Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cliffs Notes for the (Un) A Ware

I hate self-deluded experts who won’t make an effort….

I offer the following exchange, with some additional color thrown in by yours truly:

I resisted commenting but here goes.

You should have stuck to your first instinct.

I admire your writing and mostly agree with your analysis, though I am an anarchist rather than libertarian.

Wow! A real anarchist and not a mamby-pamby libertarian!  Thanks for sharing.

Why this is relevant, we are given not a clue.  In any case, whenever someone who has never commented here before (at least to my recollection) starts his comment with something like “long time reader” or “I admire your writing” I am 99.99% sure that a) it isn’t true and b) idiocy will follow.

I cannot make the reason for your agreement with this thinly veiled Roman apology masquerading as historical/political commentary.

A fair wonderment, but not for someone who says “I admire your writing and mostly agree with your analysis,” given that I have written my analysis on this exact topic more times than any other.

Even a superficial knowledge knows of the Inquisition. If there was some kind of "common" culture it was the result of violence and severe repression of any dissenting views. Suggested reading: A History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages by Henry Charles Lea.

A typical (and uninformed) stereotype of the time and place.

If the Roman church is the giver of this commonality, it did so just as the Communist Party did in the Soviet Union, with violence and terror.

A typical (and uninformed) stereotype of the time and place.

One has to ignore real history (and many papal bulls) to think this institution is ever been a friend of the average man. That common culture was serf and noble with very little in between.

The serf had much more freedom and law on his side than most would expect, at least for those who go no deeper than the stereotype; the noble even more freedom, and much more than any modern citizen.  Further…he acted truly noble.

The wars of the 20th century had nothing to do with religion, they were ideological wars primarily with the German Succession question complicating matters. I fail to see Protestant fingerprints on them.

Theologically, something is wrong with a religion that at one time would kill you if you possessed that religion's holy writings. Think about that!

I respect the partisans of the Roman church to defend it however they wish, but I still cannot understand your affinity with point of view.

For anyone who has actually read anything on the topic or my posts on this topic, the above statements would not be so easily offered – at least not without addressing the points previously made.

My reply to his comment:

bionic mosquito November 17, 2017 at 3:51 PM

You claim to be a long time reader, yet I have never claimed that the Roman Church was perfect.

If you want to have a conversation, proceed as follows:

    1) Look to the top of this page.
    2) Click on the "Bibliography" tab
    3) Read every post under the author "Fritz Kern"
    4) Read the post under Regine Pernoud
    5) Read selected posts under RHC Davis (the titles of the posts will indicate the relevant posts)
    6) Read the first post under Jacques Barzun

After you have done this, please reply in a manner that makes clear that you have some understanding of the law and culture of the time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Clintons’ Day of Reckoning

Day of Reckoning: the time when one is called to account for one's actions, to pay one's debts, or to fulfill one's promises or obligations.

When the Harvey Weinstein story broke about a month ago, I offered that the reason for such a story to break now – after decades of such behavior – might have something to do with the democrats getting tired of telling Hillary to go away.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday went to a place that few Democrats have dared or cared to go when it comes to allegations of sexual assault: Calling out Bill Clinton.

The initial story on Weinstein broke in the New York Times; this story is in the Washington Post.  In other words, this isn’t some wacko like bionic mosquito or some such.  Someone is on a mission.

It's difficult to overstate the potential significance of Gillibrand's response to the question about the former president.

As you would expect, Gillibrand is being threatened by Clinton loyalists.  I say this is irrelevant – and not only because the democratic party establishment wants to make Hillary go away:

Suddenly, other Democrats will be asked if they agree with Gillibrand's comments that the former president should have resigned.

Stuck between an oval-office desk and a hard place….

If a reasonably large number of Democrats decide to rewrite their view of Clinton's legacy as one that should have ended in disgrace, that turns Clinton from a statesman into something closer to what many Republicans have long alleged.

Alleged”?  You must be kidding.

It may never come to that, especially if other Democrats don't join in Gillibrand's statements about Clinton.

They won’t have a choice.  They will have to make a public statement: side with the predator and his (nominally speaking) wife, or protect their own tails.


But in one fell swoop, [Gillibrand] put that debate squarely on the table. And you can bet the Clintons are apoplectic about that right now — especially considering the source.

