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Pew Research Center did not say directly that their December 26, 2017 study finds that Americans are increasingly polarised, but, sadly, the results certainly indicate it.

Excerpts from ’17 striking findings for 2017′ follow. Pew illustrate their findings with detailed graphs, which are worth checking out. The second excerpt below is from Pew’s Global Attitudes Survey.

Emphases in the original:

Partisan divides dwarf demographic differences on key political values. The average gap between the views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents across 10 political values has increased from 15 percentage points in 1994 to 36 points today. Two decades ago, the average partisan differences on these items were only slightly wider than differences by religious attendance or educational attainment, and about as wide as differences across racial lines. Today, the partisan gaps far exceed differences across other key demographics.

2  Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. A global median of just 22% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, according to a survey conducted last spring. The image of the U.S. abroad also suffered a decline: Just 49% have a favorable view, down from 64% at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

4 Democrats and Republicans disagree now more than ever on the news media’s “watchdog” role. Roughly nine-in-ten Democrats say news media criticism keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done, compared with 42% of Republicans ­who say this – the widest gap in Pew Research Center surveys conducted since 1985. This stands in stark contrast to early 2016, when similar shares of Democrats (74%) and Republicans (77%) supported the media’s watchdog role.

7 Americans see fundamental differences between men and women, but men and women have different views on the cause of these differences. Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say differences between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe biology is the root.

9 The share of Republicans who hold negative views of the effect of colleges and universities on the country has grown significantly since 2015. Nearly six-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (58%) now say colleges have a negative effect. Two years ago, by contrast, 54% of Republicans said colleges were having a positive effect. Democrats and Democratic leaners have consistently held positive views of the effect of colleges on the U.S.; 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say this today.

This next one is particularly disappointing (purple highlight mine):

12 In the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from 39% in 2007 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young adults: Roughly six-in-ten adults younger than 35 are now living without a spouse or partner. The share of “unpartnered” adults also has risen more sharply among those who are not employed.

That is because they can marry the government instead. The government fulfils the material role of husband for too many women — and not just in the United States.

I could see this starting in the 1960s when I was growing up and attending Catholic school. When I was in primary school, only two students came from a ‘broken home’, common parlance then, now taboo.

Few of my Catholic high school friends came from single-parent homes; it was far from commonplace.

Among my adult neighbours during those years, only one woman I knew got a divorce. She said she was ‘bored’ and, anyway, she could find a job and work full time. I do wonder what happened to her and her two children. I felt very sorry for her husband, who was shell-shocked by the situation. He really loved her.

Catholic university was pretty much the same, with very few coming from single-parent households.

It wasn’t until I was earning a living on my own that I started meeting colleagues whose parents were divorced. It seemed such a strange concept to me. The last time I uttered the words ‘broken home’ in public was sometime during the 1980s. Someone I didn’t know that well barked at me, ‘Don’t tell me my home was ‘broken’! My mom did a great job!’ I explained the reference, but to no avail.

Anyway, in closing, the Republican-Democrat divide is equally troubling as we enter a new year.

There appears to be no end in sight for the foreseeable future. The same probably holds true in many Western nations.

I pray that our respective nations come together. I have never lived through a more divisive time, especially in such an era of ‘tolerance’.

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Earlier this week, I posted about an anti-Christmas message from 2014 that the Washington Post recycled this year.

There is more news about WaPo to tell.

A WaPo reader is upset

Jean-Marie Simon, who has read WaPo for 20 years, gave the paper information about her Christmas flight on United. Simon had bought a first-class ticket — seat 1A — only to find that she had been bumped by congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

The Daily Mail has the full story with photos and Simon’s relevant Facebook posts. It is not surprising that WaPo did not want to cover it. What is surprising is that Simon, a schoolteacher, thought they would do so (Facebook post courtesy of Reddit):

Here’s another — albeit facetious — view of the situation. Courtesy of 8chan:

One wonders if Simon will continue to read WaPo after this.

Perhaps this incident red-pilled her.

The Post

In other WaPo news, a movie — The Post — made its debut before Christmas. The New York Post gave it three out of four stars.

This film documents how WaPo increased its national prominence as a newspaper.

The story is about the Pentagon Papers, which was a huge exposé in 1971 about how Lyndon Johnson’s administration lied about the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg was the Edward Snowden of his day. He had worked on the papers, a study officially called United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense.

Ellsberg and a friend, Anthony Russo, photocopied the pages in 1969 and approached a few political luminaries to see if they would be interested in disclosing it. Henry Kissinger, who was Richard Nixon’s national security adviser at the time, declined. So did two Democrat legislators.

In 1971, Ellsberg approached a reporter at the New York Times, giving him 43 volumes the following month. These were not published until June 13 that year. The excerpts were dubbed The Pentagon Papers.

The Nixon administration quickly tried — but failed — to stop the NYT from publishing another excerpt on June 14. Although one would have thought Nixon — a Republican — would have relished this as Johnson was a Democrat, Henry Kissinger told him that allowing the excerpts to continue would be dangerous, as nothing would prevent newspapers from publishing dirty laundry from his administration.

Oh, the irony — think Watergate, which WaPo broke with daily coverage from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Furthermore, the Nixon administration argued that Ellsberg and his friend Russo were guilty of a felony because they were circulating classified documents.

Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon obtained a federal injunction forcing the NYT to stop publication after three articles. The NYT appealed and the case New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713) quickly ended up in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Ellsberg had given other portions of the study to WaPo reporter Ben Bagdikian, who took them to the paper’s legendary editor, Ben Bradlee. WaPo began publishing the excerpts on June 18.

Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist asked WaPo to stop publishing, but WaPo refused. Rehnquist tried — but failed — to get an injunction issued in US district court.

Ultimately, the NYT won the case in the Supreme Court on June 30, 1971. Fifteen other newspapers began publishing parts of the Pentagon Papers. In 1973, all charges against Ellsberg and Russo were dismissed — because of theft and bribery by the Nixon administration with regard to the case.

The Post shows how WaPo decided to publish the Pentagon Papers with all the drama involved.

