Marshall's Amazon Reviews

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Marshall's Amazon Reviews

Marshall Fritz was a prodigious reader – and his interests covered very diverse topics. Over the years he reviewed 31 books at Here are his reviews:


The Truth About Chernobyl

by Grigori Medvedev


˜˜˜˜  "Counting lives" meant "killing people", March 17, 2007


Those who wish to hide the truth delight in creating new vocabulary to hide behind. On p 234, Medvedev writes:


"...the phrase 'counting lives' had acquired a new meaning." The meaning was the number of men to be killed in a procedure being considered.


However, I was disappointed he didn't mention "bio-robots," the euphemism for men sent to handle the fuel rods w/o any protection.


I agree with other reviews that the author (a) is a good writer and the story moves right along, and (b) he assumes that the readers knows a bit more about nuclear measurements than most of us do.



The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education

by David Tyack


˜˜˜˜  Good analysis--but no plan to eliminate boodlers, March 13, 2007


David Tyack---like so many past and present government school critics---sees the problems and describes them well.


However, he fails to see the solution: get government out of schooling. That is, go to free-market education.


One delightful part of his description of the olden' days is this gem:


"To many schoolmen, lay decision-making at its best tended to be inefficient meddling in the proper province of the expert; at its worst, the school system became just another source of patronage and graft to boodlers. L.H. Jones, superintendent of schools in Cleveland, complained in 1896 that 'the unscrupulous politician is the worst enemy that we now have to contend with in public education.'" (page 79)


Also, I think the review by B Lack is superb.



The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic Church

by Jennifer Ferrara


˜˜˜˜˜  Not just for the ladies, March 5, 2007


I love to read conversion stories of all types. These are some of the best. At 10-15 pages each, they are short enough to read at one sitting, yet long enough for the author to really tell her story.


Let me assure my fellow males, you will enjoy this book. It's not just for ladies.



˜˜˜˜  History of the Christian Church, 8 vols.

by Philip Schaff


Read W Carroll and T Woods for balance, September 10, 2006


First, let me admit that I have read only portions of Schaff's work, so the 4 stars are just a guess and s/b ignored. While I hesitate to write a review of anything I've not read, once again I'll make an exception.


The reason is that I have read the first four volumes of Warren Carroll's "History of Christendom" and especially recommend volume 4, "The Cleaving of Christendom" for balance.


If one sticks to non-Catholic authors, one is in danger of reading only half of history.


Also good for balance is Thomas Woods' "How the Catholic Church BUILT Western Civilization" (emphasis in original). Woods' book is delightful because it is mere history and makes no theological statements. However much is does not threaten anyone's theology, it is quite upsetting to most people's view of the historical role of Catholics.



Attila the Hun (Throne of the World)

by Louis De Wohl


˜˜˜˜˜  Great way to absorb some history, June 7, 2006


Like other Louis de Wohl books, "Attila" is rich with history. In this book, many of the quotations from Leo the Great are actually from his writings.


Great suspense and a plausible explanation for Attila's turning back from sacking Rome.



So little for the mind: [an indictment of Canadian education]

by Hilda Neatby


˜˜˜˜˜  Evidence no "Golden Age" of public schooling in Canada, either, April 8, 2006


Hilda Neatby's "So Little for the Mind" was published in 1953 as a major indictment of the Canadian "public education" system. Like all serious attacks on the establishment schooling system in yesteryear and today, it was met by derision from the "professionals." 

She writes,"[M]any who read the book, including many professional educators, found the indictment not only basically unjust but expressed in harsh and even hysterical terms. Unfortunately most of the written replies which appeared in numerous educational and other periodicals were themselves somewhat hysterical. There was an unfortunate failure on the part of any leading professional educator to give a calm and reasoned reply" p. v

Like Arnold Bestor in the same year and Bernard Iddings Bell a bit earlier, and Rudolf Flesch a few years later, she lambasts the mainstream government system pretty hard: 

"Instead of using their enormous new resources in material equipment, knowledge and skill to cope with their tremendous task, they [pragmatist schoolmen] frittered them away in making school life easy and pleasant, concentrating on the obvious, the practical, and the immediate. Democratic equalitarianism encouraged the idea of a uniform low standard easily obtainable by almost all. Special attention was given to all physical, emotional and mental abnormalities, but the old-fashioned things called the mind, the imagination and the conscience of the average and of the better than average child, if not exactly forgotten, slipped into the background." p 15

To find out just how bad the government schools were by the 50's, also read Arthur E. Bestor, "Educational wastelands: the retreat from learning in our public schools," also 1953. And "Crisis in Education;: A challenge to American complacency" by Bernard Iddings Bell, 1949.



