SocraticGadfly: 10/29/17 - 11/5/17

November 03, 2017

Donna Brazile runs the bus over Hillary Clinton —
on the way to the bank

Who left the tire tracks on Hillary?
No, former temporary Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile did not find some new fount of honesty when she spoke to Politico and left tire tracks over Hillary Clinton and her campaign. If she had, she would have said something a week ago about the hacks that Tom Perez selected to various DNC positions last month.

Instead, in politics, the first rule is always follow the money.

And the money is, in this case, sales of the book she is flogging, in part through a pseudo tell-all.

(Speaking of, feel free to vote in one or both of the "biggest sheepdogger" polls at upper right of this post.)

In that sense, Brazile is simply being true to the Democratic Party that she briefly helped steer into presidential defeat.

I mean, this is the person who admitted to getting advance information about questions for a Democratic primary town hall, and a second debate, and passing that on to the Clinton camp. And, it took her 5 months after Wikileaks said that for her to admit it. Sure, it's possible she's a truth-telling horse whisperer driven by the highest ethics values.

Or, it's possible she's still just another grifter. Or Just.Another.Politician.™, non-elected division.

Also note that her March admission date on the questions tip-off? Her book was surely already in progress by then.

Another "tell"? She said she started crying AFTER ending the phone call with Sanders. Ergo, nobody to deny.

As such, she did drive that bus over Hillary.

And, given new Hillbot pushback, who deserves a bus to be driven over her more?

That pushback includes this self-contradicting piece from NBC.

Alex Seitz-Wald, adding to reputation as a Clintonista hack, claims that the agreement only went into place for the general election. However, lower in the story, it says the DNC had to hire a communications director from one of two Hillary-vetted candidates no later than Sept. 1, 2015. That's LONG before the general. (And, I'm sure that somebody in the upper circles of Hillary 2016 sent him the memo behind the piece as soon as they saw Prima Donna's Politico interview.)

Points two and three in the full memo of the agreement between Hillary for America and the DNC specify further Clinton control over other DNC hirings, without any "general election" timetable. There's more there to refudiate Seitz-Wald.

Point 4 would appear to indicate that state Dem parties getting an offer to partner with Hillary Fucked America had to do so on an exclusive basis. If Bernie had decided to sign off on a similar agreement it would have been for crumbs only, even if the Clinton one was not exclusive.

As for Seitz-Wald claiming to have a smoking gun undercutting Prima Donna? There's Mack truck-sized loopholes in this paragraph.
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC's obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary.
Oh, sure ... forcing a Hillbot communications director down the DNC throat, and giving Team Clinton vetting over other hires? No "construing" that the barn door is being shut after the partiality horses have already been stabled inside, to twist an old cliche.

Julian Assange lovingly confirms timeline issues.

Kein Silverstein confirms that Bernie got no such offer himself, along with other details.

Who dat? It's Donna and the cash bus, schooling Hillary.
Given that she's far and away from the first to drive it over Debbie Wasserman Schultz, no photoshopping needed there, for Brazile to run her over.

However, Prima Donna's head-fake "tell all" does raise one question.

We know Dear Leader thought Dancing with the Schultz was little more than bupkis. Brazile may really think so, personal pecuniary reasons aside.

Hillz allegedly, while being kinder to her than Barackabama, didn't hang the moon on her either.

So why the hell was she running the DNC that long? I mean, Dear Leader kept her there 5-plus years. Barack and Hillary, as well as Donna, all three, will probably keep lips zipped.

The Intercept offers part of the answer. Dear Leader had Organizing for America, his own grifting HQ, so with both Kaine and DWS, he kicked the DNC to the curb.

So, I don't totally blame Hillary for actually wanting to help the DNC.

However, as Ken notes, there were other ways of doing that. Like, No. 1, scheduling more debates.

So will the pious Democratic factota now lining up to join in at running that bus over Dancing with the Schultz as well as Clinton. That's even though, between her and Barackabama, Congressional Dems, after going  over a cliff in 2010 under Dear Leader plus Tim Kaine at the DNC, made but a slight recovery in 2012, and slid lower than 2010 in the 2014 midterms. Maybe Barackabama kept her there as an easy scapegoat.

Update, and speaking of them and Clinton-Kaine? Prima Donna also sez that she contemplated a coup of sorts, replacing them with Biden-Booker. First, who had the power to try to do this? Second, the idea that this could even be seriously contemplated should be instant ammo for the appeal of the DNC fraud lawsuit. Third, Booker probably would have tried to poison Biden.

Irony alert: The Hillbot pushback against "Patsey the Slave" claims that Brazile got bamfoozled by Putin propaganda.

And she is right that Dear Leader, along with Ms. Cattle Futures and Dancing with the Schultz, were three "titanic egos."

