IPFS Menckens Ghost

More About: Books

Fascinating Facts

Of the many non-fiction books that I have read over the last year, several in particular contain fascinating facts that challenge the conventional wisdom and propaganda from the media, academia, the government, and the two political parties. Sample facts are presented herein for your reading enjoyment. 


The books are as follows.  Scroll down to the one that perks your interest for the corresponding facts.


- On Saudi Arabia

- Civilization:  the West and the Rest

- This Time Is Different:  Eight Centuries of Financial Folly

- Reckless Endangerment

- Mussolini’s Italy:  Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915 - 1945

- In the Garden of Beasts


Warning: Some of the information below is not politically-correct, is counter to what is taught in high schools and colleges about multiculturalism and other subjects, and is an indictment of both political parties.  If you’ve been brainwashed in high school or college, or by the two parties, you run the risk of your brain catching on fire.


On Saudi Arabia, by Karen Elliott House, 2012


The book describes daily life in Saudi Arabia and provides an overview of the country’s history. Because of the realpolitik of oil, Americans are tied to a disgusting country and in bed with creeps and religious nut jobs.  To wit: 


Slavery didn’t end in Saudi Arabia until 1962.  (Note to today’s uneducated high school and college students:  That is about a century after it ended in the evil United States.)


The founding king of modern Saudi Arabia, Adul Aziz, who ruled until his death in 1953, fathered 44 sons by 22 wives.  It is estimated that he had brief marriages for political purposes to nearly 300 women over his lifetime.  This makes bigamist Warren Jeffs look like an amateur.


Such sexual proficiency has resulted in the Saudi government and economy being controlled by 7,000 princes from the Al Saud family.  They live in huge walled compounds, some as large as city blocks and often in the middle of squalid slums.


Due to the Saudi welfare state, most Saudis are lazy, apathetic, and reliant on low-paid immigrants to do the work that they think is beneath them.  The result is widespread poverty, stagnant per-capita income, and a moribund economy.  Sound familiar?


As an example of the horrors of religious extremism, 14 middle school girls burned to death in 2002 when the religious police wouldn’t let them escape their burning school because they were unveiled.


Most Americans probably know that three-fourths of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was from a prosperous Saudi family, that the most virulent and medieval strain of Islam, Wahhabi Islam, emanated from Saudi Arabia, and that, in the most convoluted logic ever in foreign affairs, the USA invaded Iraq for the sins of Saudi Arabia, thus removing a Sunni counterbalance to Shiite Iran, which, ironically, is now an even bigger threat to Saudi Arabia.


Most Americans probably don’t know that Saudi Arabia didn’t stop the funding of terrorists until the nation itself became a terrorist target.  The Saudi government responded to internal terrorists with massive force, killing hundreds and imprisoning thousands, most without any due process.


If you wonder why colleges tiptoe around the truth about Saudi Arabia and its brand of Islam, the reason is that hundreds of thousands of Saudis have attended American universities, and tens of thousands are currently enrolled, paying full tuition and thus providing a steady revenue stream.


Civilization:  the West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson, 2011


A noted Anglophile and historian, Ferguson makes a case for Western civilization.  For example:


Regarding  Eurocentrism:  “Those who decry ‘Eurocentrism’ as if it were some distasteful prejudice have a problem:  the Scientific Revolution was, by any scientific measure, wholly Eurocentric.  An astonishingly high proportion of the key figures--around 80 percent--originated in a hexagon bounded by Glasgow, Copenhagen, Krakow, Naples, Marseille and Plymouth, and nearly all the rest were born within a hundred miles of that area.”


A footnote about Jews raises the uncomfortable question of whether some cultures and races are indeed superior.  Although Jews account for only about 0.2% of the world’s population and 2% of the American population, over the 20th century they won 22% of all Nobel Prizes, 20% of all Fields Medals for mathematics, 67% of the John Clarke Bates Medals for economists under the age of 40, 20% of Pulitzer Prizes for non-fiction, and 38% of the Oscars for Best Director.


