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Notes of a Left-Wing Cub Scout 08-12-03

Roundup




Mr. Pasley is Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the author of "The Tyranny of Printers": Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. In a former life, he was a speechwriter and journalist, working for a formerly liberal journal of opinion that he can now barely stand to read. Many of his historical and journalistic writings, along with some useful and much useless information, can be found on his web site.

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 This is a picture of me standing outside my den mother's house in Topeka, circa 1972. That's a peace sign I'm giving, by the way, rather than any of that militaristic Baden-Powell symbolism. Click on the picture to get the full effect.

"Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago/
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay/
Yeah, well maybe that wasn't exactly what they was thinkin'/
Version 6.0 of the American way."

--Steve Earle, from the CD Jerusalem

Pope Orrin's Bull 8/12/03 11am

There was a good column in the Post-Dispatch today by a former Clinton judicial nominee regarding the Republican claim that a  Democratic bias against Catholicism is behind the opposition to Bush's nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the federal bench. According to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, "Pryor’s opponents display 'a prejudice against traditional religious beliefs. But I’m not saying Democrats are anti-Catholic … there is a developing hostility to religious Catholic beliefs.”

Hatch's concern is rather amusing, coming as it does from the party that once flayed the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism, and rebellion." There would be no GOP if the anti-Catholic (and anti-immigrant) Know-Nothings had not come first, smashing the Whigs and forming a major component of the new northern party, the Republicans, that soon replaced the Whigs in the two-party system. Going back to the early stages of Irish Catholic immigration, the Democratic party has been the historic home of American Catholics. Of course, times can change. The Catholic-Democratic relationship has weakened in the face of abortion and other post-60s social issues, and modern Republican know-nothingism is considerably broader in scope than it was in the 1850s, extending as it does to science, economics, international law, and basic standards of honesty.  Yet I am guessing that it remains true that heavily Catholic areas are still pretty heavily Democratic, though not always as reliably so.

The Clinton nominee, who is Catholic, points out the major reasons why this might be so. The Catholic Church agrees with the modern, Southern WASP-dominated Republican party on very little except on sexual morality, and even if you don't agree, the Church's position on abortion is actually much better grounded than the Republican one. Here are some quotations from the column by Michael D. Schattman:

I was opposed by Republicans because my adherence to Catholic principles of social justice put me at odds with them and their values of social injustice.

I helped a police chief prevent a race riot. I believed in the 14th Amendment, equal rights under the law, and the dignity of every individual. I questioned the wisdom of the death penalty but not its constitutionality. I rejected war's morality but recognized its historic unavoidability.

They did not.

Why? It begins, I think, with Pope Leo XIII. In his 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," he taught the dignity of work, the rights of the worker to a living wage and the justice of organized labor. Since then, the principles of Catholic social justice have matured under successive popes and the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to include:

  • An end to racial discrimination.
  • A minimum wage.
  • Equal employment opportunity.
  • Housing assistance.
  • A consistent respect for human life, encompassing opposition to abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, the death penalty, and war (with the current pope condemning the U.S. attack on Iraq).
  • More generous immigration and refugee policies.
  • An end to the embargo against Cuba.
  • Increased Medicaid eligibility.
  • National health insurance and a patient's bill of rights.

And the list goes on.

As the bishops (not Hatch) put it in the publication "Faithful Citizenship" before the 2000 election, America needs a kind of politics focused on "the needs of the poor . . . the pursuit of the common good" and a system designed "to pursue greater justice and peace."

Republican rhetoric aligns with Catholic teaching on abortion, but that is the only point of convergence.

Hatch's ploy reflects two major features of the current political and cultural landscape: the Christian conservative persecution complex, which impels many evangelical Protestants especially to seize the mantle of victimhood for themselves from those (the poor, racial minorities, political dissenters) they feel have unjustly stolen it; and the campaign to redefine such highly valued concepts as faith, tradition, family, and patriotism in the most narrowly Southern Baptist terms imaginable. So Orrin Hatch embraces Popery, and Tom DeLay thinks he's an Orthodox Jew. link

Minnesota Fathead (with apologies to my wife's home state) 08/06/03 early early AM

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has always set my teeth on edge, combining as he does my least favorite aspects of two cultures in which I spent some formative years. A native of Minneapolis, he's got the aw-shucks, self-satisfied over-optimism of the born upper Midwesterner AND the airy disregard for the people and institutions of the U.S. --- as anything but political counters or symbols --- that suffuses the national media. In his Sunday column, Friedman manages to invoke the need for "the Arab-Muslim world" to embrace "modernity" (meaning modern American culture) to "make it less angry and more at ease with the world" (like Mel Gibson and the Christian coalition, I suppose), while evincing a near total lack of concern for the damage that his darling Iraq War has done to the institutions that made political modernity possible in the U.S. and Great Britain. 

