Paul Ryan Should Be Especially Ashamed of Himself

repub lifeguard luckovich
(Mike Luckovich via

Timothy Egan, in the NYTimes:

IN advance of St. Patrick’s Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland’s great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world’s mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries.

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence…

The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine — and hurt them badly.”…

You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything. Nor, for that matter, does he target plutocrats like Romney who might be lulled into not taking risks because they pay an absurdly low tax rate simply by moving money around. Dependency is all one-way.

“The whole British argument in the famine was that the poor are poor because of a character defect,” said Christine Kinealy, a professor of Irish studies and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. “It’s a dangerous, meanspirited and tired argument.”…

109 replies
  1. 1
    Elizabelle says:

    Thank you for spotlighting Egan’s post. Paul Ryan would have shat on Paul Ryan’s forebears, and considered himself an honorable man for doing so.

    Egan: BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, [Paul Ryan] apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod. Centuries of British rule that attempted to strip the Irish of their language, their religion and their land had produced a wretched peasant class, subsisting on potatoes. When blight wiped out the potatoes, at least a million Irish died — one in eight people.

    “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine,” wrote the fiery essayist John Mitchel, whose words bought him a ticket to the penal colony of Tasmania.

    K-Thug tore young Ryan a new one today, too.

    There are many negative things you can say about Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.’s de facto intellectual leader. But you have to admit that he’s a very articulate guy, an expert at sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about.

    And that’s just the first para.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    I’m beginning to think that maybe Paul Ryan’s political party should be defeated in the next election.

  3. 3
    Amir Khalid says:

    Is Paul Ryan even capable of shame?

  4. 4
    Mnemosyne says:

    IIRC, it’s even more apt because there was plenty of food being grown in Ireland … but it was being exported at a profit by the landlords, leaving people with nothing to eat. So the debate was whether they should “allow” the Irish to eat the food that they themselves had worked to grow on the landlord’s farm:

    In History Ireland magazine (1997, issue 5, pp. 32–36), Christine Kinealy, a Great Hunger scholar, lecturer, and Drew University professor, relates her findings: Almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London during 1847, when 400,000 Irish men, women and children died of starvation and related diseases. She also writes that Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the Famine. This food was shipped under British military guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland; Ballina, Ballyshannon, Bantry, Dingle, Killala, Kilrush, Limerick, Sligo, Tralee and Westport. A wide variety of commodities left Ireland during 1847, including peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey, tongues, animal skins, rags, shoes, soap, glue and seed. The most shocking export figures concern butter. Butter was shipped in firkins, each one holding 9 gallons. In the first nine months of 1847, 56,557 firkins were exported from Ireland to Bristol, and 34,852 firkins were shipped to Liverpool which correlates to 822,681 gallons of butter exported to England from Ireland during nine months of the worst year of the Famine.The poor did not have sufficient money to obtain the food produced and the British government facilitated its exportation

    Rich people taking all of their profits off the top and leaving nothing for the 99 percent — where have we heard that lately?

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Amir Khalid: This, right here, is a key question.

    I do not believe it is possible for Ryan to feel any shame.

    This is why he is so tumbrel-worthy.

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    @Amir Khalid: Observational evidence suggests ‘no’.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Who cares?

  9. 9
    different-church-lady says:

    …the poor are poor because of a character defect they’re not us.”

    Then again, for people who think like this, not being them is the same as having a character defect.

  10. 10
    different-church-lady says:

    @Amir Khalid: Most sociopaths aren’t.

  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Baud: I’m going for putting them all on a cruise ship which then disappears into the Bermuda Triangle, aka “The Ocean”.

  12. 12
    Mike in NC says:

    That Randian dirtbag would just tell those lazy starving Micks to go out and sign up for the P90X program.

  13. 13
    Elizabelle says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    You mentioned in an earlier thread that the school lunch program evolved partly because malnutrition that left potential soldiers unfit for service in WWII.

    Mr. Ryan does not even know that more recent history, does he?

