THE HARD WAY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of NeurodiversityNeuro Tribes

Written by: Steve Silberman

Narration by:  William Hughes

STEVE SILBERMAN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, CONTRIBUTOR TO WIRED MAGAZINE)
STEVE SILBERMAN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, CONTRIBUTOR TO WIRED MAGAZINE)

“Neuro Tribes” reminds one of the gambling phrase “the easy way and the hard way”.    On a Las Vegas craps table, rolling two die with the same number and repeating it is the hard way.  From Steve Silberman’s story, parents successfully raising a child with autism is the hard way because the odds are stacked against them.  This may not be a great analogy but Silberman shows that parents have to work harder to understand and nurture a child who suffers from any one of the many variants of autism.

Silberman tends to name drop famous people who have never been diagnosed as autistic, but exhibit some of the characteristics of autism.  Silberman offers brief biographies of Henry Cavendish, Nikolo Tesla, Paul Dirac, and others.  Not every autistic person is a genius but Silberman’s point is that a person who may have social communication difficulties, obsessive/compulsive behaviors, or attention issues have in many cases become incredibly valuable to society.  To suggest autism implies anything less is a slippery slope toward abandonment, psychiatric incarceration, concentration camps, medical castration, and threatened individual or collective extermination.

NIKOLA TESLA (1856-1943, SERBIAN AMERICAN INVENTOR, ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL ENGINEER, PHYSICIST, FUTURIST)
NIKOLA TESLA (1856-1943, SERBIAN AMERICAN INVENTOR, ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL ENGINEER, PHYSICIST, FUTURIST)
PAUL DIRAC AT THE TIME OF PULITZER PRIZE AWARD
PAUL DIRAC (1902-1984, NUCLEAR PHYSICIST, WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE)
HENRY CAVENDISH (1731-1820, BRITISH NATURAL PHILOSOPHER, SCIENTIST, CHEMIST, AND PHYSICIST)
HENRY CAVENDISH (1731-1820, BRITISH NATURAL PHILOSOPHER, SCIENTIST, CHEMIST, AND PHYSICIST)

Silberman recounts the history of people who do not fit within social conventions. In some well-known instances these non-conformists are isolated, sterilized, and/or murdered.

They are classified as developmentally or intellectually inferior human beings to be eliminated by society for their aberrant physical abilities or mental faculties.  One may think this is a description of Hitler’s Germany but Silberman recounts the story of the U. S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Buck v. Bell.

 

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1841-1935, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT 1902-1932)
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1841-1935, JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT 1902-1932)

In 1927, no less than a giant of the U. S. Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. writes the majority opinion that says compulsory sterilization of the intellectually disabled is not a violation of the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment.  Common sense, if not history, shows that intellectual ability, by any measure, is a small part of what a human being is or can be.  The very idea that there is a criterion that objectively measures intellectual capability is repugnant.  Mrs. Buck is involuntarily incarcerated and Mrs. Buck’s daughter is sterilized based on a 1924 Virginia law.  The United States reportedly sterilized 60,000 American men and women through the 1970s (See January 2016 Newsweek report).

BUCK FAMILY (MOTHER AND DAUGHTER STERILIZED BY THE STATE)
BUCK FAMILY (MOTHER AND DAUGHTER STERILIZED BY THE STATE-Mrs. Buck is involuntarily incarcerated and Mrs. Buck’s daughter is sterilized based on a 1924 Virginia law.  The United States reportedly sterilized 60,000 American men and women through the 1970s (See January 2016 Newsweek report).)
ADOLPH HITLER (1889-1945)
Silberman reminds reader/listeners of the child euthanasia program in Germany and how a German family’s support of Hitler leads to a request that their child be euthanized because of physical deformity.

Silberman offers a short history of the growth of Eugenics.  The idea is, like a patch of peas, human beings can be bred to eliminate any undesirable characteristics.  No civilizations’ hands seem clean.  Silberman reminds reader/listeners of the child euthanasia program in Germany and how a German family’s support of Hitler leads to a request that their child be euthanized because of physical deformity.  It is estimated that “…5,000 children were victims of this program” (see Wikipedia “Child euthanasia in Nazi Germany).

HANS ASPERGER (1906-1980, AUSTRIAN PEDIATRICIAN, MEDICAL THEORIST, AND MEDICAL PROFESSOR)
HANS ASPERGER (1906-1980, AUSTRIAN PEDIATRICIAN, MEDICAL THEORIST, AND MEDICAL PROFESSOR)

Silberman reports on the diagnostic discovery of autism by Hans Asperger in the 1940 s.  Asperger’s storied career includes association with the Nazi Party that is both reprehensible and insightful.  In defining autism, Asperger suggests children with the malady are of little social value.  This categorization of human beings feeds Hitler’s extermination of handicapped and mentally challenged children and adults.  Despite this horrendous consequence, Asperger’s careful examination of autistic behavior provides insight to its symptoms and potential treatments.