William Cobbett (Chesterton's biographies)

by G. K. Chesterton


˜˜˜˜˜  Applying Cobbett to America's "Public School Menace", December 19, 2005


NB: This review is lifted from an essay I wrote in 2001, "Euphemisms Mislead, Bluntness Needed."


GKC writes that the main weakness of modern urban society (remember, he was writing in the 1920s, and must have thought that farmers and rustic folks were not too far gone at the time) is the "great delusion of the prior claim of printed matter" on the mind, a delusion so strong it could contradict experience. He writes: "The chief mark of modern man has been that he has gone through the landscape with his eyes glued to a guidebook, and could actually deny in the one anything he could not find in the other" and continues a bit later, "By a weird mesmerism, what people read has a sort of magic power over their sight. It lays a spell on their eyes, so that they see what they expect to see. They do not see the most solid and striking things that contradict what they expect to see. They believe their schoolmasters too well to believe their eyes. Cobbett was a man without these magic spectacles. He did not see what he expected to see, but what he saw."


Let's apply this lesson to the typical journalistic reaction to the opening of the Spring School Shooting Season: They bleat that we need more gun control, more metal detectors, and more pats-down upon school arrival. This is what they read from each other. Somehow, it makes sense to them. Cobbett would see the obvious: A school child intent on murdering some fellow students and maybe a teacher or two might just start off by shooting Officer Friendly who is staffing the metal detector.


Chesterton recalls Cobbett on the subject of the fear of Napoleon: "Nothing was ever better in its way than the dramatic derision with which he [Cobbett] pointed at the canal at Hythe, and told the people that this was meant to keep out the French armies that had just crossed the Rhine and the Danube."


Now back to the question of language for us who try to communicate to friends and family the need for Honest Education. Should we be blunt or nuanced? Chesterton helps us by contrasting truth and style and giving a memorable example: 

"Veracity has nothing to do with violence, one way or the other. One historian may prefer to say, 'The Emperor Nero set on foot several conspiracies against the life of Agrippina his mother, and expressed satisfaction when the final attempt was successful.' Another may say, 'The bloody and treacherous tyrant foully murdered his own mother, and fiendishly exulted in the detestable deed.' But the second statement records the same fact as the first, and records it equally correctly. The violent man is telling the truth quite as logically and precisely as the more dignified man. It is a question of what we consider a superiority of literary form; not of any sort of superiority in history fact."

Now at this point, I was resolving to be more blunt in my rhetoric. The phrase "Public Schools are a Public Menace" was suggested to me by an advisor just days before and I resolved to use it often.


Ah, but I got a bit of a shock a few pages later. My hero Chesterton writes, "It is possible to speak much too plainly to be understood." Uh-oh. Now what? 

He continues, "In a confused and complicated age, men are used to long words and cannot understand short ones. The world, in the sense of the ordinary political and literary world, could not understand Cobbett because he was not obscure enough. He did not soothe them with those formless but familiar obscurities which they expected as the proper prelude to any political suggestion. He came to the point too quickly; and it deafened them like an explosion and blinded them like a flash of lightning. People of this political and literary sort understood much better the speakers they were used to; or liked much better the speakers they did not understand. The pompous and polysyllabic felicities of the diction of Pitt seemed to them comforting if not comprehensible."

Wow. I had to read it twice, no, three times. My own literacy is so weak that I don't do long sentences too good. But I got the point. We have no Pitt, but we do have a Bush whose edu-diction includes this odd name for his Please-Trust-Me-Again-Charlie-Brown Education Program, "No Child Will Be Left Behind."


Think about it. No child will be left behind in singing. No child will be left behind in math. No child will be left behind in football. Track. Swimming. Poetry. Dance. English grammar. Spanish vocabulary. Latin conjugations. Geography. History.


Wait a minute! If I were a kid today, and no child is going to be left behind, we're gonna have pretty low music standards so I can keep up and not be left behind. After all, in my school in the fourth grade all boys were required to join the boys' choir. Except you know who. I was excluded from boys' choir, and not because of behavior or attitude or anything like that. I can still remember the lonely hour at 11am on Thursdays when I sat in the classroom alone, reading Freddy the Pig, not Chesterton.


Under the Bush Plan, I'd be in there with 60 other boys, but we'd be reduced to humming along with Mitch. The only way to leave no child behind is to have everybody stand still. Can't work. But sweet words trigger our hopes that this time the politicians will actually do what they say. But our own abilities to reason were underdeveloped and distorted when we were young appalled at his lack of sense, and the lack of sense of all who are applauding him.


Back to the main point, how to explain why it's a good idea to free the schools from politics. My experience with mainstream educators has been that the vast majority must think that I "get to the point too quickly." Attending their conferences, it is clear that they much prefer the felicities of mainstream edubabble because it is somehow "comforting if not comprehensible."


The same is true for a like high proportion of journalists and pundits.


