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On this page are comments guaranteed to provoke a full 15-round fight. Pugilists, put on your gloves and come out fighting.

  • Re: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

  • Bob Bateman on Richard Pyle

  • Martin Kramer on Juan Cole

  • About Alan Dershowitz

  • About Paul Johnson

  • Was Jack Granatstein Nasty?

  • Eric Foner: Get a Dictionary

  • John Lukacs: About Historians Who Specialize

  • Larry Schweikart: Europe: Sick

  • What Were The Costs And Benefits Of The Civil Rights Movement?

  • Is Bush Sociopathic?

  • America Bashing

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    Re: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (posted 5-17-05)

    Angelo M. Codevilla, in the course of a review of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s, War and the American Presidency; in the Claremont Review (Spring 2005):

    Such a little book, so much embarrassment. Here is a professional American historian who wants to call Jefferson and John Quincy Adams imperialists. He cites their high regard for Cuba's value to the United States, and their recognition that its future would be intertwined with America's. But he ignores their oft-stated, forceful opposition to governing the Cuban people or any other foreigners. In Schlesinger's circles, truth does not get in the way of a good cause.

    Everywhere there are non sequiturs. For example:"Since we [i.e., George W. Bush] arrogate to ourselves the exclusive right to wage preventive war, we ignore the dark warning of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams against 'going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.'" Even to someone who knows nothing of Bush or Adams, Schlesinger's proposition"B" is unrelated to"A." Add to this that it is impossible to make a case that Adams's speech opposed"preventive war," that there is no evidence for the proposition that Bush's claim to the right of attacking before his country is attacked is novel, and that no U.S. official has ever claimed that this right is exclusive, and you have a feast of non sequiturs consisting of pure baloney.

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    Bob Bateman on Richard Pyle (posted 6-3-04)

    Bob Bateman, author of a book exposing alleged errors in the Associated Press account of the killings at No Gun Ri; in an email sent out to dozens of media outlets, including HNN:

    TO: Mr. Richard Pyle, Associated Press

    FROM: Bob Bateman


    Until just now, when alerted to it by some naval officers, I had not seen your letter to Naval War College Review attacking both me, my book, and the professor who had the temerity to give it such a favorable review. (http://www.nwc.navy.mil/press/Review/2004/Spring/imv-sp04.htm ) I don't need to explain, do I, the apparent incongruoity of your 'public' face to me when we write so politely back and forth, and the nature of this sudden attack letter? Richard, it's one thing to play along a source. I understand that, and have witnessed it. But it's quite another to act in the way you have with somebody who was decidedly not a source for anything you might ever write about. Somebody who considered you ...

    Ah well, in any event this ought to be interesting. Will you be in Chicago on 19 July? I understand that Charles Hanley accepted the offer to debate me in public there. It seems from this that you desire to participate as well.

    Given what you've written now in a very public forum I suppose it's incumbant upon me to respond. Previously when I saw things that were not true in your writing I said nothing publically, nor even in the semi-public forum of Romenesko's Media News. Instead I contacted you privately and talked it out when I saw that there were errors of fact or interpretation in your writing. This, I believed, was polite. You demonstrated that this politeness was not wise, and indeed was pure ignorance on my part.

    As your behind-the-scenes attacks over the past year, with letters to people that favorably reviewed my book, as well as this recent public attack indicate, that forebearance seems to have been misplaced. These vicious attack letters which you and Charles Hanley sent out from your AP e-mail accounts to reviewers, editors, college professors, and veterans were forwarded to me by the recipients almost as soon as they themselves recieved them. Surely you knew that would happen? To my eyes it only demonstrates the real feelings one evokes when one acts in that manner. (And Richard, these were people I'd never even met. People who were so offended by your actions that they sought me out to tell me about them.) I suppose this is useless though, since you are entirely too honored and high-placed as a world reknown reporter in the world of journalism to learn that lesson in human relations at this point in your development.

    Frankly Richard, it is not the personal attacks or intellectual diminuation that I find impolite. Criticism is normal and easy to deal with, and after 13 years of marriage to a less-than-polite woman, your version of an attack pales in comparison with the ex's. No, it is the way that you did so secretly, sending those private e-mails to all those people attacking me, and then acting polite and friendly towards me in our interaction, when you knew that you had written these words...all without even extending the common decency to send me a cc or forwarding your comments. Such Janus-like behavior is so very far below the person I believed you were, and which you held yourself out to be. I am sorry for that.

