Wednesday, August 10, 2022

on O'Reilly's "Killing Patton"

I've thought about reading a book from Bill O'Reilly's series on conspiracy killings and I finally got around to reading his work (with Martin Dugard) on General George Patton. This book is doubly interesting to me because it may be the last book my dad ever read. He read from this series; he was a huge fan of Patton; and he died within a year of the book's publication. So, I don't know, but I'd be surprised if he didn't read it and it wouldn't be shocking if this was the last one!

Let me open with two broad points. First, the book is an easy read, with a lot of interesting detail, well-organized, and so on. If you're into this sort of thing (a combo of history, unsolved mysteries, biography), it's good stuff. I wouldn't go out of my way to read this series (not my cup of tea) unless I was particularly interested in the subject's life. 

Second, I was impressed and a bit surprised that O'Reilly was sober in his analysis and (seemed) careful to distinguish between contexts where he and the consensus are more/less certain of how things went.  I expected more flash, hyperbole, and sensationalism. (It reminded me of Randy Alcorn's approach in his excellent book Heaven-- and a humble anthropological/archaeological dig we saw at Carters' Grove in VA, where they would only build/exhibit as much as they knew.) 

Aside from that, I just want to share some favorite observations from the book: 

-Ike was willing to put up with Patton given his prowess in leading his troops (51). In contrast, Hitler  has Rommel killed after suspicions that he was involved in trying to have Hitler killed (33-36). Granted, Patton's many excesses were merely problematic, insubordinate, and embarrassing, while Rommel was traitorous. But there is debate about the extent to which Rommel was involved. And it still points to a larger issue about a willingness-- or not-- to tolerate garbage from people who have much to offer you (or society). 

-Eisenhower's long-running affair with Kate Summersby is another example/aspect of the sort of mediocre religiosity that Ike brought to the presidency as he reflected as pseudo-Christian version of religion, American Civil Religion. It was fascinating to read about efforts to keep them apart and ironic to see efforts to erase their history-- all for the good of Ike's political future and "the country". Not surprisingly, she wasn't a fan of this work (279-280, 320).

-Patton's take on religion was much more fervent, even if wrong-headed at times. A blurb from his journal is telling: "I seemed always to be a ray of sunshine, and by God, I always am. We can and will win, God helping." (116) But he also believed in reincarnation, from a few personal experiences (200). The most amazing discussion was about Patton's prayers when he was frustrated with God for the weather in Christmas 1944. It is full-throated stuff-- reminiscent of the prophets, psalmists, Moses, David and Job; questioning how God runs His universe. (126-131) And then, when God comes through, he backtracks, repents and apologizes (159). 

-The authors have a brief discussion of the "scientific racism" that helped drive the German efforts. Akin to slavery back in the day, eugenics throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and the popularity of the Molechian position on abortion, human beings were seen as "sub-human." (95, 97)

-A bit surprising: O'Reilly holds the popular but erroneous views that FDR deserves acclaim for his handling of the economy (69, 166). He also noted FDR's electoral prowess, only surpassed by Reagan. Ignoring policy, if you're going to give credit for improving morale, popularity and election success, and leading through difficult times, FDR and Reagan have to be in the upper tier of your presidential rankings. 

-The premise of the book are the possibilities that Patton was murdered. Here, he lays out a few possible angles (274-275, 285). The Russians wanted him dead and had experimented extensively with poison (286-290). Patton knew "too much" and some folks at the CIA/OEO wanted him dead (294-295). And then, the strangest thing involves a strange plane incident (241-242) and then, the direct manner of his death-- a suspicious car accident with a new driver (283, 297-303, 309-313). The car crash resulted in his paralysis and his death a few days later. While it's certainly possible that it was an accident; it's also possible that it was nefarious.

Smaller things: 

-Patton predicted Pearl Harbor (74)

-The West Point Class of 1915 was amazing (87), including Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. 

-O'Reilly (100) details the differences between the barbaric SS and the more standard aspect of the German military, the Wehrmacht.

-I hadn't heard of the "Malmedy Massacre" (102), but apparently it's relatively well-known, including prosecution for war crimes. 

-Hitler's health woes were impressive-- self-inflicted wounds and not the best constitution to boot (135).

-They detail Stalin's cleverness in dealing with the West. (I have it on my shelf, but I hope to read about this angle in McMeekin's Stalin's War.)

