Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pink Gold

Shrimp –
the endless quest for pink gold.

By Jack Rudloe and Anne Rudloe

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Shrimp – the endless quest for pink gold, by Jack and Anne Rudloe is another winner by this pair of knowledgeable marine biologists. Both Jack and Anne have numerous books and scientific papers to their credit but this is the first non-fiction by the pair that I have read.

I have read and reviewed both of their fiction outputs, “Pot Luck,” and “Chicken Wars.” I have positive reviews of both of these books on Amazon.

This couple is very good at writing and imaginative creating. They are also very good scientists and marine biologists.

They live “right down the road” from me in the Florida Panhandle, operating their independent Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory which is presently involved in what the couple has named “the Noah’s Ark Project.” The Rudloe’s are trying to save invertebrates from possible extinction from the BP Gulf oil spill.

Since I earned my living for over a decade as an oysterman and have made my living along side many a shrimper, this subject is very interesting to me. I knew quite a bit about all the problems and have been involved in some of the arguments myself.
Jack and Anne do a very good job in presenting the facts involved in all the various groups that have been in conflict with regards to the production of shrimp for the commercial market.

This book is clearly more than a scientific explanation of the “shrimp.” It is really the life story of this couple as their lives have centered on shrimp, shrimping, shrimp research, and profit making in that industry.

The book reads like a novel or an adventure story. It is filled with facts and information but also loaded with down to earth personal experiences. This is no “ivory tower” observation. Jack has been on the shrimp boats; he has culled the catch; he has pulled the nets; he has ventured off into attempts in commercial profiting … he has done it all. Any one interested in marine biology and all of its possibilities will find this book enlightening.

Jack and Anne have the “common touch.” You will understand every word of this book. You will not be confused and you will get the facts.

From the environmentalist point of view, you don’t want to miss this read. Jack pulls no punches in pointing out the negatives for the farming industry and its use of nitrogen rich fertilizers. Many will probably be surprised to find out that there is a “dead spot” the size of the state of Connecticut at the mouth of the Mississippi river.

You will also learn the positives and negatives of shrimp farming, the global network, wild harvesting and more.

This is a good one on many levels. And having been a seafood worker myself for many years and living for the last 30 years in a seafood community, I can attest to the accuracy and objectivity of the information and analyses.

Marine biology students and advocates, environmentalists, commercial fishermen, scientists, entrepreneurs interested in possibly providing seafood products, and anyone interested in learning more about the sea and the creatures living in it should buy and read this book. You will not regret it.

Books written by Richard Noble - The Hobo Philosopher:
"Hobo-ing America: A Workingman's Tour of the U.S.A.."
"A Summer with Charlie" Salisbury Beach, Lawrence YMCA
"A Little Something: Poetry and Prose
"Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" Novel - Lawrence, Ma.
"The Eastpointer" Selections from award winning column.
"Noble Notes on Famous Folks" Humor - satire - facts.
"America on Strike" American Labor - History
"A Baker's Dozen" Short Stories
"Just Hangin' Out Ma" Anecdotes - Lawrence, Mass

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Max I. Dimont

Jews, God and History

By Max I. Dimont

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

Max I. Dimont is an ex-shoe salesman and unskilled laborer with a quest for knowledge and a consequent desire to write down what he had learned and pass it on. This particular book, Jews, God and History was a million seller. It was first published back in the early 60s and continues to sell thousand of copies to this day.
Max was Jewish and he obviously got interested in his Jewish ancestry. He clearly decided to read up on his people in a quest to figure out what the Jews were all about and how their culture has sustained itself through the centuries.

He ends up writing this work and several others that he somehow managed to get published and he became a literary success. Getting this book published may have been luck but his writing of it was not. It is the culmination of a good deal of literary sweat. He did a great job with this book.

I liked it not because of Max’s love of his religion and Jewish heritage but because of his acknowledgment of secular explanations for Jewish mysticism and his copious facts to bolster his boasting on his Jewish heritage.

For example he tells us that we can accept the mystical interpretation of Abraham’s meeting with God and the establishment of the Jewish Covenant or we can interpret the event as a psychological Freudian style projection – an “auditory or visual hallucination.” But whatever explanation we choose, it nevertheless does not change the history or the historical facts or legends. The result of which was circumcision and the Jewish declaration that they are the chosen people. Whether God chose them or they chose a God of their liking is the reader’s preference.

The book thus becomes a more rational, historical accounting of the Jews and their longevity as opposed to a proselytization.

He does the same with Constantine’s famous episode. The reader can chose between the mystical, visionary fable or a psychological interpretation (or drunkenness for that matter). It doesn’t matter, as the facts or legends of the Jewish history keep rolling along.

The author presents the question of how did the Jewish culture or civilization survive for over 3,000 years without its people even having a nation or a country for the majority of that period. But that is a confusing question and the question itself points out the Jewish confusion about what “Jewish” is. Is it a race, a nation or a religion?

Christianity survives without a nation or a country. Islam survives without a nation or a country. Buddhism survives without a nation or a country. Protestantism survives without a nation or a country. Hinduism survives without a nation or a country. A religion doesn’t need a country. It needs followers or believers.
Germans must have a country. Americans must have a country. French must have a country. Nationalities have countries, faiths have followers. Are the Jews a nation or a religion?

Adolf Hitler labeled the followers of the Jewish faith as a race. As far as my understanding goes, they are not a race and since they have had no country for most of their existence, they could hardly be considered a nation.

Jews primarily constitute a religion. But their religion has been kept close to a small “family” of followers all stemming back to an original tribal heritage with limited membership. As a consequence we have this nationalistic and religious confusion. Many Jews talk among themselves as if they are a nationality.

On the religious side, the Jews have been so egalitarian in their acceptance of inordinate beliefs among their followers that some Jews proclaim their agnosticism and even their atheism without any traditional ostracism or excommunication. This adds to the race/nation/religion confusion.

But, how did the Jews survive the pogroms, the persecutions, the vilification, the holocaust etc. and why all of this hatred towards the Jews? How did the Jews form such a strong bond between and among their followers even with the Diaspora – banished from their original homes in Judea and Israel and dispersed all over the world?

Max Dimont tries to answer these questions and he gives a very cogent explanation. Along with this search for answers to the “Jewish Question” comes a brilliant and entertaining presentation of Jewish history and the fundamental teachings of the Jewish faith, traditions, and customs.

This is a great book for Jews and non-Jews – anyone who wants to learn about the history and origins of the Jews. And if you are interested in the history of the human race, how can you not be interested somewhat in the Jews.

The book closes with a chronological history of Palestine/Israel to the date of it publication. For an even better and more up to down Chronology see Thomas’s Friedmen’s From Beirut to Jersalem.

The book is admittedly biased towards the Jews. Max is proud to be a Jew and he is not ashamed to tell the reader why. He is boasting about the accomplishments of his people throughout the entire book – but rightfully so. He may be stretching the importance of his “nation” of people as do the Irish, Italian, Catholics and Protestants but his little group, approximately 18 million at the time that he wrote the book, certainly has some boasting to do.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lawrence – My Hometown

Lennie’s on the Turnpike

Richard E. Noble

Being a jazz buff from early on my favorite nightspot was Lennie’s on the Turnpike. When all my friends were into the Beatles and Elvis, I was buying albums by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. I was listening to Peggy Lee, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Ella Fitzgerald when my contemporaries were listening to Janis Joplin, the Monkeys, the Beach Boys and the Dave Clark Five. My older brother Ernie got me hooked by introducing me to disk jockeys like Bill Marlowe on W-I-L-D – music spelled m–u-s-i-c not n-o-i-s-e – and late night Norm Nathan on WHDH with his Sounds in the Night.

