Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of Berlin Diary

February 1934 – Paris

William Shirer’s idyllic year off came to a conclusion in January 1934 as he exhausted his savings and obtained a job with the Paris Herald. He and his new wife Tess left (then) peaceful Spain and plunged into the chaos of European politics of the 1930s.

PARIS, February 7

A little dazed still from last night. About five p.m. yesterday I was twiddling my thumbs in the Herald office wondering whether to go down to the Chamber, where the new premier, Édouard Daladier, was supposed to read his ministerial declaration, when we got a tip that there was trouble at the Place de la Concorde. I grabbed a taxi and went down to see. I found nothing untoward. A few royalist Camelots du Roi, Jeunesses Patriotes of Deputy Pierre Taittinger, and Solidarité Française thugs of Perfumer François Coty— all right-wing youths or gangsters— had attempted to break through to the Chamber, but had been dispersed by the police. The Place was normal. I telephoned the Herald, but Eric Hawkins, managing editor, advised me to grab a bite of dinner nearby and take another look a little later. About seven p.m. I returned to the Place de la Concorde. Something obviously was up. Mounted steel-helmeted Mobile Guards were clearing the square. Over by the obelisk in the centre a bus was on fire. I worked my way over through the Mobile Guards, who were slashing away with their sabres, to the Tuileries side. Up on the terrace was a mob of several thousand and, mingling with them, I soon found they were not fascists, but Communists. When the police tried to drive them back, they unleashed a barrage of stones and bricks. Over on the bridge leading from the Place to the Chamber across the Seine, I found a solid mass of Mobile Guards nervously fingering their rifles, backed up by ordinary police and a fire-brigade. A couple of small groups attempted to advance to the bridge from the quay leading up from the Louvre, but two fire-hoses put them to flight.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 80-92). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Some background may be helpful—this was before most of us were born. I translate “Jeunesses Patriotes” as “young patriots,” apparently a militant political faction at the time. Wikipedia has the following detail:

The Jeunesses Patriotes (“Young Patriots”, JP) were a far-right league of France, recruited mostly from university students and financed by industrialists founded in 1924 by Pierre Taittinger. Taittinger took inspiration for the group’s creation in the Boulangist Ligue des Patriotes and Benito Mussolini‘s Blackshirts.

According to the police, the Jeunesses Patriotes had 90,000 members in the country and 6,000 in Paris in 1932. Its street fighters were led by a retired general named Desofy, and were organized around Groupes Mobiles, paramilitary mobile squads of fifty men, outfitted in blue raincoats and berets. The group stated its willingness to combat the “Red Peril” and the Cartel des Gauches (Left-wing Coalition), and chose to back Raymond Poincaré who came to power after the Cartel des gauches.

The organization retreated in 1926, but made a comeback in 1932, with the Cartel des Gauches ‘s electoral victory, and took part in the February 6, 1934 riots, an anti-parliamentary street demonstration in Paris in the context of the Stavisky Affair. In 1936, the Popular Front government outlawed the Jeunesses Patriotes and other nationalist groups.

Grim reality was quickly manifest:

The first shots we didn’t hear. The first we knew of the shooting was when a woman about twenty feet away suddenly slumped to the floor with a bullet-hole in her forehead. She was standing next to Melvin Whiteleather of the A.P. Now we could hear the shooting, coming from the bridge and the far side of the Seine. Automatic rifles they seemed to be using. The mob’s reaction was to storm into the square.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 96-99). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

French were battling each other. It was a foreboding of the tragedy that was to follow six years later, as French society failed to rally against the invading German army.

Shirer recounts the deadly serious nature of the situation:

“If they get across the bridge,” I thought, “they’ll kill every deputy in the Chamber.” But a deadly fire— it sounded this time like machine-guns— stopped them and in a few minutes they were scattering in all directions.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 104-106). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Édouard Daladier was at the time the president of the national Council, having replaced Camille Chautemps barely ten days before, an offshoot of what is called the Stavisky Affair. The riots of 6 February, just described, resulted in 15 people being killed. A consequence was that Daladier was forced to resign. Shirer assesses Daladier’s character in light of the previous night’s action. His assessment of French democracy again foretells the doom that awaits France in a few short years:

Imagine Stalin or Mussolini or Hitler hesitating to employ troops against a mob trying to overthrow their regimes! It’s true perhaps that last night’s rioting had as its immediate cause the Stavisky scandal. But the Stavisky swindles merely demonstrate the rottenness and the weakness of French democracy.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 114-116). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Additionally:

But to resign now, after putting down a fascist coup— for that’s what it was— is either sheer cowardice or stupidity. Important too is the way the Communists fought on the same side of the barricades last night as the fascists. I do not like that.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 118-119). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

France and Germany were not the only festering sores in European society (not to  mention Spain). The German-speaking nation of Austria was coming apart at the same time:

PARIS, February 15

The fighting in Vienna ended today, the dispatches say. Dollfuss finished off the last workers with artillery and then went off to pray.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 139-141). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The shortened trajectory of Englebert Dollfuss was pivotal in the unfolding of the European tragedy:

Engelbert Dollfuss October 4, 1892 – July 25, 1934) was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Having served as Minister for Forests and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government. In early 1933, he shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party and assumed dictatorial powers. Suppressing the Socialist movement in February 1934, he cemented the rule of “austrofascism” through the authoritarian First of May Constitution. Dollfuss was assassinated as part of a failed coup attempt by Nazi agents in 1934. His successor Kurt Schuschnigg maintained the regime until Adolf Hitler‘s annexation of Austria in 1938.

Additionally:

February 23

Heard today that Dollfuss had hanged Koloman Wallisch, the Social Democrat mayor of Bruck an der Mur.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Location 147). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

William Shirer turned 30 on that day.

At this point there is a long break in Shirer’s narrative. He doesn’t pick it up again until 30 June, known hence for a horrendous unfolding of Nazi Germany’s future.

Years of Living Dangerously

January 1934

I have what may be a first edition. The book was printed in 1941, immediately following the events of the final chapter. I have no idea how it came into possession by my family, but following a division of assets it wound up on my bookshelf. I have read my copy through at least three times, and earlier this year I acquired a Kindle edition, which vastly facilitates searching, highlighting, and copying interesting passages. It’s Berlin Diary, and it’s by journalist and war correspondent William L. Shirer.

The full title is Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934–1941, and you can guess this is going to be about the early days of Nazi Germany. Besides that, it is the tale of a remarkable life. Shirer was born in 1904, and by 1925 he was in Europe, having worked his passage on a cattle boat. He intended to knock around for the summer but remained abroad for 15 years, returning only for brief intervals. As a news correspondent he traveled and associated broadly, including a close acquaintance with Mohandas K. Gandhi, and subsequently came to meet the key players in the lead up to war in Europe. In Europe he met and married photographer Theresa Stiberitz, from Vienna. Comfortable in French and German, he observed the widespread unrest in Europe and the spreading influence of Germany’s Nazi regime. He collaborated with Edward R. Murrow covering the early months of the war, being forced to leave in December 1940 as the danger became unbearable. Already noted for his war coverage, he achieved fame with the publication of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

If you ever thought your life has been dull, you may not realize how dull until you read this book. It begins after Shirer lost the sight in one  eye in a skying accident. First entries relate the couple’s year off in southern Spain, Shirer recuperating and the two living off their savings.

The plan for this series is to cover diary entries on a daily basis on each 80th anniversary. I will crowd in an initial burst of postings to catch up, since the book starts in 1934. The tale is best told by shamelessly reprinting great sections of text from the book and adding my analysis. This is, after all, Skeptical Analysis. The opening entry is 11 January 1934:

LLORET DE MAR, SPAIN, January 11, 1934

Our money is gone. Day after tomorrow I must go back to work. We had not thought much about it. A wire came. An offer. A bad offer from the Paris Herald. But it will keep the wolf away until I can get something better.

Thus ends the best, the happiest, the most uneventful year we have ever lived. It has been our “year off,” our sabbatical year, and we have lived it in this little Spanish fishing village exactly as we dreamed and planned, beautifully independent of the rest of the world, of events, of men, bosses, publishers, editors, relatives, and friends. It couldn’t have gone on for ever. We wouldn’t have wanted it to, though if the thousand dollars we had saved for it had not been suddenly reduced to six hundred by the fall of the dollar, we might have stretched the year until a better job turned up. It was a good time to lay off, I think. I’ve regained the health I lost in India and Afghanistan in 1930– 1 from malaria and dysentery. I’ve recovered from the shock of the skiing accident in the Alps in the spring of 1932, which for a time threatened me with a total blindness but which, happily, in the end, robbed me of the sight of only one eye.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 44-53). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

This is just north of Barcelona, peaceful as the tale begins, but soon to become a focal point of the vicious Spanish Civil War. Spain at the time seemed safe, compared to what was going on in Germany:

Hitler and the Nazis have lasted out a whole year in Germany and our friends in Vienna write that fascism, both of a local clerical brand and of the Berlin type, is rapidly gaining ground in Austria. Here in Spain the revolution has gone sour and the Right government of Gil Robles and Alexander Lerroux seems bent on either restoring the monarchy or setting up a fascist state on the model of Italy— perhaps both.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 55-58). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Those not familiar with the history, the Nazis came to power in January 1933 and immediately, with calculated brutality, muscled their way to complete control. At the time he wrote this, neither Shirer nor anybody else realized the level of viciousness that was about to ensue.

