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July 31, 2006

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

Thomas Sowell – ISBN – 1594031436\

Sowell is beyond all doubt my favorite living philosopher/scholar/author/columnist. He is highly regarded by most everyone (except the Library Journal), including most of his adversaries. He writes knowledgeably, with incredible clarity—not to mention wisdom and wit.

This volume is a panoply of his breadth and skill, and recalls in part writings in others of his books. In the chapter “Are Jews Generic” one is reminded of portions of Migrations and Cultures wherein he describes varieties of culture and attitudes transplanted globally, noting that the middle-man culture is the same whether Chinese, Jewish, Ibo or Armenian. Identical approaches, which propel them to success in adopted cultures, make then anathema in all. It isn’t the race or culture, but the function and successes which others disapprove of and envy, even though the “others” would be unable to get along without them. Similarly so the chapter on “Germans and History.”

Another chapter, “Black Education,” recalls Education: Assumptions vs. History, in which he dispels the myth that black education is necessarily second rate. Numerous examples in historic times and places are recanted wherein blacks have not only succeeded but excelled in black schools--even in Washington D.C—but in another time (e.g.: Dunbar High School, then as now a ghetto school.) That was before liberals took over the establishment and began making damaging changes while offering ridiculous excuses. At one time Dunbar graduates were not required to take entrance examinations at Dartmouth, Harvard and other selective colleges.

A study done in 1970 demonstrated that of all PhD’s held by blacks at that time, more of them had graduated from Dunbar than any other black high school in the country. The first black graduate of Annapolis and the first black enlisted man to rise to a commissioned officer also came from Dunbar as did the first black female PhD, the first black full professor at a major American university, the first black federal judge, the first black general, the first black Cabinet member, the first black senator, the doctor who pioneered the use of plasma, historian Carter Woodson, author/poet Sterling Brown, musician Duke Ellington, etc. These are stunning data which liberals succeed in burying as information regarding the historic success of (some) black institutions. It can be done. It has been done! But the rules were “old fashioned” and quite different; values were instilled and success was expected, along with hard, disciplined work.

In “The Real History of Slavery” he dispels the notion that those nasty Southern gentlemen (Washington, Jefferson, etal.) were cavalier about it. In fact, they were opposed, and struggled with the conundrum of how to rid the U.S. of slavery without producing myriad other problems. What to do, for instance, with four million unemployed, illiterate blacks with few survival skills and nothing to sustain them if they were suddenly “free”? (overlooking homeless!) Should slave owners be compensated; if so, by whom? Could the two races live together compatibly? Emigration was a consideration but should it be voluntary or mandatory?

Slavery was a centuries old wrong which could not easily be righted. Numerous tangents are considered. He enquires into the rather bizarre fact that moral questions about slavery are almost exclusively Western moral questions, yet the West is always the one savaged because of their history of slavery. Non-Western societies had (and still have) little moral concern about slavery. He emphasizes that it was Western imperialism which suppressed slavery around the world.

“History vs. Visions” reminds of A Conflict of Visions, The Search for Cosmic Justice, and The Vision of the Anointed, in which he masterfully refutes the prevailing liberal myths. Things are not always as they seem, nor can they always be as you wish, and “visions” usually defy the facts on the ground. There are those omnipresent little problems, such as human nature . . . and reality; things which the liberally inclined always overlook whilst fantasizing and fashioning the “ideal society” of their visions.

Finally (best for last), the first chapter, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” attacks the myth of black culture, demonstrating that what we now consider black culture is the cracker culture. From time immemorial it has been backward, dismissive of education, prone to violence, sexually permissive, improvident, drunken, reckless and totally lacking in entrepreneurship. If you doubt, or offended by these observations, read the book! He confirms this in spades!

What liberals wish to encourage and sustain in modern blacks is, in fact, indigenous white culture imported into the South from Europe, and which had existed for centuries before their migration. Even the terms “redneck” and “cracker” came over on the boat. “The disparities found between Southern whites and Northern whites in the past are today taken as proof of racial discrimination. [These disparities are now] found between the black and white populations of the country. [Some] have taken such disparities as signs of genetic deficiencies. Yet clearly neither racial discrimination nor racial inferiority can explain similar differences between whites in the North and the South in earlier centuries . . . which should at least raise questions about such explanations when applied to blacks of a later era who inherited the culture of white Southerners.”

