Archive for the ‘What’s Happening’ Category

Dying at 75

October 13, 2014

Ezekiel Emanuel has written a somewhat controversial piece in The Atlantic on his hopes to die at the age of seventy-five. He doesn’t hope to be able to live to that age. He hopes he won’t live much past it.

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

This preference drives my daughters crazy. It drives my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do. To convince me of my errors, they enumerate the myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well. They are certain that as I get closer to 75, I will push the desired age back to 80, then 85, maybe even 90.

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

 

He does not intent to commit suicide on his seventy-fifth birthday, to be sure.

Let me be clear about my wish. I’m neither asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening my life. Today I am, as far as my physician and I know, very healthy, with no chronic illness. I just climbed Kilimanjaro with two of my nephews. So I am not talking about bargaining with God to live to 75 because I have a terminal illness. Nor am I talking about waking up one morning 18 years from now and ending my life through euthanasia or suicide. Since the 1990s, I have actively opposed legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. People who want to die in one of these ways tend to suffer not from unremitting pain but from depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control. The people they leave behind inevitably feel they have somehow failed. The answer to these symptoms is not ending a life but getting help. I have long argued that we should focus on giving all terminally ill people a good, compassionate death—not euthanasia or assisted suicide for a tiny minority.

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

He will not take any active means to extend his life any further.

Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either. Today, when the doctor recommends a test or treatment, especially one that will extend our lives, it becomes incumbent upon us to give a good reason why we don’t want it. The momentum of medicine and family means we will almost invariably get it.

I must say that I am at least somewhat sympathetic to this point of view. Anyone who has ever watched a loved one growing older into senescence and decay must wonder if longevity is really something to be desired. What good is it to live to be ninety if the last decade is spent chronically ill and miserable? There is also something unseemly and even futile about this quest we have to live ever longer. We cannot be immortal. No matter how healthy our lives, we will die eventually.

If I eat the right sorts of foods and get the right amount of exercise, perhaps I will live to be eighty rather than seventy. So what? Compared to eternity, ten or twenty years is an infinitesimal amount of time. If I ate a diet of bean curd, perhaps I might live to be one hundred. What good is that if I am miserable every day because I am eating food I hate? Of course, I am being a fool. Living in a healthy body is more pleasant than living in an unhealthy body. But, then this is a matter of quality of live as opposed to quantity of life.

For a Christian, it is especially unseemly to cling to this life. We believe, in theory, that this life is only a prelude to a greater life to come. Why cling to the shadow when we can have the substance? Perhaps our attitude should be that of Pope Pius IX on his deathbed. When told that people around the world were praying for his recovery, he jokingly rebuked his advisors saying, “Why do you want to stop me from going to Heaven?”. Why are we determined to stay out of Heaven? Many other religions have similar views.

I don’t quite agree with Ezekiel Emanuel’s position, all the same. For one thing, I do not have the authority to choose the time of my death any more than I had to choose the time of my birth. It is common to say that this is “my body” or “my life”, but it really isn’t. None of us created ourselves. It would take a PhD in several fields to even begin to understand the processes that keep us alive. If any of us were given conscious control of every biological and chemical reaction in our bodies, we would die within seconds. Properly speaking, my body and my life belongs to the One who made them.

Perhaps Mr. Emanuel might agree with me, although I have no idea what his religious views are. As I noted, he does not plan to actively seek death.

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

Surely there is something to be said for this attitude. Yet again, I do not quite agree with him. I do not and cannot know what my ultimate fate will be and it seems presumptuous to decide that after a certain age I am finished. For all I know the plan might be for me to live to ninety-five in reasonably good health. It would be foolish not to take reasonable steps to keep myself well. If one must accept Mr. Emanuel’s reasoning, surely a consideration of overall health and quality of life is a better basis for deciding when to stop getting checkups, etc, than an arbitrarily chosen age. In any case, I will simply take what comes.

Ezekiel Emanuel states that he is opposed to euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, and I see no reason to doubt his word. He does not even recommend that every one agree to his ideas.

Again, let me be clear: I am not saying that those who want to live as long as possible are unethical or wrong. I am certainly not scorning or dismissing people who want to live on despite their physical and mental limitations. I’m not even trying to convince anyone I’m right. Indeed, I often advise people in this age group on how to get the best medical care available in the United States for their ailments. That is their choice, and I want to support them.

And I am not advocating 75 as the official statistic of a complete, good life in order to save resources, ration health care, or address public-policy issues arising from the increases in life expectancy. What I am trying to do is delineate my views for a good life and make my friends and others think about how they want to live as they grow older. I want them to think of an alternative to succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging. Are we to embrace the “American immortal” or my “75 and no more” view?

He wants medical research to focus on better treatments for the diseases of old age rather than simply prolonging life or extending the process of dying. But, does he not see that he is actually making some very good arguments for euthanasia? He spends the middle part of his article noting that creativity tends to decline with age, even when there is no dementia. The minds of the elderly no longer work as well, just as their bodies no longer function as well.

Even if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older. Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.

It is not just mental slowing. We literally lose our creativity. About a decade ago, I began working with a prominent health economist who was about to turn 80. Our collaboration was incredibly productive. We published numerous papers that influenced the evolving debates around health-care reform. My colleague is brilliant and continues to be a major contributor, and he celebrated his 90th birthday this year. But he is an outlier—a very rare individual.

American immortals operate on the assumption that they will be precisely such outliers. But the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us. Einstein famously said, “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” He was extreme in his assessment. And wrong. Dean Keith Simonton, at the University of California at Davis, a luminary among researchers on age and creativity, synthesized numerous studies to demonstrate a typical age-creativity curve: creativity rises rapidly as a career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline. There are some, but not huge, variations among disciplines. Currently, the average age at which Nobel Prize–winning physicists make their discovery—not get the prize—is 48. Theoretical chemists and physicists make their major contribution slightly earlier than empirical researchers do. Similarly, poets tend to peak earlier than novelists do. Simonton’s own study of classical composers shows that the typical composer writes his first major work at age 26, peaks at about age 40 with both his best work and maximum output, and then declines, writing his last significant musical composition at 52. (All the composers studied were male.)

