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Herbert L Calhoun "paulocal" RSS Feed (Falls Church, VA USA)

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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
by Robert D. Kaplan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.46
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Warrior Politics, April 20, 2014
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Like Chris Hedges, Robert D. Kaplan is one of those authors whose books cannot be passed up -- or put down once acquired. The books of both are always packed full of wisdom you can take to the bank.

No one should be surprised since after all, they both were globetrotting War Correspondents who lived and wrote about (and from) the backwaters and alleyways of some of the world's most intense conflicts. Kaplan has even predicted correctly when some of them would occur, such as his having predicted in 2000 that the "Arab Spring" would occur, and in particular that the socio-economic and political conditions in both Egypt and Syria would lead to exactly what we see happening there today.

Both, as the saying goes "have been there; done that;" "bought the tee shirts" and "have done the research," and thus they have both earned the right to pontificate. And here what Kaplan pontificates about is about the art of how to fight and win "smart wars." Normally, such a qualification would be unnecessary, since no one ever sets out to fight a dumb war. However, today, with as many "dumb wars" being fought as smart ones, it is now a distinction that one has to make, and then that distinction does indeed become a distinction that makes a difference.

This is a subtle handbook, a mental guide book, as it were, not about what to think, but about how our "Warrior Politicians" are to think. Which is to say it is a guidebook for almost every decision maker known to man. It is simply organized into nine chapters, each addressing an object lesson about war, peace and the art of problem-solving as it is distilled from the best examples of problem-solving and philosophy by a select few of the most successful warriors/problem-solvers across the last three millennia of our history. It is so unsentimental and so sobering that it almost puts the fear of god in any "would be" warriors on the battlefield of today's problems.

What Kaplan has discovered can be distilled into a handful of timeless and unchanging maxims:

All problems that matter are equally complex; there are no easy answers and only a select subset of the old answers still work. The world is not getting better in fact it is getting increasingly worse because it is being run by the mechanisms of entropy, Hobbes and Machiavelli, narrow-mindedness, greed, corruption, crime and the ideology of self-interest. So far, no political or economic systems have been found that are resistance to any of these.

Enlightenment and even brilliance helps only on the margins. Fuzzy, pious and wishful thinking all lead to the same delusional cliff; sometimes all at once. It is simply uncanny how many famous men in history have committed suicide by like lemmings jumping off the very same delusional cliffs.

Creating democracies is an uneven process that takes a long time and then guarantee nothing; dictators cannot be defeated simply by removing them because they are the organic result of bad socio-economic conditions where bad government is the only other alternative; intractable cultural and historical problems often preclude stability and solutions no matter what is done; nothing can be taken for granted -- including Western intervention, ethnic reconciliation, idealist tampering, or the present configuration of the nation-state system.

We are rapidly moving towards a world divided by the ultra-rich and the poor; soon the ultra-rich will have no need for governments and will all be "playing on the house's money." Asymmetric warfare is the wave of the future, with bio-crime and cybercrime leading the pack, both being able to magnify greatly the intensity and barbarism with which targets can be hit.

Solution sets that we have known of since time immemorial, all run down the middle of the road of "level-headed skepticism and realism." The farther one gets away from the middle of the road of these two, the more muddled one's thinking is likely to become. More often than not there are no "right" or "correct answers," and sometimes there are no answers at all: all that remains is confusion and bad choices.

Invariably, the rubber meets the road at exactly the point where time "runs out" and uncertainty "sets in." Seasoned problem solvers are guided not by sentimentality, idealism or sympathy, but by necessity and self-interest.

Glory must be rooted in a morality of consequence: results valued over "good intentions." Without struggle there is decadence; sometimes a smaller sin must be committed to prevent the occurrence of a far greater wrong; morality is not a Judeo-Christian invention; it is the converse that is true.

Liberty has never been about idealism, but about powerful people acting in their own self interest; in an imperfect world good men bent on doing good must also know how to act bad; virtue has little to do with individual perfection and everything to do with getting results; one must believe in the "morality of results;" thus a good policy is measured by its effectiveness not by its purity; Machiavelli's values may not have been Christian, but they were moral. Piousness cannot be allowed to serve as a mask for self-interest because unarmed prophets usually fail, especially against armed ones; anxious foresight is always good.

So says the best decision makers since Sun Tzu, Livy, Thucydides, Homer, Hannibal, Pericles, Tiberius, and Churchill. Amen and ten stars

Bird-X BG Balcony Gard Ultrasonic Bird Repeller
Bird-X BG Balcony Gard Ultrasonic Bird Repeller
Price: $37.99
30 used & new from $26.48

2.0 out of 5 stars Worked for a brief spell, April 18, 2014
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Unlike the green ones, this version did work for about a week, and the birds apparently adapted to its sound. After that, they just ignored it. I moved it around trying to recover the useful effect, but to no avail. Since I have it connected to an adapter, I don't worry about using up batteries, but I do worry that at what it cost me, it has not lived up to its advance billing. Buyer beware. Two stars

P3 INTERNATIONAL P3-P7831 Bird Chaser with built-in PIR Sensor
P3 INTERNATIONAL P3-P7831 Bird Chaser with built-in PIR Sensor
Offered by Fusion Imports
Price: $28.58
3 used & new from $28.58

1.0 out of 5 stars SIMPLY WORTHLESS, April 18, 2014
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I bought four of these at once, expecting them to work. None had the least impact on my bird problem. They just ignored them. I tried changing the frequencies, etc., but nothing worked. They eat up a lot of batteries with no results whatsoever.

Culture and Imperialism
Culture and Imperialism
by Edward W. Said
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.39
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of cultural Wholeness and the wholeness of cultural meanings, April 18, 2014
This book is about how culture, power and imperialism have been stitched together to turn mere nations into Empires. It is a beautiful and deep treatise in which the modern Western colonial example is used as the preeminent case in point.

The author describes the general patterns of relationships between the modern West and its overseas territories of mostly Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean. And although the author makes clear that even though the conquest of land by force was always the main objective of the conquerors, it was the relationships between conqueror and conquered -- as those relationships were given expression through language -- that the power to dominate acquired its justificatory and cultural momentum. Only through the repeated use of themes that accompanied conquest, did the narratives of justification, the rhetoric and ideology of racist and cultural stereotypes, emerge as the real motive power behind conquest.

