The BU$H Agenda                               Antonia Juhasz                 May 2007
Talking Right                                         Geoffrey Nunberg           April 2007
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things    George Lakoff                 April 2007
The Republican War on Science            Chris Mooney                 April 2007  
A Darwinian Left                                   Peter Singer                     May 2007
Imperial Grunts                                      Robert D. Kaplan             May 2007
The Coming Anarchy                            Robert D. Kaplan             May 2007
Rise of the Vulcans                                James Mann                     May 2007
Bush at War                                           Bob Woodward               Aug 2008
Plan of Attack                                        Bob Woodward               Aug 2008
State of Denial                                       Bob Woodward               May 2007

The BU$H Agenda               Antonia Juhasz                 May 2007
     Subtitled: INVADING THE WORLD One Economy at a Time

C1  The Bush Agenda  The book starts with a description of the talk by Bush before the UN on Sept 14, 2005.  Two days before the bodies of 45 people had been discovered in a New Orleans hospital following Katrina.  He spent 95 seconds on Katrina of the 25 minute speech.  Most of the talk was devoted to the War in Iraq and on free trade.  "Our agenda for freer trade is part of our agenda for a freer world."  This agenda goes back to George H W Bush and its framers include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Kalmay Khalilzad, Robert Zoellick, and Scooter Libby.  "Free Trade is a shorthand for a number of economic policies that expand the rights of multinational corporations and investors to operate in more locations, under fewer regulations, with less commitment to any specific location."

Critics refer to this as corporate globalization.  These "policies free the multinational corporations from government regulation but they cost the rest of society a vast amount of economic and social security."  One year prior to 9/11 the CIA warned "that rising global financial inequality will foster political . . . and religious extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it."  This concept was born at the end of WW II, the difference is that Bush has directly aligned economic might with military force.  There are supporters, especially those in the energy industry.

Juhasz finishes the chapter by describing her interest in this area and one of her most defining moments, when Bush gave his State of the Union address after 9/11 when he explicitly stated that "trading in freedom", "free trade", and "free markets" were synonymous with "freedom" and that the United States was willing to implement this theory with military force.  "It was pure imperial ambition, which the advocated of the Bush Agenda had been waiting for decades to implement."

C2  Ambitions of Empire  One of the advantages of reading a book, putting it down, reading a couple of other books, and then coming back to the first book is that you see it with slightly different eyes.  This time my eyes spotted the name of the author of two of the books that I just read, Robert D. Kaplan.  The author calls him a prominent conservative and a part of the pro-empire crowd.  That's not exactly what his two books said.  Yes, Kaplan says the US is an Empire.  If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck - I am not going to call it a chickadee just because you don't like ducks.  We are an empire - he was offering some guidance on how to do the job better.  Is he a conservative - define conservative for me.  My father was a conservative - he believed in leaving the land better than he got it.  He also voted for a few Republicans - they certainly weren't the kind of republicans who are running our country into the ground today.  

The chapter is mainly about those who want to make the US into a bigger empire than it already is.  This is primarily about the "Vulcans".  See Rise of the Vulcans by James Mann with a couple of additions.  If you wish a better discussion of the American Empire see American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, it is much more complete.  The current chapter is strictly about the Bush version of a phenomenon that is much longer lasting.  None of this makes it good, just get the facts straight and do not confuse them. 

C3  A Model for Failure: Corporate Globalization
 The creation of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, the creation and subsequent destruction of the International Trade Organization and its replacement with the WTO (World Trade Organization).  These were created at the end of WW II to rebuild the damage.  The original discussions were held at Bretton Woods.  They were gradually taken over by the interests of multinitional corporations to promote laws that they desired.  There is a rogues gallery of nations that borrowed money but then were badly damaged when some of the provisions were enforced, Zambia, Russia, and Argentina.  How Wal-Mart exploits foreign and domestic workers using these organizations and the laws that they require.  Some of the resistance that is building.

C4  The Corporations: Bechtel, Chevron, Halliburton, and Lockheed MartinThe author first describes the links that the major Bush players have with the corporations, then describes the origin of the companies and then some examples of their "anti-social" behavior in other endeavors, mainly overseas.  In a few cases a number of their current links with the Bush Administration at lower levels of government.

C5  "A Mutual Seduction": Turning Toward Iraq  Oil has been known to exist and has been used since biblical times.  It is only in modern times (since 1900) that leaders there and large oil companies began joint efforts to exploit this resource.  Armed forces of Europe, America, and others to a lesser extent soon became involve.  This chapter discusses the complicated economics and politics of Iraqi oil in the latter half of the twentieth century.

C6  The Economic Invasion of Iraq  The remaking of Iraq according to the Bush Agenda as carried out by Paul Bremer.  The Iraq war began on March 17, 2003 and can be arbitrarily said to have been completed on May 1, 2003 when Bush spoke on the Deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under the "Mission Accomplished" banner.  Bremer took charge of the occupation of Iraq an instituted a number of rules and laws that Bush and the corporations wanted.  The author describes a number of these orders and tells what effect they have on the economy and society of Iraq.  A number of these orders specifically violate the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907.  These orders made it extremely difficult to develop businesses in Iraq which would benefit the people of Iraq and extremely easy for multinational corporations to carry out business with no regard for the welfare of the Iraqi people.