Perhaps he does not intend it, but this is dangerously close to valuing individuals not as human beings created in the image of God but on a utilitarian basis according to what they can be expected to contribute to society. If we are going in that direction, we might as well open up the death panels right now. We had also better be honest enough to admit that most of us are not going to contribute very much to the arts and sciences and might be fair game for such a panel at any age.

As for me, I will take whatever comes

 

 

I wonder if a lot of the conservatives who written about his article have actually read it.

Columbus Day

October 13, 2014
Christopher Columbus, the subject of the book,...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Columbus day in the United States, celebrating the day that Christopher Columbus reached the New World. In Berkeley and some other Leftist enclaves it is Indigenous People’s Day, in which Western Civilization is condemned for its many crimes against humanity. Columbus Day is no big deal, just a three day weekend for banks and such. Still, should we honor Christopher Columbus with a day?

I think we can absolve Columbus of the destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples. That was inevitable. Europe’s sailing and navigation techniques were advancing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled across the Americas. Since the natives were millenia behind in technology, they were doomed. They weren’t entirely helpless victims though. One of the first things that any Indian tribe did when they were contacted by Europeans was to arrange to trade for firearms to use against their traditional enemies. It does not seem to have occurred to them to form alliances against the European invaders until it was too late.

Still, Columbus did set the pattern by enslaving the natives of the islands he discovered.From the Wikipedia article there is this excerpt from his log.

From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal he wrote of them, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”[39] He remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”[40

He seems not to have been a very good governor of Isabella, the first Spanish colony in the New World. He was charged with excessive cruelty and sent back to Spain in chains. These charges might be false though, since Ferdinand and Isabella felt they had promised him too much reward for his discoveries. Before he set out, they had promised him governorship of the lands he discovered. As it became obvious to everyone but Columbus that he had discovered a whole continent, the king and queen wanted a bigger share.

Maybe the biggest reason not to celebrate is that he was wrong. The popular view is of Columbus bravely asserting that the Earth is round against the scholars and intellectuals of his time who “knew” the Earth was flat. Of course everyone knew the Earth was round. The scholars and intellectuals knew about how large the Earth actually was and they knew perfectly well that Columbus was fudging his calculations to make his voyage seem feasible. If the Americas hadn’t been in the way, his voyage would have ended in disaster.

For all that though, I like Christopher Columbus. Despite his flaws, and he was only a man of his time, he was brave and he had vision, two qualities that are rare enough in any time, especially our own. So, by all means, let’s celebrate this man and his deeds.

Open Carry Follies

October 11, 2014

I happen to be a staunch supporter of the second amendment right to bear arms, and naturally I oppose strict gun control laws. This is not because I have a great love of guns. I have never owned a gun of any sort and I don’t have any plans to acquire any sort of firearm. I have never even shot a gun in my entire life. I am certain that if I did happen to have a gun, I would be more dangerous to myself than to any potential enemy. My support for the second amendment is entirely on libertarian grounds. If you want to own and carry a gun, that’s your right and I wouldn’t want to stop you. I have no use for guns, but I respect your right to have one.

Having said all that, I must confess that I find that the thinking of some of the more enthusiastic gun lovers to be a bit, well, dumb. What I mean is the idea some of them seem to have that they will happen upon the scene of a crime in progress or will be confronted by a mugger and they will whip out their trusty sidearm and take care of the situation. I think they must have a scene rather like this one playing in the theater of their minds.

I wish I could have found that clip without the commentary. Anyway, this story relates a somewhat more likely outcome.

A Gresham, Oregon open carry enthusiast was robbed of his weapon on Saturday by another man with a gun.

According to KOIN Channel 6, 21-year-old William Coleman III of Gresham was standing and talking to his cousin shortly after 2:00 a.m. on Saturday when another man approached him and asked for a cigarette.

The other man — described as a black male around 6 feet tall with a lean build and wavy hair — asked Coleman about his weapon, a Walther P22 pistol.

He then pulled a pistol from the waistband of his pants, pointed it at Coleman and said, “I like your gun. Give it to me.”

Coleman did as he was told and the man then fled on foot. He was reportedly wearing gray sweatpants, flip flop sandals and a white t-shirt and had a small patch of facial hair on his chin.

Coleman told police the suspect appeared to be between 19 and 23 years of age.

Now, concealed carry makes sense in that if the bad guy doesn’t know you are armed, you can give him a nasty surprise. That element of uncertainly whether a potential victim is armed may act as a deterrent to a criminal. Openly carrying a gun makes less sense, since a criminal can see that you are armed and take precautions, such as pointing his own weapon at you and disarming you, or even deciding to shoot first.

But the real lesson in this particular story is that it is easy to concoct fantasies about what you might do in a dangerous situation but the simple truth is that none of us can possibly know what we might do until the situation is actually occurring. Unless you are specially trained or have actual experience, chances are that you will not engage in a shootout with a criminal. You will not stop a madman shooting up a shopping mall. You will be running and hiding like all the other people. Carry a gun, either openly or concealed if you wish, but don’t take for granted that you will be a hero when the time comes.

I should say that I am likely to prove a bigger coward than most if I were confronted with an armed attacker. Since this is not something that occurs in my environment, I would have no idea how to react and would probably freeze and stand looking at the shooter stupidly, not even being able to panic. I say this in case anyone reading the previous paragraph might imagine that I am trying to make myself look braver or smarter than others. I know myself better than to imagine that would be the case. (Although, the one time I was robbed while working the night shift at a convenience store, I was not afraid but irritated. I do not know whether they were actually armed. One of them had his hand in his jacket pocket as if he were holding a hand gun, but I think he was bluffing. They tried to open the cash register but it locked and when they told me to open it, I told them I couldn’t because they had messed it up. A customer entered the store and they fled with nothing for their trouble. I cannot say I was especially brave, just irritated because they really had messed up the cash register.)