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    Martin Kramer on Juan Cole (posted 3-17-04)

    Martin Kramer, commenting on his blog about HR 3077, a bill that proposes the creation of an advisory board to monitor the recipients of federal subsidies for Middle East studies (March 16, 2004):

    You talkin' to me? Juan Cole, the Oliver Stone of Middle Eastern studies, sends me a warning over HR3077."[Kramer] has messed with the wrong person," Cole announces."We may lose this one. But he should be in no doubt about the public relations damage he will have done to his own weird causes over the long term by picking on me." The weird thing is that I haven't been picking on Cole. In fact, I haven't mentioned him in over a year. (Drop his name in my search engine.) Sorry to have ignored you, Juan, but your stuff is just a bit too flakey to warrant comment. Cole's emergence as poster boy for the contribution of Middle Eastern studies to the national debate is... well, unfortunate for Middle Eastern studies. He's right about one thing: if HR3077 passes, I won't have won this one. He (and his friends) will have lost it.

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    About Alan Dershowitz (posted 12-9-03)

    From the newsletter of the American Revolution Roundtable:

    Fred Cookinham reviewed America Declares Independence by Alan Dershowitz. Its great virtue, he said, was its brevity -- because most of the text is boring eyewash. It is only tangentially about the Declaration we all have studied. Most of it deals with Dershowitz's disagreement with today's religious right. The author goes back to 1776 only to argue the founders were Deists and that proves the United States is not a Christian nation. Fred said the correct title should be: DERSHOWITZ DECLARES HIS OPINIONS. Mr. D. also attacks natural law theory in a boring argument better suited for a Harvard Law School seminar. He finishes the book with an attack on Thomas Jefferson's inconsistent views on slavery. Fred declined to recommend the book to anyone who wants to think seriously about the history of the Declaration of Independence.

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    About Paul Johnson (posted 9-30-03)

    Henry Farrell, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, writing in his blog (Sept. 27, 2003):

    [Paul] Johnson is a dreadful old fraud, even as superannuated Tory farts go. And his prose style is wretched; the sort of sub-Burkean lugubrious sententiousness that conservatives are liable to mistake for profundity when they?ve overdone the port a bit.

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    Was Jack Granatstein Nasty? (posted 6-23-03)

    What Jack Granatstein said (Ottawa Citizen, June 19, 2003):

    Ever since Victor Suthren left the Canadian War Museum more than five years ago, he has posed as its great defender, all the while attacking those who run the museum and their plans, now progressing daily on LeBreton Flats, for a grand new building.

    He is at it again, this time taking a passing comment by museum director Joe Geurts that he could live with music festivals in the museum's "backyard." Mr. Suthren turns this into a slur on those who served and died in Canada's wars with his remark that "he is forgetting the facility is at once a museum and a memorial to the men and women whom Canada has lost in war." A moment's reflection by Mr. Suthren should have made it obvious that Mr. Geurts meant no such thing.

    The new war museum will be Canada's splendid memorial to its military history and those who made it. The nation is big enough (as is LeBreton Flats) and tolerant enough to accept the juxtaposition of the museum with music festivals. If only Victor Suthren were.

    What Victor Suthren said (Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 2003):

    Holy snootful, Batman. My being on the receiving end of personalized venom from a distinguished historian such as Jack Granatstein is a kind of reverse compliment, although the nonsensical nastiness of it makes me wonder. It is hard to see a slur against veterans in my observation that the Canadian War Museum and its environs should be characterized by dignity, restraint and respect.

    Letter-writer Bill Stuart (Anti-war music, June 19) did so with his lesson for me on the messages in Metallica's music. Like him, refute and discredit my views and ideas by all means. But don't call me names. That merely makes you the small man, not me.

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    Eric Foner: Get a Dictionary (posted 4-17-03)

    Eric Foner, in a letter to the Columbia Spectator, which criticized his particpation at a teach-in opposed to the war with Iraq (March 31, 2003):

    Editorial Misrepresents the Purpose and Substance of Teach-in

    To the Editor:

    Last Thursday's Spectator contains an editorial criticizing the anti-war teach-in of Wednesday night for combining education and advocacy and presenting only the anti-war point of view.

    Let me direct the editors to a resource they seem not to have previously encountered--the dictionary. Mine defines "teach-in" as follows: "An extended meeting usually held on a college campus for lectures, debates, and discussions to raise awareness of or express a position on a social and political issue." Spectator's complaint makes no sense, since the combination of education and advocacy is the essence of a teach-in.

    The editorial acknowledges that speakers disagreed with one another, then says there was "an atmosphere of intellectual conformity." I suppose this means that we did not present pro-war talks. I can hardly believe that the editors think that students have no access to the government's arguments. Those who feel so deprived can simply turn on any television newscast.

    Students who did not attend the teach-in missed talks on the recent evolution of American foreign policy, the danger posed by the war to archeological sites in Iraq, the Geneva convention regarding prisoners of war, the economic interests involved in plans to "rebuild" Iraq, recent American relations with North Korea, and many other presentations of high intellectual caliber. Those who did attend will recognize the editorial as a caricature of what took place.