    Paul Ryan has blue eyes and a blackguard’s heart.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mike in NC: “Why don’t you go to your parents and get a startup loan for your business ideas? Or just cash out some of your wedding gift stock portfolio? You know, like normal people do?”

  15. 15
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Amir Khalid: maybe if his biceps got flabby he would be ashamed of that. I’m just spitballing here

  16. 16
    sm*t cl*de says:

    “The whole British argument in the famine was that the poor are poor because of a character defect,”

    Not entirely true. Part of their argument was that Nothing could Interfere with the Market, and the Market had decided that Ireland should be exporting food,* which subsidising grain for the poors would interfere with.
    Starving Irish peoples was collateral damage. A small price to pay for keeping the playing-field level.

    * See Mnemosyme @4.

  17. 17
    Roger Moore says:

    I bet the 19th Century English were more willing to stand up and say what they really thought of the poor Irish, rather than hiding behind racist dogwhistles the way Ryan does. He doesn’t even have the courage to stand up and say what he really thinks.

  18. 18
    Roger Moore says:


    Paul Ryan has blue eyes and a blackguard’s heart.

    I’m seriously skeptical of the blue eyes part. Those must be blue tinted contacts, because he’s so full of shit even his eyes should be brown.

  19. 19
    Kyle says:

    It’s a shame Ryan became dependent on government by receiving Social Security checks as a teenager after his father died. This led to his lifelong dependence on the government to make a living — he hasn’t held a job in the private sector since he graduated college.

  20. 20
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Mr. Ryan does not even know that more recent history, does he?

    This would require him to study history, and to have some critical thinking skills.

    His devotion to Ayn Rand precludes either of those things happening.

  21. 21
    Roger Moore says:

    Paul Ryan must have learned something valuable in that private sector job. He worked for Oscar Meyer, and he’s still peddling bologna to this day.

  22. 22
    Davis X. Machina says:

    When I was a lad, and learning my politics from the good people of Southie (lower end) and Dorchester, the unforgivable sin for a politician — the one thing my mother says about Reagan to this day with the most venom — is to forget where you came from.

    A man who forgets where he comes from isn’t worthy of your vote, or even your ‘hello’.

  23. 23
    maya says:

    When Pope Frankie the First comes to town it would be ever so entertaining if he requested an audience with some of his feckless flock: Paul Ryan and those fabulously wealthy Koch brothers, in their ill-fitting suits, chief among them, so that they might discuss the responsibilities of being Catholic. They will all have prior engagements no doubt.

  24. 24
    meander says:

    NPR’s Fresh Air had an interview with the author of a book about Tammany Hall the other day and the anti-Irish arguments of the mid-1800 sounded awfully similar to anti-immigrant comments today. E.g., “They will never be real Americans, many don’t even speak English,” “they’re a bunch of papists with a weird religious practice,” and so on.

  25. 25
    Seanly says:

    It was terrible what the landowners did.

    To his dieing day, my Irish grandfather hated the English with a passion. He was always sure to make a distinction that any non-Irish blood in him was Welsh, not English. I think he was born around 1920 and was a 1st generation American or came over when a very small boy. But he grew up learning to hate the English for the famine.

    How far away are we free those days again? When our social betters get everything of value and we’re stuck with one lousy crop because we can’t pay for the products we make.

  26. 26
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @meander: There’s a reason why in Blazing Saddles the townspeople agree, at the end, to take in the Blacks and the Chinese, but draw the line at accepting the Irish.

    The Irish, in the 19th century, were considered the supreme ethnic menace, what with their funny accents and their papist religion.

    Fortunately for the Irish, new ethnic immigrant menaces came along to take the heat of the nativists.

  27. 27
    Schlemizel says:


    You are correct sir. The food was being sold overseas for profit. It was potatoes that were left of the Irish & the failure of that one crop that killed so many in a land that could have fed them

    Perhaps we need a ‘delicate proposal’, the ‘urban’ people have meany children, perhaps they should be a food source so that those people do not become dependent on the crown for survival.