C7  Exporting "Free Trade" in Place of "Freedom" to the Middle East:  The US-Middle East Free Trade Area  A description of the efforts to set up a MIddle East Free Trade Area.  This is primarily the story of Robert Zoellick.  He has worked for or around the Bush family for most of his life.  He is the author portions of the 2000 Bush-Republican campaign strategy on foreign affairs and he was the chief negotiator for many of the discussions with Middle East regarding a free trade zone.  According to the author he is a very persistent negotiator and is not above lying to get his way.  He definitely uses threats of force.  Some of his discussions with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Morocco, Oman, and Iraq.  Other negotiations with Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain were discussed.  The author criticizes these agreements.

C8  The Failure of the Bush Agenda: A World at Greater Risk  The so called "War on Terror" is increasing the likelihood of terrorist attacks rather than reducing the risk.  Spokespersons for al-Qaeda and for Muslim groups continue to report that they hate the activities and policies of the US and not our freedoms.  This is also confirmed by studies performed by the Defense Department.  

C9  A Better Agenda is Possible  "Bush has guaranteed that we will live in a safer, more prosperous, freer, and more peaceful world if" his policies are followed.  "The Bush Agenda has proven to have the opposite effect: increased deadly acts of terrorism, economic insecurity, reduced freedoms, and more war."  "The Bush Agenda is a failure for all but its drafters - including executives of the largest multinational corporations."  The problem will not go away, even if Bush and Cheney were to disappear tomorrow support for the agenda will continue.  To solve the problems we must take positive steps, stop the war, end economic and cultural imperialism, and end corporate globalization.  The troops must be brought home, US corporate reconstruction contracts must be replaced by Iraq reconstruction contracts and the US-Middle East Free Trade Area must be canceled.  Corporate globalization contracts must be terminated and replaced by contracts with countries without external pressure.

Some more explicit examples are the following:
The author shows a tendency to "cherry pick" facts that support her ideas.  Again this is sort of a "bad people doing bad things" book.  I would prefer to see more in depth analysis.  In terms of what to do to solve the problems of the Bush Agenda I would like to see more specific suggestions and analysis.  The arguments are based on a simplistic moral analysis, stop doing that, its wrong.  This is countered by the Bush - keep doing that - its right.  For one of the examples - Bring US military contractors home - Add more details.  How many are there?  Can they just drop everything or will it take a while to finish up?  How long would this take for various scenarios?  How much would it cost - for what?  Imagine if Juhasz were appointed Emperor.  How would it get done?  This would be a much larger book - it would also be a more complete book that confronts the actual issues that would come up.  The dust cover of the book calls her a "renowned international trade and finance policy expert."  This is what I would expect such an expert to do, not make me guess at what needs to be done or how to do it.

The book ends with 16 pages of notes and 21 pages of index.

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Talking Right                       Jeoffrey Nunberg            April 2007

This book has the longest, most run-on subtitle I have ever seen.  It was also a bit of a disappointment as far as I was concerned.  I like a clear statement of the problem, documentation that it exists, possible solutions, and then the most probable solution to solve the problem.  Good interesting writing helps.  I realize that this is an ideal that won't work for every topic but it's not a bad goal.  This book, along with many others states the problem, documents the problem, (go back to step 2 until you run out of ink), write the final chapter.  

I understand the problem, the conservative right has found a workable tool, misleading language and appropriate framing, and a few other techniques, and successfully used these to change the balance of political power in the United States over the last 40 or so years.  These are not totally new techniques, they have just been used consistently and they have been met with total unpreparedness and no appropriate response from liberals.  In terms of documenting the abuses Nunberg has done a very good job.  In terms of suggesting appropriate solutions he doesn't do much.  George Lakoff, who writes fairly similar books, does a much better job of presenting a theoretical framework for understanding the differences between conservative fundamentalists and liberals (progressives) suggests methods of countering their propaganda.  Nunberg is just telling us a story of bad people doing bad things.  It's all based on language so we don't have many physical atrocities but language is how you explain that atrocities are Essential For Our Way of Life.  As I have said before, I would prefer a computer searchable database of these "bad words" and then suggestions as to how each phrase could be successfully countered.  

It closes with a description of how word counts were performed, 41 pages of notes (he has done a superb job of documentation), and a 10 page index.

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Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things    George Lakoff     April 2007

I was somewhat disappointed with this book.  I am interested in his thoughts regarding linguistics and politics and how political decisions are made.  This book was written before he was doing much writing on politics.  It is easy to see where many of his later ideas came from, but it is still a book on linguistics.

The book is broken into three main parts, the first deals with how humans categorize experience and form the cognitive models that they use in their lives.  The second part deals with philosophical implications of our assumptions and how the effect our openness to new ideas.  The third part deals with three case studies, anger, over, and there.  This is heavy duty linguistic theorizing with many, many examples.  Way beyond my linguistic knowledge or interest.

In very brief the first part states that different cultures have very different ways of viewing the world and although we (Western - Greek and Latin based cultures) tend to view the world in one way, many other successful cultures do it differently.  There is no reason to state that our views are the best.  He goes into a lot of detail on other methods.

The second part discusses the objectivist viewpoint (which arose in large part from Greek philosophers) shapes our view of the world and why this viewpoint is not necessarily the best for explaining many of the new views of science.  

(Begin Rant Mode!)  In this and other books Lakoff makes many disparaging remarks regarding efficiency and computer modeling.  He is careful to qualify some of his comments, but it strikes me that these are primarily emotional reactions to perhaps overzealous practitioners of the art who are enamored of these terms.  If efficiency is defined to narrowly only consider financial return to investors - he is correct.  However if efficiency is more broadly defined to consider the entire system, with all of the results - efficiency can be a valuable tool.  Again, if computer modeling is viewed as the final savior to science and all further study is irrelevant, then he is again correct.  But if computer modeling is seen as a theorizing tool which can be used where other tools seem to work as well, then he is over reacting.  One explicit point where I objected was his continued use of the term, algorithm.  Computer modeling is much more than algorithmic modeling.  In my opinion, heuristic modeling along with stochastic probabilities, shows a lot more potential than simple algorithmic modeling. (Exit Rant Mode!)

