Sunday, November 11, 2018

On this World War I anniversary, let’s not celebrate Woodrow Wilson

On the Nov. 11 100th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War I, I’m celebrating the heroism of American warriors in Europe. Perhaps 116,000 of them died in that struggle. Their commander in chief, Woodrow Wilson, did not match the quality of their service. During the conflict, Wilson made serious mistakes as a political leader that should never be forgotten.

Wilson’s missteps in wartime were hardly his only defects. His most disgraceful flaw was his racism. Given his high-flown rhetoric as a professor about elevating humankind, Wilson especially stood out in his white supremacy. He was not a man of his time but a throwback. His two predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, had looked far kindlier on African Americans and their rights.

In 1916, Wilson, a Democrat, narrowly won reelection, campaigning under false pretenses with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” Privately, however, he knew it was quite possible that he would take the nation into the European struggle soon after starting his second term.

As an academic, Wilson had emphasized the need for presidents to explain military setbacks and other complex or mystifying events to Americans. Yet he spent much of 1917, the first year of U.S. engagement in the war, in kingly isolation, rarely using his luminous oratorical gifts to explain to his countrymen why they needed to make severe sacrifices for a conflict that wasn’t an obvious, direct threat to America’s national security.

Wilson, who preened as a civil libertarian, persuaded Congress to pass the Espionage Act, giving him extraordinary power to retaliate against Americans who opposed him and his wartime behavior. That same law today enables presidents to harass their political adversaries. Wilson’s Justice Department also convicted almost a thousand people for using “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language” against the government, the military or the flag. Wilson is an excellent example of how presidents can exploit wars to increase authoritarian power and restrict freedom, some arguing that criticizing the commander in chief amounts to criticizing soldiers in the field.

In the 1918 midterms, with the Great War heading to its climax, Wilson shamelessly exploited the military struggle for domestic politics, urging voters to support his party “for the sake of the nation itself” because Republicans were trying to take “the conduct of the war out of my hands.” This cheap maneuver backfired. Roosevelt and Taft charged that Wilson was asking for “unlimited control over the settlement of a peace that will affect them for a century.” Partly out of disgust with Wilson’s presumptuousness, voters switched control of both the House and Senate to the Republicans.

Read the rest here.

I regard Wilson as one of the worst presidents in American history.

(Note: I am still traveling and comments remain on moderation. I hope to be back on a more regular basis Wednesday.)

A War Story (reposted)


One of the great cemeteries populated by the First World War

(I wrote this essay ten years ago but think it worth reposting.)

From my grandmother and my cousin Sarah Jane (memory eternal) I gleaned the story of my great-uncle Francis Guy (known as Guy in the family). He was one of the older children (14 in all) of my great-grandparents who lived in Endicott New York at the turn of the last century. My great-grandfather was by all accounts a good man, hard working and God fearing as they used to say in those days. But he also had a reputation for being stubborn with a "my way or the highway" mentality.

By contrast my uncle Guy was a shy youth in his middle teens who had been born with some minor disfigurement on his face to which no one really paid any notice other than him. But he was very self conscious about it. In 1914 my great grandfather wanted him to get a job at the local shoe manufacturing plant run by the Endicott Johnson company, then the biggest by far employer in my home town. Guy was perfectly OK with this. But he asked if he could set aside a small amount of his earnings to save for an operation which he felt would remove the offending birth mark. My great-grandfather said no. He was a man who believed that if you were born that way, it’s what God intended and that’s the end of it.

Well he was also not very diplomatic about it and there was an argument, a real barn burner by all accounts. When it was over an ultimatum was given to the boy; do as you’re told or get out and make your own way in the world. In the heat of anger and hurt Guy left home.

Now at this time what would become known as the Great War had just broken out in Europe. Guy like a lot of kids of his generation had rather romantic notions about war. The United States had not fought a really serious one in almost sixty years and memory dulls with time. With the United States still neutral and in need of a job Guy struck out for Canada where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army (Canada was part of the British Empire then). I am not sure if he lied about his age. He landed in the Princess Patricia Regiment which would gain great fame in the war. After preliminary training the regiment was shipped to England and then over to the continent where it joined up with the British Expeditionary Force holding the left wing of the Allied line with the Belgian Army in one of the few parts of Belgium not occupied by the Germans.

In February of 1915 during one of the innumerable back and forth battles near Ypres his unit assaulted the German trench works. The attack was repelled with the customary horrific casualties but Guy made it back to his own trench unharmed. When he looked back over the battlefield known as no man’s land between the opposing trench lines he saw amongst the human wreckage of war one of his close friends lying wounded. The odds of surviving in no man’s land were not good since neither side respected stretcher bearers or medics. The wounded were usually left to die. Guy leapt out of the relative safety of his trench and rushed forward to save his buddy. He reached him and under heavy fire dragged him back to the trench. After lowering the wounded soldier down Guy turned to drop down himself when he was shot in the stomach. He died several days later at a military hospital and was buried in one of the vast cemeteries near Ypres created by the carnage of the War to End All Wars.

