Friday, March 14, 2014

Standing Up for Abe Lincoln

I generally approve of Jon Stewart.  Among many reasons: he brings top opposition guests onto his show and argues with them respectfully, hearkening back to the style of William F. Buckley, on Firing Line… only punctuated with a little elevated potty humor. Stewart's mostly-liberal audience follows his lead and is generally gracious to major Republican officials or authors… who flock to The Daily Show in order to hawk their books.  Which apparently do gain sales boosts, because Stewart's viewers are open-minded and curious.  (Otherwise, those Republican authors would stop coming.)
In fact, Stewart has more top opposing guests on his one show than the entire Fox News network. (If you subtract the "adult in the room" at FN -- Bill O'Reilly -- FN would score zero, most months.)
jon-stewart-napolitanoHence, I wan't too surprised when Stewart invited Judge Andrew Napolitano to convey his recent tirade - a real hit on Fox - against Abraham Lincoln. It's one of the most spectacularly deceitful and perniciously vile rants we have seen in an era rife with vile rants, but on the Daily Show Napolitano was allowed to argue his point with Jon Stewart. Then guest historians (in a faux game show called "The Weakest Lincoln") shot down Napolitano's purported "facts" amid a tenor of friendly humor. The judge chuckled amiably. Sure. Fine.  I guess.
Still, I was drawn to recall something I read just last November, referring to how the angry white males of the New Confederacy are now dumping all their former heroes, like Adam Smith, whose version of open-fair-flat capitalism is no longer suited to the right's narrative… and the leader that their parents loved above all others:
150-Lincoln-Gettysburg"How ironic, for this coincides with the passing of the Greatest Generation -- men and women who fought down the curse of Hitlerism, who overcame the First Great Depression, who embraced the plan of Marshall, Truman, Acheson and Eisenhower to contain communism peacefully until its fever broke… without nuclear annihilation. All so that their unique nation might live.
"A generation that created the mighty American middle class, amid a burst of entrepreneurial productivity so fantastic that their children could afford to take on ancient evils that all others had taken for granted, like racism, sexism and environmental blindness.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled in those mighty causes shared one trait more common than any other.  The Greatest Generation adored Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- once compared lovingly and in all ways to Lincoln -- but who now one third of our fellow citizens have been talked into equating with Satan Incarnate.
"How long until the same thing is done to Honest Abe?"
Okay, I didn't just read that, last November… I wrote it, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  Indeed, that posting was one of my best and far more worthy of your attention than this little growl.  But it came to mind as Andrew Napolitano's hateful slander began spewing across the Rupert-verse…. crashing upon the shore of The Daily Show. This spiteful revisionist attack upon Lincoln.
== The essence that Jon Stewart misses ==
denunciation-proclamation Stewart had dealt with some of Napolitano's incantations in an earlier show. And mind you, there was time to only deal with a few of Napolitano's "inventive" interpretations of history. Like the fabrication that slavery was "on its way out" in America by 1860 when, in fact, every historical analysis shows it to have been fantastically profitable for the top 0.1% plantation owners -- though an economic disaster for poor whites.  Indeed, the total value of southern exports of cotton and tobacco exceeded ALL northern industrial exports at the time.  His screed is based on that outright lie.
Alas, many other falsehoods were left unanswered.  For example, Napolitano asserted the southern states' top grievance was largely about tariffs.  A howler that slides past because half-educated folks vaguely recall that John C. Calhoun had threatened secession around 1830 over tariffs.  But a closer look shows that the 1830s levels were rescinded to appease the South.  Soon the South took over the federal government for three decades!  By 1860, tariffs were at their lowest rate in half a century.  In other words, the judge just keeps those bald-faced lies a-coming.
PAST-civil-warOf the "grievances" that filled the secession declarations, there is no  mention of "tariffs" or "states rights" even once, though "slavery" is praised in glowing terms in the S. Carolina document, thirty or forty times. The notion that such people would simply have let Lincoln "buy" the slaves' freedom isn't just laughable… it is functionally insane.
In fact, the Civil War did not start with the firing on Fort Sumter.  It began in 1852 with the passage - and brutal enforcement - of the Fugitive Slave Act, which led to invasion and outright raids of northern states by squadrons of irregular southern cavalry, committing outrages and depredations from Illinois to Pennsylvania, supported first by southern-appointed U.S. Marshals and later - when locals began resisting - by federal troops.  These slave-catcher raids, smashing into homes, terrorizing neighbors and dragging off friends you knew since childhood, were the prime provocation that radicalized northerners into re-starting their dormant militias. It is what drove many of them to support Lincoln.
Read more about this!  Napolitano rages at Lincoln for continuing to let US Marshals catch and return a few slaves after the Civil War began.  But note these were all along border states like Kentucky, that he was desperate not to rile up and to keep in the Union -- touch and go in the first two years.  That may have been iffy realpolitik, but it does not make Lincoln a "kettle" next to the Confederacy's volcanically evil coal.
== The miscalculation ==
All right, all of that does not matter. What matters is that this time, Jon Stewart deeply miscalculated. He thinks he put Napolitano in his place, amid general hilarity and joviality, by showing some college professors refuting his "facts."  But watch the clip and look at the judge's face!  His smile.
He is winning.  Because he is not playing to Stewart's Daily Show audience. And he is not doing this to convince a majority of Americans.  Certainly not those who would listen to a college professor!
GettysburgAddressLincolnGovernmentNapolitano is part of the Murdochian campaign to keep just 25% of the U.S. public riled up in frothing fury. A New Confederacy that's so far around the bend they'll help tear down every consensus effort and success of the American republic since FDR… and even since Lincoln.  So stoked on hatred of "government" that they sincerely want to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth."
Older Republican icons are now toxic. Dwight Eisenhower is assailed as a lackey of FDR. Richard Nixon is called a "liberal"  … (compared to today's GOP)... and Ronald Reagan is barely mentioned, so soft, progressive and "green" he now seems, by comparison. Confronted with the pro-competition positions of Adam Smith -- warning against oligarchy -- rightist shills now dismiss Smith as "archaic."
Should we be shocked that this radicalization now extends to Abe Lincoln? The Sumter shots of  re-ignited Civil War have been landing for more than a decade in the America that pays the taxes, invents, creates wealth and forges the future. Like our forebears, we who are of cooler blood, steadier emotion and scientific-mindedness have been slow to realize the fiery heat of this assault.  But we're not lesser men and women than those blue legions who finally stood up when pushed too far.
I said it much better here.  If we must, we'll rouse and -- peacefully, with malice toward none and charity for all, but with the firmness of purpose to do the right, as God allows us to see the right -- we'll struggle for our Union. So that the great American Experiment may go on.

