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I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir
I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir
by James Webb
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.28
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspirational Read for Troubled Times, July 25, 2014
Having read "I Heard My Country Calling," and having read Sen. Webb's previous books, I am constrained to wish that he would run for the Presidency, whatever party. This Country desperately needs quality leadership; someone of character, experience, knowledge, and fortitude in these most perilous times. Aside from his enrapturing writing abilities, Webb manifests that leadership quality, singular in nature, that deserves serious attention. Had I had the opportunity to serve under him in any context, on the field of war or in political debate, I would count it an honor. Honesty, good judgment, self-sacrifice, and persistence are marks of one who can lead. Further, with wisdom the capable leader heads in the right direction. Jim Webb has exhibited all of these. Read this book. Be informed and, in the process, be encouraged to do what is right and good.

Thank you Sen. Webb. You have informed; you have motivated; you have exhibited a singular quality of what it means to be an American. This is an excellent read. If one longs for a Reagan, Jim Webb is the "real McCoy."


Samuel Johnson: A Biography
Samuel Johnson: A Biography
by Peter Martin
Edition: Hardcover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!, June 12, 2010
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When I had completed reading Peter Martin's biography of Samuel Johnson, I simply applauded. With a writing style worthy of the subject, Mr. Martin's work epitomizes the contributions of the great moralist and lexicographer. As he probably intended, the author has enabled his subject again to "unfold for [the reader] endless shades of morality [while] guiding [the reader] into the labyrinths of human nature itself an open book - making his own human nature the greatest text (Preface p. xxiii).

Compare another recent biography of Johnson, "Samuel Johnson: The Struggle," Jeffrey Meyers, Basic Books (December 1, 2008), whose desire to unfold the new undergirds his interpretations. While insightful in many ways, this well-written and entertaining contribution to Johnson biography is diminished in value by Meyers' fixation on Johnson's relationship with Hester Thrale and his suppositions about bondage and flagellation that call to mind the need for a cause of action addressing defamation of the dead. While Dr. Johnson certainly urged the biographer to ascertain and disclose the truth in the writing, his advice is conditioned by "knowledge" and "truth."("If we owe regard to the memory of the dead, there is yet more respect to be paid to knowledge, to virtue, and to truth." - Rambler #60; "Defamation is sufficiently copious. The general lampooner of mankind may find long exercise for his zeal or wit, in the defects of nature, the vexations of life, the follies of opinion, and the corruptions of practice. But fiction is easier than discernment; and most of these writers spare themselves the labour of inquiry, and exhaust their virulence upon imaginary crimes, which, as they never existed, can never be amended." - Idler #45 ). Martin's account of the 1773 "French Letter" that Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale revealing that he was then in the throes of the "black dog" and alluding to an unexplained recipe for comfort (Martin, pp. 388-390) is handled much more responsibly than Meyers (Meyers, p. 360-365); the former dismissing the assertions of Katherine Balderston, the latter convinced of their truth.

Read both of these volumes and then again (or, perhaps, for the first time) Boswell's biography of Johnson and you will appreciate this man who loved words because of their potential for both subjective and objective improvement.

Accounts of Dr. Johnson's life of wistfulness has brought joy and instruction to unforeseen generations. A reading of Peter Martin's account of that life, faithful to the record, likewise pleasurably informs.

Of note also is the comprehensive index of the Martin biography, far superior to that of Meyers' work. It accentuates the precision and care of the writer.


Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary
Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary
by Bertrand M. Patenaude
Edition: Hardcover
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Final Nightmare for the Perennial Dreamer, January 1, 2010
I strongly recommend that you read Trotsky: "Downfall of a Revolutionary," Bertrand M. Patenaude, Harper Collins (2009), in conjunction with Robert Service's "Trotsky: A Biography," Harvard University Press (2009); (read Service first). Patenaude provides a detailed account of Trotsky's years in exile that is unrivalled. The reader will gain greater insight into the man's later years as he grew older yet unflexible in his commitment to his faith in the ultimate triumph of Marxism. Patenaude is a fine writer; he moves the reader dramatically along as he details the events leading up to and culminating in the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico. At the same time, he intersperses his account with reminiscences of Trotsky's intellectual, political, and psychological development in earlier days.

