Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Civics Course

I was talking to a friend a few days ago about an idea I've had for many years and never acted on it. It is to produce a civics book for home schoolers that explains things the way they really are instead of the way they are taught to children. He liked the idea so there are at least two people that like the idea.

What I envision is a book that explains how government is supposed to work with popular elections, checks and balances, independent branches, enumerated powers, etc. and how it actually works through lies, bribery, blackmail, intimidation, murder, spying, extortion, selective prosecution, secrecy, theft and every sort of criminality. What would be required is a textbook that exposes the actual crimes perpetrated by government with scrupulous documentation and attention to detail. No unsubstantiated crimes should be included, only proven or admitted events. The treatment wouldn't need to be exhaustive, but should impress upon the student that government lies, cheats and steals all the time and is part of its standard operating procedure.

A few examples come immediately to mind such as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Operation Northwoods, the Tuskegee Experiment, MKUltra, Operation Mockingbird, Operation Gladio, Operation Ajax and so on. There were also various experiments on Americans involving exposure to nuclear bomb tests and other sources of radiation to see the affects on people and the Pont-Saint-Esprit poisoning in France in 1951. For good measure, perhaps the overthrow of Salvador Allende and Jacobo Arbenz could be included.

Examples of perfidy need not be restricted to poisoning, bombing or drugging, but would also include "If you like your doctor, you're going to be able to keep your doctor" and "Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars" or Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, "[The Iraqi soldiers] took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor." There are so many government lies that it won't be a problem to find an adequate number.

A brief illustration of how payoffs, blackmail and threats work in the introduction and passage of bills would be needed along with an exposition of how the revolving door between politics and business works.

I suppose that the book should be on the 9th or 10th grade level, but somebody with teaching experience would have a better idea. I am reminded of an interview Vladimir Posner did with Oliver Stone a few years ago in which Stone said that the history he was taught in school was largely correct, but that there was lots of history he was not taught.

I've been mulling over who should write this book and have come up with a few nominees who may or may not have any interest in it or even think the project has merit. James Bovard is an obvious pick since he has already written thousands of words on this and similar subjects. Tom Woods is another likely draftee as is Charles Burris and Jacob Hornberger. Anything to do with Lincoln or Hamilton could be handled by Thomas DiLorenzo.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Mind Expanding Books

A friend recently sent me a 2015 YouTube audio interview with Lewis Lapham that covers several interesting things. One of the things he says is that he gave out books that he found interesting or useful. Around 25 minutes in he says “I find something that is wonderful to read and then I want to give some people, just hand it to them and say, here look...The whole point of education is to awaken in the student the power and trust in his or her own mind….I mean the freedom of the mind is a truly wonderful thing.”

That might have been the point of education when Lapham was young, but it isn't anymore, except maybe in the small schools, both primary and secondary that strive to teach the student how to think
logically, critically and systematically. The whole point of education seems to be to teach students to think inside the box. Any opinions or information from outside the box is bad, wrong, dangerous, corrosive, hateful, malicious and always proceeds from bad motives.

Since I don't have Lapham's financial resources I'm not going to be giving out free books, but I am going to offer my opinion about several books that are worth reading, some of which I don't agree with, but think their content is important to know even if it's wrong and maybe most especially if it's wrong. These are not reviews, but there are probably online reviews of all them.

These are not in any particular order except for the first one, The Law by Frederic Bastiat. There are several versions of it available and the one I am familiar with – in fact I did use to give it out – was sold by FEE and was translated by Dean Russell. Walter Williams says that “...a liberal-arts education without an encounter with Bastiat is incomplete.” The book is only about 75 pages, so it shouldn't intimidate anyone.

Another great book that doesn't get much attention any more is Our Enemy The State by Albert Jay Nock. Nock dissects and exposes the kleptocratic nature of the state. He draws a distinction between “government” and “The State.” When a government performs negative functions such as protecting life and property it is legitimate; when it provides goodies, regiments society and violates rights it is the state. This is a short book that is worth reading if just for Nock's writing style,

While I'm stuck in the political rut I'll mention The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne De La Boetie a sixteenth century political philosopher. He shows that the tyrant can do nothing without ordinary people to execute his commands. This is another short book, about 86 pages, but good things come in small packages, or so I've heard. He sums up his argument with “...there is nothing so contrary to a generous and loving God as tyranny – I believe He has reserved, in a separate spot in Hell, some very special punishment for tyrants and their accomplices.” My copy has an introduction by Murray Rothbard.