Silberman notes Asperger’s prescient understanding of autistic children’s needs.  Autistic children need to be listened to and their behaviors analyzed to provide treatment that ameliorates social dysfunction.  Though Silberman does not mention the Montessori school of education, Asperger suggests that autistic children should be educated in ways that reinforce their natural interests.  Asperger, according to Silberman, had an uncanny knack of understanding what his patients were interested in and followed that lead to integrate them into society.

AUTISM TREATMENT
Though Silberman does not mention the Montessori school of education, Asperger suggests that autistic children should be educated in ways that reinforce their natural interests.  Asperger, according to Silberman, had an uncanny knack of understanding what his patients were interested in and followed that lead to integrate them into society.

A part of Silberman’s story is about unscrupulous medical professionals that offer cures for autism that have nothing to do with science and everything to do with financial exploitation of parents that are overwhelmed by their child’s autism.  These “doctors” provide bogus treatments like blood chelation to remove impurities that are alleged to cause autism.  Silberman suggests there is no cure for autism.  There is only the promise of amelioration with the hard work and understanding of parents and caregivers who appreciate the value of human life.

For parents, the hard way involves toleration of symptoms of autism while reinforcing those behaviors that comport with the innate abilities of their children.  In the process of careful listening and observation, parents can reinforce socially acceptable behavior and diminish anti-social activity.

AUTISM--EARLY TREATMENT PROVIDES ENCOURAGING BRAIN CHANGES
AUTISM–EARLY TREATMENT PROVIDES ENCOURAGING BRAIN CHANGES  Silberman notes that in the process of careful listening and observation, parents can reinforce socially acceptable behavior and diminish anti-social activity.

Silberman implies autistic human beings exist in every society.  Symptoms of hyperactivity, singular focus on particular subjects, poor communication skills, antisocial behavior, lack of interest in mutual achievements or interests, and a lack of empathy are symptoms that exist in many human beings.  One concludes from Silberman’s book that parents with an autistic child have a harder roll of the dice.  Their rewards can be monumentally greater but the odds are against parental success.  Not every autistic child will be a Cavendish, Tesla, or Dirac but one can choose to believer every child is a gift to be treasured for whatever they become.

STORIES OF AN ERA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Decameronthe decameron

Written by: Giovanni Boccaccio

Narration by:  Frederick Davidson

GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)
GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)

“The Decameron” is a series of stories about the western world’s comic/tragic society.  Compiled or written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century, it recalls 100 stories told by seven women and three men over a period of ten days. “The Decameron” pictures humanity as directed by luck, avarice, and lust.  Each story implies human relationship is determined by circumstance, and informed by nature.  The circumstance is societal position.  Nature is the exigency of the emotive moment.

THE BLACK DEATHWritten during or after the spread of the Black Death (1346-53), “The Decameron” skewers belief that God determines one’s fate.  The stories range from raucous to sedate, and sinful to salacious.  Each story implies humans are like wood chips on an ocean.  Humans float into and away from society’s harbor; toward and away from each other, driven by happenstance and nature.  Men are often depicted as lustful beasts; women as lustful manipulators of chance and circumstance.  Corruption of morals is as evident in the priesthood as in the lay public.  In Boccaccio’s world, God may have created the universe but everything after the seventh day is driven by chance and nature.

INEQUALITY IN BOCACCIO
Women are generally shown to be weaker than men but clever and clandestine operatives.

All stories are of tradesmen, merchants, upper class men and women who have the luxury of exercising desires in life beyond the necessity of food to eat and shelter to protect.  Women are generally shown to be weaker than men but clever and clandestine operatives.  Women and men living above the level of abject poverty seem equally consumed by interest in love and lust.  Considering the history of human misogyny, love and lust may have been women’s principle source of security.  For men, love is riven with lust.  Love, most often, seems a fleeting distraction to men.

PRIESTHOOD IN BOCCACIO
The priesthood and upper-class laymen in Boccaccio’s time use the tools of wealth, power, and prestige to seduce women.  In contrast women use guile and sexual favor to clandestinely acquire wealth, power, and prestige

Neither the church or the lay public are shown to be morally superior.  The priesthood and upper-class laymen use the tools of wealth, power, and prestige to seduce women.  In contrast women use guile and sexual favor to clandestinely acquire wealth, power, and prestige.  The exception is the wealthy widow that has some control over the unforeseen consequence of chance.

The comic/tragic events of the stories offer a view of what it is like to live during the dark ages.  Power, not surprisingly, lies in the hands of men but the fairer sex is shown capable of co-opting power with charm and cunning.  Revenge seems equally distributed between the sexes but consequentially more severe for women than men.

There are some insights to history and society offered by “The Decameron”.  A clever decision by a military strategist is to refashion bows and arrows with smaller slits than common.  The result is that bow carriers on one side of a battle are unable to use arrows invented with smaller slit arrows.  But, wide slit arrows could still be used by soldiers with small slit bows.  This small bow and arrow innovation gave one side of the battle twice the ammunition of the opposition.