I should also say that looking over the comments of this story is a really depressing experience. I don’t know whether the ignorant and the vindictive are drawn to the comments section of stories like this, or commenting on such stories brings out the worst aspects of human nature. Either way it is depressing.

Obama Ready to Declare Martial Law

October 6, 2014

I criticize and make fun of the hysterical emails I get from liberal groups, so it seems only fair that I should criticize and make fun of the hysterical emails I get from conservatives. I actually have less patience with idiocy from conservatives since they ought to know better. I expect conservatives to be at least somewhat more rational and sensible than liberals, though we do have our idiots on our team.

Anyway, here is an email I recently received.

Dear Fellow Patriot,

Our country is in trouble. We need you.

President Obama and the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington care more about power, wealth and their own selfish desires than they do about our country and its citizens.
The Washington Establishment has created the worst recession since the Great Depression … cut $700 Billion from Medicare under Obamacare … destroyed our privacy rights by spying on every phone call, email and fax communication … endangered our Constitutional rights under the First, Second, Fourth, and other amendments…and much more. They’ve even threatened to nationalize whole industries by Executive Order alone.

And there’s something else. On Friday, March 16, 2012 America ceased being a Republic and became a dictatorship in one swipe of a pen. That dark day Obama committed the boldest assault on America since the Revolutionary War—while Americans weren’t looking.

Barack Hussein Obama quietly gave himself the power to impose Martial Law, bypassing both the Constitution and Congress through Executive Order.

Executive Order No. 13603—Obama’s National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order—gives Barack Hussein Obama unprecedented power to bring about socialism in America and create a regime so powerful, so vile, it is Soviet-like in nature.

Martial Law can and will happen whenever he chooses. It may happen one fateful night while we sleep—he can manufacture a crisis to make it happen.

And when it does, we will find ourselves waking up to a complete police state and news that Obama has declared himself supreme dictator over all the land.

This is very serious my fellow Patriot.

How can we stop this power grab destined to tear the heart out of America, leaving us with little but the clothes on our backs?

For starters, I’m writing to urge you to donate today so we can DERAIL OBAMA’S EXECUTIVE ORDER TO IMPLEMENT MARTIAL LAW!

As a full-fledged, active member of the Tea Party I fully support this movement.

Please, there’s no time to wait. Please make a contribution to the Tea Party in support of their efforts to fight government tyranny.

The Tea Party represents the best, perhaps the only, hope for our nation.

We have to stand up and fight this shocking power grab. If we do not, we’re destined for Martial Law.

Obama’s Executive Order “National Defense Preparedness” No. 13603 gives Obama a free pass to unrestricted, unprecedented power held only by those deemed “dictator.”

This Executive Order allows Obama to hijack our country, run roughshod over Congress and stick it to Patriots. It’s a frightening abuse of power that must be stopped—that’s why we need you to support the Tea Party with a donation without delay.

It goes on and on but is basically a plea for money, with dire consequences if Obama is allowed to get away with his nefarious plan.  The only really important part of this message is the reference to Executive Order 13603, which apparently allows President Obama to declare martial law and suspend the constitution.

President Barack Obama signs the executive ord...

President Barack Obama signs the executive order declaring himself Maximum Leader and Grand Poobah.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Executive Order allows Obama to hijack our country, run roughshod over Congress and stick it to Patriots. It’s a frightening abuse of power that must be stopped—that’s why we need you to support the Tea Party with a donation without delay.

This is a violent assault on our personal liberty, privacy rights and the rule-of-law. I’d like to give you a few examples of what this means to you, to me, our children, grandchildren and loved ones.

With the stroke of his pen Obama gave himself the power to:

✔   Bailout any person or company he wants
✔   Break existing labor contracts
✔   Cut back health care for citizens
✔   Fix food prices
✔   Force the production of electric cars
✔   Halt consumer production and replace it with government work
✔   Increase airfares
✔   Raise gas prices to any level
✔   Reduce our pay and dictate pay scales to employers

There’s so much more, too. Don’t you see? This is Obama’s communist utopia—the dreams of his father. Those dreams were meant to kill capitalism, create a society of “fair share” and income equality no matter whether or not you are deserving of it or whether you earned it. Patriots, this is oppression at its worst.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Is any of it true? Well, there really is an Executive Order 13603 and the language of the order might lend itself to the interpretation above, but this isn’t something that Barack Obama came up with. According to snopes.com, this executive order is nothing more than an update of similar orders issued by President Clinton, which was an update of previous such orders.

On 16 March 2012, President Barack Obama issued an executive order (EO) covering National Defense Resources Preparedness, prompting Congresswoman Kay Granger to pen the (since-removed) missive quoted above. Despite claims that the executive order provided the President with unprecedented new powers such as declaring martial law, seizing private property, implementing the rationing of food, gasoline, and drugs, restarting peacetime conscription, and nationalizing America industry, merely by declaring a national emergency, the National Defense Resources Preparedness EO issued by President Obama was simply a minor updating of a similar order issued by President Bill Clinton in 1994 (which itself had decades-old predecessors) and amended several times since.

If you think that snopes.com has a liberal bias, they cite a post from the conservative blog hotair.com.

We’re getting a lot of e-mail this weekend about an executive order issued on Friday afternoon by President Obama titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness.”  While the timing of the EO is curious — why send it out on a Friday afternoon when an administration is usually trying to sneak bad news past the media? — the general impact of it is negligible.  This EO simply updates another EO (12919) that had been in place since June 1994, and amended several times since.

