Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review: More Natural Cures Revealed

A Fair Trade Book

Title: More Natural Cures Revealed

Author: Kevin Trudeau

Date: 2006

Publisher: Alliance Publishing Group

ISBN: 978-0-9755995-4-9

Length: 358 pages

Quote: “I am routinely attacked for suggesting that people not take drugs.”

Well...not exactly, I conclude after studying Trudeau's second book, a "gift" from someone who knows nothing about the value of books. I think it's more likely that this writer is denounced as a raving paranoid because he writes like one, and that the effect of his “suggestions” may be, and may even intentionally be, to disparage the prevention and natural cures that may actually help people. He's done some research, and could have written this book as a research project; instead he's chosen to toss just a line about "Reader X thinks product Y helped him/her" onto some, not all or even most, of the page after page about "I'm a brilliant man with good intentions and I'm being denounced by mean, greedy people who hate me." 

Trudeau is not qualified to prescribe diet-based rather than drug-based treatments for diseases, as legitimate physicians like John McDougall and Stephen Sinatra do. Some of McDougall's and Sinatra's claims are as wide-sweeping as Trudeau's. Some make harsh judgments on pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who prescribe their pills. Some might, in fact, be considered grandiose; both the McDougall diet (basically vegan) and the Sinatra diet (plant-based not vegan) have helped thousands of people with classic cardiovascular disease, but neither help people whose blood pressure is being raised by multiple myeloma, so the claim that either diet will cure hypertension is...a loss of precision due to popularization. And plenty of doctors have disagreed with McDougall and Sinatra, although over the years the disagreement has shifted from “No waaay that can work” to “Very well, it works for rich people in California who are always into special diets, but it wouldn't work for my patients because they'd never stick with it.”

(At this point may I suggest that, if you have consulted a doctor about hypertension, diabetes, varicose veins, or anything else associated with classic cardiovascular disease, and that doctor has handed you a prescription for medication rather than a diet book, you may well be working with a doctor whose assumption is that you couldn't discipline yourself to use natural cures that work. If so, it can't hurt and will probably help you to use either the McDougall or the Sinatra diet, with your prescription until you have to complain that your meds are now pushing your blood pressure too low, which will probably be the case in a few weeks. At this point your doctor will shift to “Very well, a diet-based treatment for cardiovascular disease works for rich people in California and for my patient A and possibly even also B, but patients C through ZZZZ would never stick with it.” The cognitive dissonance will be less painful and the doctor less likely to quarrel with you.)

So why, although McDougall and Sinatra and other doctors have taken plenty of hostile questions from their peers, has the FDA not “attacked” them in the way it's “attacked” Trudeau? Because Trudeau is so blatantly flogging his own books and web sites, with so much airing of his paranoid grievances and so little actual information you the reader can use...because McDougall's books were groundbreaking when they were new and controversial, but this book is frankly just tacky.

I do not recommend More Natural Cures Revealed to people seeking information they can use for their own immediate medical benefit. Believe me, I would if I could...not just because I'd have a chance to make a profit on a sale, but because this book came to me from a very special source.

The dreaded breast cancer gene is not found in my family. There are less deadly types of cancer that can also form in breast tissue. A relative I've nicknamed “Aunt Dotty” was treated for breast cancer in 1970 and survived through almost all of 2006. She was an aunt you don't meet every day. It's also possible that, although she was definitely ill, she may not have had breast cancer, or not have had the deadly kind. In any case, she beat the odds. Most people treated for breast cancer still have less than five years to live.

One of my schoolmates, not a close relative although there may be some connection, was treated for breast cancer in the late 1980s. The mutual acquaintance who told me actually said “She's dead now,” that being an assumption the mutual acquaintance felt safe in making. But the woman is still alive; she's an active grandmother with reasonable hopes of living to be a great-grandmother; she's still driving up to visit her mother—who still runs with large boisterous dogs every morning, too—every summer. By now my schoolmate has become another phenomenon like Aunt Dotty, a sleek, active, well preserved woman who had breast cancer thirty years ago. And the gene for the deadly kind does run in her family; her younger sister is also an active, healthy, well preserved breast cancer survivor by now, and some aunts and cousins....

That is the family from which I acquired the copy of Trudeau's book I'm holding now. And they are health-conscious. And they have created the local market for flaxseed meal and flaxseed oil, although I like flaxseed meal too. Trudeau claims that eating flaxseed oil daily will cure breast cancer. Is it really that simple? Duh. Of course not. Flaxseed oil does contain a healthy balance of fatty acids that will prevent vegans from developing depression, or seeing aggravated symptoms of dyslexia, from lack of dietary fat; it does contain a protein that helps hold gluten-free corn or rice breads together; it does have a pleasant nutty flavor; and it's one of the more nutritious oils, and may have other beneficial effects on the body. Flaxseed oil may help some women survive breast cancer. But here I stand to testify that Aunt Dotty credited her survival to having the full medical treatment, including a radical mastectomy that scraped the muscle tissue off the bones of an entire quadrant of the body, and did not use flaxseed oil at all; the family who passed Trudeau's book on to me are more health-conscious than Aunt Dotty was, generally, but I've spent days with them and not observed any consumption of flaxseed oil.

It should also be noted that there's a genotype, and it seems fairly common among people of mixed Irish and Cherokee ancestry, that just seems to go with vitality. My school friend and her sister, the breast cancer survivors, and their parents who lived with a greyhound long enough to make a pet of him after they were seventy, most definitely belong to that type. Things don't always work the same way for this type that they work for other people (some medications have paradoxical effects). If you have a different type of body you can try something that worked for someone who survived a deadly disease and/or seems outrageously perky and well preserved for whatever age s/he currently is, but Your Mileage May Vary. 

And meanwhile, in order to get a tip about flaxseed oil that may or may not help any particular body survive cancer or recover from chemotherapy, Trudeau's readers have to wade through page after page of “I'm right and they're wrong, they're picking on me because they're a lot of crooks and jerks,” and even in the printed word he manages to choose a nonverbal communication style that just sounds as if it ought to cause a little sign to pop up saying “HE'S LYING.” Flaxseed oil does happen to be a healthy food but Trudeau recommends trying it in the same breath that he recommends trying hydrogen peroxide, which happens to be poisonous, and shark cartilage.

Trudeau's claim to fame seems to be that he took the position, alongside Robert Kennedy Jr., that vaccines containing thimerosal cause autism. That's another distortion caused by popularization. This web site has corrected it time and again: Anything that causes a fever, as most vaccines may do, can potentially cause brain damage, which may include autistic-type brain damage in some cases. For somebody like Trudeau to start repeating this message, in Trudeau's fashion, was the worst thing that could have happened to RFK.

Notice, though, how much refuting the simplistic claim that thimerosal causes autism does not do. It doesn't even actually disprove that thimerosal may be the whole and sole cause of some cases of autism. It doesn't prove that thimerosal is safe, or that anyone at any age should ever be vaccinated against any disease in the absence of a high probability that that disease will kill them, or that adults have any right to force vaccines on children. And it doesn't make the vaccine pushers look better than it makes Trudeau look. 

