Political books 19

How the Scots Invented the Modern World          Arthur Herman         Feb 2009
Bad Money                                                            Kevin Phillips          Feb 2009  
Somebodies and Nobodies                                    Robert W. Fuller      Mar 2009
Great American Hypocrites                                  Glenn Greenwald     Apr 2009
The Thirteen American Arguments                      Howard Fineman      Apr 2009

How the Scots Invented the Modern World          Arthur Herman     Feb 2009
            The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It.

Preface  People of Scottish descent are usually proud of their history and achievements.  However this is only part of it.  It is not just a matter of nationality, place of origin, or clan or culture.  It is also a state of mind and a way of viewing the world and our place in it.  It was a deliberate creation over many years and so deeply rooted in the assumptions and institutions that govern our lives today that we often miss the significance or origin.  First the Scots transformed their own culture in the eighteenth century and than they carried this transformation with them wherever they went.  

Prologue  Many consider the Tron Church (or Kirk in Scots) to be the symbol of Scottish Presbyterianism.  It was establish in 1633 by the Edinburgh Town Council, construction began in 1637 and it was completed in 1678.  It was just outside this Tron Kirk that a young (18 years old) theology student named Thomas Aikenhead was overheard making what were considered as blasphemous statements in 1696.  Aikenhead was tried, convicted, and executed in early 1697.  Many consider this as the last gasp of absolute church power in Scotland.  

Part One  Epiphany
C1  The New Jerusalem
 Martin Luther was the sole power behind the German Reformation and John Knox was the power behind the Scottish Reformation.  Knox wanted to turn the Scots into God's chosen people and to abolish the Catholic Church from the country.  Since the rulers were primarily Catholic this resulted in anarchy until James VI restored the monarchy but the relationship between the Church (Presbyterian) and the monarchy was forever changed.  

In 1696, the same year as the arrest of Aikenhead, the Scottish Parliament passed the Schools act which mandated that every parish support a school (so that all may read Holy Scripture) which resulted in Scotland soon having the highest literacy rate in the world shortly thereafter.  During this time and up to the early 1700's there were increasing political and financial troubles between Scotland and England.  

C2  A Trap of Their Own Making  On Oct. 3, 1707 Scotland's Parliament assembled to vote on joining with England to form Great Britain.  This was pretty much a settled issue as the negotiators had all been picked by the English Crown and there were "handlers", primarily the Marquis of Queensberry, who had sufficient money to buy all the votes he needed and due to poor investments many Scots were deeply in debt.  The voting continued until Jan. 16, 1708.  It would seem that the goal from the English side was to let everyone talk themselves out, paying them when that seemed to be the only way.  Contrary to the nay-sayers, Scotland very quickly embarked on an economic boom.  

C3  The Proper Study of Mankind I  With the decrease in power of the Scottish nobility and the corresponding decrease in power of the Church the stage was set for two movements to form the Scottish Enlightenment.  The first was typified by Francis Hutcheson, a clergyman and teacher.  After several posts he became one of the most most famous and important faculty members at Glasgow.

C4  The Proper Study of Mankind II  The second was a lawyer who rose to what would be equivalent to the Supreme Court of Scotland.  He was Henry Home who was also known as Lord Kames after his boyhood home.  When Scottish judges took their seats they were addressed as "My Lord" and he was known as Lord Kames out of respect for his position.  He quickly became one of the most respected judges in Scotland.  He lived in Edinburgh.  He described human history as passing through four stages.  1) Hunter-gatherer where people generally avoided each other except for the formation of small familial tribes.  2) Herder of domesticated animals where the tribes are larger because of the need for more people to control the animals and provide for security.  These two require no government except for a head of a family or the head of a tribe.  3) Agricultural, this requires more people to allow for trade and employment (or slavery) and the development of differing classes of employment.  This requires laws and law enforcers.  4) The final stage might be called civilization where labor and society is split into many different categories.  Many agree that his theorizing formed the basis for modern sociology, anthropology and history.  He also was also on the panel of judges that decided that slavery was illegal in Scotland in 1777.  

C5  A Land Divided  During the 1740's the cities of lowland Scotland were making rapid progress in trade but the highland Scots were still seemingly stuck in the dark ages.  It was easy to see the social distinctions that Lord Kames had hypothesized.  The Stuarts still felt that they had claims to the royalty of Scotland.  Their strength was primarily in the highlands where the lords were still living in a culture that stressed the obligations of family over the obligations of the law.  

C6  Last Stand  In 1744 Prince Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie) decided that he wanted to succeed to a royal throne.  After several false starts Charles entered Scotland and because the English forces were very ill prepared, Charles army scored some notable successes.  By the end of 1745 the forces of Charles had started to retreat.  By the middle of April 1746 the situation had become desperate and he have one more order to attack.  The English were completely victorious.  Prince Charles was never caught.  He spent 5 months in hiding before he escaped to France, he spent two years there before he was deported to Italy where he died in 1788.

C7  Profitable Ventures  Following the end of the Jacobite Revolution (Bonnie Prince Charlie) the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh prospered greatly.  Local architects and builders moved across Great Britain and America and contributed greatly to construction throughout the English speaking world.

C8  A Select Society: Adam Smith and His Friends  This section of the book ends with a restatement of the fact that southern Scotland, primarily the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh had probably the greatest concentration of intellectual capital of any area of the world in the period of 1760 through 1790.  The of the shining lights which haven't been mentioned before are the Economist Adam Smith and the Philosopher David Hume.  