Lennie’s on the Turnpike was owned by Lennie Sogoloff. He was a record salesman for Columbia Records in his early days. The Route 1 turnpike was originally called the Newburyport turnpike and Lennie’s club was technically located in Peabody. It was a tiny place sandwiched in between a trailer park and a truck rental. The inside was cramped and had low ceilings and small area tables. Herb Pomeroy’s big band would blow you to another level – Buddy Rich and Woody Herman were even more dynamic. It was often asked of Lennie how he could afford to have these big bands at his tiny club. The band took up half the room. Lennie said that if there were ten or fifteen guys who could drink more booze than the Buddy Rich Band, let him know because he would hire them also.

Lennie started out in the nightclub business with Penny Abell at the Paddock Club in West Peabody. Lennie’s, originally called the Turnpike Club opened in 1951. Lenny bought Abell out in 1953. The club was destroyed by a fire in 1971 and Lennie then went to Danvers and opened the Village Green. Lennie donated all of his memorabilia to Salem State College. It is told that comedian Jay Leno got his start at Lennie’s. He approached Lennie and asked if he ever thought of having a comedian warm up the crowd. Lennie auditioned Leno on the spot and hired him.

At Lennie’s I saw many jazz greats perform. I saw pianist Theloneous Monk, and a young drummer by the name of Allen Dawson. Alan was associated with Berklee College of Music in Boston and filling in on the drums at Lennie’s in his free time. He would often appear with Illinois Jacquet and Milt Buckner. Buckner played the organ and Jacquet the sax. Those guys would go crazy. They were professional showmen as well as musicians. Dawson was the “house drummer” at Lennie’s from 1963 to 1970. I was lucky enough to see and hear in person pianist Ahmad Jamal, the Modern Jazz Quartet featuring vibraphonist, Milt Jackson and bassist Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis, Earl Fatha Hines, Rolland Kirk and his multiple horns, and Kenny Burrell. Kenny like Dawson was just a young man and he often conducted matinee teach-ins or workshops for young aspiring guitarists. Dawson did the same for drummers.

I had an interesting experience on a trip out to route 1 to listen to Miles Davis one evening. On most evenings at Lenny’s there was no door charge. I would get one of Lenny’s famous roast beef sandwiches with a kosher dill pickle or the equally delicious corned beef on rye, buy a few beers and enjoy the music. On the night that Miles Davis was appearing, there was a very large black dude collecting money at the entrance. This night there was an extreme 5 dollar door charge. In the past I had paid a dollar or two once in a while but never anything as outrageous as 5 dollars. But, of course, Miles Davis was a well known trumpeter even “way back then.” I had several Miles Davis albums at home. I was reluctant to pay 5 bucks but this was something special. Miles was considered an unusually gifted jazz talent.

After paying my five dollars and finding a seat, I ordered my sandwich and waited for the performance to begin. I sat through the first set listening to a very disturbing man at the bar rant, rave and laugh to the distraction of everyone. To compound this annoyance there was no Miles Davis. The Miles Davis side men were doing the entertaining.

Lenny, the owner, was a serious jazz music fan. I had been there many nights when he stepped to the microphone and asked the “tourists” who were not interested in the music to mosey on down the road. I admired Lenny for taking such a stand. But where was he on this evening?

The second set started and once again no Miles Davis and the disturbing man at the bar continued to act up. Finally I had enough. I headed for the door. I stopped at the bar and spoke to the manager.

“I am not happy” I told him. “I came here to listen to Miles Davis. I was even willing to pay the unusual five dollar charge at the door. I have been here for two sets and I have not heard Miles Davis yet. His backup group might have been entertaining enough if you quieted down the loudmouthed over the other side of the bar who has been spoiling the whole show. I am very surprised to see that, here at Lennie’s of all places, this is allowed to happen. You guys are usually Johnny-on-the-spot with these sorts of annoying clowns. What is going on here tonight? Is this the new Lennies or what? Where the heck is Miles Davis and why don’t you shut up that guy over there.”

The guy behind the bar pursed his lips and looked at me with obvious frustration. “That ‘disturbing drunk’ over there is Miles Davis.” He then shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

On the way out I went up to the giant, black bouncer who was still collecting money. “Excuse me,” I said. “I gave you five dollars on the way in as a payment to listen to Miles Davis play his trumpet. Miles Davis didn’t play. I would like my five dollars back.”

I suddenly found myself surrounded by several other black Miles Davis henchmen. I was very sure that the man holding my five dollars didn’t need their help. The large black fellow holding my five dollars and many other five dollar contributions, went on to explain to me that it was not under his authority to give any money back. He only made collections and was not in charge of refunds. I would have to discuss that with the management. I decided to go away. That was one of my wiser choices. I have made several worse choices in similar circumstances.

I stopped buying Miles Davis albums and didn’t buy another for over thirty years. That was one of my bad decisions. Those albums from that period are now collector’s items.

But on another occasion Peter Shaheen and I sat in the parking lot drinking beer and listening to the Stan Kenton band … for free. That was worth more than the five bucks I lost on Miles. The place was mobbed and we couldn’t get inside. So we decided to hang out in the dirt parking lot. The music was exploding from inside. It could be heard a mile away, I’m sure. There was even a waitress assigned to the parking area. It was a great night, me and Peter sitting on the hood of my car, drinking cold beer and listening to the Stan Kenton Band. We couldn’t see the band or Stan but could we ever hear them. Fantastic!

Other than the Miles Davis experience, Lenny’s on the Turnpike has been one of my fondest memories. If it weren’t for Lennie’s unique relationship with all these jazz superstars, I never would have had the opportunity to listen to any of those great musicians in person. It was quite and experience. I never ate Lennie’s famous chili but I loved the roast beef on rye with the crunchy kosher dill pickle.

Post Script:

Believe it or not Lenny Sogoloff has recently contacted me. I’ve talked to him on the phone a couple of times. He was not happy with the above story and took issue with several of the points in my story:

First: he did not sell records for Columbia. He sold for Independent Records and Atlantic.

Two: Though he did give Jay Leno his start, it did not happen as I described it. (These two “facts” I got off the internet. So much for the internet.)

Three: Lenny was adamant in denying the veracity of my sad tale about Miles Davis. Lenny said that such a thing could never have happened. Miles was a gentleman and would never have acted as I described in this story. “It just never happened,” he said. There was one evening that Miles didn’t play but the man at the door was instructed not to collect any money. The “side men” who played for Miles Davis in those days evolved into some of the biggest names in jazz.

So much for my five dollars. I know, I know … five dollars, my God!

I am not going to argue or belabor this point. Maybe I was just having a bad night, who knows. I did not write this story to disparage Lennie’s on the Turnpike or Miles Davis. I loved going to Lennie’s and I hunt for old Miles Davis albums today. I have several of Miles Davis’ albums in my old LP collection. “Sketches of Spain” is one of my favorites.

Lennie’s was one of the big highlights of my life. If it weren’t for Lennie’s on the turnpike I would never have had the opportunity to see and listen to some of the greatest and most famous Jazz artists who ever lived. I was thrilled to have been around and able to enjoy and appreciate the experience.

Lennie is now 88 years old and still producing Jazz shows for his friends at the “Home.” His mind is sharp and clear and he remembers everything. He is a tough guy to argue with, especially when it comes to Jazz or “the Club.”

I talked with him a couple of times now on the phone and I think he has forgiven me my trespasses. He is a very gracious man with a great sense of humor.
He has been telling me some wonderful stories about “the Club” and the great Jazz names who played there. He has promised to call and chat with me again. I’m thrilled. Thanks for the memories, Lennie. I really do appreciate it.

PS: I’m sure happy I spelled his name correctly.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Robert G. Ingersoll

The Bible

“Challenging the Bible”

By Robert G. Ingersoll

By Richard E. Noble

“Challenging the Bible” is a book edited by Dean Tipton and consists of a series of selections from the writings and speeches of Robert G. Ingersoll.

