19 December 2011

Ruining a Hercules

I am in the middle of Alec Nove's An Economic History of the USSR (Pelican Books, 1975) and have found some interesting parallels with the - not economic, but anti-economic - policies of communist Russia and the anti-economic policies of the Obama regime. So far the most disturbing similarity I discovered is between pre-communist, czarist Russia and America on its current fast-track to some form of neo-communism. The big-picture views of both their situations are identical in essentials - and profoundly scary.

Consider what is happening around us. The government's policies are stifling America's private sector and keeping her natural resources in their useless natural state. There is the communist-directed OWS movement which has the potential to become violent. There is a TEA Party movement trying to bring constitutionalism to an incompetent government engaged in continuous power grabs and spending wildly to the point of bankruptcy.

All that has happened before - a century ago, on the other side of the world.

From Nove:
The following is an extract from a book by an Austrian observer, Hugo Ganz, published in 1904 and entitled The Downfall of Russia. It is said to be a conversation between Ganz himself and a senior official who asked to remain anonymous:
   "What will be the end, then?"
   "The end will be that the terror from above will awaken the terror from below, that peasant revolts will break out and that assassination will increase."
   "And is there no possibility of organizing the revolution so that it shall not rage senselessly?"
   "There is no one with whom I have spoken who would fail to paint the future of this country in the darkest colours. Can there be no change of the fatal policy which is ruining the country?" 
   "Not before a great general catastrophe. When we shall be compelled for the first time partly to repudiate our debts - and that may happen sooner than we now believe - on that day, being no longer able to pay our old debts with new ones - for we shall no longer be able to conceal our internal bankruptcy from foreign countries and from the Emperor - steps will be taken, perhaps..." 
   "Is there no mistake possible here in what you are saying?" 
   "Whoever, like myself, has known the state kitchen for the last twenty-five years has no longer any doubts. The autocracy is not equal to the problems of a modern great power, and it would be against all historical precedent to assume that it would voluntarily yield without external pressure to a constitutional form of government." 
   "We must wish then, for Russia's sake, that the catastrophe comes as quickly as possible."
   "I repeat to you that it is perhaps nearer than we all think or are willing to admit. That is the hope; that is our secret consolation...We are near to collapse, like an athlete with great muscles and perhaps incurable heart weakness. We still maintain ourselves upright with stimulants, by loans, which like all stimulants only help to ruin the system more quickly. With that we are a rich country with all conceivable natural resources, simply ill-governed and prevented from unlocking our resources. But is this the first time that quacks have ruined a Hercules that has fallen into their hands?" (p. 27)

Need America continue this repeating of Russia's history?

America's crisis has been a long-time in the making and is arriving at its climax, but it is not too late for us to get to work at stopping the quacks in Washington from ruining this Hercules.

15 February 2011

Anti-Gunners to Blame for Tuscon Shooting

The anti-gun pundits, politicians, and lobbyists have been calling for more gun control, primarily of extended-capacity magazines, since the recent mass shooting at a Safeway in Tuscon, Arizona by a deranged loser who killed six people and wounded thirteen others. The deranged loser used a 9mm Glock 19 with a 33-cartridge magazine which was made for the model 18 9mm machine pistol some 25 years ago. (Remember how back then they hysterically screamed that the then-new Glock was a "plastic pistol that could get through airport metal detectors"?)

The anti-gun voices have been mostly calling for a law limiting magazine capacity to 10 cartridges; any more than that and such magazines are described as "devices made for killing a lot of people, fast" that lack "legitimate sporting use." In these people's minds the pistol and the extended-capacity magazine have been just as villainous as the murdering, deranged loser. Some columnists have referred to semiautomatic pistols as "personal weapons of mass destruction" and even claimed they are "unsuitable for self-defense." (No, I do not care to cite or link to these firearm illiterates and shysters.)

They portray themselves as the rational, virtuous, responsible ones struggling to save society from the dangers of the dogmatic, irresponsible, paranoid gun nuts and gun lobby.


Assuming for argument's sake that the anti-gunners' claims about the weapon used in the Tuscon shooting are correct only goes to show that they are to blame for the massacre.

Apparently anti-gunners like Chuck Schumer, Josh Sugarman, and Paul Helmke never heard of a Glock 33-round magazine until this shooting. Now they crusade against it! I thought they are the ones who are so concerned about "assault weapons" and "personal weapons of mass destruction" being "too accessible" and "on the streets" endangering us all, yet they had 25 years to ban this magazine and thereby prevent the Tuscon massacre - and did not. Why did they wait 25 years for blood to flow through the streets to finally bring this destructive implement to the public's attention and take appropriate legislative action? (No, magazines over 10-shots were not prohibited under the now-expired Clinton gun law.) This failing demonstrates that they are as irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to society as those gun nuts and their lobby! The spilled blood in Tuscon is on the hands of the anti-gun lobby and politicians! Not only that, but we can expect more mass shootings because the calls for banning this magazine has led to a surge in demand for it!

It is of course absurd to actually argue the above, but what does it say about the anti-gunners' argument when it can be so effectively turned around against them? It exposes them for the fear-mongering shysters they have always been. It also challenges the credibility of their claim that this magazine and others like it are improper for civilian use and only made for killing a lot of people, fast. Then why were there not more uses of this magazine in previous mass shootings going back 25 years? (What about all the equally inevitable hijackings with Glocks that never happened?)

There is a similar problem for the anti-gunners as well regarding self-defense. If handguns like the Glock are "unsuitable for self-defense" as one anti-gun lobbyist has lately asserted - ridiculousness of this assertion aside - then what handgun is? They are, as usual, claiming that guns made for killing people should be banned, yet also claim to support self-defense ...but with what kind of gun? One not made for killing people?

Massad Ayoob, a cop, expert witness, gun writer, and firearms trainer said it best on his blog: "The sort of people who fear “high capacity magazines” are the ones who have no plan but to lie down and play dead – or die – if they’re ever in the presence of someone like mass-murderer Jared Loughner in Tucson earlier this month." I would add that they have no right to decide for me or anyone else that we also have to play dead or die!

20 April 2010

Newest Old Book Round Up

Spring is here and that means library book sales begin! This is an important part in giving oneself a good education! You can study what you want; you can discover forgotten, excellent scholarship of decades ago; and a few bucks go a long way. Library sales are a lot of fun because I never know what I'll find among the boxes and boxes of donated, used, out-of-print books that sell for dirt cheap. Well, that used to be so. Lately, however, I've acquired so many books this way that I can no longer leave a sale with boxes or bags full of books and instead leave with just a few or, rarely, only an armful at most. This is for two reasons. First, I have pretty much got enough good books on subjects that interest me that I really do not need a whole lot more any time soon. Second, many books at any sale are - ones I already have! There's no more for me to get! Wow!

Some of the best finds for me are books by those I consider philosophical opponents. It's important to know what statists, religionists and others believe and are up to. The best way is to get their writings, especially the ones out of print. There are a lot of them and they wrote a lot of books - and I'm collecting them! Those books have had their impact on their time which in turn influenced what is happening today and what will happen in the future. They are worth knowing about in understanding the battle of ideas going on.

Here is what I acquired from a library sale this weekend. I thought I will share my finds in case anybody might be interested in any of them.

On religion:

Religion In America: An historical account of the development of American religious life (2nd ed.) by Winthrop S. Hudson (1973). This 400+ page book starts with the Puritans and ends with black theology. That's hardly what I would call progress! Anyway, I expect it should be good.

Also I obtained Vol. 3 of Mircea Eliade's A History of Religious Ideas (1985). This volume is "From Muhammad to the Age of Reforms" and I suspect this might be a textbook, but it looks like good overview of the subject matter all the same. Old textbooks tend to be of better scholarly quality than today's, I believe.

On philosophy:

I found one book on philosophy that looks very insightful, Nicolas Berdyaev's The Origin of Russian Communism. This is a 1966 edition, the original published in 1937. It is a short book, but the chapter titles look like it should be an interesting read. Some chapters are "The Russian idea of religion and the Russian state", "Russian socialism and nihilism", "Russian 19th century literature and its predictions", and "Communism and Christianity." I intend to read this soon and I would not be surprised if it is worth reviewing.

In history:

A History of the Weimar Republic Vol. 2: From the Lacarno Conference to Hitler's Seizure of Power by Erich Eyeck (1967). I do not know much about Weimar Germany but I know enough about it to understand that there are important lessons to be learned from it. From the blurbs on the back cover I gather that Eyck was an expert authority on the subject and his book is first-rate. If so, I have to track down a copy of Volume 1.