He tells of renting a furnished house for $60 a month—good fortune even at that time in that place:

Myself: some history, some philosophy, and Spengler’s Decline of the West; Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution; War and Peace; Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, the most original French novel since the war; and most or all of Wells, Shaw, Ellis, Beard, Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Dreiser. A few friends came and stayed: the Jay Allens, Russell and Pat Strauss, and Luis Quintanilla, one of the most promising of the younger Spanish painters and a red-hot republican. Andres Segovia lived next door and came over in the evening to talk or to play Bach or Albeniz on his guitar.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 69-74). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Already a reader is coming to realize the waste he has made of his own life. The closest I came was when Dos Passos lived on a street in Austin I passed through going to and from the University.

The idyll ends here. After this it’s Paris and the brutal reality of European politics of the 1930s.

Heart Of Dumbness

Third in a Series

I previously posted a truncated review of Ray Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think. That skeleton review only covered Ray Comfort’s views on science, which turned out to be amusing. His views on religion are no less so, and this concerns additional aspects of his views.

In his book, Comfort launches into a chapter devoted to creationism, as opposed to modern science. Chapter One has the title “Creation Must Have a Creator.” Following that are six more chapters dealing with Comforts views on morality, faith, and the Bible. Chapter Two deals with human conscience and its implication for the divinity of Jesus. The title is “Our Conscience Testifies to a Creator And Our Need For a Savior.” It’s worth a look. An example of Comfort’s thinking is exhibited throughout the book, and the following paragraph illustrates:

The same Creator Who gave us all of this to enjoy clearly wanted true abundance for us—not mere survival. He loves us. An impersonal force like evolution, if real, would have left us sitting on that bare rock, because it wouldn’t care about us beyond mere survival. But God does, and He proved it when He gave us this incredible planet to inhabit. The evidence of His existence and of His love is all around us. And, as mentioned in the last chapter, even atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 633-637). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Take the following: “The same Creator Who gave us all of this to enjoy clearly wanted true abundance for us—not mere survival.”

First, Comfort opens with the premise of the existence of a creator, he capitalizes the word, and he imbue’s the creator with a love for humanity and a desire that people enjoy the world and all that the creator provides. That would partially explain the story of the Flood of Noah, wherein all but a few people were killed, and it would also help us understand the horrible existence experienced by a large part of the human population. Barring that, let’s give Comfort the benefit that he made prior attempts to justify his premise. What’s more?

Take the next: “He loves us. An impersonal force like evolution, if real, would have left us sitting on that bare rock, because it wouldn’t care about us beyond mere survival.”

In truth, an “impersonal force like evolution” requires a habitable world before anything like human beings can develop. All indications are that the human species developed on the very large continent of Africa, which even today offers an abundance of environmental possibilities. Times appeared to have been difficult for the early human population, considered to have reached a low point of about 10,000 individuals about three million years ago. A blog post in Why Evolution is True gives an account. Following that, some currently resplendent populations dropped to as few as 1200 individuals 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Comfort clinches his argument with “The evidence of His existence and of His love is all around us. And, as mentioned in the last chapter, even atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.”

There is a lot to be swallowed with this. The evidence for a creator and his love for us (humans) is all around. That’s an argument? If joy of life is evidence “all around us” for love of the creator, then pestilence and misery are evidence for the creator’s disdain for our species. Or evidence for absence of a creator.

Not quite. Comfort plays the obverse side of the coin:

The suffering in the world is due to our living on a planet polluted by sin—not to God’s hatred or neglect.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 641-642). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He says more, but this line is pertinent, and he restates this in different forms in multiple places. Elsewhere, Comfort defines sin, not as doing what is harmful to people, but as going against the creator’s wishes. Reading the entire book is going to give you to understand that living a good life is not the path to redemption. Only the acceptance, completely and without reservation, of Jesus the savior will garner salvation. It’s an idea that will not go over well with the Jews or the Muslims, but Comfort does not press that point, especially regarding the Jews.

But back to another point of Comfort: “[E]ven atheists will have no excuse for denying Him on the Day of Judgment.” Comfort completely misses the point that atheists know there is no “Day Judgment,” and there will be no need to apologize for denying a creator. Comfort’s reasoning is horribly circular, except for those who already believe.

Subsequently in the chapter Comfort gets dangerously close to scientifically verifiable matters:

The conscience is a dilemma for the believer in evolution. He doesn’t know why it exists. Neither do the experts. Why would evolution create something that tells us that it’s wrong to lie, to steal, to kill, and to commit adultery? Was primitive man committing these sins before he evolved a conscience? If he wasn’t, why did the conscience evolve? If he was, why did the conscience evolve?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 656-659). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

A simple explanation for the development of a “conscience” in human populations is that its existence is beneficial to promotion of the populations containing conscience. People do not willy nilly commit offenses against society, because they are descended from people who have survived in a society that nurtures human life and mutual benefit. My explanation has never been demonstrated to be correct, but it is an explanation derived from reason and not from wishful thinking.

Subsequent chapters of the book exhibit quite the bizarre, and I will touch on those in later posts. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Heart Of Dumbness

Second in a Series

First of all, we should all be careful to not take Ray Comfort much too seriously. Even seriously:

In 2006, Comfort recorded a segment for The Way of the Master‘s television show in which he argued that the banana was an “atheists’ nightmare”, arguing that it displayed many user-friendly features that were evidence of intelligent design. Comfort retracted the video upon learning that the banana is a result of artificial selection by humans, and that the wild banana is small and unpalatable.

An excerpt of this amazing video is captured on YouTube, if only to embarrass Ray Comfort.

All this did not prevent me from purchasing a copy of Comfort’s book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. In the previous post I promised a review, and here it is. It’s 160 pages in the hard copy, but I purchased the Kindle edition.

Comfort has published a basket full of titles, laudable in itself. One is Overcoming Panic Attacks, but the remainder seemed to be overtly religious. I’m thinking possibly the panic attack book may also be anchored in religion. He is an evangelical Christian, teaming up with actor Kirk Cameron to form and promote The Way of the Master.

A big thing with Comfort is creationism and its obverse, modern science, biological evolution, cosmology, and anything else that gets in the way of creationism. That’s the center of the first of seven chapters, and readers will forgive me if I bear down on that section and trip lightly through the remainder. Besides the chapters there are also a forward, a preface, an introduction, a conclusion, and an excellent section of notes, covering references made in the book.

The Introduction is by atheist Darrin Rasberry, who oddly cautions us to be kind and gentle. Rasberry derides modern and vocal atheists, and it’s no wonder that he later turns out to have converted to the faith. This isn’t mentioned in the book, giving the impression that even atheists don’t like atheists. Notably, the book came out in 2009, and the link to Rasberry’s conversion dates from  2011.

Early on Comfort portrays matching it up with atheists as a grand sport. In the Preface he gives a clue to what is to come:

Most who profess atheism aren’t really “atheists.” After a few moments chatting with them about the fact that every building is proof that there was a builder, and that creation therefore is proof that there is a Creator, many change their minds.

But then there’s the staunch atheist. This one is a challenge. He is the marlin of deep-sea fishing, and he doesn’t give up easily. As a fisher of men, I have found that this type of atheist is always ready for debate. He will take the bait, the hook, and any line you give him, and give you a run for your money.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 55-60). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

But on to creationism. It is unfortunate that Comfort hangs so much of his argument for Jesus on the failure of evolution. His experience with the banana gives a clue to the level of intellect he brings to the discussion. He ties atheism to evolution, and he strikes close to home here. Modern theories of biological evolution completely undermine a basic premise of the Bible. Comfort and others of his ilk buy deeply into the literal truth of the Bible. To defend their faith, they must demolish evolution, along with geology, cosmology, and other facets of modern science. The first paragraph sets the stage:

Atheists’ beliefs vary as much as atheists themselves. Still, atheists hold a fundamental belief that unifies them. An “atheist” believes that there is no God and that man came into being without any intelligent design. If there was no designer, then an atheist owes his existence to random chance, over millions or billions of years, of course. While some believers in evolution deny that evolution is a random process, if it’s not unplanned, then it’s planned. And if it is planned, then there is Someone doing the planning.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 125-128). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Readers are going to come back at me and say, “Dude, there are loads of Christians who accept evolution as true.” Put those Christians aside, dear reader, Comfort has.