The reality is that even Trotsky was unable to set forth a consistent explication of what all the nonsense was about "dialectical materialism." "Few comrades even professed to understand its meaning." (Patenaude, p. 222) Many of his followers and fellow-travelers were enthusiastic about Trotsky and his views because of their own naivety. "They were blind to Trotsky's contempt for their values. They overlooked the damage he aimed to do to their kind of society if ever he got the chance." (Service, p.466) The truth is that Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and his acolytes were (and still are) iconoclasts and sloganeers, and nothing more. "Civilization can only be saved by the socialist revolution. . . . Only that which prepares the complete and final overthrow of imperialist bestiality is moral, and nothing else. The welfare of the revolution - that is the supreme law." - Trotsky, "Their Morality and Ours: The Moralists and Sychophants against Marxism" (1938) (Service pp. 470-1)

There is an interesting little book written by a child of American Trotskyists, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, "When Skateboards Will be Free," Dial Press (2009), that reveals the vacuity of blind faith in bankrupt ideology. He notes that his father, a life-long social revolutionary activist, "will gladly hold forth on the largest of subjects: the social evolution of human beings since Homo habilis; the materialist underpinnings of ancient civilization; the French Revolution; the Cold War. . . . The subjects he chooses are usually so vast, so breathtaking, that one can be forgiven for failing to realize how hollow the information is that he imparts. . . . It doesn't matter if he himself knows the intimate details of the topics on which he expounds; his concern is with Truth." (Sayrafiezadeh, p. 134; to his credit, Sayrafiezadeh, when confronted by his girlfriend with the questions: What does it mean to be a communist; what is socialism? ultimately concludes: "I guess I don't know what I'm talking about." pp. 253-4) Despite Trotsky's literary flair and his historic role in dramatic 20th century events, one rightly wonders whether, in the end, he knew what he was talking about.

Bertrand M. Patenaude offers a detailed account of Trotsky's years in Mexico that serves to complete the work of Service. The book is highly readable and rather interesting as backdrop to the undeserved veneration accorded Trotsky by his devoted disciples during and after his lifetime.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 28, 2010 8:57 AM PST


Trotsky: A Biography
Trotsky: A Biography
by Robert Service
Edition: Hardcover
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12 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trotsky: Another Utopian Visionary, December 28, 2009
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This review is from: Trotsky: A Biography (Hardcover)
In this book, Robert Service completes his biographical trilogy of the protagonists of the October Revolution and its aftermath - Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. As he has in the two earlier accounts, Service meticulously lays bare the influences upon and generated by his subject. While disclosing Trotsky's personal faults, his inability to coalesce factions into a realistic governing role, his inability to empathize on a personal level, his failure at critical times to seize the moment and exercise sound judgment, the author reveals that the heart of Trotsky's downfall was his utopian vision, a worldview historically untenable, philosophically unsustainable, and psychologically misanthropic.

Contrary to the assessment offered by Trotsky's apologists throughout the years, Service rightfully concludes that the man was no more likely to have brought to fruition the workers' paradise than was his bête noire, Stalin. "He was close to Stalin in intentions and practice. He was no more likely than Stalin to create a society of humanitarian socialism even though he claimed and assumed that he would. Totsky failed to work out how to move from party dictatorship to universal freedom. He reveled in Terror. . . . Trotskyists invented a man and a leader who bore only an erratic kinship to Lev Davidovich Trotsky." (pp. 497-8)

I strongly recommend that you read Trotsky: "Downfall of a Revolutionary," Bertrand M. Patenaude, Harper Collins (2009), in conjunction with Service's "Trotsky: A Biography." Patenaude provides a detailed account of Trotsky's years in exile that is unrivalled. The reader will gain greater insight into the man's later years as he grew older yet unflexible in his commitment to his faith in the ultimate triumph of Marxism.

