Archive for the 'Books' Category

Twitter as a Story Telling Medium

Twitter is the social media website that allows users to share updates on their life with others who choose to follow their updates. It’s proved useful for friends to quickly keep in touch, politicians to keep constituents updated on their activities, bands to interact with fans,  place for famous people to be regular Joes and much more.

Well one interesting use that I had not thought of before appears to be play out out right now, partially started by the recent Swine/H1N1/Mexico Flu outbreak. I jokingly that I was going to start calling it “Captain Trips” and that got me added by one . From there I (and others) discovered the stories of Stephen King (namely The Stand and The Dark Tower) unfolding across our very twitter pages. As a fan, this excites me, as an observer it fascinates me.

This presents a very new and unique way for players (actors?) to perform before an audience of millions. Free form, adjustable, personal and interactive, it’s really fun to watch unfold. Each character with an account, interacting with their tweets to create a story. Could we see this move from an homage now, to something more purposeful in the future? A production of actors using twitter accounts as characters to tell their own story or to give, in essence, a twitter-play? Only Ka will tell. Long days and pleasant nights to you.

edit: Also, in talking about story telling on twitter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention and his on going tale.

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Where have the strong women gone?

I’ve now read my first real “vampire” book.

Okay, so it’s a werewolf book with vampires, but I’m told this is *the* genre these days. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn. Not bad, not bad in a lot of ways, but past annoying in others and I was thinking of ranting a bit and putting the rant on my blog. You see, I bought the book to get it signed by Ms. Vaughn at Bubonicon this fall despite the fact that I’m not much into the werewolf or vampire craze, and despite the fact that she stated on one of the panels that she really didn’t like people like me, specifically, women who say they aren’t feminists.

Not that I take that personally.


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Huckabee: Enemy of Libertarian Republicans Everywhere

Mike Huckabee’s new book is coming out, and in it he takes some pretty heavy shots at libertarian and economic conservatives who don’t share his populist big government views.

The real threat to the Republican Party is something we saw a lot of this past election cycle: libertarianism masked as conservatism. And it threatens to not only split the Republican Party, but render it as irrelevant as the Whig Party.

I cannot understand this view at all. From Reason:

Huckabee trains a lot of fire on the Club for Growth, [..] Perhaps the Club’s biggest success was its pre-emptive demolition job on Huckabee. The governor responds by accusing them and other libertarians of believing in “purity of politics first; people are on their own.” In a chapter titled “Let Them Buy Stocks!” he accuses “libertarian faux-cons” of driving “the party even further away from its base of the hard-working middle class.” He names names.

You can see the growing influence of faux-cons in the 2008 election cycle from the so-called Ron Paul Revolution to the economics-only conservatism reflected by some of the supporters of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

Hopefully the GOP does not follow Huckabee or his advice because I foresee a huge exodus of non-social cons. I know I’d be the first.

FYI, Glenn Reynolds is doing an interview with Huckabee this Wed and is currently soliciting questions. Now of course a rude and/or insulting question may make you feel better but won’t get asked so if anyone has a good question put some thought into it and make it respectful.

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Against Galt

Synova wrote a little post that gets halfway to where I would come down on this perennial parlor game of  the John Galt general strike. Sy recognized that to be successful, such a revolt would realistically be a miserable experience for a society, resulting in bloodshed and economic ruin. But she does not depart from Rand in assuming that the eventual outcome would be desirable. I’d advise the ancient wisdom that if the means are clearly evil in a political project, one should become immediately skeptical of the alleged justice of the ends.

We should also be skeptical of the social assumption for Galt, that there is a definable and rigid division among men into a minority of Platonic creative guardians, and an empowered majority of proletarian oppressors and their craven political servants — and that these factions could have accurate self-recognition of their social roles. I would contend that anyone who thinks of the majority of the people as disposable abstracted parasites, under a constitutional order that explicitly derives its governing powers from the majority consent of the governed, is never selling you anything that’s going to arrive in a happy place.


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The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire & Invasion, by Paddy Docherty

This book was written entirely in the passive voice. The passive voice was used to avoid assigning causation or personhood to various events. As a result, we learn that places were invaded, people were slaughtered, armies were founded, but no one can say by whom.

Good grief, that is exhausting. How is it a book almost exclusively in the passive voice got past the legion of editors and publishers to become a hardcover history? Seriously, how does that happen? It’s not that Docherty didn’t do his homework, nor is that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—the history here is stunning, and eye opening even for me (and I’ve read a lot of histories of the area). The subject is a good one; the research excellent. But the writing? Nearly unbearable!


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Russia’s Long Descent Into Madness: Putin’s Russia by Anna Politkovskaya, and Putin’s Labyrinth by Steve LeVine

Over the last ten years, Russia has emerged from one of the unfortunate victims of the 1998 financial crisis to become a strong, almost fearsomely assertive country. Much of this is thanks to Vladimir Putin, a man who has won and maintained near mythical popularity by doing his best to “make Russia strong.” While this has resulted in a steady erosion of civil liberties, health indicators, rural development, and stalled overall GDP growth, his popularity even after relinquishing the Presidency remains as high as ever. Why is this? Anna Politkovskaya—one of the many journalists whose murder in Russia will never be solved—pondered this in her 2004 opus Putin’s Russia; four years later, Steve LeVine uses her book as a sort of jumping off point to more fully investigate the depths to which Russia has sunk.


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George Lakoff: Neo-Syndicalist

Syndicalism Over the weekend I read with fascination William Saletan’s review of the new offering from George Lakoff, “The Political Mind,” and was struck by the remarkable similarities between it and the revolutionary syndicalism espoused during the prior fin de siècle.

In particular, Saletan summarizes Lakoff’s principal idea as the need for progressives to recapture the and reformulate the social myth that drives the political decisions of the masses:

Lakoff blames “neoliberals” and their “Old Enlightenment” mentality for the Democratic Party’s weakness. They think they can win elections by citing facts and offering programs that serve voters’ interests. When they lose, they conclude that they need to move farther to the right, where the voters are.

This is all wrong, Lakoff explains. Neuroscience shows that pure facts are a myth and that self-interest is a conservative idea. In a “New Enlightenment,” progressives will exploit these discoveries. They’ll present frames instead of raw facts. They’ll train the public to think less about self-interest and more about serving others. It’s not the platform that needs to be changed. It’s the voters.

Lakoff’s concept is not new, although his explanation as to why myth-making is important may be. (more…)

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Dirty Diplomacy: The Rough and Tumble Adventures of a Scotch Drinking, Skirt Chasing, Dictator Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror, by Craig Murray

Cross-posted to

This is quite possibly the worst-named book ever. The UK version was the very simple, stark, and compelling Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror. Why did that not suffice? Why the obvious play for the stereotypical American reliance on alcoholism, sluttery, and moral preening? Oh yeah…

If anything, it can be said that Murray is a passionate man. “I am not an especially good man,” he admits, finally, on page 335, “but I tried to stay true to the basic values of human decency.” The other side of such admirable sentiment? Murray is a conceited prick. And that was his fatal undoing.