Part Two  Diaspora
C9  "That Great Design": Scots in America
 Scots, and Scots-Irish have had a long association with the United States.  James I supported Scots settlement of Canada, "Nova Scotia".  This was not the success that the get-rich-quick settlers wanted, it took much more hard work and and patience than the original plan incorporated.  However it was a good start.  Lowland Scots started arriving as settlers and traders in the late 1600's.  Ulster Scots started arriving in 1713.  Between then and 1776 perhaps 250,000 arrived in America.  Highlanders were the last to arrive, they didn't begin until 1745.  

When the Revolution began most of the lowland Scots and the Scots-Irish quickly choose the American side.  Surprisingly the Highlanders, the most recent arrivals in large part retained their loyalty to the British Crown even after they had been driven out of Scotland for supporting Prince Charles.  Many of then resettled in Nova Scotia.

C10  Light from the North: Scots, Liberals, and Reform  By the end of the 1790's the last of the great leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment were all gone.  However for the next 30 years their works, disciples, and students spread all across Great Britain.  Almost single handedly this influence changed the governance of British society.  Without this influence it is very possible that the British would have had a decisive revolution instead of the slow evolution that they had.  

C11  The Last Minstrel: Sir Walter Scott and the Highland Revival  Sir Walter Scott and the rise of the Epic Poem and the historical novel.  In the early 1800's tens of thousands of thousands of Highland Scots were forced off their lands.  "The Clearances" were primarily economic with the upper classes making money (or avoiding bankruptcy) by removing tenant farmers and replacing them with higher profit produce such as beef and wool.  Scott became a favorite of King George IV.  When George IV decided to visit Scotland, Scott and a friend, David Stewart, completely planned all of the ceremonies.  Since George IV wanted everything to by "authentic" Scott and Stewart were forced to almost single handedly invent many of the symbols and regalia of the "typical" highlander.  One of the unfortunate side effects was that the history that was invented was purely that of the Highlander, and the Lowlanders and Borderers were mostly forgotten.  

Everything related to tartans was conveniently cleared up when 20 years after the royal visit two "brothers" turned up claiming to be illegitimate grandsons of Prince Charlie.  They claimed to have a book which once belonged to Mary queen of Scots which contained a list of 75 different tartans which belonged to specific clans.  Their names were James and Charles Sobieski Stuart (?)

C12  Practical Matters: Scots in Science and Industry  The best example is that of James Watt, an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow and his friend Joseph Black a Professor of Chemistry there.  A machine using steam had been built by Thomas Newcomen but it didn't work very well.  After thinking about the problem for more than a year, Watt saw an approach, and working with Black and several ironmasters they developed a working model of an efficient steam engine.  Much of the technology and methods of modern methods of medicine got their starts at the Universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  James Hutton, a farmer by trade was well connected to the University scene at Edinburgh invented the science of Geology.  An engineer, John McAdam developed a method of covering roadbeds with crushed stones and gravel.  We see it in almost every road built today.  Most modern roads are composed of a tar-macadam (tarmac for short) substance which is a direct outgrowth.  The chapter contains other examples.

C13  The Sun Never Sets: Scots and the British Empire  The last two chapters are rather boring.  They are not much more than a list of many Scots, some born in Scotland, some not, who made good, and sometimes bad, all over the world.  Part of this success is that most Scottish emigrants had more education than other European immigrants.  However it was bad for Scotland.  An interesting quote.  Charles James Napier became the governor of Sind (Pakistan) in 1841.  He banned the Hindu practice of suttee, of burning a widow on her husband's funeral pyre.  When the local Brahmin priests protested that this was interfering with an important national custom.  "My nation also has a custom," Napier replied. "When men burn women alive, we hang them.  Let us all act according to national custom."  He discusses the Scots in China, Canada, Australia, and Africa.

C14  Self-Made Men: Scots in the United States  Scots in the US.  Education, the Mid-West, California, Samuel F. B. Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Dale Carnegie.

Conclusion  Scots in British government.  The theft of the Stone of Scone in 1950 and the rise of Scottish nationalism.  

The book ends with 13 pages of in-depth references and a 15 page index.

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Bad Money                     Kevin Phillips              Feb 2009

Preface: The Political Economics of Deception Gresham's Law after Sir Thomas Gresham: Bad Money drives out good money, but good money cannot drive out bad money.  Variation: in a global free market - bad capitalism tends to drive out good.  John Gray, False Dawn, 1998.

One of the worst problems of current economics is the preference for minimizing how many problems there are and how interconnected they are.  In Phillips previous books, especially American Theocracy, he speaks of the problem of massive debt in previous cultures, these were primarily public or governmental debt.  Currently the American problem is mainly private debt.  In American Theocracy he states that there were three major problems with prior western empires (Rome, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States), these were energy, debt, and religion.  The elections of 2006 dealt a very serious blow to the religious Right in the US.  What he fails to understand is that many of the other political views of the religious Right are equally religious in nature.  It may be that the Republican party will implode because of its religious views or they may be be replaced by more moderate views but this still hasn't happened in Feb. 2009.

C1  Introduction: The Panic of August The minor panic of August 2007.  Would this be minor or a precursor of things to come?  For hundreds of years August and September have been notorious for declarations of war, crop failures, and bank crises.  Until the later half of the 20th century this has been related to the harvest season but the linkage is no longer so obvious.  

C2  Finance: The New Real Economy? What is the economy?  Is it things like goods and services, is it manufactured items, or is it finance.  When Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were in the White House, the manufacturing share of the US GDP was almost twice that of financial services.  Since then financial services have risen constantly and now are by far the biggest item in the US GDP.  There are many measures of the change in the economy, perhaps one of the most telling is the wealth and gross income of the most wealthy Americans and their families.  In 1982 the richest family/individual made $8.6 billion - in 1999 the figure was $85 Billion.  In 1981 the highest paid CEO was paid $5.7 million and in 2000 the highest paid CEO made $290 million.

