Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top Ten Most Important Non-Fiction Books, 1-2

So the final installment of the most important non-fiction books. I believe these are definitely important and the number one books are worth reading.

2. Two Treaties of Government, John Locke, 1689. The writings of Locke are vital to the history of government and to the creation of the U.S. Great thinkers who could have made this list, Rousseau and Jefferson, will base many of their own ideas on those of Locke’s. Not all of Locke’s important ideas come from the Treaties of Government, but I will include them as if they did. Locke’s theories start at the same place all political philosophers do, the State of Nature (made famous by Thomas Hobbs). In the beginning humans lived in the state of nature, which was the cruel world without rules or law. This world was dominated by shear force, meaning the strongest ruled. Men decided that they were not happy with their current position, where life tended to be short and violent. So for protection they decided to create government. The idea was that citizens made a contract with the government. Citizens gave up some freedom (agreeing to follow the law and not do what ever they pleased) in exchange for government to protect their God given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Land. In other words, kings rule by the consent of the People and not by divine right from God as was accepted at the time. This became known as the Contract Theory of Government. Locke went on to say that if Government broke their side of the contract that the citizens were not obligated to keep their side.

In 1776 when the British colonists in America were having issues with King George, they were using the theories of Locke, governors govern by the concent of the people, to make their arguments. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independece, he based it on Locke, and was even critized by John Adams for plagerism. Jefferson’s most famous line is very close to Locke, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. What Jefferson was doing in his Declaration was first telling the King the Coloinsts would not recognize his authority, but even more important he was trying to convince the Colonists that what they were about to do (revolution) was justifiable. The Declaration of Indepence is a list of grievances against the King, Parliament, and the British people in an effort to show how George III had broken the contract and hence the colonists not only had the moral right but an obligation to withstand the King.

Without Locke, there is not Declaration of Independence, no Constitution, no Declaration of the Rights of Man (French Revolution). His ideas were not meant to bring down monarchs, but others interpertations of Locke’s writing did exactly that.

1. Books of Faith. I could have filled up the entire list with books of faith, so instead I will put them all together. I am including the Bible, Koran, Torah, and Book of Mormon. Books of faith that have greatly effect the western world, and in some ways are the very foundation of the western world. These books are number one because more good and evil in the world have cited these as their influence, more than any other printed words.

The Bible still today is the most purchased book in history. Yet, for all the good the Bible has done, it has also been used to justify evil. The problem with the Bible is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways, hence dozens of different denominations all claim the Bible as their inspiration. Up through the 16th Century the Catholic Church during the Inquisition used the Bible as justification for torture and murder of anyone deemed heretics. The conquering of non-Christians, from Arabs in the Jerusalem to Indians in the new world, was always done first in the name of God. American slavery needed no further evidence past the Bible to show God ordained the practice. Paul told his followers that servants should obey their masters. The descendents of Able were cursed with dark skin and anyone who married into that seed was cursed as well, like Noah’s son. Lastly Jesus never once in all his sermons ever said slavery was wrong. With all of God's wisdom, if he disagreed with slavery, he would have made it known, right?

The Bible is not the only book of faith that has been used to justify evil. Today our greatest threat comes from followers of the Koran. Islamic Terrorists claim they are following the will of God when they committee violent acts, something unfortunately we are too familiar with . Also today most of the west today also sees the Koran as a means for the oppression of women (topic for another blog but I do not completely agree).

Interestingly of the three major religious texts, I can not recollect any major act of violence committee in the modern era with the Torah as the inspiration. Of course the Torah (first five books of the Old Testimony) are full of conquering people in the name of God, and David and Solomon did their share of fighting, but since the Torah the Jews are usually the victims and not the aggressors. Until recently, Jews have not been concentrated in one place like Christians or Muslims and have had little power politically, so have done little damage. If you view Israel today from the Palestinian perspective, then the Jews are an aggressive people, but much of Zionism was secular as much as it was religious.

The negative aspects of these books of faith are powerful enough to place them at number one on the list, yet it is important to look at their positive side, for it is here that their real power is shown. At their core, all religions teach love: love for God, love for mankind, love for self. The problem with the positive aspects is that they are harder to measure, most do not make the history books. The real power of books of faith come in quite personal moments. Yes there are Mother Theresas who are famous for their faith in the Bible, but for every saint there are countless numbers living their quiet lives and experiencing small miracles. Much of the good in the world, from small acts of charity to taking a trip to Louisiana after a hurricane to help clean up, are done so from being inspired by these books or the religions that teach from them. Many books have been listed on my blog the last couple of months, but none of them matter without these. Depending on which religion you choose, this is where the truth is found, the rest of the books are just appendages.

One other book of faith that I believe needs mentioning is the Book of Mormon. From a completely historical aspect it has not had as much impact on the world as the other three, yet I would argue that any scholar making such a list should include it in their top ten. Its impact on America is undeniable, whether seen as good or bad is up to the person, but Mormonism has helped shape this nation. It today is the most successful religion to have its beginnings in America. It is a product of events that changed America in the 1830s and 1840s and much of the story of the American West must involve Mormons: Sutters Mill, San Diego, Mexican War, and Civil War. Today it is a world wide religion with now over 13 million members. Spiritually it is even more important. In the words of Joseph Smith, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on the earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than other book.” [quote from the Introduction to the book of Mormon]

I believe all ten books are very important, and in some part have shaped the world. There were others in hindsight that I could have added in place of a few at the top. I would love to hear what others think, I believe that is what makes a list fun, the discussion. I have one other favor to ask of anyone who reads this blog, I need suggestions for future lists. I enjoy making these but am quickly running out of ideas. So do not be bashful if you are a lurker, or are friends with my sister and are just peaking, throw out a topic.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Lately I have been thinking about friends. Mostly with this new blogging interest I have connected to some old friends that I have not spoken with much over the past few years. Now I am reading their blogs and they are reading mine and it seems like old times. I have been reading a couple of my cousin’s blogs and my Aunt and feel I know them now better than maybe I ever have. I am also finishing up some last minute details on a book I am hoping to publish about the secession movement in Kentucky and so have been studying up on a Kentuckian named Joshua Speed. Probably Speed’s greatest claim to fame is being the best friend and unofficial advisor of Abraham Lincoln. What I am looking at is how this friendship might have affected Lincoln’s dealing with that important state. As part of this study I read, We Are Lincoln Men, a book by David Herbert Donald which explores Lincoln’s friendships with a few close friends. Donald wanted to know why Lincoln had very few close friends, and yet everyone considered him their friend. To answer his question, Donald looked at different discourses on friendship, but the one he used the most was Aristotle’s typology of friendship. I found Aristotle’s views of friendship interesting and so want to share it.