Friedman claims to be taken aback by "the degree of European-style anti-Americanism and anti-Bushism" he finds in Britain, "which Mr. Blair's personal and overt pro-Americanism has disguised." Of course, this "disguise" was effective only to a mind inclined to equate nations with their elites and to place little value on demonstrable public opinion. An occasional glance at British press web sites supplemented by chats with, quite frankly, any random selection of actual British people would have prepared Friedman for the shocking discovery that many or most of them do not seem to approve of their prime minister's special relationship with Bush's posterior. 

Friedman rosins up the bow for Tony Blair, who wanted to join George's dragon-slaying mission but knew the British public was even less likely to buy it than the American public would have been without the Bush administration's fictionalization of Saddam Hussein as a supervillain on the brink of world domination. Had the case for immediate war on Iraq been made in terms that were even close to reality, I suspect a lot more Americans would have wondered whether Iraq was really something worth sidelining the economy, short-shrifting the actual war on terrorism, and scrapping age-old foreign policy traditions for. The real case would made the Iraq War seem optional as opposed to immediately imperative: "Listen there's this evil dictator who looked like he was going to be big back when he was our ally, but these days, after a crushing defeat and a decade of isolation, he's got only the most hypothetical ability to threaten neighboring countries, much less us. No, he didn't have anything to do with 9/11 and hates Islamic extremists even more than we do. He's just really, really evil, and it sucks that he is still around after we kicked his ass before. Whacking him now would be ever so much cooler than guarding airports and poking around mountains and deserts looking for terrorists, who are freakin' hard to find."  

In the time-dishonored fashion of the 20th-century foreign policy intellectuals and pundits, Friedman really couldn't care less how decisions are made or whether the citizens of a nation understand or support them, as long as they are the correct ones in some grand strategic or ideological sense, as determined by the great minds of foreign policy intellectuals and pundits. During the Cold War, the deceptions and secrets and bold strokes were a breeze to rationalize, what with the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation and all. What really bugs people of this mindset is how very hard it has become justify the grand strategy, imperial military forces, and superpower outlook they love in the absence of another superpower to compete with us.  

Friedman calls the Iraq War, "a war of choice" -- "but a good choice," he insists, as though fighting a war that Friedman now admits was not absolutely necessary could ever be a good choice. He defines the Bush-Blair lies as their solution to a p.r. problem; they needed to make Iraq seem like "a war of necessity," because "people in democracies don't like to fight wars of choice." What fuddy-duddies we are! 

I am not a pacifist, but it does seem to me that there are reasons that democratic republics have made war a special case --- not just another policy option, but an extremely serious collective decision that must controlled by law and avoided whenever possible. At a basic level, democracy and republicanism are rooted in a commitment to the supreme value and dignity of the individual human life, to the idea that people have rights, that they deserve some say in decisions that affect their lives. Respect for a person's life and for their wishes go together, it seems to me. Dictators and absolute monarchs are not required to regard the latter, and in practice have shown equally little concern for the former.  If there really is a democratic tendency to balk at merely optional violence, that is something to cherished and nurtured, not crushed with lies. link

The Real Thing 07/29/03 5pm

Apropos of my earlier remarks ("Vacation Bible School" below) on what a genuinely Christian politics might look like, it's nice to see that the Republican governor of Alabama has come to agree that it does not look much like the policies of George W. Bush. Gov. Bob Riley, a former member of Tom DeLay's House Republican legion who is evidently trying to make up for that experience as governor, has proposed a tax increase that defies national trends and typical Republican preferences by not only by raising new revenues but also by making the Alabama tax code more progressive rather than less: "'According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor,' he said. 'It is immoral to charge somebody making $5,000 an income tax.' " Riley wants to set the minimum income that would incur taxes at $17,000 while increasing taxes on businesses and the wealthy. The new money would be used to close budget gaps and improve the state's woeful educational system.

Most southern tax systems are highly regressive, relying heavily on sales taxes and fees that are most burdensome for the poor and lower middle class. This is perfectly consistent with the white South's long apparent preference for oligarchy, a social and and political system that naturally places the heaviest burdens on those with the least power and status. Under conservative rule, the rest of the nation (including the federal government) has been moving toward the regressive southern system, sometimes openly and sometimes covertly, as in the case of the widespread double-digit tuition increases at state universities.

Short-sighted business lobbyists and other neo-monarchists love this trend, especially when it seems to be so easy to convince many of the voters harmed by such policies to regard them as a great boon. Naturally, many of the governor's Republican supporters now "see Riley as a Judas" and have turned on him viciously for developing a sudden case of political honesty and courage. The outraged interest groups include the state's self-styled Christian Coalition, who sling some mendacious Shrubbian rhetoric about all families deserving "tax relief," even those who actually don't deserve it in the sense of needing it or having done anything to earn it, that did not come from any bible I know about besides Karl Rove's campaign bible.  link

The Blog is Back 7/28/03  11pm

We're finally done with most of our major summer travels, and having received lots of praise from colleagues at the SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic) last week for this poor languishing blog, it seems time to get it back up and running again. There are so many things that need blogging about, I don't know where to start.