Robert Ingersoll was a politician, lawyer and a wealthy, prominent public speaker in the post Civil War period in the United States. He served as attorney general in the state of Illinois. He was also a popular spokesman in presidential campaigns for the Republican Party. Because of his outward and bold opposition to religion and belief in God in general, he became know as the “Great Agnostic.”

This book deals with some of his public opinions with regards to the Bible.

“Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch” (first five books of the Old Testament) claims Mr. Ingersoll on page eleven and from that point on the onslaught rages forth.

“No one knows the author of “Judges”; no one knows the author of “Ruth”; no one knows the author of First and Second Kings or First and Second Chronicles; the Psalms were not written by David; and Solomon did not write Proverbs or the Song; Isaiah was not the author of the book bearing his name and no one knows the author of Job, Ecclesiastes, Esther or of any book in the Old Testament with the exception of Ezra; and Ecclesiastes was written by an unbeliever.

“We know, too, that the Jews themselves had not decided as to what books were inspired - were authentic - until the second century before Christ.”

Mr. Ingersoll goes on to criticize the Bible not only for its historical inaccuracies and mis-claims but for its scientific ineptness. Mr. Ingersoll believes that if the Bible were truly the inspired word and direction of the Creator of the Universe - certainly its Creator should know its proper workings.

“There are two accounts of the creation in the first and second chapters (and they are at odds with one another) ... Is it well to teach children that God tortured the innocent cattle of the Egyptians? ... Does it make us merciful to believe that God killed the firstborn of the Egyptians - the firstborn of the poor and the suffering people - of the poor girl working at the mill - because of the wickedness of the king? ... We know if we know anything that this book was written by savages - savages who believed in slavery, polygamy and wars of extermination.”

It is clear that Mr. Ingersoll does not believe the Bible to be “inspired” or to represent the “truth” and the “way”. He considers the Bible to be of pagan origin and extremely Godless - in fact on several different occasions he says; “Was Jehovah god or devil?” Mr. Ingersoll asks this question, not once, but continually through the book.

He says that there never was a captivity and we know this because there are no Hebrew words in the Egyptian language; nor Egyptian words in the Jewish language.
“Who wrote the New Testament?” asks Mr. Ingersoll.

“Christian scholars admit that they do not know ... The first mention that has been found of one of our gospels was made about one hundred and eight years after the birth of Christ ... The four gospels do not agree. Matthew, Mark and Luke knew nothing of the atonement, nothing of salvation by faith. They knew only the gospel of good deeds - of charity. They teach that if we forgive others God will forgive us ... With this the gospel of John does not agree. In that gospel we are taught that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; that we must be born again; that we must drink the blood and eat the flesh of Christ. In this gospel we find the doctrine of atonement and that Christ died for us and suffered in our place.

The fact is that the Ascension of Christ was not claimed by his disciples ... At first Christ was a man - nothing more. Mary was his mother, and Joseph his father. Then the claim was made that he was the son of god, and that his mother was a virgin and that she remained a virgin until her death.

“We do not believe in the miracles of Mohammed and yet they are as well attested as this (miracles of Jesus Christ). We have no confidence in the miracles performed by Joseph Smith and yet the evidence is far greater, far better.”

Mr. Ingersoll does not think all that highly of the philosophy of Christ - Resist not evil. If smitten on one cheek turn the other.

“No man has the right to protect himself, his property, his wife and children,” says Mr. Ingersoll. “Government becomes impossible and the world is at the mercy of criminals. Is there any absurdity beyond this?”
Love your enemies.

“Did Christ love his (enemies) when he denounced them as whited sepulchers, hypocrites and vipers? Not to resist evil is absurd; to love your enemies is impossible ... Only the insane could give or follow this advice.”

On the inspiration of the Bible, Mr. Ingersoll has this among other things to say: “Not before about the third century was it claimed or believed that the books composing the New Testament were inspired ... It will be remembered that there were a great number of books of Gospels, Epistles and Acts, and that from these the “inspired” ones were selected by “uninspired” men ... The truth is that the Protestants did not agree as to what books are inspired until 1647, by the Assembly of Westminster.”

It is obvious that Mr. Ingersoll knew his Bible. I must admit; I do not. As a child I was not encouraged to read the Bible. I was told that it was too confusing and its interpretation was the work of scholars. But hearing over and over that it was the greatest book ever written I decided to read it. I read it one time from cover to cover when I was still in my teens. It may be true that it is or was inspired by God but I did not find it inspirational myself - and I felt if it were the work of a God, it certainly was not my God.

I personally felt, and still feel today, that Les Miserable by Victor Hugo was considerably greater and a good deal more inspiring - at least for me.

I was drawn to my religious curiosity not by the Bible but by the notion of God and the idea of a Creator. I felt that if there was truly a Creator of this Universe there should exist at least some rational arguments establishing that notion to my satisfaction.

I began that endeavor as a teenager and I am still actively pursuing proof of that notion today. As of yet I have not been able to do so. And this has been sufficient occupation without any investigation into any Holy Books.

I have decided to read more on the Bible today only because it is being touted in so many different venues and with such passion that I feel more knowledge on this subject is necessary for my basic understanding of what seems to be the cause of much of the consternation, killing and havoc mounting in the world around us today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Universe and Dr. Einstein

"The Universe and Dr. Einstein"

Lincoln Barnet

Book Review and Criticism

By Richard E. Noble

“The Universe and Dr. Einstein,” by Lincoln Barnett is a great book. I've enjoyed it immensely. I've now read it twice. It has an introduction by Albert Einstein verifying its credibility to the "lay" reader.

Well, from one lay reader to another, I have two criticisms: One is Mister Barnett's conclusion with regards to the existence of a God: and the second has to do with a reference on page 24 to Quantum physics and "freewill."

On page 24 Mister Barnett states that because of a Mr. Heisenberg's "Principle of Uncertainty" brought forward in 1927 which hypothetically states the impossibility of determining both the position of an electron and it's velocity at the same time, man may honestly and truly be possessive of a free, undetermined will.

If this seems to you to be a rather drastic jump in logic and common sense, I'm with you. What the possible randomness or even factuality of an electron's position or predictable course, has to do with Man's freewill, I'm at a loss to figure out.

Mister Barnett goes on to express that the nature of probability in Quantum physics brings into question the notion of Causality and Determinism. I interpret this to mean that because the human race is at the moment unable to technically determine or predict the actual position or future direction of a particular electron, simultaneously, the Universe may truly be without direction, randomly established, and of an unpredictable indeterminable cause.

I would presume that in pointing out this Heisenberg principle, Mr. Barnett would be challenging the existence of a God. This is not the case. In the conclusion Mr. Barnett uses the third law of thermodynamics, the Hubble notion of an expanding and eventually destructive universe, and Einstein's notion of the non-existence of space (an aether) as a proof of the existence of a God.

So, Mr. Barnett establishes Man's freewill with the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty, and God's existence via the third law of thermodynamics, Hubble's expanding and self-destructive universe, and Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. And supposedly Albert Einstein, himself, has read this book and agrees with it. Wow! I'm at a loss for words. Where do I begin?

First of all, I don't think that you can have it both ways. You can't on the one hand claim that the Universe is without cause, undirected and unpredictable and that therefore man is in charge of his own destiny and totally free; and on the other hand claim that because the Universe is on an inevitable path to its own destruction, that this destruction implies a Creation and the inevitable existence of an all knowing, (non) deterministic God. How can God be in control of the Universe and not in control of Man?

Freewill is an argument that has two directions. The Philosophical argument has always been with the nature of God and His relationship with Man. How can Man be free in relation to an Omniscient, Omnipotent, and all knowing God? If, as the religious and theological philosophers contend, God must of necessity be "actual" and not "potential," how could He have then created man, with all knowledge of man, and then not in some way be responsible for Man's actions or for Man in general?

