Sunday Not Quite A Book Review: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history 1962-1976”

July 3, 2016

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

Since I haven’t been posting much of late, I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to revive the Sunday Book Review series. Great idea!

Trouble is, the book I read is one that I can’t get a handle on the right approach to reviewing it. smiley d'oh! smiley headbang wall

The topic is so large and so complex that I’m left with just one thing to say: if you are ever tempted by the idea that things would be better if we just gave government all the power it wanted, read Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976”. That should slap some sense into you.

The book tells the story of bloody turmoil China was thrown into for over a decade because of the paranoia and whims of one all-powerful man, Mao Zedong. Setting faction against faction, even against his own Communist Party, Mao threw China into such chaos that at times it seemed a second civil war might result — and in some locales, it did.

Fearing that his “comrades” would sideline or even depose him for his horrific errors in the 1950s, worried that a Khrushchev waited in the wings to bring ideological revisionism and a denunciation of Mao’s legacy as Khrushchev did to Stalin in his 1956 “Secret Speech,” Mao and his allies waged war against enemies often made up wholly in Mao’s mind.

The price, of course, was paid by the people. Whether looking for “capitalist roaders,” “revisionists,” members of various “anti-Party cliques” and agents of foreign powers lurking within the Party itself, or merely people of “bad class background” (for example, former landowners under the old regime and their relations), enemies weren’t just found among a few rivals to Mao. Dikotter’s book tells in appalling detail how ordinary Chinese had to suffer because of Mao’s whims: prison camps, “reeducation” centers, thousands of city residents exiled to the country with no relevant skills and yet expected to survive — and never return to the city. People humiliated, driven to suicide or beaten to death by teenaged “Red Guards.” Knowledge, learning, and arts declared worthless, even evil, if they didn’t conform to “Mao Zedong Thought” and serve the class struggle. The horror stories of Lovecraft and King are nothing compared to what really happened in China in the 1960s.

Over and over, we’re treated moments of madness, but also shown how people resisted, or at least tried to survive. When Mao’s insane economics made even basic goods almost impossible to get, many set up secret factories and trade routes, reestablishing an underground capitalism in Communism’s heartland. Secret book clubs meeting to share a copy of forbidden Western literature. Playing Classical music on old phonographs in a closet, hoping no one would hear and denounce you to the authorities.

It’s said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” China in the Cultural Revolution is a glaring example of this, and Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” should be part of any “scared straight” program for anyone tempted by statism.

Highly recommended.

PS: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” is available in hardcover and Kindle format. I’m happy to say the Kindle book was well-formatted and free of any errors as I recall. Fair disclosure, I get a few cents from purchases made through my links.


Bookshelf update – The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976

May 29, 2016

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Frank Dikötter’s  “The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976”.

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it seems to be another proof of something I’ve long believed: that Human history produces far more horror than any story by King or Lovecraft. The Cultural  Revolution, like so many other Leftist attempts to remake humanity –the French Revolution during “the Terror,” Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy (2), the USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea– shows how dangerous it is to let one person, one group, or government in general to have too much power.

The Cultural Revolution is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.
(2) Yes, Fascism and Nazism, two variations on statism, are products of the Left.


Winston Churchill was a funny guy

April 17, 2016
x

Comedian

From Ian Lindquist’s review of Larry Arnn’s Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government:

Churchill walked into the men’s room in Parliament and noticed that Clement Attlee, his replacement as prime minister and leader of Britain’s Labour Party, was his sole restroom companion. The rambunctious former prime minister sauntered down to the urinal furthest from the peacetime P.M. Attlee, sensing something amiss, turned to him and quipped: “Feeling a bit standoffish today, are we, Winston?” Churchill, presumably doing his business at this point, rejoined: “No. It’s just that whenever you see something big you want to nationalize it!”

*Rimshot!!*

Sir Winston should have take that act on the road. Smiley Laughing Maniacal Clown

Speaking of which, I have that book on my Kindle. Must get around to reading it.


Bookshelf update: Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled”

June 4, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

book cover attkisson stonewalled

 

Attkisson is an award-winning investigative journalist who spent roughly 20 years with CBS before leaving in 2014. For her determined pursuit of the truth and information government and corporate officials would rather keep hidden, she’s been called a “bulldog,” a term she regards as a compliment. While Stonewalled deals with the scandals and evasions of the Obama administration and its allies, Attkisson has a reputation as a bipartisan bulldog — a pain in the tuchus to Democrats and Republicans, alike. This is what a good journalist should be.

