Why Does the New York Times Hate America?

Bertolt Brecht famously and facetiously asked if it wouldn’t be simpler for the government to dissolve the people and elect another. Writing in the New York Times, Brett Stephens makes essentially the same proposal, only he doesn’t seem entirely facetious.

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning…

Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat…

That used to be a cliché, but in the Age of [President Donald] Trump it needs to be explained all over again. We’re a country of immigrants — by and for them, too. Americans who don’t get it should get out.

Sorry to hear that native born Americans are not living up to the standards set for them by Brett Stephens and the New York Times. Allow me to offer, however, a modest proposal. Instead of having all those Americans leave the country, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for the comparatively much smaller number of liberal cosmopolitans like Brett Stephens to leave? Maybe they can find some other country where the people are not so, shall we say, deplorable. Stephens grew up in Mexico and lived in Israel, so there’s two possibilities right there. Hasta la vista, Brett.

I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers…

Well, a great many counterarguments can be made. Here, for a start, are approximately 400,000.

Remembering Antietam

This Memorial Day weekend we honor and remember those who gave their lives to preserve American liberty and independence. In accordance with the spirit of the holiday, Yet, Freedom! offers this on-the-scene report from Antietam battlefield in Maryland.

The Battle of Antietam was fought on a single day, September 17, 1862, perhaps the bloodiest day of combat in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The fighting commenced at 5:30 in the morning; by 9 a.m., some 12,000 men lay dead or wounded, an average of one casualty per second over three-and-a-half hours. But some of the bloodiest fighting still lay ahead, during the afternoon.

Much of the fighting in the morning swirled around the Dunkard Church, a tiny whitewashed structure belonging to a German sect of baptists. Near the church, Union Brigadier Mansfield’s division succeeded in outflanking the confederates, and might have been able to carry the day, but they did not receive the needed reinforcements.

Antietam was the first battle in which the dead were photographed on the battlefield before burial. Photographer Alexander Gardner captured this famous photo of dead confederate troops near the Dunkard Church.

The original Dunkard Church collapsed in a wind storm in 1921. The church visible on the battlefield today is a replica built in 1962 for the 100th anniversary of the battle.

One of the significant landmarks on the battlefield is the sunken road, a place of savage fighting that became known to history as ‘bloody lane.’ Along the road, the confederates constructed defensive positions by stacking wooden fence rails.

Under fire from sharpshooters and artillery, the first of French’s brigades crested a little rise; less than 100 yards below them in a sunken farm road were three Confederate brigades of Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill’s division. A sheet of flame erupted from the sunken road and the crest of the ridge was covered with a blue blanket of dead or wounded Union soldiers. The brigade fell back; another took its place, with the same result. Brigadier General Nathan Kimball was then ordered forward with his brigade of four regiments. These men, many of them veterans of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Peninsula campaigns, did not fall back. Lying on the downside of the slope and rolling onto their sides to reload, they poured fire into the ranks of the Confederates below, who responded in kind. Blood turned the dirt in the road to mud, giving the sunken road the sobriquet Bloody Lane. Sumner declared that Kimball’s brigade had held “like the Rock of Gibraltar” after two other Union brigades had fled. The unit thereafter was known as the Gibraltar Brigade.

In the afternoon, focus shifted to a narrow stone bridge spanning Antietam Creek. The bridge later became known to history as Burnside’s Bridge. Six hundred confederate infantry held a position on a steep bluff behind the bridge. Union troops tried and failed twice to take the bridge. At one point during the stalemate at the bridge, however, the union enlisted men sensed that confederate resistance was finally weakening. The enlisted men, on their own initiative and without orders from their officers, made a dash and succeeded in crossing the bridge. Now the confederates were in trouble, and soon found themselves in headlong retreat. Lee’s army was on the verge of being routed, and the war perhaps brought to an end in 1862.

But in a dramatic turn of events, almost like something out of a Hollywood movie, the confederates at the last moment were saved.

At the crucial moment, Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill, wearing his red battle shirt, arrived from Harpers Ferry with the Light Division. Hill had driven his men—many of them wearing Union uniforms taken at Harpers Ferry—northward mercilessly, sometimes beating them with the flat of his sword to keep them moving at the double-quick.

The Light Division fell upon Burnside’s flank, disordering his men and convincing the cautious Union officer that he’d done enough for one day. The Battle of Antietam was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Here is Alexander Gardner’s photo of Burnside’s Bridge, and our own photo of the bridge as it appears today.

And here is Antietam Creek as seen from the bridge.