Any tears out there?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My, How Times Have Changed

The Libertarian Forum, edited by Murray N. Rothbard; May 1, 1969. 

All through the land, this wondrous month of April, the student revolution has spread to campus after campus, even to the most conservative and most apathetic.

…the student rebellion has reached a crescendo this spring which few of us have ever dreamed could be possible.

In this edition, Rothbard focusses on the campus protests of the time.  Before considering further his observations, let’s pause to review the concerns of today’s college students:

Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, Heather MacDonald, Corey Lewandowski, Betsy DeVos, and Milo Yiannopoulos – they might say something that hurts the feelings of these poor delicate snowflakes.  Comfort rooms, cupcakes hot chocolate, and teddy bears are offered for those who melt.

A nice list from Forbes:

·        Cornell Students Hold A Post-election “Cry in”
·        UT Austin Students Organize “Cocks Not Glocks” Protest
·        UMass Students Hold A “Shit-in”
·        UC Merced Students Seek To Disarm Campus Police
·        Gettysburg College Students Sit Down Against Hate
·        Smith College Students Host Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving
·        U Chicago Students Block Michigan Avenue Traffic For Free Tuition Protest
·        Oberlin Students Demand Low Grades Be Abolished
·        Hampshire College Students Lowered And Burned The American Flag
·        Faculty And Students Try To Silence UVA Founder Thomas Jefferson

Some really earth-shattering stuff.

And for the pièce de résistance, a view that takes these present-day campus protests far too seriously; the issues at hand:

…campus rape, structural racism, gender-based wage discrimination, and skyrocketing expenses over student housing…

To clarify the viewpoint of the author and publisher:

To look at the situation differently, it might help to think alongside Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist…

For anyone unfamiliar with Gramsci, let’s just say he was a cultural Marxist before anyone ever heard of either cultural Marxists or the Frankfurt School.

So, this is now.  What was the situation that brought Rothbard such glee in 1969?

The prime goal is to sever the universities’ all-pervading tie-ins and linkages with the government and its war machine.  This year’s major protest demanded the abolition of the ROTC on campus.

…the realization that ROTC is training officers to enslave their fellow soldiers and to murder en masse in Vietnam.

Rothbard does not spare libertarian conservatives who have condemned the protestors for initiating violence:

But who has initiated violence?  The kids, or the universities that collaborate in the draft and the war machine, who eagerly obtain funds from the taxpayer for all manner of research and grants, including research for germ warfare?

And his charge for libertarians?

And so, libertarians must hail the student revolution, their means and their ends, their demands both immediate and ultimate.


It is unfortunate to consider – many of that generation of protestors went on to create the state and the crony-capitalist system that we live under today.

We can thank them, at least, for doing their part to bring an end (at least so far) to conscription.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Total Corruption and Total Determinism

Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society, edited by John C. Rao.

NB (and it will be really tough in this post): in my review of this book, I am presenting the case as Catholics see it; I say nothing of my views on theology.  My intent is not to get into the theology, but to examine the impact of the Reformation on society and what this meant (and means) for the growth of the state.

The period in Europe, before the Reformation, offers what I view as the longest-lasting and closest example of a decentralized, libertarian order we have seen in the west…ever.  What has come since has not come close, certainly in terms of longevity – no matter what one believes about the value of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, or Liberalism.  For this, the period is worth examining for anyone interested in libertarianism in this world.

The doctrine of total corruption constitutes the view that, subsequent to the fall of the first couple, man is not merely wounded by sin, but utterly ruined by it.

Total determinism comprises the view that God arbitrarily decides who shall be saved and who shall not before they are created….

So Sebastian Morello describes the Reformation doctrine.

This dual doctrine reduces man to a brute, and two forms of government follow from its anthropology.  One is that of draconian leaders, and the other that of liberal oligarchy which maintains that they are the peoples’ choice.

One is Hobbes, the other is Jefferson.

People are incapable of developing virtue therefore they abandon the life of virtue.  Therefore, to govern man, brute force was necessary.  For this role, the princes gladly took charge.  The princes realized that Luther offered a way to separate from the dual governance authority provided by the Church in Rome, and therefore consolidate government in their lands under one head – their own.