Let me begin by recommending an article in the Washington Monthly on the Bush administration's hostility to science. It has many specifics on something I have commented on before, the conservative aversion to engaging with many of the facts of modern life (and not only where "the facts of life" are concerned). Actually, it's less of an aversion these days than a commitment to the aggressive contradiction of scientific, economic, and sociological facts that threaten the beliefs and interests of the Christian and corporate right or might in any way be construed as casting doubt on the lifestyles and values of McMansion-dwelling, SUV-driving, Shrub-loving white suburban voters. Driven by basically political imperatives, these policies of denial and contradiction are buttressed by the simulated research of a growing conservative counter-intelligentsia eager to provide know-nothing conservative politicians with excuses for acting as though evolution, global warming, pollution, racism, etc., were all merely unproven theories on which "the jury is still out," if not actual "liberal claptrap." Conservatives like to pretend that they are actually pondering these questions seriously, but squirming underneath it all is good old-fashioned reactionary anti-intellectualism. The article reports Karl Rove's answer when asked to define a Democrat: "Bush's chief political strategist replied, 'Somebody with a doctorate.' "

The Washington Monthly article focuses on hard science issues, especially in biology, but the pattern it describes of favoring information and experts politically cooked to order, even or perhaps especially in cases where the favored view contradicts the vast majority of other research on a subject, clearly applies in just about every area, from economics to constitutional law to foreign policy. As the Washington Monthly points out, Condoleeza Rice is one the relatively few Ph.D.s in the current White House, but it's clear that she was in the habit, along with much of the rest of the administration, of giving weight to only the most alarmist evidence regarding the alleged Iraqi threat, even evidence that was widely regarded as baseless or purely speculative. It's all so sad. It's one thing for conservatives to sell tax cuts with cooked economic information, and quite inexcusably different to take the same cynical approach to war. link

Pasley's Familiar Excuses 07/02/03 11AM

I have been avoiding the blogosphere for a while, trying to catch up on many previously-mentioned overdue commitments, which now include the assembly of a massively complex "play structure" -- please don't call it a swing set -- my wife got a closeout price on. The boys are being as patient as can be expected about it, which is not so much. In the meantime, they (or Isaac, the older one, anyway), are looking forward to the grand patriotic Midwestern tradition of blowing a lot of stuff up this Friday. Missourians are great believers in our constitutional freedoms, including the right to drink beer in the car and an equally relaxed approach to fireworks. Auditorally speaking, the closest thing in America to downtown Baghdad during a Bus presidency is a small town in Missouri on the 4th of July.

Pasley's Familiar Quotations 06/05/03 way too early

Sorry for the sporadic nature of my blogging here of late. Having finally gotten the recent semester and the SHEAR program out of the way, I have been working through my very large stack of mostly overdue book reviews and other minor pieces. In a putting together several encyclopedia articles over the last few days, for an interesting project called The Encyclopedia of American Conspiracy Theories, I ran across a couple of familiar quotations that seemed to speak to modern times:

"Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress." -- Andrew Jackson, "Bank Veto Message"

Say what you want about Jackson, his sanity (or lack of same), his sincerity (or lack of same), his brutality toward the Indians -- most of it would be true. Yet I also think that no truer sentence than the above has ever been written about American legislative politics than that, especially if you mentally add "or the state legislature." The desire of rich men (and now women) to make politicians help them get richer is just one of the overwhelming facts of life in every capital in this land, generating immense pressures (through the medium of the lobbyists, lobby law firms, and associations that line the streets of places like Tallahassee and Jefferson City) that require incredible vigilance and willpower to resist.

Jackson was applying one of what I consider one of the truisms of all socio-political history: that those with wealth and power always want more of both, will use one to get the other, and always implicitly aim for a state of things in which they own or control everything and in which all the wealth comes to them and nothing goes out except what they voluntarily give up. (I speak economically -- this is what aim for an abstract sense, not what they actually achieve.) Somewhere back in collective memory of our modern aristocrats is a lovely dream of the way the old aristocrats had it: they owned the land, the peasants did the work, and it was the peasants who had to pay the taxes, just because that's the way it was, no need for pet economists to gin up trickle down or supply-side theories. Suweeeeet!

(I don't see the foregoing as Marxist or a conspiracy theory. Really it's sort of a natural principle that's unlikely to change and not worth crying too much over, AS LONG AS THEY ARE OPPOSING FORCES TO KEEP THINGS IN BALANCE. This last thing is what we seem to lack today.)

Jackson's words hearken back to a time -- which lasted long after Jackson -- when it was conceivable for an American leader to say some so straightforwardly true if unpleasant about the way the world works, and not be drowned out or howled down. Not only that, it hearkens back to one of the periods when the American people themselves seemed to understand it was no safer to let the rich or business have absolute, unaccountable power than it is to do the same for politicians.-- that nothing was going to trickle down for them unless they cut some holes in the ceiling. (Wow, if that had only rhymed I would have sounded like Jesse Jackson.)

This brings me to the other familiar quotation:

"The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead." -- William Lloyd Garrison

The Garrison line follows a more familiar passage that I wish more of our Democratic politicians and pundits would take to heart next time they are pondering whether they dare say "boo" out there in the Bushes:

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.