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One Day at a Time


One of the most depressing, pessimistic, negative and plain old unappealing books I have ever read is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Ms. Ehrenreich goes “undercover” as an entry level worker, and reports how incredibly difficult it is for people at the lower rungs to get by.

While I would never argue that people who earn hourly wages at Wal-Mart, fill orders at Wendy’s or clean rooms at Hampton Inn don’t have serious struggles, Ms. Ehrenreich’s book was a joke. Part of her undercover stint took place in my hometown, Minneapolis. Thus, it was easy to see that the author didn’t really want to be successful. She never tried to improve her positions, get superior housing, bargain for better anything at all. She was surly and rude to most with whom she met – be it co-workers, superiors or clerks where she was trying to find decent but inexpensive housing. Worst of all – she didn’t like pet birds! Can you imagine…

In any case, today I read the flip side of this embodiment of suffering: Homeless in South Carolina. Here, a young man tries an experiment of starting out with virtually nothing; $25 and the clothes on his body. Yet, despite having almost nothing whatsoever, this young man tells a story of hard work and hope, resulting in vindication, success and savings.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.” The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve.

People who get “Nickel and Dimed” should burn it as being dangerous. Instead, they should read these words:

Would your project have changed if you’d had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn’t that have made it much harder?

The question isn’t whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it’s the attitude that I take in: “I’ve got child care. I’ve got a probation officer. I’ve got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life…?” One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, “Dude, your life is completely changed.” And he said, “Yeah, you’re right, but I’m getting the heck out of here.” Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don’t need “Scratch Beginnings” to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing…. Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum.

To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] ‘Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?’ Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals….. You can use your talents. That’s why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn’t a “rags-to-riches million-dollar” story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter …that anyone can do that.

Success is achieved by doing what you need to do to be successful – and by believing that you can achieve and do better. It is achieved by doing as well as you can, one day at a time.

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Bookends to War: Afghanistan by Louis Dupree, and Taliban by Ahmed Rashid

Cross-posted to

It is difficult to say anything useful about either of these books: after all, both have been read and discussed to death—Dupree’s because, 35 years after its publication, it remains the definitive source on Afghanistan, and Rashid’s because, eight years after its publication, it remains the best source on the Taliban’s origins, and the U.S.’s and Pakistan’s complicity. But there remain a great deal to learn from both, especially when considered together, for they form the bookends on the worst era in Afghanistan’s recent history: first the Soviet invasion, then the civil war, then the Taliban, and now the civil war again.


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And Who Is GK Chesterson???

Thanks to Lance, I have a hankering to learn who this man is he is quoting…

This absent-minded, overgrown elf of a man, who laughed at his own jokes and amused children at birthday parties by catching buns in his mouth, this was the man who wrote a book called The Everlasting Man, which led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian. This was the man who wrote a novel called The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which inspired Michael Collins to lead a movement for Irish Independence. This was the man who wrote an essay in the Illustrated London News that inspired Mohandas Gandhi to lead a movement to end British colonial rule in India.

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Scrambling for Africa: A Conversation with John Ghazvinian

Niger Delta Oil Shell oil venting
Gas flaring in the Niger Delta (photo: Ellie)

John Ghazvinian is a journalist and historian of considerable insight into African affairs. He also happens to have written one of the best recent books on the emergent international struggle for African petroleum: Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil (the paperback edition is due out in April). Whilst being an enormously valuable investigation of a very serious issue, it is also a page-turning and literate adventure into exotic and dangerous places. Indeed, one that’s practically impossible to put down once you’ve picked it up.

As John writes therein, since 1990 the oil industry has invested $20 billion in oil exploration and production in Africa, with $50 billion more planned before 2010. Over the next five years Chevron alone is devoting $20 billion in investment for Africa. Taken collectively, this exercise represents the largest commercial investment in African history. But such a spectacular windfall for some of the world’s most impoverished countries can be a poisoned chalice, where the brutal economic forces of the so-called “resource curse” hollow out states, eviscerate agricultural economies and break traditional cultures.

Populous and promising Nigeria for example, is one of the oldest and most well established oil producing countries in Africa. But with the expansion of Nigeria’s oil extraction industry, she has seen only the systematic erosion of her economic and civil society. As well as witnessing the transformation of her oil bearing region in the Niger Delta (one of the richest in the world), into a vast social wasteland of extreme poverty, rapacious crime and guerrilla warfare. As John notes, “Nigeria” is now a shorthand expression in Africa for what everyone with oil desperately wants to avoid.

John took some time out of his morning yesterday to sit down with me for a telephone interview. We were able to discuss a variety of subjects related to issues raised in his book. Including among other things, US oil supply diversification, the political consequences of offshore exploration in the Gulf of Guinea, the resource curse and rentier states, instability and post-nationalist militancy in the Niger Delta, oil field subculture, the labor problem, Chinese energy strategy in Africa and the difficulty of talking about Africa “without lapsing into sanctimoniousness” (as John puts it in the preface of his book). As I did, I believe you’ll find this to be a rather rewarding and unconventional discussion.


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Monthly Book Roundup

A new monthly feature here at A Second Hand Conjecture, is going to be a roundup of what we’ve been reading during the past month. Feel free to discuss, or ask questions about any of the books.


Right now I’m re-reading Taliban by Pakistani reporter Ahmed Rashid. Though racist in parts (his description of all Uzbeks as “notorious thieves” in particular rankles), it is difficult to ignore that in 2000 substantive criticisms of the lack of U.S. strategic vision were actively aiding and abetting the rise of terrorism in the region were largely ignored. That being said, this is the most comprehensive history of the ways many seemingly unrelated threads—from the reckless funding of the mujahideen to the lack of attention paid to the civil war—culminated in the creation of the same men we continue to fight today.

Complete book reviews available here:


I just finished the graphic novel (grown up way of saying comic book) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore. It’s the third in a series, Vol 1 and Vol2.

It’s really a great read, especially if you have a familiarity for Victorian era fiction, and even more modern fiction. It follows Mina Murry from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Allan Quatermain from King Solomon’s Mine and other British adventure books, as they make their way around a post WWII and Big brother England. It’s loaded with characters from popular fiction, such as James Bond, Emma Peel, Prospero, Orlando, Fanny Hill, Lemuel Gulliver, Bulldog Drummond, Professor Moriarty, Mycroft Holmes, and many many more as they are all weaved into a single universe over the course of the first two volumes and this the third of the series.


Within the last year, completed the Legacy of the Alldenata series from John Ringo. Good set of books based on the premise of an alien civilization “enlisting” the help of humans in their battle against an unstoppable enemy. Like it most for it’s novel use of technology and the meddling in the back story. Basically in order to fill the ranks, old soldiers are rejuvenated.

