Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: A Little Bit Vulnerable

Janine Turner's book, A Little Bit Vulnerable - On Hollywood, God, Sobriety, & Politics, is a surprising mix of intimate personal memoir and insightful political commentary. Far from being a typical Hollywood autobiography filled with scandal and gossip, this book delves deeply into both Janine Turner's psyche, and into the political foundations of America. Moreover, it does so in a way that is both fascinating and educational. Traditional Americans, conservatives, libertarians, and tea party types will all appreciate much of what this book offers.

Janine Turner is perhaps best known for her role as Maggie O'Connell on Northern Exposure. More recently, she has become known as a champion of the US Constitution and America's founding principles through her organization Constituting America, which utilizes the culture and multi-media outreach in promoting education and respect for the Constitution. She is also a columnist, radio show host (hopefully she will be back on the air soon - I really enjoy/appreciate her style of radio punditry) and frequent guest on shows such as The O'Reilly Factor.

The book starts out with Turner taking us on a tour through her life by sharing a selection of poetry that she wrote through the years, along with what was happening in her life at the time (career successes, a broken engagement, her struggles with alcoholism and sobriety, among others). I admit that, at first, I thought that section would be boring and I would quickly skim through it to get to the good stuff. I was wrong. I read every line of poetry she included. It is a very honest, surprisingly intimate and revealing, window onto her soul, which took a lot of courage on her part to share so publicly, in my opinion.

Next up, Turner gets really into her Constitutionalist mode, and also discusses the founding of Constituting America. She includes some of her political commentary, as well as many of her essays on individual Federalist Papers (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 32, 37, 43, 45, 60, 68, 69, 70, 73, & 85). It is at this point that my copy of her book became marked up with many notes as I read, and learned, through those essays. Her commentary on the Federalist Papers is extremely insightful, well-researched, and well-thought out. Chapter two by itself is worth the cost of the book, and more.

Chapter three continues with the more-scholarly portion of her book, as she starts out discussing "Satellites, Northern Exposure, and America's Future" using that as a springboard to an in-depth discussion of Washington's Farewell Address through the prism of today. Really, this transition - and other transitions throughout the book- actually works well, despite the seeming disparity between subject matter.

In chapter four, Turner gets into modern politics, discussing the Manipulation and Mission of Women in Politics. It is in this section that Turner - a single mother who choose life - gives some excellent and much-needed advice to Pro-Lifers. My short - and wholly inadequate - summary of her comments is that we cannot be concerned solely with the unborn child, but need to share that same love and concern for the mother, both during pregnancy and after she gives birth. We should not, must not, treat single mothers as villains, especially while ignoring the role the fathers in those situations. A sentiment I whole-heartedly agree with, by the way. I hope that every pro-life politician, candidate, pundit, and activist will read that column.

(At this point, I hoped to include a link to that column, Can Conservatives be Pro-Life in the Womb, but Not in the World?, on her website, but unfortunately that page gives an error message at the moment. I will include the link later, if and when it gets restored.)

Contending With and Countering the Culture is the next section of the book, in which Turner discusses the role of today's culture, which she liken's to a form of modern pagan-worship, and the mass media. She includes many of her columns on everything from how liberals profit from the Capitalist system they oppose, to why we should reject the race card. I find these columns to be insightful, often taking a surprising tack on various issues. Definitely different then you get from many conservative pundits, and that is a good thing.

Turner closes out the book discussing her Seeking and Keeping Sobriety (including an interview of Bob Beckel on the topic), and dealing with the death of her father (a veteran and West Point graduate). The book also includes transcripts of radio interviews Turner did of Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Rand Paul.

Janine Turner's book is an atypical mix of personal narrative and political & historical commentary. But it works together very well, and makes for an interesting, and educational, read. It's not a quick read, as she packs a lot of information into its pages, but it will hold your attention.

