Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: March 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Somebody’s Gotta Say It (Book Review)

(Cross posted here at The Liberty Papers)

As a regular listener of The Neal Boortz Show, I find this book every bit as hard-hitting, insensitive, informative, and entertaining as his show. The High Priest of the Painful Truth pulls no punches in his assault on ignorance whether from the Right, the Left, or Center. The Libertarian Party (the party that most closely reflects his views) is even skewered on a number of fronts.

It’s difficult to know how people who do not listen to his show will respond. You will likely find this book near books with a conservative political bent but conservatives who expect to find yet another book which relentlessly attacks the Left while keeping their sacred cows protected will be sorely disappointed. While Boortz dedicates a significant portion of the book to the lunacy of the Left, the Right is criticized for pushing their religious anti-science agenda on the American public (especially in government schools), their homophobia, and their continuous chipping away at the limited government platform they claim to embrace.

Boortz has many targets in this book but none receive more of his ire than government schools. Teacher’s unions exist solely to keep mediocre to incompetent teachers in a job; they will fight tooth and nail to prevent any kind of competition from private schools. But government schools are even more harmful that what we can see on the surface. Want to know why the American public has lost its love for freedom in exchange for security from an ever expanding government? According to Boortz, government schools are to blame. Government schools teach school children from a very young age that government is good and is the solution to every problem. There is even a chapter dedicated to how school children learn their first lesson in communism. Have you ever taken your child to the store and bought school supplies on a list only to have the teacher take those supplies away from your child to be donated to the class? If you don’t believe this to be a big deal consider the lesson your child is learning: he or she must give up his or her private property (school supplies in this case) for “the greater good” of the whole society (the classroom in this case).

Is it any coincidence that most Americans erroneously believe that America’s government is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Is it any coincidence that most Americans don’t know the difference or know why this distinction is important? Boortz contends that this is not by accident but by design. The purpose of government schools is not to educate students but to indoctrinate them into obedient subjects.

Eventually, these school children grow up to be voters (Did I mention that the author finds no constitutional guarantee to the right to vote? Sounds crazy but once you read his arguments and consult the U.S. Constitution, he makes a compelling case). After thirteen years of government indoctrination, many of these adults see no problem with wealth redistribution, the welfare state, the nanny state, and have no genuine appreciation for liberty. This makes it very easy for politicians to pander to the American public to meet all of these needs which far too many people believe to be birthrights. Those who believe this the most tend to vote Democrat which leads me to his chapter “The Democrats’ Secret Plan for America.”

Boortz mockingly calls the Democrat plan a “secret plan” because of how Democrats typically scare various constituencies about Republican secret plans to kick old people into the street, burn black churches, and starve babies. Much of the secret plan is no secret at all however. So what do the Democrats have in store for America should they retain congress and win the presidency? According to the author we can expect the entire tax burden to be shifted to the wealthy, imputed income (which would put most all home owners in a higher tax bracket), place caps on income for those who “make too much,” add taxes to 401k and other investment vehicles which are not currently taxed, womb to the tomb universal government healthcare, the reinstatement of the “fairness doctrine” (which would effectively put an end to talk radio), the repeal of the Second Amendment, and several other such wet dreams of the far Left. If you don’t read any other chapter in this book, read this chapter.

Certainly, this book isn’t one which will leave the reader thinking “Its morning in America” but it does offer a fair amount of humor, positive solutions (such as what should be taught in government schools; provides his own citizenship test), and an inside peek of the talk radio business. Boortz opens the book by introducing himself, his interests and how he got into talk radio (under rather tragic circumstances). Even in the chapters that contain a discouraging outlook have a healthy dose of humor. But if you are overly outraged after reading the chapter about government funded art or the Democrat Party’s war on the individual, skip to “Chasing Cats” or “Terrorizing the Mailroom.” I won’t give away what these chapters are about but I assure you that you are in for a good belly laugh (that Boortz is quite the prankster).