C3  Bullnomics: Its Favoritism and Fictions Three "dimensions" marked the last 30 years of our market related transformations.  The first he calls "Bullnomics", the belief that financial markets are rational and safe underpinnings for public well-being.  The second is the manipulation of statistical markers to "show" that we are more well off than we really are.  The third is the importance of a Christian based fundamentalism with a preoccupation of personal and financial salvation and a "God wants you to be rich"prosperity gospeling.  Following the Great Depression, WW II, and into the early 1960's most Americans were very leery of speculation, finance, and big business.  

An example of the manipulation of statistical markers is John Williams.  He formed a small firm called ShadowStats.com to calculate the Consumer Price Index using the methodology used in 1990.  This method of calculation shows that the government would have been reporting a CPI of 5 to 7% inflation between 2005 and 2007 instead of their 2 to 4%.

He finishes the chapter with a list of previously Christian churches who have switched to the God of Mammon.  He ends with a couple of choice comments on the Mormons.  Salt Lake City is the smallest city to have its own local branch of the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission.  In 1989 the Ogden Standard-Examiner reported that "the cultural emphasis in the Mormon church that equates financial success with spiritual success, and an unquestioning allegiance to authority figures, may partly explain why 10,000 Utah investors have been swindled out of more than $200 million during the last decade."

C4  Securitization: The Insecurity of It All The repackaging of debt into mathematically sophisticated (but often technically meaningless) new constructs.  There are two major product categories:  mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and asset-backed securities (ABSs).  ABSs are broken down to half dozen (or more) different subcategories.  The end result is that risk seems to go up for every new item.  The main benefit for those dealing in these "securitized" measures is that they have been almost completely unregulated so while the Ponzi scheme lasts the profits are immense.  

C5  Peak Oil: A Potential Pivot of the 2010s  The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.  --Jean Paul Getty  The oil boom is over and will not return.  All of us must get used to a different lifestyle.  --King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, 2007.

Tracking down the exact details of how Britain and the US have invaded Iraq because of petroleum.  It has been going on since before WW I.  It has been marked by so much secrecy that the players didn't know what was happening and incredibly bad planning had ruined almost every effort.  Oil has played a major role in America even before there was an America.  There is a report that George Washington bought some local oil spring acreage in 1771 and then there was the New England whaling industry which was about whale oil.  America rode oil to almost every success it has ever had.  Can we survive a future without cheap oil?  That is one of our major challenges.  The concept of peak oil is something that very few politicians and almost no oil executives are willing to discuss.  Most of the rest of the chapter discusses the politics of the oil producing and using countries and how they are responding.

C6  The Politics of Evasion: Debt, Finance, and Oil  The energy IQ of our Congress if 55.  If you think there's a problem in getting oil company CEOs to address the problem (peak oil), try convincing a politician to address it.  -- Energy consultant Tom Petrie, 2007

Political dynasties have been and are a tragedy for America.  In 2000 of the 535 members of the 107th Congress 77 were relatives of senators, representatives, governors, judges, state legislators , or local officials.  There have been fathers and sons before the Bushes, a grandfather (the Harrisons) and a cousin (the Roosevelts).  Since Obama we will (probably) never know about the possibility of the Clintons both being presidents.  

What happens when an imperial power begins to decline.  Based on his previous book, American Theocracy, not much.  He is not very knowledgeable about Rome but the others of the last 500 years show that while a few people understood the problem the vast majority of the leaders either did not or were only interested in themselves and figured that their descendants would take care of themselves.  Can America address these problems and come out the other side a winner?  He is not particularly optimistic.  Phillips raises the question, Will the four decades of US hubris, periodic military intervention, and overreach in the Middle East be perceived as playing the same role for Washington as did the Thirty Year's War (1618-48) did for Madrid, the 1688-1713 wars for Holland, and two successive world wars for Britain?

C7  The Global Crisis of American Capitalism He has a compelling vision of the economic leadership of the future.  It is Asia and he refers to it as a six-pack.  It consists of the Greater Persian Gulf, the former Soviet Union, the Indian subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia (Japan and Korea).  The image is not too clear until you place the northern can - Russia - horizontally on top.  The six-pack image becomes more clear when you consider the sheer mass, powerful differentiation, and growing economic clout of its half dozen units.  Taken separately, each would rate as a major power.  

Phillips seriously criticizes the banking and financial industries for their activities beginning with George HW Bush, Clinton, and then George W Bush.  

The book as a whole discusses the American financial system and usually mentions other countries finances only as theoretical examples (from his book American Theocracy or to contrast how other countries have faced similar problems.  This chapter discusss the American system as to how it interacts with other countries.  Perhaps not a major difference but I found it significant.  He starts off with a couple of specific comparisons to Russia and China, bringing out two not very well known facts.  I will hazard a guess and suppose that most Americans have heard that Putin once headed the KGB, the Soviet Union's  secret police at the time but how many know that in 1997 he defended the equivalent of a PhD thesis at Russia's St. Petersburg State Mining Institute and that two years later he wrote a lengthy article entitled "Mineral Natural Resources in the Strategy for Development of the Russian Economy" based on the same material.  Several years ago the Russians had a submarine plant a Russian flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean and the Russians have made claims on the Lomonosov Ridge running along the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.  Compare Russia's accomplishments in oil development with Americas during the same period of time.  George W Bush was in the oil business for 20 years.  

