Lord’s book on the integration of Ol’e Miss The Past that Would Not Die which though it recounts events of 1962 seems amazingly relevant in the present day.  The account of the admission of Air Force veteran James Howard Meredith in the face of the political opposition of Mississippi’s Governor and Legislature, armed White Supremacists against Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and civil rights activists. The event was a crisis that brought to the present the memories and ideology of secession and revolt against the Federal Government and Constitution in the name of preserving a history of white supremacism. Likewise I also re-read British historian and military theorist B. H. Liddell Hart’s little book Why Don’t We Learn from History? 

I took up Jason Stanley’s excellent How Propaganda Works. This is an excellent book for academics but I do not recommend it for the casual reader because it presupposes a knowledge of political philosophy and history that most people don’t have. It was a long and tiring read for me and I liked it. It provides a lot of insights into the mechanics of propaganda. For me it gave me a different level of understanding of the propaganda being used by the Russians agains the United States and the machinations of the American President to discredit opponents through both official government pronouncements and the official unofficial White House propaganda network, Fox News.

I am currently reading a number of books. I am about a quarter of the way through John Dower’s The Bloody American Century, about a third of the way through Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, and have just started Tony Judt’s Thinking the Twentieth Century and Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant.

So anyway. Have a great night and see you tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under books, History, leadership, life

Read, Observe, or Pee on the Electric Fence

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great American humorist Will Rogers once said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

I wish that more people would take time to read and reflect than to allow themselves to be force fed by their televisions. Timothy Snyder in his book On Tyranny:

“More than half a century ago, the classic novels of totalitarianism warned of the domination of screens, the suppression of books, the narrowing of vocabularies, and the associated difficulties of thought. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, firemen find and burn books while most citizens watch interactive television. In George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, books are banned and television is two-way, allowing the government to observe citizens at all times. In 1984, the language of visual media is highly constrained, to starve the public of the concepts needed to think about the present, remember the past, and consider the future. One of the regime’s projects is to limit the language further by eliminating ever more words with each edition of the official dictionary.”

I am slowing down my writing for the next few days to spend more time thinking, reflecting, reading and observing. I have been writing a lot on the Civil War, Civil Rights and Reconstruction, as well as the Nazi era, totalitarianism and their importance today. I will continue to do that but I am going to slow down a bit, and for the next week or so the articles here will be slightly edited posts from the archives so I can catch up on some reading and do some reflecting. Of course if something really notable happens I will probably at least comment on it, but for now I want to pull back a bit and read.

I do this because as a historian I known that for all of our great advances, especially in the form of technology that the character of people, the nature of humanity remains fairly constant. Technology may change the way we look the world, how we gather information, how and what we produce, how we fight wars, and even how we relate to each other, but humanity remains the same. Our forms of government and even religious faith may evolve, but the character of humanity is the one constant.

There has been a lot going on in this country and around the world and the one thing that I notice is that few seem to be taking the time to observe and seem to be more interested in immediately framing the events of the day into their particular ideology. This tendency is not limited to any one segment the population and goes across ideological divides.  We live in a time of great political and social upheaval and drastic change and if we are to ride out the storm we must continue to learn and not be satisfied with the banal and insipid sound bites that the Unholy Trinity of pundits, politicians and preachers spew out as wisdom.  The pundits, politicians and preachers who cite history usually do so completely out of context and do so in the form of bad analogies rather than by using any semblance of deductive or inductive reasoning.

Our culture has for the most part abandoned any serious attempt at learning. Schools teach to standardized tests, state school boards ensure that textbooks include nothing too controversial; universities sacrifice faculty and academic programs to prop up bloated administration and non-academic programs. We are consumers of corporate owned news networks that consider their programing entertainment and value market share more than truth. American philosopher Eric Hoffer quite rightly said, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” But sadly many people, including learned people who should know better and who have great responsibility in political, economic and even education, are content to live in a world that no longer exists.  

Over the past few months I have plowed through a number of books including David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust,  Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968, and Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939.  All are very substantial volumes. Additionally I am almost finished reading German historian Paul Carrel’s Unternehem Barbarossa im Bild (Operation Barbarossa in Pictures) in which the text is in German. I am also about sixty percent of the way through Max Boot’s The Toad Not Taken: Edward Lansdale an the American Tragedy in Vietnam.  My goal over the next week or so is to finish reading the last two books and to take on Ron Chernow’s massive biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and David Frum’s Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. 

