Blum July 2006
Freeing the World to Death
William Blum July 2006
Rahm Emanual and Bruce Reed Sept 2006
L. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor
Fanatics & Fools
A Deeper Shade of Green
Bill McKibben Aug
Phillips Aug 2006
The Jesus Dynasty
James D. Tabor
State and Freeing the
World to Death William Blum
Since I read both of these books at about the same time and they say
about the same things I will cover them together. Both books
about politicians and other such scum baits doing bad things.
They are mostly organized by topic but it is a fuzzy
organization. There are a lot of charges made and a lot of
citations supporting these charges. He is coming from a very
idealistic and liberal viewpoint so most of his charges are made
against Republican politicians but he tosses in enough Democratic
examples to "prove" that he is non-biased.
Blum in making a lot of very serious charges against many politicians.
I happen to agree with many of these charges but I didn't
how the book was presented. He makes so many charges that
impact is diluted by the numbers. One way he could have
his message would be to use the model presented in Cobra II
by Gordon and Trainor. They covered a very specific and
subject and covered it in depth so that one gains a good understanding
of the subject. Blum covers many topics in minimal depth.
He gives references but without more information we cannot
evaluate these references. Another way Blum could have
his coverage of his topic would be to just prepare a database of all
the charges. It would have to be a large and extensive
but if it were accessible on line it could be used by others to put
together specific evaluations. He should have made available
more information on his citations. Many of these are
access and just because columnist X said something about politician Y
doesn't make it true. Did Blum cite the reference accurately
did he read into it what he believed was there. There are too
many occurances of less than accurate citations to simply assume that
what an author says is true actually is.
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Rahm Emanual and Bruce Reed
Prologue: Lost and Found
"Who am I? Why am I here?", Admiral Stockdale in
1992, VP candidate for the Ross Perot campaign. We laughed at
the time but it has been an accurate representation of politics in the
1990's and 2000's. Neither party seems to know what it is
doing and has no idea of how to get there. Republicans
latched onto religious conservatism as a campaign tactic but forgot
what they were campaigning for, Democrats became so desperate to beat
Republicans that they forgot where they wanted to do when they actually
won an election. Politics today is more consumed with solving
political problems than with solving the countries problems.
Part One: WHAT
C1 Hacks and Wonks A hack is a person
who knows everybody and everything and is convinced that he has all of
the solutions, he can usually get things working - he just can't seem
to get them working right. A wonk (wikipedia) is 1) An overly
studious or hard-working person or 2) A persnickety person, overly
focuses on details. A policy wonk is only interested how
something works in theory, commonly clueless when it comes to
implementation. The describe many problems caused by hacks
and wonks in recent politics, main focus is on Republicans because the
authors are Democrats. A pretty weak chapter, sounds like a
dissolutioned hack wrote it.
C2 The Frame Game
The authors complain that Democrats haven't been winning may
elections recently. They spend most of the chapter
complaining about analysts, primarily George Lakoff and his concept of
framing. Evidently they either failed to read his books or
just didn't understand what were reading. This is not all
bad, some of his stuff is a little complex. They seem to
think that he believes that the only problems with Democrats is that
they don't talk right. What he actually said is that
Republicans have discovered a way of "framing" their proposals in a way
that makes them more appealing to many people, and that Democrats have
failed to make their ideas understandable. I don't recall his
ever saying that policies are unimportant and that all you have to do
to win is to talk nice. Lakoff is pointing out an area where
Republicans have been successful and trying to show how Democrats can
use the same principles to make their points.
C3 Ozzie and
Harriet Don't Live Here Anymore
America grew up with a fairly stable political and economic
reality. There were of course problems, we solved most of the
issue of slavery, our economy and labor got a little out of whack in
the late portion of the 1800's and we had a major problem in the late
1920's and 1930's but we got past that. For most of the 1950's,
1960's, 1970's, and 1980's we did just fine, becoming the envy of the
world. During the last decade a few minor cracks developed, the
1990's were pretty good but there were obviously some major problems
coming up. Now as 2000 is well started the problems are
increasing and more and more people are becoming fearful of the future.
PART TWO: THE
C4 What's the Plan? The authors present
a 5 part plan for Americas future, in brief it is:
C5 Asked Not:
John Kennedy, "A nation is defined not by what it does for its
citizens, but by what it asks of them." Recently both parties
have been arguing over which one can give the citizens the most and ask
the least. Great presidents ask a lot of the country and we can
be justifiably proud when we accomplish important tasks. The
essence of the American bargain is that each citizen has to do his or
her part. Our rights are spelled out in the Constitution but our
responsibilities are what keeps the country running. An example
is the Patriot Act. All it asks is that Americans wave flags from
the sidelines. The authors want a mandatory universal service for
three months. During this period they would be trained in basic
civil defense. They would learn how to respond to the most likely
emergencies in their state or region (wildfires, floods, evacuations,
toxic releases, etc.) and thus become a resource to be called upon when
needed. They could also be introduced to more extensive training
or service if they wished to continue (military or civilian).