You can follow Janine Turner on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JanineTurner

You might also be interested in my reviews of Juliette Turner's (Janine's daughter) two books: Our Constitution ROCKS! and Our Presidents ROCK!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" Speech

Patrick Henry delivered his "give me liberty or give me death" speech on March 23, 1775 before the House of Burgesses at Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, during a debate on whether or not to mobilize for military action against the British. A text of the speech written by Patrick Henry does not exist, but it was later reconstructed from the memories of several people who heard the speech first hand. 

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free — if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending — if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Prepper's Library from 1964

What books should be on a Prepper's bookshelf? That is a question prompted by a book I'm currently reading (Robert Heinlein's Franham's Freehold). Its a science fiction survivalist novel about a family that survives a nuclear war. In it, the man (Hugh Farnham) who built and stocked a bomb shelter lists his "must-have" survivalist library. I'll do a full review Heinlein's book after I finish it (so far, its okay, but doubtful it will make my list of highly recommended books).

Heinlein's book was published in 1964, so all the books mentioned are from before that, naturally. I'll do my list of a Prepper's Library for 2015 sometime soon, but for now here is the list of the books in the bomb shelter's library:

  • The Encyclopedia Britannica (Hugh calls it "the most compact assemblage of knowledge on the market")
  • Che Guevera's War of the Guerillas
  • Yank Levy's Guerrilla Warfare
  • An English translation of Mao Tse-tung's On Guerrilla Warfare
  • Tom Wintringham's New Ways of War
  • The Boy Scout Handbook
  • Eshbach's Mechanical Engineering
  • The Radio Repairman's Guide
  • Outdoor Life's Hunting and Fishing
  • Edible Fungi and How to Know Them
  • Home Life in Colonial Days
  • Your Log Cabin
  • Chimney and Fireplaces
  • The Hobo's Cookbook
  • Medicine Without a Doctor
  • Five Acres and Independence 
  • Russian Self-Taught 
  • Several English-Russian, Russian-English dictionaries
  • The Complete Herbalist
  • Several survival manuals by the US Navy
  • The Air Force's Survival Techniques
  • The Practical Carpenter
  • The Oxford Book of English Verse
  • A Treasury of American Poetry
  • Hoyle's Book of Games
  • Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Richard Francis Burton's translation of  A Thousand Nights and a Night
  • Homer's The Odyssey
  • Kipling's Collected Verse
  • Kipling's Just So Stories
  • A one-volume edition of Shakespeare
  • The Bible
  • The Book of Common Prayer
  • Mathematical Recreations and Essays
  • Thus Spake Zarathustra
  • T.S. Elliot's The Old Possums Book of Practical Cats
  • Robert Frost's Verse 
  • Men Against the Sea (about the mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty)

At one point in the book, Hugh Farnham mentions regretting not including the works of Mark Twain in his library.

The list is a mixture of practical books (various volumes on homesteading, medicine, engineering, etc), books for entertainment value (note the inclusion of Hoyle's Book of Games for one), general knowledge (a dictionary and an encyclopedia), and several selections obviously influenced by the Cold War (the books on guerrilla warfare, and the Russian/English dictionaries). Hugh even attempted to save some classic works (Homer, Shakespeare, etc.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Explaining the Liberal Mind

A favorite past-time of many non-liberals seems to be trying to understand the liberal mind. In light of comments from some in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks by Islamic Terrorists, including the Obama administration's unwillingness to connect the dots between Islam and terrorism, I will now give my explanation of the liberal mind.

Liberals do not like Western Civilization. They see Western Civilization as inherently unfair and oppressive. They look around them and see poverty, crime, violence, and other problems. They then place blame on the structure of Western Civilization - particularly its economic system (Capitalism) and its Judeo-Christian roots (ethics, values, traditions, worldview).

Liberals are uncomfortable with the concepts of individual responsibility and accountability. After all, if the structure of Western Civilization is flawed, as they believe, how then can you blame individuals stuck in such an unfair and oppressive system for their actions? Crime and violence are not really the fault of the perpetrators, but is the natural and understandable rebellion against the flawed system of Western Civilization. Poverty is not the result of poor choices of individuals, but is the result of the oppressive nature of Western Civilization. Change the system, and you will eliminate the problems.