At the same time, per that new link, the idea that Prima Donna took over the DNC "reluctantly"? Uh, sure. Second rule in politics? "Follow the power after you follow the money."

Speaking of? Per Ken, Brazile retweeted this Tweet that claims the insider deal between HFA and the DNC had zero election effect. Upshit? If she's in it for the book money, she'll get it. If she's in it for the power, she's burned too many bridges in too many directsions with insiders now.

Sidebar: Hillary Clinton not only ran a suck-ass campaign, she had with her a suck-ass former DNC head as her Veep nominee. And, as much an insider eminence as Stanley Greenberg talked about the suck-ass campaign in as much an insider spot as The American Prospect. I mean, older members of the party establishment should have looked back to Hillarycare in 1993-94 to see she had a tin ear for retail politics.

And, yet, this all went on. The Democratic Party is both inept and corrupt at the national level. Kaine/Barackabama let slide the 50-state strategy of Howard Duck Dean, to the degree it was successful. And, Pelosi and lieutenants in the House didn't pick up the ball when it was clear that Preznit Kumbaya was doing his own mellifluous version of triangulation. Plenty of blame to go around.

OK, we're done with questions and commentary?

Wait, another question.

How did Elizabeth Warren not avoid getting semi-pinned down by Jake Tapper? Oh, this is a two-parter. How did Tapper not ask her if her answer wasn't talking about the horses after Tom Perez opened the barn door last month?

Speaking of, Tom Perez sure learned well from his former boss, Barackabama. Almost word for word, "moving forward not backward," when asked about Dancing with the Schultz.

And, one other question.

If Hillary's campaign had THAT BAD of a burn rate, doesn't this reinforce just how "lucky" she got with her cattle futures?

Actually, one other question.

"Shattered" was a fake tell-all, but as told to, not by a player.

"Hacks" is now a fake tell-all by an insider. Sorry, Stan Greenberg, but it didn't go that much deeper than what the MSM already had, and the authors started with the Putin Did It line.

Will we get a more real tell-all at some point?

And, if you don't believe me on "Shattered"?

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed CampaignShattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan   Allen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Inside baseball book strikes out in first at bat.

That strikeout occurs at the end of the introduction.

The authors talk about a "Kremlin-based campaign" against her and the failure of the media to get Trump's tax return while it "scrutinized her every move."

The first is factually incorrect. The second is narratively incorrect.

The most we know the Kremlin did right now was to try to hack into Iowa and Arizona state voting offices. Other activities believed to have been done by Russian individuals have not been tied to the Kremlin. As in, could be individual hackers, etc. More important, yet, the best intelligence indicated the DNC email leaks given to Wikileaks had their physical transmission done in the US and not over the Internet. More than that we can't say for certain, but it seems pretty clear no Russkies were involved.

The media? Wrote plenty of stories about Trump's taxes. Remember David Cay Johnston? I do. Wrote plenty of other stories about him. That said, it's not a CRIME for a presidential candidate to hold tax returns and, if it were, the media is not a grand jury or a district attorney.

The rest of the book generally slouches toward Gomorrah from there. The first time Bernie's "white liberal" backers is used of him, it's semi-sneering. The book doesn't cover either Clinton's OR Sanders' failures in foreign policy issues. The problematic nature of the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton's lies about donors to it — including lies to President Obama — get unmentioned.

And, even the inside baseball doesn't have that much new stuff for regular campaign watchers, especially those who saw a moderate variant of 2008 repeating itself.

The book in general reads as clearly coming from an inside-the-Beltway pundit duo.


And, don't believe a fake-reform, fake-improve-all book, either. Especially not when it comes from a guy who set up a totally non-transparent think tank, foundation, and likely eventual lobbying shop. Instead, take note that some of his fakery was called out 30 years ago.

Add in that real Democrat Bernie became part of a suit against the state of Arizona for not running a primary well — which theoretically hurt Republicans, too — but refused to sue the Iowa Democratic Party for putting its thumb on the scale for Clinton in the Democratic caucus.

Oh, and that fake-reform book? Reviewed it for you too.

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe InOur Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don't get sheepdogged

Several problems with this book.

One is that Bernie's a real Democrat, and has been a real Democrat for 25 years, despite the "I" that comes after his name on paper on a ballot line. And, he'll never tell you that. Nor does he support true options in general. There's no index, but I can tell you that you won't find a phrase like "Green Party" in this book.

Second is that, speaking of that, this book is all about domestic issues. Yes, ALL. Every chapter is about a domestic issue.

Why? Yes, he voted against the Iraq War. So did other Democrats, even if they were a minority. That said, Bernie in general, and the duopoly in general, have supported most American imperialism and American interventionalism. Bernie's no real friend of the Palestinians, for example. And, some of us know that. And we know that if he wrote enough about foreign policy, he eventually couldn't hide that.

Third is that, contra most 1 and 2 star reviews, while he called himself a "social democrat," he's not an actual socialist.

