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Analyze West: A Psychiatrist Takes Western Civilization on a Journey of Transformation
Analyze West: A Psychiatrist Takes Western Civilization on a Journey of Transformation
by Dr Nicholas Beecroft
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.59
2 used & new from $21.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Western Civilization on the Psychiatrist's Couch, August 29, 2014
This clever attempt to place Western Civilization (in the person of a generic, color-blind, unisex, "Mr. West") on the psychiatrist's couch, is perhaps "too clever by half." Indeed, it reminds me of the famous quip attributed to Mahatma Gandhi answering the question: "What do you think of Western Civilization? To which Gandhi responded: "I think it would a good idea?" The same can be said for this fictional account of a very serious non-fictional reality. For while it serves as a very useful platform for displaying dazzlingly new techniques of psychotherapy, such as "Spiral Dynamics," it does powerful little to get at the real root causes of the patient, Western Civilization's, psychological problems.

It is true that we do get a chance here to listen to Mr. West's well-rehearsed laments of guilt over a host of world class-evils committed in his name over the last millennium. We watched as he was brought back from the brink of suicide; and even listened to a recitation of his genetic pedigree of evil deeds, all in part being little more than rationalizations for the precipitous decline over the last 50 years in his status and mental well-being. And while we can agree that Mr. West "has issues," as is always the case, guilt and feelings of worthlessness are mere symptoms of deeper causes.

We get a clue as to the direction and depth of the Psychiatrist's analysis when Mr. West pretends to be confused about his own identity -- claiming not to know whether he was male or female, black or white, etc. It seems to me this should have been the perfect clue and teachable opportunity for the Psychiatrist, Dr. James, to say directly and bluntly to Mr. West: Sir, wait a minute, I think I recognize your sickness, it has been a familiar part of "the spirit of Western Civilization" since its inception: It is called the "Alpha white male hero syndrome." You have a worse-case version of it.

White men down through the ages from Jesus Christ (who was a Jew but was adopted as an "honorary white") to Adolph Hitler (who was a Jew but pretended he was Aryan), have come down with it. Its primary instrumentality and enabler is a package of ideological tools in a tool box called "the Alpha white male hero system." The elements in this tool kit, taken from the devil's own workshop, look and smell like "existential tribal virtues" because they all promote the idea that whiteness is biologically pure and superior, and that the white man, the self-designated Alpha male hero of the world, is the sacred protector of this biological and tribal purity. Being a hero and protector of the superior white gene is the highest value of Western Civilization, full stop. This is the meme that has evolved into a complex germ, a meta value, that is so deeply embedded within your psyche that you cannot even see that it is still your only obsession and fetish?

But this is not what the Psychiatrist, Dr. James, told Mr. West. Instead, Mr. West was introduced to a color-coded system of mumbo-jumbo called "Spiral Dynamics." When one looks under the hood of "Spiral Dynamics" what one sees looks suspiciously like the old "white Alpha male hero system" in disguise, i.e., continued white male dominance by other means, desperately trying to shed its skin so that it can live unchanged for yet another day?

Thus, if the truth be told, the colors in the Spiral Dynamics color wheel are just stages along the developmental path of the white male hero system, and nothing more. The spiral wheel is a self-report of a self-reflection by the white man of himself in his most complimentary state. And with it, as always, there is the embarrassing attempt to "generalize" and "universalize" any and all decrepit, dying, or bankrupt white values and norms. Only this time it is done through the back door using a color chart with a sexy name like "Spiral Dynamics." With "Spiral Dynamics leading the way, Mr. West is allowed to forget about the millennium of white racist destruction wrought upon the world.

This technique of trying to universalize (and thus save) bankrupt white values by renaming them and then moving them around on the chessboard, is the very hallmark of the "Alpha white male project." It has never worked in the past and will never work in the future -- until, and unless, that is, Mr. West first begins to come to grips with what is really bothering him: his "unacknowledged tribal superiority complex," which is in fact really an "inferiority complex." [Did I not read somewhere in my Psychology 101 book that the two are just flip sides of the same coin? Indeed, otherwise why would there be a need for a superiority complex at all? Why would truly superior people need to feel inadequate when their own subjective reality is accepted by them as being coterminous with the reality of the world? ]

To compensate for deep feeling of inferiority and insecurity, Mr. West has been forced to build a sandcastle of false white superiority and call it "Western Civilization," and then he has used his power and dominance over the world to "objectify" and then "impose" a well-regulated "racist reality" atop his inferiority. This racist reality is at every point tailored to agree seamlessly with his own male white subjectivity. He in fact has been so successful at it that "scared racist male white reality" now is indistinguishable from the "Western world's only reality?"

But is this really true? Is "scared racist white male reality" really coterminous with the reality of the rest of the world? I believe that deep within, Mr. West knows that creating a racist reality by fiat is a lie and that "his pose" that this is somehow okay, is maximally "inauthentic," in the Sartre sense. That he has the power to enforce his will and his subjectivity on the rest of the world, of course, makes it no less true.

This book then, in my humble opinion, is just a sophisticated, even clever at times, apologia for white racism, and for the unrecognized consequences of at least a half millennium of unforgivable and unnecessary race-based destruction and its continuing consequences. Now that the world has overtaken Mr. West, he has nowhere to hide his insecurities. He is much too weak to admit that, he, like Adolph Hitler, "bought into" the racist tribal nonsense -- hook, line and sinker -- and thus has no graceful route of retreat. So, what does he do? He takes over the steering-wheel and tries to sell us, through Dr. James, more Alpha white male snake oil, called "Spiral Dynamics."

Let us admit it, the "white Alpha male hero system," of which Mr. West is the definitive example, is an emperor with no clothes: Naked as a baby before he is spanked into life. Yet, despite this, the best that can be done on Mr. West's behalf, is for the psychiatrist, James, to try to help him "fall uphill" using "Spiral Dynamics" where he can then still try to snatch victory from certain defeat by continuing to pretend that he is still the "Alpha dog" on the hill, and that racist white reality, slightly adjusted and modified, is still the only reality?

It is a colossal lie and James knows it. Thus, Dr. James himself is just a gentle old white male fool and fraud, still trading on the fruits of his white male hero status as he sneaks around on the job trying to screw his Korean/Chinese colleague Dr. Suki Chen. No wonder he cannot help Mr. West, for he is so trapped by the "Alpha White Male Hero syndrome" himself that if all were right with the world, he would recuse himself from trying to help other white males like Mr. West, and go back to his cold apartment, and drink martinis in the dark alone with his stray cat.

There is yet another way that we know that James is both a fool and a fraud. It is clear that Mr. West's problem has sexual origins, when he claims that he is confused about his sexual identity, his race, etc.? Yet, Dr. James does not call on the father of psychiatry, the original sex therapist himself, Dr. Freud himself. Instead he whips out the untried, facile and elementary "Spiral Dynamics" as the tool of choice for fixing Western Civilization. Why not Dr. Freud?

Far be it for me so suggest that maybe he omitted Freud precisely because that would have gotten too close to home, opening up a whole new can of worms in uncovering "the real white Alpha male project:" continuing to hide feelings of sexual inadequacy and sexual inferiority.

Some white psychiatrists (excluding Dr. James) are finally beginning to crack into this under-acknowledged but very sacred nut. Even one of the author's fellow Brits, Dr. Robert Young has done some pioneering work in this area. For my money, if I had a choice between Sigmund Freud and "Spiral Dynamics," I would pick Freud in a heart beat.

