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Dictionary of Wars
Dictionary of Wars
by George Childs Kohn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Broad, not Deep: But that was enough for me, July 29, 2015
This review is from: Dictionary of Wars (Paperback)
This one-volume reference guide on all the wars since mankind's existence, even though it is no Wikipedia, is still a valuable hard-copy resource in its own right. What I discovered, to my great surprise and benefit, is that while it gives only a brief sketchy synopsis of each war, it references all of the subcomponents of the war down to the skirmish level.

To appreciate just how valuable such a break down really is, one only needs to take the example of the French-Indian War, which it took me many books to final discover was not just one war taking place only on the North American continent -- and only during the years of 1754-1763, as most histories of the war tell us. The truth is that the French-Indian War was just short of a world war all by itself, with skirmishes taking place all over the globe, from Europe to North and South America. It was a war in which not only did the venues constantly change, but also the players. It stopped and restarted in different parts of the globe with peace treaties in between.

For instance, the end of the entry for the French-Indian War on page 169, gave the invaluable suggestion of also seeing King William's War; Pontiac's War, and Queen Anne's War. Only after following up on these three suggestions does the reader get the full import of the French-Indian War: It was a series of long-running skirmishes that spanned continents and ran discontinuously from 1697 -- when the European War of the Grand Alliance was extended to North America and where the British with its Iroquois Indians allies tried to take over the Upper Hudson and St Lawrence River valleys from the French but failed -- to 1713, when the Spanish then got involved as part of the War of Spanish succession, in which the British not only raided Spanish ships on the Atlantic, but also raided St. Augustine in Spanish Florida and Cartagena in Spanish Colombia.

Even though the British failed to take Quebec and the French failed to take Boston, the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) kept the peace for a while until the outbreak of the Queen Anne's War in 1702-13, where the Peace of Utrecht ended those hostilities. But this was not the end of the French-Indian War either as the suggestions at the end of the entry for the Queen Anne's War suggested seeing also Jenkin's War and the War of King George.

Following up on this further suggestion leads to the discovery that Jerkins War was a continuation of the War of Austrian Succession, primarily between England and Spain. It took place on sea in the Atlantic as well as on land in Europe and in Spanish Florida. Likewise in the War of King George, where Britain attacked French Canada, establishing a beach head in Nova Scotia. As retaliation, the French, with their Indian allies raided New York. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle finally restored the status quo. Thus the French-indian War, ran discontinuously from 1697 to 1713 with no one winning anything. It was a case of nothing from nothing leaves nothing. Five Stars


Less than glory
Less than glory
by Norman Gelb
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Striking While the Iron is Hot!, July 25, 2015
This review is from: Less than glory (Hardcover)
In the early chapters of this book, Norman Gelb brings all of his heavy artillery to bear to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the mythical reasons usually put forth as the causes of the American Revolution -- the Boston Massacre, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, the Tea tax, etc. -- were just that, myths. In doing so, he stays true to his title as he establishes a solid framework for setting the record straight about the true causes of that Revolution. And as his title suggests, those causes were indeed less than glorious.

As but one example among many, the "red herring" called the British Tea tax amounted to a mere pittance of about one dollar on L500,000 of British tea, which, applied only if the colonials drank English tea exclusively. Dutch and French tea were cheaper and went untaxed, so there were other alternatives. Perhaps more important was the fact that the tea tax was not nearly as onerous as the taxes and tariffs the colonies levied on themselves and against each other. Similarly with respect to the Boston Massacre, Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, all were little more than minor skirmishes enlarged to heroic proportions by historians, way after the fact. And while doing so might make excellent "puffed-up" history, these skirmishes had minimal bearing on the revolutionary war itself.

In this same vein, the historical record does not bear out the myth that George Washington was an illustrious military leader. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army before he became a General in the Colonial Army. But in both cases, he proved to be notoriously inept as a military leader -- losing his first nine battles and was spared being killed, no less than six times.

Likewise, the elite of the founding generation, even as they "pranced" and "posed" as landed English gentlemen, more often than not, were men of the much coarser more cutthroat sort. For prominent amongst them were pirates and smugglers, profiteers, tariff and blockade runners, general rogues of the seas and adventurers, fortune-seekers, land speculators, and slave traders and holders. Only a handful would have been identified by their cohorts as the cool headed moral visionary demigods that the canonical narrative has made them out to be.

Of equal importance is the fact that the colonies' only secure identity was a British identity, an American identity was not formed until well after the revolution. They spoke English, lived under British freedom and laws, celebrated British holidays, read English literature, mimicked and modeled British ways, flew the Union Jack, named their cities and towns after their British counterparts, loved and revered the King of England, etc.

In fact, it was the very British laws and customs and its ideas of liberty and equality, that made the pursuit of them as plausible goals for colonial Americans to pursue in the first place. For, not only did British institutions and customs provide them a secure identity, but, as was demonstrated when Britain came to their rescue during the French-Indian War, big brother Britain also provided a priceless security blanket for the young nation in the form of protection from other predatory European Colonial powers -- powers that up until that war, had been roaming the American frontiers in collusion with the Indians and with each other. The British rescue miraculously cleared the continent of competing European powers and helped double the size of the fledgling nation.

Plus, one of the best kept secret of the entire colonial era is that the colonies hated each other much more than they hated their benevolent big brother, their British colonial protector and overseer. The colonies were in a constant state of strife: The little petite warlords stole land from each other; fought over borders; levied fines on border violators, and charged tariffs for goods that crossed their borders. They even raised militia to protect against encroachments against each other. The interstate animosities ran very deep indeed.

