" /> I write: July 2007
Curmudgeonalia
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July 23, 2007

Alexander Hamilton, American

Richard Brookhiser – ISBN – 9780684839196

This book is a stunning achievement. In little more than 200 pages Brookhiser chronicles the life and contributions of Hamilton, ranking him amongst the most important of the founding fathers. Oft overlooked and unappreciated, the author undertakes to correct that, and does it very well.

More than any of his contemporaries Hamilton was responsible for the emergence of the country as the most important economic and military power on the globe. As well, he contributed to the abolition of slavery. Without a doubt his life’s contributions would have been greater had he not been killed in a duel, and perhaps his reputation and contributions would have been better recognized.

In recent years a number of biographies have been written. I believe this to be one of the best because it is succinct, well drawn, and complete with interpretations which help the reader to know and appreciate Hamilton.

His greatness was much related to the plainness of his ideation. He was, of course, brilliant. “Madison’s thoughts at their best [were] brilliant constructs. Jefferson’s [were] visions.” Madison was a well schooled man, Jefferson an autodidact. “Hamilton was driven by problems. Madison by theories.” Both were dazzling politicians and orators.

One of the better sections of the monograph is Brookhiser’s discussion of Hamilton’s brilliance exhibited in the founding of America’s first bank as well as the thoughtful construction managing the Revolutionary War’s debts. Functioning as the first Secretary of the Treasury these were his most important contributions.

Hamilton was adamant about honor (which is what got him killed), and of honoring debt fully. He almost single-handedly created modern entrepreneurial capitalism, though it was not then known as such. Being creative himself he recognized that in a community of individuals it was proper, possible and appropriate for each individual to find his element, and to “call into activity the whole vigor of his nature.” No one need necessarily be plugged into a trade or activity he loathed, or for which he was unsuited. Options were encouraged.

Though having grown up in one of the world’s most beautiful spots (the Island of Nevus in the Caribbean), Hamilton was surrounded by abject poverty. This caused him to seriously consider alternative approaches to prosperity. Having raised himself from poverty he never forgot that economies are about the people who work in them. Being the spawn of a ne’er do well he recognized that men were shaped by their environment and could easily drift into obscurity and mediocrity. This promulgated his thoughts about labor and industry which were more dynamic, detailed and creative.

His misgivings about the French Revolution are explored, along with his activities in our own revolution; especially interesting is how they demonstrate his character development. Principally, he was a successful lawyer who argued many important cases. Many helped shape the laws in this country. In these endeavors he was anything but moderate. He worked at being an American, and better defined what he thought that to be than many others, and throughout his life he remained an idealist.

Three cheers and twenty-one guns for Alex. I encourage you to read this rewarding and brief bio.

Posted by respeto at 1:07 PM

July 16, 2007

Yo! Liberals! - You Call This Progress?

Karl Spence – ISBN 9780976682608

This is another which you will have to purchase used or remaindered. While a recent book it is no longer in print. That’s a shame, too, since he explores crime, race, sex, faith and law as involved in the Culture War in ways you will not find elsewhere. He gives stats and comments you won’t read in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and similar organs.

It is a fleet, breezy read, and thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you like dealing with facts—which liberals generally do not. In his preface he observes that “it should be obvious to everyone that the works of man . . . are not all created equal.” Amen to that. It is a mantra I have been pushing on this site since my first year. Sectarian liberals--for whom their version of liberalism is itself a religion--never seem to understand that. Consequentially they are undermining and destroying our society as it has been for hundreds of years.

He observes that “coming on the heels of the baby boom, the [6o’s] ‘youth culture’ abandoned the old values of self-restraint and deferred gratification. It emphasized rights over duties, and it rejected all moral limits not immediately and obviously connected with rights of others—and often trampled even those that are.”

One of his more interesting topics is crime in which he mentions the observations of Tocqueville (who wrote Democracy in America in 1835). He noted that in America citizens viewed crime as a societal problem. It seldom escaped punishment because everyone was involved in furnishing the necessary proofs to ultimately prosecute the miscreant. A century and a half later Solzhenitsyn commented that culprits go unpunished, and are often supported by “thousands of defenders in the society.” Same country they’re talking about. Recognize it?

Amongst other things, we have created a society which tolerates crime and protects criminals. Miranda rights and the recent difficulty in enacting Megan’s Law in many states are but the tip of the iceberg.

Progressive legal thinkers (progressive? thinkers?) never tire of positing that rebuff of the Warren-era legal reforms would bring about a police state. They seem not to recognize that from the original colonies thru the Eisenhower administration no police state existed. Only then did we get saved by the Warren-court. (That’s the Supremes.)