Aristotle saw three different types of friends: enjoyable friends, useful friends, and lastly perfect or complete friends. An enjoyable friend is someone you like to hang out with because you enjoy their company. Most of us probably have many of these types of friends, they are our circle, the crowd we run with, when we are all at a party we talk and laugh and enjoy ourselves. Useful friends are the ones we hang out with because they have something to offer which we can benefit from. This does not mean we don’t like them or enjoy them, but simply their usefulness is the motivating factor in the friendship. We all probably have friends like this too. This was Lincoln's biggest list, most of the people that called Lincoln a friend hoped to gain something from him or Lincoln used them to work his way up in politics. I do not mean used here in a bad way, remember these are friends, not just people we use for selfish reasons. I find these to be my work friends. There are some here that I do like, and we talk and sometimes go to lunch or attend work parties, but mainly they are mostly useful than enjoyable. I am hoping to make more friends like these, mainly ones with a fishing boat, a beach house, mountain retreat, or so on, so I can use their stuff and in return I will tell him stories of the Civil War. Now who would not want that trade off? Then finally there are perfect or complete friends who as Donald puts it are the ones “which there is free sharing of ideas, hopes, wishes, ambitions, fears.” Most people think they are this kind of friend, where in fact they are just enjoyable. This kind of friend is very rare. Henry Adams once said “One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; and three are hardly possible.” Finding one friend like this is truly a gift. According to Donald, Lincoln had six, which I would say is quite a few.

I have had many friends over the years and fortunately I do believe I have had complete friends. I guess I am lucky. In high school I started off with lots of friends, my freshman year I believe I was quite popular. I had the best looking girlfriends and played on the major sports teams, including making varsity Lacrosse. As I moved into my Sophomore year things began to change as my peers discovered drinking and partying. Being LDS, I did not participate in these activities making my stock drop drastically. I was fortunate however to have another LDS youth in my grade (Matt) and we became friends. In the beginning it was probably more a useful friendship, we both needed the other, but it quickly became a complete friend. There are possibly still a few things that only we know. I did have a number of other close friends that I feel blessed to have had, I hope I do not hurt their feelings but I am not sure they are complete friends, in that I did not share all my hopes and dreams, but my life would not have been complete without them. The friend I was closet too next to Matt was Larke, but there was also Abe, Higbee, and Fromm (the two headed monster). We had a great circle and much fun. My senior year the one I added to my closest friends was Kari, if only we could have been better friends earlier. When I left on my mission there were several people pledged to write me, but of course those dropped off quickly. By the end of my mission I could only expect two letters on regular basis, my parents and Kari. Thank you Kari.

On my mission I did make friends with two elders that are close friends, Roy and Pete. I only wish I could see them more. For the next ten years I made many enjoyable friends and some that are pretty close to complete, like the Aases, Crawfords, Brumfields, Tullises and Stennets. Since living in south Texas I have once again been fortunately to have made a close friend (Seth), it again started out more as usefull, but has become complete. I like one of the tenets of Aristotle’s complete friends, they must have similar morals and virtues. What I like about Seth is that we can talk football one moment, but then it is not weird to move into something spiritual. I would like to thank all those who have considered me a friend and look forward to many more years of friendship to come.

It does seem like I have left one important person out, Melissa. Leaving Aristotle, Donald does not believe spouses fall into these categories, he believes they need a different classification other than friend, it is something beyond friendship. I agree completely, but would also add other family members. My wife is not only a complete friend but is so much more. She is my best friend yes, but somehow including her in a category that I share with anyone else does not work. Included on any list of friends would be my two little sisters and my brother. We should include a new category of “have to be friends”, we are family and so no matter what we are close. There is a difference in the way to treat family and the way you treat friends, this is not always positive. I think we treat family at times knowing they are “have to be friends.” Luckily for me, my siblings and their spouses (including Melissa’s family) are the kind of people I would chose to be friends with anyway.

When I began writing this I did not mean it to be so personal, so I apologize for that. I hope everyone can now and than look back at the friends they accumulated over time and realize how fortunate they are. Your list may be small, I think mine is, I have not had many friends, but the ones I have had are good friends. When it comes to friends it is not the quantity but the quality that matters and one truly good friend makes a man rich.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I know immigration is a hot topic everywhere right now, but it is especially relevant here in south Texas. It is generally accepted here that everyone is for immigration, whether it be legal or not. The border wall has become the major focal point for all criticism. The wall affects many that live here and they are going to court to try to stop the government from building on their land; of course this has not worked. Living here I have seen things that have affected my opinion. I know of one young man that is not legal, but has lived here his entire life (he is 17) and is just as American as any of the youth that live here. To send him to Mexico does not make any sense at this point, but ignoring the law does not make sense either. I disagree with him over the policy of immigration. He supports a new idea that anyone who gets accepted into college will qualify for citizenship. I strongly disagree, getting into college is not difficult today, and should not be the qualifier for citizenship. I do feel bad for him and other illegals. If crossing into Mexico illegally would guarantee my family a better life, I might just do it. I do understand why they want to live here, I believe this is the greatest nation on earth. I feel for illegals and how they must live here. Last week there was a large raid in Texas where several major companies were busted for hiring illegals and for their treatment of illegals. Not all, but many illegals do come here for a better life, and are willing to work very hard at several jobs to make money, but find when they get here they are treated poorly by those that hire them, knowing they can not complain. But after saying this I still do not believe we should allow the law to be broken. We can not give amnesty and reward those who oppose the rules of law.

We do need to find a way to allow for legal immigration to this country by those who want to work hard and live the American dream. I believe there is a good way for illegals to work for their citizenship. Why not allow them to join the military and put in their time and after which they can apply for citizenship. I know this will never happen, the ACLU and liberals would throw a fit at the mere suggestion. I do not understand why this is so objectionable. It benefits not only the US, but the illegal as well who would have the chance to better their lives after they fulfilled their duty. This would open up a clear path to stay in the US and even learn skills for later use. The military is an honorable profession, I have not served, but would be proud if my sons wanted to join the military. My cousin Jason, who I care about like a brother, is serving in Iraq right now, I could not be prouder of anyone. So I am not suggesting we enslave illegals or treat them with contempt, but to give them an honorable career while at the same time showing their loyalty to the nation they want to join. If it is good enough for some of our best young people, why do the ACLU and liberals object so strongly. It seems like a win win, our military is strengthened which helps the US and it is a path for citizenship that should be acceptable to all.