Another fact that deserves more exposure is that the religious sects that migrated to America were the Puritans, who when they arrived in North America, changed their name to Pilgrims, which in their time, were the equivalent of today's "religious crazies and zealots." With rare exception, they were radicalized sects bordering on cults that only wanted to be left alone in order to be allowed to practice their own peculiar brands of religion. Without exception, they were violently anti-Catholic, so much so that even those who were a subset of the much reviled Church of England, bolted from it because they considered its practices too similar to those of the Catholics. Arguably, it was these radical religious sects that led the way in defining what would become the centerpiece of America's most fundamental precepts, the ideas of liberty and freedom themselves. It was these sects that defined freedom and liberty as negative exclusionary concepts: as simply the freedom to shut others out -- not to include them. Freedom was the freedom to be left alone. Liberty was the right to make up ones own rules and live by ones own beliefs, the rest of the world be-damned. Today, that predilection is derisively referred to in the rest of the international community as "American Exceptionalism."

These very primitive religious sects, that publicly tortured people on the rack, and publicly burned people at the stake, who believed in ghost and angels, never once wanted to be a part of a union of states. Effectively, they only wanted their own separate religious countries. And had Indian attacks on their isolated outposts not forced them into coalitions with the other colonies -- as a survival imperative -- the US might still be a collection of little islands of religious countries and fiefdoms strewn across the American frontier.

The configuration of states, especially on the Eastern seaboard, in large measure, still betrays some of the after effects of religious isolation and the various sects' desires to be left alone. The Catholics of Maryland, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the Presbyterians of Connecticut, the Baptists of Georgia, the Methodists of Virginia, all began as little more than little religious countries wealthy enough to charter ships and sail, and eventually settle in North America.

And as was clearly reflected throughout the sessions of the Continental Congress, squabbles amongst the colonies ran deep, were continuous, and almost always were much more vicious than those aimed at British overreach. Right up to the eve of the declaration of independence, Britain was seen as Colonial America's benevolent overseer: its protector -- even if at times it did occasionally step over the line. Instances of overreach were invariably attributed to the instigation of America's own rabble, or to the King's statesmen, rarely to the King himself.

So why the American Revolution?

After establishing the above airtight case against the need to either go to war, or to declare independence from Britain, this author did like the vast majority of other American historians, he then turned away from the question and punted the ball away?

Rather than give us cogent believable and robust reasons for why the patriots elected to proceed down the road to declaring their independence, Mr. Gelb pulls up and falls back on well-worn, socially accepted, and patriotically soothing mythology to explain the causes of the revolution. Apparently he found It was much easier to spend the rest of the book just talking about the revolutionary war?

The best reasons he could offer as causes of the war. were: (1) the influence of Thomas Paine's tract "Common Sense;" (2) Colonial America's emerging inchoate aversion to authority, stimulated mostly by the very British freedoms they were to rebel against; and (3) the fact that occupying British soldiers occasionally were goaded into instances of overreach -- of which the "so-called" Boston massacre was the most notorious example.

However, taken together, and considering the enormous risk going to war and declaring independence involved, these three reasons add up to very thin gruel indeed. Taken either singly or together, they do not seem to quite rise to the level of being either necessary or sufficient reasons for the colonies to go to war, or declare their independence from Britain.

This is true in large part because there always was a huge "down side" to exercising these two options, not the least being that that the British security blanket would be summarily withdrawn and the colonies would be left to their own devices for self-defense. At the time, the American frontier was a very rough neighborhood.

Another is that, the warring colonies had to cobble together and then "field" a costly joint independent army. No one wanted to be bound to other colonies, nor be taxed for this purpose, nor did they want to leave their families and farms to go off to fight for an uncertain cause with countrymen they did not like or trust. Also, the colonies had no mechanism for acting as a collective entity; no way to tax the colonies as a whole; no way to impress soldiers into battle to fight for the rebel causes. And too, at the very least, they would need help from Britain's enemies, most likely from France and Spain.

Despite the convening of two Continental Congresses, by the eve of the declaration of independence, none of these problems had been adequately solved. So, why indeed did colonial America proceed down this treacherous uncertain road to independence? This book gives us nothing substantial to hold onto beyond the well-worn myths that we already know will not suffice. It is not quite enough to suggest that the "tide of history crested towards liberty which assumed its own momentum," as the author puts it on page 74.
Perhaps in 1984 when this book went to print, there was nothing more to be said about the causes, or that could be done but build a framework for analysis as he did so eloquently in the early chapters of this book, a framework that I am sure he had intended to be used later by others when more facts about what was really going on in the minds of the "prime movers of the revolution" became available.

So that now, in 2015, when the archives of Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have been thrown open, there is much more to discover about the true reasons why colonial America declared its independence and instigated a very rash war on its motherland, Great Britain.

Sadly, the reader will have to search for more definitive answers elsewhere -- that is to say in more recent research and sources to answer the question this book artfully begs. And in this regard, the most convincing rendition of the causes that led to the American Revolution that I have discovered, are those provided in the research of Dr. Gerald Horne of the University of Texas, who in a tour de force entitled "The Counter-Revolution of 1776," explains what really led the Founding Fathers to take the fatal leap into the unknown called the American Revolution. His version is quite a story, one that eerily resonates with Mr. Gelb's beautifully constructed framework here.

Quickly and roughly summarized, Professor Horne relates how the founding fathers seized upon a once in a lifetime confluence of circumstances, a perfect storm, a virtual trifecta of circumstances, in which the very war that Britain fought to save Colonial America's bacon, the French-Indian War, rendered it so weak that the greatest naval power the world had ever known at the time, successfully could be challenged by their own little piss-ant set of North American colonies.

Fortuitously, this same British weakness, would allow the Colonial Americans to default on their war debt to Great Britain; allow them to get away with refusing to obey the British edict for all of its colonies to give up slavery; and would also allow its little wayward colonies to thumb their noses at the equal onerous edict written into the Treaty of Paris that ended the French-Indian war to end colonial expansion into Indians lands West of Appalachia. Plus, add to this the fact that the colonies had gotten rich by "gaming" the war economy, that is to say, by treasonously selling contraband in war materials stolen from colonial armories, at inflated prices to all sides, including to the enemy as well as to their own General George Washington, and it is easy to see that there is a deep un-excavated subtext to the causes of the American Revolution.

