Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Reading the Enemy’s Mail

 

One of the most storied commanders of World War II was German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. A hero in his own country he was Britain’s most admired enemy during that war. He gained much of his reputation while commanding the Afrika Korps against the British in Egypt. Rommel claimed his success was due to his ability to think like his opposite number, putting himself inside the mind of his opponent. It turned out Rommel was not reading his enemy’s mind. He was reading his mail.

“War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East,” by Gershom Gorenberg, examines espionage and signal intelligence during the 1940-42 African campaigns.

Gorenberg takes a fresh look at World War II in Africa using previously unpublished memoirs and interviews of surviving participants (some made years ago, saved and archived) and recently declassified war records. Many records, especially those relating to wartime espionage and signal intelligence remained classified into the opening years of the twenty-first century.

The result is an enlightening revisit of African events prior to the US North African landings in November 1942. Gorenberg provides a broad outline of the back and forth thrusts in the Libyan and Egyptian desert during those years. However, this is secondary to Gorenberg’s main focus: the action off the battlefield which drove the results of the battle.

He offers readers a deep dive into the role codebreaking played (for both sides). He examines the politics of the Near and Middle East, including the diplomatic maneuvers both Britain and the Axis powers use to influence the region’s governments. He also presents the actual physical espionage conducted during the period – agents on the ground.

He also strips away much of the mythology of the desert war. Rommel is revealed as an ardent Nazi. Gorenberg reveals it was not a gentlemanly war. The Nazis prepared to implement the final solution in Egypt and Palestine as they prepared to conquer them. Nor were German spies tipping off Rommel. Rather Germany was reading coded messages sent by a US military observer in Egypt, using cyphers stolen from the US embassy in Italy.

“War of Shadows” is a book that informs as much as it entertains. Gorenberg manages to produce a work that is simultaneously told on a personal level and that of grand tactics and national strategy. Highly readable, it is a gripping read.

“War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East,” by Gershom Gorenberg, PublicAffairs, 2021, 496 pages, $34.00 (Hardcover), $18.99 (Ebook) $40.00 (Audio CD)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Mon Cher, We Will Never Be Second: Phillipe de Rothschild’s Wine Bottles and the Beauty of Capitalism

 

Wine is an art in France. And a business. Considering its dual nature, perhaps there was no one better to revolutionize both aspects of the French wine industry than a Rothschild. One from a family that has been entwined for centuries in Europe’s money and its art, as patrons and creators.

Nowadays, to the extent that he is remembered at all in the Anglophone world, Baron Philippe de Rothschild is remembered as a race car driver or the husband of style icon Pauline. However, the Baron was also a poet, film and theatre producer, playwright, translator, and vigneron of almost unparalleled success.

Château Mouton Rothschild, a wine estate located in Pauillac, southwestern France, has been in the Rothschild family since 1853, when it was purchased by Nathaniel de Rothschild and renamed from Château Brane-Mouton. Nathaniel was actually an English, not a French, Rothschild, though he spent the majority of his life residing and working in the country with the French branch of the family, and Phillipe believed that this is why the vineyard was denied Premier Cru status despite meeting the price standard. (The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 was based on each château’s trade price and reputation, which at the time was closely related to the quality of the wine that it produced. Even in the face of significant criticism, the classification list remains in force today). Despite Nathaniel’s love of it, Château Mouton Rothschild little interested James Mayer de Rothschild, the heir, or his son Henri.

WWI was what saved the estate from another generation of neglect. Phillipe was sent from Paris to live there in 1914, when he was twelve, by his father, who was intent to keep his youngest son as far away from the fighting as possible. During his years in Pauillac, Phillipe fell in love with both the countryside and the vineyards. Only eight years after he was first sent there, Phillipe took full control of Château Mouton Rothschild. Showing typical flair and creative intelligence, he decided to take a path with the 1924 harvest unheard of among French vignerons. General practice was to sell the wine (really casks of semi-fermented grape juice and whatever additives producers might have seen fit to add) directly to merchants, and for them to allow it to mature and bottle, label, and market the final product. While the château would probably keep its hands on a portion to do this to itself, either for in house consumption or small scale sale, it sometimes led to wild variations in quality and end result from the same winery’s grapes.

Phillipe, instead, kept the entirety of the ‘24 stock, and set up a production process. From then on, the shrewd future Baron surmised, Mouton Rothschild would be regarded as a brand, with consistent quality among its years. Premier Cru producers quickly began to follow suit. Rather than waste grapes that did not meet his high standards, or risk lowering the quality of the house wines, he created a separate brand in 1932 under which to make and sell a second-string vintage. Mouton Cadet, the result of that venture, is the most sold red wine in the world.

In 1940, Château Mouton Rothschild was seized by Phillipe Pétain’s Vichy government, and Phillipe de Rothschild’s French citizenship was revoked. Upon his release in 1941, he escaped to London to join de Gaulle’s Free French Forces. By the time he finished his service in 1945, he had earned a Croix de Guerre, but lost his wife, Élisabeth de Chambure. The two were separated, estranged in a passionate and tempestuous marriage by the death of their son Charles Henri shortly after his birth in 1938. Phillipe was struck by the bitter irony that the only member of the most famous Jewish family in the world was a Catholic who converted to Judaism a few months before her wedding, and haunted by imagining how she might have suffered, and died, in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Despite their separation, he was still deeply in love with his wife, and turned to repairing the vineyard, damaged by German occupation, to soothe his grief.

The château took in a 1945 harvest, and returned to production in the early 1950s. Despite his joy in reviving the château, though, Phillipe was still greatly angered by the fact that their wine remained under the 1855 Deuxièmes Crus designation, something which even some contemporaries of the original list thought smacked of anti-Semitism. Considering the price his wines sold at, and its international reputation, the Baron’s upset was justified. He launched a one-man crusade to have his château’s designation made Premier Cru. Finally, after decades of lobbying, Georges Pompidou’s government changed it to First Growth status in 1973. (Pompidou began working at Rothschild & Co in 1953, and only left in 1962 to serve as de Gaulle’s prime minister, having achieved the status of general manager). It was the first time, with the exception of the 1856 addition of Macau’s Château Cantemerl to Premier Cru, that the Official Classification was changed.

The winery’s motto was Premier ne puis, second ne daigne, Mouton suis (“First, I cannot be. Second, I do not deign to be. Mouton I am.”), and that same year it was changed to Premier je suis, Second je fus, Mouton ne change (“First, I am. Second, I used to be. Mouton does not change.”) During the Baron’s lifetime, the winery continued to grow, and even add vineyards, while he worked with Robert Mondavi in the 1980s to form the Opus One Winery in Oakville, California. He died in January of 1988, at the age of 85, still fully engaged with the business he had helped to become a world leader.

However, I think the beauty of Phillipe’s chapter in the story of Château Mouton Rothschild goes beyond his dazzling display of the family’s typical acute business acumen, and talent for innovation. Phillipe saw the intersection between art and capitalism, and represented that in a charming, creative way. In 1924, the future Baron commissioned Jean Carlu, a well-known poster designer, to create a label for that year’s vintage. Every year since 1945, a famous, or up and coming (and Phillipe could certainly spot them), artist has designed the grand vin’s label. Among the Rothschild alumni are Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dalí, Lucian Freud, César, Jeff Koons, David Hockney, the Prince of Wales (Charles), and Pierre Soulages.

Naturally, Phillipe meant for the high quality, exclusivity, and excellence, of his product to be reflected even in the art that adorned the bottle. From day one he showed clearly that he understood the power of a brand. But Phillipe was not only a consummate businessman, he was an artist in his own right. The beauty of the wine as an art form and a craft was meant to be reflected in the labels. Likewise, the labels represented his creation’s existence as part of a high culture, one which encompassed the best of enduring literature, food, cinema, music, and art. A rich man who bought the wine might learn something of that culture, and be drawn to patronize it with his wealth, or an artist that saw the bottles could begin to understand how his art might enter a world beyond galleries and museums. As much as anything, the labels represent an effort and an act of mutual understanding, a celebration of the profundity and connectedness of human creativity in all fields, whether the end result was a painted canvas or a bottle full of Bordeaux.

Phillipe’s message is especially wonderful when one stops to consider the history of his family. Before the advent of early modern capitalism, the vast majority of art was in the hands of kings, princes, lords, and abbots. Artists worked at the pleasure of their patrons, and mostly produced what those patrons desired. We hear much nowadays about how art was stifled by capitalism, and while quite a bit of beautiful art was produced in the early middle ages, it was capitalism that really helped to set it free. As bills of exchange and long-distance trade started to build a merchant, and from there a middle, class, the market for potential buyers exploded. Artists certainly still had patrons, but they could also create works in line with their own brilliances, and sell them to a much wider potential clientele. The Rothschilds first arrived on the European economic scene in 1567, one of the heights of early modern capitalism, and helped to build the banking and financial world as we know it today. They assisted in creating and sustaining the market which grew a freer, more innovative art world.

It seems fitting that more than three centuries later, one of the family’s greatest descendants would so perfectly encapsulate the idea of capitalism as a thing of beauty.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Politics of Impeachment: Watching High Stakes Poker

 

Normal Americans not consumed with politics may understandably be confused about what’s happening with the impeachment of now-former President Donald Trump. Allow me to share with you the political machinations likely driving what is, or is not, transpiring.

First, the January 6th breach of the Capitol by a hundred or so extremists opened a political opportunity for Democrats – not just to blame President Trump for “inciting” violence, but to drive a wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters. They rightly figured that House and Senate Republicans, among others, would recoil at the violence and damage done to the Capitol.

They were correct. And they responded with a hurried, even “emergency” impeachment of President Trump. No hearings, no investigation, no Judiciary Committee vote, no due process of any kind. And it passed on a largely party-line vote, with 10 Republicans joining in. Establishment Republicans, including reputed New York Times “conservative” columnist Bret Stephens, praised House Conference Lynn Cheney and 9 of her colleagues for their “courage.”

Where people may be confused is this: if it was such an “emergency,” why hasn’t the trial already been started? That’s because Speaker Pelosi has never sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. This is no constitutional or legal requirement for her to do so. Nevertheless, we are now told they will be solemnly marched over to the Senate on Monday. So, a trial, barring some intervention, will start Tuesday.

Senate rules require that an impeachment trial of a president must begin the next “legislative day.” They are very prescriptive. Meanwhile, new President Joe Biden has a Cabinet to confirm and an agenda to pursue. So there are some cross currents facing Democrats as well. Some believe the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time, and conduct business between sessions of a trial, but that would require bipartisan cooperation, perhaps even unanimous consent, and that is very unlikely to happen.

Many establishment Republicans are now clamoring for Trump’s conviction to ensure he is not a candidate again in 2024 – the very reasons cited by now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer for his support as well. Unity! Healing! Some Republicans agree, believing that excising the Trump “cancer” would help the party rebuild. Some 74.2 million Americans who voted for Trump, the second-highest vote total for a presidential candidate in American history, might disagree.

This places Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell onto a difficult highwire act with all sorts of crosswinds. The Republican’s most astute political analyst, McConnell is surely on to the Democrats’ political strategy. This is about the 2022 midterm elections and keeping the House and Senate under Democratic control. By driving a wedge between Republicans, Schumer and his Democratic allies would love nothing more than Trump supporters to fade back into the woodwork, stay home on election day, 2022, or better yet, abandon the Republican party entirely.

That is a real possibility. By doing so, Schumer greatly tilts the playing field in his direction and forces Republicans to spend precious time and resources rebuilding their badly fractured base.

Some believe McConnell made a mistake by accusing Trump, in a Senate floor speech, of “provoking” the events of January 6th at the Capitol. He may have, but that may also be part of his highwire act to keep his 49 GOP colleagues as unified as possible, between those who might vote to convict Trump and those who believe the process is unconstitutional. McConnell has not signaled how he would vote. He is keeping his cards close to his vest. There are Republicans who see long-term value of excising Trump from politics. McConnell may be one of them. He’s not saying.