The film also shows the male-dominated world of Katharine Graham, the only female publisher of a notable newspaper at the time. She was WaPo‘s publisher from 1969 to 1979. She then became chairman of the board and CEO before relinquishing the latter position in 1993. She continued to serve as chairman of the board until her death in 2001 at the age of 84.

Graham wisely put investigative reporting front and centre in a successful effort to ensure the NYT would not grab all the big Washington stories, such as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

The New York Post‘s review says that, when this film was made, a female occupant of the White House was envisioned for 2017.

So much for that.

The present occupant makes much out of fake news, predominant in today’s WaPo and the NYT.

Philip Graham

Katharine Meyer Graham rose to the top at WaPo because she succeeded her husband Philip. Also of note is that her father, Eugene Meyer, bought the paper in a bankruptcy auction in 1933. Philip Graham succeeded his father-in-law as publisher in 1946.

Philip Graham (1915-1963) was an interesting character with a lot of Deep State connections. Spartacus Educational has a well-researched entry on him. Do read it all, including the footnotes. A summary with excerpts follows.

He was born in a small town in South Dakota. His parents relocated to Florida during his childhood. Graham ended up attending Harvard Law School and edited the Harvard Law Review.

He married Katharine Meyer in 1940, during which time he was a law clerk for the famous Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Graham joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. He worked for the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William Donovan. In 1944:

Graham was recruited into the “Special Branch, a super-secret part of Intelligence, run by Colonel Al McCormick”. He later worked under General George Kenney, commander of the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific. Graham was sent to China where he worked with John K. Singlaub, Ray S. Cline, Richard Helms, E. Howard Hunt, Mitchell WerBell, Jake Esterline, Paul Helliwell, Robert Emmett Johnson and Lucien Conein. Others working in China at that time included Tommy Corcoran, Whiting Willauer and William Pawley.

From this, we can see that he was incredibly well-connected to power.

After the war, as the publisher for WaPo, he expanded his network further with a group of men known as the Georgetown Set. They included:

Frank Wisner, George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Stewart Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Thomas Braden, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, William Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter, John Sherman Cooper, James Reston, Allen W. Dulles and Paul Nitze.

Whilst this is showing my age, I grew up hearing and reading a lot of those names.

It is likely that Graham already knew some of those men from the war. Allen Dulles, to name but one, ran the New York OSS office.

Dulles headed the CIA during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Richard Bissell worked with him. Cord Meyer was in the CIA. Meyer was involved with Project, or Operation, Mockingbird, which used big media outlets to drive a government narrative:

According to Katherine Graham, her husband worked overtime at the Post during the Bay of Pigs operation to protect the reputations of his friends who had organized the ill-fated venture.

By the time of the 1960 presidential campaign, Graham did what he could to get Lyndon Johnson in the vice presidential slot for John Kennedy:

Graham met Lyndon B. Johnson in 1953. Graham believed that one day Johnson would make a good president. Graham told Johnson that his main problem was that he was perceived in Washington as someone under the control of the Texas oil and gas industry. Graham added that his attitude towards civil rights was also hurting him with liberals in the North. He was advised to go a “bit beyond (Richard) Russell and yet far short of (Hubert) Humphrey”.

Graham was a supporter of the Democratic Party and did what he could to get Johnson the nomination in 1960. When John F. Kennedy defeated Johnson he sent Clark Clifford to ask Stuart Symington to be his running-mate. Symington accepted the post but said: “I bet you a hundred dollars that no matter what he says, Jack will not make me his running mate. He will have to pick Lyndon”.

In the background Graham and Joseph Alsop were attempting to persuade John F. Kennedy to appoint Lyndon B. Johnson instead. Despite the objection of Robert Kennedy and other leading advisers, Kennedy decided to replace Symington with Johnson.

Once Kennedy was in the White House, Graham succeeded in persuading him to appoint his (Graham’s) buddies to administration positions: Douglas Dillon as Secretary of the Treasury, Arthur Schlesinger (former OSS) as a presidential adviser and David Bruce as ambassador to London.

Graham was able to expand the Washington Post Company by purchasing a radio and a television station as well as Newsweek and two prominent art magazines:

The main person involved in arranging Graham’s takeover of other media companies was Fritz Beebe. He ran the law firm Cravath, Swaine, & Moore. This was the company owned by Al McCormick, who Graham met during the war. Averell Harriman was another one involved in these negotiations.

Behind the scenes, things were less rosy, Even before Eugene Meyer died in 1959, a rift was growing between Philip and Katharine — Kay, to her friends. Graham’s mental state was not very good, either. Meyer wondered whether he should turn the company over to his son-in-law:

The Post publisher took a mistress, Robin Webb, whom he set up in a large house in Washington and a farm outside of the city. A heavy drinker who reportedly had manic-depressive tendencies, Graham, in some respects, was his own worst enemy, stridently abusive to his wife, both privately and publicly.

Katharine Graham’s biographer, Deborah Davis, posited that Graham was beginning to bother the CIA. After his second nervous breakdown he talked openly about how troubling he found Operation Mockingbird in terms of manipulating journalists:

He said it to the CIA… He turned against the newsmen and politicians whose code was mutual trust and, strangely, silence. The word was that Phil Graham could not be trusted. Graham was actually under surveillance by somebody. Davis has noted that one of Graham’s assistants “recorded his mutterings on scraps of paper.”

Others suggest that Graham had been damaged from undergoing CIA and other psychiatric treatments involving mind-altering drugs.

Graham told one of his close friends, WaPo attorney Edward Bennett Williams, that he wanted a divorce and planned on rewriting his will to leave everything — including the Washington Post Company — to his mistress instead of to Kay.

Williams was able to delay a divorce, but Graham rewrote his will three times in the spring of 1963. The last version omitted Kay altogether.

Then, Graham addressed a newspaper publishers convention in Arizona in a tirade about the CIA and Washington:

even to the point of exposing his friend John Kennedy’s affair with Mary Meyer, the wife of a top CIA official, Cord Meyer (no relation to Katharine Graham).

Katharine heard about it and flew to Phoenix:

and snatched up her husband who was captured after a struggle, put in a straitjacket and sedated. He was then flown to an exclusive mental clinic in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Md.

On the morning of Aug. 3, 1963, Katharine Graham reportedly told friends that Philip was “better” and coming home.