These mostly rhetorical themes were woven together over time and were given life and expression as ideologies, theologies and dramas of white heroism versus colored racial and cultural stereotypes. In the U.S., we have become all too familiar with them since they have quite literally become recognized as the established instrumentalities of white racial and historical domination. These themes consist mostly of narratives that rigorously define identities, but does so by assuming that identities are static and unchanging. And then, just as carefully, these static identities are allowed to carry out their most important task: demarcating the not so invisible dividing line between "colonizer and the "colonized," that is to say between "us" and "them" (Sartre's proverbial other).

It is on the narrative and the dramatic planes that identities are decided -- both for individuals as well as for nations. Nations, lest we forget, are little more than collections of "stories of heroism" told in languages that serve as the glue that binds people within cultures together. Stories of heroism staged in the context of sanctioned cultural dramas, consolidate justificatory narratives of conquest and racial superiority that are then objectified and reified as customs and traditions (written and unwritten), as well as laws and rules that are used to regulate the everyday behavior of both the conqueror and conquered peoples.

The most common themes have indeed been handed down by Western novels and thus are already familiar to us: "The White man's burden," "Manifest Destiny," and the mother of them all: "Bringing Christian civilization to the savages." Always accompanying these themes are two closely related subtexts: (1) "they are the other," (i.e., not like us); and therefore deserved to be ruled; and (2) violence is always required to subdue rebellious spirits in "them." Accompanying these themes that grant the colonizer the automatic self-serving right to rule other people, were the familiar appeals to "national interests" and the standard disclaimer (that the U.S. continues to use even in the post-modern era), that "we are exceptional, not imperialistic?"

The author, an intimidating world-class literary critic and Middle East expert, among other talents, restricts his analysis to the Western novel as the literary form of choice because as he sees it, the novel is situated at the very heart of the Western explorers' experiences. It, more than anything else, expresses what they had to say about strange lands and the equally strange cultural habits in those lands. In short, according to the author, it was through the novel that the Western conquerors asserted their identities and history upon those they conquered. It was the narratives of the novel that was the creative vehicle that helped imposed the interpretative imagination upon conquered peoples via the culture and empire of the conqueror.

[I have no problem with this thesis, so long as the novel's impact is either qualified and seen as one of many such creative cultural influences; or, alternatively it must then be seen as the "grand hotel" of all literary influences on culture?]

But that fine point is not what this book is about. Arguably, It is about the residue and the trail of debris in the wake of empire, about the unpleasant odor of resistance, which in every instance (bar none) came from those whose identities and stories were being either suppressed or went untold. By telling the full story of imperial adventure, including the missing half, the author hoped (as a secondary very ambitious didactic purpose), that it might serve as a deterrent for the future. (I say lots of luck on that hope?)

But it is here where the author's analysis gets much richer and at the same time much more difficult to understand and follow. When speaking of (or for) the conquered, it becomes immediately clear that a new paradigm for understanding how cultures emerge, becomes no longer a small matter, or just a discretionary option, but a theoretical and practical necessity. The disparate pockets of cultural resistance (as much as they might wish to otherwise think of themselves), are not the isolated egocentric and ethnocentric "reductionist" bodies they so artfully articulate themselves to be. For among other reasons, if it were in fact possible for them to exist only as such isolated islands of exclusive cultural units, they too would then simply reduce themselves to "mini-cultural chauvinistic empire wannabes?"

It matters little whether one is speaking of "feminist," "Afrocentric," or "Islamocentric" subcultures, old authorities cannot simply be replaced by new authorities. We have seen that movie many times and know that it too always ends badly. The wholeness of the cultural enterprise itself dictates and demands that new alignments must necessarily cross borders, races, genders, tribes, clans, polities and nations.

In short, culture cannot be reduced to its atomic elements, whether it be nations vying for empire, or battered groups struggling to maintain their identity. By definition culture is a systemic enterprise: Wholeness is its only milieu. Neither culture nor identity is composed of static "stand-alone" atomic elements of a pure strain. They both are dynamic concepts. All cultures and identities are thus the result of mongrelization, period. Full stop. Just like the elusive "pure gene," the idea of a pure culture (or subculture) is little more than a wishful-filling fiction.

Which gets us back up to the level of the conquerors. The same holds true of the cultures of empire-seeking conquerors. Bar none, those too are just hybrids of all the cultures that came before them. There is no such thing as a pure English, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch culture -- or any other kind for that matter. They are all inbred, culturally promiscuous and incestuous evolutionary productions. They too shamelessly stole from each other as well as from the past. Which brings me to my only substantive concern about the book: the author's choice of only England, France and the U.S., as his choice of Western imperialist empires to study, conspicuously leaving Spain out of the mix altogether?

Given my own readings about the critical and extensive importance of Spain as a "living template" for the other competing empires in his list, especially during the critical period of the "Era of Exploration," it seems inconceivable to me that Spain would be excluded from the list? At the very least, it should have been acknowledged as the Godmother of them all?

But there is yet another reason why Spain should have been included: It too was just a mongrelized cultural product of the seven-hundred year domination of its culture by the Moors. The Islamic fingerprints are on everything called Spanish. Period. And there simply is no such thing as a "pure Spanish culture" (as vainly as they try to make it otherwise), that is unmoored from moorish or Islamic cultural influence? Likewise, there is nothing about the English, Dutch, Portuguese, or American imperialist template -- from the way it waged war, the slave trade, to pirating on the high seas, to maritime administration and sailing techniques, to even the way chartered ships were leased and financed, to using religion as a moral cover for exploitation -- that is not of Spanish origin. Anyone who doubts this should just review the archives in Seville, Cordoba, or Salamanca to be convinced beyond any shadow of doubt. Those records are still meticulously kept back to before the 14th Century.

Given that the author was allowed to "pick and choose" the novels he used to support his thesis, one could easily argue (as I will) that only in a very limited sense was the novel robust enough to do the heavy-lifting for the author's thesis. It thus did not allow him to entirely achieve the goal he set out to prove. Despite this, his theoretical machinery is unassailable, still making this book a tour-de-force in both the field of literary criticism and the political history of imperialism. Five stars

Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America
Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America
by John Nichols
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.93
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dollarocracy: A lesson in the Ethos of American morality, April 6, 2014
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In this book we are told by the authors that our system of government has been "colonized" by a handful of oligarchs and turned from a Democracy into a "Dollarocracy." It is a fact that most of us could have intuited simply by watching at close range for the better part of a generation, this slo-motion oligarchic train-wreck taking place right on our own watch. Now here, in 340 densely-packed pages, we get the full picture of the details of how it was done, and by whom.