I know we have changed in the past 150 years, but there was a time when immigrants willingly joined the military out of devotion to their adopted country. The Civil War was made up of several units of immigrant troops, including, but not exclusive to, the famed Irish Brigade. Germans, Poles, and Scandinavian joined in large numbers. Oliver O. Howard’s 11th Corps were princely made up of immigrants. They were not used as much as other units because no one could understand most of them. Why have we changed so much, why is asking an immigrant to serve as one way to gain citizenship now considered an insult? I know this is political, and war and the military are touchy subjects right now, but we need to separate the military for politics. This policy will work whether or not we are in Iraq, or if Bush, Obama, or McCain is in the White house. I see this policy not as punitive, but a positive way to help those searching for the American Dream.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


4. The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli, 1532. This book is one of the most important books on political theory, Machiavelli discussed the way to gain and keep power. According to Machiavelli, what a state needs the most to thrive is stability, and any action is justified no matter how cruel if it brings stability. This is what justifies the Prince to rule his kingdom with force rather than law.

How it applies to us, according to Maciavelli a good Prince (president) must have a strong enough military to withstand an enemy and if necessary to attack. We can not rely on other nations for help or wait for the enemy to come to us, such a prince is weak (Iraq). A true prince must be seen as humane and religious, but can not actually believe in these, for a good prince may be called to act against them. It is good for a prince to be both loved and feared, but if it is only possible for one of these, he should be feared. Being feared will bring more stability to the state than love. But Maciavelli does warn against being hated, so rule by fear if necessary but he should not harm his subjects women or take their life without good cause. Finaly a good prince needs good councliers and must be able to desipher between good men and those trying to flatter. But the final decesion needs to be make by the prince and carried out without wavering, or the prince will look soft.

As a republic we do not have a prince, yet many of these qualities have crept into our leadership. I believe our president needs to be seen as strong and not a straw man the way Clinton was. I like the last area, I am not sure Bush always had the best advice, but when he makes a decesion, he has always stuck to it and has not wavered. We have much at stake in the future, and maybe it will take a prince as strong as Machiavelli’s to achieve victory. Yet if we follow Machiavelli what will be the price of such victory?

3. The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776, and The Communists Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848. Again these two go so well together that I decided to combine them.

Wealth of Nation is the first book written on economics and introduced the world to the concept of capitalism. It was written for the common man and so compared to most books on the subject it is accessible to us today. The most important concept in Wealth of Nation is the Invisible Hand. What he meant was there are natural forces that control economic cycles, what we call today the business cycle. It is like a roller coaster, sometimes the economy is good and sometimes it is bad. When the economy is bad, just wait it out and the private business world will correct itself and all will be right until the next down turn. Smith believed in what will be called laissez-faire government, or that government should not interfere in the economy, if they do they might break it. The Invisible Hand has to be free to work and not be restrained by government interference. It is supply and demand that set prices, government not only does not need to set prices, but should not. Gas prices are high today because we still buy gas, when prices get to the point where we can not pay, what the market can bear, then prices will drop. Or if we stop buying gas from some vendors then they will have to drop their prices.

Smith wrote about how people looking out for their own self interest was not as negative as once believed. When everyone looks out for themselves they will personally do what is necessary to make the economy perform well; so by helping yourself you are helping everyone. These princples are still part of our ecomony today, just adjusted. Starting with the Progressive period, Americans wanted more government oversite in the economy, they wanted to government to regulate the economy. It was not until FDR that government really took an active role in manipulating the economy. Even during the depression, Hoover did little to help, believing it was the private sector, the Invisible Hand, that needed to fix the depression, not government. Today we still argue over these prinples. The housing crisis is the best example. The Democrats want the government to fix it, while Republcians believe the private sector needs to work it out. Based on the fact that we live in a free market capitalist system, Wealth of Nations makes the number three spot

Marx and Engles will use the Wealth of Nations as the jumping off point for their own work. Much of the Communists Manifesto deals with economic and political history. During the middle ages there were serfs, nobles, and guilds. With the rise of industry the industrialists and the guilds clashed and what grew out of that conflict was the bourgeoisie or capitalists. Marx and Engles saw Adam Smith’s capitalists important because they killed feudalism and brought us one step closer to the final conflict, that of the bourgeoisie verses the proletate, or the working class. The problem with capilolism is the conflict between those who work (proletate) and those who own the means of production and make all the money (bourgeoisie). This conflict could not continue for long and ultimately would clash and springing from that conlict was communism. Under communism there would be no classes, instead there would be equality. The best way to guarntee equality was to do away with ownership of land so no one could have more than anyone else. Next all industry was to be taken over by the state to eliminate the have and the have nots.

The theories of Marx and Engles led to Lenin’s October Revolution in Russia which after WW II began America’s longest war, the Cold War. The Cold War played a part in everyting Americans did for the rest of the Century. Whether we talk about Civil Rights or 1950 sitcoms, the Cold War had an influence. We needed to win the hearts and minds of the third war, and prove our way of life and economy was better than the Russians. So we helped Dr. King get released from jail, so the Russians could not use it against us in Africa, and pushed family orientated sitcoms, with stay at home moms and white collar dads, to show our superiority. The great struggle in the 20th century was between Capitalists and Communists as we went on an ecomonic roller coaster and tried to figure out the best way possible to prosper. I would argue that in some ways communism has won out. The invisible hand in many ways no longer exists. We may not have moved as far as communism, but we have left the world of Adam Smith and laissez-faire government years ago. What we have now is a highbred of a free markket world controlled by government regulations.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Heart in College Sports

Anyone who knows me knows I love college football. The best part about summer is that we are getting closer to football season and the websites and ESPN are stepping up their coverage of the upcoming season. However one of the first stories I read this week really disturbed me. I am a huge ACC fan and so watch a lot of ACC football (go Hokies), one of the teams I caught a few times last season was Clemson. Anyone who happened to watch a Clemson game probably heard the human interest story that the networks could not get enough of. The story was about a Clemson running back named Ray Ray McElrathbey. McElrathbey grew up in the rough part of Atlanta without a father and a junky mother. With his mother's condition, McElrathbey spent much of his childhood living in foster homes that were often not much better then his own home. During this time McElrathbey found that he had a talent playing football and excelled to the level where he was offered a scholarship to play at Clemson. By itself this is a great story, a young man who overcame a challenging life to go on get a college degree. I am the first to say that I do not believe the images athletes portray themselves to be, the Kobe rape trial is evidence of that, but from all accounts McElrathbey is a stand up young man who made it. Yet the story gets better.

While McElrathbey was living the good life as a college scholarship athlete only having to worry about classes and having fun, his 11 year old brother Fahmarr was growing up in the same foster care system that he did. McElrathbey decided to take action and fought for guardianship of his younger brother in order to give him kind of life and stability he never experienced. Of course this meant sacrifice for McElrathbey, his time and his life were not his own, raising an 11 year old is not easy. Between school and practice, much of McElrathbey’s time was used up, and with the time left, instead of acting like most college students, it was now taken up by Fahmarr. Fahmarr became a staple at Clemson practices, becoming the unofficial mascot. McElrathbey wanted his brother there where he could not get into trouble. Even the NCAA stepped up and allowed McElrathbey to receive money to help pay for his brother, proving the NCAA may not be as heartless as they seem, though I doubt it. Again if this story ended with last year’s season, it would be a great story. Young man making it out the streets of Atlanta and sacrificing his college years to give a better life for his brother, but unfortunately there is more.

