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Sandstorm

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The Book of the Week is “Sandstorm, Libya in the Time of Revolution” by Lindsey Hilsum, published in 2012.

Just prior to WWI, Libya was colonized by Italy in three sections, when the Ottoman Empire was in its death throes. Pursuant to where they live in Libya, various rivalrous tribes exhibit traits of the Middle East and Europe, or Africa. The country is located on the continent of Africa, but has major trade routes that go to the Middle East. Its population is about six million, and oil and gas supports its economy. Many of its people go overseas to attend university.

Beginning in 1959, big-name Italian, British and American companies negotiated agreements that allowed them access to newly discovered fossil fuels, and military training and weapons-testing grounds in the desert in Libya. In September 1969, Muammar Gaddafi became the new leader. He continued to impose one political-party rule (in place since 1952) and instituted one religion (Muslim). He punished political dissidents more harshly than Libya’s previous autocrat, King Idriss. But he made Libyans proud to be Arab. He took a swipe at the British by banning the English language in his country.

By the early 1970’s, Gaddafi’s actions were prompting brain drain and capital flight. His nation did need water, but he could have acquired it much less expensively and with a lot less trouble than he did. “It was one of man’s extravagant dreams, come true because no one dared counter him and too many were profiting from his grandiose visions.” In 1982, Gaddafi formed a political group that was allegedly going to fight against Imperialism, Zionism, Racism, Reactionism and Fascism.

As is par for the course for men such as Gaddafi, his enemies (such as the CIA and the king of Morocco) plotted assassination attempts against him. Smuggling guns and grenades into Tripoli and Benghazi were for nought, as the 1984 plotters were discovered and were killed. Through the last few decades of the twentieth century, the United States vacillated between allying with Qaddafi, and railing against him.

The Reagan administration railed against him. Qaddafi was strongly suspected to be the mastermind of the December 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103. That turned out to be a major historical incident that had worldwide repercussions. However, the tide turned through the 1990’s. George W. Bush wooed Qaddafi.

By the single-digit 2000’s in Libya, nepotism and tribalism had become crucial to survival. Families are comprised of multi-generational networks with tens of people on every level of the family tree. Disaffected, jobless young males became jihadists in Iraq, killing Americans in suicide bombings, as the terrorists had been brainwashed into expressing extreme hatred for the West.

Nevertheless, after 9/11, various nations such as Russia, Turkey and China were drooling over the money to be made in Libya in banking, accounting, construction, hotels, shipping, and of course, oil. But the U.S. held back (Bush was very conflicted) due to its complicated relationship with Israel.

As is well known, in February 2011, ordinary Libyans jumped on the “Arab Spring” bandwagon after Tunisia and Egypt. They used the worldwide forum of social media to publicly express their displeasure with their leader. Also, protesters personally gathered in Benghazi and Tobruk, and then farther east.

Gaddafi, distrustful of his own military, hired mercenaries from Algeria, Niger, Mali, Morocco and Burkina Faso to violently disperse crowds of youths standing around shouting slogans, as Internet access became unreliable. Gaddafi’s own military, angry at his disloyalty, turned against him. In Tripoli, attorneys formed a group to publicize human rights abuses, represent political prisoners, and start an underground resistance movement. Through the four decades Gaddafi stayed in power, he knew how to exploit discontent: bribing Muslims to build mosques and go on pilgrimages to Mecca.

Read the book to learn many more details about Gaddafi’s reign, including those relating to: shenanigans of his son Seif, and Bahrain, Qatar and Iran (hint: Everyone knew the UN arms embargo that applied to fighters on both sides was a joke.); his Green Book, Stalin-style purges, oil-industry machinations, propaganda campaigns and governmental policies; his contradictory stance on his nation’s female citizens; his providing of military training and arming of certain groups; and the reaction of certain countries of the world at his downfall.

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The Silent War

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The Book of the Week is “The Silent War, Inside the Global Business Battles Shaping America’s Future” by Ira Magaziner and Mark Patinkin, published in 1989. When Magaziner worked for Boston Consulting Group, he would conduct extensive research on industries, markets, businesses and people in order to generate reports that would presumably help his clients (consisting of big-name companies). He argued that America was economically falling behind the rest of the world because it was resisting global trade and because its federal government wasn’t financially assisting business and industry.

One time, in the mid-1970’s, Magaziner’s report’s conclusions contradicted those of his client, a big steel mill company. He asked where the executives got their information. Each one’s source material, “… was all the same– all based on one original study done a few years earlier by some professors.” The executives’ groupthink and herd mentality in relying on old, faulty data led to financial trouble for their industry.

In another case, in the late 1970’s, when General Electric partnered with Samsung to make microwave ovens, they struggled to arrive at the most profitable arrangement for both of them. One major cultural difference was that the South Koreans (unlike the Americans) worked sixty to eighty hour weeks because they believed in making sacrifices for future generations. Incidentally, they sent their children to universities in the United States to be educated, and taught them the value of hard work.

Obviously, Americans too, wanted better for their children, but their labor unions and a different mentality prevailed in their workforce. South Korea eventually became an economic powerhouse, not just with the help of American financial aid, but also through maximizing its exporting of goods.

In the 1960’s and thereafter, Singapore’s leader, Lee Kuan Yew, tried a few different territory-wide economic initiatives that failed. One included legislating a 10% wage increase for all workers. Foreign companies, with all the then-availability of sweatshop labor, simply moved their factories to Thailand and Malaysia, where workers were paid less so that goods could be produced more cheaply.

One successful economic program Yew executed was to train his citizens’ factory workers in connection with an Apple-Computer partnership in the 1980’s. The workers made the sacrifices to attend night-school (tuition-free) after a long day’s work two to three times a week, for two to three years. The benefit for the partnership was that the workers’ experience allowed them to submit innovative ideas to improve manufacturing efficiency. Again, in the United States at that time, labor unions discouraged new ideas lest workers automate themselves out of jobs. Which happened to them, anyway. But the non-unionized Singaporean workplace was such that workers weren’t laid off– they were retrained for higher-level positions.

Yet another reason the United States began to economically trail the rest of the world in the latter half of the twentieth century, was that its securities markets accelerated impatience in America’s corporate psyche. American industry became unwilling to finance and do the hard work of, continuing research and development and take a loss in bad times to keep pace technologically with Asian competitors. It wanted to prop up stock prices instead and make its executives rich quick. Still does.

One company that bucked the trend was Corning. In late 1983, (finally, after sixteen years of losses!) it had the cutting-edge technology in fiber-optics for telecommunications, ready to deliver finished products to its first big customer, MCI, to turn a profit. Corning did it on its own– receiving scant financial help from the United States government.

Times have changed little since the 1980’s, when photovoltaic scientist Paul Maycock remarked, “I hated the whole concept of buying oil from the Persian Gulf and spending $50 billion a year defending that part of the world.” He wasted a lot of time and effort on environmentally-friendly business initiatives. Sadly, those were incompatible with the United States’ strategic interests. The start of the Reagan Era saw the Department of Energy nix further funding for solar-technology research. The solar panels (installed during the Carter administration) on the White House roof were removed.

Further, since in the 1990’s (after the book’s writing) there has arisen an orgy of patent litigation in software and computer hardware. Technologically inexperienced patent clerks and court personnel have made legal decisions that have been economically damaging to the country. Additionally, the American government has a history of eagerly funding innovations that have military applications while denying funding for innovations that have commercial applications.

And yet, astute perpetrators of American foreign policy have damaged other nations’ economies not only by waging war, but also through dispensing bad advice on “shock capitalism” and other subtle (“classified”) methods of indirectly causing mass destruction. So the United States remains the economically dominant nation in the world, despite suffering its share of financial crashes and certain sectors’ damaging policies that weaken it economically as a whole; sectors such as healthcare and education.

Anyway, read the book to learn: of additional business cases that related to the aforesaid themes, and the four major reasons the Japanese technology sector achieved great success in the past.

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Pity the Billionaire

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“It is as though the frightening news of recent years has driven them into a defensiveness so extreme that they feel they must either deify the system that failed or lose it altogether.”

No, not the Republican Party in connection with Donald Trump.

The Republican Party in connection with Republican voters’ gullibility in believing the Right’s propaganda machine that rationalized away Wall Street’s unmitigated hubris and unconscionable greed amid the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008-2009. As is well known, the rich were made richer and poor, poorer in the second half of the single-digit 2000’s. The GOP’s clever aftermath-messaging led to big wins for them in the 2010 midterm elections.

The Book of the Week is “Pity the Billionaire, The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right” by Thomas Frank, published in 2012. This short volume described how the political group called the Tea Party (“TP”), a subset of the GOP, whipped an alarmingly high number of Republican voters into a hysterical rage against the Obama administration’s handling of bailouts of financial institutions and foreclosed-upon ex-homeowners.

It appeared to be counterintuitive, that the TP raged against bailouts for bankers, brokers and lenders. After all, taxpayers were forced to reward these greedy perpetrators of the economic disaster. Through flawed reasoning, though, the TP propagandized that capitalism should be free of any and all economic intervention from the government, whether in the form of regulation or assistance. They pretended to be an enemy of big business, screaming “Socialism!!!” at the government’s every move. They did this because the resulting continued excessive deregulation would make Republicans wealthier and more powerful, and each trait would feed on the other ad infinitum. As ought to be well known– politics cannot be divorced from economics.

The TP was really pushing for 100% pure, capitalistic Libertarianism. Under the “you have two cows” scenario (look this up on the Web): you can do with the cows whatever you wish, whenever, wherever. Also, remove: ALL regulation from all aspects of American life, taxation and social safety nets. And to make the situation truly American, throw firearms into the mix and see what happens. Absent rule-of-law, sanity and civility, the resulting ruthlessness would evolve into (judging from the federal-level administrations’ gyrations of the most recent thirty years) a dictatorial kleptocracy (sort of like Zaire (aka Congo) in the 1980’s), and then anarchy, not unlike… Somalia (?)

Fortunately, a sufficient number of Americans– despite most politicians’ cronyism with big-money donors– clung to the country’s democratic underpinnings (reasonable regulation, taxation with representation, and social safety nets) to weather the storm. The author harshly criticized Obama and his Democratic party for not punishing the morally bankrupt financiers and enforcing the law in helping the bankrupted borrowers. It is possible the president felt it was worth selling his soul to those big-money donors; he wouldn’t have been reelected otherwise and wouldn’t have been able to accomplish more of his agenda. His Democratic party, too, was too nice to get down in the gutter and use the GOP’s sleazy propaganda techniques.

Anyway, read the book to learn of how the pronouncements of the TP and Glen Beck and the contents of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged influenced numerous voters in 2010, and other reasons the nation’s political history unfolded the way it did in the early 2000’s.

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Open Skies – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.

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By Way of Deception

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The Book of the Week is “By Way of Deception, The Making and Unmaking of A Mossad Officer” by Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, published in 1990. The former’s slightly sloppily edited, detailed account asserted that the Mossad (a spying agency in Israel that acted like a self-regulatory organization– that conducted operations with neither the government’s permission nor knowledge, so that leaders would have plausible deniability) had become too big for its britches. By the mid-1980’s, the Mossad had about twelve hundred true insiders and an unknown number of agents or contacts worldwide.

The author was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada in November 1949. He grew up in Canada and Israel, and began his Mossad training in the early 1970’s. At that time, the Mossad pretended to recruit women, but never actually hired any to be insiders; for, women were harder to protect, and even though women were used as enchantresses and seductresses (and were killed when necessary) no Arab men (Mossad’s main target) would accept them as their bosses.