Fourth is that this is not a well-written book. It's the print version of Bernie's one-note trumpet, which eventually does become tiresome. And, as noted above, it was a quick-enough knockoff that there's no index.

(Update from original review: I think it was hastened to print to function as a lead-in and promo for the kickoff of the Sanders Institute. Once again, follow the money.)

The "Our Revolution" organization, at least from what I can see at the state level in my state, appears to be targeting entirely Dems on the left hand of the state Democratic party. Greens, Socialists, left-liberal independents need not apply. The book was written to further that; hence my headline.

Hence the header. (Combining points 1 and 2 above, in the one Dem debate, when Bernie discussed coups, he only mentioned Republican-sponsored ones. He ignored Diem in Vietnam, Hillary Clinton's coup against Honduras, and the semi-coup against Ukraine, for example.)

I don't like being lumped with disgruntled Hillbots and wingnuts, who make up all the 1- and 2-star reviews. But, Bernie could have done something different than he did from June on.

View all my reviews


Finally, a pro tip. With that big of a "get" in the Politico interview, I can guarantee you the rest of Brazile's book will be thin soup. And, per the title, a fair chunk of that thin soup will be "Putin Did It" BS. We probably won't even get either John Podesta's risotto tips or Putin's borscht with wild boar recipe.

Pro tip 2: Per Hank Kissinger, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." After money, it's what to follow next in politics. Brazile isn't yet done with the Democratic world, and she's triangulating into a post-Hillary future. For the same reason, I suspect "Shattered" didn't deliver as much deep dish as promised, and what it had wasn't any tastier of deep dish than Papa John's. Tipsters didn't want to burn too many bridges, or to destroy piers along with the bridge crossings.

Pro tip 3: If we want to see the money game, let's see how many copies Hillz, Prima Donna and Bernie the not so Socialist sell in a year's time.

November 01, 2017

#Cardinals fans — is the Iron Giant available? (circle Dec. 10)

Giancarlo Stanton, the
Iron Giant of Miami,
may be available.
Derek Jeter, the public face and everyday executive of new Miami Marlins ownership, certainly seemed to indicate the possibility of trading Giancarlo Stanton is real. And, Stanton, for his turn, said he didn't want to be part of yet another rebuild.

So, fellow Birds fans, if you want the Cardinals brains trust to bite, who do you send? (Update: Reportedly, the Marlins and Stanton will fish or cut bait on a trade by Dec. 10, with Stanton having provided the Fish a list of teams to which he would go.)

I say clear out the OF logjam and send BOTH Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. The Giant is in right, and Tommy Pham is your likely center fielder with Dexter Fowler in left. Pham showed he's at least as good as Fowler defensively.

Those two players might not be enough. Throw in Aledmys Diaz, assuming that Paul DeJong is your shortstop of the future. Besides, the Cuban angle with Diaz in Miami could play well.

I'll add Tyler Lyons or some other lower-level pitcher, too. (None of the top starters, though, as Waino needs a knife and Lance Lynn could be allowed to walk.) And Greg Garcia if the Marlins want yet more infield depth. Or Jedd Gyorko if absolutely necessary — with the Padres paying part of his contract, he's cheap enough on the Marlins side.

If necessary, I will toss in DeJong and keep Diaz.

The Marlins could use the infield depth. B-Ref generously lists Miguel Rojas as their best and primary shortstop. Dee Gordon is OK but no more than that at second. Ditto for third in Miami, where Derek Dietrich is OK with the bat but not a natural third baseman.

That's enough on the player side. (Contra Mo, here's why Pham, if not "untouchable," should at least be high-priced if he's going to be moved. Also contra Mo, and Matheny, they should, if not welcoming Pham as a team spokesman, at least not be dissing him over team callouts.)

If Jeter wants more, he has to agree to eat some contract. Or agree to take Fowler instead of Grichuk and eat contract back. (That's hypothetical, as Fowler would never wave his no-trade to go to Florida.)

Update, Oct. 24: That scenario is similar to what Derrick Goold mentions on slide 6 of this quick hits from his most recent online chat. Goold has a similar take to mine on what offer might cinch a deal without the Marlins eating contract and how, if Miami wants more, they'll have to do just that. (Sorry to friend Max Robinsob, but that's how it works.

Update 2, Nov. 1: Marlins sources tell the Miami Herald that yes, Stanton is likely to be moved. For money reasons. And again, unless they want to eat contract, they'll take more in the way of prospects or second-tier players and less in the way of known, A-tier quantities. Again, Mr. Robinsob, sorry, but that's how it works.

Remember, the Giant can opt out after 2020. So, you've got an immediate power upgrade, a very good arm and middling range in right field on defense ... and Mo sees what happens in three years.

If he stays healthy AND opts out, pay him more upfront, while shortening the overall length by a year.