On the other hand, most - way over half - of the regular folks find that I make sense right from the get-go. My fairly large sample (200-300) is drawn from people who have by chance sat next to me on a plane, train, or bus over the last seven years.


Back to my question, "How blunt should we be?" Well, if we're trying to attract today's educational and literary leaders, not very blunt. Because they have no basis to refute our allegations, to be effective in their attack they must stoop to the ad hominem that we're not very nice people. They flick their "ist-spinner" like a children's game and accuse us of being racist, sexist, elitist, misogynist, pollutionist, monarchist, or even this- or that-phobic. Our bluntness just makes them angry.


But more and more I am thinking the Glittery Litery are not our market. Somebody has to be last to learn that freedom works. We'll just have to leave some pundits behind. (Imagine the slogan, "No Pundit Left Behind."


I think our market is the regular Joe and Kristin.


For instance, imagine the proud parents of a "public school" Kindergarten child. One day he came home using the m-f epithet, and not for Milton Friedman or Marshall Fritz. He learned it on the playground. His schoolmates watch South Park and are taken to R-movies. Joe and Kristin don't want to be THAT multi-cultural.


If our market is Everyman and not the Glittery Litery, the guy reading Popular Mechanix, not Atlantic Monthly, maybe we should be real blunt. When Joe hears the phrase, "public schools are a public menace," he's likely to think, "Huhhhh! That's a new idea. Makes sense, too. I hated school."


If we use euphemism, the Glittery Litery will silently appreciate our linguistic cuteness and still reject our ideas.


If we use euphemism, Joe won't get the point.


When some educator says he's not undermining the virtues that Joe values, and you've caught the educator red-handed doing just that, I think you need to say that he's lying. He'll be furious, sure, and kick up a fuss. But Joe and the other parents who overhear you will get the point. Indeed, they'll get alarmed, too.


If you use the euphemism that the educator "seems discomfited by veracity," the liar will still fight you, but you'll have no allies. Your euphemism will have deceived Joe into thinking there is no cause for alarm.


That's why in "Ode to Billie Joe," Bobbie Gentry didn't sing that he "attempted to levitate in proximity to the Tallahatchie Bridge."



Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children

by Joel Turtel


˜˜˜˜  Great for parents, flawed for public policy, November 22, 2005


The review by Harold V. shows why Turtel's "Public Schools, Public Menace" is marvelous for parents. Harold V. "got the plot" of the harm being done his children, shared the book with his wife, and they decided to homeschool.


Bravo for Turtel! His intent is to help parents in two ways:


1) "The rest of the story" of why and how public schools harm their children, and


2) Give parents loads of sources where they can go to discover the many options they have.


All this, by the way, without getting into the moral and spiritual concerns that serious Jews, Catholics, Protestants, LDS, and Muslims have about the "officially Godless" schools. That information is plentiful in books such as Bruce Shortt's "The Harsh Truth about Publics Schools." Rev. E. Ray Moore's "Let My Children Go," and Douglas Wilson's "Excused Absence: Should Christian Kids Leave Public Schools?"


But Turtel's book has a "sin of omission" that allows the reader to infer that he might support vouchers, and for this I must deduct a star.


In private discussion with Mr. Turtel, he told me that he limited his complaint about vouchers being "too little, too late" to help parents who are concerned about their children right now to avoid pinning their hopes on the voucher. Fair enough.


But by failing to express his condemnation of the tax-funded school voucher as a societal solution to the public school mess, he inadvertently allows the reader to fall into a booby trap: Get his children out now, but go ahead and work politically for vouchers.


He sent me an email with permission to include it in this review. Here is a relevant excerpt: 

"In talking about vouchers from this practical point of view, I did not go into my views on vouchers in a larger political context. Also, by making this practical argument, some readers might assume that I would approve of vouchers if they were immediately available to all children. 

"I want to clarify here that I would not approve of a federal, state, or even local voucher. My main objection to vouchers is that in the end, they would turn private schools into public schools, and parents would be even worse off than they are now in terms of school choice. 

"It is government control of education that has created the public-school fiasco we see today. If private schools took government voucher money, then government bureaucrats would soon be dictating how private schools should educate children. 

"After government regulators smothered the independence of private schools, the quality of education in private schools would soon be dumbed-down to the level of today's public schools. Once private schools became like today's public schools, then parents would really have no school choice. Then if parents wanted to give their child a decent education, their only escape hatch would be to homeschool, assuming it wouldn't be outlawed as it is in Germany."



How Firm a Foundation

by Marcus Grodi


˜˜˜˜˜  Suffering... fruit... negative reviews... mercy re. typos, October 31, 2005


The 12 reviews written prior to mine are so complete and so reflect my thoughts that it took a while to think of something to add. Let me share three:


1) Suffering... Years ago I gained much from Peter Kreeft's "Making Sense of Suffering," but somehow that was amplified or confirmed in the few pages where Father Bourquet explains the Catholic view. Worth the price of admission by itself.


