Sunday, December 19, 2010

Trickle Up Poverty, by Michael Savage

Michael Savage hates Barack Obama.  I mean, he despises him.  I'm not talking about hating Obama's policies--he hates those, too--but he really hates Obama, the man, everything he is, and everything he stands for.  If you've ever heard Savage's radio show, you'll already be aware of this animosity.  If you haven't, read a few pages of Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama's Attack on Our Borders, Economy, and Security and any doubt will be removed.  Take these quotes, taken somewhat at random:
"The world Obama envisions is one in which the central government confiscates its citizens' money and transfers it to his political comrades."
"Nothing Obama does, not one single policy or legislative initiative, has anything to do with the will of the people or what might benefit the people."
"Barack Obama doesn't want you to succeed in your job or your small business.  He wants to see you on your knees before him."
The problem I have with this book, and with Savage's radio show, is not that he doesn't have a basis for everything he says.  To the contrary, the man has a Ph.D.!  Even though his degree's in another field, he thoroughly researches his subjects and coherently defends his arguments, and does so in a frequently entertaining way.  The problem is that he does so with vitriol, biting sarcasm, and a vicious sneer.  Even though I almost completely agree with everything Savage says, I am frustrated by his tone.

Yes, Obama can hardly help being a socialist, given his intellectual heritage.  Yes, he has long associated himself with unsavory characters who have corrupted him intellectually, spiritually, and politically.  His ideas and policies are destructive to American, to freedom, and to financial prosperity.  Savage describes and documents all of this, but he comes across as a blowhard because of his rhetoric.  I'm reminded of a sweaty, screaming, pulpit pounding preacher.  The gospel he preaches may be 100% theologically and biblically accurate, but I sure don't want to listen to him.

Even though his style and tone drove me nuts, there's plenty of good information here.  Like I said, I was nodding in agreement the whole time I read.   I'm with Savage: I can't wait until the cancer living in the White House is returned to private life.  If you're looking for more reasons to hate Obama, or justification for reasons to hate him, you'll find it here.  If you're looking for balanced, reasonable policy analysis of the Obama administration, well, you'd probably be better off looking elsewhere.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein

When I was a kid, I started reading Robert A. Heinlein's wonderful science fiction stories.  I don't know how much the themes of the books shaped me, but I know they helped me gain and maintain an interest in science and technology.  He's a great story-teller, certainly one of the best, sci-fi or otherwise.  His later books became much less appealing as he turned to a more adult audience.  (As I remember one relative saying, RAH became a dirty old man.)  Even though many of his novels are purportedly for young readers (teens, not little kids), their appeal holds at least for this middle-aged reader.  The first RAH book I read was Tunnel in the Sky, when I was probably 10 or 12.  Elliot is 11, so I thought I'd read it again and see if I still like it enough to pass it on.  I do!

n1833.jpgRod Walker will be graduating from high school soon, but first he has to pass the final exam in survival class.  On test day, he and his classmates will be deposited in an isolated area and will be expected to use the course's lessons and their limited equipment to survive, whatever the climate or surroundings.  They'll get to the mysterious destination via a planetary gates, a sort of portal through which on can simply walk from one place to another, whether across the continent or across the galaxy.  RAH does spend some time on the physics and discovery of the gates.  That's a real strength of his: even when he introduces seemingly fanciful technologies, he provides a scientific rational or foundation, making it almost believable.

The survival test starts out as expected, but when there's no gate at the appointed coordinates in the appointed time frame, Rod and his classmates realize they may be stuck for good, wherever in the universe they may be.  Like the English schoolboys in The Lord of the Flies, the kids have to figure out how to create a society together.  Rather than let themselves fall into chaos, the kids in The Tunnel in the Sky are determined to maintain civility--and civilization.  It was refreshing to see that when these older teenagers wanted to have sex and live together, they actually had the "mayor" perform a wedding.  And cursing was strictly prohibited, in order to retain decorum.

Once they got through the gate to the new planet, Tunnel became not so much sci-fi as classic teen survival literature like The Cay, Hatchet, or Lord of the Flies.  I love the message of the need for an ordered society, self-reliance and cooperation.  The kids' experiments in self-governance are instructive and present the question, how would we structure society if the slate was wiped clean and we were starting fresh on a new planet?

I was a bit surprised at the level of vocabulary and depth of the concepts in Tunnel in the Sky.  Either I was a smart kid or I understood it a lot less than I thought I did.  I'm going to pass this one along to Elliot and see what he thinks.  I hope he likes it as much as I did and do!