Based on Clemson’s success over the past few years, Coach Tommy Bowden got a bumper crop of young talented recruits, including running back. McElrathbey was never a starter and in fact rarely saw the field outside of special teams, so in order to make room for the new class of backs; McElrathbey had his scholarship taken away. If you read my blog than you might remember a recent post I called Was Blind But Now I See. I spoke about Frederick Douglas the famed Abolitionist and run away slave. I said more young minorities need to copy his example and fight to make themselves better. McElrathbey seemed to be doing just that. His story could have been like so many others who come from the Atlanta streets. He had everything against him, yet he never gave up. He found something he was good at and worked hard to improve his life, and like Douglas after he succeeded he helped the life of someone else. Then one day it was all taken from him. What I would ask Clemson and all major sports programs is, does not character matter? Would that one extra scholarship to a new freshman really make that much of a difference, the way it would for the McElrathbey brothers. Every day in locker rooms around the country coaches talk of character and characteristics like loyalty and not doing anything on or off the field to bring dishonor to their team and school. Well today Clemson has brought dishonor to its school. We ask for people to stand up and work hard and not be part of the problems but part of the solution, and when they try we owe it to them to help. I hope Bowden refrains from talking about loyalty and character this year. As for the McElrathbey brothers, they will be fine. From all accounts they have the kind of character that Clemson can only talk about. Ray Ray is looking to transfer to where he can continue college. The Brothers will have some hardship in the future, but they have endured worst and together will continue onward.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The NBA Playoffs, Their Fantastic, Sort Of

I know my blogs are all over the place, but the NBA Playoffs start on Saturday so now the NBA is relevant. I love college ball but it is hard to get into the NBA as much, but I still enjoy the playoffs. The NBA has turned into who is the most ghetto and when two men bump each other the foul is called on the less popular one, not who actually committed the foul. The other reason why March Madness is better is that now and then you get a Cinderella team, where as the NBA has a 7 game series benefits the best teams (yes now and then you get a Golden State like last year, but not often). I like when the first round was a 5 game series, it helped the little guys a bit more. I would support 5 game series for all rounds, more fun and the playoffs would not finish in June. So when it comes to picking the winners it is easy to go chalk in the NBA, I don’t think Davidson made it to the NBA playoffs.

In the East it is easy to pick. The East is the JV league except at the very top. 1) Boston over 8) Atlanta; 2) Pistons over 7) 76ers; 3)Magic over 6) Raptors. The only series I will pick the higher seed is 5)wizards over 4) Cavs and that is not really an upset. The Cavs are good, but their entire team is James. Stop James and stop the Cavs. Having said that, it is easier to talk about stopping him than to actually do it. Last year’s playoff run for the Cavs is proof of that, but the Wizards are all back and healthy and can make a strong run in the playoffs. But picking the Eastern conference series seems to be the easiest pick in all of sports, Boston V. Detroit. I would not be surprised to see both teams reach the conference finals with only 1 or 2 losses. Now who wins is more difficult. I am partial to the Celtics, growing up my dad loved the Celtics and who could blame him, Bird, Parish, Ainge, McHale, not to mention the best player ever Russell. However I am sick of Boston winning everything, so I hope they do not win the NBA also.

The West is an entirely different animal. I do not believe there will be any upsets, because all eight teams are equally matched and no matter who wins outside of maybe the Nuggets beating the Lakers, I will not call it an upset. Of the top 7 teams, any of them could win and so picks are simply guesses. Also for full disclosure, I would love to see the Jazz win it all, but do not think it will happen, but if you saw my March Madness brackets I had Duke in the final four, so I let my emotions in sometimes when picking. I think the Lakers will beat the Nuggets, easiest pick. As good as the Hornets have been, I will still pick the Mavs. Jason Kidd’s presence alone can get a team to the second round. I live in south Texas so I have to pick the Spurs over the Suns. The Suns are the more exciting team, but fundamentals and defense wins championships and the Spurs have shown they have what it takes to win. I will also pick the Jazz over the Rockets, not only do I think the Jazz can win and want them too, they have home advantage and they have only lost 4 at home, but the Rockets can never seem to get out of the first round. I believe most of these series, outside of Lakers/Nuggets have the potential of 7 games, they are evenly match and should be fun to watch.

I believe the West is by far the best conference, However the entire East is not playing the entire West, only one team from each conference will play and the two best teams in the East are as good as the best in the West. After the Western teams beat each other up for three rounds and the Celts and Pistons cruse through, I will not be surprised to see the NBA camps coming from the East.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I love when today’s politics have some similarities with the past. 1840 was a big year for the newly created Whig party, it was their first Presidential win. In 1840 the Whigs ran William Henry Harrison against the Democratic incumbent Martin Van Buren. Harrison came from money in Virginia and attended the right schools and was part of the upper crust of society. As an adult he joined the military and made a name for himself killing Indians at the battle of Tippecanoe. The best way to get a presidential nod was by being a war hero, and Harrison in 1840 fit that bill. They ran him on the slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler too (Tyler was the VP) trying to remind the voters of his service. However the Democrats found a piece of dirt on Harrison which they planned to use to smear his name. When Harrison retired from the Army part of his benefits included a few barrels of hard cider. The Democrats began writing that Harrison sat around all day in a log cabin drinking hard cider, with the unasked question, do you want a president who lives in a log cabin and drinks cider. Unfortunately for the Democrats the answer was yes. The Whigs decided to use hard cider and log cabins to their benefit, they began having parties and picnics in which they served hard cider out of log cabin mugs. The idea here, and this was the first time it was used, was to convince the people that Harrison was one of them. It is hard to run for president saying, I am richer than you, I never had to work, I am better than you, so vote for me. What the Whigs did, and Democrats will use this now, is to tell the people that they are like us, and understand what we are going through. I just wish the American people were smart enough to see through this.

This bring us to today. Pay attention to the next few months as both parties try to make the push to appeal to the little guy. Four years ago at the Democratic national convention was the best, every speaker began his talk with a story about how his father was a poor miller, plumber, shift worker, etc., and how they came from nothing to reach the level they were currently at. They will do the same this year. Again four years ago, how did we choose between two Princeton grads that came from wealthy powerful families, they both tried to convince us they were one of us. I do not believe it was a coincidence Bush bought a ranch just before running for president and he likes pictures taken of him clearing brush. That’s what common folks do, right?

