" /> I write: January 2010
Curmudgeonalia
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January 29, 2010

Finn

Jon Clinch - ISBN - 9780812977141

Clinch undertakes the development of Huckleberry Finn's father, sketched only briefly by Twain in his 1884 classic. The book is fascinating, and could well stand alone, but is more interesting as a long awaited sequel. The language is elaborate and colorful, almost poetic. He paints "Finn" with infinite grace. I've never read a novel so well constructed and linguistically sophisticated, yet nothing is sacrificed by the erudition. Scarlett, it most definitely is not!

One becomes engrossed after but a page or two as he begins to draw his characters. The plot is wickedly serpentine, but easy to follow as he weaves thru numerous tangents, all in the furtherance of plot. Finn's grandfather and father were talented individuals, high up the regional pyramid, and respected, or at least feared. His brother is a wimp, but assists Finn in many ways, usually with neither knowledge nor consent of their bigoted, racist father, against whom Finn has rebelled his entire life.

He's a clever if cruel drunk; a tormented man who acquires what he possesses thru theft, manipulation, fraud and disingenuity. Amongst his chattels is a slave woman whom he acquires thru blackmail, and moves her to his horrible, previously abandoned riverside hovel. He provides for them as a "river man," largely by fishing, and collecting river-born debris to sell to interested locals. Most of his petty earnings are spent on whiskey.

Finn demonstrates occasional flourishes of hidden kindnesses, but even those are usually self-serving. By and large he is a nasty, irredeemable lout. With Mary, his captured "wife," he sires Huckleberry, who by fate or good fortune is born nearly white, and can "pass." Both mother and son are abused, Mary sometimes viciously. Huck disappears to places unknown.

When Huck and Tom Sawyer find a fortune in gold, Finn undertakes to claim "his" fortune to ease his life and provide himself with better whiskey. In this, as in all endeavors, he is truculent, shifty, and irremediably evil. He influences Huck to return, but eventually Mary and Huck leave. Finn eventually coerces her to return as a trade, of sorts--for leaving Huck alone.

Eventually he murders Mary and is in turn murdered. You'll recollect from the original story that Huck finds his dead father in the remnant of his house, floating down the Mississippi River. Clinch explains all.

The book explores familial damage done to the young by tyrannical fathers; as well the stain of slavery and color, even for freed blacks; and specifically the shame of several generations of the Finn family.

There are characters similar to Finn, along with noble personages and interesting people of all stripes between those poles. The women who undertakes to "mother" Huck--the widow Douglas, you'll remember--is considerate and compassionate, as is his mother Mary, despite her origins and travails.

The descriptions of life on the river in the era are fulsome, interesting, and as captivating as Clemens originals. It won't be confused with a "delightful" novel, but it is powerful, explosive, and memorable. Read it!

Posted by Curmudgeon at 2:22 PM

January 26, 2010

Menace in Europe

Why the Continent's Crisis is America's, too
Claire Berlinski - 9781400097708

So impressive was the Thatcher bio by this writer that I had to try her older book (2006). It skims the war on terror, but explores in depth the reasons for Europe's refusal to engage, as its civilization declines. Berlinski is an American who has spent most of her adult life studying Europe and its history; living and reacting within its cultures from England, France and Germany, to Istanbul, Turkey where she currently resides. Her work is a treasure trove of information and memorable analysis.

She observes, strikingly, that Europeans are behaving as they always have. The seeming novel developments in politics and culture are not new--they have ancient roots. "From the sack of Rome to the Yalta Conference, that past has been one of nearly uninterrupted war and savagery." The most quiescent time in generations was after 1945 till the end of the Cold War, when their destiny was really controlled by the two superpowers. After the collapse of the Soviet empire Europe's history simply resumed its historic course. Then, as now, Europe was incapable of marshaling any effective, unified response. Not to Germany, nor to Communism, nor now to radical Islam. Its leaders lack the imaginative power to appreciate their adversary. They expect radicals to be like Europeans, amenable to reason and susceptible to bribery. They cannot appreciate that their posture engenders not reciprocal conciliation, but contempt. (Not unlike Obama and the left.)