The questions are not raised, of course, since they would challenge the liberal vision.

This is a fascinating tome and a great introduction to Thomas Sowell for those of you unfamiliar with genius of this man (who, by the way, is black and completely self-made.)

Posted by respeto at 12:03 PM

July 26, 2006

The Good War

Studs Terkel – ISBN – 1565843436

This book won the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1984 and is well worth the read. Especially so for modern liberals and all altruists!

For those unfamiliar with Terkel, he is famous for a number of books which are catalogs of interviews with individuals from the WW II era. He documents the experiences of hundreds of people from all ranks and all walks of life, but principally those who actually fought the war. Some of the tales are appalling (the taking of Dachau and Auschwitz) and others occasionally rather humorous.

Everyone knew what that war was about; everyone (or nearly so) was committed to victory, and everyone suffered in some way, varying from rationing, long work hours, worry over loved ones, to actual combat including death of friends and compatriots.

It is a stunningly vivid presentation the “facts of the day” and presents a riveting read for the modern generation, much of which doesn’t understand principle, commitment, honor or the horrors of engaging a savage, uncivilized opponent committed to victory. Neither do they understand that sometimes wars must be fought, nor that sometimes they are necessary—in extremis, “good wars.”

In an early review by Norman Corwin he noted the book to be the “essence and cumulative force of a hundred powerful war novels, without drawing on a single word of fiction.”

All encompassing in its reach, one simply can’t, or ought not be able to, read without being overwhelmed. Especially so today when we are, though many deny it, involved in a similar type of conflagration on its way to being consuming. There are numerous parallels: the “nuanced” avoidance of reality which was prevalent in Europe in the lead up to WW II, and the altruists who wanted then to “negotiate” with Hitler. Now these types want to negotiate with Osama or the Iranians. How do you negotiate with someone who is hell bent on killing you and destroying civilization?

In one small vignette he quotes a man who noted that the SS troops were impossible. “They acted as though nothing could hurt them . . . they sneered at you. They acted the super race . . . they thought they had won the war, even after we captured them.” (How unlike the present day Islamo-fascists!) We were committed then to destroying Hitler, his minions, and his “philosophy,” and the Axis powers along with him.

If you want a preview of the coming world war this is a good place to begin to understand the forces and the people who are instigating it. And if you don’t want, read it anyway.

Posted by respeto at 2:20 PM

July 21, 2006

In Praise of Slowness

Carl Honore – ISBN – 006054578X

This is a terrific book, and really ought to be read a chapter a day to allow for reflection on its content.

In our high speed, near apoplectic society—one in which instant gratification no longer seems fast enough—there is neither time to be nor time to enjoy. “Take time to smell the roses” as goes the old saw.

Honore, a (former) type A’ personality, who is a journalist by trade, was stimulated to reflect upon the conundrum and eventually write this book. What “stopped [him] in his tracks” was a book he saw rushing thru an airport store. The title: The One-Minute Bedtime Story (various authors having condensed classic fairy tales into sixty-second sound bites.) Tempting for the first minute or so, by which time he was brought up short in reflecting whether life was really that short, and time so valuable that you had to read to your kid, allowing only a minute at bedtime.

Thus he launches into (too) longwinded reviews of everything from working speeds, family time, cooking and eating—work and leisure in general, and makes some profound observations which are better when savored, as mentioned up front.

My problem with the book is that he reminds of Robert Ardrey (African Genesis, The Hunting Hypothesis, and The Social Contract, all published in the early to mid-1960’s.) He makes his point, and then makes it again and again . . . and again. A good editor could have made the book half the length without leaving out anything important. (But maybe my A’ personality should take a few lessons . . . that is a possibility.)

In any event, he does make his points well, ventures into much territory which he notes is being explored with increasing frequency in the West. More people are practicing “slowness” and finding life more precious and more satisfying.