The argument is, if there is a God, as defined above, then – Man of necessity must be determined. Man may have the ability to make choices, but whatever his choices, God "knew" or must know the results.

The second argument with regards to man's freewill deals with his physiological and psychological makeup. Man as we now know has a genetic code (DNA). His physical structure and individual design is pre-programmed to a degree by this genetic code.

It is so accurately programmed that we are now experimenting with the notion of "cloning" exact replicas of ourselves. Regardless of this new discovery, the very fact that a man is a man, or a particular thing, as opposed to "any" thing is determination enough to substantiate the notion that man is not self determining, or totally free. Because Man's choices may be indeterminant or even infinite it does not follow that Man is totally free or even possessive of “freewill.” Because a monkey is provided an infinite variety of bananas to choose from, it can not then be concluded that the monkey is possessive of "free" will or even that he is possessive of a will to choose freely. Man is limited by the fact that he is "a" man.

Psychologically man is as much a formation of his learned “environment” as he is the product of his genetic code. Man is limited by what he is genetically, and also limited by what is made available to him environmentally. So man is "determined" and limited in terms of his genetic makeup and his environment. In this respect man is not possessive of a total freewill even if there is no God. God or no God man is not "free," nor is he in possession of a "free" will.

So, what does Heisenberg's indeterminate, unpredictable electron have to do with Man's freewill? How does an unpredictable electron suppose an undetermined individual man?

What does Heisenberg's unpredictable electron have to do with the theory of causation?

The implication seems to be that if Man can not predict the course or position of a particular electron then nothing is predictable, or he can make no predictions about anything? And therefore, since everything is unpredictable man himself is therefore totally undetermined and consequently without limits in his ability to choose – and therefore possessive of “freewill.”

Does the unpredictable path of an electron have any bearing whatsoever on the atom that it is involved with? Does the course that this electron eventually chooses, have any bearing on the structure or known and predictable properties of the atom it is involved with? Does this electron's position or direction make for any changes in the atom involved? Does this electron's unpredictableness have any relationship to this particular atom's other myriad of relationships?

If this electron jigs left as opposed to right is an atom of gold changed to an atom of silver? If nothing of any consequence is changed, then for all practical purposes couldn't Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty be placed right along side the “aether” as in Einstein's theory – in other words, of no consequence?

David Hume supposedly dealt with the principle of causation a few centuries ago. But without even reading David, I am sure that he did not make the notion of causation untenable. He may have destroyed the notion of establishing an efficient cause or a primary cause, but not the notion of "causes." Without the notion of causes, even if they be varied and multiple and difficult to pinpoint, we could establish no theories and certainly no principles or facts of nature.

Without causes and our ability to determine them, we have no knowledge, nor do we have the hope of ever having any. All science and all of our accumulated theories and knowledge are dependent on our ability to determine events by studying causes. Without this little trick our search for knowledge is condemned to perpetual ignorance, and all that we now claim to be knowledge is unfounded.

How does Heisenberg's theory question the foundation of causes? Isn't Mr. Barnett in fact using Heisenberg's theory of Uncertainty as a "cause" in establishing his theory with regards to Man's freewill? If the theory of causation has been challenged or compromised by Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty then how can Mr. Barnett establish Mr. Heisenberg's Principle as a "cause" in his establishment of his own theory of Man's freewill?

What has this electron got to do with one's belief or non belief in the existence of God?

A believer in God, Mr. Berkeley, for example, would simply say that whatever choice this electron makes, you can be sure that God knows about it. There is also the theological notion of spontaneous creation. This notion explains the Universe as God's work in progress. God, in effect, recreates the universe moment by moment, instant upon instant – thus not only accounting for "change" but miracles also.

On the other hand from the non-believer viewpoint; is predictability of the habits or idiosyncrasies of Mother Nature a proof that the Universe has a Creator, or merely an observation that the Universe is, at present, conforming to certain predictable physical phenomenon? If certain physical phenomena are permanent, unchangeable, repeatable and infinite, would this imply anything more than the fact that these phenomena are permanent, unchangeable, repeatable and infinite. And if the reverse were the case would the conclusion be any different? To point to something that "is" and say that it "is" only because of something that isn't, is not reasonable. God is being viewed in this case as an unconfirmed suspicion or an illogical impossibility.

In conclusion, with relation to God, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle changes nothing. The unpredictable Heisenberg electron neither verifies nor disproves the existence of God.

With regards to causation and determinism the philosophical arguments still remain as they have always been. There are causes. Determinism is still a philosophical and theological paradox – inevitable when combined with the existence of an Omnipotent God.

Freewill is not a paradox. It is confusion in terms. There is no "freewill" as such, but this does not negate man's ability to make choices or to make selections between what is perceived as either good or evil. The case for Man's genetic determinism and his psychological and environmental determinism in this regard certainly cannot be dismissed for the convenience of society and/or religion – civil or Divine Justice. The Cosmology of the Universe remains indeterminate with or without Heisenberg's wayward electron.

Now for Mister Barnett's eschatology.

In the last two chapters of Mister Barnett's book he goes from being a very interesting and astute scientific type into a complete irrational theologist and apologist. These last two chapters involve some of the most twisted and inane logic on the part of a believer to "spin" the facts or theories of science into a substantiation of his mystical conceptions and prejudiced beliefs that I have ever read.

First of all, in discussing the cosmology and eschatology, the probable beginnings and endings, of the Universe, one is dealing in speculation based on speculation. These theories although fascinating are very much in the category of Star Wars. These areas involve theoretical science at its wildest. But still, I think that we should at least try to maintain our "faith" in reason and not our reason for faith.

Mister Barnett puts scientific notions, I think, as follows:

Relativity establishes that there is no absolute time and there is no space. The Universe is now entirely composed of matter and all of matter is a product of man's perception or mis-perception. He alludes to Hegel and establishes that due to man's varied and interminable and inconsistent perceptions "Pure Being and Nothing are the same." Pure Being philosophically defined as God, we now have the hypothesis that God is Nothing. So therefore not only do we have the concept of Nothing as possible, it is, in effect, the cause and fundamental principle of the Universe. From here we devolve philosophically from Hegel via Hume to Berkeley, around about Plato and end up with Saint Augustine and his notion that God created all things from Nothing. Not only did God create all things from Nothing, He is, in fact, Himself, Nothing. We close the book with Saint Paul who tells us that "the world was created by the word of God so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear." Amen

I have the very strong felling that if Mister Barnett were to have continued with this text we would be "scientifically" lend to the establishment of the Blessed Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus, the Transubstantiation, the Virgin Birth, the Assumption and the Miracles at Lourdes.

Most interesting is how we have been brought back to the establishment of Nothing being the real stuff of the Universe. But, of course, Mister Barnett as with St. Augustine informs us all that mysteriously behind all of the inevitable Nothing of the Universe there is that "Somethingness" contained all too realistically in that Nothingness we term as God. Though this entire Universe has been derived from Nothing, everything is based in an inevitable reality, which is God, who is synonymous with Nothing. If you think that this is all "Double Speak" you are absolutely right.

To my way of thinking there is either Something, or there is Nothing. If Nothing were the Primary source of the Universe and ourselves, then we would not "be." The fact that we "are" and the Universe "is" (whatever it is) is a priori proof that Something is, and always has been and forever will be, whether we like it or not.

Nothing therefore ISN'T, never has been and never will be. My opinion is that if you or anyone else comes to the conclusion that Nothing is responsible for Something you must review your logic because unless you are not here, you must be wrong. Nothing by definition is what is not and has no capacity to become.

Anyone who says that in reality, there is no reality - is equally in the wrong. Our perceptions of reality may be wrong, inaccurate and even deceptive but this does not change the reality of reality, whatever that may be.

Another point of Mister Barrett's has to do with Uranium, Hubble's expanding universe, the third law of thermodynamic and entropy. This is a good one.