China was not economically superior to the West prior to the Industrial Revolution, as many believe.  In 1600, for example, Britain’s per-capita GDP was 60% higher than China’s.


This Time Is Different:  Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carment M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009


The recent banking and financial crisis experienced by the United States is nothing new.  In fact, such crises have been a fairly common occurrence in developed countries. 


History shows that it can take years for a nation to recover from such a crisis, including for housing prices to recover.  Moreover, there is usually a huge surge in government debt following a crisis, about an 86% increase on average. 


The obvious warning signs are ignored with each looming crisis, because experts claim that “this time is different.”  It was the same with Federal Reserve chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, who didn’t see that rapidly rising asset prices (especially home prices), slowing real economic activity, large current account deficits, and sustained buildups in private and public debt were precursors to a financial crisis.


The experts even dismissed that there was a bubble in housing, although it was as obvious as a three-inch zit on the nose of a teenager.  Between 1996 and the peak of 2006, home prices skyrocketed by about 92% in inflation-adjusted dollars, or more than three times the 27% cumulative increase over the 106 years between 1890 and 1996.  “This time was different,” the experts said.


Reckless Endangerment, by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, 2011


The book details how the housing bust and financial crisis resulted from the cronyism and corporatism between banks, mortgage companies, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, regulators, AND POLITICIANS OF BOTH PARTIES. (Or was it fascism, in the true meaning of the word? See the next book.)


Paul Pelosi Jr., the son of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), had worked as a mortgage broker and sales manager for Countrywide Financial, the disreputable and discredited mortgage company.


Those getting politically connected loans from Countrywide included Richard Holbrooke, Barbara Boxer, Donna Shalala, and Alfonso Jackson.


Robert T. Parry, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, served as a director on Countrywide’s board.  By 2007, he was receiving over a half-million dollars a year in board compensation.  (The book Too Big to Fail says that Rahm Emmanuel was a board member of Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprise that was an enabler of Countrywide.)


Tim Stewart, a legislative aide to former Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT), had run the Salt Lake City office of Fannie Mae.  Bennett’s son Rob also had worked in the office. 


It was a similar story in South Dakota, where an aide to Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle had run Fannie’s office there.


Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) not only had secured a position for one of his aides at Fannie’s headquarters in Washington, but he also praised the company at a Fannie function in Atlanta in 1995:  “Fannie Mae is an excellent example of a former government institution fulfilling its mandate while functioning in the market economy.”  (Fannie was not a “former” institution.)


One of Fannie’s most rabid supporters, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), had secured a position at Fannie for his gay partner, Herb Moses.  Working there for seven years, Moses rose to the position of assistant director for product initiatives.  Two of the initiatives were to relax standards on home improvement loans and mortgages for small farms.


Even Frank’s mother got some of Fannie’s largess.  A Boston nonprofit group she co-founded was given $75,000 in grants by Fannie, and was also awarded the “Fannie Mae Maxwell Award of Excellence.”


Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) spoke at the opening of a Fannie office in Kansas City:  “Fannie Mae is committed to making the nation’s mortgage finance system work better for the people of Kansas City.  I look forward to seeing thousands of families rewarded with new housing opportunities through this partnership.”


In 1997, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the director of HUD, he encouraged Fannie and Freddie to buy more subprime mortgages:  “GSE presence in the subprime market could be of significant benefit to lower-income families, minorities, and families living in underserved areas.”


William Daley, former chief of staff in the Obama White House, was on Fannie’s board during the 1990s.


New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney topped all of them in poor judgment.  At a congressional hearing she praised Fannie for “revolutionizing home ownership” and then asked why the GSE structure couldn’t be brought to childcare by giving Fannie and Freddie the authority to buy “childcare facility mortgages.”


