Tag Archives: History

Books I Recommend

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I have two books at the top of my list.  One is the extremely emotive World War II novel, Every Man Dies Alone,  based on a true story, by Hans Fallada.  (Aside – he took his pen name from Fallada, the noble horse in the fairy tale.  Do you remember when they cut the horse’s head off and put it on the castle wall?  He would give the Prince advice from there, but much was ignored, a la Cassandra of Troy.  The name fits perfectly when you read the story.)  Even for a military history buff like me, this book taught me so much more of what it felt like to be a German trapped in that society.

Every Man Dies Alone

 

The other is by Stephan Zweig, The World of Yesterday, described here by Amazon:  “Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, The World of Yesterday recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise, and its devastating fall.

Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Stefan Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin, and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction.

This new translation by award-winning Anthea Bell captures the spirit of Zweig’s writing in arguably his most revealing work.”

It was a beautiful book with a superb translation from the German.  Stephan Zweig restarted his life twice – once after World War I, when he had to leave Vienna, and again as a Jew after World War II.  By the time of the Second World War, he was so famous that Hitler could not have him out and out killed, but tortured him in degrees by systematically searching every house over and over while he tried to write. Zweig couldn’t face that second start and walked into the ocean with his wife and committed suicide several years after the War.  Don’t worry, that doesn’t spoil this story or the wonderful descriptions of his life as a child.  As he described the stuffy heater, the smell of old socks and the wriggling of little boys on the bench bored by their old school teachers, I could see it, smell it and feel it.

The World of Yesterday

 

 

Rant #2 from the Monster Hunter Blog Comments

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Amen, Saintonge235, Amen.  Thanks for the history lesson.  And I’d love to see some new writing on your WordPress site, hint hint!

saintonge235 commented on There I go, offending people again….

Bob W.:         You say:  I was brought up in a liberal union household. I was taught that hard work was the most important thing. I was taught that you work your way up, and you don’t take welfare or handouts, but that they need to be there for those who need them. … I don’t think you have a realistic view of what liberals are really about.

Well Bob, I’m an amateur historian.  I’m also the son of a welfare mother who got off welfare by getting a job with the welfare bureaucracy (WE NOW PAUSE FOR VARIOUS SMART REMARKS ABOUT GETTING OFF WELFARE BY STAYING ON WELFARE . . . THANK YOU; MOVING ON).  I have to tell you that you don’t know what liberals are really really about.         Back in 1968, when we had just gotten off welfare, a nice young white, middle-class summer school teacher told my class about a shocking encounter she’d had the day before.  At a basketball court, she’d met a nineteen-year old girl with three out-of-wedlock children, and a thirteen-year-old with one illegitimate child.  She had just encountered welfare as a voluntarily chosen way of life, and was gobsmacked.         At the time, the nineteen-year-old was eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children till the day her youngest child moved out of the house, eligibility being of course extended if she had more children, and the thirteen-year-old would become eligible for that deal the day she became sixteen, as long as she swore “under penalty of perjury” that she didn’t know where the bairn’s father was, and that she received no money from him.  (For a look at how that worked in practice, see George Gilder’s Visible Man, which among other things recounts a sixteen-year-old taking that oath, then going out to lunch with a couple of friends and telling them about how much she loves her child’s father, who lives with them; the acquaintances are welfare workers she ran into at the office the day she applied for welfare, and committed perjury.  It doesn’t occur to the welfare workers to report her to the cops.)         Do you know the history of AFDC?  It was created during the Depression, and Congress was told that only widows with children would be eligible.  After it was law, administrative fiat extended coverage to those never married.  Through the fifties, some efforts were made to get the fathers of out-of-wedlock children to provide support for their kids, and to curtail welfare payments when support was received from the father, or money was earned by the mother, with the aim of getting people off welfare.  In the 1960s the bureaucrats stopped doing that.  It was invasive and intolerant to try to curtail fornication outside marriage, or curb bastardry.  Caring liberals shut that down.         The results of such payments “for those who need them” (your words) was a great likelihood that the mothers would remain in poverty their whole lives (which reduced their life expectancy), that the children would have a much higher likelihood of being murdered or ending in prison, and that the next generation would get the same shitty deal.  Throughout the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties this continued, with the living conditions of the poor getting ever worse (boy, what I could tell you about the housing project we lived in when on welfare, if this wasn’t going to be too long already).  Finally, the evil, uncaring Republicans got control of both houses of Congress, and partially changed this, over the objection of liberals who predicted disaster.  The change is now likely to be undercut by Obama’s administration, which is unilaterally attempting to change the law by executive fiat (arguably illegally, but who cares about law anymore?).  If the welfare rolls start expanding again, and the murder rate among the poor starts rising again, how many liberals do you think will say ‘Gee, maybe we shouldn’t have fucked with welfare’?  Mickey Kaus will say it, and then he’ll tell you to vote for Democrats who will continue that welfare policy.  And he’s the only liberal I can think of who will be that honest about the situation.         You say of Obamacare:

It doesn’t make determinations. It’s pretty simple – it just says that you have to have health insurance. Hell, Obamacare was devised by the Heritage Foundation! The private sector is still in charge!

Sorry, that’s not true.  It does say that certain classes of people have to purchase insurance or pay a tax, but it also says many people with insurance will be legally required to pay much more for than their insurance than it should cost them, in order to subsidize the ‘insurance’ of others.  If the Heritage Foundation came out with a plan to do that, please give me a cite to the plan, and the part about the mandatory subsidies.  I’d really like to read it.         But regardless of what the Heritage Foundation did or didn’t think up, a plan that tells the insurance industry ‘You must sell insurance to some people at a loss, and overcharge others to compensate for that loss’ can NOT be described with the words “the private sector is still in charge” — not honestly, at any rate, by anyone who knows what he’s speaking of.         I leave aside, as unimportant, the people who are going to dropped from full to part time employment to avoid the higher premiums, or whose workplace will just stop offering insurance as an employee benefit.  And it would be churlish to bring up the Republican attempt to allow individuals to buy health insurance with pre-tax dollars, thus giving people more control over their insurance.  Could’t have that.  But I really must ask if you have read the “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act” from beginning to end.  If so, perhaps you can tell me why a law that supposedly does nothing but require people to buy health insurance runs 906 pages in PDF format?  (The brave may find it here.)  On the other hand, if you haven’t read it from beginning to end, then I have to rate your sentence that says “It’s pretty simple – it just says” as a deliberate lie, since you don’t actually know what’s in it.         Finally, you write:

            I’m against forcing a woman to have an abortion. But I’m also against refusing her an abortion. That’s a decision that the government should stay out of – it’s between her and her doctor.

Let’s try a few slightly different versions of that:

        I’m against forcing a woman to own slaves.  But I’m also against refusing her slaves.  That’s a decision that the government should stay out of — it’s between her and her slave dealer.         I’m against forcing a woman to pimp her five-year old.  But I’m also against refusing to allow her to pimp her five-year-old.  That’s a decision that the government should stay out of — it’s between her and her customer.         I’m against forcing a woman to shoot her kids through the head.  But I’m also against refusing her the right to shoot her kids through the head.  That’s a decision that the government should stay out of — it’s between her and her gun dealer.