Suicides

That day in 1963, Philip Graham killed himself at home while Katharine was napping upstairs. The New York Post gives us this detail that other media outlets often suppress. He:

committed suicide at age 48 by shooting himself with a 28-gauge shotgun in 1963, days after being released from a psychiatric hospital following six weeks of treatment.

As he was not of sound mind when he died, his will was declared invalid. As he died intestate, Katharine assumed control of the Washington Post Company.

On December 20, 2017, one of the Grahams’ sons, William, 69, also committed suicide. He did not work at WaPo. He was a lawyer and law professor at UCLA. In later life, he turned to philanthropy. He died at his home in Los Angeles.

WaPo reported:

The cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said his brother Donald E. Graham, a former Post publisher and chief executive.

Like Philip, William also left behind a wife and grown children. I hope they find comfort in the months ahead.

William did not live to see the national release of The Post.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left the White House for Mar a Lago on Friday, December 22, 2017.

Earlier that day:

Crowds welcomed him upon his arrival in Florida:

On December 24, the Trumps fielded telephone calls from American children eager for the arrival of Father Christmas. The Daily Mail has a report with spectacular photos:

… the first couple surprised kids who had called in to NORAD to find out where Santa Claus is.

The president and first lady were patched in to a handful of NORAD’s expected 150,000 Christmas Eve calls from the living room at Mar-a-Lago where the Trumps are celebrating their first Christmas in office.

‘What would you like more than anything?’ Trump was overheard asking a child named Casper from Virginia as members of the media briefly listened in.

Reporters were unable to hear Casper’s response, but the president gave the request away in his answer.

‘Building blocks. That’s what I’ve always liked too,’ said the president, who was a successful real estate developer before jumping into politics. ‘I always loved building blocks,’ Trump continued.

‘Well, I predict Santa will bring you building blocks. So many you won’t be able to use them all,’ said the president, using his trademark bombastic language.

Speaking to another child, Trump was impressed by the boy’s Santa request.

‘So you want your grandma to get out of the hospital?’ Trump said. ‘That’s what your wish is?’

‘That’s great,’ the president continued. ‘That’s better than asking for some toy or something, that’s better right?’

He then assured the young boy that grandma would be alright.

‘So your grandma’s gonna be good, OK? She’s gonna be good,’ the president said.

At another moment he told a child, ‘When you’re in Washington, you’ll come and see me.’

In total, the president chatted with 11 kids, while the first lady talked to ten.

This video — trending at No. 27 on YouTube on December 28 — has the conversations:

Trump held a teleconference with various branches of the military to send Christmas greetings:

The US Navy and the crew of the USS Sampson tweeted their appreciation.

The military sent some exceptional tweets this year. I especially liked the Navy’s video. Open in new tab, if necessary:

Trump tweeted another seasonal message later on Christmas Eve:

His friend in Israel sent customary Christmas greetings to the American people. This year, however, is a special one for Benjamin Netanyahu:

The president and Mrs Trump attended the 10:30 p.m. service at the Episcopal church they go to, Bethesda-by-the-Sea.

The Palm Beach Post reported:

Bethesda-by-the-Sea is just under a five-minute drive up the Atlantic Ocean from the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club. The historic sanctuary — it is the oldest Protestant church in the region — has played a major role in the first family’s lives: The president and first lady married there in 2005. Their son, Barron, was christened there the following year. And the couple, occasionally joined by other family members, have attended Christmas Eve and Easter services there.

When Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April, first lady Melania Trump took Mrs. Abe to Bethesda-by-the-Sea. “Proud to share part of my family history with Mrs. Abe at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea where @POTUS & I were married, where we celebrate and we pray,” the first lady said in a post on her @FLOTUS Instagram account accompanied by a photo of the church’s garden.

Security was tight:

Since his election, the president and first lady enter Bethesda-by-the-Sea from the south side of the building, a side entrance that allows more direct access to the seats set aside for them toward the front of the church.

The service was not on Trump’s schedule released to the media, and church officials have declined in the past to confirm whether Trump would attend.

But regular attendees are becoming familiar with the security practices put in place ahead of Trump’s arrival: Worshippers are ushered through metal detectors. Women’s purses are searched. Men in dark suits with earpieces walk the line of parishioners waiting to enter the 500-person capacity sanctuary.

Once inside:

The church was standing room only, but the Palm Beach Post article stated that a few people in the congregation managed to make contact with Trump:

During the greeting, several people gathered around the president to shake his hand. As Communion was offered, people who lined up next to Trump — who was seated on the center aisle — paused to say, “Merry Christmas,” offer words of encouragement or, as one woman did, mouth, “Thank you.”

The Gateway Pundit had a great write up with videos and tweets that I’ve used here, including one of the service. The article says that the choir’s version of Silent Night is ‘hauntingly beautiful’:

I won’t include any of the sermon, as it was the usual Social Justice Warrior material we have come to expect from a once-great denomination.

On December 25, Mrs Trump released a selfie:

Trump tweeted a brief video of the White House — along with a special greeting:

The Palm Beach Post reported:

“Melania and I are delighted to wish America and the entire world a very Merry Christmas,” Trump says in the video. 

Trump also quotes a verse from the bible in the book of Isaiah, noting what the celebration of Christmas is about.

Melania speaks about celebrating our blessings as Americans and “prays for peace all over the world.”

Fox News had more:

… the president and first lady Melania Trump released a video message, with Mrs. Trump saying “at this time of year, we see the best of American and the soul of the American people.” President Trump added his own remarks, calling on Americans to “renew the bonds of love and good will between our citizens —and most importantly we celebrate the miracle of Christmas.”

“For Christians we remember the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that began more than 2,000 years ago. As the book of Isaiah tells us, for to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This good news is the greatest Christmas gift of all, the reason for our joy and the true source of our hope.”

Here is the YouTube version, which, even on December 28, is No. 8 in YouTube trends:

The same Fox News article also reported that Trump laid on a grand Christmas dinner for people often taken for granted:

… administration sources confirmed to Fox News that the president also provided and paid for hundreds of Christmas dinners served up to the U.S Secret Service agents and officers, military service members and Palm Beach County sheriff deputies who were working Christmas Day at Mar-a-Lago.