2) Sweet spirit... Because I have been involved in paradigm challenging sales for 40 years (starting with "word processing" years before it even had that name), it has become more than a hobby of mine to study conversion literature both in technical areas as well as religious. As is common in Catholic apologetics to audiences ranging from Protestants to Pagans, from Atheists to Jews, or from Mormons to Muslims, Grodi's "How Firm a Foundation" has the sweet fragrance of the "fruit of the Holy Spirit." Hooray for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!


3) No negative reviews yet ... Not a single negative review has popped up yet. Karl Keating's 1988 "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" has had 17 years to attract 123 reviews, of which 9 are "one star." Compare to this book's three years. Maybe these will come as the book grows in influence. I find it instructive to note in such negative reviews whether the above listed gifts are evident or not. (Please read them on Keating's book and come to your own conclusions.)


Oh! On the issue of typos. I find them so offensive that I fear I shall never write a book for fear of a typo slipping through. While they can be evidence of poor scholarship, they are not proof, so I'll give Marcus the mercy I'll want someday for myslef.



Old New Zealand and Other Writings (The Literature of Travel, Exploration and Empire)

by Frederick Edward Maning


˜˜˜˜˜  Shows incredible depravity of a pre-Christian society, October 1, 2005


Old New Zealand put legs under two opinions I've gained in the last ten years or so: 1) many pre-Christian societies were incredibly savage and no Westerner would want to live among them w/o the incentives of Christian missionary work or mistreating them by enslavement or unfair trading practices; 2) most moderns have idealized the "noble savage" by ignoring the "nasty, brutish, and short" aspects of their lives.


I reached conclusion #1 by reading of the savagery, cannibalism, or both in pre-Christian Rome and Greece, Ireland, Germany, Vikings, Fiji, Tasmania, Mexico (Aztec), Peru (Inca), and America (our word "cannibal" comes from the word for the Carib Indians). Try reading the Mohawk treatment of Isaac Jogues or the Auca treatment of Jim Eliot for a peek at the "noble savage."


Maning's experience and sympathetic writing of the "good old times" of the Maori culture stretches the mind to wonder just how anybody could live they way they did, and how any modern could possibly kvetch at Christian missionaries "for not respecting native customs."


How many murders of innocent children is the "right number" that the missionaries should have approved? How much foot-binding in China is good? How many widows should be burned in India with "Suttee?" How many people are the right number to have their hearts cut out while still alive to make sure the sun will rise in Mexico? (Does the Modern really believe that number is above zero? What if HE is the one?) Is Cortez really to be despised for putting an end to the ritual murder (and consumption) of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of innocent people each year?


If Maning put legs under my respect for Christians who brought the concepts of mercy and justice to benighted people, the review by Jacques Coulardeau put a centipede's legs under my belief that moderns---in their general rejection of Christianity, especially Catholicism---have let their animus blind themselves to a simple reading of history.


Of course I've heard the claim that more people have been killed in the name of religion than all other causes. And, if one will agree that Communism is a religion (answering man's deepest questions), albeit a godless religion, than I must agree. The Communists certainly killed more people in the 20th Century than all the "religious wars" of the prior 1.9 millennia.


Back to Coulardeau. He writes, "With the musket everything changed. It was necessary, for it being used in best conditions, for the Maoris to move their forts and villages to the lowlands. This made them live in swamps, in very unhealthy territories. Their wars were changed, some of their customs were also changed and their habitat was changed. This last element caused the propagation of serious diseases among the population, causing its reduction over a few decades. This book is thus a perfect testimony about the changes colonialization brought to those populations, those people who some like to describe as primitive."


Well, yes and no. What Coulardeau left out is that Maning described the need to move from the forts on the hills to the swamps near their crops was their survival need to get muskets, and they way they could get trade goods was from their farms (e.g., growing flax). What Coulardeau leaves out is the sad reason they needed muskets to defend themselves is that in this "primitive" (nay, let's call it SAVAGE) society. That sad reason is that they believed "might made right."


Simply put, pre-Christian Maoris considered quite OK, even admirable, for any man or group to murder and pillage any other man or group if strong enough to pull it off.


Viking raiders had the same opinion when they "went shopping" in England. In their society, it was morally right to swoop in, kill and plunder those who had eked out a living on the land. Imagine the Hatfields and McCoys running total amuck with revenge, murder, and even eating each other. Would any Modern admire THAT as a wee cultural pecadillo?


Today's Maori do not live in constant dread of an individual or marauding gang appearing at any time holding the belief that they have every right to "harvest" the possessions and even the flesh of their neighbors.


