A good introduction to the life and influence of a woman whose unpleasant and vile legacy still bears rotten fruit. Weiss is, of course, more balanced...moreA good introduction to the life and influence of a woman whose unpleasant and vile legacy still bears rotten fruit. Weiss is, of course, more balanced than this introductory sentence of mine. But the book does a good job of showing how Rand's economic and philosophical teachings are at the heart of the Tea Party and other conservative policies, having conquered the world through her devoted disciple, Alan Greenspan. If you want to understand the conservative movement and the polucy decisions of our government, yiu need to understand Ayn Rand.(less)
A solid, meaty book documenting the political gerrymandering of scientific consensus and research by a handful of likeminded right wing thinktanks and...moreA solid, meaty book documenting the political gerrymandering of scientific consensus and research by a handful of likeminded right wing thinktanks and their scientific and political allies since the Nixon era. Well-documented and researched, the book shows how political conservatives poisoned the scientific process and policy implementation of scientific findings in order to further their own ends and aims at the expense of reality. Frim claiming there was no side effects to second-hand smoke to the ozone hole, acid rain, nuclear power, and global warming, this coalition of misinformation has had the ear of the public and media. Fascinating reading, which cuts through much of the confusion over these issues.(less)
Another phenomenal book by Peter Leithart. Divided into three parts, the first deals with the theology of empire and develops a proper picture of empi...moreAnother phenomenal book by Peter Leithart. Divided into three parts, the first deals with the theology of empire and develops a proper picture of empire in Scripture. This section alone is worth the price of the book. Then Leithart turns to the issue of empire in American history, helpfully undercutting all of the myths that have grown up around the Founding Fathers which paint them as kind and cosmopolitan 21st century folk lost out of their time. He traces the growth of Americanism, the heretical combination of eschatological and Kingdom language used by American people from the beginning, except that the place of Christ is taken by America. America becomes the great savior, the eschatological thousand years of peace will be brought in as America's principles spread across the globe. I'm paraphrasing, but I'm paraphrasing John Adams. Yeah.
He shows that Americanism is a heady gloss that allows us to dismiss our ill-deeds around the world and pretend they either don't exist or that they were for everyone's good, rather than for our own national self-interest. He also demolishes the strange and esoteric claim made by libertarians like Ron Paul that America was non-interventionalist before World War II. This is such an absurd claim I don't know how it can in good conscience be maintained. Finally, he sums it all up by arguing that the American church has for at least two hundred years been interested more in making disciples of Americanism than in making disciples of the Kingdom. He advocates for a strong Church and a strong eucharistic theology, a church that has reclaimed its own political space to declare wars as "just" or "unjust," and to deliver its determination in such a way that those Christians under it will then refuse to go to war or participate in it, even soldiers, if it is unjust. A marvelous, one-of-a-kind book.(less)
This was a fascinating history of the doctrine of Union with Christ and its North American developments. The book begins with Calvin's doctrine of uni...moreThis was a fascinating history of the doctrine of Union with Christ and its North American developments. The book begins with Calvin's doctrine of union with Christ and from there traces the doctrine's devolution from a robust, objective doctrine central to soteriology, into either a legal fiction or pietistic sentimental feeling of "connection with Christ" (the Puritans in particular were guilty of this). The history is very revealing for current justification debates in Reformed circles, revealing that those who object to Union with Christ being the soteriological umbrella term under which all other doctrines (justification, sanctification, glorification) are subsumed are thoroughly out of accord with Calvin and the earliest reformers and are additionally guilty of reading later understanding of "Union with Christ" back into Calvin, assuming a continuity between them that does not exist.
