Review: The Fifty Year Wound–The True Price of America’s Cold War Victory

6 Star Top 10%, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Government), Diplomacy, Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), History, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Sanity–Hard Look at Cost of Cold War,

December 1, 2002
Derek Leebaert
This is an extraordinary book, in part because it forces us to confront the “hangover” effects of the Cold War as we begin an uncertain path into the post 9-11 future. It begins by emphasizing that the Cold War glorified certain types of institutions, personalities, and attitudes, and ends by pointing out that we paid a very heavy cost–much as General and President Eisenhower tried to warn us–in permitting our society to be bound by weaponry, ideology, and secrecy.Two quotes, one from the beginning, one from the end, capture all that lies in between, well-documented and I would add–contrary to some opinions–coherent and understandable.

“For the United States, the price of victory goes far beyond the dollars spend on warheads, foreign aid, soldiers, propaganda, and intelligence. It includes, for instance, time wasted, talent misdirected, secrecy imposed, and confidence impaired. Particular costs were imposed on industry, science, and the universities. Trade was distorted and growth impeded.” (page xi)

“CIA world-order men whose intrigues more often than not started at the incompetent and went down from there, White House claims of ‘national security' to conceal deceit, and the creation of huge special interests in archaic spending all too easily occurred because most Americans were not preoccupied with the struggle.” (page 643)

Although the author did not consult the most recent intelligence reform books (e.g. Berkowitz, Johnson, Treverton, inter alia), he is consistently detailed and scathing in his review of intelligence blunders and the costs of secrecy–in this he appears to very ably collaborate the findings of Daniel Ellsberg's more narrowly focused book on “SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He points out, among many many examples, that despite Andropov's having been head of the KGB for fifteen years, at the end of it CIA still did not know if Andropov has a wife or spoke English. He also has a lovely contrast between how little was learned using very expensive national technical means (secret satellites) and open sources: “So much failure could have been avoided if CIA has done more careful homework during the 1950s in the run-up to Sputnik; during the 1960s, when Sovieet marshals were openly publishing their thoughts on nuclear strategy; or during the 1970s and 1980s, when stagnation could be chronicled in the unclassified gray pages of Soviet print. Most expensively, the CIA hardly ever learned anything from its mistakes, largely because it would not admit them.” (pages 567-568).

The author's biographic information does not include any reference to military service, but footnote 110 suggests that he was at least in Officer Candidate School with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. The biography, limited to the inside back jacket flap, also avoids discussing the author's considerable experience with information technology. Given the importance of this critique of all that most Republicans and most 50-70 year olds hold very sacred, we need to more about the man goring the ox. Future editions should have a much expanded biography.

Bottom line: America muddled through the Cold War, made many costly mistakes, and developed a policy-making process that is, to this day, largely uninformed due to a lack of a comprehensive global intelligence capability, or a sufficient means of consulting diverse experts (as opposed to the in-town intellectual harlots). If ever we needed a clean-sheet look at how we make policy and how we provide decision-support to that policy process, this is the time. The “fifty-year wound” is still open, and the author warns us it will not heal without a reappraisal of how we do the business of national security.

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Review: Nickel and Dimed–On (Not) Getting By in America

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Photography Books (Countries)

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5.0 out of 5 stars If You Can Afford to Eat Out, You Need This Book,

October 10, 2002
Barbara Ehrenreich
This is an extraordinary book that every American who can afford to eat out, or rent a video, or visit a doctor, should be required to read.I had no idea just how irrelevant the “poverty” line as a measure of true poverty–nor did I realize how constained people are, the 60% of America that earns less than $15 to $20 an hour, in seeking out other options.

The author does a really effective job of investigating and communicating the horrible realities of life where…managers and corporate regulations and plain meanness deprive hundreds of thousands of people of things many of us take for granted: the right to go to the bathroom, to pause for a few minutes, even to sit down quietly for a few minutes in a clean room.