  28. 28
    Poopyman says:

    @maya: ‘Twould be better if he excommunicates them on the spot.

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Schlemizel: Soylent Green.

  30. 30
    Poopyman says:

    @Seanly: Ah, The Famine is only one in a long litany of English sins against the Irish. Just ask an Irishman his opinion of Cromwell.

    Irish Alzheimer’s, dude.

  31. 31
    opiejeanne says:

    Mr opiejeanne’s great great grandparents were Irish immigrants, victims of the Great Famine, came over sometime between 1840 and 1860.

    We visited Ireland in 2010 and were disgusted and horrified by the devastation these policies caused. The population of Ireland is still lower than it was at the time.

  32. 32
    Davis X. Machina says:

    The most important part of the Haggadah for this Irishman? “In every generation, each one of us is obligated to see ourselves as though we, personally, went free from slavery from Egypt”, because that’s pretty much “In every generation, each one of us is obligated to see ourselves as though we, personally, experienced An Gorta Mór“.

  33. 33
    El Cid says:

    The problem with feeding the Irish famine sufferers was that you might encourage vampirism.

  34. 34
    Schlemizel says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    All the horrible things said about immigrants where heaped on the Irish during the Civil War. Irish units from NYC were considered barely human & given crappy assignments. Many were drafted against their will and unwilling to fight a war to free black men when they were treated no better in many ways. It led to a lot of open hostility in NYC & the draft riots consisted with the lynching & beating of free black men & the burning of a negro orphanage.

    Its a history nobody can be proud of but important to see how the poorest immigrants were treated & how they reacted.

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:


    When Pope Frankie the First comes to town it would be ever so entertaining if he requested an audience with some of his feckless flock

    The Pope does not request an audience with his flock. He offers them an audience with him, and they’ll accept right quick if they know what’s good for them. Any Catholic who misses an offered audience with the Pope needs a better excuse than being busy if they don’t want to look like idiots for the rest of their lives.

  36. 36
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Those who fail to understand (or choose not to) the antipathy of the Ukrainians to the Russians would do well to read some of the comments in this thread and then read up on the Holodomor, the famine of 1932-33. Food was forcibly taken from the people who grew it and they starved to death in the millions, also in service of the almighty Market — just the centrally-planned one, not the capitalist one. And if some inconvenient minority died in the process, well, eggs, omelettes, you know.

  37. 37
    opiejeanne says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I was thinking Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

  38. 38
    Tommy says:

    Well I get to vote in the Illinois primary tomorrow. Not much heavy lifting for me to do. Basically vote for Quinn and see what clown is going to run against him. The rest of the election for me is all local, very local politics. I had to pick up a paper today to make sure I know who to vote for, cause there is almost no campaigning going on. In the local races about 30% of the Democrats are running unopposed.

    It isn’t that I live in a super liberal district, heck many running in my party wouldn’t even be called Democrats in other parts of the nation, I think the GOP has just about giving up on my District for anything other then House and Mayors.

    I guess that is what happens when you have two generations of political dynasties in a district (and we’re moving into a third) that had a strangle hold on most any office of importance.

  39. 39
    Trollhattan says:

    Factoids I recall from the 2012 campaign are his successful grandfather fashioned the business in large part on road-building (public works) and when his father died, he received Social Security survivor benefits until adulthood.

    Did he ask for them in a plain paper bag like everybody else?

  40. 40
    Woodrowfan says:

    the Irish are also, AFAIK, the only white group to be drawn as apes by editorial cartoonists in the 19th century. Usually it was only African-Americans who got that treatment.

  41. 41
    Tommy says:

    @Seanly: As a Scottish immigrate (family came here is 1872) we got no love for the British either. My former family members jointly feel your pain. Honest I am not an expert on the history of the times, and I think the Irish had it worse. I mean I don’t dislike the British, but well I bet it wasn’t too many generation in the past I had American family members that were not fans.