The reality is that even Trotsky was unable to set forth a consistent explication of what all the nonsense was about "dialectical materialism." "Few comrades even professed to understand its meaning." (Patenaude, p. 222) Many of his followers and fellow-travelers were enthusiastic about Trotsky and his views because of their own naivety. "They were blind to Trotsky's contempt for their values. They overlooked the damage he aimed to do to their kind of society if ever he got the chance." (Service, p.466) The truth is that Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and his acolytes were (and still are) iconoclasts and sloganeers, and nothing more. "Civilization can only be saved by the socialist revolution. . . . Only that which prepares the complete and final overthrow of imperialist bestiality is moral, and nothing else. The welfare of the revolution - that is the supreme law." - Trotsky, "Their Morality and Ours: The Moralists and Sychophants against Marxism" (1938) (Service pp. 470-1)

There is an interesting little book written by a child of American Trotskyists, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, "When Skateboards Will be Free," Dial Press (2009), that reveals the vacuity of blind faith in bankrupt ideology. He notes that his father, a life-long social revolutionary activist, "will gladly hold forth on the largest of subjects: the social evolution of human beings since Homo habilis; the materialist underpinnings of ancient civilization; the French Revolution; the Cold War. . . . The subjects he chooses are usually so vast, so breathtaking, that one can be forgiven for failing to realize how hollow the information is that he imparts. . . . It doesn't matter if he himself knows the intimate details of the topics on which he expounds; his concern is with Truth." (Sayrafiezadeh, p. 134; to his credit, Sayrafiezadeh, when confronted by his girlfriend with the questions: What does it mean to be a communist; what is socialism? ultimately concludes: "I guess I don't know what I'm talking about." pp. 253-4) Despite Trotsky's literary flair and his historic role in dramatic 20th century events, one rightly wonders whether, in the end, he knew what he was talking about.

Robert Service has done a masterful job recounting the life and ideas of Trotsky. Typically for him, his research is exhaustive, his writing is insightful, his style exquisite.


Life After Death: The Evidence
Life After Death: The Evidence
by Dinesh D'Souza
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.50
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69 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Thought-Provoker From Dinesh, November 11, 2009
Polemic, irenic, elenchtic; all three styles of proof presentation are found in this book. Mr. D'Souza is at his best, inducing the reader to mull over the evidence for life after death.

Beginning with NDE claims, moving on to developments in physics that recognize possibilities beyond the limits of physical laws, observing a natural teleology evident in biology, exposing reductive materialism as counterfactual, identifying the naïveté of an empirical realism, offering the notion of "cosmic justice" as a basis for morality, that human choice is aspirational when clothed by conscience, and concluding that the products of science and philosophy posit beneficent design, the author reveals that the evidence is at least "clear and convincing" for life after death. Then, and most offending for some, it is evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that moves one to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof.

Despite the tenor of the reviews of this book, from virulent attack to accepting praise, the reader is only asked to think about the viability of the various models that currently occupy the field. And, that is certainly what the author has accomplished; he has advanced the discussion. He has done so thoughtfully and honestly and on a level that enables most readers to understand his argument.

Mr. D'Souza set out to offer a rational hope for immortality. In the process, he reveals that it is irrational to assume that ideas of eternality are somehow logically illicit and unscientific. Ironically, as demonstrated by this book, such an assumption is, in itself, intellectually unsophisticated and ultimately dishonest. Even a Sarte recognized that denial of immortality should lead to despair. All readers can agree on one fact - we shall all face death. One can despair, one can ignore, one can examine the claims of immortality, or one can deny without examination. One can act or be acted upon. In this context, examining the claims for immortality constitutes the act; being acted upon is . . .
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2011 3:55 AM PST


The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War
The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War
by John V. Fleming
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.25
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witnesses to Reality, September 7, 2009
John V. Fleming's "The Anti-Communist Manifestos" excellently performs service to those who would know the history, literary and cultural, of four great books dedicated to the cause of truth. With style and insight, Fleming unpacks the ironies and contradictions that infested the West during the age of international Communism; revealing, as he does, the farce of unfounded utopian faith.

The author's recounting of the works of Koestler, Valtin (Krebs), Kravchenko, and Chambers should induce, in the very least, a curiosity to explore the writings themselves. Telling the tales from the perspective of one who is familiar with the texts that, in turn, influenced these men, Fleming offers invaluable insights.

Because Marxist thought and its varieties of socialist offspring are by no means simply things of the past, the writings examined by Fleming retain much relevance. His essay on Whittaker Chambers' masterpiece "Witness" is itself worthy of multiple reads and reflection; for Chambers identified a war between two worldviews - that of unfettered idealism and that of fractured reality. The former perspective leads to a kind of phantasmic irrationality necessitating absurd apologias; the other can lead either to unwholesome despair or informed action. And, there is a third way, that of profound neglect. The majority, those who follow the third path, currently imperil civilization.