"The unvarying rate at which uranium expends its nuclear energies and the absence of any natural process leading to its formation indicate that all the uranium on earth must have come into existence at one specific time, which, according to the best calculations of geophysicists, was between four and five billion years ago." This notion is coupled with Hubble's notion of the red shifts and blue shifts which supposedly explain to us that the Universe is expanding. Cosmologists calculating this rate of expansion have traced the rate of expansion backwards and estimate that the universe began five billion years ago. So now we have two different groups verifying that the universe not only had a beginning but that this beginning happened five billion years ago.

But to be more specific, the one group is establishing that uranium appeared or came somehow into existence approximately five billion years ago. The second group claims that the "expanding" of the Universe probably also began five billion years ago. This does not tell us when the "unexpanding" universe came about or for what period it existed before it got to expanding. But in any case we have this probable date for the beginnings of our expanding universe or the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is the present day explanation for where our expanding universe got its energy and impetus to expand. The expanding universe is the result of a cosmic egg or atom explosion.

Now we have the third law of thermodynamics. This has to do with the notion of an irreversible natural transference of heat to cold. With regards to the universe, Mister Barnett says that everything is cooling down. The "law" of entropy is taking over. The end of the Universe is in the making. The heat from the Big Bag is entropying. One day everything is going to stop spinning; all the suns in the Universe will have expended all of their heat; the Universe will turn cold and all motion with stop.

And then what?

Will all the stars and planets fall from the heavens? Where will they fall to? Will they contract? Where will they get the energy to do so? All energy has been dissipated, or dispersed, or entrophied, you will remember. So, I guess God will have to come out from behind a cloud and give everything a goose, once again - now we're back to Isaac Newton.

But what if there is truly no such thing or entity as God? Then what?

Well, things really become interesting now. If we go back to the cosmic egg explosion idea; where did the heat that exploded the egg come from? If entropy is implying that the inevitable state of heat is cold and that heat spontaneously occurring from cold is impossible. Then in the beginning there could not have been a "hot" egg. There could have been a very cold hard boiled egg, but not a hot one.

If it is true that in the beginning there really was a "hot" egg then the third law of thermodynamics and the rule of entropy are 1) not true 2) may apply to beans in a bag, but not to a system as large as the Universe. 3) are being misinterpreted or misunderstood.

If the energy of the universe is truly being used up or undergoing an irreversible process of transference into cold this would not be consistent with our understanding of the laws of conservation with regards to matter and energy.

If hot is merely an agitated condition of cold then there must be an agitating agent that produced heat in the first place. If motion is heat, then are we back to Aristotle vs. Galileo - is "a body that is in motion tends to remain in motion" the primary state of matter in the universe, or is the notion that "a body at rest tends to remain at rest" the primary state of matter? If motion is the primary state of matter then we need no Big Bang. If a body at rest tends to remain at rest is the primary state of matter, then we're in trouble. We have no explanation then for motion or heat and a miracle as to how they could possibly have evolved.

If the Universe started out with "fire" and then ends up dying in "cold", we are left with an unexplainable initial fire. We have a mystical paradox once again, or we have a mistake in our laws and hypotheses.

If we presume that there is no interfering God in the Universe, and that heat can not arrive spontaneously from cold, does this not lead us all to conclude that heat and motion are primary and cold secondary?

In the beginning then, there was heat and motion. Could heat and motion then somehow be irreversibly transformed into cold and inert?

It seems to me that nature conforms to the laws of conservation of matter and energy. If these laws are correct. Then heat and cold must somehow be interacting and interchangeable in the Universe.

It could also be very, very possible that Hubble's expanding Universe is not correct, and that there was never a Big Bang type start to the universe.

So then, how did the Universe begin?

It didn't. It always was. It always will be. It is self regulating and self perpetuating. Instead of looking for beginnings and ends to the Universe, it would then make more sense to be searching for explanations in the direction of a self perpetuating ever evolving Universe, and questioning anything to the contrary as a possible mistake.

[If you are interested in the subject matter of this blog, click onto Search This Blog and find A History of God, Intelligent Design, God, Yes or No, or St. Anselm of Canterbury. These all deal with the debate of God’s existence or non-existence]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A History of God

“A History of God” by Karen Armstrong

Book Review

by Richard E. Noble

Karen Armstrong was, at one time, a Roman Catholic nun. She left the nunnery behind in 1969 but not her search for God. This is a good book.

Her book deals primarily with God in the Judeo-Christian theologies; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She gives a good criticism and analysis from atheism to mysticism. She goes through each of the religions and the evolution of their thought. I suppose that the word “evolution” would not be proper because there is no actual progression of thought culminating in a final conclusion. It is a comparative analysis, exploring all the tangential pathways engaged in by all three of the theologies. The point is made that all three theologies have shared all of the various pathways in seeking a God. Each group has had its radicals, its rationales, its fundamentalists and it mystics.

I would not classify Karen as an atheist or even an agnostic. I would place her into the category of the want-to-believer. Her problem, as a want-to-believer, in dealing with conventional religious thought with regards to the concept of God, is that, unfortunately, she is too smart. She defeats all of the conventional and conservative logic with regards to God, but yet is still left with the desire to have a God to believe in. I suppose that this would be considered the Kantian point of view.

Mankind needs to have some kind of a belief in some sort of God. Why? Because the pit and depression that comes with an empty eternity is not conducive to the hopeful human spirit. There is this notion that this “feeling” stems so far back into the psychology of man that it is not only necessary but instinctive.

I don’t know why oblivion would be or must be considered a “hopeless, depressing, pit” - certainly an eternity of hell is even more depressing. If you don’t exist, you wouldn’t even know that you were hopeless or in a pit. You couldn’t despair either. And just because an idea goes back into time with a seeming endlessness, that doesn’t mean that it is instinctive. It could just be traditional ignorance. Like; the world is flat; the earth is the center of the universe; fire is the addition of something called phlogiston; and, all woman look the same upside-down
On the practical side, at least at this point in man’s evolution, no atheistic notions have been capable of transforming established thought on the matter of God. God has been transformed over the centuries but only by means of reform. The old God must be replaced by a new God who is transformed to conform to the times. So you don’t want to tell people that God is dead or that He is impossible, you want to explain to them how God has been misinterpreted by the current established order; or how a belief about God that was once held in the past is more accurate than any going around at the present. In other words, if you want change, you must invent a new God or re-establish an old one. But the logic and arguments against the God notion have become so substantial and sophisticated that the above proposition becomes more and more difficult - whether the gods are old or new.
Karen is clearly leaning toward a mystical God.

Karen establishes that the whole God-thing started with the notion that there must be a Creator or a First Cause to all things. This notion got muddled, and in all of the three theologies there came about a desire to prove the existence of this Creator, rationally. This caused a good deal of debating and argument - for centuries.

Karen agrees that all of the arguments proving the existence of God failed or were eventually defeated. What resulted was a new group of Godless atheists who contended that God couldn’t be proven or verified rationally and was therefore an impossibility; and another group who agreed with the atheists that God could not be proven a reality but that He was valid nevertheless. The fact that you could not prove the existence of God simply made God all the more “mysterious” - thus evolved a group called Mystics. Most believers are at heart Mystics - no amount of logic or reason can convince a believer that God does not exist.

God was initially the creator of all things. Unfortunately, someone had to ask: If God is the creator of all things, from what did He create all these things that are?
He created all the things that are, from all the formless stuff that was floating around Him, said some. Then, of course, somebody else said; There was stuff floating around God? - stuff that existed eternally, and simultaneously with God, for ever and ever? Then there must be two Gods - the eternal God that is just Stuff and the other God that is ... what? What is God made/composed of anyway?

This problem led some to conclude that God and the Stuff that was floating around the Universe were actually One. So, God was the Stuff of the Universe. If God was the Stuff of the Universe then it must be that God created the Universe from Himself If God created all the things that are, from Himself - then everything in the Universe must be divine. Then - we are all God.