== Addendum: answering The Daily Show! ==

Let me just grab this opportunity… so long as a junior blog reader on Jon Stewart's staff is reading this… Tuesday evening on The Daily Show, author Paul Taylor discussed the millennial generation and his book The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown.  In discussion with Jon Stewart, Prof. Taylor said that the clade following the millennials… encompassing those born after 2000… does not yet have a name.  Um, well… may I weigh in.

Way back in 1989, in my novel EARTH, I portrayed folks in the 2030s referring to this generation as “blackjacks”… because they were the first ones born in Century Twenty-One.
Blackjack? Twenty-one? Get it? 

 Cool, eh?  Oh… never mind…


Bluebottle said...

Perhaps Pontoons instead of Blackjacks

Keith D. Halperin said...

Dr. Brin:
In light of the term "New Confederacy", perhaps we should not be referring to "blue states" and "red states" but to "blue states" and "*grey states".

*It would also be an unsbtable dig at the fact that the "New Confederates" are often older.

David Brin said...

Visit this site and then do a FIND on the word "slave" and watch how many instances pop out. It was the issue. It was just about the only issue. Those who try to deny this would likely also deny science.

Oh… right….

Paul451 said...

Not just "slave", but also note the constant reference to having their "property" stolen.

Paul451 said...

(Also "equal enjoyment of the territories" was a reference to the South having recently lost the vote on whether the western territories would allow slavery or not. The slavers felt that by not allowing slavery in the new territories, they were being put at a disadvantage. One free man and a hundred slaves could clearly create more wealth from the land than one free man alone. While a hundred free men carving out new territory owed no allegiance to the South. That huge economic advantage of slavery was neutralised by the ban on slavery in new territories. And like the modern ultra-rich, having an unfair advantage taken away resulted in childish tantrums that nearly destroyed your whole country.)

Mel Baker said...

We really do stand at the edge of a new civil war. Imagine what happens if the GOP wins back the Senate in the fall.

Robert Sandstedt said...