Described as a “Christmas feast,” served in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, the buffet meal included a menu of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and dessert. The buffet was offered from the early afternoon into the evening, in an effort to cover two of the shifts for security personnel working the holiday.

Christmas is a one-day celebration for President Trump:

The Trumps are still at Mar a Lago. On December 27, the president visited firefighters and first responders in West Palm Beach:

Meanwhile, although the president has to be the most people-oriented and transparent for generations, Trump Derangement Syndrome continues unabated.

And I’m still getting Christmas card messages from across the pond denigrating a man who truly loves his country!

What on earth is wrong with people?

The Washington Post — motto ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ — tweeted this Christmas message:

The article is from 2014! Yet, WaPo persists three years later.

Raphael Lataster is a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Sydney. ‘Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.’ is a most shallow article. Excerpts follow:

Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved …

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein …

Also important are the sources we don’t have. There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom are obviously biased. Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his life. And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian scribes (the manuscripts were preserved by Christians), the fact that both these authors were born after Jesus died (they would thus have probably received this information from Christians), and the oddity that centuries go by before Christian apologists start referencing them …

Given the poor state of the existing sources, and the atrocious methods used by mainstream Biblical historians, the matter will likely never be resolved. In sum, there are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence – if not to think it outright improbable.

WaPo published the article on December 18, 2014. On December 24, Raphael Lataster’s former professor, John Dickson, wrote a rebuttal for Australia’s ABC. Dickson is an Honorary Fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, and he teaches a unit called ‘Historical Jesus to Written Gospels’ for Sydney University’s Department of Jewish Studies.

‘It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas … Mythicism’s in the Air’ is worthwhile reading. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

You can almost set your clock by it. Another article appears arguing Jesus never lived – so Christmas must be upon us.

This time, however, I was particularly interested, not because Raphael Lataster’s piece in The Conversation had anything new to say but because it was written by a young man who just three years ago sat in my Sydney University class on “Historical Jesus to Written Gospels.”

I baulked at writing a reply until, amazingly, his article was picked up by the Washington Post of all places. Such is the appetite for the extraordinary!

Lataster has also written a book entitled There Was No Jesus, There is No God, a rather unsubtle contribution to the growing “new atheist” genre. And he is on his way to completing his PhD at Sydney University – notably in religious philosophy, not in history

But my concern is not with atheism, religious philosophy, or even Christian apologetics. It is with history. As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship. Lataster is a better student than his piece suggests …

First, Lataster has offered an academic contrivance, as he seeks to give respectability to what is known as “mythicism” – the view that Jesus started out as a purely celestial figure revealed in dreams and visions to prophetic figures like the apostle Paul and only later written into history-sounding texts like the Gospels …

“Mythicists” are the historical equivalent of the anti-vaccination crowd in medical science. They are controversial enough to get media attention. They have just enough doctors, or doctors in training, among them to establish a kind of “plausible deniability.” But anyone who dips into the thousands of secular monographs and journal articles on the historical Jesus will quickly discover that mythicists are regarded by 99.9% of the scholarly community as complete “outliers,” the fringe of the fringe …

Secondly, no student – let alone an aspiring scholar – could get away with suggesting that Christians “ought not to get involved” in the study of the historical Jesus. This is intellectual bigotry and has no place in academia, or journalism. I would likewise fail any Christian student who suggested that atheists should not research Jesus because they have an agenda. Nobody in the vast field of historical Jesus scholarship operates with such an us-and-them mentality

Thirdly, Raphael’s claim that the letters of Paul “overwhelmingly support the ‘celestial Jesus’ theory” is an indefensible exaggeration. It would have been valid to point out that a case for a mythical Jesus in Paul’s letters has recently been offered by atheist apologist and historian Richard Carrier. But one cannot talk of “overwhelming support” for this idea …

Lataster surely knows what every historical Jesus course makes plain: Paul’s evidence for the historical figure of Jesus is widely regarded as particularly early and significant. His letters weren’t written to defend a historical personage, and yet Paul refers in passing to Jesus as “born of a woman,” being a descendant of King David “according to the flesh,” having Twelve apostles, eating a final meal, being betrayed, and being crucified and buried. There is a mountain of data standing in the way of any claim of “overwhelming support” for the celestial Jesus theory.

Fourthly, there are numerous idiosyncratic statements throughout Lataster’s article which he passes off as accepted insights of historical study. For example, the claim that the Gospels are all “anonymous” is no more accurate than insisting that a modern biography is anonymous on the grounds that the biographer’s name appears only on the front and back cover of the book not in the body of the work. Of course, the Gospel writers did not begin by writing, “I, Mark, now want to write about Jesus of Nazareth …” But wherever we have a surviving front or back page of a Gospel manuscript, we find a superscript indicating the biographer’s name, and there is absolute uniformity of that name: euaggelion kata Markon, euaggelion kata Lukan and so on.

Finally, Raphael Lataster reveals that his real interest is in sceptical apologetics rather than ancient history when he opines, “There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses.” Leaving aside the question of whether there are eyewitness accounts in the New Testament – many think there aresuch a statement overlooks the fact that virtually everything we know from ancient history comes to us from sources that are neither “contemporary” with events, nor written by eyewitnesses. What we know of Emperor Tiberius, for instance, comes mainly from the Roman chronicler Tacitus, who writes some 80 years after the emperor’s death. This is typical of ancient history, and it poses no dilemma to the contemporary scholar because it is clear that authors such as Tacitus, like the Gospel writers, employed earlier sources within their works.

In any case, to suggest that the Gospels are somehow dodgy because they are not contemporaneous accounts of Jesus indicates a basic unfamiliarity with the discipline of history. And it underlines the impropriety of a student in religious philosophy, whatever his faith perspective, assuming the mantle of academic historian. Anyone may express an opinion, of course, but opinion should not be offered under the guise of expertise

There is just an urgent need for all of us to be more cautious before making (or accepting) grandiose claims like, “there are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence – if not to think it outright improbable.” Fail.

Thank you, Dr Dickson.

I found the WaPo tweet to Lataster’s article at the beginning of Imperator_Rex’s Christmas message, excerpted below:

1. The irony? Progressive liberals like to advertize their atheism and ridicule religion, but they’re actually some of the most religious people in history.