- A new social contract with the citizens of America
- Universal citizen service
- Universal college access
- Universal retirement savings
- Universal children's health care
- A return to fiscal responsibility and an end to corporate
- Tax reform to help those who aren't wealthy build wealth
- A new strategy to win the war on terror
- A hybrid economy that cuts America's gasoline use in half
C6 Toga Party:
The GI Bill of Rights following WWII was one of the biggest
reasons America progressed so rapidly during the 1950's, 1960's, and
1970's. Now college grads earn an average of $51,000 per year
where high school grads earn $28,000 per year. In a 2006 study by
the Federal Reserve the average net worth of a high school dropout is
$20,000 and the net worth of a college grad is $226,000. America
was once first in the world in college enrollment, now we are ninth.
India produces twice as many college grads a year as the US and
China produces three times as many. We need to simplify the tax
requirements for education funds, require that colleges specify and
guarantee the student costs for a four year degree, stop subsidizing
banks and give the money directly to states to use for tuition grants
and reduction of student expenses. There must be a major effort to
retain students who would otherwise drop out of college before
graduation. We need to increase out support for high schools and
demand that they produce students that are no longer inferior to
students in other countries. Our current school year was designed
for farming communities, they need to be redesigned bypassing the
industrial era and focusing on the information age.
C7 Who Wants to
Be a Millionaire?: Universal Retirement Savings For
many years American families prosperity has been increasing.
Ownership of homes and stock has been going up.
Unfortunately there are some clouds on the horizon. The
price of new homes has been increasing exponentially, some large
companies have had foolish accounting practices and have collapsed
erasing many savings accounts. Clinton proposed a Universal
Savings Account on top of Social Security, it got caught in partisan
politics, Bush proposed private Social Security accounts but he failed
to carry his own party. Wealth is moving into the very richest
people with the middle class seeing rapidly shrinking retirement
accounts. With all of the investment options available, and many
fraudulent or very high risk, stocks demand too much money and
attention to become a viable option for many people.
The authors suggest a broad based retirement program based on requiring
all employers offering 401 (k) accounts to all employees which
automatically take effect unless the employee explicitly opts out.
They recommend that all employers offer some sort of matching
contribution. They also suggest that all homeowners be allowed
the mortgage deduction instead of just those who itemize their taxes.
They would eliminate the capital gains on the middle class and
restore it for the wealthy, they would raise the minimum wage and
encourage companies to offer employee stock plans. We need to
insure that the same type of stock options that go to high executives
also go to all employees. They also want tighter government
regulation of corporate accounting with simpler rules and guarantees
with teeth on retirement plans.
C8 House Call:
Children's Health Care
Health insurance premiums are increasing four times as fast as
inflation, they have gone up 73% since Bush took office. The
greatest barrier to universal health care coverage is simple, cost.
A recently study found that health care costs $5,267 per person,
twice the median for the industrialized world and $1,812 more than the
next most expensive, Switzerland. Currently health care adds
$1,500 to the price of every GM auto. The Bush Medicare
prescription drug bill produced more bureaucracy and confusion than it
saved in benefits and cost containment. The motivation for the
bill was political success and not health care.
Five recommendations to cut costs and improve quality of health care.
Since universal health care is probably not achievable in the near
future they make three suggestions which will help those with the most
- Require much more information technology be used in health care.
- Structure the health care system to reward results and not procedures. The model should be fee-for-results.
- Help people stay healthy instead of waiting for an illness.
Health providers and employers need to be rewarded for steering
recipients into serious fitness and wellness plans.
- Provide effective care. Government and major employers need
to research the comparative effectiveness of drugs and treatments.
Presumably the most effective treatments would get the most
- Do a better job where the costs are the greatest, chronic care.
Through proper treatment and good management the patients get
better care and it costs less.
C9 The Era of
Hack Government is over: Fiscal Responsibility
and an End to Corporate Welfare
The federal government must become responsible. We cannot
reduce taxes, increase spending, and fight multifront wars all over the
world and not mortgage our children's future. No American
president before Bush had cut taxes in wartime. In World War II,
FDR took drastic measures not simply to finance the war, but also to
show the country that our soldiers shouldn't be the only ones to
sacrifice. They have a number of specific suggestions:
- Cover every child in America. Clinton sponsored the State
Children's Heal Insurance Program (SCHIP) which has worked very well,
Illinois and Massachusetts have recently instituted programs that go
beyond the SCHIP program.
- Set up a National Cure Center that will examine the most
expensive of our health problems and research methods of reducing costs
and finding cures for them.
- Make sure that every American can have health insurance equal to
that our Congress gets. Require that insurance companies offer
employers and uncovered individuals access to large population pools in
calculating insurance bills. Offer employers assistance in
reducing and paying for health care costs.
C10 The Ides of
Reform to Help Those Who Aren't Wealthy to Build Wealth For
the last 30 years the tax debate in Washington has only been
about one thing on the Republican side. They want to reduce taxes
on the wealthy. If taxes were being discussed as a part of the
economy sometimes they should be raised and sometimes they should be
lowered. The Republicans are treating taxes for the rich as a
religious belief. Republicans want a tax code that puts the whole
burden of taxes on work, not wealth. Democrats want a progressive
tax code that rewards work and asks the most of those who have been
blessed with the most. Payroll taxes make up the bulk of taxes
paid by middle-class and poor Americans. Corporate taxes, which
accounted for 30% of federal revenue 50 years ago now make up just 10%.
Under Republican government the rich are getting richer and the
middle-class and poor are getting poorer.
- Cut unneeded programs and close loopholes in revenue and regulations that distort the market.
- End corporate welfare.
- New rules that change how Washington sets priorities: annual
spending caps and a pay-as-you-go rule (Congress can't pass new
programs or cut taxes without a means to pay for them).