# A Hymn before Battle (ISBN 0-671-31941-8)
# Gust Front (ISBN 0-671-31976-0)
# When the Devil Dances (ISBN 0-7434-3540-0)
# Hell’s Faire (ISBN 0-7434-3604-0)
# Watch on the Rhine (with Tom Kratman; ISBN 0-7434-9918-2) SS rejuvenated to save Germany.
# Cally’s War (ISBN 0-7434-8845-8)

Within the last couple of months:

# The Hero (with Michael Z. Williamson; ISBN 0-7434-8827-X) Deals with the mistrust between allies in the above series.

By John Ringo
# Into the Looking Glass (ISBN 0-7434-9880-1) A portal between various universes (or parts of the same universe) and the mayhem that ensues.

And then I picked up a few Michael Z Williamson’s books:

# Freehold (ISBN:0-7434-7179-2) – Really like this book. A fugitive from Earths global government (think of leftist nanny statism gone to its extreme,) finds refuge on the Freehold of Grainne, a very libertarian society. Probably the best representation of how a libertarian society would run. The Earth and the Freehold get into a war, and Earth looses.

# The Weapon (ISBN:1416508945) – Expanding on the same theme, with the POV of a special forces soldier.

And somewhere I picked up a link for Whatever! and have read two books from John Scalzi:

# Old Man’s War (ISBN 0-765-30940-8) – Very well written, and captivating.
# Ghost Brigades (ISBN 0-7653-5406-8) – Continuation of the previous book. Also well written.

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Love in a Foreign War

Portrait of a lady
(photo: trish brunner | blog)

This morning I stumbled into the story from last year of James and Lena Ahearn. James, the American officer, Lena the Iraqi woman who was apparently the first war bride in Iraq in 2003. They’d met in Baghdad’s Green Zone and it was a rather charming romance of flowers, with perhaps the customary intensity one so easily finds in marriages made in wars. But it’s a tragic story, as James was killed last year by a roadside bomb. As Lena tells it: “This is the man I always dreamed of but he got to go so fast.”

Such marriages are rather rare in this war, perhaps illustrating the seemingly immutable gulf that separates our civilization from theirs. Or the greater the violent interest of some to keep it that way. But stopping them altogether no matter how considerable the cultural divide, always seems to be impossible.

Which got me to remembering a rather lovely passage that appears in Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. A story about a very different war, but one with similar problems for men and women brought together by the seemingly eternal savagery of history. And inexorably, the crueler debts of war romance are always paid by women:

All over the world at that moment men torn from their homes were meeting strange girls and falling love with them. On every girl’s tongue was the question she almost never asked: “Are you married?” At first she reasoned, “well, we’re not in love, so it doesn’t matter.” Later she reasoned “we love each other, so it doesn’t really matter.” In strange ways they discovered that their lovers were married men, or in jubilation they found that they were not. But rarely did they ask the simple question: “are you married?” For they knew that most men would tell them the truth, and they did not wish to know the truth.
(Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener)

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Globalization: By Don Boudreaux

(Cross posted at Risk and Return)

Cafe Hayek fans take note, it is finally out. Short review from Tyler Cowen:

This is the best popular book explaining the benefits of international trade. Imagine Bastiat for 2008, or a Cajun updating of Henry George’s Protection or Free Trade. Sadly it is expensive but I’d sooner give a student this book than say Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.

High praise. Here is Amazon’s description:

The contemporary era of globalization demonstrates that the local and global aspects of business and government are increasingly intertwined. Over the past fifty years, international business has evolved from the realm of the largest multinational corporations to the base scenario; every business and every citizen who participates in economic activity–by creating, buying, and selling products and services–is now a member of the global economy. But moving our thinking and actions beyond the local sphere is both challenging and problematic; the international domain is more complex, and introduces a new dimension of risks and uncertainties. Yet it it also ripe for business opportunity and wealth creation for those who learn how to navigate in it. Globalization defines and makes sense of the workings of the global economy–and how it influences businesses and individuals on a local scale. Each chapter identifies common questions and issues that have gained exposure in the popular media–such as outsourcing, the high cost of international travel, and the impact of a fast-growing China–to illustrate underlying drivers and mechanisms at work. Covering international trade, national wealth disparities (the haves vs. the have-nots), foreign investment, and geographical and cultural issues, and supported with illustrations, maps, charts, a glossary and timeline of key events, this volume illuminates the dynamics of the global economy and informs readers of its profound impact on our daily lives.

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Moment of Truth in Iraq

Another excellent post by Michael Yon giving a recap of his years in Iraq, and especially this last year of the “Surge.”

Some very important news, Michael is publishing a book this spring. You can pre-order it here which has the benefit of getting you a signed edition of the book, and providing support for his work RIGHT NOW!

My book Moment of Truth in Iraq, due out in April 2008, will be packed with battlefield coverage, including some never-before-published material. But it will also include more from behind the scenes, as I traveled and up and down the back country to systematically report on the astounding campaign of 2007 to snatch Iraq back from the abyss. Places I’d visited in early 2007 and revisited later in the year. Key American and Iraqi commanders who are making it happen in a place most were writing off as a crash site. And many more of the small, telling moments, like the reopening of a Christian church in Doura. Or the anonymous man in a village north of Mosul who recognized a suicide bomber and sacrificed his own life in an embrace of death moments before the bombs strapped to him could detonate inside the crowded mosque. He died but saved the people. Or the entrepreneur I called “Tonto,” who married his ambition to his courage and helped deliver a convoy of food to the people of Baqubah.

But just because our military has averted a disaster does not mean an automatic or easy path to a successful outcome. That’s why I titled the book Moment of Truth in Iraq and why I believe that some events that will determine to a large extent the final outcome will occur early in 2008. Now more than ever, when every American is asking what course our country should take in Iraq, it is absolutely vital that we have a voice in the field.

I’ve worked out an arrangement with the publisher that will allow readers another option to make sure that I can remain in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the ground in key areas in 2008. In addition to providing direct support for my dispatches via links on my website, and through the bookstore and gallery I maintain on the site, now readers can also provide immediate, urgently-needed, substantial support for my work just by ordering an advance copy of this special signed edition. The publication date is April 21, 2008, but your payment for a signed copy now will help keep me in my mission.

The price for this special edition is just $29.95, exactly the same as the suggested retail price for the regular edition. But by special arrangement with the publisher every copy sold of this special signed edition will bring in more support for my work than is normal for traditional book sales. And the funds will be available to help the continuation of my mission almost immediately, rather than waiting for many months as in normal bookstore sales, which is incredibly important now when the plans for my return to Iraq are being worked out. In fact, I’ll fly out on 8 January, and am trying to reach the Iraqi battlefields by late January.

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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

Echoing a wonderful discussion we had in the fall of 2006 on the nature of Fascism (see here, here and here) Jonah Goldberg writes a book which bristles at the use of the term by the contemporary left. I would really be interested in picking that discussion back up. So anybody interested, please read the previous discussions and tell me what you think. In the meantime, here is the description from Amazon:

Book Description
“Fascists,” “Brownshirts,” “jackbooted stormtroopers”—such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst?

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler’s Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.