Even those unwilling to give up the patriotic myth about the undying cry for liberty, would have to agree that there would never be a more opportune time for the colonies "to take on" their own big brother in a fight independence than in 1776? The most glorious thing that can be said about the Colonial American rebels, is that they struck when the iron was hot. QED


Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War
Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War
by Melvin Patrick Ely
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.30
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5.0 out of 5 stars Israel Hill and the Arc of History in a racist Nation, July 1, 2015
Anyone who did not already believe that the reality of race in the South was always more than just what meets the eye, should read this book. It describes the lives and socio-cultural patterns of a small town of free blacks in the Piedmont area of Virginia during the antebellum South, and their interaction with whites as those interactions are largely determined by white attitudes, institutions, and patterns of thought and behavior.

It turns out that one of Thomas Jefferson's cousins, Richard Randolph, at the age of 21, who was committed to the idea that slavery was an unmitigated evil, bequeathed nearly 400 acres of land to his nine top slaves. After a number of intra-family complications, not the least of them being that a great deal of incest went on within the Jefferson family, or that Randolph himself died at the age of 26, eventually the land did indeed end in the hands of about 90 of his slaves.

Being one of the few pre-Civil War cases in which the approximately 500,000 freed blacks actually began life with a semblance of equality at the starting line, "Israel Hill" became one of the first test cases of whether a truly free independent black community could actually survive in freedom. I do not think it gives away the punch line to suggest that not only did they, and many others less well-known and less well-endowed survive, but they also thrived, well into the 20th Century.

But as the Civil War approached, and the debates defending slavery intensified, this stellar but experimental example of black community success, ran against the grain of the prevailing racist ideology, and thus was turned on its head and against all the hard evidence (that this author has resurrected and presented here), "Israel Hill," was declared by politically-inspired local racists, as little more than the expected abject black failure. That is to say, they lied and reported that it had degenerated into a regular Sodom and Gomorrah, populated by whores, pimps and other assorted underclass cretins.

In a richly textured and deeply layered story of how blacks and whites accommodated themselves to the realities of their local circumstances -- even when those circumstances were highly manipulated by race-based categories and definitions, and the legacy of one of its scions -- the author deftly uses municipal records that go back to the town's founding, to show that "Israel Hill" was not an abject failure at all but an unmitigated success.

And although this narrative disproves the adage "that the arc of history always bends in the direction of justice," it nevertheless proves an even more important adage that: "left to their own devices, the realities of circumstances will indeed bend toward human accommodation," the ideology of racism be-damned. Five stars


Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Alan Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.19
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5.0 out of 5 stars Colonial America and the Geopolitics of the American Revolution in 140 pages, June 18, 2015
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Approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, Indians crossed the land bridge from Asia into North America, spreading to the very tip of South America. By the time the Spanish arrived, thriving Native American cultures, in many ways superior to European cultures, had been civilized for more than a millennium. In the 130 years from Columbus' dropping anchor in the Bahamas in 1492, to the settlement of Jamestown and Plymouth, the geopolitics of the North American continent were already quite advanced and very complex. Perhaps with the exception of Europe after the fall of Rome, arguably, there has never been a more complex geopolitical environment anywhere in the history of the world than that which took place on the North American continent during the 130 years before the "so-called" American Revolution. In 140 pages, Alan Taylor gives us a nuanced summary of those geopolitics -- from the arrival of the Spanish, through the era of the American Revolution.

It is a heady and an enlightening dose of unvarnished history for a people normally "force-fed," from elementary school onwards, a steady diet of patriotically skewed chest-beating "near-history," mostly justificatory narratives, in which the moral context, and the geopolitics of north America, are purposefully "severely cropped," if not entirely "air-brushed out," in favor of a tidy, and often misleading, but always heroic origin story about how America's mostly rich, always morally-challenged, slaveholding "English wannabe" founding fathers, civilized the "New World."

Since this book does not focus on the American Revolution per se, the American reader, perhaps for the first time, gets to see how the events constituting that revolution get played out in the larger moral context and the geopolitical arena that shaped it. And thus they get to see how America's self-serving justificatory narrative fits logically into this larger moral frame and the geopolitical whole.

By reversing the order of events -- placing in the foreground events customarily relegated to the background, and vice versa -- the author provides Americans a new valuable vantage point to the making of North American history. Arguably, it frees us from the stifling, intellectually impoverishing and often misleading and morally dishonest constraints of a skewed and exaggerated and wholly unnecessarily patriotically-inspired and pandering narrative of our founding history.

The story told here although short and sparse, is the much larger, the much deeper, and the much more important one. It is about the competition for the continent already taking place between the nations, especially Indian nations, that occupied the continent for a full century and a quarter before the English got into the exploration game. This much larger, and arguably much deeper, and much more important story, constitutes one continuous historical fabric in which the truth of the establishment of the English colonies, clearly can be seen and judged (minus all of the unnecessary justificatory patriotic embellishments) for what they really were: just another of many sub-stories of the geopolitics of those times. Comparatively speaking, one could certainly argue that this author's rendition, is a more adult and intellectually honest way of engaging history.

The narrative of the book is structured around the major players and their respective interactions with all the other players. It is an efficient arrangement, although it does mean that the reader will have to read the book several times to successfully collate the various intersecting interactive strains. But since it is a short book, it turns out that that is not a big deal.

Topically, there are tantalizing revelations that will either pique or arouse the ire or eyebrows of American readers. Without giving away the plot, I will mention just a few of them that piqued my interest:

(1) Spain was the pre-eminent superpower of the era, but by the turn of the 17th Century, it was rapidly losing ground to the Dutch and the English. Spain's model of colonization was the gold standard, but over time it proved ineffectual.

(2) England got in the game because its economy was faltering: it needed to make money and at the same time find ways to solve its world-class and embarrassing social problems. So it commissioned corporate managed privateers to sponsor voyages to the "New World." England came to the colonization game without a plan, and thus learned "the ways of colonizing "on the fly."

(3) Even though it succeeded best at trading with the Indians, France bit off much more than it could chew, and was sent packing in full retreat almost as soon as it was challenged.