I’m about half-way through Stonewalled and, so far, it’s been equal parts enjoyable, infuriating, and even frightening. Before discussing scandals such as Fast and Furious and the Obamacare rollout, as well as the almost equally scandalous supine attitude of mainstream journalism toward the administration, Attkisson opens with the story of her discovery that her work and personal computers, and her phone, had been hacked by a government agency during her investigation into the Benghazi massacre. Though she hasn’t yet identified in the book who she believes is responsible, I’ll note that she has filed suit against  the Department of Justice and the US Postal Service. Discovery, as they say should be interesting.

I’m reading her book in Kindle format; it’s also in soft (forthcoming) and hardcover. Regarding the Kindle edition, I’ve spotted just one lone typo and no formatting problems, which is very good for an e-book. Her writing style is straightforward, almost Hemingway-esque in its directness. If Ms. Attkisson reveals any ax to grind, it’s her firm belief that information paid for with taxpayer dollars belongs to the public, not the government.

I’ll post a review when I’ve finished.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


That Terrible Tuchman Woman

May 12, 2015

I’ve always loved History (in fact, I was once working toward a PhD in it) and, as an impressionable high school freshman way back when, Tuchman’s Guns of August made quite an impression on me. That was then, this is now, and Mr. Schindler provides a searing critique of “Guns…” and a short list of much better books on the events of 1914. If you’ve an interest in World War I or just in good history writing in general, this is worth reading.

The XX Committee

Since one of the hats I wear is that of a military historian specializing in World War One, I regularly get asked questions about reading suggestions. With the centenary of that awful conflict upon us, people want to know more and that’s a great thing. The origins of the war and how it all unfolded so terribly in 1914 are understandably a topic of high interest, and at least once as week, often online, I get asked about one book in particular.

That book is Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, which for more than a half-century has been a popular and widely cited work by the public about the disastrous events of the summer of 1914 that transformed a Balkan terrorist act into a continent-wide (and later nearly world-wide) conflict. The Guns of August was a huge best-seller, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1963, and still retains the…

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“Clinton Cash” has the Clintons terrified

May 5, 2015
Above the rules.

No proof

We’re barely into the formal campaign season, and Lady Macbeth has only just launched her coronation march election campaign. And yet the revelations coming from Peter Schweizer’s book “Clinton Cash” —which hasn’t even been published yet— are doing such damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that they’ve put out a video attacking the author and arguing “nothing’s been proved.”

Yeah, they’re wetting themselves:

In the 2.5-minute introductory YouTube video, Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon says the book is “full of sloppy research and attacks pulled out of thin air with no actual evidence.” Fallon goes through all the biggest allegations from the book, cutting to footage from various TV networks, all of which point out the lack of direct evidence or a “smoking gun.” (The new Clinton website also lists “10 Things You Should Know” about the book, linking to media coverage of various sections of it.)

“The bottom line is this: as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made decisions based on her commitment to protecting America’s national security and standing up for freedom and dignity around the world, not the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation,” Fallon says.

For those who haven’t been following the multi-episodic saga of Clinton corruption, the short version is this: Peter Schweizer is a conservative investigative journalist and historian who has written generally well-regarded books on cronyism and corruption on both sides of the aisle. “Clinton Cash” is his latest. It goes into (at least in part) the “amazing coincidences” surrounding big-money foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, big payments to Bill Clinton for speeches, and favorable State Department decisions (1) for those same donors and speech-purchasers. It’s apparently credible enough that those noted right-wing conspiracy rags, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have taken allegations made in advance copies of Clinton Cash, investigated, and amplified on them. Add to this the battering taken over Benghazi and her email server scandal, and it’s no wonder that Hillary’s trustworthiness rating has gone into a death spiral. Like I said, Clinton, Inc., is panicking, and this video is just one sign.

And yet, as Noah Rothman points out, the whole Clinton defense amounts to personal attacks on critics and cries of “You got nuttin’ on us!”

Heck of an argument for being made president, that.

PS: You know what the fun part is? I mean, aside from watching Lady Macbeth see Birnham Wood come slowly closer to Chappaqua Dunsinane. It’s the realization that, beyond Hillary, the Democrats have no one. Nobody. Not a soul who is a credible candidate. Martin O’Malley? Please, his chances went up with Baltimore. Senator Warren? I doubt her act will play well outside of Massachusetts and Berkeley. Governor Cuomo? He’ll be too busy organizing his defense in criminal court. Nah, the Democrats have tied their fortunes to Hillary, for better or worse.