- Set up a separate capital budget for long-term investments, for example, medical research, education, research.
- Require states to pick bipartisan panels to draw compact, contiguous legislative districts.
- Drastically reduce the number of federal consultants.
- Eliminate bills that give money to specific projects in the members home district.
- Give the president a line item veto that would send the item back to the Congress for an up-or-down vote.
- Require at least a five-year ban on members of Congress, senior
staff, and senior administration officials before they could become
- Require that broadcast media give candidates free time as part payment for using the public airwaves.
- Reduce the number of political appointees in the federal workforce.
The tax code is so complicated that most people need help filling out
their forms. It is so riddled with loopholes that the IRS spends
about $115 billion per year and they estimate that $345 billion per
year is uncollected and avoided. That is almost enough to balance
the federal budget.
There recommendations for tax reform include:
C11 Who Sunk my
New Strategy to Win the War on Terror It has been more than 5 years since 9/11. It took less time to win WW
II. The primary purpose of the War on Iraq (according to Bush
policies) has to advance the political and economic advantages of the
Republicans and their corporate friends.
- Cut the number of tax brackets from 6 to 3.
- Close dozens of loopholes by setting a corporate flat tax of 35%.
- Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.
- Reduce the federal deficit by cutting corporate welfare.
- Reduce the size of the Federal Tax form to a single page.
- Implement a College Tax Credit which will replace five major
existing education tax incentives with a simple $3,000 per year credit
for four years of college plus two years of graduate school.
- Extend the home mortgage deduction to all homeowners, not just to those who itemize.
- Replace the existing childrens and families tax credits with a simplified one page form.
- Replace the 16 existing IRA-type accounts with one simplified portable plan.
- Implement a Middle Class Flat Tax. If you earn less than
$100,000 you calculate your tax, then compare your calculated taxes to
10% of your income. You pay the lesser amount.
- They propose to eliminate the capital gains tax for the middle
class. They don't define middle class, my assumption would be the
$100,000 mentioned above.
How do we win the war on terror. They have several general principles:
C12 Meet the
Jetsons: The Hybrid Economy From
the railroad to the automobile to the moon mission, America has always
been where the future is made. We have the chance - and the
obligation to do it again. We have the opportunity to lead the
world out of dependence on oil.
- Enlist our allies in a common mission against the conditions that
breed it. Every time we pull out of an international agreement we
hurt our cause. The United Nations has problems, we need to work
with it to make it better and refocus it. We cannot do everything
on out own.
- Rebuild and expand our armed forces. When Bush ran for
president he complained that Clinton had gutted the military. He
was wrong, but it has been gutted now. Instead of spending money
on our troops we have had incredible amounts of spending on high-tech
weapons and consultants, but our troop strength is down and they don't
have needed equipment. Recruitment is down and the Army is being
forced to use lower quality recruits.
- We need a new capacity to counter domestic terrorism. 9/11
wasn't a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of organization.
We had the intelligence that predicted a domestic attack, it is
just that nobody listened. The answer, create a whole new
bureaucracy. It doesn't work either, see Katrina. We don't
need to choose between security and individual freedoms, that's just an
excuse for poor police work.
- We need to recognize that wars are won or lost at home. We
need to prevent domestic attacks from causing damage. For example
we need to protect chemical plants in populated areas from attack.
In WW II, Roosevelt brought many of the best leaders in American
business to Washington and paid them $1 per year, Bush prefers
consultants at $500 per hour. Instead of following the
recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Bush stalled on giving them
information. We need to prepare plans, have them evaluated by the
military, state governments, and local leaders, and then publicize them
to the population. Bush publish a paper on the plan for victory
in Iraq and the first time the US generals in Iraq saw it was in the
newspapers. Sacrifices needed to win the war should begin at
home, it should not be only the lowest ranking soldiers who are called
on the make the sacrifice.
A Politics of
Citizenship is not an entitlement program. Responsibility
must start at the top, we have seen what lack of responsibility does in
Katrina, Enron, and elsewhere. Leadership is not making a program
for every problem, but establishing the tools and conditions that will
enable citizens to make the most of their own lives. Clinton made
a good start on answering the neglect of the previous Republican
presidents in the 1990's, but Bush had done everything in his power to
undo these programs. We need partisan politics and different
ideas because no one party has a monopoly on all of the good ideas.
But our disagreements should be over the best ways of solving our
problems, not how to create problems for the other person.
- Energy: We can start by pushing hybrid engines. We
need to set a goal of reducing gasoline use in half in the near future.
We need to start an aggressive campaign to develop new energy
technologies. Efficiencies of electric power plants haven't
increased since 1960, transmission losses have doubled since 1970.
We are currently falling behind instead of improving.
- Jobs: New and improved energy techniques would create
millions of jobs, it would also spur a great deal of public investment
in scientific research. Research in the 1950's, '60's, and '70's
stimulated the economic boom of the 1980's and '90's. We have
been falling behind recently and our overseas competitors have been
- Science and Engineering: Our budget for science and
technology has been going down since the 1970's. The National
Institutes of Health (NIH) funding has been going up, we have the
worlds best medical technology and medical research. We need a
National Institute of Science and Technology and we need to increase
support to colleges and universities to provide the training for these
scientists and engineers.