(4) Had it not been for internecine rivalries and the diseases brought from Europe that decimated them, the Indians, who had mastered the art of trade and diplomacy, and skillfully playing one European power against another, surely would have been part of a winning coalition.

(5) Except for the Dutch, who settled and then lost New York, overall it cannot be said that the American settlers acquitted themselves honorably or morally. They brought the worse of England with them -- dogmatic religious strife and mindless social hierarchy -- and then proceeded to make them both worse by adding political demagoguery, xenophobic paranoia, slavery and genocide. But despite this, our history books failed to tell us that the two most important allies to the founding of our nation were: (1) a tolerant Britain and (2) demographics resulting from the spread of European diseases.

(6) Although this book down plays it, other books have convinced me that it was also the slave revolts that lit up the Western Atlantic that forced the hand of the three major colonial powers and made them give up slavery. As a part of suing for peace after the "Seven Years War," the three colonial powers mandated that their colonies give up slavery, and leave the Indians secured lands on the Western front. However, Brazil and British America, for obvious economic reasons were having none of the "ending the slave trade business;" plus the American colonials made it crystal clear how they intended to solve the "Final solution to the Indian problem:" thorough extermination, and over the next 80 years, succeeded to do just that.

Somewhere between the justificatory origin myths of the settlers' self-declared version of a pious "American exceptionalism," and the reality of the Indian and European powers already contesting the land, is where one is most likely to find the unalloyed truth about our own American colonial experience.

The "warm and fuzzy" story told to tourist who visit Williamsburg, which not just coincidentally, is the same version that appears in our "Texas school board-approved" High School textbooks, and that is now universally accepted as "settled" American History, eventually will have to give way to a more nuanced version of the story, one not unlike the one told here, one in which the missing geopolitical context is "added back in."

The "socially-approved" (but contextless) version of the story goes somewhat as follows: Small groups of ordinary but pious English commoners, mostly Protestants Pilgrims and Puritans, (apparently chartering ships via "Priceline" or "Expedia"), took an excursion to the "unpopulated New World," which they themselves then discovered. They had fled England mostly to escape the extreme destitution, filth and poverty, stifling lack of religious freedoms, and the rigid social hierarchies of an already decadent English society, which at the time, was still slowly digging its way out of the Feudal "Dark Ages." They then went on to found 13 colonies and a nation based on freedom and equality for all men?

The fly in the ointment of this narrative is that what goes unexplained is indeed what is the real meaning of the word "freedom?" Our justificatory history blurred the meaning then, and continues to blurr and finesse it even today. However, it is crystal clear in this book that the "freedom" spoken of by the American settlers and colonizers, was always "the freedom to own slaves" and "the freedom to kill Indians," and to do both with impunity and without having to face any morl consequences.

While the facts of this American heroic narrative are certainly contestable, the context is still missing and thus the facts however truthful, cannot be allowed to stand alone isolated in a geopolitical vacuum? What this carefully cropped canonical American origin narrative lacks is not only what was really going on in Europe at the time, but also, what was happening on the continent during the 130 years before England even got into the exploration game.

In the former regard, the year 1688 was perhaps as important and as pivotal a year for England as it was for American colonial survival. For, this was the year of the "Glorious Revolution," the upheaval that forced King James II into exile. His fleeing had brought to a head two long-running but important disputes: the one between the monarchy and the Parliament; and the other between Catholics and Protestants.

The Glorious Revolution was the crowning event in a long-running drama of civil disturbances that had been going on in England at least since the mid-sixteenth Century. It was the remnants of these events that found their way across the Atlantic and set the table for England's entry into the exploration game, and of course for everything else that was to follow. Since, England had barely survived an almost continuous series of social upheavals, especially religious, and particularly in Ireland and Scotland, where the Catholics were literally forced off their lands and thrown into the streets of cities like London to fend for themselves without land or jobs. Thus, prospects for survival in England for commoners, or those of the wrong religious persuasion, was dire to say the least. Thus, a voyage into the unknown was not always the worst option.

In part due to the dumping of people into the streets of the cities, London in particular had a problem: What to do with the accumulating dredges of society that its own narrow-minded policies had produced? Since unwanted religious sects had already begun to flee to the "New World," more than a few officials suggested that the other "unwanteds" should be sent there as well. As a result, various inventive but unsavory business schemes were devised to entice them on to corporate run ships headed for the unknown. Only later would many of them discover that "they had been had," and that their lives had been mortgaged as slaves for 7-14 years to pay off their transit fees. Later, Africans and indians would join them in the "New World's" own version of the "slave parade." In the end, the dumping proved to be the correct winning strategy, because, since Europeans were immune to the diseases they were spreading to the Indian population, the population of those that managed to survive slavery, grew exponentially, eventually making reproduction the only real variable that mattered to European's survival in the "Nw World."

This densely packed little book of only 140 pages sketches out the rest of this context. It is a collection of sub-stories that allows those interested, to fill-in many of the blanks left empty in the "contextless" canonical version of the American origin story that we have been inhaling since Grammar School. It gives our lame pandering justificatory colonial narrative, not just more heft, but a handle and a more honest and a more secure pathway back to some semblance of ground truth. That is to say, this book allows us to begin a journey back to historical truth about America's colonial origins. Ten stars


The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men
The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men
by Eric Lichtblau
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.35
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Crime greater than having to live five years in a Nazi Concentration Camp, June 16, 2015
With help from the the Catholic Church through the infamous "Italian Ratline," the CIA, FBI, the US military, and through a top secret operation called "Project Paperclip," about 1600 Nazis -- from concentration guards to high level Nazi functionaries -- were spirited across the globe to South American countries, or transported to the US and allowed to quietly settle into new lives at the end of WW-II.

This book tracks the life of one of these Nazis, Tom Soobzokov, who was settled into Patterson, New Jersey as one of the stalwart's of that community. The last half of the book tells the gripping story of his legal battle to remain in the US after the ex-Nazi concentration camp victims living in the same neighborhood, fingered him.

