" /> I write: November 2006
Curmudgeonalia
I see I taste I write Links What?
November 27, 2006

The Pirate Coast

Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805
Richard Zacks – ISBN – 9781401308490

This is a too comprehensive elaboration of the United States first over-seas intervention: the “take down” of the Barbary Pirates. For hundreds of years these Muslim raiders had been the scourge of Mediterranean shipping, extracting bribes from all of the countries of Europe to “permit” safe passage of their vessels. Under the aegis of England the U.S. had been spared, but as a free nation the Pirates began to attack American vessels, capturing them and their crews and demanding “tribute.”

The frigate USS Philadelphia was captured and its crew of 300+ was enslaved (which event authored the old saw: “Millions for defense, but not a Cent for tribute.”) Unhappy—but not altogether unwilling—to pay ransom for ship and crew, Jefferson agreed to a raid on the Libyan port of Tripoli. Here Stephen Decatur (Jr.) distinguished himself by leading an attack crew into the harbor, capturing the ship and burning it, in the process doing damage to the port and other ships. The event was accomplished with no casualties and was considered one of the most daring of undertakings of the era. It enshrined Decatur forever as an authentic American hero.

Since the crew was not freed another plan was advanced, encouraged by William Eaton, an intensely patriotic American citizen. He undertook to rally (and pay) many who had independent quarrels with the Tripolitans. His “army” included Muslims and Christians, Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Italians, Maltese, Marmelukes, Tripolitans and even a Tyrolean, plus 8 U.S. Marines; hundreds in all, with 400 hundred of horses and 105 camels. They eventually crossed 500+ miles of desert from Egypt to Tripoli to unseat the ruling Pasha (this, without a map!—a feat not accomplished for over 1000 years)

And this is where the difficult arises. Zacks reviews every detail of the undertaking, missing only “potty breaks” by the warriors. He does, of course, give a detailed discussion of construction of latrines. Every quarrel, every rainstorm, every quest for water . . . it’s all there. It rapidly becomes a tiresome book crammed with far too much detail. And since it is dense, it is difficult to skim. Frankly, while I was very much looking forward to it, I finally gave up half way thru. It is impossible to scan the tome for fear of overlooking some important detail in the endeavor, and equally impossible to consider wading thru it for information.

Guess I’ll have to read about the Marines trip “to the shores of Tripoli” in some other format.

For those interested in a day by day exposition of events, down to the finest of detail, this is such a book. For others more interested in just what happened, a dedicated editor could have encouraged and developed a much better book.


Posted by respeto at 12:10 PM

November 17, 2006

Cedar Key, Florida

An Illustrated History
Kevin M. McCarthy (Professor Emeritus, UF)

At last, a comprehensive history of Cedar Key. And well done, too. It is much better than any prior rendering, and a treasure trove of information. Overall it is detailed, if brief, and a “spot-on” history of the city and its environs, which has been very well researched. Other publications date from the early 1990’s, and while interesting they are considerably more limited than this new book.

The 280 pictures are wonderfully revealing, interesting in themselves and complimentary to the narrative. One is especially impressed by photos from Dock Street in the 1970’s, which demonstrate considerable development—and improvement—without becoming “South Florida” (or central, coastal or north!) The character of this tiny community has been preserved and enhanced, though its natives might not wholly agree. Change is difficult and poorly accepted, if nonetheless necessary.

One vignette dealing with the high school basketball championship won in 1965 by this small group of dedicated athletes was déjà vu for me, inasmuch as a tiny town in Illinois performed a similar feat at about the same time—a “dream team” from a school with but nine boys won The Sweet Sixteen, with the whole state rooting for them. I trust the State of Florida exhibited such enthusiasm.

The mention of the impact of Title IX upon sports at Cedar Key High School (which almost had to close!) was of interest to me as well, since I have opposed this particular bit of Government interference since its inception. That and the dedication of its alums when a fire again threatened the existence of CKHS, which also saved it from oblivion.

The highlighted comments of Lindon Lindsey, a native, add further. Since I introduced the two gentlemen I was particularly gratified that Lindon was so featured.

The only thing I found trying was the choppy read of the material, based upon the fact that the author chose to break the history down decade by decade, necessitating early references to “more on that later,” later references to “see page x for information,” and seemingly unnecessary repetitiveness as if expecting that one would read only small sections. (I can suggest no alternative approach and probably ought not complain, but I am a curmudgeon, after all.) There is also one mislabeled picture, but there is always an oversight.

Throughout its history Cedar Key as been repeatedly threatened with non-existence . . . annihilation, which has engendered a stoic “resiliency, adaptation to changing times, survival.” But the town is still here.

This is a fine addition to the history of small towns, seldom written because there is no market and the author has to undertake the task simply for love. Congratulations are due Dr. McCarthy for a great service to our community, and for providing this information to current residents and myriad, inquisitive visitors.