2. They have simply replaced worship of an external God with a new object of worship: themselves. Self-worship is the core of their perverse religiosity.

3. This makes them extremely gullible to con artists and evil people, who exploit the narcissism of liberal progressives while they serve their malign (criminal) self-interests …

5. If you know the right language and words to use, liberal progressives will give you a leave pass EVERY TIME. They will let you get away with anything, so long as you keep their narcissistic supply going.

Imperator_Rex then goes into a discussion about Obama and Obama worshippers.

19. Their extremely religious cult followers – such as the nauseating people who wrote the WaPo article at the start of this thread – were willing accomplices.

21. They rail against God and His believers, without realizing that they are the most extreme zealots around. In their arrogance they fail to understand that we have been warned about their type for millennia.

22. ‘If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams..saying, ‘Let us go after other gods and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams’ – Deuteronomy 12:29

23. ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many’.
– Matthew 24:4-5

24. Whether you are religious or not, believe or not, Jesus’ powerful words resonate down the millennia. As does his request for us to commit to the way of the truth, the way & the light.

25. On this special day, let us reject the false song of the liberal progressives. The song that aims to persuade us to give power to evil men and women, as well as to anaesthetize us with sweet sounding lies.

26. We MUST face down our enemies. They will not go away. We live in a perpetual war between good and evil, light and dark, truth and lies. Whether we like it or not.

27. There will always be evil and bad people who seek to cover us in darkness for their malign ends. And their useful idiots, as this shameful WaPo piece proves.

‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’. Indeed it does, WaPo, indeed it does. The stark irony of this motto is inescapable.

30. And let us pray for the eventual defeat of America’s greatest enemies, as well as their cult members and propagandists. We are almost there – they are doomed – but we must remain vigilant.

Jesus & his disciples – the first Christians – would expect no less.

The end.

Just so.

I will have more about the Washington Post soon.

This is the best — and most concise — analysis of CBS ever done.

It comes from a contributor to Free Republic. This is a work of genius. Please (click if necessary and) watch:

Wow, this is the red pill of the day.

December 26 is full of history.

Before I begin, here is a beautiful painting of the Holy Family:

File:Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo 008.jpg

The Holy Family with dog, hangs in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo painted it between 1645 and 1650. He was born late December 1617, baptized January 1, 1618 and died on April 3, 1682.

Murillo was a prolific painter of both religious and secular themes. Until the 19th century, he was Spain’s best known artist. His work influenced many other European painters, including Gainsborough.

St Stephen’s Day

Stephen was the Church’s first martyr.

Students of the Bible and readers who have been following my series on Acts this year, will recall his story. Saul of Tarsus — St Paul — had a huge role to play in Stephen’s stoning.

Stephen was the first to offer an apologetic for a belief in Jesus:

Acts 7:2b-8 – Stephen, deacon, appearing before the court in the temple, apologetics, Abraham

Acts 7:9-16 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, Joseph

Acts 7:17-22 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, Moses

Acts 7:23-29 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, Moses meeting with his people — the Israelites in slavery

Acts 7:30-34 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, God, Jesus, Moses called from exile, burning bush

Acts 7:35-43 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, God, Jesus, Moses the deliverer, Ten Commandments, idolatry

Acts 7:44-50 – Stephen, temple court, apologetics, the history of the temple, Moses, Joshua, King David, King Solomon. The post also includes the account of his stoning in the last few verses of Acts 7.

Acts 8:1-3 – Stephen, Saul, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria

The following post explains more in video. Unfortunately, the first video is no longer available, but the others are:

St Stephen, the first martyr

In Europe, St Stephen’s Day has been one of popular celebrations, sometimes revelry, as it comes right after Christmas.

Boxing Day

Of course, here in Britain and parts of the Commonwealth, we celebrate Boxing Day:

Boxing Day – a history

One detail I discovered more about was the money box — Christmas box — from the 17th and 18th centuries:

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.[6]

I watched the BBC Two Christmas special, The Sweet Makers, in which historian Dr Annie Gray brought a Christmas box to show the bakers and confectioners. It was a painted terracotta box that one dropped on the floor to open. Dr Gray said that one recipient wrote in his journal that he made a year’s salary with that Christmas box alone. He was the exception, not the rule!

The origin of those boxes is unclear but involves one or more of the following traditions:

The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in areas of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen,[9] which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

Here is another:

Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. Were the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.

Christmas carol — Good King Wenceslas

A popular traditional carol is Good King Wenceslas, which describes an event that took place on December 26.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Wenceslas (c. 907 – 935) was a duke in Bohemia. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto I elevated him to a king after his brutal death, largely for his piety, just government and famous works of charity.

Wikipedia tells us (emphases mine):

Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint immediately after his death in the 10th century, when a cult of Wenceslas rose up in Bohemia and in England.[3] Within a few decades of Wenceslas’ death, four biographies of him were in circulation.[4][5] These hagiographies had a powerful influence on the High Middle Ages conceptualization of the rex iustus, or “righteous king”—that is, a monarch whose power stems mainly from his great piety, as well as from his princely vigor.[6]

Referring approvingly to these hagiographies, a preacher from 12th century says:[7][8]

But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Several centuries later the legend was claimed as fact by Pope Pius II,[9] who himself also walked ten miles barefoot in the ice and snow as an act of pious thanksgiving.[10]

Wenceslas’s long walk on December 26 is the subject of the carol:

“Good King Wenceslas” is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow.

In 1853, an English high churchman, John Mason Neale, took the melody “Tempus adest floridum” (“It is time for flowering”), a 13th-century spring carol, and wrote the following verses, which might be a translation of a poem by Czech poet Václav Alois Svoboda:

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho’ the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I shall see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

The carol received widespread criticism for decades. That said, I’m glad it survived. I heard a choir sing it at our local Christmas lighting ceremony this year. It’s beautiful:

Poor Wenceslas — or Wenceslaus, real name Václav — was dogged by political and family problems. His own brother killed him.

His grandfather, Bořivoj I of Bohemia, converted to Christianity thanks to Sts Cyril and Methodius. Wenceslaus’s mother, Drahomíra,was a pagan who converted and was baptised when she married Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia. His paternal grandmother, Ludmila of Bohemia, was responsible for young Wenceslaus’s education.