If he's a bit iffy and walks out, you let him go.

If he doesn't opt out, his contract isn't horrible. He'll be younger than Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera when it's done, and surely more mobile. Plus, while it IS backloaded after the first couple of years remaining, and the cheap years are already gone, the last two are actually a bit less onerous — and that last one has a team buyout.

And, from Cardinals fandom perspective? This trade electrifies the fan base. Mo shows that he's ready to "go for it."


Update: On Slide 9 of this quick hits, Derrick Goold talks about the contract and other seeming complications with it besides the price, ie the opt-out (and Stanton's no-trade clause). He remains skeptical of the team doing a deal without getting Stanton to redo portions of the contract and/or the Marlins eat money. I wouldn't mind the redo idea if favorable to the Cardinals.

Later, Goold mentions the Cards' new TV contract is about to kick in, another factor in all things considered.

TX Progressives wait for next Mueller shoe to drop in Wrangle

In this post-Halloween, post-Reformation Day myth roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance wonders what is the next Robert Mueller shoe to drop as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the latest UT/Texas Tribune poll and wishes the pollsters had a bit more vision.

Socratic Gadfly first offered his take on the Joe Straus retirement announcement and then excoriated the inside-the-Mopac media gaggle for its use of the phrase "moderate Republican."

The PDid slate — recommendations in the ongoing election for Texas constitutional amendments, Houston municipal bonds, and HCC and HISD candidates — is posted at Brains and Eggs.

In the wake of the new JFK files release, Jobsanger rightly reminds us that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Neil at All People Have Value reviewed the post-hurricane Harvey public art work in Houston called "Toxic Pile of Dirt." APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Daniel Williams explains the state constitutional amendments to you.

Ag Commish Sid Miller grossly jokes about suicide.

Grifting, tough-on-budgets and allegedly on crime McLennan County DA Abel Reyna is under federal investigation.

Robert Rivard bemoans how unsafe San Antonio is for pedestrians.

Jennifer McQuade wants to know where our government is in Puerto Rico.

Dwight Silverman gives four reasons why Amazon Key is a bad idea.

Space City Weather examines the Harris County proposals for flood mitigation.

Wes Ferguson notes that fewer Texas high schoolers are interested in playing football.

Aaron West documents the history of the three local skinheads who were arrested in Florida for firing a gun at the Richard Spencer rally.

Shannon Watts eulogizes Catherine Vance, a 40-year-old Moms Demand Action advocate from Houston who passed away from colon cancer this past week.

Texas Vox notes how fracking-caused earthquakes are now being mapped.

The Texas Observer wonders if Franklin Graham is distancing himself from Donald Trump.


October 31, 2017

Would an #IkeDike help Houston? Or be a big ripoff? Say #carbontax (updated)

Update, Oct. 31: In a "trick or treat," Gov. Abbott now wants $12 billion for an Ike Dike as part of a $61 billion federal bailout. Yeah, that word's about right, especially if Texas Congresscritters refuse to support a Manhattan Dike, since NYC is a lot more vulnerable to oceanic-related global warming effects than Houston is.

With a storm like the current Harvey, or the old Tropical Storm Allison, the answer is simply no, an "Ike Dike," first proposed after Hurricane Ike, would be of no help. Simply wouldn't. That's not only due to a Harvey primarily being a problem due to inland rain-induced flooding, not a storm surge, but that the surge that Harvey wound up generating on its final run was partially from within Galveston Bay, not being brought from the larger Gulf of Mexico INTO the bay. And, that will be true of other storms that run up the coast rather than coming in from offshore.

Yes, per one of the links that friend Brains posted on Twitter, A&M-Galveston is touting it. Of course they are — it's A&M, a fricking engineering school. And, with the Corps of Cadets centered on the main branch in College Station, it's the state's military school, too. That will tie in here in a minute.

Besides, contra AM-Galveston, there simply is no such newfangled post-Katrina item in New Orleans called the "Greater New Orleans Barrier." There is NO Wiki page for it and less than 200 Google hits. (Actually, less than 40 if you eliminate near-duplicates.) This is a fraudulent attempt to put a label on a nonexistent item, which is actually a group of post-Katrina cobbled-together upgrades, expansions and improvements to existing storm surge barriers.

It's also fraudulent to say that the Netherlands' work, designed to face North Sea gales with normal max 60 mph winds, and almost never above 75-80 mph, is the same as trying to block out a Category 5 hurricane. (The same is true for Venice's tidal gate system.)

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's also like the Army Corps of Engineers saying yet-higher levees is always the answer for Mississippi River floods, or some newer, higher dam, is always the answer for floods out west.