Somebody’s Gotta Say It is a refreshingly honest, sober view of the body politic, American culture, and state of our world. Boortz presents a variety of original controversial ideas on a variety of issues. Such proposals would certainly make the political debate more productive if not more interesting (a number of these proposals can be found toward the end of the book in a chapter entitled “No Way in Hell.”). I highly recommend this book for anyone who is not easily offended. Anyone who is easily offended should skip this book in favor of a selection from the Oprah Book Club.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Your In-Box is Lying to You

The internet provides information to users in ways that was previously not possible. We are truly living in the information age. Some of the information is of the highest quality while some is of very poor quality; it’s up to the internet user to decide the difference. When it comes to blogs or websites in general, I believe that most people have their B.S. detectors working. With blogs, for example, readers can and often do challenge the facts or opinions of the post’s author. But how often do most people challenge what they have “learned” from their in-boxes?

The biggest pet peeve of mine when it comes to the internet is forwards which purport to be factual. More often than not the forward comes from an unknown author and contains little known “facts” without any sources cited for the e-mail recipient to check. As far as I am concerned, e-mail forwards are the equivalent to the tabloid papers at the checkout stand of the local grocery store. The forward usually is very vague on details but contain an element of truth to make it appear authentic (the most effective lies contain an element of truth). Most people who receive these forwards will pass the message on to others on their e-mail list without questioning the accuracy of the message. This is particularly true if the message supports a belief of the e-mail recipient. Only if the recipient’s beliefs are challenged by the message will he or she make an attempt to debunk it.

Many of these e-mails are trivial little known “facts” that won’t hurt anyone if the claim turns out to be false. Speaking of trivia which of the following is true: Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) was a Navy Seal during the Vietnam War with several confirmed kills, world renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer was a sniper in the Israeli Defense Force, or Lee Greenwood dodged the draft in the 1960’s by moving to Canada? Though these are interesting questions with surprising answers, having the wrong answer won’t have much affect on anyone’s life.

Some e-mail forwards want recipients to take some sort of action such as boycotting a business, voting a certain way/contacting your congressperson, or tell you how to rid your computer of a little known computer virus (usually spread through e-mail). If you take an action based on an e-mail that turns out to be false, you could hurt someone (possibly yourself). Have you ever received the forward about how Pepsi designed a can with part of the Pledge of Allegiance with the “under God” part omitted? This is supposed to inspire you to boycott the company or write PepsiCo a nasty letter. How about the one that claims that members of congress do not pay Social Security taxes? Most of us (myself included) have a very negative view of politicians so this one isn’t that hard to believe. If you are afraid of computer viruses, perhaps you can download a certain attachment that will give your computer immunity from a certain virus! What do these three forwards have in common? They are all lies spread by unsuspecting internet users.

Some of these rumors which have attained urban legend status predate the internet; the internet has played a role in keeping these urban legends alive, however. Have you ever heard the one about Midwestern housewife who was visiting Las Vegas and had a tense but humorous encounter with a black man in an elevator who turned out to be Eddy Murphy? I first heard this one when I was a teenager (my mother told me this happened to a friend of one of her friends). I also rediscovered another of these urban legends from my youth: “Scientists drilling in Siberia punch a hole into hell.” According to this story, the scientists lowered a microphone into the hole and heard what they believed to be screams of damned souls. In 1989, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN, an Evangelical Christian channel) without any apparent fact checking took this news to the air to “prove” the existence of hell.

Interestingly, many of the biggest whoppers you will find in your in-box have some basis in religious experiences or other “facts” which support a person’s religious faith (so much for “Thou shalt not bear false witness”). Common ones are: “NASA Scientist discovers a lost day in time,” a Christian college student (who turns out to be Albert Einstein) humiliates his atheist science professor concerning the existence of God, and of course the famous tale of Charles Darwin renouncing his theory of evolution and converting to Christianity on his deathbed. There are many, many, more but if you haven’t seen any of these in your in-box yet, you probably will eventually.