For starters, the author passed months and months of numerous, rigorous hiring tests that required him to be dishonest yet naturally creative and charismatic– getting strangers to do his bidding. During his two years’ training to be a spy, the author was brainwashed into living a lie without a second thought. In his business, one also needed to be paranoid.

There were no second chances for the inexperienced. In June 1973, a PLO terrorist thought he was careful in checking his car for explosives (under the hood, underneath, in the trunk, and in the exhaust pipe) on every occasion prior to driving. However, he was killed by a pressure mine under his car seat.

In the 1970’s, France possessed the Exocet, a missile with cutting-edge technology– it could walk on water, undetected by radar. Israel wanted this weaponry, but its reputation in the world was tarnished, so France and the countries that bought it wouldn’t sell to Israel. In 1976, the Mossad stepped in and brokered a secret deal among Chile’s number two man under Pinochet, and Panama’s number two man under Noriega. The agency successfully paid a million American dollars for the head of the missile, which was all Israel needed to reverse-engineer it and manufacture it.

In the eventful year of 1981, the Mossad didn’t want to see peace in the Middle East. It launched a complicated operation involving missiles, raisins and hash that put millions and millions of dollars in its coffers (the revenue was a happy side effect) “… with the ever-treacherous PLO… the key was to ensure that everything was synchronized in Vienna, Hamburg and Frankfurt…” It wrapped up in July, when the said cities’ local police arrested tens of spies, and at least one person was killed.

Read the book to learn of additional ways the Mossad’s sociopathic operatives disregarded rule-of-law in order to achieve their missions in mostly playing adolescent-boy spy games, but occasionally orchestrating international incidents in which the course of history was significantly changed, and in which innocent people died.

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Car Wars – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Car Wars, The Rise, the Fall, and the Resurgence of the Electric Car” by John J. Fialka, published in 2015. This volume provided a brief history of how manufacturing and sales of renewable-energy vehicles has been evolving in the last few decades. Clearly, the author wrote about relevant subjects from documents, and people to which he had easy access.

The (lazy?) author dismissed the electric cars of the late 1800’s in two sentences, saying they were obsolesced by 1920 via an innovation by engineer Charles Kettering; an electric ignition system replaced a burdensome hand crank in gas-powered cars, especially in the Cadillac of 1912, and then just like that, everyone started buying gas-powered cars. A propaganda war, profiteering and politics likely played a role in that major development in standard-setting in transportation, but the reader wouldn’t learn that from this book.

Anyway, in the 1980’s, previously competing automakers were initially compelled to form alliances to comply with car-emissions limits and meet deadlines set by U.S. laws, especially in the state of California. They shared info on electric vehicle (EV) technology. Over the years, when the deadlines were relaxed by pro-business politicians, the automakers parted ways, and independently pursued only the specific projects they felt would be profitable. Environment be damned.

In 1990, near the campus of the California Institute of Technology, when drivers tested the plug-in recharging feature of the General Motors Impact in their personal garages, their neighbors’ garage doors and TV sets went crazy, because the recharger was actually a huge radio transmitter.

In October 1995, Japan’s Toyota beat American carmakers to the punch when it showed off its hybrid Prius, that got 70 miles per gallon of gas. Of course Japan, of all the industrialized countries in the world, is significantly more motivated to seek efficient, renewable energy sources for its transportation modes– for the sake of its economic survival.

In the late 1990’s in a few select places in California and Arizona, super-rich males leased the first few models of EVs, because the cars had the attractive features of fast acceleration and high velocity; high gas mileage was a secondary benefit.

Meanwhile, in the single-digit 2000’s, a group named the California Fuel Cell Partnership was formed. It consisted of Geoffrey Ballard, Daimler, and Ford, who were working on a competing vehicle that uses fuel cells– whose mechanical components chemically alter water molecules. The selling points for those cars, once the technology’s commercial application is perfected, include: zero-emissions and the ability to fill up the car at existing gas stations. However, oil companies would supply hydrogen tanks.

Read the book to learn some of the politics, economics, entrepreneurs and technologies involved in developing cars that ran on renewable-energy sources, up until the book’s writing.

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The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.

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Flipped

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The Book of the Week is “Flipped, How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power” by Greg Bluestein, published in 2022.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography), in the 2010’s, a Republican candidate in Georgia would better their chances of getting elected when they were on Fox News all the time and became a darling of hard-right conservatives.

Former president Barack Obama said manufacturing and mining jobs weren’t coming back. Former president Donald Trump contradicted him, saying the coal industry would be returning (but he was wrong). Similarly, in 2017, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told her opponent Stacey Evans, that a certain scholarship program wasn’t coming back. Significant funding that would assist financially challenged students was part of a bygone era in Georgia. Sadly, she was right. Nevertheless, a new Democrat political coalition in the state was on the rise.

For decades and decades well into the twentieth century, the Democrats, via gerrymandering, maintained a stranglehold on Georgia politics. The GOP implemented voter-suppression tricks in order to turn the tide, beginning in the 1990’s. In 2018, state election officials sent a postcard to voters telling them they were required to re-register to vote even if they changed residences within the same county in Georgia, or else they’d be ineligible to vote come election time. The ACLU put the kibosh on that with a lawsuit.

As is well known, the most recent decade saw especially vicious feuding between Democrats and Republicans in Georgia. A bunch of cliches apply to the campaigning environment:

Turnabout is fair play, but–two wrongs don’t make a right. And a pox on everyone’s house– because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Two other cliches apply in politics, too: A man is known by the company he keeps, and when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.

When former vice-president Al Gore was campaigning for president in 2000, he cringed when former president Bill Clinton insisted on helping him campaign by making appearances and endorsing him. Gore’s association with Clinton was not a good look anymore. Similarly, messaging of former president Trump was unwelcome during the Georgia runoff campaigns between Democrat and Republican senate candidates at the end of 2020. The Democrats enjoyed the delicious irony that their side was helped when voters (who would have voted for the GOP candidates) were told by Trump to stay home and not vote in revenge for the “rigged” presidential election.

One theme the author also could not help but mention that involved the state of Georgia, was the recently concluded but contested, presidential election. Lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan appeared on CNN and Fox News shortly after election day in November 2020 to “… invite Georgians who had evidence of legitimate voter fraud to come forward. None could do so.” Governor Brian Kemp also stood pat and did the right thing, because the fact was, “State lawmakers can’t retroactively change election law after a vote to help a candidate [such as Trump].”

Read the book to learn of: the candidates’ campaigns, conflicts and confrontations, and their many attendant issues, such as GOP senate candidate Kelly Loeffler’s part ownership of a WNBA team and the suspicious timing of her stock transactions; the ambivalence of most GOP candidates in uttering anything negative about Trump lest they lose votes; and much more.

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Fighting Back – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Fighting Back, a Memoir of Jewish Resistance in WWII” by Harold Werner, published in 1992. This slim volume contained a detailed, suspenseful account of one man’s survival story.

Born the oldest of six siblings in 1918 in eastern Poland, the author was a Jew typical for his generation. He spoke Yiddish and Polish. He spent his childhood in Gorzkow, a small farming village where his fellow religionists at an early age took up a trade such as tailoring, blacksmithing, shoemaking, or carpentering. They bartered with the non-Jews, who were farmers. The villagers spent their leisure time playing soccer or ping-pong, attending movies, or opera, or boating.

Poland declared independence in 1918, after the Americans and French helped them defeat the Bolsheviks. As is well known, after the death of the dictator Joseph Pildsudski in May 1935, the reigning right-wing National Democratic party, also known as Endecia or Endek, especially scapegoated and violently oppressed Poland’s Jews.

When the Germans attacked Poland in September 1939, they indiscriminately bombed residential buildings in Warsaw; in one of which was the author’s knitting machines– with which he had previously more or less, made a living, making winter sweaters. The following month, he, some of his family, and other people he knew, fled Warsaw on foot eastward to then-Russian-occupied territory.

The author thus began a years-long ordeal, suffering extreme physical hardship– alternately hiding from and, with his fellow Resistance fighters– sabotaging the war efforts of the Nazis in Poland and eastern Ukraine. He joined a group of partisans called Army Ludowa.

Even when the Polish Jews who had survived the war by evacuating or hiding thought their lives were no longer threatened, they still had nothing to live for. The author lamented, “…Jews had no homes to return to and no families to go back to … our mission was to fight, take revenge, destroy the enemy.” The ones who had stayed at the war’s beginning were killed in bombings or shootings in their expropriated homes, or in deportations to the death camp called Sobibor or killed in the Wlodawa ghetto.

All through history, Poles had always had a reputation for anti-Semitism. But the war had stirred up a frenzy of hatred that the Jews of the Polish Resistance felt against the sociopathic, sadistic Nazis and their collaborators– which included German and Polish security and law officers and tattling villagers.

Read the book to learn of how the author lived before his life was turned upside-down, the acts of kindness certain people displayed, the hatreds of others, and the numerous times he cheated death during his wartime experiences.

Speaking of a frenzy of hatred, here’s a question for the 2024 presidential candidates. As is well known, the campaign forecast is: extremely cloudy with 100% chance of shock and outrage.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO RULE THE WORLD?

sung to the tune of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (the studio version) with apologies to Tears For Fears.

Welcome to some strife.
Your party’s got your back.
Even while you Tweet, morons and nut-cases track your every action, you won’t get no satisfaction.
Do you really want to rule the world?

It’s your time to shine,
but you must STAY the course,
feeding the grapeVINE.

If you CAN, preserve our freedoms and our pleasures,
without bullying or extreme measures,
we will LET you rule the world.

There’s no place where the SMEARS
won’t find you.
Dodging scandals while the media comes sniffing around.
When they do, your lawyers will be right behind you.

So sad that money rules you.
Social-media approval fools you.
Do you really want to rule the world?

We can’t stand this national division.
Charisma will gain you White House admission.
Do you really want to rule the world?

ACTUALLY dispense with the lies and the greed, please.
We’re fed up with the hypocrisy and sleaze.
Do you really want to rule the world?

We need freedoms and our pleasures,
without bullying or extreme measures.
Do you really want to rule the world?

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Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds

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The Book of the Week is “Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds, A Refugee’s Search for Home” by Mondiant Dogon with Jenna Krajeski, published in 2021.

Born in February 1992, the author began his childhood on a cattle ranch in Bikenke, a village in Rwanda. His family was of the Bagogwe tribe, a subcategory of Tutsi. His ancestors had migrated between Rwanda and Zaire (aka Congo; the author was unclear as to which current country– “Democratic Republic of Congo” or “Republic of the Congo”– he and his family lived in and when; so the area will hereinafter be referred to as Congo.).

In the mid-1990’s, the genocide in Rwanda forced the family to flee their Congo home mostly on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. They had previously lived harmoniously side-by-side with their Hutu neighbors in the Congo. But contagious hatred reared its ugly head. The family hid in a cave, at a school, in the woods and other places prior to trying to stay alive at less dangerous places (i.e., refugee camps).

By spring 1996, the family had finally made its way to a refugee camp in Rwanda, where the Red Cross provided humanitarian assistance. The author and others lived in a tent city on grounds formed by the eruption of the volcano, Nyiragongo. A refugee was shot by a sniper, so the UN moved them to another camp, guarded by the Rwandan Patriotic Army. That did not end well either, as child-soldiers in the terrorist group called Interahamwe killed hundreds of Tutsis with machetes.

In the next several years, the refugees were moved from one camp to another, as life-threatening dangers (mostly from human violence) presented themselves around every corner. They nearly starved to death many, many times, and suffered from malnutrition all the time.

Nevertheless, the author, at eight years old, was finally able to start first grade at school. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), there were no: chalkboard, desks, pens and books. He passionately took to learning, anyway. At recess time, he and his friends also played soccer with a makeshift ball– made with whatever material was at hand. The refugees continued to eat only tiny portions of beans and corn every two or three days.