Why the update?  If one takes a look at EO 12919, the big change is in the Cabinet itself.  In 1994, we didn’t have a Department of Homeland Security, for instance, and some of these functions would naturally fall to DHS.  In EO 12919, the FEMA director had those responsibilities, and the biggest change between the two is the removal of several references to FEMA (ten in all).   Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of changes between the two EOs, which looks mainly like boilerplate.

In fact, that’s almost entirely what it is.  The original EO dealing with national defense resources preparedness was issued in 1939 (EO 8248) according to the National Archives.  It has been superseded a number of times, starting in 1951 by nearly every President through Bill Clinton, and amended twice by George W. Bush.

Barack Obama may be arrogant, and the timing of this release might have looked a little strange, but this is really nothing to worry about at all.

So basically, this is nothing more than a routine update of a policy that was put into place at the beginning of the Cold War to ensure that the government could still function if the Russians nuked us. And, if you look at the date of the posts at snopes and hot air, you will notice that this particular rumor has been going around since 2012. If President Obama is really planning to make himself a dictator, he is taking his time about it.

Frantic messages about martial law like this one only distract from the real dangers to our freedom. I don’t think the danger to our liberties is that President Barack Obama is going to announce that he is a dictator tomorrow morning. It is the precedents he is setting that worry me, this steady increase of the power of the presidency and the federal bureaucracy at the expense of our elected representatives. President Obama didn’t begin this process. It has been a bipartisan effort. Even our history books are part of it. Have you ever noticed that it is the presidents who increased the powers of their office that get the most praise from historians, whether the circumstances warranted extraordinary action or not. Presidents who minded their own business and let the country run itself are forgotten or derided as do-nothings.

What I fear, is that this process will continue until eventually we end up with something like an elected dictator, a Caesar ruling over us. A ruler who governs arbitrarily and is himself above any law or restraint. This is the real danger, and being one that grows very gradually, over the decades, and is reinforced by the natural human desire to look to a Leader, is one that is a lot more difficult to fight against than the fantasies of martial law invoked by this email.

The Election of 1824

October 1, 2014

I am going to make a prediction about the next presidential election. I do not know who is going to be the next president. I don’t even know who is going to run. I can tell that the winner of the next election will be either a Republican or a Democrat. I grant that this isn’t a particularly useful prediction considering that every presidential election since 1852 has been won by a member of those two parties. Our present two party system has proven to be so long lived and stable that it is almost unthinkable that any third party could possibly make any headway against the domination of the two major parties. Although political parties are not mentioned in the constitution, the Democratic and Republican parties are as much an institution of government as Congress or the Supreme Court.

This was not always the case. Before 1850, American politics was considerably more fluid than it has been since. Under the first party system, from 1796 until 1816, the two parties were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. After 1816, the Federalist party was effectively dead and in 1820 President James Monroe had been unopposed when he ran for re-election. This period of one party rule was known as the Era of Good Feelings. Many observers believed that the period of partisan politics had ended. Events proved them to be wrong. The United States had begun a transition from the first party system to the second party system and the Era of Good Feelings was only the calm before the storm. There was to be one more single party election, the election of 1824, but tensions were already developing in the ruling Democratic-Republican party and there were to be a number of candidates.

Much of this tension was regional. The United States was still not very united and different sections of the country, north and south, east and west, had different economic interests and cultures and favored different types of men for the presidency. Another source of trouble was the method the parties had been selecting their candidates. Up until then, each party had held of caucus of its leading men, usually in Congress, to select the candidates. This method seemed undemocratic in an age in which property qualifications for the franchise were being dropped and universal suffrage for white males was becoming the norm. Many people loudly denounced “King Caucus“, and believed candidates should be selected by state legislatures or conventions.

In February 1824, the Congressional Caucus Selected William Crawford of Georgia as the Democratic-Republican candidate. He had served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Monroe, and was Monroe’s favored choice as his successor. Unfortunately King Caucus had become so unpopular that this nomination did Crawford more harm than good. He had suffered a stroke back in September 1823 while seeking the nomination and had never really recovered

William Crawford

Then there was John Quincy Adams from Massachusetts. He was the son of President John Adams, and had served as M0nroe’s Secretary of State. At the time, the the position of Secretary of State was seen as the natural stepping stone to the Presidency, and Adams believed himself to be the natural heir. He was a talented man and had served his country with distinction. Several state legislatures in New England nominated him as the Democratic-Republican candidate. He was too much of a New Englander to be popular in the South and West

John Quincy Adams

Henry Clay was another obvious and popular candidate. From Kentucky, he was a noted lawyer and orator, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He transformed the Speakership from a relatively minor position to one nearly equal to the President in power. He favored a policy of internal improvements like railroads and canals to help develop the West. He played a key role in crafting the Missouri Compromise of 1820. He was naturally popular in the South and West and he might have been the choice of the Caucus if he had been foolish enough to seek it.

Henry Clay

Finally, there was Andrew Jackson. He was from Tennessee and indeed had helped to found the state. He had served as Congressman and Senator from Tennessee and had served as the military governor of Florida after the United States acquired it from Spain in 1821. Jackson was also a war hero with distinguished service in the War of 1812, the Creek War and the Seminole Wars. Jackson had commanded the American Army that defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans, and if the battle took place two weeks after the war ended, it still counted as the greatest victory the United States had won in that war. Although Andrew Jackson was very wealthy, owning plantations and hundreds of slaves, he liked to pose as a humble man of the people and supported what came to be known as Jacksonian Democracy. He was also popular in the South and West and was a bitter rival to Clay.

Andrew Jackson

There was also John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. He had served as Secretary of War under Monroe and wanted to run for President but lacked decided the competition would be too fierce. He was popular in the South and effectively ran for vice-president seeking support from Adams and Jackson.