The Movement: A History of the American New Left, 1959-1972 by Irwin Unger (1974). I knew I found a dandy when I saw that title! I am reading it now and it is very informative and revealing. This one will be in my next book review.

Turning to what is a more positive subject compared with religionists, communists, and New Leftists is Peter Gay's Voltaire's Politics: The Poet as Realist (1965). I read Gay's excellent two volume The Enlightenment: An Interpretation so I knew had to grab this. This is a history of Voltaire's political and social thinking, not presented merely in itself, but how his experiences and events shaped it. I expect I'll be enjoying and learning a lot from this book when I get to it.


John K. Galbraith's The New Industrial State (1967). I know that Galbraith is a "big name" in economics and this is an important book. Being a free-marketer I am not likely to agree with this book, but I am curious about what Galbraith's ideas were and what their impact was.

Lastly, environmentalism:

The Ages of Gaia : A Biography of Our Living Earth by James Lovelock (1988). I think to be in a frame of mind suitable to reading a biography of the organism that we are parasites on Gaia, a.k.a. "the earth" I should first consume ample quantities of Killian's Red. Good thing this book is on the short side!

So those are my library's new additions.

And come to think of it, it is just as well that I am not buying as many books as I used to. My book cases are way overcrowded!

22 March 2010

Letter to My Congress-hooligan

I just sent this email-

Mr. Sestak,
You are a disgrace to your office and the Constitution for voting for this unprecedented power-grab over health care. Health care nationalization will be profoundly destructive and intrusive to individual liberty. Great men founded this country. The Constitution they created is being disregarded and our country is being run into the ground by politicians like you, you who would have been unworthy of grooming George Washington's horse. Two-bit hooligan politicians like you were tarred, feathered and run out of town 230 years ago - so I'll be remembering your health care vote come November.
Tom Stelene

Damn, that felt good!

I should have signed off, "Have a nice day."

28 February 2010

An Armed Society Means Moral Progress

As I happen to be posting this, the Supreme Court is ready to hear another Second Amendment case about extending the Heller decision to all 50 states, and I really hope it upholds firearms rights again.

In a way, the Second Amendment is really about more than self-defense.

According to the Constitution we are a society under the rule of law, not men. Government exists to protect individual rights, and furthermore, private individuals believe in recognizing the rights of other individuals.

This sounds like a quite peaceable societal arrangement, so why should citizens own firearms? Well, why not?

Why - in a free society - should firearms be outlawed or strictly regulated by the government? A man has the right to own property and use it as he likes as long as he harms no other man. Firearms are private property. That presupposes there is a firearms industry for people to make a living from. In other words, because our society has banished the use of force among men, firearms become objects and commodities like any others.

Why do I have firearms? I know I have the right to protect myself, but that is really not an important reason for me. I like to hunt and shoot. I like learning about how firearms work, how they are used, learning about their history and development, and on and on. They are fun and fascinating. That's all.

I live in a society where I can basically own all the firearms I want. I can use them quite freely from the range to the hunting field. I can get instruction in fighting with a firearm. I can wear a handgun in public for protection. I can keep a semi-automatic carbine in my home for defense. I can have rifles that are deadly at long ranges. All that and no one has anything to worry about from me. I am legally and socially trusted with them. I have like trust in my fellow citizens. We do not pose a threat to each other.

Is it not moral progress when a large number of citizens are heavily armed and they harbor no ill intent toward others? Is it not moral progress when we have relegated weapons of war to recreational and sporting uses?

Think about that.

That is an accomplishment that we Americans should be proud of, firearms owners or not. I know I am. I am glad I live in such a society.

Who would not be?

25 February 2010

Some Observations & Thoughts On Dictators

During his presidential campaign Barack Obama’s image was of nothing less than our nation’s savior. Substituting for the lack of any legitimate reasons to accept this image as based on reality were two significant factors: his personality cult and his impressive oratory skills.

As President of the United States the image of a messianic Obama has been discredited. He knows that Americans do not want his agenda but he is determined to impose it on them anyhow. President Obama gets in front of cameras and pretends that we want his agenda and that it will benefit us once it is implemented - never mind what he has been doing is the type of things that other collectivist-socialist dictators have done.

Is that to say there is the potential for Obama to became a dictator of sorts?

Before answering that, let’s briefly consider his life before he became president.

Barack Obama was heavily into alcohol and drugs in his teenage years because of a personal identity crisis. He was brought believing in Marxism. At Columbia University in New York he majored in political science and international relations. Obama stayed there working in the private sector for a few years and then moved to Chicago to become a church's "community organizer" on behalf of the poor. For three years Obama was the group's director. Obama went to Harvard Law School and edited its Law Review. After graduating, his book, Dreams From My Father, was published and he got involved in voter registration campaigns. He was a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago for twelve years and joined a law firm specializing in civil rights and neighborhood economic development. He then served on the boards of a few 'community' groups and worked with ACORN. In 1996 he was elected to the Illinois Senate and in 2004, to the U.S. Senate. He is another politician with a socialist/communist philosophy who has created a personality cult and has impressive oratory skills before a crowd. As president, Obama wants to “fundamentally transform America.”

Barack Obama the man is not especially impressive. That is exactly why his presidency is worrisome.

Consider some men with similarly unimpressive lives - before they became dictators.

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was a zealous follower of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy. He received a law degree and was a mediocre small town lawyer, choosing to represent the poor. In 1788 Robespierre was elected to the French legislature. He and other deputies formed a "Society of the Friends of the Constitution," or, the Jacobins. Like many dictators who would follow him, he had impressive oratory skills when he was before a crowd. Robespierre maneuvered himself in to power and was the first modern totalitarian-collectivist dictator. He mobilized the country for war against “enemies of the revolution” be they domestic or foreign and implemented terrorism as a means to furthering political ends. Robespierre was guillotined by political opponents who were next on his list to be executed.

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) studied Karl Marx’s writings in the university and his revolutionary activities got him expelled, and he went on to attend another university more successfully. He, somewhat like Robespierre, practiced law and took mostly cases about real property out of his interest with the peasants’ conditions. He became more involved in communist revolutionary activities and was arrested for plotting against the tsar and imprisoned, then exiled to Siberia. He lectured at Geneva University and helped found a communist newspaper. Lenin produced numerous writings that developed his version of Marxism as applied to the Russian peasantry. He seized power in 1917 with the intent of making Russia the leader of international communism which would go on to economically surpass and defeat the capitalist West.

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) held odd jobs like teacher, soldier, journalist, editor, professional revolutionary. After breaking from the socialists he formed the fascist party. Mussolini had exceptional oratory skills before a crowd. Serving as Mussolini‘s political model was Lenin. As dictator his plan for Italy was a revival of the greatness of the Roman Empire in national socialist form. He was assassinated in 1945 as the Allied armies were overrunning Italy.

Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) failed to become an artist and architect and spent time in a poorhouse. When the First World War broke out he enlisted in the Army, and while recovering from a mustard gas attack he suffered a disorder. Hitler convinced himself that his purpose was to save Germany. He joined the German Worker's Party. Hitler developed exceptional oratory skills before a crowd. Hitler went on to model the Nazi Party after Mussolini's fascist party. His party's disastrous "Beer Hall Putsch" to overthrow the Bavarian government landed him in jail where he wrote Mein Kampf. After being released from prison he won legality for his party which he reorganized and maneuvered his way in to government and total power. Tens of millions were slaughtered by his government. He intended to lead Germany to a thousand-year reign of glory but committed suicide when the Russian Army was overrunning Berlin.

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) attended seminary in the 1890's and joined a Marxist underground which resulted in his expulsion. He then found work as tutor and clerk. Stalin joined the Social Democrat Party and organized labor demonstrations and strikes for which he was arrested and exiled to Siberia. He escaped a number of times from Siberia. He joined the Bolsheviks and became their bank robber. Escaped after each arrest. One robbery of a coach netted a few million and resulted in some 90 people killed and wounded. Of Stalin, Lenin said he found the just person he needs. Stalin was made editor of their newspaper. After Lenin's coup Stalin moves into party positions of more and more importance and power. Lenin has a stroke in 1922 and the party is in Stalin’s hands when he dies three later. Personality cult. Tens of millions were slaughtered by Stalin’s government.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976) had a few years of formal education and discovered communism while working at Peking University in 1918. Three years later he was one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao worked his way through the party's ranks and got involved in labor struggles but became convinced that the peasants were the revolutionary vanguard and violent revolution was necessary. He allied himself with other insurgent groups and formed their Red Army. He purged his territory of opposition through revolutionary terror, a prelude of what he was to eventually bring to China as a whole after achieving power in 1949. Mao also developed a personality cult. Tens of millions were slaughtered by Mao’s government.