ARROW RELICS FROM THE PAST
There are some insights to history and society offered by “The Decameron”.  A clever decision by a military strategist is to refashion bows and arrows with smaller slits than common.
SEXUAL PREDATION (WOMEN AS OBJECTS TO FULFILL MALE FANTASIES)
Then and now, cuckolds and adulteresses share equal billing for shame and condemnation.  However, the double standard for men that wander, and women that survive adultery is shown as appalling unequal then as it is now.

More interesting insights are the rise of a middle class in the dark ages, and the early recognition of organized religion’s corruption.  God is still considered as all-powerful but organized religion is rife with the same sins of all human beings.  Women may have been treated as second class citizens but they still found ways to compete in the drive for money, power, and prestige.  Then and now, cuckolds and adulteresses share equal billing for shame and condemnation.  However, the double standard for men that wander and women that survive, adultery is shown as appalling unequal then as it is now.  Men are forgiven while women are brutalized (sometimes murdered) and left to deal with the consequences of childbirth and poverty.

Finally, there is the underlying theme of nature and happenstance that determine the course of life.  There is belief in God but only as Creator.  Humankind is on its own in stories of “The Decameron”.  Buffering by nature pushes and pulls humankind with chance circumstances of the day.  One household is decimated by the plague while next door neighbors are untouched. God seems to have washed His hands of what happens on earth.  Plans of man are perceived as changed by nature’s unpredictability; not by God.

THE PLAGUE
Buffering by nature pushes and pulls humankind with chance circumstances of the day.  One household is decimated by the plague while next door neighbors are untouched. God seems to have washed His hands of what happens on earth.  Plans of man are perceived as changed by nature’s unpredictability; not by God.

Though some may be entertained by this presentation of “The Decameron”, it is not to this critic’s taste.  It is too long.  It is delivered monotonously.  It elicits little laughter.  It ponderously consumes thirty hours of a listener’s time.  However, as noted above, it offers a remarkable picture of life in an era of western world’ upheaval (the current of the black plague) and change (from God’s plan to the unpredictability of nature).

MORE OR LESS FREE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Privacy, Property, and Free Speech: Law and the Constitution in the 21st Century

The Great Courses Series

Lectures by: Professor Jeffrey Rosen

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

The public sector continually revises laws regarding the internet.  Laws passed by government attempt to regulate internet use, ownership, and censorship by redefining freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from want and fear. Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors. 

Are Americans more or less free in the 21st Century? 

Professor Jeffrey Rosen in “Privacy, Property and Free Speech” leaves the question unanswered.  However, he clearly frames the question for listeners to draw their own conclusion.  It is difficult to give a definitive answer for three reasons.  One, new technology redefines freedom.  Two, September 11, 2001 redefines security.  Three, globalization redefines nationalism.

Government classifies organizations and decides which can legally access the internet.  Government is in the process of defining who can own the internet and how access can be regulated.  Government has the power to censor information that it views detrimental to the freedoms historically held by Americans.  Control of internet use, ownership, and censorship by the government encroaches on freedom.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Women, in some men’s lives, are expected to bear children, be silent, cook and clean house, be dependent on their husbands, and respect males in all circumstances of life.

Professor Rosen addresses the issue of property by lecturing on women’s rights and the right of government to claim eminent domain on property owned privately that can be taken for the public good.  In addressing women’s rights, Rosen reviews the history of Roe v. Wade and implies that the judicial system may have acted too quickly by not allowing the States and the general public to fully address the issue.

Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain.  He notes how confiscation of private property at fair market value has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.  In some cases, the taking has resulted in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized harbor, the taking revitalized a neglected and deteriorated landmark.

EMINENT DOMAIN

Rosen notes how confiscation of private property has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.

The American judicial system encroaches on the freedom of women to choose and the fifth amendment clause says private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.  The detailed profile can affect the price advertised and the personalized pitch made by a retailer.  Private sector search engines use consumer profiles to pitch private sector businesses for advertising.  Consumer manipulation by the private sector encroaches on freedom.  Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information.

ONLINE PRIVACY

What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.


Terrorism is like lighting in a storm; i.e. it is a force of nature that can strike anyone at any time.  Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.

9.11.01TRADE CENTER ATTACK

The Trade Center tragedy redefines security for America and the world.  September 11th convinces the world that there are no unbreachable terrorist constraints. 

GUANTANAMO

Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do.  The fear one has is that thought becomes grounds for prosecution. 

To the extent that terrorism is like lightning in a storm, one can only wait for the storm to pass.  Invading one’s privacy and arresting citizens for what they think is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

PREHISTORIC HUMAN KIND

When the first man and woman joined together as a couple; when the first tribe became a hunting and gathering troop, and when the first hunter-gatherers became part of a farming community, freedom diminished

There is less and less room for nation-state nationalism.  Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  Freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization. 

Despite Brexit and nationalist sentiment of Trump supporters, all human beings are citizens of one world.

The last lecture in Rosen’s series is about the right to be forgotten.  Now, we are citizens of nation-states; tomorrow we will be citizens of the world.  With each regrouping, there is diminished freedom. 