By the second paragraph he has launched into the kind of argument that brought him so much ridicule:

As a fly on the wall, we are there when Adam takes his first breath. It is fortunate that, when his lungs drew in the air that surrounded him, the air was there. If there had been no air, he wouldn’t have been able to breathe and he would have instantly died. But for some reason it was there, presumably at 14.7 pounds per square inch.

But it’s more miraculous than the air just being there. It was fortunate the air was made up of 78.09 percent nitrogen and 20.95 percent oxygen—the exact mixture that his lungs and blood needed to survive.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 130-134). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to point out additional, miraculous, coincidences to illustrate why there must be a God who caused all this to happen and with a plan in mind. Wasn’t it nice that Adam just happened to have  lungs to breathe the oxygen. Wasn’t it nice that Eve came along about the same time so the Clan of Adam could populate the Earth. And wasn’t is fortunate that Eve just happened to have lungs so she did not die before Adam could put the move on her. Do I  have to explain what’s wrong with this? I hope not.

The foregoing is a preamble. It is a view into Ray Comfort’s intellectual processes that should disturb you. It is possible that I was unfortunate in spending my working  life in the company of people who think for a living. That in mind, it’s jarring when I encounter somebody like Comfort. This is not the kind of person who should be allowed to handle sharp objects. Additional  examples illustrate:

It was also an amazing coincidence that gravity existed at the time of their evolution. Without it, the first man and his first mate would have spun off into the infinitude of space. But for some reason it evolved and matured at just the right time to keep their feet firmly planted on the earth, which also evolved.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 137-139). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

 

The banana pales.

Comfort strives mightily to convince us that there must be a God behind the universe and all creations. He employs two devices:

  • Ex nihilo
  • Creation-creator

The first is that the universe is here but it has not always been here. This is the ex nihilo argument. Something cannot come from nothing. We never see this happen:

In all of history, there has never been an instance of anything spontaneously appearing out of nowhere. Something being created from nothing is contrary to all known science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 382-384). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Except that we do. Quantum physics includes a a corner for actions without a cause and objects without a predecessor. Lawrence Krauss has discussed A Universe from Nothing. Folks, it is not unknown, if I can be forgiven the double negative.

The creation-creator argument is more involved. There is something. That something must have been created. Chapter One has the title “Creation Must Have a Creator.” Comfort illustrates:

In short, the evolutionary view cannot offer a logical, scientific explanation for either the origin or the complexity of the universe. There are only two choices: Either no one created everything out of nothing, or Someone—an intelligent, omnipotent, eternal First Cause—created everything out of nothing. Which makes more sense?

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 384-386). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Comfort plays lightly with the meanings of words. Something was created. Waves created ripples in the sand. But there is a chair. It takes an intelligent being, something with a purpose, to create a chair. Comfort wants us to know that all things that exist were created in the sense of the chair. Somebody wanted the chair, and the chair was created for a purpose. It’s a different concept of creation for the ripples in the sand, but Comfort wants to impute purpose in all things.

Comfort is missing a major point, previously discussed. The creation Comfort has in mind comes from purpose, and purpose is a feature of living things, at diminishing levels. It is well considered that plants do not think. They put out leaves and roots solely on the basis of blind chemistry. People are considered on this planet to be the kings of purpose. They fashion instruments out of metal for serving up food, and they also construct elaborate craft for exploring other planets. Ultimately it all boils down to a matter of chemistry in action, and other animals, for example ants, have less of purpose than people.

Purpose, however, is a result of biological evolution—biological evolution that Comfort so much despises. Purpose is an inherited trait that promotes survival and procreation in a loop that feeds back to increasing the presence of that trait in a population. Darwin was right, after all.

Supposing God exists. What was God’s purpose in creating? What was God’s purpose in creating the universe, the sun and planets, and all living things on Earth? Are we a cosmological science project concocted by an ethereal middle school pupil? That hardly seems likely. If you are an ethereal fellow, then you have not experienced the forces of environment inflicted by existing on this planet, which supposedly you created. Arguing for creation must argue for purpose, for which we can find no excuse. It’s a philosophically devoid enterprise. It’s an enterprise Comfort pursues with an astounding blindness.

A significant blind spot that Comfort has missed is the core of his pitch. God wants us to be moral people (as part of his science project), and Jesus is his vehicle for imparting morality. The evidence of creation is the evidence of God. Missing is the connection. Suppose I were successful in proving there must have been a God behind the creation of the Universe. Nobody has ever connected this God with Jesus. The Bible provides this connection, but it is just words printed on paper (originally on parchment). There is nothing historically or philosophically sound to connect the creation of the Universe with Jesus, and thus morality.

I will leave the creation-creator chapter at this point. Comfort spends the remaining six chapters talking morality, religious orthodoxy, biblical inerrancy. But before that he reminds atheists what horrible people we are. He complains of his treatment at the hands of atheists:

In April of 2007, during an ABC Nightline atheist debate, Kirk Cameron and I produced imaginary pictures of what we imagined would be genuine species-to-species transitional forms. We called one a “Crocoduck,” and another was called a “birddog.” This was to show exactly what evolutionists believe, but can’t back up through the fossil record. We were ridiculed, called stupid, and told that we didn’t understand evolution. However, these books vindicate us (not that we needed it). They have done with the future what evolutionists have done with the past. They have made a mockery out of science.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 609-613). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

Bad. Really bad. How bad? Glad you asked:

It is because of God’s love that I care about the fate of atheists. When an atheist says he sees no evidence that God exists, I take the time to reason with him about creation not being an accident, even though it is intellectually demeaning to have to do so (atheism is the epitome of stupidity). It’s an intellectual embarrassment. But I have done so thousands of times, and will do so until my last breath…thanks alone to the love of God that dwells in me.

Comfort, Ray. You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics (Kindle Locations 170-173). WND Books. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Apparently there is a lot of that going around.

Comfort obviously sees morality as the cornerstone of his thesis. He talks to no end on morality. One aspect of comfort’s morality is something I find very strange, and that something is the matter of sexual lust. Sexual lust, he asserts (and he backs it up with biblical references) is the same as actual sexual coupling, and it is just as sinful. And that is what is so strange. Sexual coupling is sinful? Really/ Sexual coupling is how we make people. Without sexual coupling there would be no people, and without people there would be no Christianity.  He mentions the word lust 49 times in the book and adultery 30 times. Something has happened in Comfort’s life, having to do with sex, and it seems to have been devastating. And we are offered a peek into this world at the price of purchasing his book.

Comfort’s reasoning for concluding the Catholic Church is not Christian is beyond the scope of this post, and I’m not going to dig deeper into his eschatological haranguing. Comfort and Cameron can be watched at length and for free on YouTube. Readers with a thirst for more can pursue at their leisure. With popcorn.

1984

Updated

Besides additional and notable idiosyncrasies, current President Donald Trump’s tendentious, and typically casual, relationship with the truth gets a lot of attention. Prime are his recent recent claims of massive voter fraud and the unrealized popularity of his swearing in ceremony. Continuing a thread that ran throughout his campaign, Trump’s campaign of deceit is leaving an indelible mark on his tenure. Not by accident, George Orwell‘s classic novel from  1949, titled 1984, last week topped Amazon’s sales list.

It will be worthwhile to revisit this iconic tale, made most famous by a movie of that title, that burst on the large screen in 1956. My acquaintance was through a feature in Life magazine that summarized, with illustrations from the movie. A more recent release came out in the title year and featured John Hurt (recently deceased) and Richard Burton, who died before the film hit the screen. The tie in with the current president is inescapable.

It’s the year 1984 in a dystopian world. It’s Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels gone wild on a planet beset by global and eternal war. The setting is London, but the country is now Oceania, and Oceania is ruled by an enigmatic and oppressive leader known only as Big Brother and seen only on wall-size view screens and prolific wall posters. Truth has ceased to exist. The following images are screen shots from the 1984 production.

There is no news, only propaganda, fed in a 24/7 stream. It’s purpose is absolute control, keeping the teaming masses in perpetual passion for their masters and against foes, real or imaginary. A five-minute hate session opens viewers to this world.

Suzanna Hamilton is Julia. Her passion, we eventually learn, is crafted. She has by some means discerned  the truth, that it is all a big lie. You cannot tell it from watching her scream, along with the others, at the images on the big screen.

Winston Smith (John Hurt) works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to kill the truth. He rewrites history. Literally. He reviews publications that no longer reflect the party message, and he rewrites them to conform to the truth of the day. For example:

Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 617-621). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Readers of the book, and present day observers who have previously read the book, will find the parallels with the current administration striking if not chilling.

Richard Burton is O’Brien, a party official who oversees Smith’s destruction. It is the job of the rulers to systematically eliminate subjects. The practice of entrapping visible personalities, exposing their offenses against the state, and rendering them unpersons, maintains the level of terror needed to preserve absolute control. Winston is being set up to take the fall for thoughtcrime. One word. Terms like this permeate 1984. It’s called newspeak.