But then this past weekend there was the ultimate faux pas. Obama while talking to rich liberals in San Francisco (yes liberals are rich too) in what he thought was a closed meeting made a comment about small town blue collar workers. He said they were bitter about their economic circumstances and so “cling to guns and religion.” In other words the only reason small town people are religious is that they are poor. Of course Hillary has jumped all over this calling him an elitist (like she is not) and mocking small town regular people values. This will not hurt Obama in the Democratic race, but it can hurt him greatly in the national race. He is supposed to court the regular guy not mock him. Of course Obama has tried to defend what he said with the most famous political defense, they are twisting my words and taking them out of context. He has apologized for his word choice, saying that is not what he meant. The problem I have with that is that his most famous speech is Words Matter. He has said he himself is a religious man so why would he mock religion. I would answer that small town America religion and his religion are not the same thing. I am pretty positive no preacher in Iowa is saying “God Damn America” the way Obama’s pastor did. I just hope Americans are starting to see the real Obama, not the slick good speaker, calling for change, but instead see that the Emperor is not wearing clothes.

Its interesting to see how many politicians try to follow the example of William Henry Harrison, watch Obama scramble now to appeal to small town folks. However they should be warned about the rest of Harrison’s story. It was a cold and raining day when Harrison gave his inaugural address, and he gave one of the longest in history. During his speech he caught a cold which eventually turned to pneumonia and he died within the month. Maybe they should copy someone else.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A New Earth

To begin with I might as well come out and say it, I watch Oprah. This is not exactly true, my wife watches Oprah which means I am around sometimes to hear it. She tries not to watch when I am home, not because she is trying to spare me, but to spare herself. I cannot watch Oprah without constant critical analysis. Having said that there was a show last week that I had issues with, it was the episode dealing with A New Earth. I have the same issues with this as I did her shows about The Secret. First, I like how in the beginning she stresses that this is not a new religion or doctrine, there have been complaints. What I find funny is that for most of her followers that announcement put an end to that complaint. However, for me, just because Oprah declares something does not make it true. I need to say that the ideas in A New Earth and The Secret are not bad ideas, in fact many of their teachings are not new ideas at all, they are gospel principles wrapped up in new packages.

My problem with these new age ideas is that they have the potential to distract us from what is more important. As a believer in God, I have to believe in the devil as well. I believe the devil’s primary goal is to lead us away from God. The best tool of the devil is not to convince us that there is no God or preach some outrageous new doctrine to lead us astray. His best tool is to use subtle distractions, use truth mixed with false doctrine. Anything too big, like Scientology, most Christians will see through, it is the subtle distractions that we may fall for. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying the proprietors of The Secret or the New Earth, or even Oprah are willing agents of the Devil, I believe they all mean well. I guess I hate to see anything else replace the teachings of the gospel. They claim The New Earth only enhances Christianity, I do not think the teachings of man can enhance true doctrine. The parts of these new age teachings that are true are already being taught, so how can they enhance. I think reading is great, and that we should all read more, but at the same time I hate to see people get so caught up in these new books. How many people who watched Oprah will go out and buy these books for the answers, but have never picked up their Bible and truly read it. This is what I mean by distraction. We all know that there are more books that belong to both the Book of Mormon and the Bible that will some day come forth. Many have said that they want to be able to read these today, but the brethren have warned against this saying first read what we have and follow those laws before wanting more. I think this applies, before we all go out and buy books and make someone rich to get taught new theories about spirituality, let us read and understand what we already have.

The New Earth teaches us to live in the now and think in a present context. In so many ways this is a good idea, we should not live in the past or focus on past mistakes as much and should not dwell on what might happen. Yet is very subtle change that may be a distraction. We should live in the now, but never forget the eternal context. What may be good for us now may not be the answer when viewed through eternity. I believe it all comes down to this, the Gospel is true, and the answer for any question we may have can be found in the Gospel of Christ. There is nothing wrong with watching Oprah or reading these books except when we turn to them for spiritual guidance. I wonder how many women who have bought The Secret or The New Earth watched all 5 secession of conference (including the women’s broadcast the week before). It is the subtle distractions that can lead us away from God.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Long Awaited Picture

OK, since I shaved there have been numerous requests for a picture, so here is one I took today. Fortunately for me I have a great talent for growing hair, just not on top of my head.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Job Update

I just wanted to update everyone on my job hunt. I have heard back from all the schools and they all had the same answer: it was a tough field of candidates, your interview was good, but we went with someone else. For the Tennessee job, they said I was their second choice, not that that does me any good. It has been a bit of a downer this week. I really felt that we would be moving this summer. It is hard to say in a place where we know we are not permanent, it is hard to put down roots. I walked out of my house yesterday at 6:50 AM and it was already 90, I must say I was depressed. I have tried to get out of my funk which I think I am doing, I realize I need to count my blessings. I have a great family, a great extended family, we live in a nice house, and I do have a job. If we were in Arkansas we might not have anything right now, where here I still have one more year on my contract. The fall is when most of the good jobs come out, and this year I will have a much greater chance. Last year when I applied I had not finished my degree where as this year I can apply with my Ph.D. and hopefully something big will be published before I apply (I am waiting to hear back from two publishers, sometimes this can take a long time). So things have not worked out the way we would like, but we will persevere and pray that next year my dream job will open up, preferably with a division one football team (I do have standards).

Thursday, April 10, 2008


There has been a lot of talk lately about the housing market and what role government is going to take to fix the problem. If you are unfamiliar with the problem, basically a few years ago mortgage companies gave out loans with great interest rates, but were flexible rates that were going to go up in 5 or so years. The mortgage companies were willing to do this because they were able to sell their clients accounts to investment companies who were hoping to make money. So what happened is a lot of people ran out and bought homes that were way to expensive but temporally affordable with the low rates. But now that rates are going up, these same people cannot afford their mortgages. Basically people were irresponsible with their money and are now paying the price. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we too are paying the price because the housing market has great influence on the economy. What people are asking is what is the government’s responsibility.

Hillary and Obama have a similar plan. They want the government to spend 30,000,000,000 to bail out homeowners. When McCain was asked about his plan, he responded that he would not do anything. Why should the government bail out people who were irresponsible with their money, he said why should those who were responsible get hurt and have to help those who were not. I still am not a McCain fan, but I must say I like this about him. The problem is can he win an election with these beliefs. Unfortunately too many people feel that the government owes them. McCain has more recently said maybe some aid might be necessary, but only to primary homeowners. Some of the Democratic bail out money was for second homes and investment homes.