There is a definite danger in the Republican caucus regaining control of the Senate this cycle. Unfortunately the Democratic Party is currently locked in a life & death ideological struggle with the Republican Party, that will likely consume both.
Red v Blue is still a valid description of the conflict. There are sub-cultures of both parties that trend toward a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, generally egalitarian & minimalist muddle. These are the voices that need to be encouraged, because they'll drive solutions that are derived from competition and consensus, while the behemoth parties are distracted by their frothy radical wings.

Jack E. said...

What about calling them the wildcard generation?

Wm. L. Hahn said...

I can certainly agree that no one in the Union went to war against "states rights". But no one in the South was particularly defending just "slavery". Their words are always about defending their freedom, the Second American Revolution against another tyrant, etc. It takes two to tango, and they both needed something to sink their teeth into. So states rights WAS clearly the issue, if you ask those who called the Civil War, the War Among the States.
But you're quite correct, the Fugitive Slave Act as well as the application of popular sovereignty outside the old South, were constant irritants and encouraged folks on both sides to take the law into their own hands, obeying instead a Higher Law which meant the dissolution of the compact.
And Napolitano is a dope.

Acacia H. said...

If the Republicans win the Senate, then there's two things we'll likely see. First, the Republican Party will recodify the filibuster because they know they'll lose the Senate again. They'll also put in rules stating you can't just change the rules in the future without a super-majority.

Second, they might try to impeach Obama and then toss him out of office just out of spite. Because a lot of Republicans hate him and it probably would reinvigorate their base. However, doing so would also kill any chance Republicans have of getting a decent portion of the black vote. Ever. Not to mention likely alienate other minority groups.

The latter is unlikely as they'll have defanged him. Obama will be a lame duck that they can smack around and badmouth and use to drag down the Democratic party. He'll be an albatross.

Mostly? If Republicans regain the Senate? They'll be the Party of Do Nothing once more. Because when they had the House, Senate, White House, and Supreme Court they did nothing.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


If the Republicans win the Senate, then there's two things we'll likely see. First, the Republican Party will recodify the filibuster because they know they'll lose the Senate again. They'll also put in rules stating you can't just change the rules in the future without a super-majority.

Interesting. I was thinking the opposite--that they'd immediately do away with the filibuster so they'd have free reign. But now that I think about it, that would be more likely if they had a Republican in the White House. President Obama's veto at least makes it less likely the GOP could implement their agenda even without the filibuster. So you may well be right.

Second, they might try to impeach Obama and then toss him out of office just out of spite. Because a lot of Republicans hate him and it probably would reinvigorate their base.

The House may well impeach Obama no matter what. Even if the GOP wins the Senate, there's no way they'll have 67 votes to convict, and no Democrat is going to come across the aisle on that one. So I don't see how the Senate makeup affects the House's decision at all.

It might actually be better for the House if the Dems still control the Senate. That way, they can impeach and blame the Democrats for the outcome in the Senate.

However, doing so would also kill any chance Republicans have of getting a decent portion of the black vote. Ever. Not to mention likely alienate other minority groups.

From your lips to God's ear, I hope. Every time I think the GOP has destroyed their future, they come back from the grave like vampires. But I think you may at least be correct that an impeachment attempt would doom their 2016 aspirations.

The latter is unlikely as they'll have defanged him. Obama will be a lame duck that they can smack around and badmouth and use to drag down the Democratic party. He'll be an albatross.

Plus, all it would do is give Joe Biden the incumbency going into 2016. Really, I don't think they'll really try to remove the Prez from office, though the House may well impeach, counting on the Senate to keep it from going anywhere.

Tacitus said...

First of all, I consider Lincoln to be our greatest President. But a true Contrarian view of him is not without shadow.

On a non critical level, he was not the best manager of people. Look at how often he was stuck with insolent and ineffective Generals who he had difficulty firing due to political constraints. For all the talk of "A Cabinet of Rivals" you have to admit it can be a recipe for discord. (Still better than a drawerfull of Toadies).

But for all his remarkable compassion, Lincoln was also willing to tolerate evil. He frankly said he would let the South keep their slaves if it would preserve the Union. And he was willing to do a number of other things that would be considered potentially impeachable acts today, suspending Habeus Corpus for instance.

He was the right man for the pivotal moment in American history. I doubt anyone else could have achieved as good a result, even if we are still striving towards a More Perfect Union.