Your philosophical viewpoint can dramatically change your openness to new ideas and how you respond to the data you are presented with.  The viewpoint typically associated with most Western philosophy is called the objectivist viewpoint.  Lakoff believes this leads us to see certain categories there they do not naturally exist and to ignore categories of information that do exist.  I found his description of Western philosophy and its relationship to scientific thought much better expressed in his book Philosophy in the Flesh.  Of course that is another 600 pages to read.

The book ends with 12 pages of references, 3 pages of name index, and 10 pages of subject index.

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The Republican War on Science          Chris Mooney       April 2007
C1  The Threat  During the 2000 campaign Bush promised Catholic Bishops that he would not support research that would kill live human embryos.  Then on Aug 9, 2001 he announced his "sixty genetically diverse" embryonic stem cell lines.  Unfortunately many  of these were not lines but derivations of lines (not genetically diverse) and within 3 years there were only 22 (of 60) lines left.  Many types of research could not be done using them because the lines were selected from what was available, not for specific purposes.  They were selected to satisfy political (religious) needs, not scientific needs.

The problem with many conservative (fundamentalist) Republicans in general, and Bush in particular, is not that they oppose a few specific programs like stem cell research, global warming, EPA regulations, etc.  The problem is that science is seen as a tool to advance their political (religious) programs.  There are two main forces pushing this: industry, waiting to escape governmental regulations by any means possible and religious conservatives, seeking to promote their moralistic agenda even if it includes the use of the prestige of science.  Other lesser factors include the conservative distrust of "big government" and much science involves federal funding or governmental agencies, the dislike of the right for liberal higher education, and dislike of environmentalists who are typically Democrats and often use science to attack conservative positions.

Conservative  politicians of course do not agree that they are anti-science.  They say that they support "sound science" as opposed to the "junk science" used by environmentalists and regulators.  To be fair he mentions a number of primarily environmental groups who have abused scientific standards:  genetically modified foods, animal rights movements, avoidance of studying the genetics of human behavior out of fear of eugenics style abuses.

In summary, conservatives seem to be against anything that involves evolution, climate change, or reduces profits.  His final comparison was between modern fundamentalists and followers of Lysenko under Stalin.

C2  Political Science 101  Science is a process.  It involves testing and retesting hypotheses.  However the process is messy.  Scientists are immersed in a social and cultural context.  The main thing is that the process of science works, it is useful, it just isn't always perfect.  Since it does work so well, numerous people claim the trappings of science to further their own purposes or beliefs.  Science intersects with politics at many points.  The problem is not in the funding of science, the problem is the results of the science.  Many politicians listen to the scientists and attempt to incorporate scientific findings into their policies.  However some, currently mainly conservative, fundamentalist, Republicans, try to deny or distort the information.  This books explores the area where science interacts with politics: providing input into decision-making.  According to Robert Frosch, administrator of NASA under Carter, "What politicians ofter want to hear from scientists is, 'Well, the science says that you must do what you wanted to do anyway.'"  This is not new, however under Bush and the conservative movement it has hit a new high.

What constitutes political science "abuse"?  His definition is, "any attempt to inappropriately undermine, alter, or otherwise interfere with the scientific process, or scientific conclusions, for political or ideological reasons."  To turn science into a tool for political advocacy.  What are some of the specific problems?
Scientific results should inform, but not dictate policy choices but you shouldn't defend outcomes by distorting the science.

C3  From FDR to Nixon  Russell Train, staunch Republican, founder of the US branch of the World Wildlife Fund, administrator of the EPA, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and member of a political endangered species: a moderate, pro-environment Republican.  

During WW II scientists helped win the war, scientists were perceived as valuable under Eisenhower and Kennedy.  The break between science and the conservatives started when Goldwater ran for president in 1964.  Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was a major catalyst for economic conservatives.  Organizations like the Pacific Legal Foundation  and the Heritage Foundation were started in the 1970's to push conservative agenda against environmentalism.  Nixon abolished the White House Science Adviser.  Science came back somewhat under Ford and Carter.

C4  "Creation Science" and Reagan's "Dream"  With the advent of the Reagan presidency the access to the White House for science virtually stopped.  There were still scientists in government, C Everett Koop for example, who refused to toe the line, but support for unbiased science ceased coming from the White House.  The only scientists who were welcome were those like Edward Teller who supported Reagan's initiatives.  Reagan appointed many new religious conservatives to his administration such as Gary Bauer who pushed their agendas and creationism was warmly received.

C5  Defenseless Against the Dumb  Newt Gringrich is a confusing person.  He is a PhD - History so he qualifies as an intellectual and is pro-science - but he wants to select the scientific information that he receives.  As Speaker of the House, Gingrich led the fight to eliminate the Office of Technology.  When the time came to ask questions of scientists, he called in his own carefully selected scientists to testify.  Funny, they sort of said what he wanted them to say.  The final half of the chapter discusses the benefits of the Office of Technology and what happened to testimony on Global Warming after the Office had been abolished.  Here we are now, more than 10 years later, nothing has been done, and we are getting warmer.