Despite my somewhat critical essay, this is a delightful, carefully thought out piece that holds together well. It will challenge the best "crap detectors." Five stars


Universe Next Door
Universe Next Door
by James W. Sire
Edition: Paperback
89 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A mini-tour de force, August 28, 2014
This review is from: Universe Next Door (Paperback)
The author makes a heroic effort to present a well-organized, cogent balanced academic presentation of the major world-views in existence today including my own "Atheistic Existentialism." I am not ashamed to admit that this obviously Christian author has given a thorough, coherent, readable, academic presentation that goes about as far as any comparable book of its kind on this subject has gone (and no matter how academically sophisticated!)

According to my system of evaluation, that alone gets this book at least five stars. However, as the reader will discover, this book deserves a rating well beyond the normal five star rating. Why? Because for the first time, it gives the reader an ontological/metaphysical and epistemological yardstick with which to gauge and better situate, and thus, better understand ones own worldview. For that, I am giving the book another 25 stars for a total of 30 stars.

The Organization of the Book

Mr. Sire uses a loose Socratic method as the framework for his analysis. He begins by explaining that the imperative of man's existence is to survive in the brief time between birth and a certain death by using his self-conscious awareness and intellect as a way to create "meaning" and "value" in a cold, isolated and impersonal world.

The first critical ontological problem is whether the world environment in which all of the world views operate, is to be considered "open" or "closed." An "open" environment of course admits to exogenous and transcendent inputs, such as gods and spirits, while a "closed" one does not.

The second philosophical problem is the division of the world into objectivity and subjectivity. Arguably only as "subjects" can meaning be attached to man. As "objects" man disappears into the woodworks of an already cold, impersonal and inanimate world.

The measuring stick used to decide these issues as well as to compare the attributes of each world view is a series of parallel questions the author uses to interrogate the attributes of each world view. Through these questions, the author shows how each world view fares as an intact universe of meaning and value in either an "open" or a "closed" world environment -- and when measured against the same set of ontological/metaphysical and epistemological criteria. Through this rather simple framework, he covers a lot of rough philosophical terrain, answers all the questions that our world poses for us, and does so effortlessly, leaving it up to the reader to decide which world view best suits one's own predilections.

Even though in the end this turns out to be a sophisticated yet transparent, "Christian theist's" polemic, it is my kind of polemic: The author made the most honest effort he could of explaining the other world-views, but in the end he did not fail to show his own Christian worldview in the best possible light.

That the author took this approach, did not bother me in the least for two reasons. First, each of us has his own "crap detection devise;" and second, because most Christians never get anywhere near as far in explaining their worldview as this author has done here, it was a singular joy to, for just once, hear a serious academic defense of the Christian word view. In fact, had the word "Christian" appeared in the title of the book, I probably would have passed it up as I usually do when I see "Christian" in a title. That is a measure of just how much I distrust those who advocate for Christian causes.

A summary of the Substance of the book

After explicating the attributes of Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, and Postmodernism, the author gets down to the crux of the matter when he asserts that ethics and morality can only be derived from an "open" world where a transcendent creator with moral authority is allowed.

In one fell swoop, this of course forecloses both the possibility that our existing world might indeed be "closed" (which unsurprisingly is accepted as a given by most of the other world-views), as well as foreclosing the possibility of having ethics and morality within a "closed" world that necessarily is without either a creator or an external repository of moral authority.

Rather than admit this is at least an alternative possibility, the author uses Sartre's formulation of being "naive" or "inauthentic" as a label to discredit anyone who would admit to such a possibility? Somehow, the author seemed to have forgotten that even within his own Christian family, there are ethical systems that arise wholly without reference to having a higher external transcendental moral authority? The Western system of government and law --both separated from religion by decree are best cases in point. And of course the same can be said for most non-Christians faiths -- although not for Islamic religions which have their own sharia laws handed down from Allah.

The second point the author makes is related to the first and thus suffers the same logical weakness. It is that in a "closed" world, any pretense to being moral, is just that a pretense, an illusion, as it were. This certainly is irrefutably true as the author states. However, is he not forgetting that the very creation of an external transcendental God in his "open" world is also a most monumental illusion on the same plane as, and congruent with, that created by those in a "closed" world?

Indeed, it is axiomatic that man uses his symbols (including most especially his symbols of his gods) to fashion illusions to which he then attaches meaning. If there is another way that man can attach meaning other than through the use of symbols in this world (whether "open" or "closed"), I am all ears. 30 stars


A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State
A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State
by John W. Whitehead
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.73
53 used & new from $13.72

5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Case of the Chickens Coming Home to Roost, August 26, 2014
This award-winning book may serve as "the coda" to a historical process in which "one racist nation under a jealous racist white Christian God" is finally losing its grip on reality, and finally losing its way in a haze of paranoid police-state breast-beating fascist state police tactics.
From where I sit, as a black male in racist America, this looks too much like just a case of the "chickens finally coming home to roost?" Since slavery, America has been nothing less than a racist pro-Fascist police state. No one has seemed the least disturbed by it until recently. Why?

But then came the JFK, RFK and MLK "state-sanctioned" assassinations, and with this not so silent a coup d' etat, the U.S. democracy then went through a profound transformation: The U.S. came under the control of a powerful and evil "national security state apparatus," that has metastasized while hiding behind the "lone nut" and "single bullet theories." When it hooked-up with a well-trained, militarily-equipped inner city police infra-structure, the national security police state was complete.

However, so long as the illegal police tactics and the illegal "national security apparatus" were reserved for black people's heads, or liberal anti-racist politicians, the fascist apparatus and police tactics remained invisible, tolerated and even desired. It rolled on, gathering steam unimpeded. In fact, it was comforting to know that the evil cross-dressing ingrate, J. Edgar Hoover, "had our backs," wasn't it?

In short, throughout most of American history, "out-of-control," "excessive policing" was considered as "protecting the (white tribal) community. Thus, it was perfectly okay for white people to wink, nod and then turn their heads the other way. Or worse, as most are doing now regarding the Ferguson, Mo. killing of young Michael Brown, defend police tactics even before the facts are in? {Stop whining and spinning conspiracy theories about "America's finest!")

Since the emerging police state apparatus and its excesses were being "trained on" "black heads" only; and thus were being used to protect the "white community," its excesses served white tribal and racist interests perfectly. In fact, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the very definition of what is considered "being white" is to have the comfortable umbrella of an "out-of-control" police force constantly "on duty" cracking black heads in the South and in the inner city ghettos of the United States of America. Arguably, that is a really important part of what it means to "be white" in America.

Now that this book finally lays out in its full glory for everyone to see, what the fruits of a century of police state training has wrought - surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing dogs, SWAT team raids, frisks and body X-rays while entering almost any buildings, roadside strip searches, blood draws at DUI checkpoints, helicopter surveillance, DNA indexing, finger-printing before check-cashing, shoot-first ask questions later policing, mosquito drones, tasers, privatized prisons, GPS tracking devices, torture, renditions, confiscation of property, zero tolerance policies, over-criminalization, and free speech zones -- that is to say, now that the militarized hi-tech police state national security infrastructure finally has been perfected and cast in stone.

Only now, when the training wheels (after a century of training in excess police tactics on black heads) are being taken off; and when the technological genie finally can no longer be put back into the bottle; (and oh, by the way, lest we forget), now that white heads are being cracked open in the streets, and white homes are being spied upon and crashed into in the middle of the night, now is the time to become alarmed?