His attack on the Roe era is unrelenting, and his statistics devastating. He demonstrates that all of the claims of the liberals were false. Deaths from abortion were curtailed largely by the discovery and use of antibiotics. Annual deaths from abortion, legal and illegal, had been reduced from 1500 per year in 1940 to 300 per year at the time Roe was passed. NARAL nonetheless inflated these numbers to 10,000. When confronted, its cofounder (Bernard Nathanson) stated: “I knew [at the time] the figures were totally false.”

Necessarily, he deals with the Atheist Crank Litigation Union in discussing prayer in schools, crèches on public property, and related subjects. I was surprised to note that he didn’t comment on the fact that they have totally avoided confrontation with Islam. In California recently it was disclosed that public schools are providing Islamic classes wherein the curriculum is largely controlled by imams, classes are segregated by sex, Christians are banned, prayer hours are included in the curriculum, etc. And where is the ACLU? No idea. Imagine if Christians wanted to pray before a football game sponsored by a public high school . . . never mind having Christian classrooms and Christian prayer in school—during class time.

He reserves precious venom for judicial activists. He notes their insistence that we not be ruled by “the dead hand of the past,” and enquires whether, difficulties notwithstanding, it is a better alternative than rule by activist judges. We can’t have prayer in schools, crush the crime waves, control pornography or protect children, born and unborn . . . not because the constitution prohibits it, but because “a liberal elite has turned the Constitution into a weapon to use against self-government, just as [George] Washington warned.”

The Living Constitution thus becomes less and less the instrument of the people and more “the instrument of unelected and unaccountable judges, imposed by fraud.” Consequently he supports, defends and recommends what the constitution permits—that judges be impeached. It is the only way to get their attention. Contrary to their insistence that they should not be impeached for their opinions, he counters that when they go against both the constitution and public will, they must be! That is what the Constitution means. No misinterpretation there.

Speaking on the conflict over the Constitution’s original and intended meaning, he observes that today’s judicial activists conveniently ignore that when the Constitution was first created, even opponents of “strict construction” never considered that the constitution could be altered by judicial opinion. (Note, that’s could, not should!) The framers of the constitution felt that legislation should be done for the people by their legislatures, and the laws were immutable. No one, including judges, could arbitrarily change them.

He did overlook a deserving quote from Lincoln, who observed that: "if the policy of the government upon vital questions . . . is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme court . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

My how different is modern reality. Read it and weep.

Then go do something about it! The recent immigration debacle has proved that when the public demands action, eventually the legislature gets the message. I believe that the fall out from this fiasco will empower the people as nothing else has in my lifetime. Now we know we can succeed if we press hard enough.

Posted by respeto at 4:00 PM

July 11, 2007

Brunellieschi’s Dome

How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
Ross King – ISBN – 9780142000151

This is an extremely interesting book of which I would have been unaware had it not been given to me by a customer and friend.

Filipo Brunellieschi was a 15th century goldsmith who invigorated architecture and almost single-handedly brought architects from the status of mere day-laborer to the level of respected artisan; indeed, the only European architect of his time to gain fame in his own lifetime, which fame has endured to the present because of his incredible genius. It was this recognition which permitted subsequent architects such as Christopher Wren to be honorable. Along the way this capomaestro rediscovered Roman mortar and recreated lost building techniques, while adding a host of his own creations to the craft.

The dome of the Florentine cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (which you’ve seen if you saw the movie Room with a View) is the source of that fame, and he alone is honored by burial in that cathedral along with its Patron Saint Zenobius. In fact, his grave was lost beneath the paved central aisle for over 500 years until rediscovered in 1972.

A dreamer drew an idealized sketch for this almost impossible octagonal dome, and against all odds Filipo was able to render it buildable, and built it, taking over 25 years to do so, dying only a year or so before the cupola was completed.

In so doing he constructed the largest masonry dome of its--and all--time. It remains the largest free-span dome in the world. Only with modernity, new building materials, techniques and equipment has it been surpassed by the superdome(s). It is larger than St. Peter’s in Rome, larger than the Capitol Building in D.C.: a radius of 70+ feet at its base and but 10 ft. at its apex. At the top the angle is 30 degrees from perpendicular, despite which it was built without centering (scaffolding to support it while under construction.) This alone was ingenious . . . and necessary because it would have been all but impossible to construct scaffolding that high. Overall this was an achievement at least equal to Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge four centuries later, and at a time when far less was known about engineering.