C6  Junking "Sound Science"
The newest term on the block is "sound science."  The related word to this is "junk science."  In the conservative lexicon, sound science is requiring that all regulatory activity be based on clear data demonstrating that there is absolutely no doubt that a particular practice or chemical specifically harms all human life in a disastrous manner.  Junk science is any scientific evidence that suggests that harm will result without absolutely conclusive evidence.  This is the moral equivalent of observing that all 150 people were killed by a .32 caliber bullet fired directly into their brain, however there is no evidence that a .38 caliber bullet would do the same, we need to study the issue in more depth before we will consider placing regulations on this behavior.  

This type of argument has been used in the debate over smoking, high sugar foods, mercury contamination of fish, the Endangered Species Act, and climate change.  The Data Quality Act is an outgrowth of this effort.  In the words of George Lakoff this is an example of framing.  Almost all would agree that good science requires precision, but to require that only those programs that you don't like must adhere to standards way beyond the standards that you apply for programs that you do like is morally bankrupt.  An example of this is the level of reliability accepted in the Star Wars proposals.  

C7  "The Greatest Hoax"
 A recent star of the Republican War on Science has been Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma.  He has been an extremely apt follower of Frank Luntz, Republican theorist.  Most of this chapter is devoted to the leadership of Inhofe in attacking the concept of global warming.

C8  Wine, Jazz, and "Data Quality"
 This chapter is devoted almost entirely to Jim J. Tozzi.  Tozzi is an economics PhD and failed jazz musician who move to Washington in 1964 working for the secretary of the army.  He started overseeing Corps of Engineers projects but then moved to reviewing regulations.  He then moved to the OMB under Nixon.  There he stayed for some time.  The Paperwork Reduction Act established a new branch of the OMB - the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and Reagan appointed Tozzi as deputy administrator.  Reagan centralized review of government regulations at OMB.  This gave Tozzi the ability to bury proposed regulations.  Tozzi then moved into private consulting.

His main contribution has been the "paralysis by analysis" under the guise of regulatory reform.  Two of his efforts have been extremely productive from the conservative point of view.  The first was the "Shelby amendment" which allows the Freedom of Information Act to be used to request "all data produced" by any publicly funded study.  This allowed industry to reanalyze data and put their own spin on it and hinder agencies.  The second was the Data Quality Act.  This created even more problems for public agencies.  The remainder of the chapter documents how these processes hinder the normal actions of public agencies.

C9  Eating Away at Science  This chapter is devoted to attempted control over the regulatory process for two substances, sugar and mercury.  A WHO report linked excess sugar and obesity.  The sugar industry attacked this on many fronts.  One of which was the attempted suppression of government scientists from participating in international bodies.  Tozzi was a participant in this effort.

Mercury is released from power plants, especially coal fueled plants.  Methyl mercury is a serious neuro-toxin.   The power industry does not like regulation.  Here Inhofe played a role.  There are many examples where industry employed scientists presented testimony contrary to the actual science.

C10  Fishy Science
 This chapter is primarily a discussion of the issues facing the Klamath river in southwestern Oregon and Northern California.  The main question is how much of the water in the river should be dammed up for irrigation and how much should be released to support fish and other species downriver.  The "sound science" - "junk science" issue played a large part as well as the Endangered Species Data Quality Act of 2004.

C11  "Creation Science" 2.0
 This chapter discusses creationism and its modern aspects of the Discovery Institute in Seattle and the "intelligent design" movement.  ID as it is called is the main push of the Discovery Institute and they are obvious outgrowths of the creationist movement.  ID is dressed up in new language to avoid some of the legal battles that creationism lost but it is the same thing.  

C12  Stemming Research  Embryonic stem cell research.  First, Bush's stem cell announcement was totally incorrect and not based on any real scientific facts.  These cells were taken from samples left over from fertility clinics.  They were from a very small population of relatively wealthy white donors who had trouble conceiving.  Not what you want if your goal is Alzheimer's research, or diabetic research, or for almost any purpose.  Why were they left over?  Were they defective, too old, or some other problem?  They were also grown on mouse feeder cells - this may result in virus contamination or immune system rejection.  Some creationist leaning scientists are proposing adult stem cells.  They are not the same for several technical reasons.  Even if they were similar, where is the published research results.  The only studies were poorly monitored and have not been replicated.  The only adult stem cells that have been shown to work are those in bone marrow which form blood cells.  They work well for that one purpose but for nothing else.  And they also have to be very carefully matched.

Embryonic stem cells can be used in four currently identified ways.  1) they could be used to grow tissue for transplantation 2) they could be used for drug tests where animal analogs are not appropriate 3) we don't know how many diseases develop, research using stem cells could help with this research and the subsequent development of treatments, and 4) individuals vary widely in their response to drugs and other therapies, stem cells could be used to aid in developing treatments tailored to a specific individual.

In 2001 Bush set up a President's Council on Bioethics.  The chair was a neoconservative (Leon Kass) but two of the members were pro-research.  These members were fairly quickly removed and replaced by more conservative members.

C13  Sexed-Up Science  Abortion, are there any problems?  One of the conservative fundamentalist efforts has been to attack the safety of abortions.  There have been numerous attempts to "prove" that abortion is dangerous to the physical and mental health of women who have an abortion.  One example is Joel Brind - a faculty member of the City University of New York.  He has a quest to prove an abortion-breast cancer link.  He cofounded a think tank (Breast Cancer Prevention Institute) which publicizes his ideas.  However he has not published any reviewed papers on the topic.  Mooney goes on to site several studies which show that there is no relationship.  Another major contributor to this effort is David Reardon.  He attempts to link abortion to all sorts of ailments.  He claims a PhD in bioethics from Pacific Western University.  This "university" is a well known diploma mill and does not appear in any list of accredited institutions.  He has published a number of papers, most of which have been criticized for poor procedures.  

Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney is leader in the "abstinence only" movement against birth control, condoms, and STD prevention.  Again, most his research seems based on the idea of determining an outcome and then attempting data to support that outcome - ignoring data that does not support the outcome.  The chapter mentions several others of similar beliefs who have been appointed to oversight boards by Bush.

C14  Bush League Science
 "... scientific input ... should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences ... the administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."  From a statement of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Feb. 18, 2004.  This was signed by over 60 leading scientists and former government officials which included 20 Nobel laureates.  It was later signed by 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science  recipients, 135 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and thousands of others.  Mooney briefly discusses some of the events that lead up to this statement and then devotes much of the chapter to the Presidents Science Adviser, John Marburger.  Marburger, a distinguished scientist in his own right, was unfortunately forced to defend the President's actions.  Many of his statements are discussed.  

Some of the problems caused by the Bush attitude and actions toward science are:
Epilogue:  What We Can Do  We must:
  1. Continue to warn against the dangers of politicization of science.
  2. Push for safeguards that strengthen the role of legitimate expertise in informing policy makers.
  3. Revive the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment or an equivalent office.
  4. Raise the Science Advisor to the rank of Assistant to the President if not higher.
  5. Restore the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to its previous strength if not higher.
  6. Pass legislation to safeguard scientific advisory committees.
  7. Repeal measures like the Data Quality Act.
  8. Eliminate the "peer review" superstructure instituted by the Data Quality Act.
  9. If any review of scientific advisory committees is deemed necessary they should be formulated with the assistance of the National Academy of Sciences or another competent body.
  10. Eliminate laws like the "Endangered Species Data Quality Act" that tend to politicize science.
  11. Increase the education of reporters who write on science matters so that they better understand the process of science and how built-in procedures protect the integrity of science studies.
  12. Help reporters understand that "political balance" is not appropriate for science.  Scientific "balance" is achieved by repeated independent studies and similar studies.
  13. Change our legal system so that violations by industry have much more severe penalties directed at individuals as well as corporations.
  14. Demand and support schools in their efforts to teach valid science.  Religion has no place in schools other than survey courses that discuss multiple religions.
  15. Support responsible Republicans who reject fundamentalist and religious demands.
The book ends with 8 pages of the description of the context of all interviews and those who refused interviews, 1 page of similarly themed articles by the author, 2 pages of notes on sources, and 14 pages of index.

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A Darwinian Left                    Peter Singer                     May 2007
                        Subtitled: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation

This is one of those books that I got for really no good reason, perhaps because it was short and I wanted something with printing.  It's not really politics, it's not really science, and it's not really religion.  Singer is a philosopher and in this book he doesn't have very much to say.  He talks about views from the left - read that as mostly Karl Marx but with references to others, Darwinism - mainly old stuff with a few modern references, and modern politics - splitting it into strictly "right" vs. "left".  It was almost like reading something written in the 1890's or perhaps the 1930's.  Most of his references (not all) were pretty old - pre 1980.  There have been a lot of concepts put forward in cognitive science and evolution since then - he does discuss reciprocal altruism but that is about all.  Sorry, I just wasn't impressed.

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Imperial Grunts                              Robert D. Kaplan             May 2007
                  Subtitled: The American Military on the Ground

While reading this book, and listening to immigration debate I realized that what we need is a new Einstein, someone with a whole new look at many of our current problems.  A possible step in this is to steal one of Einstein's ideas.  One of his major breakthroughs was the idea that light could be evaluated as either a wave phenomena or a particle phenomena.  For immigration and drug traffic at the mass level these could be evaluated as a fluid pressure phenomena.  In immigration you have tens of millions of very poor Mexicans and Central and South Americans with no jobs, children in rags and very little food.  What parent would not try to go to where there are jobs and money to pay for food and clothes for their children?  These millions exert a tremendous amount of pressure on the permeable border between Mexico and the US.  The only real solution to this problem is not to pick them off one at a time as particles, it is to reduce the pressure on the sieve-like border.  They need good jobs in Mexico and points south.  

In drug traffic we have the same permeable border but in this case we have a vacuum on the US side created by the ready market and huge demand.  The way to solve this problem is to reduce the demand, perhaps by greater education (not successful so far), perhaps by more treatment (likewise not successful so far), or perhaps by satisfying the demand in other ways - perhaps legalization with legal suppliers.  Of course you still have some incredibly evil people who thrive on the dark cracks around our laws.  These can still be treated as particles to be eliminated by our legal system.

In international relations and war we have similar problems.  Certain "problems" can be solved by mass actions initiated by central authorities.  Some of these Krystal Knacht, Blitzkrieg, Fire Bombing of Dresden, Atom Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  For others, for example, the neutralization or elimination of a particular terrorist or cell of terrorists deeply embedded within a neutral or perhaps even somewhat negative population the only practical method is the careful targeting by a well trained group of people with a great deal of specific knowledge of the local culture.  More of a legal system approach with very flexible "rules of evidence."

In more "systems speak", an intervention at one level of aggregation is not necessarily appropriate at a different level of aggregation.  Far to many of our politicians do not understand that there might be a difference.

Now, the book.  Some time ago Kaplan saw a map in the Pentagon.  It outlined the five areas of responsibility for regional commanders.  Five separate commands encompassing the entire earth.  It was remarkably similar to a map drawn up in 1931 by Professor Karl Haushover for the German military.  Truly a map for a global empire.  Kaplan defines imperialism as a form of isolationism which demands absolute undefiled, security at home which leads one to conquer the world.  "By the time an imperial reality becomes truly manifest it is a sign that the apex of empire is at hand, with a gradual retreat more likely than fresh conquests."  He finds a striking similarity of the Indian Wars of the middle and latter half of the nineteenth century and the military aspects of the early twenty-first century.