Vacation Bible School 05/26/03 7am

No particular news peg on this one, but the second reading in church yesterday morning was one of passages I am always trying to think of when expatiating on one of my more frequent themes, the fact that today's so-called Christian Right is neither truly Christian nor generally right in its political choices. Yes, talk-radio listeners, many liberals do attend church, and do not even get burnt by the crosses. Many liberals even find a lot of support in the actual teachings of Christianity for cherished liberal values (often lampooned in the conservative media) such as peace, mercy, altruism and tolerance. 

Anyway, remember the following, from 1 John 4, the next time a communiqué from John Ashcroft or or Jerry Falwell or the Southern Baptist Convention or some front group with "Family" in the title hits the media, urging faithful Americans to hate or fear or punish some person or group with beliefs or a lifestyle that they don't like. Certainly think about this passage when Shrub next intimates that God is guiding his ongoing national agenda of deceit, cupidity, bluster and (mostly) misdirected violence. I have bolded some of the better parts:

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son[2] into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for[3] our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. link

Homilist for Hire 5/23/03 1pm

David McCullough's run of fawning press coverage appears to be over. The Voice of America's latest prestigious honor is the NEH Jefferson Lecture, an ironic or perhaps just inappropriate selection considering the way McCullough used Jefferson in John Adams (as a foil to make the Duke of Braintree look better). While others have used the lecture to make grand, original statements appropriate to the occasion, McCullough seems to have treated the occasion as another homily-for-hire paycheck. The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott more or less trashes his performance on the front page of the today's Style section, emphasizing the recycled nature of the material:

Much of what he said has been said before, and by McCullough himself. He quoted a charming line from John Adams to his son John Quincy Adams: "You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket." It got a chuckle, though readers of the Adams biography will remember it from Page 260.

Good stuff, and of course historians repeat themselves, but none of it was enlivened by substantial rethinking of the meaning, context or importance. What ideas there were were mostly paraphrased from McCullough's earlier work. Early in the speech he noted that history is not really about the past because, "if you think about it, no one ever lived in the past." Our past was their present. True enough, and you can read it all from an earlier interview, with Bruce Cole, posted on the endowment's Web site.

Of course, McCullough's biggest applause line was a swipe at us nasty academic historians for being such friggin' brainiacs and writing books that journalists and popular authors don't get: "He harped on a familiar theme, the necessity of history being entertaining and pleasurable, and he delivered one line that got particular applause: 'No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read.'" ( It's so true, if I had a dollar for every time I said to myself, "Uh oh, self, someone might want to read that paragraph -- better cut it." That's just the way we academical types are.) 

 Kennicott's goes on to make some surprisingly on-point remarks criticizing the McCullough style and explaining the origins of its current high regard:

There is a considerable effort, in this country, to


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mr - 8/21/2003

I don't think he cares. It seems to me, at least I hope, he is most concerned about doing what is right.

Personally I think many of the anti-war protestors are pacifists. Many woudn't fight if Saddam was banging down their door. Many have a false vision that humans are actually capable of living in a perfect peace. There will never be perfect peace due to anything mankind ever does. There is always going to be someone or some group that for some reason will cause trouble. Do we sit around and let them get as powerful or more than us before we fight. Or do we never fight and let them turn every nation on this earth into a fundamentalist muslim nation by force and/or fear?


florian - 8/3/2003

hi, thanks for the reply, i would be very pleased if you sent the longer version to me at fm.duysens@student.unimaas.nl, thanks again,
florian


Jeff Pasley - 7/29/2003

I do still plan to do that, but it has proved more complex task than anticipated and has fallen behind several other projects in the queue. I will be happy to email you the longer, older version I have if you send me your email. Sorry I did not see this post for so long.


Florian - 6/29/2003

Just wondering if you are still going to publish a longer version of your Buffy essay on your website. The printed version has been incredibly helpful in writing my thesis on Buffy as an ironic superhero. Is there perhaps a possibility to mail it to me?


mike - 2/26/2003

Has there been any articles posted on the hnn website regarding state budget cuts? In Florida, large budget deficits are resulting in the proposed reorganization of the Florida archives (including the Florida collection) and Florida museum, as well as a proposed transfer of the state library. Originally, the proposal was to transfer the state library to Florida State University, but this was rejected by FSU when it was discovered that no state dollars would accompany the transfer. Jeb's new proposal is to transfer the library to the private Nova University in a sweetheart deal (see article http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/tallahassee/5263275.htm)


Tomye Kelley - 2/20/2003

It might be wise for the President to realize that another name for "anti war protestors" is "registered voters".


Phyllis Pircher - 2/19/2003

I love your new format but with one objection...the articles over extend the page and in order to read all the worthwhile information one has to continually go back and forth with the mouse. I checked to see if there was a print option which would encompass the page but there was none.


Sue - 2/7/2003

A suggestion: Guernica Campaign
A Suggestion: For Peace and Against Censorship in the ARTS.

Please read, distribute and protest by sending folks at UN a copy of Guernica with a message like:
Peace through Peaceful Means: let the inspections work. Insist that US give evidence to inspectors so inspections can work. Containment and Continuous Investigation.