Chapter titles include, among others: doctors and patience; the importance of being at rest, raising an unhurried child and slow is beautiful.

It really is a good read, and the concepts are more than worthy of consideration. I’d recommend it highly, though I found myself reading carefully for the first half of each chapter and skimming what remained up till the summary paragraph.

Posted by respeto at 4:38 PM

July 12, 2006

One Nation, Two Cultures

Gertrude Himmelfarb – ISBN 0375404554

In her usual lucid and scholarly fashion Himmelfarb dissects and explains the conundrum of the age: the cultural divide between liberals and conservatives.

The counterculture, in attempting to liberate all from the influence of “bourgeois values,” succeeded in separating most people from all those values which had a stabilizing, socializing and moralizing effect on society. This has lead to the rapid acceleration of crime, out-of-wedlock births, and welfare dependency. The sexual revolution was that! Indeed it was that, and much more.

The Victorian pooh-bahs, while not necessarily adhering to the rules they espoused, created a stable culture followed by the masses. The Great Awakening worked. Tragically, the cultural elites of the 60’s legitimized and glamorized the counterculture. This dislocated their own lives only temporarily, but affected the masses disastrously and perhaps permanently. Some progress is being made. Time will tell.

The appropriate function of civil society is to mediate between the individual and the state to restrain gross individualism and overweening design, and to socialize and educate the individual in the duties and responsibilities to, as well as rights and privileges of civilization. The counterculture destroyed this sense of community.

Even modern “communitarians”, while retaining some of the old romantic aspects of community have little of its substance. Self-help and support groups, youth and singles clubs, Bible and prayer fellowships, etc. are voluntary, transient, and encourage people to move in and out as the occasion requires. All this has little of the flavor of historic community.

Modern civil society is called upon to repair the moral fabric of democratic society but it simply isn’t up to the task. There is no realistic mediating structure between unrestrained individualism and an all-powerful government; between the unencumbered self and the nanny state.

Most institutions of civil society have been enervated and demoralized by intrusive government. Even private charities are, in many circumstances, conduits for government money. Governmental regulation has subverted the institutions and bourgeois ethos upon which capitalism once depended.

While modernity is happy to acclaim charity and compassion as virtues, it is resistant to stigmatizing egotism and hedonism as vices. Even those “civil revivalists” who support civic renewal are disinterested in moral revival.

It is not enough to restore civil society. It is also necessary to reform and remoralize its institutions. Modern democracies all face problems in education, welfare, crime, popular culture and family, and all of these must be reconstituted. These cannot be, approached thru government, per se, and cannot be done without moral revival and recovery of the old structures of community.

The much derided “Norman Rockwell” image of the ‘50’s family may have been romanticized, but most subscribed to it. The current vicious characterization of is inauthentic, and contemporary suggestions for its replacement are even further removed from reality.

It is said that “morality cannot be legislated,” yet civil rights were legislated in the 60’s with reasonable results. Thus it is clear that certain kinds of behavior can be legitimately legislated. Law changes incentives, and incentives shape behavior. Good laws and judicious government legitimize civil society itself. Properly conceived and executed, law serves as a reaffirmation of moral sense of society.

As for the recent “welfare crisis,” there was none--rather, it is a moral crisis. Bobby Kennedy sagely remarked that what is given can be taken, what is begged can be refused, but what is earned is kept and what is self-made is inalienable; what you do for yourself and for your children can never be taken away.

Just as 19th century reformers consciously sought to fashion social policies in accord with moral objectives, modern successors, just as consciously, tried to divorce social policies from morality. After decades of Nonjudgmentalism we find that all policies have moral consequences, and only with deliberate policies in accord with desirable ends can the good outweigh the bad.

Aristotle observed that only within the polis is man truly human, and thus different from other gregarious animals. Civic virtue—the self-control and self-discipline required for self-government—is an essential attribute both of those who govern and those governed. Madison added that “to suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.”

The West in general and America in particular was derived from religious convictions and experiences. Religious conservatives are obstinate not so much because they are religious, but because they are conservative. They do not subscribe to the conventional liberal positions on social and cultural issues, and deplore the fact that their culture is being debased by such attitudes and beliefs.