After seeing the map Kaplan decided he wanted to travel to these areas and interview men and officers in the field to see what their life is like.  His main interest was on Special Forces units and the Marines to a lesser extent.  He visited Yemen in the winter of 2002 (CENTCOM). Columbia in the winter of 2003 (SOUTHCOM), Mongolia, Spring 2003 (PACOM), the Philippines in the summer of 2003 (PACOM), Afghanistan in the Autumn of 2003 (CENTCOM and SOCOM), Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in the winter of 2003-2004 in the US (NORCOM), and the Horn of Africa in the winter of 2004 and Iraq in the spring of 2004 (both in CENTCOM).  He evidently didn't get to EUCOM during this period.

During his time with the troops he traveled with them, ate with them, slept in their barracks or tents, and talked with them.  Sometimes he was not trusted at first but he came with good recommendations and he had been in the military so he was almost always accepted after a while.  He found that almost without exception they were hard working, dedicated, moral, and carried out their missions rapidly and carefully with a great deal of respect for the locals.  One may debate the merits of their mission but they carried it out with a great deal of professionalism.  
The main message that I got was a large number of men (the Special Forces does not recruit women) who are capable of almost any type of anti-terrorist or human assistance mission as long as they are given the right personnel, equipment, and support to perform the task.  Often they do not have the right personnel (translators, language training, or indigenous knowledge support) or support to perform their tasks.  In many cases they will discover situations which could be exploited for gain or personnel safety and they are required to wait to get multiple levels of approval which often takes many days.  If the people in the field cannot be trusted to carry out the mission (with review) they should either be brought home or replaced by someone who can.  Extended levels of approval is merely a CYA procedure.

The book ends with a 6 page glossary, 10 pages of notes and an index of 27 pages.

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The Coming Anarchy                  Robert D. Kaplan             May 2007
                  Subtitled: Shattering the Dreams of the Post-Cold War

After reading the previous book I thought, Oh-oh, more of the same (I just grabbed some books in the library).  It wasn't at all.  This book was written over most of the 1990's and mostly published in The Atlantic Monthly.  Small sections were originally published in The National Interest and The Wall Street Journal.  One section is original with the book.  The book was finished in late 1999 and published in 2000.

C1  The Coming Anarchy  How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are destroying the social fabric of the planet.  Is West Africa a preview of coming attractions for much of our world?  Seemingly random violence is everywhere, national boundaries are set up one way and tribal loyalties are arranged at right angles to these.  Is Darkest Africa coming back?  Today with our modern vaccinations it is arguably more dangerous than it was before antibiotics - when Sir Richard Francis Burton traveled there.  And these are only the direct human caused problems, wait until environmental degradation and climate change really begin to hit.  

Can a civilized human culture exist with all of the versions of religion, culture, demographic shifts and distribution of natural resources that we are currently faced with?  Some slums such as Abidjan terrify the outsider, Kaplan found the near slum called Altindag or "Golden Mountain" outside of Ankara, Turkey quite friendly and safe.  

Rural poverty is age-old and almost a normal part of cultures, urban poverty is socially destabilizing.  Power is gradually shifting from oil rich countries to water rich countries.  Turkey is an example of this.  

A coming serious problem is maps.  Most of them were drawn in the halls of London, Paris, etc.   They were ways of dividing up the great mass of the rest of the world and were drawn with no knowledge of the people who lived there.  Now the people think that they matter and arbitrary lines on a piece of paper just may be ignored.

Many people like to fight, especially young men.  Worrying about mines and ambushes frees you from worrying about mundane details of daily existence.  "Only when people attain a certain economic, education, and cultural standard is this trait tranquilized."  Considering that 95% of the worlds population growth is in the poorest areas of the planet, there will be more fighting, the question is just who and when.  What will happen when populations expand, soil fertility lowers, rivers dry up, and oceans rise?  

C2  Was Democracy Just a Moment?  As we attempt to plant our version of Democracy abroad, in places where it can't succeed, it is slipping away from us at home, too.  Why democracy will destabilize the world much as early Christianity did.  Aside, in 1943 Abraham Maslow published a theory of human motivation.  In brief it said that there are five levels of needs, and only after one is satisfied can the next be considered.  These are physiological (food, water, air, etc.), safety (security of body, resources, health, family), love / belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy), esteem (self esteem, confidence), and self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem solving, acceptance of facts).

The main force of this chapter is that democracy cannot thrive unless people have food and safety.  Kaplan does not mention Maslow but this is the type of problem he is describing.  I do not know where democracy fits into Maslow's needs but it is surely above physiological, safety, and love/belonging.  It is probably above esteem and probably within self-actualization, but we can certainly find many government officials who fail to exhibit morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts.  Are we setting a minimum level here or is democracy slipping away from us?

Kaplan goes on to say that our founding fathers were somewhat pessimistic, that is why we have checks and balances and separations of power.  In many areas of the world forms of government other than democracy seem to result in higher levels of needs satisfaction.  Western democracy was a product of hundreds of years of years of relatively benign governmental systems in which power slowly flowed from church and king to citizens.  Without those hundreds of years democracy quickly turns into anarchy or totalitarianism, sometimes benign but often not.  Without this history, a free press, high literacy, and with negative factors such as ethnic or regional disputes a democracy will probably fail.  "Africans want a better life and instead have been given the right to vote."  Many of the third world leaders the press is so fond of reviling may be just what a country needs if they can manage to raise the level of unmet needs of most of their populace higher on the Maslow chart.  This should be our first goal in "nation building".