Another comment, this time about China, is that seven of the nine new leaders of China have been engineering students.  

While China and India were discussing economic and energy cooperation the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on the environment, James Inofe of Oklahoma disbelieved in global warming because he thought that biblical creation was more important than evolution.  Other Republicans, including two candidates for president held essentially equivalent views.  None of these are now in power but for how many years was the US essentially hamstrung by them?  Unfortunately many Democratic activists and politicians hold almost equally naive views of energy.  Many seem to think that all you need to do is to "Go Green" and all of your problems will be solved.  Some of the problems will be addressed but that is just the beginning.  

One of the major questions is whether or not the housing and credit crisis which is expected to span the 2007-2010 period will be the global crisis of American capitalism or will it be something else.  He is joining many other authors in questioning whether or not America is in the "End Times" as a global power.  

I certainly don't expect that any on person, politician or not, has a final and simple answer to this question but when I see President Obama's proposal to solve our first set of economic problems get exactly zero votes from Republicans in the House and I hear some Republican commentators say that they hope his proposals fail I have serious questions as to whether it will be possible to take enough actions to turn around our problems.  When almost 200 elected members of the House of Representatives of the United
 States vote against taking steps to solve one of the most serious financial crises in American history just to stop the President from appearing to win a particular contest, then I can't help feeling a little pessimistic about the future of our country.  

I saw a very brief interview with Jared Diamond, author of Collapse.  He was asked if he could find a difference between the societies that had a complete collapse and those that managed to avoid one.  His response was that the only thing that he could see was that if the leaders and opinion leaders saw themselves as being able to avoid the upcoming collapse they often did nothing, but if they saw themselves as being likely to be caught in the collapse, they took steps to help their society avoid the collapse.  He used examples of New Orleans before Katrina and the Netherlands.  The political and opinion leaders of New Orleans lived on hills or high areas around New Orleans and so they weren't worried about possible flooding.  The leaders of the Netherlands, like most of the population of the country, live at the same level as everyone else.  The Netherlands are the world leaders in protecting themselves from storms and high water.

The book has an Appendix of Global Public Opinion and the Loss of Respect for the United States, 2003-7 of 4 pages, Notes of 15 pages, and a three column Index of 9 pages.

If I were to very quickly summarize the book I would say that Bad Money is money that is made without any close relationship to making anything.  Good Money is money that is the result of wages or other transfers as a result of manufacturing goods for sale to others.  My intellectual background says that the ultimate method of communication is to state an equation or other algorithm and then devote the rest of the material to describing how you came to this equation, to explain why it is more representative of reality and useful than other equations, and further explanations of how it might be expanded to other areas.  I find some books very difficult to evaluate according to this method.  This book has been one of them.  I found myself buried in facts and figures but continually searching for underlying messages and relationships.  Perhaps that is the difference between Economics and Physics.  I hope I got the right message.

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Somebodies and Nobodies            Robert W. Fuller             Mar 2009
            Subtitle: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank

Note to the Reader  The book is neither scholarly nor academic, it is personal.  It is based on the authors experiences as he traveled through life.  He makes the point that the indignities heaped on those of lower rank, of lower "value", are causing some to react violently to the believed perpetrators.  These reactions, when coupled with modern lethal weapons can and have caused great loss of life.  We can no longer sustain the present gap in dignity and opportunity between "somebodies" and "nobodies".

C1  A Disorder Without a Name  In the 1950's the author was a student at Oberlin.  Then the ideas that blacks and women needed to be given equal opportunity was gaining power, it was "blowing in the wind".  During the 1960's it was gaining power and by the time he came back to Oberlin in 1970 it was blowing at gale force.  It became essential to extend equality to students, faculty, and staff.  He realized that something deeper was going on but he didn't really understand what it was until he left the presidency.  He no longer had a fancy title and the associated social rank that went along with it.  He went from a somebody to a nobody.  He realized that while women and blacks were the object of discrimination nobody insulted Queen Elizabeth I or General Colin Powell.  There was something else going on.  

At first he thought that it was similar to the other 'ism's, but then he realized that all the rest could be seen as subspecies of rankism, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ageism, etc.  He makes one point very clear.  While the rest of the ism's can (and are) applied to all members of a group and all members suffer from it all their whole lives, rankism effects all of us at one time or another.  There are truly and validly differences in power or rank.  It is only when the power given to the specific rank-holders takes the form of disrespect, inequity, discrimination, and exploitation.  When rank is earned and signifies excellence it is valid.  It is only when the power of rank is abused does it become rankism.  

It is not just another ism.  There is always another group that can be subject to discrimination.  It is only when we begin to disallow all types of discrimination that we will be free of rankism itself.  Rankism feels the same as the other -ism's and in general it is but it is different in that it is mutable.  You can be treated as somebody one day or in one setting and as a nobody the next.  We can suffer from it one minute and be a perpetrator the next.  It is also so common that it is very commonly not noticed.  It is very common for blacks, women, gays, Jews, etc. to become very upset over real or perceived discrimination but very few people explicitly notice when rankism is exhibited.  

Almost all of us have experienced rankism but we normally don't protest it.  Most people have a "go along to get along" policy.  He uses the example of Uncle Tom.  Appeasement seems to work for a little while but in the long run it fails.  Uncle Tom ended up being whipped to death.

For millennia a few people of every nationality and faith have preached that all humans are of equal dignity.  Rankism is always an assault on dignity.  Although we are almost never equal in our abilities we all should be treated with equal dignity.  High rank in one specialty on one occasion almost never demonstrates a high rank in other areas.  Although sees the prevalence of rankism in all bureaucracies he points out education as one of the worst and one of the most damaging towards the subjects.