Fidel Castro (b.1927) was an excellent student and active in sports. In the late 1940's he became involved in revolutionary activities in Dominica and Columbia as a university student in Havana and may have been involved in murders and assassinations. Castro had exceptional oratory skills before a crowd. He briefly practiced law and then ran for parliament, but the election was cancelled after a coup. With his brother Raul, he formed an underground movement to overthrow the government. Castro was captured in an attack on an army barracks and sent to jail. He was given amnesty and went to Mexico where he met Che Guevara and made contacts with the Soviet KGB. In Mexico he formed his guerrilla group that would later seize control of Cuba.

Pol Pot (1928-1998) studied in France on a government scholarship. Spent most of his time in French communist revolutionary circles and was deported after failing his studies. Joined the revolutionary movement in Cambodia. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia in 1975 and in implementing agrarian communism killed millions.

Daniel Ortega (b. 1945) was a mediocre student and while attending university in Managua in early 1960's became active with Sandinista communists and went underground. He was arrested after robbing a bank and released from jail in a prisoner exchange. He went to Cuba for guerrilla warfare training and returned to fight in Nicaragua, taking power in 1979 and implementing communist dictatorship.

Hugo Chavez (b. 1954) had a career as a military officer, led a failed coup in 1992. As a student Chavez formed his philosophical beliefs based on various Latin American nationalists and communists, as well as those of the European Marxian-strand of communism, also Noam Chomsky and Jesus, whom he calls “the first socialist.” He is attempting to implement in Venezuela a “socialism for the 21st century.”

The striking similarity they have before they became dictators is there was nothing striking about them. Nothing “larger than life” that would be consistent with having a significant role, either for good or bad. Before they were dictators they were "nobodies."

All ten of those infamous dictators - and Barack Obama - were failures or mediocrities who became zealots at an early age - secular equivalents of religious fanatics. None have done anything productive or creative and were arrogant second-handers. They had no qualifications or experience for governing or leading (other than some with military experience to whatever extent). They made very little of their own lives when left to themselves. They were political intriguers and political maneuverors, captivating speakers, writers perhaps, or even outright thugs - but they knew all that is wrong with society: "injustice," "inequality," "victimization," "oppression," or whatever, and how to finally fix it. From that they developed self-images of being a glorious messiah/savior. Of course, a savior needs an omnipresent villain to justify how he governs, be it “counter-revolutionaries,” “capitalist exploiters,” “the Jews,” “imperialists,”  - or “the last eight years.” Each of them maneuvered or forced their way in to political power in which their personality cult and oratory skills played important roles. All these self-righteous dictators with their grandiose plans for national greatness and glory utterly ruined their countries - or are currently in the process of doing so.

It is disturbing that the general characteristics of these dictators are seen in President Barack Obama.

After winning the election Obama often appeared with his seal of the “Office of the President-Elect” - for which there is no such office - displaying his eagerness for power.

Then there is this revealing anecdote from TV host Ed Shultz:
“First of all you walk into the White House, in the West Wing, and there are picture [sic] all over, I mean everywhere! Of President Obama! I mean, of his life in the first year as president of the United States. Now I don’t know if that’s the way it is with every president, but it was almost a shrine. I mean, well, here’s a picture of Obama the president with his kids over here. There he is getting on Air Force One. Here he is with some military people. Here he is on the line working the line at one of his campaign stops. I mean, just, it was just one picture after another! (laughs)”
That is significant because a common characteristic of a dictatorship is iconography of the dictator is ubiquitous, like in Saddam’s Iraq, Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia, etc.

Furthermore, President Obama, a Marxist, has numerous Marxist and Maoist advisors and staffers. Obama’s policies and agenda conflict with what Americans want and conflict with freedom and the Constitution.

The men who have been dictators of the modern collectivist-statist-socialist variety from Maximilien Robespierre - the first modern dictator because what he did is a model for later dictators - to Hugo Chavez, there is a definite “type” of man. Barack Obama is also of this type, but to what degree he follows them remains to be seen.

24 February 2010

Old, Obscure, Great Books Review: No. 3

The things never taught in formal education never cease to amaze me as I discover them in educating myself. There are so many lessons from the past to be learned that are applicable to contemporary problems that one wonders if these contemporary problems would even exist if the past's lessons had been learned.

For this review are two books on little-known history that are loaded with practical and (implicit) philosophical lessons on the moral and intellectual corruptness of collectivism. One is on what is now called "foreign aid," the other on pseudo-science.

East Minus West = Zero: Russia's Debt to the Western World, 862-1962, by Werner Keller; translation and introduction by Constantine Fitzgibbon; 1962, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 384pp. 

How often do collectivists denounce “Western greed” for pillaging and exploiting other parts of the world? How often do collectivists demand that the West give vast amounts of aid to “underdeveloped nations” to bring them up to our standard of living? How often is the West accused by collectivists of deliberately keeping down those poor nations? Collectivists ceaselessly demand some type of international welfare from America and the West for the benefit of some backwards nation as if they have never received any. It is just self-evident to them that if a third-world country can just get the right kind of aid in the right amount, then that nation will be on par with the West, realizing a long-overdue “justice.”

What the collectivists do not do is actually learn from reality and history. That would discredit their program. For instance, Russia received nearly a thousand-years worth of Western assistance - and consistently lagged behind. The Russians, like the second-handers in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, discovered or created nothing new in knowledge, industries, or arts on their own, depended wholly on those who did - for nearly a millennium.

Werner Keller's East Minus West = Zero starts with the background to the founding of Russia. Russia was populated by primitive, tribal clans “rooted in prehistory” when Scandinavian Varangians were, in the ninth century, trading with Greece and Baghdad via routes they established in what is now Russia. “The Eastern Slavs, across whose lands the Varangians travelled, had neither the ability nor the desire to combine politically and thus to create a state of their own. External teachers had to be called in before this could be achieved” (16). The northern Slavs decided they needed a government to settle the bloody feuds and quarrels that were breaking out with the different Scandinavian groups, however, they knew nothing about governing so they requested the Varangians provide them with a king. They obliged and Russia as a country began.

In 956 the Russian Princess Olga visited Byzantium. “The results of this first encounter with superior Western culture were to be considerable. For shortly after the Russian state visit the first steps were taken upon a path which, for over a millennium, was to be pursued by the eastern state. It was then that a policy was formulated which has not changed to this day, a policy of acquisition from the West in order to assist Russian development, of constant endeavour to ‘catch up and overtake’” (25).

Byzantine Christianity and culture began pouring in to Russia. From this the Russians became literate and learned skills like building stone architecture and composing music.

In the 15th century after the Mongol occupation ended Western influences again penetrated Russia. Ivan III brought in a large group of master builders from Western Europe so they could turn Moscow in to a city with architectural splendor equaling that of the Western capitol cities. Ivan also began arming by copying the West. Western armaments were bought and copied and Western armaments experts were brought to Russia.

Ivan IV, “the Terrible,” established mini-colonies of Europeans with all sorts of expertise that were put to work for Russia’s benefit. Upon Ivan’s request, Queen Elizabeth of England provided a navy for Russia.
The importing of know-how from the West continued for the next few centuries until Tsar Peter the Great in the 1690’s decided to start stealing the West’s know-how. A Russian mission nearly three-hundred strong toured the West gaining access to everything they could. Peter was part of the group disguised as a common NCO named Pytor Mikhailov. “Tsar Peter’s journey to the West reads like a list of instructions for all future Russian spies in the field of commerce and industry. [Peter] had money and notebooks ready in his pockets at all times. Educated persons who talked to Pytor Mikhailov noticed his superior intelligence, and the smiths and master carpenters in the Dutch shipyards were astounded at his great skill, his interest in their work, his thirst for learning and his knowledge of their crafts” (73). The next year, Peter cut short the journey because of a mutiny in Moscow. Still he managed to bring back some nine-hundred Western specialists to work for Russia.

Russia’s total dependency on buying, stealing and copying the fruits of Western knowledge continued through the centuries, knowledge which was at times used against the West, like military knowledge and armaments in Peter’s invasion of Sweden.