Since the French revolution, and perhaps before, Europe has been gradually de-Christianizing. In recent years it is attempting to move from nation states to the mythical European Union without much success. It leaves behind little "beyond pleasure and personal relations, and these [are not] enough to keep hopelessness at bay." Without a common transcendental belief, this hopelessness universal.

Their anti-Americanism has been a theme of their tradition for 200 years. "They can exist without God, but fail without something to hate." Life is meaningless to them, and by their inclusion in the Western world their problem becomes ours. An unmoored, amoral Europe precludes our avoidance of them. Their combined economy and population exceeds ours, and it is imploding under the weight of social and economic pressures which neither the citizens nor the politicians will confront. Everything about their state of existence impacts us in some way; there is inchoate anti-Semitism, and a refusal to halt the advance of Islamic radicalism in their own spheres. Jewish pogroms have always been the canary in the coal mine, which bodes ill for yet more dissimilar immigrants. Europe--France especially--had enormously profitable relations with Iraq, which explains their vehement opposition to the overthrow of Saddam.

Liberal Americans are "besotted with Europe." They look to their cultures and institutions for inspiration, as they work to copy their welfare states. They wish "to learn of their family values," but there is no recognition that their low marriage rate, reduction in the establishment families, and catastrophically low birth rates are a problem. They are the lowest in the developed world, and well below replacement. Their native populations are shrinking. I immigration is required . . . most of it from wholly different cultures. To fund their welfare programs they are vigorously importing people to fill jobs and pay taxes, as they refuse to allow the integration of these foreigners into their societies. America attracts people who actually want to be here, to assimilate, and to intermarry.

Progressives style themselves as more sophisticated and politically mature, and believe Europe's antipathy is impartial, and a rational response to American failings. "I encourage them to feel uneasy in these sentiments."

She explores myriad avenues in exposing Europe for the "sick man" it is. She explains how America is better at almost everything of contemporary importance. Europe does have a remarkable history, but hasn't accomplished much since before Napoleon. It is strangely passive, vaguely coherent, and practices an odd sort of utilitarianism which avoids rule by divine right, yet offers nothing to replace it. Laws are obeyed because it's preferable to chaos. Things are done as they've always been done, and without belief or rationale. Rejection of moral absolutes is the source of a profound risk aversion. While amazingly tolerant of some things (terrorists?), they are intolerant of Jews, Americans, "Franken foods," and a variety of things which challenge their claim to tolerance.

She touches upon the electoral result of the Spanish train bombing, and the Dutch fears engendered by the Mohammed cartoons as well as the murders of Pim Fortuyn (a gay politician) and Theo Van Gogh (the producer of Submission.) European leaders demonstrate an unwillingness to comprehend the threat. They continue to insist that radical Islam is a problem of underdevelopment. The list of countries which spawn terrorists do have a common theme, but it is not underdevelopment. Most of the prime terrorists are from the middle and upper classes.

While it is possible to be European without abandoning Islam, it is impossible without abandoning its radical forms. Embracing a diluted Islam is little different than embracing diluted Christianity, which explains why immigrant Muslims feel no significant compulsion to integrate. Why integrate in a country which is decadent and without convictions?

For millennia there has been general agreement by cultures that certain things are deeply meaningful, while others are not consistent with a Good Life. Europe (and not a few Americans) has become fixated on money, sex and fame. Yet "religion, and the philosophical ideas of love, courage, integrity, dignity, respect, compassion, authenticity, genuineness--these are the things that will deliver the Good Life." Europeans are hungry for something no longer provided by their cultures. Conventional religion has been replaced by other "religions" like environmentalism.

The West devours religion by tempting the faithful with more immediate satisfactions: personal autonomy, sexual freedom, few rules, and neat things to buy. Europe has snuffed out Christianity, and may do so with Islam . . . hopefully before Islam snuffs out Europe. But it is far easier to destroy than to build.

"Of course it is true that military force is not the only solution. Overwhelming military force is the only solution." Her critics insist that she "keeps bringing up the Nazis." She challenges them to find a single situation where the analogy fails.