  42. 42
    opiejeanne says:

    @Mnemosyne: I read that part of the problem was caused by this idea that the Irish were too damned happy and self-sufficient with their little patch of ground behind the cottage for potatoes and a pig, and that these rurals needed to be reformed. for some reason.

    Also, the great class of absentee owners was created when the English decided to tax the snot out of the English who lived on their Irish property to force them to sell to the ultra-wealthy, because they had gone native and become more Irish than the Irish. .

  43. 43
    Schlemizel says:


    Me too – it is hard not to given the parallels.

  44. 44
    JPL says:

    @Gin & Tonic: A friend of mine is reading the Bloodlands which goes into great detail about Ukraine crisis. The Koch brothers can be proud of their ancestry who made money because the Soviets paid them with cash from that grain.

  45. 45
    bemused says:


    I noticed the same prejudiced language about immigrants when touring Ellis Island. We never seem to learn.

  46. 46
    Elizabelle says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    No wonder cultural conservatives decry a liberal education.

    Get a gander at history, your own and other cultures’, and literature, throw in a little critical thinking or at least comparative review skills, and you get a pretty good idea which ideas help develop a just society, and which destroy it.

    Extraction economy. And now Paul Ryan and his ilk don’t even want to fund poor kids’ lunches.

  47. 47
    opiejeanne says:

    @Tommy: Part of my Irish family, the part that still lives in Canada, was unaware that they were not Scots, unaware that their great great grandfather (and mine) was born in Ireland. John the Immigrant (to differentiate him from my great grandfather) was in Canada by 1832, at age 30-ish. He had 12 sons (!!!) and the ones that stayed in the Toronto area married Scottish women who insisted to their children that the Old Man was Scottish. I tracked down one of these descendants (we’re 5th cousins) a few years ago and he hadn’t found out a thing about John the Immigrant because he was looking in Glasgow. He became very upset when I explained that he was looking in the wrong place. I only knew because a nice lady had looked up the info in the Canadian census and at the cemetery.
    There is still a lot of prejudice against the Irish in certain areas of Canada, and more prestige in being a Scot.

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Tommy: Heck, the original “No [immigrants] need apply” American, to my knowledge, was jolly old Ben Franklin — he didn’t think “we” should allow a bunch of filthy Germans to emigrate to Pennsylvania, since they were brutish peasants who’d never learn to speak English or go to the proper church, and their hordes of half-starved children would only end up as a burden on the community!

  49. 49
    JPL says:

    @Schlemizel: In order for capitalism to survive, someone has to be blamed. It keeps wages low. It doesn’t matter how hard working the class is because they will be considered the others.

  50. 50
    JPL says:

    double post.. sorry

  51. 51
    Tommy says:

    @JPL: Got Bloodlines bookmarked in Google Play. This is becoming a topic I am very interested in. One is where I live the local history museum had a special exhibit that had letters of the first Germans that came here 200+ years ago. They said they were almost surfs in Germany and when they saw the soil, the ponds and streams, and land they could own for as far at the eyes could see, they broke down and cried.

    Then in the History Chanel show Vikings (which I realize isn’t most likely based on much fact) when they are raiding England the leader, who came from a family of farmers, said the wealth of the nation wasn’t in their gold. It was in their soil. That crops could grow everywhere. They could feed their families and never worry again.

    I just think as we move forward. Global warming. All the problems. Those folks that have water and soil that can grow food, well their land might be a lot more important then land that has oil under it now.

  52. 52
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @Schlemizel: I dunno … that proposal’s awfully modest

    I love the aptness of this column appearing on St. Patrick’s Day, written by Timothy Egan. All we need now is for Joe Biden to laugh Paul Ryan off the stage.

  53. 53
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    As a Scottish immigrate (family came here is 1872) we got no love for the British either.

    I think you mean “no love for the English.” Like it or not, if you’re Scottish, you’re British. Great Britain consists of England, Wales and Scotland. The United Kingdom consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Here’s a nifty and amusing little YouTube tutorial.