Learning comes from reading, observation and experience. Otto Von Bismarck, one of the most remarkable statesmen that ever lived said, “only a fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man from the mistakes of others,” while Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington and victor of Waterloo wrote, “Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must.”

I for one would rather not be one of those that learn by the last named method.  Learning from my mistakes has never been enjoyable and has usually been quite painful, but then as the late Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

While I know I will make mistakes and hope to learn from them when I do I would much rather learn from the mistakes of others. Let’s hope that our leaders decide to actually pay attention and learn instead of making us pay for their mistakes. Sadly, I think that most people, especially those who claim to be leaders would rather pee on the electric fence themselves.

Anyway, it is time to do some reading and reflecting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Read, Observe, or Pee on the Electric Fence

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great American humorist Will Rogers once said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

I am slowing down my writing for the next few days to spend more time thinking, reflecting, reading and observing. I have been writing a lot on the Civil War, Civil Rights and Reconstruction, and I have been doing some writing on the outbreak of the First World War, I will continue to do that but I am going to slow down a bit, and just post a few short thoughts each day as I do some reading and reflecting on history and the things that we face today.

I do this because as a historian I known that for all of our great advances, especially in the form of technology that the character of people, the nature of humanity remains fairly constant. Technology may change the way we look the world, how we gather information, how and what we produce, how we fight wars, and even how we relate to each other, but humanity remains the same. Our forms of government and even religious faith may evolve, but the character of humanity is the one constant.

There has been a lot going on in this country and around the world and the one thing that I notice is that few seem to be taking the time to observe and seem to be more interested in immediately framing the events of the day into their particular ideology. This tendency is not limited to any one segment the population and goes across ideological divides.  We live in a time of great political and social upheaval and drastic change and if we are to ride out the storm we must continue to learn and not be satisfied with the banal and insipid sound bites that the Unholy Trinity of pundits, politicians and preachers spew out as wisdom.  The pundits, politicians and preachers who cite history usually do so completely out of context and do so in the form of bad analogies rather than by using any semblance of deductive or inductive reasoning.

Our culture has for the most part abandoned any serious attempt at learning. Schools teach to standardized tests, state school boards ensure that textbooks include nothing too controversial; universities sacrifice faculty and academic programs to prop up bloated administration and non-academic programs. We are consumers of corporate owned news networks that consider their programing entertainment and value market share more than truth. American philosopher Eric Hoffer quite rightly said, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” But sadly many people, including learned people who should know better and who have great responsibility in political, economic and even education, are content to live in a world that no longer exists.  

Learning comes from reading, observation and experience. Otto Von Bismarck, one of the most remarkable statesmen that ever lived said, “only a fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man from the mistakes of others,” while Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington and victor of Waterloo wrote, “Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must.”

I for one would rather not be one of those that learn by the last named method.  Learning from my mistakes has never been enjoyable and has usually been quite painful, but then as the late Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

While I know I will make mistakes and hope to learn from them when I do I would much rather learn from the mistakes of others. Let’s hope that our leaders decide to actually pay attention and learn instead of making us pay for their mistakes. Sadly, I think that most people, especially those who claim to be leaders would rather pee on the electric fence themselves.

Anyway, it is time to do some reading and reflecting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom

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Edgar Johnson wrote  that “A satirist is never certain whether he/she will be acclaimed or punished.” Today 10 extraordinary and acclaimed satirists were punished by Islamic extremists who killed them for their alleged offenses against Mohammed.

This morning I looked at my iPhone Twitter feed and noticed that there had been an attack on  the offices of the French satire paper Charlie Hebdo. When I got to work and logged on to my computer I saw the awful news that a dozen people were dead, many more wounded. As I watched the video reports of the attack on the BBC News live stream I was horrified, but not surprised. I just wondered when, where and to whom this would happen. While the attackers appear to be radicalized Moslems, claiming links to Al Qaeda, and with the Islamic State claiming credit for the attack, the fact is that free speech is under assault around the world with journalists, writers and even bloggers being threatened and sometimes like today killed in the most brutal manner.

Sometimes the threats come from Moslem and other religious extremists, and the fact is that in addition to Moslems radical Christians, Hindus and Jews have have threatened, assaulted or killed those they oppose. Other radical non-religious entities do the same. Likewise many governments use open and secretive means to silence dissenting writers.