Especially admirable is her focus on rent and the conditions that are imposed on the poor and lower working class (between minimum wage and $15 an hour)–not having enough money for a deposit, being forced to pay outrageous rents for decrepit motel rooms rented by the week, having to spend a precious working day finding a place to stay, etcetera.

This is a very valuable book, both from the perspective of someone who might benefit from a little humility and gratitude for their blessings and advantages; and from a policy point of view–our understanding of poverty and welfare and what it takes to allow decent hard-working people to have a *life* appears to be terribly, terribly flawed. As the author documents so ably, it is not enough to have a job in America, you need to have one that pays enough to cover rent, food, and medicine.

I was especially moved by the many details the author provided on how life at the lower levels brings on more and more hardships–not enough money for good shoes, bad shoes causing major spinal and related injuries and pain. The pain–the endless hours, the desperation for aspirin and other pain killers, cigarettes as the least expensive narcotic for the pain–this is very powerful stuff.

At a minimum, this book changes how I will evaluate politicians that speak in ignorance about welfare and poverty and safety nets–and it is going to substantially increase how much I tip and how I tip–from 15% to 25%, and in cash… This might be a good time to think of ourselves, and follow the Golden Rule–our welfare system should be what we would want it to be if we were the ones asking for welfare.

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Review–The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Politics, Priorities
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Truth–Left, Right, or Independent, It Is The Truth

May 29, 2002

Patrick Buchanan

Patrick Buchanan has impressed me enormously with this book. For one thing, he has his facts right. The English-speaking peoples, as Churchill called them, and the Caucasian peoples, as our Russian colleagues as well as Europe might be inclined to describe them, are not replenishing their populations. Immigrants have been a blessing to this country (my mother, for instance), but in the absence of a judicious combination of repopulation, immigrant integration, and sustained civic duty by the larger population, we become hollow and fragmented.

Most interestingly to me, Patrick Buchanan and Lee Kuan Yew, former Premier of Singapore, perhaps the most intelligent man in Asia, are in total–and I do mean total–agreement on the vital importance of the family as the foundation of civilization and continuity. I grew up in Singapore, and have extremely deep feelings of respect for Lee Kuan Yew, and what I see here is two men, as far apart as the earth and philosophy might separate them, who agree on the one core value apart from religion (it does not matter which religion, only that one respect within a religion): FAMILY. Family is the root of cultural continuity and civil sustainability, and if we allow the traditional nuclear family to enter into minority non-replenishment status, we are in fact destroying the Nation.

Patrick Buchanan speaks of how we are no longer one nation under God–or one nation, period. There is a great deal to what he says. For one thing, Mexico has reclaimed American territory all the way up to the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty line, and the at least one major Republican family seems to be an active element in support of Mexico's illegal as well as legal immigration subversion of America. For another, and Joel Garreau did this in his book by this title, very intelligently, America is geographically, culturally, and economically really NINE nations in terms of geophysical and cultural separation.

The author also alludes to the growing separation between the federal government, which is agreeing to supra-national deals that hurt the states and the population at large–or refusing to sign off on deals (e.g. the Kyoto Treaty) that would actually benefit future generations. One is left with the feeling that we have three different Americas–the federal bureaucracy, the state-level authorities, and the people, and somewhere in here our methods of governance are failing to reconcile the behavior of the first two with the values of the third–in part because the people are all over the lot in terms of values, and we have lost our social cohesion.

Bottom line: he may never be President, but Patrick Buchanan speaks to the core of American values, and he must always be respected and listened to at the high table of American politics.

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Review: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace – How We Got to Be So Hated

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Gore Vidal

5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002

This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal's book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”

I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”

1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.

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Review: How to Prevent Genocide–A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Compelling, Practical, Essential and Unnerving,

December 10, 2001
John G. Heidenrich
The author of this book not only completed graduate work with a direct focus on genocide, but spent over a year supporting the Office of War Crimes at the Department of State, each day creating an open source intelligence report on genocide-at the time he was engaged in this activity, there were eighteen (18) such active genocidal movements going on around the world.This is a brilliant and compelling book that is also practical and essential for anyone who desires to understand the complete inadequacy of the diplomats, the policymakers, the media, and the intelligence communities. It is unnerving in its calm and reasoned detailing of how genocide can take place, its survey of the millions upon millions of post-WWII holocausts taking place today–as the media and policymakers ignore these realities.