Well worth the read!

Posted by respeto at 3:52 PM

November 10, 2006

Do As I Say (Not As I Do)

Peter Schweizer – ISBN – 9780767919029

This best seller exposes the hypocrisy of the political left, using examples of powerful and representative people. It catalogues events and attitudes while carefully avoiding ad hominem attacks (unlike those on the left!) For those on the left it ought to give at least some cause for pause--if only they’d read it.

If you think you know about liberal hypocrisy, wait until you read this!

“Do-as-I-say liberals don’t actually trust their ideas enough to apply them at home.”

Michael Moore, champion of black employment, for example, has hired 134 principals, of whom only 3 were black. The same applies in to many of the others. Al Franken: zero.

Conspicuous consumption is a problem which applies to other people. Streisand’s residence--for 2--includes 5 separate homes and a 12,000 sq. ft., air-conditioned barn for her business artifacts. But give Barbra her due . . . at least her charitable foundations actually give away 25% of the assets annually. The others run them as a personal bank.

Ted Kennedy and George Soros demand that the rich be heavily taxed, yet both (and most of the others) have instituted numerous trusts, private foundations and off shore accounts to avoid taxes. Kennedy “fights for the little guy’ and demands that the rich pay their fair share. Of course he avoids them himself.

Soros has made most of his money trading currencies, most of which currencies he influences to precipitate his profits. He has “no moral position” about destroying the British Pound, for instance: just business! “It is a sort of disease when you consider yourself some kind of God, the creator of everything, but I feel comfortable about it now since I began to live it out.” His penchant for “offshore accounts” authored the craze.

Hillary received over $300,000 worth of gifts before exiting the White House--all before she became a senator, thus to avoid rules which preclude this. Not content, she took $360,000 in White House property as well. And the Whitewater stuff you heard about is only a fraction of what they did to screw the “little folk.”

While Hillary sees herself as the liberator of children, Chelsea was rigidly supervised; not permitted what Hillary advocates for the rest of our children, who are supposed to become “masters of their own destiny.”

Nader is a creep. Much of what Schweizer has to say has been said before. But not all! He has millions in more or less secret accounts, and invests in most of the industries he condemns . . . sometimes just before he condemns them, the better to profit by selling short.

Pelosi is vocally supportive of unions and minimum wage, but in her far-flung empire (the wealthiest person in the House) she runs a totally union-free shop and seldom pays minimum wage to her hundreds of employees. She’s an acolyte of Hugo Chavez’s farm workers union, but employs only immigrant, non-union (legal and illegal) Mexican labor in her vineyards and hotels. To hell with “workers of the world unite.”

Chomsky? Well, he is confident that he has discovered the truth and expects us all to follow his precepts. The fact that he doesn’t seems not to concern him. He’s a genuine “capitalist pig.”

Steinem? After a lifetime of advising women to stay single she up and gets married. Great that she finally found love and commitment, but how about the thousands of young women who passed it up on her recommendation?

And the viciously anti-capitalist Cornell West, the race-baiting “Black Studies Professor?” Surprise: he makes a fortune in real estate, the markets, and by charging huge fees for his lectures. He capitalizes on his “blackness” and even makes rap records when he’s supposed to be teaching at Harvard . . . or Princeton . . . or wherever he has negotiated his most recent lucrative contract. But teach at a Black College . . . never. Pay’s too little.

In the left’s moral universe, their motives and intentions are always pure. Their adversaries, however, are always animated by greed: a conservative disease from which they are spared.

Like the conservatives they denounce, they hire only the best people to manage their affair, not those who confirm to some idyllic quota system. The ideas they profess to take seriously are not those by which they live.

So why can’t they stop affixing sinister labels—racist, greedy, polluter—to people who are doing exactly the same thing without the hypocrisy? Answer: Liberals enjoy the moral satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that they, unlike the rest of us, are committed to fighting racism, oppression, inequality and pollution.

“It’s time for the free ride to end.” It’d be nice if the next time one of them is interviewed the questioner would ask: “yes, but do you really live your life that way?”

Posted by respeto at 1:04 PM

November 7, 2006

American Courage

(True stories of gallant people who have made this country great.)
Herbert W. Warden III – ISBN 9780060782405

An interesting book, this; what I generally refer to as a “bathroom read.” There are 46 stories, each a few pages long, each reported by participants and/or researched by the author, covering snapshots of our history from the Mayflower landing to the present.

All are about uncommon valor under trying--even devastating circumstances. All are well told. There are vignettes from King Phillips war and the carnage in little towns like Deerfield, MA; Washington’s victories at Trenton and Princeton (noted by Fredrick the Great as “the most brilliant campaign of the century”), Davy Crockett and the Alamo, the 49ers, Pickett’s Charge, the San Francisco Quake, Sergeant York, D-Day, Vietnam, Moon landings, and finally Flight 93 on 9/11.