Profound instincts become sublimated when repressed. Religious instinct, and the nationalistic instinct, amongst others can be neither denied nor eradicated. We now have nature worshippers, global warming worshippers, faux religions like the Druids, Wiccans, etc. The most prominent rock group in Germany--Rammstein--is Naziesque, but the group and its followers deny this vigorously. She reviews many of their lyrics, however, and they are scary. If they represent the "normal way of being German" spare us the abnormal way. They claim to be "helping Germany to rediscover its identity," but she asks why Germany would want to rediscover that identity?

There is an ancient theme in German history, one of resentment when it does not occupy its "proper place." But the scariest feature is that they plainly have not learned from history. They feel oppressed by the world, and especially by America. Imagining that they could be brothers of the French, sisters to the Belgians or cousins to the British is at least laughable.

Comical--or not--she reviews the Laeken Declaration in which, "At long last Europe is on its way to becoming one big family," then lists a full page of wars--at least 70--beginning with the sack of Rome and ending with the Balkan Wars, with the caveat that "only the first wars that come to mind: I have probably forgotten quite a number. By way of contrast, the United States has fought one war, and that against itself."

"As someone who has spent time thinking about Europe . . . I do not prophesy [its demise] . . . nor do I predict catastrophe on [its] soil, [but] Europe's entitlement economy will collapse. Its demography will change. The European Union may unravel. [Terrorists] may succeed in taking out a city." And once again, the only people to whom this will come as a surprise are those how have not been paying attention." (emphasis in the original.)

European anti-Americanism is a cultist system of faith, rather than a set of rational beliefs, and as such is "impervious to revision upon confrontation with facts, logic, evidence, gestures of good will, public relations campaigns, or attempts on the part of [the Americans] to be better, more sensitive listeners." The bulk of the attitude, America's deficits notwithstanding, is exuberantly irrational. And it is neither improving, nor likely to.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 10:27 AM

January 25, 2010

Churchill's Hour

A Novel of Defiance
Michael Dobbs - ISBN - 978-1402213922

Dobbs is nothing if not a fantastic writer. This is a novel, but only just. It is historic fiction at its best, and covers one of the darkest periods in 20th century history. Another reviewer described it as "Churchill as nature intended: Dobbs captures his famous subject with artistry. With every stroke of his brush, he etches the character deeper into the memory. It is beautifully done." Hard to improve upon that. I've read a lot about Churchill, but this gives one a real understanding of what motivated this historic giant.

The early chapters are about Winston's desperate attempts to rouse the Parliament to face Hitler, as he knew must be done. Later he was elected Prime Minister, whereafter he exercised comparable effort to motivate the U.S. to enter the conflict.

Along the way he remarkably observed to his daughter-in-law that "after the war is over, whoever holds the reins of authority, it will not be Britain." It would be a new world; a young world. Britain's days in command would be over. Pamela asks whom he would choose. His answer was "America." Better them than Russia or Germany. "Even though at times they [Americans] totter around like blind men . . . [and] they don't understand that all men are not as they are. Even when they stumble over the truth they pick themselves up and carry on as if nothing has happened." And they are optimists, believing they can achieve whatever they decide to undertake.

Dobbs explores the depths of Germany's depravity, with its declaration of war against their ally, Stalin. He describes the terror and destruction of England--especially London--by the Nazi bombers as he chronicles the stoic heroism of the English. All of this in real life terms with clarity that helps the uninitiated understand just how awful war is, and how it must be endured when necessary. Churchill, without doubt, was responsible for the sustenance which kept Britain and its people sane and engaged. The sacrifices were numerous, challenging and costly.

Aware that he must succeed, Winston posited that had he failed at Trafalgar, Nelson would have been tried and convicted. His future was no less at risk. So he involved Averill Harriman, sent by Roosevelt to work with him in the effort. Harriman became caught up in an affair with Pamela (who later became Pamela Harriman, you might recall) and Winston had the dilemma of using both, or perhaps losing the war. How much, and what would he sacrifice to save his country?

The "fiction" in this passionate work involves Dobbs' conjecture over events in life which go unmentioned; emotions, inspirations and ambitions; the "inner events" which motivate us all. It is in this area that Dobbs shines, writing a gripping narrative of events, conversations and encounters equal to those in Killer Angels, and most anything that Bernard Cornwell writes.

