Patterico's Pontifications


A National Treasure Says Farewell

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:17 am

[guest post by Dana]

At 86-years old, Dr. Thomas Sowell has decided to spend less time on politics and more time on his photography, at which he eloquently excels. It goes without saying that it is to our collective loss that we will no longer have a regular dose of his wise observations about the issues of the day. Like many of you, Dr. Sowell’s treasure trove of thought has challenged and shaped my own views on matters of education, politics, basic economics and more. To my mind, the brilliant and insightful Dr. Sowell has also consistently demonstrated a mastery in the art of gentle persuasion. His columns remain small gems of rational thought which sparkle in a sea of increasingly tedious emotionalism and propaganda. Dr. Sowell brought it all, and through it all, remained a gentleman and a scholar.

A timely exhortation from his farewell:

It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country — even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

In parting, he reminds us of why it is so vital that we remain vigilant:

We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future.


22 Responses to “A National Treasure Says Farewell”

  1. I love that not only is he a brilliant thinker who has shaped the thoughts of so many, but judging from his photos, he has obviously given equally as much thought and care to his art. He embodies the well-balanced man.

    Dana (d17a61)

  2. From today’s column:

    Black adults, during the years when I was growing up in Harlem, had far less education than black adults today — but far more common sense. In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity, among both blacks and whites.

    This could have been said any time in the last 50 years or so.

    Sammy Finkelman (6ee5be)

  3. Interesting to consider that not that long ago, if one lacked an education but lived with a commitment to an applied common sense, especially with regard to personal finances and opportunity, a man and his family could move up a rung into the lower middle-class.

    Dana (d17a61)

  4. He will be missed.

    Jim (a9b7c7)

  5. A treasure. He will indeed be missed.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (5e0a82)

  6. This year just keeps getting worse. Thomas Sowell’s intelligence and common sense are irreplaceable.

    Dave (711345)

  7. If I understand correctly, Sowell’s only ceasing his weekly column. He’ll still be around. I think he’s still active at the Hoover Institution.

    Cruz Supporter (102c9a)

  8. He was a bulwark against the cronyism which has become rampant at all levels of government. He was great at identifying the costs, both economic and social.

    I do not understand how he is able to maintain his good humor in the face of the utter rejection of his principles by mostly everyone in any position to actually implement such. The republic he knew and loved has been hollowed/rotted out and his community has paid a severe price, perhaps the largest price.

    We’re losing the voice of a titan.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  9. I’ve enjoyed Sowell’s non hysterical, common sense writing for years. I wish he were better known outside of Conservative circles, though. I have been disappointed that he has rarely been interviewed or featured on the Sunday shows when “black views” are needed–and especially needed to balance other black views. I have wondered if this is by his own choice that he doesn’t want to cheapen his intellectual status by having to talk to journolist types and race baiter cretins—or if he has simply not been asked to appear because he is a conservative. Regardless, he has been fighting the good fight for a long time and he deserves to cut back his schedule a little.

    elissa (893d37)

  10. or if he has simply not been asked to appear because he is a conservative.

    I think it’s that, and a bit more: he’s a conservative black who is the embodiment of the American dream. Someone who rose from poverty by virtue of his own hard work and commitment to educating himself. There’s no way the various shouting shows would want him representing the black view.

    Chuck Bartowski (bba342)

  11. That’s a problem, Elissa. Dr Sowell isn’t considered a “black” voice on the left- he’s considered an “Uncle Tom”, a race traitor. He’s the polar opposite to baiters like Cornel West, and that will never do on even on talk shows as prosaic as “Sunday Morning”, never mind “Meet The Kranks Press” or “Face The Nation”.

    Bill H (971e5f)

  12. Thomas Sowell is one of the all-time greats. Both he and Walter Williams had/have the ability to explain economic principles to anyone with half a brain and an open mind.

    I wish him well in retirement.

    Deuce Frehley (8afd8b)

  13. Here’s one of Mr. Sowell’s best comments. He wrote it in 1980, but it remains just as timely today:

    “It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication, and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”

    Deuce Frehley (8afd8b)

  14. I used to bore you folk with tales of my days in newspapers, so why not do it again.

    Back when I was a liberal managing editor of a newspaper, I actually enjoyed Thomas Sowell because he was smart, challenging and a conservative voice. So, we published his column to maintain a balance on the op-ed page and our conservative publisher liked him. I really did not want to argue with that boss before he retired. He was a good man.