Vratislaus I died when the boy was about 13. Ludmila became regent because Wenceslas was not yet old enough to succeed his father. Drahomíra became jealous of Ludmila, not only for her position but also for the influence she had over the boy. So, she had her mother-in-law murdered:

Ludmila was at Tetín Castle near Beroun when assassins murdered her on September 15, 921. She is said to have been strangled by them with her veil. She was at first buried in the church of St. Michael at Tetín, but her remains were later removed, probably by Wenceslas,[3] to the church of St. George in Prague, which had been built by his father.[4]

Mother-in-law out of the way, Drahomíra became regent and, oddly, began persecuting Christians. A few years later, at the age of 17 or 18, Wenceslas was able to rule in his own right. Note the reference to his brother below:

he took control of the government. He placed the duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests.[2] To prevent disputes between him and his younger brother Boleslav, they divided the country between them,[clarification needed] assigning to the latter a considerable territory.[4]

Wenceslas also exiled his wicked mother.

He had to contend with enemy rulers and adversarial regional alliances during his reign.

Worst of all was his murderous brother, Boleslav.

In September 935:

a group of nobles allied with Wenceslas’s younger brother Boleslav plotted to kill him. After Boleslav invited Wenceslas to the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stará Boleslav, three of Boleslav’s companions, Tira, Česta, and Hněvsa, fell on the duke and stabbed him to death.[5] As the duke fell, Boleslav ran him through with a lance.[4]

According to Cosmas of Prague, in his Chronica Boëmorum of the early 12th century, one of Boleslav’s sons was born on the day of Wenceslas’s death. Because of the ominous circumstance of his birth, the infant was named Strachkvas, which means “a dreadful feast”.[5]

What a man Wenceslas was. What a family he had. What piety and charity he displayed in the face of such adversity.

Along with her grandson, Ludmila was also elevated to sainthood. Ludmila is the patron saint of Bohemia, converts, duchesses, widows and, not surprisingly, those who have problems with in-laws.

Best wishes for a very happy Christmas to all my readers around the world! Have a marvellous day!

The painting above dates from 1622.  It is called Adoration of the ShepherdsGerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter, studied in Italy and took his influences from Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, as you can see from the way the light plays on the Holy Family and the shepherds.

Gospel reading

The Christmas Gospel reading is John 1:1-14, sometimes extending to John 1:18, which adds John the Baptist’s prophecy (verse 15) and this beautiful verse:

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

These posts explain more:

Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)

More about Christmas

These posts have more reflections about Christmas:

Unto us a child is born

Compliments of the season to all my readers! (features Dr Paul Copan on the manger scene)

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

Christmas prayer intentions

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

Christmas carols

Christmas would not be complete without carols:

‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’

‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’

‘The Holly and the Ivy’

‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’

‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’

I am adding a new one to the list.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

The great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem, Christmas Bells, during the Civil War.

Accounts differ as to whether he composed the poem in 1863 or 1864, but, whatever the case, Longfellow’s life during the Civil War years was not a happy one.

What Saith the Scripture? has an excellent article from 2001 by Tom Stewart on Longfellow, his family, Christmas Bells and related Scripture verses. A summary and excerpts follow.

The Civil War started in April 1861. In early July, a lingering heat wave settled over the Boston area. The Longfellow family lived in neighbouring Cambridge, with Longfellow teaching at Harvard. The poet’s beloved wife Frances — Fanny — wrote in her journal on July 9 about their daughters:

We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.

On July 10, Fanny cut 7-year-old Edie’s hair. The locks were so beautiful that Fanny decided to preserve them in sealing wax. Tragedy struck:

Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny’s dress– immediately wrapping her in flames.

Fanny ran from the room where Edie and Allegra were and dashed to Longfellow’s study. He tried frantically, but in vain, to extinguish the flames with a nearby throw rug, which was too small to be effective:

Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances– severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning.

Longfellow was still suffering from his burns when his wife’s funeral took place. He was also overcome by grief. He did not attend.

It was at this time that he began to grow his trademark beard:

Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.

At Christmastime in 1961, he wrote:

How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.

On July 10, 1862 — the first anniversary of the incident — he wrote:

I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.

On Christmas Day that year, he wrote:

A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.

More sadness followed. Longfellow’s son Charles served as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Around Christmas 1863, Longfellow received news that Charles had been seriously injured:

with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes.

Therefore:

The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal.

By Christmas 1864, Charles was still alive, Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected and the Civil War was about to end. Longfellow was inspired to write Christmas Bells (emphasis mine below):

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Johnny Marks, a Jewish man who loved Christmas, wrote the music for I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, recorded many times by various artists past and present. The lyrics were also amended to make them timeless. The following video has the Longfellow story (albeit with the 1863 date) and the 20th century carol we know:

Christmas news 2017

Christians in Baghdad are celebrating this year:

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has taken a leaf out of President Donald Trump’s playbook, emphasising Christianity, the military and first responders. On December 24, the Press Association reported:

Theresa May has urged Britons to take pride in the country’s Christian heritage at Christmas because it gives everyone the confidence to practice their religion “free from question or fear”.

In her Christmas message, the Prime Minister also paid tribute to the “heroes” in the emergency services who responded to the Grenfell Tower fire and “abhorrent” terror attacks in Manchester and London.

She also said:

And the thousands of volunteers in our country who will give up their time to make someone else’s Christmas that little bit better: from faith inspired projects like the Churches Together initiative in my own constituency – to aid workers helping those in war-torn parts of the world.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people all faiths and none.

Let us take pride in our Christian heritage and the confidence it gives us to ensure that in Britain you can practice your faith free from question or fear.

Let us remember those around the world today who have been denied those freedoms – from Christians in some parts of the Middle East to the sickening persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.

And let us reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to speak about and practice their beliefs in peace and safety.

So this Christmas, whatever our faith, let us come together confident and united in the values we share. And wherever you are at this special time of year, let me wish you all a very happy Christmas.

I could be mistaken, but I do not recall a religious message from a Prime Minister in decades. Well done, Mrs May. May God bless you and your husband this Christmas and in the year ahead.