And it is fantastic history as well; far better than reading dry history books about the war. Enjoy!

Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:38 PM

January 19, 2010

The French Betrayal of America

Kenneth Timmerman - ISBN - 1400053676

This is a somewhat older book (2004) but one worth a peak. Timmerman reviews the French-American relationship from the Revolutionary War to the present, observing that in times past we were best of friends, sort of; well, periodically at least.

Throughout, and up to the Cold War there wasn't much bad blood; at least none which couldn't be explained by a variance of individual national interests. Europe remained key to the Western alliance as a bulwark against Soviet Expansionism. But from the time of the Balkan crisis the new Europe was "revealed in all its nakedness."

American strength confers a propensity to use strength when necessary, while Europe's weakness has resulted in an aversion to the exercise military power. It has intensified Europe's interest in a world where strength doesn't matter; a world where unilateral action by powerful nations is forbidden; a world where all nations are equally protected by commonly agreed-upon rules of behavior. If only it was so. American unilaterality is upsetting to Europe as it has become dependent on our use of military might to deter or defeat those who still believe in power politics--that is, of course, the rest of the world. This has been most pronounced in France since 1945, with occasional exception.

France's political system has a major impact on arms sales policy, and the government is in bed with industry in the interests of French prosperity, even when such action is adverse to the welfare of the free world. About this activity Timmerman goes into great detail; notably so with regard to the Middle East, and most especially with Saddam Hussein.

The French doubled down on Iraq's denial of the uranium yellowcake they'd been acquiring surreptitiously for years. They brought pressure in the UN to ease Iraqi sanctions since it forbid so much profitable French activity--they even cheated (who's surprised?) Throughout the 80's and 90's "France's petty sins were overlooked; her greater sins discussed but never punished." The Russians were guilty, too, but we knew they were the enemy.

The French did assist in some efforts in areas where their superiority was clear. It has been improving nuclear power technology while America has not, because the Left has blocked our pursuit of energy generation using nuclear power. As well, Mitterrand supported cruise and Pershing II deployment in Europe. These were their last cooperative activities. Sarkozy remains an uncertainty, but appears to be more attuned to reality, putting general security above national monetary interests, sometimes.

In the last half of the book he reviews, "chapter and verse," The French betrayal of America. It ain't pretty, but it is pretty well and fairly documented. Aside from France's latent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, there is documentation of their specific and repeated activities--clandestine and otherwise--which have been detrimental to the West in general, and to America especially. Most of these activities stem from deep seated corruption of government in France, involving all of their leaders, all of their defense contractors, and most of the businessmen, Spying, bribing . . . you name it . . . they've done it. Corruption which would be unacceptable in the U.S. and most European countries is de rigueur in France.

Most of French policy was oriented to their economic interests in Iraq in the effort to secure the prime position in oil acquisition and building contracting when sanctions were lifted. They even voted against the first Gulf war when Saddam took over Kuwait (!), and were adamant about Gulf War, chapter two.

While the growing dispute between U.S. and France was an issue, it wasn't alone. In relations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Iran, Chirac and his government were engaged in unrelenting efforts to undermine U.S. policies to position France as the alternative source of power and legitimacy in the Middle East. Chirac pushed hard to reorganize the procedures for getting exports to Iraq, approved and gutted the export control process, essentially lifting them. "Fly by night" and ghost corporations were established. Excessive fees were charged and paid by Saddam. Sometimes legitimate "oil money" was paid to French companies who shipped less than half of what had been paid for. Other times companies kept 40 percent commissions on goods never shipped. Then, as now, "French diplomacy continues to consider Iraq as a cake to be divided and not as a democracy to be constructed." While France has been of almost no help there, it still insists that Iraq not be under American control of its economy, but under the UN or France, or Europe--anyone but the U.S.

Oil is absolutely critical to understanding France's foreign policy. It is driven by a deep fear that it will be unable to adapt to the post-cold war world, or compete in the global market-place. In that world the advantages and subsidies granted by the state to French companies would be subjected to international scrutiny and likely banned. The battle of the present is not between freedom and tyranny, but between the French religion of the all-powerful state and the Anglo-American system of transparency with its checks and balances

The French do not understand the change in America since 9/11. They still believe they can do business around the globe with dictators they can bribe, without having to pay any serious price. September 11 put that argument to rest, at least in America.