The way it was done was mind-bogglingly simple: the super rich, led mostly by the corporations, bought all of our elected representatives by spreading campaign money around like cow mature. It was done through a kind of "pay-to-play influence peddling" and subtle bribery that has only been perfected by the US crooks call our elected Representatives. The oligarchs then get their hired guns, their paid lobbyists, to rewrite the rules so that any crimes they may commit, or even hope to commit in the future, are rendered legal before the fact. With Lewis Powell named as the architect-in-chief of this new way of American business and political life, the oligarchs molded our government into a "crime-friendly" enterprise that would make Dons like Michael Corleone, blush.

By granting personhood to corporations though the "Citizens United" decision, our morally-challenged, strict constitutionalist, (don't call us an) activist Supreme Court, literally gave the keys to the kingdom to the Corporate and Wall Street bank robbers. The authors tell us that the modern version of this idea was the brainchild of Mr. Powell. But these authors tell us more than just "how" and "who," did this, they also tell us that not only has our political process been hijacked by the criminals who change the rules to suit their ideology of convenience and self-interest, but also that these "deep pocket" contributors' money has finally "gone critical" and has so corroded and undermined confidence in our entire electoral process, that it has been essentially reducing to a four-year Kabuki sideshow.

It is thus very difficult not to conclude that altogether this has led directly to turning Washington DC into a new kind of "dollar-based Sodom and Gomorrah." All of our morally-challenged politicians, including our "hope and change" president, have been forced into the equivalent of K-Street prostitution. They even have the gall to complain openly about having to spend the lion's share of their time out on the streets "raising campaign funds" rather than "tending to the people's business?" How sick is that ?

Now that the Press, the last domino on America's political power grid, has also being co-opted, colonized and "turned out" onto the DC streets too, the circle of ideologically-driven corruption is complete: Everybody in the law-making aspect of the U.S. government today is now either a "pimp" or a "whore" for some moneyed interests. In short, obscene amounts of money has turned all of Washington DC into one big 14th Street "pay-to-play" illicit overground business.

The eloquence with which theses authors recite the many defects in our political process is impressive testimony to the fact that they fully understand both the true nature and the true gravity of our nation's problems. They end the book by giving us a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees every American the right to vote. On its merits, this proposal deserves serious consideration, but, as a fix for what ails the American political system as a whole, it must be put in the category of "too little too late." Moreover, the authors' rather feeble attempt to leave the reader with an upbeat feeling, must also be considered somewhat disingenuous since their own careful performed analysis roundly contradicts this rosy picture.

The truth is that we have been told a lie repeatedly throughout our checkered history, and told that same lie again here: that except for a few needed mid-course corrections around the margins, America is basically a healthy country. However, the truth of the authors' own analysis shows the American reality to be profoundly otherwise: Their analysis says that America, from the top down, across its demographic grid, is a profoundly corrupt, mean-spirited, selfish, and psychologically unhealthy and unstable country. Full stop.

Why does this cognitive dissonance between the authors' analysis, their attempt to leave us in an upbeat mood, and our own continued unease about what is happening to our country, exist? Far be it for me to say so, but I believe there is a cruel unacknowledged subtext lurking just beneath our collective consciousness. It is a subtext that we all know is there, one that we also know to be the source of the disease that deeply afflicts our nation. That subtext lies on a slightly higher plane, the moral plane.

Morality as the Unacknowledged Subtext of American Politics

The part of the picture missing from this excellent treatise is that from our nation's very inception, the way we have mishandled the moral dimension of our political and civic life has been a scandal that has hovered over the unfolding American experiment and its culture like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Said another way, our national culture has been defined by what can only be described metaphorically as a moral game of three-card monty, "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't?" That is to say, our national morality is best defined as a "wild card" mind trick of "constantly finessing all our moral responsibilities" and then covering up the negative consequences with a slick all-encompassing after-the-fact rationalization or justification.

As far back as the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia, this American immorality play has always been a "one-step forward," and "two steps backwards" dance of moral convenience. It gives me no pleasure to say this because I am a patriot who loves America. But it must be said anyway that we have become a country that thrives on the comforts of living on moral credit. We have a moral American Express card in our back pockets that allows us to "live immorally now, and pay the moral consequences, later (usually meaning never)?"

Sadly, that kind of immorality play has now been enshrined in our political system. And much more importantly, it also has been enshrined in our American business practices and business ethics; so much so that it has become our national signature and thus has now come back to haunt us with a vengeance in the form of a "moral leadership accountability deficit."

Our cultural system of living entirely on an ethos of "buy now, pay the moral costs later (if ever)," has rendered the leadership of our nation completely "accountability-proof." For even as Mr. Obama rescued us from the brink of global financial disaster, even as he brought us back from the precipice of the greatest crime in modern history -- the recent financial collapse of our economic system -- a failure consciously engineered by the financial wizards and crooks on Wall Street, none of them were hauled off to jail? Had this happened in the Communist People's Republic of China, they all would have been lined-up against the wall and shot.

But here, in the diminished democracy of the USA, we still see those same crooks on the nightly news, soberly justifying their crimes, and then sneaking into the backdoor of the White House. Still giving the President economic advice; still rewriting and watering-down legislation that would prevent the next such economic crisis. In fact, we see them doing exactly the same things they were doing before the crash, only this time, like all good criminals, they have learned how not to leave their fingerprints at the scene of the next crime.

As a nation, we cannot be proud of the fact that we have perfected a dastardly clever but insidious and peculiarly American trick of always finding ways to finesse our way out of every moral predicament. Given a choice, the predilection of our businessmen and our politicians today, is to take the "moral low road" and leave the moral high ground to the clergy and the evermore dumbed-down American citizens. Left unsupervised, and to their own devices, the American businessman will take the moral shortcut every time. Despite this, he still never fails to collect every cent of the undeserved moral and patriotic glory, and then covers his moral crimes and debts with clever, sweet-sounding moral rationalizations and justifications.