    /pedant about this stuff

  54. 54
    Woodrowfan says:

    I can think of one immigrant who should have been turned away at the border. Specifically we’d be better off as a country if Ayn Rand had been rejected and sent home!

  55. 55
    Tommy says:

    @opiejeanne: My father has a PhD in history and it seems many in my family kept a family tree. Back 400+ years. I’ve never really been that interested in the topic to be honest. But I got my father a DNA test for X-Mas and it should be back soon. As my father is getting up in years going to spend a few weekend and get caught up.

    I know the basics once we got to the US, cause I come from a family members of letter writers, and we wrote a lot of letters. Also a lot of photo bugs, you know before there were smartphones.

    But back to Scotland, I don’t know much.

  56. 56
    JPL says:

    @Tommy: I just read The Spy who loved which is about a Polish female who became a spy for the British. You might want to add that to your list also.

  57. 57
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @JPL: It is an excellent and extremely difficult book.

  58. 58
    Woodrowfan says:

    @Tommy: where did you get the DNA test?

  59. 59
    Zippity says:

    @Tommy: Hey, Tommy-I got a voice mail from the Democratic party asking me to vote in the REPUBLICAN primary tomorrow. They are really concerned that Bruce Rauner not be on the ballot in November. They recommended Kirk Dillard. I thought it was pretty extraordinary.

  60. 60
    Tommy says:

    @JPL: I can’t do that. Since getting a tablet and smartphone I have gone on a book buying spree. Like I did years and years ago when I first got on iTunes.When my credit card that I had on the account expired, I didn’t update it so I have to buy a Google Play card. It was getting out of control :).

  61. 61
    WereBear says:

    @JPL: That is an incredible book, but it’s only partly read and sitting in my Kindle app… just so much terrible suffering I had to take a break.

    But yes, the Ukrainian genocide proves the adage:

    Behind every great fortune is a great crime.

  62. 62
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Well, there ‘re the Acts of Union, which made the Scots British.Those were in 1706 and 1707, IIRC.

  63. 63
    Tommy says:

    @Woodrowfan: I got mine through‎ (they outsource it — takes 6-8 weeks for results) cause that is where my father is entering all the info, and they’ll upload it. But has one. They run around $99 to $129. Most offer package deals, cause you really need to test both your mother and father.

    Honestly I am skeptical of the results (some of the reviews I read of the results are staggering however). Since 1920 my family, on my father’s side, didn’t have a female child. And a single male children until my younger brother. But it wasn’t a ton of money and who knows.

  64. 64
    piratedan says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I like the cruise ship idea, but I would prefer for them to cruise the sunny shores of Ethiopia, and we can make it a reality show as these Galtian heroes defend themselves from Somali pirates… I’d be willing to bet CBS would pick it up for an entire season.

  65. 65
    MikeJ says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:

    Well, there ‘re the Acts of Union, which made the Scots British.

    Living on the island called Britain made the Scots British. The Acts of Union made them part of the United Kingdom.

  66. 66
    Woodrowfan says:

    @Tommy: thanks, i am pretty much the last one left (my cousins, all of them, are adopted) and I would like have it done.

  67. 67
    Tommy says:

    @Zippity: LOL. I bought my parents house. There is a III after my name, so of course I have basically the exact same name and address of my father. Dad isn’t a liberal. He also used to give a lot of money to the GOP. He doesn’t anymore, cause well he thinks they are crazy at this point.

    But the sheer amount of direct mail I get, cause they think I am my father would stun you. I just say well keep spending that money GOP cause you got no data-mining ability (I used to do a lot of business-to-business direct mail), to just drain their coffers :)!

  68. 68
    Pogonip says:

    Egan’s a wonderful writer. I highly recommend his Dustbowl history, “The Worst Hard Time.”

    Ryan reminds me of a line from another wonderful writer, Patrick McManus: “if intelligence were crankcase oil his wouldn’t even reach the tip of the dipstick, let alone the add-one-quart mark.”