The fact is that speaking the truth to power, making comments that some find offensive, or the timeless art of political and religious satire is dangerous. I have been threatened a number of times on this site, mostly by White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi types, but occasionally a less than gruntled Christians or Moslems.  I’ve gotten used to it, though on one occasion in 2010 I had to report one person who made very specific threats against me and my family to the FBI.

However, the attack on the people who made up the staff of Charlie Hebdo was very troubling. While the paper made satire of Islamic extremists, it also took on the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jews, as well as made mincemeat of the the French political landscape and political leaders, right wing and left wing, which means that those that they became the enemies of a lot of powerful people who do not like to be criticized.

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The fact is that satire is meant to shake things up and on occasion offend those in power. It does so through wit and humor, sometimes even crude and offensive humor. That is what makes it so effective. Some of the greatest American social and political commentators included Mark Twain and Will Rogers, who used satire many times and quite often offended many people, especially political, religious and business leaders or organizations.

That kind of satire as Harry Shearer, who does the voices for a number of characters on The Simpsons and maintains his own satire program noted that because satirists have the job of needling those in power that they often have no one to defend them.

Shearer noted:

With Charlie Hebdo, “you really have a clean case here,” Shearer said. “This is a magazine, a group of humans who exist not to sell hardware and software on the side. This is a group of humans who exist mainly if not exclusively to put out a satirical magazine that is not basically commercial; it’s a satirical enterprise that happens to exist in a commercial market. The sad fact is there is no one else to defend them. Satirists are reliant ultimately on the very establishment they mock. That’s the great irony of their situation.”

Those killed included some of the most talented and gifted cartoon satirists in the world, some of whom had been living under death threats for years.

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The dead included Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor and best known cartoonist, nine other staff including other noted cartoonists and writers and two policemen.

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Stéphane Charbonnier

Today, anyone who values liberty, and freedom of speech, expression and association knows the reality that if you offend the wrong people that you could be killed. It really doesn’t matter who or what you criticize, the fact is that there are people who for whatever reason, be it an offense against their God, their ideology or political beliefs, that some people cannot take criticism. 

I did find it interesting that Bill Donohue of the Catholic League blamed Charbonnier and his staff for insulting the prophet. I found that interesting coming from a man who simply debases and demeans his opponents while condemning them to hell, and who has made plenty of inflammatory statements about Islam and Moslems. Donohue, the champion of intolerance condemned not the intolerance of the killers, but the “intolerance” of those who were murdered. I am sure that in the next few days there will be many right wing Christian preachers and pundits who say similar things.

But also one has to look at this attack in a strategic context. If the attackers are members of Al Qaeda or ISIL they chose their victims carefully in order to provoke a response against innocent Moslems that will provoke even more violence. Such people are evil.

The fact is that I don’t have to like satire, sometimes I am offended by some of the things that I see, read or hear, but good satire makes me think, that is it’s brilliance. As G.K. Chesterton said “A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true.”

So in the tradition of defending the freedom of speech, the press and association, #Je Suis Charlie.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary

What Does it Mean? Will Rogers, Padre Steve & Election 2014

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“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” Will Rogers

Last night in battle of the witless, funded by the soulless, and empowered by the clueless the American electorate finally finished the 2014 warm up for the 2016 bloodletting known as the 2016 General election. Why they call it that I don’t know, we haven’t had a general as President since Eisenhower, but I digress…

What does it all mean? Actually I don’t know, I have some ideas but there is one thing I know, it means nothing because people do not change, especially the Trinity of Evil, the politicians, pundits and preachers that work overtime to get power and maintain it for power’s sake so they can use the police power of government to enforce their will by restricting the liberties of those who do not share their views.

But this is a far deeper question than we would want to contemplate. The problem in American life and politics is that we lack any kind of historical perspective, not only about the world, but our own history and that extends across the ideological spectrum of the country, that is why over eighty years ago Rogers noted “The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office” and why he noted “The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so that’s the problem.” Ignorance is bliss and my God there is a lot of bliss out there today…

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That my friends is why no matter what party they represent we too often elect the worst examples of the human species into office; many times in the case of congressmen, for decades, or until the cows come home. Since cows like to stay out late, play cards, and drink that can be a very long time.