Keller also chronicles the voyages of discovery around Russia’s far coasts which were led, not by Russians, but by Westerners sent by the Tsars.

After Napoleon’s invasion, Alexander I determined to rebuild Petersburg so it surpasses Western cities. The rebuilding was done with Western architects, an Italian in charge of the effort. Keller sums up the Russian attitude toward architecture thus, “The mania for enormous cathedrals and vast palaces, and for the acquisition of valuable art collections, was in sharp contrast to the unbelievably old-fashioned cultural and economic conditions prevalent in the country. Russia preened herself in borrowed plumes”(157).

In the 19th century many significant advances in the sciences were made - by Westerners. This was also the period when Russian intellectuals were able to equal their Western counterparts, and then only a few and after studying under some of the West's best minds.

When Lenin seized power in Moscow in 1917, it was the German government that financed him and helped him build the Red Army. The German government then promptly became the first target by Lenin of Soviet subversion.

After three years of attempting to industrialize Russia failed completely, Lenin declared this eternal profundity: “Our programme was right in theory, but impracticable.” “Lenin behaved in a typically Russian fashion and… the Red rulers did exactly what their predecessors had always done,” namely, live off of Western minds. Western engineers, scientists, and technology “must come to Russia so that ‘Bolshevik Progress’ might begin” (196).

The second half of East Minus West focuses on Soviet Russia’s massive importation of Western knowledge and skill. The stealing and copying of Western innovations from everything up to the atom bomb and space technology was executed on a staggering scale, often with witting or unwitting help from Western heads of state. The best - or worst - illustration of this was the Great Falls debacle when the Soviets were taking planeloads of materiel and documents out of the U.S. during the Lend-Lease plan of WWII.

Also important are the semi-philosophical ideas that were appropriated from the West and used against it. Keller does not go into detail on philosophical ideas, but one can see how these ideas actually fitted together and reached a climax in Soviet expansionism.

Keller quotes from 1846 an Englishman who was in Russia for many years: “Russian policy is to acquire all those practices of civilized countries which lead to national aggrandizement… In all spheres apart from the physical, and above all in intellectual matters, Russian policy has been to instill in her subjects maximum subservience, a superstitious terror of power and a mindless materialism” (77-78).

The first doctrine was theological. After Byzantium fell to the Turks monks fled to Russia and brought with them the idea of a new seat for the Orthodox Church, a “Third Rome.” Moscow was deemed by the Russians as this Third Rome. It was the heir of Byzantium that would protect the world’s Christians.

Russia believed it had a divine mission.

Secondly, the idea of Pan-Slavism developed with Herder and the German romantics in the 18th and 19th centuries and the Russians turned this into a doctrine of xenophobic Russian nationalism against the “corrupt West.”

Russia believed in its moral superiority to the West.

The last major philosophical idea that the Russians imported from the West was Marxism. It began when Russian émigrés in Switzerland started a Marxist socialist party. It was not hard for Marxism to capture the Russian mind. “[Marxism] appeals to the Russian desire for a Messiah, for it is a sort of a secular religion,” according to the philosopher Nikolai Berdyayev.

The communist Russians were aggressive secular religionists, armed with weapons, including atomic weapons, ultimately built for them and to be used against those builders.

East Minus West = Zero is an excellent and fascinating book. The reader will be shaking his head in disbelief over and over at Keller's account of what Westerners have done in Russia. It is also an important book for understanding Russia.

After reading East Minus West, one sees the parallels between that history and what Western businesses and governments are currently doing in other parts of the world that are at best, semi-backward, and hostile to the West. It is the same story all over again. The primary lesson to be learned is that if a country remains mired in backwards collectivism and religion it must grow itself into a culture of independent-minded, reality-oriented, thinking it if wants to progress. A millenium of Western developing of Russia at Russian direction was not enough for Russia to catch up. The "greedy, unjust exploiters" were not those providing the development. Just giving them the technology because it is "humanitarian" is unjustifiable. If they are not fit for modern science and technology, they do not deserve to have it handed to them from those who created it. Doing so is also a demonstrable danger, time and again, to the West itself.


Eugenics: Hereditarian Attitudes in American Thought, by Mark H. Haller; 1984, Rutgers University Press; 264pp.

In reading old books on late 19th and early 20th century American history one can come upon passing references to eugenics and the eugenics movement, enough to stimulate one’s interest in what it was about. Those brief, occasional, passing references to the scientists, social workers, politicians and others who believed the human race was in danger of being biologically degraded and therefore worked for laws and institutions for purposes like sterilizing people who were feebleminded and defective or restricting immigration on racial grounds, eventually arouses one’s interest in what the whole story was with eugenics.

I was even more curious about eugenics after reading Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. It has a brief appendix on the history of eugenics and its parallels with the global warming movement: widely accepted “science” that does not tolerate disagreement; bogus research generously funded by philanthropists and government; adherents in public office passing laws based on it that we are to live by; etc.

How did eugenics start and why did it last so long - and be so influential if it was only pseudo-science? How do we learn the lessons of believing in a pseudo-science - one that lasted for decades - and basing laws and institutions on it so that we do not do something like that again? Did not intellectuals like philosophers of science, historians, sociologists, and others afterward look back at this period to analyze it and endeavor to figure out the flaws in thinking and belief that allowed science to prominently uphold and spread nonsense for so long?

These questions and others were in the back of my mind for awhile and I intended to find some books on the eugenic movement. To my surprise I could not find any - so much for our intellectuals trying to learn from the past!

Finally, I discovered Mark Haller’s Eugenics (originally published in 1963), and it is described on the back cover as “the first comprehensive history of the rise, fall, and gradual revival of the eugenics movement in the United States.” It’s the only such book I have been able to find. It seems, for whatever reasons, as far as intellectuals are concerned the eugenics movement never happened.

As we can fortunately learn from Haller’s book, eugenics began in Europe with the convergence of different streams of scientific and social thought that eventually spread to America. What was eugenics? Eugenics was “the science of the improvement of the human race by better breeding” according to an American eugenist (3).

Francis Galton (1822-1911) was a “gentleman scientist” and became interested in human heredity after his cousin, Charles Darwin, published Origin of Species. Galton coined the term, “eugenics” and provided much of its doctrine. Galton believed “that man’s character and capacities were primarily shaped by heredity and that the present generation therefore had the power to control and improve the inborn qualities of the many generations to follow. In time this became for him a new ethic and a new religion” (10). “He foresaw that eugenics might become a sort of national creed, so that law and custom would work together for the improvement of the race” (17). Galton was by no means a complete quack, however. He did make important contributions to science and was one of the first to reject the then common belief that acquired characteristics could be passed on to the next generation, so much of his work held up when Mendelian genetics were discovered.

Galton’s disciple, Karl Pearson, in his studies of heredity became convinced that environment meant nothing and heredity everything. Pearson “feared that civilization was menaced by the fecundity of the poor. He insisted that human progress came only through a struggle of class against class, in which the superior classes won, and through a struggle of race against race, in which the higher races supplanted the lower” (13-14).

The other major contributor to eugenic thought was the field called “criminal anthropology.” “Criminal anthropology grew from investigations in various of the countries of Europe and exerted wide influence both there and in the United States. It reflected the extreme hereditarian ideas which developed in the wake of evolutionary thought” (14). In France, B.A. Morel wrote on hereditary degeneration causing social ills like alcoholism, criminality, insanity, and others, eventually culminating in sterile idiocy. Another important criminal anthropologist was the Italian, Cesare Lombroso. He thought that criminals had distinct physical characteristics because they were a certain type of human defective. “So well did the theory of criminal anthropology fit the presuppositions of post-Darwinian thought that for a time it received a respectful and often uncritical reception in Europe and America” (17).

In America it was the social workers, prison wardens and physicians, insane asylum superintendents, sociologists, and the like who were the forefront of the eugenics movement. These caretakers of the “feebleminded” assigned to heredity a major role in these human deficiencies. Also, many new professional societies were forming and publishing specialized journals. “Increasingly they centered upon heredity as a major factor in the burden of dependency and delinquency. From such persons, the experts in their fields, came the theories and impulses that first led to eugenics” (26). For instance, psychiatrists came to believe in surgically sterilizing the insane so they could not propagate; Alexander Graham Bell feared that a race of deaf humans might result from the deaf intermarrying; physicians believed that “inebriety is a disease” caused by heredity (30).

The last major factor in forming American eugenics was the arrival in America in the 1890’s of European racial doctrines.