Per ProPublica, in Houston, city and Harris County officials need to focus on inland solutions — green spaces, permeable ground, and zoning — that are cheaper than dikes that will likely cost $10 billion, not $3 billion, that are hubristic, and that won't help inland flooding, either. And, it's no wonder that a leading private contractor (especially on military stuff) is also touting the so-called Ike Dike. This is the military-industrial complex gravy train at work. And, that same military-industrial complex was at work getting at least one Houston suburb to push for it. (On the "less than 200 Google hits," there's a number of Houston suburbs with city ordinances or similar city council agenda items like that.) Speaking of, the Corps' New Orleans-area work, per Wiki, has long been known to be laden with pork. And, the Corps' post-Katrina levees work, when Isaac came, moved flooding around more than anything else.

And, the Seabrook Floodgate, if that's what's meant, is nothing like a "Greater New Orleans Barrier."

And, again, an Ike Dike would be of ZERO effectiveness against inland, rain-induced flooding.

Something else that would be cheaper? Fixing, or even reversing if possible, ground subsidence.

And, leaders of Sun Belt megalopolises also need to read Ed Abbey (that's YOU, former mayor Annise Parker) and remember: "Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell."

But, per my Houston vs Harvey blog post, Houstonians and Harris County voters keep electing "open for business" growth-only mayors, city councilmen, county judges and county commissioners. Your local answer needs to start with "vote the rascals out." And get the new people to fire city and county flood staff.

When President Obama took office, I said he should have used some of the Great Recession stimulus money to make new moves to Phoenix and Vegas go back to Cleveland, St. Louis or wherever as part of buying out underwater mortgages, before climate change made those cities essentially unlivable. To be honest, the same probably needs to happen in Houston, and New Orleans. Beyond all the problems mentioned above, both cities also face land subsidence from groundwater pumping that has turned them into giant bowls.

An Ike Dike as the semi-magic solution to these problems? It's what Evgeny Morozov calls "solutionism." It's what I've called here "salvific technologism." It's the stuff that makes Silicon Valley tech-neoliberals (as well as the military-industrial complex) salivate.

Folks in other places — Baton Rouge and parts of South Florida come to mind — are already at work on inland mitigation effects, including permeability, smart building, etc. Why won't greater Houston, and why shouldn't it?


As for cost? Kuff has numbers with higher estimates, depending on the project, than does Brains. And state Land Commish Pee Bush, per Vox, says $15M. They're still surely underestimates, once the military-industrial complex gets its hands on this. But, at least we are getting somewhat more serious.

Something else that would be cheaper and would help with flooding, though not a storm surge, is an underground conduit draining Addicks and Barker reservoirs straight to the Houston Ship Channel. It was first discussed 20 years ago. Even that would be less pricey than an Ike Dike, though it would still have the Corps involved.

And, neither Brains nor Kuff talk about the other costs, like environmental. How would this affect marine life? At the intersection of environment and business, how would this affect fishing and shrimping? Or simply business — how would this affect offshore oil exploration? (The channel would also have some environmental effect, though surely less than an Ike Dike.)

I mean, this IS the Corps of Engineers we're talking about, that is generally in neck-and-neck running with the Bureau of Recreation for among the most environmentally UNfriendly federal government agencies.

Even that reservoir conduit? It would be like the Mississippi River levees or moving around the New Orleans ones. A blast from it like Harvey's would probably tear up portions of the Houston Ship Channel unless IT was re-engineered. And, for how much?

An Ike Dike is a nice dream. No more than that. Per the above, probably not tremendously more realistic than an air-conditioned dome above all of Phoenix, or geoengineering the atmosphere with soot to try to reduce climate change.

And, if the real cost is $20 billion? Or even close? The only way I would consider paying for that is a national carbon tax, which the wingnuts who run Harris County, and the accommodators who run Houston, would never back.

And, per Ed Abbey and other things, were I the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., I'd refuse to fund an Ike Dike without a carbon tax. AND, I wouldn't sign off without Emmett, Turner et al agreeing to ALSO do mainland mitigation work.

In other words, if I were president, Houston and Harris County would have to pass zoning ordinances before getting money.

This is no different than my supporting single-payer national health care only if cost controls are attached. (And that is why I want the US to adopt at least elements of a British-style NHS.)


This is nothing against Perry, nor against other bloggers on the Texas Progressives list. Per what he said about another blogger, he's in many ways like a brother from another mother, or at least a cousin from another aunt. And, I have other friends, including two college classmates, who also live in Houston.

But, this is also about what's right for the country, what's right for the environment and what's realistic. I mean, we already have a country with unmet infrastructure repairs, improvements and upgrades so crappy in some places, along with income inequality, that an MIT economist recently labeled the US a "developing country."

And, on "realistic" and environmentalism, the Corps of Engineers usually runs neck and neck with the Bureau of Reclamation for lack of environmental concern among federal construction-type agencies.

And finally, no, it's not "too soon" to write this.