But we as American voters elect them and we collectively are idiots for doing so.

My God, in what civilized country could a man like the disgraced, court-martialed, convicted criminal, serial liar and Talibanesque religious fanatic like Gordon Klingenschmitt win a State Senate office in Colorado with over 70 percent of the vote? But assured that Klingenschmitt, running as a Republican but motivated by the soulless hatred of his Christian Dominionism will be around for a while. He is a megalomanic with delusions of grandeur and feelings of unjust persecution. There is a reason that he was court-martialed and thrown out of the Navy and why anyone should be very afraid that any party, including my former party, the Republicans would ever even allow someone like him to enter a race under their banner.

I guess that is one of the big reasons that I am not a Republican, too many soulless, clueless and heartless religious fanatics just like him are driving that party and the country to the abyss. Like Rogers I can now say “I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat.” But again I digress…

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But whenever I hear the name Gordon Klingenschmitt; a man who entered the military with a political-religious agenda, dishonored his uniform, made a mockery of faith, family, slandered countless of his commanding officers and fellow chaplains in the Right Wing media; all in the name of Jesus, I get upset, and wish a pox on any political party, or voter who would elect this man or anyone else like him. Klingenschmitt and many like him are quick to label liberals or progressives as Nazis, but they are the people who have said they would, if they ever had the political power to limit the rights or people that they admittedly hate, be it for political, religious or social issues.  Their targets, Democrats, liberals, blacks, gays and lesbians, Moslems, immigrants, and any other group that they want to demonize to mobilize their base depending on their needs.

You see my friends, that is what this election meant. Yes, one can say it is a rejection of Obama and his policies by voters, but it is also, and much more importantly a return to religious fanaticism as a basis and instrument of policy among elected officials. Klingenschmitt may be an outlier right now, but he and others like him are now the face of the GOP. If you are a moderate in the GOP, get ready, you will be either pushed out or forced to adopt their extremism because theirs is a religious crusade that allows no dissent. If you are a secularist, an economic conservative or a “strong on defense” type in the GOP for whom religion is a minor concern, or something best left at home or in the churches, get ready, you too are on their hit list. The problem is that people will do anything to gain power, even make allies of guys like Klingenschmitt and the other American Taliban that are just like him.

I wonder if people will ever learn, but as Rogers said:

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

I guess there are going to be a lot of people learning by in that manner over the next two years….Let me take a deep breath and then continue…. thank you.

For those that think the election will have the effect that people Klingenschmitt and the religious fanatics like him think  that it will, think again. It has the potential of destroying the Republican party, with consequences as important and perhaps as dire as the collapse of the Whigs in 1854 and the split in the Democrat Party between 1856 and 1861. (For those that don’t know about that split it helped light the fire that became the Civil War, read some of my Civil War articles, I cover it to some degree in them.)

Some Republicans recognize this, they know that the victories last night came mostly in reliably conservative states and districts, or places that depending on the year and the situation can swing between Republican or Democrat control. Neil Newhouse who was Mitt Romney’s pollster noted yesterday that “the image of the Republican Party has actually gotten worse since the end of 2012.”

That my friends is what this election meant. Senator Rand Paul, a man who has his eyes on the white House noted: “The Republican Party brand sucks, and so people don’t want to be a Republican… why?…The problem is the perception … that no one in the Republican Party cares.” The problem is that it is no longer about perception, it is about reality. The fact is that unless one is rich, white, male, or a conservative Christian you don’t matter to those now driving the party. The attitude is “you are either for us or against us.” It is a no-compromise attitude which will be their downfall and may very well split the party if old line Republicans finally grow some balls and say no to it. 

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As far as hope for what the new Republican controlled Congress will do, only one in four Americans think they will do better than the split Congress that we have had the past four years and a full 40% said in that survey said that nothing would change in Washington DC. This is something that Tea Party party pundits Erick Erickson, who I am not a fan of, noted over at Politico.com two days ago:

“So while we are going to see a Republican Congress in name in January, its small-government rhetoric is certainly not going to fool or win over the party base. In 2014, the American public has shown that it hates Washington, D.C., and the Republican leaders in Washington are demonstrating why. They have assembled a team of strategists, consultants, and other political operatives who eat, breathe, and sleep Washington, D.C. Instead of standing for something, they stand for anything they think might get them back into power.