Are there moments in history when a Dictator is called for? I would say, squeamishly, timidly, yes. I hope not to see that day. But if it comes may a modern Abe Lincoln come along to take up, and then set down, tools that no ordinary man should put his hand to.


Jumper said...

Suspension of habeas is allowed by the Constitution.

Looks like you have a reader, David.

David Brin said...

I like the way you put it, Tacitus.

Indeed, our republic was fortunate that the first president set the example of using… then walking away from… power.

LarryHart said...

Geographical question:

I'm reading the weighty tome known as "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and learning a lot I didn't know about the pre-WWII years of Nazi Germany. A minor detail was that Hitler had a retreat in the mountains south of Munich which the book refers to as the Obersalzburg. Now, I know enough German to see that those are probably the mountains "Above Salzburg", and sure enough, the retreat is described as being near the frontier with Austria (Salzburg being the Austrian city featured in "The Sound of Music").

So it occured to me to wonder--when the Von Trapps went into the mountains into Switzerland at the end of the movie/play, were they also that close to Germany? So for the first time, I looked up Salzburg, Austria on a map. And the city is indeed very close to Germany at that point, but it is nowhere near Switzerland. If the Von Trapps went up into those mountains to escape into Switzerland, it wasn't just a matter of trekking down the other side. They'd have had a walk of several hunderd miles to get west to Switzerland from there.

So would the family really have walked a few hundred miles west across the Austrian Alps in order to reach Switzerland. I suppose that's not impossible. It's just that the movie made it seem as if they just had to walk over the mountain to be free and clear.

Tim H. said...

If Lincoln had lived, would the end of the civil war had seen him give thought to working conditions in the north? It might've been a well timed ounce of prevention.

Tony Fisk said...

The fortieth anniversary release of Sound of Music has a conversation between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer where they jokingly mention that the final scene depicts the Von Trapps escaping to Germany, with Hitler's retreat visible in the distance.

I gather the reality was much less exciting. They caught the train out.

As for the GOP winning the senate... you all know who will be to blame if that happens.

Meanwhile, Australian state election results have Libs winning in Tas. and no clear result in SA. Both states had long standing ALP governments, so 'natural cycles' may have a lot to do with this. A more interesting contest occurs next month, when the botched WA senate elections are re-run. While it may be a bind, it must be noted that the 'Sandgropers' don't often get centre stage in federal politics: being 2-3 hours behind the rest of the country, elections have often been declared before they've finished voting.

Paul451 said...

"I gather the reality was much less exciting. They caught the train out."

To Italy.

(And returned to Austria in '39, before leaving again.)

RandyB said...

You're mistaken if you think Andrew Napolitano is a typical right-wing FoxNews talking head. He's a Ron Paul libertarian.

Not only is Napolitano anti-Gitmo, he thinks Bush and Cheney should have been indicted over it. He wants every terrorist locked up there to be tried or freed. (Fortunately, even President Obama didn't want to go that far.)

David Brin said...

RandyB you are making an assumption. That I consider that distinction to be anything other than a branding label. Rand Paul libertarians are tools to keep libertarian minded republicans voting GOP for as long as possible, by making the Republican Party the lesser of two evils.

The Kochs-murdochs-Sa'udis don't give a damn if some millions curse Bush and hold their noses while voting the GOP party line… so long as they can be convinced that "statist" liberals are worse.

That is the purpose of the anti-statist rant of Napolitano. Libertarianism in America has lost all connection to fundamentals, like fostering the creative power of competition, as preached by Adam Smith. Competition and Smith are spurned as archaic.

It is all "all government is evil, all the time and pay no attention to the feudal oligarchies that ruined free on min 99% of human cultures.

RandyB said...


I'm just telling you what Napolitano's motives are. You can believe whatever you like about Fox's motives in keeping him, although I don't buy it for a second.

Acacia H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

On a semi-related note, I saw a rather interesting article concerning another of the Republican Party's favorite topics, abortion. I'm going to copy the argument as it's a Facebook post link, and I doubt the embedded HTML will work here.