C2  Uses and Abuses of Rank  Rank has valid uses.  Rank allows us to place ourself socially.  In many environments the first think we do is ask, "What do you do?"  Many tribal and national groups covet rank, "We are Number One."  Typically rank indicates position in a hierarchy and is expressed as a title.  The military is the first institution we think of in terms of rank however it spreads over many areas, business, education, etc.  It has a definite tendency to spread to social class and to traits like color, religion, wealth, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.  This is where you run into trouble.  

Rank, when it has been earned, is a measure of excellence and distinguishing degrees of excellence is essential to any group effort.  When rank is a measure of excellence and responsibility it is valuable.  When it is used to aggrandize oneself at the expense of those of lower rank it becomes rankism.  He discusses several types of abuse of rank.

C3  The Toll of Rank Abuse  Rankism causes those discriminated against to loathe the person responsible as well as themselves for submitting to it.  It also greatly reduces productivity.  He tells a story of George Washington observing that free men would do much more work than slaves and realizing that slaves had no reason to work hard.  He tells several stories how rankism greatly reduces educational progress.  Rankism reduces the value of leadership an dispirits an organization.

C4  The Hunger for Recognition  We all strive for recognition, we need recognition to have an identity.  Many more examples of people striving for recognition an rankists refusing to recognize them as people of value.  

C5  The Somebody Mystique  He draws a parallel with the womens movement.  For an exceedingly long time women were second class citizens and custom and law supported this.  It has taken a concerted effort by many people over many years to bring out these changes and the job is still not completed.  Rankism has still not reached the necessary political consciousness.  Part of the reason for the book is to show that at times everybody is subject to rankism.  He uses himself as a prime example of someone who had high rank, president of Oberlin College, and then after he resigned discovered that he was being treated as a nobody.  He mentioned that he was a guest in the White House and he witnessed the meeting of President Jimmy Carter and the singer John Denver.  They both looked at the other as really meeting Somebody.  Even people at the very top of their social class are nobodies in other social classes.  

C6  Deconstructing the Somebody Mystique  We love our heroes.  They are important.  As children they give us someone we can look up to and emulate.  Our parents and teachers are soon revealed as flawed humans just like us but we can look up to cultural heroes for much longer.  However if we begin to emulate them and stop learning from them they are no longer useful.  We need to learn from their efforts and their time and try to be as successful as we can be in our time.  Admiral "Bull" Halsey, Commander of the Pacific Fleet during WW II said, "There aren't any great men.  There are just great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstance to meet."  The author goes on to describe several circumstances that called for greatness in others.  One of his main points is to fail, learn from it, and when that fails, just continue on learning.  

C7  The Quest for Dignity  Democracy is the antithesis of somebodyism.  The story of democracy was started with the Magna Carta being signed at Runnymede in 1215 is also the store of the slow death of privilege and rank began and slowly expanded.  None of the "-isms" are completely dead yet but they are getting very weak.  The last is probably rankism.  The point is made that you can't solve the abuse of rank by punishing the perpetrator.  It only works if you can find a way to protect the dignity of both parties.  A dignitarian movement is slowly under way, "All Human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." is from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Perhaps the best solution is an open discussion of when rank is appropriate, when it is not, and what each means to individuals.  

C8  The Anatomy of Disrespect  "Democracy can be seen as the great achievement of the nobodies."  Fuller describes problems with American democracy as well as problems with the democritization of the emerging countries of the world.  Many have no history of democratic mechanisms and the western nations take actions which effect them but they have no say in the process.  

He discusses rankism in several areas, within the family between parents and children, health care doctors and nurses to patients and lower skilled workers, work between managers and workers, and unranked people becoming citizens.  He devotes a number of pages to examples of people who are defeated in one war coming back years later attempting to regain their "place" in the world.  His primary examples are Germany and Japan who suffered defeat or losses in WW I and who came back to demand their rightful place with the resultant death of millions.  He sees the same principle at work in the militancy of African and Middle Eastern peoples.  

C9  The Nobody Revolution: Overcoming Rankism  Just how will we overcome rankism?  It will probably be easier than overcoming the other 'isms because they have lead the way but more difficult because it is so much more widespread.  Two places that it will probably come early is in higher education as more teaching assistants and lower ranked faculty are frustrated and demand recognition for their services and in the Roman Catholic Church.  The scandal of sex abuse by the clergy, the lack of recruits to the clergy, and the attitudes of the older leaders of the church are creating many problems.  

It will be difficult to organize a mass movement around rankism, it will be a slow process.  It needs to be remembered that there are many powerful precedents for such activity.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you The Golden Rule
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others Confucius
What you do unto the least of them, you do unto me Jesus
We should behave to our friends, as we would wish our friends to behave to us Aristotle
Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative
Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you Early Hebraic version of the Golden Rule - from The Green Fuse by John Harte
Do unto others as they would desire to have done unto them Updated version that allows for different cultures, different sexes, different species, etc.  Exhibit empathy.

Both being a somebody and being a nobody have their positive sides and their negative sides.  With more and more people experiencing both sides of this equation it is becoming more and more clear that the only answer is to treat everyone with dignity and not forcing them to experience being Somebody or Nobody when they do not want to be is the best alternative.  