The week of December 11, 2017 has been chock-a-block with news.

It’s unlikely Big Media have reported the bulk of it. What follows are a few stories people might have missed.

The anti-Trump FBI ‘insurance policy’

A series of text messages between FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page were released on Tuesday, December 12. The Daily Caller reports (emphases mine):

Two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation exchanged text messages last year in which they appear to have discussed ways to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Several congressional panels have been after these text messages since the beginning of December, when news emerged of their existence. However, Strzok was dismissed from the Mueller investigation four months ago.

The text messages, some of which The Daily Caller quotes, are anti-Trump. Some have four letter words. Most are cryptic:

“Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” Page wrote.

“I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps,” Strzok replied.

Like many of the exchanges, the full context of the message is not entirely clear.

Strzok also offered praise for Clinton while suggesting that he planned to vote for her.

In a March 2, 2016 text Strzok said he would likely vote for Clinton. In another exchange he wrote that if Trump won the Republican primary, Clinton would likely win the presidency.

On Wednesday, December 13, the Department of Justice inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released more information about the texts. The Daily Caller has more on the story. Horowitz received the text messages on July 20:

A week later, he met with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to inform them of the politically-charged texts.

Strzok was “immediately” removed from the investigation after Mueller was told of the texts.

Strzok, who then served as the FBI’s No. 2 counterintelligence official, conducted many of the biggest interviews in the investigation, including with Clinton and her top aides, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills

The FBI handed over those messages on July 20, 2017. After reviewing those exchanges, Horowitz expanded the investigation to include all of the text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page from Nov. 30, 2016 to July 28, 2017.

Horowitz’s office received those messages on Aug. 10.

Strzok’s departure from Mueller’s team was reported by ABC News on Aug. 16. The network reported that Strzok had been placed in a job in the FBI’s HR department.

The reason for Strzok’s demotion remained a secret for nearly four months as the Justice Department and Mueller’s office declined media and congressional requests for an explanation. The levy finally broke on Dec. 2, when The Washington Post and New York Times simultaneously reported the existence of the text messages.

A sample of the texts were released Tuesday night ahead of Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee …

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Rosenstein on that text message, suggesting that Strzok was indicating that he planned to prevent Trump from being elected.

[Senator Charles] Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Rosenstein on Wednesday inquiring about the text message.

Rosenstein said Wednesday that the Justice Department and FBI plan to soon make Strzok available for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee.

Strzok’s cryptic Aug. 2016 text [re the insurance policy] was sent just after he was handpicked to supervise the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Horowitz’s letter leaves a few questions unanswered. For one, it is not clear whether Strzok sent politically-charged texts with anyone else. It is also not clear whether the messages contained in the second requested batch of Strzok texts contain any controversial remarks.

The Wall Street Journal has more (note final paragraph):

This is a developing story which has the potential for unveiling criminality — but ultimately:

Alabama special election

In a surprise upset, the Democrat candidate Doug Jones was elected to the Senate, defeating Roy Moore.

The background to the story is that Jeff Sessions vacated his Senate seat in Alabama to serve as Attorney General earlier this year. Sessions appointed Luther Strange to replace him. Alabama governor Kay Ivey directed that a special election take place. However, I read anecdotally that she did not need to hold a special election. Strange could have served until his term ran out.

In any event, Luther Strange ran against Judge Roy Moore in the Republican primary. Strange lost to Moore. Accusations of molesting a teenage girl in the 1970s — unproven — led by an attorney who tried to smear then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 — dogged Moore. Even so, Moore did not have any get-out-the-vote programme, whereas Jones and the Democrats did. Moore then lost to Jones — but only by 1.5%.

Could this have been a case of voter fraud in a state that votes overwhelmingly Republican?

Rumours are circulating that out-of-state voters were brought into Alabama and driven around from polling station to polling station — a classic Democrat strategy that works.

The Republican Party — specifically Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader — also refused to help Moore. McConnell’s detractors refer to him as Turtle.

Imperator_Rex has a good analysis, excerpted below:

He concludes that Trump surely has a game plan in mind.

The 2018 mid-terms require Republicans like McConnell to shape up or ship out.

However, as Imperator_Rex says, McConnell and his ilk don’t really care. They are all part of the Uniparty, so life continues for them much as before. Democrat dominance, especially when it comes to opposing Trump, is preferable to a Republican majority that might be persuaded to turn Trump policies into law.

Jones’s election nearly puts the number of Democrat senators on a par with Republicans. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

Message to the black electorate

On December 13, the Revd Leon Benjamin and his family were guests at the White House.

They are an example of the middle class families helped by Trump’s proposed tax reform. Trump spoke about the tax plan, then invited the pastor to speak.

Pastor Benjamin had an important message, which began with:

To God be the glory!

Former Milwaukee sheriff David A Clarke expressed similar sentiments the day before:

Happy news

On Wednesday, December 13, First Lady Melania Trump participated in a charity drive for toddlers, the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots, at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders received a verbal kicking after Thanksgiving from CNN’s April Ryan, an annoying journo at the White House press briefings. Ryan criticised Sanders’s pecan pies, accusing the press secretary of not having made them herself.

So (although the crusts look store-bought) …

Here’s what happened on the day. Food really does bring people together:

Never mind that. Sarah’s dad had a message for her:

This will be my last news-related item until after Christmas.

In December 2016, BBC Two broadcast a fascinating animal documentary called Wild Tales from the Village.

I’m not much on animal documentaries, but this is a must-see. Children will enjoy it, too.

Filmed in the French village of Puycelsi, the hour-long documentary looks at the everyday life of squirrels, dormice, hedgehogs, pigeons and more, starting in winter and ending the following autumn. You see a year’s worth of activity beautifully filmed. Here’s a short clip of two squirrels. Their love life is traced through the seasons:

Wild Tales from the Village was made by the BBC Natural History Unit and is narrated by Tchéky Karyo from The Missing.

It’s witty, charming and gentle. It might be shown on PBS in the US. If so, do watch or record for later. Budding film-makers will appreciate the lush slow-motion close-ups. This film deserves an award.

Puycelsi is one of Most Beautiful Villages of France. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is an official designation, not a mere soi-disant marketing slogan.