Always the American businessman is constantly singing the songs of our founding fathers, even as they "off-shore" their businesses to dodge paying their fair share of American taxes. They proudly wear their lapel flags, even as they scrounge the globe for the cheapest labor, knowing full well that they are leaving American workers and families prostrate and without jobs, turning our cities into burnout ghetto moonscapes and our suburbs into "Thrift Store-filled strip Malls, right before our own eyes." While their jobs are being "out-sourced" and "down-sided," these workers are unceremoniously robbed of the traditional American safety net of health benefits, a secure retirement, and the ability to educate their children. These are all draconian changes that have taken place on Main Street right before our own eyes, at the same time that the oligarchs are raking in profits that are so obscene that they would disgrace a nation of greedy savages.

But our businesses are not alone in playing this game of immoral patriotic double-dealing and treachery. "We the people" too are guilty of pulling off our own "moral head fake" too. For instance, now that Dr. Martin Luther King is dead and has become a symbolic national moral treasure, he is continuously quoted across the political spectrum with great solemnity. However, a few of us are old enough to still remember that during his lifetime, Dr. King was reviled and called a Communist, his hotel rooms bugged, his home bombed; he was beat and jailed, and was sent threatening letters by the sick cross-dressing head of the FBI, a vulgar moral ingrate, who now proudly has a building named in his honor.

So like our morally challenged businessmen and politicians, "we the people too" have a lot to answer for morally. We have repeatedly closed moral ranks around many morally illicit practices and then simply dusted off our hands and moved on to the next generation, always pretending that nothing morally on-towards has happened at all? With selective moral amnesia, we too acted as if the moral sins of our fathers and forefathers had never been committed at all; as if the moral debts we are still accumulating are not still outstanding; and, as if there will be no moral accounting or consequences to pay for any of our collective immoral actions of a very ugly and brutal past. Dr. King himself summarized this state of affairs rather eloquently when he said that America has left "marked unpaid" a Promissory Note made out to Black Americans. I believe it is now fair to say that due to the "deep-pockets-run money politics," we can now extend that unpaid Promissory Note to all poor Americans, and even to much of Middle-America as well.

Choose your own metaphor of: morally burying our heads in the sand, selective moral amnesia, sweeping our dirty moral linen under the proverbial national rug, or leaving the virgin moral bride standing alone at the altar, it does not matter, the leitmotif of the American way of life, whether it be businessmen or Americans more generally, is to live on moral credit, and then once we have spent the wee hours of the night eating the enticing and seductive fruits of immorality, we wake up the next morning pretending to be moral virgins all over again, unaware that any moral sins have been committed at all? And even if somehow per chance, we do begrudgingly have to admit later that sins were committed -- like those of the Wall Street crooks, or those of the American people when they reneged on the 1954 Supreme Court decision -- there is never a price to be paid.

One fears that the "one percent," like our politicians more generally, have rehearsed and perfected these practices of moral and patriotic slights-of-hand and treachery so well that they have become "second nature." During Mr. Obama's tenure, they have latched onto them like a laser beam, and thus I believe that today's Republican Party is just a case of the moral chickens having finally come home to roost. And now our culture is paying a heavy price on the back side for our 250-year old moral indiscretions in the form of the consequent degeneration of our political process and civic culture.

So, in light of this book's very fine analysis, is it not now fair to ask a question that has long troubled the American political system -- a question that this book's very careful analysis dramatically exposes, even as it repeatedly begs it? The question is this: Since when does the true patriotic American spirit allow us to equate the immoral and democracy-destroying tactics and vulgar strategies of the Republican Party, with those designed to make this nation a more perfect Union? By granting moral equivalence to the Republicans' vulgar democracy-destroying and bankrupt political ideas, are we not simply dropping the bar of public discourse so low that now anything goes morally? I say this because if we look at previous conservative Republican's successes, for instance Richard Nixon's Affirmative Action, establishment of EPA and OSHA, the Clean air and water Act, etc., we readily see that those conservatively-generated ideas were not only NOT designed to destroy our democracy, but in some cases have proven to be even more progressive and democracy-promoting than those of our "so-called" Liberal Democrats, like Mr. Obama himself?

In my view, one of the greatest scandal of Mr. Obama's very lackluster reign in power has been his earsplitting silence on the same Nixonian enacted Affirmative Action Program that allow both him and his wife to get a free college education?

So, there was indeed a time in recent history when even conservative Republican ideas were used to promote, rather than to undermine and destroy our democracy. But now we have the Paul Ryans, and Rand Pauls riding into Dodge on Ayn Rand's white horse, pretending to be Libertarians and Independents coming to the rescue of a socialist democracy running out of control, when in fact they too are little more than the latest shills or pimps for the deep-pocket fascist-leaning money barons. The best way to expose the hypocrisy of these shysters is to note that were the US Constitution itself up for approval today, before the present morally degenerate Republican run Congress, it too likely would be rejected in a landslide. And worse still, we have seen repeatedly during Obama's tenure, that the Republicans have no problem rejecting their own ideas simply because they are offered up by a Democrat? Really now, how seriously can a political party that acts in such a juvenile way be taken in any form of government, especially in a proud, well-established, self-conscious democracy?

In short, what are we to make of the fact that there once was a time in America's recent political history when both the Republican and the Democratic Parties generated democracy-promoting and morally-uplifting ideas that improved the moral, political and economic health of this country. These were sound and forward moving ideas like those introduced in the much reviled Richard Nixon administration. But now, we get weak, democracy-destroying ideas from both sides of the Congressional aisle. In fact, how twisted and degenerate has our political process become when we see Democrats accepting the same old bad Republican ideas that even the Republicans reject once they see how badly they look when Democrats are peddling them?

Yet, somehow, despite their clear defects, the other side, the Democrats, still find it in their political wisdom to grant moral equivalence and political legitimacy to every democracy-destroying, morally bankrupt, mean-spirited, vulgar and facile idea the Republicans bring to the table? And infinitely worse, is the fact that in doing so, the Democratic Party acknowledges that it is so bereft of ideas, that Mr. Obama's praises Ronald Reagan and adopt as his own, some of these same, bad, immoral, illicit, illegitimate, democracy-destroying, vulgar and bankrupt Republican ideas? By doing this, it is difficult not to conclude that the Democrats see themselves as being so compromised with dirty campaign money, that they themselves have no choice but to "pimp" the same bad corporate-generated ideas as the Republicans do.