These plans represent one of the fundamental differences between the two parties. The Democrats I believe truly want to help people. But the way they want to help is for the government to assume peoples agency. They want big government to make decisions in everyone’s lives as much as possible. They do not give people the credit to think for themselves over what is best for them, but instead want to make the decisions for them. Maybe the majority of people who vote Democratic are not smart enough or are too lazy to make decisions and find it easier to have the government do it for them. By the way this ideology means raising your taxes to pay for all these programs that take care of everyone. The Republicans want small government. Let the state and local government have more a say, but even more important let the people have the power to decide for themselves. Republicans believe we are responsible for ourselves, for good or bad. We know what is best for us, and do not need the government running our lives. Like the Democrats, Republicans truly do want to help people, they just believe the best way of helping is leaving us alone. If we go with the Democrat plan, next time some good mortgages come up, we should all gamble our money and buy. There is no risk, if we fail the government will fix it.

When should government require its citizens to accept the consequences of their decisions. For tests in my classes I require students to arrive with a blue book. In every class and for every test I will have at least one student who fails to bring a bluebook. They always ask if they can write it on regular paper, and every time I give them the same answer of no. They know the rules, and had plenty of warning, yet chose not to care. We are raising a generation of kids who do not have to worry about consequences of their actions. Why should they, the last two presidents have used drugs, it did not hurt them. The government wants to bail people out of stupid mistakes. In most classes the professor would allow them to turn in a test on normal paper. I believe I am here to teach the students, and not just about history. It is a hard lesson to learn, failing a test, but hopefully they will learn it. If the government took the approach that McCain is suggesting, maybe we the people will learn a lesson. It may be hard lesson to learn, but maybe, just maybe we will learn it and better ourselves and the future generation. Oh and by the way, less taxes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I hope everyone enjoyed the first installment of the most important non-fiction books. A couple of them you may never have heard of before, but I am willing to guess you at least are familiar with the next three. Here we go

6. Mein Kampf, Adolph Hilter, 1925 and Night, Elie Wiesel, 1960. I was torn in few places which books to choose, so in cases like this one I am combining two books that in a weird way talk about the same event, but from completely different angles. These two books both deal with the most important even in the 20th century, World War II. An event that took the lives of 50,000,000 people world wide.

Mein Kamf, translates into My Struggle, was written by Hilter while he was a prisoner in Germany after his failed revolution known as the Beer Hall Putsch. He wrote it partly as an autobiography and partly to get his message to the public. In the book he established his theories of the importance of propaganda, and of need to gain more territory for the German people. It is also in Mein Kamf where he discussed the Jewish peril, and the conspiracy of the Jews to take over the world. Germany was in the throws of the Great Depression, leaving the German people desperate and looking for anything to give them hope. In Mein Kamf, Hitler offers Germans the hope they sought by providing a scape goat for all their problems, mainly the Democratic German Government that took power in the months before the end of WWI. It was this Weimar government that surrendered, backed of course by the jews, not the German people. He blaimed all the ills of Germany on these two groups. He then went on to discuss his plans of how he would re-arm Germany and than ally with Italy and England to conquer the world. What I find most amazing about Mein Kamf is that Hitler told everyone his plans, yet no one seemed to have read it outside of Germany or we would have known when he took power in 1934 what he planned on doing. Instead England and France continued to apease Hitler as he conquered nation after nation, until finaly in 1938 they declared war after it was too late. The reason this book is significant is that Hitler followed his plan and launched the world into the bloodiest struggle ever.

Where as Mein Kamf tells of how WW II began, Night tells of its consequences. Elie Wiesel wrote Night after surviving a Nazi concentration camp. In May of 1944 Wiesel and his Father, Mother, and sister were sent to Auschwitz. His is the story of one of the worst eposides in human history and he details the life of Jews under the Nazi control. I do not have time or space here to detail his account, everyone should read it for themselves, but I want to give one line that hit me strongly. In one passage they were speaking about God. Understandably, Wiesel was having diffuculties with God, how could God allow such horror to happen. He makes the statement along the lines of the only one I believe in now is Hitler, he is the only one that keeps his promises. There was so much power in this converstation about the nature and power of God, as well the nature and power of Hitler. There are many books that talk about the Holicaust, but Night transcends them, not only is Wiesel’s story gripping, but he has a gift for writing that allows the reader to feel his pains. It is a short book, and an easy read, and has the power to change the reader.

5. Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1859. Darwin and this book are well known today as the book that introduced evolution and the ideas of survival of the fittests. These ideas by themselves may merit one of the most imporant books in history, but from my standpoint, Origin of Species is important because it marks the historical end of the co-habitation of the scientist and the believer. Throughout history religious men and scholars have always been able to function together. The idea that enlightenment and religion were at odds is incorrect. Great thinkers have always been able to remain religious. One of the greatest thinkers ever was Issac Newton, his work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica could and maybe should have made this list. It was there that Newton gave his laws of physics and princples such as gravity. However, Newton wrote many other, less known works such as, An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, which were very religious texts. Newton believed in God and believed in science and did not see the two as exclusive. Most scientist believed this same way. A good example from today is the big bang theory to explain the creation of the Universe. Scientiest believe a big explosion created the matter that makes up our Universe, but the religious man can agree with the big bang, but believe that God made the bang as his way of creating everything. In other words, God uses nature for his purposes.

All that changed in 1859 with the Origin of Species. For the first time there was a division between science and religion and even within religion between what were called liberals and those eventually called fundamentals. Evolution directly challenged the teaching of the Bible. It said man was not made in the image of God, but in fact evolved from lesser animals. Some liberal religious thinkers, wanted to work evolution into their cannon the way past scientific theories were, but most religious thinks drew the line there. What I find most intersting about this debate is that most scolars and media will have us believe that the scientic views have won out in this country and many even point to the Scopes Trial as the beginning. In 1925 John Scopes was arrested in Tennessee for breaking the law of the state by teaching evolution. Two of the greatest minds of their day took on the case on opposite sides. This was the greatest trial of the 1900s, Clarance Darrow for the defence and William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and God was on trial. Scopes lost, and Bryan died within the month, and history has always taught that Bryan died believing that he won, but in fact people saw the error of their ways with the trial and this was the end of religious involvment in public schools. I do not agree with with the standard text book interpretation of Scopes. Sure today evolution is taught, but it took almost 50 years after Scopes to do so in most places. In some schools today it is not taught at all (private schools). To say that evolution is accepted today by most Americans is false. But the fact that it is so hotly debated today, and has politizied much of the scientific word from the religious world is evidence that Origin of Species deserves its number five ranking.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Madness of March Has Come To An End

This was a great March, I guess I was right in my prediction at the beginning of the tournament; Memphis can not make a foul shot. Up 9 points with only 2 minutes and loose, that’s horrible. All Kansas had to do at the end was foul and Memphis could not make a shot. I thought the Kansas coach deserves a lot of credit for his defense strategy on Rose. I have watch Rose play several times this year and thought he was this years best point guard, the way he beat up on a very good Texas point guard was outstanding. Yet the way Kansas doubled him at every pick completely shut him down, at least in the first half. Rose seemed intimidated by the Kansas point guard (Chalmers). Chalmers also made one of the best shots in final game history with his last minute three-pointer. The one thing I would have done, which I know many people disagreed with, is I would have fouled at the end so they could only shoot for 2 points. In the end it was a great tournament and some great games. I was surprised to see the Saturday night games were such blowouts. I did not see them with conference (I am still waiting for people to agree to sign a petition to move conference weekend), but two good teams were crushed.