- Broadband and High-Speed Rail: High speed internet
communication is the key to a modern economy. From inventing the
internet a few years ago we have slipped to twelfth in the world in
broadband access, we pay twice as much for broadband as the Chinese and
thirty times as much as the Japanese. Railroads were the key to
Americas industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. They
haven't changed much since. Railroads are a highly efficient
method of carrying people and freight. One gallon of diesel fuel
can transport a ton of coal 400 miles by rail. High speed rail
could compete with air travel for distances up to 300 miles.
They include 8 pages of notes and 7 pages of (fine print) index.
Return to Top Directory
Michael L. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor
The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
In July1944 General George Patton lead the Third Army breakout from
Normandy to liberate France. It was called Operation Cobra.
Almost sixty years later, another Third Army Commander,
Lieutenant General David McKiernan, sought to evoke the illustrious
episode. He named the drive to Baghdad, Cobra II.
In late 2001 Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had a meeting with the
senior military leadership, 3 star general Newbold was to present a
plan for the invasion of Iraq. When asked he estimated that
approximately 500,000 troops would be needed. Rumsfeld was
irritated, he said that no more than 125,000 or perhaps less would be
needed. Later Newbold said that he made a mistake because he
the junior military officer in the room, he should have said that the
military should have been given the task and let them plan the mission
and come up with the number required to accomplish the task.
The book covers the Iraq war from the early policy statements made by
Bush in his campaign for president in 1999 as to how he would remake
the US military through the resignations of Secretary of State Colin
Powell (and his top deputy a month later). Since the book is
600 pages long I will not attempt to summarize each chapter, just cover
the high points presented in the Epilogue.
Although there is no explicit evidence to suggest that the Iraq war was
explicitly planned before 9/11, it is clear that many of the ideas and
goals that went into the war were created much earlier.
Bush's speech at the Citadel in 1998. The aim of the war was
reduce terrorism by removing Saddam, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction, install a pro-American government in Iraq, and serve as an
object lesson for other would be dictators and terrorists. By
going into the war with a plan based on their preconceived beliefs and
not listening to the military the President and his advisers set
themselves up for a disaster. The authors cite 5 grievous
that the presidential team made.
Saddam's plans to repel the Americans were very poor because of his
fear of a coup. Immediately after Baghdad fell, many Iraqi's
happy to see the Americans but when the country was not pacified, when
the Iraqi army was disbanded, putting 300,000 armed men on the streets,
when elections were canceled because a candidate whom Bremer did not
like appeared to be winning, and when order and essential services were
not restored, much of the population became disenchanted with the
- They underestimated their opponent and failed to understand
political and ethnic situation in Iraq. The Iraq War was was
a continuation of the Persian Gulf War. The Army easily
the Republican Guards but they were not prepared for the Fedayeen that
immediately began a guerrilla war. There was poor
from the CIA, WMD's did not exist, weapons and explosive caches were
not looked for, and they thought that once Baghdad was captured the war
would be over, they did not realize that the Fedayeen would not stop
fighting until the entire Sunni Triangle was occupied.
- They did not use the right tools: Too much
technology, not the right mix and numbers of soldiers on the ground.
The advance to Baghdad went very well. But the Army
past the entrenched Fedayeen leaving them untouched with all of their
arms still available in caches. The Army needed many more
affairs units, military police, and interpreters. Since there
weren't enough troops they kept getting re-assigned to new areas, often
just as they were establishing a rappor with locals.
- They stuck with a fairly rigid battle plan even after it
have become obvious that it wasn't working as had been expected.
In the first days of the war, the troops on the ground
that their fight was not going as expected and they quickly modified
their tactics. The commanders, primarily General Franks,
changed their tactics. The commanders on the ground assisted
their troops in capturing Baghdad but Franks never changed his orders
and the situation rapidly deteriorated. The White House and
Defense Department started removing troops within a week of the fall of
Baghdad before the Fedayeen and other terrorists were captured.
- They set up a system in which differing military and
perspectives were discouraged. During the Persian Gulf War
were heated discussions between the Defense Department (Cheney) and the
Joint Chiefs (Powell). This resulted in all aspects being
considered. In the Iraq war, Rumsfeld chose General Myers to
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs because he was a "team" player and he
would go along. Cheney never questioned Rumsfeld and Powell
ignored when he objected. There were a large number or
in the higher ranks of the military in Iraq and poor relationships with
civilian authorities (Paul Bremer).
- They ignored the lessons learned from the Balkans and other
crisis zones in nation building. Bush did not like how
handled the Balkans. He wanted to spend no money on post-war
enforcement. Bush wanted to get in and then get out as his
had done, however he wanted to capture Saddam and create a new
government. He failed to plan for the last two and with the
disbanding of the Iraqi military there was no force for law and order.
The original plan for rebuilding Iraq after the war was to
only $3 billion.
There are over 100 pages of maps, notes, appendices, and index.
This is an extremely well documented book. A very
source of information about the Iraq war.
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This is a very broken up book. It is broken into 4 sections
sections 1 and 2 say just about the same thing, these are the Fanatics,
the Republicans who are the leaders in Washington DC and Sacramento CA,
President Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger. These are all
the bad things that these two men and their friends have done.
Section 3 is about the Fools, the Democrats who waffle and
of disagree with what the Republicans are doing but not really, sort of
Republican-light. Section 4 is her vision of what Democrats
should do to take back control of America and remove the Radical from
the Radcons (see Robert Reich - Reason).