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Cities of Men

I have not touched on the subject of the often hostile turn our culture has taken towards men, especially when it comes to their relationships with children. It is not that I don’t agree that that is a concern, in fact quite the opposite. I have in deeply personal ways been effected by this cultural distrust. I have had employment denied specifically because I was male and the position involved being around children, I have had to run a business involving children under the constant worry of accusations or potential client discomfort. Thus this short post at Instapundit hit home. Here is the quote from Slate:

My younger, 13-year-old sister is having a slumber party for her birthday, and invited three or so of her 13- to 14-year-old girlfriends to our house. Shortly after, “Sara’s” mother suggested that my sister’s party should be held at “Tammy’s” house. Why? Because Tammy has a single mother. Sara’s mother is concerned that my father will be in his house during the festivities. There is no reason to be concerned about my father doing anything inappropriate to any of the girls (all the parents have met each other), but she is just uncomfortable about the idea of her daughter sleeping in the same house with another nonfamily man. She has also convinced the other parents that a change of venue would be a good idea. Although Tammy’s mother is willing to host the event, my family is offended that the situation has come to this. Since when is it a crime to have a happy two-parent household?

Been there, done that. Dr. Helen has had numerous posts on the topic, with this post being particularly relevant and her request worth considering:

The psychological damage to children of not having men around to interact with because of these scare tactics is never mentioned but something that should be considered by the Virginia Department of Health when they develop such ads. Surely, they can come up with something creative that would help make people aware of sexual predators but would not demonize men in general, most of whom are innocent.

Yes we are. I suffer from a particularly damaging affliction. I love children. I also am a very “physical” person. I am affectionate. I hug, pick them up, kiss, the whole bit. Not to be immodest, but kids like me. Teenagers, middle schoolers, toddlers. They like me. I have been able to get by in life while refusing to have to refrain from being myself, for doing things that a woman is admired for, but from a man are looked at with suspicion. Those traits are part of what I believe made me effective in my former career. I was a male figure who was able to be confidently male, and yet had the courage and position to be empathetic and even affectionate. Still, I had to be careful. While I have a few incidents I could relate, and may yet at some future date, and the issue is not unrelated to my eventual decision to change my career, others have covered that ground fairly well.

What I do think is that some aspects of how we have gotten to this point are somewhat unacknowledged, or rarely remarked upon for they are not born of hostility to men or some other easily identified grievance, but from attempts, often misguided, to accomplish other goals. One is the way modern schooling divorces children from the wider world around them, a world of adults and most specifically men, in favor of a milieu dominated by hundreds of children their own age (and is one reason I chose to home school my own children, to expand their social experience.) It goes beyond schooling however into the entire way in which we make space for children in our society in general. Like many aspects of studying modern life one of the first to really note this was Jane Jacobs in her seminal work from 1961, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

This work, one which every social reformer and policy maker should come to grips with, but few do except to use to justify what they want to do anyway, examines the particulars of city life and how the planning and social theories of the time were foundering upon the actual way that cities and their residents behave. One neglected observation appears on pages 83 and 84 of this great book:

Play on lively, diversified sidewalks differs from virtually all other daily incidental play offered American children today: It is play not conducted in a matriarchy.

Most city architectural designers and planners are men. Curiously, they design and plan to exclude men as part of normal daytime life wherever people live. In planning residential life, they aim at filling the presumed daily needs of impossibly vacuous housewives and preschool tots. They plan, in short, strictly for matriarchal societies.

The Ideal of a matriarchy inevitably accompanies all planning in which residences are isolated from other parts of life. It accompanies all planning for children in which their incidental play is set apart in its own preserves. Whatever adult society does accompany the daily life of children affected by such planning has to be a matriarchy…All housing projects are.

Men are not an abstraction. They are either around, in person, or they are not…men who are part of normal daily life, as opposed to men who put in an occasional playground appearance while they substitute for women or imitate the occupations of women.

The opportunity…of playing and growing up in a daily world composed of both men and women is possible and usual for children who play on lively, diversified city sidewalks. I cannot understand why this arrangement should be discouraged by planning and by zoning.

It is a shame that in all the discussion of this great work so little of it has been focused on this observation. Jacob’s was arguing against the tendency of reformers and planners to emphasize public spaces and parks, or in modern parlance, “green spaces” as opposed to the actual streets and homes in which children grew up. These public spaces, un-patrolled by people with any personal stake or ownership in the space were typically the most dangerous places in a city. Often denigrated, “the streets” were actually safer. Those streets were owned or supervised by the men who owned the establishments along them. By removing them, and their businesses, in favor of projects filled with parks and other commonly owned spaces amongst the residences, neighborhoods suffered from higher crime and removal of men from the lives of children.

Of course Jacobs’ work deals with cities, not suburbs or smaller towns. And Jacob’s missed emphasizing, as she should have, that it was the sense of ownership of the particular areas of the street which made such an arrangement work, not the mere presence of businesses. The breakdown in the sense that proprietors could say who and who could not occupy the spaces on those sidewalks rendered Jacobs’ observations less relevant. The point about our divorce from men as a regular part of children’s lives is important though. Field trips and mentoring cannot replace it. She describes in detail the shuffling off of children, in ways that are as applicable to suburbs today as they were then, to controlled activities. Scripted play, arts and crafts, athletics, libraries and assorted other activities developed top down to deal with youth that not only destroy much unscripted play, but are dominated by women and the values of women. Things which are more likely to appeal to boys, or involve being around men, are severely restricted. The kind of unscripted play, in the kind of places, which boys are likely to engage in are given the least room. Thus the popularity of The Dangerous Book for Boys. We all recognize this. What we don’t acknowledge is the loss from having the world of children so divorced from the world in which most men live, the world of work and business, in the first place.

I have no grand recommendation to make to fix this, such as reinstating apprenticeship or other traditional forms of workforce training, nor do I wish to encourage such social engineering. Many of the benefits of present arrangements should not be dismissed without thought. Yet the cordoning off of children has a cost, and as her point I put in bold above implicitly warned of, we have made men an abstraction, and it shouldn’t surprise us that it is a scary one.

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The Hunter of Beer: RIP- Update

My grief knows no bounds, Michael Jackson, aka “The Beer Hunter” has passed away:

“He was simply the best beer writer we’ve ever known,” said Tim Hampson, chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers. “He told wonderful stories about beer, breweries and far away places. He told the story of beer through people, and he was humorous and erudite at the same time,” Hampson told The Associated Press.

Jackson especially loved Belgian brews. His books “The Great Beers of Belgium” and “World Guide to Beer” introduced them to many export markets, including the United States.

By identifying beers by their flavors and styles, and by pairing them with particular foods and dishes, Jackson helped give birth to a renaissance of interest in beer and breweries worldwide that began in the 1970s, including the North American microbrewery movement.

His TV documentary series, “The Beer Hunter” — which popularized his nickname — was filmed around the world and shown in 15 countries.

He worked as a beer critic for more than 30 years, writing in newspapers and gastronomic magazines, holding seminars and giving speeches, appearing on U.S. talk shows and writing books about beer and whiskeys published in 18 languages.

Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson the rock star, and that was reflected on the beer critic’s Web site. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter,” it says.

My wife gave me his “Great Beer Guide” to take to England for our honeymoon. I was first introduced to him by our occasional contributor Roby as a senor in High School when he showed me the “World Guide to Beer.” I am reading the first now in tribute while drinking a nice cold one.