Actually there's a big split between logic and vaccine pushing. Logic says, “If a vaccine is known to produce immunity to a disease, and your natural immunity to that disease or type of diseases is low, you as an individual should have that vaccine.” Vaccine pushers say, “If a vaccine is known to produce immunity to a disease, and you have already been exposed to that disease and built up natural immunity to it anyway, you still ought to have that vaccine because that disease might harm someone else.” Wrong. Only the people at risk should even be advised to have the vaccine, and nobody should ever be forced to have any vaccine. But the vaccine pushers have pushed even harder: “Trudeau is a jerk! Just read his book and see how badly he presents himself! You should force this vaccine on your children, because the writer opposing it is an unscientific jerk!” And they seriously think that that's a “scientific” argument that fails to make them look more unscientific, and more jerkish, than Trudeau...

Anyway: I recommend this book for its historic interest only. If you're interested in the history of Kevin Trudeau, of free speech, or of the Food & Drug Administration, here is a document you need. If you're interested in health, there are literally dozens of better books out there.

Most of what Trudeau recommends is not actually very radical. He recommends good preventive self-care, sensible eating, stress management, using drugs only when necessary, talking to doctors who don't automatically prescribe pills or surgery for everything. If you're a regular reader of this web site you already knew that. The doctors to whose web sites this site has often linked, McDougall, Sinatra, Desmaisons, Mathews-Larsen, explain it better than Trudeau does. Everyone should also have a copy of Jethro Kloss's book Back to Eden (even though it takes a reasonable amount of nurse's training to get the full benefit from this shorthand-form reference book). I'm not sure about some of the unproven ideas in More Natural Cures Revealed, like flaxseed oil for cancer, and I'm 99% sure that a few other things Trudeau recommends are pure flimflam, like shark cartilage, but I believe that those five professionals explain every valid medical fact Trudeau cites in clearer, more useful ways than Trudeau does. Buy their books and leave his to the historians.

If you want a copy for research purposes, More Natural Cures Revealed can be purchased here for the usual $5 per book, $5 per package, + $1 per online payment, and despite our mixed feelings, this web site will be fair and send $1 to Trudeau or a charity of his choice.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: Clarence Darrow for the Defense

Title: Clarence Darrow for the Defense

(Check out that price! That vintage-type binding where the jacket of the paperback edition was simply attached to a hardcover copy of similar size is what I happen to have, so that's the image I'm using. Other, more reasonably priced, editions of this book are available and are what you'll probably get if you order Clarence Darrow for the Defense here. If you must have this specific cover, we'll get it, but it'll cost you.)

Author: Irving Stone

Date: 1941

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: none

Length: 584 pages text plus 56 pages notes and index

Quote: “I may hate the sin, but never the sinner.”

Many people, Christians, Jews, Humanists, and probably other kinds, had said that before Clarence Darrow said it. Many have said it since. Still, it seemed to Irving Stone and it seems to this reader like a good epigram for Darrow's life and work.

If the great Humanist celebrity lawyer had a fault (which Stone will not readily admit) it was that, while reserving the right to hate sin, he didn't hate sin enough. Darrow was a philanderer; in times of stress he was a drunkard; about some of the people and things he defended he seems to have been deliberately naïve, if not an outright liar. Nevertheless he became legendary for having a gift of rhetoric and a generous heart.

Let's just say that Stone, who is primarily remembered as a novelist, is not trying in this biography to debunk any myths about Darrow's having been a sort of Secular Humanist saint. Clarence Darrow for the Defense reads, as the publisher enthusiastically claimed, like a novel but Auguste Comte would surely have called it a hagiography.

The central organizing principle of Darrow's thought, Stone says, was the idea that humans have no real choice about what they do. While most of us might agree that our being slaves to hereditary and environmental factors is a depressing idea (not to mention being inconsistent with the reality that some of us have consciously changed the way we react to those factors), for Darrow it was liberating. It reduced everyone to a single moral level; it required people to say even of felons that “there but for fortune go I.” Some of Darrow's contemporaries walked away from junior positions in law firms because they didn't want to defend criminals. Darrow could and did defend almost anybody, with a clear conscience.

That Darrow is now remembered mostly for defending a teacher for promulgating evolutionist doctrine as if it were scientific fact...is not Stone's fault. Darrow was, of course, the only other celebrity lawyer willing to take that side of a public debate against William Jennings Bryan. And, though Bryan certainly lost, Darrow didn't actually beat Bryan in the debate; Bryan fell victim to his own gluttony. Darrow scored points, but any argument that admits a theory as a fact is unwinnable.

Clarence Darrow for the Defense is mostly the story of all the other cases Darrow won. He defended Mildred Sperry, who had confessed committing perjury to keep her job, on the grounds that “Has anyone not told a lie to help a friend?” He defended labor unions from the charge of violating the existing “anti-trust” laws. He defended thieves and murderers, though not habitual criminals:

“[A student called Druggan, who admitted having stolen a car, told Darrow] 'I just didn't want to be there when they were passing out the time.' Darrow won an acquittal for the boy, then said to him, 'I've given you your chance; now you go straight. If you ever get into this kind of trouble again don't come back to me.' Before long Druggan had become one of Chicago's big lawyers and, without Darrow's knowledge, engaged the firm of Darrow and Sissman to handle his business. One day he bumped into Darrow in the anteroom. 'What are you doing here?' demanded Darrow sternly. 'Oh, I'm in the civil department now, Mr Darrow,' replied Druggan, edging away. 'Well, see that you stay there,' cautioned Darrow. 'If you ever get over into my department again you'll be there when they're passing out the time.'”

At one point Darrow was charged with conspiracy to bribe a jury; he had to rely on an inferior lawyer's help to defend himself. He was acquitted, but felt at the time that his “lawyering days” were over. He had other sources of income, and other talents; he had written some reasonably successful fiction. But he was a trial lawyer by vocation, not merely profession, and couldn't give it up if he tried. He did not try to avoid “lawyering” for very long.

Though Darrow's sentimental blame-society-for-everything approach to questions of criminal law has done considerable harm to American culture, it seemed very idealistic and “progressive” at the time. It appealed, ironically, to Darrow's own strict conscience and sense of public spirit, to try to justify other people's lack of either quality. Darrow was an agnostic, albeit shaped by Christian influences. Perhaps his willingness to blame the circumstances that made other people steal or kill had its origin in a desire to blame the circumstances when Darrow, himself, deserted his wife and lived in what was then called flagrant sin with other women.

About Darrow's attitudes toward women generally...Clarence Darrow was born in 1857, thus born into what may well have been the most flagrantly racist, sexist, and elitist generation of White males ever to infest this planet. He was racist, and he was sexist. Stone neither denies nor defends that. Still, Darrow could have been much worse than he was. Stone admits that Darrow brayed in public that letting women vote would “set back Progress fifty years,” but maintains (though how would he know?) that Darrow voted for female suffrage. And Darrow does seem to have fought against his elitist tendencies.