The UN has covered a tapestry reproduction of Picasso's Guernica for Colin Powell's visit and speech because it gives "too much a mixed message."
See Maureen Dowd's column, today, NYT:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/05/opinion/05DOWD.html
To call in protest: UN phone number:(212) 963-4475
To email: UNITED NATIONS ADMINISTRATION:
inquiries@un.org
areca@unhcr.ch
unsco@palnet.com
ecu@un.org
coi@un.org
webadmin.hchr@unog.ch
Security council members:
france@un.int
Chinamission_un@fmprc.gov.cn
mexico@un.int
chile@un.int
contact@germany-un.org
Pakistan@un.int
spain@spainemb.org
rusun@un.int
usa@un.int
IPRD@mfa.government.bg
syria@un.int
Guinea@un.int
Cameroon@un.int
uk@un.int
Thanks, Sue
http://www.louisvillepeace.org


Clayton E. Cramer - 1/7/2003

What made Clinton a conservative Democrat?

Not his use of racial politics. Which black leader was it that called him America's first black president?

Not his environmental policies. How many millions of acres ended up in national parks and wilderness areas on his watch?

Not his gun control policies. He actively promoted lawsuits against gun makers through HUD, and as he admitted, by pursuing both the Brady Law and the federal assault weapons law, lost at least 20 Democratic seats in the House in the 1994 elections--including the first Speaker of the House to lose an election in more than a century.

Not his tax policies. He raised taxes on the upper brackets (the first year that I ended up in such a bracket, of course).

Not his welfare policies. He went along with the Republican majority on "ending welfare as we know it," but he was not a leader on this, and nothing happened while the Democrats were in control.

Not his policies about abortion. He appointed strongly pro-choice people as Surgeon General, and abortion seems to have been a litmus test for his judicial appointments.

Conservative? I think you mean more conservative than you. That's not saying much.


Jeff Pasley - 1/4/2003

He was the most conservative Democratic president since Cleveland on most public policy issues, and a liber-tine in his personal life. As for Spidey, Stan Lee did not mean responsibility in the narrowly personal sense in which modern conservatives abuse the term when he wrote that motto back in the early 60s. He was talking about responsibility to society, a now foreign concept that involves sacrificing oneself for the good of other human beings -- not just immediate family members but the larger community.


Clayton E. Cramer - 1/3/2003

"The biggest film of 2002, Spider-Man, shared with its comic book source a strongly liberal message about selfless public service and the responsibilities of the strong to the weak: 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"

I hadn't ever thought of this as a peculiarly liberal idea. President Clinton, liberalism greatest achievement in the last ten years, operated as though his motto was, "With great power comes casual oral sex."


Orson Olson - 11/20/2002

Writes Pasley:
"Garrison Keillor Redeemed"

I have not been much of a Garrison Keillor fan... I can now declare Keillor forgiven,
-----
for a darkly hilarious piece in Salon on the recent Minnesota Senate election, in which replacement candidate Walter Mondale fell to chameleonic ex-Democrat Norm Coleman. Channeling a side of his talent that his radio listeners don't usually get to experience, Keillor declares the election "a dreadful low moment for the Minnesota voters. . . one of those dumb low-rent mistakes, like going to a great steakhouse and ordering the tuna sandwich."
------
First, as a native-born Minnesotan, with many family members responsible for Keillor's "dreadful low moment," let me be the first to tell you to get ready for more of them! The rebellion against elitist staus quo pol rule hase been nascent there for at least the past four years.

Second,the scuttle but from Minnesota Public Radio indicates that Pasley's joy is not shared. "...[S]everal reporters and hosts were openly angered by the predicament in which the columns put them with the Coleman camp and less sympathetic listeners."


"Damage control fell to Marcia Appel, vice president and chief marketing officer, who said: 'We regret there may be an implication out there that we share or endorse Garrison's comments. We do not.'

Added "Blois Olson, 'a Democrat forever' and Janecek's associate publisher at the Politics in Minnesota newsletter, characterized the Keillor rants as 'probably the most bitter, immature commentary of that kind that I can ever remember.'"

(http://www.sff.net/people/rickheller/2002_11_01_bloggerarchive.html#84733436)


Brett Bellmore - 11/20/2002

It's not that we felt threatened. It's just that "Arming America" was a transparent fraud, exposed as such almost instantly, and it took us HOW LONG to get professional historians to even admit there was a problem that needed looking into? The guy got the Bancroft award AFTER he was exposed, Pasley. AFTER! And getting him fired has been like pulling teeth. Emory still hasn't aknowleged most of the evidence of his dishonesty. I don't think you even begin to grasp what a black eye this episode has been for your profession. Not Bellesiles' actions, but the head in the sand response to them. You'll be years recovering the public's trust.