Unfortunately, the circle of moral corruption and contradictions does not end there, for "we the people" are also complicit participants in this circular firing squad of immorality. It is a clear case of: He who is without moral sin must cast the first stone? Because when we don our ideology-coded red and blue jerseys, and parade around carrying the banner of theses same dead, democracy-killing ideas, we too are swimming in the same sea of corruption as that of our morally challenged politicians. If you dive into polluted waters, you will come up with slime in your mouth too.

As this book makes clear, whatever we thought about our leaders before the 2007-2008 financial crash, "we the people" were no longer moral virgins or naive children afterwards. We now know that wearing color-coded ideological jerseys do not facilitate improving the moral climate or the moral accountability of our leaders. In fact quite the contrary, it forces us to hold our tongues in the interest of party loyalty and solidarity, while we contribute our hard-earned cash to the same corrupt coffers that the deep pockets oligarchs contribute to.

But more than this, and this is the coda to this story, we know from our respective Bibles that once immorality has been allowed to seep-in, it propagates its way through our culture where it then corrupts and morally destabilizes everything. Once this happens, it can only be purged from the bottom up: Everybody has to give up their moral American Express cards at the same time, otherwise we are merely going around the same corrupt immoral treadmill once again.

Here is the truism that I believe the authors are trying to get at, one we are loath to forget: The 1% are just "the rest of us with a lot more money."

Thus it is no longer sufficient to make the standard grace-saving disclaimer of "but we have made so much progress ... ?" as the global atonement for 250 years of willfully committed sins. The truth is that except for minor adaptive adjustments on the surface, we have not made any progress at all. The American social order remains exactly as it was during slavery. This modern false idea of "progress" is mostly an artfully crafted "majority group rule" illusion, a form of dissembling centered around a grassroots tribal ideology of self-interest -- the same ideology not co-incidentally that the 1% has used demagogically to trap us in our own moral quicksand.

Given that this moral circle has now been completed, from top to bottom, I believe it is much too late for a Constitutional Amendment to ensure every American the right to vote. That should have been accomplished at the very first meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Then we would not have needed no less than six other additional "right to vote" measures, all of which were eventually overrun and reversed the same as is being done to LBJ's most recent one. Mr. Obama's response to this state of affairs is one of biblical cowardliness. In his great wisdom and sensitivity to inequality, he has seen fit to establish a bipartisan Committee to study "how to better improve the American voting experience?" LBJ called us "niggra," but he did not skimp when it came to our rights. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has yet to see a need to tilt in the direction of America's most needy citizens. To me that is much more an embarrassment than being pre-awarded a Nobel prize.

What we need today, is not a Constitutional voting rights Amendment, but formal moral self-absolution. We need our own "Truth and Reconciliations Commission." And more importantly, it takes a very twisted and distorted vision of our own history for us not to be able to see that the reason why, after 245 years, we have not become the "more perfect Union" we continue to claim we want to become, is because we have selectively turned our heads towards the rosier false picture we have manufactured of ourselves in our rearview mirror. That rosily recomposed and much edited picture is not progress, but nostalgia. And the "twisted distorted vision" we see in the rearview mirror is little more than our collective defense mechanism against 250 years of living on moral credit: It is the last fig leaf we have to cover our nation's morally exposed naked bottom.

Lets face it, America needs to have a "Come to Jesus talk" with itself, and then it needs to call on all those heart-felt well-meaning "would be patriots," who sit in their offices at the CIA, the NSA, the State Department, on duty in the military, staffers on Capitol Hill, in the Executive Offices at the White House, and CEOs of major and minor corporations, to join hands in a "Truth and Reconciliations Commission," one that will recommit us to a higher moral standard, a standard worthy of the lofty self-image living on moral credit has allowed us to construct of ourselves. And then together, we need to proceed straight ahead with strengthened resolve to fight the Fascist juggernaut that is rapidly bearing down on our young and still very fragile, but untested democracy. To the 1% we must say: enough is enough; the buck stops with "we the people," and if you don't cease and desist, we will grind the U.S. government to a halt. Five stars.

Crossfire:  Witness in the Clinton Investigation
Crossfire: Witness in the Clinton Investigation
by L. D. Brown
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth has its own resonance, April 4, 2014
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Although this book is now fifteen years old and we are long past the corruption of the Clinton administration -- even pass the worse corruption in the Cheney-Bush administration -- and are now smack dab into the laze-faire administration of the lackadaisical, Barack Obama, it is still worthwhile to review what the author (a past Prison Guard at the notorious Tucker Prison Farm, near Grady, Arkansas; ex-Arkansas State Highway Patrolman, ex-Chief of Security for Governor Bill Clinton while Clinton was governor of the state of Arkansas; married to Becky Brown, who at the time was also working in the State House Mansion as Chelsea Clinton's nanny; a Phd in political Science from a British University, and a Christian father of three), has to say about his and his wife's days in the Governor's mansion while Bill Clinton was still governor of Arkansas.

I framed my thinking about Dr. Brown's confessional according to Sherlock Holmes' famous maxim: "If the impossible has been ruled out, then all that remains is the truth:"

In short, what are the chances that a man with the above credentials, who was handpicked by the Clinton's precisely because of his incorruptible trustworthiness, and who hails from my home town of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, would cobble together a book packed full of lies, when almost everything he reveals put him and his family's lives in serious jeopardy? (Plus, for the first time, I may have found someone who may have known my Uncle, Sargent-Major Leon Redus, who most probably died in Korea, the same Thanksgiving Day in 1950, when LD's father was wounded: the time when General Mac Arthur made the monumental miscalculation that the Chinese Army would not crossed the Yalu River. But of course they did, and slaughter thousands of American GIs, including my uncle Leon.)

The answer is that the chances are, nil, zero. To me at least, it is impossible that such a man under such conditions would tell even one lie, let alone a book packed full of them. Therefore, since the impossibility of him lying has been ruled out, what remains is only a collection of tales linked together by the corruption, crudeness and political perfidy and betrayals of Bill Clinton, all occurring during the time Dr. LD Brown was chief of security of Governor Clinton's Security detail, I conclude thus that these stories must constitute the truth. That is to say, I conclude that Dr. D.L. Brown is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sherlock Holmes' edict aside, there is yet another reason why Dr. Brown's story is nothing but the truth. The truth has its own resonance; the pieces of the puzzle fit together intuitively and exactly, and this book just has the ring of truth written all over it: all of the tabs in the pieces to the puzzle slide perfectly into their respective slots and there are no pieces left over. QED.

