Debussy Edition

The Debussy Edition, published by Deutsche Grammophon ★★★★★
Debussy was a brutally nationalistic composer, enraged by the German tradition, and wishing to knock German music off its feet. In the end, Debussy’s gift to the world was the invention of elevator music, soft, impressionistic, flowing music, which provides moods more than statements. I’ll prefer the Germans. I like music at least to say something, in addition to providing a mood. This set is rated highly for several reasons. 1. It’s a bargain. From Amazon.com, it’s slightly more than $2/disc. 2. The performances are superlative, very well expressed, with flawless recording. It’s enjoyable music but is best suited for the background of an elevator.

Tyranny Busters

Tyranny Busters: The Sham and Shame of the Federal Income Tax, by Michael Benoit ★★★★
Michael Benoit sent this book to me a few months ago, and I finally found some time to read it. He is from California, has run for political office a few times in the past, and remains politically active. Benoit discusses the nature of the difference between direct and indirect taxes (since the constitution defines them as different!). Benoit struggles with the income tax, determining how it can legally be a graduated tax, since direct taxes much be apportioned equally as according to the constitution. He also struggles with trying to define if the law really does say that he needs to pay an income tax.
This is a wonderful book that was educational in many regards to me. I don’t consider it particularly fun struggling with the nature of tax law. Benoit does it quite capably, yet is cautious in his recommendations. I presume that he has a grasp on the rogue, un-constitutional nature of the IRS. His main education in this regard has come from Otto Skinner, who seems to be attacked viciously by the group called Quatloos!, found on www.quatlosers.com. The only argument Quatloos seems to make against Skinner is that it is obvious that all people need to pay taxes and everybody knows that. Actually, the Quatloos argument is self-defeating, since a substantial portion of our population, the 50% “poor” and the filthy rich (George Soros, etc.), pay almost no tax. It seems like some people “know” that you can avoid taxes, or not be legally responsible for paying them.
I defer to my brother’s attempt to define the US tax code. Multiple letters to the IRS were never responded to asking for specific clarification of tax law. Perhaps Quatloos needs to speak with the IRS and inform them as to the precise nature of the tax code. My brother depended mostly on the writings and advice of tax and constitutional lawyers Larry Becraft and Edwin Vieira, who seem to have a grasp at the true morass of our tax system. It is difficult to imagine our current system lasting much longer before the system breaks, leaving us either under anarchy and a new revolution or under a Stalinist-style police state. I’m grateful for those like Benoit with the courage to speak out and attempt to fix the system before it fixes us.

The Law

The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat ★★★★★
Frederic Bastiat was a Frenchman that lived from 1800-1850 and has been heavily influential on many economists and politicians since then, including our own Ron Paul. This book was sent to me by Michael Benoit. There is no better way to review this book than to provide for a series of quotes, either from him or, one that would have been from him if he was still living.

Bastiat6
Bastiat7
Bastiat5
Bastiat3

Bastiat1
Bastiat4
I recommend without reservation reading The Law. It is a wonderful polemic against socialism and statism, with lessons that all Americans should learn, before they try to persuade themselves and others that we live in a free country.

From the Rosetta Stone to the US Tax Code

From the Rosetta Stone to the US Tax Code: The History of Taxation. A Seminar with Charles Adams ★★★★★
This is a series of 10 lectures in 14 hours that Charles Adams delivered for the von Mises Institute. Charles Adams was a young lawyer when he inadvertently became involved in his undesired rise to fame as a tax lawyer. Adams eventually wrote a book on tax law which had difficulty being published but eventually caught the eye of certain people high in politics, leading him to further fame. He is strongly libertarian, though he is unwilling to claim that it is rational to expect eliminating taxes altogether. Adams successfully shows how much of the events that shaped the world, such as major wars and revolutions, and even things such as the Rosetta Stone, revolved around the issue of taxes. He is the first to persuade me that the Civil War probably had more to do with uneven distribution of taxes than issues of slavery or state rights. There are many gems throughout. An example is his emphasis that a graduated income tax is a misnomer, which should be called income extortion since all graduated “taxes” are in reality extortions. He was also able to show how graduated taxes were a major source of political instability, the cause of social class instability, and ultimately the instability of the state. Adams lectures in a  casual style, very relaxed, telling many anecdotes about his own personal history with rogue internal revenue agents, mostly in terms of fighting for his clients. The lectures are slightly disorganized, and they don’t fit neatly with the titles that they were labeled with.
A few people who will have read to here will still think that the state is your friend and looking after your best interest. Perhaps so, but definitely not the United States. He shows how US tax laws have some unique differences from any other tax law in the world. He rightfully identifies the IRS as worse than the Gestapo, since the IRS has certainly way outdone the Gestapo on spying on US citizens, knowing their every move and every dollar spent. Yet, they are also able to persuade the masses that they are an impartial and benign entity. Recent IRS news shows us just the opposite. I didn’t realize it that every country in the world taxes people as residents and not as citizens: this implies that US citizens are the ONLY people in the world who are supposed to be taxed even though they no longer live in the United States. Adams ends by showing how 8 simple laws can help bring sense back to taxation. The laws aren’t what you think they’d be. The first is to end government spying on American citizens’ cash flow. He strongly recommends an emphasis on indirect taxes, with direct taxes being apportioned evenly throughout the population (e.g., a flat-rate income tax, everybody pays, and all pay the exact same percent) as has been stated so clearly in the US constitution.
This lecture series can be obtained for cheap from the von Mises Institute website and is highly worth it.