We Americans so respect the caribou that migrate twice each season for their economic benefit that we built parts of the Alaskan pipeline underground to preserve their travel patterns.


Cannot we extend to the English a similar respect vis a vis Australia or New Zealand? French, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Scots, English, Italians, Germans, Russians, Norse, Greeks, Pakistanis, Sihks, Gujratis, and Mexicans who move to the USA? Or Americans themselves, such as Daniel Boone, who moved "out west" to have a little more room, or Mormons who moved for a more peaceful clime than Nauvoo, Ill.?


I think we should respect them when they did it peacefully. When they acted like Hitler looking for "lebensraum" or Maoris looking for plunder, we must chasten them. Why? Because they are not being "good Christians." The best Christians, e.g. Jogues and Elliot, were utterly peaceful. Cortez and many others fell short, yes, of the CHRISTIAN ideal. The Maoris, however, had no such ideals.


In modern times, nobody ever say Stalin was a "bad atheist." You might call him a "bad man," but when you do you're smuggling in from Christianity your very definition of good and bad.


Modernists! Admit your source for your belief in right and wrong: It emerged from Christianity not pond slime.



The Hunt for Confederate Gold

by Thomas Moore


˜˜˜˜˜  From smugness to admiration, September 29, 2005


The Amazon "book description" is spot on, so this review won't rehash what "Hunt for Confederate Gold" is all about. Instead, I'll try to compare Thomas Moore to what I like in some other mystery writers, then end with something I hope is a little deeper:


Dorothy Sayers' gives us the pleasure of sweet writing with "Lord Peter Whimsy." So does Moore.


John LeCarre gives us complex intrigue and plausible characters. So does Moore.


Alan Furst gives us insights into a difficult period. So does Moore.


Tom Clancy gives us page-turning frenzy with Jack Ryan and his challenges. So does Moore.


Thomas Moore then does more: He presents the "Fellowship of the South" so effectively that one can experience the joy of conventional wisdom being punctured.


I was born and raised Yankee, albeit in California, and in my civil rights activist days in the 60s and 70s, enjoyed the smugness of looking down on Southerners. But I experienced Southerners personally in the 80s and 90s and lost my Yankee hubris.


While we need no Jim Crow, moderation with Jim Beam, we need bushels of Jim Honor, Jim Loyalty, and Jim Truth. Southerners have something good for all Americans. Tom Moore can help you find it.



Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So

by Jay P. Greene


˜˜˜˜  Good analysis, wrong solution, September 6, 2005


Jay Greene is at his best when he is exposing the falsehoods that have become conventional wisdom about "public schools." I wish I could say the same about his proposed solutions.


What so many education reformers miss is that "public schools" are socialism.


That is, they are owned and administrated by government bodies. True, it is democratic socialism in that we get to vote for governors, state and local legislators, and school-board members.


But socialism doesn't work very well. The incentives are mis-aligned for its employees and because schools districts can't really go out of business, they need not listen very well to consumer requests and serve them well.


Proposed solutions that take operation of the schools away from government will change a lot of rhetoric about involving market forces and may even provide a temporary flurry of seeming improvement.


But in the long run, tax-funded school vouchers are just Mussolini redux: Private school operation with democratic socialism for school content, attendance, and financing. "Free-market words hung on socialist grammar" is the quip of a friend of mine.


So, what is the right solution for America's education woes? It's simple but difficult: We must separate schooooools from the state.


Yes, free-market schooling.


We don't let the government run Sunday school. In a truly free country, the same is true for Monday school, Tuesday School, Wednesday school, et cetera.


Just Google "Separation of School and State" to discover a growing movement in this direction.


PS: In the interest of full disclosure, let me confess that this is a provisional review based on my knowledge of Jay's work and discussions with him. I expect to write a more detailed review, likely complimenting most or all of his myth-busting chapters, when I have completed reading the book.



How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

by Thomas E. Woods Jr


˜˜˜˜˜  Woods ups the price of being anti-Catholic, June 12, 2005


Much of today's anti-Catholicism is rooted in deep and wide ignorance of just what Catholics have done in the last 2000 years.


Thomas Woods' thorough research, winsome writing style, and his use of many non-Catholic sources lowers the cost of learning the facts of the many benefits of Catholicism.


By lowering the cost of the time it takes to learn the truths of how our culture came to be, Woods has increased the cost of remaining anti-Catholic.


Be warned, however, this is not an "apologetics" book.


Woods has not a single sentence of evidence that Catholic theology, or even general Christian theology might be true. No defense of the Fall of Man, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the authenticity of the Bible, the Trinity, Papal Infallibility, etc.


Hence it is perfectly safe for the Protestant, Jew, Muslim, agnostic or atheist to read this book without having an iota of his religious views challenged. Indeed, the book might have been aptly subtitled, "Mere History."