By the end of the battle, nearly 23,000 men had been killed or wounded. While visiting the battlefield, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for all those young men who were thrown into that hellish situation. So many of them lost limbs, or had their lives tragically cut short. Visiting the battlefield is a kind of spiritual experience that would benefit a lot of people. In particular, modern feminists who somehow believe that, back in the day, women were oppressed at home while the men were out having all the fun should visit Antietam.

Maggot Cheese: Pass

Many of our readers know that here at Yet, Freedom! we are big fans of the Mediterranean environment, culture, and food. After all, as Samuel Johnson said, “The grand object of all travel is to see the shores of the Mediterranean.” But in the case of Sardinia’s maggot cheese, we’re taking a pass.

EU bureaucrats have banned sale of the cheese, although it is still being produced. The bureaucrats really should back off and leave people to their own traditions, even if disgusting.

Gordon Ramsey – Maggot Cheese

Ireland’s Blasphemy Law: Back to the Dark Ages

Anyone who loves liberty and free-thinking should be very concerned that Ireland actually criminalizes blasphemy.

Police in the Republic of Ireland have launched an investigation after a viewer claimed comments made by Stephen Fry on a TV show were blasphemous.

Yeah, there was a time in the Western world when blasphemy was considered a serious crime. We call that period The Dark Ages.

Officers are understood to be examining whether the British comedian committed a criminal offence under the Defamation Act when he appeared on RTE in 2015.

Fry had asked why he should “respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world…. full of injustice”.

He later said he was not “offensive towards any particular religion”.

And what if he had been offensive towards a particular religion? That still shouldn’t be illegal.

According to a report in the Irish Independent newspaper, no publicised cases of blasphemy have been brought before the courts since the law was introduced in 2009 and a source said it was “highly unlikely” that a prosecution against Fry would take place.

Highly unlikely or not, no free-born citizen should ever have to worry about such a prosecution. And the fact is that Fry was approached by a police detective and told he was under investigation. The police actually devoted detective resources to policing speech. Good to know that Ireland is apparently free of real crime.

Is it unfair to refer to Ireland’s Defamation Act as a ‘blasphemy law’?

The law prohibits people from publishing or uttering “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”.

Yup, that’s a blasphemy law.

This particular law has only been on the books since 2009. I gotta say, when I was young I always expected the 21st century would be better than this. Instead of jet packs and space colonies, we got pre-Enlightenment speech codes.

Even more disconcerting that such a law exists and is taken seriously by police is the apparent fact that hardly anybody seems to care. Ireland’s blasphemy law does not seem to be a burning political issue. Will it become a prominent issue in Ireland’s next general election? Do any Irish politicians ever get asked “Why do we have this medieval law on our books?” Rhetorical questions, of course.

The ongoing war on speech is a war on thought. It won’t end well.

The End of History–Not

In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama published his famous essay, “The End of History?”, which he later expanded into a best-selling book. Fukuyama essentially argued that the resolution of the Cold War pointed to the ultimate triumph of Western classical liberalism, broadly defined, as the only viable alternative for humanity.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Twenty years ago, Fukuyama’s thesis was the ‘hot take’ in intellectual circles, and it catapulted him to celebrity status. But this month, a referendum was held in Turkey. And the result of that referendum blows Fukuyama out of the water.

Now, when most Americans hear ‘Turkey’, what comes first to mind is a sandwich option, rather than the country. But the country is important. Turkey’s population is larger than that of Britain or France, and Turkey is very strategically located between Europe and the Middle East. And now, following the referendum this month, Turkey has officially defected from its 90-year alliance with the West and allegiance to Western values.

Well farewell then Turkey.  Or at least, farewell the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk.  It’s a shame.  Ataturk-ism nearly made its own centenary.

But the nation that he founded, which believed broadly in progressive notions such as a separation of mosque and state, has just been formally snuffed out.  President Erdogan’s success in the referendum to award himself Caliph-like powers for life finally sees the end of Turkey’s secular and democratic experiment.

Turkey is gone.

Ataturk’s revolution was remarkable. He took a country that had been for hundreds of years Islamist and backward and hostile to the West and Western values and turned it around and made it a modern, progressive nation, allied with the West. Ataturk’s logic was essentially the same as Fukuyama’s–the only viable way forward is through classical liberalism: representative democracy, free markets, and the rule of law. Ataturk’s remarkable revolution had a good run of nearly 100 years.

But even though Fukuyama’s thesis implies that Ataturk was on the right side of history, his revolution is over. According to what everybody came to believe 20 years ago, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The Turkish referendum was an explicit rejection of The End of History.