At the 60th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landing, the U.S. media was full of accounts of heroic veterans who fought to survive the German machine gunners, scaled Pointe duHoc, etc. The French papers, in contrast, recounted the horror experienced by French civilians killed in Allied bombings of Normandy's towns. LeMonde even stated that when American soldiers arrived at Saint-Lo they were greeted by local résistance fighters with raised "clenched fists." The paper whined that 13,900 French civilians died in the 6 months surrounding the Normandy invasion, yet failed to mention that there were well over 10,000 Allied casualties--over 4,400 dead--on D-Day alone.

With friends like that . . . . . ?!

And as after thought, an observation by a French historian/intellectual who likes America

"If you take away anti-Americanism there is nothing left to French political thought."
Jean Francois Revel

Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:02 PM

January 18, 2010

A Voyage Long and Strange

Rediscovering the New World
Tony Horwitz - ISBN - 9780805076035

As in his other books, he gives the subject a new and refreshing look, with his usual sense of excitement. He apologetically identifies himself as "expensively educated at a private school and university--a history major, no less!--[who had] matriculated to middle age with a third grader's grasp of early America." He stole the title from Columbus' original notes.

Like reading Mayflower (reviewed earlier on this site), you will likely feel the same. Most ever'thin' ya thought-cha knew ain't true. As well, there's a world of stuff out there that you didn't know; a veritable avalanche of facts and stories. It is informative, breezy, off beat, honest, critical and long on analysis. He compresses much history into a few pages without being flip, dry or equivocal, all the while making it delightfully readable while exhibiting verbal parsimony. His periodic levity in anecdotes is both interesting and charming.

He glides quickly thru the landing of the Vikings, which impacted the locals not at all, then begins with 1492. Columbus, a "knight-errant," sailed believing that Asia was about where he found America (though he was 8,000 miles off) and thereby changed the world because he was wrong. While recognized as the discoverer of the New World he neither knew nor accepted that he wasn't somewhere near China. Time is spent on Columbus, reviewing his other trips here before being wholly disgraced and lost to history.

We've been told that he had to repeatedly rag on the Spanish Crown to fund his expedition, when in fact it was for other reasons they'd refused. The cost of the eventual mission was but a thirteenth of what Ferdinand and Isabella spent on their daughter's wedding. And thus goes the remainder of this fascinating tale.

He begins with the Indian cultures of the Southwest, and emphasizes that the earliest exploratory efforts were made by Spaniards who are seldom mentioned. DeVaca sailed from Vera Cruz to Tampa Bay, hiked up and across the Florida panhandle, sailed west to Galveston, then marched again across nearly to the Gulf of California before returning south and east back to Vera Cruz; a thousand miles by water and thousands more on foot. Never heard of him, didja? Coronado similarly explored the desert southwest and Mexico nearly two centuries before an Englishman got anywhere near it. He found irrigation systems of immense complexity, and fertile land with crops he'd never seen. He brought horses, but the immense herds of buffalo had him "buffaloed."

The Spaniards kept very good records of their atrocities, thus establishing that while germs killed a lot of natives, thousands were murdered, too. They were nothing if not resilient: "Hunger, heat, harsh winters, a steady diet of buffalo meat--none of this deterred them from their mission. . . . I started to wonder if the Spaniards weren't so much dogged as possessed. Greed and desperation I could grasp . . . but [their recorded exploits are] evidence of a tenacity that bordered on derangement."

Some became very wealthy; DeSoto's share of Peru's gold and silver came to more than ten million dollars in today's currency, yet he blew it all on additional ventures. He financed a venture on foot from Tampa thru Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and down the Mississippi River to the Gulf, then back and around Texas; uncharted country, endless swamps, deserts and ordeals unimaginable. He left behind a devastated country with myriad destroyed cultures. The dead of the massacre at Mavila alone rivals Antietam as the deadliest day in combat on U.S. soil. The leftovers from these disintegrated city-states coalesced over time into the Creek and Choctaw tribes. Few have heard of DeSoto, but, then, he wasn't a Yankee. (Oh, yea, there was that Chrysler product some centuries later.)