Lastly, the eugenics movement got formal intellectual leadership.

Agricultural breeders and university biologists formed the American Breeders Association in 1903. In 1906 the American eugenics movement came to be a significant force when the Association formed the “Committee on Eugenics” comprised of important intellectuals with the purpose “‘to investigate and report on heredity in the human race’ and ‘to emphasize the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood’” (62).

Charles Davenport, a professor at the University of Chicago, became the prominent eugenist among those named to the committee. A biologist and eugenist, he even met Galton and Pearson while in England. Davenport was also a man with an inferiority complex and was highly sensitive to criticism. His uncritical approach to science eventually left him out of the mainstream as scientists learned more about genetics as the years passed. In eugenics he sought confirmation for his belief that a man was determined solely by his heredity. Urging that action be taken before all the relevant information was gathered was another of his traits. One critic of Davenport and his associates said, “Their efforts seem to me to be directed not so much to discover the laws of the transmission of insanity as to fit the facts to Mendelian theory” (70).

Davenport was hardly unique in having a dogmatic, uncritical approach to heredity, as Haller’s chapter, ‘Eugenics Orthodoxy,’ shows. Eugenists convinced themselves of some outlandish beliefs.

Haller quotes Charles R. Van Hise, president of the University of Wisconsin: “we know enough about eugenics so that if the knowledge were applied, the defective classes would disappear in a generation” (76). Also, many eugenists even believed that history is a “branch of biology.” For example, the fall of Rome was explained by the “poorer hereditary quality” of its citizens. The racial stock that founded and formed America was at risk of becoming extinct, according to eugenists. Eugenists wanted to prevent war because it was a waste of germ plasm. Not wanting to let go of their reformist cause of banning alcohol on the grounds that alcoholism was an inheritance from an acquired characteristic - Mendelian genetics discredited this - the eugenists asserted the existence of “blastophthoria.” This was the process of alcohol in the blood causing cell damage that could be hereditarily passed on.

Then there was the Big Scare the eugenists propagated in the second decade of the 20th century: the “menace of the feebleminded.” This myth “became a major force in American social thought” (95).

Eugenists concluded that the feebleminded were more prevalent in society than previously believed and were to blame for prostitution, pauperism, juvenile delinquency, and many other problems. This was deemed a menace to present and future generations and it urgently required a eugenic solution. “Hence the menace of the feebleminded became the battle cry of an intensive public crusade to extend the care and control of the mentally deficient. The menace of the feebleminded was the subject of Sunday school tracts, was lectured about before women‘s clubs, business clubs, and colleges, and was a major topic in most periodicals devoted to social reform. In virtually every state there was an organized campaign… to awaken the public and secure legislation” (109-110).

This menace was exposed as a myth when conscripts in the Army were given the new intelligence test the eugenists and others devised. The results of the tests, when applied to the population at large, showed that half the country was feebleminded! Clearly, this was not accurate. Psychologist J.E. Wallin criticized the tests: “the vast majority of delinquents and criminals who have been classed as feebleminded during the last decade… are not feebleminded at all, certainly no more feebleminded than many millions of citizens who are law-abiding, respectable, and self-supporting” (114). Nonetheless, the myth of the menace of the feebleminded continued for another decade.

Sterilization laws continued to be passed and when brought to the Supreme Court in the Buck v. Bell case were upheld as constitutional. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind” (139).

Eugenics started waning in the ‘20’s. Then “the works of many eugenists became pessimistic tracts on economics and politics with an ever thinner underpinning of science” (161). The American Genetic Association’s, Journal of Heredity, continued “to publish uncritical and naïve studies of human heredity” (168). By the ‘30’s, new, young scientists began entering the field and more often than not simply ignored eugenics than attempted to refute it.

Eugenics is rather short, limited in scope, and not an in-depth examination of the eugenics "science." It strikes me as an introduction to the subject and gives to the reader an overview, which makes it is an excellent book to start studying the subject - however, one must also stop there as well for the apparent lack of books on the subject! For what it is, Eugenics is an excellent, highly readable book.

As to my questions about how did the pseudo-science of eugenics become so widely accepted for so long, Haller's book offers some answers.

Genetics was a new science and the eugenists in particular proceeded with dogmatic certainty before they knew enough about it, drawing conclusions that suited their presupposed beliefs. They also committed many basic fallacies and were often uncritical and unprofessional as scientists. Many treated it as a religion and saw themselves as saviors of civilization from an imminient catastrophe. It also spread through propaganda and fear.

In sum, science was turned into a politicized pseudo-science, becoming a type of religion for advancing statist-collectivism at the expense of individual rights. Consider how outrageous is the "scientific" claim that the individual's genes belonged to the collective! For eugenists, the standard of the good was nature and its future. The Supreme Court even so ruled.

Does the history of eugenist "scientists" sound similar to anyone today?

It is not hard to imagine Al Gore in 1910 calling for eugenics sterilization and immigration laws because "the data is in and the debate is over!"

Old, Obscure, Great Books Review: No. 1
Old, Obscure, Great Books Review: No.2

15 June 2009

Anti-Gunners Still Misfiring

At the pinko Common Dreams site is an op-ed by Bill Moyers & Michael Winship asking Why Have We Stopped Talking about Guns? The piece in itself is quite flat and uninteresting and just another recent lame attempt by anti-gunners to revive their deservedly dead cause now that there is an anti-gun administration and Congress. This is their golden chance to get their anti-gun agenda enacted. Their problem is they need an excuse to do so. They're working on one - and their work is cut out.

Basically, I found the op-ed's title, "Why Have We Stopped Talking About Guns?", to be the most interesting thing about it: I take it to mean the antis do not want to stop talking about guns, even when there is not much to say about them as far as public debate and policy goes. So I left this comment to answer Moyers and Winship's question on both Common Dreams and Moyers' blog:
To answer the authors' question: we have stopped talking about guns because we have not needed to! Isn't that a good thing according to their own stated beliefs?

Actually that must be the problem. It's time to manufacture anti-gun hysteria, starting with the bogus claim by the administration that 90% of guns confiscated from Mexican crime scenes originated in America, now that they have the votes and power to enact their anti-gun agenda. It's been obvious for the past several years - even since the Clinton ban expired - that guns are a major non-problem. That's not good politically for an anti-gunner.

The authors might want to check their stats. For one thing they neglect to mention that on average 1.5 million crimes are prevented by armed citizens each year. Also since November Americans have literally bought more than enough firearms to supply the Chinese and Indian armies! Ammo and reloading supplies are all but sold out. How about that? The coming to power of the party that wants to "get guns off the streets" directly caused record firearm and ammo sales! (Actually, these guns are not "on the streets" and are not dangerous to the public.)

Not only does increased restrictions on firearms lead to increased crime, people buy more guns when an anti-gun party wins an election. That the anti-gunners directly cause the exact opposite of what they want is not sufficient reason for them to rethink their beliefs. Instead they claim that gun-owners are "paranoid, extremist, gun-nuts."

Oh, that explains it. Right.

Can you say, 'dogmatist', boys and girls?

Anti-gun laws only harass and hurt gun owners - and they know it. So do those who pass them.

What is important now, since the antis have an opportunity to make come true their dreams of disarming law-abiding firearm-owners, is for the public to finally see that the anti-gunners are and always have been, quite frankly, full of B.S. The discussion thread at Common Dreams is one more pathetic instance of this.

Many commenters repeatedly stated their beliefs that gun-owners are stupid, dangerous, trigger-happy rednecks who menace society. I realize that crude-minds get expression in the comments on many sites, but these folks are typical of what I have heard from anti-gunners for a long, long time. In other words, none of it surprised me.There is always a big discrepancy between what they say is so of guns, gun-owners, and gun laws and - well, reality.

They have a history of manufacturing hysteria over gun-hobgoblins like "Saturday Night Specials" and "assault weapons," which are undefinable smears, or,
anti-concepts, intended to connote fear. They pulled off a "cop-killer bullet" hysterical hoax; deliberately propagated the myth of "plastic guns that are undetectable by airport x-rays;" and on and on. Who knows what they have up their sleeves now.
The "cop-killer bullet" hoax is a case study in how they operate.

Ostensibly they meant ammunition that is designed to defeat police ballistic vests. Such ammo was manufactured for law-enforcement purchase and was and remains illegal in the civilian market. No problems or dangers existed. The background knowledge the public lacks, thanks to the media and the anti-gun lobby, is that there are different levels of ballistic vests. They are made in "levels" to stop small handgun rounds up to heavy magnum rifle rounds. What the antis defined as "cop-killer" was any ammo that would defeat a small handgun-level vest, the minimum level vest - and that is anything more potent than a small handgun round! Brushing this fact to the side, they were able to pull off their hoax, which in reality was a dishonest attempt to ban virtually all ammo.