If you are religious, or even anti-religious you should at least be familiar with the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. These are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are in the Old Testament of the Bible in case you don't know. Much of Western Civilization derives from these books so you ought to at least have a rudimentary acquaintance with them. If you don't pick up anything else you can commit the Decalogue to memory.

Read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John if you never have. If you get really ambitious you can read the entire New Testament. So many common expressions originate with the Gospels that you ought to know their origin. Things such as “cast the first stone, the blind leading the blind, strain out the gnat and swallow the camel, remove the spec from your own eye, brood of vipers, whited sepulchers, prodigal son, widow's mite, salt of the earth, Good Samaritan, extra mile, turn the other cheek, eye of the needle, casting pearls before swine, wolf in sheep's clothing, tree known by its fruit” and on and on come from the Gospels. All of this is online somewhere I'm sure, but I prefer paper books.

If you are familiar with this New Testament stuff already you should pick up The Apostolic Fathers.
These are the oldest Christian writings outside the New Testament. Some were actually included in the NT canon until 397 AD when the Council of Carthage codified the canon. They are usually letters from Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, The Didache, The Shepherd of Hermas and sometimes Diognetus and Fragments of Papias. The Shepherd of Hermas is the most unusual to my way of thinking. I think The Shepherd became an object of interest among the hippies, probably for its dreamy imagery.

Before I go off on a different path, pick up a copy of The Koran and read through it. I don't believe Mohammed was a prophet or that The Koran is inspired, but over a billion people consider it their holy book so it doesn't hurt to know something about it. The copy I have I got in 1982 and it's a Penguin book translated by N. J. Dawood in 1956. I have no way of knowing how good the translation is, but it's good for when you get those emails quoting the Koran and you check and find out it doesn't say what is alleged. One of the Commandments I mentioned previously forbids bearing false witness.
Some people think it's okay to tell lies if it makes their opponent look bad.

The Prince by Machiavelli should be read by everybody, not just politicians. It explains perfectly how to acquire and retain power. It gave Machiavelli a bad name which I think is undeserved. He doesn't say that his formula is morally right, he just says “This is how things work.” He didn't publish it in his lifetime and it isn't certain whom he wrote it for. He was a brilliant guy whatever else he was and in his letters he always counsels honesty. Many powerful people sought his advice so his opinion carried weight.

When I was in high school we were assigned The Communist Manifesto to read, but it was looked at critically. Now it's probably viewed as handed down from Mt. Sinai. I think that many people today would find little to disagree with in it. I mentioned to a teacher several years ago that it calls for “A heavy, progressive or graduated income tax” and he said he had taught the book and didn't remember that. Ted Kennedy once got into an argument about that plank when somebody mentioned it.

A really weird book that I picked up at a Goodwill book sale years ago is The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I probably had it 15 or 20 years before ever reading it. I read that under Bolshevik rule it was a death penalty for having a copy. Naturally I had to read it. Henry Ford printed thousands of copies and sold or gave them away. Wikipedia says it's a plagiarism and forgery of earlier works. It is usually assailed as an anti-Semitic forgery, but I don't remember the Jews being mentioned much if at all. It could be said to be anti-Semitic insofar as it outlines a supposed Zionist plot. Whatever the origin or motive of the writer, it outlines a step by step plan for gaining power and influence that makes The Prince look like a Cliff Note version of the plan. It's been several years since I read it and some of it seemed fanciful or crazy, but some made perfect sense.

Brain Sex is a book that I was made aware of about a year ago and it is fascinating. It's by David Jessel and Ann Moir, two BBC reporters or former reporters. Everybody that is remotely in touch with reality knows that men and women think differently and act differently. All this is very much denied now, but that can't last because mother nature can't be fooled. Almost anybody knows that girls are better at verbal skills than boys, but women also hear better than men. Men are better at math and spatial skills which is supposedly why men can parallel park better than women. All this is a result of physical differences in the brain, not conditioning. The book came out in the '80s or early '90s and is widely available for very little money.