And “worse” is still to come.

Footnote:
(1) Such as letting a Russian company that surely does Vladimir Putin’s bidding gain control of  20% of the US’ uranium supply. I wonder if the donation came in 30 pieces of silver.

UPDATE: Jay Cost disagrees with me about Senator Warren. And, on reflection, I think he’s right.


A new book in which I have a chapter: Climate Change: The Facts

February 14, 2015

I think I shall be ordering this. (Just to be clear, the title is from the linked post. *I* don’t have a chapter in it.)

Watts Up With That?

climate-change-facts-bookFrom Steynonline:

Climate Change: The Facts has been put together by our friends at the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia, edited by Alan Moran, and features 22 essays on the science, politics and economics of “climate change”.

[It features Mark Steyn on the Mann Hockey Stick debacle,] Joanne Nova on the climate-change gravy train; Britain’s former Chancellor Nigel Lawson on the economic consequences of abandoning fossil fuels; Patrick Michaels on the growing chasm between the predictions of the IPCC and real-world temperatures, Garth Paltridge on the damage such failed forecasts are doing to science, and Donna Laframboise on the damage the Big Climate alarmists have done to the IPCC; professors Richard Lindzen, Bob Carter and Willie Soon on climate sensitivity and factors such as greenhouse gases, natural variability, and the role of the sun…

Oh, don’t worry, Michael E Mann and his “hockey stick” are in the book…

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Sunday Book Review: Paul Johnson’s “Churchill”

January 25, 2015

book cover johnson churchill

It’s less fashionable in the practice of History these days to study the lives of great men, those individuals who by their words and deeds change the course of the world for better or worse. At one time, History was about these men: Alexander, Caesar, Washington, Napoleon, and others. Then that fashion fell out of favor and, in reaction, the role of Great Men was largely supplanted by the study of “impersonal forces,” those societal and intellectual trends that move History along, individuals being less important, often replaceable. This view was popular with progressive historians of the early to mid-20th century, seeing its extreme in Marxist historians.

But the study of Great Men lives on, in this case in the form of Paul Johnson’s “Churchill,” a brief biography of Sir Winston Churchill, the British statesman, soldier, parliamentarian, and his nation’s Prime Minister during most of the Second World War.

Johnson’s biography of Churchill is of an older school, which seeks not just to analyze its subject, but draw from it moral lessons for the reader. In this manner, it is comparable to Plutarch’s “Lives .” As Johnson writes at the start:

Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical , moral, and intellectual. How to dare greatly, to reinforce success, and to put the inevitable failures behind you. And how, while pursuing vaulting ambition with energy and relish, to cultivate also friendship, generosity, compassion, and decency.

Churchill’s life is well-known, and Johnson glosses over the details to cover the important points the reader needs to know: his early childhood with a vaguely disapproving father; his military career , which established the young Churchill as a popular journalist; his political career with his rise to Cabinet rank as First Sea Lord during World War I; his role in laying the foundation for Britain’s welfare state, and his fall from power; his “wilderness” years out of government, when even his fellow party members rarely wanted him around and during which he warned incessantly about the rise of the Nazis in Germany; his return to power when the Nazis started World War II, again as head of the British Navy and then Prime Minister; and his postwar life and career, with one more pass as prime minister, until his death in 1965.

That Johnson can cover all this in just 170 pages while telling a fascinating story and educating the reader is a mark of how good a writer he is. “Churchill,” if it was a joy for him to write, is also a joy for us to read. Johnson’s style is delightful, and he deftly weaves in small details and observations that humanize for us a towering figure who might otherwise be lost behind the noble statues and stern portraits. For example,one that sticks with this reviewer is the revelation that Churchill found happiness in, of all things, bricklaying. So much so, that he tried to join the bricklayer’s union. (He was declined.) Most people know that he was an accomplished painter, but a bricklayer? That such a common, workaday craft should bring satisfaction to a man born in a palace and who dealt regularly with kings and presidents, who commanded his nation’s armed forces in a global war, can’t help but build a bond between reader and subject, reminding us that Winston Churchill, for all the statues and portraits, was still a mortal man.

