Boycotting the entire product line to be offered by the new Chrysler is a happy occasion where duty and self-interest coincide. You can be a good patriot and a smart shopper at the same time. Refusing to reward the United Auto Workers and the government that bestowed Chrysler upon them will uphold the rule of law and the principles of private enterprise. (One of the "concessions" the UAW made to Chrysler - that is, to itself - is that overtime will, henceforth, be paid only to employees who work more than 40 hours a week. Huh? Under the old contract, the one that turned Chrysler and GM into vegetables, workers started drawing overtime as soon as they met production targets, even if it was after they had worked 35, 30 or even 25 hours in a week.)
"Chrysler by Fiat" is the perfect name for America's first eminent domain manufacturing concern, one being created by arbitrary government actions that jettison law when it is inconvenient for policy goals and political coalitions. As The Economist says, "In effect Chrysler and the government have overridden the legal pecking order to put workers' health-care benefits above more senior creditors' claims, and then successfully argued in court that the alternative would be so much worse for creditors that it cannot be seriously considered. . . . The collapse of Detroit's giants is a tragedy, affecting tens of thousands of current and former workers. But the best way to offer them support is directly, not by gerrymandering the rules. The investors in these firms are easily portrayed as vultures, but many are entrusted with the savings of ordinary people, and in any case all have a legal claim that entitles them to due process. In a crisis it is easy to put politics first, but if lenders fear their rights will be abused, other firms will find it more expensive to borrow, especially if they have unionized workforces that are seen to be friendly with the government. It may be too late for Chrysler's secured creditors and if GM's lenders cannot reach a voluntary agreement, they may face a similar fate. That would establish a terrible precedent. Bankruptcy exists to sort legal claims on assets. If it becomes a tool of social policy, who will then lend to struggling firms in which the government has a political interest?"
Thankfully, refusing to buy any new Chryslers means that you will be depriving yourself of the chance to ride the next iteration of the worst cars on the road, at least on those intermittent occasions when they can be coaxed out of the garage and on to the road. Consumer Reports does not recommend a single vehicle manufactured by any Chrysler brand. A company so fouled up that it could not be salvaged by Mercedes-Benz is not likely to be transformed by the combined expertise of Fiat, union officials and government experts.
The sooner Chrysler by Fiat is driven into a bankruptcy from which it cannot be bailed out, the sooner will we repudiate the lousy products and lawless processes of thugocratic capitalism.
But denigrating, even implicitly, Jeffersonfs highest achievements (especially by contrast with a Saint) would further undermine Catholic self-understanding as well as patriotism. Preeminent among those achievements was the Declaration of Independence, with its radical statement of human equality, an assessment of the human condition that transformed the relationship of man to his government and the understanding of the relationship between man and the cosmos. Catholics, as well as those of other faiths and religious skeptics and scoffers, need the natural theology of the Declaration to ground our political and social conduct. They need the founding documentfs reason or natural law to establish their political principles. Philosophic reason paves the way for theology.
Justice Scaliafs remarks are not available, but Archbishop Burkefs powerful keynote address is here. Go, Notre Dame was not a leading theme.
The Civil War & Lincoln
Of course, some folks think this would have been a good outcome, but it is likely that a Confederate nation would have continued to fight against the United States for control of the western territories. In other words, a negotiated peace would not have led to peace. Besides, the slave empire would have turned its attention south to Mexico and the Caribbean.
By the way, aren't the names of those rivers in Georgia cool? Oostanaula, Etowah, and of course, Chattahoochee, brought to the attention of non-Georgians by Alan Jackson. Cherokee names, no?
Literature, Poetry, and Books
May 5, 2009
I write from the British Library, which, like the Globe theatre, also didn't exist in those old days when you and I rubbed elbows with the Indian Hindus, and Pakistani Muslims, and Persian princesses, and easily-offended Irishmen at the International Students House at 10 York Terrace East. Remember the excruciating embarrassment watching the evening news with fellow students in the common room as James Earl "Jimmy" Carter became the Democratic front runner in the presidential elections. As I recall there was nothing partisan about it, just the shame that such a small-souled sanctimonious squirt of a man could conceivably be president of the United States. I like to remember that our Pakistani friends, especially keen on questions of honor, would politely change the subject--"let's watch Starsky and Hutch!" Fortunately we got out of town before our future president confessed the lust in his heart--to Playboy!