Sections 1 and 2 use much of the same material that many of the authors
works reviewed here have said. She adds a lot more detail
regarding Schwarzenegger than the others, she ran as a candidate for
the Governor of California, loosing in the primary, she has a major
interest in California politics, just as Molly Ivins has an interest in
Texas politics. In section 3 Huffington comments on many
and failures of courage from current Democratic politicians.
finds that one of their main problems is that are trailing after the
same money sources as the Republicans and they feel that to pursue
their goals aggressively would seriously compromise their ability to
raise campaign funds.
Huffington believes that Democrats should should preach and act on a
doctrine of social responsibility similar to that shown by Kennedy,
FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, and the Founding Fathers. She
states that the center of her interest in politics is the application
of the biblical admonition that "to whom much is given, from him that
much more shall be expected." This idea was at the core of
founding philosophy of America. She quotes from the ideas of
George Lakoff. She wants a presidential candidate who can
voters to imagine that all children sent to school will be safe and
that they will learn, she wants them to imagine a nation where
comprehensive health care is a basic right, where the environment is an
asset to be treasured not as something to be exploited, where elected
officials work for the voters and not special interests, and where
economic productivity doesn't come at the cost of quality of life and
where work is structured to allow parents to take care of their
children. She wants the presidential candidate to display a
concern for the poor and for the middle class, to recapture the
language of morality from the fundamentalists who have reduced it to
sexual morality and use it to spotlight the immorality of many in the
corporate sector, to forge an alliance that includes minorities and the
dispossessed along with the influential, the affluent, and the
powerful, to provide an outlet for idealistic young people, and to
appeal to what is best in us instead of the usual politicians who
appeal to what is most selfish in us.
Huffington offers a "New Contract for a Better America"
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- Achieve Energy Independence
- Prescribe a Cure for the Health Care Epidemic
- Treat Lost Jobs as a Social Calamity, not a Lagging
- Truly Leave No Child Behind (spend more money on educating
children than on incarcerating them)
- Break Down Barriers and Create New Opportunities in
Education (properly fund schools at all levels)
- Call a Truce in the Drug War (more for treatment, equal
prosecution for all, go after major suppliers)
- Secure the Homeland First
- Be a (world) Leader, Not a Bully
- Restore Integrity to the Political Process (take the money
out of politics)
- Put People Above Corporate Profits
Deeper Shade of Green Bill
McKibben Aug 2006
Voices - a Department in National Geographic Aug 2006, v210#2
The article starts with a repetition of the usual ecology and global
warning facts. He then makes the statement, "Humans have
faced a civilization-scale challenge before." Actually we
check out Jared Diamond and his book - Collapse.
I first heard about this problem from an agronomist-soil
scientist in the 1980's who had just gotten back from an Aid tour in
the Middle East; Iran, Iraq, Jordan, etc. area. He described
cycles of irrigation, salt buildup, infectious worms from snails
leading to disease, starvation, and abandonment for years and finally
to re-population, agriculture, irrigation, ... These
were not world wide but certainly death for their civilizations.
Americans created environmentalism because we could see the damage
happening in real time. They worked to set up small
protect specific species of animals. Others have been better
recognizing the world problem - global warming. Our question,
"will this issue increase the economy? If yes, we are for it,
not we are against it. Better question, "Will it put more
into the atmosphere?" Best question, "Will the issue benefit
earth and all its inhabitants?" McKibbon's suggestion - we
more community, approach the problem locally. A single
lettuce from California costs 36 calories to move it to New York.
Old style (American) environmentalism must (and is) changing.
The practitioners must encompass preachers, sociologists,
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This is a very simple book. There is only one topic:
empires. There are three themes: energy, religion, and debt.
And there are five actors: Rome, Spain, the Dutch, Britain,
the United States.
His overall thesis is likewise quite simple, a relatively
area will gain a small advantage over other areas. By hard
internal cooperation, available resources, and lack of inhibitions
against trying new things, they grow faster and spread their influence
over their neighbor states. After a period of rapid growth
discover that other areas have exploitable resources and they quickly
move o take advantage of this.
More and more of their talent and resources are sent to these areas,
their whole world as they know it. Their culture changes from
of doing to one of managing. Their leaders know, or at least
they know, how they got there and take steps to insure that they, and
their sons, maintain their power. Power is now defined as
political, religious, and financial. Actually doing things,
production, is seen as demeaning and can be left to ignorant foreigners
who need to be managed.
Somewhere around this period leaders discover that religion can be used
to increase their power. There are always those who see their
calling as religious who are more than happy to ally themselves with
political and economic leaders. These groups tend to coalesce
into a single leadership cabal that sees itself as being destined by
God to rule the world and bring God's message to all the worlds people.
These projects take lots of money and lots of work.
work is provided preferably by foreigners as they will do it cheaper
and the money is provided by these same foreigners , either by outright
theft, resource exploitation, taxation, or borrowing. This is
right and proper because God is on our side and He intended His chosen
people (us) to do this in His name.
Then the debts come due, the ungrateful foreigners foreclose on their
loans and refuse to let their resources be plundered and a new group
gains a small advantage.
PART 1: OIL AND
C1 Fuel and National Power The energy
source for the
first two empires, Rome and Spain, differed little from the rest of the
world. The power of wind pushed the Dutch to world economic
domination. After the Spanish Armada was destroyed in 1588,
Dutch became the worlds maritime power. Wind power was of
widely used but the Dutch exploited it most effectively, both for
sailing ships and for windmills. The Dutch maintained their
superiority until the 1750's. They had become Europe's banker
their material production had been reduced dramatically. They
lost their technology advantage as the knowledge spread across Europe.