John C. Calhoun

 

With four candidates, all from the same party, and generally favoring the same policies, the Presidential contest became a matter of personalities and regionalism. It was considered undignified for presidential candidates to actively campaign but their supporters eagerly campaigned on their behalf and the campaign of 1824 quickly became enthusiastic, personal and negative, with each candidate’s advocates praising their man and condemning the others. Adams had an English wife. Clay was a drunk and Crawford a thief. Jackson was a wild man who liked to kill people. Irregularities in Jackson’s marriage to his wife Rachel were also brought up. She had been married before, but her husband had left her, presumably seeking a divorce. When Andrew Jackson and Rachel married, it turned out that he not not gotten the divorce and the marriage was invalid. The matter was quickly corrected but Jackson’s enemies could accuse his wife of being a bigamist.

With four candidates, no one achieved a majority of electoral votes. Adams won the New England states and got 108, 740 popular votes with 84 electoral votes. Jackson was ahead of him, gaining most of the south, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, with 153,544 popular votes and 99 electoral votes. William Crawford was third with Virginia and Georgia and 40,856 popular votes and 41 electoral votes. Henry Clay was last. He got 47,531 popular votes and won Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri with 37 electoral votes.  New York, Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana, and Illinois split their votes.

The Election of 1824

Since no candidate won a majority of the Electoral College, the decision went to Congress, as stated under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment.

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

This meant that the House of Representatives would select the President from the top three candidates; Jackson, Adams, and Crawford, with each state delegation getting one vote, while the Senate would select the Vice President. Calhoun had easily won the Electoral Vote for Vice President, so that was already settled.

Clay, in fourth place, was out of the running for President, but, as Speaker of the House, he had considerable influence in the House of Representatives and would inevitably play an important role in the selection of the next President. Suddenly Henry Clay was the most popular man in Washington, with representatives from the Adams and Jackson campaign approached him with all kinds of offers for his support. Eventually, he threw his support to Adams and in the end Adams won thirteen states, Jackson nine, and Crawford four. Andrew Jackson was not at all happy with the results. He had gotten the most votes, both popular and electoral, and it seemed to him, quite reasonably, that he should have been president. His suspicions that there had been some sort of deal between Adams and Clay seemed to be confirmed when Adams named Clay as his Secretary of State, and he loudly denounced the “corrupt bargain”.  Adams was aware that his election, being so irregular, lacked a certain legitimacy, and he regretted that they could not simply hold the election over again.

Was there a corrupt bargain? It seems incredible that there weren’t some sort of negotiations between Clay and Adams. Yet, Clay had made no secret that he vastly preferred Adams to Jackson, whom he viewed with disdain. Adams and Clay both shared the idea that the federal government to improve the lives of the people. Clay was also a natural choice for Secretary of State and perhaps any President would have been happy to name him for a cabinet position. It didn’t matter, though. The deal was seen as corrupt, especially by Jackson’s supporters.

John Quincy Adams turned out to be a decent man and President. He wasn’t able to get much done, largely because of the way in which he became President, but also because he was not a natural politician and, like his father, disdained to play the usual partisan games. Jackson spent the next four years preparing for a rematch and easily defeated Adams in 1828, but that is getting ahead of the story.

Jesus Never Existed, Religion is False

September 29, 2014

Those are the conclusions made by one Nigel Barber writing at the Huffington Post. He bases this claim on a recently published historical survey by Michael Paulkovich in a magazine called Free Inquiry.

 

As someone raised in a Christian country, I learned that there was a historical Jesus. Now historical analysis finds no clear evidence that Jesus existed. If not, Christianity was fabricated, just like Mormonism and other religions. Why do people choose to believe religious fictions?

Given the depth of religious tradition in Christian countries, where the “Christian era” calendar is based upon the presumed life of Jesus, it would be astonishing if there was no evidence of a historical Jesus. After all, in an era when there were scores of messianic prophets, why go to the trouble of making one up?

Various historical scholars attempted to authenticate Jesus in the historical record, particularly in the work of Jesus-era writers. Michael Paulkovich revived this project as summarized in the current issue of Free Inquiry.

 

I am sure the article is thought provoking, but unfortunately I cannot read it. Access to the articles at Free Inquiry is limited to print subscribers only. So much for Free Inquiry.

 

Paulkovich found an astonishing absence of evidence for the existence of Jesus in history. “Historian Flavius Josephus published his Jewish Wars circa 95 CE. He had lived in Japhia, one mile from Nazareth – yet Josephus seems unaware of both Nazareth and Jesus.” He is at pains to discredit interpolations in this work that “made him appear to write of Jesus when he did not.” Most religious historians take a more nuanced view agreeing that Christian scholars added their own pieces much later but maintaining that the historical reference to Jesus was present in the original. Yet, a fudged text is not compelling evidence for anything.

Paulkovich consulted no fewer than 126 historians (including Josephus) who lived in the period and ought to have been aware of Jesus if he had existed and performed the miracles that supposedly drew a great deal of popular attention. Of the 126 writers who should have written about Jesus, not a single one did so (if one accepts Paulkovich’s view that the Jesus references in Josephus are interpolated).

Paulkovich concludes:

When I consider those 126 writers, all of whom should have heard of Jesus but did not – and Paul and Marcion and Athenagoras and Matthew with a tetralogy of opposing Christs, the silence from Qumram and Nazareth and Bethlehem, conflicting Bible stories, and so many other mysteries and omissions – I must conclude that Christ is a mythical character.

He also considers striking similarities of Jesus to other God-sons such as Mithra, Sandan, Attis, and Horus. Christianity has its own imitator. Mormonism was heavily influenced by the Bible from which founder Joseph Smith borrowed liberally.

 

There is more on the origins of Mormonism which is irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus existed as a historical person, so I’ll let it go and go straight to the question.