In 2001, Kabila, the new dictator of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wanted to give the (false) impression that peace had been restored in his country, so he had officials from Kivu go to the region’s refugee camps, including those in Rwanda, and propagandize that refugees could come home and live as they had prior to the unrest.

However, unaware of the full extent of Congo’s then-civil war, the author, his brother and father endured a stressful, multi-day journey via on foot and bus to see whether conditions were sufficiently safe for their family to return to their pre-war property. They were unable to reach their home, but in a village many miles away, the father found work from a Hutu employer who showed no tribal hatreds. For a change. The author resumed attending school and achieved fluency in Swahili, giving him a survival skill when he was confronted by haters. Bullets flew around outside the school from all different rebel groups in Kivu.

Read the book to learn: of the numerous times the author cheated death; the many hardships he suffered; and how he parlayed his passion for school into various positive developments, including receiving recognition from a philanthropist who helped him rise above discrimination against his refugee status.

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Inside the Kingdom

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The Book of the Week is “Inside the Kingdom, My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Carmen Bin Ladin, published in 2004.

Born in the early 1950’s, the author grew up in Switzerland. Her mother was Persian. When she married into the Bin Laden family (of Osama fame; a sprawling, super-wealthy and powerful family), her husband had tens of siblings. She, her husband and baby daughter moved to Saudi Arabia in 1975. According to the author’s account (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), four years later, Iran’s religious craziness spread to Saudi Arabia, so that fanatical Muslim males began to abusively rule every detail of females’ lives.

The author described many other aspects of Saudi Arabian culture (whose religious extremism has increased in recent decades), and how it compared to the values and beliefs of Western culture. She learned Muslim culture from her mother, but was partial to the freedoms and opportunities females enjoyed in Europe and the United States. She wanted to expose her daughters to her husband’s Saudi lifestyle (which was mildly religious compared to many of his siblings’ and contacts’), but also have the same chances to succeed that she did.

The author observed that, in the late twentieth century, Western mentality encouraged entrepreneurship; on the other hand, traditionally, Saudi Arabia’s sons had hierarchically inherited their wealth pursuant to birth order, and were expected to stay in their lane– work in their existing family businesses, and not start their own. The author’s husband bucked the trend and despite his success, his older brothers professionally and socially ostracized him for it.

In the early 1980’s, the author’s oldest daughter started school (at the time, a rare opportunity for females). The education system was all rote learning– of Arabic, arithmetic, history, and most importantly, the Koran. Her daughter wrote in her exercise book, “I hate Jews. I love Palestine.” The author was powerless to change the school’s curriculum, but at home, tried to foster critical thinking in her daughters. Even so, “… her teacher would always give a Bin Laden the best marks, whether she deserved it or not.” One other interesting factoid: the female teacher was allowed to slap a student’s face for the purpose of discipline.

Read the book to learn a lot more about how the author, her family and her (super-rich) in-laws lived in Saudi Arabia, and about her and her daughters’ fate at the book’s writing.

ENDNOTE: As is well known, the Muslim religion fosters gender inequality. And even in the United States, certain cultures of peoples have more gender inequality than others. The overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Roe V. Wade is not just about female reproductive rights or religion or rich or poor. The demographic groups who think of females as property are most affected by the changing of the law. They need to change their own cultures themselves before they trot out excuses as to why they are oppressed by society at large. They need to stop oppressing themselves!

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Americanized / The Dilbert Future – BONUS POST

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The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Americanized, Rebel Without A Green Card” by Sara Saedi, originally published in 2018.

According to this slim volume (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s family had a difficult time getting permission to live permanently in the United States, after fleeing the Iranian Revolution in the early 1980’s.

The author, born in 1980, provided a host of details on her family’s immigration ordeal, and her own life’s trials and tribulations (mostly First-World problems). Incidentally, she unwittingly wrote a line that would have subjected her to cancel-culture [In 1992]:

“…I’d personally reached peak frustration levels at our country’s complex and seemingly arbitrary immigration laws. I wanted to get on the first flight to Washington, DC, and storm the Capitol, but I didn’t, because any form of criminal activity would get me deported.”

Read the book to learn more.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Dilbert Future, Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century” by Scott Adams, published in 1997.

The author discussed his predictions, obviously at the book’s writing. One of them was particularly accurate:

“As dense as they [the children] might be, they will eventually notice that adults have spent all the money, spread disease, and turned the planet into a smoky, filthy ball of death. We’re raising an entire generation of dumb, pissed-off kids who know where the handguns are kept.”

(!!!)

Read the book to learn more of the author’s insights.

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Ghosts from the Nursery

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The Book of the Week is “Ghosts from the Nursery, Tracing the Roots of Violence” by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley, published in 1997. The authors cited scientific studies to support their assertions about the links between the increasingly younger ages at which Americans are committing increasingly more frequent horrific crimes, and the social and cultural trends that are driving this alarming revelation.

At the book’s writing, in the United States, criminal justice system spending was three times (!) the entire healthcare budget. The authors argued that the seeds of criminality in humans are planted in the womb rather than in early childhood, as previously thought.

Environmental factors, such as a future mother’s or father’s consumption or inhalation of toxic substances, alters the reproductive mechanisms in a fetus’ brain cells. If the fetus’ environment is neglectful, chaotic or hostile– people are raucous, or physically abusing the mother-to-be– it stands to reason that the child might have behavioral problems later on. These problems could range from hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention deficits and learning disabilities to criminality.

The range and extent of damage done varies with the time frame in which the abuses occur. It has been found that any amount of alcohol drunk by a potential father or mother can adversely affect: spermatozoa and ova weeks before conception, the zygote, embryo, fetus and then the child’s health thereafter. Maximum visual damage is done to the brain of a fetus, when the abuses occur during the limited time, for instance, in which the neural connection from the retina to the visual cortex is made. Language skills develop or fail to develop, similarly.

The opposite is true, too: a nurturing environment will maximize benefits for the child (even in the womb!) when parents’ soothing or happy voices are heard by the fetus during his or her audiological development. After emergence from the womb, the baby can recognize his or her mother’s, father’s or others’ voices. Preverbal memory (an emotional vibe emitted by parents and others– a mood felt by the fetus and then infant and then child) stays with everyone through their entire lives. Parents have been shown to display the same behaviors their parents did with their own babies and children.

The authors mentioned several European studies that showed the incidences of juvenile criminality and suicide increased with an increase in unwanted pregnancies. That’s obviously a can of worms. But, since reams and reams of data have been collected from decades and decades of sociological, psychological, medical and legal studies worldwide, perhaps a multi-pronged approach applied locally would help– instead of commissioning more, additional expensive studies for the purposes of procrastination and patronage.

HOWEVER, one particularly rich vein of data on how to invite failure of the multi-pronged approach at the federal level of poverty-fighting (and on a related topic, crime-prevention), can be found in the administration archives of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson. A 20/20 hindsight look at the enduring actions he did take, are unfairly omitted from the history books that show an anti-liberal bias. His administration saw the start of Medicare and Medicaid and the passing of landmark civil rights legislation. BUT, these great accomplishments were overshadowed by conspiracy theories that he plotted the assassination of JFK and of course, his role in a needless war.

Johnson had grand plans to eliminate poverty at home, but shortly after he came to power, he decided to send Americans abroad to fight a war that led to countless deaths and ruined lives. And continued to rationalize why it needed to continue. Johnson’s anti-poverty programs weren’t given sufficient time to succeed because they became starved for funds.

That is why this country has regressed on the social-programs front: Every American president has sold his soul to the MILITARY [Currently, that military is fighting a war at the Mexican border instead of overseas; a future post of this blog will elaborate on this].

The only president fully justified in diverting significant taxpayer monies from improving conditions at home, toward fighting a war, was FDR. Since WWII, alpha males with hubris syndrome have been funding military actions whose long-term costs outweigh the benefits.

As a final insult that indicated that Johnson had major control issues, was the fact that he cruelly teased his own Democratic party by withdrawing from a 1968 reelection bid at the last minute, leaving the field to a few other candidates, and uncertainty in his wake. He also gave his political opponents a golden invitation to smear him in so many ways.

Granted, there are countless other vicissitudes of history that come into play with any president’s actions, but as is well known, campaign-finance regulation in America has become horribly eviscerated in recent decades, so the increase in financial influence of special-interest groups other than the military, has also played a role in this nation’s shifting priorities.

Be that as it may, the United States’ practices fly in the face of reason by bringing in a “pound of cure” (after the fact!) via a complicated, expensive bunch of bloated, bureaucratic government services (special-education, welfare, foster care, criminal justice, etc.). Instead of an “ounce of prevention.” One specific program has been found to be the most effective solution thus far in preventing crime in the long run: infant home-visitation programs, because the problems are dealt with early! This was the conclusion of a criminology team who submitted a report to the U.S. Congress in April 1997.

Clearly, different levels of government can implement more of a combination of social programs and legislation in order of what works best pursuant to all those scientific studies (preferably longitudinal ones), regardless of costs, limited by whatever the budget will reasonably bear; instead of going the easy, greedy, or power-hungry, politically expedient (and fraught military) route.

A grass-roots movement would have to hold officials’ feet to the fire on that– perhaps appealing to their egos by giving them a legacy via a footnote in the history books crediting them for getting it done. This, while keeping political patronage to a minimum (It used to be called “honest graft” but has reached excessive levels in certain regions; time will tell whether upcoming elections oust the “Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed” contingents.).

So, for instance, a hypothetical mandate for a large, diversely-populated city might consist of:

First, an infant home-visitation program;

Second, no-charge universal pre-kindergarten program;

Third, stricter background checks and bans on specific firearms and loophole-closing;

Fourth, a community-policing program (that does not involve military hardware) like those mentioned in this blog’s posts, “L.A. Justice” and “Riverkeepers”; and

Fifth, imposing and enforcing a legal maximum to class sizes in early-childhood education.

If additional funding is found (for whatever reasons), there could be other kinds of education programs that deal with issues such as: teen pregnancy, sex education, contraception, substance abuse prevention (all possibly as a part of the high school health-class curriculum), parenting classes, family planning, welfare-to-work, at-risk youth centers, and job training– again, prioritized from the most to the least effective outcomes.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about research results on this topic, and the authors’ suggestions on crime prevention via focusing on ways to improve outcomes in connection with pregnancy and child care.

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Maverick

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The Book of the Week is “Maverick, The Personal War of A Vietnam Cobra Pilot” by Dennis J. Marvicsin and Jerold A. Greenfield, published in 1990. Marvicsin nicknamed himself “Maverick.”

Born in 1940 in Mansfield in Ohio, Maverick had a burning desire to become a helicopter pilot. He joined the Navy right out of high school, but after a year and a half, switched to the Army in order to fulfill his dream. In September 1964, he began boot camp in Fort Wolters in Texas, and finished advanced training in Fort Rucker in Alabama.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), in 1965, Maverick began his first Vietnam-War tour in Vinh Long. The American military base there had comfortable living conditions, and creature comforts such as alcohol and cigarettes. At his periodic reassignments to other locations, he encountered primitive accommodations. He began by flying re-supply missions to ARVN troops and American advisers in the Cam Ranh Bay area before a full military installation was built there.

The American military killed not only the enemy, but also dangerous animals such as tigers, and elephants because they were useful beasts of burden to the enemy. In autumn 1965, when he began flying a Huey helicopter that had the ability to return fire– for the purpose of rescuing the war-wounded– he took to the work like a fish to water. When they answered a typical call for help, he and the three other adrenaline-junkies in his crew rushed to “… the middle of the jungle, miles from the base, but someone had set off a red smoke grenade which meant enemy fire.” A crashed or shot-down chopper might be stuck in the trees with fire all around, and the pilot pinned in the wreckage’s cockpit.