    Then we were blessed with a new liberal publisher, which I thought at the time was a good thing. One of the first things this new publisher did was cancel our syndication deal with Sowell because he promoted “hatred.” I should have argued, but I did not, to my regret.

    I hope he has a happy retirement. He is a great thinker and a great man. And I assure you he never, ever promoted “hatred.”

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  15. The happy news is, Sowell didn’t leave all the nuggets of wisdom floating around on the surface where just anybody could spot them.

    Long after he is gone they will still be there to be found.

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

  16. …I assure you he never, ever promoted “hatred.”

    Ag80 (eb6ffa) — 12/27/2016 @ 10:26 pm

    Thomas Sowell was a Marine. I’ve never met a Marine who promoted hatred. I don’t even know what that would look like.

    My DI.

    My DI, like my sainted Senior Chief dad, didn’t want to parent some dumb @$$ too stooopid tosurvive his first combat engagement. Even if my life as entirely worthless, odds are I was entrusted with someone’s life who was/is worth something.

    I remember the terrible day I met my DI. And I knew it was going to be terrible. The sun comes up in the east, right? People are quitting, dropping like flies.

    Didn’t they know if they just would shut up, they might learn something?

    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

    Enjoy your holiday, knowing someone is standing watch.

    You too, ProwlerGuy.

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

  17. I mean Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

    There is no deeper or hidden meaning.

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

  18. Bore us, Ag80.

    You don’t apologize for your editors I can brag on my senior enlisted. Deal?

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

  19. Ag80. Did the new publisher ever explain what he was thinking when he said Thomas Sowell’s column promotes “hatred?”

    Did he have anything in mind, maybe like arguing with what people say promoted hatred, or was this a syllogism based on him being a conservative?

    Sammy Finkelman (324ec1)

  20. Mr. Sowell could still help fight busybody ish like this: Sounds as if there is a dedicated law enforcement agency solely for coffee place drive thru stakeouts.

    Sammy, the publisher was likely trading in syllogism, but my initial hesitancy with regard to Sowell was that within several of his weekly columns, he seemed to identify all Hispanics as poorer and less educated than blacks. That didn’t jibe with my own experience in both education and where certain people lived within the South side of Chicago. It also alluded to a large strain of anti-immigrant (regardless of race and legal status of said immigrants) sentiment in black conservatism, dating back to Booker T. Washington and George Schuyler and continuing with Shelby Steele. This tendency did disappear from his writing in the last 10 years or so, and he did have those zingers, one might call those quotable quotes.

    urbanleftbehind (c20ea9)

  21. Day late and a dollar short. It is still December, and just in time to remember one of the lesser known disasters of WWII.

    Typhoon Cobra
    18 Dec 1944

    …On 18 Dec 1944, divine intervention interfered with human action again. Admiral William Halsey and his Task Force 38 were caught unaware amidst refueling when Typhoon Cobra struck them to the east of island of Luzon of the Philippines. Halsey’s weather experts misread the track of this impending storm, and the admiral sailed right into it. As the heavy swells caused by 60-knot winds tossed his ships like children’s toys, Halsey’s ships scattered over 3,000 square miles. By the time he issued a typhoon warning to his captains, he had already lost three destroyers Spence, Hull, and Monaghan.

    Aboard the carrier Monterey, aircraft in the hangar deck slammed into one another “like pinballs”, Gerald Ford recalled. It was inevitable that fires broke out. Captain Stuart H. Ingersoll was ordered by Halsey to abandon ship, but Ingersoll thought that “We can fix this”, and Ford, among others were the heroes who battled the bitter fire and eventually put it out, saving the carrier.

    Aboard the carrier Cowpens, the scene was similar. A Hellcat fighter, despite being triple-lashed, broke loose and smashed into the catwalk, starting a fire. Even as the firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire, a bomb handling truck rolled across the hangar deck and struck the tank of another fighter. The 100-knot winds even ripped out a 20-mm gun emplacement right out of its mounts. In the end, Cowpens survived, but the Hellcat that smashed into the catwalk did not.

    When the fleet emerged from the typhoon, Halsey found seven more ships seriously damaged and 146 aircraft lost or unusable (some were pushed by the wind over edges of flight decks, some were intentionally pushed overboard after running into each other, and some lost to fire and impact damage). Worst of all, 800 lives were lost from this natural disaster. Water Tender Second Class Joseph McCrane, one of only six survivors of the USS Monaghan recalled:

    “The storm broke in all its fury. We started to roll, heaving to the starboard, and everyone was holding on to something and praying as hard as he could. We knew that we had lost our power and were dead in the water…. We must have taken about seven or eight rolls to the starboard before she went over on her side.”