The first half of the book explains what happened after the war, as the contending powers were jockeying for global primacy. This, in my view is the scariest part of the book.

With weakest of possible moral rationales, that of separating the "good" from the "bad" Nazis, and with the even weaker rationale of needing to catch up with the Soviets in the spy game, the USG proved time and again that its sympathies lay with the racist murderer, Adolph Hitler, rather than with his Jewish victims.

I say this not just because of the well-known, criminally embarrassing things the USG did, such as when both Roosevelt and Truman took no action against the Concentration camps once they were discovered, or the turning away of the refugee ship containing fleeing Jews, or even the complicity with Nazi corporations in allowing Hitler to rise to power in the first place, but due to a much less well-known intensely moral crime that the book graphically illustrates.

It is little known by the public that not knowing what to do with the Jews freed from Hitler's concentration camps, the US Army actually left them in DP camps along with German prisoners of war and treated Jews from Axis countries like "enemy nationals." Here on page 3 is how the author graphically and stunningly describes the situation :

"The Allies had come at Hitler from all sides in those early months of 1945: the Russians from the East; the American and British from the West. One by one the Allied Forces discovered scenes of horror and madness in concentration camps abandoned by the Nazis. Inside the camps remained tens of thousands of survivors amid heaps of unburied corpses. Generations later the mind's eye imagines the world embracing the survivors; the iron gates swinging open at the arrival of the Allied Forces, and a mass of bone-thin victims pouring into the awaiting arms of a world filled at once with shock, guilt and joy over their rescue. Like trapped coal miners freed from a mineshaft, or a wrongly accused prisoner emerging from behind the prison walls, they were free at last. Hot meals, warm beds, showers, and doctors awaited them.

The reality is much darker.

The world did not know what to do with them? Crowded and ill-fed, the survivors were left to wear their striped camp uniforms, the same uniforms that had become such a toxic symbol of Nazi oppression. In some DP camps, they were bunked side-by-side with Nazi POWs who were held there as well -- people who just months earlier, had been their war time tormentors. Some Nazi prisoners were even put in charge of Jewish inmates at the allied camps, ruling over them in defeat. Exiled Jews in the camps who were originally from Germany, Austria, and other Axis countries, were classified and treated by the Allies, not as victims but as "enemy nationals" because of their countries of origin, no different from the Nazi prisoners jailed with them."

These two paragraphs unhinged my mind for the rest of the book. I could no longer think straight. I had been had, for I had allowed my mind to fill in the blanks?

After reading that I could only read the rest of the book in zombie mode. Tom Soobzokov's formulaic life seemed infinitesimally small in comparison to the magnitude of this disgraceful and degrading crime as military exigency.

What kind of a nation except a racist one, would not realize that the magnitude of this insult, of housing recent victims of the holocaust with their Nazi tormentors, was of an order of magnitude larger crime than the concentration camp experience itself?

Five stars


Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers
Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers
by Susan Morrison
Edition: Hardcover
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Many Faces of Hillary, June 14, 2015
Like the proverbial six blind men independently feeling the outer epidermis of an elephant to determine exactly what kind of animal he is, immediately after the 2008 election cycle, thirty women writers gave their own independent views of Hillary Rodham Clinton in order to see exactly what kind of political animal she is. It is left as an exercise to the reader to pull these thirty views together into a coherent composite view that will inform voters in the run up to the 2016 election. Thus, the review of this book necessarily has to take on the character of an essay, since it is the reader's pulling together of the thirty parts into one coherent whole, that will serve to inform voters. So here goes my essay:

Except for the entry on whether Hillary is a "cat" or "dog" person, which I found a bit insulting, each of these pieces was thoughtful and contributed to forming a more rounded view of just what kind of political animal Mrs. Clinton really is.

To their credit, these women wasted no time -- bypassing the easy stuff like style and personality -- and going straight to the heart of the matter, to the jugular in fact: Hillary's ambitions and obsession with power politics.

Unfortunately, after wading through all of the obvious biases and prejudices most often used against Mrs Clinton -- the most prominent being "the double barrel double standard sexist bias," in which both men and women have sexist expectations of her -- it came somewhat as a surprise to me that, at the end of the day, most of the stereotypes tended to stick to Hillary like so much velcro. Perhaps that is what still accounts for her high negatives?

Since male politicians are seen as being bogus, thin-skinned power-hungry psychopaths -- willing to say and do almost anything to get elected or to make a buck -- Mr. Obama being the prime case in point -- it was surprisingly easy for many of these writers to affix this same label to the name Hillary Rodham Clinton too.

In the piece called "The Tyranny of High Expectations," where Elizabeth Kolbert introduced the idea that "the goal of women in power should be to change the way power operates," although as a black male I agree wholeheartedly with her, it struck me as odd that she did not go further into explaining to us exactly how the present model of power does in fact operate? Or indeed how she expected the changed "women power" to operate as an alternative. Had she done so, I thought this article could have been a teachable moment, and the one serviceable idea that could have defined Hillary's feminist ambitions in a uniquely feminist way.

However, that was not to be the case, after reading the other entries, it did not take much reading between the lines to see why Ms. Kolbert did not go into too much detail on delineating how the existing model of power actually operates. For, what we have seen so far, and what was revealed in the other articles, is that with the introduction of women power into the arena of American power politics, what we actually get is little more than the same kind of condominium arrangement we currently see in the Clinton family with the Bill Clinton Foundation funneling money to finance Hillary's forays into power politics, or Hillary using her governmental post to hustle money for the foundation in exchange for government favors. To put it more bluntly, all we have is two white people of different genders sharing power in a condominium arrangement under the rules of the old white male model of power. So far, no woman model of power has yet emerged, except as a carbon copy and indistinguishable duplicate of the white male model.

All we see when women do assume powerful roles, such as that assumed by Nancy Pelosi, for instance, is just a doubling-down on the old white male model. There is no woman model of power to speak of -- whether white women or otherwise. It is just a cruel hoax even to suggest that there is such a thing.