On more than one mission, Maverick got to host a highly-decorated military bigwig. This, in an allegedly aerodynamically improved aircraft (but it had yet to be perfected and was shot down), such as the “…brand new Charlie-Model Huey with the fancy 540 rotor system, and now it’s fancy garbage and it’s on fire…”

Maverick began his second tour in Vietnam in Tay Ninh, a mountainous region where the Viet Cong had made tunnels underground. The Huey helicopter had been replaced by the Cobra, which was easier to maneuver but had its own flaws. Regardless, the traumas of war had caused Maverick to become twice shy about getting emotionally close to his fellow soldiers. He said, “First tour, you make friends and they get blown up or shot down or simply never come back. Second tour, you make no friends.” One of numerous other emotionally troubling aspects of Maverick’s participation in the war was not knowing how long it would be, if ever, before he was released when he was taken as a Prisoner of War.

Read the book to learn of many more episodes of Maverick’s personal experiences in combat, in captivity, and in collecting medals and glory.

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BONUS POST

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“Inflation, profiteering, and corruption are rife, and the food situation and (closely connected therewith) the transportation situation are most serious, as is also the housing problem… The present regime does not at present command a sufficient majority, or perhaps sufficient constructive talent to initiate the drastic measures which alone could save the situation.”

The above happens to have been written in January 1946, by the British embassy in Rio de Janeiro, about Brazil.

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Brazil, The Fortunes of War, World War II and the Making of Modern Brazil” by Neill Lochery. This wordy and redundant volume described how a South American leader, Getulio Vargas– through cleverly navigating: relationships with war alliances and foes, and tricky political issues– was able to modernize his country by the Postwar Era, compliments of American taxpayers.

In late 1937, Brazil got a new Constitution. Vargas, duly elected leader since 1930, had gotten friendly with the United States in exchange for agreeing to fight Italy and Germany when war came. However, by May 1938, there occurred a failed coup against him; perhaps partly because he had banned all political parties except his own. His enemies included the Communists and the Fascist Green Shirts (Integralistas), and he wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with two of Brazil’s top military leaders.

One conflict Vargas faced in September 1939, was that he couldn’t afford to make trouble because: Brazil’s military was weak, Brazil traded with both Germany and the United States, and it had immigrant communities from Germany, Italy and Japan. Vargas’ speech at the May Day parade in 1940 didn’t go over too well with the United States, as his language was that of a Fascist; he sounded like he was siding with Hitler and Mussolini. This was deliberately calculated to tease FDR, in order to secure financing for a steel mill in Brazil.

By the time of the infamous December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Brazil had still yet to receive the bulk of the weapons it was due from Germany and the United States. Brazil had a fuel shortage, and the U.S. supplied Brazil with most of its fuel. Other wartime hardships and plot twists abounded; 1942 was a year crowded with incidents, too numerous to mention here.

Suffice to say, in autumn 1945, when dissatisfaction with Vargas reached critical mass among military leaders and many ordinary Brazilians, there was distrust that he would actually hold free and fair elections. They were scheduled to be held in December 1945.

Read the book to learn what happened in August 1954, and about the cast of characters and propaganda that shaped the history of Brazil just before, during and after WWII (hint: public relations schemes included wartime visits to Brazil by Walt Disney and Orson Welles, thanks to Nelson Rockefeller.).

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Ask A North Korean

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The Book of the Week is “Ask A North Korean, Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation” by Daniel Tudor, published in 2017.

As is well known, North Korea is an insular dictatorship, one of just a few left in the world. From birth, its people are brainwashed into worshiping their supreme leader, the dictator. His leadership style resembles that of Stalin’s: threatening the oppressive social order will cause one to be arrested in the middle of the night and thrown into a political prison camp.

There is one-party rule (the Workers’ Party). The people are allowed: no free speech, no freedom of assembly, no due process, no freedom of religion (Christianity or any other), and anyone who does not work for, or is not a sycophant of the government is probably poverty-stricken.

Jail time or public execution awaits those who are caught in possession of videos or music from the West (likely the United States, China, Hong Kong or South Korea). A tiny percentage of North Koreans get a view of other cultures, but only when they are permitted to travel to China on business, or when they risk their lives to listen to radio broadcasts from South Korea.

The government owns ALL property of all of the people. It even used to provide limited amounts of food and goods to the people. But in the 1990’s, the country suffered from a famine that forced people to become creatively capitalistic in order not to starve to death. North Koreans living near the borders of China and Japan traded black-market consumer goods with them. They hunted, fished, bred domestic animals and literally prostituted themselves. Illegally, they sold alcohol.

In North Korea, the most economically powerful entities are those that obtain foreign currencies because they are affiliated with the government, which is an unavoidable behemoth of cash-only bribery and corruption. The people do not have credit cards or even bank accounts.

Cars, which are very few in number, are a status symbol in the country’s capital city, Pyongyang. Those who own them are likely government workers, who have drivers. The highly coveted job of driver requires obtaining a license that takes a minimum of three years to obtain. One needs to get training for the job, but first must achieve hard- won acceptance to one of only two driving schools in North Korea. Unsurprisingly, there is a black market in fake driver’s licenses.

A high percentage of North Korea’s population is in the military at any given time. For, males must serve a minimum of ten years; females serve seven. Exceptions include college graduates, who serve five years, and science or engineering majors serve only three. Ironically, malnutrition is widespread in the military, as North Korea does not provide its ranks with enough to eat (!)
Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details about North Korea.

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My Father and I

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The Book of the Week is “My Father and I” by Camelia Sadat, published in 1985.

Born in July 1949, the author grew up in a distant suburb of Cairo, but possessed nostalgia for her father’s home village– Mit Abul-Kum, in the Nile delta. Her father was Anwar Sadat, whose mother was half Egyptian and half Sudanese, and whose father had eight wives; only the last two wives bore thirteen children between them. Anwar was the second oldest child of his father’s seventh wife.

Born in late 1918, Anwar’s young adulthood was typical of Muslim men of his generation who were headed for a political career. He chose his alliances and enemies pursuant to his future leadership role in mind. During WWII, he allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group desirous of replacing Egypt’s monarchy of King Farouk, with an independent Muslim theocracy. The British supported the king. During and after the war, Anwar did stints in jail for his pro-Axis, pro-Egyptian-independence activities. Further, he was discharged dishonorably from the Egyptian army.

By the late 1940’s, Anwar had two wives and two babies. The younger of the latter was Camelia. However, Anwar’s first marriage ended in divorce shortly thereafter. At thirty, he began his second marriage with his nineteen year-old bride. In 1950, he resumed his military career. He was appointed by Gamal Nasser to lead the group fighting for sovereignty for Egypt– the Free Officers’ Organization.

Anwar moved quickly up the political ranks. In July 1952, he and his cronies ousted King Farouk. In December 1953, he helped found a revolutionary newspaper, working in the communications (translation: propaganda) department of Egypt’s government. The very next year, he was named Minister of State. In 1956, Egypt saw the end of British occupation.

Camelia was a headstrong, independent child. When she was twelve, a marriage was arranged for her. The groom was 29. Unfortunately for them, a quiet, serious wedding reception (which was uncustomary) was the order of the day because Egypt was breaking its diplomatic ties with Syria.

Initially, Camelia accepted her fate as an obedient housewife (which was required by the Quran, and was the culture in Egypt). But after a couple of years, she became emotionally exhausted by the bossiness and physical abuse of her especially insecure husband. Camelia told her uncle about her marital problems, and reprimanded the husband. However, Anwar found out and told Camelia that a wife should obey her husband.

In the 1960’s, unrest in Yemen led to difficult geopolitical jockeying among Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and of course, the United States. In December 1970, Anwar was elected president of Egypt, at which time, it was on the outs with America. In 1971, he foiled a coup attempt against him. Egypt wasn’t diplomatically benefiting from Soviet financial aid, either, as the Soviets’ reputation for aggression made the U.S.S.R. an isolated state in the industrialized world.

Anwar was best known for his willingness to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel’s leader Menachem Begin, through an intermediary, America’s president Jimmy Carter. Read the book to learn many more details of his and his daughter’s life and career, and a bit of Egyptian history.

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Free – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Free: A Child and A Country at the End of History” by Lea Ypi, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appears to be credible although it lacks Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), Albania’s monarchist government and business leaders threw in with their Italian invaders in 1939. In 1944, the Italians retreated and Albania’s occupation by the Soviets resulted in one-Party rule. The practice of organized, monotheistic religions was banned, but Albanians worshiped a real person– a founding-father and WWII military hero named “Uncle Enver.” He severed Albania’s diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia after the war.

The Albanian author, born in September 1979, was indoctrinated to believe that her country was one of the freest on earth. Never mind that the common people had to stand in line for hours and hours daily or sometimes longer (they were allowed placeholders) to obtain such basic necessities as milk, cheese, kerosene, etc. through a voucher system. In addition, her childhood was fraught with lies about her great-grandfather and others in her family’s social circles.

Ironically, just as pedigree among the wealthy in the United States denotes social status, so the “biography” among ordinary Albanians determined whether one would be allowed to join the socialist (political) Party, and determined one’s reputation, and thus one’s work and social activities in daily life. It was guilt by association; one was guilty just by having politically unpopular ancestors, as had the author. Albanians were required, however, to attend meetings at their local civic associations.

In December 1990, there occurred a major political turning point in Albania’s history: free and fair multi-party elections; a turning point in its economics too, as its government heeded bad financial advice it received from Western powers, that invited corruption similar to that of Bolivia’s (See this blog’s post, “Jeffrey Sachs”). In the early 1990’s, for the first time (!), the author found out about or experienced: air conditioning, bananas, traffic lights, jeans, chewing gum, Mickey Mouse, AIDS, anorexia and plenty of other cultural givens the democratic peoples of the world took for granted.

Read the book to learn of the trials and tribulations specific to Albania’s people when they saw how the other half lived (hint: World Bank meddling, a civil war, education shenanigans and more).

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Misfire

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The Book of the Week is “Misfire, Inside the Downfall of the NRA” by Tim Mak, published in 2021. This volume told the all-too-frequent story of alpha-male executives with hubris syndrome, who use their employer as their personal piggy bank, and bankrupt them. That of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was just the latest in a series of such scandals in recent decades.

As it began to go belly up, the NRA had 76 people on its board of directors, a few of whom were celebrities. They received no salary, but took ridiculous advantage of their expense accounts, and at the same time, and, in an obvious conflict, some were tasked with overseeing the NRA’s finances.

A power vacuum that started in the late 1980’s allowed Wayne LaPierre to assume the most powerful executive position in the organization by 1991. His colleagues– the NRA’s officers, and executives of its outside communications agency — manipulated him in order to form a cult of personality around him. This way, they, too, could partake of all the first-class travel, shopping and host of other aspects of a luxury lifestyle through their outsized salaries and expense accounts.

After the Sandy Hook elementary-school shooting in December 2012, the NRA became even more sociopathic, throwing up distractions in its messaging. It was already aggressively– as it had been since 1977– defeating every bit of firearms-restriction-legislation it possibly could using not only its money, but also its ability to influence politicians and voters through its network of priceless, powerful contacts; even to its own financial and reputational detriment. It argued that politicians should seek to improve America’s mental health system, and that everyone in the country had a right to own a firearm for the purpose of self-defense!