In the age of PhotoShop, such hoaxes are even easier to spread via e-mail. I recently received a forward about an archeological discovery of giant human bones complete with photographs (I believe this e-mail was sent to me in response to a snarky YouTube video I had placed at the end of a post I wrote entitled: Sunday School Science Lesson. The video said that any day we will find discoveries of giant and unicorn skeletons). The following is the text of the forward I received:

Below are some photos of some of the GIANT SKELETONS that has been discovered throughout the years. Even recently some were discovered in South America, but little was said about it as they were quietly whisked away to their forgotten storage bin. The hoax of evolution teaches us that we come from much smaller and less complicated life-forms. Which explains why every time a set of these massive bones are discovered; they simply catalogue them and then place them somewhere out of site. Currently, the Smithsonian Institute has custody over these and many other forgotten fossils. I find it interesting how Archaeology keeps proving the claims of the Bible every time we dig something else up.

Notice how vague this claim is? “Recently some [giant skeletons] were discovered in South America…” Okay fine but where in South America? And what about this claim that this discovery was “kept quiet” and placed “out of site”? How is it that this mysterious author knew about this if this was covered up by the scientific community and the media? Maybe if we knew who the original author of this e-mail was and credible sources he or she used then we could take these claims seriously.

I did some searching on the Smithsonian website and had no luck finding anything about these giant skeletons. I’m sure that these bones have been hidden somewhere between the remains of the extra terrestrials with the spacecraft that crashed in Roswell and the top secret documents of how our government faked the moon landing. Who knows, maybe I haven’t searched hard enough. If anyone has any additional information about this e-mail, I would gladly take a look at it.

What about the photos? Here they are; I’ll let you the readers decide whether or not they are authentic. I’m not convinced. Some of these photos could have just as easily appeared in The National Enquirer next to the story about how Bat Boy saved the world from eminent destruction.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the origins of any of these pictures anywhere on the internet. Not even or has completed an evaluation of these photos (otherwise I would have linked their explanations here). However, I did find an e-mail that these sites did evaluate on a very similar e-mail with a different photograph of a giant skeleton (shown below).

Pretty convincing huh? It turns out that a digital photo website called Worth had a contest for the best phony photographs. This is where the above photograph originated. Some of these doctored pictures are pretty impressive.

My point is this: your in-box is lying to you. Occasionally you might find an e-mail that is true but you should always make an effort to find the truth for yourself—especially if you plan on forwarding the message. The world is complicated enough without filling it full of lies. I try to deal in the real world with real facts; even if the facts do not support my position. Facts I can deal with.
As I was putting this post together, I noticed a website ( ) which is the source material for the third photo on the page (the man standing next to the sculpture of the giant femur; the website is referenced on caption of the photo). The other photos appear to be unrelated to this particular website. The website is for a fossil museum in Crosbyton, TX. Joe Taylor is the owner and curator of the museum. Taylor has an anti-evolution / pro-creationism agenda but at least he is upfront and honest about it. On the “about us” page, Taylor briefly describes his background as an artist and a “fossil restorationist.” Although he has volunteered to help on various excavations, he does not appear to have any other credentials related to archeology. His fossil collection seems to be a hobby. Taylor also has several books on archeology from a creationist’s view which he has published by his own publishing company (his company has also published books by other authors with the same theme).

I want to be fair to Mr. Taylor and do some further research on him, his museum, his books, and his publishing company. I also want to find out what credentials the authors of the other books have who have been published under Mr. Taylor’s publishing company. I want to find out if Mr. Taylor or any of these authors have any scholarly articles written in peer reviewed journals (peer reviewed by leading archeologists). I have my suspicions but I want to be as accurate as possible.