Other reviewers have given ample testimony to the specifics of the book, so I'll give just two of my favorites: The Catholic scholarship on the development of natural rights in the 13-14th centuries; and the Catholic work in jurisprudence that earned that concept its two final syllables.



Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians

by Jeffrey Burton Russell


˜˜˜˜˜  Odd tidbits in Dave Bills review, March 29, 2005


Imagine my surprise when one of my heroes, Jeffrey Burton Russell, was savaged in an ostensibly erudite review by Dave Bills (April 4, 2002). At first, he seemed to know what he was talking about.


Then I noticed the little signs of poor scholarship:


Misspelling Russell's last name both times he used it.

Referring to Russell as a theologian, not a historian, when Amazon itself describes him as a Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, something a bit of Googling could easily confirm.


Speaking of Googling, that was my next step: Rather than wade through tons of stuff on St. Cyril or St. Boniface, I Googled the more obscure Cecco d'Ascoli. Ah! Only 802 hits! Won't take long!


And it didn't. I stopped after just two, Columbia Encyclopedia and some Brit who has a pretty sensible Faith and Reason website.


The encyclopedia's entire entry showed me that Dave Bills' review is not to be trusted: 

"1269?-1327, Italian astrologer, mathematician, poet, and physician, whose real name was Francesco degli Stabili, b. Ascoli. A teacher of astrology at several institutions in Italy, he was professor of mathematics and astrology at the Univ. of Bologna (1322-24). He was denounced as heretical largely because, in defending astrology against Dante's attack on it in the Divine Comedy, Cecco himself had accused the great poet of heresy; he was burned at the stake. His chief work was L'acerba, an allegorical didactic poem of encyclopedic range."

Then I read this from James Hannam, the aforementioned Brit., in a larger piece taking Andrew Dickson White to task: 

"In chapter 2, White informs us "In 1327 Cecco d'Ascoli, noted as an astronomer, was for this [the doctrine of antipodes] and other results of thought, which brought him under suspicion of sorcery, driven from his professorship at Bologna and burned alive at Florence." Cecco D'Ascoli was indeed burnt at the stake in 1327 in Florence. He is the only natural philosopher in the entire Middle Ages to pay this penalty and was executed for breaking parole after a previous trial when he had been convicted of heresy for, apparently, claiming Jesus Christ was subject to the stars. This is not enough for White who claims, entirely without foundation, that Cecco met his fate partly for the scientific view that the antipodes were inhabited as well as dishonestly calling him an `astronomer' rather than an `astrologer' to strengthen his scientific credentials."

Now while I encourage everyone to read White's "Fiat Money Inflation in France" (available via Amazon), I have found White much less trustworthy when writing on religious history than on economic history.


And it seems Dave Bills shares with White an extreme anti-Christian bias and he fails to fight the bias strongly enough to present us Amazon readers with truth.


I hope I have fought my pro-Christian bias sufficiently so that the information above will stand the scrutiny of my fellow users.



The Harsh Truth About Public Schools

by Bruce N. Shortt


˜˜˜˜˜  Harsh Truth About Bruce Short, January 22, 2005


I've known Bruce Shortt for several years. His critics, and there will be many in the education establishment when they catch wind of his book, will find the truth about Bruce hard to take: He is an excellent home schooling father; from what I can tell, an excellent husband; and he is certainly an honest researcher into the state of school-by-government in America today.


Unlike many who carp about "public schools," Bruce does not believe that if he and his pals could just get in charge that everything would be OK. He recognizes that the whole idea of having the government run schools makes as much sense as having government run factories, farms, insurance companies, etc.


His critique is not aimed at the PEOPLE in the system.


His critique is about the system itself---that "public schools" from the beginning were intended to reduce the role of the family and increase the role of government.


His purpose is not to advise on how to "fix the system."


His advice is to parents: Get your children out of the system! Home school them if you can. If that's not possible, find a private school where the textbooks, teachers, and other parents will be reinforcing what you and your spouse are teaching your children.



A Danger to the State: A Historical Novel

by Philip Trower


˜˜˜˜˜  Moved three words off my "queasy list", October 11, 2004


For years, my Queasy List (words or events that I know are important but don't know enough about to explain to an 8th-grader) included the "Enlightenment," the "Suppression of the Jesuits," and the Paraguay "Reductions."


Trower's "Danger to the State" moved all three to my Got It List. Plus, it's plenty good enough as a novel to keep me excited about the plot and the fate of the characters.


Since reading it, then stumbling across his monograph, "The Church Learned and the Revolt of the Scholars" (available by free download), and then speaking to him for a few minutes, I've come to believe he is as honest and fair a historian as one is likely to find.



Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition. (The Blood History Series)

by Simon Whitechapel


˜˜˜  Read both sides, please, August 2, 2003


If you want to read both sides of the Spanish Inquisition, (yes, there were some "pros" as well as "cons"), two excellent books are "Characters of the Inquisition" by William T. Walsh, and "Inquisition" by Edward Peters.


The Peters book is especially insightful (and delightful) because in the first half of the book he gives balanced history of the various inquisitions, and in the second half gives the history of how the history was exaggerated and falsified into our popular view of the Inquisition in the English speaking world.



Smell of Sawdust, The

by Richard J. Mouw


˜˜˜˜˜  Catholic gets better understanding of Fundamentalists, December 12, 2002


A very close friend, a Baptist and supporter of Fuller Seminary, lent me "The Smell of Sawdust." As an ardent Catholic, I read it with ready-to-be-offended Catholic radar. Never was. Indeed, his treatment of Fr. George Rutler was quite nice, and Rutler is a hero of mine. For professional as well as personal reasons, I like reading about the differences between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals. George Marsden's "Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism" is also very good.



The Red Horse: A Novel

by Eugenio Corti


˜˜˜˜˜  Chaste soldiers, December 5, 2002


In addition to agreeing with the compliments of other reviewers, let me add this: Most war books either depict unchaste soldiers or just don't have any sex. Corti, on the other hand, writes about chaste soldiers, chaste students, and husbands who keep their marriage vows. Apparantly, this was not uncommon in the northern part of Italy where he grew up in the 1920s and 30s. Amazing. And inspiring!!



Citadel of God: A Novel About Saint Benedict

by Louis De Wohl


˜˜˜˜˜  OSB still going after 1500 years, December 27, 2001


Until I read this gem by de Wohl, all I knew about St Benedict was that he founded a Catholic order of priests now known at the Benedictines. He certainly was close to God, and God must have inspired him to write his rules for living together. After 1,500 years, the Order of St Benedict is still operating.


The book got me interested in Theodoric, the Ostrogoths, and Boethius, and it's been fun reading about them on the Internet and seeing how well de Wohl knew his history.



The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey

by David R. Henderson


˜˜˜˜˜  Henderson rivals Hazlitt !, December 19, 2001


In the mid-80s, I took a casual poll of free market leaders: What are the top-five free-market books for a novice to read?


Every one of them put Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" on his or her list, typically at the top.


If I were to repeat the poll now, I suspect Hazlitt's classic will have a contender for first place, my friend David Henderson's "The Joy of Freedom."


Henderson seduces the reader with his personal stories, like why as a college kid in Canada he resigned from a great summer job measuring trees. His stories are so much fun to read that learning economics kinda sneaks up on you.


Indeed, it's Henderson's charm that is the anti-dote for what von Mises called the "Anti-Capitalist Mentality." (BTW, Mises' book of that title was on many 'top-five' lists, and Bastiat's "The Law" was on every list.)


You'll want an extra copy or two of "Joy of Freedom" for lending to friends who do not share your love of freedom, especially those who will even argue about its meaning.



Life Is a Blessing: A Biography of Jerome Lejeune-Geneticist, Doctor, Father

by Clara Lejeune


˜˜˜˜˜  Made me weep, several times, August 3, 2001

On impulse, I bought this book for a son-in-law who is a research scientist in immunology. I snuck in a read before I mailed it, and I was enthralled.


Being more of a logical than an emotional mind, I too rarely shed tears when reading a book. But in the case of Jerome Lejeune, his daughter Clara so captures the love and courage of the man, that I tear up again now as I write this review. The only other book I can remember affecting me this way is Henri Gheon's biography of the Cure d'Ars.


Now I must buy a second copy of the book to give to a long lost friend, a man who loved his Down Syndrome daughter. Bill is not of a theistic mind, and maybe this is the book he needs to encounter the love of God.



Cleaving Of Christendom: History Of Christendom Vol 4

by Warren H. Carroll


˜˜˜˜  We need to read both sides of "The Reformation", February 20, 2001


Warren Carroll presents the "Cleaving of Christendom" in the 16th and 17th centuries from an ardently Catholic position. He makes this quite clear in the introduction and in his style of writing. It is refreshing because, even with ten years of Catholic schooling, I suspect that over the years I have absorbed a highly Protestant view of this period. Now I am reading both Protestant and Catholic histories to help get some balance. For those who want a smaller dose of a Catholic history of the period, Hilaire Belloc's "How the Reformation Happened" or his "The Great Heresies" are excellent. On the Protestant side, I am starting with Alistar McGrath's "Reformation Thought." ---- With sadness, I had to downsize Dr. Carroll's book to four stars because of the poor proofreading. Maybe I shouldn't because he became seriously ill just as he finished this volume and we are blessed to have the volume at all! (PS-- as this is written, he is healing well and is back to teaching and writing.)