October 29, 2017

Luther legend shitstorm is about to hit (newly updated)

I blogged nearly three years ago about myth vs reality on Martin Luther, well in advance of the 500th anniversary of his allegedly doing something with some theses. Indeed, I started with that legend, for legend it is, that he nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church.

And, I was already planning on starting a series of blog posts with the anniversary nearing vision.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think that a liberal American opinion magazine would be the spark for my memory, to get started.

But, it is.

The Nation uncritically repeats the legend about the 95 theses (It's unclear whether any of the books it reviews have this, or just itself) in a review of several new biographies about Luther and/or his times.

The 95 Theses has been refuted here and here. (OTOH, another Luther friend claims he nailed the Theses to other church doors in Wittenberg as well as the Castle Church. Doubtful. Wiki's article, with a link, claims this was university custom. In THAT case, Melancthon either got a distorted version of the story, or else clipped out the other churches for dramatic effect. In either case, they were in Latin and affected the average Wittenberger not one bit. However, I consider this doubtful, due to the length of the theses. Hand writing multiple copies of that, with a quill pen, in a relatively short time? Besides, not only was Georg Rörer not only not an eyewitness, he didn't even attend Wittenberg. 

Luther also did not say, as best as we know, "Here I stand, I can do no more," at the Diet of Worms in 1521. The "Here I stand" legend is refuted at the first of the two links in the paragraph above and also here.

He wasn't the son of peasants, either. His father owned copper-smelting operations and relatives of his mother advanced him the money to buy in. One of his mother's brothers was a doctor. A more distant relative was mayor of Eisenach at one time.

Oh, and Luther himself apparently started the "son of peasants" myth. That said, Eric Metaxas, who refutes that in his new Luther bio, repeats a polished-up version of the 95 Theses myth, along with several others in a book that won't get more than 3 stars on my review.

(That said, the link has been updated to my Goodreads review of the book. It SUCKS. It got 1 star because he does far worse than that, including running Luther through an American evangelical sheep dip, including neoconservativism and Islamophobia. See this blog post for an expansion on my original review. And go here for a better dual bio of Luther and Erasmus.)

Beyond that, the largest Lutheran denomination in the US rejects or questions some Luther myths, including the 95 Theses and the Here I stand. However (shock me) the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the main denomination of the fundamentalist wing of American Lutheranism (and, yes, you are fundamentalists) accepts the castle church door legend wholeheartedly, as it does again in this timeline at a spinoff Reformation anniversary.

What else can it do? If you're a literalistic church body on things like the inspiration of scripture itself, you probably have to double down and be literalistic on the Textus Receptus history of your founder.

It's clear that on the theses, they were only submitted to Luther's superior, Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, under cover of an explanatory level. Most the myth-busters note that the doors of churches, in general, were not used as community bulletin boards or even ecclesiastical ones. Had Luther wanted to provoke discussion, he would have posted a copy somewhere within the university, instead. I mean, that's where the academics were. Peasants walking by a church door, being illiterate in German, let alone Latin, would have cared less about a piece of paper tacked up there, or, as the split-the-difference smarmy Metaxas claims, pasted up there.

Also, the second "here" that is linked above notes that Luther granted indulgences himself early in his ecclesiastical career. He just didn't sell them.

A good bio of Luther shows he was sincerely tormented with guilt over sinfulness. And, contra Erickson, this was not misplaced Freudian paternal-directed anger. At the same time, he was far from alone. His anger seems to have become more intense, and floated to the surface, as he realized more how much the medieval church had strayed from its, say, pre-400 or pre-500 roots or semi-roots.

(Of course, Luther didn't look at how much the post-Nicene church strayed from its pre-200 roots in erecting a theological edifice that probably would have astounded Jesus and his followers.)

His anger was mixed with a stubborn obstinacy that spilled beyond indulgences and related issues, not only to the authority of the papacy, but to the formation of a new tradition.

That said, the church of Luther's era was not only led by corrupt popes, it was also increasingly ossified. Indulgences had been a problem for 300 years or more by the time Luther drafted his theses, yet neither the Fourth Lateran Council nor the Council of Constance, among other church meetings, seriously and lastingly addressed the issue.

Combined with incipient proto-German nationalism, the abuse was ripe for the plucking.

Let's remember that a fair amount of why Luther got a "name" was luck. Neither John Wyclif nor Jan Hus had a printing press to spread their ideas, nor, in Wyclif's case, to spread his vernacular Middle English bible. Wyclif had no relatively semi-critically edited Greek New Testament for the basis of that bible. Wyclif also was in an era where ferment for reform was fairly low, and being in England, he was at the edge of Western Christendom, unlike Luther or Hus.

Unfortunately, but only semi-surprisingly, not fully so, the S-USIH history blog repeats both of the two top Luther legends.

L.D. Burnett does back off his claims to certainty, on the first at least, in a follow-up comment. He does open more interesting questions with the attempt to nail the start of the Reformation to a certain date. But, what does that do to Hus or Wyclif? For that matter, what does that do to Zwingli, and how much or how little he was influenced by Luther?