This was a captivating, important book, which I read as part of my ongoing research into modern copyright law, which now extends into the far corners...moreThis was a captivating, important book, which I read as part of my ongoing research into modern copyright law, which now extends into the far corners of everything, transforming culture into commodity, creativity into control, the public domain into a vacant house, the destruction of fair use, and more. This book was helpful because it outlines the growth of copyright law from "Bloody" Mary Tudor all the way down beyond the Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and shows how copyright was originally a temporary government-granted monopoly on ideas for the benefit of the publisher of creative work, and how it has been transformed into a "moral rights" issue. Where the first copyrights were there to penalize publishers and not the public, now copyright has essentially criminalize everything, including the public. A scholarly, and not popular account, highly recommended on a very important subject.(less)
This was an absolutely captivating book. Cordingly is a leading historian on the pirate phenomenon and in this book he examines both the myth and the...moreThis was an absolutely captivating book. Cordingly is a leading historian on the pirate phenomenon and in this book he examines both the myth and the facts concerning pirates. He is happy to puncture some legends - pirates rarely if ever made people walk the plank, for instance - and confirms popular conceptions on the other (the familiar picture of the pirate with a bandanna, pistols on his belt, and a parrot on his shoulder is common enough to be based in reality). He looks at everything from shipwrecks, buried treasure, life aboard ship and the hierarchy of a pirate ship, all the way to the treatment of prisoners (the womenfolk almost always raped) and homosexuality (interestingly there is little evidence of homosexuality among western pirates, although there were over 50,000 cases of buggery among the Chinese pirates in the space of a mere four years!)
One of the most interesting elements was Cordingly's depiction of the hierarchy aboard a pirate ship. While the Royal Navy was structured in a fierce top-down manner, the pirate vessels were among the first democracies on earth. The captain was elected by majority vote, as were the destinations. The crew decided where to go, what ships to rob, what ports to burn. The captain, on the other hand, had absolute power in the times of combat, but otherwise had little to do. He was given the use of the great cabin, though it was not exclusively his, and he was often forced to share his food and space with any member of the crew who desired it.
I read this book because of research I'm doing for a pirate novel, but I finished it out of sheer interest. If you want to know what it was like to be a pirate, this is the book for you.(less)
This was a haunting, spell-binding book. I am not a neo-con like D'Souza, but I picked up this book almost by accident and couldn't resist the opportu...moreThis was a haunting, spell-binding book. I am not a neo-con like D'Souza, but I picked up this book almost by accident and couldn't resist the opportunity to read an account of Obama the man from another minority with a biography so close to Obama's own. With a title like this, complete with the glaring picture of a frowning Obama on the front cover, I was worried that the book would be nothing but more empty polemic. Thank goodness that assumption was not true. In fact, I can't think of a more mis-titled and mis-marketed book in contemporary politics, and the likely responsibility for the mischaracterization falls no doubt on Regnery and not D'Souza.
I am not sure my experience of the book will be the same as a conservative who reads it because they are petrified by Obama's policies. Such a person is likely to consider the exploration of Obama's past as simply "knowing the enemy." For me, it was the first time I felt as though I have truly understood Obama the man. The book is predominantly a biography of Obama's pre-political life, and that life is haunting, heart-breaking, and in many ways a beautiful tragedy. Reading the book, I could not help but feel a great swell of compassion for Obama the man.
The reason? D'Souza's thesis is that Obama has been driven his entire life by the specter of his absent father, a man who grew to larger-than-life proportions in the mind of his son. It is the story of a quest - Obama's quest to reject his American-European side, and a quest to discover his father, and to honor that vacant man by adopting his Africanism, his ideology, and his dream for the world. This father-hunger on Obama's part drove him to the heart of Kenya to his father's grave, and it drove him to seek power, to accomplish the failed dreams of his father. Now that is a heart-rending story if there ever was one. To be honest, it is almost Shakespearian.
D'Souza writes that "Obama never knew his father, who abandoned his mother and him shortly after he was born, and whom he met only once when he was a young boy. Even so, Obama identified more with his father than anyone else, and he undertook an intense psychological and ultimately actual journey to Africa in order to discover his dad and in the process to find himself. Unable to find his father, he did the next best thing: he embraced his father's ideals and decided to live out the script of his father's unfulfilled life. Obama ultimately recognized that his father was not the great romantic he had long envisioned him to be. But Obama concluded that despite his flaws, his father had great vision, great ideals, a great plan of reform. Since Obama Sr. was unable to achieve those ideals, Obama Jr. figured he would undertake this heroic mission. In changing the world into the image of his father, he would complete the task his father couldn't, and thus he would become worthy of his father, a real African and a real man," (27).