The book has 14 pages of Related Readings including several websites and a 7 page index.  

www.breakingranks.net, www.worktrauma.org, www.successunlimited.co.uk, www.workdoctor.com, www.planetearthfdn.org, www.workingwounded.com

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Great American Hypocrites          Glenn Greenwald            Apr 2009
            Subtitle:  Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics

Preface  Polls show that most Americans prefer Democratic policies but Republicans win elections.  Why?  Republicans use the same set of personality smears and mythical, psychological, and cultural images to win elections.  Right-wing leaders are inflated into heroic cultural icons, while Democrats are demonized as weak and hapless losers.  They say that Republicans show courage, conviction, strength, wholesome family morality, are "regular guys", are friendly to the military, fiscal restraint, and believe in the supremacy of the individual over the government.  Liberals and Democrats are depicted as weak, irresolute, anti-military, elitist, effete, amoral, sexually deviant, profligate, and are antagonistic to the values of "Real Americans."

Democratic males are soft, sissified effeminate losers, faggots and Democratic females are threatening, emasculating, icy, frigid, gender confused, dyke-ish shrews.

C1  The John Wayne Syndrome  Wayne was a draft dodger in WW II but made a living playing American heroes, in actuality he was an adulterer, had many divorces, new wives, broken families, used pills and booze, and in general practiced unrestrained hedonism.  He was a true precursor to Limbaugh, Gingrich, GW Bush, and Cheney.  

C2  How Great American Hypocrites Feed Off One Another  How the Republicans trash Democrats and elevate their own candidates to near God-hood.  How Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh have become elevated from bottom feeders to important personalities.  

C3  Tough Guise  GOP leaders are tough guys, real men of courage, and swaggering warriors instead of the (largely, McCain is an exception) draft dodgers they mostly are.  

C4  Wholesome Family Men  Many have reprehensible sexual lives.  

C5  Small-Government Tyrants  They sell themselves as supporters of small government, limited federal power, and individual liberty while acting in the opposite manner.  

C6  John McCain  Other than the fact that he actually did go to war, McCain is a living example of all of the excesses and faults of normal Republicans.  

I was not particularly impressed by the first book I read by Greenwald and this one is more of the same.  This book is a classic example of a "Bad People doing Bad Things" book.  Once you accept as fact the premise that the Republican Party and its fundamentalist conservatives have done tremendous harm to our nation the question becomes, "What can I do about this?"  I have already been convinced, I don't need to be convinced again.  The only real excuse I can find for this type of book is to develop a series of specific acts that can be used to take those responsible to court in hopes of punishing them for their crimes.  This would punish them and warn off others who would be tempted to follow.  

Greenwald does present a number of tactics that Republicans have used in the past and can be expected to use in the future so this is helpful.  However many others have done the same and some of them have suggestions how these tactics can be countered.  It is not just a matter of saying, "He is really a bad guy and my side is composed of Good Guys".  You have to actually convince the undecided voter that the Democratic candidate is the better person for the job.  And in many cases Democrats have acted as they were elites and couldn't be bothered to take voters seriously and really try to understand their problems.  

The book contains a 12 page index but the leading is large so it could probably be shrunk down to no more than 8 pages.  There are also no list of notes, references, or citations, not even in footnotes.  There are some references within the body of the text but they are difficult to find and not necessarily complete.  Many of the citations are legal references (I assume) but not being a constitutional lawyer and not having an extensive legal library handy means that I have to assume that the conclusions he draws are accurate.  

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The Thirteen American Arguments    Howard Fineman       Apr 2009
            Subtitle:  Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire our Country

Introduction: For the Sake of Argument  Americans are the Arguing Country, born in, and born to, debate.  Americans are an endless argument.  We came to America asking questions - the first was, Shall I leave my home and travel to a foreign country?  We all answered YES!  In almost all of the rest of the world, the answer would have been NO.  

When our ancestors came to this land there was no longer a King that we had to obey, he was far across the sea and no one much cared what he wanted.  Most of them had come because they did not agree with him or other authority anyway.  We were also relatively poor, there were no great fortunes to be made quickly, they took lots of work and time.  We did not have the gold of Central and South America to lure fortune seekers, many of our ancestors came as families, to build homes and businesses. and to stay.

The American story really began in 1620 with the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, the same year that Sir Francis Bacon proposed the scientific method.  America was the first, and perhaps only, nation that has never had her leaders seriously attempt to restrict the flow of information to only top down.  Our very first national issues were complaints about the free flow of information (The Stamp Act Congress in Oct. 1765) began a very intense period of public debate.  Thomas Pain's Common Sense, published in 1776, sold 600,000 copies in a country of 3 million.  Note: Common Sense can be found with a Google search, Google has scanned a copy and makes it available on the Web.

Fineman has a to-do list of reasons for writing this book.
  1. To cut through the noise of the day and try to show a comprehensible and nonpartisan overview of public life and how it works.  The labels change but the contents are the same.  The Republicans have been the party of high trade barriers and low, emancipation for slaves and a barrier to civil rights and affirmative action, the bastion of the industrial North and of the rural South.  The Democrats have been the party of Bible-toting teetotalers and the libertines of New York and San Francisco, the "peace" party and the "hawk" party, the supporters of "states rights" and the champions of expanded federal power.  The names "conservative", "liberal", "left", or "right" change but the conflicts remain.
  2. Arguing is good--in fact, indispensable.  It may be nasty, petty, and personal but it is necessary if we are to gain full information and govern ourselves.  The decision to go to war in Iraq was not fully debated, look where that got us.
  3. We need to keep the channels of communication open.  He points out several ways in which recent developments have reduced our ability to really communicate with one another.
  4. We need to encourage each other and ourselves to engage in public life, to take part in the arguing.
  5. He wants to offer a sense of perspective to what many perceive is a gloomy period in our national life.  We do have problems, but we have had them before and we have had the same arguments before.  We have survived them and come out stronger.  As Bill Clinton said in his first inaugural address, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
  6. And finally we need to appreciate our uniqueness, and strive to be worthy of it.  He sees five forces that are constantly fighting for dominion in society, the State, the Church, the Market, the Tribe, and the Academy (Science).  As long as they are in competition we should be fine but if any one becomes supreme then slavery is the inevitable result.  
C1  Who is a Person?  The chapter starts with a description of Barack Obama's announcement of his candidacy for President at the old state capital building in Springfield, Illinois and comparing this with Lincoln's candidacy.  He then moves on to Geraldine Ferraro's candidacy for Vice President, other women in high elected office, and Hillary Clinton's candidacy for President.  The basic question is and has been, is an African American or a woman a full person with equal rights?  