Countless, cowardly politicians have caved under pressure to the NRA’s demands; they voted against even weak proposed laws that would restrict gun acquisitions and gun usage, that would hardly have made a dent in sales of firearms, because they wanted to get reelected. As is well known, the NRA was a monster-sized lobbyist and political donor. It had a mean-spirited cancel-culture: publicly shaming its ex-employees on social media if they criticized it, even years after their employ.

Beginning in April 2019, a decades-long power struggle resulted in an orgy of litigation between and among the NRA, its communications agency, and its law firm, whose main go-to executive had become besties with LaPierre. That executive, too, was availing himself of the benefits derived from financial crimes of excess typical of these kinds of organizations.

Read the book to learn all about it. Wayne LaPierre has been just one (of those countless who are actually caught!) of a few poster boys whose financial crimes borne of excessive greed have been exposed, but sooo few organization leaders such as he, are punished for their misdeeds. Here are a few others, who were actually punished (and the year in which they went to jail):

2005, Dennis Kozlowski

2005, Bernie Ebbers

2006, Jack Abramoff

2007, Richard Scrushy

2012, Bernie Madoff

And here is the song they sing when caught:

I TOOK IT EASY

sung to the tune of “Take It Easy” with apologies to the Eagles.

Well, I got out on BAIL.
You can’t put me in JAIL.
I got SEVen sins on my mind.
Whistleblowers betrayed me.
Prosecutors flayed me.
My lawyers are close friends of mine.

I took it easy.
I took it easy.

Don’t believe the evil liars who say I’m guil-ty.

I live it up while I still can.
I hid my assets. Then it hit the fan.
I found a place to make my millions.
I took it easy.

Well I’m STILL your leading male.
I’m just too great to fail.
My claques, flacks and sycophants all aGREE.
I DID nothing wrong.
I’ll delay this CASE so long you’ll give up on punishing me.

Come on, payyy me,
my bonus and sa-alary.
I have no doubt that friends in high places are gonna SAVE me.

TaxPAYERS lose. I win.
You’ll never catch ME again.
So eat your heart out. Look at ME grin.
I took it easy.

Well, I got out on BAIL.
You can’t put me in JAIL.
I got NO remorse on my mind.
No matter how much you hover,
you’ll NEVER recover, all the money you say is not mine.

I took it easy.
I took it easy.
Don’t believe the evil liars who say I’m guil-ty.
Come on, payyy me,
my bonus and sa-alary.
I have no doubt that friends in high places are gonna SAVE me.

Oh, I got it easy.
YOU’RE the one who’s slea-eazy…

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Suez

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The Book of the Week is “Suez, 10 years after Suez, questions are still being asked…” by Hugh Thomas, originally published in 1966. This volume was penned by and through the eyes of a British journalist.

In 1875, on behalf of the British government, Benjamin Disraeli purchased a controlling interest (45%) of shares in the Suez Canal Company. By 1956, a little less than 25% of the imports, and about 33% of the ships passing through the canal, were British.

There was arrogance all around, among the top leaders of countries involved in the Suez Canal Crisis: Egypt’s Nasser, Great Britain’s Eden, France’s Mollet and Israel’s Ben Gurion.

Other leaders, such as America’s president Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles refrained from a hawkish stance for their own country, letting the British and French make fools of themselves in sending troops. The author described the whole episode thusly: “… the spectacle of over one hundred thousand men setting off for a war which lasted barely a day and then returning has few parallels in the long gallery of military imbecility.”

Eden was ready to fight the Egyptians when Nasser declared he was nationalizing the canal’s holding company, which was based in Paris. The declaration meant that Nasser would charge dues on ships passing through.

The international contract governing the canal stipulated that Egypt would own the canal itself in 1968. The Treaty of Constantinople, signed in 1888 deemed the canal an international waterway. Nasser could be removed as a custodian of sorts only “for cause” but arguably one cause could be the fact that, beginning in 1951, he banned Israeli ships from the canal.

One other piece of documentation associated with the canal included the United Nations Charter’s Article 51. It was kind of a worthless passage, as its provisions were unenforceable unless nations agreed on how to interpret it and chose to abide by it. That passage said military action was justified if any entity took over the canal.

Eden came of age in the generation who fought in WWI and was of the mind that appeasement didn’t work on Hitler. Wiser world leaders whose experiences and intelligence differed, knew that Nasser was no Hitler. Eden’s cabinet ministers were men of different ages, some of whom disagreed with him.

Britain’s options included resolving the complicated dispute with the assistance of the United Nations (UN), or the International Court. Britain’s troops stationed geographically nearby (in Malta, Port Said, Libya, Jordan and Cyprus) were unprepared to fight a war in or near Egypt, and it would take a few months to move supplies, equipment, etc. to where they needed to be. The Soviets were supplying weapons to the Egyptians, and those weapons would be superior in the event of an air war.

The European government officials who were dovish, argued that it was wrong to use force just to safeguard oil supplies, and that the conflict should be settled through the UN. The situation became more complex (as though the propaganda war, Hungarian suffering and upcoming elections in Jordan and the United States, Britain’s lingering pro-Arab stance and France’s sending arms to Israel weren’t enough) when, in the second week of October 1956, there occurred a border skirmish between Israel and Jordan. About a week later, Israel attacked Egypt.

Yet another set of conditions on paper by which specific nations agreed to abide, came into play: the 1940 Tripartite Pact stated that when lands around Israel (pursuant to the geography of 1950) were crossed by people with war in mind, both Britain and France together were obligated to take some kind of action.

Read the book to learn more details of the diplomatic and political events leading up to and during the conflict (or war, as interpreted by some), its exciting conclusion, and the death tolls of the parties involved.

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Oil and War

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a sponsored post.

Below is the song Putin is singing now.

OIL AND WAR

sung to the tune of “Elenore” with apologies to The Turtles.

You give me so much power
but my leadership’s starting to sour.
I really love this.
Oil and war suit me.

Economic ruin aWAITS me.
Besides that, THE world hates me.
I never tire of oil and war, really.

Oil and-war, GEE I think you’re swell.
I don’t care that war is hell.
It’s my pride and joy, etc.

Oil and-war, I will TAKE this time
to say-you CAN-not speak your mind.
In my empire, I’m banning Meta.

Trump really thinks I’m groovy.
This is my James Bond movie.
Don’t you agree,
Oil and war suit me?

If you don’t like when we go low,
maybe you shouldn’t watch the show.
It takes one to know one.
Oil and war suit me.

Oil and-war, GEE I think you’re swell.
I don’t care that war is hell.
It’s my pride and joy, etc.

Oil and-war, I will TAKE this time
to say-you CAN-not speak your mind.
In my empire, I’m banning Meta.

Oil and-war, GEE I think you’re swell, ah hah.
Oil and-war, GEE I think you’re swell, ah hah, aah.

Featured

The 188th Crybaby Brigade

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The Book of the Week is “The 188th Crybaby Brigade, A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah” by Joel Chasnoff, published in 2010.

The author related his experiences as an American who joined Israel’s military (Israel Defense Forces; IDF) of the late 1990’s, and had various rude awakenings. He observed a major lack of skills-training and deterioration of leadership. Plus, he wrote, “What disturbs me about our endless fun isn’t just that it’s so often misogynistic, racist, and in the case of Ziv the redhead, outright insensitive, but how easily I go along with it.”

At 24, he was the oldest member of the testosterone-fueled group of mostly immature 18-year old boys who had too much time on their hands. The book’s major themes reflected those in Catch-22 (the same kinds of craziness) and “Portnoy’s Complaint” (only insofar as their gender led them to behave the way they did).

In February 1997, a helicopter accident that killed 73 Israeli soldiers, led the IDF to change its training and treatment of its ranks. It was a time similar to that just after the Yom Kippur war, when the Israeli military realized that it was unprepared to defend the country.

However, unlike in the second half of the 1970’s– in the late 1990’s, the IDF gave certain soldiers a pass, via an honor system. Ultra-Orthodox scholars could avoid military service altogether– a very emotionally charged controversy in Israel. Moreover, due to civilian complaints from families of soldiers, the military became less of an abusive hierarchy, and more socialistic, allowing soldiers to falsely claim they were injured or ill, to shirk the rigorous aspects of military life. The soldiers who weren’t crybabies, were subjected to harsh weather and severe sleep deprivation at the hands of an “arrogant, impudent, and thoroughly incompetent” captain. The other leaders were sociopathic sadists with weaponry.

The author was assigned to the tank division. A class lecturer told soldiers-in-training that Israel’s presence in Lebanon was necessary due to terror groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and their various factions. Monetary help from Iran, Syria and the former U.S.S.R., funneled to Hezbollah, supposedly made the terror groups’ resources actually superior to the IDF’s. That’s why the death toll of soldiers in Israeli tanks in Lebanon was so high, and why soldiers were killed so much sooner than troops in other divisions, even sooner than those in the infantry.

Each Merkava tank was equipped with: “…one ton of explosives in the form of depleted uranium 120-millimeter missiles, hand grenades, two MAG machine guns, a crate of .5-caliber shells and five hundred 35-millimeter bullets.”

The younger generation did not understand the mentality of their grandparents because they hadn’t personally experienced the Holocaust. They had, however, heard about or seen needless deaths and ruined lives resulting from America’s meddling in Vietnam (plus Laos and Cambodia), and Israel’s own constant fighting against its Arab neighbors and Palestinians, and its aggression in Lebanon (1982)– and they wanted no part of that.

Every major Israeli leader whose name is known worldwide (especially by American Jews fifty and older), was an old-school war-hero who also worked in Israeli intelligence (except for Golda Meir) and saw major combat, right up through Netanyahu. Since the 1990’s, leaders of the U.S. have been draft-dodgers rather than war heroes. Apparently, times are changing in geopolitics, war-mongering and energy (oil) needs and usage.

Read the book to learn how the IDF fanned the flames of racial tensions (hint: it was not because the light-skinned Ashkenazi soldiers had their private jokes), how the author struggled with his own religious identity, and many more details on the late-1990’s culture of the IDF.

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If I Plead the Fifth, Man

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This is the song Donald Trump is singing now.

IF I PLEAD THE FIFTH, MAN

sung to the tune of “If I Were A Rich Man” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, with apologies to the estates of Zero Mostel and Jerry Bock.

If I plead the Fifth, man,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

All day long I’d keep things mum,
because I’m a victimized man.

I wouldn’t have to-rehearse hard,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

if I pled a biddy biddy Fifth,
because I’m a victimized man.

I’ve built a biz with prah-per-ties by the dozen.
I’ve done great things for this town!

My fine accountant had IN-teg-ri-ty, I know.

There was one set of books just going up,
and one with numbers going down,
and one more with values, I won’t show.

I’ve filled my companies with greens and towers and clubs
and a school to play and learn,
recording just as profitably as I can,

and each great ca-ching bling bling ca-ching
would be written down just-for-me,
as if to say here is a wonderful man. Oh!

If I plead the Fifth, man,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

All day long I’d keep things mum,
because I’m a victimized man.

I wouldn’t have to-rehearse hard,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

if I pled a biddy biddy Fifth,
because I’m a victimized man.

I saw my REAL estate ful-filling my birthright
with lots of proper bonds and loans,
supervising deals to my heart’s delight.

YOU’RE accusing me and
you’re acting like a witch hunter.
Oh, what an unfair thing you’re doing,
harassing my family day and night.

All the great people came to work with me.
They asked to help ME with building.
They knew I was the expert.
They loved the Trump name.
Oh PLEASE help us.
YOU’RE posing accusations that are wrong in my eyes.

lah eeh eeh a rah rah

And here we have a big, big difference, because I know you’re WRONG.

When you’re me, they’re jealous of all you do.