Tainting Evidence by John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne is a book about forensic labs and evidence.
After you read it you will never trust crime lab evidence again. The authors show that the labs are not scientific organizations, but arms of the prosecution. They cite instances where exculpatory evidence is thrown out and the defense is not made aware of it. Two cases that figured prominently in my mind were the O. J. Simpson case and Walter Leroy Moody, who was convicted of blowing up a judge and some others. The Moody case was familiar to me because it was on the local news and Moody's lawyer was a year or so ahead of me in high school. Moody might have been guilty – I think he probably was - but the government bribed a witness into perjuring himself against Moody. This is a 1998 book and there have probably been tremendous gains in DNA evidence since then, but it's worth reading.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is not a household name, but he wrote a very influential book in 1952 called Liberty Or Equality. The title would strike the average American as odd since liberty and equality are regarded as almost interchangeable terms. The book argues that you can have one or the other. If you insist on equality you will end up destroying liberty. Anybody looking at the institutions of "higher education" in the US can't help but see that the fiction of equality is destroying them. Not all opinions are of equal value, all people are not equally talented, smart, beautiful, articulate, agile or any other way. This is not a book to start with if you are just delving into political theory. Over the years several people have borrowed mine and all found it fairly difficult.

On Power - The Natural History of Its Growth is a book by Bertrand De Jouvenel that traces the metaphysics, origins and nature of power. One of the strange things he discusses is that the lower on the social scale you identify power's origin, the more power you can end up with. This is something that many others have pointed out. If law or power originates with the will of the people, then anything can be lawful as long as a majority says so. Depending on what percentage of the people are complete idiots, it's not hard to see how a huge number of bad laws are passed. Gauging by the quality of magazines, books, movies and TV programs that predominate it seems that there are lots of shallow people in society. Many people have heard the phrase "The King can do no wrong" and interpret that to mean that the king is above the law. Several years ago I read that what it actually meant was that the king is not allowed to do wrong any more that anybody else. The king was bound by the eternal or natural law as were all people.

Anything by Frank Chodorov is worth reading. For some reason he has fallen into borderline obscurity. All of his books and articles possess the highest degree of lucidity. Reading his arguments for whatever point he is advancing is like being hit with a cattle prod. Many of the things he wrote probably sounded so radical in his day that they would have been dismissed. In one of his 1945 essays titled On Saving The Country he asks, "In its potentiality, if not yet in its methods, is the FBI any different from the Gestapo?" The answer is no, but even today with all the revelations about corruption, abuse and usurpation of power the news babblers keep assuring their viewers that the field agents are good, it's only the upper echelons that are bad.
His book the income tax: root of all evil was an exposition of how all Americans were made slaves by allowing the government to have a prior claim on all wages. He makes the obvious point - some things are only obvious after somebody points them out - that all species of intervention is made possible by revenue. Police, judges, prosecutors, file clerks, code enforcement officers, OSHA inspectors and so on all have to be paid. Cut off the money and the meddlers have to find useful employment. Robert Nozick might have been inspired by this when he came up with The Tale of the Slave which is presented on YouTube.

While on the subject of slavery, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's book Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men is a thoroughly researched book that is worth having just for the bibliographical essays at the end of each chapter. He goes into lots of economic analysis and conveys his information with the detachment of an academic, which is what he is. This is not a diatribe on how either side was right or wrong, but more expository in nature. He brings up such things as how non-slave owning Southerners objected to being drafted into slave patrols to protect the slave owner's interests. There isn't the usual hagiography of Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, or anybody else. It's the best book I've read on the subject, although I haven't read that many.

The Crowd is an 1895 book by Gustave Le Bon on the psychology, behavior, opinions, reasonings and other characteristics that make up a crowd. Le Bon does not consider just any large group a crowd, nor does the crowd have to be unorganized. Parliament might be a crowd whereas the attendees of the symphony might not be. Crowds seem to adopt a morality of their own and act through emotion instead of reason. I don't think Le Bon defines any numerical component to the makeup of a crowd; it seems to be more a matter of unitary action and immunity to reasoned argument. A small group such as a home owners association might be a crowd while the spectators at an auto race are not. The book is referred to in many subsequent books so it's useful to know about it.