In Boston, in 1641, only Protestant Christians could live in the city.  Women of course had no rights.  Interesting aside, when Lincoln spoke of "Four score and seven years" he was not referring to the ratification of the Constitution and the formal founding of America, he was referring to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence.  The argument now over personhood is no longer race but over women and who controls their bodies.  As Fineman says, "These days Science, not Tribe, drives the debate."  Another aspect of this occurred shortly after 9/11.  Several individuals were detained.  Bush declared them "unlawful enemy combatants", were they entitled to due process of law, habeas corpus, and a public jury trial?  Bush said no, the Supreme Court said yes.  This debate is still going on and now includes "illegal aliens".  

C2  Who is an American?  He begins with the story of Senator George Allen of Virginia calling S. R. Sidarth, "Macaca".  Macaca was a French colonial slur ("monkey") for dark-skinned locals in Tunisia where Allen's mother had lived while growing up.  Sidarth's Ggrandfather was an associate of Gandhi, his grandfather was secretary of the World Health Organization, his father immigrated to America in the early 1980's and was a successful investment banker.  Sidarth had been an academic and athletic star at Thomas Jefferson high School in Fairfax County, Virginia.  Virginia's senator is now James Webb.  Who was the real Virginian (American)?  Was it George Allen or S. R. Sidarth?  

Fineman makes the observation that when the number of immigrants reaches roughly 15% of the population tolerance of "foreigners" reaches a tipping point and political movements reducing the number of immigrants become much larger.  He goes on to describe many tense issues with immigrants in our history.

C3  The Role of Faith  A brief discussion of the religious problems that have plagued America since the beginning.  Only seldom have religious zealots attempted to take control, recently the Republicans have tried this.  They tried before around the time of the Scopes trial.  This has always been a problem but never has it truly threatened the US.

C4  What Can We Know and Say?  Personal privacy, government security, the origins and problems regarding habeas corpus, the alien and sedition act, the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II, the Bush administration.  Lots of difficulties in our past and in our present.

C5  The Limits of Individualism  Today this question is typified by the argument over health care.  Should government be responsible for providing health care for everyone or should each individual be responsible?  This was the big issue during the Clinton presidency and it is a major issue today.  

The principle of individual freedom - "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has been with us since before our founding as a nation and it is still very important today.  Do we support economic individualism or communal thinking?  The arguments go from the New Deal to the anti-tax Grover Norquist.  Another topic for discussion, or violent argument, is gun control.  Do we outlaw most weapons, just machine guns and other rapid fire or large bore weapons, or do we allow free access to all firearms?  

C6  Who Judges the Law?  The chapter starts out with the maneuverings that surrounded Justice Roberts appointment to the Supreme Court.  The issues surrounding the decision to make the Supreme Court a part of the Constitution.  Some of the more important cases that came before the Supreme Court: Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scott, Brown v. Board of Education, FDR's attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court.  In more modern terms the appointment of Robert Bork and "Borking".  The appointment of Clarence Thomas.  The Texas judiciary and how it became politicized.  The election of George W. Bush by five members of the Supreme Court.  The influence of religion into the selection process (Dr. James Dobson) and the nomination of Harriet Miers.

C7  Debt and the Dollar   A quick course in international finance.  Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve.  Americans were taught very early the value of controlling the money supply.  England wanted and did control the amount of money that the colonies had.  The early American arguments over money, Hamilton vs. Jefferson, Jackson and the National Bank, "hard money" vs. Lincoln during the Civil War.  The creation of the Federal Reserve.  The struggle between the Federal Reserve to control the money supply and the politicians  who wanted a growing economy.  The recent failures to control the money supply and interest rates and the failures of the housing market.,

C8  Local v. National Authority  Following Katrina nobody seemed to be in charge.  Many claimed they were but few got anything done.  Making it worse was the distrust of federal officials by the local officials.  "We love our country, our 'nation' not so much."  Lincoln spoke of our nation at Gettysburg, Roosevelt at his first inauguration, Bush 2 after 9/11.  The founders put together a more perfect Union", we still haven't fully resolved just exactly who we are.  

The first colonies were widely split.  The Puritans of New England were a community held together by the clergy, Virginia and the other southern colonies were plantation oriented, trade and the genteel English countryside.  Religion was a part of their life but only on Sunday morning.  The middle colonies of New York and Philadelphia and surrounding areas were strictly commercial following their Dutch trader roots.  It wasn't until 1815 and the success of the Battle of New Orleans that most of the people in America and the world thought of the US as a nation.  Even then no one seriously thought about ending slavers because of their fear of what the southern states would do.  The compromise of 1820 (the Missouri Compromise) and later the 1850 Compromise kept putting this off until Lincoln's election in 1860.  The result was the most deadly war in our nations history.  Following this, if race has ever ceased to be a factor in American politics it was only after 1957 with the Little Rock schools and the first sections of the interstate highway system opened.