In the war of the worldviews, it may not be overstatement to declare Chambers' "Witness" and Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" the most important books of the 20th century. Thankfully, their courageous efforts inspired action.

Professor Fleming has written a very impressive book. Once you commence reading, you will not put it aside. When you have finished, you will be motivated to read (or, re-read) the subject authors' writings, as well others who have sought to inform regarding the dangers of the collectivist fixation that still obsesses the cognoscenti.


The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia
The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia
by Tim Tzouliadis
Edition: Hardcover
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest They Be Forgotten, August 31, 2008
It is as Solzhenitsyn predicted in The Gulag Archipelago: "No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into." (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, 3:482; trans. Harry Willetts (New York: Harper and Row, 1978)). In this work, Tim Tzouliadis seeks to arouse an interest, to create an insight into the barbarities committed throughout the "socialist experiment" in Soviet Russia. Writing particularly to an American audience, Tzouliadis recounts the story of the lost thousands of American to the oppression of the Soviet state. Virtually unknown to Americans is that the existence of these thousands was well-known to U.S. government officials and journalists stationed in the Soviet Union during the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's, people who simply remained silent in the midst of their fellow-citizens' disappearance and murders.

This book is a primer on the brutality of the Communist regime. For those unfamiliar with this history, it is an introduction. For those who have read Anne Applebaum, Robert Conquest, Vassily Grossman, John Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Elinor Lipper, the Medvedevs (Roy and Zhores), Richard Pipes, Edward Radzinsky, Varlam Shalamov, Vitaly Shentalinsky, Dmitri Volkogonov, and, of course, Alexander Solzhenitysn, the history is not new. But, the story of Americans who once played baseball in Gorky Park only to end up executed by the gun or hard labor in Siberia is news to most.

Particularly of interest is the author's revelation of the betrayal of their fellow-citizens by government officials at the very top of the U.S. government. While the identities of the likes of Harry Hopkins, Alger Hiss, Dexter White, Paul Robeson, Joseph Davies and others is well-known to those familiar with the history of the era, Tzouliadis provides new insights by relying on more-recently divulged information to establish the extent of the betrayal of traditional American moral virtues.

The bones of the victims of Soviet repression cry out for acknowledgement of their torture and degradation, as well as condemnation and judgment of their persecutors. The victims of Communist deceit, it must be recognized, are us all. It is time for the full story to be told.

In addition to his simply telling this story, Tzouliadis offers a moral tale that is supremely relevant today: those with utopian ideals and a fractured understanding of human nature cannot be trusted to lead a nation.

Read this book; its style makes it an easy encounter; its disclosures make it essential reading for those who would be intelligently informed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2013 3:23 PM PST


William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner
William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner
by William Hague
Edition: Hardcover
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly, August 16, 2008
Lincoln once said that "everyone should know Wilberforce." (p. 511) William Hague has afforded the present generation the second-best way to get to know Wilberforce; a magnificently written biography of the man. While the most insightful means to "know Wilberforce" is to know his God, in no small measure Hague reveals the God of William Wilberforce by disclosing the man. The man, as it turns out, in his life manifested the efficacy of pure religion put into practice.

The author is no neophyte to historical biography, having previously offered a highly-regarded biography of William Pitt the Younger (Knopf - February 8, 2005 - "[A] first-class work of history; informative, well written and captivating." --Alistair Horne, The Times London). In this his accounting of the life of Wilberforce, Hague informatively, with graceful style, leads the reader to an understanding of why many of his contemporaries regarded him on a par with the greatest statesmen of the age; in the end, he was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.

William Wilberforce is quite rightly remembered for his untiring efforts to bring about the end of British-sanctioned slave trading in 1807. For that accomplishment alone he should be recalled. However, beyond the accomplishment lies the value of studying the life of one who was unusually devoted to higher principles; in many respects, the life of Wilberforce exhibits that one can have one's vision focused on heavenly values while having one's feet planted within the realities of earthly existence. For those who long for political leadership ennobled by trustworthy character traits, this is a worthy model. Think, for example, of a leader who is aware of his abilities, recognizes his limitations, has no greater ambition than to do good for his fellow beings, is tender yet unbending, principled yet practical, bipartisan and independent yet not radical, and honest to the core; that's the Wilberforce model.