  69. 69
    Tommy says:

    @Woodrowfan: The price point is pretty low. Honestly when I went looking for a test I figured it would be a lot more. Like near $500. If they can connect it to one of the larger “family tree” sites then for me the value of the test goes up like 10 fold.

    Again not sure what the results will be. But I am hopeful.

  70. 70
    opiejeanne says:

    @Tommy: There were some bits of info that I had access to. My grandmother saved a lot of old letters and one of her cousins sent my dad a letter from John the Immigrant that was written ca 1863 to his three sons who had just moved to Chicago. It was written in a beautiful style, Spencerian?, and the man was obviously educated although spelling was still a bit fluid. He admonishes my great grandfather, John F., to take the other two to church and that’s just hilarious. He also opines about which Confederate leaders should be hanged, goes on to mention who has married whom, who has gone to the gold fields (I had trouble finding out much about that) and finishes with the crop report: potatoes getting this much a bushel, that much for wheat.
    It took me years to track down enough info to find this one cousin. I need to go visit him because he sent me a photo that supposedly has John the Immigrant’s wife Hannah Freeman, but he doesn’t say which old lady it is or who the other people in the photo are, and I’m pretty sure the two men are some of the 12 sons.

  71. 71
    john fremont says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The new ethnic menaces like Italians, Polish and Slavs because those Irish were forming unions like the Molly Maguire.

  72. 72
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @MikeJ: I’ll certainly go along with that. Don’t know if you could have had a 17th C Scotsman go along with it, though.

  73. 73

    The British enacted the same lovely policy in India during WW II under Churchill, starve the natives by exporting the food they have grown.

  74. 74
    Mnemosyne says:


    Henry Louis Gates has done a couple of PBS shows about genealogy that were very good: “Finding Your Roots” and “Faces of America.” He uses DNA information more in “Faces of America,” but they’re both really interesting shows.

    And then commercial TV ripped them off into “Who Do You Think You Are?” but the Gates versions are much more interesting, especially who Eva Longoria discovers she’s (distantly) related to.

  75. 75
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    …if they don’t want to look like idiots for the rest of their lives.

    Way, way too late for republican politicians, the Kocksuckers, at least 3/4 of the MSM…..

  76. 76
    Tommy says:

    @opiejeanne: Oh letters. The first of mine from great-great.great-great-grandfather. Wrote a letter, well running for a judge in Osage County Kansas. Ponder that for a second. He was first generation.

    My favorite is the first line of the letter:

    I was born in Torrance of Campsie, Sterlingshire, Scotland, on the tenth day of March, 1854, of poor but respectable parents.

    Outlines all the shit he did. He did a lot for the community.

    He ends it with:

    I take this means of letting you know who I am, but will endeavor to meet as many of the Voters in the County as possible between now and August Fourth

    Isn’t that called “retail” politics these days ….

  77. 77
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton: They’d have gone along with it because prior to the Acts of Union, “Britain” didn’t have the connotation of being a single country that it acquired after them.

  78. 78
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @opiejeanne: That reminds me of the story in a book about the genetic lineages of the British Isles (think it was the same author as 7 Daughters of Eve) about an American woman from the Midwest who sent in her DNA for testing, believing herself to be descended from English royalty, and was literally prostrate to find out she had Native American mRNA. You’d think the latter would have more cachet, but she was an older lady from OK or KS or thereabouts and NAs were and are still looked down upon by whites out there.

  79. 79
    Roger Moore says:

    Sorry, but blowing off the Pope would make it just so much more obvious, even to people who don’t normally pay attention. I guess there are probably some ultra-conservative Catholics who would see blowing off Pope Francis as a positive, but they’re already going to pull the lever for Ryan if they’re allowed. I can’t imagine it having a positive effect on anyone else.

  80. 80
    Roger Moore says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Native American mRNA.

    I’m pretty sure you mean mtDNA, not mRNA. mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) is the stuff that tells you about your direct maternal line. mRNA (messenger RNA) is the stuff ribosomes use to tell them the sequence of protein to synthesize./pedant

  81. 81
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Roger Moore: Of course you’re right.