As for my own picks, I did not do so well. Out of the 8 players in my group I came in fifth. The winner is my brother-in-laws brother. The worst part is my wife Melissa came in second place, meaning once again she has beaten me. This gets annoying, but then again this is why I married her. I would rather her beat me, than to not play at all. Thanks to all who played and I can’t wait until next year. But the best part of March Madness being over is that means only five months until football.

Monday, April 7, 2008

We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet

I was very moved this past weekend with conference and wanted to make a few comments. Those who watched saw something truly amazing, and I hope felt something amazing as well. I am speaking for me and what I have been seeing here in south Texas. I am not sure if it is the same else where, but I am guessing it is. I have only been old enough to remember the passing of three prophets, President Benson, President Hunter, and President Hinckley. From what I remember the passing of President Hinckley was different than the other two (I am older now and much more aware than I was with the other two), there was grieving for all three, but not the amount of outward expression (I cannot think of a better way to say what I am thinking) that there has been towards President Hinckley. It has almost seemed like he was so loved, that we will never be able to love another prophet as much. When I suggested a little while ago that we replace the picture of the first presidency I was told that we would never take that picture down, in time we might add the new first presidency, but the old one would never come down.

I believe all that will change after this weekend. I would like to add to the comments of those who bore testimony, especially Elders Uchtdorf and Holland (not that I can add to an apostle). Elder Holland was the first to speak after President Monson’s Sunday morning address. He saw what I saw, and what hopefully everyone who watched saw, the mantel of the prophet fall on President Monson. When he spoke, you knew he was a prophet of God. Elder Uchtdorf said he was our prophet for our time. He can not replace President Hinckley, and he does not want to, He will be the first President Monson, our leader who will take us to a new high. I like the comparison made to our children, as much as we love our kids there is enough room in our hearts to love another, the same goes for our Prophet. We can love President Monson and not take anything away from our love of President Hinckley. I look forward to the years to come of hearing and learning from President Monson. In a way it reminded me, to a much lesser degree, to Brigham Young when addressing a crowd after the death of Joseph Smith. President Young took on the description and voice of the Prophet Joseph. The saints needed to see and hear Joseph to understand that President Young was their prophet. On Saturday night and Sunday, no one saw President Hinckley in President Monson, but what we saw was a prophet speaking as a prophet, and now the new change is complete.

As for the talks, I enjoyed them all, they gave me much to ponder, especially when it comes to faith. However I just want to mention two things said. President Monson during Priesthood secession said that sin often hides behind a Halloween mask of tolerance. I believe tolerance is one of the greatest tricks the adversary has used. Tolerance, how can tolerance be wrong. The world teaches tolerance is important, but what they are saying is that we should be accepting of all ways of life, in other words calling good evil. We should never accept sin or anything that goes against the teaching of Christ. Lifestyles that the world teach as acceptable, does not make them acceptable. We should not persecute those who choose to live against Gods commandments, but we should never accept their decisions either.

My other favorite talk was by Elder Bednar. He talked about asking with real faith. This has been my goal this year. Some of you know I have been on the job hunt, and I felt Elder Bednar was speaking to me and my situation. I do have faith, but I know it can get better. He said sometimes we need to wait until the 4th watch, I am hoping that is true. I have thought I should give up for this year and just wait until the new batch opens up in the fall, but the BYU-I job has not said no yet, so maybe there is still a chance.

One other note from the weekend was a program on the BYU channel between secessions on Saturday. I believe it was Elder Ballard speaking. He was encouraging everyone to be part of the new media, and specifically mentioned blogging. His argument was, there is a war being waged on the web about Mormonism, and it will go on whether we are part of it or not, so to get our message across, we need to be part of it. I began blogging because it was fun, now it is something an apostle wants us to do. So keep up your blogging everyone, and don’t forget to include amongst family happenings, your testimonies, you never know who might read it.

I hope everyone had as good a weekend as I did. I used to dread conference weekend, now I truly love it, there is nothing that jumpstarts my spirituality the way conference does, and this weekend I was especially happy to stand and sustain our new prophet.

Friday, April 4, 2008


This past week I both watched a movie and read a book that I found very interesting, both with a similar topic and both of which I would recommend. I read the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas and I watch Amazing Grace. The book is an account of Douglas written by himself and tells of his trials with slavery. This is a short book, a quick read, and can enlighten anyone wanting to know about American slavery. I also believe it has something to teach about racial problems today. In his book, Douglas makes two interesting comments. One, that the more religion a master had the more cruel he was. Many would think, as did Douglas originally, that religion would bring a softing to slavery. However Douglas said that slaveholders used religion to justify their actions and once they felt God sanctioned slavery there was no end to their cruelty. Secondly he felt that slavery corrupted whites. This theory goes with Thomas Jefferson’s theory of why he disapproved of slavery. Once a white owned a human, the very act of absolute power over another’s life turned them into a tyrant. In Douglas’s case he was sent to live in Baltimore with a lady, her husband, and their child. At first the mistress was excited to have the young Douglas in her home (he was around 10 or 12). She had never owned a slave and treated him like family, including teaching him to read. When her husband found out about reading, he put a stop to it, and explained why teaching a slave to read was dangerous. Over the next few years, the mistress went from good to bad as slavery became part of her life and she became more accustomed to it. She stopped seeing Douglas as family and instead as someone always trying to get away with something (like reading which he was). There are other examples in the books of first time slave holders losing their goodness once they became a master.

For our times I think this book has a connection. First, I do believe blacks have started at a disadvantage. It is much easier for suburban whites to make it for themselves than blacks who grew up in a ghetto who have no foundation to build on. Yet at the same time the story of Douglas is a story of a slave who would not accept living in his condition. Once Douglas had a little education he ached inside to learn more. He wanted to learn so badly that he was willing to sacrifice his personal safety to not only read, but teach others. When other slaves found that he could read they begged him to teach them. Compare that to day, where the inner city youth are criticized for wanting to read or better themselves, called names like Uncle Tom. If Douglas could pull himself up from slavery, today’s youth if they had even an ounce of Douglas’s determination could pull themselves out of their current situation. I am not saying it is easy, I am not saying I had to do this, but I do know it is possible if the motivation is there, and their priorities are there and they want to follow someone like Douglas, King, Chavez, instead of rappers, gangsters, and thugs.