C3  Idealism Won't Stop Mass Murder  Balance-of-power politics and better-funded spy agencies, not war-crimes tribunals, will reduce the risk of future holocausts.  An inquiry into why human beings are best protected when they are assumed to be unimprovable.  Progress will solve all of our problems!  Well, maybe not.  War-crimes trials, 10 to 15 years after the fact will not stop genocide or ethnic cleansing.  When the Israelis say "Never Again" they mean for Jews, other people will have to look out for themselves.  If we are really against mass murder we will have to be ready to take direct action very early and very quickly.  We can't wait until they are mostly done.  And Americans have shown a reluctance to "stay the course".  We need a good reason to accept casualties.  In WW II it was not the Jews, it was Pearl Harbor.  It wasn't Saddam gassing the Kurds, it was the threat to Saudi oil fields.

C4  Special Intelligence  Why the roles of the CIA and the armed forces will eventually merge.  Rather than become obsolete, the power of the intelligence community in Washington will increase.  This was written when the CIA is under specific attack.  They are again.  We need more Special Forces and CIA operations because the age of large armies doing WW II things is over.  We need a high level of professionalism in the CIA and break the feedback from it to electoral politics, now the problem is with the presidency - will it be tomorrow?  Our ability to avoid future wars will rest on our ability to know what others are doing

C5  And Now for the News:  The Disturbing Freshness of Gibbon's Decline and Fall (of the Roman Empire)  Why Gibbon's book reflects the world as it is today in Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union.  I personally have never read this work, perhaps I should.  Kaplan believes that it has a great deal to say about the activities and realities of 21st century America.  Too many books, too few hours.

C6  Proportionalism:  A Realistic Approach to Foreign Policy  What should the United States do in the Third World, where there is too much to do and too much that can't be done?  In many places throughout the world, Africa is the best (worst?) example, there is too much to do and we don't have the power and the will to do it all.  The best we can do is to take small steps that have the possibility of allowing them to take more steps on their own.  His recommendation is to use the principle of proportionalism advanced by some Catholic theologians.  In this you accept a certain amount of "evil" to make possible a proportionately greater amount of good.  Example, accept contraceptives to reduce abortion.  This is anathema to moral and ideological purists.  In foreign policy it would mean continuing aid at relatively current levels, early warning systems, and extremely rare interventions.  Give aid where it will do the most good (at the lower levels of Maslow's needs), be very aware of potential problems, and intervening using the Powell Doctrine, do it quickly and where it can be easily accomplished.  Extended overseas wars, like Iraq, very quickly generate resistance.  It must meet what the military calls the "parents' test", a Pentagon official can stare a soldier's parents in the eye and tell them that their son or daughter died in the service of something worth dying for.  Sometimes bad things will happen, do what you can and get the most bang for your buck when you do.

C7  Kissinger, Metternich, and Realism
 A World Restored, a book about the Napoleonic Wars Henry Kissinger wrote when he was a young man, shows the merciless ironies of history that we ignore at our peril, even if Kissinger carried these lessons too far in Vietnam.  Kaplan thinks that Kissinger's reputation is due to the poor performances of his successors more than his good performance.  Kissinger's views were shaped by the Napoleonic Wars, his growing up as a teenager in Nazi Germany, and his studies.  He hated revolutions.  From his writings Kaplan picks up several principles:
He conjectures that Nixon and Kissinger deliberately extended the war in Vietnam not to win it, but to impress Russia and China with America's willingness to fight if we felt we needed to.

C8  Conrad's Nostromo and the Third World  A redefinition of realism with the help of Joseph Conrad's great work of fiction.  A second book report.  The first was about Kissinger's works, this second is Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, a 1904 novel about life in a small South American country, Costaguana.  A small group of foreign merchants, alternately exploiting and being exploiting the locals, an indolent upper class, and ignorant lower class, corrupt government, rival bandit groups, and the leader of the dock workers.  He finds the novel to be a wonderful description of the situation in many third-world countries.  Something that is not discoverable in many social science texts and is never dreamed about by many students in political science and journalism who come from well-off backgrounds and hold idealistic views.  Many would do well to read and try to understand this book.

C9  The Dangers of Peace
 A long period of peace in an advanced technological society like ours could lead to great evils.  The ideal of a world permanently at peace and governed benignly by a world organization is not an optimistic view of the future but a dark one.  In several ways his most depressing chapter.  He starts off with a quotation from Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class (1939), "Universal peace is something to be feared, because it would come about only if all the civilized world were to belong to a single social type, to a single religion, and if there were to be an end to disagreements as to the ways social betterment can be attained."  Prior to WW I, war was respectable.  Mass revulsion led to modern political science.  Those statesmen who argued against war were successful, amongst themselves.  The Nazis and the Japanese military disagreed and everyone was at a disadvantage to them.  This didn't happen after WW II because of the Cold War.  

Mosca also notes that every society contains a number of males driven to impulsive physical action.  A standing army is a method of canalizing and bureaucratically controlling this violent behavior and steer it toward a useful end.  If our standing army is to diminish farther and transform into a more elite, corporate-style force what will we do with our frustrated, action-prone young males.  What will be their outlet?  