    Eric Foner
    March 28, 2003
    The author is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History.

    John Lukacs: About Historians Who Specialize (posted 2-11-03)

    John Lukacs, in the course of an interview with Bruce Cole in Humanities (January/February 2003):

    Lukacs: The bad thing is that often the specialist is not really very much interested in what he?s doing. He has picked a specialty because he thinks that this will further him in his profession. The true specialist is an eccentric: he is someone who is really and deeply interested in something about which he wants to know more and more.

    Cole: Almost obsessed?

    Lukacs: Yes. The more he knows, he finds that the less he knows. Yet there are specialists now today. Again, at the risk perhaps of lack of charity, I suspect that the people who do it are interested in their historianship rather than in history.

    Cole: In other words, in the professional side of their career rather than in the substance of the work.

    Lukacs: Yes. In their standing among their peers. There are all kinds of minuscule privileges that come in academic life. Nobody is immune to it. But if the entire emphasis on your ambition and your mental interest is directed there, that is a deep loss.

    Larry Schweikart: Europe: Sick (posted 2-11-03)

    Larry Schweikart, professor of history, University of Dayton, writing in Conservativenet, a daily electronic newsletter (February 11, 2003):

    What we are dealing with in Europe is first of all economic: the Euros have been quasi-socialists for decades and has been drifting hard-core socialist for some 20 years. Between 1970 and 1990, Europe created ZERO net new jobs. This is a sick society. There is a ray of hope---Ireland, whose economy with low taxes is booming and actually placing ads for workers from other places in Europe. The collapse of socialism, both theoretically and practically, has angered these people to no end. Like a terminal cancer patient lashing out at the doctor for showing him the X-rays, the Euros know that their quest for an even more massively-socialized system is in trouble. It is jealousy, pure and simple (not that the U.S. system couldn't return to more of its free-market roots, but we are leagues ahead of the Euros, and at least creeping forward instead of collapsing backward).

    Second, as this article and many others point out, there is a jealousy derived from European insignificance after the Cold War. Quite simply, during the Cold War, the Soviet threat to invade Europe made them need us, and they couldn't insult us too much. We needed them---or rather, their bases and territory. Does anyone seriously think that the handful of French sub-based nukes frightened the Kremlin planners even a little? Now that we no longer need their geography, however, but only WANT their friendship, it is a different matter. Mark my words: if they do not straighten up, not only will NATO vanish quickly, but new, individual alliances between the U.S., Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and other former"east" European countries will emerge. These nations looked to OUR free-market economists for advice in restructuring their economies and thus are much closer philosophically on some matters than"Old Europe."

    Third, for both France and Germany, there are real ego issues. France has not fought a war on its own, which it won, since 1807. Germany has been on the wrong end of dozens of colonial conflicts leading up to WW I and II. Aside from the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars, the vaunted German military psyche has to go back to Marshal Blucher to take any pride in its actual battlefied accomplishments.

    Last, and for me, most important, there is a chasm of spiritual separation between the Continent and the U.S. Pentecostal faiths are viewed as" cults" in France, and more than a few street preachers have been arrested and churches closed. While there are millions of faithful Christians of all denominations still in Europe, a shroud of religious bigotry has descended, and it ain't against Muslims. Remarkably, in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, and other eastern, Orthodox countries, Protestant evangelism is growing.

    So in four separate areas---economic, military, psyche/ego, and spiritual---I see Old Europe in decay, and quite aware of its predicament. And they hate us for their decay.

    What Were The Costs And Benefits Of The Civil Rights Movement? (posted 12-23-02)

    Professor John Braeman, author of Before the Civil Rights Revolution: The Old Court and Individual Rights, commenting on a question raised by Norman Ravitch on Conservativenet, a daily electronic newsletter. (Last week HNN published excerpts from the Ravitch debate.):

    Segregation remains the norm in those areas of life not yet under the thumb of the Leviathan State. If anyone questions that point, he has just to look at any college campus. Is such segregation simply the result of irrational prejudice by whites? Or are black values and behavior a large part of the problem? Just compare the much higher degree of interaction between white and Asian-American students. My observation has been that most most black students are no more desirous of contact with whites than vice-versa.

    Norman Ravitch has raised an important question that requires fuller study rather than a curt dismissal. What have been the costs and benefits of the civil rights movement? No doubt many blacks have profited. But whether this is the case for even a majority is open to debate. Re the cost-benefit calculus for whites, the long-term goal of the civil rights movement--temporarily disguised by rhetoric about providing a level playing field--is a massive redistribution of resources and rewards. Who will pay the cost? Many whites will; but probably the most likely losers will be such newer minorities as Asian-Americans and Latinos.