Clayton E. Cramer - 11/18/2002

What I find most interesting is that Professor Pasley didn't feel threatened by Bellesiles's willingness to lie, and the willingness of the history profession to give awards for a book that was obviously wrong--and that even a little fact-checking would have exposed immediately. I will be more impressed with your lack of interest in original intent when liberals stop using original intent arguments to strike down laws, such as the recent ruling against Alabama's vibrator sale ban, which used an original intent argument based on "the intentions of men who wrote" the Bill of Rights "more than 200 years ago...." I know that John Ashcroft's views probably don't agree with the Framers in every respect. But with respect to gun ownership, there is a lot of overlap: they trusted most Americans with a gun--as is demonstrated by the laws (and the lack thereof) in effect in 1789. If you want history to be taken seriously as an academic discipline, then you need to start treating it seriously as an academic discipline. That means that when you check the footnotes, the sources actually match the claims. Bellesiles's book is a reminder of how far the history profession has declined, not because it was published, but because he won the Bancroft Prize for a book that was grossly and obviously fraudulent.


Orson Olson - 11/2/2002

Pasley writes (24 October 2002):" As has been his pattern, Shrub has gotten lucky this election season. His mysterious war jones is cearly unpopular (?!?) as well as misbegotte and he has no response to the economic crisis (?!?)...." As typical for this leftist rube, no facts enter into his consideration: thae fact that majorities still support war against Iraq--and very large majorities when WMD are mentioned as part of the survey question. And econ? Productivity growth is an impressive 8 percent, and even averaging the two quarters of recession into the past two of growth yields over 5% annual growth! Quite impressive, and almost twice that of Britain--yet THIS is a "crisis" to Pasley. Fact free ideology uber alles! Sancta simplicitus! --Orson


Thomas Gunn - 10/16/2002

Jeff, Rick hasn't asked me to blog for HNN. Million hits a month here. Yeah, I think your soapbox is a tad taller than mine. But I'll let you know if an invite comes my way. You back peddaling now that your rant on Bush and the right to arms is just an opinio?. That you see Bush's remarks differently than I might see them? A sniper killing people at will in not my idea of America either. Dare I say it is not the idea of the dreaded "gun lobby" or the main stream members of the NRA either. In fact law-abiding gun owners by definition despise what is going on in the DC area. There are those who believe it is a failure to treat criminasl and terrorists harshly that is part of the problem. Another part of the problem is making docile unarmed victims of folk who would do no harm. There's is nothing quite like a sheep being led to slaughter. I am curious though how you define the subculture of folks "that sees shooting and sniping as just damn good fun." Are you trying to equate that group(whatever it may be) with an individual engaged in a criminal pursuit? If so you must know a whole lot more about that subculture than you are letting on, and maybe you should be telling the FBI what you know. thomas


Jeff Pasley - 10/16/2002

I just barely get the "troll" comment, but I want to reassure Mr. Gunn about the height of my soapbox. It is definitely at ground level, in my basement. The MSNBC contract has not come through yet, and I doubt that I have cut into the Fox News Channel's ratings too much as yet. If you don't like what you read here, flip on your cable TV or talk radio. Also, I really do believe that it was fatuous and tendentious of Bush to dismiss the sniper (along with many other disturbing events and trends) as not part of his America, when it so obviously is. Bush's comment just serves to absolve himself and conservatives generally (once again) from doing anything to restrain or even keep watch over a subculture that sees shooting and sniping as just damn good fun.


Thomas Gunn - 10/16/2002

My God Jeff, I thought you were a going to present as a liberal blogger. Turns out you're nothing but a troll with a taller soapbox. I still have a bit of faith that HNN intends to present History from both the "left and the right". After watching your bookend (Spence) at the bottom of the blog box get nailed over and over following his emotional rants and the subsequent removal of the offending posts, my 'faith' is being sorely tested. I wonder if your ability to free speech should be infringed in light of your penchant to rouse the rabble (that'd be me), . . . Poster's note: The remainder of my post has been self-censured in an effort not to hurt Jeff's feelings and Rick's sensibilities. thomas


John McCall - 10/6/2002

Noemie Emery in the Weekly Standard comments much better than I did previously. The article is titled "Why Bush Drives Them Crazy" and both illuminates and informs leftists (didn't say liberals).


John B. McCall PhD - 10/4/2002

It's true; democrats out of power and losing are a real circus to watch. The President of The United States of America has just lead the D.C. democrat crowd on a snipe hunt and this includes the "smartest woman in the world". I am chuckling daily at what happens: one believes the democrat side has done it's worst and the next day brings even more name calling, hand wringing, falsehoods. One would think, with the democrat's long colorful history of stealing elections, they would be more sanguine.


Willard Smith - 10/4/2002

I gave up on the Left's ideology when they demonstrated that the "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it" ideal was expendable along with all the other PC crap. Don't talk about Bush rewriting the Constitution when liberals have been rewriting it for the last 20 years.


EDWARD IRAH FRANKLIN - 10/4/2002

DITTOS----MR. RICHARDSON-----BIG TIME----COULD SAY IT BETTER MYSELF.