During the final years of this period Britain was beginning to exploit
coal as an energy resource and by 1763 they were clearly on their way.
Britain's small family owned businesses helped create the
rise in power and influence were by 1914 an obsolete drag on
innovation. Their students went to university to read Latin
Greek and to become military officers and managers, engineers were
deemed barely better than craftsmen. America was taking the
based on their exploitation of oil. Now, almost 100 years
American oil fields are nearing empty, our automotive industry is
making more money lending money than making cars and much of our
industry has been outsourced to Asia.
C2 The Politics
of American Oil Dependence
In the early days of oil in the US, the Democrats were the
Party. In the 1870's and 1880's the Standard Oil Company
Rockefeller started spending big money on Democrats.
tended to be more friendly to coal interests although some oil money
was appreciated. Oil remained primarily in the Democrat camp
by the 1940's some Texas oilmen were lamenting the "creeping socialism"
of Roosevelt. Nixon, an early enemy of Big Oil, made the
major efforts to spread Republicanism to the oil states, a task which
was pretty well completed by Reagan.
Oil quickly became an international commodity. By 1885, 70%
Standard Oil's business was overseas. There was a continuous
covert war between the US, Britain, France, Germany, and the Dutch for
control of oil finds with the US usually winning. After
the US presidency has been under the control of Texas oil with the one
minor blip for Carter. Clinton certainly never tried to
the oil trend.
C3 Trumpets of Democracy, Drums of Gasoline
though none of the above mentioned countries will admit it there has
been an over 100 years war going on in the Middle East to gain access
to the oil in the region. The first military aspect of the
started in 1897 when Britain assumed a protectorate over Kuwait, then a
minor outpost of Turkish Mesopotamia - what we now know as Iraq.
One Iraqi historian recorded thirty significant outbreaks
1919 and 1958 when the British finally left Iraq. The two
wars were just temporary escalations of this activity. The US
became involved in 1973 when James Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
for Nixon engaged in planning with British officials regarding the
takeover of the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi.
This plan, somewhat modified and updated, became the basis
the 2003 War on Iraq. During this period there were numerous
lesser armed interventions, by hired thugs. One of these was
reportedly Saddam Hussein. The remainder of the chapter
the oil politics of the Middle East in more detail.
PART II: TOO
C4 Radicalized Religion American
always had an evangelical, missionary, and frequently a radical or
combative streak. Many attribute this in part to western
countries exporting their more radical groups to the US where they were
able to grow and expand without much contact with more conservative
church groups. For many years the more radical religions were
small, isolated, and were overlooked on the national and religious
scene. There has been an uneven but steady rise in the number
members and denominations until the hit a sort of critical mass during
the last half of the 1900's. A major defection occurred in
1830's with the formation of the Christian Church which split into the
Church of Christ, Christian Churches, and the Disciples of Christ.
The Mormon church was started in 1820. The Seventh
Adventists got their start around 1843 and 1844 and adopted their
current name in 1860. Jehovah's Witnesses began in the
Generally the South led the way as many preachers there
their loss of the Civil War as a sacrifice leading to redemption.
He devotes a big section to detailed statistics on changing
church memberships. Phillips refers to his book, The Cousins' Wars,
in stating that knowing the religion of the area is the best indicator
of the side the people and towns supported in the three major civil
wars of English speaking peoples. He devotes the final
the chapter to the "favorite people of God" feeling the is very
prevalent in Protestant areas as soon as they have a few years of
success. This commonly leads to excesses and quite often
retaliation or disappointment.
C5 Defeat and
Beginning in 1865 southern ministers and editors started
convincing themselves and their congregations that God had not deserted
them. They developed a framework within which they could
accommodate the assurance of God's favor even with their army's defeat
in the field. A discussion of the evolution of the Southern
Baptist Convention and of how the religion and the "southern" attitudes
were carried throughout the nation.
C6 The United
States in a Dixie Cup
For the first time in American history a religious movement
captured a major political party and their goal is to turn the nation
into a theocracy. It came close when Jackson swept the south
1828 and the democrats controlled the presidency until 1860.
Jackson might have done so but he only ran for office twice
he died in 1845. No other democratic presidents were
enough or could be led to maintain a religious dominance. The
rest of this long chapter is devoted to a detailed history of religious
influence of politics and many pages of statistics supporting his
State, and National Decline
Conservative religious spokesmen see our national problems as
primarily religious and moral. Secular Americans see our
as economics, society, and foreign policy. Many of them are
starting to see organized religion, especially the religious right as a
The four previous empires, Rome, Spain, the Netherlands, and Great
Britain were each in their day the world leading economic power and the
principal naval or military power. Gibbon, in his 1776 book, The Decline and Fall of the
points to the state religion of Christianity in the 4th century as
being overconfident and intolerant. The crippling and
combination of church and state caused the decline that caused the
collapse. Spain had been tightly linked to Catholic faith and
expansionism and with the expulsion of the Muslims from Iberia in 1492
it started a major push to eliminate all Muslims and Jews and convert
all other peoples. After the easy gold from the new world ran
Spain was saddled with a huge religious establishment which contributed
no economic goods and consumed a great deal. Spain quickly
as a world power.