And that hopefully concludes the parallel between 1984 and 2017. To round out the story, Julia contacts Winston and recruits him as her current lover. She has had many. Winston rents a room in a shadowy area in the proletarian section, where the proles live. Interestingly the proles are not subjected to the perpetual hazing inflicted on the bourgeois class.

Here Winston and Julia enjoy their bliss together, waiting for the day when their thoughtcrime will be discovered, and  they will  be rendered. Winston falsely projects that, when tortured—as tortured as he must eventually be—he will never betray Julia. He will always love her.

From a window in the rented room they observe a prole woman hanging out laundry on a clothes line and singing a tune that has been composed by a state factory. Here  is an example from the book:

It was only an ’opeless fancy,
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look an’ a word an’ the dreams they stirred
They ’ave stolen my ’eart awye!

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 1985-1987). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Their downfall comes precipitously and without warning. As they watch the woman hanging he laundry:

The birds sang, the proles sang, the Party did not sing. All round the world, in London and New York, in Africa and Brazil and in the mysterious, forbidden lands beyond the frontiers, in the streets of Paris and Berlin, in the villages of the endless Russian plain, in the bazaars of China and Japan— everywhere stood the same solid unconquerable figure, made monstrous by work and childbearing, toiling from birth to death and still singing. Out of those mighty loins a race of conscious beings must one day come. You were the dead; theirs was the future. But you could share in that future if you kept alive the mind as they kept alive the body, and passed on the secret doctrine that two plus two make four.

‘We are the dead,’ he said.

‘We are the dead,’ echoed Julia dutifully.

‘You are the dead,’ said an iron voice behind them.

They sprang apart. Winston’s entrails seemed to have turned into ice. He could see the white all round the irises of Julia’s eyes. Her face had turned a milky yellow. The smear of rouge that was still on each cheekbone stood out sharply, almost as though unconnected with the skin beneath.

‘You are the dead,’ repeated the iron voice.

‘It was behind the picture,’ breathed Julia.

‘It was behind the picture,’ said the voice. ‘Remain exactly where you are. Make no movement until you are ordered.’

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 3156-3167). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

The hidden TV camera was behind the picture, which now comes crashing down to reveal the likeness of Big Brother, speaking to them.

Julia is struck down and carried nude from the room. Winston appears before O’Brien and undergoes his torture. Winston has claimed that two plus two must always be four. O’Brien disabuses him of that notion. He holds up four fingers. This was famously pictured in the Life magazine item 60 years ago. Under torture Winston wants so much for two plus two to equal five, as O’Brien insists, that he eventually comes to that belief.

Winston also betrays Julia. The government has obtained a copy of the journal he has been keeping, and they know his secret fear is rats. As a child he observed rats crawling of the body of his dead mother. When his torturers strap a cage containing hungry rats over his face and threaten to turn the loose on  him, to eat at his face, perhaps starting with his eyes:

‘Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!’

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 4077-4078). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Winston’s destruction is complete. He is freed from prison to walk the streets as an unperson. He no longer exists. The Ministry of Truth has expunged all references of his existence. His recorded self-denunciation appears prominently on screens about Oceania. Eventually he will physically cease to exist. He will simply disappear unnoticed by anybody.

But before that:

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.

He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Orwell, George. 1984 (Kindle Locations 4230-4233). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Of course, this is only a work of fiction. Forget that master Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels made a stab at molding truth over 70 years ago. Forget that the Soviet Union pulled dissenter off the streets and published their self-denunciations. Remember it started with a few lies.

Fact Deficit

book-monicacrowley-01

I obtained the Kindle edition earlier this week. The topic was still fresh back then. It’s What the (Bleep) Just Happened, and it’s by Monica Crowley, a Fox News contributor and columnist for The Washington Times. If you don’t know already, Crowley holds extreme conservative political views, and her book represents the extreme of that extreme. The subtitle is The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback.

Considering that she “holds a B.A. in political science from Colgate University and a Ph.D. in international relations from Columbia University (2000) [Wikipedia], a reader might expect a scholarly work with deep insight. The insight shows in flashes throughout, but the scholarship drags bottom in places. Some explanation.

The title concerns what the bleep happened when Barack Obama burst on the American  political scene and wrenched the country in a new direction, or not. No surprise, the narrative is all about the current president. No surprise, it is about 100% negative. A few characters of the Roman  alphabet into this book, and you get the idea President Obama is not going to get treated lightly. Treatment comes in multiple forms, never complimentary. A reader will have no problem concluding Obama is not going to be able to purchase a fair shake at any price.

The major theme running through the narrative is American exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is a word that already existed, but you want to get the idea that Crowley invented it. The Google search engine finds it, but the Oxford American Dictionary that comes with my copy of Kindle reports, “No definition found.” Throughout, she throws the term around with patriotic fervor, explaining why lefties, she calls them kooks, and especially Barack Obama, are enemies of American exceptionalism, set wholeheartedly on destroying it. Some examples.

The last few years have been a bizarre stroll through a surreal landscape. America hasn’t been looking like America. It’s been looking like an America painted by Salvador Dalí, all dripping landscapes, liquid clocks, and warped reality … like what Paul Pelosi sees when he wakes up every morning. It’s as if America has fallen down the rabbit hole. It’s America in The Twilight Zone.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (p. 4). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

Crowley is an inventive writer, if not an imaginative one. Throughout she dishes to liberals—she calls them kooks—in the manner illustrated above. Nancy Pelosi is a typical kook, showing her age. To Crowley, husband Paul Pelosi must see wife Nancy’s face in the morning as a Dali clock face. Cute, but tiresome after the first 25 or so pages.

Communist is a word Crowley likes to throw around a lot. It received considerable use in my younger days when I watched Senator Joe McCarthy on TV flinging it at any and all who blunted from his political agenda. More recently former congressman from Florida Allen West appeared to rediscover the word, counting the number of card-carrying communists in Congress. Crowley attaches the term to a number of individuals left of center but not actually members of any communist party and not professing themselves as being communist. My guess is that echoes from 60 years ago still resonate among a certain stratum in American society.

A particular target is Saul Alinsky. From Wikipedia:

Alinsky did not join political parties. When asked during an interview whether he ever considered becoming a Communist Party member, he replied:

Not at any time. I’ve never joined any organization—not even the ones I’ve organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it’s Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as “that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.” If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.

It does not appear that Crowley tags Alinsky as a communist, but she, and other authors note Obama’s reliance on the grass-roots mobilization approach developed and popularized by him. Likewise, Hillary Clinton took note of Alinsky early in life:

That fall, Hillary began research on her senior thesis about a true American radical, Saul Alinsky, whose work Don Jones had lauded. What she found in the library stacks on Alinsky seemed to her insufficient and truncated. His philosophy was perhaps best summarized two years after she had completed her thesis, when

Alinsky published his Rules for Radicals, a volume intended for Hillary’s generation of student activists. In it, he enumerated a set of rules governing what he called “the science of revolution,” based on an analysis of ends and means:

Power is the very essence, the dynamo of life…. It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies are always immoral; a world where “reconciliation” means that when one side gets the power and the other

Bernstein, Carl. A Woman in Charge (p. 57). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And more. Communism and socialism are invoked periodically to set liberals off from mainstream America. In truth, Crowley does cite the distinction  of the base definition of socialism—government ownership of industry—from the more popular usage—deep government involvement and stewardship in human affairs.

Obama and fellow kooks want to destroy American exceptionalism and make citizens dependent on the government, which liberals will control, apparently for power alone—a self-serving ego trip. Of course, that’s news to many Americans, who see liberal causes, such as environmental protection and the Affordable Care Act as means toward making the country a more desirable place to live and also more competitive in world markets.