Moving from the southwest back thru the southeast, then north along the Atlantic the author gives similar narratives of the discovery and destruction from St. Augustine to Plymouth. Along the way he does include discussions of the Huguenots--French Protestants--massacred in Jacksonville, FL by the Catholic Spaniards of St. Augustine; so it wasn't just the natives who "bought the farm."

The cold, stony, unforgiving region Sir Francis Drake hoped to sell to his countrymen he poetically named Nova Albion: New England. For centuries most every historian has bashed Roanoke as wholly failed and omitted discussion of Jamestown altogether, "eager to anoint Plymouth as the birthplace of America." He explains wryly that most historians from the 18th thru the early 20th century were historians from Massachusetts who held that the founder of Jamestown was a disgrace and a colossal liar. Actually, in Tony's 42 page discussion of Jamestown he says more, better than the entire book on Jamestown which I reviewed here some months ago. His canvas is not unlimited, but he paints well.

In one rather sad interview he discusses the disappearance of Indian ways; that with a modern Algonquian who really does want modernity, but with the serenity of Indian life. His discussion of Plymouth is short but interesting, and he ends with the observation that there is history and then there is myth (playing on the line from Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.")

He has corrected that. Good read.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 12:20 PM

January 11, 2010

When I'm "down" on America I watch a movie:

A very specific movie. Some claim the best sports movie of all time is Bull Durham. I liked it. I like most of'em, especially Rudy and Brian's Song. But . . . I am secure in the conviction that Miracle is the most uplifting if not the best.

America was really down--as low as it had been in my adult lifetime--in 1980, the last year of Carter's disastrous presidency. Everything seemed wrong, and most of it was. In one of his fits of pique he cancelled us out of the summer Olympics because of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.

In what was called "The Miracle on Ice," the American hockey team scored an incredible victory over the best hockey team in the world--Russia--and then went Gold

Miracle, the movie, was made in 2004 starring Kurt Russell as the coach, Herb Brooks. It is perhaps his finest role on film. His supporting cast was as remarkable as was his team.

The movie is wonderfully choreographed, using original voice recordings from the Olympics, matched to filmed action and events which reminds of the exact nature of the games. When those recordings were made no one knew the outcome. Now we do, and I am still thrilled by them.

The brilliant coaching, hard work, and team-play by "the boys" were alone astonishing as they moved into the medal rounds. But the Russian team had played together for 15 years, the boys 6 months. The Russians were mature men, some having played together for the entire time, having been almost undefeated for 15 years. They were a shoo-in for the gold, again, and everyone knew it.

But Brooks knew they could be defeated, and instilled in his boys the will to believe, and to win.

In the dramatic game, portrayed masterfully in the film, the Russians led off with a goal, matched later by a U.S. goal. The Russians scored again, but with one second on the clock the boys matched it. First period score was 2/2.

The Russians became alarmed and started being vicious, but our guys shrugged it off and matched them. The Reds scored again, and in their haste to overpower, drew a two minute penalty with a "slashing" call. With only seconds to go in the penalty time the boys scored again, tying it at 3/3.

With 10 minutes left, the U.S. scored again. Ahead at last! The remaining ten minutes were exhausting, but they held. At the bell, USA! USA! USA! rang out. It was as thrilling as the first time, 30 years ago. And it is every time I watch the film. That's why I watch.

IT WAS A LOT MORE THAN A HOCKEY GAME! It provided a much needed boost to American morale.

It was the last time we used amateurs in the Olympics. Since then we've depended upon the pros; a mistake in my estimation.

Brooks commented:
"Now that we have 'dream teams' we seldom get to dream. But on that weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed the most: a chance, for one night, not only to dream, but a chance once again to believe."

I need that again. We need that again. I believe that we can prevail over our present difficulties if we again work hard, tend the goals and continue to believe. To hell with this looney "hopey-changey" crap. Hope doesn't accomplish much. Only hard work. . . . and a little luck helps, too.