Samuel Richardson - 10/4/2002

How foolish you are. Still whine-ing that Gore couldn't continue his scheme to steal the election in Florida when the US Supreme Court wouldn't allow the Florida court to rewrite election laws. Now the New Jersey Court wants to rewrite New Jersey election laws because it looks like Toricelli would've lost! Not a single Democrat objected to Toricelli's candidacy when it looked like he was a winner. But once he went down in the polls, the Democrats wanted to field another candidate, thereby denying everyone who voted for the corrupt skunk in the primary their choice. If the laws don't favor you - rewrite them. Democrats!


Matt Murphy - 10/4/2002

Hmmm...it would appear that my response is a little late...gotta pay attention around these comment boards...


Matt Murphy - 10/4/2002

It's not really fair to call Ann Coulter a ranting bubblehead: she has a law degree from Cornell and her latest book is heavily footnoted. I would say, however, that she has a nasty habit of hurling invective at liberals while accusing them of doing the same. This can make for some entertaining reading, but it weakens the quality of her argument. Mark Safranski is right about Krugman: he is "intellectually thuggish," as the National Review says. I remember in his book "The Accidental Theorist" when he flatly accused Dick Armey of lying after highlighting a statistical table that contradicted something that Armey, a former economics professor, had been saying. The idea that Armey may simply have been careless, or had read the data differently, or had access to other information in the damn-lies statistics field that would go the other way, apparently never entered Krugman's head. That's his style: his opponents are hacks and/or liars. He is disconcertingly prone to stating his opinion as hard fact, something that all competent economists would agree upon, even when they don't agree. Mr. Pasley: Hate your politics; love your website at Mizzou. Lots of neat links (except the political ones!). Keep it up.


Jeff Pasley - 10/4/2002

I didn't say that "collective rights" or gun control groups did not cite "Arming America." It's just my belief that the political and legal forces behind 2d Amendment extremism are far too strong to have been threatened by MB's arguments about historical context. It's obvious that lots of gun-rights advocates felt threatened by it, but I think that was their passionate commitment to the still-spurious theory of original intent: the Constitution can and should be interpreted according only according to the intentions of men who wrote it more than 200 years ago, and that the Founders' views on every issue were remarkably similar to those of Ed Meese and John Ashcroft.


Peter K. Boucher - 9/30/2002

"To me, it's ridiculous to think that 'Arming America' was ever a serious threat to those real potentates, or their agenda, even if every word of the book had turned out to be true." That you believe it never posed any credible threat does not change the fact that the fraud was perpetrated in order to attack the individual rights interpretation in the courts. Bellesiles was cited in anti-individual rights briefs to the 5th circuit (in the Emerson case) by The Government's reply brief -- http://www.saf.org/pub/rkba/Legal/EmersonGovtReply.html The Brady Center -- http://www.saf.org/pub/rkba/Legal/EmersonCenterToPreventHandgunViolencebrief.htm Yassky -- http://www.potomac-inc.org/yass.html Brock -- http://www.potomac-inc.org/brock.html Apparently, all of the above did think they could use Bellesiles' fraudulent work to attack the individual rights interpretation court. Bellesiles himself tries to dissmiss all the work by legal scholars as untrustworthy because (note the irony) legal scholars can't be trusted like historians can, because legal scholars are out to prove a point, while historians simply try to report what they find and give appropriate context to understand the findings. :) For a chuckle, read the paper where he made the above point: http://www.potomac-inc.org/mbelles.html "Legal scholars, she quotes Frank Michelman as stating, 'min[e]' the past and 'make a case' for a specific, pre-exiting perspective. 4 Such writers ransack the past, seeking supportive arguments and quotations to promote and enhance their case for the present. Like big game hunters they return from their safari with their prized quotes, having paid no attention to the wider environment or social context of their trophies. They rarely descend into a period to get a sense of the nuances and complexities; and they certainly never bother to count, to arrive at the aggregate rather than the exceptional. As Morton Horwitz put it, this 'lawyer’s history... involves roaming through history looking for one’s friends.'" Apparently, legal scholars actually look for evidence in the past, as opposed to Bellesiles' habit of relying on imaginary evidence. For another chuckle, read the paper where Saul Cornell relies heavily on Bellesiles' fine work, and then claims that because Law Reviews mostly have student review (not review by scholarly peers), legal scholarship can't be relied upon like History Journal articles, whose peer-review process is more "rigorous." :) http://www.potomac-inc.org/scornell.html "Thus, Akhil Amar cites Sanford Levinson, and David Williams cites Akhil Amar, and Glen Harlan Reynolds cites Levinson, Amar, and Williams. None of these articles has been subjected to the sorts of blind peer review that scholarship published in journals such as the William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of American History or the Law and History Review must pass before publication."