Here is a quick summary of Dr. L.D. Brown's story:

He and Bill Clinton began as kindred souls. Like a couple of cooped-up hound dogs let a-loose on a perpetual tail-hunt, they were constantly on the prowl for "new tail." They were both good at chasing tail too, but Bill's pussy detection device was so much keener than LD's that Bill rarely passed up an opportunity. Plus, in addition to being on a perpetual pussy hunt, LD also was assigned other tasks such as being Bill's number one bag man for political contributions, chief look-out agent for all Hilary sightings, and top procurer of tasty new pieces of tail. With his then girlfriend, Becky serving as Chelsea's Nanny, the Governor's mansion was sewed up: there was little that went on in that household that these two did not see or were unaware of, even when they were not actually looking for it.

There are enough stories and vignettes here to convince even the most ardent pro-Clintonites (as I am) that Dr. LD does not lie. I leave the gory details about the sexcapades of the Clinton family to the reader. But suffice it to say that it was not always a one-sided affair. Their "partially-opened" marriage had a "one-extra partner rule," that Hillary appears to have adhered to at least most of the time, keeping Vincent Foster on the side as her number one significant other. But poor Bill could not manage to keep his manhood in his pants. Even with the reinforcements of "Bimbo patrols," he was in constant violation of the "one-extra partner rule."

When their juvenile tail chasing days began to get old, LD started looking for newer more mature pursuits. A career in the CIA seemed the next logical step. He casually mentioned this interest to Bill who not only selected a suitable topic for him to use in his application essay, but also encouraged him to follow through and helped him write an entrance essay that "seal the deal."

LD was quickly Baptized in the worse of the CIA's fires. As it turns out, his first CIA contract officer was no less than Bush protege, Donald Gregg; and worse yet, his maiden voyage was a "drugs-for-guns" run from the notorious Mena, Arkansas Airport, to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Barry Seal piloted the modified C-130 plane.

When LD saw guns and cocaine on pallets being pushed out of the airplane midair, he immediately knew even at $2500 a pop, he was "in over his head." So, when he landed he told Clinton so. But Clinton just shrugged his shoulders and told him that this was Lassater's thing and that any way, LD's friend GHW Bush knew about it. Nevertheless, LD said he wanted out and resigned his new CIA commission on the spot.

However, one does not so easily resign after seeing what the CIA does under the cover of "national Security." LD knew he had already been trapped in a Clinton spun CIA web, and now like being in the mafia, there was no safe way out? A number of attempts were made to rope him back into the fold, but LD had seen all he needed to see: that the CIA ruse had in fact been manipulated and managed from the very beginning by his old "tail-chasing" cut-buddy, Bill Clinton. He had been tricked one time too many by Clinton and had lost all trust in the man. Plus LD had seen and participated in enough corruption to last a life time and he wanted out; he just wanted to be left alone.

Two interesting baits were then dangled in his face in order to try to rope him back in. One was for him to go to Mexico with a contract to kill one of the Hispanics sharing the plane on the Seal cocaine run. However, once in Mexico to carry out the hit, the man who was pointed out to him as the target, was not a Hispanic at all but a white man named Terry Reed, the author of the tell-all book on the Bush-Clinton Drug Connection, called "Compromise?" LD threw his gun away and returned home. (Now, I ask the reader, how could any respectable being concoct such a story?)

The second attempt to re-snare him into a CIA mission occurred at 3am while he was waiting on a bench way out in the British country side to go to Heathrow airport to pick up his daughter. "Out-of-the-blue, LD was approached by a stranger at 3am in a country British village, who wanted help running guns across the Irish border. LD again declined the CIA offer. But the long walk back down the up-staircase was not going to be easy. He was immediately "black-balled" and cast down among the unemployed and other sodomites to eke out a living as best he could.

Although the middle of the book does get bogged-down in all of the law suits and hearings, this is still an unforgettable story, one that raises further questions about the corruption that has taken over the American national security state. Five Stars

The Untold History of the United States
The Untold History of the United States
by Oliver Stone
Edition: Paperback
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2.0 out of 5 stars Selective history with very selective gaps, April 2, 2014
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Although I am normally an admirer of Oliver Stone's work, I am thoroughly disappointed in this book, because it presents a selectively distorted presentation of the untold history of this country, one that is hardly different than the pablum we received in school as canonical American History.

My main concern is the glaring gaps in America's sordid history of race relations. In particular, even though it makes no less than a dozen serious references to anti-Semitism in America (really, where is all this anti-Semitism against Jews? And if it exists, how has it hurt American Jews?), yet in 732 pages it makes only one substantive reference to racism and it is about the Japnese atrocities at Nanking, not about racism against blacks in America -- the very leitmotif of America's untold history.

But that is not all: There is not a single reference to Native Americans in the entire book?

Perhaps the authors considered racism against Jews more important than the continuous untold story of the racism against black Americans that began at the very inception of this country and continues even today. Here is a bit of that missing untold story:

(1) Of the 200,000 black slaves that served in the Revolutionary War, none were granted their freedom, yet all the 50,000 who fought against them on the British side received their freedom as an automatic condition of serving.

(2) The same goes for the 200,000 black troops who saved the Civil War for the North. Only slaves in the rebellious South were granted their freedom, because in a cynical military move by Lincoln to pressure the South, no regard was given to the freedom of those blacks, without whose help, Lincoln would have never won the war, and he knew it. Plus, who do you think dug the graves for the 650,000 who died? You got it unfree black veterans who saved Lincoln's bacon.

(3) In the greatest betrayal in American History, the Compromise of 1876, that got Hayes elected as president, abandoned blacks to their own devices, and to white terror, and thus abandoned the very cause for which the Civil War had been fought, to free blacks from slavery. Slavery by other means was ruthlessly re-instituted for another century as Jim Crow.

(4) Black soldiers went to Europe to free Jews from Hitler's ovens, in a segregated Army. Truman was so embarrassed that as one of the last acts of his second term, he integrated the U.S. armed forces, but not without howling and flax from all white Americans, North and South, including from the very Jews whom those soldiers had just helped rescue?

And as for Untold American History regarding Native Americans

(1) In order to facilitate the genocide of the American Indians, the blankets traded to them was smeared with the pus of small pox germs to infect and get rid of the Indians; it worked to perfection as it killed hundreds of thousands of them.