There’s another lesson here, and that is the role of birth rates. Mark Steyn argues that Turkey steadily moved toward Islam and away from secularism due to the fact that religious and rural Turks in the East outbred secular and urban Turks in the West.

Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, there have been two Turkeys: the Turks of Rumelia, or European Turkey, and the Turks of Anatolia, or Asia Minor. Kemal Atatürk was from Rumelia and so were most of his supporters, and they imposed the modern Turkish Republic on a somewhat relunctant Anatolia, where Atatürk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. In its 80-year history, the population has increased from 14 million in 1923 to 70 million today, but the vast bulk of that population growth has come from Anatolia, whose population has migrated from the rural hinterland to overwhelm the once solidly Kemalist cities. Atatürk’s modern secular Turkey has simply been outbred by fiercely Islamic Turkey.

Fukuyama in his book briefly and breezily dismissed Islamism as a viable alternative to Western liberalism. In response, Samuel Huntington in 1993 published “The Clash of Civilizations?” in which he argued that history had not come to an end, and that in particular, Islam would pose a formidable challenge to the West.

Huntington 1, Fukuyama 0.

Music in Our Culture: How Much Has Been Lost

I liked the following youtube comment by “TLM”. It refers to a clip of Mario Lanza’s performance of “vesti la giubba”, from the 1959 film For the First Time.

Mario Lanza Vesti La Giubba 1958 Widescreen

Yeah, it’s easy to go through life in contemporary America and never even find out that opera and classical music exist. The stuff hardly gets any exposure, except as the occasional background music on a TV commercial. That’s a shame, because even though opera and classical are not for everyone, in fact probably not for most people, a lot more people might nonetheless appreciate this music if only they got more exposure to it.

At my gym the speakers constantly blare hip-hop and rap, even though my gym’s clientele does not generally fit the typical demographic for those genres. The other day, one of the members talked an employee into shutting the music off, and the silence was welcomed by the rest of us who were working out. Another member commented that he was sick of the fact that, at high school basketball games, the music is always that same sort of “garbage.”

It wasn’t always like this in America. During the 1950s, America boasted a thriving middle-brow culture. In 1955, attendance at classical music concerts exceeded attendance at major league baseball games. In the early ’60s, Leonard Bernstein’s classical concerts were broadcast on national network television, sometimes during prime time. Prime time Shostakovich is unimaginable today. Young people have no idea how much has been lost. Sad.

But getting back to Mario Lanza, he had an amazing voice, and is in fact my favorite tenor. Which is surprising, because he was just a movie singer and not a real professional opera singer, kind of like The Monkees weren’t a real group, but just played one on TV. Lanza’s breakthrough movie was The Great Caruso (1951) in which he played the legendary tenor. But Lanza, the actor playing Caruso, was actually a better singer than the legend himself, if you can believe it.

Unfortunately, Lanza had a problem with overeating, and died prematurely at just 38 years of age.

Life Imitates Aristophanes

Lysistrata, a play by Aristophanes, 411 B.C.

Lysistrata has planned a meeting between all of the women of Greece to discuss the plan to end the Peloponnesian War. As Lysistrata waits for the women of Sparta, Thebes, and other areas to meet her she curses the weakness of women. Lysistrata plans to ask the women to refuse sex with their husbands until a treaty for peace has been signed. Lysistrata has also made plans with the older women of Athens (the Chorus of Old Women) to seize the Akropolis later that day. The women from the various regions finally assemble and Lysistrata convinces them to swear an oath that they will withhold sex from their husbands until both sides sign a treaty of peace.

Dateline: February 6, 2017.

Feminists and women’s rights activists have announced the follow up to the Women’s March on Washington: a “Women’s Strike” planned for March 8th, where women who oppose Donald Trump’s “misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies” will stop doing chores, attending work, and even having sex with their partners in a show of how much women matter.

So Aristophanes called this one across 2400 years. As the 19th century German philosopher Heinrich Heine said, “There is a God, and his name is Aristophanes.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last summer I was fortunate to get to see this famous painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The guide at the museum noted that it is the painting that visitors most often ask to see.

All the people depicted are real, since Rockwell always worked with live models. The man standing behind the turkey lady, however, is not her real husband. Rockwell decided that her real husband for some reason did not fit the part, so he used a different model.

freedom-from-want

Thomas Jefferson: The (Urban) Legend

Everybody knows that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his slave, Sally Hemings, right?

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But what we think we know, isn’t so. This article by Marina Brown at allday.com is riddled with falsehoods and unproven assertions.