Reports are that GOP Senators – 17 of whom would be needed along with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump and deny him a future public office and other emoluments – are moving towards a consensus that the impeachment trial of a former President who has clearly left office is unconstitutional. Reportedly, Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled as much and does not want – and may refuse – to preside at the trial. That puts Democrats in charge of presiding over their own trial. They need to think about that.

Meanwhile, the business of the country (or, at least Democrats, who are busy destroying pipeline and energy jobs while revving up their regulatory engines), continues. And President Biden, who made a commendable appeal for unity and ending division, says nothing about a process that clearly is aimed not just at Trump, but Trump supporters, a process that clearly pits “red” versus “blue,” which he supposedly wants to end. The words ring hollow for many and may have contributed to almost the worst-ever honeymoon polling for the new President, as recorded by Rasmussen.

So, Schumer’s political machinations continue – whether a trial would really advantage Democrats, is genuinely permitted under the Constitution (we’re in unprecedented territory here – we’ve never tried a former President in an impeachment trial), as does McConnell’s. We’re watching the middle of a high-stakes poker game.

Best guess: the trial happens, because the Democratic base will insist, and Schumer will see more benefit than cost. He may calculate that he will lose on a conviction vote, but mission accomplished – he will get a divisive vote to use against some Republicans in the 2022 midterms (I can imagine the TV commercials now). Republicans will remain divided, and Trump voters angry. Republicans, ultimately, will object to a trial over constitutional concerns, with an assist from the Chief Justice. Schumer will try to expedite the trial. Biden will remain silent, sadly. Republicans wisely will boycott the trial but show up to defeat the motion to convict, which will require 67 votes. It will be defeated, but some Republicans, such as Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and possibly two or three others, will likely join with the Democrats.

That is not a good scenario for the nation. Or for President Biden.

This is Biden’s first test of his lofty inaugural address. If he is serious about unity and healing the nation’s division, he should call Speaker Pelosi and tell her never to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. He should tell Sen. Schumer that there are more important things to do. Biden and Vice President Harris, who is likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024 (if not the incumbent President by then), probably is salivating at a chance to run against then-78-year-old Donald Trump after another bruising GOP primary. She’s making calculations of her own about a trial, and if conviction looks possible, she may get cold feet.

Biden could do the nation a big favor by calling on his congressional leaders to let this go. Americans of all stripes (except the most partisan) would applaud. Is he up to it? We’re about to find out.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How a Country Abandoned Law and Liberty, and Became a Threat to Humanity

 

How does an advanced and civilized nation turn into a pack of hunting hounds directed against humans? Sebastian Haffner addresses the question in his memoir, titled Defying Hitler, which describes his own experiences and observations from early childhood until his departure from Germany in 1939. It is an important document–not only for the light it sheds on this particular and dreadful era in history, but also for its more general analysis of the factors leading to totalitarianism and of life under a totalitarian state. It is also a very personal and human book, with vivid portraits of Haffner’s parents, his friends, and the women he loved. Because of its importance and the fact that it is relatively little-read in the United States (I picked up my copy at the Gatwick airport), I’m reviewing it here at considerable length.

The title (probably not chosen by the author himself) is perhaps unfortunate. Haffner was not a member of an organization dedicated to overthrowing the Nazi state, along the lines of a Hans Oster or a Sophie Scholl. His defiance, rather, was on a personal level–keeping his mind free of Nazi ideology, avoiding participation in Nazi crimes, and helping victims of the regime where possible. Even this level of defiance required considerable courage–more than most people are capable of. As Haffner summarizes life under a totalitarian regime:

With fearful menace the state demands that the individual give up his friends, abandon his lovers, renounce his beliefs and assume new, prescribed ones. He must use a new form of greeting, eat and drink in ways he does not fancy, employ his leisure in occupations he abhors, make himself available for activities he despises, and deny his past and his individuality. For all this, he must constantly express extreme enthusiasm and gratitude.

Haffner was born in 1907, and many of his earliest and most vivid memories center around the First World War. To this seven-year-old boy, the war was something very exciting–a reaction that surely was shared by many boys of his age in all of the belligerent countries. As Haffner remembers it, he was not at all motivated by hate for the enemy–although there was plenty of propaganda intended to inculcate such hate–but rather by a kind of sporting instinct:

In those childhood days, I was a war fan just as one is a football fan…I hated the French, the English, and the Russians as little as the Portsmouth supporters detest the Wolverhampton fans. Of course, I prayed for their defeat and humiliation, but only because these were the necesary counterparts of my side’s victory and triumph.

The German defeat came as a severe shock to young Sebastian, who had in no way expected it: The same was true of the severe social disruption which pervaded Germany during this period:

Some days there was no electricity, on other no trams, but it was never clear whether it was because of the Spartacists or the Government that we had to use oil lamps or go on foot.

In 1919, Haffner joined a sports club called the Old Prussia Athletics Club. This was a right-wing sports club–so far had the politicization of daily life already progressed. Although the club was anti-Socialist, it was not anti-Semitic–indeed, several of the members (including the club’s best runner) were Jewish, and probably participated as enthusiastically as other members in street fights with the Socialist youth.

After a time, the political situation calmed down–temporarily, as we now know. The Old Prussia Athletic Club was dissolved:

Many of us sought new interests: stamp-collecting, for example, piano-playing, or the theatre. Only a few remained true to politics, and it struck me for the first time that, strangely enough, those were the more stupid, coarse and unpleasant among my schoolfellows.

Haffner assigns much of the credit for the political and economic stabilization to the statesman Walter Rathenau–“an aristocratic revolutionary, an idealistic economic planner, a Jew who was a German patriot, a German patriot who was a liberal citizen of the world..cultured enough to be above culture, rich enough to be above riches, man of the world enough to be above the world.” But while Rathenau was admired and even loved by many, he was hated by many others. He was murdered in 1922. This killing was followed shortly by the great inflation which began in 1923. In Haffner’s view, the impact of this episode is almost impossible to overstate: he calls it “the unending bloody Saturnalia, in which not only money but all standards lost their value.”

That year newspaper readers could again play a variation of the exciting numbers game they had enjoyed during the war…this time the figures did not refer to military events..but to an otherwise quite uninteresting, everyday item in the financial pages: the exchange rate of the dollar. The fluctuation of the dollar was the barometer by which, with a mixture of anxiety and excitement, we measured the fall of the mark.

By the end of 1922, prices had already risen to somewhere between 10 and 100X the pre-war peacetime level, and a dollar could purchase 500 marks. It was inconvenient to work with the large numbers, but life went on much as before.

But the mark now went on the rampage…the dollar shot to 20,000 marks, rested there for a short time, jumped to 40,000, paused again, and then, with small periodic fluctuations, coursed through the ten thousands and then the hundred thousands…Then suddenly, looking around we discovered that this phenomenon had devastated the fabric of our daily lives.

Anyone who had savings in a bank, bonds, or gilts, saw their value disappear overnight. Soon it did not matter whether it ws a penny put away for a rainy day or a vast fortune. everything was obliterated…the cost of living had begun to spiral out of control. ..A pound of potatoes which yesterday had cost fifty thousand marks now cost a hundred thousand. The salary of sixty-five thousand marks brought home the previous Friday was no longer sufficient to buy a packet of cigarettes on Tuesday.

The only people who were able to survive financially were those that bought stocks. (And, of course, were shrewd or lucky enough to buy the right stocks and to sell them at the right times.)

Every minor official, every employee, every shift-worker became a shareholder. Day-to-day purchases were paid for by selling shares. On wage days there was a general stampede to the banks, and share prices shot up like rockets…Sometimes some shares collapsed and thousands of people hurtled towards the abyss. In every shop, every factory, every school, share tips were whispered in one’s ear.

The old and unworldy had the worst of it. Many were driven to begging, many to suicide. The young and quick-witted did well. Overnight they became free, rich, and independent. It was a situation in which mental inertia and reliance on past experience was punished by starvation and death, but rapid appraisal of new situations and speed of reaction was rewarded with sudden, vast riches. The twenty-one-year-old bank director appeared on the scene, and also the sixth-former who earned his living from the stock-market tips of his slighty older friends. He wore Oscar Wilde ties, organized champagne parties, and supported his embarrassed father.

Haffner believes that the great inflation–particularly by the way it destroyed the balance between generations and empowered the inexperienced young–helped pave the way for Naziism.

In August 1923 the dollar-to-mark ratio reached a million, and soon thereafter the number was much higher. Trade was shutting down, and complete social chaos threatened. Various self-appointed saviors appeared: Hausser, in Berlin…Hitler, in Munich, who at the time was just one among many rabble-rousers…Lamberty, in Thuringia, who emphasized folk-dancing, singing, and frolicking.

Then a miracle happened. “Small, ugly grey-green notes” appeared, with “One Rentenmark” written on them. The small numbers on these notes belied their value. You could use them to buy goods which had previously cost a billion marks. And, most amazingly, they held their value. Goods which had cost 5 Rentenmarks last week would also generally cost 5 Rentenmarks next week.

Haffner does not venture an answer to the then-hot question of “who discovered the Rentenmark,” but he credits Gustav Stresemann–who had just become Chancellor–with the general stabilization of German politics and the economy. Most people breathed a vast sigh of relief, but some were less happy:

Twenty-one-year-old bank directors began to look around for clerking jobs again, and sixth-formers had to adjust to having twenty marks’ pocket money.

But overall, the picture was bright:

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

and

To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

Haffner notes that there was often a psychological resemblance between those who became Nazis and those who became Communists. Describing two acquaintances who made these choices:

They both came from the ‘youth movement’ and both thought in terms of leagues. They were both anti-bourgeois and anti-individualistic. Both had an ideal of ‘community’ and ‘community spirit’. For both, jazz music, fashion magazines…in other words the world of glamour and ‘easy come, easy go’, were a red rag. Both had a secret liking for terror, in a more humanistic garb for the one, more nationalistic for the other. As similar views make for similar faces, they both had a certain stiff, thin-lipped, humourless expression and, incidentally, the greatest respect for each other.

(The psychological overlap between Nazis and Communists is reinforced by the observations of British traveler Patrick Fermor, who in 1933 stayed overnight with a friendly German man–who turned out to have Nazi posters all over his walls, and who laughingly remarked that he had previously been a Communist and that the only problem was that so many of his former comrades had also made the switch that there was hardly anyone left to beat up anymore.)

Haffner pursued his own private life, and sometime around 1929, he fell in love. The girl’s nickname was “Teddy,” the use of boys’ names as nicknames evidently being common among German girls of this era.

…at a certain stage of life, about the age of twenty, a love affair and the choice of partner affect one’s destiny and character more than at others. For the woman one loves stands for more than just herself; a whole view of the world, a notion of life, and ideal, if you will, but one come alive, made flesh and blood…We all loved her, the bearer of this name, an Austrian girl, slight, honey-blonde, freckled, lithe as a flame…Our circle had a goddess in its midst. The woman who was once Teddy may now be older and more earthbound, and none of us may still live life at the same emotional pitch as then, but that there was once a Teddy and that we established those raptures cannot be taken from us.

Teddy–“more far-seeing and sensitive than us”–left Germany for Paris in 1930.

Reflecting on this era in German history and culture, Haffner does see some very positive things:

Despite everything, one could find a fresh atmosphere in Germany at this time…The barriers between the classes had become thin and permeable…There were many students who were labourers, and many young labourers who were students Class prejudice and the starched-collar mentality were simply out of fashion. The relations between the sexes were freer and franker than ever–perhaps a fortunate by-product of the lack of discipline of the past years…we felt a bewildered sympathy for previous generations who had, in their youth, had the choice between unapproachable virgins for adoration and harlots for relaxation. Finally, a new hope even began to dawn in international relations; there was less prejudice and more understanding of the other side, and an unmistakable pleasure in the vivid variety that the world derives from its many peoples.