I also watched Amazing Grace, a movie about the abolitionist movement in England. This movie stars Ioan Gruffudd (quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, see the movies worth watch list on the right) who plays the real life William Wilberforce, a rich merchant that becomes a member of the British parliament. He dedicated his life to ending the African slave trade, which was difficult because many member of parliament had economic ties to the practice. It is a slow movie, yet I found myself intrigued. It was well acted and told a very important story and about an important man. One of the side stories was about a man named John Newton who in his early years made his living as a slave trader (picking up slaves in Africa and shipping them to the Americas). After a religious conversion, he became a Methodist minister and is most famous for writing the song Amazing Grace. He also was the minister to Wilberforce. For LDS readers this is interesting. Amazing Grace may be the most famous Christian Hymn ever, yet it is not in our Hymnal. This is not doctrine, but an opinion I have held for a while is that the story of the song is not LDS doctrine. It is a beautifully song, but it relays too much on grace as the only thing needed for salvation. As LDS we believe it is only through God’s grace that men are saved, but we steer away from the evangelical notion and accepting Christ is the only requirement. Our faith teaching that if you accept Christ then you must follow his will and fulfill the requirements he has asked. So when a slave trader (about as evil as they come) accepts Christ and repents that is great, but it does not stop there. I say sing the song, (I have heard the Tabernacle Choir sing it), but understand why it is not in our book.

Slavery is such an interesting topic. It was so horrible for the slave, yet carried out often by good people. I think we need to understand slavery to completely understand this nation, for without slavery we may never have been a nation. We need to teach it and embrace it as part of our past or how can we ever have a true dialog about it. I think we should celebrate men like Wilberforce, Douglas, Sumner, Garrison, men who dedicated their lives to the end of slavery. Instead of cursing White America (Rev. Wright), why not look to those who fought slavery and recognize that yes American enslaved black men, but they also fought a war that cost 600,000 men’s lives to free black men. There are good and bad in every race and every nation, but hopefully when we accept what we have done wrong and embrace that we have and are trying to make things better, maybe one day we will truly judge men by the content of their heart and not the color of their skin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Top Ten Most Important Non-Fiction Books, 7-10.

I have decided for the month of April I wanted to make another top ten list. This time I want to rank the most important non-fiction books ever written. Again, these are not the best written or most interesting, but important from a historical standpoint. These are important for good or for bad. Some have inspired greatness, others have caused pain and evil, but all have made changes. I get few comments about my book lists, but hopefully I can inspire someone to read or think about at least one. So I do not take up too much room and my wife says my postings are too long, I will issue them in installments.

10. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, 1962. If you were alive in the 1960s you are probably aware of this book. It has been credited with starting the Environmental movement in the US. The book documents how the use of pesticides, especially DDT, was killing the bird and water life in our river systems, hence silent springs. She awoke a generation in the 60s to the harms we have committed to our planet and for the first time made people aware. Because of his book, DDT has been banned in the US, though used in many third world nations. The environment became a major political issue and an important one for Richard Nixon when he ran for the presidency. It was one topic that blue collar workers, Wall Street tycoons, Hollywood, hippies, and the youth movement could all agree on, and in 1972 there was little else they could all agree on. It was Nixon that began the environmental protection agency. Today the environment has become a major political issue, has even spawned its own political party.

9. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906. This is the best known and best representation of the journalist’s movement known as the muckrakers (Ida Tarbell, Jacob Riis). During the Progressive era, the muckrakers took it upon themselves to expose all the evils in society, and there were plenty. During the Progressive era, government went through a complete overhaul as government went from doing nothing to changing its creed to “there ought to be a law about that.” Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt created larger government to fix social ills. But in order to identify what needed fixing, muckrakers like Sinclair first needed to expose the problem. The Jungle attacked the meat packing plants in Chicago. It exposed the unsanitary conditions, and harsh reality of living conditions of poor workers. It talked about things like human body parts chopped off while working as well as rats and rat droppings all being added to the meat. This book is enough to even make me a vegetarian for a couple days. When Roosevelt read this book, it was very influential in his pushing the Pure Food and Drug Act, which created health inspectors. I still wonder about hot dogs.

8. Century of Dishonor, Helen Hunt Jackson, 1881. This book chronicled the inhumane treatment of the American Indians over the previous century, and is responsible for policy changes towards them. As Americans read this book, they came to the realization that the treatment of Indians was wrong and became determined to make a difference. The first hundred years was full of violence, lies, and removal of Indians from their homes to reservations. This book was so powerful, that Americans now wanted to help the Indians plight. Those who wanted to help meant well, however, their way of helping is now seen as just as cruel. The best thing white America could offer savage Indians was to make them just like them. So instead of reservations, they brought Indian children to the east to teach them to be white. They cut their hair and gave them Christian names and punished them if they spoke their native language or acted Indian. They passed laws like the Dawes Act which took away the power of the tribes by dividing up the reservations into private plots and giving families their own lands, 160 acres (extra land was sold off to whites). The only problem was they were given worthless land and could not provide for families. They set up a system that was bound to fail, and when it did they blamed the Indians. Whites meant well, but what they did is try to destroy a proud people, and in many ways were successful.

7. Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau, 1849. Yes I include this in my novels, but this is where it truly belongs. Thoreau gave a name to breaking the law when that law went against a higher law. He coined the phrase “That government is best which governs least.” During the 1840s, Thoreau had many issues with the government, mainly slavery and the Mexican War. He believed he could not support a government that supported these two instutitions, and decided that he would not pay taxes. He believed he answered to a higher law, one that did not agree with the United States. His decision to not pay taxes landed him in prison and led him to say, “the true place for a just man is also a prison.” The reason for making this list is its influence on later generations. In the 1960s it became a must read for the student radicals and hippies, buts its real importantce was the influence it had on men like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gandhi wrote,
“Thoreau was a great writer, philosopher, poet, and withal a most practical man, that is, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself. He was one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced. At the time of the abolition of slavery movement, he wrote his famous essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”. He went to gaol (jail) for the sake of his principles and suffering humanity. His essay has, therefore, been sanctified by suffering. Moreover, it is written for all time. Its incisive logic is unanswerable.”

Dr. King wrote, “I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau.” King credited Thoreau as his insiration for things like the Montgomery Bus boycot.

I am not making excuses for breaking the law, we need to respect the laws of our nations, anarchy would reign if everyone was aloud to break laws if they felt certain laws did not allpy to them. Yet in the case of someone like Dr. King, laws that allowed for segregation were wrong and against God and we are furtunate enough to have men like Gandhi and King who were willing to stand up and wise enough to know when.