The chief theme D'Souza sees Obama taking from his father was his father's anti-colonial Africanism, a view that the West's colonization of Africa was an act of oppression and theft and pillage of the Africans. Ultimately, I am in many ways sympathetic to this myself and thus found myself in the strange position of being an anti-Obama-ite, reading a book by another anti-Obama-ite, but agreeing more with Obama's central complaint about the West than not, whilst disagreeing with the conclusions of both Obama and D'Souza. It kinda made my head go cross-eyed. Anyway, D'Souza shows that his theory that Obama's anti-colonial sympathies have explanatory power of Obama's often strange actions as President, down into the details, and he proves his case pretty well. He points out that most everybody who heard about it were baffled by Obama's decision to return the bust of Winston Churchill that was on display in the White House back to the British. He then points out that this makes perfect sense if Obama saw Churchill through third-world eyes - not as the defender of liberty against the Nazis, but rather as the oppressor of Africans in British colonies in Africa. Churchill, you see, put down an African rebellion and arrested thousands of innocent African men, including Obama's father and grandfather, and quashed the dreams of Obama's father, who wanted a Kenya independent of British rule. Ahh, now it makes sense! Perfect, almost eerie, sense. D'Souza then proceeds to show how Obama's policies are all oriented not towards themselves, but towards the ultimate goal of anti-colonialism, of shrinking and taming the influence of the great imperial power in the world (America), of preventing our country from continuing the reign of American empire around the world. It explains why he curtailed America's nuclear missile arenal and off-shore oil drilling, while being unconcerned with Iran's acquisition of nuclear missiles, and encouraging Brazil to proceed with offshore drilling. It's all about slowing the growth of the American colonization machine, and letting the have-nots have a little more for themselves.
Now, I'm not saying I agree with Obama's decisions, or indeed with the "solutions" presented by a neo-con like D'Souza, but I am saying that I feel that, for the first time, I have the measure of Obama the man. When I listen to him talk now, I will be able to hear a human being, a broken, wounded human being who has locked his pain up far away inside. America, D'Souza concludes, is not being ruled by Obama, but by his father.
"Reflect for a moment on the title of his book: its not Dreams of My Father but rather Dreams From My Father. In other words, Obama is not writing a book about his father's dreams; he is writing about the dreams that he got from his father. Think about what this means. The most powerful country in the world is being governed according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s . . . this philandering, inebriated African socialist is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. ... The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is being governed by a ghost," (198).
This was an uncomfortable book, and one which I wrestled with. You can't really ask for much more in a solid book, regardless of your agreement.
Raise...moreThis was an uncomfortable book, and one which I wrestled with. You can't really ask for much more in a solid book, regardless of your agreement.
Raised in a conservative Christian home, in midwestern America, I have been profoundly shaped by that culture and mindset. I am grateful. But the story is not nearly as simple as all that. I have rejected the straightforward Republican narrative for some time now, and my confidence in "strict" Austrian economics seems to be becoming unhinged as well. We have assumed for too long that there is a straight transference between the cultural assumptions of our nation, conservative or liberal, apply right across the board into Scripture. The reality is way more complicated.
Neither, however, was this book convincing on a deep level. It attempts to refute free market economics by showing that Milton Friedman's policies created evil, torturous regimes in the third world. This sort of bounced off me without much impact, since I don't really think Friedman was very free market at all. In my view, he was much more like William F. Buckley. Not really a conservative.
Take, as illustrative, Klein's statement: "Friedman framed his movement as an attempt to free the market from the state, but the real-world track record of what happens when his purist vision is realized is rather different. In every country where Chicago School policies have been applied over the last three decades, what has emerged is a powerful ruling alliance between a few large corporations and a class of mostly wealthy politicians - with hazy and ever-shifting lines between the two" (15).
All the facts here are true, but has been said by many on the right as well. The point could not have been better put than by Jonah Goldberg, in his Liberal Fascism. Chicago School policies create corporatism (because Friedman thought they were a good thing), but the governing assumption is that it wasn't intended to do this in the first place. Friedman was pro-corporations, and his policies were designed to put more in their hands. And, not to mention, that Friedman's position wasn't exactly free market. Hence his policies are called neo-liberal.
But there is also the entire premise. That it was the policies of Milton Friedman that created the brutal suppression, and it was here that Klein is a little disingenuous. She does not deal with Friedman's policies, but rather the actions of regimes themselves. Thus, the question is raised as to whether the problems came from Friedman's views, or were simply the tactics of the third world. In other words, was torture and repression central to the free market policies, or were they incidental to them, but rather stemmed from some other source? Klein's argument appears to be one of noting the (very real and horrifying) abuses of the regimes, and then saying, "And guess what? Yup, they were free marketers!" This is not a way to construct a compelling argument. Each of these free market regimes began the same way as every other non-free market regime in the third world. A coup, in which the military overthrew the government. And these new "free market" regimes progresses apace in the same way as a marxist coup, by violence, terror, repression, and the torture and kidnap of dissenters. Friedman was wrong to attempt to smooth over such tactics, and to encourage them as "shocks."