Tina Brown argued elsewhere that the white male model is the only model there is in existence, and thus women had no choice but to play the game as it has always been playe until that is, women can take an independent stand? Well, that certainly begs the question of exactly what a woman's independent stand really is, and more to the point, of what a woman model of power would look like? Even if one were to eventually emerge, unless we are all completely crazy, race would certainly still be a factor.

In any case, there is nothing in Mrs. Clinton's background, or in the way women have acquitted themselves while in power the world over, that would suggest that they do in fact want to change the existing model. In fact, they are judged by others, and judge themselves, precisely by how close they come to the old white male model.

To conclude, it seems that each of these female writers have their own invisible internal detectors that could reliably tell them when a woman has gone over the line from being healthily ambitious and hungry for power, to one who uses the quest for power as an unbridled fetish/obsession, where everything goes: By these thirty writers, Hillary, invariably is seen as falling into the latter category. Three stars


The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State
The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State
by John Micklethwait
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.98
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Solution to our Economic Woes, or an Any Rand style Ideological Wet Dream?, June 12, 2015
One of the most challenging and perplexing economic questions of our times, one that every American should be asking himself is this: How has China, in a single generation, revamped and transformed its dysfunctional Communist Police State into a world-class capitalist economy that is thriving so well that it will likely soon eclipse the greatest economy the world has ever known, the U.S. economy?

This book finally attempts to answer that question. The short answer is that China chose the Silicon Valley model of economic capitalism, and Singapore as it's model for good governance. For good reasons, with which we all are already familiar, China roundly rejected the dysfunctional U.S. Congress as a model of good governance.

Since the short answer made everything crystal clear, I expected the long answer to simply follow in suit, expanding and then explaining why the Singapore model of good governance is so much better than our gridlocked congress, and our increasingly corrupt democracy, and then tell us what we should do about it?

However, that is not what we get here.

The long answer we get here takes us on an unproductive history lesson that recounts four economic revolutions that constitute a historical arc of governmental development. It is an arc that began in the 17th Century with Thomas Hobbs' Leviathan and continues through to today. Hobbs' revolution established strong government as a necessary counterweight to the world's nastiness. For its time, it proved wildly successful.

The second revolution emerged out of the French and American revolutions; and adopted the philosophical principles of the likes of John Stuart Mills and John Locke, principles that eventually replaced the old dying feudal corruption of the Ancient monarchical Regimes. This led directly to a third revolution of liberal government, in which a social contract was negotiated between the people and Hobbs' Leviathan. It has been adopted by most Western nations and has endured, that is until the recent US Congress under ideological and corrupt compulsion, decided to implode.

According to the authors, we are now in the fourth revolution in governmental development, in which they call for limited government that constrains itself through self-denying ordinances -- as the global or meta-answer to all our ills? In the process, they propose that liberty encroaching expansion, surrendering to special interests, and making unfulfillable promises may then be averted?

According to these authors, this fourth revolution will serve as a remedy to our race to the bottom of corruption and democratic inefficiency barrel? It will do so by balancing budgets, by fully funding and means testing all entitlements and tying them to life expectancy, by introducing sunset clauses for laws and regulations so that they do not exist in perpetuity, and finally by limiting centralized power by handing some of it over to technocrats and independent commissions, while pushing many decisions back down to the states and cities?

Say What?

Instead of a revolutionary solution to our economic problems that might allow us to again begin competing with China on an equal footing, this sound more like a conservative/Libertarian ideological wet dream, something cooked up on the inside covers of one of Ayn Rand's novels?

Nontheless, taking it at face value, the things it assert, appear to have little or nothing at all to do with our present economic woes, with why our democracy and economic system have both become so dysfunctional that our most formidable competitor has recognized and elected to eschew and bypass it as a possible model.

I believe the authors must move away from seeking ideological solutions to our problems. For, it is precisely the shield of the emotional pull of ideologies that has blinded "we the people" from seeing the corruption and dysfunction that has been allowed to gather a head of steam and has finally over taken our very fragile democratic system. The corruption and dysfunction have been allowed to do so in "real time," while we watch.

Any ideological solution that does not first plug corporate tax loopholes, send crooks to jail, get vulgar graft and money out of our election process, fine tax-dodging and tax-evading corporations, and that does not prosecute Wall Street crooks and top government advisors who "game" the economy and stock market, is not worth a bucket of spit, no matter what its called.

What we have today is an increasingly illegitimate condominium of dual party corruption. And these author's fourth revolution simply does not address the deeper issues that affect our polity. One star


The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation
The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation
by Alexander. Marshack
Edition: Unknown Binding

5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Challenge to Cognitive Archaeological Orthodoxy?, June 12, 2015
The topic of this book is the science of the Ishango Bones. With dedication and patience, and wherever it was possible to do so, use of the highest research standards, Mr. Marshack has shown beyond a reasonable scientific doubt that the groupings of markings on the bones of tribesmen of the Central African Congo of 35,000 years ago, is probably the first instance of man engaging in science -- mathematics in particular. Beyond a reasonable doubt, he has shown that these engraved scripted bones, at the very least were the first recorded lunar calculators, used to chart and predict the lunar cycles and all survival activities associated with such cycles.

Many who read and engage in research on the early history of mankind, feel that something is very much amiss in Archaeological theorizing? Even if it is only a deep feeling within their bones, many feel as I do that since the Archaeologists often get the time-scale of fossils wrong by orders of magnitude, and are constantly revising their theories of intellectual and cognitive development in early humans, being caught on their back foot seems more the rule than the exception, more like an occupational hazard of the field? And although errors in time-scale estimates may be due in large part to the porousness and scarcity of fossil finds, errors in theorizing, it seems to me, is wholly a product of lack of imagination. And, as this author argues, an unwillingness to venture too far from the orthodox line.

Perhaps it was my own naïveté that led me to believe that Cognitive Archaeology thus would welcome and embrace the radical new platform for theorizing offered up here by Professor Alexander Marshack. However, the more one examines Marshack's thesis, the more revolutionary and formidable, and thus threatening, it can be seen to be to the established orthodoxy. It would not be an exaggeration to compare its impact on Archaeology to the impact Darwin's theory of Evolution has had on religion. Protectors of the state-sanctioned orthodoxy have circled their wagons to resist any new theoretical encroachments.