How much more insane (and late) can the contradictions in one racist nation get? Five stars


Consciousness and Society
Consciousness and Society
by H. Stuart Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $34.15
34 used & new from $21.05

4.0 out of 5 stars One Man's view of the Revolt Against Positivism at the turn of the 19th Century, August 22, 2014
My Review of Consciousness and Society
by H. Stuart Hughes

The Revolt Against Positivism at the turn of the 19th Century

At the turn of the 19th Century, Hughes, among many others, saw a revolt developing against positivism: The ideology of rationality that positivism offered was no longer seen as adequate to capture existing reality. Consciousness or irrationality had to be added to the mix to get a complete picture of how the science of man and the structure of intellectual history really worked. We now needed ways of penetrating behind the fictions of political action to get down to what was motivating them.

Into this intellectual void walks Marxism in the form of dialectic materialism, but in this treatment, Marxism is not seen for what it really was: a profound critique of capitalism. Even though early on it is rather self-evident that Marxism is poorly understood by this author, it still filled the gap at least in part, by introducing in the form of a package of psychological factors the notion of "subjectivity." However owing to the fact that no one really understood Marxism until Lukacs' "History and Class Consciousness" arrived in 1923, Marxism hardly served as more than just a "placeholder," a "stand-in" as it were, for the time when a better explanation would come forward. This is unfortunate because the role of Marxist was omnipotent.

Marxism did nothing if not inspire a moral passion to explore subjectivity further. In short order, it metastasized into many hopefully spin-offs. Durkheim, first inspired, and then stymied by Marx, finally developed sociology in an entirely different direction, devoid of Marxism altogether. Pareto opposed and attacked Marx, making him the "darling theorist" of the elite. Croce used Marx just long enough to "stand up" his own theory, and then quickly abandoned him. From Marx, Sorel embraced a kind of subjectivist, irrationalist psychological attitude to political action that greatly impressed Hughes, but then he removes Marxism from the domain of science and re-casted it as social poetry. And while it is clear that Hughes falls in love with Gramsci, as his Marxist of choice, and gives Luckas only a passing glance, it is less clear, based on Gramsci's theoretical results, why he did so?

The French Psychologist Bergson picked up the ball and ran with it for a brief spell until he morphed into a Fascist and lost all credibility. And finally, like many of the rest of us, Hughes too was seduced by Freud, who he correctly saw as a first-rate analyst and a brilliant theorist. However, Hughes was not so blinded by Freud's brilliance that he failed to see his flaws, which he argued were many and often naive enough to be embarrassing to an otherwise first-rate Scientist.

Seeking closure in those who surrounded Freud, like the rest of us, Hughes too soon gravitated to and fixated on Jung, who Hughes saw as having a greater sensitivity to history than Freud -- as best reflected in what Hughes referred to as Freud's fairy tale about the development of civilization through his "Totem and Taboo." However, that did not make up for the fact that Jung was not very good at science and was a much lesser theorist than his mentor. Hughes finally belatedly uncovered Jung for what he was and coined him a "Mystagogue." In Hughes' eyes, this forever condemned him to the dust bin of history as both a charlatan and a reactionary.
Hughes then spends an undue amount of time on Sorel, but comes up more confused and empty-handed than before he started. After Sorel, it was of course then time for Hughes to come up for air.

What did this all mean? What was driving social science development at the turn of the 19th Century? What were all these theorists in search of?

I believe history would confirm that the unmistakably clear subtext of the pre-war era was always the struggle going on just beneath consciousness across Europe between Fascism and Socialism. With the scent of Monarchical Feudalism still hanging heavily in the air, all of these theorists were profoundly aware of this struggle, and its influences found their way into each of their respective theories in unobtrusive ways.

The way Hughes sees it is that the Communists "got Socialism wrong," for in the 1917 Russian experiment, the revolutionaries had begun as little more than proto-Fascists, and then tried to backtrack, or "tack" backwards to Socialism? Under Stalin, the original Fascist, it did not work. Plus, this failed experiment, begun with so much optimism and hope for the success of the Russian revolution, in retrospect, can be seen as being as much responsible for the rise of Hitler and WW-II as anything else. In short, at the turn of the century, everyone was choosing up sides and scurrying for the hills, without really acknowledging the real reasons why. Somehow, even if through intuition, they knew that the rubber had met the road, and inexorably it was leading directly to Nazi Germany and the little Austrian Corporal.

Hughes filled in the blanks by focussing-in on the increasing schizophrenia of bourgeois European society. It was this schizophrenia that gave rise to the philosophical bifurcation of positivism and irrationalism. The accumulating tensions of bourgeois society and capitalism, morphing into its highly monopolistic imperialist phase, is what had a profound impact on intellectuals, forcing them into a defensive subterranean psychological position of confrontation with the reified world of mechanized routine, industry, and bureaucracy, that was ideologically personified in positivism. Only around the time of the Frankfurt School did social theory mature to the point of being able to handle these tensions in a more sophisticated way. But here too the going was not easy. There were the failures of Herbert Marcuse, the ill-conceived framework of the Horkheimer-Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment, and the failure of the whole tradition to adequately engage the natural sciences.

For sure, the generation of 1905 was very different from, and broke radically away from, the generation of the 1890s. The younger generation was irrationalist and bellicose. Nietzscheanism and Bergsonism ran rampant. A religious resurgence followed an earlier period of anti-clericalism. After the war, the lid was off and dissonance as well as forbidden psychological territory were opened up across the landscape for further exploration.

Hughes reviews here how nationalism had affected the various intellectuals during the war. Most of them went along with it -- more or less in tune with the general populations of which they were a part, and with the divergent conditions affecting them. While the war changed things, it was only in Germany where the postwar intellectual scene became radically different from before. In Germany, the cultural status quo collapsed. The surviving elders tried to deal with the mess by trying to keep humane values alive in post-war German politics, but the young conservatives were vicious. Plus it was much too easy in the post-war environment for nationalism and imperialism to take hold.

Summing up, Hughes found the 1890s generation as the last group of European intellectuals to know social stability. From that point onwards, reality was no longer making sense. The order of the status quo would no longer prevail: Consciousness would become the connective tissue from man, to society and from society to history. And although the influence of this new attitude continued to spread across the globe well into the 1920s, it was fraught with tensions. Although the generation of the 1890s had delved into the irrational, they still were not about to reject rationalism. Theirs was a delicate balancing act, and some of these intellectuals lost their balance and fell into mysticism, Jung for instance. Croce and Freud too had trouble managing the line between intellectualism and fantasy, going in opposite directions. But Hughes saves his last kudos for his hero Weber, who he says had been acutely aware of the danger all along.

In his effort to transcend the positivist-idealist polemic, Weber had striven for formulations that would keep together the sphere of logic and the sphere of value (his own clever reformulation of the irrational or unconscious). In so doing, he alone held to the central understanding of his generation: that both reason and illogic were essential to understand the science of man.

His argument was that while reality was dominated by unreason, it was only through rational treatment that it could be made understandable and thus serviceable. Yet, Weber's had acquired his intellectual coherence at the price of a psychic tension that was almost too much for the human mind to bear. For a brief decade or two he and his generation had striven to keep reason and emotional value in a precarious balance: so it was not surprising when the two soon parted company.

So ends this breathtaking intellectual narrative. As far as he goes, Hughes paints a vivid intellectual portrait of a period in history. But he's none too clear about what tore Europe apart. Clearing that matter up is left as an exercise for the reader. As well, it is left up to the reader to decide how best to resolve the matter of the countervailing theoretical tensions between positivism and idealism. The social forces that drove Europe to imperialist war, rampant nationalism and on to mass murder and destruction are missing, as is an analysis of the politics that might in some way may have helped us address the depth of the problem.

My greatest regret for this piece, however is that because the author did not take the trouble to read Marx carefully, and thus take the nuances of Marxism fully into account, he could neither analyze this historical period adequately nor its intellectual reflections. Nor is he convincing when he suggests that his intellectual hero, Max Weber (who was so obviously superior to his competition presented here), represents the apex of theoretical development.

