AN AFFRONT TO ENGLISH

The “Russian” Civil Wars 1916-1926, Jonathan D. Smele, presents a fascinating subject. But it seems written in a language that has endings for specific congregations for its verbs and with many declensions for its nouns – languages like Russian, German or Latin.

The strength of English prose is verbs, actions directing nouns. Most well-written books and articles recognize this rule. Verbs are close to subjects; no one ever loses sight of that combination, or the purpose for which noun-verb was used. If a writer likes to discourse in a sentence, go on and on for 70 – 100 -120 words, an English sentence better have parallel structures. Logic dictates it. (It’s not the logic of the language, but logic – premise, minor premise, conclusion)

In Mein Kampf the translator observes,  

…mixed metaphors are just as mixed in one language as in the other

other. A lapse of grammatical logic can occur in any language. An

English language Title might be just a redundant as the German one;…

No non-German would write such labyrinthine sentences…I have

cut down the sentences only when the length made them unintelligible

in English…

The substantives are a different matter. Here it has been necessary

to make greater changes, because in many cases the use of verbal nouns

is singly incompatible with the English language…Hitler’s piling up of

substances is bad German, but the fact remains that numerous German

writers do the same thing, while this failing is almost non-existence in

English.

…much German prose, some not of thee worst quality, around in…

useless little words: wohl, ja, denn, schon, noch, eigentlich, etc. Hitler’s

sentences are …clogged with particles, not to mention such private

favorites as besonders and damals which he strews about…needlessly.

His particles have a certain political significance, for in the petit

bourgeois mind they are, like carved furniture, an embodiment of the

home-grown German virtues, while their avoidance is viewed with

suspicion as foreign and modernistic.

[Translator’s note, Mein Kampf, Boston, Mariner Books, 1999, p. xi-xii.]

Parenthetical words and terms at the beginning of an English sentence, or at the end, or sometimes the middle indicated by the use of parentheses indicate a lack of writing skills.

Let’s observe one demonstration: 

On the contrary, the events that took place in the period from

around  1989 to 1991 and their volcanic reverberations across

the former Soviet space have very greatly enriched, necessitated

and energized historical investigations, as they have made it

unchallengeably clear that any approach to the “Russian” Civil

War that places the Red and White struggle within the matrix too

starkly in its foreground is missing the point.

[Smele, The “Russian” Civil War 1916-1926, N.Y. Oxford, 2017, p. 6]

There’s a lot to chew on in that one sentence. The following sentences present a lot of gristle and fat, also. I noted this sentence was in the INTRODUCTION, and believed getting to Chapter One would break up and provide good sailing.

Alas, the first sentence of Chapter One reads, 

Despite what has already been noted above, the is also a very

strong case for the dating of outbreak of the “Russian” Civil War

on the extensive anti-Russian uprising in Central Asia during the

summer of 1916, as a large number of the tsar’s Muslim subjects,

in a rebellion that anticipated the Basmachi movement, resisted

the forced mobilization into labor battalions to serve the Russian

army and the armaments industry (although this was the most

overt assault on local sensibilities that had been repeatedly

affronted by the waves of non-Muslim settlers that had been moving

into the region for a half century.)

[IBID, p. 17.]

Note the hesitancy to tell anything in the text which is further emphasized by the third sentence of that same paragraph beginning with Moreover and goes on for 100 words or so; the last sentence begins with Thus. Blue pencil it all! Also note, the book defines the Busmachi movement as a term for Muslim bandits during Soviet times. This sentence attempts to expand and explain incidences in the nineteenth century as well as those occurring, perhaps at late as 1980.

The usual manner of writing history or even fiction is for a non-writer to write chronologically. This writer decides to put a flashback into parentheses while using Soviet terms indicating more recent events. The outcome is a whole series of unexplained events of one hundred fifty years.

I wanted to learn of the “Russian” Civil War, its battles, the philosophy, its politics, and how its effects might survive today. But reading such diversion makes the story overly complicated, suggests portions of that war arose from local circumstances, and demonstrates the historian does not have a the big picture in his head clearly. He could not communicate much. The writing reminded me of translator’s note from Mein Kampf.  

P.S. One way Hermann Boell was taught to write was editing Mein Kampf, editing to a third of its length. The text was readable. I believe The “Russian” Civil War could benefit from the same treatment and be vastly improved.