Stated as simply as it can be stated, Mr. Marshack has hypothesized that any Archaeological theories of human intellect based on "supposed" changes in brain architecture, unless such changes can be accounted for experimentally, are likely to be wrong. This is true, as he sees it, because the brain architecture of pre-humans and modern man, at least for the last 100,000 years, as far as we can tell, has been essentially the same. So the science being performed by the Ishango tribesmen, and the PhD scientists at the Jet propulsion Laboratory, are different only in degree, not in kind, different only in the content of the data used and problems being solved. The processes used, however more complex for "modern man" than for "primitive man," are still the same as that used by the Ishango Congo African tribesman.

This is certainly true as far as it can be determined through their respective cognitive functioning brain architecture. The author thus argues here, rather convincingly in my view, that since the beginning of time, man's creative thinking has always been both purposeful and time-bound -- directed almost exclusively at the problem of survival for the moment. As a result, while the content of thinking may have changed over various epochs, ecologies and cultures, the process of thinking itself has not.

His crowning point is that, as much as Western man would like for it to be so, "mind development" is not quite the same thing as "brain or architecture development." Like cultural development, mind and intellectual development are almost never "a bolt-out-of-the-blue" - the de fault category when no reasonable explanation is forthcoming -- but like culture, man's intellectual development, such as science, is a continuous, connected, layered accreted process that takes place over long periods of time. It seems that for reasons having to do with modern chauvinism alone, incredibly, no one in Archaeology has ever begun with such an assumption about brain architecture versus the process of human cognitive development, before. I do not believe it would be an exaggeration of the author's point to suggest that almost all of man's development -- in agriculture, in art, in economics, politics, etc. -- is also of the process sort. Ten Stars!


By Howie Carr Ratman: The Trial and Conviction of Whitey Bulger
By Howie Carr Ratman: The Trial and Conviction of Whitey Bulger
6 used & new from $27.36

3.0 out of 5 stars Ratman: The final half of the Whitey Bolger Story, June 4, 2015
This book is a sketchy recap of the trial of Whitey Bolger, the final half of his life story. Prosecutor, Brian Kelly summed up Whitey's criminal career by saying that: He strangles people, he shoots people who are handcuffed, he moves bodies from one place to another, he makes up reasons to extort people for hundreds of thousands of dollars,.. He helped flood his own neighborhood with drugs, his own neighborhood of South Boston, all so that he could make a buck. And thats what it was all about with this defendant. As long as he prospered, no one else mattered. To him human life meant nothing."

However, I believe that a careful reading of the subtext of the trial, reveals that Bolger's life story can be summed up in five mutually redundant words: COWARD, BULLY, TRAITOR, RAT and RACIST.

James Bolger was a "COWARD," who for 30 years literally was a one-man crime wave that preyed with lethal destruction on his own Catholic South Boston community. When Kevin Weeks was asked by the prosecuting attorney, how Bolger was allowed to do this to America, Weeks answered, "it was not America, it was Boston?" Bolger was a "hands-on serial killer," chairman of the board of the Boston crime syndicate, who delegated all clean-up duties for his murders to his criminal underlings, while he of course slept soundly away from the "killing floor" upstairs on the couch.

James Bolger was a "BULLY" whose most profitable scam was to lure an innocent businessman, or criminal associate, into an intimidating life-threatening kidnap trap, whereby the subject was handcuffed and made to stand -- with the fear of death -- on the very plastic canvas that his own dead body would soon about to be wrapped in. Unless, that is, the "mark" had the good senses to come up with Whitey's extortion/ransom fee of anywhere between 50 to 200 thousand dollars. Invariably they all came up with the money. After which, they were then forced to tell where the next "mark" (just like themselves) could be found, before Whitey then, with few exceptions, summarily executed them.

James Bolger was a "TRAITOR" and a chronic "paranoid double-crosser," who turned on his own confederates as soon as they either had been used up, were discovered to have money stashed away, had a more lucrative operation, or were perceived to be a security threat to his own operation. Whitey always knew when someone else was ready to "rat" him out, because he used his FBI informers to get a leg up on them so that he could "rat them out first." Bolger's only loyalty was to himself. He was the poster boy for, and the clinical prototype of, a deeply disturbed psychopath.

James Bolger was a "RAT," who for 30 years was officially and formally a "top echelon" confidential informer for the very FBI commissioned to hunt him down. But it was Bolger who did the hunting. He burrowed himself into the walls of the FBI, and then corrupted them to the core. With carefully deployed strategic bribes, Bolger kept an eye on those who should have arrested him as early as 1984. He kept corrupt FBI Agents dancing on a string, on his payroll for 30 years, dragging our top law enforcement agency down to his level, as he bribed it into ferreting-out information on his competition, on the mob, and on other "rats" like himself, who, with FBI complicity, he then summarily executed for being exactly what he was: a despicable RAT.

James Bolger was a dyed in the wool "Hitler-loving Aryan wannabe RACIST," who helped finance the anti-bussing campaign during the 1974 Boston anti-school integration uprising, and who, with his crew, wantonly killed several blacks for no particular reason. Thus, it is perhaps only poetic justice that he was finally captured in Santa Monica when his violent outburst at a comment made by his neighbor, the Iceland beauty queen who would eventually finger him.

This occurred as she innocently praised the US for being open-minded enough to elect a black man as president. With that comment, Whitey went ballistic; calling Mr. Obama a choice set of invectives that included among them "monkey" and the N-word -- all words typically heard everyday in Boston, one of the racist cities in America, bar none. After her praise of Obama, Bolger refused to talk to her ever again. ... Oh, well, it was just as well, since at that very moment she figured out that he was the man in the picture on "America's Most Wanted," and then promptly "dropped a dime on him," proceeding to collect a cool two million dollar reward in the process.