The last bastion of freedom will be “the right to be forgotten”. 

It will be a programming code designed to volition-ally erase one’s identity.  This volitional reboot will be with less rather than more freedom because of the nature of becoming part of a larger human congregation.

Professor Rosen offers an excellent and informative outline of America’s history of privacy, property, and free speech.  A listener will draw their own conclusions about present and future freedoms from Rosen’s lectures.  My view is that freedom has always been thankfully limited.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Mislaid: A NovelMislaid

Written by: Nell Zink 

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)
NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)

Sexual orientation, and what became known as LGBT rights, is hotly debated in America.  Four rulings between 1996 and 2015 changed the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.  The Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based on homosexuality; invalidated sodomy laws nationwide, denied the validity of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, and made same-sex marriage legal in America.

Nell Zink validates the direction of society’s recognition of LGBT rights in her book “Mislaid”.  Zink creates four characters who illustrate how American equal rights for the LGBT community are changing.  Lee, a husband, is gay.  Peggy, his wife, is lesbian.  Being gay or lesbian is a label implying gays only have sex with men and lesbians only have sex with women.  “Mislaid” suggests that is a myth.  Lee and Peggy clearly express their preference for same-sex liaisons; however, being gay or lesbian is a preference; not an inviolable mandate or predilection.

sexual orientationHumans may be seduced by the pleasure of sex regardless of sexual orientation.  Though both Lee and Peggy are noted to have same-sex preference, they become man and wife and bare two children during their marriage.  Just as the words gay and lesbian are labels, the same can be said of bisexual.  Sexual acts are fundamentally gender neutral.

The disingenuous politicization of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by the governor of Florida is disgusting.  The Disney corporation creates amusement parks for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

CHILDREN
Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

A second myth that is exploded is that the children of gay and/or lesbian parents produce sexually confused offspring.  Both the son and daughter of Lee and Peggy are heterosexual.  Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

Love between Lee and Peggy is not part of their sexual relationship.  At best, it is a partnership of circumstance and convenience.  Lack of love leads to divorce when their son is nine and their daughter is three.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE 2Lee is the dominant presence in the relationship.  Lee psychologically abuses his wife with extramarital affairs and ridicule that is focused on Peggy’s unrealistic literary ambition. Peggy’s reaction is to act out by driving her husband’s favorite car into a lake and eventually leaving her husband.  Peggy expects to take both of her children with her but their nine-year-old son refuses to leave; in part because of Lee’s labeling of Peggy as psychologically unbalanced (another frequently misused label).

GENDER INEQUALITYEach child grows up in starkly different environments.  The boy becomes an academic athlete at William and Mary while the girl becomes a struggling scholarship-aid student at the same school.  Their independent upbringing represents two ends of the spectrum of growing up in America.  One, is a life of upper middle class wealth; the other a life of poverty.  One shows the privilege of being a man and the difficulty of being a woman in a world largely controlled by men.

“Mislaid” could have been a much better novel.  It deals with life’s complexity very well, but fails to engross its listener in its characters.  A reader/listener’s empathy is rarely tapped by a story full of potential.  However, Nell Zink deftly and intelligently covers a host of subjects that warrant the time it takes for the public to read or listen to “Mislaid”.  It provides a better understanding of the LGBT community.  It illustrates how much more difficult it is for an American woman than an American man to raise a child on her own.

NECESSARY TRUTH

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A young Black Man’s Education

Written by: Mychal Denzel Smith

Narrated by: Kevin R. Free

MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH (AUTHOR)
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH (AUTHOR)

Mychal Smith’s book is difficult to listen to for a white liberal; i.e. the difficulty is more because of what Smith sees than what he does not see.  The necessary truth of what Smith sees is that being black, female, homosexual, or any color but white disadvantages citizens who live, work, and love in America.  Smith correctly notes that Barrack Obama did not change that truth.  But, for a liberal, Smith’s criticism of Obama is heart-rending.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
No singular person will ever unwind history’s discrimination. That Obama is black and became the first black president of the United States proves being human is the best one can be.

Smith’s expectation is superhuman.  No singular person will ever unwind history’s discrimination.  Obama is an extraordinary human being by any standard of measurement.  That Obama is black and became the first black president of the United States proves being human is the best one can be.  Martin Luther King’s “arc of justice” still bends toward freedom and equal opportunity for all; despite the world’s, let alone Obama’s, failings.

The nature of humankind is an evolutionary work in progress.  Sadly, evolution is a chancy proposition that moves human nature both backward and forward.  Maybe, humanity will never get to a state of freedom and equal opportunity, but Obama’s “audacity of hope” is better than anger, and fear.

MALCOLM X (1925-1965)
MALCOLM X (1925-1965, Malcolm X’s life experience and intelligence led him to believe all people are human beings.)

Smith cites Malcolm X as his ideal of black resistance but fails to note that Mr. Little evolved to believe separate but equal is a fiction.  Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam because of its belief in Black separatism and superiority.  Malcolm X’s life experience and intelligence led him to believe all people are human beings.