But I do not mean to talk politics, even old politics. The British Library was conceived before our York Terrace East days, but gestated slowly and came into being only in 1998. It's just a few stone throws from where we would have hung our hat if we could have afforded one between us--near St. Pancras Station on Euston Road. If it had been around back then, we would have spent many of our days here. It combines, along with other important collections, what had been the library holdings of the British Museum, which--to give an idea of scope--Lenin said held a better collection of Russian books than he could find in St. Petersburg or Moscow. It's very easy to get a reader's card, and there's free wi-fi for whoever wants to stroll through the front doors. The manuscripts on display are splendid--some of your students would like to trace with their eyes the straight lines of Jane Austen's hand-written pages, resting on her personal writing desk. There's a well stocked café, tables all over the place to sit and read or eat or have coffee and talk. And for those who know, there are secret balconies where one can sit and enjoy a Henry Clay--or, on a quest like mine, a Romeo y Julieta--if one is so disposed, and still have wi-fi.
But you don't have to be here to enjoy some of the library's wonders. Following the Shakespeare trail, while sipping a white Americano among throngs of happy and lively folks also sipping various brews and speaking countless languages at the dozens of sprawling tables or reading books or tapping away at their laptops, I wander on my free wi-fi to a wonderful feature online. Here can be found "the British Library's 93 copies of the 21 plays by William Shakespeare printed in quarto before the theatres were closed in 1642." The page I link to compares the first page of the first quarto of 1597 with the first page of the fifth quarto, 1637, of Romeo and Juliet. Flip through the pages, zoom in, and marvel.
I, for one, am inclined on occasion to stand astride History and say--"Well done!"
After the [DC Council] vote, enraged African American ministers stormed the hallway outside the council chambers and vowed that they will work to oust the members who supported the bill.... They caused such an uproar that security officers and D.C. police were called in to clear the hallway....
"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."
At least some of this rage is racial--blacks who feel that (white) gay activists exploit civil rights for the sake of their personal satisfaction.
And speaking of Catholics and politics: It just occurred to me that Joe Biden is the first Catholic Vice President. Surely his faith was a factor in favor as the VP selection. But will the temptation to appoint a (likely Catholic) Latina to replace Justice Souter meet the challenge of having six Catholics on the high court?
This is not to endorse ethnic/racial/religious/sex quotas. But the Court has become a highly politicized body, subject to many of the representational assumptions of elected bodies, universities, and corporations. How do we unscramble this egg? The bootless Republican strategy has been to appoint appeals court judges.
My only good political predictions have been of Supreme Court picks, so let my prudence expose itself as luck: Given Obama's opportunities and expresssion on behalf of "empathy," I might have predicted Governor Granholm of Michigan, because she is a pro-abortion Catholic. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano (Methodist) may have survived the swine flu scare to secure the nomination. Solicitor Elena Kagan for down the road, though the "fierce urgency of now" may get her the nomination this time.
Granholm has a more interesting story, but I know nothing of Michigan politics. Any ethics problems (other than having appeared on "The Dating Game")? But in the end he may go with one of his Chicago friends . No need to rush this, as he did with some Cabinet nominations.
UPDATE: The astute Jan Crawford Greenburg coauthors this piece on pros and cons of the most frequently mentioned possibilities. Example of a con: the black female Chief Justice of Georgia is a "Longtime friend of Justice Clarence Thomas."
Political debates are often framed in binaries: Middle-of-the-roaders versus hard-liners, moderates versus ideologues. But American politics is more complicated than that. There are multiple rights and lefts, and multiple middles as well. So-called extremists can serve the country well. And self-conscious moderates can be intellectually bankrupt.The problem with Specter then, is not even that he is just a kind of sleazy opportunist. Sometimes (e.g., NOW) it's fair to say that he is walking that line. But this latest exploit, unbecoming as it is, does not begin adequately to define him. Bill Clinton was this kind of politician, and Arlen Specter is no Bill Clinton. If you wanted to say that Clinton was unprincipled, you wouldn't have been crazy . . . but you would have been slightly off. Clinton's principle was (is?) himself. There was no honor in that, of course, but at least it was something that one could understand. And, in any event, there was a certain amount of American hucksterism in it that elicited a chuckle and a bit of awe at the real and not imaginary audacity of it. It was no good thing . . . but it was certainly a thing.
Arlen Specter, by contrast, is utterly uninteresting. There is no understanding Arlen Specter. He is a moving target . . . moving sometimes according to his own political and personal interests, other times according to his fancy, and occasionally in accordance with some transient thought now stuck in his dull intellectual teeth. What do you do with that? How do you speak to it? Reason with it? Make deals with it? You don't. You can't. You might as well have a monkey throwing darts at a board and count his throws as votes as count on Arlen Specter's vote. And now the Democrats have all the pleasure.
Jonah Goldberg also has some thoughts on Specter and the Republicans. He concludes, brutally, by noting: "Arlen Specter, even if he spends 40 more years in government, will be remembered for nothing at all." To which I'd say, except for this. But he will be remembered for this only because the Democrats and the media are so ardently allowing their wish to become their thought about what this is going to be and about what it means about the GOP. But it is going to amount to but a "specter" of their hopes. This is Specter's high water mark . . . the pinnacle of his power and influence. He will stand there, gaze down upon what he has wrought and not have the slightest beginnings of a coherent clue of what to do about it.