Darrow's racist tendencies were addressed directly and deliberately by N.A.A.C.P. spokesmen. As Stone relates, Darrow was “told that one colored man and two white men would come to see him.” Upon seeing that the blue-eyed blond in this committee was the one considered legally “Colored,” Darrow agreed to defend a Black man charged with defending his home during a riot. It should have been one of the easiest cases in Darrow's long career. Stone describes the racism that then prevailed in Detroit as being bad enough to make the defense of Henry Sweet one of the cases that took the most out of Darrow. Well, Darrow was seventy-five years old.

He had, it's true, refused to defend the Scottsboro Boys, but for that he had a better excuse than refusing to side with Black men or with women. The “Communist Party...cared far less for the safety and well-being of those...[students] than the exploitation of their own cause,” Darrow reported. In order for a Prog like Darrow to have noticed it, the American Communist Party's hand in the case must have been heavy indeed.

A more objectively written biography would no doubt leave readers with a lower opinion of Clarence Darrow than Stone obviously wants them to have. However, this web site generally leans toward the position of de mortuis nil nisi bonum. Bad ideas are our enemies and should be attacked vigorously while they are, in their abstract way, “alive.” People are not our greatest enemies, and although there's much to be said for calling living people to account for their debts and trespasses, the position of this web site is that attempts to discredit the recently dead are ineffectual ways to oppose bad ideas and inexcusable ways to hurt the feelings of the bereaved. Darrow died in 1938; in 1941 a lot of living people could have been hurt by an aggressive, muckraking study of Darrow's long and controversial life. Possibly Stone's approach was, in its time, the right one for a biographer to take.

The time for a more critical study of Darrow's life and work might be now.

Inadvertently, a friend who knows nothing about books seems to have thrust upon me one of the more valuable editions of this book. Amazon's main link to the picture of the edition I have gives a three-figure collector price; the page admits that ordinary used copies, which are what I have, are selling for only $35 apiece. This web site can do better than that. If you're willing to take a different edition you can buy Clarence Darrow for the Defense here for $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment, as with most books discussed here. You could fit at least three more paperback books into a package along with this one, whether they're other titles by Stone or Fair Trade Books, and pay only the one $5 shipping charge.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Makers and Takers: How Welfare Hurts Entrepreneurs

(Status update: this whole post is another big fat status update. Bottom line, I just earned $18, to add to $5, for the week's living expenses. If your income for the past year was US$12,000 or higher, go here first, and follow instructions:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 )

I am sooo tired this afternoon, Gentle Readers. It's a Friday afternoon and I've spent the morning in the open-air market in Gate City, Virginia.

Technically, the day started at 5:45 a.m., which was when I woke up. I left home at 7:15. Car-pooling with a fellow vendor, I was in the market at 7:34. The market technically opens at 8:30. Vendors and a few sharpwitted tightwads check out displays before that, if they can. Of the $18 I collected from sales, I'd taken in $13 before 8:30.

I had a few books that have been reviewed at this web site, a few that had not; I try to avoid taking the same ones in twice in a row. Fear it not, with my furniture-smart-but-book-clueless friend's collection on top of mine, I  have enough books for sale to deliver a new collection every week for a year or more, if I make the time to rotate stock.

Mostly I had soda pop.

Earlier in the spring, I happened to be looking for something to buy, "for Miss Manners," in a convenience store where I'd used the facilities. I found some small bottles of soda pop on sale at a price that allowed me to take them into the market that Friday and offer them, not on ice, at a price Wal-Mart couldn't beat. They sold fast. I used the profit, and the frugal supermarket shopping habits I learned in Mrs. Ramey's Home Economics class before Gate City even had a supermarket, to locate more bottles of soda pop at a price Wal-Mart couldn't beat next week, and the next week, and the next week.

Anybody can do this; Sam Walton would have approved. It's merely a matter of taking the time to shop for the lowest prices for an amount of any kind of merchandise that you can handle, on which you can then make a modest, ethical profit by reselling single units of merchandise as impulse purchases. It's how Wal-Mart actually began.

To offer single bottles of soda pop at a price substantially nicer than Wal-Mart's only involved walking seven miles to the supermarket where they were on sale in six-packs, carrying those six-packs to the warehouse on my shoulders. Well, fifty-year-old women do not maintain my kind of body shape by sitting in that ugly slouched-back-then-hunched-forward position car seats force a woman into. The usual sarcastic observations on people who drive past me in half-empty cars, not offering a lift, and then call themselves Christians, naturally apply...

Well...last week people didn't come to the market at all. For the first time I had a lot of bottles to lug back from the market.

This week, however, a well-known welfare cheat was cluttering the path through the market. (In an open-air market it's not an aisle; it's a traffic lane, along which people drive trucks.)

If I'd imagined anybody was going to listen to this character, I would have snapped a picture of him and posted it here (and a cheap cell phone camera can compete with Busted magazine for unflattering snapshots). "The Blighter" used to work in a local supermarket, from which he wasn't fired immediately after I caught him trying to rip me off, and was able to alienate me as a customer. He officially left the supermarket claiming some sort of work-related injury. If he has any such injury, it's not noticeable. He has rented space in the Friday Market. He has usually sold work tools for which he obviously has no use, and sometimes sold iced bottled drinks--smaller bottles, for a higher price. His father, whose disability pension is based on alleged mental illness, is one of my Insane Admirers. (Because he didn't want to admit how accurate his father's claim of mental illness probably was, at one time this poor man was worried that he'd have a stepmother who's a few years younger than he is. He had no need to worry.)

He had not set up a booth. He was just wandering around, telling everyone how terrible it was that "some idiot comes in, offers a lower price, and spoils things for everybody."

In selling bottled drinks at low prices I am not, of course, spoiling anything for anybody--not even the blighter who could, if he were intelligent, buy my drinks early in the day, at my price, and resell them at his price. My best steady customer has been doing that. Steady customer, who was intelligent enough to get a post-"retirement" job, buys bottled drinks at a modest profit to me, puts them in the cooler at his workplace, and resells them at a modest profit to himself.

I don't try to sell things at a price much higher than I'd be willing to pay for my own personal use, because I don't have the best lying skills. I can give people really ridiculous disinformation, in such a way that any competent adult knows it's a joke, but I wouldn't be able to ask the kind of prices The Blighter asks with a straight face. Local lurkers can expect to get dealers' rates on everything...unless they tick me off. When I offer any of the books in a box for $1, it does not bother me at all to see a literate fellow vendor buy a dictionary, Bible, or instruction book, transfer it to her or his own booth, and sell it for $2 or even $5.

As a Christian, I don't presume to forgive people before they repent, but I do release my emotional energy from people who, let's just say, could best serve humankind by dying right now before they waste another breath of oxygen. I've not followed The Blighter around trying to ruin everything he does, although I would technically be in the right if I did that. I would have been delighted to sell him all my bottles and let him spend the rest of the day reselling them at his prices, if he could, while I spent the day online.