You will be missed Michael.

Update: You can find Michael’s website here. I found this news:

Friends of Michael Jackson have begun to plan a national toast to Jackson later this month.

It would be a fundraiser for the National Parkinson Foundation.

Organizers first hoped to hold the toast at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, but realized it would be hard to pull everything together by then. A toast is now tentatively set for Sept. 30.

If you know a brewpub, bar, tavern, ale house, tap house, multi-tap or similar establishment that might participate urge them to do so. Information will be posted at the Beer Hunter website when plans are finalized, participants will be able to register their site and download a poster, and drinkers will find a list of toast sites.

There are also plans for a Michael Jackson Tribute Dinner in Philadelphia in March 2008 at the Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Jackson hosted tutored tastings there for the past 18 years. That dinner would be part of Philly Beer Week.

Here is a list of sites with tributes to Michael from the website:

H/T: E. Frank Stephenson

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News Brief, Worry Wort Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer


  • Part 2 of Danger Room’s interview with John Robb. I bought his book last night, and I’ll be posting a review of it here when I’m done. John Robb has some damned interesting ideas, and even if I wind up not fully buying them (I try to remain skeptical of these kinds of military ideas books), I’m glad there are credible guys doing some serious outside-the-box thinking.
  • I like this bit: “Q: [Are there] any presidential candidates [who get it, who understand Fourth Gen warfare?] A: No. Not that I have seen. It almost seems like they are living in a parallel reality to the real world we live in.” Indeed.
  • I don’t like this bit: ” One of the things we see again and again is the need for the ability to provide instant infrastructure to damaged communities. This ranges from a community cut off due to security needs in counter-insurgency to disaster relief. How do you package infrastructure for 20-30,000 people in a box? The military should be solving this.” I disagree; community and institution building is not a primary function of the military, that is a primary function of aid and reconstruction groups such as FEMA, USAID, and the State Department. The military should be “solving” how to fight wars. I think I am going to love his book.
  • Meanwhile, the DoD is presenting a decidedly Luddite face to the country and the world, in that it seems to not understand things like VPNs, bandwidth, or the intertubes. This should be embarrassing for them, but not as much as a British judge who, in a trial of men accused of Internet terrorism, admitted he didn’t know what a “Web site” was (see below).
  • What? The Army has duplicate weapons and equipment programs, and tries to sell the cutting of one as an unacceptable attack on the troops? Never.
  • I hope none of you work for Northrop Grumman, because if you do, and if you happen to be captured by FARC while on a recon mission in Colombia, you will be forgotten, consigned to some hell hole prison for years with nary a peep or outcry from your company, your country, or its press.

Around the World

  • Excellent rundown of the growing instability in Pakistan. Doing daily dispatches sometimes makes me forget to take even a short term big-picture view. Doing so can be hugely useful, however, as Daniel shows. Seeing that Musharraf has ruled out the return of the two previous failed heads of state (Bhutto and Sharif), it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.
  • Clearly, what was missing from the Afghan campaign was more Ahmed Shah Massoud. His name, like adding more cow bell to the Blue Oyster Cult, is slowly turning into an abused joke that will ruin the whole thing for the rest of us. Or is anointing an Afghan national hero a good thing, and sound nation-building policy? I look at that here.
  • Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera carries an alarming story about the scourge of opium addiction in Badakhshan, a rural province at the far northeast of the country. A few months back, Ted Callahan wrote an entry for’s regional roundup on the Afghan Pamirs, a small group of Kyrgyz nomads in the area, and how the use of opium was slowly killing them all off.
  • Interesting that apparently in both the Economist’s and in Foreign Policy’s take on the recent debate over China curiously fails to mention the one things that many of us continue to object to with China: human rights. From their reeducation camps to the America-funded censorship and imprisonment of democrats to having the highest execution rate in the world (as well as credible, though still unfounded, rumors of using arrested Falun Gong members to supply organ tourism), to their forced repatriation of North Korean refugees, to (oh yeah) TIBET, China has one of the worst human rights records on the planet. If there were like Japan or something—culturally alien but benign—I doubt as many people would care, at least in the same and with such doom-and-gloom, about their growing power and influence.
  • Ms. Bonnie has been on fire this week, tackling the issue of poverty and income inequality with gusto. See here, here, and just today, here. If you enjoy reading of Central Asia, you should add her site to your reader. I want to address these in greater depth, assuming I develop both the time and inclination (I might be sleeping).
  • Wow, Stasi agents were bastard coated bastards with bastard filling… and now they’re renting hotel space for G8 summits. The Lives of Others, a German-language Oscar-winner about the last days of the Stasi, will be at the top of my Netflix queue once it has a release date—it is supposed to be stunning. Even for someone as theoretically young as I am, the pace of change in the world is sometimes head-spinning.
  • The moment I feel depressed about this country, I get to read about the English. Supposedly, a judge tasked with trying people accused of Internet-based terrorism Without exaggerating, the exchange was something like: “These men are accused of hosting terrorism materials on a website.” “Wait, what’s a website?” That has to be embarrassing.
  • Hrm, it sure looks like Russia is forming a natural gas cartel, doesn’t it? Let’s brainstorm names: I nominate ONGEC, LiNGEC, and WHNGYDSPU (we have natural gas and you don’t so pay up).
  • Meanwhile, the EU actually played a form of hardball with its wayward eastern neighbor, for once.
  • Why isn’t Blake Hounshell willing to declare the Agreed Framework 2.0 a failure “just yet?” North Korea is only 35 days behind its original 60 day gentleman’s agreement to shut down the Yongbyon reactor. But that’s not what Hounshell says. He rather leaves the reasons behind his belief a bit obscured behind the scare mongering over Iran, and Chris Hill’s latest exciting trip to offer North Korea zero incentives for major setback.
  • Some pretty pictures from Ukraine: one set, of the underground, and another of the rotting (but still beautiful) Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag.

Back at Home

  • Major military brass must patiently explain why torture is bad. That we have to have this conversation is appalling enough; that so many Republican candidates were engaged in a contest of “who would torture more” for Fox News, including several jaw-dropping invocations of Jack Bauer, is deeply depressing.
  • Clearly the best way to handle a wayward Republican of growing popularity is to ban him from future debates. Because, you know, silencing dissent is for the good of the party. $20 says the same Republicans who railed about Joe Lieberman’s freezing out last year will applaud Ron Paul’s excommunication.
  • Yesterday, Jules Witcover wrote an interesting post at the Campaigning for History blog: Who’s Worse, Nixon or Bush? Before going off about the predictable liberal bias of the New York Times, realize that this isn’t a new or even particularly noteworthy comparison: recall Jonathan Rauch’s pronouncement that Bush is worse than Carter but not as bad as Nixon, a perverse status given the current state of the country and the far less severe current imbroglio with Iran (i.e. they’re not holding several dozen diplomats ransom). Regardless, how much more stale can you get than recycling seven month-old Atlantic articles written by a far more accomplished writer?
  • WTF? The DC won’t be Chocolate City very soon? Times are changing.
  • Wolfie’s been railroaded, though I don’t think it was a good call to put him there in the first place (regardless of his efficacy as President, he was such a controversial figure, and so universally disliked, it was a thumb of the nose by President Bush). Leave it to the always wide-eyed Sebastian Mallaby (Bastian! Please!) to say the next President should be more of the same.
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News Brief, Need Your Needs Edition

Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.