If I plead the Fifth, I’d assert my RIGHTS,
and run for president again,
and maybe be-able-to build my WALL.

But I won’t discuss my books with prah-se-cu-tors seven hours every-day.
They’re doing the most unjust thing of all. Oh!

If I plead the Fifth, man,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

All day long I’d keep things mum,
because I’m a victimized man.

I wouldn’t have to-rehearse hard,
yah dee yah dee yah dee yah
dee yah dee yah dee yah dum

So who made this evil, evil scheme?
You decree I can’t have the American Dream.
Would you leave my family and me alone?
You’re taking an outrageous tone!

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Breaking the Ice

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The Book of the Week is “Breaking the Ice, The Black Experience in Professional Hockey” by Cecil Harris, published in 2003. This wordy, redundant volume described the experiences of African Americans who have played ice hockey in North America beginning in the twentieth century. As is well known, Canada’s national sport is ice hockey.

The first African American player in the National Hockey League (NHL) was Willie O’Ree. Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, at twenty-two years old, he played one game in January 1958, was demoted to the “minors” but then returned to play in the 1960-61 season. Professional hockey saw no African American players again until the 1974-75 season, when Mike Marson made the big leagues.

In 1978, the World Hockey Association was competing with the NHL for talent. Tony McKegney, an African-American Canadian, signed a contract with the former, to play with a team in Birmingham, Alabama. When racist white fans found out, they said they would cancel their season tickets if McKegney played. The team owner felt pressured into breaching the contract with him. The player’s agent was a crook, too. That’s another story.

Some newspaper writer in Toronto reported that McKegney was okay with his canceled contract. But the lying writer had never even spoken with him. Anyway, fortunately, McKegney was later drafted by the NHL to play with the Buffalo Sabres.

One major measure of talent is total goals scored in a season. In the winter 1973 season, McKegney scored thirty-six goals and was still a young twenty-five. Yet he was traded a bunch of times, anyway– playing on six different teams (one of them twice) by the time he turned thirty-three. It is certainly debatable whether race was a factor in those circumstances. For the 1991-1992 season, he played hockey in Italy.

Grant Fuhr helped the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup four times in the second half of the 1980’s and in 1990. He wore a plastic face covering for protective equipment– not because he was afraid of harm from opposing teams and racist fans, although that’s a justified fear. He was a goalie, so no one could see his skin color.

In March 2003, a racial slur led the coach and general manager of the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (Ontario League) to resign in disgrace. One black player said in essence, that hatred is taught in families where insecurity abounds, and is a sign of weakness all around.

In the 2003-04 NHL season, there were roughly six hundred players, only seventeen of whom were African American. Canadian hockey players (of any ethnicity) who are professional-hopefuls, can be chosen to live with a host family near a hockey venue to do an internship of sorts, that pays their expenses.

In the early 1990’s, one of the first black NHL players who trained in this manner, at sixteen years old, was Jarome Iginla. He also got to go to New York City to play with NHL greats in a special program, and played in a major international competition in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Read the book to learn much more about racial issues in ice hockey, the crackdown on hate speech uttered by hockey insiders, the childishness of fans (such as the throwing of chicken bones and bananas at black players), and the bygone era of hockey-fighting as sideshow entertainment.

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A Storm Too Soon – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “A Storm Too Soon, A True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue” by Michael J. Touglas, published in 2013.

This suspenseful story recounted the abbreviated May 2007 voyage of three Darwin-Award candidates who began to sail from the northern coast of Florida across the Atlantic Ocean to Gibraltar. Hazards included, among others– sudden, unexpected storms, spilled contents of container ships and inaccurate maps (due to recently washed-away sandbars).

“Every screw, rivet, line, seam, porthole, and the rest of what makes up a sailboat has to hold under the assault of the seas.” Unfortunately, the entire contents of the captain and crew’s 55-foot sailboat had a difficult time staying afloat, when an unseasonable squall broke a window that immediately let in 80-foot-high waves and 80-knot wind gusts. Miraculously, the life raft stayed intact. However, the various tools they had for sending distress signals to the Coast Guard were less than ideal, for different reasons.

Predictably, the three men were at high risk for drowning, harm from sharks, dehydration and hypothermia. In a case like this, rescuers who approach them via C-130 plane and helicopter, risk their lives in numerous ways. First, the plane searches an area equivalent to the needle-in-a-haystack cliche.

Read the book to learn many more details, and the fate of the participants in the above story.

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Code Name Ginger

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“Now he was inventing a new story, in which I never told him that I was writing a book and in which he controlled anything I wrote.” Sounds familiar. “I” was Steve Kemper, the author of this book, and “he” was Dean Kamen, who became an amnesiac whenever it was convenient.

The Book of the Week is “Code Name Ginger, The Story Behind SEGWAY and Dean Kamen’s Quest to Invent a New World” by Steve Kemper, published in 2003.

Born in 1951 in Rockville Centre on Long Island, Dean Kamen is a spell-binding genius entrepreneur with some social blind spots. Nevertheless, he had a well-founded fear that “…scientific illiteracy would wreck the country’s economy, lifestyle and future.”

Anyway, by the time he graduated high school, he had become wealthy building cool audio-visual lighting systems that synchronized multiple slide projectors for rock bands and friends and family. By age 31, he was a multi-millionaire, after producing patented breakthrough medical products, horrifying other alpha males– ones who held graduate business degrees– with his drastic plans.

In the early 1990’s, some of Kamen’s company-employees began working on his vision for a new product– a wheelchair that adjusted the way a human being would, to different situations such as curbs and stairs. He was extremely possessive of his product, which was his heart and soul. He wouldn’t grant investors more than ten percent financial interest in the product. Ever.

In 1999, the creators planned to launch the new product, code-named “Ginger” early in the second quarter of 2001, and projected the construction of cookie-cutter factories on different continents that would build two million machines in ten years. However, Dean’s fellow employees felt he didn’t understand that high-volume manufacturing for a product like Ginger required hundreds of employees, a dozen loading docks, fleets of tractor-trailers, etc.

Kamen also reeked of overconfidence, even when presented with ample evidence that disproved his claims. In the late 1990’s, there was already so much competition from other products in the forms of various scooters and folding bikes. At a December 2000 meeting of investors, Steve Jobs told him that U.S. automakers would lobby against Ginger and the automakers would win.

Kamen’s ace in the hole was that he had friendly contact with nearly all of George W. Bush’s cabinet in early 2001. They had the power to grease the wheels of commerce in his favor.

Read the book to learn how the product turned into a toy for the rich but made mobility fun, and the personalities that shaped its evolution.

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Read About the Years – BONUS POST

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ALSO, PLEASE NOTE: Kent State should be compared to the Jan. 6 riot ONLY insofar as it really shocked the nation.

READ ABOUT THE YEARS

sung to the tune of “Reeling in the Years” with apologies to Steely Dan.

Your democratic freedoms, you can see them fading fast.
So you express your moral outrage with a social media blast.
Well, you’ve forgotten your history
of recent decades in this land.
Your panic and stress show that you don’t understand.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

You keep forgetting there’s nothing new under the sun.
In your youth you were blissfully ignorant
and always having fun.
But the real world and politics
have made you cynical and mad.
The fears your elders grew by, you don’t understand.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

Healthcare costs a lot of money
but democracy takes a lot of time.
GOP versus Hollywood is seared upon your mind.
The nation will survive this.
To lead, they’ll find another man.
History shows things aren’t hopeless.
Read– you’ll understand.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

You need to read about the YEARS of Joe McCarthy’s time,
’68-and-Kent-State,
and why Nixon resigned.

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Out of the Gobi

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The Book of the Week is “Out of the Gobi, My Story of China and America” by Weijian Shan, published in 2019. This volume richly detailed the hardships faced by ordinary Chinese people from the 1950’s onward.

Born in 1953, the author spent most of his childhood in Beijing. As is well known, the Communist dictator Mao Tse-tung finally achieved nationwide dominance over the Nationalist (allegedly democratic, but still horribly corrupt) Chiang Kai-shek at the dawn of the 1950’s. (For additional info on how Communism is different from Socialism and Capitalism, see the bottom portion of this blog’s post, “The Last Idealist”). Mao proceeded to do grave damage to his country, causing the deaths of millions from starvation and financial disaster (among other causes).

Beginning in 1965, Mao declared there would be a new world order in his country, in the form of a Cultural Revolution. One of many goings-on during this period was burning, destruction or confiscation of all books except for those by the authors Marx (Karl, not Groucho), Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

The evil West’s bourgeois lifestyle was violently stamped out by Mao’s private police force, the Red Guard (which consisted of mostly young, armed and dangerous radical hooligans– sociopathic sadists), which brainwashed schoolkids of all ages, up to university level, to make Revolution. They destroyed the statue of the Venus de Milo, and denounced the Russian classical novels. A couple of years later, chaos reigned, but Mao was still in control.

In autumn 1966, at thirteen years old, the author was brainwashed by the youth movement to go on a fact-finding mission in the countryside. The government did away with entrance examinations, and in fact, all formal schooling. For about three weeks, the author and his peers traveled around by trains, buses and on foot to personally witness the Revolution. At one point, they went on a hike in the mountains, retracing the steps of the Red Army. Their travel expenses were paid for, but the conditions were quite primitive.

Into 1967, upon orders handed down by Mao, the youths protested against Capitalism in a way roughly equivalent to “Occupy Wall Street” but they got bored. They were neither studying nor working. For, a few years prior, the dictator had successfully thrown the country into disarray, forcing the closure of not only all schools, but bookstores, libraries, parks, movie theaters and houses of worship.

Thousands of people disappeared, were abducted from their homes– to be jailed, tortured, killed, for so much as speaking, writing or acting in the least way, critical of the government. In the environment of fear and force, they were under pressure to tattle on others before they themselves were punished.

Schools in the author’s area finally did reopen in autumn 1968, but education was still lacking. The author’s “Worker-Peasant-Soldier Middle School” (grades nine and ten– after what would be American grammar school) had no textbooks but students were drilled only on Mao’s propaganda.

In the summer of 1969, Mao realized it was time to change tack by sending young people to the countryside, as they had been making trouble in the cities long enough. He kept them busy by inspiring them to do hard manual labor, and study revolutionary thought. The kids truly tried their hardest– they were blindly obedient to the cause of defending their motherland against Soviet aggression. In autumn 1969, the whole nation went crazy constructing air-raid shelters and tunnels.

The author was sent to the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. Again, conditions were extremely primitive. He and his fellows got military training. However, due to a weapons shortage, another platoon was chosen to receive (outdated, Soviet-made) submachine guns. None of the company leaders had any experience in battle, but they inspired passion in their subordinates, anyway. Under the blazing summer sun, there were vicious mosquitoes. It was freezing in winter.

The author described his physical and psychological suffering of the next several years, as his group strove to complete a series of months or years-long agricultural and infrastructure projects that actually produced a net negative effect on food production and quality of life.

In 1979, the United States resumed formal diplomatic relations with China. People in China queued up for hours and hours for all kinds of consumer goods. The author, by then a recent university graduate, reveled in his new lap of luxury– he had time to read for hours and hours, had enough to eat, and got a hot shower once a week.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional information on: the author’s experiences in China from the 1950’s into the 1980’s (which involved a slew of health hazards) including but was far from limited to:

  • all his hard manual labor and psychological trauma;
  • his short stint as a medical “doctor” in 1971;
  • how he enjoyed the benefits of a student exchange program in the 1980’s; and
  • his troubles with the INS (hint– “… a mistake in the new letter: the date by which we had to leave the country was left blank… the INS had somehow lost our file…”).