There are gaping holes in Weber's account, especially in terms of historical-political-economic forces, social theory, and philosophy. Hughes' biographical, rather than analytical accounts of this cohort group, betrays both the frailties of the individuals involved and the bankrupt nature of bourgeois European society more generally. How could it have been headed toward anything but disaster? But it was precisely these analyses of the causes, coupled with a nuanced understanding of Marxism, that needed to be performed here?

Despite this, Hughes nevertheless gives us one man's map, however abstract, of a complex terrain, that when left to our own devices, we might be able to interpolate across the past half century since the book was written, and reconstruct the ideological trajectory of the late 19th and early 20th century. Four stars for the excellent history and biographies.

My Review of Consciousness and Society
by H. Stuart Hughes

The Revolt Against Positivism at the turn of the 19th Century

At the turn of the 19th Century, Hughes, among many others, saw a revolt developing against positivism: The ideology of rationality that positivism offered was no longer seen as adequate to capture existing reality. Consciousness or irrationality had to be added to the mix to get a complete picture of how the science of man and the structure of intellectual history really worked. We now needed ways of penetrating behind the fictions of political action to get down to what was motivating them.

Into this intellectual void walks Marxism in the form of dialectic materialism, but in this treatment, Marxism is not seen for what it really was: a profound critique of capitalism. Even though early on it is rather self-evident that Marxism is poorly understood by this author, it still filled the gap at least in part, by introducing in the form of a package of psychological factors the notion of "subjectivity." However owing to the fact that no one really understood Marxism until Lukacs' "History and Class Consciousness" arrived in 1923, Marxism hardly served as more than just a "placeholder," a "stand-in" as it were, for the time when a better explanation would come forward. This is unfortunate because the role of Marxist was omnipotent.

Marxism did nothing if not inspire a moral passion to explore subjectivity further. In short order, it metastasized into many hopefully spin-offs. Durkheim, first inspired, and then stymied by Marx, finally developed sociology in an entirely different direction, devoid of Marxism altogether. Pareto opposed and attacked Marx, making him the "darling theorist" of the elite. Croce used Marx just long enough to "stand up" his own theory, and then quickly abandoned him. From Marx, Sorel embraced a kind of subjectivist, irrationalist psychological attitude to political action that greatly impressed Hughes, but then he removes Marxism from the domain of science and re-casted it as social poetry. And while it is clear that Hughes falls in love with Gramsci, as his Marxist of choice, and gives Luckas only a passing glance, it is less clear, based on Gramsci's theoretical results, why he did so?

The French Psychologist Bergson picked up the ball and ran with it for a brief spell until he morphed into a Fascist and lost all credibility. And finally, like many of the rest of us, Hughes too was seduced by Freud, who he correctly saw as a first-rate analyst and a brilliant theorist. However, Hughes was not so blinded by Freud's brilliance that he failed to see his flaws, which he argued were many and often naive enough to be embarrassing to an otherwise first-rate Scientist.

Seeking closure in those who surrounded Freud, like the rest of us, Hughes too soon gravitated to and fixated on Jung, who Hughes saw as having a greater sensitivity to history than Freud -- as best reflected in what Hughes referred to as Freud's fairy tale about the development of civilization through his "Totem and Taboo." However, that did not make up for the fact that Jung was not very good at science and was a much lesser theorist than his mentor. Hughes finally belatedly uncovered Jung for what he was and coined him a "Mystagogue." In Hughes' eyes, this forever condemned him to the dust bin of history as both a charlatan and a reactionary.
Hughes then spends an undue amount of time on Sorel, but comes up more confused and empty-handed than before he started. After Sorel, it was of course then time for Hughes to come up for air.

What did this all mean? What was driving social science development at the turn of the 19th Century? What were all these theorists in search of?

I believe history would confirm that the unmistakably clear subtext of the pre-war era was always the struggle going on just beneath consciousness across Europe between Fascism and Socialism. With the scent of Monarchical Feudalism still hanging heavily in the air, all of these theorists were profoundly aware of this struggle, and its influences found their way into each of their respective theories in unobtrusive ways.

The way Hughes sees it is that the Communists "got Socialism wrong," for in the 1917 Russian experiment, the revolutionaries had begun as little more than proto-Fascists, and then tried to backtrack, or "tack" backwards to Socialism? Under Stalin, the original Fascist, it did not work. Plus, this failed experiment, begun with so much optimism and hope for the success of the Russian revolution, in retrospect, can be seen as being as much responsible for the rise of Hitler and WW-II as anything else. In short, at the turn of the century, everyone was choosing up sides and scurrying for the hills, without really acknowledging the real reasons why. Somehow, even if through intuition, they knew that the rubber had met the road, and inexorably it was leading directly to Nazi Germany and the little Austrian Corporal.

Hughes filled in the blanks by focussing-in on the increasing schizophrenia of bourgeois European society. It was this schizophrenia that gave rise to the philosophical bifurcation of positivism and irrationalism. The accumulating tensions of bourgeois society and capitalism, morphing into its highly monopolistic imperialist phase, is what had a profound impact on intellectuals, forcing them into a defensive subterranean psychological position of confrontation with the reified world of mechanized routine, industry, and bureaucracy, that was ideologically personified in positivism. Only around the time of the Frankfurt School did social theory mature to the point of being able to handle these tensions in a more sophisticated way. But here too the going was not easy. There were the failures of Herbert Marcuse, the ill-conceived framework of the Horkheimer-Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment, and the failure of the whole tradition to adequately engage the natural sciences.

For sure, the generation of 1905 was very different from, and broke radically away from, the generation of the 1890s. The younger generation was irrationalist and bellicose. Nietzscheanism and Bergsonism ran rampant. A religious resurgence followed an earlier period of anti-clericalism. After the war, the lid was off and dissonance as well as forbidden psychological territory were opened up across the landscape for further exploration.

Hughes reviews here how nationalism had affected the various intellectuals during the war. Most of them went along with it -- more or less in tune with the general populations of which they were a part, and with the divergent conditions affecting them. While the war changed things, it was only in Germany where the postwar intellectual scene became radically different from before. In Germany, the cultural status quo collapsed. The surviving elders tried to deal with the mess by trying to keep humane values alive in post-war German politics, but the young conservatives were vicious. Plus it was much too easy in the post-war environment for nationalism and imperialism to take hold.

Summing up, Hughes found the 1890s generation as the last group of European intellectuals to know social stability. From that point onwards, reality was no longer making sense. The order of the status quo would no longer prevail: Consciousness would become the connective tissue from man, to society and from society to history. And although the influence of this new attitude continued to spread across the globe well into the 1920s, it was fraught with tensions. Although the generation of the 1890s had delved into the irrational, they still were not about to reject rationalism. Theirs was a delicate balancing act, and some of these intellectuals lost their balance and fell into mysticism, Jung for instance. Croce and Freud too had trouble managing the line between intellectualism and fantasy, going in opposite directions. But Hughes saves his last kudos for his hero Weber, who he says had been acutely aware of the danger all along.

In his effort to transcend the positivist-idealist polemic, Weber had striven for formulations that would keep together the sphere of logic and the sphere of value (his own clever reformulation of the irrational or unconscious). In so doing, he alone held to the central understanding of his generation: that both reason and illogic were essential to understand the science of man.

His argument was that while reality was dominated by unreason, it was only through rational treatment that it could be made understandable and thus serviceable. Yet, Weber's had acquired his intellectual coherence at the price of a psychic tension that was almost too much for the human mind to bear. For a brief decade or two he and his generation had striven to keep reason and emotional value in a precarious balance: so it was not surprising when the two soon parted company.

