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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