When an elderly Michelangelo was designing the dome for St. Peters he carefully studied Filipo’s work and noted that he could equal this dome but never surpass it. Most don’t feel he even equaled it: it is narrower and, “arguably, much less graceful and striking” (there, Mike, take that!), while Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is smaller in diameter by 30 feet.

The base of Brunelleschi’s dome was 180 ft. off of the ground and over 300 ft. to its apex, with a 30 ft. cupola (also known as a lantern.) The dome is estimated to have taken 37,000 tons of stone, brick and mortar, and the lantern itself adds another 500 tons. Atop all of that was a huge bronze ball with a Christian cross. He had to revolutionize architecture to accomplish this. Furthermore, he had to design and build wooden machine cranes 300 ft. high to get the materials to the height needed; machines precise enough to seat them exactlywhere needed. Worse, this had to be done when navies were going abroad to find 120 ft. logs to be used as masts.

Masons had to climb 42 stories of steps just to get to work at the top! (Must have been in great shape.) And they took their lunch along with them in the morning—no great surprise there.

He forgot nothing. As he was building the dome he left iron rings in the mortar so that the fresco which he knew would follow had moorings for the scaffolding which would be required.

King laces the entire narrative with anecdotes about the builder and his friends (and enemies) which make the story more interesting, and he emphasizes that the height and openness of this magnificent dome were critical to the mathematical studies made by another sage in pursuit if improving the accuracy of determinations of longitude and latitude which made sailing in the open ocean safe, and indirectly resulted in the discovery of the (admittedly not lost) new world only a few years later.

For those with an interest in art or architecture this is a wonderful read.

Posted by respeto at 1:17 PM

Catch – 22, addendum

Read t’other first if you haven’t. Rather than expand that recent epistle I favor an addition.

Children today are not being taught how to think, but what to think, which results in losing the ability to think. This is brought on by the ruinous attitudes of the 60’s which invaded our culture in the hippie era. At the heart of this is the marginalization of the founding faith of our fathers and the source of our fundamental values. With it the sense of national identity or purpose has been consumed, including individualism, responsibility, obligations to our fellow citizens, and our collective love of liberty.

Diversity is diversifying Judeo-Christianity out of society and “notions” of propriety out of the West . . . which calamity fundamentally emasculates everything we formerly believed in and defended. Now all attitudes and beliefs are equal and we apologize for being insufficiently sensitive; especially for not accepting that all cultures are equal. We alone are responsible for slavery, annihilation of indigenous peoples, etc. No one on the planet ever did it before, don'tcha know. We are no longer teaching what’s good about the West, only its mistakes. Youth aren’t taught that we corrected, and still correct our mistakes, unlike most every other culture on the planet. Why? Because the secular intelligentsia doesn't believe it. They hate the West that much! Strange how they tolerate barbarity, isn't it?

As Christianity is “ushered out” there is a hiatus wherein other faiths—and no faith—can be ushered in. Islam, by contrast, doesn’t see established religion as anachronistic, and uses our dethroning of Western religion as a helpful advantage in the subjugation of the West. Freedom of religion for Muslims is the freedom to propagate their religion in every possible way and without interference from or challenge by our primary culture. Culturally they believe. Culturally we believe in nothing of substance.

There are secular Muslims who deplore these “Islamic” attitudes but a troubling number of them subscribe to all of them, and a majority subscribe to some. It therefore becomes necessary to be a Clintonesque parser. Since we are discussing moderation, define moderate, please. If discussing, as they often do, the fact that the Koran forbids attacks on the innocent, define innocent, if you will. Define tolerance while you're at it.

Most of the moderates condemn atrocities while simultaneously denying that Islam has anything to do with them, often denying that they are even perpetrated by Muslims.

A prominent Imam, along with far too many liberal multiculturalists, insists that “it is the legitimate right of people to resist invasion and occupation, by force if necessary.” O.K., how about us? We are being invaded and occupied by a foreign force at odds with our culture. Have we no right to resist? With force? Since when is their claim the only legitimate one? Oh, yea, I forgot. They are a minority and therefore subject to discrimination, which by definition the majority cannot be. Right!

It is true that support of the radicals by the liberal left is demoralizing to those moderate Muslims who might come forth, but I’d still like the moderates to stand up, define moderation, state their case and join the rest of us “non-intellectuals” in the fight against radical Islam, if that be what it is, Koranic interpretation notwithstanding. Don’t just cower . . . do something constructive, and quit excusing the radicals.