Puycelsi is located in the Tarn region in southwestern France. It has an interesting history of destruction and rebirth.

It had inhabitants well before the Celts lived there between the 8th and 2nd centuries BC. The Celts named the settlement Celto Dun, a wooden fortress on a hill. The Romans came and named it Podium Celsium, raised platform. Part of the road that the Romans built is still visible and ramparts can be found in the nearby Grésigne Forest. Puycelsi — originally Puycelci — is probably Occitan, which would have been spoken in that region many centuries ago.

Benedictine monks from Aurillac built an abbey in Puycelsi in the 10th century. The earliest document relating to the village dates from 1180, involving the sale of the land by Abbé (Abbot) Pierre to Raymond V, Count of Toulouse. Raymond V saw the strategic significance of Puycelsi and his successors built a fortress and a château.

Regional wars took place. The Counts of Toulouse were able to fend off their enemies from the city of Albi and the Montfort family. In 1229, Raymond VII signed the Treaty of Meaux-Paris with King Louis IX. The treaty stated that Puycelsi’s château and fortifications had to be destroyed.

They were later re-erected. Puycelsi was under siege by enemies from nearby noble families in 1363 and again during the Hundred Years War, when 450 English troops tried to capture it. Incredibly, all of the attacks on the village failed.

The ramparts from the 14th century are now among Puycelsi’s tourist attractions as is the château built in the 15th century. Other attractions include the many buildings — including St-Corneille Church — from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Between 1586 and 1652, Puycelsi had four plague epidemics. The villagers decided to erect a chapel — St-Roch — to fend off illness. The lack of roads to the town no doubt contained the epidemics. Until 1850, there were only mule trails leading to the village. In fact, during the 18th century, Puycelsi women who worked as embroiderers walked 25 to 30 kilometres on foot to markets to sell their products.

The other artisan industries in the village were wool spinning and glass making. However, those ended in 1850, when a coal mine opened in the town of Carmaux. The young and able moved there and Puycelsi entered into gradual economic decline.

This was further exacerbated during the Great War, during which 55 young men died in duty by 1918. Puycelsi went into a long decline after that. People died. Their houses were left to stagnate. It turned into a ghost town and remained that way until the 1960s, when French couples looking for a second property began buying the houses and refurbishing them.

Today, nearly all the houses have been restored and Puycelsi is a popular destination for tourists. The English have a particular fondness for it. There is plenty to see. Cafés and artisan businesses are thriving.

Someone at the BBC knew what they were doing when they chose Puycelsi as the location for Wild Tales from the Village. Perhaps that someone has a holiday home there.

On December 11, 2017, Politico published an extensive interview with former CIA head Mike Morell, ‘Ex-Spy Chief: Russia’s Election Hacking Was An “Intelligence Failure”‘.

This is an important admission:

So, I don’t think it was a mistake. I think there were downsides to it that I didn’t think about at the time. I was concerned about what is the impact it would have on the agency, right? Very concerned about that, thought that through. But I don’t think I fully thought through the implications.

One downside could have been not expecting Donald Trump to win the election.

Not thinking through the implications could be a way of saying that Americans now know that the CIA (like other security agencies) is politicised.

Here’s another interesting admission:

So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment. So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don’t know. But it’s something I didn’t think about.

No, because Hillary Clinton was a dead cert to win.

There is a bit more history to Mike Morell. Remember how, after 9/11, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the US government had received intelligence briefings weeks before but did not act on them? I do.

National Interest published an article in January 2017 about Mike Morell. This is what it says about 9/11:

On August 6, 2001, Morell served as the CIA debriefer for President Bush’s most critical ever Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB); the one that read, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” It was essential that he impress upon Bush the importance of the memo. But he didn’t. Morell recollected in his memoir that NSC staffer Steve Biegun, who accompanied Morell to the Crawford Ranch where Bush was vacationing, apparently relayed to others that he, Morell, had indicated to the president, “there was no need to worry about an Al Qaida attack on the homeland…” Morrell himself directly observed that in retrospect, “I did not treat it as a ‘hair on fire’ or action-forcing piece and the president did not read it that way either.”

Surely Bush was not given the assessment that Morell’s colleague, counter-terrorism expert, Cofer Black, gave to Condoleezza Rice weeks earlier: “An attack is impending” and “this country needs to go on a war footing now.” On 9/11, close to 3,000 people perished in attacks on both New York and Washington.

Despite that, Morell’s career continued its ascent:

The 2003 Iraq War provided an opportunity for Morell to advance his career. Leading a group of CIA analysts, he was assigned to help prepare Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 5 U.N. Security Council speech.

Justifying the forthcoming invasion of Iraq, a passage in the speech affirmed that Iraq possessed “biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.” False! We still don’t know who was directly responsible for leaving this passage in Powell’s speech. However, Morell was in charge of the CIA analysts who were vetting it. In 2015, Morell apologized to Powell.

Then came Benghazi in 2012:

Morell, then CIA Deputy Director, quickly learned it was a well-planned terrorist attack. However he also discovered the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the 2012 November election in mind, were pushing a different interpretation—a “spontaneous demonstration” over an anti-Muslim video. Given his status as a high-ranking official, it would be surprising if he did not receive, or was unaware of, an email from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes: “The goal: To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of [our] policy.”

Then Morell was asked to review an important document—the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was to disseminate to the media explaining the attack. Morell complied. He altered the talking points. The doctored, scrubbed and bogus video story was presented by Rice to the U.S. public on TV stations, helping to save Obama’s presidency. Yet, even after the elections, Morell, accompanied by Susan Rice, continued to defend his altered product with three GOP heavyweights, John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-NC).

[Senator Lindsay] Graham later reported Morell “did not accept responsibility for changing the talking points. He told me the FBI had done this. I called the FBI—They went ballistic. . . . Within 24 hours, this statement was changed where he [Morell] admitted the CIA had done it.”

Good grief.

This short video explains a lot about CIA activity in recent years, complete with newspaper sources. This is not fabricated:

The description reads:

How do you start a fight when your opponent doesn’t want a fight with you? You force it… you create fear… you create fear and sell another stinkin’ pile of lies til the body count meets your project goals.

There is more analysis on Morell and the CIA at Liberty Blitzkrieg.

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