The Pentagon

  • In laying out his thoroughly convincing case against widespread instant adaptation of the MRAP, the Robot Economist says something I thought profound: “One thing that I have noticed about about U.S. operations in Iraq is a tendency to favor material solutions over doctrinal, organizational, and training solutions when a problem crops up on the battlefield. Just compare the $6 billion spent by JIEDDO on counter IED technology versus the years it took to the U.S. Army to role out a new counterinsurgency manual, despite the clear need for one.” Indeed. As he says, that isn’t to say the MRAP might not be effective, but it does nothing to eliminate the source and motivation behind IEDs. That will be the real “solution” to the problem in Iraq.
  • Does the new War Caesar (hail!) hate the surge? I would, too, if it did nothing to reduce or stop the attacks.
  • DoD bans Youtube, urges soldiers to watch YouTube. LOL! If you’re feeling meta, you can check on the military’s ban on YouTube.

Around the World

  • Bradley Marten, who wrote the excellent Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader (review here), has a depressing article on the way the Kim family not only has accepted extravagant gifts in the past, but how world leaders continue to shower it with gifts today… Including to the current head of state, the deceased Kim Il-sung. Of course, extravagant gifts for the people don’t really ever happen, in part because Kim keeps them all for himself.
  • A heartfelt plea from Human Rights Watch, begging China to stop forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees. Good luck. Though a few hundred thousand deaths have created tremendous attention and furor in Darfur, an equal or greater number of people are being actively terrorized by the North Korean government. The silence from the International community is deafening. For more insight into this, I highly recommend the documentary Seoul Train.
  • Wow, who’d've thunk that the Serbs would fail to find Ratko Mladic on his expansive estate in Serbia? He’s only been on the “run” for 12 years, living openly.
  • Oh look, we’re confusing Colombia and Afghanistan again. Over at, I take a look at the terrible problem of opium in Afghanistan, and why it seems like the U.S. is deliberately trying to fail into a decades-long drug war.
  • Ben sees a bright future for the Stanosphere (i.e. all the Central Asia blogs, of which I am a part). I do, too: not only for those of us nerds in the West who have developed a real passion for the region, but for those who live there and now have access to the outside world to an extent unimaginable when I was in high school (not that long ago, mind you). I fully support, and wish them well in their drive to foster connectedness in one of the more unconnected areas of the world.
  • What did Paul Bremer get wrong? Everything? Or less?
  • Was it the worst EuroVision ever? I dunno—that’s a tall order. But check out that Ukrainian drag queen; along with the bizarre drag bear Azis, I have to wonder: why is Eastern Europe so gay?

Back at Home

  • Big congratulations to Georgie James, which just signed to Saddle Creek. It is made up of former Q and not U drummer John Davis and Laura Burhenn (who put out a stunning solo album a few years back). They’re quite infectious, with a glam retro classic rock-type sound. On Saddle Creek, they have good company in Bright Eyes, Cursive, Ladyfinger, and the Faint.
  • Jesse Walker is far more charitable than I am towards Fallwell, and sees a surprising side to his legacy.
  • Saucy jocks?” Umm, they were laughing about raping the Secretary of State. Three white men were laughing and joking about raping a black woman for daring to think differently. Notice how Opie and Anthony get merely suspended, while Don Imus, who simply used a racial stereotype got fired. Imus, it should be noted, was not mocking a Republican.
  • Jewcy sees latent anti-Semitism behind the Wolfowitz hyperventilation. I rather see petty political revenge: as a neo-con, a former Bushie, Wolfowitz deserves to go down, regardless of his efficacy or record. To repeat the Hitch from yesterday: no matter who Wolfowitz is or they wish him to be, this is shameful, deeply unfair conduct on their part, especially toward Shaha Riza, who apparently committed the unforgivable sin of dating a Bushie.
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The Devil Came on Horseback by Brian Steidle and Gretchen Steidle Wallace

Darfur refugees
(photo: Sam Ouandja | Nicolas Rost | UNHCR via HDPT)

The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur by Brian Steidle and Gretchen Steidle Wallace
(Public Affairs, 230 pages, $16.47)

Two thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius observed in his Meditations, that it was absurdly wrong that man’s spirit so often surrenders before his body has begun to. There are few occasions where that sad reality is as true as in Darfur, where systematic genocide by the Government of Sudan (GOS) was dismissed as inevitable, hopeless, or irrelevant by the world long before even the most minimal efforts had been made to confront or stop it. The international community’s body was strong, but its spirit was hollow.

But what has been largely true of international politics, was not true of everyone. In 2004, a young man named Brian Steidle was hired by the African Union as an international observer in their mission to document enforcement of the then tentative ceasefire agreement in the war in Darfur. This book is a product of his experiences there, as that ceasefire (never genuinely observed by Sudan), collapses and open violence spreads.


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News Brief, I Would Have Posted This Yesterday But Was At The Hospital Edition

Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.

The Pentagon

  • Tony Snow declared the milblogging scandal overreported, but then admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about. See for yourself if such a major change in OPSEC rules was over-done.
  • Lockheed Martin builds a so-called sniper targeting pod, a device that can be attached to fixed-wing aircraft and used from even greater standoff distances than the current generation LANTIRN system—50,000 instead of 25,000 feet. It is not, as the name may suggest, a device for targeting snipers. Anyway, it was originally made to be placed on small fighter and strike aircraft, like the F-16, F-15, or F-18, but Inside the Pentagon reported yesterday that it is going to be installed on a wing of six B-1B bombers on their way to Iraq. Since the article was light on details, I would assume this is to allow the bombers to loiter at higher altitudes while maintaining a precision strike capability, though I doubt its full utility in a crowded urban environment like Baghdad.
  • The House Armed Services Committee is making some good moves to kill the Trident Conventional Strike weapon, slow down the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, and de-fund missile defense.
  • There are some neat rumours about the i-GPS system being developed by Boeing, which would combine Iridium and GPS-III signals to form a global, satellite-based data network.
  • The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has backed the Pentagon’s decision to cancel the A-12 radar evading plane… in 1991. The sixteen year case shows how damned powerful the big contractors are, the uphill battles any kind of fiscal reformer faces at the DoD, and how lame it is to have to fight to de-fund an overbudget and past due weapon system.