“Churchill” is not without its weaknesses. A degree of superficiality is inevitable, given the task of compressing so full a life into such a short work. And it touches very lightly on his flaws, such as his Romantic fixations on strategies of dubious worth, for example his attempted defense of Antwerp in the First World War, or his obsession with invading Norway in the Second. A late Victorian in a rapidly changing 20th century, his attitudes toward non-European people were often at best patronizing, sometimes downright bigoted.

But, to dwell on these lacks would be to criticize “Churchill” for not doing what it was never intended to do: to be a “balanced, modern” biography. As much hagiography as biography, Paul Johnson’s goal was to introduce us to the life of one of the greatest men who ever lived and show how it could serve as an example and an inspiration, especially for the young. In this, he has succeeded admirably.

Highest recommendation.

Format note: Churchill is available in both Kindle and softcover formats. I read the Kindle edition and can recall no problems with editing or formatting. And I do get a few pennies from each purchase made through the links in this review.

UPDATE: Catching up on my reading at Power Line, I came across historian Steven Hayward’s post quibbling with the idea of Churchill as “the last lion.” I think what he says about “Great Men” and how they differ from their contemporaries is pertinent to this review:

The tides of history and the scale of modern life have not made obsolete or incommensurate the kind of large-souled greatness we associate with Churchill or Lincoln or George Washington. Of course all of us are powerfully affected by our environment and circumstances, yet the case of Churchill offers powerful refutation to the historicist premise that humans and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history. Lots of Churchill’s contemporaries were also products of the late Victorian era—many of them from the same schools Churchill attended. But no one else had Chruchill’s courage, insight, and capacities. Why was Churchill virtually alone among his contemporaries? The answer must be that they transcended their environments and transformed their circumstances as only great men can do, and thereby bent history to their will. Which means we are contemplating a fundamental human type. Leo Strauss wrote of Churchill in a private letter to the German philosopher Karl Lowith: “A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalophysis [the great-souled man] exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century B.C.” (In other words, as the idea was presented in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.)

Churchill was indeed a “large soul.”

 

 

 


Bookshelf update: Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”

January 22, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.”

 

book cover applebaum gulag

I’ve only just started it, so I can’t comment on my impressions of the writing or the quality of the Kindle formatting, but the topic is compelling: a complete history of the Soviet prison camp and slave labor system from its foundation under Lenin to its final dissolution in the 1980s. Like reading a book on the Holocaust, I suspect this is the kind of history that will have me hating humanity by its end. Gulag is available in both Kindle and softcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


Bookshelf update: Paul Johnson’s “Churchill”

January 11, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Paul Johnson’s “Churchill.”

book cover johnson churchill

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it’s been an easy to read introduction to and survey of the life of arguably the most important man of the 20th century. This is a short work, as much hagiography as biography, and Johnson is a delight to read. It is available in both Kindle (1) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found very few typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Sunday Book Review: “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century”

January 11, 2015

book cover kengor dupes

Dupes is good book on an important, under-covered aspect of our political history: the relationship over the last nearly 100 years between liberals and progressives, on the one hand, and the communists (big “C” and small “c”) who used them to advance their goals. The book is meticulously footnoted and historian Paul Kengor is scrupulously fair to his subjects, often at pains to point out that the targets of the communists’ most vicious attacks were not conservatives and Republicans, but anti-communist liberals, such as Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson.

On the subject of dupes, Kengor writes:

This is a book about dupes, about those Americans who have unwittingly aided some of the worst opponents of the United States. Misled about the true aims of foreign adversaries, many Americans (and other Westerners) have allowed themselves to be manipulated to serve opponents’ interests.

He rightly notes that for the duped, the main enemy was always to the Right, not the communists who were committing atrocities year after year, to which these dupes were blind, sometimes willfully so. Among the revelations (or perhaps just “arguments settled”) in the book are Senator Ted Kennedy’s clandestine offer to cooperate with the USSR against President Reagan and the truth that most of the famous “Hollywood Ten” really were members of the Communist Party, or at least highly sympathetic toward Stalin.

The book brings the topic of “dupery” into the modern era by connecting the generations of communists and socialists from the 1920s through the 60s radicals (especially the SDS and Weatherman) to those same radicals’ connections to President Obama in his Chicago days. It closes with an intriguing look at whether Humphrey Bogart, who violently denounced the communists when he discovered he had been duped over the Hollywood Ten, was himself a member of the Party or at least very sympathetic toward it at a low point in his life in 1934. Again, Kengor is very judicious in his analysis of the available evidence.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the book seems more a history of the communists and socialists, than of the dupes they played for sometimes-willing suckers. Still, Dupes fills a gap in our country’s recent history and is well-worth reading. The book is available in Kindle and hardcover formats. As for the Kindle edition, I’m happy to say I encountered no typos or formatting problems, which are all too common in e-books. Kengor’s writing style flows easily, sometimes conversational, but is never unprofessional.