Secularists complain of the articulate, active religious movement while the religious groups feel beleaguered by the Supreme Court which has abandoned long-standing traditions and customs. But “pragmatic alliances,” across religious and political lines, are being formed with the traditionalists of all religious faiths, and many of no religious faith. They are joining to find common cause against these “progressive” attitudes.

A culture war can be adjudicated, and a reasonable accommodation reached. Persuasion is preferable to violence, and democratic etiquette, while not diluting or blunting differences of belief allows civil expression (i.e. “civility”.)

The cause of tolerance is poorly served by those who pride themselves on their tolerance while identifying religious conservatives as intolerant, and equating them to Puritans or fanatics as found in the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

Some expect another Great Awakening, but Himmelfarb predicts the coming revival will become more moral rather than religious. There is a realization that people of all religious creeds—and none—recognize the need to arrest the moral decline in the culture, and that this revolution will embrace liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious. No one any longer argues that there is pervasiveness--even glorification--of violence, vulgarity and promiscuity, all of which are degrading our youth and our culture. It is a remarkable achievement to have reached this point.

For now, however, the two cultures are living together despite a degree of tension and dissension, but without civil strife or anarchy. That is the strength of America.

Someday . . . .

Posted by respeto at 11:59 AM

July 8, 2006

The Truth About Tolerance

(Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars)

Brad Stetson & Joseph G. Conti – ISBN – 0830827870

“There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found, myself, that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.” G.J. Chesterton

“Not only is [classical liberal tolerance] no longer extended to protect ideas that run counter to the doctrines of modern liberalism, but in addition it elevates liberal ideas above criticism.” John O’Sullivan

“Leftists would have us believe that a culture war is going on between tolerant secularists and intolerant Christians. Not so. . . . The conflict is really between two rival views of tolerance. One view is relativist—it says the best foundation for tolerance is not thinking you know anything. The other view is realist—it says you have to know something in order to judge what is tolerable. Guess who the real oppressors are?” Wish I’d said that . . . at least first . . . but it was in a review of the book written by J. Budziszewski which drew me to it in the first place.

This is a well written book, which one should read slowly and carefully. It is a clearly conservative work not intended to convert the unbeliever, but to fortify those who are less sure why they believe what they believe and need or want some reinforcement. This is their situational Viagra.

The authors attack the use of relativism, which commits us to moral subjectivity: What is true and right is that which one wants it to be . . . at the moment. Nothing can be known objectively. Thus political debate is reduced to sloganeering. Popular words such as diversity, choice and tolerance, ubiquitous as they are, are difficult concepts with which to disagree, but what do the words actually mean? Values cannot be morally good apart from their context and the ends to which they are applied. Aye, mate. There’s the rub!

Secular liberals insist that their critics are “moral imperialists” who wish to impose their ideology on society; very clever in that it stifles debate; in fact, however, the reverse is often true. Most liberals do not genuinely value diversity, nor do they truly believe that their own ideas would win out in a culturally open and informed debate. As I have noted in other reviews, they define the terms—or so obfuscate them as to make them unrecognizable--thereby winning or terminating the debate.

Buddhism and Christianity are world views. No less so is Secularism, yet the latter is far less systematic and reflective, and wholly untested by time. A Secularist’s faith “amounts to nothing more than self-devotion and the pursuit of whatever one wants to pursue at the moment.”

The Secularist uses rights as weapons against the norms of tradition and history, though “rights, both civil and natural, are laden with the responsibility for their sound stewardship exhibited in their morally informed careful exercise.” One cannot “appreciate” diversity without allowing various worldviews to exist. Open society affirms the right to free expression. That conservatives, Christian and otherwise, are viewed by Secularists as intolerant and bigoted would be laughable, if only it was funny.

Education has become dogmatic, rigid, arrogant and indoctrinating in the Secularist world view. The moronic rationalizations of political correctness prevail. There is nothing tolerable--or tolerant--in their “liberation,” and little that is progressive in their “progressivism.”