TRAVON MARTIN (
TRAYVON MARTIN

In being human, there is good and bad in every race, color, and creed. None of this denies Smith’s recognition of the questionable murder of Trayvon Martin, or the Jena Six debacle in Jena, Louisiana where a white high school student is beaten by five black teenagers.  Both incidents are riven with racial hatred, lack of justice, and human failing.

Smith gravitates to violent lyrics to say the anger of rap artists appeals to his inner frustration.  Smith recounts the considered statements of Kanye West when President Bush fails to conscientiously respond to the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.  (West suggested Bush did not care about black people.)  Ironically, Kanya West appears to support President-Elect Donald Trump who was sued for discrimination under the fair housing laws of the United States.

KANYE WEST AND DONALD TRUMP
Ironically, Kanye West appears to support President-Elect Donald Trump who was sued for discrimination under the fair housing laws of the United States.

There are many incidents that Smith recognizes as the failure of white America to treat minorities fairly.  At the same time, Smith is introspective in acknowledging some of his own human failings.  He writes of his fears, his desire to be a great writer, and his earlier life failure to understand how important women’s rights are in the black community.  He writes of his father’s concern over his sexuality and how gender discrimination has some of the same hatred, lack of justice, and human failing as black discrimination.

Listening to Mychal Denzel Smith is difficult because his observations explain why he, if not most, black Americans are disgusted with white America.  It makes a white person feel guilty because white Americans are the majority; and, as a majority, white (particularly male) America has the bulk of the country’s money, power, and prestige.  Until all people are humans first, there seems little reason to believe there is much hope for the “arc of justice” to bend toward freedom and equal opportunity for all.

PRISONHope is not enough for black American’s suffering today.  That is Mychal Smith’s message–too many blacks are being murdered; too many blacks are denied equal opportunity; too many blacks are jailed, and too many black families are broken.

What Smith fails to fairly acknowledge is who is at fault.  All of us share the blame.  Human beings must recognize the humanity of all human beings.  If evolution is not the answer, then human will (in a Nietzschean sense) must come to America’s aid.

A MODERN MACHIAVELLI

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Human Action (A Treatise on Economics)

Written by: Ludwig von Mises

Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach

LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)
LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)

America is on the threshold of the largest tax change since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  If past is prologue, trickle down economics will not work, the deficit will rise, and the poorest will  be victimized.  The genesis of the delusion of trickle down economics comes from interpretations of a modern Machiavelli.

Ludwig von Mises is a twentieth century Machiavelli.  This near 48-hour audio book details a theory of economics that will offend modern liberals, expose weakness of libertarians, and vilify the new American President’s nationalist policies.  The venality of treating government as a business is a mistake of monumental proportion.

Approaching von Mises as a devil incarnate is unfair.  His beliefs are pilloried by today’s liberals as loudly as aristocrats and rulers vilified Machiavelli in the 16th century.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises looks at the world as it is; not as it ought to be.  His observations cut at modern liberal, as well as anarchic, views of highly regarded liberals like Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King, Norm Chomsky, and alleged conservatives-like President Trump.

In von Mises book, Roosevelt’s New Deal is vilified.  Additionally, von Mises vociferously disagrees with the liberal John Maynard Keynes’s

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (1883-1946)
JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (1883-1946)

economic interventionist creed. Ironically, Donald Trump may be the most interventionist President since FDR with a scatter brained economic plan that von Mises would equally vilify.

Von Mises observations have historical credibility.  What they do not have is social conscience.  In fact, he suggests social conscience is a fiction perpetrated by populists to distort the value of capitalist economies.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises observes the nature of human beings, and recognizes their inherent irrationality and moral weakness.  Von Mises illustrates numerous examples of human irrationality; beginning with market consumption, and ending with entrepreneurial ambition.  Donald Trump exemplifies von Mises argument that humans are irrational, greedy, power-hungry, and vain.  For President Trump to believe taxing imports by 20% makes Mexico pay for a useless five-billion-dollar wall is absurd.  The American consumer will pay for that wall in increased cost of Mexican produce and manufactured goods.TRUMP AND FREE TRADE

Von Mises criticizes famous economists like David Ricardo for introducing politics into economics.  Von Mises argues that the drive for money, power, and prestige are inherent in an entrepreneurial capitalist system.  Von Mises argues that government officials who profess social conscience distort free enterprise by picking winners and losers.  When politicians pass legislation that aids one entrepreneur over another, it distorts the driving force of capitalist economies.  He equally vilifies government leaders who impose tariffs on international trade.  Von Mises explains that the fallacy of government leaders who pass favoring legislation is that the real mover of the economy is the consumer; not the producer.