Nonetheless, there is lots of good in the book as well. Friedman's policies do create a mutually-reinforcing alliance between big business and big government, and this needs to be screamed from the rooftops. Corporations are not a good thing, particularly mega-ultra-uber corporations. As Klein shows, the corporations used Friedman's policies to move into these struggling nations and essentially took them over. Much of the torture of dissenters was funded or enacted by the corporations themselves, independent of, or in cooperation with, the new tyrannical regimes. She documents how dissenting workers were imprisoned and tortured on company property, with the full authorization of the corporations themselves. Her suggestion that nations go through shock in the same way as individuals, and that governments and corporations take advantage of this "shock" to gain more power, is a valid, and I think, important observation that needs to be give much more attention.(less)
A great book discussing the cultural and social implications of 200 years of Baptist culture in America. Some of the early chapters are slow going, bu...moreA great book discussing the cultural and social implications of 200 years of Baptist culture in America. Some of the early chapters are slow going, but when the contributors start getting into the origins of Baptist theology and review some of the history of Anabaptism, the book really starts cooking. Chapters six, seven and eight are worth the price of the book, even at "rare out of print" prices. (or you could just download a free pdf copy - just google the title and hunt for a moment or two).
Chapter six, titled "Baptism, Redemptive History and Eschatology" argues that the difference over paedo vs. credo baptism is not a little one, but is the result of radically different views of the covenant, kingdom and eschatology.
Chapter seven, titled "The Baptist Culture" goes into a number of significant and illuminating errors and confusions the Anabaptists and their descendants, simply called Baptists, have. It reveals some of the strange and radical origins of Anabaptist theology in the ascetics and monastics of the counter reformation. It outlines some errors and tendencies of Baptist and Anabaptist theology, such as subjectivism, perfectionism, and exclusionism. The remainder of the essay is devoted to what this theology does to the civil government, church and family.
Chapter eight, titled "Calvin's Covenantal Response to the Anabaptist View of Baptism," by Peter Lillback, demonstrates conclusively that Calvin was a Federal Visionist, before there ever was a Federal Vision, by a guy who is not and never was a Federal Visionist. The essay ranges in many directions, from Calvin's understanding of covenant to the continuity between new and old covenants, between Calvin's view of letter and Spirit, and concludes with a great analysis of whether men can break the New Covenant or whether the New Covenant is possessed only (really) by the eternally elect.
The book tapers again towards the end and a few of the last chapters were a slog to get through. Nevertheless, some really important stuff here. It clearly draws the line between Baptist and Reformed theology.(less)
3) America really should admit it's an...moreThe main thesis of this book is as follows:
1) America is an empire
2) America doesn't want to admit its an empire
3) America really should admit it's an empire, because empires are awesome.
Needless to say, the first two are right, and Ferguson, a European, brings together a lot of historical evidence to demonstrate this, including the writings of the founding fathers, among whom both Hamilton and Jefferson both thought America would end up as a benevolent empire spanning north and south America.
The third point - not so much. I'm completely against empire, or America ponying up to the plate on that one. No thanks. That's a major flaw with the book, and another is the sheer dryness of the prose. It's a slog, but if you can muscle your way through, there are some interesting insights.(less)
Conservatives tend to think that racial discrimination ended with the Civil War. Lincoln freed the slaves, and there were some problems with Jim Crow,...moreConservatives tend to think that racial discrimination ended with the Civil War. Lincoln freed the slaves, and there were some problems with Jim Crow, sure, but all that racism stuff ended in 1865. We likewise conclude on the same basis that it's been so long since slavery that nobody need reparations. Oh, and the reason more blacks are in prison is because they commit more crimes than whites, so the system is being fair because they're committing the preponderance of the crimes.
This book shakes all that (okay, I added the topic of reparations). It's by a conservative-leaning libertarian judge and published by Thomas Nelson, one of the biggest Christian publishing houses. It's the perfect book to give out to folks for that reason. Napolitano isn't a liberal. Far from it, actually. He just doesn't back down from the actual history of race and law in our country.