There were many who accepted this notion that everything was a part of God, but there were others who didn’t like the idea. So, they said that God did not create the Universe from Himself. He didn’t create it from any stuff that was floating around, either. He actually created the Universe out of nothing. But how can something come from nothing? Ex-nihilo.

It was magic. It was a miracle.

Okay, if God created the Universe from nothing, what is God? Is He something or is He nothing?

God is nothing, too. Where does He live? He lives nowhere. Is He tall or is He short? He is both tall and short. Is He male or female? He is male, female, animal and mineral. He is all things and He is no thing. He is at the same time nothing and something. He is one and He is many. He is single and individual, yet, at the same time multiple and diverse. He lives beyond the boundaries of the universe. He transcends both space and time. He is faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall building in a single bound. He’s … he’s ... whatever you would like Him to be.
If you have no trouble following this type of thinking, then, you are a mystic. Mysticism seems to be the last refuge for the struggling want-to-believer from the pits of despair and atheism.

Karen also points out that there has been an unfortunate return to Fundamentalism. In the West and in the United States it is fundamentalist Christians, in the mid-East it is fundamentalist Muslims; in Israel it is fundamentalist Jews.

A fundamentalist usually has some basic “truth” that he clings to. It might be a book or a notion. He believes wholly in this notion and feels that all others should believe it as well. Karen feels that Fundamentalism is a backward step in mankind’s progress toward an understandable or, at least, acceptable God.

Karen thinks that it is time that the world created a new God. She suggests a mystical God of some kind. Unfortunately, a mystical God is an UN-reasonable God. The trouble with UN-reasonable Gods is just that. A God that is not subject to reason can certainly evolve into something just as tyrannical as the “One True” God of the fundamentalists. Gods that come from “nothing” and find their being in “non-existence” are simply and purely double-talk.

The problem here has to do with the philosophical definition of nothing.
Religious thinkers, along with many philosophers, keep attempting to make nothing into something. I have even read some who claim that nothing is simply the absence of something and that something is simply the absence of nothing.

Nothing is not the absence of something; nothing is the absence of all things. Something is not the absence of nothing; something is the absence of all things but one - that one thing that it is.

This “Nothingness” business is confusing. It is attempting to make nothing into a quantity like zero in mathematics. A thing or amount that can be added and subtracted. Nothing is a concept not a precept. It describes the imagined state or condition of non-being - that state of no innate potential to be actualized and no innate tendencies to actualize itself. Nothing is what isn’t and consequently what can never be in and of itself - what can not become. Ontologically, it has no being and no potential for being. To say that something can come from nothing is simply a contradiction in terms.

Something is also a concept but it is used to describe things that exist - things that are perceived - something is a universal description of things that are things that have being in themselves - being in-itself; being that transcends phenomenon and appearance and is, in and of itself. It is a thing; it is something.

Ontologically speaking something describes things that are - a thing that is - has being in-itself- not in the imagination but in reality.

Parmenides had it correct - That which is, is and that which is not, is not and can never be.

So when the mystic says that God is Nothing, he is saying that God does not exist and He can not come into existence. With this I would agree, but when the mystic goes on to state that it is from this state of Nothingness that all things have come into existence, he is simply babbling non-sensical gibberish.

Karen, in my opinion, falls into this trap of thinking Nothing to actually be something with the potential for existence - by the very definition of the word nothing, this is not possible.

I certainly agree with Karen the world needs a new God, but I have no suggestions. I liked it a lot better when people kept there Gods to themselves. It was a much better world when believers were less demonstrative and less sure. Many of today’s believers and want-to-believers border on the repulsive and the obnoxious. I consider them all to be psychotic, possible schizophrenic, and without doubt - dangerous.

“A History of God” by Karen Armstrong is, to say the least, educated, informative and well-researched. I’ve been reading about the gods and Gods now for over fifty years. Karen’s survey gave me more information than I personally felt necessary. But, I like that. I feel I got my money’s worth.

On the down side, she can get a bit confusing. She skims on many traditional explanations, presuming that you, the reader, are already familiar with such notions or that they are not that important; but then goes on extensively in areas of lesser importance - or where “more” is hardly necessary.

Karen spends a good deal of time on mystical notions, for example. It is plain that she finds some sort of “hope” in that brand of foolishness. She also spends very little time on the idea that nothingness is impossible. She is more into the confusing school of Martin Heidegger who it seems tries to prove that nothing is really something.

If one can somehow contemplate the notion that God could have emerged from nothing into something; or that nothing preceded something, or that something and nothing are two interchangeable quantities; or that God who is Himself nothing, could have created the universe from a nothing that was separate and distinct from His own brand of Nothingness - then I suppose that Mysticism becomes some sort of possibility. Actually, if nothingness can truly be found to be something-ness then, of course, anything becomes a possibility.

I think this is getting us into Wittgenstein here. If nothing can be something then we are obviously lost in semantics and have stopped dealing with reason, logic, or science.

The mystic is, in my opinion, a person who begins his inquiry into God’s possible existence, with the assumption or positive notion that God is a reality. Now, all that he has to do is defeat any arguments to the contrary. This course has left him in a never-never land where nothing and something both have a reality; where the universe and all that is - really isn’t; where rational thinking is a trick; where scientific inquiry is a deception; where everything that is, is only part of the story; where the unreasonable becomes the reasonable; where there are places beyond all places and things beyond all things; where God can exist beyond existence - beyond time and space (St. Augustine.

It is one thing to say that proving the existence of God is impossible and therefore one must rely on faith to accept such a proposition, but to build on this “faith” in an Unconfirmed Suspicion, a set of rules, laws, commandments, principles - even books supposedly written or dictated by this Unconfirmed Suspicion should be a little much, to say the least, for any sane human being.

I enjoyed Karen’s book, nevertheless. Karen’s notion that the impossible could become more acceptable if it is blanketed in the mystically paradoxical is not an answer that I can accept, but it is more than possible that mankind, in general, could find it temporarily sustainable. I feel that this would only bring the human race out of the frying pan and into the fire. Fundamentalism is certainly a step backward, but mysticism is no step forward.

I personally feel that in her quest for God she has one final step to take, but is afraid to take it for the fear of that “pit of despair and hopelessness” that she mentioned in her book. Kierkegard had a similar problem. He chose to “leap into the absurd”.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Hidden History

Book Review

The Hidden History of the Korean War

I. F. Stone

By Richard E. Noble

This book was originally published in 1952. The copy I have was reprinted in 1970. The front cover reads: America’s First Vietnam – the hidden History of the Korean War.

On the back cover there is a blurb by Stephen E. Ambrose – Professor of Maritime History at the Naval War College. “I. F. Stone is a great journalist, but more importantly he is an honest and courageous man. It took guts to publish this book in the McCarthy era. Today, millions are jumping on the bandwagon of damning our Asian policy – even president Nixon is climbing aboard. In 1952 Mr. Stone was a one man band. It is a pity that more Americans did not read and think about Hidden History at the time.”

Mr. Ambrose goes on to say in his introduction inside the book that “The Chinese never wanted the war and did not support the Koreans until MacArthur forced them to do so. The same was true for the Russians … MacArthur was the major, almost sole, reason the war did not end in late 1950 … Recent studies by the Rand Corporation surely an unimpeachable source come to almost identical conclusions … His (Stone’s) contention is that Dr. Rhee provoked the North Korean assault, with the active support of Chaing Kai-shek and the covert aid of MacArthur and Truman.”

Ambrose goes on to state that Truman needed a crisis in order to get funds to support NATO.