Recommended.

RELATED: I earlier reviewed Paul Kengor’s “The Communist,” his biography of Frank Marshall Davis, President Obama’s Stalinist mentor during his Hawaiian boyhood.


Bookshelf update: Dupes — How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century

November 7, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Paul Kengor’s “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

book cover kengor dupes

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it has been an interesting discussion of how Communists in the 20th century targeted non-communist liberals and progressives to be suckered into supporting the USSR and the Communist movement against the United States. Kengor notes that the efforts of the duped were not nearly as often aimed at conservatives as they were at anti-communist liberal Democrats and progressives, Harry Truman being a  particular target.

The author seems fair in his treatment of the Democrats, reminding us that there were many who, while liberal or progressive, were staunchly anti-communist — including those who had once been duped, but saw the light. You’ll be surprised at the names that appear in the book, both  “recovered” dupes and those who played the fool till the day they died. The work is extensively footnoted with references to primary sources (both Soviet and American), and Kengor has an easy writing style. The book is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found very few typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Bookshelf update: Inventing Freedom — How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World

August 4, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Daniel Hannan’s “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.”

 

book cover hannan inventing freedom

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but has been an entertaining discussion of how the unique political, legal, and cultural heritage of England and its descendants, what Hannan and others term “the Anglosphere,” have created something unique in human history: nation-states based on individual political and economic liberty; a common law that stands above all, including the rulers; respect for contracts and property rights; and representative legislatures, which have the sole power to make law. (1) Hannan is an entertaining writer, and the book is a pleasure to read. It’s available in both Kindle (2) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) You can imagine me wincing as I typed that list and thought of President Obama…
(2) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Bookshelf update — Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War

July 3, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Thomas Allen’s “Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.”

 

book cover Tories

 

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but “Tories” is an entertaining and thought-provoking history of what happened to the losers in the American Revolution: those Colonials who remained loyal to King George III and Parliament. It’s a salutary reminder that this was also a civil war, one that tore apart friends, families, and whole societies. Just as Patriots saw themselves as fighting for American freedom, the Loyalists believed they had justice on their side as they lost all defending the Rule of Law and rights of property, things we still value. I dislike moral relativism, but this may be one case in which it’s good to remember that both sides had their heroes and both their villains. Anyway, “Tories” is available in both Kindle (1) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) Sadly I’ve found about one error per page in the Kindle version, in which two words will be smashed together with no space between. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Bookshelf update — Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department

June 17, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”

book cover obamas enforcer fund spakovsky

 

I’m only a couple of chapters into it, but it looks to be a good discussion of Holder’s abuse of power and dereliction of the duties of his office, much of it rooted in his radical racialism. And the authors, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, are top-notch. The book is available in both Kindle(1) and hardback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Bookshelf update — Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment

June 3, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy’s “Faithless Execution: building the case for Obama’s impeachment.”

book cover mccarthy faithless execution

 

Just started it this morning, but I can already tell that it promises to be trenchant, clearly written, and thorough, like all McCarthy’s books. It’s available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Bookshelf update: The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism

May 25, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Steve Goreham’s The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism.”

book cover goreham mad climatism

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it seems to be a good discussion for the layman of the “science” of global warming and its politics, and the flaws, errors, and problems in both. It’s available in both Kindle (1) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found no typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


Sunday Book Review: The Founders’ Second Amendment

March 24, 2013

book cover founders second amendment

The right to carry a weapon and the efforts to restrict that right, the latter euphemistically called “gun control,” have been much in the news lately. In the wake of horrific mass-killings at an elementary school and a movie theater, the liberal left in America (and other people genuinely appalled at what happened) have called for new restrictions on the kinds of firearms people are allowed to have. Strenuous efforts were made in the federal Senate to reinstate a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” while the states of Colorado and New York have recently passed highly restrictive new firearms laws.

Central to this debate (more of a screaming argument, really) has been the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are documents meant to limit the power of government, a central question has been “What does the amendment mean, and what does it allow the government to do?”