My preliminary findings relating to the giant femur sculpture:

As far as I can tell based on Mr. Taylor’s story behind the giant femur, his basis for the sculpture is based on second and third hand sources. Taylor quotes from an article sent to him by someone by the name of Jack Wagner. It is not clear whether or not Wagner is the author of the article (it appears that he is not) but in any case, there is no citation for the article. No title, no author, no indication of what magazine, journal, or newspaper the article appeared in.

This does not bode well for Taylor’s credibility. In any event, I have lots more research to do on this matter. If what I have found so far is any indication, when I am finished my findings could merit another post. Check back for further developments.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Right Responds to Ann Coulter

Whatever respect I had left for Ann Coulter is gone. By now most everyone has heard her comments she made at CPAC where she referred to John Edwards as “a faggot.” Is this the level of our political discourse these days? How juvenile! Surly Ann Coulter can come up with a better argument against John Edwards (I know I certainly can) than a baseless accusation about his sexuality (as if it matters).

I have often wondered which conservative pundit was doing more harm to the conservative cause: Ann Coulter or Michael Savage? Based on the fact that Coulter was invited to speak at CPAC and thus speaking from the same stage as several of the leading G.O.P. candidates for president, I would have to declare Ann Coulter the winner. How much ammunition did she give the Left with this comment? The DNC could not have asked for a better gift.

Many on the Left like to dismiss talk radio as “hate radio” without listening to any of the arguments. Nearly every talk host, whether it is Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Larry Elder, Bill Bennett, or anyone else you can name has been accused of spreading hate speech and “dividing the country” (note: the likes of Bill Mahr, Keith Oberman, and Rosie O’Donnel are never accused by the MSM of dividing the country with hate speech). As hard as many of these pundits try to argue their points in an intelligent and effective manner, degenerates like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage seem give credence to this hate speech argument.

Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney each denounced Coulter’s remarks; they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by endorsing them. Pundits on the Right, on the other hand, can pretty much say what they want. I thought it would be interesting to find out how many of them have decided to either denounce Coulter’s comments or defend them. Here is what I have found…

Michelle Malkin:

Her "faggot" joke was not just a distraction from all the good that was highlighted and represented at the conference. It was the equivalent of a rhetorical fragging--an intentionally-tossed verbal grenade that exploded in her own fellow ideological soldiers' tent.


With a single word, Coulter sullied the hard work of hundreds of CPAC participants and exhibitors and tarred the collective reputation of thousands of CPAC attendees. At a reception for college students held by the Young America's Foundation, I lambasted the substitution of stupid slurs for persuasion-- be it "faggot" from a conservative or "gook" from a liberal--and urged the young people there to conduct themselves at all times with dignity in their ideological battles on and off campus.

Ann Coulter is a political comedian who, like Michael Moore, often offends, and sometimes crosses the bounds of decency.

Yesterday she entered the territory where Michael Richards went when he employed the n-word to abuse a heckler. When Coulter employed the f-word to abuse a candidate, she made herself radioactive because the word is a simply invitation to hate. It was repulsive.

I cannot imagine Coulter being invited to any panel or television appearance on which I would want to appear. Colleges and universities must also stop inviting her to appear as a representative of the conservative movement in America. She is not. You want smart, accomplished and funny conservative women? Ask K-Lo, Laura Ingraham or Carol Liebau to appear, or chose from scores of others. But not Ann Coulter --she represents only a snarl and a deep need to be noticed.

Neal Boortz (not a conservative but is often lumped in with other “hate radio” hosts):

Wouldn't it be nice if these candidates and their dog washers would actually engage in debate about some issues that actually mean something to us and to the future of our Republic? But ... I guess they're giving the voters what they want. Idiocy.”
Bill Bennett, Michael Reagan, and Bill O’Reilly have also expressed varying levels of disapproval of Ann Coulter’s comments on their respective radio shows.

Not everyone on the Right was offended by Coulter’s remarks. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Larry Elder argued that the MSM is employing a double standard. While I agree that had this been anyone on the Left that there would not be as much media attention, the remarks by Ann Coulter are inexcusable. To suggest that because the “other side” is doing it that “our side” can do it too is just plain childish.