FRENCH REVOLUTION
Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

The logical extension of von Mises’ theory is that any government planning or action that affects an entrepreneur’s willingness to take a risk to produce product, or service a customer’s perceived needs, is bad for society.  To von Mises, efforts to organize labor is an interference with capitalist entrepreneurs because labor is not taking a risk. Von Mises argues that labor costs will find its own level by being an automated tool of the entrepreneur; subject to hunger and deprivation if they choose not to participate.  Von Mises point is that the entrepreneur will pay what he/she must to have labor available, but no more than what the end-product consumer is willing to pay.  Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

UNION MOVEMENTUnions offer a vehicle for leveling the power between businesses and labor.  To not allow unionization is tantamount to favoring businesses that are no longer competitive but are today recognized as an economic equivalent of individuals.  Not to give unions a place “at the table” is morally, ethically, and economically unfair; particularly in industries that are no longer entrepreneurial.

Another von Mises’ observational theory is that government policy should have no role in subsidizing new inventions, new drugs, the ecology of the world, or the elimination of slavery because such policies interfere with pure capitalism. This reinforces absurdist arguments of libertarians.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (RESEARCH INSTITUTE FINANCED BY THE GOVERNMENT.)

American creativity has historically been benefited by government subsidization of technological advances.  (President Putin noted in a 60 Minutes’ interview that creativity is his most admired quality in the American economy.) The speed of improvements in health, education, and welfare historically increased with government subsidization of drug research, public education, and the energy industry.

THE CIVIL WARThe fallacy of von Mises’ theory lies in the framework of theorists.  It ignores human existence by hiding behind the unquantifiable nature of society.  One may argue that America’s Civil War had nothing to do with the elimination of slavery.  (Von Mises suggests that slavery was abolished because it became too expensive; not because it was morally and ethically reprehensible.)  One may argue that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a failure.  One may argue that the Marshall Plan after WWII rewarded failed nations.  One may argue that George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s decisions to bail out the American economy interfered with pure capitalism. History suggests von Mises is wrong.  Government intervention can be good as well as bad.  (Bush unilaterally agreed to lend $17.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to General Motors and Chrysler, of which $13.4 billion was to be extended immediately.)

Von Mises lived into the 1970 s.  How could he ignore the moral and ethical iniquity of slavery, the value of the Marshall Plan, government subsidization of the American banking system, financial incentives for the energy industry, and the billions spent to advance technological inventions?  Those are good examples of government intervention.  On the other hand, building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and levying a 20% import tax is a bad government intervention.TRUMP'S WALL 2

American capitalism works because of the checks and balances written in the Constitution.  Von Mises theory is based on valid observations but social conscience, whether statistically measurable or not, must be a part of decisions that affect the lives of millions.  Mistakes will be made, and have been made, but economic statistics cannot be substituted for pragmatism.

LIFE’S IMPERFECTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance

Written by: Jonathan Evison

Narrated by: Susan Boyce

Johnathan Evison (Author)

This is a story for those who have reached a certain age.  Though written by a man, it is narrated by a woman.  In some respects, that is a weakness.  Having been written by a man, it may distort the measure of a woman’s life.  However, Jonathan Evison offers an excellent representation of what life and death looks like to a man.  The mistakes some men make in life are legion, both as a parent and husband.

JONATHAN EVISON (AUTHOR)

Evison speculates on an afterlife that says humans either die into nothingness or go to a place of peace and reconciliation.  Those are the only options in Evison’s story. 

The options are extreme but can be ameliorated by a gate keeper’s decisions about life’s led.  However, if you violate rules for a personal appearance to those left behind, you are doomed to the first extremity, nothingness.  Evison’s husband’ and father’ character chooses to violate the rules; in part because of his many guilt’s for living a selfish life.  It seems a penance he must pay to his wife, mistress, and children.

What makes Evison’s story good is the truth of what foolish, selfish men do in their lives.  Though life is ephemeral; either temporal or spiritual, many mistakes are made, both moral and ethical.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN

Harvey Weinstein charged with rape and sexual misconduct on May 25th 2018.

lolita

There is the horrid obsession of men with little girls described in Nabokov’s “Lolita”.  There is the vacuous life of Richard Ford’s main character in “The Sportswriter”. 

There is Russell Banks’ depiction of a morally bankrupt man/boy who prostitutes himself in “Lost Memory of Skin”.

Putting aside these extreme examples, Evison tells a story of the more common variety of male transgressions.  His observations ring true to listeners of a certain age.

INFIDELITY

Most men will see themselves in aspects of Evison’s story; not the extremes of Nabokov, Ford, and Banks but less than what a moral person should be.

Men who cheat on their wives.  Men who use work as an excuse for family neglect.  Men who fail to take responsibility for helping raise their children.  Men who demean their wives because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Men who neglect their wives because of self-absorption.

HUMAN FAULTS

Evison notes many faults in the lives of women in his story but having been written by a man, his objectivity is suspect.  On the other hand, women do cheat on their husbands.  Women do neglect their children.  Women do drink out of boredom with house work and social isolation.  Women do demean their husbands because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment.  Women do neglect their husbands because of self-absorption.

Joe Biden (Candidate for President of the United States.)

Evison touches every human being’s faults in “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance”.  No one is exempt from human failing. 