Watch the movie and get motivated.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:20 PM

January 9, 2010

Several Particularly Pertinent "Oldies"

(A study of several of Obama's real advisors)

Rules for Radicals (c.1971)
A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals
Saul Alinsky - ISBN - 9780679721130

Anyone paying attention has heard of this book. I've reread the two books reviewed, and suggest you might want to do so as well.

Saul advised college radicals, including the Weathermen (Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn) in the 1960s, and informed their strategies for organizing the disasters they promulgated. His recommended modus operandi is indistinguishable from Obama's, since Ayers is his advisor (who--not incidentally--also wrote large tracts of Obama's memoirs, though both deny both facts.)

Alinsky considered himself pure, insisting that communists are immoral; he denied being a socialist, though his goals were those of a radical collectivist. He described the means by which mass organizations seizing power should be structured: "Power to the people" rather than rule by an elite. What is most astounding is how he parsed everything, redefining as he elected. He preached the ethical, moral and practical life without fixed ethical or moral principles. He defined egotism as a defensive reaction to personal inadequacy while he exuded egotism from every pore. And he was an elitist.

Ethics is "doing what is best for the most." No absolutes! Goals and means are variable, dependent upon attitudes and desired ends. He confused morality with ethics. The ethical man knows what is moral but isn't necessarily bound by it. The moral man will not do what is immoral or unethical. This man recommended doing whatever was required to prevail. The end justifies the means.

My favorite of his edicts is that "the right to a man's job transcends the right of private property!" Really? How wonderfully democratic. Right out of Marx, though Marx isn't a fan of private property at all.

An organizer's duty is to bait the establishment into attacking him as "the enemy." (He's searching for enemies not political adversaries.) He claimed to be unconcerned with people who profess democratic faith but yearn for security and dependence where they can be spared the burden of decisions . . . while that is exactly the audience he solicited. "People do not know what they want" (so he told them.) Misinformation and disinformation were preferred when necessary. "It is just about impossible for people to fully understand--much less adhere to--a totally new idea" (so he guided them.) You can't negotiate without the power to compel conciliation; power comes from organization. People hunger for drama and adventure (so create them.)

"Freeze the target and carry out the attack." Disregard all except one, and blame it on him. Never dilute the attack by saying anything good. If the enemy is a racist bastard, avoid mentioning that he's a good husband. It's o.k. to threaten, insult and annoy the enemy, but to incite irrational anger, laugh at him. A belittling smirk might be better.

Does any of this seem familiar within the transparent, honest, inclusive, tolerant, considerate, government promised, along with that bipartisan "hope and change" stuff?

I'm reminded of Sun Tzu's observation: "Know thine enemy." Listen-up folks! They really aren't with us, or even for us. It's about them--the masters--and I don't believe they're well intentioned.

Destructive Generation (c.1989)
Second Thoughts About The '60s
Peter Collier & David Horowitz - ISBN - 9780671667521

"Red Diaper Babies," Collier and Horowitz were early followers and later editors of the radical Ramparts magazine in the 60s. They later woke to realize that they were wrong, as did several of the founders, themselves. Their book is comprehensive and factual in reporting on the era, but I'm commenting only on the section in which they discuss the Weathermen. These were radicals on steroids, who have been friends with, and advisors to Obama for years, his denials notwithstanding.

They are amoral, Marxist cretins who spent the 60s raising hell, high on illicit drugs while wallowing in sex--the characteristics of the era. Unlike Bill Clinton, however, they violently opposed the Vietnam War, staged riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, bombed buildings, robbed banks, killed people and encouraged thousands of collegians to revolt. They spent years hiding underground, yet avoided prosecution. Now they are Chicagoans in prominent positions, but wholly unrepentant of their activities. They're pillars of the Democratic machine politics, "dear" to the money-men, and openly working to destroy our country (they call it hope and change.) The authors remarked that they were "like those Japanese soldiers who wandered for years in the jungle, unaware that they had lost the war." Well, maybe not? This ain't 1989, and with Barack in charge (or not ?) they seem to be winning.

They were kin with SDS, Black Panthers, Symbionese Liberation Army and even found the Manson Family worthy. Dohrn used the Manson "3 fingered fork salute" as a symbol. Those my age remember the salute and its meaning. We also remember the explosion of their bomb making facility in New York, which killed some of their myrmidons. To honor them they made anniversary pilgrimages to the site for years afterward. Maybe they still do.