We have come a long way from a time when the wisdom of Western culture’s intellectual heritage and Judeo-Christian foundations were esteemed and defended. We’ve arrived at a place where there is an eerie cynicism about the possibility of knowing anything objectively; moral truth is impossible without objective truth. The unreality and jargon of postmodernism, as well as its atomistic commitment to radical individualism is the “grinding noise” of liberalism’s drive to validate its disdain for traditional morality. Further, it asserts that faith and ethics are matters of taste, not truth, and judgments about right and wrong are acts of will, not the public lexis of actual knowledge.

Intolerance and non-tolerance are peculiarly equated and dealt with as if synonyms. Properly, intolerance may reflect narrow-mindedness, but, as non-tolerance it might also be construed as a failure to tolerate those things which should not be tolerated.

Tolerance, rightly understood, favors civic order thru its willingness not to be tolerant. Pseudotolerance, however, is loathe to criticize or criminalize most things, except of course the pet projects of liberalism’s preferred social renovations.

There ought to be a civil commitment to be agreeable in disagreement, for the sake of the commonweal. That is not apparent, or even possible, with the Secularists.

Posted by respeto at 11:01 AM

July 5, 2006

9/11/2001 on 7/4/2006

I’ve pretty much given up blogging. I have little to add to the comments of people with more information, more knowledge and more time. Further many in the blogoshpere are blow-hards who rant about things they little understand. Right now I feel differently.

Last night I had the occasion to see Flight 93 on the tele. It is a movie quite well done, riveting one with its authenticity. It brought back all of the feelings of incredulity, shock, horror and rage that I (and I presume we) felt as we watched the scenes of 9/11 unfold. It also reminded me of my absolute certainty that this time OBL had f----d with the wrong cowboy. No one was going to do this to my country and get by with it. I was mightily relieved that Bush, not Clinton, Gore or Kerry, was in charge.

But before the movie was over I was also reminded of the pea-brained, forgetful, sound-bite mentality of the American public which has largely forgotten the incident, or at least doesn’t factor it into their daily lives and attitudes.

Now, Bush is far removed from my favorite personality, and I held my nose as I voted for him in 2004, but to see the public turn against the war on terror, return to computer games, home refinancing, and the popular “cut and run” philosophy is disappointing to say the least, and frightening if one considers the possibilities.

We are involved in a war which a sizeable minority—approaching a majority--don’t want to acknowledge, and it is a war to the death; a combination of hot and the cold war. Cold in that it will take decades to prevail, hot in the sense that real bullets are flying and real people are dying. (Of course that requires that we forget, as many have, the incidents in Korea, Cuba, Prague, Poland, Africa, Southeast Asia, and others wherein thousands of our own soldiers and millions of others died over a period of half a century as we opposed the USSR.)

I can only plead with my countrymen to be mindful of all this as we pursue our daily lives and our understandable and worthy parochial goals. Islam is not a religion of peace. Radical Islamists are more dangerous than any prior enemy of the West, and their goal is very long term. Indeed, they’ve been fighting their war for over 1,000 years. For them, history begins after they conquered much of the world in the 8th & 9th centuries. They know that they are right. They still consider Spain, much of eastern Europe, all of the Middle East and much of Asia as their property. They are hateful, intolerant fanatics, and enforcing Sharia, a 9th century attitude, upon the whole globe is their goal.

They are not like the proverbial flea climbing the hind leg of an elephant with intent of rape. They have the foresight, the will, and the means to prevail . . . but only if we allow them to do so.

A very long time ago Lincoln observed that a nation of free men will live forever . . . or die by suicide. Let’s keep that in mind!

Posted by respeto at 10:08 AM


(The worst acts of treason in American history)
Richard Sale – ISBN 0425191850

This is an interesting book, and a breezy read filled with information about the more important moral cretins of American history: Benedict Arnold, John Wilkes Booth, John Walker, Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, Elizabeth Bentley, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and many others. Some are uniformly recognized while others a little more obscure, but all amongst the most important “leakers” in American history.

It is sufficiently comprehensive to display the treasonous acts, and to explain how they impacted our security. Well researched (Sale is a journalist covering counterintelligence and terrorism for UPI), and very well written, it is a book worth the time. He doesn’t deal in arcane factoids, but discusses things in straightforward terms filling in many historic blanks for the average reader not steeped in this information, and making the guilty easy to loathe.