So ends this breathtaking intellectual narrative. As far as he goes, Hughes paints a vivid intellectual portrait of a period in history. But he's none too clear about what tore Europe apart. Clearing that matter up is left as an exercise for the reader. As well, it is left up to the reader to decide how best to resolve the matter of the countervailing theoretical tensions between positivism and idealism. The social forces that drove Europe to imperialist war, rampant nationalism and on to mass murder and destruction are missing, as is an analysis of the politics that might in some way may have helped us address the depth of the problem.

My greatest regret for this piece, however is that because the author did not take the trouble to read Marx carefully, and thus take the nuances of Marxism fully into account, he could neither analyze this historical period adequately nor its intellectual reflections. Nor is he convincing when he suggests that his intellectual hero, Max Weber (who was so obviously superior to his competition presented here), represents the apex of theoretical development.

There are gaping holes in Weber's account, especially in terms of historical-political-economic forces, social theory, and philosophy. Hughes' biographical, rather than analytical accounts of this cohort group, betrays both the frailties of the individuals involved and the bankrupt nature of bourgeois European society more generally. How could it have been headed toward anything but disaster? But it was precisely these analyses of the causes, coupled with a nuanced understanding of Marxism, that needed to be performed here?

Despite this, Hughes nevertheless gives us one man's map, however abstract, of a complex terrain, that when left to our own devices, we might be able to interpolate across the past half century since the book was written, and reconstruct the ideological trajectory of the late 19th and early 20th century. Four stars for the excellent history and biographies.

At the turn of the 19th Century, Hughes, among many others, saw a revolt developing against positivism: The ideology of rationality that positivism offered was no longer seen as adequate to capture existing reality. Consciousness or irrationality had to be added to the mix to get a complete picture of how the science of man and the structure of intellectual history really worked. We now needed ways of penetrating behind the fictions of political action to get down to what was motivating them.

Into this intellectual void walks Marxism in the form of dialectic materialism, but in this treatment, Marxism is not seen for what it really was: a profound critique of capitalism. Even though early on it is rather self-evident that Marxism is poorly understood by this author, it still filled the gap at least in part, by introducing in the form of a package of psychological factors the notion of "subjectivity." However owing to the fact that no one really understood Marxism until Lukacs' "History and Class Consciousness" arrived in 1923, Marxism hardly served as more than just a "placeholder," a "stand-in" as it were, for the time when a better explanation would come forward. This is unfortunate because the role of Marxist was omnipotent.

Marxism did nothing if not inspire a moral passion to explore subjectivity further. In short order, it metastasized into many hopefully spin-offs. Durkheim, first inspired, and then stymied by Marx, finally developed sociology in an entirely different direction, devoid of Marxism altogether. Pareto opposed and attacked Marx, making him the "darling theorist" of the elite. Croce used Marx just long enough to "stand up" his own theory, and then quickly abandoned him. From Marx, Sorel embraced a kind of subjectivist, irrationalist psychological attitude to political action that greatly impressed Hughes, but then he removes Marxism from the domain of science and re-casted it as social poetry. And while it is clear that Hughes falls in love with Gramsci, as his Marxist of choice, and gives Luckas only a passing glance, it is less clear, based on Gramsci's theoretical results, why he did so?

The French Psychologist Bergson picked up the ball and ran with it for a brief spell until he morphed into a Fascist and lost all credibility. And finally, like many of the rest of us, Hughes too was seduced by Freud, who he correctly saw as a first-rate analyst and a brilliant theorist. However, Hughes was not so blinded by Freud's brilliance that he failed to see his flaws, which he argued were many and often naive enough to be embarrassing to an otherwise first-rate Scientist.

Seeking closure in those who surrounded Freud, like the rest of us, Hughes too soon gravitated to and fixated on Jung, who Hughes saw as having a greater sensitivity to history than Freud -- as best reflected in what Hughes referred to as Freud's fairy tale about the development of civilization through his "Totem and Taboo." However, that did not make up for the fact that Jung was not very good at science and was a much lesser theorist than his mentor. Hughes finally belatedly uncovered Jung for what he was and coined him a "Mystagogue." In Hughes' eyes, this forever condemned him to the dust bin of history as both a charlatan and a reactionary. Hughes then spends an undue amount of time on Sorel, but comes up more confused and empty-handed than before he started. After Sorel, it was of course then time for Hughes to come up for air.

What did this all mean? What was driving social science development at the turn of the 19th Century? What were all these theorists in search of?

I believe history would confirm that the unmistakably clear subtext of the pre-war era was always the struggle going on just beneath consciousness across Europe between Fascism and Socialism. With the scent of Monarchical Feudalism still hanging heavily in the air, all of these theorists were profoundly aware of this struggle, and its influences found their way into each of their respective theories in unobtrusive ways.

The way Hughes sees it is that the Communists "got Socialism wrong," for in the 1917 Russian experiment, the revolutionaries had begun as little more than proto-Fascists, and then tried to backtrack, or "tack" backwards to Socialism? Under Stalin, the original Fascist, it did not work. Plus, this failed experiment, begun with so much optimism and hope for the success of the Russian revolution, in retrospect, can be seen as being as much responsible for the rise of Hitler and WW-II as anything else. In short, at the turn of the century, everyone was choosing up sides and scurrying for the hills, without really acknowledging the real reasons why. Somehow, even if through intuition, they knew that the rubber had met the road, and inexorably it was leading directly to Nazi Germany and the little Austrian Corporal.

Hughes filled in the blanks by focussing-in on the increasing schizophrenia of bourgeois European society. It was this schizophrenia that gave rise to the philosophical bifurcation of positivism and irrationalism. The accumulating tensions of bourgeois society and capitalism, morphing into its highly monopolistic imperialist phase, is what had a profound impact on intellectuals, forcing them into a defensive subterranean psychological position of confrontation with the reified world of mechanized routine, industry, and bureaucracy, that was ideologically personified in positivism. Only around the time of the Frankfurt School did social theory mature to the point of being able to handle these tensions in a more sophisticated way. But here too the going was not easy. There were the failures of Herbert Marcuse, the ill-conceived framework of the Horkheimer-Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment, and the failure of the whole tradition to adequately engage the natural sciences.

For sure, the generation of 1905 was very different from, and broke radically away from, the generation of the 1890s. The younger generation was irrationalist and bellicose. Nietzscheanism and Bergsonism ran rampant. A religious resurgence followed an earlier period of anti-clericalism. After the war, the lid was off and dissonance as well as forbidden psychological territory were opened up across the landscape for further exploration.

Hughes reviews here how nationalism had affected the various intellectuals during the war. Most of them went along with it -- more or less in tune with the general populations of which they were a part, and with the divergent conditions affecting them. While the war changed things, it was only in Germany where the postwar intellectual scene became radically different from before. In Germany, the cultural status quo collapsed. The surviving elders tried to deal with the mess by trying to keep humane values alive in post-war German politics, but the young conservatives were vicious. Plus it was much too easy in the post-war environment for nationalism and imperialism to take hold.