I fully understand that the future of the GOP will and must include the influence of people who are less "conservative" than me. It will and must include the influence of people who are more "conservative" than me. It will and must include (if only because we can do nothing to rid the human condition of such people) hucksters whose only principle is themselves. But I really hope we can manage to ignore the influence of people whose only ambition is to climb the mountain and then, when they do it, just stand there and look down with a stupid and confused countenance. Let them all be Democrats.
Warning: Don't have a mouthful of coffee when you watch this, or you'll need a new keyboard.
The Civil War & Lincoln
The idea is to keep it simple while at the same time trying to show how campaigns were planned and executed to achieve strategic and political goals. For far too long, Civil War military history has focused on individual battles without providing the necessary context.
The most recent essay is here. It covers the Virginia Overland Campaign of spring and summer 1864. Next week, Ben will post the essay on the Petersburg siege and Appomattox.
I have two more to complete: The Atlanta Campaign and then one that looks at Sherman's march to the sea and the Carolinas Campaign and also Hood's attempted counteroffensive into Tennessee, culminating in the destruction of his army at Nashville.
I hope folks read these, but the fact is I just enjoy writing them.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I begin with a digression: I have visited the Wallace Collection yesterday and today in Marylebone, just north of Mayfair--an astonishing, and most amusing, personal 19th century collection of 17th and 18th century European art (you can get some sense of it on line). Even you, no lover of museums, would enjoy it. But that's because it's not a museum. It's a rich personal collection displayed in the great town house in which it was originally displayed. Besides they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks in a beautiful courtyard. Stop in, have a bite, smile with the "Laughing Cavalier," laugh at the lady in The Swing, and compare her with The Lace Maker--the one with a whimsical slipper in the air, the other with two domestic shoes on the floor.
Now, a little more on Stratford-upon-Avon and how Yankee enterprise helped our English cousins develop reverence for their greatest poet.
Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford, visited by Jefferson and Adams in 1786, was sold with the attached buildings in 1805 for a mere 210 English pounds. In the announcement of the sale, no mention was made of any association with Shakespeare. In 1809 The Times of London reported perfunctorily that Shakespeare's birthplace had become a butcher's shop. There was no English lamentation or outrage. It seems the Brits did not feel an urgency to cherish the home of their greatest poet until . . . the Americans threatened to take it to America! (For these and the following facts I'm indebted mostly to that Sturgess book you suggested, which I carry with me here.)
Here's how the great American Shakespeare heist almost happened. Many Americans, following in the footsteps of Adams and Jefferson, continued to make what Washington Irving called the "poetical pilgrimage" to Stratford, even though all they found there was a butcher's shop with a room in it designated as Shakespeare's birthplace, and a tomb, with no name on it, in the nearby church. They seemed to share James Fenimore Cooper's sentiment, that Shakespeare was "the Great author of America." It was not an easy journey before the railroads, which nowadays get you there from London in a little over ninety minutes. Irving visited Stratford a few times and wrote a "Sketch Book" which became a "quasi-official guidebook" for later American visitors. Henry Clay visited in 1815, Martin van Buren some years later, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hawthorne, etc. It was common for them to join Irving in calling it a literary "pilgrimage."
OK. In 1844, P.T. Barnum--yes, THE P.T. Barnum--comes to Stratford-upon-Avon. He asks a native for guidance to the local scene. To his surprise, he is handed a pamphlet written--not by some British authority--but by his countryman Washington Irving. Not a man known for missing an opportunity, Barnum grasps immediately that the Yanks are more interested than the Brits in making the Shakespeare pilgrimage. He records in his autobiography what he does next: He "obtained verbally through a friend the refusal of the house in which Shakspeare was born, designing to remove it in sections to my museum in New York." He was going to buy Shakespeare's house, tear it down, ship the parts to America, put it back together in New York, and let Americans--and the rest of the world--make their Shakespeare pilgrimage to the Big Apple!
This awakened the sleeping bulldog. As Barnum records, word of his plans "leaped out. British pride was touched." A movement arose in the British popular press and in social and literary circles to save the great Bard's home from these foreign predators. Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, got involved, and made a substantial donation, as did other gentlemen of mark, and an English Shakespeare association bought the home for the highly inflated price of 3000 pounds. Ownership was transferred to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The home of Shakespeare was safe from the reverence of P.T. Barnum. As Mark Twain wrote a generation later, "from that day to this every relic of Shakespeare in Stratford has been sacred, and zealously cared for . . . ."
Addition: This YouTube demo may be even better, as it is more clear about the point that the transistors are in the plastic; quite amazing actually.
Addition Two: Amazon will unveil its "big screen" Kindle this Wednesday.