But the Nazi movement was gathering adherents. Haffner and his friends despised these people. They were worried, but not too worried:

As long as Stresemann was there, we felt more or less sure that they would be held in check. We moved among them with the same unconcern with which visitors to a modern cageless zoo walk past the beasts of prey, confident that its ditches and hedges have been carefully calculated.

In 1929, a newspaper headline announced that Stresemann had died.

As we read it, we were seized with icy terror. Who was there now to tame the beasts?

Haffner makes it clear that the beasts gained power from the reluctance of the authorities to deal with them severely. For example, Hitler openly threatened and insulted the judge of the highest German court, before which he had been summoned as a witness. There was no charge of contempt. Nothing happened.

It was strange to observe how the behavior of each side reinforced that of the other: the savage impudence which gradually made it possible for the unpleasant, little apostle of hate to assume the proportions of a demon; the bafflement of his tamers, who always realized just too late exactly what he was up to…then also the hypnotic trance into which his public fell, succumbing with less and less resistance to the glamour of depravity and the ecstasy of evil.

(It is interesting to note that the Nazis used the term “the system” in reference to the government and the culture that they despised)

In college, Haffner studied law. He was really more interested in literature, but his father–a Prussian civil servant who had strong literary interests of his own–thought writing was unlikely to be viable as a career, and wanted to see Sebastian follow in his footsteps in the civil service: for one thing, he believed it was important to have broadminded and philosophical people, not mere apparatchiks, in the government service. Haffner observes that:

My spiritual preparation for what was ahead was almost equally inadequate. Is it not said that in peacetime the chiefs of staff always prepare their armies as well as possible–for the previous war? I cannot judge the truth of that, but it is certainly true that conscientious parents always educate their sons for the era that is just over. I had all the intellectual endowments to play a decent part in the bourgeois world of the period before 1914. I had an uneasy feeling, based on what I had experienced, that it would not be of much help to me.

The world for which Haffner had been educated was about to be destroyed. In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

I do not know what the general reaction was. For about a minute, mine was completely correct: icy horror…for a moment I physically sensed the man’s odour of blood and filth, the nauseating approach of a man-eating animal–its foul, sharp claws in my face.

But that evening, after discussing the situation with his father, he felt better about the future. Hitler, after all, had not been elected dictator: he was merely head of a coalition government and indeed had sworn an oath to the Weimar constitution.

We agreed that (the new government) had a good chance of doing a lot of damage, but not of surviving for very long: a deeply reactionary government, with Hitler as its mouthpiece…Even with the Nazis it would not have a majority in the Reichstag…Foreign policy would probably be a matter of banging the table. There might be an attempt to rearm. That would automatically add the outside world to the 60 percent of the home population who were against the Government…No, all things considered, this government was not a cause for alarm.

But throughout February 1933, things happened very quickly. The Reichstag was dissolved and new elections were called: I believe this was still consistent with the existing constitution–the powerful Prussian regional parliament was also dissolved, which was definitely not. And:

The Nazis no longer felt any restraint; with their gangs, they regularly broke up the election meetings of other parties. ..A little later an ‘auxiliary police force’ was formed from the ranks of the SA

But for most people, these events were merely something they read about in the newspapers, not something that really impacted their daily lives. Haffner, now working as a junior lawyer in the highest court in Prussia (the Kammergericht), was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:

The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.

In spring of that year, Haffner attended Berlin’s Carnival–an event at which one would find a girlfriend or boyfriend for the night and exchange phone numbers in the morning…”By then you usually know whether it is the start of something that you would like to take further, or whether you have just earned yourself a hangover.” He had a hard time getting in the Carnival mood, however:

All at once I had a strange, dizzy feeling. I felt as though I was inescapably imprisoned with all these young people in a giant ship that was rolling and pitching. We were dancing on its lowest, narrowest deck, while on the bridge it was being decided to flood that deck and drown every last one of us.

Nevertheless, he paired off with a small black-haired girl who he nicknamed “Charlie” (what was it about those nicknames?) The party was broken up by the police. Haffner approached a policeman to ask if they really had to leave:

What kind of face was that? Not the usual, familiar, friendly, honest face of an ordinary policeman. This face seemed to consist entirely of teeth…Very Nordic, one had to admit, but then again not really human, more like the face of a crocodile. I shuddered. I had seen the face of the SS.

Daily life continued–Haffner continued to work at the Kammergericht, and Charlie (who was Jewish) became his girlfriend. But “it was no longer possible to deny that daily life itself had become hollow and mechanical.” Haffner considered leaving Germany, or demonstratively converting to Judaism.

Though it was not really relevant to current events, my father’s immense experience of the period from 1870 to 1933 was deployed to calm me down and sober me up. He treated my heated emotions with gentle irony…It took me quite a while to realize that my youthful excitability was right and my father’s wealth of experience was wrong; that there are things that cannot be dealt with by calm skepticism.

Haffner had not initially taken his relationship with Charlie very seriously, but “now that the hand of doom was reaching for her, I felt I loved her a little more fiercely and passionately.” On a beautiful day in the last week of March, Sebastian and Charlie went for a walk in the woods west of Berlin. They sat on the grass among the fir trees, at first simply enjoying the day. But every 10 minutes or so, a group of young people went by–apparently school outings, since they were all accompanied by teachers.

Every one of these classes, as they passed, shouted ‘Juda verrecke!’ to us in their bright young voices, as thought it was a sort of hiker’s greeting. It may not have been aimed at us in particular. I do not look at all Jewish, and Charlie (who was Jewish) did not look very Jewish either. Perhaps it was just a friendly greeting…So there I sat ‘on the springtime hill’ with a small, graceful, vivacious girl in my arms. We kissed and caressed each other, and every so often a group of boys went past and cheerfully told us to perish.

On March 31st, the Nazis came to the Kammergericht. Haffner was in the library, reading some document on which he had to give an opinion. There was a clatter of footsteps in the corridor, shouts, and doors banging. Brown uniforms surged in, and the leader announced that all “non-Aryans” must leave immediately. One brown shirt approached Haffner and asked “Are you Aryan?”

Before I had a chance to think, I had said, ‘Yes.’ He took a close look at my nose–and retired. The blood shot to my face. A moment too late I felt the shame, the defeat….I had failed my very first test.

As I left the Kammergericht it stood there, grey, cool and calm as ever, set back from the street in its distinguished setting. There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it had just collapsed.

Haffner tells us that even during Germany’s previous eras of autocracy, there had been at least some tradition of judicial independence, represented by the Kammergericht. He relates the story of Frederick the Great and the miller of Potsdam: The king wanted a windmill removed because it interfered with the view from his palace, and offered to buy it. The miller refused, and the king threatened to dispossess him. Challenging this royal version of eminent domain, the miller said, “Just so, your majesty, but there’s still the Kammergericht in Berlin.” (When Haffner wrote, the mill was still there) All that was over, now.

It was strange to sit in the Kammergericht again, the same courtroom, the same seats, acting as if nothing had happened. The same ushers stood at the doors and ensured, as ever, that the dignity of the court was not disturbed. Even the judges were for the most part the same people. Of course, the Jewish judge was no longer there. He had not even been dismissed. He was an old gentleman and had served under the Kaiser, so he had been moved to an administrative position at some Amtsgericht (lower court). His position on the senate was taken by an open-faced, blond young Amtsgerichtsrat, with glowing cheeks, who did not seem to belong among the grave Kammergerichtsrats…It was whispered that in private the newcomer was something high up in the SS.

The new judge didn’t seem to know much about law, but asserted his points in a “fresh, confident voice.”

We Refendars, who had just passed our exams, exchanged looks while he expounded. At last the president of the senate remarked with perfect politeness, ‘Colleague, could it be that you have overlooked paragraph 816 of the Civil Code?’ At which the new high court judge looked embarrassed…leafed through his copy of the code and then admitted lightly, ‘Oh, yes. Well, then it’s just the other way around.’ Those were the triumphs of the older law.

There were, however, other cases–cases in which the newcomer did not back down…stating that here the paragraph of the law must yield precedence; he would instruct his co-judges that the meaning was more important than the letter of the law…Then, with the gesture of a romantic stage hero, he would insist on some untenable decision. It was piteous to observe the faces of the older Kammergerichtsrats as this went on. They looked at their notes with an expression of indescribable dejection, while their fingers nervously twisted a paper-clip or a piece of blotting paper. They were used to failing candidates for the Assessor examination for spouting the kind of nonsense that was now being presented as the pinnacle of wisdom; but now this nonsense was backed by the full power of the state, by the threat of dismissal for lack of national reliability, loss of livelihood, the concentration camp…They begged for a little understanding for the Civil Code and tried to save what they could.

For young lawyers who were willing to swim with the current, it was an excellent time:

We Refendars rose daily in importance. The Association of National Socialist Lawyers wrote us all (me included) the most flattering letters: we were the generation who would build the new German justice..One could sense that the Refendars felt their increasing importance. They, not the Kammersgerichtrats, were the ones who now knowledgeably discussed court gossip in the breaks…The atmosphere reminded one of the glorious year 1923, when it had been suddenly been young people who set the tone, and one could become the director of a bank and possessor of a motor car from one day to the next…Yet it was not quite like 1923. The price of admission was somewhat higher. You had to choose your words with care and conceal your thoughts to avoid going to the concentration camp instead of the ministry of justice…The opinions that were expressed sounded a bit like exam responses learned by rote. Quite often the speaker broke off suddenly, and looked around to see if someone had perhaps misinterpreted his words.

The Party did everything it could to encourage this ascendancy of the younger lawyers: there were even ‘training camps for young lawyers’, with mandatory attendance for Refendars who were about to take their Assessor examinations. These camps featured military and sporting exercises, along with intensive ideological indoctrination sessions. (Because of a bureaucratic screw-up, Haffner was able to avoid attendance.)

A few people dared to speak up against the regime, but not many…and they were not always the people that one would have predicted. On the evening of the day when Jews were evicted from the Kammergericht, Haffner went with Charlie to a nightclub called the Katacombe. The master of ceremonies was a comic actor and satirical cabaret performer named Werner Fink:

His act remained full of harmless amiability in a country where these qualities were on the liquidation list. This harmless amiability hid a kernel of real, indomitable courage. He dared to speak openly about the reality of the Nazis, and that in the middle of Germany. His patter contained references to concentration camps, the raids on people’s homes, the general fear and general lies. He spoke of these things with infinitely quiet mockery, melancholy, and sadness. Listening to him was extraordinarily comforting.

In the morning, the Prussian Kammergericht, with its tradition of hundreds of years, had ignobly capitulated before the Nazis. In the same evening, a small troop of artistes, with no tradition to back them up, demonstrated the courage to speak forbidden thoughts. “The Kammergericht had fallen but the Katakombe stood upright.”

Everyone knew about the concentration camps, but not many people wanted to talk about them. One day, Haffner’s father was visited by a former colleague–he had been a Social Democrat while Haffner’s father was far more to the Right; still, the two men liked and respected each other. This former associate had just been released from a concentration camp. Although he was in his late 40s, he looked as old as Haffner’s father did at 70. His hair had gone completely white.

My father told me afterwords that he had often lost the thread of the conversation, not answered and looked absent-mindedly down at the floor. Then he had burst out, ‘It’s dreadful, my friend. Just dreadful.’

Haffner’s father was long since retired, but it was agonizing to him to see his life’s work in the law so contemptuously destroyed by the new regime.