Being of a certain age makes Evison’s story enlightening and entertaining.  Enlightening because a listener knows they are not alone.  Entertaining because a listener will enjoy Evison’s perspective on life’s journey.

MISOGYNY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Misogyny, The World’s Oldest Prejudice

Written by: Jack Holland

Narrated by: Cameron Stewart

Jack Holland (Irish writer, Born 1947, Died 2004.)

This quarters’ “Foreign Affairs” argues misogyny is rising in the world with newly elected autocrats. It cites rising misogyny in Brazil, India, Poland, Honduras, Mexico, Turkey, and the U.S. in a lean toward authoritarian and antidemocratic policies. “Foreign Affairs” leading article suggests “…women’s political and economic empowerment is now stalling or declining around the world”.

Undoubtedly, sexual depredation began before recorded time, but misogyny became institutionalized with the written word.

The mystery is what has taken so long for American misogyny to be recognized.  The mystery is explained in Jack Holland’s “Misogyny, The World’s Oldest Prejudice”.  Misogyny appears when history is first recorded.  Misogyny is perpetuated by religion, society, and government. 

From men who are Presidents to business moguls to famous newscasters, misogyny grows like a cancer.

(Past accusers of President Trump.)

E. Jean Carroll–Latest accuser of President Trump’s past behavior.

A woman’s rights have been a moving target since the beginning of time; or at least since the beginning of recorded “history”. Jack Holland tracks “The World’s Oldest Prejudice”, misogyny. 

Holland’s conflation of Nazism with societal misogyny seems misplaced except in comparison to Nazism’s institutionalization of discrimination.  The evidence and truth of women’s domination, abuse, and murder by men is solid. Holland recounts government practices, religious doctrines, philosophical treatises, science errors, and corroborated historical events that confirm institutionalization of misogyny.

Misogyny is in the news today with accusations against Presidents, several newscasters, aspiring and existing politicians, film producers, and business leaders. 

(COMBO): This combination of pictures created on October 13, 2017 shows US producer Harvey Weinstein (L) taken on March 10, 2015; (1st row from L) US actress Rose McGowan taken on April 3, 2016, US actress Angelina Jolie taken on September 13, 2017 in New York City, Italian actress Asia Argento taken on May 17, 2017, US actress Gwyneth Paltrow taken on May 6, 2017, US actress Ashley Judd taken on July 25, 2017, (2nd row fromL) French actress Lea Seydoux taken on May 19, 2016, US actress Mira Sorvino taken on December 7, 2015, US actress Rosanna Arquette taken on February 25, 2017, US actress Louisette Geiss taken on October 10, 2017, British actress Kate Beckinsale taken on on August 7, 2017, (3rd row fromL) Television reporter Lauren Sivan taken on July 26, 2014, US actress Jessica Barth taken on June 21, 2012, US producer Elizabeth Karlsen taken on January 4, 2016, French actress Emma De Caunes taken on October 17, 2016, and French actress Judith Godreche taken on October 19, 2015. An avalanche of claims of sexual harassment, assault and rape by hugely influential Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have surfaced since the publication last week of an explosive New York Times report alleging a history of abusive behavior dating back decades. / AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA AND AFP PHOTO / STAFF

As far back as the oldest laws of government written by a Sumerian King in 2,050 BC, women have been singled out with human rights’ violations.  An example is the King’s law that particularly applies to women who speak insolently.  They are to have their mouths scoured with salt; i.e. a law applying only to women slaves.  Of course the law begs the question of why women are slaves.

All major religions are patriarchal.  Each has a history of misogyny that lives through to today.

Beginning with the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible, women come from man; not as a singular human being but as an adjunct of man, a mere rib.  In Genesis 3:16, women are burdened and subservient to men from the beginning.  “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”.

In the Ten Commandments, wives are treated as property to men.  Holland cites Apostle Paul as a harbinger of doom for women.  His doctrinal preaching perpetuates misogyny.  Apostle Paul implies women are seductresses because of men’s earthly desires.

Men are advised to focus on the spiritual to avoid sin and assure their passage to heaven.  By separating humanity and spirituality, Holland argues Apostle Paul implies women and bodily pleasure are a principal source of sin.  Female genital mutilation is condoned in this view of human sin.

FEMALE GENTITAL CUTTING IN MODERN TIMES
FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING IN MODERN TIMES

Holland notes that in the Torah (Jewish doctrine), women are unclean twice as long for birthing daughters rather than sons.  Further, the Torah explains that women who are raped in the city should be stoned to death, and if raped in the country, required to marry their rapist.  The fault for being raped is assigned to women rather than men.  Some conservative Jewish sects pray to God that they are not given daughters; additionally, they thank God for not being born a woman.

THE TORAH
THE TORAH

(Exodus 21:3-4 Says that if a male slave is given a wife by his master (regardless of how long they are wed, how much they love each other or if they have kids) he can not leave servanthood with his wife or children. The woman and children are merely property of the master and their personal happiness or sanctity of family doesn’t matter.)