Essentially, he argues that
1) there was slavery in America.
2) Abraham Lincoln used slavery as a convenient screen for his political agenda.
3) The civil war, reconstruction, and the heavy intrusion of federal power in the South made racism much, much worse.
4) Because equality was forced by military might on the South, they passed the Jim Crow legislation and reinforced their prejudices.
5) The Jim Crow laws were hurt in 1954, but alive and kicking until 1965. And Mississippi did not officially repeal them until 1995. That's not a typo.
6) Racism and discrimination continues in police departments and lawyering circles to this day - and has a huge amount of statistics and cases to back this up. He argues that through poverty and the intentional creation of the ghetto, our institutions continue to repress black people. Because they live in close proximity and live in poverty, they are more likely to engage in criminal activity (and he cites statistics that shows no matter what race you are, if you are below the poverty line in an urban culture of poverty, you are three times more likely to break the law).
This is shocking stuff. After some lynchings, the bodies would be cut up and pieces sold as souvenirs. That's the sort of story that you'd believe about Nigeria or Saudi Arabia, but not Georgia or South Carolina. But we fool ourselves. There are still people alive today who remember Jim Crow. And they're not that old. 1965 was only 45 years ago. We are a lot more at fault than we want to believe. Does that mean reparations? I don't know. I do know that I was blessed enough to live in a family that believed and taught us to believe Acts 17:26: "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place." We're all the same race. And now my brother is courting a black girl who is simply wonderful.
The biggest flaw of the book is the fact that Napolitano appeals to "natural law" as the solution to slavery, and suggests that slavery is against the natural law. Well, the Bible doesn't know anything about natural law; it's not a doctrine taught in Scripture. In the Bible we get all our morality from God, not from an abstract "Creator" who only manifests himself through "nature." If we're being honest with ourselves, its actually natural to hate, repress and enslave other people who aren't like us. Just a part of sin. Only way out is Christ.
The book is also a great companion to Thomas Dilorenzo's The Real Lincoln which is cited a few times in this one and some of the civil war content overlaps.(less)
This is a marvelous book. It is simple, clear, to-the-point, and able to pin-point the "ultimate things" in both the theology of John Williamson Nevin...moreThis is a marvelous book. It is simple, clear, to-the-point, and able to pin-point the "ultimate things" in both the theology of John Williamson Nevin, who you probably haven't heard of, and Charles Hodge, who you probably have. These two had a debate back in the nineteenth century over a wide variety of issues, like the nature of Reformed faith, sacraments, nature of the church, the visible and invisible church, theological rationalism, and the history of Reformed views on these and many more subjects. It is astounding the rationalism and minimalism of the theology of Hodge, who goes to great pains to deny any sort of mediation between God and man. As Nevin argues, and Littlejohn shows, this position destroys any conception of the Church as the corporate incarnation of Christ's body on earth, and indeed, destroys any hope for a church that exists as anything more than a breezy, voluntary social club.
Readers will find the echo of current events in this debate, as the Federal Vision issue continues to crackle, and the reason for the familiarity is because Reformed men have argued these things back and forth for centuries. Nevin and Hodge were the nineteenth century incarnation of this discussion, and the Federal Vision is the contemporary manifestation of the same set of questions.
The first three chapters of the book are devoted to Nevin vs. Hodge, and I think Nevin is the clear winner. The last three chapters address how Mercersburg theology can create genuine ecumenical dialog with Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. These are intruiging chapters, which provide both areas of similarity between Mercersburg and these other traditions, and the very real differences that still divide them, creating the first major attempt, it appears to me, towards true Reformed catholicity.(less)
This is a really fantastic introduction to the history of capitalism in the U.S. and what it has done. A great place to start, even though Dilorenzo s...moreThis is a really fantastic introduction to the history of capitalism in the U.S. and what it has done. A great place to start, even though Dilorenzo stumbles in a couple of places and is hampered by a somewhat over-individualistic approach.(less)
Very good. This is a whirlwind history through over two thousand years of history, but it is history as it should be taught; as a story, not as a dry...moreVery good. This is a whirlwind history through over two thousand years of history, but it is history as it should be taught; as a story, not as a dry assemblage of facts. There were a lot of things I did not know about places I thought I knew really well.(less)