This is the man who declared the following in a speech given during his only contested contest for his seat in Commons:

"Gentlemen, so long as you thus understand the constitution under which you live, and know its nature, so long you will be safe and happy; and notwithstanding the varieties of political opinion which will ever exist in the free country, you will present a firm and united front against every foreign enemy. Great countries are perhaps never conquered solely from without, and while this spirit of patriotism and its effects continue to flourish, you may, with the favour pf Providence, bid defiance to the power of the greatest of our adversaries." (p. 368).

William Wilberforce fought to eradicate the greatest evils of his age with uncompromising dignity, eloquence, and wisdom unequalled in the annals of legislative leadership. Mr. Hague's biography brings to light the value of such leadership. The work also brings to light the underlying beliefs and values that created the man and his legacy.


10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help
10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help
by Benjamin Wiker
Edition: Hardcover
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275 of 348 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crying in the Wilderness, July 26, 2008
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I remember almost thirty years ago a brother-in-law retorting, during a discussion about child-rearing, that he intended to raise his children as wild stallions in a state of nature. I recall commenting that the poor deluded man was merely repeating what he had heard in his sophomore sociology and psychology classes and that, in doing so, he manifested his ignorance of the subject.

One reviewer of Dr. Wiker's book, "10 Books that Screwed up the World," offered the following thought:

"Ideas can certainly be dangerous but, once they are articulated in print, a thinking person has an opportunity to consider them rationally and counter them. This process is much more difficult if we are working from an oral articulation of ideas because orators can sway emotion and equivocate more effectively."

While intended to be a criticism of Professor Wiker ("Is this guy an enemy of free speech?"), the critic, in fact, makes his point; few people have actually read these books. Like my brother-in-law, had they actually read Rousseau, other than Emile, had they actually read Hobbes, other than the usual snippets of Leviathan offered, had they read Darwin's the Descent of Man, Machiavelli's The Prince, etc., they might have been better able to digest the unfounded and destructive utopian visions of Marx, Lenin, Hitler, and assess the illusions conjured by Freud, Sanger, Mead, and Kinsey. The reality is that few who have proffered these writers as icons of enlightened intellectualism, namely the professorial and teaching class, have taken the time to consider their products rationally. And, certainly those to whom it has been asserted that the writings comprise a source of deep reflection beneficial to humanity - essential to an understanding of humanitas - have not taken the opportunity to consider them rationally and counter the assertions. These vapid arguments have seeped into the mainstream only because they were developed by "so-and-so." In other words, the foundation is ipse dixit; the proof is hearsay.

That's why Professor Wiker bemoans the fact that the writings he has singled out have had such profound influence. If writings are not actually read and subjected to rational assessment, it would be better had they never been written. Unfortunately, the writings that Wiker addresses have been and continue to be highly detrimental to the body politic and the human soul. That is the more important reason that they should never have been written.

"10 Books that Screwed up the World" is easily read in a couple of sittings; is readily understood; and, is a must read especially for young people headed for the "castles" of higher learning.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2011 6:46 PM PDT


An American Family: The Buckleys
An American Family: The Buckleys
by Fergus Reid Buckley
Edition: Hardcover
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Look into the Mirror of a Changing America", July 19, 2008
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Reid Buckley (RIP) has masterfully written an insightful memoir of a family (his own) that, along with many other families, formed the backbone of a once-great Country, a dynamic culture regrettably on the wane.

As one would expect, coming as it does from the Buckleys, this book entertains and informs, amuses and instructs, simultaneously opens the heart and breaks it with reminiscences quite common to us all. Primarily, Mr. Buckley's words address both the individual's and the culture's soul.

If you presume that the Buckley family of the passed and passing generations was comprised of elitist snobs, that presumption will be dispelled; unless, of course, you consider those who place God, Family, and Country (and in that order) first are somehow representative of primordial elitism.

One might ask: "How could one family produce so many creative and successful citizens?" The answer is to be found in the Buckley definitions of "citizenry" and "success." For that you will have to turn especially to Chapter 12: "The Mexican Impact and Its Legacy" and pages 253 and 254 (the Buckley inheritance contraindicating that of materialism). Therein is established a propaedeutic on both concepts.

You will love this book because it exemplifies what is being lost in the present generation of America; you will identify with the Buckleys and you will sense a loss. In doing so, you may be caused to engage in recovering what is being withered away. Reid Buckley, and Bill, etc., have left their fellow-citizens a legacy - a gift. This book is the culmination of their contribution.


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