Crowley hardly misses the opportunity to detract from President Obama, with examples. When he objects to torture methods used against captured combatants, he is depicted as soft:

There was, however, one major policy that Obama could not abide: enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), which, despite having been determined to be legal in 2002 and 2003 when they were used, were called “torture” by Obama and the kooks. Following the capture of top al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002, the CIA and the U.S. military developed interrogation techniques that were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare our special forces personnel to resist interrogation, such as wall standing, sleep deprivation, facial or “insult” slaps, the playing of loud music, and, until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (p. 228). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

When he directs the CIA and our military to quit taking prisoners and to kill our enemies on the ground, he gets similar treatment:

The administration’s protracted indecision on Guantánamo led the military to kill suspected terrorists on the battlefield or through drone strikes or hand off those captured to other countries for detention. They had more due process under President Bush. Special forces on the ground in Afghanistan and the judges handling the cases were clamoring for legislative clarity on detainee policy. Essentially, the Obama/ Holder detainee policy became “Crap in One Hand and Wish in the Other to See Which One Fills Up First.” In the end, Obama kept Guantánamo Bay open and operational, although he hasn’t ordered a single terrorist suspect sent there since he became president. He apparently finds it easier to kill them on the battlefield without due process than to have to deal with the mishegas of interrogation and detention.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (pp. 227-228). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

The book came out in 2012, and is in that sense anachronistic and does not reflect the direction the country was going:

Not quite. Instead of changing course and trying some pro-growth policies, Team Obama went back to the exclamation points. The administration fired up “Recovery Summer, Part Deux!” in 2011, and that didn’t fly either. Anemic economic growth and little to no real job creation had a way of trampling the good times. At some point, even Obama’s daily economic briefings petered out. In fact, other than Tim Geithner, his entire economic team has fled faster than O.J. in the white Bronco. Larry Summers, Christina Romer, and Peter Orszag: they’re all gone. Who has replaced them? Does anybody even know? Word on the street is that they’re all filming the new Three Stooges movie, while the real Moe, Larry, and Curly now work in the West Wing and have been placed in charge of the nonexistent economic briefings.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (pp. 176-177). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

More recently the Dow-Jones Industrial Average has gone from 6,626.94 two months into Obama’s presidency to 19,963.80 earlier this month as he prepares to leave office. Jobless figures have dipped to as low as 4.7%, while Crowley correctly points out that low wages and a reduced work force accompany these latter figures.

There’s a lot more to the book, the main body runs to 360 pages. The final chapter makes a go at presenting a scholarly discussion of economic principles at play, but a careful reader will want to pull up a fact check source. Glaring examples set me back in my chair through my coarse reading. Consider the long-winded discourse on President Obama’s fumble-handed management of his enormous power:

Obama, with the assistance of the radical czars and his wingmen in Congress, got the leftist rampage rolling. In the first hundred days alone, Obama pushed through the nearly $ 1 trillion “stimulus”; got a half-trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill; offered up a measly $ 100 million in “cuts” in a nearly $ 4 trillion initial proposed budget, all while claiming he wanted “fiscal responsibility”; nationalized much of the U.S. auto industry; screwed General Motors’ bondholders; pledged transparency while stonewalling disclosure of where the TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program) money went; nominated five tax cheats to his cabinet; began to launch Adventures in Socialized Medicine; oversaw a Department of Homeland Security report that called our returning veterans “security risks”; politicized the 2010 Census by moving it into the White House; announced the closure of Guantánamo Bay without a plan to actually do so; released top-secret Central Intelligence Agency interrogation memos; opened the door to prosecutions of CIA officials who had engaged in enhanced interrogations of terrorist suspects; failed to respond to a North Korean nuclear missile test launch; was all smiles for longtime U.S. enemies Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and Daniel Ortega; bowed to Saudi king Abdullah; began his Apology Tour to offer his regret for past American injustice; and insulted our closest ally, Great Britain, not once but twice, first by returning a bust of Winston Churchill that had been a special gift, and second, by giving Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II an iPod loaded with his speeches (because, after all, Obama speeches are like Lay’s Potato Chips: you can’t have just one).

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (pp. 68-69). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

It took Crowley 263 words, but she did get around to chastising Obama for kicking back the gift of a Churchill bust from Great Britain. Hint: it never happened.

Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column.  He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

On another occasion I came across something that tugged at my memory:

One hundred years after the Constitution became the law of the land, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, described the fall of ancient Athens with a succinct and accurate summary of how and why democracies decline. “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury,” he wrote. “From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (pp. 313-314). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

Where had I seen that before? Oh, yes:

What a grand piece of patriotic inspiration this is aimed at. How much more inspiration it would be were there ever much truth to it. Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with Alexander Tyler.

Those are wonderful words of Alexander Tyler. Rather they might be if Alexander Tyler ever said them or wrote them.

The following quotation has been attributed to Tytler, although it has also been occasionally attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilisations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.

This text was popularised as part of a longer piece commenting on the 2000 U.S. presidential election, which began circulating on the Internet during or shortly after the election’s controversial conclusion.

There is no reliable record of Alexander Tyler’s having written any part of the text.In fact, it actually comprises two parts which didn’t begin to appear together until the 1970s. The first paragraph’s earliest known appearance is in an op-ed piece by Elmer T. Peterson in the 9 December 1951 The Daily Oklahoman, which attributed it to Tytler:

Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy”.

The list beginning “From bondage to spiritual faith” is commonly known as the “Tytler Cycle” or the “Fatal Sequence”. Its first known appearance was in a 1943 speech by Henning W. Prentiss, Jr., president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, delivered at the February 1943 convocation of the General Alumni Society of the University of Pennsylvania. The speech was subsequently published under the titles “The Cult of Competency” and “Industrial Management in a Republic”.

I’m getting old, and my memory will someday begin to fail, but I do recall reading that Monica Crowley holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Columbia University. I also recall that obtaining a Ph.D. typically requires producing scholarly works. A Ph.D. in physics may involve a lot of messy math or even some exceedingly delicate experimentation, but degrees in the soft subjects, such as international relations, are based on research—research of multiple and arcane publications. And careful checking. For Crowley that was so yesterday. Out of school these past 17 years, and sound scholarship is now passé.

The book gave Crowley 360 pages to poke fun at her political polars, and here she shows a wit as sharp as a boxing glove. Beginning on page 26 she invokes a moniker from out of nowhere with, “Barry and the kooks (not to be confused with Bennie and the Jets)…” and proceeds from there to use Barry 32 more times. Dense as I am, it took me chapters into the book before I figured out Barry refers to President Barack Obama. I am guessing Crowley’s publisher was not paying her by the word.

She invokes sarcasm, seemingly every other page:

Obama’s initial group of czars was a delightful collection of communists, socialists, and other sundry radicals. In fact, he met them all at socialist summer camp, where together they would make arts and crafts projects like a hammer and sickle constructed out of boondoggle, pinecones, and Popsicle sticks. After a long day of nature hikes up the Ho Chi Minh Trail and skinny-dipping with Madeleine Albright, they would roast Marxist marshmallows and tell scary stories about capitalism around the campfire.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (pp. 65-66). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

My own experience is that sarcasm is best when front loaded with some wit.

There is the creepy feeling that Crowley is writing to an audience in this country. Guess what! Obama is black. That is, he is biracial. His mother was of European ancestry, and his father was actually a foreigner from Kenya. And biracial is the operative term, invoked six times in the book. For example

But a biracial leftist would be granted all kinds of passes, excuses, and protections. The race card, played subtly by Obama but boldly by others, would prove to be the most powerful weapon in the Obama/ leftist arsenal.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (p. 12). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

And Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a communist. Hint: he wasn’t. And his American mother was a communist. She wasn’t.

Her sense of values already strained, Crowley makes odd picks for folk heroes:

The now-iconic photograph of the three of them reveals much about the towering personalities and even more about America. Jackson stands between the Reagans, wearing a tamer version of his famous sequined faux-military costume. Hands clasped in front of him, he waits silently as the president finishes making a point to Mrs. Reagan and she responds. His eyes as wide as saucers as he gazes up at the president, Jackson makes obvious his legendary offstage shyness as he stands mere inches from the Leader of the Free World. The world’s greatest performer had discovered himself on a stage even bigger and more profound than the ones to which he was accustomed. His awe is palpable. And Reagan, the experienced showman, looks just as dazzled to be in the presence of a young man who had set the world (and earlier, his own hair) on fire with a raw, sheer, devastating talent.

Crowley, Monica. What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback (p. 5). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

By the time this was written Jackson had been dead for three years, and was long recognized as having a proclivity for drug abuse and an unhealthy interest in young boys.

The book comprises five parts, and Part II carries the title “The Skinny Socialist Is a Big Fat Liar.” That title is so curious, considering Crowley has more recently been picked to be senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council  for President-elect Donald Trump. I considered for a moment whether she ever looked for a way to choke back the “big fat liar” part on her way to taking the position. Unfortunately, that never happened, because she decided not to take the job.

I finished this in time to get the review out before Mr. Trump takes office on Friday. I probably rushed some sections that told me a lot of stuff I already know, but still there was this feeling of deja vu. It was as though I had read some of this before.

Others agree:

It would appear that Crowley is going to  be a useful addition to the Trump administration. Her sterling communications credentials will be of tremendous benefit to the Trump team,  too often  beset by the curse of mixed messages. However, in light of recent developments, we wonder just who will be doing Crowley’s communications for her:

Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found.

The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia. The New York Times bestseller, published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, contains no notes or bibliography.

Crowley did not return a request for comment. Multiple requests for comment by phone and email over the past two days to HarperCollins went unreturned.

Noticing the rising tide, I hopped onto Amazon Kindle immediately and ordered my copy. Hours later Harper Collins pulled the book, and it is not longer available.

The drama deepened. Crowley previously (1999) wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal that plagiarized material from another writer for The New York Times. Her Ph.D. dissertation from  2000 was found to contain multiple instances of plagiarized material.