One would think the question would be an easy one, the phrase “shall not be infringed” being quite clear, but things are no longer so simple. Advocates of strict gun control have variously argued that the Second Amendment refers to a group right, not one held by individuals; that it refers to the right to bear arms solely while serving in a militia, not to have them in one’s home; that the right is limited only to hunting and other sporting uses, thus allowing the government to regulate firearms “not necessary” to that; that the frontier no longer exists, so there’s no need for militia-style defense; and that the progress of technology has made weapons too dangerous for individual use, thus rendering the amendment obsolete and non-operative.

Defenders of the right to bear arms, on the other hand, not only point to the plain text of the amendment, but argue that one must look to the experiences of the founding generation at the time of the amendment’s writing and how they understood the precise words they used in it and other areas of our core documents. In other words, one must consider their original intent.

Stephen A. Halbrook’s “The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” (hereafter “TFSA”) provides an invaluable contribution to the “originalist” argument in defense of the right to keep and bear arms. Halbrook explains his intention thus:

This work seeks to present the views of the Founders who actually created the Second Amendment. It is based on their own words as found in newspapers, correspondence, debates, and resolutions. Generous quotations from the Founders are used to allow them to speak for themselves, thereby avoiding the appearance of re-characterization of their views.

The “Founders” were the generation of Americans in the eighteenth century who suffered in the final stages of British colonialism, fought the Revolution and won independence, debated and adopted the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and established the republic. The members of that generation passed away by the early nineteenth century, but their constitutional legacy is, if not immortal, a singular triumph in the history of human freedom. (Kindle edition, beginning at location 175)

Halbrook covers the roughly 60 years from 1768 (the British military occupation of Boston) to 1826 (when Adams and Jefferson died) and the Founders thinking on the right to keep and bear arms in great detail, from the colonists’ original assertion of their rights as Englishmen through the writing of the first post-independence state constitutions, the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and the debate over the Bill of Rights. He cites not only the opinions and arguments of the first-tier, well-remembered Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, &c.), but also of nearly forgotten but influential men such as Tench Coxe and St. George Tucker. Quotations come from both those who supported the ratification of the Constitution (“Federalists”) and those who opposed it (“Anti-Federalists”), as well as those who would support it only with a Bill of Rights, with the right to bear arms being primary among their concerns. To make sure we understand the meanings of the amendment’s words as the Founders’ did, he frequently cites from Noah Webster’s “Compendious Dictionary of the English Language” (1806).

On reading TFSA, several things become clear:

  • That, as the Founders understood it, “rights” vest in individual people and cannot be taken from them, only suppressed through tyranny.
  • That governments have no rights, only powers, and these powers can be restricted by the People.
  • That the keeping (as in “possession of property”) and bearing (“carrying”) of arms covered everything from hunting to self-defense to defense against oppressive government, and that this was a private right of the citizen, not something granted by the State or to be used only when the government permitted it. Indeed, the bearing of arms was considered the hallmark of a free citizen and necessary to the defense of his other rights, while the banning or restriction of arms in Europe was seen as prima facie evidence of oppression.

In no case, Halbrook avers, did anyone among the Founders acknowledge a government “right” to restrict, ban, or confiscate the arms of law-abiding citizens.

TFSA also spends a great deal of time on the question of a “militia” versus a “standing army,” which was a topic of overriding importance at the time, given the Americans’ experience of tyranny and violence at the hands of British regulars. Halbrook argues, to my mind convincingly, that the militia clause of the Second Amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,…” is a statement of purpose, not proscription limiting the right to bear arms to militia service. It is an assertion that the People’s right to keep and bear arms cannot be denied because a militia, composed of the body of the People, is essential to enforce the laws, suppress rebellion, defend against invasion, and as a last resort against tyrannical government, that last being something the Founders had very personal experience of in their own lives.

Regarding style, Halbrook’s writing is straightforward and easy to follow. If the book sometimes seems tedious, it is because the author is making a strong effort to be thorough and to bring home the point that early American opinions on the right to bear arms were remarkably consistent. In this case, this thoroughness is a virtue, not a flaw. However, the Kindle version, on which this review is based, is plagued with frequent typographical errors that look to be the result of scanning from the original without a subsequent editing. While very annoying, this does not detract from the book’s immense value in the current debate.

“The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms,” by Stephen Halbrook, is available in both paperback and Kindle format. (Fair disclosure: Buying a copy nets me a few pennies.)