Summing up, Hughes found the 1890s generation as the last group of European intellectuals to know social stability. From that point onwards, reality was no longer making sense. The order of the status quo would no longer prevail: Consciousness would become the connective tissue from man, to society and from society to history. And although the influence of this new attitude continued to spread across the globe well into the 1920s, it was fraught with tensions. Although the generation of the 1890s had delved into the irrational, they still were not about to reject rationalism. Theirs was a delicate balancing act, and some of these intellectuals lost their balance and fell into mysticism, Jung for instance. Croce and Freud too had trouble managing the line between intellectualism and fantasy, going in opposite directions. But Hughes saves his last kudos for his hero Weber, who he says had been acutely aware of the danger all along. Four stars


How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust
How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust
by Dan McMillan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.96
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes a valiant attempt to explain how and why the holocaust happened, August 13, 2014
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This book begins by trying to disavow us of the notion that because the racist extermination of 6 million Jews occurred, we must not conclude that man is basically evil. Dan McMillan will not allow us to "throw our hands up in the air" at the complexities that led to one of the world's greatest moral disasters. Instead, he gives us a cogent, cleanly-written narrative that, even if it does not always convince us that he is right, does nevertheless give us the outlines of a testable theory that could explain both why and how the holocaust occurred.

The shorter version of the author's theory is that it took an impossible combinations of dangerous ideas, ruined people, and unimaginable bad luck to make this catastrophe happen. In the longer version, he tries his best to pulls all of these improbable pieces together into a powerful analytic narrative that at least solves the puzzle of the historical circumstances that gave rise to the Third Reich and the holocaust that followed in its wake.

In this longer version, rather surprisingly, German history plays the dominant role, as the author shows us how the holocaust occurred above all else because Germany did not become a democracy before its own 1918 socialist inspired revolution. This revolution not only gave Germany's rightwing ruling elite the upper hand, but also the motive and the opportunity to fight a sustained battle against instituting democratic reforms and against their greatest fear of all: a Communist revolution similar to what had just occurred a year earlier in Russia.

In this battle, fought as much against democratic reforms as against the fear of a Communist revolution, the rightwing ruling clique used racism and anti-Semitism as well as extreme nationalism as their primary weapons of choice. Jews were made the scapegoats for all of Germany's problems -- from the lost of WW-I, to fomenting the socialist led revolution of 1918, to keeping class antagonism alive; and most of all, to being over-represented in the professions and the culture of German society.

This palpable and deeply rooted race-based hatred for Jews, even more so than its turbulent history and its fear of Communism, set the table for the arrival of the little Austrian Corporal, Adolph Hitler, the most extreme racist and anti-Semite of them all.

Against all odds, this most unattractive and most ill-prepared of political characters gained the backing of rightwing cliques in the upper class and wrested power from an anarchic series of weak autocratic regimes pulled together by Otto von Bismarck. By 1934, Hitler had tricked his way into power as the sole holder of German power and legitimacy.

Two important milestones in Hitler's intellectual preparation for leadership were the honing of his oratorical skills in the coffee houses of Munich and Berlin; and the adoption of his own manifesto, "Mein Kampt," written while he was in jail. Importantly, we discover here for the first time that "Mein Kampt," was parroted in toto from themes written by a member of the ultra rightwing Pan-German society, named Heinrich Class. Class called his book "If I were Emperor."

In his manifesto of everything Germans held dear at the time, Class rhapsodized about German racial superiority; its need to unify around a charismatic leader and around a kind of tribal loyalty that would be more precious than loyalty to family. The Manifesto also called for a robust and muscular German nationalism and militarism that would wipe away the shame of the Versailles Treaty and would at the same time befit Germany's new superior status on the world stage, allowing it to acquire colonies and expand its territories to provide the much needed additional living space. But above all else, Class' manifesto vilified Jews as being genetic and morally inferior traitors who were destructive to German unity, and thus at the very least, were unworthy of German citizenship, and at most should be banished from German lands. Hitler's version of Class' Manifesto went him one better by suggesting that Jews "be done away with completely."

At the same time, reaching its high water mark in the decades leading up to WW-II, an intellectual movement was introduced to Hitler by America called "Scientific Racism." Grossly misreading Darwin's theory of Evolution, its culmination was the American Eugenics program, which, like Heinrich Class' Manifesto, was used by Hitler as a template for inventing a new sociobiological policy to go hand-in-hand with his ideology of nationalism and racism. It called for culling the world of inferior beings and designating them as "unworthy of life." In Hitler's mind the target for this new social policy was always to be used to rationalize a way of "doing away with" all Jews.

Shadows of Hitler's fear of Communism as well as his program for "weeding out the unfit" because they represented a costly "dead weight" on society, can still be seen today as a not too well-hidden twice-removed subtext of all of America's Republican Party's domestic social programs.

The Hitler adaptation of these ideas claimed that Jews were genetically inferior -- hard-wired, as it were, at birth to be destructive -- and thus morally and biologically "unfit" to be Germans as well as ultimately undeserving of life. Rather paradoxically, he made this claim at the same time that most Germans hated Jews not because they were inferior, but because they were perceived genetically superior -- as in being too successful and over-represented in German media, and in German professional and cultural life. Hitler's contradiction of course will forever beg the question of how Jews could be both unfit and inferior at the same time that they were perceived to be the most successful professional ethnic group in Germany?

Then, despite his utter lack of competence, came Hitler's stunning, almost magical string of successes that would serve to bound even the most skeptical Germans to him and his racist ideology. By bringing Germany out of the depression in only four years; reversing the humiliating Versailles Treaty; unifying all Germans around a charismatic leader and around the idea of "the volk;" building up one of the world's most formidable military machines, and using it to overrun Europe in less than a year, Hitler earned the undying fealty of all but a dwindling fraction of the German population. Germans could now forget that they lost two million in WW-I.

By the beginning of 1941, the only elements in the Hitler/Class agenda for attaining German biological superiority that had not yet been fulfilled was taking over Russia, to get more living space, and ridding German society of the "much-reviled Jew."

With all of Germany solidarity centered on completing this last perhaps most important of the Hitler/Class agenda items, Hitler allowed his plans for a "final Solution of the Jewish problem" to "leak" to the proper members of his staff. And they, as always, "working toward the leader," behind a wall of secrecy, "read Hitler's mind," and intuited what had to be done, and with minimal orders and instructions, they set about the business of getting the machinery for industrialized murder up and running, ready to roll towards genocide. Had the Russians not stopped Hitler in his tracks, the world today would be a very different place in which to live. QED.

Summary and Analysis

From this point onwards, the author structures his narrative in such a way that even though he later denies it, he nevertheless seemed to try subtly to pin the responsibility for the holocaust on the German people collectively -- rather than on the criminal Hitler government and his henchmen -- where the responsibility justifiably should have been laid. As one strain of the author's argument goes,"ordinary Germans had to know what was going on" and thus should have rebelled against Hitler's criminal regime and its murderous machinery of death. However, this argument is undercut by the reality of the fact that most German's were in lockstep with Hitler's virulent anti-Semitism. Yet, the fact that they were passive-aggressively complicit, does not mean that their share of the responsibility was equal to that of the Nazi regime. Far from it in fact.

In his unstated but implied thesis, the author strongly insinuates that the German people allowed their anti-Semitic emotions to get the better of them; and that this clouded their moral judgment so much so that it was easy for Hitler's soothing nationalistic oratory to seduce them. And then Hitler used this seduction to further lower their moral inhibitions and further confuse their moral compasses. But their moral compasses had already veered so far off course that they were reduced to willingly engaging in mass murder along side Hitler's henchmen, all with the Fuhrer's permission and moral protection. And while there is much to be said for this thesis, I believe it obscures subtleties that when raised to higher visibility in the analysis, could alone constitute an even more robust alternative explanation.

The alternative explanation I speak of is that of connecting the dots between several not so obvious variables and then assessing their combined role in producing the holocaust. To wit: Hitler being a tool of Germany's rightwing ruling cliques of businessmen, professional, and the military officers corps -- all rightwing ideologues; his virulent racism and anti-Semitism that grew more and more rabid over time; and the fact that all of the murders were "state sanctioned," and were carried out behind a wall of state protected secrecy; one erected by a criminal/Fascist "national security state" specifically to engage in the business of genocide.