While race is no longer a primary concern the ratio of state vs. national authority still is.  Now it seems to be primarily one of conservative vs. liberal ideals.

C9  Presidential Power  A comparison of the presidential styles of Ford and Carter to Nixon and Bush 2.  The early arguments for and against Presidential power - Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, Chief Justice John Marshal, Jackson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts.

C10  The Terms of Trade  Factoid: Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations was published in March 1776, just four months before the Declaration of Independence.  Adam Smith was correct, free trade is good for nations but unfortunately the benefits are not spread evenly throughout the nation.  There are always winners and losers.  Typically free trade in America has been good for consumers and farmers, not good for manufacturers and labor.  In part the Revolution was fought over free trade as was the Civil War.  It would seem that one of the major problems in America is the inability to strike a balance between protectionism and free trade, how do you set tariffs to protect markets but also to obtain overseas goods at a reasonable price, to encourage industry and agricultural production in all countries of the world.  Will increasing fuel costs as oil runs out finally solve the problem?  For me the issue is one of balance, and how to achieve it for all countries and peoples of the world.

C11  War and Diplomacy  A report on an interview with George Bush when he was Governor of Texas and getting ready to run for the Presidency.  It is hard to evaluate the interview as the book was finished in 2008 and the interpretation of the interview must have been colored by the events of the previous 7 years.  It doesn't shed any new light on the character of Bush 2.

Fineman asks a very good question, "Do we need to change the world to survive in it?"  The various factors, the Markets, Faith, Tribes, Science, the State all have specific needs or goals.  How do we balance or respond to all of these needs.  

For our country we really started this debate with Washington, in his Farewell Address of 1796 he warned of foreign entanglements.  In terms of electoral politics the elections of Adams and Jefferson were fought primarily on this issue.  Many writers have attempted to characterize this issue.  One breaks our history into two eras, the biblical Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old extending from our founding to late in the 19th century concentrating on protecting our liberty and prosperity (the promised land) and the New during the 20th century and now into the 21st century of moving out into the world on crusading missions, to change it, manage it, or inspire it with missionary zeal.  Another breaks it into four eras, the Wilsonian (make the world safe for liberty), the Hamiltonian (make the world safe for commerce, the Jeffersonian (either type of involvement might undermine liberty at home), and the Jacksonian (destroy America's enemies and defend our sovereignty at all costs, world opinion be damned).  Another way of looking at this is that the various factors mentioned in the paragraph above vie for control of our foreign policy.  He discusses how each of these has pushed in its own way.  He makes the point that responsible foreign policy is best served when several of these factors are in conflict.  He illustrates this by describing the problems that arose when Bush 2 was able to seize control of most of these factors during the second Gulf War with Iraq.  There was at first no consistent opposition to his policies and by the time opposition was able to pull itself together we had committed massive forces to movement and any checks and balances were incapable of stopping this momentum.  It is still not stopped and will not be for several years yet even after Bush has left office.

C12  The Environment  You can tell where this chapter is going, he starts out by describing an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.  Americans have held three basic and mutually antagonistic views.  For many years the early Virginia planters employed the dominant view: you grew tobacco, you depleted the soil, you moved west and started again.  Then came the German farmers that were lured to American by William Penn, they prided themselves on meticulous husbandry of hard-won limited plots.  The final was typified by Emerson and Thoreau, they feared rampant industrialization and inspired the conservation movement.  

For three hundred years our national goal was to follow the Bible and "subdue" the wilderness.  It wasn't until the 1890 census that we realized that there was no more frontier left.  In the early years of the 20th century he set aside 42 million acres of national forests and created the Forest Service.  The rest of the chapter discusses the environmental push and shove from all sides starting in the 1960's.  Some of the points along the way are Silent Spring, The Limits of Growth, DDT, Earth Day, the Sagebrush Rebellion, James Watt, Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth, and mountain top removal.

C13  A Fair, "More Perfect" Union  This is probably the weakest chapter in the book, it is, after all, the thirteenth chapter.  It starts out with a brief summary of John McCain's life, especially his 2000 campaign for the presidency against George Bush.  It then goes on to a discussion of democracy and the need for elites, and the distrust most of us have against elites.  The first "rebellion" in America started in 1676 in Virginia as "Bacon's Rebellion" against the "tidewater gentry" along the Atlantic Coast.  Then there were the resentments against the major industries, first the shipping, Two Years Before the Mast, and then the railroads.  There were numerous others.  

Conclusion  The book started out as an explanation of what the author had seen in his reporting for many years, it then changed into a second purpose of offering reassurance and hope to readers who may need them.  During much of this time the political system seemed unable to fulfill its basic mission, which is to generate serious debate on real issues, find common ground in workable deals, and establish capable leadership.  The final message is the book is "We need to calm down, get engaged, and look for leadership."  We have been there before and before we have always found a way forward, they have not been easy, but they have worked.  He has a theory that our best presidents are those who embrace and embody the contradictions and paradoxes of our country.  They can see and feel all sides of the issues that face our nation at that time.  He refers to Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Truman, and even Reagan.  He quotes a line from Clinton's first inaugural, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."

It is now our job to decide which parts of our heritage - which sides of which arguments - are the "right" ones to meet the moment.  

He ends with 34 pages of notes covering specific interviews for this book, previous interviews for Newsweek and other organizations and books and articles arranged by chapter.  The specific pages cited are not given which makes referencing them a little difficult.  He also includes a 22 page index.  

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