Jeff Pasley - 9/26/2002

Of course the Bellesiles case matters. It's the angry,obsessive and now almost bloodthirsty tone of the attacks that bugs people. And what is an "academic potentate" pray tell? Someone who controls a history journal or an award that an infinitesmal fraction of Americans even know about? Someone who holds down a teaching position with a salary that no self-respecting plumber would accept? Most of us in the historical profession are in it for love of the subject, not to use our nonexistent evil powers to control the fate of mankind. I would say that the gun rights lobby has far more actual potentates in its corner than the alleged insidious plot to destroy all that we hold dear by a putting a dent in the image of the heavily armed early American male. Real potentates would be the people who control the federal courts and the Congress and most of the legislatures, or can get elected officials defeated if they cross them. To me, it's ridiculous to think that "Arming America" was ever a serious threat to those real potentates, or their agenda, even if every word of the book had turned out to be true. Instead, Bellesiles unfortunately gave some, er, ammunition to those who already nursed resentments against the alleged academic fifth column that conservatives have been on about for most of the last century.


John G. Fought - 9/26/2002

Try to remember two things. (1) Bellesiles' downfall matters most because his book was intended to be a useful tool in legal maneuvers against the individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment in pending court proceedings. (2) Bringing his misconduct case to this point meant that many people had to work through a lot of snotty condescension from minor potentates in the academic history establishment who should long ago have done what the volunteers stepped forward to do. It did take a lot of time and effort to do this. Where were you? Editing your vanity blog? You guessed wrong, didn't you, Cubby? I can't see any reason to accept condescension from you about this or anything else. Your 'but come on' reaction doesn't begin to do justice to the case. Bellesiles is crooked as hell. Nobody should be nice to him. And by the way, a lot of the people who helped bring him down have said they favor some kinds of gun control, and have nothing to do with the NRA that you feel comfortable dragging into your response. Come on...


Jeff Pasley - 8/28/2002

This is a good point, though some blogs do put comments at the bottom, don't they? I think the big difference here is that the pages get very long and I don't even know how often they will be archived. Obviously, the comment section needs other work, too, such as not having everything dated Aug. 8. Thanks for reading, anyway.


Joe Luft - 8/27/2002

I'm happy to see historians getting into the act and very much enjoying the reading so far. I just wanted to offer a suggestion regarding the layout. Blogs almost always carry the comments directly below each post so that they are joined with the relevant piece of writing. I think it's less effective to scroll to the bottom each time to read a pile of comments lumped together at the bottom of the page. As you accumulate additional posts, this becomes more and more of a problem. The result is that it reads more like a message board than a blog. Just a suggestion from a blogger.


L. B. Irish - 8/25/2002

I would love to read more of your site and the blogs, but the print is too small.


Jeff Pasley - 8/22/2002

Thanks a lot. I know of this great book, written in the self-same peppy style, makes a perfect gift for the history lover, journalist, or politician in your life...


bbtrane - 8/21/2002

How can one not love this guy's peppy style? Icky. Don't even get me started. The dark side. Shrubbers. See. Jokers. I wish more historians could talk and write like this. If they did, more people, especially youngsters, would love history. Ok then, you go Jeff.


mark safranski - 8/20/2002

Krugman, by his own belated admission, received " money calls " - do-nothing sinecures really, from major corporations he was reporting on - and criticizing Republicans for doing the same. Nothing illegal but somewhat likely to influence one's reporting and Dr. Krugman sits on a perch at least as influential as that of a cabinet secretary. When rightfully outed by Andrew Sullivan in his blog ( Sullivan also took cash, albeit a smaller sum, and disclosed it) Krugman stonewalled like one of Nixon's henchmen and to my mind it indicates a worldview that says there are two sets of rules, one for Krugman and another for the rest of us. It is arrogant and foolish. I'm not talking about Bush's overall press coverage so much as specifically the NYT recent mania for Orwellian reporting - case in point, deliberately implying that Kissinger actually said the reverse about invading Iraq from his actual statement. That's virtually Pravda-like behavior. I have no problem with an editorial position - I do have a problem outright manufacturing of falsehoods as " news " and mortgaging a reputation as a " paper of record " in the process. It's rather sad.


Jeffrey L. Pasley - 8/20/2002

Well, if big corporations really are paying off Paul Krugman, I would say they are not getting their money's worth. As for comparing him and Frank Rich to a bubbleheaded rant machine like Anne Coulter . . . 'nuff said. Their columns seem unusually substantive to me, especially for op-ed pieces. (In contrast to their colleague Maureen Dowd, for instance, who is all 'tude.) I would say there is no need to feel sorry for Bush as to his press coverage. Compared to what the early Clinton got, way before Monica, I would say he has had it easy.


mark safranski - 8/20/2002

Dr. Krugman will have a lot more credibility venting his spleen against Mr. Bush, the GOP and conservatism in general when he practices the ethics that he preaches in regard to corporate money ( which he seems to believe somehow does not corrupt his own analysis when taken secretly while writing an op-ed column ). Partisanship is fine, we all have our views and each side has its Frank Rich or Ann Coulter to preach to the choir but when partisanship becomes so infused with visceral hatred of " the other side " that it eclipses intellectual integrity then you become little better than a shill. The NYT under Raines is transforming from one of the world's great papers to a joke - if it's a choice between reporting facts or anti-Bush spin the latter runs every time ( I read the Guardian fairly regularly and admire how their overt political position does not prevent first rate reporting - unlike the Times. Krugman is a good fit there )