While not exactly about crowds Obedience To Authority is a very interesting study on how individuals obey an authority figure even if the figure has little authority and no means of enforcing his commands. It is a recounting of a study conducted by Stanley Milgram in the early '60s that was suggested to him by the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Milgram wanted to see how ordinary people would resist or cooperate in inflicting pain on their fellow man. He concocted an experiment that was supposedly studying the effects of punishment on learning, but actually it was measuring how compliant ordinary people are when told to do something they find objectionable.

Edward Bernays is someone unfamiliar to most people, but he had an effect on their lives. If they know anything about him it's probably that he was the nephew of Sigmund Freud or that he popularized bacon and eggs by his "Hearty breakfast" campaign. In 1928 he wrote a book called Propaganda describing some of his methods. I have no doubt that he was brilliant even though he was on the "wrong side" from my point of view. Fortunately it doesn't make any difference what side he was on because he explains his methods in this very short book. The very first paragraph explains almost the whole book; "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society, Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." On things such as the trial balloon; "It is the method commonly used by a politician before committing himself to legislation of any kind, and by a government before committing itself on foreign or domestic policies." For those who think the schools can be reformed; "The normal school should provide for the training of the educator to make him realize that his is a twofold job: education as a teacher and education as a propagandist." On the perennial problem of bias, fake news, disinformation or whatever term you prefer; "The media by which special pleaders transmit their messages to the public through propaganda include all the means by which people today transmit their ideas to one another. There is no means of human communication which may not also be a means of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding between an individual and a group." On the omnipresence of propaganda; " remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons - a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million - who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world."

Going back in time about 450 years we have Bernal Diaz describing his exploits with Cortes in The Conquest Of New Spain. Diaz describes a lot of actions that sound like something out of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. He describes one town they entered that had a rack of skulls that could be easily multiplied that had over 100,000 skulls on it. One of the things that makes the book believable is that Diaz doesn't make himself the hero of the story; in fact he admits to being scared to death. He explains how Cortes had an Indian girlfriend who could speak Spanish and one or two Indian dialects. They had a priest they found somewhere who had been enslaved by the Indians and could speak two or three Indian languages and Spanish. This was how Cortes organized his allies against the Aztecs. He relates how they were in a village when Montezuma's tax collectors came and roughed up some of the local rulers, thus giving Cortes the idea of getting various tribes on his side because they hated the Aztecs taxing them to death and taking their women. Some of the Indians were friendly and some were not. If they had to fight the Indians, Cortes would capture some of them and treat them well and tell them they wanted to be friends and trade, buy, sell and so forth.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. If the Indians attacked them again they wiped them out. I have known several people that have read the book and all of them think it's great. There's a Penguin edition or at least there was.

Red Mexico is a book by an Irishman named Captain Francis McCullagh about the communist takeover of Mexico and the Cristero Rebellion. This is a series of events unknown to most Americans. For years it was almost impossible to get, but it has recently been reprinted. Leon Trotsky was murdered in Mexico and a friend who has a PhD in history and taught at West Point among other places told me years ago that Trotsky largely authored the Mexican Constitution.
One of the things that appears very unusual are several pictures in the book of people walking casually down the street to their place of execution without handcuffs or any restraint. 

Tragedy & Hope is the magnum opus of Carrol Quigley. Wikipedia says of it: "Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time is a work of history written by former Georgetown University professor, mentor of Bill Clinton, and historian, Carroll Quigley." 
The book gained notoriety because Quigley spills the beans on bankers and other powerful people running things. A couple of books relied heavily on it mainly because of Quigley's admitting that there were powerful people and organizations who pull the strings and that he had examined their records, but that he approved of them. Gary Allen's None Dare Call It Conspiracy relied heavily on it and Cleon Skousen's The Naked Capitalist was a review of it. Quigley considered himself conservative, but thought that the two parties should be identical so that there would always be continuity in policy no matter who won. He was clearly for rule by experts. He would be booted out of any top tier school now for some of his views. He decried homosexual propaganda in books and movies. He didn't believe the atomic bombs should have been dropped on Japan. He seemed to think that women working was a bad thing and that schools had become so tailored to girls that boys found them boring. He said that Democracy or popular government was only possible where citizens had access to weapons equal to anything the government had. In a 1974 interview, three years before he died he said that he had debated Gary Allen and Larry Abraham. Abraham was a co-author with Allen of None Dare Call It Conspiracy. Quigley said sort of derisively in the interview that Allen only knew what was in that book, but Abraham knew a lot and brought up facts he had never heard of. I thought it was an amazing admission for a guy in his station. I wondered if the debate was after the publishing of Wall Street and The Bolshevik Revolution. Quigley says that his book is "inexcusably long" which it is at 1348 pages, but it's pretty interesting.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Favorite YouTube Video Channels.