Posted by respeto at 1:02 PM

July 9, 2007

Catch - 22

Long past time for another rant.

If ya don’t letum in ur a ***phobe, if ya do ur a corpse! In any case you’re the evil, intolerant one. That’s the Catch - 22!

The latest “spoiled” terrorist plot in England has me livid. Again we hear drivel about how terrorism is unique to radicals. Bulls**t! The 9/11ers were educated, middle-class, and evil. So were the 7/7ers. Now we have physicians (docs of war?), generally thought to be the cream of the crop, involved up to their gill-slits. “At least do no harm?” Right!

The squalid truth about Islamic aggression is that it is Islamic aggression, most assuredly not based upon specific rational grievances. It is irrational religious fanaticism having nothing to do with education, discrimination, poverty, segregation or the war in Iraq. While spreading to Muslims in the East it is basically a Middle-Eastern phenomenon.

What they want is separate monoculture—labeled multiculturalism--within and tolerated by their hosts, while they themselves are abysmally intolerant as they wait and war to dominate the West. Afterward it’ll be to hell with all tolerance. They feel superior with nothing to prove it, except of course their own perverted opinions.

Their aggression is said to be a legitimate defense of Islamic “values.” So what are those values?
1. Murder or enslave all the Jews, gays and Christians--and the insufficiently Muslim Muslims of course. Who kills whom is dependent upon which sect is involved, since it applies to all, reciprocally. Hence their war of all against all.
2. Deny female equality, arrange girls marriages, beat them if they misbehave, stone them to death if they get pregnant out of wedlock—even if they’re raped
3. Leaving home? Women must be attended and completely covered up. Be anonymous. Even an exposed, stocking covered ankle may tempt and taunt a man and make them do wild sexual things. Right! . . . things like
4. Honor killings. Daughter is seen with another boy without an “attendant” . . . horrors . . . murder her. The men must restore the family honor. They mutilate female genitals, too, to minimize female sexuality. This is the most bizarrely perverted sexual culture on the planet.
5. Insist that the world obey the Koran and its mandates for life; it doesn’t matter whether you agree. Obey! All other religions are false. Should a Muslim choose to convert to another religion the penalty is death. They have all of the answers . . . just ask!
6. And then there is freedom of speech. Just ask Salman Rushdie who is back in the news since he was knighted by the Queen.
7. Attack anyone you choose for any reason; but, whoa(!), a response to that attack is met with the claim of Islamophobia, and justifies another attack by the original perps. They’re defending their honor! Again, bulls**t!

Last night I caught the end of a T.V. interview with self-confessed immoderate Muslim who has become a moderate. He’s now against this nasty stuff (though he wasn’t clear what he was against.) He observed that Americans are “more educated” than the Brits, which is why we have less conflict with Muslims . . . whatever that means. Seems to me like 9/11 was a conflict of sorts, and the fact myriad American Muslims thought it was OK is not reassuring.

As well, he insisted that we recognize the predominant, rational, reasonable, middle-of-the-road Muslim moderates. How? They don’t say much and they don’t do anything. (I don’t believe they are predominant. I doubt they’re even a significant minority.) He commented that “ordinary” Muslims need to take a stand. Well . . . Hussein . . . we’re waiting. Hello out there. We hear nothing that pretends to be an open debate over the issues between you ‘all. Let’s hear from you. How about a “Million Muslim March” on the Capital? . . . not one protesting Islamophobia.

Inasmuch as their stated goal is to establish an Islamic theocracy ruled by Sharia--in our country--I have a suggestion or two:
1. Cease all Muslim immigration from all sources. Since we have difficulty determining which are risky, stop them all. We have malevolence and Muslims aplenty right now. Don’t need any more. A lot fewer might be preferable. Safer, too!
2. Monitor all of the Mosques and Muslim schools all of the time. At the first indication of incitement to evil, charge, try, convict and imprison the guilty imam or teacher . . . or at least evict them from the country.
3. Carefully vet every non-citizen Muslim in the country. “Safe” ones can stay-out their visa but not extend it or return after departure. If there is a question, immediate deportation is appropriate. Want an education? Go somewhere else. Want to live where there is peace and quiet? Fix your own G**D****d country and leave ours alone. It was working fine before you showed up on the world stage. Problems galore but not death in the streets. Didn’t used to have to undress to fly, either.
4. As for Muslim citizens, question them, too. Determine if they are with us or against us. Experience thus far would indicate that over half are against us, and half of the remainder is uncertain. Recent data on their opinions is frightening. I’m not sure what one does with a supporter, but a majority seems to be on the wrong side, and most favor the establishment of “an Islamic Republic.” Republic? Right! Iran is less “republican” than the Nazi Reich.