The ideological manifesto that Hitler executed to perfection was a "carbon copy" of the Pan- German Heinrich Class' own racist manifesto. And thus, even though Hitler's regime was a legitimate government, the very fact that it had a formally acknowledged policy of genocide against Jews, rendered it little more than a criminal enterprise with outer trappings of a government. The mere existence of plans for genocide rendered the Third Reich, both legitimate and criminal.

The author seemed more than just a bit reluctant to accept the fact that governments can be both criminal and legitimate. In fact, he seemed to have willfully ignored this distinction altogether. But the distinction is important not only to better expose the Nazis criminal element and criminal intent, but for another reason: All orders to kill Jews were always "issued verbally" so as not to leave a paper trail, and always "behind a wall of secrecy," (usually at the "Top Secret" level) so the outside world would never know that mass murder was taking place.

Moreover, like in any criminal organization, (and as Franz Stangl found out upon discovering that he could not simply resign from his job as sentry at a Euthanasia murder factory), the penalty for being suspected of exposing one's "guilty knowledge," was the same as in the Mafia for refusing to carry out an order of murder: the perpetrator is allowed to exit the wall of secrecy only in a pine box. The fact that there were instances where Germans were excused from this ultimate threat, does not mean that the Germans in question were any less intimidated by it. Nor, does excusing them from time to time, make the Nazi regime any less a criminal enterprise.

It seemed to me that the author went to great pains to minimize both the criminality of the Hitler regime, and the rightwing ruling clique that handpicked and put him in office. As well, he minimized the severity of the implicit threat the criminal Nazi system held over the heads of anyone who refused an order or chose to reveal "state secrets" about the murders.

Again, Gitta Sereny's Franz Stangl (in her book "Into the Darkness") seems to be the perfect case in point: While an Austrian police, Stangl hated and was rewarded for hunting down Nazis. Then, after Austria was annexed to Germany, Stangl, cleverly erased his past as a Nazi-Hunter, and became a Nazi. And as mentioned above, he ended up a Security Guard at a Euthanasia facility. Once he learned what went on inside that facility, he balked at being associated with it in any way. But by then it was already too late. When he sought to resign or get reassigned, he was presented with an unexpected life-threatening fait accompli. He was told in the cold-bloodiest of terms that he was already beyond the point of no return, deep inside the Nazi inner sanctum, and could leave only via a pine box. So what did Stangl do? He kept his head down like all "good Nazis" did, and became the best Nazi he could be, eventually ending up as the commandant of two of Germany's most notorious death camps, Treblinka and Sorbibor.

Not to belabor the point, but I believe that a criminal racist rightwing regime that is allowed to erect a screen of secrecy, behind which it can then carry out mass murder without impunity, is by definition a criminal regime -- even if it might also be taking place within the boundaries of a legitimate state.

I believe this arrangement of factors is arguably a much more potent set of causative factors than those insinuated by the author. For, these are factors that are more the rule than the exception in modern genocide. And while it cannot be denied that having a nation of "willing executioners" makes genocide infinitely easier, the trigger to the genocidal gun, is a criminal government operating with impunity behind a shield of state secrecy anxious to pull it. Five Stars


Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
by Edward Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.79
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "small dog" and the "BIG DOG" fight it out, and the BIG DOG Wins, August 7, 2014
Ed Klein, the congenital rightwing ideologue and New York Times best selling author of the incredibly insightful book, "The Amateur," is at it again. In the process of "signifying" and "stirring up the pot of animosity" between the Democrat's two leading families, Klein again lowers his ideological blinkers just low enough and long enough to hit his targets in the bullseye.

As was the case with his earlier book, what results is a very readable and believable analysis of the Clinton-Obama feud, and a priceless picture of the four personalities involved. And despite his ideological pedigree, it must be said that Klein deserves to be put in the exclusive small group of conservative thinkers, like David Brooks, who, to their credit, have still retained the ability to think outside their "assigned ideological boxes," and then still believe that it is important to get the facts right and report them accurately -- especially if they are based mainly on confidential sources as most of this book is.

In a wide-ranging "blow-by-blow" account of the feud, one that, more often than not, dips so low that it is sometimes indistinguishable from ordinary Washington DC gossip, Klein leaves all parties to the conflict diminished and thus much less than the sum of their Democratic Party parts. Despite all of these caveats, the reader will still find the book a quick and interesting read with some sparkling insights among which are the following ones that i have culled from across the manuscript:

--While Mr. Obama, still has an "outsized" ego, he is also very fragile, extremely petty, pouty, self-absorbed, disloyal in the extreme, and a diffident leader.

--His "go to guy" is a girl, his and Michelle's Svengali and consiglieri, the notorious (don't call me VJ) Valery Jarrett. To an alarming degree, the leader of the Western world relies not on the advice of a seasoned politician like Joe Biden, but on the opinions of his wife, and her best friend, Jarrett -- either of whom on their best days are "in way over their heads, out in deep political waters without a life jacket."

--Obama hates Bill too, but not nearly as much as Jarrett does. And since she is supposed to "have his back" she serves as the little gnome that sits on the President's shoulders and tells him: Psst, Barack? If Bill Clinton is involved, shoot first, then run, and ask questions later.

--Incredibly, Mr. Obama followed her advice so often that it got him backed so far up against the wall that he had to punt on fourth and long repeatedly in order to get reelected. Guess who then kept pulling his nuts out of the fire? You got it, old "Slick Willie" himself -- but not before Barack had to come crawling across the golf course to beg for his help.

--In what can only be described as world-class disloyalty, after Mr. Obama was reelected with Clinton's critical help, and he was back safely hiding under the Oval Office desk, he immediately tried to then gratuitously continue his snubbing of his savior Bill Clinton -- and by extension Hillary too -- as he immediately reneged on promises he and Bill had made when he was on his knees praying for someone to deliver him from Jarrett and himself.

--Bill, on the other hand, even though he is still recognized as the "Big Dog" in the Democratic Party, just wanted to "feel" Obama's love, but BHO withheld it. Despite this Bill, deservedly came off as the bigger person, having saved the Party (if even only for Hillary's sake) by helping get BHO elected in 2012. However, being snubbed after his magnanimity, did not go down well even with an old big-hearted lap dog like Bill.

--Privately in his own mind, he signed a political death note on the Obamas in the Democratic Party. And I think in the end Bill was right and will end the feud as an enormous winner. But whether he will live to see BHO turn into a pumpkin is another matter. His health is so bad his life hangs in the balance.

--And even though Bill never quite gets the love he deserves and seeks, like Muhammad Ali (when he was sidelined by the USG for dodging the draft), all one need do is read the nominating speech that Bill Clinton gave at the 2012 Democratic Convention on behalf of the ungrateful ingrate, BHO, to know who is still the "Alpha Dog" of the Democratic Party and of all American politics. When Bill Clinton steps on the stage again, no matter his health, like Ali, he too will be given the love BHO tried to deny him.

--Hillary worked her butt off for Obama and the Party and she and Bill officially got invited to the White House only one time, the same number of times I got invited there when I worked in a lowly position at the State Department for the Clinton administration. Can anyone believe that?

--Yet, she does not bear any animosity towards the Obamas. (Bill is another matter: He simply detests BHO). And even though, Klein does not say so, she too must be worried about the state of destruction Obama will leave the party in. He has neglected it as much as he has neglected Oprah and Detroit.