A few years ago, a group of distinguished historians, led by Robert F. Turner of the University of Virginia, was empaneled to assess the available evidence on Jefferson and Hemings. Turner summarized the panel’s findings in a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal. The findings refute nearly all the conventional wisdom as retold in the allday.com article.

At All Day, Brown writes:

Martha Jefferson died in her early 30s after an 11-year marriage. Thomas never remarried—Martha had asked him not to. But he did begin an affair with his late wife’s half-sister.

But the evidence supporting this alleged affair is virtually non-existant.

[Martha’s] family owned over 100 slaves. One of them was the mixed-race Betty Hemings, who had 10 children. Betty’s youngest was Sarah “Sally” Hemings, whose father was Martha’s father.

Because of their relation, the Hemings were treated “well” at the Jefferson estate—they were craftsmen, domestic workers, and chefs.

Turner:

Advocates of Thomas Jefferson’s paternity make a number of seemingly compelling arguments that upon close inspection turn out to be either false or easily explained. One is that Sally and her children received “extraordinary privileges” at Monticello. Most Jefferson scholars acknowledge there is no evidence of that.

All day:

Jefferson’s affair with Sally probably began in France when he was an ambassador and brought her along as a servant for his daughter. Sally was only 15 or 16 years old, making the romanticized ideas of their love pretty creepy.

Turner:

The claim that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings began with James Thomson Callender, a notorious journalist and scandalmonger. Callender had demanded that Jefferson, who was elected president in 1800, appoint him postmaster of Richmond, Va. At one point during the summer of 1802, Callendar shouted from in front of the White House, “Sir, you know that by lying [in press attacks on President John Adams] I made you President!”

When Jefferson refused to make the appointment, Callender promised “ten thousand fold vengeance” and wrote a series of articles denouncing Jefferson as a French agent and an atheist. When those charges had no effect, he insisted that the president had taken a young slave girl to be his “concubine” while in Paris during the late 1780s. At the time, Sally attended to Jefferson’s young daughters, who lived in a Catholic boarding school across town in Paris that had servants’ quarters. She didn’t live at the Jefferson residence.

Both John Adams and Alexander Hamilton—political rivals of Jefferson’s at the time—rejected Callender’s charges, because they knew Jefferson’s character and had bitter personal experiences with Callender’s lies.

All Day:

Two [of the alleged children of Jefferson and Hemings] didn’t live until adulthood, but Jefferson freed the others when they came of age. The Hemings were the only family he freed out of hundreds of slaves.

Turner:

Jefferson did free Sally’s two youngest sons in his will. But he freed all but two of the sons and grandsons of Sally’s mother, Betty Hemings, and Sally’s sons received the worst treatment among those freed. Unlike others, they received no land, house, tools or money. Sally herself was never legally freed.

All Day:

After gaining their freedom, other slaves of the Jefferson estate wrote memoirs that verified the rumors—Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally’s children.

Turner:

Allegations that the “oral history” of Sally’s descendants identified the president as the father of all of Sally’s children are also incorrect. [Heming’s youngest son] Eston’s descendants repeatedly acknowledged—before and after the DNA tests—that as children they were told they were not descendants of Thomas Jefferson but rather of an “uncle.”

All Day:

In 1998, a DNA test confirmed the truth.

The study found a link using Field Jefferson, a descendant of the Jefferson male line and Eston Hemings, one of Sally’s sons. Scientists also tested Thomas Jefferson’s nephew’s descendent’s DNA to see if he could have fathered the children, but there was no match. In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation accepted these findings.

This characterization of the DNA evidence is exceedingly misleading. The tests did not prove Jefferson’s paternity; they merely could not absolutely rule it out.

Turner:

In reality, the 1998 DNA tests alleged to prove this did not involve genetic material from Thomas Jefferson. All they established was that one of more than two dozen Jefferson males probably fathered Sally Hemings’s youngest son, Eston. And there is good reason to believe that at least seven Jefferson men (including the president) were at Monticello when Eston was conceived in the summer of 1807…

A more plausible candidate is Thomas Jefferson’s younger brother, known at Monticello as “Uncle Randolph.”

All Day:

Most scholars believe Sally had six children with Jefferson…

Turner:

The case against Jefferson was the subject of a yearlong examination by a group of 13 distinguished scholars, including historians Robert Ferrell (Indiana University) and Forrest McDonald (University of Alabama), as well as political scientists Harvey Mansfield (Harvard) and Jean Yarbrough (Bowdoin). Save for a mild dissent by historian Paul Rahe (now at Hillsdale College) the group concluded that the story is probably false.

Sorry to see that a Twitter feed I like, History in Pictures, bought into this tripe by retweeting the story. Sad.

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