Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem.
As with many others in his neighborhood, he left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service,
Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics.
After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University (1958), he went on to receive his master's in economics from Columbia University (1959) and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago (1968). In the early '60s, Sowell held jobs as an economist with the Department of Labor and AT&T.
But his real interest was in teaching and scholarship. In 1965, at Cornell University, he began the first of many professorships. His other teaching assignments include Rutgers University, Amherst University, Brandeis University and the University of California at Los Angeles, where he taught in the early '70s and also from 1984 to 1989.
Sowell has published a large volume of writing. His dozen books, as well as numerous articles and essays, cover a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college.
Moreover, much of his writing is considered ground-breaking -- work that will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today. Though Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984.
George F. Will's writing, says Sowell, proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing.
In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute. Currently Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif. Obama and McCainThomas SowellThursday, June 05, 2008.
Now that the two parties have finally selected their presidential candidates, it is time for a sober-- if not grim-- assessment of where we are. Not since 1972 have we been presented with two such painfully inadequate candidates. When election day came that year, I could not bring myself to vote for either George McGovern or Richard Nixon. I stayed home.
This year, none of us has that luxury. While all sorts of gushing is going on in the media, and posturing is going on in politics, the biggest national sponsor of terrorism in the world-- Iran-- is moving step by step toward building a nuclear bomb.
The point when they get that bomb will be the point of no return. Iran 's nuclear bomb will be the terrorists' nuclear bomb-- and they can make 9/11 look like child's play.
All the options that are on the table right now will be swept off the table forever.
Our choices will be to give in to whatever the terrorists demand-- however outrageous those demands might be-- or to risk seeing American cities start disappearing in radioactive mushroom clouds.
All the things we are preoccupied with today, from the price of gasoline to health care to global warming, will suddenly no longer matter.
Just as the Nazis did not find it enough to simply kill people in their concentration camps, but had to humiliate and dehumanize them first, so we can expect terrorists with nuclear weapons to both humiliate us and force us to humiliate ourselves, before they finally start killing us.
They have already telegraphed their punches with their sadistic beheadings of innocent civilians, and with the popularity of videotapes of those beheadings in the Middle East .They have already telegraphed their intention to dictate to us with such things as Osama bin Laden's threats to target those places in America that did not vote the way he prescribed in the 2004 elections.
He could not back up those threats then but he may be able to in a very few years.
The terrorists have given us as clear a picture of what they are all about as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis did during the 1930s-- and our 'leaders' and intelligentsia have ignored the warning signs as resolutely as the 'leaders' and intelligentsia of the 1930s downplayed the dangers of Hitler.
We are much like people drifting down the Niagara River , oblivious to the waterfalls up ahead. Once we go over those falls, we cannot come back up again.
What does this have to do with today's presidential candidates? It has everything to do with them.
One of these candidates will determine what we are going to do to stop Iran from going nuclear-- or whether we are going to do anything other than talk, as Western leaders talked in the 1930s.
There is one big difference between now and the 1930s. Although the West's lack of military preparedness and its political irresolution led to three solid years of devastating losses to Nazi Germany and imperial Japan , nevertheless when all the West's industrial and military forces were finally mobilized, the democracies were able to turn the tide and win decisively.
But you cannot lose a nuclear war for three years and then come back.
You cannot even sustain the will to resist for three years when you are first broken down morally by threats and then devastated by nuclear bombs.
Our one window of opportunity to prevent this will occur within the term of whoever becomes President of the United States next January.
At a time like this, we do not have the luxury of waiting for our ideal candidate or of indulging our emotions by voting for some third party candidate to show our displeasure-- at the cost of putting someone in the White House who is not up to the job.
Senator John McCain has been criticized in this column many times. But, when all is said and done, Senator McCain has not spent decades aiding and abetting people who hate America.
On the contrary, he has paid a huge price for resisting our enemies, even when they held him prisoner and tortured him.
The choice between him and Barack Obama should be a no-brainer.
Alan note: unless you are a Dhimmi or a suicider like the Iran Hojatieh leadership, which is a suicide nation rather than just a suicide bomber.