--So in Hillary's defense, I too can attest to the fact that working at a high level post in the State Department is just short of life-threatening. All the travel in airplanes where the air is recirculated with everyone's diseases in it. In fact when I was there I had to even schedule my bathroom breaks. There is a myth out there that government employees are "slough-offs," and if it is true, it sure as hell does not apply to the State Department.

--The point here is that Hillary's health has suffered mightily as a result of her tenure at the State Department on BHO's behalf, and yet he has already reneged on the promise he made to Bill when his nuts were in the sand in the run up to the 2012 election, that he would throw his support to Hillary.

--What seems most likely to happen is that Mr. Obama will not recover his mojo during the rest of his lameduckhood, and will then just slowly fade away from the scene -- probably to some elevated teaching post or Chancellorship at a major University, and thus will ceased to be a factor in the party after he leaves.

--There was also some talk about Michelle running for the Senate seat in Illinois. But since Jarrett has already volunteered to lead her campaign, I say lots of luck on that project, Michelle?

A really fast and interesting read, four stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2014 7:41 AM PDT


Conspiracy - The Secret History: In Search of the American Drug Lords - Barry and the Boys, From Dallas To Mena
Conspiracy - The Secret History: In Search of the American Drug Lords - Barry and the Boys, From Dallas To Mena
DVD ~ Narrator Daniel Hopsicker
Price: $17.96
8 used & new from $12.30

3.0 out of 5 stars Unremarkably compared to the book: Buy the book first, July 30, 2014
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This documentary brings to light the close connections between Barry Seal, Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferry, the Meyer Lansky branch of the News Orleans mob, and assorted CIA operatives, and their roles in the JFK assassination. The film argues that Seal since an early age has been on CIA's payroll, and was the pilot who flew the assassins out of Dallas from Redbird field on 11/22/63.

Except for a very detailed account of Seal's life, which includes his drug/gun running activities in Mena, Arkansas, it is quite unremarkable. Certainly not as good as the book Barry and the Boys (see my Amazon review of it).

After reading the book, I was expecting a lot more.

Also, the trailer advertised a more in-depth analysis of Mena, but I could not find that no such a DVD even exists. Three Stars


Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Scarlett Johansson
Price: $22.99

5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The first two-thirds of this movie was smart, well done and provocative, July 30, 2014
The first two-thirds of this movie was smart, well done and provocative, but then the logic of the plot began to unravel and got its tail caught in its own incredulity.

Why is that when screenwriters get to this point, they invariably turn to pyrotechnics: car chases, screeching car wrecks, and gun-blazing bloody homicides -- even though those things usually have nothing at all to do with the logic of the plot or the continuity of the main story line?

Maybe they think that if they "tack" those thing on, the average moviegoer will be too stupid to see the disconnect? Or maybe they do it because that is what sells tickets. Either way, it surely reduces the value of U.S. cinematographic art. Two-thirds of Two Stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2014 3:27 PM PDT


Lee Daniels' The Butler
Lee Daniels' The Butler
DVD ~ Forest Whitaker
Price: $13.00
17 used & new from $6.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Anachronistically Demeaning and Inaccurate, July 30, 2014
This review is from: Lee Daniels' The Butler (DVD)
As one who lived through and participated in the Civil Rights events of the era depicted in this movie, I find the whole vehicle not just unnecessary, but also unnecessarily painful, undignified anachronistic and demeaning to those like myself who actually lived through those events.

I found nothing honest, accurate or redeeming about the juvenile morality play or the mindless and empty depiction of blacks as cardboard cutouts in this movie. The characters were syrupy one-dimensional stereotypes of Lee Daniel's original story: literally cardboard cutouts of a past era with a "pasted-on" or "painted-in" plastic and false black humanity.

As always, it shows blacks as little more than spineless troglodytes, with a "second hand, hand-me-down humanity, shuffling around the White House and around white America, mostly at night -- either humming religious hymns through fake piety, or raising hell and "cutting up?" Like the slave images only these movie makers limited imaginations can come up with, there are no normal blacks or normal black families: just dysfunctional one that adhere closely to the stereotypical American story line. God forbid that the moviemakers could one day do enough research to get the basic facts of black life correct for just once instead of leaning on old stereotypes?

However, since "Auntie Oprah" was involved, (and not a bad piece of acting on her part) how could we have expected anything more? She has made a "cottage industry" out of "milking" the last ounce of the "bent over whining, and shuffling humanity" of the "Old Black Joe" and "mammy" tropes.

Perhaps it is not altogether unfair or an exaggeration to suggest that she has gained a great deal of her enormous wealth by pandering to and trying to keep alive the Aunt Jemima-Uncle Tom caricatures of black life. It is as if she has an undying wish to bring back to life and again to the forefront of the ever racist American mind: that the "Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom Nation" of old is still alive and well -- even when most racists whites, like blacks, are tired of it too. Her narrative inventions always come over as if the life she is depicting is already "dead" and "lifeless" because that's just what they are: dead and lifeless.

The only question I had was how such fine actors as Cuba Gooding Jr. and Forest Whitaker could lend their names to such a cinematographic farce? The only sensible answer must be that work in Hollywood for black actors (except for Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx and Samuel L Jackson that is) must still be so scarce that it is reserved only for drug addicts, prostitutes, slaves or Aunt Jemima's and Uncle Tom roles -- that is to say, only for roles that depict blacks as one-dimensional subhumans. One star
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2014 1:53 PM PDT


Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
by Zainab Salbi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.12
176 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Archeology of fear: How a child learns the ways of tyranny, July 25, 2014
This book brings a stark and frightening realness to the meaning of tyrannical fear, as it is told through the rich and intelligent mind of an 11-year old, as she matured into full womanhood. Zainab, Salbi, the eldest child of Saddam's private pilot, rummages back through her childhood, sharing with us vivid mental pictures of what the psychology of fear under a brutal dictator is really like.

Social, psychological, political and economic existence as a member of Saddam's inner circle was always a zero-sum game among those vying for Saddam's attention. It was a brutal and vicious game that Saddam played using the members of his inner circle as his chess pieces. Winning the game placed you at the pinnacle of attention only for a moment. Everything that Saddam gave with one hand he retook with the other. All his gifts came with a heavy price tag. Those who began by enjoying his favor, were showered with glittering gifts, meaningless state honors, and otherwise lauded with Saddam's attention... And then the game took a more sinister twist as it began all over again: but this time with the previous winner, in the barrel.

Pitting sycophants who had no choice in the matter against each other in a desperate game of psychological Russian Roulette -- their vain search for validation and for some non-existent love and glory from Saddam Hussein -- was a demeaning and undignified fool's game that those in his inner circle had no choice but to play. For "opting out," garnered exactly the same penalty as "choosing to play:" eventually coming under suspicion as of questionable trust as in subversive. This led directly to being investigated by the Mukhabarat, who would then open a secret dossier on you; and then on to the inevitable torture and interrogations designed to wring Saddam's version of the truth out of you. Saddam's truth was always exactly what he wanted it to be, which usually meant the accused was guilty. And then finally the old familiar coup de grace: an ignominious disappearance; and if one were lucky, death by a shot behind the ear.

Zainab was lucky than most of us to have had two incredibly loving parents: One gave her the wings to fly, and the other pushed her out of her cage. But being the courageous woman she eventually grew to be, as founder of "Women for International Women," she elected not to take either of her parents' recommended flight paths. She flew solo and found her own way around and across the world.

A wonderfully uplifting and well-told story: [They shoot Iraqis behind the ear don't they? No, didn't you know, they all die in car accidents on the motor way? Yes, of course, what is wrong with me? I knew that.] Five stars


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