 

I have to wonder that the Huffington Post sees fit to waste the time of its readers with such nonsense. The idea that Jesus is a mythical construct from pagan deities is one that few, if any, historians familiar with the first century Roman Empire would endorse. Skeptical historians naturally do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, but even the most skeptical concedes that there was a person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived during the time of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The mythical Jesus concept is an example of pseudohistory, on par with Dan Brown’s ideas about Jesus’s descendants or or whether the lost continent of Atlantis really existed.

 

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Yes, he really existed.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The truth is that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is better attested than many figures of ancient history. Josephus did mention Jesus, even if the statements claiming his divinity were added by later Christian copyists. Tacitus and Pliny the Younger both referred to the early Christian movement, writing around AD 100, within 70 years of his crucifixion. Even better we have biographical material written by his followers, the Gospels, from perhaps AD 70-100, although the Gospel of Mark may have been written before 60 and the passion narratives were certainly composed before the rest of the Gospels. Paul refers to Jesus as a historical person in his letters which were written from around 50-65. in other words, we have materials written about Jesus within living memory of eyewitnesses to his life. That is far better than we have for many historical figures of ancient times.

 

The earliest biography of Mohammed was written about 150 years after his death. That work has been lost but is extensively quoted in later biographies of the prophet. Because much of what is known of Mohammed is from the oral transmission of his sayings and deeds,we cannot be certain to what extent the traditions of his life are accurate or if Mohammed even existed. The earliest biographies of the Buddha were not written down until 500 years after his death. His teachings were also not written down for centuries and there is no way to know to what extent the Buddhist religion actually reflects the teachings of the historical Buddha. Even a secular figure like Alexander the Great had to wait about two hundred years before a biography was written about him. We are lucky to have as much material on an obscure person like Jesus as we do.

 

But perhaps Mr. Barber would counter that the Gospels ought not to be relied upon. They were clearly works of fiction written by the early Christians. But, on what basis should we dismiss the historicity of the Gospels? Much of what we know of many persons of ancient times is derived from the writings of their admirers. We know of Socrates from the writing of his pupils Plato and Xenophon. We know if Confucius by his successors. These writings may be biased but no one would suppose that Socrates or Confucius were fictitious. Ought the New Testament be held to a different standard simply because billions of people consider it to be a sacred text? Why?

 

The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles do not seem to be fictitious. There are no major anachronisms. Many of the people mentioned; the various Herods, Pilate, Gamaliel, Festus, Felix, Annas, Caiaphas,and many others were real people, attested in non-Biblical sources and the depictions of them in the New Testament seem to be accurate. The places mentioned are real locations that one can visit today. If you take away the miracles and the resurrection, you have a completely credible account of a Jewish preacher who managed to offend the religious and secular authorities and ended up being crucified, and whose followers somehow believed, had risen from the dead. The men who wrote the Gospels really believed what they were writing. This does not make the Gospels true, but they are not forgeries or fiction. If it were not for the prejudice against Christian scripture shown by certain secular humanists, no one would doubt they were as reliable historical documents as any produced by Herodotus or Plutarch.

 

It is understandable that someone wouldn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I wouldn’t expect anyone but a Christian to believe that. After all, believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ is what makes a Christian. I do not understand why this idea that he never even existed crops up about every twenty years or so. It seems like overkill to me. Perhaps they hate Jesus, and by extension God, so much, they would rather he not exist at all.

 

I want to say something very briefly on the related idea that Christianity borrowed the idea of Christ from pagan myths, like Horus, Attis, Mithra, and the like. If you really examine these myths, you find only the most superficial resemblances between these mythological figures and Christ. The god who dies and comes back to life is rather common in mythology, but none of these gods suffered a humiliating death by crucifixion, nor do the stories of their lives resemble the story of Jesus in detail. I should also note that much of the historical information we have about these ancient cults derives from sources after Christianity began to be established so there is some question which way the influence really went.

 

 

 

China, A History

September 26, 2014

Perhaps nowhere is the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” more appropriate than in China. China has the honor of being the civilization with the longest continuous history on Earth. China was not the first or the oldest civilization, but while ancient Egypt and Sumer have long since vanished from history, China remains. In that long 3000-4000 years of history, China has undergone many changes. Dynasties of rulers have risen and fallen. The country has been united into an empire, only to break apart and then be united once again. The Chinese Empire has expanded its frontiers into Central Asia, and has been restricted to northern or southern China, while foreigners have ruled other sections. China has been conquered and has regained its independence. Through all the revolutions and changes, China remains China.

The Communists under Mao Zedong were determined to remake China into a modern, socialist country, yet they went about their goals in a characteristically Chinese fashion. Mao condemned Confucius and sought to end that sage’s influence on China. So did Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China (previous rulers were referred to as “kings”). The Communists enforced a rigid Marxist conformity on China intellectuals. The Song Emperors enforced a rigid Neo-Confucian ideology. China, under Mao limited its contacts with foreigners. So did the Qing Emperors. The present rulers of China have converted China into a major trading nation. So did the Tang Emperors. The Communist Party does not tolerate any rival parties. No imperial dynasty was ever comfortable with parties or partisanship. Like the Emperors of old, the Chinese government thinks more in terms of taking a paternal interest in the lives of its subjects rather than in protecting human rights.

Yet, one must not think China as being unchanging or Chinese history as being boring. China has seen drastic changes throughout its history. One might think of this history of change and continuity in terms of the Chinese philosophical ideas of Yin and Yang, opposites that work together. Passive, feminine Yin might represent the periods of imperial unity and strength while active, masculine Yang might represent the chaotic periods of war and disunity that were, nevertheless, the most intellectually productive periods of Chinese history.