During the latter part of this decline the Dutch had been growing in
influence. Seeds of their own destruction appeared very soon.
The Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church was a major power in
rise but in 1618 the Synod of Dordrecht was established it as an
official state religion even though only about half of the population
was of that faith. The country thrived for a while but by the
1730's and 1740's decline had set in with Britain gaining power.
By 1747 religious wars broke out and by 1800 Dutch power was
almost completely gone. The innovation that marked Britain's
to power before 1850 was followed by excessive religious formalism
based on observable conduct and foreign missionary activity.
Their rate of progress greatly reduced and their vast wealth
maintained them until World War I but after that they had lost their
lead to the United States.
Phillips notes that one of the first acts of the newly powerful
Christian church in Rome was to destroy libraries, limit the
availabilities of books, and suppress all scientific inquiry.
Spain was very similar, calling on theologians to advise on
engineering projects. They imported needed technicians and
produced no scientific information. The Dutch were a
hotbed during their rise but when economic times got bad they cut
spending on universities and after the revolution of 1747-1751 the
Dutch Reformed Church had a say in the appointment of university
faculty. This signaled the end of their scientific
The British rise to power was largely due to backyard
The primary preoccupation of the British upper classes was
management, military, religion, and the classics. They had
important scientists but they were mainly private individuals and
scientific state supported education played a very small role.
After Darwin many British theologians were became critics of
scientific inquiry. In each of these, even just before the
end, church leaders kept extolling their followers that they were God's
Chosen and we must save the heathen. Unfortunately none of
seem to have been chosen yet.
The rest of the chapter documents the many ways in which Americans are
repeating the lessons not learned in the decline of the four previous
C8 Soaring Debt, Uncertain Politics, and the Financialization
of the United States
In 2005 the New York Times said that moving money around has
surpassed making things as a share of the US gross domestic product.
Debt and associated financial industry has become the biggest
factor in the financial welfare of the country. Financialism
been defined as the increasing tendency of the financial sector to
invent gratuitous work for itself that does nothing to address
society's real needs but simply creates jobs for financial
professionals. Debt has long been a tool of new and growing
economies. The US borrowed greatly during the Revolution, the
Civil War and World War I. This was usually paid back quickly
sometimes causing postwar economic contraction. It wasn't
the Great Depression and World War II that debt was maintained.
Due to economic expansion these debts were mostly taken care
by economic expansion. Then in the late 1960's Johnson
increased the debt to pay off the Vietnam War and his Great Society
programs. This spending habit continued until the 1980's with
huge increases. With Reagan and Supply-Side economics the lid
came off. Following shortly after this was consumer and
debt. The final portion of the chapter describes this process
C9 Debt He starts with quotes from
Netherlands, and England explaining why they don't need to produce
anything, others will do it for them, all from slightly before their
debts crushed them. The empires of Europe passed through four
stages, agriculture or fishing, manufacturing, finance, and then
collapse. Spain was a special case, gold and silver from the
Americas replaced the manufacturing stage. He devotes a lot
space to describing in detail how this happened. He begins
raising the issue that the US has passed through the first two stages
and is well into the third. Is the fourth stage inevitable?
Bubbles and Foreign Debt Holders
In 1981 Americans saved at a rate of 8.5%, by 2003 the rate
just 1.2%. Until 1972 America was a net exporter of capital,
it is the worlds largest importer. This is a very complex
and I can find myself following one argument at a time but expanding
this to three or four and I get confused. I think that I will
back to his earlier argument, debt greatly aids in a new and expanding
economy but in a mature economy it can be counter productive and in an
old shrinking economy it can be a disaster. The same can be
for individuals, to borrow money to attend medical school is probably a
very good idea and you should easily pay of the debt, but to borrow a
large sum to build a large mansion when you are 75 is probably not a
good idea. America has hundreds of thousands of bright people
thinking of new ways to "consolidate loans" and make investments and
very few of them have the consumer in mind. Our purchases of
foreign made things keep going up, our borrowing of foreign money keeps
going up, and our exports keep going down. How long can this
continue. I read the pages looking for optimism but didn't
any. Previous empires had spent themselves into bankruptcy by
pursuing foreign wars, we seem to be emulating them. Our
retirement plans are failing, Social Security has minor problems but
there seems to be no moves to solve them before they become major
problems. Nobody is even talking about the financing of
for the decades ahead.
C11 The Erring Republican Majority Our
problems: oil vulnerability, excessive indebtedness, and indulgence of
radical religion. It doesn't matter which is the current
headline, they share well and they feed of off each other.
now the Republicans have embraced them all. We have had
before and our nation survived, will we this time?
American supplied the oil for World Wars I and II (and a lot of other
stuff). Following WWII there was a great deal of exploration
the US provided the money and expertise for much of this.
our proxies we controlled much of the marketing until the 1980's.
Even as our internal oil supply was running out our spending
dramatically increased. With the failure of the Iraq war to
the back of OPEC it decreased the total supply increasing prices.
In 2002 the US spent $100 billion for imported oil, in 2005
price was over $230 billion. The value of the dollar is going
down as foreign banks begin to doubt the stability of the US economy.
The republicans in the White House and Congress continue to
oil policy as though it were the 1920's or 1950's. At the
time they continue to lower taxes and fail to encourage saving.