(2) Even if you don't consider Native Americans as full human beings, what about appealing to white America's animal sensitivities regarding the ten million buffalos killed in a single decade. They were killed primarily simply to deny Native Americans their primary food source. Michael Vick was sentenced to seven years for staging dogs fights. Surely, the much herald Cowboys who slaughtered buffalos literally by the hundreds of thousands and left the meat stinking in the hot sun, deserve at least at a cameo appearance as an event in the Untold History of the United States of America?

What about Woodrow Wilson's praising of the scandalous and vulgar movie by DW Griffith, called "The Birth of a Nation?" Or FDR's refusal to support an anti-lynching Bill?

But instead, we hear only about a non-existent anti-Semitism against the Jews? Really? Jesus, since Jews are doing so well with all of this American anti-Semitism, as a black man, would someone please allow me to trade this "white racism" in for some of that very successful "anti-Semitism?" Two stars
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2014 5:39 PM PDT

INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty
by Robert David Steele
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars One visionary's way out of the Corporate Feudalism/International Conflict trap, April 1, 2014
In this book, the author, drawing extensively on his intelligence and military background, has cleanly written an easy to follow book, that outlines a careful course of action for developing a new kind of global information sharing infrastructure. To be headquartered at the UN, this new infrastructure would make it possible for every organization (and through them, everyone) on the globe to share open-source intelligence equally as a free public resource. If it is successful, this new global brain could transform our world from its current insecurity-driven and corrupt corporate dominated lose-lose, economic and conflict trap, into a much revived win-win strategy for bottom-up collective survival in a peaceful and sustainable world economy.

At least that is the theoretical hope and vision. On paper, and in principle, it is a stunningly sexy and attractive vision, one that, should it prove operationally testable and feasible, could indeed have the important side benefit and advantage of creating new bottom-up wealth, energizing the world economy and easing world tensions by reducing mistrust and fear back down to the noise level.

Needless to say this is a tall order, and in the end, as always, the proof must be in the pudding. To repeat the well-known cliche: the devil is in the details. Or to use an even more apt metaphor, the difference between the "real world" and our "imagined worlds" is always in between the lines in the "fine print."

And given that most of my own experiences have occurred across the author's seven tribes, from this unenviable vantage point, I am not sanguine. For what I see is a world dystopia rapidly emerging over the horizon, one huffing and puffing as conservative politics around the world backed up by a jealous 1% of feudal gods who are so deeply entrenched in their own feudalistic but suicidal ways, rather than yield to a new healthy paradigm leaning towards more equity in any direction, they will surely prefer to drive the world full speed ahead right over the proverbial cliff.

Thus even if Mr. Steele's new visionary paradigm should prove to be a viable one, history teaches that the modern-day corporate feudal hierarchy has proven to be durable, adaptive and maximally self-protective against any outside threats -- even if in the long run, it knows it's own dying paradigm, is unsustainable.

That said, if I had to choose a tough marine to skipper our ever-sinking global Titanic, Robert (don't call me Bob) David Steele would be the man I would want at the helm. He's got guts, nerves of steel (excuse the pun), an out-sized brain and does not mind speaking truth to power, or culling the best ideas from wherever he may find them. Plus, he has comprehensively read and reviewed more books on than I have. Ten stars

The Psychology Of The Sopranos Love, Death,, Desire And Betrayal In America's Favorite Gangster Family
The Psychology Of The Sopranos Love, Death,, Desire And Betrayal In America's Favorite Gangster Family
by Glen O. Gabbard
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars The jitterbugs are coming ... ?, March 26, 2014
I bought this book wanting to hear a Psychologist analyze why it might be that, like 11 million other Americans, I too enjoyed so much the HBO show "The Sopranos."

I of course have my own reasons why I think this might be so: One good reason is that as far as American TV goes, the Sopranos was far and away the best show ever. But also I think it was because having grown up on a steady diet of the quintessential American male "tough guy" morality play imagery, such as Cagney, Douglas, Capone, Pacino, and all those Cowboys and Indians, surely while I was not paying attention, through some weird kind of male social osmosis, their images of gun-slinging bravery, life-or-death risk-taking, surviving by all means necessary, and saving damsels in stress, must have seeped into my unconscious and stuck to my brain -- becoming a permanent part of my psyche. Only after graduating to an aware adult was I required to look at these false heroes squarely and then be able to see how flawed they really were as models of masculine morality and humanity.

So when I saw Tony, struggling with the hand life had dealt him; desperately trying to keep it together -- even under the weirdest of moral circumstances -- it caught my attention. I naturally delayed judging him. I wanted to see how he solved the same problems we all have in family life, in dealing with friends and professional colleagues, and indeed, in trying to become a better human being?

To me, as with all good art, the message is often in the subtext: There was a lot of understated and unacknowledged truth in the Soprano script. It spoke to me sideways: One can find a moral platform to stand on even in mob hell. Plus, all good art speaks to your emotions in unexpected way, such as sometimes rooting for the villain. And when I think about it, that is the same reason I read Shakespeare, Flaubert, Genet, Camus or Sartre: in the same rather desperate search for models of truth that can help simplify my own moral life. No one should be surprised if life's role models come in even stranger packages and appear in even stranger venues.

Here is what I mean. When I worked at the State Department, one of my most fascinating contacts was a homeless black man named "Ross, who had colonized the exhaust grate at "D and 21st NW." Overtime, in exchange for the five spot I usually gave him whenever we met on his grate at noon, Ross began to unravel to me his life story: He had a college degree, had worked at an aerospace firm and owned a four-bedroom house with all the trappings, in Plano, Texas. He still had a wife and two boys. But Ross had allowed alcohol to take over his life because, according to him, his wife thought he could never measure up. He began to cry as he talked about his past life, where he said he had drown in so many self-inflicted private pains and tears that as a result, he had had a couple of mental crises that landed him in a series of mental hospitals -- all the way from Texas, and Tennessee clear across the country eastward to Virginia. Now that he had finally kicked the alcohol habit and got his mental life more or less back on track, Ross said that he did not want to go back to being a slave to other people's expectations. On the exhaust grate, each day he said he was always master of his own fate. He felt he was finally free. The only thing he really hated about the homeless life is that in the winter months he had to go to the shelters and live with those animals who had no home training.