My great-grandparents received the telegram while watching a silent movie at the local cinema house. The lights were turned on and half the town showed up to express their sympathy. The Canadian Army later (and retroactively) conferred the Military Medal on him posthumously which my great-grandmother was buried with. I am told that in Ottawa there is a book on display with the names of all of the dead of the Princess Patricia Regiment inscribed in it. A page is ceremoniously turned each day. On one of those pages is the name of an Irish-Catholic kid with a birth mark from a small town in upstate New York, Francis Guy Dwyer. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

The next worse thing to a battle lost, is a battle won.

-The Duke of Wellington


Old men declare war.  But it is the young who must fight and die.

-Herbert Hoover




In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Royal Canadian Army



IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.



We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.



Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Traveling (again)


Once again I am off. With some luck, I should be back in about a week (your time).

P.S. Due to some inappropriate comments in the recent past and the fact that I will not be online much over the next week or so and thus will be unable to keep an eye on things, I have enabled comment moderation. I apologize for the inconvenience. 

Lutheran Minister: Porn is OK if "ethically sourced"

From the "you can't make this up" file.

HT: Blog reader Tim

Friday, November 02, 2018

Constantinople Abolishes Ukrainian Orthodox Church

In case anyone was thinking (as briefly was I) that this business in Ukraine was a nasty tiff and maybe with some help from the other local churches this would get smoothed over...

The self governing Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) has been abolished according to one of the exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Additionally all former hierarchs and clergy of the former UOC (MP) are to now consider themselves under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Archbishop Job of Telmessos also asserted that if necessary the Ecumenical Patriarchate could rescind the autocephalous status of the Russian Orthodox Church as it has the authority to do so with any church whose autocephaly was not granted by an Oecuemnical Council.

I don't see much hope for reconciliation after that. Moscow is not going to ever reenter into communion with a "mother church" that thinks it can revoke the independence of the Russian Church at will. How can the EP climb down from these kinds of statements?

"Sorry guys. The Turks slipped some acid into our drinking water."

I will be fascinated to see how the rest of the Orthodox world reacts to this.

Sources...
1 & 2

Gold buying by central banks hits its highest level in almost three years

 
Central banks around the world have upped their spending on gold to the highest level in almost three years, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).

More than 148 metric tons of gold were bought by the national banks in the three months to the end of September, a rise of 22 percent on the same period last year.

Using the current spot price of $1,223 per troy ounce, the gold purchases by the banks added up to a $5.82 billion spending splurge on the precious metal.

Russia’s central bank led the buying, purchasing more than 92 tons of gold. This marked the country’s biggest quarterly net purchase on records that stretch back to 1993.

In May this year, the Russian central bank’s First Deputy Governor Dmitry Tulin told lawmakers in the lower house of parliament that gold was “a 100 percent guarantee from legal and political risks.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Primacy and Identity A Response to ‘First Without Equals’ and the Tragedy of Deficient Ecclesiology

 The paper that follows was originally drafted in 2015 as an internal reference document for members of various theological commissions, as a response to documents that had then been somewhat recently published and generated debate over the preceding years. The more recent events of 2018, centred in Ukraine but relating to questions of ecclesiological primacy that affect the whole Orthodox world (and which, at the present moment,1 are still very much ongoing), have given cause to disseminate the text more broadly, as a small study of some of the core ecclesiastical and theological principles involved.

We are witnessing, at the present moment, a fuller realisation of the disastrous theological and ecclesiological positions outlined in the text below, which were already nascent three years ago (and indeed further back). Improper theological visions of Church hierarchy and primacy have since led beyond the bold assertion of the unsupportable concept of a Primate who is ‘first without equals’, to the actual implementation of this flawed ecclesiology in one See’s direct violation of canonical order, based precisely on its insupportable belief that it has ultimate authority to act in its own right, in a manner binding upon all others.2 That this position, and the dire actions associated with it, is contrary to canonical order is the subject of many studies already; that it is the ‘logical’ fruit of a flawed vision of primacy and authority, rooted in misapplications of Trinitarian theology and a failure to understand episcopal-sacramental participation in the Body of Christ, is the object of what follows below.

Read the rest here.

Happy Reformation Day (late)

The Church Fathers were mostly heretics. Really.

HT: Bill Tighe

Quote of the day...

Violence is not necessary to destroy a civilization. Each civilization dies from indifference toward the unique values which created it.

- Nicolás Gómez Dávila