Citizen-voters, in my view, will benefit considerably from this book because it will help them understand that there are three worlds out there, and we as a nation are not dealing well with two of the three–the most dangerous two. There is the world of well-fed diplomats and businessman, traveling and negotiating in their warm safe buffer zones. There is the real world as experienced by normal people, many of whom are oppressed and poor and feel helpless in the face of dictatorial regimes and local warlords who may do as they wish absent the rule of law. And then there is the world of genocide, an underworld of such horrific pervasive violence and inhuman brutality that one can only wonder if we are all guilty of mass insanity for turning our backs on this murder of millions.

The author is a world-class scholar and ardent champion for informing the public and achieving informed policy in this vital area, and I can only hope that serious people put some money behind his thinking.
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Review: Genocide in the Congo (Zaire)

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Country/Regional

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5.0 out of 5 stars Most Inexpensive Deep Look at Real World Genocide,

December 10, 2001
Yaa-Lengi Ngemi
This book is a perfect complement to the more scholarly and policy-oriented book by John Heidenrich on “How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen.” I strongly recommend that both books be bought and read at the same time.This book is a cry from the heart of a Congolese, it has explicit photographs, and you can get through it in half an hour–what you see and feel will be with you for the rest of your life.
It is a good thing when a book of this utility and importance can make its way from the lower depths of Africa and–with the help of amazon–into the mainstream world where anyone can learn of its availability. This is not a book that will be found in libraries or used in classrooms–it is a book that is at once so inexpensive and so horrifying, that any adult who in any way cares about the future of the international community, should buy it….at the same time that they get the Heidenrich book. Two men, world's apart, with one mind and the same broken heart.
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Review: White Nile, Black Blood–War, Leadership, and Ethnicity from Khartoum to Kampala

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Country/Regional

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5.0 out of 5 stars Puts It All Together–Vastly Superior to State Department,

December 1, 2001
Jay Spaulding
I read this book at the same time that I read the quasi-official story on Sudan (“Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe”) and I have to say, not only is this collection of edited articles–and the editorial summary–quite pleasing in its professional grasp of history, its depth, its coverage of the core issues in a comprehensive and actionable way–but it also causes me extreme anguish when I compare it to what can only be described as a self-centered mediocre State Department memoire.This is good solid stuff. It is especially helpful in setting aside the superficial views that ethnic conflict or European-drawn borders are the root of Sudan's internal conflict issues, and it cuts to chase: “it's about wealth, simpleton!”.

The history of Sudan is well-drawn out, with the bottom line being that the southerners and their especially rich territory have been constantly besieged and ravished by the northern elite. The only time of peace in the 200 year war has been when the British imposed that peace, and there is a suggestive air about that finding.

The varied discussions of genocide and “cultural cleansing”, including the forced rape of the women in the groups being eradicated, and the use of famine to kill two million, are dismaying in the extreme.

“Ecology and economics provide controlling metaphors.” This is an excellent summary of the book.

Also helpful is the book's coverage of the relations between Egypt and Sudan (both historical and current), the explicit (northern) Sudanese sponsorship of terrorism and hosting of many Islamic and other terrorist groups within its territory, and the general references to the varying influences of the Turks, the British, and the missionaries.

This is a serious book, by serious people, and it does the Sudan issues full justice. One puts the book down feeling somewhat aghast at the ignorance of the U.S. government, the incapacity of the United Nations, and the blatant malevolence of the northern Sudanese predators. This book is strongly recommended for any person who wonders about their government's competence and compassion. Sudan is a cancer, not just within Africa, but within the larger world, and the continued acceptance of the genocide and slavery and related plagues that characterize this place call into question the legitimacy, the ethics, the accountabilty, of all Western governments.
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