I'm not here to start an argument. I am here, however, to ask how you expect a fetus to exercise its rights if a woman doesn't allow it to happen. Your statement doesn't make any sense. What can the child do for itself at that point?
- Smilingreckless

There's a concept called bodily autonomy. It's generally considered a human right. Bodily autonomy means a person has control over who or what uses their body, for what, and for how long. It's why you can't be forced to donate blood, tissue, or organs. Even if you're dead. Even if you'd save or improve 20 lives. It's why someone can't touch you, have sex with you, or use your body in any way without your continuous consent.
A fetus is using someone's body parts. Therefore under bodily autonomy, it is there by permission, not by right. It needs a person's continuous consent. If they deny or withdraw consent, the pregnant person has a right to remove them from that moment. A fetus is equal in this regard because if I need someone else's body parts to live, they can also legally deny me their use.
By saying a fetus has a right to someone's body parts until it's born, despite the pregnant person's wishes, you're doing two things.
1) Granting a fetus more rights to other people's bodies than any born person.
2) Awarding a pregnant person less rights to their body than a corpse.
- Ask arguing-about-abortion a question

Of course, Republican politicians and anti-abortion activists don't care about this. Thus I'd be willing to say this: You can pass anti-abortion legislation, but only if embedded into that legislation for mandatory blood donation for everyone over the age of 18; for people who cannot donate a full pint of blood because of body size, they donate half a pint, and for medical conditions that preclude their blood being used for donations, the blood will be used in research. In addition, anyone can be forced to donate a kidney, portion of lung or liver, skin tissue, or any other tissue required for organ transplantation, tissue grafting, or scientific or medical research. People cannot refuse this for any reason at all.

If any portion of this legislation is overturned, all of it is overturned and women have the legal right to an abortion at all stages of pregnancy.


I am willing to bet you'd hear the anti-abortion crowd scream bloody murder and insist that this is unfair and blackmail. And that they will not allow this legislation to pass. And they'd also miss the point entirely.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Back to "300" for just a moment. My family and I just celebrated the Jewish festival of Purim, which commemorates the story of Esther in the OT in which Persian King Ahashuares (sp?) is prevailed upon by his Jewish Queen to save her people from a genocidal plot against them.

Now, I don't have first-hand information, but I've heard that Ahashares is the same Persian king who goes by the Greek name of Xerxes.

If so, then the villain of "300" is actually in the Old Testement, and not at all as a villain.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

The fortieth anniversary release of Sound of Music has a conversation between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer where they jokingly mention that the final scene depicts the Von Trapps escaping to Germany, with Hitler's retreat visible in the distance.

I first saw the movie at 5 years old, but didn't know about WWII or Nazis back then. I saw it again at age 12 or so and have loved it ever since.

That would have been around 1972. And in all that time, it never occured to me to look at where Salzburg is actually located on a map.

David Brin said...

Ah Sound of Music… favorite of the Holnists in Costner's THE POSTMAN…


greg byshenk said...

Returning to the previous thread (again; sorry, I tend to run behind in commenting, even if not reading)...

In response to my noting that "Wealth -- on its own -- will never produce anything."

Duncan Cairncross responded:

And neither would Ogg - on his own,
Wealth was created by a combination of the two.

And Larry Hart added:

Yes, the Ayn Rand sensibility is that only the inventor contributed to the new technology, ignoring the fact that (in the story in question) the leaders wealth was a necessary prerequisite for Oog to have time available to do his work. Plus something that would not necessarily be the case in all scenarios, but was certainly true in this one: that while Oog was the one whose technical expertise made it possible, Oog never came up with the notion of inventing a new way of hunting on his own. It was the leader's idea in the first place.

My resonse is that I definitely did not say (or even suggest, I think) that "only the inventor contributed"; rather it was just what I said: that wealth alone is insufficent.

I would add that wealth -- at least in the form given in the example -- may not even be necessary. Though the leader's wealth contributed in this particular example, I can think of a number of very similar cases in which the same result could occur even without the leader's wealth.

Tim Morgan said...

I am partial to the name which is popular among the Strauss & Howe Generations Hypothesis community: Homeland Generation.

Of course, since most generational names don't achieve consensus until that generation has entered its twenties, I'd say that we have a few years before a consensus name emerges.

LarryHart said...

greg byshenk:

My resonse is that I definitely did not say (or even suggest, I think) that "only the inventor contributed"; rather it was just what I said: that wealth alone is insufficent.

Then my response is that I never claimed to be disagreeing with you. Just heading off the inevitable Ayn Rand response.

William Burns said...

Not only have the Saudis not stymied every peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, they were the chief sponsors of the Arab League peace plan of 2002. Many things can be adduced to the discredit of the House of Saud; the lack of an Israeli-Palestinian peace is not one of them.