There had been great pieces of legislation in his administrative area, on which he had worked closely. They wre important, daring, thoughtful, intellectual achievements, the fruits of decades of experience and years of intense, meticulous analysis and dedicated refinement. With a stroke of the pen they had been declared null and void…Not only that, but the foundations on which such things could be built or replaced had been washed away. The whole tradition of a state based on the rule of law, to which generations of men like my father had devoted their lives and energies, which had seemed so firm and permanent, had disappeared overnight. It was not just failure that my father had experienced at the end of a life that had been severe, disciplined, industrious and all-in-all very successful. It was catastrophe. He was witnessing the triumph, not of his opponents–that he would have borne with wise acceptance–but of barbarians, beneath consideration as opponents. In those days I sometimes saw my father sitting at his desk for long periods, just staring into space, without a glance at the papers before him.

Worse was to come. One day the elder Haffner received an official letter. It required him to list all of the political parties, organizations, and associations to which he had ever belonged in his life and to sign a declaration that he ‘stood behind the government of national uprising without reservations.’ Failure to sign would mean the loss of his pension, which he had earned through 45 years of devoted service.

After agonizing about it for several days, he finally filled out the form, signed the declaration, and took it to the mailbox before he could change his mind.

He had hardly sat down at his desk again when he jumped up and began to vomit convulsively. For two or three days he was unable to eat or keep down any food. It was the beginning of a hunger strike by his body, which killed him cruelly and painfully two years later.

I have reviewed this book at ridiculous length, but there is much more in it than those portions I’ve excerpted, and I strongly urge you to read the whole thing. I agree with what Haffner says when he argues for the importance of social history, as opposed to purely political and military history:

If you read ordinary history books…you get the impression that no more than a few dozen people have are involved…According to this view, the history of the present decade is a kind of chess game between Hitler, Mussolini, Chiang Kai-Shek, Roosevelt, Chamberlain, Daladier, and a number of other men whose names are on everybody’s lips. We anonymous others seem at best to be the objects of history, pawns in the chess game…It may seem a paradox, but it is none the less a simple truth, to say that on the contrary, the decisive historical events take place among us, the anonymous masses. The most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large…Decisions that influence the course of history arise out of the individual experiences of thousands or millions of individuals.

This is not an airy abstract construction, but indisputably real and tangible. For instance, what was it that caused Germany to lose the Great War of 1918 and the Allies to win it? An advance in the leadership of Foch and Haig, or a decline in Ludendorff’s? Not at all. It was the fact that the ‘German soldier’, that is the majority of an anonymous mass of ten million individuals, was no longer willing, as he had been until then, to risk his life in any attack, or hold his position to the last man.

Turning to his own subject–the question of why the Germans allowed Naziism to happen–Haffner continues:

Indeed, behind these questions are some very peculiar, very revealing, mental processes and experiences, whose historical significance cannot yet be fully gauged These are what I want to write about. You cannot get to grips with them if you do not track them down to the place where they happen: the private lives, emotions, and thoughts of individual Germans…There, in private, the fight is taking place in Germany. You will search for it in vain in the political landscape, even with the most powerful telescope. Today the political struggle is expressed by the choice of what a person eats and drinks, whom he loves, what he does in his spare time, whose company he seeks, whether he smiles or frowns, what pictures he hangs on his walls. It is here that the battles of the next world war are being decided in advance. That may sound grotesque, but it is the truth.

That is why I think that by telling my seemingly private, insignificant story I am writing real history, perhaps even the history of the future. It actually makes me happy that in my own person I do not have a particularly important, outstanding subject to describe. That is also why I hope my intimate chronicle will find favour in the eyes of the serious reader, who has no time to waste, and reads a book for the information it contains and its usefulness.

Read the whole thing.

(An earlier version of this post was previously posted at Chicago Boyz, most recently here.)

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Widow at Windsor

 

Oh, holy cow. It’s January 22. Exactly 120 years ago today that Queen Victoria popped her clogs breathed her last.

I don’t know why the recency of that date surprises me so much. Perhaps because so many members of my family whom I remember were alive on that date. Great Granny, who was born four years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and who died when I was 14, was 32. She was a fearsome old bat, a product of the Victorian age, and could have given the Dowager Countess a run for her money any day of the week. I was born only 53 years after Victoria died. And now I’m 66, 13 years past the midpoint of the arc. One grandpa was eight when Victoria died, the other was 25. One granny was three, the other was 23.

I never could cotton much to the recent Victoria series on Masterpiece. Perhaps that’s because the portrayal of the Queen as a sweet young thing was a bit unsettling. For those of us who think of our beloved dumpy, plump, female British monarchs (Victoria, Elizabeth I, etc.) as grey-haired old hags, Judi Dench is our girl–although, let’s be clear, Dame Judi was, in the early days (and I remember the early days), quite a “babe.” But even the presence of one of the men regularly voted “the sexiest actor alive,” Rufus Sewell, couldn’t rescue that series for me. (I did, however, love, love, love, Dame Judi and the irreverent Scottish comic Billy Connolly in Mrs. Brown, a sweet little film about the widowed Victoria’s predilection for what I’ll just call “inappropriate relationships.”) Let’s move on.

What today does, above all else, is give me an excuse to post some more poetry. And although Alfred, Lord Tennyson was Poet Laureate for a considerable portion of Victoria’s reign, I’m going with the guy who, had Tony Blair been alive at the time, he might have dubbed “The People’s Poet Laureate,” in much the same way that he dubbed Diana “The People’s Princess.”

Rudyard Kipling.

Herewith, The Widow at Windsor. It breaks my heart every time.

‘Ave you ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?
She ‘as ships on the foam — she ‘as millions at ‘ome,
An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.
(Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There’s ‘er nick on the cavalry ‘orses,
There’s ‘er mark on the medical stores —
An’ ‘er troopers you’ll find with a fair wind be’ind
That takes us to various wars.
(Poor beggars! — barbarious wars!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Widow at Windsor,
An’ ‘ere’s to the stores an’ the guns,
The men an’ the ‘orses what makes up the forces
O’ Missis Victorier’s sons.
(Poor beggars! Victorier’s sons!)

Walk wide o’ the Widow at Windsor,
For ‘alf o’ Creation she owns:
We ‘ave bought ‘er the same with the sword an’ the flame,
An’ we’ve salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! — it’s blue with our bones!)
Hands off o’ the sons o’ the Widow,
Hands off o’ the goods in ‘er shop,
For the Kings must come down an’ the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says “Stop”!
(Poor beggars! — we’re sent to say “Stop”!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Lodge o’ the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs —
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an’ the file,
An’ open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! — it’s always they guns!)

We ‘ave ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor,
It’s safest to let ‘er alone:
For ‘er sentries we stand by the sea an’ the land
Wherever the bugles are blown.
(Poor beggars! — an’ don’t we get blown!)
Take ‘old o’ the Wings o’ the Mornin’,
An’ flop round the earth till you’re dead;
But you won’t get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin’ old rag over’ead.
(Poor beggars! — it’s ‘ot over’ead!)
Then ‘ere’s to the sons o’ the Widow,
Wherever, ‘owever they roam.
‘Ere’s all they desire, an’ if they require
A speedy return to their ‘ome.
(Poor beggars! — they’ll never see ‘ome!)

(Note to self: Glory be. I look at this photograph, posted everywhere today, of United States National Guard personnel being deployed from the States to Washington DC in gleeful fearful anticipation of an “insurrection” that wasn’t, being forced to take their rest on the concrete floors of parking garages while (I’m pretty sure) the likes of Nancy Pelosi celebrated the inauguration of Joe Biden with her specialty, and very expensive, ice-cream, and I can’t decide if I’d rather laugh, or cry. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.)

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘A Gift to Humanity’

 

If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.

I was unaware of this shanty’s sudden popularity until a fellow Ricochet member recorded a version of it. Almost ten years ago, the only shanty I had heard was the brief bit of “Spanish Ladies” sung in the movie Jaws. Then a popular pirate fantasy (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag) introduced millions of gamers to several, including “Leave Her, Johnny” and “Drunken Sailor.” Trivial pleasures and such mutual interests often lay the first stones of friendship.

While helping to test another pirate game, Sea of Thieves, I wrote my own shanty (not yet recorded) and would like to echo Whittle’s sentiment. The songs I make are for anyone and everyone who enjoys them. If people very unlike myself appreciate anything I have to offer, then I am grateful for that bond. If something in my tastes or values limits my song’s appeal, then I can remain proud of my work yet hope that some future project will bridge that divide. Trying to please all is a fool’s errand. But to please only oneself is also foolish.

Before shanties on TikTok, there were singing flash mobs on YouTube and Facebook. Such joyful group activities seem rare these days apart from social media.

It’s a shame and perhaps a mystery that tavern singing has faded from American life. Apart from a handful of Christian hymns, usually set around Christmas, Americans share few songs not composed in the 20th century. Still, one might occasionally happen into a bar or party where people enjoy singing those pop songs together.

Perhaps, how cultures are constructed is not how they are reconstructed. If a civilization’s entertainment first emerges as a privilege after essentials are secured, entertainment might ultimately prove essential to reclaiming common values by renewing interest in our neighbors and devotion to them. If people want to live together because of joyful experiences they share, those shallow interests can lead to deeper interests and debates. One will tolerate more meaningful disagreement among friends than among enemies.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Policing in Seattle

 

Remember when the duty of law-enforcement was to protect businesses and the public from bad actors? Remember when crimes of destruction and vandalism were rare, and punished when the perpetrators were found, tried, and convicted? Well, those days are gone. The expected riots in Seattle, around Tuesday’s inauguration of the New Regime in the other Washington, happened on Wednesday. Here’s a description of what went down.

Chopper 7 showed a crowd of more than 100 people dressed in all black. By now it’s a familiar, if dreaded, group in downtown Seattle.

The crowd started gathering around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.The group acted as suspected. Some in the crowd smashed up a Starbucks at Pike Pace Market, a major tourist attraction, forcing it to stay closed Thursday. The group of protesters also smashed windows at a bank, a federal court house, and tried to breach a federal building that has offices for ICE agents. They also set fire to an American flag at 2nd and Spring in downtown Seattle. They also ripped off plywood that was covering an Amazon Go store at 5th and Marion. They noticed the glass windows behind the plywood, and busted those too. The store had been targeted before.

And here is a description of what the Seattle Police did, and why. Bolded statements mine.

“It was, by and large, the same crowd we’ve seen in these demonstrations for the better part of the last six plus months now,” said Sgt. Randy Huserik of the Seattle Police Department.

Seattle Police said they can’t do anything until someone starts breaking the law. While responding, their goal is to minimize use of force.

“When we try to withdraw, deescalate, it just seems to embolden them even more,” Huserik said. “Unfortunately with that group, by and large what they’re looking for is a confrontation with the police.”

The Seattle Police Department is also still under federal oversight for excessive use of force. There are also ongoing lawsuits from protesters about police treatment. Investigations and review into the SPD’s crowd dispersal tactics are also ongoing.

So, how long will it be until no business in Seattle can get insurance? If you were an insurance underwriter, would you write a policy for a retail business in Seattle that is almost 100% likely to be vandalized and destroyed by so-called “demonstrators?” The businesses involved don’t have to be located in downtown Seattle or Capitol Hill, the two neighborhoods most affected by the near-constant rioting. Many businesses, including legacy Seattle retailers like Bartell Drugs, have been leaving downtown.

The goal now of Seattle Police is “minimizing use of force”, and no longer protecting the public from destruction. I can’t see how anyone would want to live in a city where there is no law and no law enforcement.

And one last quote from the article. Bolded phrases mine.

One had a court appearance on Thursday. Prosecutors said 33-year-old Justin Moore admitted to smashing the windows at the Pike Place Market Original Starbucks.