The entirety of the abortion argument comes down to this: the “pro-life” group sees the unborn as a human being, with a right to life, and wants the govt. to protect said unborn.   The “pro-choice” groups sees the unborn as having no rights, and thus says its fate may be left to the mother.             I can see how reasonable people might disagree on whether and when an unborn becomes a human being, and acquires a right to life.   I can’t see how a reasonable human being can regard the unborn as a human being, and abortion as the moral equivalent of infanticide, and still say ‘Yeah, go ahead and let the mother murder her child at will.’   Still, I know there are people who say just that.   But I absolutely can’t see how any honest liberal can be blasé about abortion.   Liberalism’s proudest boast is that it cares about the poor, the weak, the powerless.   I can see honest liberals being in favor of policies that I regard as horrendously harmful to the poor, weak, and powerless, precisely because they disagree with me about the effects said policies will have.   But no one can pretend that abortion is anything but killing an unborn something that might or might not already be a human being, and that will certainly become a human being if it lives long enough.   Yet modern liberalism says that a full-term neonate that is in the process of being born, and that can be delivered alive without any physical harm to the mother, can be slaughtered at the mother’s whim.   Nay, further, modern liberalism insists that if the child somehow survives the attempt to kill it and is born alive, it may be finished off by the doctor at the mother’s request.             Joe McCarthy was famously asked if, at long last, he had lost all decency.   Liberals defend outright infanticide as a mother’s sacred right, and congratulate themselves on their humanity.   At long last, liberals, have you lost all honesty?  Have you lost all sanity?

Words of Warning and Wisdom

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Merry go round horses

Here’s a great Robert Heinlein quote from one of his books: “Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.” – Robert Heinlein

And here’s a Tea Party rant today.  See any similarities?  Unless we make the right to vote conditional on paying taxes or being off government support, this is what we will get.

“By any objective measure, Mr. Obama’s first term has been a colossal failure. His signature legislative achievements — the economic stimulus and Obamacare — are unpopular. Unemployment has remained chronically high. Economic growth is sputtering. The recovery is anemic. Inflation is rising. He has presided over multiple, consecutive trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits. He has amassed more than $5 trillion in debt. The national debt is more than $16 trillion — a staggering amount that threatens our economic security. We are sliding toward Greece and impending bankruptcy. Yet the electorate rewarded him with another term.

“Why? The answer is simple and ominous: because more than half the population — 50 percent plus one — is dependent upon government benefits. For the past four years, the Obama administration has created a Franco-German welfare state whose sole purpose is to forge a majority political coalition wedded to the Democratic Party. The stimulus; the health care overhaul; the redirecting of financial resources to the inner cities; the explosion in the number of Americans on food stamps and welfare; the massive spending increases in public education, infrastructure and agriculture; the green-energy boondoggles; the bailouts of the auto industry; the contraceptive mandate; the federal funding of abortion; support for homosexual “marriage”; and pushing amnesty for illegal aliens — all of these measures directly bought off key liberal constituencies, such as unions, public-sector workers, environmentalists, blacks, Hispanics, feminists and the homosexual community.

“In short, America has been fractured into two nations: the tax producers and the tax consumers, the givers and the takers, those who generate wealth and those who exploit it. Mr. Obama has peeled off the larger chunk. The productive classes are being harnessed into subsidizing the nonproductive elements. Statism and sex trump entrepreneurship and self-reliance.”

Benjamin Franklin’s Junto

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Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite American success stories.  I picture him with a    twinkle in his eye and a salacious bounce in his step.  But for all of his “Hail Fellow Well Met”  bonhomie, he was actually a very wise man with an eye to improving the future.  Take the concept of his Junto group.  (Description taken from PBS website.)

“Ben Franklin was a gregarious person, who loved sitting down and having long conversations with friends and acquaintances. In 1727, Franklin organized a group of friends to provide a structured forum for discussion. The group, initially composed of twelve members, called itself the Junto.

The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a cobbler, a clerk, and a merchant. Although most of the members were older than Franklin, he was clearly their leader.

Franklin describes the formation and purpose of the Junto in his autobiography:

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, [1727] I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

The Junto’s Friday evening meetings were organized around a series of questions that Ben devised, covering a range of intellectual, personal, business, and community topics. These questions were used as a springboard for discussion and community action. In fact, through the Junto, Franklin promoted such concepts as volunteer fire-fighting clubs, improved security (night watchmen), and a public hospital.”

Would Congress work better if they shared interests and ideas in a social setting rather than just committees?  I don’t think large cocktail parties count.  Maximum eight people, and they follow The Junto rules of Benjamin Franklin.  We say we send the politicians to Washington to work.  But wouldn’t it be better if, before they work, they discuss, share, grow mentally, learn and cooperate?  Where did we go so wrong?