  82. 82
    MikeJ says:

    @opiejeanne: @Tommy: I’ve got a cool 1844 letter from an ancestor, a state senator from Illinois in fact. He’s writing to Stephen Douglas who is not yet a US Senator, but is working in the newly elected Polk administration. He asks Douglas for two things 1) Repayment for some horses his father had given the army during the US revolution 2) appointment as a US marshal.

  83. 83
    burnspbesq says:

    What happened in Ireland in 1847-49 was genocide, pure and simple.

    The only reason why genocide against the poor hasn’t happened yet in this country is that the Republicans don’t have the balls for it.

  84. 84
    Poopyman says:

    @burnspbesq: Nor do they have the authority at the national level, which would help their cause a lot.

    But, once they win the Senate and Presidency ….

  85. 85
    scav says:

    @Mnemosyne: Minor point, BBC – UK version of Who Do You Think You Are has been around since 2004, although why it showed up here is entirely up in the air. The UK ones have some interesting stuff, haven’t seen PBS yet.

  86. 86
    Mnemosyne says:


    It was pretty suspicious timing — Gates finished his show and then a year later, the network show premiered. At best, they were able to sell an American version of the British show based on the success of the PBS show (IMO, of course, but the timing was … fortuitous for the network).

  87. 87
    opiejeanne says:

    @Tommy: I was really impressed when you started listing the greats, and then you gave the date and I stopped being impressed by the generations (although that it really great that you have letters that old). We average 50 years per generation. My great greats were born around 1800, and I’m only 64 now.

  88. 88
    Wag says:

    @Roger Moore:

    As a brown eyed man I resent that eye-ist remark.

  89. 89
    scav says:

    @Mnemosyne: That I can utterly believe, never trust US remakes myself. Just didn’t want to belittle the stuff I’ve seen on the UK version. Interesting stuff on the wars (WWI, WWII, others) and some colonial pasts explored — not just comfortable to the manor born stuff

  90. 90
    Pogonip says:

    @Roger Moore: “Dear Pope Francis, thank you for your gracious invitation. I regret that I cannot accept; my goddess Ayn Rand would never forgive me.”

  91. 91
    Citizen_X says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: An amazing/appalling statistic: India had the same per-capita income when the British left in the 1940s as when they arrived in 1780.

    Lotta wealth sucked out in all that time.

  92. 92
    opiejeanne says:

    @Tommy: that is a cool letter.

  93. 93
    opiejeanne says:

    @Another Holocene Human: pretty funny. I have a shirttail relation who thinks she’s part Cherokee (she’s not) and goes to NA events and dances with them. I admire their patience.

  94. 94
    sensesfail says:

    You never hear [Paul] Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything.


  95. 95

    @Citizen_X: They did suck India dry. The parts of India that were under the British rule the longest are among the poorest. The British first gained their foothold in India, in Bengal, in 1757. And now West Bengal and especially Bangladesh are synonymous with poverty. Dacca was known for its cotton weavers, know for weaving the finest muslin, is now known for providing sweatshop labor for the global garment industry. They still haven’t recovered from over 200 years of economic exploitation.

  96. 96
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Just trying to point out that they already look like idiots to anyone who is actually looking. Or isn’t an idiot themselves.

  97. 97
    Anne Laurie says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Churchill, as a young war reporter, also cheered/abetted concentration camps for ethnic cleansing of the Boers in South Africa.

    If it weren’t for Hitler, the man would be held in the same historical regard as Trevelyan, his spiritual ancestor.

  98. 98

    @Anne Laurie: No wonder, he is such a hero to the Republicans. BTW one of my comments is stuck in moderation.

  99. 99
    Roger Moore says:


    Just trying to point out that they already look like idiots to anyone who is actually looking.