In the Qur’an (Islam’s holy book), women are less valuable and inferior to men.  In paragraph 4:34 “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other.”  In Islam’s Sharia law, women are generally guilty of their own rape and are to be stoned to death or immolated.  There are exceptions but proof is an onerous exercise in futility.  As witnesses to rape, Holland notes a victim must find 4 men to corroborate a woman’s testimony or she is considered untruthful, guilty, and subject to punishment or death.

THE QURAN
THE QURAN

Holland argues that Sharia law denies women the right to an education.  (Islamic scholars disagree.)  If true, just as the American south feared education of slaves, the Islamic religion fears the education of women.  With education, women are bound to seek a better life with more freedom and less domination.

Holland reaches back to ancient Greek philosophers to note that both Plato and Aristotle believe women are afflicted with natural defectiveness.  To Plato, that defect is implied in “The Republic” when children are to be taken from their mothers to be educated by the state; independent of a mother’s influence.  To Aristotle, women’s defect is in his concept of forms.  Women either have no soul or essence that allows for perfect form.  Women are mere vessels for the birth of children that come from an essence provided by the sperm of men.  Aristotle argues women are subject to men and are, at best, “deformed males”.

ARTHUR SCHOEPENHAUER (1788-1860 DIED AT 72)
ARTHUR SCHOEPENHAUER (1788-1860 DIED AT 72)

Holland notes later philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche carry misogyny forward.  Schopenhauer argues that women have meager reasoning ability.  To Schopenhauer, women’s lack of reason and abundant sensuality cause chaos and disruption.  Nietzsche has a similar view of women.  Nietzsche views women as vixens that need to be controlled; not helpmates, independent humans, or equals to men.

SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939)
SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939)

Science luminaries also feed the misogynist credo.  Darwin suggests women are not as fully evolved as men.  Freud creates myths of penis envy and mental dysfunction from normal female physiological conditions.  Holland also addresses the misconception of the “blank slate” in science as noted by Stephen Pinker, a modern-day psychologist.

As Pinker notes, fifty percent of who we are, male or female, is determined by genetics.  We are not blank slates.  There are common genetic inheritances that interact with the environment as we mature.  However, each human reacts to incidents in the world in their own unique way.  Human beings, whether male or female, react differently to the same incidents based, in part, on their genetic inheritance.

Women and men are different but equal based on a combination of nature and nurture.  A truth in science is that the energy producers of life (mitochondrial DNA) come solely from mothers, not fathers.  This is quite a contrast to Aristotle’s theory of women as mere vessels of birth.  It is a surprise that there are not more misandrists than misogynists.

WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE
WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE

Holland recounts several horrific misogynistic events from history and modern times.  A major event in the 15th to 18th century were the witch trials.  Tens of thousands of accused witches were tortured and burned at the stake in Europe.  The most famous in America were the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.  An estimated 80 women were tried in New England with 20 executed and 5 who die in prison.

A NYT’s headline on 3.17.21 shows a Turkish woman battered by her husband. Misogyny is not unique to any country, culture, or religion. Misogyny is a world-wide heart rending tragedy.

Though witch trials and executions are in the past, modern-day Middle East and Eastern countries have trials for women that are raped, tortured, and mutilated for failing to follow religious and cultural norms established by male dominated governments.

SHARIA LAW VIOLATOR'S PUNISHMENT
SHARIA LAW VIOLATORS’ PUNISHMENT

Holland delves into the rise of Nazism and suggests the idea of the super race are contributors to misogynist beliefs.  To some extent that may be true but Hitler’s primary objective is to create a straw man for the ills of Germany.  The straw man became the Jews; i.e. the alleged source of all that is wrong with the world.  Nazism had much less to do with belief that women are the inferior of men.  As Holland points out, Hitler was widely supported by German women.

Hitler’s asexual revolution had little to do with the degradation of women but more to do with the myth of the “other” that is meant to roil and consolidate the masses in defense of a new order.  Sexual allure and male domination of women is the least of Hitler’s interests.  Experiments on women in concentration camps is a predilection of demented interests of Nazi doctors; not because of belief in misogyny, but belief in a final solution that will create a super race.

WWII KZ SACHSENHAUSEN
WWII KZ SACHSENHAUSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP

Hitler’s relevance to the subject of misogyny is in the creation of an “other”.  To a misogynist, the “other” is women for men who succumb to the fiction of male superiority.  To the misogynist, women become the source of men’s problems rather than their helpmates or equals.

Misogyny is a cancer in the world’s body politic.  Regulated freedom and equal opportunity are its cure.  The diversity of human life demands equal opportunity for all.  This does not mean everyone is equal but that each should be able to achieve what they are capable of achieving.  Regulated freedom is a necessity because all human beings are motivated by money, power, and prestige; each of which can lead to greed, corruption, and hubris.  All human beings are subject to the same vices.  All men and women should have an equal right to say yes or no to greed, corruption, and hubris.  Holland’s point is that women do not have the same rights as men because of centuries of cultural bias.