In court, his attorney said he was trying to stop other protesters. Prosecutors asked for a $5,000 bail but King County District Court Judge Lisa Paglisotti released him without bail on personal recognizance. Court documents show he is from the Los Angeles area in California.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Abuse and Misuse of the National Guard

 

I’ve concluded the use of the National Guard to occupy Washington DC for the inaugural ceremonies was an abuse of military power, and ought to be condemned. The fact that dozens of state governors (link) agreed to this abuse is all the more concerning.

Responding to and quelling riots are the responsibility of civilian law enforcement. In those situations where civilian law enforcement is overwhelmed, available military units may provide the necessary strength to restore order. Usually such military units are from the National Guard, the reserve component auxiliaries of the Regular US Army. In extreme cases, active duty Regular Army troops may also be employed to restore civil order.

To provide some context, 1992’s Los Angeles riots required the deployment of the 40th Infantry Division (California Army National Guard) and the 7th Infantry Division (US Army). The rioting had gone on unabated for about 24 hours before the first effective response by National Guard units, and it took three days to quell the initial violence. In the end, it required 17 days to restore order to the city. (Most of the “heavy-lifting” of conducting foot patrol through the neighborhoods and responding to attempts to fan the flames of mob violence was done by the Guardsmen, although it was certainly appreciated when the active-duty troops arrived after the first week.) The total number of troops deployed to L.A. over those seventeen days: 13,500.

Regardless of how one characterizes the rioting that occurred on January 6, the available evidence to suggest that it was the leading indicator of an actual insurrection, much less the start of an existing organized insurgency, is laughably thin. It was a mob, a mob that grew out of control as mobs are wont to do, and became a riot. There has been ample evidence of this pattern across the United States since last May, and has continued in some cities as recently as this week (Jan. 21, 2021). Given this, what makes the use of the National Guard since January 6 an abuse of power?

First – the riot was over that night. If there had been any deliberate, coherent objective in the minds of the rioters towards a given end, (doubtful) it failed. Rightly and justly so. Keeping the Washington D.C. National Guard mobilized beyond that point was a misuse of the military at the expense of civilian law enforcement.

Second – Setting aside the question of whether or not there ought to exist a “Washington D.C. National Guard”, the District of Columbia is purposefully and constitutionally NOT a state, and is meant to exist as a Federally-administered legal entity. Therefore, if military force is required to restore order in the event of rioting (because ALL of the existing Federal agencies with law enforcement capabilities have been exhausted) that military ought to be Regular Army. Why weren’t the troops stationed at Fort Myer (the 3rd Infantry Regiment) fully deployed before any National Guard units were mobilized?

Finally – The National Guard exists under the romantic fiction that it is a militia, and in the same way that they are the modern expression of the traditional American “Citizen-Soldier”. Perhaps there is a kernel of truth to this idea…but only a kernel. The unpleasant reality is that the National Guard is a nearly wholly-owned auxiliary of the Regular Army. Most states’ National Guard formations are between 90% and 95% directly funded by the US Army (i.e., the Department of Defense.) The original intent of encouraging and maintaining strong state militias after the Revolution purposefully was to provide a hedge against a large standing army of Regulars, a counterweight to the temptation by the Federal government to use the Army for tyranny.

To revisit the events of the past two weeks: one night of rioting on January 6th resulted in the deployment of over 25,000 National Guard troops from all over the United States (equal in size to two and a half Divisions of soldiers) for a span of 14 days to maintain an occupation of Washington DC. During that two-week period, not one single incident occurred anywhere in the country to justify the hysteria and moral panic entertained by the ruling elite. What possible excuse can be offered to justify such a blatant abuse of the military? What is worse is that the senior leadership of the US Army – the general officers who are ostensibly bound by their oaths of office to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States – have complied with, aided, and abetted this travesty.

Every state governor who approved of, and authorized the use of their respective state’s National Guard units should be called to account for their foolish decision. It would likely be revealed that they never really even questioned why their state’s National Guard was being called to active duty for domestic law enforcement operations outside their own sovereign state. In hindsight, it appears to be the case that the state governors are used to “dancing” to whatever tune “the piper” who pays the bills is playing.

If this is so – that the National Guard has been “Federalized” to the extent that it is nothing more than an auxiliary of the Regular Army – then average Americans ought to be very, very worried about how such troops will be used in the future.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Abortion: The Only Sacrament Joe Biden Takes Seriously

 

Joe Biden is all in on increasing access to abortion – anywhere, anytime – not only here in the USA, but also worldwide. He issued this disgusting statement Friday:

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade.

In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care – including reproductive health care – regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe. We are also committed to ensuring that we work to eliminate maternal and infant health disparities, increase access to contraception, and support families economically so that all parents can raise their families with dignity. This commitment extends to our critical work on health outcomes around the world.

As the Biden-Harris Administration begins in this critical moment, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all individuals have access to the health care they need.

But remember, Joe is a “devout” Catholic.

And the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington DC is complicit in this farce because he willingly gives Joe Holy Communion. Scandal upon scandal.

I am sick and tired of reading about what a decent man Joe Biden is.

The men of GLoP have some thoughts about the events at the Capitol, both the attack and the inauguration. They punditize Melania’s costume change on Air Force One, Lady Gaga’s billing, and ponder what might have happened had President Trump kept his Twitter account and attended Joe Biden’s swearing in. But it’s not all politics — not by a Rob Long shot. They discuss the new version of The Stand and the Marvel TV show Wanda Vision. Also, what to Danny Thomas, George Brett, and one of our sponsors have in common? Sorry, no spoilers.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. RIP, Hank Aaron

 

Hank Aaron in the batting cage spring training 1960
Baseball great Hank Aaron passed away today, January 22, 2021, at age 86. No cause of death has been provided.

Henry Louis Aaron was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama to Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was one of eight children which included a younger brother, Tommie, who would also play in the major leagues. The family was quite poor and so the young Henry had to work at odd jobs including picking cotton to help ends meet. He loved sports and learned baseball in sandlot games in which bottle caps or rocks usually substituted for balls and sticks or broom handles substituted for bats. He hit cross-handed from the start and he would keep hitting cross-handed until he began his professional career. Perhaps this is how he developed such quick and strong wrists which was much remarked upon from the beginning of his career. He did play baseball and football in high school, but like the young Willie Mays, he also began playing semi-pro baseball around the age of 14 thus adding another small sum to the family income.

And, like Mays and many of the other early black players to make it to the majors, he began his professional baseball career in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns helping them to the 1952 Negro League World Series championship hitting .366. This brought him to the attention of major league scouts – the Giants and the Boston Braves were main suitors for his services – and he signed with the Braves allegedly for an additional $50 per month salary. The Braves sent him to their Class C team in Eau Claire where he hit .336. The following year, he was promoted to the Braves’ Class A team the Jacksonville Tars in the South Atlantic League where the 19-year old led the league in just about everything – batting average (.362), hits (208), runs (115), doubles (36) and RBI (115) and was named the league MVP.

In 1954, Aaron joined the Milwaukee Braves and he became their starting left fielder when the incumbent LF Bobby Thomson broke his ankle in spring training. Up this point, Aaron had mainly played the infield although the Braves had sent him to Winter League the previous off-season to help him learn to play the outfield. As a rookie, he hit .280 with 13 home runs with his season ending in early September when he fractured his ankle sliding. The fractured ankle would not stall his career, however. In 1955, the Braves moved him to right field where he would settle in for most of the rest of his career and he had the first of what would be an annual occurrence over the next 15 plus years – what I call a “Hank Aaron season” an All-Star season at worst with many MVP caliber seasons mixed in. In 1955 he would hit .314 – the first of 14 .300 seasons and slug .540 – the first 18 seasons with .500 or better slugging average, and he would lead the league in doubles with 37 – the first of 11 seasons in which he would lead the league in at least one major offensive category.

Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, and Eddie Matthews

The Braves in the late fifties were a great team led by three all-time greats – Aaron, pitcher Warren Spahn and third baseman Eddie Matthews – they finished first or second each year from 1955-1960 winning two pennants – back to back in 1957-58, one World Series (1957) and losing out on the 1959 pennant in a 3-game playoff with the Dodgers. Aaron would his only MVP during that 1957 season when hit .322 with league-leading totals of 44 HR and 132 RBI. He would never win another MVP despite having many other seasons just as good or better than 1957. For the record, I think his 1959 season is his best. He led the league in batting (.355), slugging (.636), hits (223), total bases (400), and extra base hits (92) winning one of his three Gold Glove awards to boot. In a measure of his consistency, he would get MVP votes every season 19 seasons in a row (1955-71) with 13 top-10 finishes.

Aaron’s career is less measured by individual great seasons than by the sheer bulk of his career achievements. This is the case even though he led his leagues so many times in so many major categories – batting average (twice), slugging average (four times), home runs (four times), games (once), runs (three times), hits (twice), doubles (four times) and total bases (a remarkable eight times). He is among the career leaders in many categories. He is still the all-time leader in RBI (2297) and total bases (6856). His 755 career homers are now second although many put a large asterisk next to the current record holder. He is third in runs (2174) and in hits (3,771) while his 624 doubles are 13th all-time. Here is a link to his Baseball Reference page.

Of course, the thing even non-sports fans know about Aaron is his breaking of the career home run record of 714 set by Babe Ruth. His pursuit of the record was somewhat stealthy until somewhat late in the process. This was due to a couple of things I think. First, he played the first half of his career in Milwaukee which was 1) not an especially good hitters park and 2) a cultural backwater per coastal elites but he spent the later part of his career in Atlanta when the Braves relocated there in 1966. The park was a great hitters park especially for home run hitters, which helped him a bit in his final kick to 715 and beyond. Second, he played the first half of his career in the shadow of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and so his accomplishments were less well known and certainly less commented upon. In 1972 and into 1973 when it became clear that Aaron was going to break the record he became the target of much abuse and venom among racists. He received thousands of abusive letters some even threatening his life. Despite the vitriol, he continued to go about his business as he always had – as a professional. He would finish the 1973 season at 713 home runs, one off Babe’s 714. After hitting 714 on the road in the first game of the season, he hit no. 715 on April 8, 1974, off of Al Downing of the Dodgers in front of 53,775 cheering Braves fans. Below is a four-minute video of that home run and the celebration as announced by Vin Scully.

Again, like Mays, Aaron was traded to a new team in an old playing city in his case the Milwaukee Brewers at age 41 to finish out his career. He was well received by the Milwaukee fans and he retired at age 42 after the 1976 season. Aaron’s playing career was capped his election to the Hall of Fame in 1982 his first year of eligibility entering the Hall with his long-time right field rival Frank Robinson. After his playing career, he worked for the Braves in a variety of positions including Director of Player Development. He also pursued several ventures in the private sector. He had a number of auto dealerships as well as a fast-food franchise (755 Restaurant Corporation). In recent years he had become more of a goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball. Aaron was married twice. He married his first wife in 1953 and that marriage produced five children although they divorced in 1971. He married again in 1973 and that marriage which lasted the rest of his life produced one child.

Settle in folks, this is a long one (and not in the Rob sense of the word). First up, Powerline’s Steve Hayward (and the host of the Powerline Podcast available on the Ricochet Audio Network) drops by to discuss the inauguration and preview the Biden administration. Then, a segment we have been looking forward to for a long time. Avi Loeb is a Professor of Science at Harvard University and the longest serving chair of Harvard Astronomy Department. His new book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, posits that an alien craft visited our solar system in 2017. He makes a compelling and science based case for it, and if he’s correct, it’s one of the most –if not the most– significant scientific discovery in human history. You heard it here first, folks. Finally, Anontia Okafor is the host of the Speak-Easy podcast,one of our newest shows and one of our best. We talk to her about her passion for guns and the 2nd Amendment and why Kamala Harris becoming Vice President is significant to her, even though Anontia disagrees with almost all of Harris’ policy positions and politics. We urge you to listen to her 4 minute long solo edition of Speak-Easy on this topic. It’s enlightening and moving. 