This substantial volume reveals why, politically, economically, culturally and socially, and in quality of life– overall, China is still many decades behind America (never mind the propagandists who claim that China is allegedly becoming an economic powerhouse and will someday overtake the U.S.).

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IS THAT A SHAME?

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IS THAT A SHAME?

sung to the tune of “Ain’t That A Shame” with apologies to: the estate of Fats Domino; and Joe Biden– shame on those who are blaming him for everything.

InFRA-structure, was passed, in a blur.

Is that a shame?
You’re winning the game.
Is that a shame?
Joe’s the one to blame.

Did COVID, re-LIEF, cause you, any grief?

Is that a shame?
You’re winning the game.
Is that a shame?
Joe’s the one to blame.

Oh well, jobs grew. And wa-ges, too.

Is that a shame?
You’re winning the game.
Is that a shame?
Joe’s the one to blame.

InFRA-structure, was passed, in a blur.

Is that a shame?
You’re winning the game.
Is that a shame?
Joe’s the one to blame.

Oh well, jobs grew. And wa-ges, too.

Is that a shame?
You’re winning the game.
Is that a shame?
Joe’s the one to blame.

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North By Northwest / My Old Man and the Sea

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The first Book of the Week is “North By Northwest, A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaska Waters” by Captain Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen, published in 2010.

Born in the Seattle area in 1966, Hansen was of Norwegian ancestry. He was mentored in fishing for a living by his grandfather, father, and the Norwegian fishing community. His older male relatives had been sourcing seafood for decades. The community had been growing in the upper Midwest in the United States since the early 1800’s. It was a lucrative, male-dominated career– a subculture bearing a resemblance to military life in certain ways:

  • Teamwork was required of five or six men who lived in close quarters, doing rigorous physical work under life-threatening conditions at all times at sea;
  • There were numerous ways to: become seriously injured, and / or suffer serious financial losses rather than reap huge financial gains from selling expensive seafood;
  • The crew consisted of a hierarchy whose entry involved initiation rites in the form of practical jokes that were not always harmless; and
  • Even during the off-season, the men’s drinking fostered male bonding that allowed them to mitigate the emotional stress of their work, and maintain their relationships in the old-boy network.

After high school, Hansen apprenticed as a deckhand on his father’s boat. The men were away at sea from nine to eleven months of the year, using “pots” (large, unwieldy cages that trap the seafood) to catch: red crab in the Bering Sea and near Nome in Alaska and near Adak, blue crab at St. Matthew, and opilio crab at Dutch Harbor.

In the 1980’s, the fishermen were allowed to carry boxes of live crabs in the plane cabin on Reeve Aleutian Airways. When starting their winter fishing season, if they were extremely lucky, they could complete their flight from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor in Alaska on an icy twin-prop plane. They booked it months in advance, arrived at the airport in the wee hours of the morning, and prayed that the weather would cooperate.

Read the book to learn a little history about seafaring in general, including the context of the following quote:

“That winter he was killed by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay, his body torn apart and burned.”

and much more about Hansen’s life and times in his community. By the way, he appeared on the reality TV show, “Deadliest Catch.”

The second Book of the Week is “My Old Man and the Sea, A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn” by David Hays and Daniel Hays, published in 1995. Father and son alternately described, beginning in the new year of 1985, their adventures at sea– sailing (with no motor) on a tiny yacht for fun from New London, Connecticut southward thousands of miles, and eventually, around the tip of South America from west to east (the less dangerous route). They began testing their boat in fall 1984, sailing through the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean Sea.

As they well knew, all kinds of discomforts and life-threatening dangers awaited them. That was the challenge of it. Even with all of their experience in purchasing the boat, making it seaworthy (over the course of two years), maintaining their (then-primitive) communications and navigation equipment (which required them to pack thousands of items for every possible scenario they might encounter), they still suffered injuries, seasickness, hangovers, etc. When sailing along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, the chart warned them to watch out for “… unexploded mines, rocket casings and torpedoes, and chemical warfare dumpings.”

On their voyages, they met with visiting family or friends to celebrate Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur. They attended a service at a synagogue on the island of Jamaica. The ark and dais were at opposite ends of the sanctuary, on a floor comprised of sand (representative of a desert).

Much later, when they arrived at a port in the Galapagos Islands, local law allowed them to pollute the water there for only three days; then they had to ship out. The authors described the area thusly: “In the name of white rice and virginity, Western man spent a good two hundred years raping, robbing, and leaving neat diseases here.” It was rumored to be a gateway to Atlantis, and the approximate population was three thousand.

The onshore entertainment consisted of the American movie “Blade Runner” whose soundtrack was poor quality, and whose reels were screened out of order, but the native people in the theater were undemanding.

The authors related that it is easily conceivable that about a hundred men could have made the sculptures on Easter Island over the course of a few decades, thus blowing speculations of alien-artists out of the water.

Read the book to: learn additional info about the authors’ adventures at sea (including their crazy pets), about previous trips made by them and others, see sample pages of their log, a diagram of their boat, and much more.

Featured

The Nation Got Run Over – BONUS POST

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THE NATION GOT RUN OVER BY A PLAGUE HERE

sung to the tune of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” with apologies to Randy Brooks, Elmo (and Patsy) Trigg, and whichever other rights holders this may concern.

The nation got run over by a plague here
from years of White House gyrations election eve.
You can say political donors play Santa
and voters have no CLUE what to believe.

Some are drinking too much Kool-Aid
and others abuse their power so.
Still others scream for medication.
The hostility of some has reached a new low.

When they confined us in 2020,
they began a dangerous age.
We resented the intrusion,
and our State is such
we have yet to turn the page.

The nation got run over by a plague here
from years of White House gyrations election eve.
You can say political donors play Santa
and voters have no CLUE what to believe.

It’s less than A year until midterms.
Our leaders’ messaging’s a joke.
See no masks on players of football
while tests and shots are FORCED on powerless folk.

It’s not nice to fool the people.
All the nation’s mad as hell,
and we just can’t help but wonder,
how much more must we endure before we’re well?

The nation got run over by a plague here
from years of White House gyrations election eve.
You can say political donors play Santa
and voters have no CLUE what to believe.

Soon the voters get to DEcide
whose heads are going to roll.
All those blue and red state mandates
are going to change pursuant to every political poll.

I urge all my fellow Americans:
you need to follow politics and vote.
The government has taken license
to curb our freedoms
and make their enemies the scapegoat.

The nation got run over by a plague here
from years of White House gyrations election eve.
You can say political donors play Santa
and voters have no CLUE what to believe.

The nation got run over by a plague here
from years of White House gyrations election eve.
You can say political donors play Santa
and voters have no CLUE what to believe.

Featured

Every Town is a Sports Town

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“Its demise was caused by low attendance, conflicting agendas among the owners, and a number of very poor business decisions.”

MLB? Possibly, but definitely the USFL by 1985.

Regardless, the Book of the Week is “Every Town is a Sports Town; Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom” by George Bodenheimer with Donald T. Phillips, published in 2015.

In September 1979, the Bristol, Connecticut-based cable-TV channel ESPN began televising sports-related shows, by means of deals with: RCA (regarding a space-satellite), the NCAA (regarding covering basketball games), and Anheuser-Busch (regarding sponsoring the programs). The initial concept of the then-shoestring operation was to dispense information on sports 24/7, to serve fans. ESPN won contracts to show March Madness games and the NFL draft to start.

The workplace was team-oriented with a family-feel, so everyone was a jack-of-all-trades. In 1981, the author, a recent college graduate, worked as a mailroom guy and chauffeur of sorts, for executives of ESPN. He was later promoted to videotape librarian. He was willing to relocate when the company opened new branch offices, including Denver.

Anyway, ESPN could not survive financially on ad revenue alone, as the company was paying cable operators to carry its channel. It saw a loss of $25 million annually until it negotiated in 1982 to have cable operators pay the company a certain number of cents for each household receiving its channel, and that figure could rise up to a certain maximum percentage during the term of a multi-year contract.

Due to the ultimate takeover by Capital Cities Communications, and a favorable change in media law– ESPN grew by leaps and bounds. Meanwhile, it added professional tennis, golf, NASCAR, World Cup soccer, the America’s Cup yacht race, and Sunday Night Football (for which ESPN had to pay the NFL) to its lineup in the mid-1980’s.

Globalization, recording devices, the Internet and mobile devices have made the negotiations over intellectual-property rights and sports programming between and among ESPN and other stakeholders, infinitely more complicated. In 1985, ESPN could be watched in about 30 million viewer-households in America; in 1999– in about 80 million in America and about 100 million elsewhere worldwide.

Read the book to learn: of how the author achieved a high position at ESPN, and how he boosted the morale, energy and innovative thinking of his fellow employees; what the company did when it saw its ratings plummet; what his executive team did to resolve the controversy that arose when ESPN made a movie in which the “F” word was uttered approximately thirty times; about the author’s business philosophy; and much more about the history of ESPN.

ENDNOTE: The author’s photo appears on the book’s cover with his head very slightly tilted. This flex is pleasing to the human brain, projecting the impression that he is a people-person. His boyish good looks probably served him well, too. [Total lack of head-flex, projects an unfriendly vibe.]

Featured

We’re Trigger-Happy – BONUS POST

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WE’RE TRIGGER-HAPPY

This is what the “Let’s Go Brandon” crowd ought to sing if they’re honest with themselves– sung to the tune of the partridge family (sic) theme song (Come On Get Happy) with apologies to the estate of Wes Farrell, Danny Janssen and whichever other rights holders this may concern.

SHOOting our mouths off;
JOIN in our zinging.
WE’RE trigger-happy.
A whole lot of anger is what we’ll be bringing.
WE’RE trigger-happy.
WE’RE being mean, and we stick together,
and spread a little hatin’;
no IMpulse conTROL.
We engage in profanity
instead of conflict res-o-lution.
We spread a crude feeling
wherever we GO.
Playin’ along with our hate-speech phrasing.
WE’RE trigger-happy.
A whole lot of anger is what we’ll be bringing.
WE’RE trigger-happy.
WE’RE trigger-happy.
WE’RE trigger-happ-y-y-y-y.

Featured

Beyond Hitler’s Grasp – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Beyond Hitler’s Grasp, The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews” by Michael Bar-Zohar, published in 1998.

Bulgaria lost a large amount of territory in WWI, and became a Constitutional monarchy after 1919. Its prime minister and other ministers served at the pleasure of its king, Boris III. Other sources of the nation’s power lay in its Army, the Communists and Macedonian terrorists.

In the 1930’s, roughly half of Bulgaria’s fifty thousand Jews lived in the capital of Sofia. They were productive members of society, and were treated just like people of any other religious group. There were only isolated incidents of anti-Semitism because most of the Jews were merchants, craftsmen or poor laborers, and so were not the victims of class envy.

When WWII began, Germany was able to help Bulgaria regain some of the land it had lost in the Great War. Germany was trading with and supplying weapons to Bulgaria, but the Bulgarians had more of a Soviet cultural and Soviet social mindset. So the king sought to keep his country out of the war.

Alexander Belev, an opportunist with hubris syndrome was the Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish Questions. In summer 1942, he collaborated with the Nazis in changing the definition of “Jew” based on ancestry rather than religion. This is one source of the notion that people can be “born Jewish”– have genetic traits that Jews share (For an additional source, see this blog’s post “In Search of Memory”).

Anyway, beginning in autumn 1940, laws went into effect that oppressed Bulgaria’s Jews by taking away their assets and sullying their reputations through hate-spewing and other actions of greedy, local bureaucrats who were taking orders from Hitler.