YouTube has a video on just about anything you can think of and some things you might not think of. If you want to know how to polarize a voltage regulator for an old generator system, there's probably a video on how to do it. If you're thinking about a trip to Yakutsk, there's probably a video advising what kind of outerwear you'll need to take. There are lots of people producing videos on subjects that they think they know something about, but they don't. The word “dilettante” comes to mind.

There are a few that I have found to be consistently good and I have watched quite a few of their videos. They are probably not too appealing to wide audiences because they are specialized in areas of interest to me and maybe not a large fraction of the population.

The one with probably the widest appeal is one called The History Guy. I don't know that the HG ever says what his name is, but he is a professorial looking fellow with a bow tie and he speaks pretty fast and sometimes with great expression. I like the fact that he doesn't play music over his commentary. Sometimes some of his subjects have hilarious content, such as The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855. or one about an Englishman who accidentally took off in a fighter jet with no canopy and that he didn't know how to fly.

If you want to learn almost anything in the mechanical arts, Tubalcain is your man, or at least one of them. He started out as tubalcain, but now goes by mrpete222 for some reason. He has over 1000 videos and has a pretty wide variety of topics. Some of the videos are not instructive, but just fun or investigative. He has one where he visits the Vaughn Hammer plant and one where he visits the Rocket Museum at Huntsville, Alabama and the Barber Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham.  He also has a series on “what is it?” where he shows various items and asks what they are. Sometimes he doesn't know what they are, but a viewer usually does. There's also a “how does it work?” series that explains how various things work. He is a retired Shop teacher, so he knows how to convey information clearly.

There are lots of gun “experts” blabbering about their opinions – many times stated as fact – and most of them are not worth watching because they don't know what they're talking about. Lots of the gun sites spend time shooting watermelons or plastic bottles of water or other liquid-filled vessels that will display spectacular demonstrations of hydrostatic shock. This is fun, but has no useful purpose. At best it demonstrates how rapidly the projectile is displacing the water. About 40 years ago I shot some liquid filled cans with a .458 Win. Mag. and a .220 Swift. The Swift exploded the cans like a bomb was placed inside, but the .458 just split the can in a very unspectacular way.

This is all by way of saying that I like a channel called Gunblue490  I don't know the man's name, but he's a very knowledgeable guy who doesn't try to be Rambo or James Bond. He talks about various guns and calibers, explains ballistic coefficients, sectional density, bullet selection, cartridge headspace, scope selection, stuck case removal, rifling twist, carry gun selection and how to cure salmon the Norwegian way. The last one doesn't sound too gun related and I don't need to do this, but I might need to at some point. He's another one that doesn't play music over his commentary.

Engineering Explained is another one of the technical sorts that I find interesting. The guy doing the explaining looks young enough to be going for his Eagle Scout designation, but he must be older than he looks since he said that he actually worked as an engineer. Maybe he has a portrait of himself in the attic. He talks about things such as horsepower versus torque, engine braking, differentials, air fuel ratios, turbo lag and other stuff like that that most people find spellbinding. He's good at explaining things. He also does reviews of tires, brakes, shocks and other accessories that the non-buff might find useful.

Stefan Molyneux is one of the few commentators or social observers that can look at a question or event dispassionately even if – maybe especially – it's a supercharged hot potato. He's the kind of guy that you can watch and think “He's wrong about this,” but still see how he arrived at his conclusion.

I haven't watched a huge number of his videos, but I haven't seen him resort to calling his opponents idiots, homophobes, anti-Semites, racists, Nazis, haters or any of the other terms that are used to besmirch someone or silence debate.