I. F. Stone in his preface states: “I have tried to bring as much of the hidden story to light as I could in order to put the people of the United States and the United Nations on guard ... I utilized material which could not be challenged by those who accept the official American government point of view ... I believe this book serves a threefold purpose. It is a case study in the cold war. It is also a study in war propaganda, in how to read newspapers and official documents in wartime. Emphasis, omission, and distortion rather than outright lying are the tools of the war propagandists and this book may help the reader to learn how to examine their output and – sift out the facts – for himself. Finally this book is what it purports to be, not “inside stuff” or keyhole revelations but the hidden history of the Korean War, the facts to be found in the official accounts themselves if texts are carefully examined and reports collated.”

If we accept the premise that the U.S. government had theoretically declared war against Russia in 1917 when the Russian army decided to walk off the battlefields of Europe and establish a “worker” state. And then add the point of view that it was the Free World Capitalists from the U.S. and elsewhere who financed Adolf Hitler with the intent of using Hitler and his Nazi State to attack and destroy Russia. And then we view the post war Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO as further steps in isolating Russia as an enemy. And follow all this logic with the “Cold War” strategy to box Russia in militarily and economically, we have the foundations for this journalistic indictment.

We can also add to this animosity towards Russia on the part of the U.S. the present day dismantling of the Berlin wall followed by the collapse of the U.S.S.R leading to the American support of the new nation of Georgia and the consequent lack of financial support and/or aid to Mother Russia and the strongly unionized Poland and Mr. Stone’s point of view seems more than reasonable.

This entire attitude stems from the American Capitalist government’s strong aversion to the rights or advancement of labor organizations at home and abroad. It has become clear to me from my research of the American and world labor movement that from this country’s beginnings it has been at war with “workers” and the working man mentality. When and if one takes all of this into consideration the goals and intent of both MacArthur and Truman as pointed out elaborately and in detail in this book become more than understandable.

I feel that this book is accurate in all of its details with only one small flaw. As Mr. Ambrose also points out, North Korea did not really need to be “tricked” or lured into a belligerent attitude. Current day events point out clearly that North Korea has always had its problems when it comes to aggression.

But that one point made, I don’t think that fact diminishes the exceptional fact finding report conducted in this book by Mr. Stone.

General MacArthur comes off very, very bad in my estimation. He was not frightened of nuclear power, since the U.S. had the command of it at that moment. The idea that MacArthur was inciting the easily excitable North Koreans so that he could then suck in the Chinese followed by the Russians for a lopsided nuclear World War III seems truly frightening. Mr. Stone makes it very clear that it was MacArthur intention to eventually nuke China and Russia.

Truman did not want to nuke anybody but he did encourage MacArthur and a crisis. Truman used the Korean conflict in order to promote his domestic and foreign policy political objectives according to Stone.

Truman wanted the Marshall Plan and NATO defenses for Europe and continued wartime military investment at home to keep America out of a post war recession that could possibly give the Russians the upper hand economically and in the ideological battle for the hearts and minds of capitalists and communist everywhere, according to Stone.
From a Patriotic and purely American point of view, was this a proper course or strategy?

From my point of view, to encourage war, or even limited war, for political or economic objectives is not the proper course for a moral nation to take. To risk a nuclear war for ideological advantage is insane.

This book makes it much more understandable why Truman eventually fired MacArthur. I think that it is safe to say that Mr. Stone considers Mr. Truman an honest but not so wise president.

As I see this analysis of the Korean conflict I think that Mr. Stone’s major point is that this was a small incident that could have been resolved quickly and easily with a minimum of fighting, death and injury to either side. But because of MacArthur’s belligerent aggressive nature and Truman’s political, ideological and economic positioning there was a needless extension of hostilities.

Do I think this book is worth reading? I have just order two more of Mr. Stone’s works. I. F. Stone was a journalist recording, with super insights and amazing perspective, the news of his day. Today these works can be considered history – and great history at that. Mr. Stone was a radical. He calls himself a radical. If I. F. Stone is a radical, we need more radicals of his caliber today.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hirohito – The War Years

By Paul Manning

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

“He plotted with his advisors the invasions of Manchuria and China, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, which thrust the United States into the Pacific war. He listened to his army and navy leaders, and once the details had been worked out, approved their recommendations for aggression and war.
“The image of the late Emperor as a gentle lover of peace who may have opposed these aggressions but did not know how to or have the power to stop them goes against recorded history.
“General MacArthur helped along this Japanese campaign of disinformation when he recommended and promoted the policy that Hirohito continue to reign as a constitutional monarch and not be tried as a war criminal. MacArthur, against the popular wishes of Australia, Britain and many in the U.S. Congress, stated he needed Hirohito’s continued presence on the Throne to stabilize Japan and establish the nation as an American ally against Soviet communism.”

This book is truly shocking. That Hirohito, the Japanese counterpart to Germany’s Adolf Hitler, would be coddled and pampered and subsidized by American taxpayers to the tune of millions and even billions of dollars is a sad joke on America and its World War II veterans.

The author of this book takes on many controversies. The attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese surrender, and the justification of the use of the atomic bombs are minor subplots. The big story is Hirohito and how he murdered the people of his nation and millions of opponents in an attempt to dominate the world but yet won fame, notoriety and fortune for himself and the rich Japanese families (Zaibatsu) who backed him. Their descendents are still prospering today. It is truly and outrage.

The author does a very thorough job in laying out the historic facts and details of this disgrace in the name of American diplomacy and the cold war strategy.

One can only imagine what an outcry would have erupted if Adolf Hitler had lived and received a similar treatment.

Hirohito was what Hitler was and more. His exploits against China are fit for any Holocaust movie.

Pearl Harbor, Nanking, Chekiang, the Bataan death march, the buildings and laboratories of the 731-Corps near Harbin in Manchuria, General Shiro Ishii, if there is any man who should have received an automatic execution after the surrender of Japan, Hirohito is the number one candidate. Tojo, no Good Samaritan himself, took the fall for Hirohito to secure his family.

Why would we coddle Hirohito and Imperialist Japan? Why would we invest millions in the reconstruction of Nazi Germany? Why would we allow war mongering, murdering imperialist, capitalists, and business titans from Germany and Japan (Japanese Zaibatsu and German industrialists like Krupp) to go free and resume business as usual? If we weren’t fighting German Nazism and we weren’t fighting Japanese imperialism who and what were we fighting?

I think you can find that answer by looking at our current political situation. It is becoming rather obvious.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Salesman

Lawrence – My Hometown

Vacuum Cleaner Salesman

By Richard E. Noble

“I’ve got a lovely bunch of Kirbys
See them all standing in a row
Big ones, small ones
Some as big as your head…”

I was in a back room of a Kirby vacuum clearer store on South Broadway with a room full of other unemployed loony-tunes singing songs from the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Song Book.

I couldn’t believe it. Was I actually doing this? Was the Kirby guy who owned this store serious? Was the Kirby vacuum cleaner company serious?

I had gone everywhere looking for a job in Lawrence but there was nothing. My Uncle Ray once told me that Lawrence was a boom or bust kind of a town. Obviously this was, once again, the bust side, showing its ugly face. There was one job listed down at the employment office. I had been there three weeks in a row and they had one job. There were hundreds of people, it seemed, gainfully employed at the Lawrence Employment Office and between the whole bunch of them, they had one job to offer the thousands of unemployed who came wandering in through their doors. It was collecting swill for a family who owned a pig farm in North Andover. I was desperate. I took the swill collecting job. I lasted three days.

Swill is disgusting – after learning about swill, garbage seemed a joy and a pleasure. I could bathe in garbage. Garbage is to swill as a burp is to diarrhea.
I would wander into somebody’s backyard, flip the lid on their half gallon swill depository bucket which was embedded into the ground, take one look at the ten million maggots and a tiny, unintended sniff of the contents and start puking. I puked at least ten times in the first two days. On the third day, I made it through the entire morning without puking by holding my breath and closing my eyes appropriately.