When so called moderates say it isn’t true and it isn’t fair, as I’m sure they will, I say: prove it! Sound a little cruel, or at least self-righteous. Right! I can get very self-righteous when we’re discussing the future of my grandkids and our country. If moderates exist, speak up. NOW! Maybe these suggestions will give them a little encouragement.

Yo, “moderates,” fix your own bloody religious mess or get the hell out of our country! “Radicals,” before you go further with this war consult the Japanese and the Germans. They’ll tell you what it’s like when we decide we have to fight one. Soon the gloves will come off. Trust me on that! You might also Google Dresden, Germany and Hiroshima, Japan. That’ll give you a little idea of where it’ll all end. You’ve had a few victories which will prove pyrrhic. You will not be permitted to win the war.

It’s true that there has been a recent and palpable loss of nerve in the defense of freedom in, and the defense of the West. Keep pushing. About the time you decide to nuke San Francisco to rid the world of its “queers” you’ll convince even Nancy Pelosi to sanction bare-knuckled, bi-manual brawling.

For a more authentic "take" on the problem, copy and paste this into your search bar. Turn up the sound (or not) and be prepared to hear and/or read a brilliant refutation of Islam of the 7th century in Ms. Sultan's scathing rebuke of an Imam on Memri TV. It is riveting and worthwhile.
http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=214&ar=1050wmv&ak=null

Posted by respeto at 1:37 PM

July 6, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini – 9781594489501

The long awaited second novel by the author of The Kite Runner is here; a year later than planned, it arrives to broad acclimation.

I admit that it is as beautifully crafted as was “Runner,” which I recommended as the best book of its kind which I had read in 5 years, but this one is so exhausting with its inexorable gloom that even the relatively--and implicitly transient--upbeat climax doesn’t rescue it.

It accurately portrays the horrors of Afghanistan (and for that matter the Middle East) almost from time immemorial, and especially since the Russian invasion and the takeover by the warlords, then displaced by the Taliban. It emphasizes some of the majesty of humanity, occasional reason, friendship and love in the face of absolute evil, but it is so-o-o-o raw that it remorselessly buries the reader. Whereas I could not put his first novel down, I had to force myself repeatedly to pick this one up! I kept hoping for a tiny flicker of redemption. It never arrived.

I am no apologist for radical Islam, or for Islam itself, as those of you who read my entries with any regularity. While often sordid and troublesome, even these people--most at least--have many redeeming qualities which are hardly mentioned. Maybe I missed it, but I don't think so. It seems that this obviously displaced, upper-class Afghani Muslim is on his own special rant.

The plot wanders thru a web of human sorrow and destruction, trust and friendship . . . with a certain grandeur in the face of overwhelming odds, yet each time there is an ephemeral flash of light or hope he promptly razes it with a sadistic or tragic event—sometimes both—which deflates the reader all over again. He’s basically observing that that’s the way it is in that part of the world! It brings to mind Thomas Hobbes memorable quote that "war of every man against every man [creates life which is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

What it demonstrates to this reader is the unrelenting savagery in the wholly irrational world of the murderous, patriarchal Middle East with its Muslim religion and its masochistic, misogynistic beliefs; a circumstance from which there is absolutely no deliverance without a total cultural change . . . one which at least approaches civilization as we in the West understand and define it.

If they just left the rest of the world alone--stayed miserable in their own place on earth--it would be insupportable and unacceptable, but not menacing. Since this is what they plan to impose on the rest of us it is objectionable in the extreme. It must be defeated, or at least humbled and pushed back into its own wretched corner of the planet.

For that reason alone I would recommend—nay, would oblige if I could--the tolerant and understanding multiculturalist souls amongst us read this manuscript, in concert with any three or four of the following: The Kite Runner, The Bookseller of Kabul, Infidel, Because They Hate, Why I Am Not a Muslim, The Rage and the Pride, Londonistan, The Sword of the Prophet, The Caged Virgin, and What Went Wrong, in no particular order.

Perhaps in the performance of this mission those who do not believe would finally and fully understand that this is not a war between civilizations. It is a war about civilization! They prefer the medieval, barbaric 7th century. We (at least I hope it is we) prefer the relatively enlightened 21st.

For those who do understand, and have already achieved a morally justifiable intellectual intolerance, I’d recommend spending your time and money reading one of the many (almost any) other book in print which you think you might enjoy.

Posted by respeto at 12:30 PM