And, as noted in that original piece, Luther’s virulent anti-semitism is no legend at all.

Peasants' Revolt

A lighter-hearted mythbusting site, from within the liberal wing of Lutheranism, itself gets a thing or two partially wrong. Luther perhaps may not have hated all peasants. But, citing the fact that his grandfather was a farmer is proof of nothing. Many acorns fall close to the tree, but to reverse the cliche, the dandelion seed head blows far away. It seems pretty clear that he DID hate "uppity" peasants, especially ones who might be trying to implement a 1500s version of social gospel, let alone liberation theology. Luther's "Admonition" to both peasants and lords was not as 50-50 as claimed. In any case, even for that day and age, arguably, The Twelve Articles of the Swabian Peasants are more irenic than, say, something written in conjunction with the Wat Tyler Revolt in England 150 years earlier.

The real issue is that, when he wrote "On the Thieving, Murderous Hordes," and afterward, Luther (in my own debunking of another myth) refused to admit he was wrong. Appeals to people to prove him wrong were, by 1525 at the latest, nothing more than rhetorical tropes.

Given his father being a member of the ownership class, and his mother coming from a family background both richer and much more educated, and more politically corrected, a few conclusions can be drawn.

Above all, that is that Luther was much closer to being a proto-capitalist than a proto-Marxist, despite East Germany's attempts to exploit Luther 450th anniversary events.

Meanwhile, as noted above, by 1525, that stubborn obstinacy at the core of Luther's character spilled elsewhere, with further major consequences.

Dealings with the Reformed

He shows this clearly in his dealings with non-Lutheran Reformed brethren, starting with, but by no means limited to, Ulrich Zwingli. Even a middleman like Martin Bucer came in for Luther's wrath. In general, he used the same language on Reformed leaders as he did on Catholics, even though their language in response was, and remained, much more irenic.

If there's a "fault," beyond irreconcilable doctrinal issues, that, in Germany and beyond, there wasn't a more united Protestantism (until the Prussian Union in much of Germany, and the rise of more liberal theology in general), the fault lies with Martin Luther more than any other single person.

As far as the keystone there, Luther's take on the "Real Presence" in the Eucharist, this was a literalistic vs more humanistic take on what the human nature of Jesus implied. That said, even in his post-Resurrection appearances, Jesus in a Pauline spiritual body, while shown appearing out of nowhere, is never shown as appearing in multiple ways at the same time.

On the other hand, neither Luther nor his Reformed brethren at the Marburg Colloquy appeared to wrestle with John 6 — only the Synoptics.

Speaking of, as Orthodoxy accepts John's timeline for the Passion, and more pertinently, rejects Augustinian ideas of original sin, a good bio of Luther, unlike Metaxas, will do at least a bit of putting Luther into the context of ALL Christianity, not just its western variants. Many Orthodox post-Nicaea theologians, or, per the real breaking point time, post-Carolingian ones, would have laughed, if nothing else, at Luther's turmoils. However, unlike a Cajetan telling Luther to just say "revoco" and follow Rome, Orthodox thinkers would  have laughed for other serious reasons.

Also, while Orthodoxy believes in penance as a sacrament, and in a quasi-purgatory, it has never had a practice of indulgences. Luther himself, other than noting the Eastern churches were free of Rome, made no real effort to learn about post-Nicene, and certainly not about post-Carolingian, Orthodoxy.

(Prayers for the dead, on which purgatory is partially based, have some tenuous New Testament basis. And more, below that, from early Christian tradition.) And, per Wiki (follow links) Philip Melanchthon accepted that prayers for the dead were part of Christian tradition in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (XXIV 96). (That's of note given that Luther mailed out his 95 Theses copy on All Saints Eve.)

Also vis-a-vis the Reformed, Luther's luck again shines through. Unlike Zwingli, he didn't get killed. And, he happened to be older than Calvin, as well as Bucer and others who deliberated between Lutheranism and the Reformed stream of thought. Had Bucer been closer to Luther in age, more of Lutheranism might have been steered in a more Reformed direction.

Transubstantiation, the Real Presence and the pre-Reformed

The Reformed theologians, along with Luther, agreed in rejecting transubstantiation. Whether the Reformed thought about it or not, beyond their actually expressed reasons, they had others for rejecting Luther's stance.

Basically, Luther was trying to walk a petard between two horns of a dilemma with his stance, although neither he nor the Reformed appear to have seen that.

The horns?

One was ex opere operato, in other worse, the very thing that Luther found lying behind transubstantiation when he rejected it. In this case, if it is faith itself that makes Jesus bodily present for a believer in the sacrament, well that too is ex opere operato. Luther might raise two objections — the biggie is that belief comes from the Holy Spirit.