The Blighter is not, however, intelligent enough to think of that. It's the sort of thing his pathetic father would have been able to think of, all by himself, if goaded to use what he has in the way of brains. If he needed the money to pay bills and buy groceries, The Blighter would probably have realized that his nasty behavior did him no good at all.

Let's walk through the steps, making this simple enough for a brain like The Blighter's.

A. Intelligent Choice: You, the person who wants to be able to get a higher price for something, buy as much as you can from anyone who's offering a lower price.

Result #1: The person(s) offering the lower price have accomplished what they set out to accomplish. They are pleased. They can go home.

Result #2: Although your purchase doesn't guarantee that they want to buy something from you, their feeling of being pleased in the Friday Market does improve the chance that they'll buy something in the Friday Market. The money may trickle back to you on the very same day.

Result #3: People like good customers, so someone who may have had good reasons to dislike you based on your past behavior (assuming the person spends enough mental energy remembering your past behavior to notice that it's you) may start to form a better opinion of you because you're a good customer...even if you turn around and resell the person's merchandise at a higher price.

B. Stupid Choice: You, the person who wants to be able to get a higher price for something, are able to exploit people's loyalty, ignorance, or fear of your reputation as a middle school bully, enough that they don't buy it at a price Wal-Mart can't match.

Result #1: The person(s) offering the lower price will still be able to sell some merchandise to some people, so you're not making them go away. To whatever extent you do reduce their profits, you merely make them less happy--and less likely to circulate more money around the Friday Market.

Result #2: Inevitably, the person(s) identify who's been sabotaging their business. Then they're motivated to discredit that person. You set up a backlash of dislike and disloyalty against you.

Result #3: A more hostile market is a less lucrative market. In a small town whose economy fluctuates noticeably depending on the Friday Market, your "negativity" may well make a small but noticeable dent in everybody's profits.

Result #4: More people buy food products than sell them, so you're not going to win a war with the person who's willing to sell them cheaper. You can hurt everybody's profits and everybody's feelings, maybe all over the whole town...but you, yourself, aren't going to come out ahead.

Now obviously The Blighter never was Berea material...I'd be surprised if he'd been able to finish a two-year course at one of those public colleges that are required by law to accept anybody who can sign a tuition payment check. Still, he did qualify for a cashier's job and even work his way up to a middle management position in a supermarket, before his "injury" (not that he walks with a noticeable limp). So he probably can count, as well as read at least a little. If all he had to live on were what he earned, he would have figured this out for himself.

How is it possible that he's not figured it out? How is it possible that a man who's old enough to be a grandfather, and can probably even read on at least a third or fourth grade level, is still acting like a fourth grade bully?

Welfare is what makes it possible. As long as this able-bodied semi-skilled worker is able to live as a parasite on working people, as long as he doesn't actually need to make a profit, he can afford to go into the Friday Market for the sole purpose of, well, blighting the market for everyone else. He doesn't have to make a positive contribution to the community. From his drug-warped point of view, it may even seem profitable to him to do only harm to everyone around him.

Frankly, Gentle Readers, I was surprised that this sort of thing could happen. Yes, we all carry around our "wounded inner children of the past," and mine is a sickly middle school student who just couldn't be as big or as strong or as energetic as my alleged peer group, no matter what I did (until I grew up and stopped eating wheat products). My "inner child" is always willing to believe that anyone I don't know well who looks in my direction is going to hit me if I don't knock him down first, because, for no logical reason--after all I was a child prodigy, and "everybody always" hates child prodigies--everyone else is hostile to me. For all my "inner child" knows, if my parents aren't around I probably am the last nice, quiet, peaceable person left on Earth.

(And yes, it's true that all I have to live on is what I earn...so if people pass by me in the Friday Market and don't buy something, they are in fact doing me harm. Don't think you "need" anything you see? Well, maybe not; from a broader perspective, there are a lot more humans on Earth than the planet really needs, and maybe what you need is to try to push up some daisies that will undoubtedly be more pleasant to look at than you ever were. Try telling yourself the truth, that you're shopping because you enjoy shopping, and all you need to do is encourage people who are not welfare cheats to stay honest and healthy so that you can grow older in a community of decent human beings. Which means, if there's something else you want more than you want what I currently have--which is likely, given that what I have is what I carried in on my shoulders!--you need to put up the money to order it from me. That's what Amazon is for.)

But no one else seemed surprised. Apparently there are several welfare cheats who have nothing to do but hang around trying to sabotage honest enterprises, even in a town as small as this one. Apparently some lazy, greedy, ignorant son-of-a-pup pulls some sort of stunt like this every time somebody tries to offer prices good enough to attract intelligent customers. Apparently they succeed in discouraging a lot of people into either joining the welfare-cheat demographic, or leaving our little town, moving to cities where they are the ones who tell the rest of the world how worthless towns like Gate City are.

There are things you can do about this, local readers. You can start by showing respect for whatever your neighbors do instead of welfare-cheating. Should you stumble across someone offering dealers' prices to any and all customers in a flea market, make sure the whole market hears you proclaiming how WONDERFUL it is to find anyone PUBLIC-SPIRITED enough to offer this kind of SERVICE TO THE WHOLE COMMUNITY--while you peel off not the one-dollar bills, but the twenty-dollar bills, from that wad I see you pull out and count as you approach. Make sure people see that you're taking from that site a little more than you can comfortably carry.

There's probably no real need to identify The Blighter, although it'd be no less than he deserved if I posted his picture, real name, and home address here--which I could do, and might still do. Just make sure he sees and hears a good strong backlash against his little hate campaign. He knows who he is. Encourage me, encourage any other vendors who you may know are working for their living rather than cultivating old injuries as bogus disabilities, and with any luck The Blighter will go home and commit suicide. Maybe he'll even report his emotional distress to some sort of counsellor who might (with God all things are possible) help him develop into a decent human being.

But this is not only a conflict between two individual vendors who've chosen different pricing strategies for their own reasons. That would not be a story worth publishing. This is also a conflict between honest business and welfare-cheating. It involves many other people as well as The Blighter and me, and there are things you can do to help all of those other people, too...to build a healthier community.

One of those things is to demand a pitiless reexamination of the whole monthly pension plan: In order to draw one penny beyond the amount they have personally paid into their own retirement, disability, or unemployment accounts, people need to be genuinely disabled, which means they're not walking around town making nuisances of themselves. Anyone who is able to walk, or steer a wheelchair, and who receives any tax-funded benefits needs to spend the "business hours," 9-5 Monday-Friday, on a designated day labor site holding up a list of the unskilled labor jobs s/he is able to do. Any absence from that "job," except when and as they've been led away from the site by an employer, should mean no benefits for at least one month. There's a reason why the Bible tells us that even widows should not be able to depend on handouts before age 70--which in Bible days meant "before they were totally bedridden": lest

 they learn to be idle, cwandering about from house to house; and not only idle, butdtattlers also and ebusybodies, speaking things which they ought not. 

The Bible tells us that able-bodied people should be paid for what they do, not according to what they supposedly "need," but because they and their work are worthy:

the labourer is worthy of his hire.