    The remarkable socio-economic mobility of the first has been amply documented; that of the second appears less striking because of the continued influx of newcomers at the bottom of the ladder. In short, if there is to be a true rainbow coalition--as contrasted with a black-first movement--the Republican Party should be its home. So far the would-be architects of this redistribution have had no more than limited success.

    The Trent Lott business was stage-managed in pursuit of this goal. Lott's craven surrender on such issues as affirmative action to save his political skin shows the effectiveness of the cry-racism tactic unless the larger issue is raised of why the relative lack of success by blacks in taking advantage of the opportunities America offers despite the billions of dollars worth of special programs and the host of antidiscrimination laws adopted in their behalf.

    Over a century ago Justice Joseph Bradley raised what is today the even more acutely pressing issue:"When a man has emerged from slavery, and by the aid of beneficient legislation has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the law."

    Is Bush Sociopathic? (posted 12-9-02)

    Mark Crispin Miller, in the course of an interview with the Toronoto Starabout his new book, Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, in which he accuses President Bush of being"sociopathic" (November 28, 2002):

    Bush is not an imbecile. He's not a puppet. I think that Bush is a sociopathic personality. I think he's incapable of empathy. He has an inordinate sense of his own entitlement, and he's a very skilled manipulator. And in all the snickering about his alleged idiocy, this is what a lot of people miss. He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge. When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine. It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes. ... He's a very angry guy, a hostile guy. He's much like Nixon. So they're very, very careful to choreograph every move he makes. They don't want him anywhere near protestors, because he would lose his temper.

    America Bashing (posted 12-9-02)

    Lee Harris, in PolicyReview.org:

    America-bashing is anti-Americanism at its most radical and totalizing. Its goal is not to advise, but to condemn; not to fix, but to destroy. It repudiates every thought of reform in any normal sense; it sees no difference between American liberals and American conservatives; it views every American action, both present and past, as an act of deliberate oppression and systemic exploitation. It is not that America went wrong here or there; it is that it is wrong root and branch. The conviction at the heart of those who engage in it is really quite simple: that America is an unmitigated evil, an irredeemable enormity.

    This is the specter that is haunting the world today. Indeed, one may even go so far as to argue that this America is the fundamental organizing principle of the left as it exists today: To be against America is to be on the right side of history; to be for it is to be on the wrong side.

    But let's pause to ask a question whose answer the America-bashers appear to assume they know: What is the right side of history at this point in history?

    The concept of a right side of history is derived from Marxism, and it is founded on the belief that there is a forward advance toward a socialist future that can be resisted, but not ultimately defeated. But does anyone believe this anymore? Does anyone take seriously the claim that the present state of affairs will be set aside and a wholly new order of things implemented in its place, and that such a transformation of the world will happen as a matter of course?

    in order for revolutionary activity to have a chance of succeeding, there is an unavoidable precondition: The workers must have become much poorer over time. Furthermore, there had to be not merely an increase of poverty, but a conviction on the part of the workers that their material circumstances would only get worse, and not better ? and this would require genuine misery.

    This is the immiserization thesis of Marx. And it is central to revolutionary Marxism, since if capitalism produces no widespread misery, then it also produces no fatal internal contradiction: If everyone is getting better off through capitalism, who will dream of struggling to overthrow it? Only genuine misery on the part of the workers would be sufficient to overturn the whole apparatus of the capitalist state, simply because, as Marx insisted, the capitalist class could not be realistically expected to relinquish control of the state apparatus and, with it, the monopoly of force. In this, Marx was absolutely correct. No capitalist society has ever willingly liquidated itself, and it is utopian to think that any ever will. Therefore, in order to achieve the goal of socialism, nothing short of a complete revolution would do; and this means, in point of fact, a full-fledged civil war not just within one society, but across the globe. Without this catastrophic upheaval, capitalism would remain completely in control of the social order and all socialist schemes would be reduced to pipe dreams.

    The immiserization thesis, therefore, is critical to Marx, for without it there would be no objective conditions in response to which workers might be driven to overthrow the capitalist system. If the workers were becoming better off with time, then why jump into an utterly untested and highly speculative economic scheme? ...

    The post-World War II period demolished the last traces of the classical immiserization thesis. Workers in the most advanced capitalist countries were prosperous by any standard imaginable, either absolute or relative; and what is even more important, they felt themselves to be well off, and believed that the future would only make them and their children even better off than they had been in the past....

    If there is any element of genuine seriousness in this movement [America bashing]? if, indeed, it aspires to be an objective and realistic assessment of the relationship of America to the rest of the world ? then that element of seriousness is to be found in the global immiserization thesis: America has gotten rich by making other countries poor.