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BOOMERANG

michael lewis

This gossipy book does not penetrate; it replies on and conveys surfacy impressions. It is told in a loose journalistic style to recount lives of various actors, none of whom have stayed as movers and shakers. As a book of the times (2008-2011 – setting, years, attitudes of people and countries), it keys the paint of subjects, but presents nothing unusual or memorable.

In one chapter Lewis visits Germany, and ends up on the Reeperbahn (Red Light District in Hamburg). Red lights affirm Lewis the luxury of citing Alan Dundes, venerable, cherished professor of folklore at Berkeley. Lewis talks about Dundes’ essay describing German impressions of s–t. 

Although writing a book about finances, apparently Lewis was unaware of the financial power house Hamburg was. After World War Two it was the largest city in West Germany. Frankfurt had the bourse, but Hamburg had the trade. Historically Hamburg was home to George Phillipp Telemann, who wrote music for five local churches and is a master beside Bach and Handel. Centuries before Telemann Hamburg was a city in the Hanseatic League. Boomerang would have been a much better book if Lewis had stuck to finance and history rather than whimsical escapees into s–t.

I found this book on a library-sales shelf, 25 cents, which is a lot better than the dust jacket price, $25.95. But no index, no footnotes, no bibliography, nothing to make it appear researched or authoritative, it’s a read to skip. 

THE SPANISH-AMERICAN FRONTIER; THE MISSISSIPPI QUESTION, 1783-1803

By Arthur Preston Whitaker

The historian, Arthur Whitaker, was an eminent fellow who wrote diplomatic and foreign relations history simply and well. He researched in Spain before the Spanish Civil War and next published these two volumes 80-90 years ago.

What are the stories? Governments of Spain, the United States, France and Britain all tried to exert influence and control west of the Appalachians. The targets were native Americans, who didn’t like any of the Europeans, and emigrants from the eastern States coming into the Ohio and the Tennessee Valleys. They wanted to use the Mississippi River to the sea. Movers and shakers were land spectators, commercial sharks and politicians, somewhat represented by John Wilkerson, US Army Brigadier General who negotiated with the Spanish to bring Kentucky under Spanish rule, had a Spanish pension (mostly unpaid), and had other intrigues with Spanish authorities in New Orleans. Wilkerson, of course, had been a friend of Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War.

Having no rules and less law and order west of the Appalachians between 1783-1803 was a boon to many, one being William Clark, brother of George Rogers Clark, Revolutionary War hero. Clark intrigued, tried to push the Spanish out, had a military unit, fought Native Americans in private wars, speculated in land and complained to the Spanish that the natives were restless. After the Louisiana Purchase (1803) he went west with Meriwether Lewis and came back to become governor of the Missouri Territory. Later he was Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Incidentally, having connived and intrigued for 20 years James Wilkerson survived the 1807 Treason Trial of Aaron Burr; with a few wrinkles he kept offices and rank.

The story begun in these books tell of New York interests, involving Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. They were good friends, having vibrant conversations, dining together and partying. Hamilton’s fingerprints are all over plans and intrigues involving British-American plots to diminish Spanish contacts and push Spain from North America. Hamilton and Burr likely talked much about west of the Appalachian intrigues and filibustering. After 1804 Burr continued those activities but not enough to constitute treason. Note, at some time Aaron Burr moved his personal papers to North Carolina, a staging area for a move west. Americans now know of these papers because Burr has few: They were lost at sea along with the ship and Burr’s daughter.

Whatever happened west of the Appalachians involving Burr and Hamilton, was further obscured by The Louisiana Purchase, Burr killing Hamilton in a dual (1804) and the Burr Treason Trial judged by John Marshall(1807).

More history needs researching, but these two volumes provide a solid foundation on which to begin. 

NEW MARTHA MITCHELL

Remember the old Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell? She not related to Margaret or to Andrea. She was nicknamed, Mouth of the South, and forcibly sedated by a shrink. While intoxicated on something himself, Nixon said she had a drinking problem. 

The new Martha Mitchell is Ginni Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court. 

Ginni believes she can scold persons who she disagrees with using Twitter-like words. It is Twitter when the writer writes “u” rather than “you,” and uses words that comprise incomplete sentences.

Ginni wrote: “To all the kids that walked out of school to protest guns. Those are the shoes of Jews that gave up their firearms to Hitler. They were led into gas chambers, murdered and buried in mass graves. Pick up a history book and you’ll realize what happens when u give up freedoms and why we have them.” (From The Hill website.)

Also from The Hill website Ginni rants, “I want the old regular America back,…MINUS left’s awful tactics.”