In the end they never got their ammo ban, but those who took at face value what the antis were saying would only have to think things through to realize something does not logically add up. Does anyone who bought in to this ever think that if "cop-killer bullets" were not banned, then they must still be legal? And if they are legal, they are still available. And if they are available then cops all over should be getting killed by them! Where are the activists and legislators to stop this? Why are they so quiet about the legal "cop-killer bullets on the streets"? But wait - cops aren't getting shot with them. Why could that be?

Because it was all B.S. like everything else the antis say.

If anyone still wants to somehow believe the antis I challenge them to go to a gun shop and ask to buy one of those "plastic guns that are undetectable by airport x-rays" and a box of "cop-killer bullets" - or any other gun hobgoblin antis have generated fear over. After all, the legislation to ban them never passed so they are still legal and out there so the guy behind the counter in the gun shop can sell them to you, right? So go get them and let me know when you do. (And while you're at it, get the abominable snowman as well.) Then and only then you can believe what the anti-gunners say.

Most of them know nothing about firearms. To anyone who is knowledgeable this is demonstrated virtually every time an anti-gunner asserts anything. In the Common Dreams thread I pointed this out and of course I was challenged with comments like, "What, everything they say is a lie? Please, Mr. Gunnut...Prove it."

No, not to them. To anyone who is honest and reasonable, I'd be happy to - as I just did with their ammo hoax.

I am not responsible for informing my anti-gun opponents with knowledge they neglect to acquire because they are willfully ignorant about firearms, their usage, and existing laws. It is their responsibility to themselves to find out if what they believe and say is true. (If anything, it makes sense to exploit to my side's benefit the ignorance of our opponents.) If they actually educated themselves on this matter they would see their assertions, preconceptions, and beliefs are not grounded in reality. What a problem that would pose for them! Well, if any of them are intellectually honest, that is.

I suspect that in their minds they know I am right in stating that the anti-gun lobby and politicians are liars, but they could not care anyhow because they do not want any of us being armed, period. A thought experiment might illustrate this. The antis claim they want to at least strictly control, if not ban firearms all together, on the grounds that this will save peoples' lives from criminals and accidents. Let us accept that and agree to their gun ban - on one condition: if the results they insist will happen from their ban do not happen they let us have our guns back. Would they agree to that? Like hell they would.

With all that in mind, consider some unedited examples of how the antis at Common Dreams see things.

One said that after the military and police are essentially disarmed then he'll "be ready to worry about the redneck gun collector down the street."

I was discussing with one of them the matter of crime and the use of force. He was saying that America's gun culture was part of the crime problem and I disagreed by distinguishing between the evil of initiating force and the good of using force defensively. He did not accept that distinction it seems. he wrote,
"I suggest YOUR mentality part of the problem and not of the soultion. You are saying ytoou are perfectly willing to KILL people because it your God Give right to KILL people to defend your stuff
Thus the Criminal thinks, as Long as I have a gun and am willing to use violence I have a god given right to take anothers property."

I asked him to explain further as I was interested in understanding him so I could better discuss this with him. He then dismissed me with, "You will never get it. There no use. Go get yer SAR and shoot varmints."

This same person elsewhere said,
"According to the gunnut logic, I should feel safer in a US park because the people can carry guns there.
Rubbish. I will not visit them again. I would rather take my chances with a grizzly bear in a Canadian park then a Gunnut defending his space in a US park."

Some other quotes:
"When I read these posts by gun nuts, I think of a little child writhing on the floor kicking and screaming because mommy won’t let them have dessert."

"There are still too many yanks who think that their guns protect their freedoms, that they can use guns to protect themselves from the police or 'da gubmint', they're utterly delusional."

"You gunnuts will say anything, no matter how ridiculous on the face of it."

"The obvious eludes these gunnuts."

Another answered my arguments and facts - and not taking their petty insults - with, "If your postings are any indication, you're spinning off the rails. Which just makes it all the more worrisome that you have a gun."I, a gun-owner, am a cause of worry to them. I'm law-abiding, I threaten nobody. This is an irrational fear, a phobia. Their phobia is so strong that they want to eliminate my right to own firearms.

In light of these comments (and plenty more) who are the paranoid ones; gun-owners like me, or these anti-gunners? Who is more dangerous to society - law-abiding gun-owners or people who want to pass laws based on their ignorant prejudice? Has anybody else noticed how they project themselves on to gun-owners? Anti-gunners are the real "nuts."

America does not have a "gun-nut" problem; but America is about to have (another) anti-gun nut problem.

It is time to stop taking seriously the anti-gunners because at the least they are willfully ignorant, and at the most they are complete shysters.

Whatever dangerous, fraud-based legislation the anti-gun crowd is concocting now can be easily defeated if the American public gets wise to the inherently deceptive nature of the anti-gunners - which is not hard to uncover. And then the lesson for the public to learn is that they need to tell the anti-gunners to keep their self-righteous phobias to themselves and not make them anyone else's problem.

P.S.: I just found this site that is very good satire on the antis' own thinking, illustrating in a funny way how unrealistic their beliefs are. 40 Reasons For Gun Control
Here's some I really like:
7. An intruder will be incapacitated by tear gas or oven spray, but if shot with a .357 Magnum will get angry and kill you.
12. The 2nd Amendment, ratified in 1787, refers to the National Guard, which was created 130 years later, in 1917.
39. Trigger locks do not interfere with the ability to use a gun for defensive purposes, which is why you see police officers with one on their duty weapon.

06 April 2009

Obama: By Interfering in Your Lives I Fulfill Mine

Barack Obama gave a speech in France; (this is the transcript: REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AT STRASBOURG TOWN HALL) the ideas in it being more suitable to the docile serfs of Europe than self-reliant Americans - but Obama hopes to change that.

The most revealing part came at the end in the question period. What he said in the body of his speech can then be better seen in light of this. Here is his answer to a question:
But having said all that, I truly believe that there's nothing more noble than public service. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to run for President. (Applause.) You know, you might work for Doctors Without Borders, or you might volunteer for an -- or you might be somebody working for the United Nations, or you might be the mayor of Strasbourg. Right? (Applause.) I mean, they're all -- you might volunteer in your own community.

But the point is that what I found at a very young age was that if you only think about yourself -- how much money can I make, what can I buy, how nice is my house, what kind of fancy car do I have -- that over the long term I think you get bored. (Applause.) I think your life becomes -- I think if you're only thinking about yourself, your life becomes diminished; and that the way to live a full life is to think about, what can I do for others? How can I be a part of this larger project of making a better world?

Now, that could be something as simple as making -- as the joy of taking care of your family and watching your children grow and succeed. But I think especially for the young people here, I hope you also consider other ways that you can serve, because the world has so many challenges right now, there's so many opportunities to make a difference, and it would be a tragedy if all of you who are so talented and energetic, if you let that go to waste; if you just stood back and watched the world pass you by.

…but you'll have a great adventure, and at the end of your life hopefully you'll be able to look back and say, I made a difference.

Let's see if we understand this. If, according to President Obama, you think only about yourself, how to improve your life and pursue your goals, you get “bored.” Not making a difference in others’ lives is “letting the world pass you by” - after deciding that improving and living your own life is “boring” and “unfulfilling.”

Please, Mr. President, speak for yourself. There is no justification to project your emptiness on everyone else.

How Obama descibed himself is exactly like what Ayn Rand wrote in The Fountainhead about "second-handers": "They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand." The reason is because they "have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation - anchored to nothing ...the source of his actions is sattered in every other living person." Obama concluded that prime concern with his life was boring and diminishing - and that is what must happen if one goes about living one's life as a second-hander lives. "He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has suceeded. He can't say about a single thing: 'This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me.' Then he wonders why he's unhappy. Every form of happiness is private."

Holding that the individual pursuit of happiness is necessarily ultimately “boring” is not based on reason - nor is deriving from that that serving 'the greater good' brings fulfillment to one’s life.

Notice that none of these “noble” public servants, like our Comrade President, ever explain how merely shifting perspective and purposeful effort from oneself to the collective transforms “boredom” and “emptiness” to “a larger purpose.”