Harvey Cliburn

Van Cliburn Complete Recordings, performed by Harvey Lavan Cliburn ★★★★
Harvey Cliburn had a somewhat short but monumental career as a concert pianist, coming into the world limelight after winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war. He went into complete obscurity after the death of his parents, making news on occasion only when performing for presidents or having problems with his gay live-in partners. Harvey “Van Cliburn” is known for his melodic sing-songy type interpretations of the classics, having been trained by his mother to sing along with his piano playing. These recordings are quite well done, and the performances have nothing to criticize. This edition is 28 CDs, but under 22 hours in total recording, in that many of the original issue CDs include only one concerto of under a half-hour duration, whereas most CDs will tend to fill up the 72 or more minutes that could be placed on a disc. Thus, this collection is not a tremendous bargain except for the collector who happens to like Harvey Cliburn.

Tulev: Songs

Songs: Tulev, performed by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with Paul Hillier ★★★★
I recently reviewed a CD titled “Baltic Voices 3”. This CD, while being choral music, fits into a similar genre, as would be expected for a Baltic composer. This CD is equally delightful to hear. Contemporary Baltic Classical music is not for everybody. One must listen a few times to grasp the stylistic differences. The music is not unapproachable, as is the case with much contemporary western classical music. This CD wonderfully represents good music coming out of the Baltic states.

ESV

The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, by God ★★★★★
It isn’t fair rating the Bible. The Bible rates us, and not the other way around. The rating is more for the translation. I have an unfair prejudice in that I happen to personally know a number of people involved in the translation, but I really didn’t let that cloud my opinion. It was my first complete read-through in electronic format, reading the ESV on my iPad through the Olive Tree program.
I used to read the bible through on a yearly basis. Then, peripheral reading became important, and now I’m back. I actually started re-reading the ESV in November of last year, so this was a less than 1/2 of year read. I learn something new every time I make it through the Bible, so I am constantly realizing how much I need to spend daily time in God’s word.
My next read will also be in the ESV translation, but I’ll be using Jim Price’s program to help me through. Jim studied physics at UCLA, eventually became highly successful in business, and has written a program called “Reading Plan” as an iPod app. He is now an elder in our church. It’s nice in that his program connects with most electronic bible versions, and has a vast assortment of reading programs for getting through the bible in a year. I plan on doing the Mc’Cheyne plan next, as it puts you through Psalms/Proverbs and the New Testament twice in the year.

Baltic Voices 3

Baltic Voices 3; performed by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier ★★★★
This is a hodge-podge of music written by contemporary classical style composers, including Górecki and others. The CD is now the third in a series (so far) of three discs, the first two not being immediately available. I love the modern eastern block compositions as representing original styles yet pleasing to the listening ear, not as harsh or weird as contemporary western composers and their atonal or experimental music. Hillier does a masterful job of conducting. This will probably not make anyone’s top 10 list, yet is a delightful addition to the classical repertoire.

Weber: Violin Sonatas

Carl Maria von Weber: Sonatas for piano & violin, piano quartet, performed by Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, et. al. ★★★★
This is a delightful CD of chamber music written by von Weber, best known for the opera Der Freischutz. The music is unfamiliar to me but fits the style contemporary for von Weber. The performance is superb, and the music is given in a lively and compellingly delightful format. Von Weber shows his capabilities best in his opera, but I am pleased to learn of his great skill also in chamber music.

Ernest: Violin Music

Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst – Violin Music (Naxos label), Josef Špaček, Gordon Back ★★★★★
I recently acquired some new CDs from Archiv Music (www.arkivmusic.com), which is a good source for inexpensive classical music. You’ll be seeing some of those reviews in the next few weeks. Arkiv Music provides better search engines for finding particular music and offers recommendations and decent critical analyses of CDs. They are competitive with Amazon.com and often are cheaper than Amazon. This was an album on sale, and since I’ve had no music by Ernst, decided to try it. Ernst wrote in the era of the virtuoso performer, sitting in the lime-light of Paganini. Ernst shows him most capable of writing technical yet very acceptable music. The performances on this CD are well recorded, with a spacious quality to them, and executed with great feeling and understanding for the composer. While not well known, this is a delightful CD to listen to, and recommended by me.