First Issue: Is this how Clarence Thomas wants to be represented? It detracts from the dignity and the serenity of the Supreme Court. It suggests on any Second Amendment issue, Clarence Thomas has already made up his mind and is forcibly influenced by an intimate voice. He should disqualify himself from those deliberations and any Court opinion. It supports the inference that if Clarence Thomas does not recuse himself, he has not fulfilled his oath of office: He is not servicing “in good behavior.”

Second Issue: Americans can expect anyone writing about Constitutional issues and politics to discuss the issues using rational means, unlike an angry Don Trump tweet. Perhaps Ginni Thomas knows her audience and apparently like herself, she knows the full extent of the attention span: State what is needed in 25 words or less. Framers of the Constitution, except Luther Martin, had longer attention spans than 25 words. No one arguing about the Bill of Rights in Congress in August, 1789, would listen to Ginni. 

Third Issue: Ginni urges gun protestors to read and learn history. That is commendable. But what of her history?

Ginni is ignorant. No one in Europe except the Swiss, had customs and statutory policies [not Constitutional Rules],  about owning and using firearms. Neither Jews nor anyone else had access to firearms. No one gave up firearms and next were marched into concentration camps. Where most of the Jewish victims of the camps came from – Central and Eastern Europe – there were no rights to bear arms.

Would the Holocaust have happened in a state where everyone could obtain firearms is a consideration which is off-point. It the German “left” had arms, would they have begun a Civil War to stave off Hitler? That’s a “what if” question. Note in Iraq Saddam Hussein let Iraqis bear arms, yet they lived under a “brutal” dictatorship.

What is the history in the old regular America of the 1960s. Eldridge Cleaver called for responses from “armed mad N—–s.” I don’t know how Ginni balances things because Cleaver was on the “left,” but he favored using firearms.

Also in the history of the old regular America were the right to bear arms and using them to kill political persons, “the left.” For instance within the life of Clarence Thomas, the Civil Rights Movement lost two notable figures Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King along with others trying to gain rights under the United States Constitution.   

Is is unfair to infer that the rant from Ginni Thomas suggests, Guys with guns have a right to kill everyone on “the left?” 

It is unlikely Ginni Thomas wants to leave that impression, but who knows? Her powers of communication must amplify beyond the 25 words-or-less audience.

Go back to Jim Crow days, does the old regular America include the times when some African Americans used guns to threaten whites and the KKK? Books have been written, but apparently unread and not considered.

“I want the old regular America back…MINUS the left’s awful tactics.” Does that support the America favored by Roy Moore, who believed everything in America was good and fine, when America had slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment?

Fourth Issue: There is vehemence and hate in Ginni Thomas’s statements. During Bob Dole’s concession speech after the 1996 election results became public, he was interrupted by someone in the audience calling Bill Clinton “an enemy.” Dole corrected that voice: Bill Clinton was my opponent, not my enemy. Curiously, one can write derogatorily and humorously about an opponent, but that writing is very difficult against an enemy.

I grew up in a Conservative community and most of the people were ignorant and dull. I next went to Berkeley where the students and residents were ignorant, excitable and drugged. I learned along the way the all Americans must learn how to express themselves and support social and political positions beyond slogans, advertising or otherwise. (See Mein Kampf for political usefulness of slogans.) Americans are beyond Hitler and beyond the old regular America, unless they resort to homilies, slogans, chants, cheers, bromides, mottos and shibboleths. 

As Americans we must do better. Don’t wait for your opponents to steal a base or get a leg up. Do better now!   

JEFF VS. DON

 

  1. Jeff wears no makeup. Don is a painted man.

2.      Jeff has an imagination in business. Don is not a dreamer.

3.      Jeff looks ahead to the future. Don misunderstands the past.

4.     Jeff represents truth, justice and American business. Don is a Queenie.

5.     Jeff can write a check for a billion dollars. Don owes creditors a billion dollars.

6.    Jeff employs thousands of human beings. Don has fired scores of employees.

7.    Jeff is proposing a solution for health care. Don needs solutions for his health care.

8.    Jeff owns The Washington Post. Don is a source of fake news.

9.    Jeff has a retail site selling many products. Don’s imported trademarked products are found discounted at Ross, Marshalls, T.J. Max and Goodwill.

10.  Jeff can buy clothes off the rack. Don needs a bolt of material to make a suit.

11.  Mrs. Jeff sells books on the Internet. Mrs. Don has many free photographs on the Internet.

These reasons and more are why Don hates Jeff.