As his favorite counter-example, he pointed to me and my colleagues. People that passed over his exhaust grate every day with our suits, ties, briefcases and holding our noses high. Ross referred to us as "jitterbugs," people running around not in control of our own lives because we were already so tense we were about to jump out of our own skins at the least unusual movement: And too, we were always at the beck-and-call of other "jitterbugs" higher up the food chain." In the end, he said, we were nothing but "nervous nellies," chasing each other in a social maze like chickens with our heads chopped-off, pretending that we were free and important. Yet, the post holding up the whole contraption our lives relied on, could crumble with one swift kick, as it had done for him. So we sashayed over his grate with our heads high and our sphincter muscles tightened acting important, perpetually in search of the next prescription drug-fix, and called it success?

I said, but Ross, how do you eat? Indignantly he said, the same way you do: I beg for it? You do it with a briefcase, a tie and a suit, by skinning and grinning at the jitterbugs above you; looking for contracts, greasing the palms of crooked politicians. I put my cup on the ground, talk to people, and go to the fish market and get the fish heads they throw away, and cook them. They are always there, always fresh out of the Potomac and nutritious. "They" consider me a throw-away just like those fish heads, but I am now fresh and nutritious too, and now have complete control over my life at all times. I used to read the newspapers, but there is nothing in them that they don't want you to know about, so why read them? Man, when life is as simple as mine is now, you can't get any happier than this.

Even without trying "Ross" had checkmated me and my whole professional class, and the sorry lives that went along with it. Amen.

So, as I now tend to see everyone's life, I saw Tony Soprano's life through Ross' model: as a problem in forever trying to simplify life. But the more Tony lived, the more complex his life became? And like Ross, he too simply ran out of options and then had to punt and seek help. And who but that fine innocent looking Jennifer Mefti would be there to help him?

Every move Tony made with her from the start had a sexual subtext to it. We all wanted to see him get into her pants (because that is what we would have done had we been Tony): She knew it; he knew it, and we all knew it too. But we also knew that since Tony's life was going in the wrong direction -- towards more rather then less complexity -- getting into Dr Mefti's pants would just have been another complication, just another loose-end needing to be tied up. So getting into her pants, just wasn't going to happen. As for the therapy itself, it was always a case of Tony having to "dumb-himself-down" to pretend that it was not a farce. It was all about the sex, and nothing else. The panic attacks were just the writer's hook to make the sexual undertones seem legitimate.

Tony's writers, like Ross, were doing what we call in complicated chess situations "looking for ways to simplify." The narrative was always about how Tony could down-size his life, morally, sexually, economically, like Ross had done his. But to the writers, more complications meant only one thing: that TV-land would remain intrigued, and the mobster narrative would continue.

This book analyzes every role in the Sopranos, and then it waxes on about how psychiatry is depicted in American films; about how life-imitates-art, which imitates life; about how mobsters like Christopher formed their identities, and about how the theme of "being a nobody" runs continuously throughout the script. But it does not get down to the "Ross" level of "life's minimizations" until it talks about how death hangs over the Sopranos like a sword of Damocles. That is where the rubber finally begins to meet the road in the Soprano script.

Like the entire cast of the Sopranos, we all want to be heroes in our own dramas, even my friend Ross desperately wanted this. We want his because as Omar Khayyam tells us: "Impotent pieces of the game he plays, upon this chequer-board of nights and days; hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays; and one by one back in the closet lays." In other words, drink up because the clock is ticking and we all will soon be dust again.

The very fact that this author cites Ernest Becker's "Denial of Death" raises the level of his game and the scholarship of this book immensely. Ross, my homeless friend, never talked about the fear of death, but we know that it animated him, as it animates us all. Why else would he cry when he talked about his past family? The fear of death quickens the step in this life, and tightens the sphincter muscles immensely.

Tony knew as we all know, that it is time to get on with our "heroism projects." But he dragged his feet and left that task to Camilla who kept pressure on him, for she was constantly reading the "tea leaves" and seemed as if she was the only one who could see around the next corner in Tony's very predictable life. And wherever she looked, all she saw coming, as far as the eye could see, was deuces and snake eyes. Tony, just like we did at the State department, pretended that the mobster treadmill he was on, was all there was? And that it would never end; that it was "the process" and not the end point, that was important. Bada being and nothingless! Four stars.

Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood
Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood
by Joachim C. Fest
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not in the same class as his Biography of Hitler, March 25, 2014
Those of us familiar with Mr. Fest's most famous book on Hitler, would have no way of knowing that his family was among the handful of "Nazi resisters." The Fest clan did this even though they were German patriots of conservative persuasion and knew that they would indeed pay a heavy price. Doing so led to the Fests becoming social outcast where their father was dismissed from his job as Headmaster of a primary school, and the family was shunned by all those close to them except their Jewish friends -- many of whom, were such committed German nationals, that had they had the chance to do so, indicated that they too would have joined the Nazi Party.

So this book is not so much about Joachim Fest per se, but is about the story of what he and his family went through and did to survive the war even as they rejected Hitler and his Nazism. Joachim and his brothers were sent to the eastern front; his sisters and mother were raped by the Russians as Germany was overrun, and he spent two years in an Allied internment camp.

The hero of this book is Joachim's father, Johannes Fest: who, as noted above, was a primary school headmaster, a cultural conservative who revered Goethe and Kant, a loyal German patriot, a fierce Weimar republican; a pious Catholic, and a father of five. It was his father that laid down a strong enough set of moral values that allowed them to see the coming moral and physical destruction that Adolph Hitler and his Nazi thugs and their debased racist ideology represented, and would wreak on German society and culture. Once they saw Hitler coming they braced themselves, prepared to weather the storm -- and in large part succeeded in efforts to survive through the war.

Johannes, urged his Jewish friends to get out while they could, but believed they had lost the will to live. Johannes' wife, even though she shared her husband's politics, and stood by him, was not nearly as morally committed to resisting Hitler as her husband was. She was constantly reminding him not to continue taking the risks involved in giving money to those in need, forging documents, and sheltering Jews.

While Joachim was no Bonhoeffer, and this book does not quite rise to the same level as his biography on Hitler, his family was a singular voice in the vast Nazi moral desert. However, it will not be this book that I will remember him for, but his best-selling biography of Hitler. Three stars

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