Rush Limbaugh:
To those who are worried that it taints the entire conservative movement, that is only because the Drive-By Media makes it so. That's only because the Drive-By Media will pretend or portray that comment as typical. As you know, clichés exist about conservatives: racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe. Now, those are all false. Conservatives are not racists. They are not bigots. They are not sexists and they are not homophobes. That is not part of conservatism. So if we're going to suggest that somebody shut up and not say something because it only confirms those clichés, then are we not acting defensively? We're accepting the clichés are believed, and so we've gotta do something not to confirm them.

Sean Hannity:
Made many of the same points on his radio show as Rush. Hannity is a personal friend of Ann Coulter so I think he finds it difficult to criticize her. He also brought up the comments made by Bill Mahr where Mahr said that if Dick Cheney had been killed in Afghanistan, more American lives would be saved. Between Coulter’s remarks and Mahr’s remarks, of course Mahr’s remarks are worse and should be given more media exposure. Having said that, there is no reason why Coulter should be given a pass even if her remarks were less offensive.

Larry Elder:
Of those who have came to Coulter’s defense, none surprises me or disappoints me more than Larry Elder. I have so much respect for Larry Elder and I generally agree with him but this time, he couldn’t be more wrong. One of the reoccurring themes on his program is media bias. Larry took the occasion of Coulter’s remarks to show the double standard of the MSM. Like Rush and Hannity, Larry Elder also made mention of the remarks made by Bill Mahr. From there, he reminded his listeners of every offensive comment made by the Left over the past few years. He’s absolutely right that the MSM has not given those on the Left anywhere near the same scrutiny but once again, this does not give Coulter a pass. Larry also explained that Ann Coulter did not call John Edwards a faggot but was making reference to other public figures who made stupid remarks and subsequently went to rehab (meaning that if she said what she really felt about John Edwards, she would have to go to rehab). I can almost buy that argument but I don’t think that most of those who were in the audience, even the ones who were laughing, took it that way (Edwards is a faggot, ha! ha! ha!). If that was really the joke, although there is a great deal of truth to it, the way she told it was not funny. I guess I lack the Sage’s sense of humor on this one.

If there is anything positive to come out of this, I would have to say that it is refreshing to see that public figures on the Right are not all in lock step drinking the Kool-Aide (as opposed to public figures on the Left who will defend almost anything anyone on their team says or does). It’s refreshing to see that there are those who want to elevate the debate rather than stay in the mud with the likes of Ann Coulter. While political bomb throwers are fun to read and listen to at times, far too often the bombs they are throwing hurt their political allies and rarely do any damage to the opposition.
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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fearless Philosophy Flashback: The Al Franken Show

Surprise, surprise, Al Franken’s show on Air America went bust. I’m amazed he lasted as long as he did because his show was in a word: awful. As funny as he might have been on SNL, he simply did not have the talent to be a radio talk show host. Despite this career setback, Franken has decided that he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggonitt, he’s running for the Minnesota seat in the U.S. Senate. Just what we need, another comedian in the Senate!

To mark Franken’s failure as a talk show host, I thought it would be appropriate to reintroduce a post on Franken’s show back in May of 2005. This post was part III of a four part series titled: What I Have Learned from Air America (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).

What I Have Learned from Air America: The Al Franken Show

After listening to Randi Rhodes on Air America, Al Franken is a lightweight by comparison. I wouldn’t even go as far to call his show a political talk show; it would probably be better described as political satire. In the two weeks I listened to his show, he did not take a single call from the listeners. In the second week, Franken did make a comment that he usually doesn’t take calls. Is he afraid of being challenged? How difficult would it be to go on the air for three hours unchallenged? Even with my blog that reaches a small number of readers I gladly accept criticism and encourage the readers to challenge my opinions.