Citing Henry Sire’s synopsis:

[Thomas] More knew that “despite the Protestants’ claim to speak for the ordinary layman, their revolt was not a popular one.  There was no place in Europe where the peasantry, by far the largest part of the population, received the Reformation gladly, let alone instigated its entry.”

It was, instead, an elitist revolution.  Sire continues:

“Reformation was the work of kings, of the nobility, and of the urban plutocracies.  All the Reformers, notably Luther, Calvin, and Knox, relied explicitly on those elements and directed their main proselytic efforts at them.”

More viewed the doctrines as deeply pernicious, leading to an understanding of human action independent of concern for universal moral norms.  Instead, “what is right for me” became the standard.  From this, state law could be implemented without reference to what is called perennial law. 

Secular liberalism, then, is the direct heir to the Protestant heritage.  It is simple enough to trace liberal ideas to Enlightenment ideas, and those back to Reformation ideas; and, of course, these all, in a sense, belong to a single movement of abandoning heritage.

Law will come from somewhere.  I suggest that the choices are either from culture and tradition or fiat – man made, declared.  In the tradition of the European Middle Ages, this law based on tradition was tempered by what was deemed “good”; e.g., slavery was almost unknown during this time and place.

Which method provides the most assurance, certainty and consistency in law?  To ask the question is to answer it.  In case this isn’t clear to you:

…this has led to the invention of new laws and the changing of existing laws at a pace unknown before in any human community.  Of course, this in turn has brought about a certain justifiable contempt for the law, which has been increasingly been seen as something arbitrarily imposed.

I think that pretty well sums up today’s reality in the west.

The Reformation, having made the human will obsolete, leaves man free to act on his basest instinct – anything less (or more?) would prevent humans from living “authentic lives.”

…the more openly depraved one is, the less hypocritical one is.  The more a society celebrates expressions of degeneracy, the freer it demonstrates itself to be.

I think that pretty well sums up today’s reality in the west.

Liberalism deconstructs the tradition of the culture, and, as it deconstructs, it also rejects.  Liberalism only protests, denies, rejects, deconstructs, and never affirms or builds.

While such a society, in theory, can conform fully to the negative law of the non-aggression principle, is there any reader out there who can imagine that such a society will, in fact remain libertarian? 

We even trace this path in our history: one could argue that the nineteenth century in the west was, at least for the non-slave, the freest period for western man.  Yet look how quickly this was destroyed – the Great War shattered every illusion of freedom in the west.  Compare this to the more-or-less 1000 year period of Germanic law during the Middle Ages and prior to the Reformation.

More saw that the Reformation would tear Europe apart – a fragmented Europe.  In its place, today we have the European Union.  Instead of law by custom and tradition, Europe today has a monstrosity in Brussels.


Thomas More never fully experienced this thing called “the Reformation.”  He wrote about Luther and Calvin, and More offered his own view of the likely consequences.  In a period of five years, he wrote perhaps one million words on this matter.  One might call him a prophet…of some sort.

But, we close with Morello:

The Reformation gave concrete theological foundation to the astonishing pride and conceit of those who wished, in one great sweep, to toss away all of Christendom’s masters of the intellectual life, with the whole European educational enterprise and the civilizing tradition of the primary evangelized lands.  It has been permissible – and deemed admirable – to cultivate this attitude ever since.  This is of the utmost importance for understanding our political situation today, for the academy is where minds are formed, and what happens in the academy affects the future of the human community.

I think I need not mention to this audience what is taught in the academy today.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Syria Obsession

“As you know, Archie, we’re much concerned about what’s going on in Syria – especially the way the Communists and the nationalists appear to be ganging up for some kind of action there...I’d like you to fly out to Damascus right away, talk to our ambassador, and see…what can be done about it.”

-        Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Archie Roosevelt

It has been sixty years; not much has changed.

America's Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, by Hugh Wilford.

With this charge, Archie, accompanied by the CIA’s “Mr. Middle East,” Kim Roosevelt, arrived in Beirut.  The cousins were to begin a three-week tour of the region to size up the possibility of covert action in Syria and to mobilize Arab opposition to Nasser (perhaps the first “next Hitler” in the long list of the many since).  Nasser was seen as the root of the new Arab nationalism problem, his nationalization of the Suez Canal being perhaps the biggest concern.

