Ernest Cassara

The Daily Briefing

If one has a perverse sense of humor - which I possess in abundance - one should not miss the daily briefing of reporters by President Bush's press secretary Scott McClellan. On the very day (03.27.06) that the New York Times reported in detail on the collusion of Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq, McClellan attempted to dismiss the news report, asking that reporters not "rewrite history"!

The Daily Hypocrisy

We have it in for Iran at the moment.  Iran aspires to develop nuclear power, so, it says, that a cleaner brand of electricity will be available to its population. The U.S., of course, insists that it desires to develop nuclear weapons. That may very well be true, but, considering that the U.S. is developing new nuclear weapons, such as "bunker busters," we are hardly in position to point a finger.

And, of course, the U.S. has always gone along with the Israeli possession of numerous nuclear weapons.  Americans may not notice the hypocrisy in this, but, you can be sure that the folks in the Middle East do.

The U.S. and Hamas

The U.S. and other powers in the West complain that the Palestinians did a naughty thing in electing enough members of Hamas to give it the right to form the government in the Palestinian territories. Well, if you preach "democracy" at folks, you have to accept the consequences.  Hamas, of course - and you would never guess this from news coverage in the West - runs clinics and other social service agencies, a fact that helped boost their standing in politics.

After all, instead of bolstering President Mahmoud Abbas, and, consequently, his Fatah party, the U.S. ignored him.  Israel complained, as it always does, that it had "no one to negotiate with." Now, they can observe the consequences. Israel is confronting a Palestinian government that will not recognize its legitimacy.

If prospective Prime Minister Ehud Olmert goes ahead with his plan to arbitrarily draw the borders between Israel and Palestine, we can be sure that conflict will continue. Some Israeli commentators have pointed out that the Israeli government is planning to pen the Palestinians into a few non-contiguous Bantustans. Does Olmert really believe that the Palestinians are going to take this lying down? Of course not. As in previous Israeli governments, he, no doubt, thinks that the Palestinians can be hammered into compliance.

Departing from the Text

Once upon a time, we resided in a small town north of Boston. I became acquainted with a Congregational minister who hailed from Australia. He came to mind the other day, as I thought about the imams who were calling for the execution of the Afghanistani who had converted to Christianity. Mind you, he had converted something like 15 years ago, but, in a bitter divorce case, his quarreling wife ratted on him.

In any case, my minister friend once explained to me the use of a text in a sermon. The text, he said, provided the preacher with the challenge to see how far he could depart from it.

That, I fear, is the case with most - if not all - religions, not just texts. Without picking on Muslims - they are battered enough at the moment - let us consider Christians.  Anyone who has actually read about the simplicity of Jesus' life, as told in the Gospels, if he is at all conscious of irony, must wonder about fancy robes, golden tiaras, splendiferous church edifices, etc. See the point?

The Israeli Lobby

You have probably heard the uproar over the study of the influence on American foreign policy by AIPAC and other Israeli lobbies by John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. It has been denounced in such a way that the authors could point to the denunciations as proof of what they say in their study. Certain Jews will brook no criticism of Israel and will attempt to destroy the reputations of those who attempt it.

The London Review of Books published a shortened version of the study. I'm going to provide you will the link to that very enlightening article, and links to the fuller version.

London Review of Books
LRB | Vol. 28 No. 6 dated 23 March 2006


The Israel Lobby

By John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
An unedited version of this article is available at:

or at :

Hail and Farewell!

I've always wanted to say this. Of course, I'm not quite sure that it applies to someone who is planning a leave of absence to wander about in Germany and in the United Kingdom for a month.  I'll be back, Lord willing and the creeks don't rise! (That's another expression I've always wanted to use!)

Why Germany? Well, My Better Half and I both had Fulbright Professorships years back, she in Berlin, where she studied the status of women professors in the various universities. I, on the other hand, spent the year teaching history at the University of Munich.

The publications that resulted from her studies inspired the Research Institute at the University of Siegen, in Westphalia, to invite her to lecture for a semester. I applied for, and received, a study leave from my university and joined her in Siegen.

Because it is not too difficult to travel by tram from Siegen to Bonn, I spent the semester at the library of the University of Bonn, studying the early career of Carl Schurz and the revolutions of 1848. When the revolution in the Rhineland failed, Schurz, as you know, migrated to the United States in 1852, where he became involved in the new Republican party, lectured against slavery, supported Abraham Lincoln, and was sent by him as U.S. minister to Spain. When hostilities broke out, Schurz insisted on coming home. He served as a Brigadier General in the Union Army.

After the war, he took up journalism - having had  the experience of editing a newspaper with an old professor in Bonn. His German language newspaper, Die Westliche Post, in St. Louis, Missouri, positioned him to be elected to the U.S. Senate. You recall that state legislatures chose senators in that day. He, then, served as Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes. On retirement from government, he moved to New York City, where he edited the New York Evening Post, for two years, beginning in 1881. From 1892 to 1898, he was chief editorial writer for Harper's Weekly.

Schurz wrote a two-volume biography of Henry Clay - really a history of his times - and, then, turned to the life of his old friend, Abraham Lincoln. It gave me particular pleasure to edit a new edition of this fine biography a few years back, adding a chapter on the career of Schurz himself.  You may read about it at:


The three-volume Reminiscences of Carl Schurz are a joy to read.  Since he thought of his early life in German, he wrote the first volume in German, it being translated into English by a trusted friend.  The following two volumes he wrote in English.

Among the many, many things that can be said of Schurz, is this: It is positively amazing that he was a master of both languages, his writings instructive and a pleasure to read.

His wife, Margarethe, in their years in Watertown, Wisconsin, established the first kindergarten in the U.S.

So, you may see from the above, why we would like to visit our old friends in Germany. (We wish we had time to see all of them!) Ah, but you may ask, why England?  Well, ever since I and the family spent a sabbatical year in Cambridge, it has been like a second home.  Long-time readers of the HSC will remember that, like students, I took a spring break.  My wife and I spent them in London, except for a few days in Hereford and Hay on Wye, where we attended the annual meeting of the Kilvert Society. I've often been asked about Francis Kilvert and the society that celebrates his life and his marvelous diary.  But, once start, I never stop.  So, in this day and age, I can just refer you to a website.  Look at it, and, you, too, may want to join us in Hereford, England, and Hay on Wye, over the border in Wales.


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