Highly recommended.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: “The Communist,” a biography of Barack Obama’s mentor

December 23, 2012

book cover kengor communist

Mentors matter. For better or worse, there are people who, in our formative years, influence the way we see the world and how we act to shape it in our adult life. And if the mentored individual becomes a powerful person –President of the United States, for example– then the mentor’s influence affects our lives, too, making it worth our while to know something about this person.

This is the thesis behind Paul Kengor’s “The Communist,” a political biography of Frank Marshall Davis, who Kengor contends was a hugely influential mentor to President Barack Obama. That Davis was also, as Kengor shows, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party – USA (CPUSA), a doctrinaire Stalinist and defender of all things Soviet, and a hater of the Western world, should make us curious about what influence, if any, he had on young Barack Obama.

Kengor traces Davis’ life from his birth in Arkansas City, Kansas, in 1905 to his death in Hawaii in 1987. Along the way, we see the incidents that lead Frank to reject “the American Way.” Living under Jim Crow and in fear of White racist violence (at age five he was nearly lynched by White school children), it’s not hard to see what lead Frank to reject what he saw as fake democracy and exploitative capitalism in favor of an ideology that promised, however falsely, fairness, justice, and and racial equality. Indeed, Kengor admits that he, a conservative Catholic historian, can’t help but feel sympathy for his subject, even while rejecting and condemning Davis’ devotion to a murderous ideology.

The lion’s share is devoted to Frank’s work as an columnist for various newspapers in Atlanta, Chicago, and Honolulu. With extensive quotes from Frank’s own writings, many of which had lain forgotten in archives until recent years, he demonstrates Frank’s devotion to the Soviet Union, his adoration of Stalin, and his propaganda spinning in service of Moscow’s ends.

He also chronicles Davis’ hatred for the colonial powers, Britain and Churchill especially, and for the Democratic Party in the United States. This makes sense when one recalls Frank’s devotion to Soviet communism and the firm stance taken against that menace by Truman and other leading Democrats of the day. Kengor shows that charges of “McCarthyism,” made when Frank came under investigation by the Democrat-controlled Congress and repeated by his liberal and progressive defenders until his death, were ludicrous: not only had he spent his professional career defending and praising the Soviet Union (and Mao’s China and communist Viet Nam), but his CPUSA membership number was part of his FBI file, and the Senator who lead his questioning before Congress was the same man who ended Joe McCarthy’s red-baiting. “McCarthyism” was a smoke-screen, a distraction thrown in the faces of critics for one purpose: to deflect from the fact that Davis (and others) really were Communists.

Davis moved to Hawaii from Chicago, where he had known and worked with relatives of both Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, close advisers to Obama. (These relatives were also either Communists or highly sympathetic to Stalin’s USSR.) In Hawaii, he edited and wrote for the Honolulu Record, a paper funded by the Soviet-aligned International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It was after this, in retirement, that Frank was introduced to young Barack Obama, who had been brought to Frank by Obama’s White grandfather, who wanted a Black mentor or father figure for the future president, whose own father had run out on him.

It is here that Kengor reaches the question that most interests the reader: How much influence did CPUSA-member Frank Marshall Davis have over Barack Obama, the teen who would grow up to be President of the United States?

The answer Kengor gives is “quite a bit,” but the exact influence of Davis’ mentorship on President Obama’s career and policies is left for the reader to decide. Through an examination of Obama’s writings –his memoir “Dreams from my Father” and some poetry he wrote in college– Kengor concludes that Davis was very important influence on Obama’s youth, perhaps the most significant. As for his policies as president, Kengor shows parallels between policies Frank demanded, such as universal health care, first proposed by Senator Claude Pepper in the 1940s (Pepper’s top aide was, it turned out, a paid Soviet agent), and those programs Obama has pursued. Even in targets for disdain, Obama shows Frank’s influence. For example, Frank despised Winston Churchill, and one of Obama’s first acts in office was to remove a bust of the Prime Minister, a gift from Britain, from the Oval Office. While Kengor never says outright that Obama is pursuing Frank’s goals, the parallels, at least in domestic affairs, are striking. And given that Obama, as Kengor points out, has never shown a moment of “conversion,” of rejecting the Far Left and moving toward the Center, it’s fair to assume that whatever Frank taught Obama, he still at least finds much of it agreeable.