As was – and will always be – the case, supporters in opposition to the standing government could often be found.  What was proposed by the opposition was a coup.  Archie was unfazed, a strange reaction given that Archie was a strong Arabist, previously supportive of Arab nationalism and even a supporter of Nasser in Egypt. 

Wilford focusses on the issues of the Cold War in turning Archie and other Arabists against their previously-held views – but this seems unsupportable; even in later years when writing his memoirs, Archie recognized that the goals of Arab nationalists and communists were diametrically opposed.  Yet, this is ultimately the reason that Wilford identifies as the cause of Archie’s switch.

Things didn’t go as well in Syria for the Americans as it had in Iran a few years earlier.  The reasons are familiar: Arab resistance, British duplicity, and the inherent contradictions in America’s policy.  A critical factor sixty years ago was the position of the Saudis – not in support of the American plan.

The Saudis were threatened: America is prepared to meet its energy needs with nuclear power, and also to provide nuclear energy to all of Europe; your oil will no longer be needed (a familiar play today regarding America’s promises of natural gas to Europe in the face of Russia).  The Saudi king replied with a handwritten note the next day: I don’t believe you.  He knew that it was a bluff, and the Americans were caught bluffing.

In the midst of all of this, the British, French and Israelis went after Egypt and the Suez, with Eisenhower forcing them to stand down.  Several reasons are offered, perhaps most convincing is that the Americans were left out of the planning and execution – this all occurred in a manner hidden from the Americans.

This American rebuke brought down Anthony Eden as Prime Minister and raised, once again, the profile of America in the Arab world.  The feeling did not last long.  Eisenhower quickly swallowed his anger with the British, and once again the Americans and the British were working together for empire.

As a play against Nasser, Jordan and Lebanon would have to be co-opted in addition to the hoped-for action against Syria.  The story takes an interesting detour – and one that will sound familiar to more recent events.  A coup in Jordan, taken by elements opposed to the young King Hussein – at least that is the official story.

The story remains controversial, yet it appears that the “coup” attempt was, in fact, staged by Hussein himself, perhaps with American help.  The king played the hero against the supposed plotters; the supposed ring leader was offered rather lenient treatment; Hussein went from being a “playboy” to being a serious Arab leader in the eyes of the west – now receiving tens of millions of dollars in aid.

Western-friendly political candidates in Lebanon were funded with briefcases full of cash, in an effort to secure election victory.  With western-favored politicians in place in Lebanon, and Hussein’s position secured in Jordan, Americans could once again focus on Syria.

It was apparent to the Americans that there was no indigenous opposition in Syria – the Americans would have to manufacture the opposition.  For this, they had to reach down to junior army officers; unfortunately for the Americans, the one they found turned out to be a Syrian government informer.

The Syrians spoiled the American plans: they surrounded the American embassy with thirty police officers, ordered the expulsion of Americans directly behind the plot.  Worse, friendly Arab elements throughout the region were turning cold regarding American designs on the country, with one exception: Turkey.

But bringing Turkey into the Syrian situation could very well provoke a Soviet response.  Dulles was willing to take the chance.  Eventually, cooler heads prevailed – something lacking in today’s replay of these events, it seems.


This post is my final post in review of Wilford’s book.  I very much appreciated the many details of events, but I cannot help but consider a few gaping holes in his analysis – left unsaid or barely mentioned:

First, Eisenhower: We all know of his warning regarding the military-industrial complex.  In reading this history, one cannot help but conclude that Eisenhower was a hypocrite.  I recognize that comments after the fact can be self-serving, but I offer the following:

The Eisenhower administration’s “adventurist policy” was “intolerable…You can’t go around overthrowing any gov[ernmen]t.”  Allen Dulles “sympathized,” Kim [Roosevelt] recalled, “but said there was nothing he could do about it.”

The CIA went from an intelligence gathering organization to one directly involved in covert operations; this is Eisenhower’s legacy.

Second, Saudi Arabia: a more drastic change cannot be suggested in regarding the Saudi view toward their Arab brothers in this Great Game.  Whereas sixty years ago the Saudis were strongly concerned about their standing with Arabs in the Middle East, no such concern is evident today.

Third, Israel: Barely addressed by Wilford is the dramatic shift in American policy in the region – from sympathy for the Arabs to reverence for the state of Israel.

Fourth: Nothing has changed – change a few dates and names and this is the same story that has been witnessed and repeated even in the last ten years.