We all need to stop deluding ourselves that anybody "needs" anything. At best people "need" things in order to stay alive. Well, if all they're doing is sitting around (or sauntering around) going "needy-needy-needy," maybe they really need not to stay alive. Let'em starve, see how they like it! Let's admit that adults in these United States buy things because we want and choose and enjoy them, and public-spirited people enjoy supporting honest, public-spirited people rather than lazy, greedy parasites. Let's start rewarding honest efforts that are worthy of compensation, rather than listening to any blather about "needs."

Book Review: The Right Words at the Right Time

A Fair Trade Book (lol)

Title: The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2 Your Turn

Editor: Marlo Thomas

Date: 2006

Publisher: Atria

ISBN: 978-0-7434-9743-5

Length: 401 pages (but the type is large)

Illustrations: black & white photo at back of book

Quote: “The right words can be funny words, thought-provoking words, words that prop us up.”

Marlo “That Girl” Thomas put together a collection of her celebrity friends' memories of what had been “the right words at the right time” for them. Readers responded with similar stories of their own. What was an actress with a charity to raise money for supposed to do? This was the second fundraiser, dedicated to the child patients at St. Jude's Hospital.

It's a nice, cheerful bedside or coffee-table book, suitable for dipping into whenever you have time for just a short cheerful read. The people in these stories are not famous and many of them are no better writers than the famous, but all stories are readable and easy to relate to.

In other years I wouldn't have made this comment, but in view of recent cyberchatter I have to mention this: this book is political. It runs over with the kind of moderate-left trendiness that used to be obligatory at the Big Three TV networks. Because Thomas undoubtedly thought, as many Washington Post writers would undoubtedly agree, that this is a nice neutral sampling of nice feel-good stories for just about anybody—and it is, for anybody who's not been sensitized to the presence of political rhetoric—let me call attention to:

* Several stories from survivors of the 2001 suicide plane attacks. A media blitz of “9/11 stories” was demonstrably successful in boosting support for the resulting war.

* There's a story about an American finding enlightenment in a Japanese Buddhist monastery. There's no story about a Japanese Buddhist finding enlightenment in an American Christian monastery.

* There are stories about women embracing mediocrity. There are stories about men pushing themselves to succeed even in the absence of talent.

* There are stories about abusive or inadequate parents. There aren't stories about abusive day-care centers or inadequate public schools. There's a story about incest; there's no story about a child being sexually abused at school. There's a story about a child who's beaten up by her mother; there's no story about a child who's beaten up by schoolmates.

* If it's not been made an issue of identity politics yet, it should be: There's a story about a child “being brave enough to overcome shyness” and talk to strangers. There's no story about a child “being brave enough to overcome fear of being alone with his/her own damaged brain” and not chatter.

* There's a story about a guy who “stopped being born again” and “became a devout homosexual instead.” There's no story about any man or woman who stopped living for sexual pleasure and became a devout celibate instead.

* There's a story about wounded soldiers being cheered up by Christmas carols. This never used to be a political issue, but it's become one. Limousine Lefties no longer want to admit that religious holiday traditions could have enough meaning for any number of people to be worth exposing any possible follower of a different religion to the horror and trauma of having to watch anyone celebrate his or her religious tradition.

* There are stories about immigration to the United States. Granted, these stories come from the past, many from the 1940s. Still, there aren't stories about the observed fact that the United States is now sufficiently overpopulated that people are beginning to scream about sealing the borders.

* There's a story about an older man learning to use a computer. There's no story about a younger person learning to do something without electronic gadgets.

* There are stories about people whose religion is vaguely, liberally Jewish and stories about people whose religion is vaguely, liberally Christian. There are no stories about orthodox followers of either religion, and the proportion of Jewish to Christian respondents in this book is vastly higher than the proportion of Jewish to Christian people in the United States.

* There's a story about a teacher who was less concerned with teaching the subject he was paid to teach than with teaching “social skills” or social attitudes or some such twaddle. (That was considered cool, in some circles, around 1970.) This math teacher has an odd-numbered group of students pair off by calling out code words while the one student left out is told to “keep yelling the word ['Help'] at the top of your lungs, no matter what happens,” as an object lesson that “when people form their own little cliques, someone is always left out...silently calling for help.” It's easy to think that the teacher was just encouraging the students to be kind to people who'd like to join the cliques but have somehow been overlooked. That way of thinking, however, denies the existence of students who don't want to join the cliques of same-physical-age classmates, who are much more attuned to the things they're able to do with their own same-mental-age friends outside of school. It teaches young people to flatter themselves to assume that any invitation they make is an act of charity for which the person invited should be grateful, rather than recognizing that any invitation they make is likely to be a bid for charity and, if the invitation is accepted, they need to be grateful.

* Oh, by the way, did I mention soldiers? (Yes.) There's no story about radical pacifists.

I could go on. There are several stories about people who were on, or who got onto, the U.S. side of the Second World War. Arguably no American reader should miss the stories from the German, Russian, Japanese, French, Italian, Ethiopian, or Swiss sides; many people in the U.S. would agree with the claim that the only other side of the World War that deserves hearing is the U.K. side, that the British were the only real, solid ally we had even among “The Allies.” I don't want to read the war stories of Nazis either, so I probably have no right to point this out, but...the stories from the 1940s are totally politically biased. There's not even a British story in the lot.

Regular readers know why I felt a need to review this feel-good book in this way. I set up this web site to broadcast my views on writing, censorship, and compensation. Those have not been the divisive issues in any U.S. election, but they certainly are political issues. They are also moral, hence even religious, issues. There is no way on earth this web site could pretend not to be “political”--although from time to time I do like to remind everybody that this web site markets books that express political, religious, and other philosophical ideas that aren't mine. But when people start yammering on about wanting web sites not to be “political”...duh. You cannot not communicate.

Web sites that are not about writing, books, publishing, can of course get away with limiting the scope of their content. If your business is repairing washing machines, you can have a “blog” that endlessly recycles a half-dozen “posts” like “Things People Do That Damage Their Washing Machines” and “The Right Place to Put Your Washing Machine” and “Quick Fixes for Washing Machine Problems.” Since you can spend your days either repairing washing machines or writing, and you presumably prefer to spend them repairing washing machines, you don't have to write anything about yourself at all; your web site doesn't have to show your age, gender, or color, much less your political views. Your “blog” can be ghostwritten by a professional hack writer—I've done that. Your customers are there to learn about washing machines; they're not interested in you.

My business, web site, and customers, are a different kind.

I'm not here to “polarize” people. I don't think people need to be “polarized.” I think truth often emerges from the conflict between the errors on either side of a dichotomy.

Nevertheless, I'm picking up a lot of angst in cyberspace about the fact that socialism has not turned out to be the direction of the future, that people around the world are not turning to global totalitarian government as a savior. Ooohhh, please, don't mention nasty old politics to them! That would be as mean, as cruel, as mentioning football to them the day after their school was eliminated from the championship round!