I was not aware that the Boston Tea Party was a quite pacific affair, uneventful except for the outcome, and I was particularly taken by the loquacity, elegance and sophistication of the writings of Daniel Boone—always considered, by me at least, to be quite a rustic.

It is a remarkable and captivating book best read in short, quiet times to better absorb and enjoy the recanting of one or two of the events which helped make us who we are, and of the heroic people in our history.


Posted by respeto at 3:58 PM

November 5, 2006

Culture Warrior

Bill O’Reilly – ISBN – 9780767920926

To those of you, few I hope, who can’t stand O’Reilly, there is nothing to say. But for the rational rest, this is another good book . . . possibly his best. Certainly if you exclude his book The O’Reilly Factor for Kids, it is his best, and that was an entirely different kind of book.

He describes the culture war which is going on, despite the denials of many. The “Secular-Progressives (S-P’s) drive on a one-way street all the time. If you don’t agree with them totally, you are the enemy.” They launch attack and smear those who disagree. This is a searing accusation which he sets out to prove. And prove it he does, to anyone inclined to listen (or to read.)

While traditionalists (a vast majority) reject the attitudes of the “S-P’s,” they do not understand, or do not wish to consider the situation. They stay on the sidelines, disengaged.

The S-P’s are completely laissez faire. Everything is relative, there is neither right nor wrong. Drugs, sex, abortion (even infanticide), euthanasia, etc. should be left unregulated. These are simply matters of personal choice. No system is better. Indeed, ours is worse (or worst.) They believe America is, and has been, an evil country. Consider the rantings of Ward Churchill, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and George Clooney. Then there is George Lakoff and What’s the Matter with Kansas (a book I reviewed long ago.) A world run by Kofi Annan is their fallback position. They, of course, could do much better.

They are encouraged and represented by the ACLU, an organization supported in turn by millions in S-P contributions. (George Soros and Peter Lewis come to mind.) They are compromising our laws and traditions. Mull over the conflict about Christmas, the Ten Commandments, NAMBLA and the attacks on the Boy Scouts over their handing of gay scoutmasters.

Other aspects of their philosophy come in the form of ludicrous attitudes such as the failure to charge the co-conspirators in the events which led to the capture, rape and murder of a child in FL, or the sentence by the judge in VT who decided that a man convicted of raping a 10 year old girl multiple times over 4 years need spend only 60 days in jail. That is “Restorative Justice.” The fault lies somewhere within society, and needs to be addressed thru therapy, not punishment. “They’re sick.” (They sure as hell are—except for the evil ones--and all ought to be locked up . . . though I have no quarrel with therapy during their incarceration, however little good it does.)

The S-P’s are entrenched on college campuses, and making inroads into primary and secondary schools—with insufficient opposition. Witness conflicts over what will be taught and how, from sex-ed to evolution (or “inspired design.”) Their modus operandi is that practiced by totalitarian regimes throughout history: separate the children from their parents, then proselytize and “brain wash.” In this they are anything but subtle. Government schools are a disaster, but protected by the S-P’s and their minions.

They oppose ID’s at polling stations to enhance the “right” of ineligibles and illegals to vote. They impose their ideas of a education, whether or not we, the unwashed, agree with them. They oppose achievement standards, but having lost the battle over “no child left behind” they now engage in lowering those standards. They oppose proficiency tests for teachers. They oppose permitting poor children to attend private schools, even though their schools are deficient.

Children must be taught to perform, not coddled by “nurturing” environments. But, if impeded, how will they instill “progressive values?”

On their best days they feel that a controlling government ought to force society to be generous and fair, which vision would, of course, require totalitarianism, and that they claim to abhor. Are they that naïve, or do they think the rest of us are?

One can’t debate or reason with them. They are committed to living in a “no traditionalist zone.” A decision must be made by the majority American constituency. Will traditional society prevail or not? This battle must be engaged soon, before it is too late. The question is when, or whether, the great unwashed will finally become involved!

The S-P’s desire a huge government to dispense their ideas of “economic justice” and “nurturing:” the creation of total dependence, which utopian dream is both ridiculous and unattainable. Utopian warriors like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi etal. are very engaged, but . . . “on the wrong side.”

“There is a right and a wrong in this world. There is justice and fairness. And, finally, there is a strong, binding tradition that has made America the most successful country the world has ever seen.”

There is an alternative to their “Brave New World.” You don’t have to agree with O’Reilly completely, but you simply must read his “rant” to understand the S-P agenda. And then become engaged in doing something about it! If you care.

Posted by respeto at 2:33 PM