At noon I climbed into the front seat with Jethro, the second son of Heathrow, the pig farm owner. Jethro was eating a chopped ham salad sandwich. “How’s it going today?” he asked. He had a mouthful of gooey ham salad, slouching about his open mouth. Little pieces of ham and mayo were dribbling down his chin. I looked at him and gagged. He laughed and consequently made visible the big glob of slop he was chewing and the goopey white bread stuck all over his teeth. I puked all over the floor of the cab. He said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re a little behind. We’ll clean it up later.”

At the next stop I climbed out of the cab without stepping in my puke and disappeared through a swill lady’s backyard and headed towards freedom. I never saw Jethro again. I didn’t even pick up my check for my first two days.

The next day I saw this ad in the newspaper. “Great opportunity for right type person,” it threatened. “Self-starter.” That was me. “Motivated, go getter, leader, good money, great future, willing to accept a challenge, needs to be friendly and must like people.” Wow, that was me in a nut shell. I was skeptical though. This could be another Marine Corps ad. It gave no address, just a phone number. I called and made an appointment for an interview.

The place of the interview was a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner store. I had sold magazines as a teenager. Did not do well. But maybe this was a job selling to walk-in customers? Maybe I’d be working inside this store? What did I have to lose? I certainly know how to say no. I learned to do it as a little kid and I never forgot … no … NOOO, … no no no. I was good at it. What’s the problem?

Inside I met the owner. He was a very personable man. I spoke to him directly, “Can I really make some money selling Kirby vacuum cleaners?”

“I have made more money selling Kirby vacuum cleaners than I have ever made doing anything else. What have you got to lose? You’ve got no job and no money now. You might make something here, or you might not. But here, you at least have a chance”
Here it was, Pascal’s wager in economic terms. This guy should have been a philosopher. I decided to give it a try.

First we had a super-salesmen instruction class. A couple of top notch salesmen gave us a crash course. They were really good and this Kirby Vacuum Cleaner was not just a vacuum cleaner. It was a super-duper machine revolution. A person could not only vacuum a carpet with it, they could clean and shampoo them too. You could wash and polish your floor with it; you could clean your mattress with it; you could polish your car with it; you could drill holes with it; you could sand and refinish a wood floor with it; you could unclog a backed up toilet with it; you could bust concrete and mix cement with it; you could pave a highway with it. It did everything. It had more attachments than a Rube Goldberg perpetual motion machine. To tell you the truth, I loved the darn thing. After the demonstration I could hardly restrain myself from buying one – good thing I was broke.

It was beautiful also. The “chassis” was all stainless steel. It had super-duper better-batter-beater rollers. They beat your carpet as they cleaned. The tubing was unbreakable. You could club an intruder to death with any of the super-duper extra strength attachment pipes. This thing was a vacuum, a mini motor scooter and a home security system. You could ride it to work. It could attack and kill people. It was wonderful. I wanted one.

So there you go. If I wanted one and I had never vacuumed a carpet in my life, why wouldn’t everybody in the world want one? If not the world, maybe just all of North Lawrence?

The next day I was in the “boiler room” drumming up potential sales. We had an unbelievable offer. If a potential customer would just agree to sit and watch a half hour demonstration of a totally new, revolutionary household invention, they would get absolutely free one whole case – that’s 24 bottles – of America’s favorite drink … Coca Cola. How could you beat it?

Obviously there were more lonely people with nothing to do evenings than I would have ever believed. And a free case of coke impressed the heck out of people.

“But, I can tell you right now buddy, I ain’t buying nothing. I got no extra money. I’m just getting by as it is.”
“You mean you can’t use a FREE case of Coke?”
“Sure, I’ll take a free case of Coke if you want to give me one. But I ain’t buying anything.”
“Okay! Is 6 o’clock tonight all right with you and the little woman?”

The first week I gave away about 300 dollars worth of Coke without selling one vacuum cleaner. I met all kinds of neat poor people. I thought my family was poor. All around the neighborhood there were stacks and stacks of people that were worse off than me and my family. It felt great giving all these very grateful, poor folk a whole case of FREE coke. I loved it. This was a great job. Maybe one day I’ll sell a vacuum cleaner too.

And everybody liked my demonstration. It was like being on stage and I was putting on my own play. Everybody ooh-ed and aah-ed – a few even applauded. They all said that one day if they ever came into any money – you know, like if some rich relative died and left them a fortune or that millionaire guy on the TV ever knocked on their door – they would definitely buy the “old lady” one o’ dem cleaners. I made lots of new, nice friends – but no money.

At the end of the week the boss called me into the office. “Ah, you are giving away a hell of a lot of Coke. Right now you owe me over three hundred dollars.”
“I owe you?”
“Well who do you think is going to pay for all this Coke you’re giving away?”
“Ah … Mr. Kirby?”
“Mr. Kirby’s dead. He died a long time ago. I’m fronting you on this Coke until you make your first sale but you seem to be missing the point. If the potential customers don’t buy a vacuum, they don’t get a case of coke.”
“But that ain’t what you told me to tell them on the phone?”
“What are you, little Georgie Washington? That is just what you tell them to get your foot in the door. Once you’re in, you sell them a vacuum or they get no Coke.”

He appeared a little angry.

Of course, what my boss was suggesting was unethical. He obviously didn’t care but then he probably didn’t have Sister Agnes in fourth grade either.
My appointment list dropped appreciably. I stopped offering the case of Coke free. I told my potential customers if they could say yes to one important question concerning my demonstration before I left their apartment they would be entitled to a free case of Coke. Most folks on the phone declined my “just say yes” once in a lifetime offer.

Then I thought up a new idea. I would shampoo one room of carpeting for any couple who would sit through my half hour demonstration. One bottle of super-duper shampoo could clean a number of rugs. It was much cheaper than the free coke. Of course it involved my time – but what was I doing that I had to worry about my time?
By the end of the month, I was pretty good at shampooing rugs. I could do a whole living room in less than an hour. People liked getting a free rug shampoo but they certainly didn’t want no super-duper carpet cleaner.

After a month or two I realized that I was never going to sell one of these darn vacuum cleaners to people in my neighborhood all of whom thought that $200 was an inheritance. But maybe I could use my demonstration model Kirby vacuum to make some money cleaning and shampooing people’s carpets?

I charged twenty-five bucks for a living room rug. I made $150 the first week. By the end of the month I was able to pay off my Coke a Cola bill.

My Kirby sales career ended when during a demonstration, my cigarette rolled out of the ash tray I had resting next to me on the floor and burnt a tiny spot in the homeowner’s rug. The lady was livid. I promised to remove the burnt mark with a super-duper free shampoo with our wonder Kirby stain removing shampoo.

I managed to snip the burnt spot out of her carpet with a pair of scissors when she wasn’t looking and then shampoo over the area about a thousand times until the matting “grew” back together. When I was done I manipulated the coffee table a hair or two with one of the feet covering the hole. The lady inspected but couldn’t find the spot where the burn had been.

I gave her a false name and a phony telephone number and told her to call if she found any problem. The hell with Sister Agnes, this ethics business was too expensive.

I turned in my demonstration model and resigned my commission as a certified Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman. But I would still love to own one of those Kirby vacuum cleaners. If I ever win the lottery or a jackpot in Biloxi, I’m going to get me one even if I don’t have any carpeting. And I won’t hide it away in some closet. It is going to sit in the living room where everybody can see it. Call it conspicuous consumption if you want to, but a Kirby in the living room is as good as a Caddy in the trailer park. You better believe it!

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on Contact for bookstore discounts and volume sales.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Hobo Philosopher


By Richard E. Noble

In the United States, those that will benefit from a college education amount to 20 to 25 percent of the potential working population. Sending kids to college will help only 20 to 25 percent of our future workers. What about the other 75 to 80 percent?

I think this deserves repeating:

What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?
What about the other 75 to 80 percent?