Characters of the Inquisition (1053)

by William Thomas Walsh


˜˜˜˜˜  Also should read Edward Peters' book, August 2, 2000


In addition to the Walsh book, one should also read Edward Peters' "The Inquisition." Peters is a historian at Univ. Penn., and I believe not a Catholic. His book traces the actual Inquisitions for about half the book, and then the fun begins! He shows how over the centuries, the actual Inquistion became what he calls the Myth of the Inquisition, i.e., the exaggerations and falsehoods we commonly believe today. For more information, read the reviews of the Peters book on


Characters of the Inquisition (1053)

by William Thomas Walsh


˜˜˜˜˜  Eye-opening, reasoned history of the Holy Inquisition, September 7, 1999

If all you have ever read about the Inquisition has been from Protestant, Deist, agnostic, and other non-Catholic authors, you have heard only one side of the story. Walsh gives a completely different sense of the Inquisition, including Torquemada. If you have got an open mind, this is the book for you.




by Edward Peters


˜˜˜˜˜  Convincing, especially after reading Wm Walsh, August 2, 2000


My introduction to the notion that most of us believe a lot of exaggerations and falsehoods about "the Inquisition" was William Walsh's book, "Characters of the Inquisition." Walsh was an ardent Catholic and a great admirer of Queen Isabella.


As a novice reader on the Inquisition, I had little way to gauge how serious might be his bias. Then, along came Edward Peters! His book is hardly a whitewash of the goal of a confessional state (everybody believes in the same religion or you leave), nor of the methods used in Spain and other places to try to enforce this. But it does give us 20th Century folks a clearer picture of 15th and 16th Century thinking that heresy was treason, and treason then like today was a serious crime against the state.


After giving facts of the inquisitions, Peters uses the second half of the book to describe how the facts of the inquisitions got exaggerated and embellished with falsehoods over the centuries, eventually becoming what he calls the "Myth of the Inquisition."


After reading Peters, I can even more enthusiastically recommend Walsh.


--- One chapter I would have like to have seen in Peters is a review of inquisitions done by Protestants in Geneva, Germany, and England, including the Witch Hunts. It would be good to have something to compare to the Spanish, Portuguese, Romans and Venetians.



Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

by John Gatto


˜˜˜˜˜  Makes sense if you suspected something was wrong with school, January 22, 2000


If you loved school, if you never stared at the clock and wondered why it didn't move faster, if you liked all the regimented learning, you will not like this book. But for the rest of us, FINALLY a school teacher admits what he was doing to us.



Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism

by Paul C. Vitz


˜˜˜˜˜  Vitz uses pre-modern approach: evidence, January 20, 2000


Nietzche asked what psychological motivations lead people to accept religious views. Vitz returns the favor by exploring the relationship of atheists and their fathers. He floats the thesis that a defective or absent father can be a major factor to predispose an especially bright person to atheism, the ultimate rejection of a father figure. This book ranks with "Curing Atheism" by Cardinal Gibbons as one of the must-reads on the subject of atheism.



Far from Rome, Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Roman Catholic Priests

by Richard Bennett


˜  Priests finally find God, May 24, 1999


Many an evangelical Protestant has been surprised when a long term member of their church "comes forward" and gives his heart to Jesus. Perhaps the person was an usher, elder, or soloist in the choir. One can be sad that they pretended for so long, and yet glad that they finally got the plot. . . .It appears that these Catholic priests never found Christ in the Catholic Church. That was unfortunate, and we are all blessed that they found Christ in a Protestant church. But the fact that the Catholic church has unbelievers in its midst, even in its clergy, in no way diminishes its claim to be the true church, the church that Christ initiated. . . . A reader of this book would benefit from reading some of the conversion stories of Protestants **who knew Christ** and through much study and prayer discovered that the Catholic Church is His church. Some good titles are "Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic," "Surprised by Truth," "Rome Sweet Home," "Crossing the Tiber," "By What Authority," and "Where We Got the Bible." The reader will be struck by how good Christians became better Christians by joining His church.



Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic

by David B. Currie


˜˜˜˜˜  Liked it so much I bought 20 copies., May 19, 1999


David Currie is gentle toward his fundamentalist forebears. You can see the fruits of the spirit as he appreciates what he learned about Christ as a Prostestant. My favorite sentence is when he recalls a professor at Gordon Conwell who remarked that Christians have done their best evangelism when Protestant-Catholic animosities are at a low ebb. Maybe we're getting close to some MAJOR evangelism in the next decade or two?



Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families

by Sheldon Richman


˜˜˜˜˜  Shows how government schooling harmful to society., October 4, 1997


The author traces the ignoble history of imposed schooling from Sparta, through Prussia, to the United States. He makes a compelling case for why schooling should not be funded, compelled, and defined by the state.


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