And the chutzpa award goes to former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who co-sponsored with Barney Frank the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  This is the same Chris Dodd who was a protector of Fannie while in office and wanted every ne’er-do-well in America to be given a mortgage.  Equally amazing, after he left office, the Motion Picture Association of America hired him as its president.


Mussolini’s Italy:  Life under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915 - 1945, by R. J. B. Bosworth, 2005


Mussolini’s dictatorship was deeply corrupt.  “Under Fascism, patron-client ties flourished and the special personal reference or raccomandazione was a necessary part of life.”  Sound familiar?  It should, given that it resembles what is detailed above about the American housing market.  


Due to corporatism (aka the corporate state) in Fascist Italy, the government tried to penetrate every business.  Giuseppe Bottai, the head of the Ministry of Corporations, said that the party, “which is the principle and instrument of political unity, and the Corporation, which is the means of social economic unity, are what inspire our drive towards power.” 


In 1933, the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (Institute for the Reconstruction of Industry, IRI) was established.  It sounds like something from FDR’s administration or Obama’s administration.  It bailed out Italian banks, took over Italian car maker Alfa Romeo, and appointed managers over large swaths of the economy.


Businesses got so used to being protected from competition that the IRI continued to exist after Mussolini was hanged and the Second World War ended.


See if this quote reminds you of a charismatic politician of today:  “Economic life doubtless had its special style and rhythms but conditioning all activity in Fascist Italy was charisma.  The spell-binding power which allegedly emanated for Mussolini, the infallible, numinous, ubiquitous, transcendent and, by the later 1930s, every more bellicose dictator, meant that rationality could never dominate thought for too long.  The longer the regime lasted, the more its hired pens pumped out an endless stream of words, which mattered, or were said to matter, more than any facts.”


The founder of Montessori schools, Maria Montessori, was an early enthusiast of Fascism.  She made Mussolini an honorary president of the Montessori school organization in Rome in 1924.


In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson, 2011


This book is different from the foregoing books, in that it does not have a lot of facts for listing here.  I include it because it is one of the most insightful books on the nature of humans and nation states. 


It reads like a novel but is a true story.  It is the story of the experiences of Ambassador William E. Dodd and his family in 1933 in Germany, the year that Hitler took complete control over Germany.


Dodd was appointed by FDR in spite of being a college professor and not a party notable, campaign contributor, or State Department veteran.  As such, the old guard took an immediate dislike to him and began trying to undermine him.


He quickly saw the Nazi regime for what it was.  Most of the rest of the State Department and American media did not see it.  Nor did his daughter Martha, who was 24 years old at the time.


Martha came across to her friends as literate, cultured, open-minded, sophisticated, intelligent, and somewhat avant-garde.  She resembled today’s stereotypical humanities graduate from the Ivy League.  In reality, she was naïve, gullible, promiscuous, and flighty.  She thought that the rumors about the Third Reich were unfounded, enjoyed the embassy’s social events that were attended by Reich notables, was impressed by Hitler’s seeming economic miracle and the adoration given to him by the masses, and had an affair with a Soviet spy assigned to the Soviet embassy and another affair with a high-ranking official in the Gestapo.   She shrugged off the periodic Reich thuggery she saw on the street, thinking that it was the exception, not the rule.


She was, in my vernacular, a dumb-educated person.  The State Department and much of the administration were full of such people.  (Has anything changed over the years?)


When the evidence of the regime’s brutality became overwhelming, her opinions finally changed.  Her starry-eyed opinion of the Soviet Union--an opinion that many American intellectuals and administration bigwigs shared--also changed as a result of her taking a tour of Russia.  Expecting to find a workers’ paradise, she found a drab and weary land of primitive housing and almost a total lack of consumer goods, the result of peasants being forced into vast collectives and of an estimated five million men, women and children being consigned to work camps.


Disconcertingly, today’s United States is full of dumb-educated people like her, especially the elites in government, media and academia.



Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at ccan2@aol.com.