He has recently posted a video he shot in Poland that I think is very good, especially for a first effort. The 100 Year March: A Philosopher in Poland  Molyneux is/was an atheist or agnostic or some sort of skeptic or former skeptic or something. It's hard to tell, but it seems like he is moving toward theism in this post.

These guys are all gentlemanly and don't use vulgar or obscene language. I think Molyneux might occasionally use some language not suitable for all viewers, but he doesn't make it his regular practice. Some YouTubers and BitChuters have good content, but they lack any kind of professional decorum and turn off viewers by presenting their content as though they are speaking at a convention
of Hell's Angels or Bordello suppliers.

If you have any interest in these fields, check these guys out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Out Of The Ashes

Anthony Esolen, a professor at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire and recently of Providence College, Rhode Island, has written a stinging critique of modern education and American society in general titled Out Of The Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture published by Regnery Publishers, 2017.

It's a short book - 203 pages – but contains much wise social commentary and observations on everything wrong with American education, if there's any such thing. Esolen is not one to beat around the bush. If you don't agree with him it isn't because he is opaque. For instance, chapter one is titled, Giving Things Their Proper Names: The Restoration Of Truth Telling. It is divided into several sections with their own headings, one of which is Are We a World of Liars?

“In a word, yes.
It is almost impossible in the modern world not to accept lies as a matter of course. We are told that a woman can make as good a soldier as a man. Except for the rare amazon, that is a lie”

In the same vein a few pages later: “Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.”

Most of what he says in the book is glaringly obvious, but it is so seldom spoken or written that it becomes heroic when written or spoken audibly. When referring to teachers who have acquiesced to imparting depravity, he writes:

“It will not do merely to restrain them in this or that regard. They are not fit to teach your children the multiplication table. They are not fit to be near them at all. Every moment that your children are in their presence, they will be breathing the putrescent air from the diseased heart and spirit of the instructors, in an institution whose walls stink of it, it has lingered there so long.”

Just a few years ago, in the memory of almost everybody, a statement like,“First let us establish that there are such things as the sexes.” would have met with everybody's assent. Most people reading it would be wondering why such a thing would need to be established at all. Now such a proposition is not just questionable, it might even be “controversial” or hate speech or some kind of micro aggression.

Esolen is such a hater (maybe even a Neanderthal) that he writes:

“We are taught from the time we enter the indoctrination centers that the only differences between men and women are trivial matters of plumbing. It is not true.
When the European missionaries came to the new world to evangelize the natives, they did not find creatures of a different species. They found human beings, male and female. They did not find any tribes in which the women met in council, hunted the large animals, smoked the peace pipe, trained up their daughters in savage displays of physical courage and endurance (the “sun dance” of the Plains Indians, for example) and established elaborate hierarchies of honor. They did not find any tribes in which the men took care of small children, gathered roots and berries, made themselves up with pretty decorations to delight their women … and made “nests,” as it were, as clean and neat as possible, for the sake of the little ones, and because that is the way they liked things best.
They found men and women. That is what you will find wherever you go in the world.”

I can't disagree with any of his assessments about the shipwreck of the schools or his suggested remedies. The one thing I think is absolutely essential that isn't mentioned and is never mentioned by anybody in the reformist camp is the necessity of prohibiting government involvement of any kind in schooling or anything else having to do with forming thoughts, opinions or beliefs. No matter who is in charge, be it Aristotle, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton or Erasmus, they won't always be in charge, and the forces of coercion will always seek control. All compulsion should be eliminated. Certainly there will be parents that don't send their children to school or teach them themselves, but there always have been and always will be unfit parents. Compulsory schooling has always been about teaching children the “right” things, not about education.

This is a book that will be appreciated by anybody interested in the social, cultural, educational and intellectual collapse of society and its possible remedy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Fog Of War

“America wins the wars that she undertakes, make no mistake about it, and we have declared war on tyranny and aggression.” Obama, one of the Bushes or Clinton? It’s a familiar bit of nonsense, but it was said by Lyndon Johnson sometime around 50 years ago.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 SONY production that is basically an interview with the former longest-serving Secretary of Defense.

McNamara was in office during some of the biggest events of mid-century: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the seizure of the USS Pueblo by North Korea and the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel. He was also in office for much of the Vietnam War. Most of the movie is taken up by the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam, although it does cover his WW II experience and his work at Ford Motor Company. The Pueblo and the Liberty are not mentioned, but the Gulf of Tonkin is discussed, about which he says that the attack on the USS Turner Joy never happened.