This is not my first dance with Monica Crowley. She popped up in an item related to the Benghazi fiasco from September 2012:

Then in October of this year the prestigious news program 60 Minutes on CBS aired a segment critical of the government’s response to the attack. The segment was largely based on an interview with a security contractor working in Libya. My conservative friends expressed even greater joy at this wonderful news:

60 Minutes’ Benghazi report aired the night of October 27. The segment featured the supposed “eyewitness” account of the attacks from British security contractor Dylan Davies, who appeared on the show under the pseudonym “Morgan Jones.”

Davies’ tale included him scaling a 12 foot wall on the side of the diplomatic compound and dispatching a terrorist with his rifle butt. He also told viewers about how he had supposedly seen Ambassador Chris Stevens’ dead body in a local hospital.

In addition to Davies’ story, the 60 Minutes report also rehashed old myths about Benghazi, including invoking the “lingering question” about why no U.S. military forces from outside the country were able to help the embattled diplomatic facilities the night of the attacks. (This was answered long ago.)

The night it aired, conservatives took to Twitter to praise CBS. Fox News contributor Monica Crowley lauded the network for joining Fox News “among the very, very few reporting on this grave & outrageous scandal.” Fellow Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg also connected CBS’ work to Fox’s reporting on Benghazi, tweeting “This 60 Minutes #benghazi piece corroborates pretty much everything #foxnews has reported so far.”

October 28-30: Conservative Media And Republican Lawmakers Laud CBS

The morning after the 60 Minutes report aired, Fox News hit the ground running promoting it. Over the course of Monday, October 28, Fox would devote more than 13 segments over 11 different shows to the CBS report, totaling more than 47 minutes of coverage.

Much of Fox’s coverage was self-congratulatory, claiming the CBS report had corroborated their network’s coverage of Benghazi. Bret Baier, host of Fox’s flagship news show Special Report, told viewers that “[l]ast night, one of journalism’s heavy hitters reaffirmed what we knew and had reported on.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy praised CBS for “finally catching up” to conservative media on the story and proclaimed, “60 Minutes doesn’t cover phony scandals.” The network also predictably used the 60 Minutes story to revive its smear campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Benghazi.

[emphasis added]

I can only hope her disappearance from the Trump administration does not mean we will no longer be treated to her wit and deep insight. Will readers please join me in saying to her, “Play it again, Sam.” Or Monica.

Sea Chase

books-thehuntforredoctober

There’s a movie by the same name, but this is about a book. It’s The Hunt For Red October, by Tom Clancy.

This was Clancy’s first published novel, and it came out in 1984 to quite a sensation. The first movie in the Clancy series was released in 1990 and is based on the book. A review of the movie is being posted simultaneously with this.

The book introduces the character of John Patrick “Jack” Ryan, Ph.D., who appears in all the Tom Clancy movies. Astute readers will notice that the chronology of this story follows that of a book that came out later, Patriot Games, previously reviewed. Had you been given the opportunity to read that book first, you would already know how Jack Ryan got up to his neck in the CIA and how he obtained a British knighthood. Of course, when Clancy wrote this he likely didn’t know what a hit it was going to be and had to scurry to come up with a book to fit the circumstances.

See the movie. It follows the book, to a point. As with all of Clancy’s stories, there’s a lot in the book that can’t be crammed into the movie. Compared to Clear And Present Danger, this book is better captured in the film. I’m not going to  recap the plot. My plan is to provide enough to put the movie into  perspective with the book.

Both the book and the movie begin with the sailing of Red October, a newly-minted nuclear Soviet missile submarine. The action begins when the boat is out to sea, and Captain Marko Alexandrovich Ramius murders Political Officer Ivan Putin, the only person who can foil his plot to defect to the United States, taking the boat and its officers (who are in on the plot) with him. Clancy’s depiction of the political officer’s murder went straight into the movie script:

Ramius kicked Putin’s feet out from under him just as he was stepping away from the table. Putin fell backwards while Ramius sprang to his feet and grasped the political officer’s head in his strong fisherman’s hands. The captain drove his neck downward to the sharp, metal-edged corner of the wardroom table. It struck the point. In the same instant Ramius pushed down on the man’s chest. An unnecessary gesture— with the sickening crackle of bones Ivan Putin’s neck broke, his spine severed at the level of the second cervical vertebra, a perfect hangman’s fracture.

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (pp. 14-15). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Enter Jack Ryan. He’s in  England, doing analyses for the CIA. He gets hold of photos for a new Soviet sub. It’s the Red October. He’s on the next available flight to D.C. At CIA headquarters we meet Vice Admiral James Greer, Ryan’s boss. In the movie the part is played by James Earl Jones. In the book it is assumed Greer is a white man, since whenever a character is not European, Clancy makes mention of it.

The interlude with Skip Tyler  is captured in the movie. Tyler is the engineer who points out the sub photos indicate a “caterpillar drive,” something that would allow the sub to run quieter, but an idea that  had been abandoned by American engineers. As in the movie, Tyler is a former sub driver who lost a leg in an auto accident and has been  sidelined from sub duty.

Book and movie have Ryan, ostensibly an analyst—not a field operator, taking on the assignment of contacting Captain Ramius and entering the Soviet vessel by means of a rescue craft. Watching the movie gives the impression that Ryan comes up with the idea Ramius is defecting and taking his officers with him. The book tells of a CIA mole in the Soviet government, who reports that Ramius has left behind a note of his intentions. In  the movie the first indication that the Soviets are scrambling for Red October is when all of a sudden a large segment of the Soviet navy heads out into the Atlantic.

Ramius has the plan to ditch the enlisted crew, who are not in on the plot and would not defect when the boat reaches the U.S. The Americans would like to take the sub without the Soviets knowing they have it. This can only happen if the officers can abscond secretly and go into hiding under CIA protection. The plot by Ramius is to fake a reactor emergency, getting all the enlisted off the boat and rescued, while the officers give the appearance of going down with the boat.

This plot, from the book, is nearly foiled by Red October‘s cook, who is a Soviet intelligence agent planted on the boat. Ryan kills him in a gun fight as he attempts to scuttle the boat.

There has to be an excuse for giving up on the hunt for Red October. The movie incorporates a duel between Red October and a Soviet attack boat, with the attack boat being sunk by one of its own torpedoes. Red October then sails into hiding in an inlet on the coast of Maine. And that’s the end of the movie

The book has the presumed sinking of Red October on its final voyage from Pamlico Sound (North Carolina) to Norfolk. Same sort of thing. Ramius outwits his protégé, commanding the attack boat, and sinks it, instead.

Ryan, who has been  going practically nonstop since leaving his office in  England, sees Ramius off to safety, provides an after-action report to  his bosses at CIA headquarters, gets the nod for future advancement, and heads back to England to spend Christmas with his family.

About the time the book, and then the movie, came out I was doing work that involved development of advanced weaponry. There was a lot of interest in military stuff, and the Clancy novels, and the movies, were popular. The consensus was (I had neither seen nor read any) that Clancy had the inside track on how this stuff really worked.

Clancy had no first hand experience with military matters, neither weaponry nor tactics. What is in his books he gained through research, which included obtaining advice from people in the business. My own familiarity with things military has been limited  to a short stint in the Navy Reserve and later working on weapons systems. To that extent, reading the book brings back memories from an  early life, particularly anti-submarine warfare and some of the East Coast military facilities in the book.

A short stint in the AT shop aboard the USS Randolph introduced me to the concept of MAD (magnetic anomaly detection) gear and sonobuoys. Training as an aviation ordnanceman acquainted me with the homing torpedoes mentioned in the book. Much later in life I worked on a project to automate tracking of submarines with sonobuoys. This was about the same time frame as the book plot, and the impression I have is that technology was advancing rapidly at the time, making some of the book’s terminology now seem quaint.

Prior to  this book Clancy appears to have had no other experience in professional writing. Considering this, the book is well-crafted. Action moves along without stranding the reader in detail  overload—although Clancy can be faulted by piling on too much detail. Clancy also takes opportunity to reflect his political conservatism and also his naiveté regarding some facts of life. In the book there is the added incident of a Soviet attack sub sinking with a sole survivor. Americans rescue the survivor, and his treatment is explained to Soviet officials in  the U.S.:

“His name’s Albert Jameson. We call him Jamie. He’s twenty-nine, graduated Harvard third in his class, and he’s been with us ever since. He’s board-certified in internal medicine and virology. He’s as good as they come.” Tait suddenly realized how uncomfortable he was dealing with the Russians. His education and years of naval service taught him that these men were the enemy. That didn’t matter. Years before he had sworn an oath to treat patients without regard to outside considerations. Would they believe or did they think he’d let their man die because he was a Russian? “Gentlemen, I want you to understand this: we’re giving your man the very best care we can. We’re not holding anything back. If there’s a way to give him back to you alive, we’ll find it. But I can’t make any promises.”