And seriously, I have to say: most of the time my political issues aren't yours, and some of the time I may even be on your side, but if you want me to stay away from political topics, then so should you. For example, The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2, Your Turn, may be a feel-good read but it's also a political...screed! If political topics are too “polarizing” or “hurtful” for you, don't read it!

If you have a hardier sort of mind, of course, this book is a feel-good read, and despite its being written by non-celebrities and containing very little celebrity gossip, you'll probably enjoy it.

Marlo Thomas is alive and active in cyberspace, so this is a Fair Trade Book; when you buy it here, for the usual $5 per copy, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment, this web site will send $1 to Thomas or a charity of her choice. The Right Words at the Right Time are odd-sized, awkward books, but both volumes would fit into one package for one $5 shipping charge; if you order them that way, Thomas or her charity gets $2, and you send only $15 via U.S. postal money order or $16 via Paypal. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tonteria Toxica (Reply to Angel J. Colon)

(Status update: I earned $24.75 last week, $5 so far this week. There'd be more of the posts you readers apparently find more interesting, on this web site, if you'd done your bit:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 )

Change.org is discriminating against the version of Google Chrome I'm using, so the comment below failed to show on this petition:


To Angel J. Colon:

Se dice que tantos veteranos jovenes necesitan ayuda con problemas mentales que no se puede soportar los mas viejos tambien. Tonteria. Es lo que Glenn Beck ha llamado un "Gambito del Washington Monument"--cuando los burocratas no reciben todo que desean, intentan destruir cualquier programa que la gente creen mas indispensable.

(We're told that so many young veterans need help with mental problems that (the V.A.) can't support both (them, and the older veterans with physical injuries, as discussed in the petition). Bosh. This is what Glenn Beck has called a "Washington Monument Ploy"--when bureaucrats don't get what they want, they propose to destroy whichever program the people think is most indispensable.)

Budget cuts need to be made...and contractual obligations to guarantee the most appropriate, efficient, and cheap way to provide for older veterans' retirement, which were a major reason why young men volunteered to fight in the twentieth century wars, are so not one of the things that need to be cut. Better the federal government should start by cutting out any federal department created after 1976, on the grounds that the states managed certain things adequately for two hundred years and can resume doing so.

The contents of Beck's book Broke are no longer Breaking News, but they've been fact-checked and found accurate...and the explanation of the Washington Monument Ploy is timeless. The Ploy probably worked before George Washington was born.

There's no Spanish edition of Broke but there's a Kindle edition; I suspect Bing or Google will translate it about as well as either translates Change.org petitions. (Some people gripe about those who comment on an English-language page in Spanish. I'm more likely to reply in Spanish-as-a-Second-Language...but seriously, Gentle Readers, these days a lot of Google-hosted sites, apparently including this one, open in whichever of several languages a reader's browser is set to use. People who type Spanish comments into English forums may be reading the forums in Spanish.)

Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

Classic book has been on reading lists for over a hundred years...should this be called a Book Announcement rather than a Book Review? Here's a shiny new edition you can buy from Amazon. What I physically read, reviewed, and have already sold, was a nostalgic, battered discard from a school library...

Title: The Red Badge of Courage

Author: Stephen Crane

Date: 1894, 1951, many reprints since then

Publisher: D. Appleton & Company (1894), Random House (1951)

ISBN: none

Length: 267 pages

Quote: “So they were at last going to fight. On the morrow, perhaps, there would be a battle, and he would be in it.”

Stephen Crane, who claimed to believe that great writing should reflect the writer's life experience, is remembered for two novels that substantially distorted any life experience Crane could possibly have put into them: Maggie, the story of a woman of the sort Mrs. Crane exploited, and The Red Badge of Courage, the story of a soldier in a war that ended ten years before Crane was born. In practice Crane could almost have been said to adhere to Willa Cather's rule—writing the stories of people who interested the writer by being so different from the writer. He shared Cather's gift of visualizing other people's stories so vividly that they agreed his books captured what their stories had been like.

It was on the strength of his vivid visualization of the American Civil War that Crane was allowed to visit a battlefield as a journalist, and see for himself that he'd imagined how he'd react to combat conditions, quite well. Real Civil War veterans bought The Red Badge of Courage. They criticized it liberally—one particular line, according to the reprint I have, was for some time “the most notorious metaphor in American literature”--but they recommended it to students with equal liberality. This novel has been on high school reading lists for a hundred years.

Crane said that he'd set out to communicate an experience as it had been communicated to him, without philosophy, symbolism, moralism, or overt religion. There are no meditations on life and death. Readers have often felt that there ought to be some significance about the initials of Jim Conklin, the character whose death (from a wound in the side, yet) gives his younger friend Henry a vicarious experience that helps Henry overcome panic. Crane never said that there was.

I acquired my copy of The Red Badge of Courage because a school library discarded it. My copy shows wear, including students' doodling. Newer editions are available and are what online purchasers are likely to receive.

Should schools keep on buying new editions of The Red Badge of Courage? I think so, even though, as I recall, even bright, precocious middle school kids are likely to miss the point. At sixteen or eighteen, when teenagers are considering military service, thinking about the horrors of war is horribly appropriate. At ten or twelve, I remember understanding all the words in this novel but thinking of it as just another gross-out horror story. (Not that it's terribly explicit--considering the historical reality it reflects, the gross-outs have been toned down. We see Jim dying quickly; we don't have to watch people dying slowly from wounds that went septic, or dead men and animals left rotting on the field...) If literary admiration is the reaction teachers want from students, Cather might be a better choice.

However, I can now affirm that, if you were a teenybopper who was told to read The Red Badge of Courage in school, and all you learned or remember is that you “didn't like” it, this unrelentingly grown-up story is worth rereading as an adult. Crane's literary achievement, and the question of whether Henry's experience is anything like one you had or think you might have had, deserve some attention from people who've lived long enough to have some idea what this novel was about.

Psychologists have been blamed for trying to offer “death education” to students before nature had provided them any opportunity to face the reality of mortality. Efforts to march any group of children through any curriculum plan, in lockstep, tend to fail so I don't blame parents for objecting to “death education.” Nevertheless, the psychological fact is that many people's anxious reactions and cowardly conduct seem to be caused by an excessive fear of death, and the experience of observing what might be called a “good” death can be liberating. Awareness that life ends, that the choices people make often contribute to making the ends of their lives more or less unpleasant, can help us make the most of the time we have. The “badge of courage” can even show up as a mental attitude that, without being aggressive, commands respect and scares off attackers. Children are not necessarily capable of developing this awareness. Teenagers' reckless thrill-seeking may be a not very effective effort to develop it—courage is risking your life for a valid reason, not for a stupid one. Adults, nevertheless, need a “badge of courage.” I believe they can come from watching good people die bravely in peacetime, from old age, too.