In the course of the two weeks I listened, in the first week him and his co-host went on several remote appearances. Even on location, he took no questions from the audience. In the second week, Franken was back in the studio and I got a better idea of how he normally does his show. In both weeks, he had a long list of guests, none of which seemed to be ideologically opposed to Franken’s positions. The only time Franken allows his listeners to hear the other side is when he plays sound bites of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and others. Franken plays a short audio clip and attempts to debunk the arguments in the clip, and does so poorly. Based on how he performs against an audio clip which cannot respond, it is no wonder why he doesn’t have guests or even callers to challenge him. He would absolutely be torn to shreds!

Now, let me get back to the arguments he made that I listed in Part I:

The government should set CAFE standards for automobiles to 40 to 50 mpg

I suppose Franken assumes that the auto industry is in bed with the oil industry; therefore the auto industry, wanting to keep the oil companies happy, is purposely keeping the CAFE standards to guzzle as much gasoline as possible. Here’s my problem with that: wouldn’t at least one auto maker want to increase CAFE standards on their own if they could given the high gas prices and a market that wants better, more fuel efficient vehicles? Does the government need to impose this standard before automakers will make an attempt to reach this goal? If such technology is not available, how would the automakers be able to conform to the government standard? These are important questions that should be asked before demanding this lofty standard.

We should stop using oil as an energy source within 10 years

I honestly don’t know if he was serious when he made this statement. I suppose I should give him the benefit of the doubt, but let me answer this argument anyway. Assuming we could stop using oil as an energy source within 10 years, what impact would that have on the economy? Consider the fact that the U.S. now has more cars than people. What is to happen to all of the existing cars on the road? Should the government demand that all petroleum powered vehicles be retrofitted to this energy source alternative? It seems to me that there are a number of people such as Franken who hate the oil industry and all they perceive it stands for. We hear a lot of talk from people on the Left about BIG OIL. The picture they want us to see is greedy oil executives raking in millions of dollars at the price of the consumers and the environment. Something you almost never hear about is the number of ‘working class people’ (for lack of a better term) who are employed by the oil industry such as my father. If Washington took Franken’s absurd advice, thousands of people like my father would become unemployed within that time period. The small Texas town where I grew up would blow away along with many other small towns across the country. I suppose Franken and his ilk would blame this economic hardship on greedy Republicans too.

Franken encouraged listeners to call their congressmen to stop the bill that would permanently eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax). This legislation was to thank the rich donors to the Republican Party

The fact that Republicans and Libertarians support repealing the Death Tax couldn’t possibly have to do with principle could it? Believe it or not Mr. Franken, there are some of us out there who believe in principles regardless of if we personally benefit from the principle or not. Forcing people to pay extra taxes on the property they inherited is wrong regardless of how rich the deceased was and how badly you despise them for their wealth. In a free society, we should be allowed to die without the federal government stealing our worldy property from our families.

Those who want to end illegal immigration are racists

I have just about had it with people making such charges that if you support such things as stopping illegal immigration, ending race-based preferences (affirmative action), or oppose the idea of ‘hate crimes’ you are somehow a racist. This argumentum ad hominem fallacy is used by the Left anytime a minority is involved regardless of what the actual issue is. The situation with the border is very complex. We should not look at illegal immigration as a single issue; there is a subset of issues that need to be looked at. Such issues as whether or not immigration laws are too strict, economic concerns, moral concerns, the impact on the welfare state, and of course national security. Each of these in themselves are very complex and need to be debated fairly. When people such as Franken make this charge, the debate is not advanced and a rational discussion cannot take place. I suspect that most everyone who wants the borders to be more secure are not racist and do care about those who want to enter the U.S. both legally and illegally.

So what do I think about The Al Franken Show? Not too much really. His inexperience in radio is very apparent. He should have stayed with comedy. I found him to be much more entertaining as Stewart Smalley. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonitt, people like me.” I’m not so sure Al, have you seen your ratings lately?

Illustration by Cox & Forkum
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