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 267). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clancy feels he needs to explain the Hippocratic oath to readers. He also needs to remind us how more rewarding is American capitalism. He describes an American supermarket to an incredulous Ramius:

“A building about the size of a football field— well, maybe a little smaller than that. You go in the front door and get a shopping cart. The fresh fruits and vegetables are on the right, and you gradually work your way left through the other departments. Ive been doing that since I was a kid.”

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 450). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And Clancy’s religiosity tends to  leak through in his tales:

“You are be— believer?” Borodin asked. “Yeah, sure.” Ryan should not have been surprised by the question. “Hell, you gotta believe in something.” “And why is that, Commander Ryan?” Borodin was examining the Pogy through oversized night glasses. Ryan wondered how to answer. “Well, because if you don’t, what’s the point of life? That would mean Sartre and Camus and all those characters were right— all is chaos, life has no meaning. I refuse to believe that. If you want a better answer, I know a couple priests who’d be glad to talk to you.”

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 397). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m reviewing the Kindle edition of a book that was likely composed on a typewriter and set into type by hand. Generating the Kindle required either manual transcription or else OCR, which can sometimes produce curious results:

…subs and surface ships all the timé, low-flying aircraft…

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 286). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Descriptions of available technology and entertainment date this book. We see, for example:

  • Wordstar
  • Apple (new)
  • Commodore
  • TRS-80
  • Atari
  • Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator
  • Bubble memory (T.I. abandoned the technology three years after the book came out.)
  • E.T.
  • Star Wars
  • Hondo and Big Jake (after Wayne was dead for several years)

Also a computer:

Though only about the size of a business desk, it cost over five million dollars and ran at eighty million operations per second. It used newly developed sixty-four-bit chips and made use of the latest processing architecture.

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 80). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m composing this using a computer that costs about $800, is the size of a coffee table book, and can run circles around those eighty million operations per second.

Clancy’s first offering still shines after all these years. I faulted his follow-on, Patriot Games, for being overly maudlin and for sometimes stretching the story beyond endurance.

 

Friday Funny

One of a series

whatthebleepjusthappened

The Trump administration is coming together, 12 days prior to inauguration day. Selected to be senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council is conservative columnist Monica Crowley:

Monica Crowley (born September 19, 1968) is an American columnist, political commentator, and talk radio personality. She has regular appearances on Fox News, is the online opinion editor and a regular columnist for The Washington Times, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In December 2016, the Donald Trump administration announced that Crowley will be appointed senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council.

The above mentioned Washington Times is not to be confused with The Washington Post, a publication carrying a considerable journalistic reputation. An item in Wikipedia sums up The Washington Times:

Founded on May 17, 1982, by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, the Times was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the church until 2010, in which Moon and a group of former executives purchased the paper. It is currently owned by diversified conglomerate Operations Holdings, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the church.

It will be remembered that creationist Jonathan Wells, author of the creationist tome Icons of Evolution, is a follower of the late Reverend Moon. The Washington Times notably supports conservative philosophy, including creationism (Including Intelligent Design).

According to the Wikipedia article, Crowley has been with Fox News as “a foreign affairs and political analyst.” and she has been an occasional stand-in for Sean Hannity on the Hannity program. Her recent book is What The (Bleep) Just Happened (full title: What The (Bleep) Just Happened? The Happy Warrior’s Guide To The Great American Comeback). I have a copy of the Kindle edition.

It would appear that Crowley is going to  be a useful addition to the Trump administration. Her sterling communications credentials will be of tremendous benefit to the Trump team,  too often  beset by the curse of mixed messages. However, in light of recent developments, we wonder just who will be doing Crowley’s communications for her:

Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found.

The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia. The New York Times bestseller, published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, contains no notes or bibliography.

Crowley did not return a request for comment. Multiple requests for comment by phone and email over the past two days to HarperCollins went unreturned.

I am guessing we will have to wait until we hear back from somebody, anybody, in the Trump team before my question can be answered. In the meantime Andrew Kaczynski, writing for CNN Money, has cited some egregious examples:

In the book, Crowley lifted an entire section on Keynesian economics from the IAC-owned website Investopedia.

In one instance, Crowley lists a variety of so-called “pork” items she claimed were part of the 2009 stimulus package. Many of the instances were copied wholesale from a conservative list of pork barrel spending, with some items dating back to the 1990s. Most of the copied instances were listed on a website for a podiatrist dating back to 2004.

The article also demonstrates some interesting parallels between passages in the book and matter, uncredited, by other authors. For example:

whatthebleepjusthappened-01

The similar (identical) text is highlighted.

Director of Strategic Communications for the NSC is a job that does not require original writing, and congressional review for the position is not required. That aside, we can only hope that when Director Monica Crowley reports to the new president that Russian forces are massing on the Ukraine border, she is not repeating something she read in The New York Times.

If that is not funny, then what is?

Debating Lefty

howtodebateleftestsanddestroythem

Truth be told, I was searching for a different book on Amazon when I found this one by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. And what a deal! Only $0.99 in Kindle. The full title is How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument, but you are allowed to abbreviate. I recommend just How to Debate Leftists.

But wait. That’s what I said to myself, “But wait!” If Amazon is selling it for 99 cents, it’s possible all 20 pages (as advertised on Amazon) can be found somewhere for free on the Internet. Seek, and ye shall find. It is available in  PDF for free, but running to 34 pages. Here’s a link.

And here’s a review.

My overall take: Shapiro is dead on in his approach. If your aim is to win the argument, get in the first punch and hit hard. That’s Shapiro’s Rule #2:

Rule #2: Hit First. Don’t take the punch first. Hit first. Hit hard. Hit where it counts. Mike Tyson used to say, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”

[Page 12]

As advertised, Shapiro lays out eleven tactics you will find most helpful in winning an argument:

  • Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire.
  • Rule #2: Hit First.
  • Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent.
  • Rule #4: Frame the debate.
  • Rule #5: Spot Inconsistencies in the Left’s Arguments.
  • Rule #6: Force Leftists to Answer Questions.
  • Rule #7: Do Not Get Distracted.
  • Rule #8: You Don’t Have To Defend People on Your Side.
  • Rule #9: If You Don’t Know Something, Admit It.
  • Rule #10: Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories.
  • Rule #11: Body Language Matters.

I am impressed that somebody barely 30 years old has reinvented concepts I long considered personal secrets of my own. But some of them can use explanation.

Walk toward the fire. Don’t avoid the debate. Look forward to it and be prepared. Seek out the fight.

Frame your opponent. Reinvent your opponent into somebody you can beat. If you debating, for example, President-elect Donald Trump, establish him as a person who gropes women before he gets a chance to remind everybody he has just been elected president.

Frame the debate. Establish what the debate will be about before your opponent can cast it in a form you will be unable to assail.

You don’t have to  defend people on your side. I know that one well. Many are the liberals and progressives I would rather not have brought up when I  am having a “friendly” conversation with a right wing nut case. The best thing to do when your opponents brings up a stinking corpse is to immediately throw the body under the bus and move on. This is no time for misplaced loyalty.

The business about body language is something I  have never been  able to master. When somebody is arguing against the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW), it is impossible for me to  wipe that shit-eating grin off my face.

These are all good things to  know and sound approaches to take, if your aim is to win the debate only. If you aim is to educate and  to put over something of substance, then you need to get serious and take a more pragmatic approach. I’ve done that, as well.

Knowing Ben Shapiro’s approach to wining arguments with liberals, it is additionally worthwhile to appreciate why he needs to use this approach. The fact is, many of the causes he advocates have little or no worth. An example:

When you’re discussing global warming, for example, the proper question is not whether man is causing global warming. The question is whether man can fix global warming – a question to which the universally-acknowledged answer is essentially no, unless we are willing to revert to the pre-industrial age.

[Page 24]

A cold reading of this gives pause to wonder whether Shapiro believes AGW has no basis or whether it is real, and there is nothing we can/should do about it. A video clip from October 2015 seems to show him saying he does not believe it is real.

[After saying that certain aspects of AGW have been  debunked] The idea that the hockey stick graph is anything remotely resembling reality… The hockey stick graph shows that over the last century, and it’s too short a period of time to do climate change statistics like this, it shows that over the last century, century and a half that the climate, along with carbon emissions, go like that [sweeps his hand across and up], and it’s a hockey stick.

The problem is that’s all falsified data. There have been multiple problems with the measurement data, as far as global warming.

He goes on to say this is the reason it’s called “climate change” and not “global warming” now. He asserts the planet has not been warming for the past 15 years.

Despite what Ben Shapiro is trying to get across in his talk, the problem is not that the data have been falsified, and the problem is not that the planet has not been warming. The problem is that Ben Shapiro is lying to his audience. My guess is he has been reading some of his own stuff.