If it is true that being concerned with oneself is boring and ultimately empty, then it is true for me, you, him, her - everyone. If the individual life has no meaning and satisfaction to offer how can any collection of lives mean more when they are made of - individual lives that are meaningless? Why do things for others if they themselves are individual nothings like you are? Imagine a group of people who share this view getting together and saying, “we all have been pursuing our lives and goals and found them boring, so to fulfill and enlarge our lives we’ll serve the good of all.” This is utterly bizarre, even surreal - but this is what this view necessarily implies. If one person's life equals zero, or, 0 x 1 is equal to zero, then how does 0 x 1,000,000 (for that many people's lives) equal something larger than zero? Concern only with yourself diminishes your life - but concern with others who have “boring” and “diminished” lives equals: enlarging your life!? How is the sum worth more than all its individually worthless parts? Comrade President’s conclusion is a whopping non-sequitur, so “making a better world” is not “a larger project,” according to his own premises. It is just as "diminished" and “boring” - if not more so! - as is making his own life better.

Even putting that aside for a moment, just how is a “noble” public servant going to achieve his goal of "making a difference" in others’ lives if they are similarly “bored” and “diminished” by being concerned with themselves? What can he do for them that they cannot? There is nothing moral or noble about this. What gives Obama the right to take it upon himself to use others as a means of removing boredom from his life by meddling in their affairs? To think that he finds that to be a “great adventure”!

So where exactly, Comrade President, does your “fulfilling” of your life by “nobly” “making a difference” in mine end, and my liberty to live my (not-boring) life begin?

Public service is most noble? Look around. Is the ACORN voter-fraud group Obama worked with, noble? What about corrupt, career politicians who serve the public as a phony way to really serve themselves? Is the corrupt Rod Blagoevich “most noble” for being a public servant? How about Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who brought us the mortgage fiasco? What is noble about the countless other “public servants” of their ilk?

What this adds up to in the "noble " practice of serving that "larger purpose" is explained by Comrade President in the body of his speech:
We also know that the pollution from cars in Boston or from factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, and that that will disrupt weather patterns everywhere. The terrorists who struck in London, in New York, plotted in distant caves and simple apartments much closer to your home. And the reckless speculation of bankers that has new fueled a global economic downturn that's inflicting pain on workers and families is happening everywhere all across the globe.

The economic crisis has proven the fact of our interdependence in the most visible way yet. Not more than a generation ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that the inability of somebody to pay for a house in Florida could contribute to the failure of the banking system in Iceland. Today what's difficult to imagine is that we did not act sooner to shape our future.

Now, there's plenty of blame to go around for what has happened, and the United States certainly shares its -- shares blame for what has happened. But every nation bears responsibility for what lies ahead, especially now, for whether it's the recession or climate change, or terrorism, or drug trafficking, poverty, or the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we have learned that without a doubt there's no quarter of the globe that can wall itself off from the threats of the 21st century.

The one way forward -- the only way forward -- is through a common and persistent effort to combat fear and want wherever they exist. That is the challenge of our time -- and we can not fail to meet it, together.


This is our generation. This is our time. And I am confident that we can meet any challenge as long as we are together.


...our fates are tied together -- not just the fate of Europe and America, but the fate of the entire world.

The rest of the speech, like the above excerpts, casts every problem and proposed solution through the perspective of collectivism. We are all interdependent, we are all responsible to and for each other, even if separated by an ocean, and collective action is the only way forward. We need more "noble" government officials interfering in and controling as much of our lives a they can. He says nothing about individual freedom and flourishing - other than primary concern with it bores and diminishes oneself.

Then Comrade President gives us insight in to his larger philosophical beliefs:
We know that transformational change is possible. We know this because of three reasons: First, because, for all our differences, there are certain values that bind us together and reveal our common humanity: the universal longing to live a life free from fear, and free from want; a life marked by dignity and respect and simple justice.

Bound together in our humanity and common values, in a utopia of effortless existence: a heaven on earth with the negative safety of not fearing and not wanting and having unearned dignity and respect. Like a second-hander, he means "dignity and respect" as coming from others, not oneself. Then one has "dignity and respect." How is that vision of society supposed to inspire anyone? What rational person would want that pathetic fantasy world? And where in Comrade President's utopia does independence of purpose and values along with the struggle to achieve and earn them fit in? How can it in a world of men who lack desire to grow one's own mind and self because they have automatic dignity and lack of want? Of course, he fails to answer how dignity and respect are possible for induividual lives that are necessarily "boring" and "diminished."

Next, Comrade President reveals where his philosophical roots lie:
Our two republics were founded in service of these ideals. In America, it is written into our founding documents as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In France: "Liberté" -- (applause) -- absolutely -- "egalité, fraternité."

America was founded on the principles of individualism, that a man is free to live his life as he sees fit provided he violates no-one's rights; that he must work to support his life and reap the fruits of his own labor; that government exists as the means of securing these and similar ends - a far cry indeed from the stagnant, heaven on earth he mentioned.

That, in its modern guise, has its roots in the French Revolution and is expressed in its egalitarian-collectivist slogan that perverts the concept of liberty. The American ideals and the French ideals are not the same, but like many collectivist-statists who want to stealthily impose the shackles of French "liberte" on free Americans, our Comrade President package-deals the two as if they are related. "Freedom from fear and want" came from FDR, who in turn got those phrases from the Soviet constitution. (We know how free from fear and want Soviet citizens were!) And it is the French Revolution that gave us communism and socialism (not to mention political terrorism). It is the French Revolution that served as the model for communist revolutions and coups from Lenin's in Russia to Pol Pot's in Cambodia.

It is highly worrisome that an American president is inclined philosophically to the egalitarian-collectivist-statist ideas that led to and grew out of the French Revolution. Obama's words are eerily similar to those of the villans in Ayn Rand's novels. But those are the kinds of philosophical ideas that are suited to people who find placing prime concern on one's own life to be "boring and diminishing" and therefore need to find a "larger purpose" of "making a difference" in the lives of others.
What if, hypothetically, all our lives were fabulously successful and problem-free, Comrade President? What would a handful of "noble" public servants like yourself who got bored by pursuing your own diminished lives do to "serve a larger purpose"? You all would have no real reason to interfere in our lives and lacking that, you would be facing utter irrelevancy in your own - deservedly so.

What to do then?

That's easy. Simply concoct "problems" and "crises," "fears" and "wants" that (allegedly) can only be addressed by government interference and government-imposed collectivism.

This way out of your own irrelevance you then publicly rationalize as "serving a larger purpose than oneself."

How noble.

Old, Obscure, Great Books: Review No. 2

Here is a brief review of an old, out-of-print book by a scholar of long ago, just one of many, many great, old books I have acquired that do not deserve to be forgotten. I started these reviews because I am sure there are other bibliophiles out there who can enjoy learning from them as much as I have.

I believe that the inexpensive old books I have discovered in used book stores and library sales are, in both the subject matter itself and in how it is presented, superior to what scholars and intellectuals publish today. Old books offer a dirt cheap way to give oneself a great education. I have learned from old books so much important material that, if I read only newer books, I would hardly be aware of, if at all; material that is essential to a good education.

For instance, it was mainly not through my formal education, but through my self-education that I came to see how history is often distorted and misrepresented by people and groups who have certain social/cultural/political agendas, such as Christians responding to the new rise of atheism by claiming that atheism leads to totalitarianism and mass-slaughter as in Soviet Russia. Well, here is one book that thoroughly and comprehensively looks at Russia's path to communism - and it is a history that does not quite corroborate what the Christians like to assert about the matter.

Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism, by Avrahm Yarmolinsky; Collier Books, 1971; 349 pp.

The road to Lenin’s communist Russia of 1917 actually began in 1790 when Alexander Radischev’s book, A Journey from Petersburg to Moscow, was published. “While informed with the spirit of Western Enlightenment, the book [A Journey] is deeply rooted in the native soil. Never before had the seamy side of Russian life been so boldly exposed” including “that the gaudy façade of Catherine’s rule conceals a corrupt and cruelly oppressive regime” (13).

Radischev was an official in the Russian government. As a teenager he was sent to Germany to study and he eagerly absorbed the ideas of the Enlightenment‘s thinkers, especially the French philosophes. Radischev, though part of the nobility, was an egalitarian democrat who wanted the serfs emancipated and he saw industrialism as evil. He believed it was for the future generations to make his vision of Russia a reality.

It is not known why the official censor let the book slip by and be published but the consequences of his neglect were tremendous and far-reaching for his country. Radischev was sentenced to Siberia but the ideas of revolution were planted.