I think there are few resources which explore the grand sweep of the Yin and Yang of Chinese history in one volume better than John Keay’s China, A History. In his book, John Keay tells the story of the Chinese nation from its Neolithic beginning up to the modern age. Keay does not, as many writers of history books do, spend too much time on recent events while neglecting past centuries. Every dynasty gets the proper amount of attention, as do the periods of disunion. If I have any complaint at all about China, A History, it is that at 611 pages it is simply too short. Six hundred pages are hardly enough to give an outline of Chinese history. I am not complaining, however. If you want a general outline of Chinese history, China A History serves the purpose admirably and if you want to know more about any topic, there is the bibliography John Keay provides.

China

Banned Books Week

September 23, 2014

This is Banned Books Week, a week to raise awareness of the problem of books being banned in the United States. I read about local efforts to raise awareness in my local newspaper, The Madison Courier.

Books that have been hidden, challenged or banned are being highlighted this week during Banned Books Week. The annual celebration of all banned literary works happens during the last full week of September.

Nathan Montoya, co-owner of Village Lights Bookstore in downtown Madison, said the bookstore celebrates Banned Books Week every year.

“We’re proud to say that every time we begin assembling our Banned Books Week displays, we find that we already have most of the top challenged titles on our shelves,” he said.

There is just one minor problem; no books have been banned in the United States, at any level of government for many years, as Mr. Moytoya admits.

Montoya said that no literary work has been banned by the federal or state government since the famed Allen Ginsburg poem “Howl” was banned in 1957. The poem was banned because of its explicit references to drug use and homosexuality. Montoya said that today, books are banned on a much smaller level.

“We do it to ourselves,” Montoya said.

What in the world is he talking about? We ban ourselves from reading certain books?

Local libraries, school libraries and book stores often ban books they don’t think are appropriate, Montoya said.

“We do such a good job of restricting our own freedoms. It’s a problem that will not go away. And, of course the books that we have are not just books banned in this country, but works banned around the world,” he said.

Village Lights, along with several area libraries will have displays, in honor of Banned Books Week.

Linda Brinegar, Media Specialist for Madison Consolidated Schools, said she’s putting together a display at the front of the school.

Brinegar said that in her time as a librarian she has found that books aren’t so much banned as they are challenged. A challenged book is one that has been attempted to be removed or restricted, because of objections from a person or group, she said.

“(This week) brings an awareness to the readers’ choices,” Brinegar said. “They have access to a wide variety of reading materials.”

It is not that the government is banning us from reading books, it is that libraries are sometimes asked not to stock certain books or other materials that might be deemed inappropriate for the patrons of the library. This is not the same as banning books, nor is it really denying access to reading materials that anyone might want.

English: Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kansas

None of these books are being banned (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is that parents have every right in the world to object if they believe that there is a book in the school library that is not appropriate for children of their age level. They may have good reason not to want their first or second grader to have access to a sexually explicit  or violent book. The local library is funded by local taxpayers. They might want some control over what they are paying for. They may not want books that they consider inappropriate paid for with their tax dollars. And, I hope that I don’t need to add that if I happened to own a book store, I can sell whatever books I please. If I don’t like a certain author and prefer not to sell his books, that would be entirely my business. Again, in none of the cases I mentioned are books or any other material really being denied to anyone who wants to read or view them.

So, if there are no books actually being banned in the United States, what is the point of Banned Books Week? I don’t know. There is, of course, a need to be vigilant. We do not ban books in the United States right now, but this country is very much the exception. In many parts of the world the idea that people should be allowed to read whatever they want is still considered to be controversial, and who can tell what the situation here will be like twenty years from now. Nevertheless, I don’t think the greatest danger to freedom of expression in this country comes from parents who do not want their children to read Catcher in the Rye or Captain Underpants. I think the greatest threats to our freedom are from the sort of tolerant. leftists who think that Banned Books Week is a terrific idea, and then go on to ban conservative or Christian books.

So, maybe Banned Books Week has some use, even if it is something of a humbug. I just wish the people promoting it didn’t come across as a bunch of self-righteous doofuses who strut around proclaiming their support of the freedom to read against the non-existent mobs who are gathering to ban books and burn down libraries.

English: 1933 May 10 Berlin book burning -- ta...

What the ALA thinks of us (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh, and it would also help if the American Library Association didn’t consider freedom of expression to include allowing people to watch pornography on library computers.

And, Thomas Sowell said it so much better than I ever could back in 1994.

By the way, I wonder if Mr. Montoya stocks The Turner Diaries. There’s a real banned book, if ever there was one. Maybe I should ask.

Drowning the Libertarians

September 22, 2014

Last week, Ann Coulter threatened to drown anyone considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election thereby threatening the Republican’s chances of gaining a majority this year. This was a little over the top, perhaps, as only Ann Coulter can be, but her point is well taken. Another Townhall.com columnist, Nick Sorrentino didn’t much care for Ms. Coulter’s advice.

Is it possible that Anne Coulter’s cocktail dresses are cutting off oxygen to her brain? Is it possible that Ms. Coulter is just naturally a busybody who despises libertarians because she can’t help but stick her nose into other people’s business? Is it possible that Ms. Coulter is little more than a partisan hack with little philosophical meat to her positions?

Yes.

I get her point. Don’t let the Dems keep the Senate by voting Libertarian and thereby killing the chances of the GOP candidate.

But generally most people who lean libertarian are at least open to voting for a libertarian leaning Republican. There are a few who exist. (And their numbers are growing.) What many libertarians and conservatives can’t palate any longer is voting for another big government neocon just because he or she happens to have a R next to their name.

We killed Romney’s election and we will kill others until the GOP understands that it can’t get people elected unless the candidate is generally inclined in the libertarian direction. It’s not that the libertarians need to “suck it up” as Coulter who seems permanently lodged in 2004 thinks, it’s that Coulter and other old school big government Republicans have to suck it up and recognize that the GOP is going in a new direction whether they like it or not. Either get with it Coulter and Beltway GOP, or we are going to remain on strike.