They spent most of their energy staying alive underground. Unlike their minions, however--and to the great distress of many of those grunts--they hung out with, and were funded by, Hollywood celebrities, radical lawyers and moneyed friends. Their compatriots did the dirty work while their masters lived a lot better. They even worked on the McGovern campaign in the hope that if he won they could "go home."

Subsequently they became traditional communists, though Dohrn was discredited and had to cop to her deficiencies in what a colleague described as a "narcissistic extravagance characteristic of the 'me decade' . . . bizarre . . . her self-conception was meshuga. . . . She had no great revolutionary ideas. None of us did. She was just the daughter of a credit manager of a Milwaukee furniture store."

Nonetheless they represent a modern Leftist Fifth Column (if not altogether clandestine), but now find themselves within the "reigning" government. They may not be as important as Soros, etal. but they matter immensely, having had a decade's long, advisory relationship with President Obama. They may be crazy--I think not--but they have infiltrated the power structure, and contribute mightily to the undermining of America's foundations.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 12:07 PM

January 6, 2010

The Last Fish Tale

Mark Kurlansky - ISBN - 978-1594483745

Another good book by this writer, though not as good as Salt, or 1968. Attracted to Gloucester, MA when researching his treatise Cod, he now returns to investigate the culture of one of the oldest and most important fishing villages in America. He explores an occupation--fishing--which is vanishing, and a culture trying to adapt. He revisits the old Chinese proverb, and changes it: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him. If you teach a man to fish, he will starve." Sadly this is true, and he exposes the entire drama and course which has resulted in the demise of ocean fish, and fishing as a career choice. Ironically . . . or not . . . he insists that the fishermen have seen this coming but were unable to approach it because governments and politicians have been too busy trying to make it a political problem rather than an environmental one. Surprised? He drolly observes that fishery regulation is a growth industry while fishing is not.

He initiates the discussion by explaining how and why fishing in the New World arose, and how Gloucester was selected early as a port, with its proximity to three of the richest fishing grounds in the world. He explains the "banks" (Grand, George's, Stellwagen, etc.) As well he explores why fishermen prefer their way of life, why they take pride in it, and how very dangerous it is; far less so than in the era of sail, but still dangerous. Recall The Perfect Storm--the Clooney movie--and you will understand.

A dissertation on fishing methods and improvements follows, and terminates in the development of factory fishing which in large measure devastated commercial fishing. There follows a review of Birdseye, fishing gear and other interesting facets of development over the nearly 400 year history of Gloucester, and he delves into the crazy quota system, by-catches, and other "political solutions" to difficult problems.

There are loving descriptions of the landscape, the waters, the people and their culture, including the art colonies, along with the fishermen and their support industries.

In my opinion Kurlansky moves far into radical Liberal mode as he insists there is "a massive shifting in the natural order of the planet" with biological and social changes. Species are disappearing, land mammals are vanishing, etc. It has always been thus. To be sure the Indian tiger was hunted out of existence, along with a variety of other species, and man's invasion of living space has resulted in habitat change, but it seems indiscriminate to me to avoid all reason in protecting owls, tiny fish and creepy-crawleys simply because it's "nice." But he often segues into these arguments. Usually, I'd add, with no solutions suggested, just the observation/complaint/threat.

Replacement of some fishing harbors by recreational yachts and vacation colonies is just the way it is. The locals may be displaced, and they don't like it, but the world is becoming more crowded and more affluent, and it is not possible to fully alter its course. As it is in my dotage, "you can't go back."

He does have a point, however, when he discusses the appeal of seal colonies, which are attractive to tourists, while the seals eat a lot of fish, and their parasitic worms are hazardous to others. As well, they attract sharks, the predator responsible for control of the seal population, to the bathing beaches, making them unsafe.

But he closes with a warning that the destruction of ocean life is "terrifying," and as life disappears it becomes "increasingly difficult for the planet to sustain any life." On this score I believe he is vastly overstating reality, as I fear that he and his ilk actually believe it.

Posted by Curmudgeon at 1:21 PM