The explosive nature of Radischev’s book is evident by seeing the historical setting it was in, which was that of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. In Russia, Catherine II “opened schools, encouraged book publishing, sponsored a periodical press, though only as long as the satire in which it indulged remained innocuous. A peasant uprising at home and the turn events were taking in France helped put an end to her flirtation with liberalism. The regime which started out as enlightened despotism ended as despotism tout court. But she could not wholly undo, what was, in part, the work of her own hands“ (18-19). After the French king was executed Catherine wanted everything French “exterminated.”

Western liberal ideas were penetrating Russia, especially in its army after the war with Napoleon. Yarmolinsky tells how in 1820 that “the French ambassador wrote that he could not think without horror of what would happen to Europe if forty million Russians, still half savage and brutalized by slavery, conceived a desire for freedom and proceeded to shake off their chains. True, the dangerous notion hadn’t yet entered the heads of the lower orders, but it was already inflaming the well-born” (31).

Secret societies began forming, mostly of military officers. These societies were born of disapproval with sundry political and military matters and were the forerunners of the later communist/anarchist terrorist and revolutionary groups.

A group of insurgent army officers who planned to overthrow the czar in December, 1825 (the “Decembrists“) composed a tract called The Orthodox Catechism. The text is vaguely reminiscent of America’s Declaration of Independence but is heavily religious and collectivist. In it all Russia’s misfortunes are attributed to its government so the authors call for the formation of a republic because that is the form of government consistent with divine law. They assert that Jesus Christ must reign on earth as he does in Heaven; and the death of the czar is a sign from God for the Russians to free themselves from their slavery. The establishing of a new government is the army’s responsibility.

At the same time, among the Russian intellectuals two schools of thought about Russia’s direction developed, the Westernists and the Slavophiles.

The Westernists thought that Russia would progress similarly as the Western Europeans had. They strongly favored institutional reform as a means of progress. Vissarion Belinsky was the most prominent of them. He called the Orthodox Church a “toady to despotism” that was “foreign to Christ, who was the first to teach mankind the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity” (72).

The Slavophiles “were romantic doctrinaires who found in German philosophy sanction for their distrust of the intellect, their religiosity, their traditionalism. They believed that Russia possessed a culture distinct from and superior to that of the West” (69). They were populists in claiming that the Russian peasantry embodied the Orthodox faith and its sense of equality and brotherhood. Slavophiles held the lofty conviction that Russia could achieve no less than her own and the world’s salvation.

Alexander Herzen, who was prominent among the revolutionaries’ thinkers, was in the Westernist camp, envisaged a secular Armageddon in Europe that would bring in a new socialist society consisting of a centralized state, order (instead of freedom), and collectivism.
Nikolay Chernyshevsky was also one of the most important thinkers among the revolutionaries. He advocated enlightened self-interest, which meant identifying one’s happiness with the happiness of all. Man is the plaything of circumstances so his society is morally responsible for what he becomes. He also loathed laissez-faire and wanted to see the people living in phalansteries similar to those dreamt of by Fourier. After the publication in 1863 of Chernyshevsky’s fictional story, What’s to be Done?, about the heroically selfless “new men” of the future communism, his influence on radicals and revolutionaries - including on Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the next century - became tremendous.

Of the many terrorist groups in Road to Revolution, one was especially fanatical: “Half a dozen of the more audacious spirits discussed at length a plan for forming a terrorist band. They called it Hell. Each member of this secrecy-shrouded body was to be a dedicated and doomed man. He had to give up his friends, his family, his personal life, his very name” (137).

Dmitry Karakozov was a youth who was considered for the group and was fascinated by the possibility of daring action and self-immolation. “The cause of the common people was his ruling passion” (138). He tried to assassinate the czar but his pistol shot missed. This episode ended in much delicious irony.

That the czar’s life was saved was taken as proof of divine favor falling on him and the Russian people believed Karakozov was an angry serf-owner seeking revenge. Even a joint resolution in the U.S. Congress congratulating the czar for surviving the assassination attempt condemned his would-be assassin as an “enemy of emancipation.” Karakozov’s comrades were arrested and while in jail he vainly wrote to the czar pleading for his life to be spared. “On 3 September, two days after the verdict had been pronounced, Karakozov was hanged by one of the peasant’s for whom he wished to lay down his life” (141).

Like many of the early groups of Russian terrorists and revolutionaries, the Karakozov episode shows how they were often amateurishly inept to the point of hilarity. Often they were more dangerous to themselves than to their intended targets, and their many attempts to “rouse the masses” to revolt simply fell flat.

Yarmolinsky’s history of Russian radicalism ends in the 1890’s with the emergence of the major Marxist political parties.

Of nearly all the Russian revolutionaries, from the intellectuals down to the terrorists, three characteristics of them are salient.

First is how they saw their revolution in religious terms.

A few brief but very interesting examples from the book are representative of the communist revolutionaries' religious mentalities. In the early 1830’s when they were university students, Alexander Herzen and Nikolay Ogarev were seduced by the ideas of French socialist thinkers Saint-Simon and Fourier (whose socialist ideas were inspired by and meant to replace Christianity). They swore on the Bible “to dedicate their lives to the people and the cause of liberty ‘upon the basis of socialism‘” by forming a secret society (67). There was Vera Figner with her “ideal of the prophets and martyrs of the socialist evangel” (180). Michael Bakunin’s followers held “a dream of freedom and equality on earth which was a substitute for a lost faith in heaven” (184). In the 1870’s were one group of revolutionary propagandists who pored over the New Testament and “dreamed of a new faith that would at once steel the intellectuals with fresh courage and enlist the religious sentiment of the masses on the side of revolution.” They believed “a revolutionary was most effective when he suffered for the cause“(187). Yarmolinsky quotes one terrorist after an assassination: “Let my blood, too, be the seed of Socialism, just as the blood of the early martyrs was the seed of the Christian Church” (257).

Secondly, just like contemporary terrorists they were fanatical nihilists who reveled in death, destruction, and martyrdom. For instance one revolutionary pamphlet stated, “We must devote ourselves wholly to destruction, constant, ceaseless, relentless, until there is nothing left of existing institutions.” And here is another especially evil quote from the terrorists’ literature: “We prize thought only in so far as it can serve the great cause of radical and ubiquitous destruction” (152). Then there is Sergey Nechayev’s infamous, The Catechism of the Revolutionary, which describes the revolutionary as a “doomed man” who has, literally, only one interest: revolution, so he can “destroy this vile order.” Some of this rhetoric, also like statements of terrorists since then, is undoubtedly hyperbolic bravado and propaganda - but it expresses some amount of profoundly held conviction, nonetheless.

Thirdly, they were second-handers, some of them abjectly so. Nechayev was a basket-case of second-handedness.

In order to be seen as a hero by his comrades he faked his imprisonment, faked his escape from his faked imprisonment, and even faked being killed by the police. “His ascetic habits - he lived on bread and milk, and slept on bare boards, at least while staying at the homes of his followers - could not but make an impression. Those he did not fascinate he ruled by fear…He arrogated to himself the right to destroy those who did not see eye to eye with him” (157).

One cell member was disobedient to Nechayev and doubted the existence of a mysterious, secret “Central Committee” Nechayev claimed he attended and would then give them orders from (he was, indeed, its only member). Nechayev and three other cell members murdered him. “For years the cry to kill the people’s enemies had repeatedly been raised by the handful of would-be liberators. The only victim turned out to be one of their own small number who had aroused the leader’s hostility” (159).

Nechayev was eventually arrested and was to be sentenced to Siberia, but his pseudo-heroics only made things worse for himself. During his sentencing he shouted, “Down with the Czar!” and “Long live the free Russian people!” and similar insults to the authorities. “As a result, the Emperor changed the court sentence to solitary incarceration for life in the Fortress of Peter and Paul” (165).

Road to Revolution is a very interesting, informative, and readable book on the Russian revolutionaries before Lenin, from their intellectual theories and religious inspirations to their bloody actions. For anyone wanting to learn about this subject, Yarmolinsky’s book is required reading. More important, considering how often Christians attempt to tie atheism, rationality, and secularism to the totalitarian bloodbath of communism, Yarmolinsky’s book is an effective debunking of that assertion. Russian communism and its horrors were, to a very large extent, clearly consequences of irrationalism and secularizing the Christian religion.

Old, Obscure, Great Books: Review No.1 
Old, Obscure, Great Books Review: No.3