Obviously this is not a Fair Trade Book. It is, however, a small enough book to fit into a package along with several Fair Trade Books, so feel free to scroll down and look for some; James McPherson's Ordeal by Fire , an historical study of the years before, during, and after the Civil War, would be a nice choice for background information on this story. If you don't insist on one specific edition that may be hard to find, The Red Badge of Courage can be purchased in support of this web site for $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Title: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Author: Richard Carlson

Date: 1997

Publisher: Hyperion

ISBN: 0-7868-8185-2

Length: 249 pages

Quote: “A stranger...might cut in front of us in traffic...we convince ourselves that we are justified in our anger...Many of us might even tell someone else about the incident later on.”

In the foreword to this book, Carlson explains that he got the main idea from Wayne Dyer, who once wrote to him that there were “two rules for harmony: (1) don't sweat the small stuff, and (2) it's all small stuff.”

Right. Consider the source. 

This is a book in which another self-righteous type—a disciple of Wayne Dyer—tells you that, whatever you may feel angry or sad or worried about, it doesn't matter, it's all in your mind, nobody else is interested in it...I'm one of those quiet, mellow people who's never had a blood pressure problem and always known how to use deep breathing for pain control, and that line of talk raises my blood pressure. So I can't feel too optimistic about this book having great promise for those whose doctors have ordered them to grow some patience, like, yesterday, before they have strokes and die “old” at forty-five. Many people have read it and said it helped them; Amazon shows a whole page of follow-up volumes that have been bought and loved by Carlson's fans. I'd still hesitate to give Don't Sweat the Small Stuff to a hypertensive friend. These thoughts did not, after all, keep Carlson from succumbing to cardiovascular disease before he was even fifty years old.

Genes undoubtedly contributed to Carlson's looking so much older than coevals like Barack Obama and George Stephanopoulos, and Hollywood customs may have contributed to his looking so much older than a long list of other well-known people born in 1961 (here), but let's face it: that pudgy, saggy-faced geezer of 45 was obviously unable to avoid "sweating" some things no matter how many blow-off-your-worries books he'd written. So this review of his first and best known book doesn't have to be charitable. It needs to point out the most obvious shortcomings of the contents of the book. 

How do you discuss the concept of mellowing out with someone who isn't hypertensive in the first place, without irritating even that person? For starters you avoid phrases like “you will begin to create a more peaceful and loving you.” Urgh. I can stand “you will be cultivating the virtue of patience,” but I'm a Christian. Generally, when we want to encourage adults to change their behavior (or when we want children to have any idea what we want), it's a good idea to avoid characterizing, or judging, or describing the person. Focus on the target behavior.

Was Wayne Dyer, a popular author of the 1970s of whose work I remember most vividly a suggestion that people ought to be able to tell themselves to be sexually excited by having dental work done, stupid, hateful, obnoxious, a pervert, or a person who really deserved 32 root canals without an anesthetic? How do you know that Dyer is or isn't any of those things? Where do you draw the line between doing something that is stupid, hateful, or obnoxious, and being a stupid, hateful, obnoxious person...

There is a way out of this little intellectual whirlpool. It consists of four words: “I am not God.” Since I'm not God, I don't have access to all the information about all your past, present, and future thoughts, words, and deeds, and the reasons for them, and the influences behind them, that God has to take into account in order to judge God's mortal creatures. So I do not, in fact, know what you are. In advice from a family counsellor, as in a confrontation with a family member, all of the “be” words are killer be's, best not used in the same sentence with “you.”

Some total Type A's are in fact loving people, even if it's possible to identify the people they love by their hunted expressions. They don't need to “be more loving.” They are already “loving” in all the ways that phrase brings to their minds. If they need to change their behavior, whether by getting that blood pressure down so they can go on loving their loved ones, or by listening more attentively, or cultivating a milder manner of speaking, or touching more, or swearing less, or whatever...that's what can usefully be described. Active verbs and specific suggestions can help somebody. "Be" phrases merely fail to communicate.

Since Carlson does offer some specific suggestions for things Type A's can do that may help them sweat less (“Don't Interrupt Others,” “Once a Week Write a Heartfelt Letter,” “Tell At Least One Person Something You Like, Admire, or Appreciate About Them”), it's fair to say that this book offers some helpful advice to anyone seeking to reduce the level of stress in their life. Unfortunately, it sets readers up to reject the good advice with lines like “a more peaceful and loving you”...

What is “a more [desirable quality] you,” anyway? It's not a classic sneaky vap; it doesn't rely on intonation to distinguish an unmistakably hostile form from a benign form. (“If you really wanted to go out tonight, you should've told me so before I cooked,” is benign even though it might appear in a quarrel; “If you really wanted to go out tonight, you wouldn't have spent the money on [whatever],” is
hostile.) “A more [X] you” is rare. Women of a certain age probably encountered it first in the Girl Scout manual with the chapter heading “A More Attractive You.” Ouch. That presupposition, “You're not as attractive as you want to be, or as you might be”? What a thing to tell junior high school girls--though true in most cases. No wonder that, when the Girl Scouts divided their junior high school members into separate “Cadette” troops and gave them that manual, girls dropped out of Scouts in droves. No wonder readers who, whatever their flaws, knew they already were “loving,” made fun of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

Well, laughing is another way to rebalance our hormones in a mellower direction, Gentle Readers. May I suggest laughing at Don't Sweat the Small Stuff? Laugh out loud. “Create a more peaceful and loving you”? Hahaha! Hold the back cover up and laugh in Carlson's face. Laughing, even if it starts in a mean and snarky way, can actually help people reduce pain and control blood pressure. Then read on: “Remind yourself that when you die your 'in basket' won't be empty.” Most of us need occasional reminders. There are valid reasons to buy Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. Some of these thoughts can help.

The extent to which our thoughts really control the level of stress we suffer has been a matter of some debate. For some people, using angry energy in a nonviolent way helps build cardiovascular resistance and fight cardiovascular disease; for some people, the feeling of anger can become a physical addiction that increases hypertension, overall dissatisfaction, felt levels of anger about various provocations, and the chance that these people will abuse others, often family members who can't fight back. When Carlson and I (and all those movie stars at the IMDB site) were growing up, psychologists were encouraging people to get in touch with our anger, "Shout! Let it all out: These are the things I could do without!" Now there's more of a perception that, even if that was a healthy approach for some people (especially women) to take, to "rehearse" expressing our anger to adults rather than dumping it on children, that was just too dangerous for the anger addicts, so we should all focus on just releasing the emotional feeling of anger. For those interested in releasing the feeling through meditation, which really does work for some people, there are books on that specific subject. This web site recommends:

There's also valid cause for concern that too much focus on the feeling of anger may distract people from addressing the things that God gave us angry energy in order to help us change, because those things are doing harm to other people as well as us...I'm not saying that sweat, a flushed face, or clenched teeth are in any way necessary to address societal problems such as crime, but I am saying that anything that actually prevents or reduces the incidence of crime does crime victims more good than merely trying to feel something other than anger.