Around the World

  • I knew Mein Kampf was a best-seller in the Middle East, but I didn’t know they were so damned proud of it. Small wonder there is murderous anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
  • Big Blue has big plans for the poorest of the planet. Awesome.
  • Plan Colombia was a total bust. Luckily, one of the main guys involved, William Wood, is being moved from Colombia to Afghanistan to help make heroin even cheaper and more widely available.
  • Why is Hassan Hasrullah praising Israel?
  • You know how a lot of troops complain that the good news from Iraq—news schools and the like—is buried behind a biased media that thinks suicide bombs, chlorine attacks, and mass executions are more newsworthy? Well, some of those new schools came with built-in explosives. Great.
  • A brief look at the increasing ties between the Caspian Basin and East Asia.
  • The inimitable Ms. Boyd on the forgotten past of Uzbekistan’s glorious SSR. Makes me want to dig out a central asian folk art book I found in Kazakhstan.
  • I’m only a bit ashamed to say that I went crazy on, posting about an assassination and a teetering US military policy in Afghanistan, the changing face of warfare in Afghanistan, the role Turkey may or may not play in Afghanistan, and a brief look at the challenges facing the national army of—you guessed it—Afghanistan. Oh, I also pontificated on the efficacy of sanctions against Uzbekistan, and whether and how more focused engagement could possible improve things there. So, get readin’.

Back at Home

  • YouTube is going to monetize its content, at least initially. So my dreams of creating an independent foreign news channel can finally come to fruition, assuming I ever get the equipment, talent, inclination, and exposure.
  • Wolfowitz looks less and less like the bad guy the more details emerge, especially how he was forced into determining Riza’s compensation package by the Bank’s top ethics officer, who still thinks he violated rules anyway.
  • I like how Congress doesn’t even bother pretending to not be doing the bidding of Big Media, which has purchased access to horrendous laws. They’re like that with Big Telecom as well, the creeps.
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The Kite Runner

I have to second this recommendation from Greg Mankiw:

Well, actually listening too, as I drive between my home and the office: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Highly recommended.

I want to go further and suggest you listen to it as well. The authors accent and beatiful reading style give the book depth that reading it to your self does not provide. A great story, beautifully written, topical if you are interested in Afghanistan or the Taliban more specifically. One of my favorite books this decade.

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American Civil War led to the Creation of the Suez Canal – Who Knew?

Well, some historians obviously did. Michael J Totten interviews Michael Oren, author of the book “Power, Faith, and Fantasy”, “a sweeping history of America’s involvement in the Middle East from 1776 to the present.”

So, read the whole interview, it’s very interesting to see the connections between America and the Middle East, and how, what we are dealing with now, is not without historical precedent.

Read Orens views on the Iraq War below the fold…


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Adding fuel to the Climate Change fire

We’ve recently sparked some interesting discussions on climate change and global warming here at ASHC. I’d like to add a little fuel (biodegradable, earth-friendly fuel, of course) to the fire by recommending this article on Dr. David Orrell’s new book, Apollo’s Arrow. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to read Dr. Orrell’s new work, I find his ideas to be very interesting. While not exactly covering new ground here, Dr. Orrell does certainly add to the theory that environmentalism has become a religion, complete with its own prophets, matyrs, and holy scriptures. As pointed out, Dr. Orrell is not a climate change skeptic in the Bjorn Lomborg or Michael Crichton models; rather, he is a man fully convinced that climate change is occurring, but that our ability to predict or model it is virtually non-existent. He takes issue with Kyoto, the IPCC report, and with the newfound prophets of environmentalism David Suzuki and Al Gore. Apollo’s Arrow is sure to make for interesting reading and is definitely something that dedicated environmentalists and climate change die-hards should take to heart.

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Radicals for Capitalism

From our friends at Laissez Faire we have Brian Doherty’s first chapter from his new book Radicals for Capitalism. A history of libertarianism in America that I plan on purchasing for myself.

An excerpt from the new book

A Freewheeling History of
the Modern American Libertarian Movement

by Brian Doherty

Published by Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Book Group and reprinted here with permission

ISBN: 1586483501
List Price: $35.00
LFB Price Only $22.95
You Save 34%!

Radicals for Capitalism is the winner of the February 2007 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty. For more information about the Lysander Spooner Awards, CLICK HERE.

To go to our full review, or to go to purchase the book, CLICK HERE.

The excerpt, below, is the first chapter of the book, Radicals for Capitalism. Enjoy!


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Dinesh D’Souza and Responsibility

I haven’t addressed D’Souza’s new book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, though Robby asked me to long before it was even out. I have meant to, but at this point it seems a bit superfluous. It has been dissected and critiqued so extensively that I can’t imagine as someone who hasn’t read it, and doesn’t intend to, that I can say anything more of value about what he is arguing.

As for what my opinion is, any reader of my writings here should have no difficulty figuring my position out, but if you want a good roundup of views that reflect mine I suggest starting with Eric Scheie who it will surprise nobody to find out I agree with once again. If you read Instapundit you already saw these links from Eric, but if you missed them go ahead and take the time to go and poke around. By poke, I mean go to the many other writers he links to who have addressed various aspects of D’Souza’s argument. One thing is heartening, the right as a whole seems to be rejecting his thesis (if not every aspect, which seems about right to me) that liberals and libertarian leaning people do is pretty much a given. If you did go and read Eric you may have missed his updates and this piece from Dean Barnett. If so, go ahead and give Dean a bit of your time.

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The Diamond Age

Speaking of pumped, I should be, but I am less excited by the thought of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age coming to the Sci-fi channel.

However, having George Clooney behind it means maybe it will get the funding it deserves and we can avoid some of the issues I have with the Sci-fi Channel adaptations of the past.

Just as important Stephenson himself will do the adapting. So call me cautiously pumped!

For those who would like an academic take on the book, I give you this:

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Song of Fire and Ice

Hat tip: Stephen Bainbridge

It is being turned into an HBO series!

The series will begin with the 1996 first book, “A Game of Thrones,”
and the intention is for each novel (they average 1,000 pages each) to
fuel a season’s worth of episodes. Martin has nearly finished the fifth
installment, but won’t complete the seven-book cycle until 2011.


“They tried for 50 years to make ‘Lord of the Rings’ as one movie before Peter Jackson found success making three,” Martin said. “My books are bigger and more complicated, and would require 18 movies. Otherwise, you’d have to choose one or two characters.”

I am really pumped!

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Mail Delivery

I just received my review copy of Clayton Cramer’s “Armed America.” It is at least in part a response to the discredited work of Michael Bellisile’s “Arming America.” I’ll have a review up in the next couple of weeks, maybe even sooner.

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P J O’Rourke does Adam Smith. I want it!

I spent an hour and a half in my wife’s AP European History class on Monday. My topic was the history of economic thought during the enlightenment. Subtopics were mercantilism, the physiocrats and Adam Smith. Brief digressions on the connection between Smith and Marx as well as Malthus. I know, eyes glaze over, but in fact it seems I was a big hit. I haven’t taught much in the last few years, so it was fun. I suspect though, that a little more reading of primary sources would have enabled them to get more out of it. Having them read all of “The Wealth of Nations” would probably not be the answer. I would have loved it had they read this first though:

Book Description

As one of the first titles in Atlantic Monthly Press’ “Books That Changed the World” series, America’s most provocative satirist, P. J. O’Rourke, reads Adam Smith’s revolutionary The Wealth of Nations so you don’t have to. Recognized almost instantly on its publication in 1776 as the fundamental work of economics, The Wealth of Nations was also recognized as really long: the original edition totaled over nine hundred pages in two volumes—including the blockbuster sixty-seven-page “digression concerning the variations in the value of silver during the course of the last four centuries,” which, “to those uninterested in the historiography of currency supply, is like reading Modern Maturity in Urdu.” Although daunting, Smith’s tome is still essential to understanding such current hot-topics as outsourcing, trade imbalances, and Angelina Jolie. In this hilarious, approachable, and insightful examination of Smith and his groundbreaking work, P. J. puts his trademark wit to good use, and shows us why Smith is still relevant, why what seems obvious now was once revolutionary, and why the pursuit of self-interest is so important.