So, libertarian leaning conservatives killed Romney’s election. How did that work out for you. We got another four years of the most left-wing president in American history. In other words you managed to accomplish the exact opposite result that you intended, more big government and intrusions on our liberties. If libertarian leaning conservatives stay home this November or vote for the Libertarian candidate, all you will accomplish is another two years with a Democratic majority in the Senate, voting to confirm all of President Obama’s appointments to the federal judiciary, no matter how radical.

The American political system is structurally designed to be a two-party system. Because the United States has first past the post, winner take  all elections, it is almost impossible for any third-party candidate to get elected to any office. Since this is the case, a vote for a third-party candidate is, in a very real sense, a vote for the candidate of the opposing party. A vote for the Libertarians helps the Democrats. A vote for the Green Party helps the Republicans. The proper time to register your discontent with the party establishment is during the primaries. Once the candidate of your preferred party is nominated, you can either vote for the person who shares at least some of your ideological preferences, or you can decide he isn’t liberal/conservative enough, stay home or vote for a third-party candidate,  and let the person who is your ideological opposite win. No doubt the people who vote Libertarian or Green feel very proud of themselves for not compromising their principles, but they are responsible for making sure those principles are never enacted. By the way, this holds true for party establishments who would rather support the opposing party’s candidate than their own that they feel is too “extreme”. This kind of back stabbing is despicable.

Any conservative who would rather have another two years of a Democratic majority than vote for a candidate that does not meet their exacting criteria deserves to have Ann Coulter come to their house and drown them.

General Tso’s Chicken

September 21, 2014

The other day, I was eating at a Chinese restaurant and I noticed that one of the items at the buffet was called “General Tso’s chicken“. I started to wonder who General Tso could be and why he has a chicken dish named after him. Was he, perhaps, the Chinese equivalent of Colonel Sanders? Naturally, I consulted that infallible fount of knowledge and wisdom that is Wikipedia.

Well, as it turns out, General Tso was a nineteenth century Chinese military leader who helped to suppress some of the rebellions that were endemic in the last century of the Qing  Dynasty. His name was actually Tso Tsung-T’ang, or Zuo Zongtang using the Pinyin system of romanization. Zuo Zongtang was born in Xiangyin County in the province of Hunan in the year 1812. His family was poor but he was ambitious so he took the Imperial civil service exam seven times, failing each time. This was no cause for shame, the vast majority of candidates did not pass, but it did limit his options for advancement. Discouraged, Zuo Zongtang retired to his family farm to raise silkworms and study. The world was changing and new ways of rising in China were opening up. It was becoming increasingly obvious that China had fallen behind the European nations in science, technology and military power.  Zuo became aware of China’s increasing backwardness and he was one of the first Chinese to study Western science and culture. Zuo became known and respected as an expert in the new, foreign learning.

Zuo Zongtang

The Man(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850, Zuo became an advisor to Zeng Guofan, the governor of Hunan, who was tasked with raising an army to defeat the Taiping rebels after they had fought and destroyed the regular Qing armies in the region. By 1860 Zuo was given command of an army and he managed to clear the rebels out of Hunan and Guangxi provinces. He and Zeng captured Nanjing in 1864, ending the Taiping Rebellion at last. In 1865 Zuo was appointed Viceroy over the provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. He was also made Commissioner of Naval Industries and opened China’s first modern shipyard and naval academy in the city of Fuzhou.

province-english

In 1867, Zuo became Viceroy of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and was ordered to put down the Nian Rebellion which had plagued northern China the same way the Taipings had been in the south.  He accomplished this task by the following year and was then sent out to the west to deal with the Muslim rebels in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.  By 1878, Zuo Zongtang had crushed the rebels, converted Xinjiang into a province of China, with himself as the first governor and had persuaded the Russians to withdraw from the border regions they had occupied in the chaos of the rebellion. Zuo Zongtang has seen to it that his troops were armed with modern weapons and so was able to credibly threaten war against the under manned Russian outposts. This was one of the few times in the nineteenth century in which the Chinese were able to resist a foreign power.

Zuo Zongtang was promoted to the Grand Council in 1880. Zuo was not really a politician or bureaucrat and didn’t much like the post so in 1881 he was made governor of Liangjiang. His last military commission was as Commander in Chief of the Army and Inspector General of coastal defenses in Fujian when the Sino-French War broke out over the status of  Vietnam in 1884. Again, the Chinese army under Zuo performed somewhat better than they had against European armies previously and they managed to give the French a hard time in Vietnam and southern China. The French won the war, however, largely because the French Navy could bombard the coastal cities of China at will. Zuo Zongtang died in 1885, just after the war ended, a national hero.

That explains who General Tso was, but how did he get a the chicken named after him? Did he work as a chef when he wasn’t leading armies? Was sweet, spicy deep-fried chicken a particular favorite of his?

PS GeneralTsosChicken1

His chicken(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is that nobody seems to know how General Tso’s chicken came to be named after General Tso. He couldn’t have possibly eaten it. The dish was actually invented in America, by Chinese immigrants who had fled China after the Communist takeover in 1949. The Shun Lee Palace in New York City claims to be the first restaurant to serve General Tso’s chicken in 1972, but that claim has been contested. Peng Jia was Chiang Kai-Shek‘s chef when Chiang fled to Taiwan and in 1973 he opened a restaurant in New York. Peng claims to have invented the dish while experimenting with ways to make Hunanese cuisine more palatable to non-Hunanese, mostly by adding sugar and sweetening it. Whatever the case, General Tso’s chicken was unknown in China before the Chinese government opened China to foreign trade and contacts. Since then, Chinese chefs have successfully introduced the dish to China although it is not a favorite in General Tso’s native Hunan. Most Hunanese consider General Tso’s chicken to be too sweet.

 

 


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