Music from this week’s show: Waiting For The UFOs by Graham Parker and The Rumor

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. And They’re Gone …

 

My youngest daughter had to do her first semester at Georgetown at home on a laptop, but this morning, she left for D.C. to move into her apartment. My other two daughters have already left home. Things are different now. I really don’t remember my life before my daughters arrived. For 22 years, our house has been an explosion of blonde hair, pink bows, Barbie Dolls, athletic equipment, nail polish, multivariable calculus textbooks, stuffed animals, musical instruments, and endless wonderful chaos. Now it’s very quiet. They’re gone.

I knew they would leave at some point. That’s the whole idea, of course. Every Dad knows that his time with his daughters is brief and finite. And I’m so thankful for the time we had together. Every minute was wonderful – even the ones that weren’t, if that makes any sense.

We had a lot a great adventures together, like in the picture above from 2012; going fishing for bluegills in ponds back in the woods. And I’m so happy that they’re out there today, finding their own adventures now. Just like in the picture, they’ve got exploring to do. As it should be.

But I just can’t believe they’re gone.

I miss my little girls.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Biden: “There’s Nothing We Can Do” to Slow Covid

 

Shortly before the election, candidate Joe Biden proclaimed, “I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country.” Two days after inauguration, he’s updated his message: “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

Nothing we can do. That means the lockdowns, mask mandates, and school closures are all for naught. The scientific miracle of producing a vaccine in less than a year is meaningless. After all, that’s what “nothing we can do” means.

Instead, he wants to massively increase our $27 trillion national debt by bailing out profligate blue states and pouring money into teachers’ unions. We can change the trajectory of spending, but not in the direction we need.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Technology, Disheartenment, and a Piece of Torte

 

Those born in the US right after the Second World War arguably have had the easiest life of any humans ever living on the planet. This statement does not apply to people who served, suffered, and died in the Korean, Vietnam, and Middle East Wars or experienced natural disasters during that same era. But otherwise, let’s be honest: the ride for my generation has been easy, fueled by confidence in the American Dream and decorated by every comfort known to man.

Raised when the values and virtues defining our nation were taught to each child, I have been able to spend significant time in actively Communist countries and those previously devastated by Communism. How often I thought: “Ah, my homeland could never experience horrors like indiscriminate censorship, character assassination by legislative or political policy, or the tragic reduction of an individual’s life and legacy to the status of ‘non-person’ (regular features of life under Communism).” I wore my confidence like a badge of honor!

Yet, great minds have long warned us how naïve such confidence is. “Freedom stands only one generation away from disappearing.” Have we not heard this statement? Or, “When we cease teaching our foundational principles, they will disappear or be dismantled.” But I never believed it. Until now, as we watch a tsunami of events slamming into the underpinnings of our Constitution.

trappedSo where do we turn? What do we do? These questions are flooding conversations across this land, both in-person and online. The first answer, of course, is to return to and strengthen the roots and practice of our religious faith. That is always the first imperative, and in many ways, the last answer we need.

But as humans, we want tools to help us in our interface with the machinations of the world around us. One thing on my mind right now is the treasure-trove of maxims and proverbs that once were fastidiously taught to children in schools. Perhaps you have volumes of such sayings that guide moral choices and shape character, including those collected by George Washington. Similar gems were authored and published by other Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin. These words are golden and still 100% applicable in our lives.

Along this line, the effective practice of keeping a “copybook” wherein such pearls of wisdom can be recorded in the best-possible cursive is returning for both children and adults, enshrined even in certain curricula popular with this audience (Memoria Press, for example, offers a series of copybooks). And while the disintegration of our national foundations has not been caused merely by the loss of such wisdom, its loss has pierced deep chinks in those walls.

A sense of helplessness is rarely helpful. We humans were endowed with endless industry and ingenuity by our Creator, something our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents knew and relied on to survive the slings and arrows of their times. Maybe now we are coming to realize why they did their best to convey, through vivid stories, an understanding of the tumultuous decades of the First and Second World Wars and the Depression.

And here’s the real truth: dismal times are nothing new in the human experience. Humans will never stop hurting one another. The childish “Kumbaya” idea that we are all going to get along or improve by slapping new labels on A, B, and C is just that: childish. Childish ideas are meant to be outgrown:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. —I Corinthians 13:11

Most importantly, history delivers a message that even the worst times are survivable, even though many will suffer along the way. The human spirit has always, eventually, risen like the Phoenix to renew and restore. I believe that sincerely and take comfort in it.

Yet there is a troublesome new factor: technology. Technology has always been a mixed blessing. I love that moment in Downton Abbey when someone (was it Daisy?) greeted the news that a nearby family had installed electricity in the manor house’s kitchen with words like “Whatever for?” And then she pegged the downsides of this new technology. We chuckle at such a scene now. But the potential for fires and electrocution with the installation of the new technology of electricity was real.

But if generally a blessing, what are the curses of technology? Well, let’s consider several examples: technology has progressively weakened our independence and industry in nearly every endeavor. Player-piano rolls and gramophone cylinders dampened the need for us to acquire skills in order to make music. Radio may have enhanced our exposure to the world, but it took away our need to connect with each other insofar as information and entertainment. Film, starting with the “talkies,” limited the appeal and importance of that marvelous endeavor rooted in the brilliance of the Ancient Greeks: theater. Broadcast TV left far too many of us content to watch sports, rather than pursue them.

All of that pales with what computers and the internet have done to change the tenor of our daily lives. If ever there were an example of the proverbial “double-edged sword,” computer technology is it.

Who has not been blessed by, or dependent upon, this technology? Yet, as it progresses, its wonder fades. Do you remember when sending an email seemed astounding? I remember the day I first booted my computer to light up a color monitor. The shift from black & white to color in The Wizard of Oz was not nearly as dramatic!

May we never cease to be astonished every time we click to rent and play a film over the internet. Or visit with family members or take a class on Zoom. Yet these glories of man’s technological creativity have been so tainted by waves of mindless, ill-spirited, evil chatter and clatter. True, the historical record of dissimulating, grabbing power, and imposing servitude is the oldest story recorded. So is silencing freedom of thought and expression.

But these horrors used to require human actions as their agents. Soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire had to sail across the Adriatic to put down an early 16th-century revolt of Slovene peasants seeking relief from persecuting overlords. Jeeps and trucks stuffed with Gestapo had to drive to a Jewish watchmaker’s shop in order to drag him and his family into a truck and onto a railway car bound for Auschwitz.

Now, the nearly instant destruction of people, their livelihoods, their families, and their legacies, comes from a click on a piece of plastic. What could be easier, cleaner, quicker, or harder to repair?

If ever there was a time to ponder, indeed pray about, the role of technology in our individual lives, this is it. The baubles of technology remind me of those candies that explode in your mouth with a ting and rush of flavor, but leave the mouth dissatisfied and dull, craving the next thrilling piece.

What we want to do is find ways to use technology to nourish, and not destroy. I won’t rage about the unspeakable horror of little children parked in front of screens, rather than being read to, taught, led, encouraged, coached in games and sports, or instructed in creating beauty through crafts, dance, music, and visual art. That rage I express plenty, and I suspect many of you share it.

Rather here I am right in the pool with the rest of you. I dare not think how many hours I spend on the internet. Now some of that time is very much for good, whether it’s crafting material for our courses and publications, teaching online, or working with colleagues across the past eleven months to maintain as many of the offerings ordinarily enjoyed in conferences and symposia. Then there are the many things Hank and I do for our own education and edification like courses (Anthony Esolen on The Divine Comedy anyone? Highly recommended!) and tutorials. Thank heavens for YouTube videos that show how to put a new control board in our stove. (Tell me, when did four years become an average life for appliance parts?)

But each of us knows and has experienced the darker side of daily life on the internet. You also know how easy it is to be caught up, disenchanted, disheartened, and dismayed by what we see particularly in the low-level, crass, crude, and vicious comments found virtually at every site, be it a political essay or a group of reviews for a lawnmower.

What in the world has happened? The basic answer is annoyingly simple: families and public schools ended the instruction of our children in virtue and ceased to instill discipline, dignity, and self-reliance. The loss of the traditional family and the critical role models from noble and dedicated fathers, mothers, and extended family made it worse. The toleration of public crudeness and reviling behavior sealed the deal. Think of how much in what I have just described would have been instantly corrected or never tolerated by previous generations.

So yes, we see the problems. And we also must celebrate the increasing efforts of a vast number of folks to fix these problems, child by child, family by family, church congregation by church congregation. Let us never forget the extraordinary innovations (some of which are made possible through technology) that are restoring, refreshing, and strengthening not just us, but our families and whole communities of people who yearn for that which is noble again to occupy our minds and souls.

Some of today’s best minds are writing piercingly about what lies ahead and how we can harness our individual and communal resources and efforts. If history is our guide (and it always is), the entrepreneurial creativity of mankind is waiting in the wings to explode with new possibilities again. So, though, are the usual things that plague humanity, starting with the threatening forces of enemy nations (yes there are enemy nations) and the insidious aspects any new technology will pose.

twitterAs the author of Invictus reminds us, we are the master of at least part of our fate. So right now, for me, that means re-examining my relationship with technology. All that is helpful in our work here at Professor Carol will be retained and enhanced. But certain things will be left behind, starting with a “service” that, when historians analyze our era, is likely to earn endless derision: “Twitter.” Really, seriously, why have we let this take over our lives? More importantly, how did the emanations from this agency come to simulate truth? Historians will not judge us kindly here.

Today, let me close this longer-than-usual essay by mentioning how Europeans approach the consumption of sweets. Unlike the omnipresent cookies, candy bars, doughnuts, snack cakes, and every other overly sugared sweets intruding upon our lives, Europeans treat the consumption of sweets with restraint and respect. Pastries and tortes tend to be freshly made. They are only lightly sweetened and made with quality ingredients. Most importantly, they are consumed at specific times, with a degree of ceremony, conscious appreciation, and emphasis on enjoyment and conviviality.

The German and Austrian tradition for sweets, called Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), takes place most days between 3 and 4 p.m. Usually, the table is nicely set. Modest slices of Pflaumenkuchen (plum torte) Bienenstich (cream-based torte with honey and almonds), Strudel (fresh dough filled with cherries, poppy seeds, or apples), and other treats are placed with care on real plates, eaten with real silverware, and accompanied by fresh coffee, hot tea, juice, bubbly water. Seasonal table décor is often added.

torteThe experience of living in the cycle of nearly daily Kaffee und Kuchen is wonderful: sweets do not overwhelm your body with a sugar rush or wreck it with tons of calories. Plenty of the day is still before people for work, study, walking, and generally living. Consequently, until a recent invasion of Western junk foods, it was rare to see obesity problems in that part of the world (or the explosion of associated problems like diabetes).

Could we not approach our dependence on technology as the Germans approach consuming sugar? Rather than being bombarded by a swirl of chaos, as one gorges on bags of cookies and then complains about the side effects, let us figure out what is good, healthy, useful, or at least does no harm. Find the writers and resources that inspire and contribute to the quest for the “R’s” so many have embarked upon: rediscovering, renewing, revitalizing, reconstituting, resurrecting, and restoring the principles and expressions of goodness, tradition, and things that are true and beautiful. Anything outside of that has the potential to drag our human spirits down and dishearteningly cloud our vision.

Let us pray as those in previous centuries have prayed, starting with the countless millions affected across the centuries by plagues, interminable wars, and famines. Let us aspire to clad ourselves in their strength and wisdom. We do need each other—and always have! As a clever statement I read the other day says, “the Internet used to be where we went to escape real life; now real life is the place to go to escape the internet.” Come escape with me, at least a little, and join hands to restore our humanity.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Middle East Progress

 

Biden’s coming promotion of the Palestinian issue and rehashing old State Department idiocy from the 20th century is actually going to be good for Israel.