The message from Washington’s Republican elite is no longer that government is the problem, but that Democrats in charge of government are the problem. That might work in 2014, but it’s not going to carry the day in the next presidential election. Republicans cannot make the case that government is the problem when they covet the power of controlling it to the extent they do.” http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/midterms-hollow-victory-gop-112463.html#ixzz3IE1eHexj

Be assured the Democrats are no gem right now, like the GOP they too have some wing nuts in the party. Though I am a Democrat there have been times that I wonder if the Democratic leadership have lost their souls and are more intent on maintaining power than solving problems. Based on the massive number of e-mails I received from Democrat and progressive organizations that I support, almost all dealing with fundraising, which ran about twenty a day during the last two months of the campaign have to wonder. Yes, I know that to fight the Koch brothers funding wars brought about by Citizens United that one has to have a lot of money, but those e-mails did not motivate me, they were annoying and disruptive. 
The GOP won yesterday because it won where it was supposed to win, in states where it had the home field advantage, in states where legislatures limited the opportunities of poor, elderly, students living away from home, military personnel serving out of state as well as minority voters to vote by in effect creating a defacto-Poll Tax. But such a strategy goes back to Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation who said in 1980:

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

But in 2016, it will be a different electorate, an electorate radically different from the one that voted yesterday. The 2016 electorate will be much more favorable to Democrats, one that is not enamored with people like Klingenschmitt. They are young people who want to get ahead in life and are not concerned about someone’s religious beliefs, no fueled by racism, accepting of minorities, women, immigrants and the LGBT community. Those voters typically don’t vote in large numbers in mid-term elections, but do in presidential elections and their influence will be decisive particularly if the new GOP Congressional majority does what I expect to do by focusing on a narrow agenda that is being defined by crackpots, conspiracy theorists and religious fanatics, further driving them, as well as anyone of moderation away from the GOP. If the Democrats can get off their ass, they will keep the White House and will have an excellent chance to take back the Senate in 2016.

I am no expert, but I do know history and I know human nature. I could be try wrong about all of this, but no-matter what I am glad this election is over. The only break I got from it was going to German for the Oktoberfest, with good friends who spanned the political spectrum from left to right. It is almost enough to want to move overseas and be an expat if it means that I don’t have to listen to all of the lies and dirty campaign ads that were a staple of both parties this year. But then we can thank the Supremes and their Citizens United decision for that.

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The campaign wore me out and I look forward to at least a few months of peace, before the next phase of the 2016 campaign begins.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, News and current events, Political Commentary

Baseball Season is Over and Only 5 days until the 2016 Presidential Campaign Begins

It breaks your heart.  It is designed to break your heart.  The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”  A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind,” Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.” Will Rogers

Well my friends it is with heavy heart that I have to admit that the 2012 baseball season is over. Not that I was disappointed at all with the results. My three favorite teams all made the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. Likewise the fact that the Giants won the World Series added a special touch to the season. However, the 2012 baseball season as it must passed into history and the off season began with player awards as well as trades and other transactions as is the custom.

Back in the spring I shared that baseball would help get me through the 2012 elections and it has. Though the season ended last Sunday night which left nine days before the 2012 Presidential and Congressional General elections I have so far survived. I am not as sure about the country but I have survived and no matter who wins the coming election I know two things that are a certainty:

That the 2013 Baseball season will begin on March 31st with a Sunday Night game and that “Opening Day” will take place on April 1st, with a very non-traditional twist as the Cincinnati Reds play an inter-league game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California or whatever they call themselves this year. Likewise the 2016 Presidential Campaign will begin 0n November 7th regardless of which candidate wins the 2012 election when Newt Gingrich declares himself as a candidate against a to be announced Democrat or primary opponent to Mitt Romney who if he wins the Presidency, Gingrich will abandon for not fulfilling his campaign promises before the last vote is counted.  That won’t be hard because Romney has campaigned on all sides of every issue at one time or another and to say that he has failed to live up to any particular promise will not be hard for Gingrich, Rick Santorum or any other Presidential wannabe to do.

So rest assured my friends be you fans of the American League or National League, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Independents that on November 7th life will go on. Even for Cubs fans. Of course the one election not being talked about is the Baseball Hall of Fame election scheduled for December with the results to be announced in January 2013. That is an election  that I am waiting to hear the results.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, News and current events, Political Commentary

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