Whatever their reasons, these turncoats actions all put the lives of every American at risk and deserve to have shame and dishonor heaped upon them. Ignominious to a fault, though his take on Benedict Arnold is interesting and obliquely laudatory: “Whatever his faults Arnold was a superb, dauntless battlefield warrior. . . . the dross in his character fell away. . . . His uncertain character, in peacetime . . . was replaced by untiring energy . . . by balance and sense . . . [and] incredible tenacity and a power of resolution that simply refuse[d] to perish until it succeed[ed]. . . . The spies who follow him are no more his size than the fleas on a bear.”

Worth a couple of hours!

Posted by respeto at 9:20 AM

July 3, 2006

The Case for Democracy

Natan Sharansky – ISBN 0892216441

For those who do not know--or remember--Sharansky was imprisoned in a Soviet Gulag for nine years as a “dissident” working for both the freedom of the Jews to emigrate, and for freedom for Soviet citizens. He was finally permitted to immigrate to Israel after years of effort by his wife and the United States, and now serves in the Israeli Knesset.

He presents potent arguments for the power of freedom, and the necessity of democracy. While “experts” doubt the success of democracy in the Middle East (never mind freedom), he brilliantly and unequivocally challenges the skeptics. The entire text is so laden with quotable material that I have to restrain myself from reviewing this magnificent treatise by quoting him. I can, however, recommend that you read it. Twice!

He divides the world into only two categories: free and fear societies, positing that there is nothing in between. A society which “does not protect dissent will inevitably be based upon fear. The mechanics of tyranny make this inescapable.”

Thus he describes the problems of all societies of fear, past and present. Freedom is a uniquely Western concept which is, under proper circumstances, applicable to all societies, albeit in unique ways for each. No culture is immune to Democracy.

He explores the origins of “doublethinkers” in fear societies, explaining that where no freedom of expression is permitted the thoughts of freedom are suppressed and the world sees what appears to be a society limited to “true believers.” Not the accurate picture, of course. And people terrorized over decades by the likes of Saddam Hussein are likewise not as content as they might seem; just afraid to register a complaint.

The intellectuals who were taken in by Stalin in the ‘30’s naively believed in communism’s alleged egalitarianism and were convinced that the Soviet’s were earnestly attempting to build their “new world” with its “new men.” Intellectuals refused to accept that reprehensible means were used to secure this hypothetical utopia, and “filtered their observations accordingly.” Amazingly, they still do!

“[A] country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors.” While the mechanics of a democracy makes it inherently peaceful, the mechanics of tyranny make nondemocracies inherently belligerent . . . often, to avoid collapse from within, fear societies maintain a state of conflict in perpetuity! There is implicit acceptance of the need for the dictator to protect. Ultimately, a democracy which hates you is far less dangerous than a dictator who loves you. It is the absence of democracy which is the real threat to peace.

Those fighting for human rights that do not distinguish between free and fear societies will be shorn of a moral compass. When the voice of the people can be heard, the chances of war are greatly diminished.

Too many in the West fail to acknowledge the moral difference between free and fear societies. Still, the free world cannot afford to await the spontaneous evolution of the dictatorial regimes. A “community of free nations will not emerge on its own.” Rather, it will take both the clarity of moral purpose, and the courage to confront fear societies everywhere . . . and only the United States can (and must) inspire this.

In the world of fear the challenge is finding the strength to confront evil. In the world of freedom the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil. Archimedes observed that those who wish to move the earth must first have a place to stand. Moral clarity provides that place.

There are people within the fear societies who would like change. The West must recognize, applaud and support them to help them prevail over their nondemocratic regimes. Not by choice will these cultures change. There is no end to history. Rather, the world’s diversity will continue and disagreements will always exist, but there can be an end to lasting tyranny, and we can live in a world where no regime which attempts to crush dissent will be tolerated. “Slavery has been all but wiped off the face of the earth, so too can government tyranny become a thing of the past.”

Posted by respeto at 3:50 PM