Israel used to be a United States client state, but Obama made it abundantly clear that the US is not truly a dependable friend. Then Trump and Iran worked together beautifully to create peace between Israel and quite a few Arab states (Morocco, Bahrain, UAE, and even effectively Saudi Arabia). The result is that Israel and those states are going to largely ignore the US going forward. Instead, Israel will form its own regional power bloc, offering a security umbrella against Iran and possible even some counterbalance to Turkey.

It is good for Israel to grow up. And given its capable military, it is not crazy to realign the power blocs in the Middle East, with the US and Russia become less relevant than ever before.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Who Needs Pravda?

 

Flipping through the channels Wednesday night I noticed CBS had two special programs on. The first was called One Nation: Indivisible. This program had CBS anchorperson Norah O’Donnell reading DNC talking points performing hard-hitting journalism. As you may have guessed, it was a Biden/Harris lovefest. Since there have been so many calls for “unity” they did include some Republican voters. For instance, one woman who voted for Trump in 2016 but not in 2020 said of our outgoing president, “That man is the face of evil in this country.” Can I get a “Kumbaya?” To be fair they did show other Trump voters … waving Confederate flags and beating on Capitol police. You know, a fair representation of the 74 million Trump voters.

After that hard-hitting exposé, another show started called Celebrating America. This was another Biden campaign ad that was televised on multiple channels. Here, celebrities who used to refer to the slightest acts of patriotism as jingoistic, now wrap themselves in the flag and talk about how great America is, now that they have their chosen people in power. If I didn’t know any better I would say they still haven’t gotten over the 2016 election.

Both shows felt a little creepy to me (well, at least the parts I actually sat through). If you ever wondered what state-run media would look like, this is it. The fact that it happens willfully without any involvement from the state makes me wonder where are the objective journalists? I imagine future White House press conferences will now have lots of questions about ice cream and Ray-Bans. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Mob is Coming For You, Don’t Be Silent

 

Does your dog groomer need to vote the way you do in order to give her your business? What about your pediatrician or a private sleep consultant you talk to about how to get your baby to nap more consistently? On mommy social media this week, we learned that there is a large mob of moms who demand total compliance to their “moral code,” which includes, of course, political candidates of their choosing.

The Daily Wire has the whole story, but here’s the relevant nuggets:

The leftist site Jezebel  calling the move to boycott Cara Dumaplin, a neonatal nurse, wife of a pediatrician, and a certified pediatric sleep consultant who hosts the Taking Cara Baby website, “a fitting round of niche protest” — notes that Dumaplin has “been featured on Good Morning America; 1.2 million people follow her on Instagram, where she posts inspirational content and short videos of tips for ‘conquering quarantine naps’ in a carefully muted color scheme.”

Her crime? Allie Stuckey explains,

This goes beyond a traditional online mobbing; her livelihood, these training videos, is being ripped away from her by online woke vigilantes.

In this circumstance, it’s not just a mob targeting Cara’s brand, but Google is complicit in the dissemination of her material, thereby robbing her of her livelihood. The content should be flagged for copyright violations but has been circulated freely with users are linking to them directly on Google Drive and Google is doing nothing thus far to shut this down. YouTube, owned by Google, is already implicated in piracy, but now this piracy is being used to commit theft as political retribution.

What’s interesting is the fact that on Instagram, her follower count remains unchanged. While the mob is calling for people to unfollow her account, it doesn’t appear to be making any traction. While it’s encouraging that “real” Americans don’t hold it against a baby sleep trainer for donating to Trump, it’s terrifying that the mob is unchecked by these real Americans, cowed into silence by their ferocity.

My good friend (and fellow LadyBrains podcast cohost) Kelly Maher is trying to branch out and start a lifestyle brand called RealBestLife about urban farming and self-sufficiency. She has a blog, YouTube channel, Instagram and more. She never gets political on these channels because she viewed it as a liability (which it is), but after the mobbing of this sleep consultant, she spoke out, writing a powerful blog post about why she chose to “come out” on her brand account as a conservative:

Cara Dumaplin is living my nightmare (and girl, I hope today you have google searches for your name turned off, but if you don’t – I support you). I am so afraid that my political life will invalidate everything else I love, believe in, and want to share. Recently, I’ve caught myself preemptively pulling content, wondering if THIS is the thing that will turn the mob on me. I want to make this site and project successful, but I also know it’s a target as soon as that happens.

It’s sad to hide who I am because of worries that if a book publisher would ever consider letting me write a book about this project, my life so far will be too big a liability for them. If I have this other secret part of me, maybe someone who would partner with me will decline, as I’m too high a risk. I self-censor in the hopes of being marginally more socially acceptable.

Texting with a friend who is a legit food blogger as a profession (#goals) yesterday about the Dumaplin canceling fiasco, she made the critical point that the mob justice was brutal, but few stood with Dumaplin. We don’t support or protect ourselves out of fear. We allow ourselves and others to be publicly shamed, and every conservative feels more isolated when this happens. No one stands up and says, “ME TOO. I’m conservative, too.”

What does it look like to stand against a mob? As someone who has been at the center of several Internet firestorms, I have some advice:

  • When someone is being mobbed, support them.
    • That comes in many forms: Send a personal message of support (trust me, it means a lot).
    • Post publicly that what is happening to them is unjust on social media, on their posts but also if you see content about them elsewhere.
    • If their livelihood is threatened, support them. In the case of this mobbing with “Taking Cara Babies” buy a sleep course from her or gift it to a new mom friend.
    • If they are a social media “influencer,” like Cara, their social media is their livelihood. Follow them and send their content and page to friends to support as well.
    • If they are in danger of being fired, speak out in support of them in places their bosses will see it. Encourage them not to bend to the mob. (Public thank you to @BlueYeti for never firing me and also never asking me to publicly apologize for any of the firestorms despite fielding public and private calls for my dismissal because doing so feeds the mob and should almost always be avoided).

Conservatives should not have to have our own sleep consultants or pediatricians (which Cara’s husband is, and his practice is being targeted as well). They should not have to hide political donations or avoid making them in order to stay in business. The woke mob wants war, and conservatives need to stand up and form a bulwark around those who find themselves in their crosshairs.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Biden Disconnect, or Biden’s Bubble

 

Maybe it’s his mental capacity, but Biden, even before he took office, seemed to be barely connected to anything outside the prospective Presidency. I have to admit that I am not following him closely, but has anyone heard him address the following to any extent?

  • Violence in the streets that continues to this day
  • His goals of working with Congress
  • His expectations (pro or con) of the upcoming impeachment
  • What his plans are to encourage unity
  • An appeal to Democrats to stop attacking Republicans
  • Why any of his Executive Orders will be good for this country
  • Explain to the public how mask mandates are good for the economy

I could go on, but it seems to me that Biden is living in a bubble. Does he actually consult with people to determine the benefits or limitations of his actions? Or do they just make a list for him and have him follow it? Did he just go back to the Obama agenda and dress it up for 2021? Did he decide simply to remove every Executive Order that Trump passed, rather than assess if any of them might be helpful?

More than ever, I think Joe Biden is barely clinging to reality. I don’t think he even knows how seriously limited he is. Certainly, everyone reassures him that he’s doing a good job in initiating actions—their plans—so why should they complain?

The new President just wants to be liked and accepted. Anyone who thinks he will take a stand against the radical Left is misguided. He will do what they tell him with sincerity and commitment. After all, he’s just along for the ride (although he doesn’t know it).

Welcome to the Presidency, Mr. Biden.

Enjoy your bubble.

Naval aviator, author and film producer Paco Chierici joins the show. Paco spent twenty years in the Navy, flying the A-6E Intruder, F-14A Tomcat and the F-5 Tiger II. Paco deployed to combat zones from Somalia to Iraq and was stationed aboard carriers including the USS Ranger, Nimitz and Kitty Hawk.

In his career, Paco has accumulated over 3,000 tactical hours and completed over 400 carrier landings. In addition to being an aviator, Paco also is the author of the novel, Lions of the Sky and the producer of the award-winning naval aviator documentary, Speed and Angels, available on Amazon Prime.

Like most kids, Nick walked out of the theater after seeing the original Top Gun and was ready to join the Navy then and there, so being able to talk to a real fighter pilot was fascinating for him. Paco takes us through his first aircraft carrier landings in second by second, edge-of-your-seat detail, the different aircraft he flew, his friendship with David Fraver, the pilot who witnessed the infamous ‘Tic-Tac’ UFO incident, as well as discussing what flying has meant to him.

To learn more about Paco and order his novel, please visit his site:
https://www.lionsofthesky.com/

Paco wrote a detailed account of the Tic-Toc UFO incident, entitled ‘There I Was: The X-Files Edition’. You can read it here:
https://fightersweep.com/1460/x-files-edition/

Victor Davis Hanson analyzes how Joe Biden’s early policy moves contrast with his campaign-trail rhetoric, reflects on the last days of Donald Trump, and explains how a fractured Republican Party can move forward.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Are You the Enemy?

 

Washington DC has not reopened. Barriers remain in place. Downtown is still ghostly empty. The 25,000 or so troops deployed (twice as many as LBJ ordered in during the 1968 riots that burned entire blocks over three-four days) faced no hordes, no demonstrations, no threat but are still slated to stay the weekend. In hindsight, the bypassed Maginot Line and German defenses at Pas De Calais were for naught but at least there was an actual enemy in those instances.

We need to get used to the idea that from now on, the forces of righteousness will be justified in whatever they need to do to stamp out “systemic” racism and threats to LGBTQXYZ and to the planet itself. The fiasco at the Capitol was merely the tip of the iceberg of evil that Team Biden must defeat.

Now that their Führer has been deposed, there is no telling what the seething hordes in the hinterlands might do. Eternal vigilance and suppression of the threat will be the number one mission of our rescuers. Mr. Biden made it clear yesterday that “unity” largely consists of tagging all dissidents with negative labels, especially “racist.” This utterly ridiculous show of force should tell us all we need to know about the mindset of the people now in charge of the federal government.

Some scenes from this morning’s stroll downtown:

Barrier and guard tent on G Street approach to Treasury Building
Same view before the occupation in happier pre-occupation times.
These tents are placed across streets every two or three blocks. A festive wedding reception white instead of camo does not really lighten the mood.
Typical intersection barrier set-up within four blocks of the Biden Bunker in any direction
Check Point Charlie Berlin Allied Zone then.
Checkpoint Charlie Berlin now.
DC Street scene this morning
A street scene in downtown DC in happier, pre-occupation times.

Below is a photo of the American Bar Association HQ (displaying a large Black Lives Matter banner) now behind a police/military cordon. Political correctness obeisance and federal police physical control over the headquarters of the largest and most prestigious organization of the (theoretically) independent American legal profession. There is probably some metaphor/symbolism mileage available here but I will let it speak for itself.

American Bar Association HQ

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Fair Weather Fans

 

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” — Osama bin Laden

This is not just about horses, of course. Nor even about successful sports teams or countries. It is even true about deities. The plagues struck Egypt, but in the nature of people everywhere, the attraction to strength overcame the natural rejection of outside influences. The evidence is found in the Torah itself.

Pharaoh’s courtiers said to him, “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Let the men go to worship the LORD their God! Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?” (Ex. 10:7)

This is a strange verse – what is the meaning of this word that is translated as “snare”? And why is Egypt “lost”?

When the Torah uses a word more than once, there is a connection between the incidences. And these connections can help us understand the meaning of the verse.

The word translated as “snare” (Transliterated, it is “Mokaish”) is only found in three other places, but the meaning in each case is very clear:

 They shall not remain in your land, lest they cause you to sin against Me; for you will serve their gods—and it will prove a snare to you. (Ex. 23:33)

Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst. (Ex. 34:12)

You shall destroy all the peoples that the LORD your God delivers to you, showing them no pity. And you shall not worship their gods, for that would be a snare to you. (Deut. 7:16)

In each of these cases, the word clearly refers to a spiritual seduction, the attraction of other gods and other peoples.