Stylistically, “The Communist” is written in a casual, almost chatty manner that does not detract from the seriousness of its subject. The book is well-documented (it has to be, given the rabid reaction one could expect from the Left), and Kengor is fair to his subject. There is nothing sensationalistic or scandal-mongering about the book, and it avoids the lurid rumors about Frank’s sex-life to concentrate on his politics.

Paul Kengor’s “The Communist” fills an important gap in our knowledge of the education of Barack Obama, of the early, important influences on his life and thought. Taken in combination with Kurtz’s “Radical in Chief” (reviewed here) which covers Obama’s career and involvement with Socialism and Socialists from college to the presidency, we have a good, two-volume political biography of the man who would come to lead (and take over much of) the largest economy in human history.

Highly recommended.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Reading this book has reminded me yet again of what a miserable job the mainstream media did vetting Obama prior to the 2008 election. None of the material Kengor cites would have been all that difficult to find for a dedicated researcher. Sadly, they chose to devote their time to shielding him from scrutiny, instead, while covering the things that mattered to them the most, such as Sarah Palin’s tanning bed and wardrobe. Their dereliction is inexcusable.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Cult of Personality Watch: “The Gospel According to the Apostle Barack”

November 14, 2012

“He walks among us”

I truly thought this was satire when I read the headline, something Iowahawk would come up with.

But, no. It’s real, and the author is serious:

The book’s premise is God spoke to Professor [Barbara A. Thompson, Florida A&M], telling her that Apostle Barack Obama’s 155 speeches made between February 10, 2007 and January 20, 2009 had the answers to unlock the kingdom of “heaven here on earth.”

And this is from the book’s promo text on Amazon:

Yes, Barack had worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people, especially those who elected him in 2008. His followers needed to re-elect him to a second term, so that he could continue to accomplish the promises he made, thus, realizing his vision of America as a more perfect political union or “heaven here on earth” Then, as I began to contemplate ways to assist Barack in his 2012 re-election bid something miraculous happened. I felt God’s (His) Spirit beckoning me in my dreams at night. Listening, cautiously, I learned that Jesus walked the earth to create a more civilized society, Martin (Luther King) walked the earth to create a more justified society, but, Apostle Barack, the name he was called in my dreams, would walk the earth to create a more equalized society, for the middle class and working poor. Apostle Barack, the next young leader with a new cause, had been taken to the mountaintop and allowed to see over the other side. He had the answers to unlock the kingdom of “heaven here on earth” for his followers. The answers were repeated – over and over – in speeches Barack had made from his presidential announcement to his inaugural address. Those speeches or his teachings contained the answers to the middle class and working poor people living in a “heaven here on earth” For when the answers were unlocked and enacted, Apostle Barack’s vision of America would be realized.

I’ll wait here while you go hurl.

Out of all the observations and arguments over the direction of our culture, it’s the tendency of some, mostly on the Left, to eschew self-government in favor of a Leader who somehow embodies the spirit of the nation and can divine the “national will” that perhaps disturbs me most. Ronald Pestritto describes this in his discussion of Hegel’s influence on President  Wilson in “Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism:”

“People follow the world-historical individual because they see their own spirit in him. This leader has in him the vision of the people’s future. ‘Their fellows, therefore, follow these soul-leaders; for they feel the irresistible power of their own inner Spirit thus embodied.’ Wilson laid out a similar concept of democratic leadership in his essay ‘Leaders of men,’ … As Hegel explains, leadership is necessary in order to uncover and bring to the surface the people’s true will, which become increasingly manifest as history progresses. Underneath the apparent clash of subjective interests and passions, there is a true, unified, and objective will, Leadership finds this true will and points it out to the people.”

(“Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism,” Kindle edition, beginning at location 276)

Adjust for the religious framing of Professor Thompson’s work and Hegel’s talk of “spirit” and “will,” and I think you can see the family resemblance. This veneration of the leader and the paternalistic “knowing the people’s will before the people themselves know” is part and parcel of American progressivism, not just in Wilson’s time (and, to an extent, his predecessor, TR), but in the present day in his modern acolyte, Obama. Goldberg discusses this tendency extensively in his must-read, “Liberal Fascism,” and it’s an unhealthy one in a democratic republic, something far too many succumb to.

While people like Obama cloak their beliefs in words of democracy, at their heart they’re statist, elitist, and anti-democratic. At the extreme end of their politics lies totalitarianism, wherein, as Professor Thompson anticipates as “heaven on earth,” God and the State become one.

RELATED: Some earlier examples of the Obama cult of personality.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)