    To anyone who’s paying attention, perhaps, but there are plenty of people who aren’t paying attention. They listen to the SCLM and hear about how Paul Ryan is a serious conservative with carefully thought out policy proposals and a good Catholic background. They might actually believe that stuff. But hearing that he blew off the Pope because he was too busy is more likely to penetrate than a detailed deconstruction of his policy proposals.

  100. 100
    opiejeanne says:

    @MikeJ: Wow. What a thing to have.

  101. 101
    muddy says:

    @efgoldman: Actually they are filled with shame, but can’t face it. Hence the projection.

  102. 102
    jefft452 says:

    @Anne Laurie: “he didn’t think “we” should allow a bunch of filthy Germans to emigrate to Pennsylvania”

    Ah! The “Palantines”, one of the most interesting stories in colonial American history
    Aid to protestant refugees from the Rhineland Palatinate fleeing Louis XIV armies was probably the first true international humanitarian effort (Queen Anne should get credit for pushing it, even if it was largely unsuccessful)
    English attempts to convince Palantines to emigrate to America were unsuccessful until the ambassadors from the Iroquois Confederacy promised them farmland on the Schoharie river
    Arriving in NY harbor they were left to starve in the transport ships, sold into indentured servitude, and shipped up the Hudson to work in turpentine production
    But “Stone Arabia”, an idiom for “the Promised Land”, was not forgotten, in huge numbers they ran away from their indentures, going up the Mohawk to the Schoharie

  103. 103
    Renie says:

    @Tommy: I have been doing my family history for decades and am a member of ancestry com I did the DNA test and was disappointed by it. results are very generic. Really only good if you have no idea of your family background,or you are adopted and know nothing of your birth parents.

  104. 104
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): From today’s Scotsman:

    “The majority of people living in Scotland said their national identity was “Scottish only”, the latest census figures for the country showed.”

    Now we get into a discussion of definition and usage, much like those of language. (But I’d rather not, really.)

  105. 105
    opiejeanne says:

    @Renie: I don’t think it would be that helpful to me either. I already know that the vast majority of my background is northern and Western European with a smidge of Portuguese and since that guy was a redhead it would probably read as just more Celtic.

  106. 106
    Mnemosyne says:


    The DNA test they did in that Henry Louis Gates series was really non-specific — pretty much just “European, African or Asian”? It was still fairly interesting to see what the different combinations were.

  107. 107
    Renie says:

    @MnemosyneThere are non-specific. Here’s what I got
    Europe 97%
    Ireland 57%
    Scandinavia 19%
    Great Britain 13%

    Nothing I didn’t already know.

  108. 108
    opiejeanne says:

    @Renie: I’m considering doing it for my husband’s line because his mother’s family is kind of mysterious, in a way that makes me wonder if there is a melungeon connection.

  109. 109
    Red Right Hand says:

    A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

    The Paul Ryans of the world have always been faced with this quandry, and they’re quite imaginative in coming up with solutions:

    Some devised even more unusual schemes to supplement local relief. Thus John B. Nichlos of the Oklahoma Gas Utilities Company wrote his friend Patrick J. Hurley, the Secretary of War [in the Hoover administration], about an idea that he was trying out in Chickasha, Oklahoma. By the Nichlos plan, restaurants were asked to dump food left on plates into five-gallon containers; the unemployed could then qualify for these scraps by choppïng wood donated by farmers. “We expect a little trouble now and then from those who are not worthy of the support of the citizens,” wrote Nichlos philosophically, “but we must contend with such cases in order to take care of those who are worthy.” Hurley was suffïciently impressed by the plan of feeding garbage to the jobless that he personally urged it on Colonel Woods. [Arthur Woods was the chairman of Pres. Hoover’s Emergency Committee for Employment]

    — from The Age of Roosevelt, Volume 1: “The Crisis of the Old Order 1919-1933”, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

    Notice that the donated wood didn’t need to be chopped; it’s just that the poor had to be forced to do something to earn their place at the trough, otherwise they’d become dependent on these slops.

    “No work-ee, no slop-ee!”

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