Like the psychopaths who run Wall Street, most of our "bought-and-paid-for" politicians, John Gotti, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, and even the brutally violent explorer, Christopher Columbus, Whitey Bolger is just another unfortunate meme of a psychopathic gun-swaggering American male culture. Three stars.


Black Rednecks and White Liberals
Black Rednecks and White Liberals
by Thomas Sowell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.62
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10 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More ideologically based rightwing faux research?, June 1, 2015
The hypothesis that Mr. Sowell sets forth in this book is that the self-destructive behavior exhibited today by America's urban black underclass, has nothing at all to do with slavery or the objective and oppressive conditions in America's inner cities, but everything to do with past black proximity to poor redneck cracker Irish whites -- among whom such behavior, he theorizes, is innate and was brought to American shores when they immigrated from Europe in the mid 17th Century.

It is such a complicated hypothesis that even under the best of research conditions it would be difficult to render it testable -- not to mention provable in any scientific way. So, it is just as well that Mr. Sowell decided to punt early, and tried to prove it by fiat. Something I have discovered is the signature of most of his research.

What the author never quite establishes satisfactorily, is where exactly did the so-called proximity between the ancestor's of today's poor urban black underclass and those of the ancestor's of Irish cracker rednecks, actually take place? For indeed it is an elementary exercise to discover, that at least from 1676, onwards, that is, from when Bacon's rebellion occurred and the institution of racism and the ideology of white supremacy was firmly instituted as a wedge to keep the two groups apart, that these two groups, had very little contact and even less to do with each other. In short, after 1676, it would have been quite impossible for them to have shared such intimate cultural spaces that the behavior traits the author hypothesizes could have taken place.

If it then was virtually impossible for such close contact to have occurred after 1676, due primarily to the new ideology of racism, then it only could have occurred before 1676? And thus, what should have been exhibit one -- what was going on between the two groups before 1676 -- curiously, was omitted from this book altogether?

Again, it is an elementary exercise to discover that the circumstances that these two groups shared before the Bacon Rebellion, was the common bond of slavery -- indentured servitude as it was euphemistically called at the time. Before 1676, Irish rednecks and blacks worked together, lived in the same quarters, intermarried, killed and plotted rebellion and insurrection against slaveholders, together. There was never a time afterwards that they were closer.

Mr. Sowell, of course could not investigate this earlier time period because then he would have had to admit that perhaps their shared condition of slavery was the most likely explanation for any shared negative behaviors between the two groups. But to have to admit this, would have blown Mr. Sowell's thesis to smithereens. So, instead, but in the typical low standards of Mr. Sowell research, he was forcced to pretend that this period of close contact between the two groups -- which alone could have accounted for their shared cultured behaviors -- simply never occurred. So much for Mr. Sowell's thesis and his research.

For a more academically honest treatment of the origins of black urban underclass cultural behaviors, may I recommend the book "The Promise Land," by Nicholas Lehmann. This excellent book is non ideological, and tracks the plight of the kids of two black Mississippi families as the kids migrated to Chicago after WW-II. One set of siblings were offspring of landowning black farmers; the others from a family of black sharecroppers. Lehmann's book shows how the children of the landowners eventually became educated Chicago professionals, while those of the sharecroppers, became a large part of Chicago's urban underclass problem. Since my own family figured into this urban tableau, I found Lehmann's analysis not only close to home, but performed at the highest level of academic research standards.

Likewise, may I also refer the reader to Professor Elijah Anderson's book "The Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City." Anderson's book again is a non-ideological tour de force in modern Sociology in my view, since it shows unmistakably how the behavior of the black urban underclass grows organically out of the conditions of American racism and poverty. It is neither a story of victimology nor, of the "blame the victim" type, but a sound analysis of how the objective conditions of America's urban inner cities organically shape behavior and morals. And it is done by one who lived and worked in the environment as part of his research.

As a final suggestion, may I also recommend Washington Post Reporter Leon Nash's book, "When Children Want Children: The Urban Crisis of Teenage childbearing." Here, in research to be envied, Dash demolishes the old myths about why teenage black girls choose to become pregnant, and how those reasons led to the crisis in black urban illegitimacy.

The low dark Culture of Thomas Sowell's mode of Research

Sad to say, but Mr. Thomas Sowell is the symbolic pack leader of an embarrassing group of black Uncle Toms -- faux journalists, faux academics and "sell-out" government appointees -- that begins with Clarence Thomas and ends with the likes of Larry Elders. These professionally hired hit men, anti-black mercenaries and prostitutes for radical conservative and racist causes, like Pavlov's dog will say and do just about anything to gain the approval of their white conservative ideologues and paymasters. His books, and editorials based on them, are poorly vetted propaganda pieces calculated to tickle racists, which includes all of Sowell "ditto heads," in the cavity where a normal brain would be if they had one.

Constantly on the prowl to punch the nearest liberal in the eye with mindless right wing tripe, and being totally unaware that most Americans could care less about liberals -- and even less about conservatives -- Tom Sowell, like all Uncle Toms, knows what side of his bread is buttered. He also knows when he has a good thing going. Like Rush Limbaugh, he has his own stable of "ditto heads," who "get a hard on" every time Sowell opens his mouth. For they know, like they know that the sun will rise from the East, that anything said by Sowell, will toe the racist conservative dogmatic ideological line to a tee. When Thomas Sowell opens his formulaic mouth, like Limbaugh, invariably more "warmed over conservative tripe" comes tumbling out. This book is just another classic case in point.

Like the circular cited secondary sources it depends on -- primarily Grady McWhiney's "Cracker Culture," David Hackett's "Albion Seed," Fredrick Law Omstead's "The Cotton Kingdom," Charles Murray's, "The Bell Curve," and Dinesh D'Souza's "The End of Racism" -- this piece too is the careless stringing together of anecdotal quotations taken out of context and fashioned into a pseudo social scientific hypothesis. Shame on this Senior Researcher for the Hoover Institute. What kind of self-respecting academic institute would allow its staff members to continue producing such embarrassing ideological tripe? One star
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