    After ship sunk, the sailors held on to whatever they could to stay afloat. McCrane continued:

    “Every time we opened a can of Spam more sharks would appear…. Toward evening some of the boys began to crack under the strain…. That (second} night most of the fellows had really lost their heads; they thought they saw land and houses.”

    A court inquiry at Ulithi a week later placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Halsey, though finding no negligence on the part of the admiral due to “stress of war operations” and “a commendable desire to meet military requirements”. With 790 officers and sailors lost to this storm, Nimitz submitted a letter to Washington recommending the Navy to improve its weather service, which was promptly started. The Pacific Fleet established new weather stations in the Caroline Islands and, as they were secured, Manila, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In addition, new weather central offices (for coordinating data) were established at Guam and Leyte.

    Typhoon Cobra was, I believe, the greatest unanswered loss of life of WWII. Because, who do you retaliate against? Crossing the T of the storm was one of several bonehead moves on Halsey’s part. His weather guessers didn’t screw up as badly as this account makes it appear. Halsey just made a bad call.

    And, generally, I’m a fan of Halsey. He would take risks. What I am not a fan of is that despite the fact that Nimitz stuck by Halsey, Halsey would not stick by his subordinate commanders. Particularly offensive was his treatment of CAPT Gilbert Hoover, skipper of the USS Helena, following Callaghan’s and Abe’s mutual mauling of each others forces at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Gilbert’s ship had escaped virtually unscathed, but Helena was basically the only ship in in good condition.

    Juneau was down by the bow but appeared seaworthy until the Japanese fleet sub I-26 put a torpedo into her. Juneau, of Sullivan brothers fame/infamy just disappeared. One second she was there, the next second she wasn’t. The witnesses almost universally said that was the most traumatic thing they witnessed. Worse than the battle the night before. Which had been bad. Marines, soldiers, and war correspondents had witnessed the naval battle, which was intermittently illuminated by star shells, muzzle blasts, searchlights that were shot out almost as soon as someone switched them on, and ships blowing up. One reporter said, “From the beach it resembled a door to hell opening and closing… over and over.”

    Juneau disappearing in an instant was worse.

    Hoover had few options. He had one fully mission capable destroyer in his screen. Obviously, because of what just happened to Juneau, there was at least one Japanese sub in the area. Who knew how many their were? That particular patch of water wasn’t nicknamed “torpedo junction” for no reason.

    Up until that time some of the newer Sailors joked about how it would be nice if they took just enough torpedo damage to get sent back to the West Coast for repairs. Nobody joked about it anymore. Liscome Bay had a similar sobering effect (like torpedo junction, escort carriers didn’t earn their nickname, Kaiser Coffins, for no reason).

    Actually Hoover had only one option. Every Greyhound in his Navy but Helena was limping. San Francisco didn’t look like she would make it even if she didn’t tangle with a sub, and she wasn’t the only ship -that looked like she would sink. And, nobody believed there could possibly be any Juneau survivors. Hoover did signal an Army B-17 to search, though, and then he headed home.

    Where Halsey relieved him of command for not, I dunno, giving the skipper of the I-26 more targets I guess. And like I said, I’m not too critical of Halsey. I read his memoirs. He knew full well that had he had to roll the dice sometimes. He would ruefully admit he had to make decisions that would be called brilliant if he could make them work, or idiotic and imbecilic if he didn’t. In Nimitz he had a commander that would let him take those risks, and wouldn’t throw him to wolves when the roll of dice didn’t break his way. Like crossing the T of Typhoon Cobra.

    Halsey should have done the same for his subordinates.

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

  22. Gerald Ford was a stud athlete, by the way, and Fighter Direction Officer in Monterey.

    …Aboard the carrier Monterey, aircraft in the hangar deck slammed into one another “like pinballs”, Gerald Ford recalled. It was inevitable that fires broke out. Captain Stuart H. Ingersoll was ordered by Halsey to abandon ship, but Ingersoll thought that “We can fix this”, and Ford, among others were the heroes who battled the bitter fire and eventually put it out, saving the carrier.

    I used to pride myself on being able to stand up in a canoe in a typhoon and not spill my coffee. Bonus points if you put out a fire on the hangar deck while you’re at it.

    Steve57 (0b1dac)

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