That leads to another problem. In that case, going beyond Luther's single-predestination version of predestination, a human in this case becomes nothing more than an automaton, a playtoy for Jethro Tull's "Bungle in the Jungle." Luther would also reject that, but he'd have no grounds for that other than his own stubbornness, or else appeals to god's inscrutability. THAT, in turn, leads to the Psychological Problem of Evil, about which I've blogged before, more than once.

The other horn? Scholasticism, and angels on heads of pins. If neither a state of faith nor a particular statement of faith at the time of the blessing and offering of the Eucharist makes Jesus bodily present, then exactly when and exactly how IS he? Does the reading of the Biblical words of the Institution, not as a priestly act, but simply the presence of the words, do it? In that case, the words of the bible are themselves close to becoming the fourth person of the Trinity. Islam, in some extremely "high" versions of theology of the nature of the Quran, ran into similar issues.

Infant baptism faces similar horns, unless one ditches Lutheran ideas and instead treats it merely as a sign of grace or entrance into a Christian covenant, paralleling circumcision.


Oh, and he was wrong about the papacy being the Antichrist. Antichrist, whether a person or spiritual stance, in 1 John, is not the same as the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians. (That sets aside, of course, the issue of whether "the man of lawlessness" is the papacy. And, even on a literalist, even fundamentalist, reading of 2 Thessalonians, that's a hard stance to take.) 1 John mentions nothing about Antichrist being in a position of authority.

Critical theology, not mentioned much at the Wiki page, at least MY critical theology, says that, instead of Nero, the pseudo-Pauline author, like the Synoptic gospels, may have been envisioning the Jewish revolt, temple takeover and temple destruction, which also gives us a terminus a quo for the book.

Assuming the author wrote before Titus, in the name of Vespasian, finished the conquest, that would have us talking late-60s CE. I'd argue that it most likely refers to one or more of the Jewish leaders who took over the temple and started the revolt.

The Jews

Luther is well known for his violence-laden invective against Jews. That said, most people think it was confined to the latter years of his life, and his apologists use this, and his health issues then, as an excuse.

Not true. As Michael Massing notes in his great new "Fatal Discord," a parallel dual biography of Luther and Erasmus which is reviewed here, Luther was already expressing such thoughts in his pre-95 Theses lecture notes on the book of Psalms, right in the mix of the Reuchlin-Pfefferkorn controversy. This started in 1513; see pages 187ff of the book.

That said, Massing also notes that, while not violently, or too virulently, expressed, Erasmus had his own boatload of anti-Semitism. It was more anti-Jewish religion than Luther's, trading less in "moneygrubbing" stereotypes. A fair chunk of it was claiming that the "Law" of the Torah — legalism — led in a direct line to the legalism of the Catholicism of his own day. In other words, perpetuating a legend that goes in part all the way back to Paul. THAT then said, Massing notes that many humanists held ideas like this.


The "yes I'm right" stance of Luther himself, not only vis-a-vis things where he clearly was, but other issues, such as versus the Reformed on the Eucharist, versus many Reformed and other Lutherans on the issue of adiophora and more, seems to still run strong in much of the conservative wing of Lutheranism. (Let's not forget that Luther thought he was competent to condemn Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system, and rushed to do so when his book was published.)

That's not a total surprise, though. Fundamentalist versions of Christian denominations, just like fundamentalist strains in other world religions, stay fundamentalist due to mindsets.

Outside of being the largest single fulcrum for the Reformation, and secondly, the anti-Semitic issue, Luther contributed little to the larger world. No German state had any New World colonies, for one thing. Many individual Lutheran emigrants to early America were Mennonite, not Lutheran.

As "Anglo-Lutheran-Catholic" groups call for reunion with Rome, and as Stanley Hauerwas wrongly claims there's little difference between Protestants and Catholics today, Luther's importance in the religious world remains. Hauerwas has a fair degree of arrogance on "Protestants won," too.

"Mush god" believers from either the liberal wings of mainline denominations may have their own reasons for playing down differences, just as do Anglo-Catholics, etc. That doesn't mean they don't still exist, either in the minds of their more traditionalist Protestant brethren or Opus Dei type Catholics.

On that piece, not all Catholics of 1517 held to a "legalistic perversion," first. Second, transubstantiation divides Rome from all Protestants, as does a married priesthood. Even a non-transubstantiated Real Presence is a Eucharistic minority among Protestants, as is the idea of a priestly apostolic succession. Hauerwas also ignores papal infallibility ex cathedra, a renewed focus on sainthood under John Paul II and many other things.

Finally, not only does trying to pin the start of the Reformation to one date risk subsuming Wyclif and Hus, and a whole trend of the desire and ferment for reform of which they are two exemplars, it also risks subsuming the degree of independent thought that Zwingli brought to his own push for reform.

NB: Expect one major update three-plus years from now, with a further look at the Diet of Worms.