In about 1990 the US switched from a global lender to a global
borrower, $360 billion in 1997, $1 trillion in 1999, $2.3 trillion in
2001, $2.7 trillion in 2003, $3.3 trillion in 2004, and $4 trillion in
2005. American firms can show a greater return on their
investment by going overseas and they pay less in taxes. For
of these reasons the value of the dollar is decreasing.
Phillips describes the new financial games that have been developed to
manipulate financial markets, collateralized debt obligations,
credit-default swaps, hedge funds, a proliferation of mortgage products
(some 200), credit cards tied to home equity lines of credit, and more.
While the financial house is burning the fiddle is playing
Far East development. The Pacific Rim countries are expanding
their markets and increasing their technical education.
Large numbers of fundamentalists and Radcon Republicans were looking
for salvation from the rapture instead of working for the benefit ot
the nation. Recent fundamentalist and Republican politics
discussed. Large numbers of white evangelical Protestants,
Republicans, believe that foreign policy should be set by religious
groups. He documents many areas where the religious right
has or has tried to remake government policy.
A warning to the fundamentalists, when Spain, the Netherlands, and
England lost their empires, their religious establishment suffered
disastrous reversals and they currently have very little power in these
countries. He warns against the dynasties he sees forming,
Bush dynasty with Jeb waiting in the wings, Al Gore being the son of a
Senator, the Kerry, Kennedy, Dukakis Massachusetts group, and even the
Changing Republican Presidential Coalition He
ends with a brief summary and statistics of Republican presidential
voting patterns since 1956 with Eisenhower.
The book concludes with 33 pages of fine print notes and 31 pages of
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James D. Tabor
The author is a biblical scholar, he has a Ph.D. in biblical studies
from the University of Chicago and is the Chair of the Department of
Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
He is very knowledgeable concerning the history of the Middle
East, Christian origins, Dead Sea Scrolls and other similar
archaeological finds and has participated in several archaeological
expeditions to the Middle East. The purpose of this book is
examine the life of Jesus the man. It includes with his
and grandparents, what little is known about his childhood and young
adult years, his religious beliefs and activities, his brothers and
sisters, his disciples and followers, his relationship with John the
Babtizer, his activities in the days before his crucification, the
response of his family, disciples, and followers in the months
following his death, and the events surrounding the Jews, followers of
Christ in and around Jerusalem, and Christians in the Roman Empire over
the next 400 years.
Modern biblical historical research may be said to have started with
the discovery of 4th century texts in Egypt at Nag Hammadi in 1945.
These, the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran, and many other less
sources have sparked much recent biblical historical research.
Tabor is attempting to write a history from both a historical
physical and a theological standpoint. This is difficult
our understanding of the historical Jesus changes as archaeologists
uncover new physical evidence whereas the theological Jesus changes as
the theology and needs of the church changes. This conflict
caused a number of difficulties. Tabor doesn't attempt to
these problems, he just points them out. Instead of going
each chapter I will just summarize his findings from the concluding
Jesus had a human mother and father. There is some evidence
his biological father was a Roman soldier named Pantera, possibly
Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera or Jacob Panthera. Abdes
was about the same age as Mary and was born either in Sidon or Tyre.
The Roman troops from that area were sent to Germany and a
gravestone with his name and age was recovered in Bad Kreuznach Germany
in 1859. Joseph was Mary's legal husband when Jesus was born
Jesus was accepted as his son. Mary bore 6 other children, 4
and 2 girls. Joseph probably died shortly and his brother,
Clophas, married Mary as was appropriate under Jewish law.
evidence suggests that Joseph was a stone mason or builder and not a
carpenter. John the Babtizer was Jesus' spiritual leader and
joined together, John as the Priest and descendant of Aaron and Jesus
as the royal descendant of David. They attempted to call the
people, both Jews and non-Jews, to return to the Torah of Moses and the
When John was arrested, Jesus continued the
work, choose an inner Council of Twelve, including his 4 brothers, whom
he promised were to rule over the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
John was killed, Jesus went to Jerusalem expecting that he would be
tried and convicted but he expected that he would be saved by God and
given rule over all the Jews. When Jesus was killed his
returned to Galilee. His brother James took over and
the leadership of the disciples. The teachings of James,
John, and the Twelve was a continuation of the message of John the
Babtizer and Jesus. Non-Jews were invited to join as long as
refrained from the worship of idols and adhered to the minimum ethics
prescribed in the Torah for Gentiles.
Paul was never a part of
this group and claimed that his authority came from his own visions of
Christ. His message became the foundation of Christian
theological orthodoxy based in Rome. The message of James and
original Jerusalem apostles was based directly on the teachings of John
the Babtizer and Jesus. James was sentenced and killed by the
high priest Annas in the year 62 at Passover, just as Annas his father
sentenced and killed Jesus in the year 30 at Passover. The
brother, Simon (Simeon) became the leader at that time. There
evidence that suggests that Judas, the fourth brother, became the
leader at Simeon's death. After this the records become
non-existent. In the year 70 Jerusalem was destroyed by the
Romans, in 73 Masada fell with some reason to suspect that some local
followers of Jesus were among the dead. The final Jewish
in 132-135 resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the
exclusion of Jews from the city. There are records of some
followers of Jesus, known as the
in areas east of Jerusalem in the 4th century. They believed
Jesus was a man born naturally from "Mary and her husband", they
followed Jewish law or Torah, and they rejected Paul.
Extensive notes with references and index.
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