From Publishers Weekly
: (more…)

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Free To Choose

Thanks to Tyler at Marginal Revolution I have found out that “The Power of Choice” a biography of Milton Friedman will air Monday, January 29 on PBS. This date has also been declared as Milton Friedman Day.

Right now you can go to Idea Channel and see all ten episodes of the original Free to Choose series on PBS, as well as the five updated and new episodes that appeared in 1990. You can also find all of these episodes on Google Video as well.

For those of you (regardless of your ideological leanings) who haven’t watched them, I consider them a necessity along with the book. If you have kids, order them as part of their education.
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
Free to Choose From Cradle to Grave Milton Friedman
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A Collection of Thoughts on Friedman’s Passing- Continuously updated, just scroll down

Last Updated at 10:23PM Central Time

For all of our coverage of the passing of Milton Friedman, and all the links you could ever want, go to our Milton Friedman Memorial page.

From Pejman,”That’s right. A lecture concerning a mundane topic like the creation of a pencil was made dazzling and fascinating by Milton Friedman. Imagine what he could do with questions and debate regarding matters of great import and consequence.”



Tyler Cowen who, like me, started with Friedman:”I believe Capitalism and Freedom was the second or third book I ever read on economics and it definitely shaped my life. I knew Milton only a bit but he was always gracious and of course razor sharp and a lover of liberty and prosperity. He was one of the most important minds of the second half of the twentieth century and his influence remains felt all around the world. In purely academic terms, he easily could have won two or three Nobel Prizes from the quality and quantity of his work.”

The New York Times has a long piece on his life.

Steve Levitt makes a wonderful point: “He was truly a revolutionary thinker. People do not realize how revolutionary because so many of his ideas that were thought to be crazy when he suggested them eventually came to be seen as obvious: school choice, a volunteer army, etc.”

Jane Galt pretending to be Economist Magazine: “An economics giant, he not only revolutionised monetary theory, but singlehandedly did more than almost any economist in history to advance the cause of free markets. He was not merely an accomplished economist, but an accomplished popular writer; his Newsweek columns remain gems of clarity and brilliance decades later. We will not soon see his like again.”

The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that’s why it’s so essential to preserving individual freedom. ~ Milton Friedman

Brian Doherty of Reason magazine needless to say has a lot to say:

Undoubtedly the most successful and influential proponent of libertarian thought in the 20th century, Milton Friedman, died last night at age 94. His successes as both a technical economist and libertarian polemicist are enormous. We can thank him, in large part, for happy events from the elimination of the draft to the conquest of inflation. Just a quick note now–his impact was staggering, and there could never be enough words said in praise of him.

My 1995 Reason interview with him.

A 2005 Reason interview, with Nick Gillespie, on his legacy of fighting for school choice.

His most recent Reason interview, with me, in our November issue, as part of a roundtable on the Federal Reserve.

Jacob Sullum’s celebration of Friedman’s 90th birthday.


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On a related note

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately (big surprise, I know). In addition to re-reading TME mentioned below, I’ve also been reading a much more pop history type book (although a pretty darn good one), Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Although a bit light on sources, footnotes, etc., it’s very well researched for a general interest type of history. ToR reminds us of the seemingly lost art of statesmanship and the brilliance of often underrated and villified President Abraham Lincoln. It’s quite an ironic read when you consider the utter imbeciles and hacks that will be elected come the morn. I’m not sure what happened between 1860 and 2006 to have put America so badly off track in terms of leadership and forward progress, but this is definitely a great primer on the glory days of old and perhaps a blueprint for aspiring young up-and-coming statesmen and stateswomen. If nothing else, read it to avoid being one of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalkers.”

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

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Reflections on the past

I’m not really one to do book reviews. Frankly, I’m considered by colleagues to be overly critical. Almost every biography I’ve been asked to review I’ve rejected as shameless hagiography; every theology or comparative religious work incorrectly formatted for the target market (do not discuss the differences between the existentialist theories of Paul Tillich and Soren Kierkegaard or St. Boniface’s Frisian sermons or the nature of Elisha ben Abuyah’s heresy in a book targeted at the general interest market). Every now and then, however, I find a solid work which balances points of view, academic v. popular history, and provides highly detailed source material. I’ve recently been rereading one of the better works on Middle Eastern (a very broad term as in this case it includes SE Europe, southern Russia, North Africa, and Spain) history. Currently in its sixth edition, The Middle East : A History by Sydney Nettleton Fisher (and updated by William Ochsenwald) is one of those rare books that really makes you want to read and re-read it time and time again. Originally published in 1959 and updated by Professor Fisher until his death in 1987, TME is, for the most part, a history of Islam and its various dynasties and empires. The late professor gives an excellent review of the founding of Islam and its early players, plus overlooked information on the roots of Islamic sectarianism. Later, he explains the critical history of the rise and fall of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, including the much ignored role of the Qizilbash, the Uzbegs, the Kurds, and the Azerbaijanis. The late professor, like all of the best scholars, does not guide the reader to any particular conclusions or judgements. Any biases that he may have possessed are not visible in this work. He merely relates the facts, devoid of editorial analysis, pre-judgement, or strawman arguments. This is the kind of scholarly tradition that I’m afraid has died out in today’s highly politicized academic world. (more…)

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Economics of Collusion

I heard an interview late last night on Washington Post Radio (which, for me, is fast becoming a preferable alternative to NPR) with author Timothy Carney discussing his new book, “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money” (available at Amazon and through Laissez Faire Books). Tim ponders the question of just how much of a free market do we really have when businesses actively collude with government to regulate competition, thus solidifying their own position in the marketplace and drowning any potential entrants.

For example, in the interview Tim discussed what he called the “pulling up the ladder” strategy where businesses use the free market to grow and prosper, and then once they reach a certain point turn to government to regulate away the competition. He used the actions of California oil company Unocal to illustrate his point. Unocal made great gains in the refining business only to see President Nixon relax rules for new refineries during the 1970’s. The result was that many small, family operated refineries sprung up and created a small boom. That ate into Unocal’s profits so it went to the state regulators to do something about it. Lo and behold, next thing you know every process for refining oil into gasoline was so heavily regulated or forbidden outright that just one process was left for anyone to profitably use; you’ll never guess who just happened to hold the patent on that process. That’s right! It was Unocal, who then charged a rent on every gallon of gas sold or refined in the great state of California. (more…)

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