If this is correct, then we can much more easily understand our original verse: Pharaoh’s advisers are telling him that the Jewish deity is attracting adherents from within the Egyptian people themselves! This would be an especial threat since Pharaoh himself was a deity!

The plagues served to become an attack on Egypt from within, an attractant for the hearts and minds of the Egyptians themselves, in the same way that living in Canaan would, in the future, threaten our connection to our own G-d.

And thus it proved. When the people left the land, many Egyptians came with them:

Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them. Ex. 12:38

Osama bin Laden may not have been a good man. But he was not always wrong.

[another @iwe and @susanquinn production]

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Election Integrity Fight & Progress in Arizona

 

Finally, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has agreed to release election material to the Arizona Senate so that the Senate can perform an audit, according to a Press Release statement from Senate President Karen Fann.

For a month, the supervisors have resisted all requests from the Senate, only to give within the hour after President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Karen Fann’s letter stated:

“I am pleased to announce that after a hard-fought battle to seek information on behalf of Arizona voters regarding the integrity of the 2020 election, we have reached a favorable agreement with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors,” Fann said in her statement. “Not only has the Board agreed to turn over all the relevant information we sought in our subpoenas so that we may perform an audit, but they also acknowledge that the Legislature is a sovereign power of the state and that the county is a political subdivision, and as such, the Legislature has the constitutional and statutory authority to issue subpoenas.”

The Board of Supervisors did not immediately respond to a request attempting to confirm Fann’s announcement.

The AZ Senate first issued two subpoenas to the supervisors on Dec. 15 after repeatedly calling on them to complete an additional independent audit of general election results.

The subpoenas gave the supervisors three days to respond and produce a voluminous amount of material from the general election, including images of all mail-in ballots, detailed voter information, and machines used to count votes.

The supervisors resisted by suing to stop the subpoenas, stating that state law prohibits the county from turning over copies of ballots and arguing the Senate was overreaching its powers. The supervisors asked the court to decide whether they had to respond. The judge bowed out of involvement by asking Senate and Board to sit down and arrive at an agreement.

The supervisors, four Republicans and one Democrat, help oversee general elections in the county and are responsible for certifying election results. The supervisors voted on Nov. 20 to certify the results of November’s elections in spite of many studies of election irregularities and eye witness accounts of election fraud.

One can only guess why the Board of Supervisors are willing to surrender the election materials now. Is it because all machines are “scrubbed clean” or is it because of pressure coming from Arizonian voters. On Jan 9, hundreds of protesters gathered in the courtyard outside the Arizona State Capitol last Wednesday, demanding that some members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors be recalled. The effort was led by a group called We the People AZ Alliance. The people of Arizona are fighting for election integrity especially now we know judicial system divorce themselves from election lawsuits.

I am praying, like our Republic depends on it, for a fair and transparent Election Process in the entire country.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. “Have a good life. We will see you soon.”

 

Donald and Melania TrumpPresident Trump joined four early United States presidents in refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration. While President Washington attended his former vice president’s inauguration, John Adams did not pretend that the incredibly ugly 1800 campaign was normal. He refused to dignify Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration. The two men, formerly friends, were bitter enemies until they reconciled in a long correspondence, years after both returned to private life. Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, did not attend the inauguration of the founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson. Yet, J.Q. Adams had a long second political life as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.* You may recall that President Trump chose to feature Andrew Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office. Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s vice president, did not attend the Whig Party candidate, William Harrison’s inauguration.** Andrew Johnson, a Democrat elected on a war unity ticket with Lincoln, refused to attend U.S. Grant’s inauguration after the Radical Republicans impeached but failed to convict Johnson.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump gave one last address from the runway apron at Andrews Air Force Base before flying home to Florida. Like farewell addresses by previous presidents, the remarks included thanks to family and those who worked with them, along with both a list of accomplishments and notes of caution about the direction the new administration was likely to take.

Transcript of President Donald Trump’s final speech as president [emphasis added]:

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

[Crowd chants: “We love you”]

Thank you very much, and we love you. And I can tell you that from the bottom of my heart.

This has been an incredible four years. We’ve accomplished so much together.

I want to thank all of my family and my friends and my staff and so many other people for being here. I want to thank you for your effort, your hard work. People have no idea how hard this family work. And they worked for you.

They could have had a much easier life, but they just did a fantastic job. I just want to thank all of you, everyone. I want to thank Mark Meadows who’s here someplace right there I want to thank Mark.

But it’s been, it’s been something very special, we’ve accomplished a lot, our first lady has been a woman of great grace and beauty and dignity. And so popular with the people, so popular with the people, in fact, honey, would you like to say a few words?

[Melania Trump]: Being your first lady was my greatest honour. Thank you for your love and your support, you will be in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you all. God bless your families, and God bless this beautiful nation.

Donald Trump]: What else has to be said, right? But what we’ve done – that’s true, honey. Great job. What we’ve done has been amazing, by any standard, we rebuilt the United States military, created a new force called Space Force that, in itself, would be a major achievement for a regular administration, we were not a regular administration

We took care of the vets – 91 percent approval rating they’ve never had that before, the vets have given us the VA, the vets have given us an approval rating like has never been before. We took care of our vets and beautiful vets they were very badly treated before we came along. And as you know, we get them great service and we pick up the bill and they can go out and they can see a doctor, if they have to wait long periods of time. We got it so that we can, sadly, get rid of people that don’t treat our vets properly. We didn’t have any of those rights before when I came on. So, our vets are happy, our people are happy. Our military is thrilled.

We also got tax cuts, the largest tax cut and reform in the history of our country by far. I hope they don’t raise your taxes. But if they do, I told you so!

If you look at the regulations which I consider the regulation cuts to be maybe even more important. That’s why we have such good and have had such good job numbers. The job numbers have been absolutely incredible.

What we started had we not been hit by the pandemic, we would have had numbers that would never have been seen. Already our numbers are the best ever.

If you look at what happened until February, a year ago, our numbers were at a level that nobody had ever seen before. And even now we really built it twice. We got hit, nobody blames us for that, the whole world got it and then we built it again. And now the stock market is actually substantially higher than it was at its higher point prior to the pandemic. So it’s really – you could say, we built it twice.

And you’re gonna see, you’re gonna see incredible numbers start coming in. If everything is sort of left alone and be careful, very complex. Be careful. But you’re gonna see some incredible things happening. And remember us when you see these things happening, if you – remember us because I’m looking at – I’m looking at elements of our economy that are set to be a rocket ship up. It’s a rocket ship up.

We have the greatest country in the world. We have the greatest economy in the world and as bad as the pandemic was, we were hit so hard just like the entire world was hit so hard, places that don’t they got away with it didn’t get away with it, they’re suffering right now. We did something that is really considered a medical miracle. They’re calling it a miracle. And that was the vaccine.

We got the vaccine developed in nine months instead of nine years, or five years, or 10 years. A long time. It was supposed to take a long time, many, many years to develop a vaccine. We have two out. We have another one coming almost immediately, and it really is a great achievement. So, you should start to see really good numbers over the next few months. I think you’re going to see those numbers really skyrocket downward

The first thing we have to do is pay our respects and our love to the incredible people and families who suffered so gravely from the China virus. It’s a horrible thing that was put onto the world. We all know where it came from, but it’s a horrible, horrible thing. So be very careful. Be very, very careful, but we want to pay great love, great love to all of the people that have suffered, including families who have suffered so gravely.

So with that, I just want to say, you are amazing people. This is a great, great country. It is my greatest honour and privilege to have been your president.

I will always fight for you. I will be watching, I will be listening. And I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better.

I wish the new administration, great luck and great success. I think they’ll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular. And again, we put it in a position like it’s never been before. Despite the worst plague to hit since I guess you’d say 1917, over 100 years ago. And despite that, despite that, the things that we’ve done have been just incredible. And I couldn’t have done it without you.

So, just a goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form.

And again, I want to just, in leaving, I want to thank our Vice President Mike Pence and Karen. I want to thank Congress cause we really worked well with Congress, at least certain elements in Congress. But we really did. We’ve gotten so much done that nobody thought would be possible but I do want to thank Congress and I want to thank all of the great people of Washington, DC, all of the people that we worked with to put this miracle together.

So, have a good life. We will see you soon. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you.


* From the official White House biography of John Quincy Adams, before it was edited by lefists:

Within the one and only party–the Republican–sectionalism and factionalism were developing, and each section put up its own candidate for the Presidency. Adams, the candidate of the North, fell behind Gen. Andrew Jackson in both popular and electoral votes, but received more than William H. Crawford and Henry Clay. Since no candidate had a majority of electoral votes, the election was decided among the top three by the House of Representatives. Clay, who favored a program similar to that of Adams, threw his crucial support in the House to the New Englander.

Upon becoming President, Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson and his angry followers charged that a “corrupt bargain” had taken place and immediately began their campaign to wrest the Presidency from Adams in 1828.

Well aware that he would face hostility in Congress, Adams nevertheless proclaimed in his first Annual Message a spectacular national program. He proposed that the Federal Government bring the sections together with a network of highways and canals, and that it develop and conserve the public domain, using funds from the sale of public lands. In 1828, he broke ground for the 185-mile C & 0 Canal.

Adams also urged the United States to take a lead in the development of the arts and sciences through the establishment of a national university, the financing of scientific expeditions, and the erection of an observatory. His critics declared such measures transcended constitutional limitations.

The campaign of 1828, in which his Jacksonian opponents charged him with corruption and public plunder, was an ordeal Adams did not easily bear. After his defeat he returned to Massachusetts, expecting to spend the remainder of his life enjoying his farm and his books.

Unexpectedly, in 1830, the Plymouth district elected him to the House of Representatives, and there for the remainder of his life he served as a powerful leader. Above all, he fought against circumscription of civil liberties.

In 1836 southern Congressmen passed a “gag rule” providing that the House automatically table petitions against slavery. Adams tirelessly fought the rule for eight years until finally he obtained its repeal.

** From the official White House biography of Martin Van Buren, before it was edited by lefists:

Van Buren devoted his Inaugural Address to a discourse upon the American experiment as an example to the rest of the world. The country was prosperous, but less than three months later the panic of 1837 punctured the prosperity.

Basically, the trouble was the 19th-century cyclical economy of “boom and bust,” which was following its regular pattern, but Jackson’s financial measures contributed to the crash. His destruction of the Second Bank of the United States had removed restrictions upon the inflationary practices of some state banks; wild speculation in lands, based on easy bank credit, had swept the West. To end this speculation, Jackson in 1836 had issued a Specie Circular requiring that lands be purchased with hard money–gold or silver.

In 1837 the panic began. Hundreds of banks and businesses failed. Thousands lost their lands. For about five years the United States was wracked by the worst depression thus far in its history.

Programs applied decades later to alleviate economic crisis eluded both Van Buren and his opponents. Van Buren’s remedy–continuing Jackson’s deflationary policies–only deepened and prolonged the depression.

Declaring that the panic was due to recklessness in business and overexpansion of credit, Van Buren devoted himself to maintaining the solvency of the national Government. He opposed not only the creation of a new Bank of the United States but also the placing of Government funds in state banks. He fought for the establishment of an independent treasury system to handle Government transactions. As for Federal aid to internal improvements, he cut off expenditures so completely that the Government even sold the tools it had used on public works.

Inclined more and more to oppose the expansion of slavery, Van Buren blocked the annexation of Texas because it assuredly would add to slave territory–and it might bring war with Mexico.

Defeated by the Whigs in 1840 for reelection, he was an unsuccessful candidate for President on the Free Soil ticket in 1848. He died in 1862.