Most of his answers are very direct - even to the point of saying that he might have been tried as a war criminal had the US lost WWII - but a few times he just says, “I won’t answer that.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16 - 28, 1962) John Kennedy was very fortunate to have an aide named Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson who had lived with Nikita Khrushchev and knew him and his wife pretty well. McNamara says that the US was in receipt of two messages from the Soviet Union regarding its position on the missiles, one conciliatory and one belligerent. Thompson urged Kennedy to reply to the conciliatory message, arguing that if Khrushchev could save face he would. The confrontation was defused and we’ve lived sort of happily ever after.

This was not the only close call with nuclear war. McNamara says that during his 7 years as Secretary “We came within a hair’s breadth of war with the Soviet Union on 3 different occasions.” Things were getting so far out of hand that during the Kennedy administration the US built and tested a 100 megaton bomb in the atmosphere. He makes the point that military commanders make errors, but usually the errors only affect a few hundred or a few thousand people, they don’t destroy entire countries or kill millions of people as could happen with nuclear errors. “You make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.”

Thirty years after the Missile Crisis, in a meeting with Fidel Castro, McNamara learned that at the time of the crisis there were 162 nuclear weapons in Cuba, although at the time the CIA had said that the missiles were there, but the warheads had not arrived - an intelligence failure of the greatest possible proportions. Castro had recommended to Khrushchev that he launch a nuclear attack on the US in the event of an attack by the US even though Cuba would be obliterated.

Recalling his WW II experience he says:

March 9, 1945 “On that single night we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo, men, women and children.”

Interviewer: “Were you aware this was going to happen?

McNamara: “I was part of a mechanism that recommended it. I analyzed bombing operations and how to make them more efficient. Not more efficient in the sense of killing more, but in weakening the adversary.... I don’t want to suggest that it was my report that led to the firebombing...It isn’t that I’m trying to absolve myself of blame for the firebombing.”

On the question of proportionality in war, McNamara says, “[Curtis] Lemay said if we lost the war we would all be prosecuted as war criminals and I think he’s right. He - and I would say I - were behaving as war criminals...Lemay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost, but what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

October 2, 1963:  McNamara returned from Vietnam. At the time there were 16,000 US advisers there. He recommended that all of them be removed within 2 years. “We need a way to get out of Vietnam and this is the way to do it.” Obviously that didn’t happen. Diem was overthrown in South Vietnam, JFK was assassinated and LBJ became president.

LBJ is heard saying on tape that he always thought that talk of pulling out was foolish. Johnson: “Then comes the question: How the hell does McNamara think when he’s losing the war he can pull men out of there?”

After the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Johnson orders more troops in. He asks McNamara when he’s going to issue the order and is told that it will be made “late today so it will miss some of the morning editions. I’ll handle it in a way that will minimize the announcement.”

Towards the end he makes a statement that should be etched in stone above the Capital and the White House, viz “What makes us omniscient? Have we a record of omniscience? We are the strongest nation in the world today. I don’t believe that we should ever apply that economic, political or military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam we wouldn’t have been there.”

It’s easy to watch this and think that McNamara is being self-serving or trying to justify his actions, but there are plenty of audio clips from the time that show he really did want to get out of Vietnam. Johnson was the one who wanted to pour more troops in, and McNamara, to his discredit, followed the script instead of speaking publicly or resigning.

"We and you ought not to pull on the ends of a rope which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you. I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction. For such is the logic of war. If people do not display wisdom, they will clash like blind moles and then mutual annihilation will commence." - Nikita S. Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy

Two untypical war memoirs.

A Song for Nagasaki The Story of Takashi Nagai a Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb - Paul Glynn

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War - Paul Fussell

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Music For A Political Convention

Eurythmics - Would I Lie to You?

