Friday, May 27, 2011

Jefferson and Religion

The Smithsonian is publishing a new edition of the Jefferson Bible. I have blogged about the Jefferson Bible in the past. Thomas Jefferson wanted a version of The Bible that would stand up to the principles of the Enlightenment. He bounced the idea by several friends. He asked Joseph Priestley, the scientist that discovered oxygen, to take it on as a project. He wrote to friends abroad, the enlightened few of the era (often referred to The Republic of Letters). No one would go near it. To rewrite The Bible without the miracles and only validated history was controversial even back then. He ended up writing it himself and shared it with no one. No one saw the manuscript until after his death. John Adams would bother him often to take a peek at his secret project.

With the exception of Isaac Newton, Jefferson believed that Jesus was the greatest man in history. This is why he thought that the King James Bible was not a sufficient document to show the story of his life. He thought Jesus, who was not divine, produced the greatest progress in ethics in world history, even more so than Socrates. Of all Jefferson's accomplishments, he believed that his greatest was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This statute was the first of its kind in the world because it established the separation of church and state. So it may very well be his greatest achievement.

In his time Jefferson was widely thought of as a religious radical. At one point in his life, he predicted that, in 50 years, most young men in the nation would be Unitarians. I think he might be disappointed with our current makeup. As an ex-Unitarian myself, I find this amusing. During the election of 1796, it was believed that he was going to confiscate people’s Bibles. Perhaps one of the reasons why Adams defeated him. These types of stories always remind of the 2008 election when stories of Obama being a Muslim surfaced. Of course, these were untrue. Jeffferson believed in the neutrality of the government. He didn't care what people believed, he just thought they should have the freedom to pursue their own beliefs. This was indeed very radical at the time, even now in some circles.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Cubs at Fenway

It has been almost 100 years since the Chicago Cubs have played in Fenway Park. I am overjoyed at the fact that I will get to see their return next weekend. I have tickets to Saturday's game and I am working on getting another one for Friday's game. I have the vacation day and I am heading out Friday morning for the five hour drive to the old town. I couldn't be more excited. I just hope the rain subsides.

The last time the Cubs played in Fenway was in the 1918 World Series where the Boston Red Sox beat them in six games thanks to their pitching phenom Babe Ruth (among others) who won game 1 (shut out) and game 4. Due to the Black Sox Scandal in 1919, where the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series, there will always be some doubt as to whether the Cubs also did so. In 1920, during the hearings in front of congress, White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte, made a vague reference to getting the idea to throw the series because the Cubs did it in 1918. There is never any follow-through and there is no other "proof". This will always be another reason why Cubs fans will always dislike their neighboring fans on the south side.

The only thing that makes you think that the Cubs indeed threw the series is that the score was so low. The Cubs scored a total of 10 runs in the whole series, but since the Red Sox only scored 9 this seems irrelevant. Cubs committed a total of five errors in the whole series (Boston committed one) which is not a lot. When you throw a game of baseball, the easiest way to do so is to commit intentional errors. The infamous 1919 White Sox committed 12 and their opponent, the Cincinnati Reds, committed 13. This was not uncommon in that era, the 1917 World Series had a total of 23 errors. This only makes me conclude that the 1918 World Series was a great series between two great teams that had impeccable defenses (both fielding and pitching). The Cubs might have won if their best pitcher, Pete Alexander, had not had to leave due to World War I. Also, the Cubs had to play their home game in unfamiliar Comiskey Park because it had a larger capacity than their home field, Wrigley (at that point named Weeghman Park).

The 1918 World Series in famous for a few more interesting reasons. For one, it was the last World Series in which there were no home runs hit during the entire series. You really have to wonder how this would have changed if the Red Sox had Ruth playing as a position player every game rather than only pitching two of them. It was also played in early September, due to the War. This was an era where players had to leave their teams to go to War. Players also had to leave teams to make more money elsewhere. They didn't make a lot of money (hence the gambling). This was also the first time that The Star Spangled Banner was played at a game. It was played during the seventh inning stretch and was not yet the US national anthem. And every game was played in under two hours. The game has changed a lot.

Monday, May 9, 2011

FDR's Trip to Casablanca

In 1943 FDR became the first US president to fly overseas. He was also the first president since Lincoln to visit the troops during a war, no president had ever left the country during war time and no sitting president had ever been to Africa. On January 9th, 1943 FDR embarked on a trip to meet secretly with Churchill at the Casablanca Conference. The word "Casablanca" was transmitted as the place of the meeting. The Germans intercepted this and translated it literally to mean "white house." They assumed the meeting was to take place in DC and not the Moroccan city.

This was long before Air Force One could take the president anywhere on the globe in luxury. He disembarked on the presidential train. Because this was a secret trip, it headed north as if he were going on one of his trips home to Hyde Park. The train stopped somewhere north of DC and came back south on another track. It continued on to Miami. Can you imagine how this disrupted travel in the states? In Miami he met up with a Boeing Clipper and flew across the Atlantic to North Africa.

Churchill's travels were shorter but probably more uncomfortable. He flew from England in a bomber. Two mattresses were spread across the bottom of the plane. He burned his toe on the heater while trying to sleep. Stalin was invited but declined due to the besiege of Hitler upon Stalingrad. De Gaulle showed but only because Churchill threatened to recognize Henri Giraud as the leader of Free France. This was the first time the two French leaders would meet.

The union of the two French leader did little to affect the progress of the war. The major accomplishments of Casablanca was the call for Hitler's "unconditional surrender". They also created the second front in France instead of the Balkans. One has to wonder if this would have happened if Stalin had shown up. Some say this is where the war started to take a turn toward the Allies.