-There are a few interesting, explicit references to incentives in concentration camps (176) and Stalin encouraging rape as a reward for soldiers (192). 

-Jews were tattooed with a number-- their new identity to replace their name (183). 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

on "orientation", choice, determinism, etc.-- with applications to male (and female) sexuality (hetero and homo)

Thanks for the 1st paragraph and the clarification on the 2nd P. In particular, it seems important/vital to make the distinction between men and women in terms of sexual fluidity. And it seems to me, without strong evidence, significant female sexual fluidity undermines the claim that males have no fluidity. Of course, it's possible that females have quite a bit, while males have none, but this seems odd. (As an interesting aside, such a difference is troubling for those who [like/need to] imagine that men and women are roughly the same.)

To be clearer on my end in the 2nd P: I'm modeling orientation as a spectrum rather than a 0/1-- and I'm not narrowing this to (male) homosexuality. If the model is correct, then feeding an orientation will make it stronger, tend us toward more rationalization about both the orientation and the choices within it, etc. So, for example, if I don't practice disciplines in contexts that tempt me to anger, then I will tend grow angrier over time. If I hit the cookie jar more and more, it will be more and more difficult to avoid it. If I watch porn, I will increasingly objectify women, etc. And so on. (Beyond the narrow point, I believe that orientations are inter-related: if I hit the cookie jar with less self-control, then I will tend to struggle more with anger, lust, doing difficult things, etc.)

I don't see this (or at least these examples) as debatable. Within this model, some orientations might be tougher to battle than others-- or tougher for certain people: easier to end up on a slippery slope, more difficult to move the other direction, etc. But this model allows for the impact of choice (vs. utter determinism) for all/most people.

Is male homosexuality or other things (e.g., alcoholism) different in this regard-- for everybody or anybody? I don't think so and would need (strong) evidence that X is different from the model that I believe (strongly) to be correct. (To be candid, I'm not sure that fully-compelling evidence is even possible. What would it look like?) Perhaps it's interesting that sex and alcohol are arguably the (only?) two areas where there are questions about my model. In any case, is alcoholism inevitable for some people? Is there a trigger for potential alcoholics-- that they have a first drink and then they're toast? It's difficult to believe it's that simple. It's common to hear that males have a "sex addiction". But what does that mean? How did this happen? Were/are they without choice? And finally, why would homosexuality be different in this regard? It's easy enough to believe that many/most males are strongly oriented toward homo or hetero from an early age. But even there, we know examples where people cross between the two, undermining the claim for utter rigidity. And my model allows that change in some/many cases (albeit difficult in many of those cases).

Happy to continue the discussion on FB-- and maybe the public portion is instructive to others. But it took a long time to craft this, so if it'd be more constructive to meet in person, let me know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

on "Christian" cowardice...

Let me go two ways here:

1.) Individual believers often lack courage-- and when so, it's a lack of faith and/or (head and experiential) knowledge. Courage assumes there's something to fear-- and that's fine; that's life. So, what's the response to fear: courage or cowardice? Key reasons for cowardice for Christians:
a.) lack of trust in God's providence (Do I really believe? I generally live/do in line with what I really believe!);
b.) sins of omission tend to be subtle (People see and call out sins of commission much more often-- their own and others.);
c.) lack of knowledge about what to do in any given circumstance (Related: Christians often quote Joshua 1:6,7,9 to "be strong and courageous", but they don't know and aggressively address what's in 1:8!).

2.) Related but far deeper and wider: many self-styled "Christians" aren't believers; they're "belongers". Religion has its sociological components-- a way of belonging-- and those tend to dominate when religion X is in the majority. Or we might say that they're X culturally but not religiously. In our country, this manifests as "cafeteria Christians"-- picking and choosing among Christian doctrines and practices, without meaningful biblically-Christian community-- as a way of life, with (really) themselves as god.

So, we have been a "Christian" nation in this sociological sense (with a peak in the 1950s). But to your point, we have not been a Christian nation in the religious/biblical sense. What we've seen in the last few decades and esp. the last few years, is the falling away of the belongers from churches-- and a significant increase in self-styling as "nones" rather than "Christian". (Nobody is a "none" in a religious sense, but it's easy to be "none" in the sociological sense.) This trend is generally good news-- probably quite good news, since they're less of a fraud and ironically, more likely to accept the Good News.

If you've read this far, you would like (love?) one of my essays on this latter point-- on "Christianity" as "American Civil Religion".