Liar, Liar - The Castaways (1965)

Lies - The Knickerbockers

Lies - Rolling Stones

The Beatles' Taxman

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

AC/DC - Highway to Hell

Talking Heads Road To Nowhere Lyrics

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son (Lyric Video)

AC DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap 1976

AC/DC - Moneytalks

The Yardbirds - Dazed and Confused (720p HD)

Dirty Laundry by Don Henley [News Parody]

"You're No Good" w/lyrics- Linda Ronstadt

The Undisputed Truth - Smiling Faces Sometimes - 1971

Abba - Money, Money, Money

The O'Jays - For The Love of Money (Audio)

Pink Floyd - Money (Official Music Video)

The Beatles - Money (That's What I Want)

The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil -HQ

The rolling stones-You can't always get what you want

Eurythmics - The King and Queen of America

The Kingston Trio - M.T.A.

The O'Jays - Back Stabbers (Audio)

The Beatles - Nowhere Man

The Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang HQ Music

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising (Lyric Video)

What Did You Learn In School Today Pete Seeger 21 24

"Games People Play" - Joe South - 1969

Ending Music - "Day of Wrath"
Dies Irae, Dies Illa - Monks of the Abbey of St Maurice & St. Maur, Clervaux, Luxembourg

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Church Of Spies

“There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes 

another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man”

So said Johnny Rivers in the theme to the '60s show Secret Agent. Mark Riebling draws a far different picture in his book Church Of Spies in which most of the subjects know each other and use their real names.

When I first heard of the book I thought it was some kind of silly Dan Brown novel with lots of nonsensical theories about cloak and dagger plots. It isn't that at all. It is a short, heavily footnoted (end notes, actually) page turner. The book is only 250 pages, but has an additional 125 pages of notes, index and sources.

Many of the people mentioned in the book will be familiar – at least by name – to most people; Pope Pius XII, Allen Dulles, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Hans and Sophie Scholl and of course Adolf Hitler. Less well known are people like Gereon Goldmann, a Franciscan seminarian who was drafted into the Waffen SS and later wrote about his exploits in The Shadow of His Wings, Rupert Mayer, a Jesuit who won two Iron Crosses in WW I, lost a leg for his efforts and was later jailed for opposing National Socialism, and Josef Muller the man who is pretty much the book's protagonist.

Muller, whom the Nazis considered “the best agent of the Vatican Intelligence in Germany” was a figure that sounds like the product of a spy thriller writer's imagination. As Riebling relates, he was arrested by the Gestapo for trying to kill Hitler.

“He refused to confess, however. 'Muller had nerves like ropes and dominated the situation,' a prison aide recalled. When guards unshackled him, he threw them using jujitsu. His resolve awed other prisoners, who had misjudged him as a regular Joe. 'To look at,' wrote a British spy jailed with Muller, 'he was just an ordinary stoutish little man with a florid complexion and drab fair hair cut en brosse, the sort of man, whom you would not look at a second time if you met him anywhere, and yet, one of the bravest and most determined men imaginable.'”

Many times the plotters would pass on intelligence about Hitler's plans, but he would change them and consequently their intelligence would be wrong. Several attempts on Hitler's life failed because of timing, equipment failure or because Hitler seemed to have a diabolical guardian. One time a bomb actually went off next to Hitler, but he survived. Another time the plotters could have shot him at a meeting, but instead planted a bomb on his plane disguised as a bottle of cognac. The bomb failed to go off which illustrates the maxim that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Although this is not an apologia for Pius XII, he comes off looking very good. His detractors waited until he was safely dead before claiming that he didn't speak up against Hitler. Nobody ever denounces the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Methodists, the Dalai Lama, Zoroastrians or the Baptists for their “silence,” only Pius XII.

Pius coordinated with Jewish rescue groups to help them escape Europe, funneling money through various countries, but the groups would not accept Catholics of Jewish descent so he could do little for the latter.

One of their plans that has backfired badly was a common currency. Muller theorized that if Europe was linked economically it would prevent future wars. They probably didn't foresee Europe becoming a unified mega-state in which national borders mean little or nothing and where the whole world seems to be entitled to move there.

Considering the number of plotters and their positions – many were high in the military – it is surprising that they were not discovered sooner. The book also shows that there were many who wanted Hitler gone, but were afraid to act or thought that fighting against their own government was treasonous. Seeing as how many of the plotters were captured and killed it is understandable why they didn't want to get involved. That's the way most people are everywhere.

As Johnny Rivers sang, “Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow,” many of them didn't, but a few did and Mark Reibling has written a riveting account of them.