Liberals reason with emotions and feelings, not facts and logic. They tend to ignore or make excuses for facts contrary to their feelings. And they feel free to make up facts, when needed, to fit those feelings. They don't see this as dishonest, but rather as supportive of what is really important - the way they feel about an issue. For example, if they reflexively "feel" that guns are dangerous and that gun ownership must therefore be severely restricted, it is okay (and not dishonest) to make up fake statistics to support their viewpoint. Even if the statistics are technically fake, they are still correct (to their thinking) because they support their underlying feeling (which is what is actually important to them) that guns are dangerous. It is rather convoluted thinking, but fits their emotion-based worldview of intentions over substance.

Charlie Hebdo and Islamic Terrorism

How does this explain the reluctance by many liberals to connect the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack and Islam?

First, on a broad level, to blame Islamic Civilization for anything would be to admit that not all of the world's problems are due to Western Civilization - something that would be counter to their worldview and therefore must be ignored or denied.

Second, while most liberals don't find the violence and killings of the Charlie Hebdo attack acceptable, they do find the motivations understandable. It is an oppressed minority (in this case, Muslims) striking-out against an obviously unfair system (Western Civilization). This creates a feeling of sympathy for the attackers. It is not the fault of the Muslim terrorists who carried out the attack, but rather is the natural, albeit horrifying, result of the oppressive nature of Western Civilization.

So, many liberals find themselves both horrified by the events in France, and unable to clearly articulate the cause of what happened because the cause - radical Islam - simply doesn't fit their worldview and their way of thinking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine, which declared all acts of colonization or interference in the Americas by European nations to be acts of aggression to be responded to by the United States, was established by President James Monroe in his seventh annual speech before Congress on December 2, 1823. The following is the section of his speech declaring this foreign policy.

At the proposal of the Russian Imperial Government, made through the minister of the Emperor residing here, a full power and instructions have been transmitted to the Minister of the United States at St. Petersburgh to arrange, by amicable negotiation, the respective rights and interests of the two nations on the northwest coast of this continent. A similar proposal has been made by His Imperial Majesty to the Government of Great Britain, which has likewise been acceded to. The Government of the United States has been desirous, by this friendly proceeding, of manifesting the great value which they have invariably attached to the friendship of the Emperor, and their solicitude to cultivate the best understanding with his Government. In the discussions to which this interest has given rise, and in the arrangements by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers....

It was stated at the commencement of the last session that a great effort was then making in Spain and Portugal, to improve the condition of the people of those countries, and that it appeared to be conducted with extraordinary moderation. It need scarcely be remarked, that the result has been, so far, very different from what was then anticipated. Of events in that quarter of the globe, with which we have so much intercourse, and from which we derive our origin, we have always been anxious and interested spectators. The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly, in favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously menaced, that we resent injuries, or make preparation for our defence. With the movements in this hemisphere, we are, of necessity, more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers is essentially different, in this respect, from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective governments. And to the defence of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore, to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers, to declare, that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere, as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered, and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence, and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration, and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling, in any other manner, their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States. In the war between those new governments and Spain we declared our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we have adhered, and shall continue to adhere, provided no change shall occur, which, in the judgement of the competent authorities of this government, shall make a corresponding change, on the part of the United States, indispensable to their security.

The late events in Spain and Portugal, shew that Europe is still unsettled. Of this important fact, no stronger proof can be adduced than that the allied powers should have thought it proper, on any principle satisfactory to themselves, to have interposed, by force, in the internal concerns of Spain. To what extent such interposition may be carried, on the same principle, is a question, to which all independent powers, whose governments differ from theirs, are interested; even those most remote, and surely none more so than the United States. Our policy, in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy; meeting, in all instances, the just claims of every power; submitting to injuries from none. But, in regard to these continents, circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent, without endangering our peace and happiness: nor can any one believe that our Southern Brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition, in any form, with indifference. If we look to the comparative strength and resources of Spain and those new governments, and their distance from each other, it must be obvious that she can never subdue them. It is still the true policy of the United States to leave the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will pursue the same course.