Could we have a peace under the United Nations, or just a new sort of tyranny?  The UN values consensus.  Consensus often takes a long time, allowing evil to proliferate.  Attacking evil before it grows often takes a strong leader who can act quickly.  Is Ray Kurzweil's Singularity Man the answer to this problem?  We need to be very sure before we set up any system to govern ourselves.

Another problem with a so called world at peace is that we would raise up generations of leaders who would have no memory of any other type of system and hence no wisdom to perceive pitfalls in their plans.  This was the case following the Napoleonic Wars.  No one could see the tragic events preceding WW I coming because they had no experience.  Perhaps our coming struggle against climate change and environmental degradation will keep us honest.  Whatever we do we must take into account human nature when making our plans, idealistic assumptions alone are not enough.

The book ends with a 12 page index.

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Rise of the Vulcans                     James Mann                     May 2007
           Subtitled: The History of Bush's War Cabinet

Bush was criticized during his first presidential campaign for his lack of foreign policy knowledge.  He countered this by pointing to his advisers and repeating how much they knew.  They were Dick Cheney, Colin Powell,  Condolezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Armitage.  The began calling themselves the Vulcans after the statue outside Birmingham, Alabama.  Rice, the foreign policy coordinator had been raised there as a child.  After Bush won they were appointed to high positions in the government.  They did not all agree with each other but they all agreed on a strong military, leaving business to private concerns, American power and ideals are a force for good in the world, and were optimistic about America's capabilities and its future.  Bush was not knowledgeable on foreign affairs and they prepared all of his briefings.  He would usually only arbitrate conflicts between them, seldom proposing new items.

The first 230 pages of the book cover the life of the coming Vulcans individually and sometimes together.  Rice, as the youngest member is not mentioned until about page 150.  We follow them in and out of government, sometimes working together, sometimes not but never all at the same time.  Several others show up periodically, Scooter Libby and Richard Pearle but they are never members of the main group.  

The Vulcans as a team started to coalesce in 1998, two years before the 2000 election.  During this time period Powell was not a part of the team.  His support was valued but only as an outsider. There were a number of problems in parceling out the positions the Vulcans would have in the new administration.  The Republican conservatives led by Cheney had a great deal of power over the appointment process.  In this Powell lost power and his friend Armitage also lost power.  During the early part of the Bush administration things sort of muddled along.

Then 9/11 happened.  We can never know what would have happened if not for 9/11 but the events of that day certainly changed the government.  The conservatives took the opportunity and ran.  Cheney moved back further out of the spotlight but arguably became more influential.  Powell lost power.  Rice's power gradually increased.

The book dealt with the minutia of politics, who met with whom, why she said that and what he thought of it.  The nuts and bolts of gaining and maintaining power.  I found it very slow going because of my lack of interest in this type of stuff.  The book ends with the start of the Iraq war.  I was very happy for the final summary chapter because it pulled together some themes that I had trouble with because of all of the "trees" in the way.  The book is remarkably absent in any comments about Bush.  It is almost as though he doesn't exist in any meaningful way.  Is this true?  Did all the brain power exist in his cabinet?  Was his only real necessity due  to the fact that he was a superb fund raiser?

The book includes some of the foreign policy ideas and themes that permeate the Vulcans as they rose to power over some 30 years.
  1. They believed in the centrality and the efficacy of American military power.
  2. They believed in America as a force for good in the world.  Iraq is simply a first step in spreading democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East.
  3. They had an extraordinary optimistic assessment of American capabilities.  We have the duty, the capability, and the power to transform the region.
  4. They were reluctant to enter into agreements or accommodations with other countries.  They did not want anything to interfere with our freedom of action.
  5. War in Iraq served as a demonstration of the Vulcans' commitment to the strategy that Paul Wolfowitz's Pentagon staff had drafted in 1992 and 1993.  
They often used 9/11 as the defining moment for the war in Iraq, in reality they already had the reason to go to war, they just needed the excuse.  In a way Powell is the tragic figure in this era.  He tried to be a good soldier, he had an ideology but he was dominated by reality.  Armitage was similar, he just never reached such a high rank.  The rest seemed to be dominated by their ideology, they never had to face reality other than the infighting of the boardroom.  The book has 33 pages of notes and 16 pages of index.

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Bush at War                        Bob Woodward                Aug 2008
Plan of Attack                   Bob Woodward                Aug 2008
State of Denial                 Bob Woodward                May 2007
These three books are in reality a single work in three volumes.  The final part, State of Denial, is subtitled "Bush at War, Part III".  The last two are each approximately 90 pages longer than the previous work for a total of 1,404 pages.  

The first book begins on 9/11/2001 and extends for 100 days.  It covers the thinking of the White House during and after 9/11 and the preparation for and the invasion of Afghanistan and some very early thinking on Iraq.

The second book starts before the inauguration of Bush but primarily covers the planning for the invasion of Iraq up to the start of the invasion with a small amount of wrap up after the beginning of the invasion.

The third book starts out in the fall of 1997 as Bush is deciding to run for the Presidency.  It ends in July of 2006.  It mainly discusses the interactions in and around the White House with an emphasis on the Iraq war.

There are not a lot of conclusions expressed in the books.  The format is mainly chronological and the author doesn't draw many moral or strategic conclusions.  One can tell by the tone of the works that the author was becoming less and less happy with the events as the books progressed.  However he was always very careful to keep his own opinions to himself and act as a strictly factual reporter.  I respect his viewpoint but I would have liked to see more of his opinions of what went wrong and why.  I will be eagerly awaiting his book in which he brings out as much detail as he thinks appropriate concerning the final 2 1/2 years of the Bush Administration and discusses the lessons that can be learned from this dismal period in American history.

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