He was in charge of Breitbart.com from 2012 (when Andrew Breitbart died) until March of last year. It was from this period I mined the following:

I have no record of who posted it, but a link showed up on Facebook:

Scientists at two of the world’s leading climate centres – NASA and NOAA – have been caught out manipulating temperature data to overstate the extent of the 20th century “global warming”.

The evidence of their tinkering can clearly be seen at Real Science, where blogger Steven Goddard has posted a series of graphs which show “climate change” before and after the adjustments.

When the raw data is used, there is little if any evidence of global warming and some evidence of global cooling. However, once the data has been adjusted – ie fabricated by computer models –  20th century ‘global warming’ suddenly looks much more dramatic.

This is especially noticeable on the US temperature records. Before 2000, it was generally accepted – even by climate activists like NASA’s James Hansen – that the hottest decade in the US was the 1930s.

The excerpt from Breitbart is noticeable wrong, as I mentioned at the time:

This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.

Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global  temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.

From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:

Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.

And more. Follow the link and get back to me if you still have questions.

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

Along the lines of stupid, and corrupt, consider Shapiro’s own conduct, not in a face to face debate, but in his description of people who disagree with him.

The problem is that’s all falsified data.

The people who don’t agree with him, the scientist, are lying. They are falsifying data. So much for acceptable etiquette in public discourse.

Rounding out, there is more. By now you might not expect this, but Shapiro is not a supporter of Donald Trump. For this he has come under considerable personal attack from, presumably, Trump supporters:

In May 2016 New York Magazine reported: “Shapiro…has increasingly found himself targeted by the so-called alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of online personalities — many if not most of them anonymous — currently devoted to tweeting and posting their support for Donald Trump and attacking those who disagree, often in racist and anti-Semitic ways. They have been denigrating Shapiro as a “pussy,” a “cuck,” a “Jew” and a “kike.””

In an article in National Review, Shapiro wrote: “I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber.”

An article in The Washington Post quoted an Anti-Defamation League report that “focused in particular on the anti-Semitic tweets aimed at journalists, frequently those whose writing about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has displeased a large contingent of Twitter users who band together to attack these journalists online. The words most commonly found in the bios of the people who post these anti-Semitic attacks? “Trump,” “nationalist,” conservative,” “American” and “white…The target of the most anti-Semitic tweets, by far, was Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer who formerly worked for Breitbart and who does not support Trump.”  Shapiro stated “I’m honored because being targeted by mouth-breathing idiots is a compliment – you know you’re doing something right if people who tweet pictures of gas chambers on the day of your child’s birth find you unacceptable as a human being.”  He also said: “As the fellow who receives hook-nosed Jew memes more than any other journalist on the planet, I don’t believe that people ought to be suspended or banned from Twitter or Facebook for posting vile garbage, so long as it isn’t openly advocating violence. I make a habit of retweeting these pieces of human feces in order to mock their stupidity and to expose the fact that people like this exist.”

Apparently there is not a massive amount of  personal honor going to waste on the political  front these days.

Military Thriller

books-theobsession

The author is one of my sister’s four daughters, and it is for that reason only I am reviewing the book. Fact is, I read very little fiction these days. The list of worthwhile fiction I have not read and will never read is too long for me to ever address. I sometimes read a novel in  order to gain insight to a movie. In the case of this book, I am curious at the efforts of the only close family member to produce a work of length.

This is The Obsession, and I purchased the Kindle edition. It’s Dawn Brotherton’s first of what promises to be a number of successful enterprises. It’s a murder mystery thriller, set within military life. I’m not going to detail the plot. I’m looking at this as an assessment of a first-time author’s efforts. But an overview is necessary.

The story begins with a police investigation of a murder. A single woman, living alone, has been attacked and killed in her home by a person unknown. If you are starting to think this will be about a serial killer, you are right.

Jackie Austin is a young Air Force Lieutenant, working as a missile specialist at a base in Missouri. This should bring back memories to a lot of us. ICBMs, tipped with nuclear warheads and kept ready in below-ground silos scattered about the country, kept the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union for decades. This setting is crucial to the plot, because these missile specialists were carefully vetted individuals upon which the nation placed it’s utmost trust. The specter of a stalker who murders women in this context injects critical tension into  the plot.

It takes only a few turns of the page to realize that Lieutenant Austin fits the profile of the stalker’s targets. She is young, single, attractive, and lives alone in a house she has purchased in a quiet neighborhood. That she may become a target is made apparent through a series of harassing phone calls, home intrusions, mash notes delivered by mail or left at the house.

At a certain point the reader is given a veiled view of the killer, who remains a mystery until the very last. Disturbing and multiple profiles are revealed, leaving the reader to wonder if they fit any of the men in Jackie’s life.

Without revealing any secrets, readers need to know that Jackie prevails in the end, using a bit of detective work to unmask the killer and bring him to justice. The book is about what happens in the meantime.

Now for some critical assessment. I compare the first few chapters of the book with the initial work of another successful author, that being Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner was a California attorney before he turned to writing. His first novel was The Case of the Velvet Claws, which I reviewed for much the same reason I am reviewing this book. As expected, Gardner took some time to find his feet as a fiction writer, and it shows in this early work.

In my niece’s first work, finding her footing amounts to  providing a level of maturity to her character. Jackie Austin’s interactions with her friends, associates at the base, men in her life, her immediate family, remind the reader more of life back in junior high rather than adults of demonstrated maturity. The good news is that as the book progresses, Jackie matures and so does the writing. It is as though the author is finding her way at first before hitting her stride. The pace quickens and the drama builds.

Reading about the serial killer, I had to  reflect back on the Thomas Harris works I have read. Both Black Sunday and Red Dragon involve damaged characters who morph into instruments of atrocity. Black Sunday was made into a film of the same name, and Red Dragon was the basis for the first Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter. Dawn Brotherton does readers service by having a go at developing the warped characters that appear in the book, and there are more than two.

At another level, this is an Agatha Christie novel in the way Jackie Austin throws off her self-doubts, sets her goals, and unmasks the killer. Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie was born to wealth and privilege and published her first detective story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1919. Her second was The Secret Adversary, for which I have not written a review. However, that early work by this most successful of writers reflects the same issues with character development as The Obsession. A for-instance:

“Tommy, you’re stony!”

“Not a bit of it,” declared Tommy unconvincingly. “Rolling in cash.”

“You always were a shocking liar,” said Tuppence severely, “though you did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor had ordered you beer as a tonic, but forgotten to write it on the chart. Do you remember?”

Tommy chuckled. “I should think I did! Wasn’t the old cat in a rage when she found out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother Greenbank! Good old hospital— demobbed like everything else, I suppose?”

Christie, Agatha. Secret Adversary (pp. 3-4). . Kindle Edition.

That was our introduction to the girl and boy protagonists in this early work. Needless to say, Dame Agatha’s style matured in subsequent works, and so did her characters.

I know the author as a deeply committed Christian, and her religiosity shows through at points in the book:

Jackie nestled closer into Stan’s arms. “I do. My boss ordered me to talk to someone, but he didn’t say I had to go to Mental Health. I figured it was time I gave God another chance. Doing it on my own obviously wasn’t working.”

“Wait a minute… did Chaplain Vandesteeg help you hatch this plot to catch that psycho?” She could hear the hidden resentment in Stan’s voice.

Brotherton, Dawn. The Obsession (Jackie Austin Mysteries Book 1) (Kindle Locations 3227-3230). Blue Dragon Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Significant authors have written with their religious commitments as part of the theme. Besides possibly C.S. Lewis, whom I have never read, there is G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton wrote The Man Who Knew Too Much, which title but not plot was the inspiration for two Alfred Hitchcock movie plots. He also wrote the Father Brown books, which naturally have religion woven into  their fabric:

When this spirit of the captain spoke in Valentin he was obeyed like a bugle. Dr. Simon went through to the armoury and routed out Ivan, the public detective’s private detective. Galloway went to the drawing-room and told the terrible news tactfully enough, so that by the time the company assembled there the ladies were already startled and already soothed. Meanwhile the good priest and the good atheist stood at the head and foot of the dead man motionless in the moonlight, like symbolic statues of their two philosophies of death.

Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith). The Innocence of Father Brown (p. 22). . Kindle Edition.

Hint: it was the atheist who did the killing and for religious reasons.

Speaking as one who has never published a short story, much less a novel, I will recommend that if there is a major aspect of a subjects character introduced into a story plot, that aspect needs to be worked into the plot in a major way. Else its introduction may be seen as a mission statement of the author, not relevant to the story.

What can I say more. The author is family. Earlier this year we had the pleasure of attending her retirement from the service, giving our scattered relations the opportunity to get together for the first time in decades. Here are some photos:

The author at her retirement ceremony at the Pentagon.

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At the White House. Most of the people in this photograph are descendants of John Freeman Blanton, born in 1867 in Johnson County, Texas.

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Dawn’s first book includes her mother as one of the characters. This is spooky, as I can hear my sister’s voice as I read these passages. It’s a problem with reviewing a work too close to home.