Fix Facts First Shirt

It can be worth spending the time to sort out how much of the stress we feel has anything to do with stuff that's not actually small, that does harm to us and others, and how much of it has more to do with merely feeling physically below par. Cardiovascular disease kills people who become angry because they feel below par. They get tired easily, their resistance to infections is low, they don't get enough sleep, they don't digest food efficiently, their hormones are unbalanced, they have addictions (including that addiction to the adrenalin rush of angry energy that some men get), and as a result of all these things they're grumpy, miserable to be around, capable of yelling at you because you left the window closed (or open) and then yelling at you, five minutes later, because you opened (or closed) it for their comfort. These people can benefit from working through their emotional feelings and thought processes, but they need more than that; they also need, at the bare minimum, a diet, exercise, and meditation regimen, and sometimes medication, supervised by a medical doctor as well as a psychotherapist or family counsellor.

So, in conclusion: if Richard Carlson did take the time to tell his children he loved them and write letters of appreciation to service people, that was good, and undoubtedly made his last years less unpleasant for everyone...but if he'd paid more attention to the advice of someone like John McDougall or Stephen Sinatra , he might be as fit and healthy, today, as most people our age are.

If you are hypertensive, there is nevertheless a stage, as you begin to fix the facts of your hypertension, at which the psychological and social exercises discussed in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff can be useful. So go ahead and buy the book, why not? It's a small, thin book and would fit into a package with Anger and Lower Your Blood Pressure and even this web site's trademark T-shirt from Zazzle. For that you'd pay $5 per book (yes, each of the three books is only $5, and the other two are Fair Trade Books!), $20 for the shirt, $5 for the package, and $1 per online payment.

(Will three books and a T-shirt really reverse cardiovascular disease? The answer is yes...for some people, if those people use the information in time. This does not, however, imply that three books and a T-shirt can take the place of a doctor.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: My Three Years with Eisenhower

Title: My Three Years with Eisenhower

Author: Harry C. Butcher

Date: 1946

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: none

Length: 876 pages with 34-page index

Quote: “I have seen you several times in pictures and movies with General Eisenhower. You're always away back in the background. Why didn't you get up front?”

“In the background” as aide to the future President, Captain Butcher was keeping a “secret” diary (dictated to a secretary and redacted for publication in U.S. newspapers), participating in what he reports as the general tendency among the soldiers in that “World War” to cheer for all the other Allied leaders and victories while talking as if their own leader was basically winning the whole war. From his perspective, Roosevelt and Churchill and then-ally Stalin were merely supporters in Eisenhower's war.

One of the more endearing bits of a rather dry story is that Butcher was aware of this at the time. He knew in 1942 that his reports on his superordinate's role might be used as a political campaign document some day. So did the future President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, and sometimes they disagreed about what to report. In the Army, Eisenhower used “Army language,” but in reports he preferred to have it edited out.

One anecdote (pages 716-717) shows Butcher covering his chief's back side a little too well. In the 1940s drinking alcohol was legal even in the United States, but it was still considered disreputable (as, in my part of the U.S., it still is). Fans had been known to send General Eisenhower wine or whisky. Believing that he needed to be fully alert at all times, the general had sent the bottles o'cheer to hospitals for the wounded. One day in 1944, however, a congressional delegation had brought the general various comforts from home—American food treats including sausage and hominy grits, and a bottle of bourbon. Butcher told a reporter to say, “General Eisenhower sent the whisky to a near-by field hospital.” Eisenhower was “displeased”: “[E]very member of the Military Affairs Committee would...say 'the fellow is a **** liar.'” Politicians themselves, they'd surely understand, Butcher soothed; in any case, “What did happen to the whisky?” The Congressmen drank it, Eisenhower said.

I chortled...for, I think, the only time, while reading this book. What Butcher's diary is, and was meant to be, was History. Military History. Every bit as detached as it was in your school history book, only in more detail. Intended for reference not for pleasure, although those who really Liked Ike would be expected to skim through it.

Well...this fat little book tells me more than its first owner probably expected it to. As mentioned earlier I know a lady who had been buying books to display in a furniture store, decided there were too many books, and demanded that I take them off her hands or she'd send them to the landfill. My Three Years with Eisenhower was one of the books she'd bought, obviously, for its authentic early twentieth century look. It hadn't been perfectly preserved—it's foxed, a few pages crinkled from damp, the binding giving that crumbly feeling that warned me to lay it flat on a table and turn its pages with care. I felt no qualms about creasing or even dog-earing pages...until I came to the first few uncut pages, in the second or so hundred pages. Commercial publishers have, for a long time, been printing several pages of a book on a single big sheet of paper—standard-sized books, typically, consist of 16 two-sided pages that started out as one big page—and into the twentieth century it was common practice to leave it to the first reader of the book to separate the pages with a knife as s/he read. This proved that the book was really new. (It was also common practice to burn all the books of anyone who'd been positively diagnosed with a contagious disease. Very few if any serious diseases have been spread by handling books, but many people preferred to be safe rather than sorry.) And My Three Years with Eisenhower had lasted from 1946 to 2017 with about half a dozen pages uncut. I am the very first person ever to read the copy on the desk where I'm typing this.

Let's just say that, after cutting the pages, I became more mindful about creasing them. The book was not in “new” condition but I handled it even more gently.

If you set out to read this book, and were not able to finish it during an entire presidential administration, you'd not be the first. You already know the plot: Algeria, Italy, Germany, the White House. Details you might want to use in an historical study are listed in the index, provided that you know which people and places you're looking for. (You may or may not have been interested in knowing that General Eisenhower managed to keep both dogs and cats, overseas; Butcher introduces two of each and explains how three of the animals got their names.)

There's something ineffably icky, for me, about official military history. It's dry, detached—as it has to be. Military leaders live in comfortable houses, throughout a modern war, and don't even have to see an actual combat zone. Eisenhower thought “Telegraph Cottage” needed a dog, and named the dog Telek; Butcher thought “Telek” sounded like a brand name for a toothbrush; Eisenhower cheerfully observed that the dog's tail looked a bit like a toothbrush...Yonder are men shot through their eyes. The heavens veil their face from Man's intolerable race, drifts through my mind. No, I don't prefer the memoirs or reports of those actually wading through the very special war mud that was compounded of ordinary dirt, garbage and bodywastes, plus the liquid effluvia from human corpses. I would prefer that humans figured out that there have to be better ways to resolve disputes, and limit population, than war.

Read an honest war story and say that making a third baby is less a “perversion” than any other sexual act of which humans are capable, if you can. Military history is written by people sitting at a distance sufficient that they can go on giving other things higher priority than ending the practice (and the felt need) of war. Wars are won by people capable of forgiving their leaders for bickering about the best name to give a puppy while those people, themselves, are using a friend's body as a shield. It is better to win wars than to lose wars, and we respect and thank the people who fought the wars...but when will we evolve an acceptance of better ways to thin our population down?

Sorry. Here is a war story, not necessarily dishonest for its distance from what your grandfather probably remembered. Buy it if it's useful to you. I've left a few pages of the index uncut, and I promise I didn't cough on the book. It's not a Fair Trade Book and will cost $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment; two copies of this book might or might not fit into one package but several smaller books would fit in alongside one copy.