Read the book to learn how the common people, Christian churches, and circumstances determined the fates of Jews living in Macedonia, Thrace and Bulgaria (complete with romantic subplot, of course; hint: “The deep hatred for the Jews infected only the lunatic fringe of the wartime society, the Ratniks, Branniks, and Legionnaires and some sadistic police and army officers and KEV officials”), and of the mythmaking– historical revisionism of various incidents and events.

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Vincent Price

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The Book of the Week is “Vincent Price, His Movies, His Plays, His Life” by Vincent Price, published in 1978.

Born in May 1911 in Saint Louis, Price was the youngest of four children. He broke into the movies in the 1930’s, when Hollywood made three to four hundred movies annually. In 1956, he appeared, along with Charlton Heston in the most expensive movie ever made at that time: The Ten Commandments. Filming it took eight years; some of it on-location in Egypt, where the Red Sea was parted with then-state-of-the art special effects.

The author claimed that there was fierce competition for roles in the horror genre of the 1950’s, but he had acted in more than a hundred films by 1971. He worked with Boris Karloff, who was able to portray a sympathetic, human-like, but at the same time, scary character. When Karloff played Frankenstein’s monster– who committed evil acts– he wore an excessive quantity of makeup, and screws in his neck, but with a lisp in his speech. There must be villains as well as heroes in entertainment stories, in order to drive the plot.

In many films, Price had to put up with absurdity: “So here we both were, co-starring with a talking fly, and trying to speak our lines while staring at a spider’s web” in The Fly in 1958. By the 1960’s, he was guest-starring on TV as the villain “Egghead” in Batman; in the Brady Bunch, Muppet Show and Hollywood Squares.

In 1961, Price, for no pay, served on the White House Fine Arts Committee to help redecorate the U.S. president’s residence. Beginning in September 1962, upon amassing a valuable art collection, he also became an art consultant to Sears Roebuck & Co. Its stores sold works of truly famous artists (Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, Whistler, and Andrew Wyeth) for the payment plan of $5 down and $10 a month thereafter. Price wrote cookbooks, too.

Read the book to learn additional information about Price’s life and times.

Featured

Steinbrenner

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The Book of the Week is “Steinbrenner, The Last Lion of Baseball” by Bill Madden, published in 2010.

George Steinbrenner was born in July 1930 in Ohio. At fourteen years old, he was sent by his father to military school. He was groomed to inherit his father’s Great Lakes shipping company.

In late 1972, he got investors together to buy the New York Yankees baseball team from the media network CBS. His financial interest was the largest, however, so he was the face of the team. After the 1974 baseball season, he was indicted for committing felonies by making illegal, individual and corporate political contributions to the former late president Nixon’s reelection campaign. He never spent a day in jail, but was fined. The then-commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB) Bowie Kuhn was out to get him for other reasons, though.

Nevertheless, in 1977, after just five years of ownership, Steinbrenner’s Yankees won the World Series, “… in spite of clubhouse dissension, a crazy manager [Billy Martin] and an even crazier owner.” This was due to overwhelming hitting talent. That is the most crucial skill required for a winning baseball team. The reason is– there is limited opportunity to score, unlike with all other major professional American sports (football, basketball, hockey and soccer). In baseball, a team must get its players on the bases and run around those bases in order to win the game. In all the other games, when there is a turnover, any player from the team on defense, can score on the spot.

Aspects of Steinbrenner’s character rubbed people the wrong way. His frequent dishonesty, temper tantrums, impulsive decision-making, micro-management, and excessive spending to recruit players for the Yankees caused emotional burnout and sky-high turnover among his employees. Even so, starting in 1976, there was a major change in the legal rights of Major League players– called free agency– that prompted the average player’s 1975 salary of $44,676 to rise by 1980 to $143,756. Steinbrenner was willing to pay top dollar for the players perceived to be the absolute best prospects for his Yankees, and also for his top executive team.

In 2004, the Yankees’ payroll was $185 million. Beginning in 2005, Joe Torre became the then-highest paid MLB manager, with a $19.2 million, 3-year contract. The following year, Brian Cashman became the then-highest paid general manager with a $4.4 million, 3-year contract.

Read the book to learn much more about Steinbrenner’s career as a professional baseball-team owner, and the constantly changing cast of characters who helped him navigate the Yankees’ ups and downs.

Featured

World Class

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The Book of the Week is “World Class, One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children” by Teru Clavel, published in 2019.

Born in the early 1960’s, the author had very different educational experiences from that of her children. She spent her early childhood years in Greenwich, Connecticut; middle years in New York City, and teens in Westchester county, New York. She, her husband and their three children spent a decade in Asia, and moved back to the United States in 2016.

They began their stay in Hong Kong in the expat community, but the author wanted her children to see how the natives actually lived and learned. The rat race among the super-rich elitists had become tiresome. So in Hong Kong and later in Shanghai, she found a preschool and elementary school that were right for her then-two children. Even so, most local Asian schools demanded discipline and rigorous academics that were standardized nationwide.

In Shanghai, though, her family endured hardships in order for her children to get the best educations– authentic to the culture of that place and time. In Asia, teaching is a highly respected profession for which there is rigorous training and a highly selective hiring process.

Both the author’s family’s local public school and their residence were structurally dilapidated. The former had classrooms that were unheated, so in winter, the kids wore their coats all day. The grounds had no playground, only a concrete basketball court with a bare hoop. The family’s home had vermin and unreliable water and internet service.

At the elementary school, the teachers specialized in math, Mandarin, English language or other subjects, and were paid more than the homeroom teacher. The kids learned with pencils and paper; not tablets and videos.

Every day before preschool began, the kids were subjected to a color-coded health examination: red (a lucky color in China) meant the child was well, yellow meant slight illness but okay to be in class, but blue indicated that the child would spend the day at the school infirmary. Most parents of elementary schoolers work to support a multi-generational household: an only child, the parents, and both sets of grandparents of the child.

The author’s six-year old son’s report card was a 46 page bound book containing assessments in each subject including social skills– comprised of opinions of the parents, teachers and students themselves. According to the author, the Chinese education system is a meritocracy, with high school and college entrance exams the keys to the kingdom.

The author wanted her children to attend high school in the United States, so the family moved to Palo Alto in California– the best school district in the nation; but, as the author found out, only reputationally.

Read the book to learn: many more details of Asian education and cultures, and how they compare to the American system in recent years; the author’s advice and tips for how parents can seek out the best education for their kids; and biographical information on the author and her family.

Featured

Flight of Passage – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Flight of Passage, A Memoir” by Rinker Buck, published in 1997.

In July 1966, the fifteen-year old author and his seventeen-year old brother flew from New Jersey to California in a Piper Cub they’d refurbished themselves. For fun. They weren’t attention whores. It was their famous father who helped publicize their flight. Completion of the trip was a major feat, as conditions were life-threatening from time to time. Built in 1946, the prop plane had no battery, no radio and no lights.

The media thought it was a big story: “America just wanted a good dose of innocence that summer and we perfectly fit the bill. The Jack-and-Bobby look-alikes bouncing out to California in their homemade Piper Cub was a heartwarming tale for the masses.”

Read the book to learn of: the brothers’ adventures; the issues the author had to deal with, between and among his brother, father and himself; other information on his family; and how his father’s view of black people changed radically when they saved his life.

ENDNOTE: The author focused mostly on the flight and ignored the ugly historical events then happening in the United States. Times have changed on two fronts in 55 years: back then, there was minimal security and a lot of privacy for ordinary Americans.

Once the media began to follow the author’s story and he and his brother became momentarily famous, though, hordes of journalists engaged in stakeouts at every place the plane touched down. Even so, the pilots didn’t hire a publicist and didn’t try to stay in the spotlight in any way. Even their father didn’t try to keep their space in the news cycle going. That is the antithesis of the current social climate in this country. Here’s a little ditty that shows how times have changed:

EVERY SELFIE YOU TAKE
sung to the tune of “Every Breath You Take” with apologies to Sting and the Police.

Every selfie you take,
from the moment you wake,
every post you make,
every ID you fake,
spyware’s watching you.

Everyone you unfriend,
every text you send,
every photo you post,
every site from your host,
spyware’s watching you.

Oh, you emotional wreck,
you belong to Big Tech.

Your hypocrisy grows
with your privacy woes,
your attention whore ways,
your social media days,
hours of video-game plays,
every political craze,
spyware’s watching you.

ComplAINTS on privacy are a SLIPpery slope.
Lawyers spin disclaimers in ORDER to cope.
Look around, you’re hanging YOURself
on your own rope.
You feel so mad but can you TURN back? Nope.
You keep crying,
world– LOOK at me, LOOK at me, PLEASE!

Oh, you emotional wreck,
you belong to Big Tech.

Your hypocrisy grows
with your privacy woes,
your attention whore ways,
your social media days,
hours of video-game plays,
every political craze,
spyware’s watching you.

Every selfie you take,
from the moment you wake,
spyware’s watching you.
Spyware’s watching you.

Your attention whore ways,
your social media days,
hours of video-game plays,
every political craze,
spyware’s watching you.

Everyone you unfriend,
every text you send,
every photo you post,
every site from your host,
spyware’s watching you.

Every selfie you take,
from the moment you wake,
every post you make,
every ID you fake,
spyware’s watching you.

Everyone you unfriend,
every text you send,
every photo you post,
every site from your host,
spyware’s watching you.

Your attention whore ways,
your social media days,
hours of video-game plays,
every political craze,
spyware’s watching you.

Everyone you unfriend,
every text you send,
every photo you post,
every site from your host,
spyware’s watching you.

Featured

How I Cracked the Alpha Code – BONUS POST

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“The new guys were preoccupied with being reelected, the demands of which were not well served by ridiculous fantasies like fiscal discipline.”

American politics? Rogers was actually referring to the money managers of the euro in the early 2000’s. He was cautiously optimistic about the euro when it was first launched. Oh, well.

The Bonus Book of the Week is “How I Cracked the Alpha Code” by Jim Rogers, published in 2013. This was a partially autobiographical, extended essay that gave tips on how to gauge economic prosperity and prospects in different places. At all times, Rogers is on the lookout everywhere for investment opportunities. He made his (take this job and shove it) money and retired from investment banking at 37 years old.

Born in 1942, Rogers and his wife and young children tried living in Shanghai and Hong Kong (where there was horrible air pollution) beginning in 2005, before deciding to move to Singapore from New York City.

Singapore requires no security at public events, so it is safe for children. He claimed that the education and healthcare systems are excellent. It has entitlement programs in those areas and in home ownership that are roughly equivalent to health savings accounts and 529 plans in the U.S. with contribution-matching through employers, but administered by the government. The public schools require parents to volunteer to help in various capacities. Medical treatment is a great value compared to that in the U.S. No surprise there. It also has the equivalent of America’s E-ZPass system on toll roads and for parking, too.

However, Rogers merely listed the positive aspects of Singaporeans’ lifestyle. He listed no negatives, except for potential, general economic threats that could affect any nation. Another glaring omission of inconvenient information was cryptocurrencies. But he did reveal his basic philosophy: one’s real worth is what one would be worth if one lost all of his or her money. And let financial entities fail so as to encourage creative destruction. Do not bail them out.

Rogers listed some of the kinds of policies and practices that bring a country down economically: wars, litigation, and incompetent leadership. This blogger would add one more: excessive deregulation. He gave tips on what a nation should do to try to reverse its serious financial position: reform the tax system so as to encourage savings and investment, not consumption; “change the education system” and reform healthcare and litigation.

Read the book to learn more cherry-picked information that bolstered the author’s too brief, too pat pronouncements.

Featured

Fatal Subtraction

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The Book of the Week is “Fatal Subtraction, How Hollywood Really Does Business” by Pierce O’Donnell and Dennis McDougal, published in 1992.

“I asked myself whether this uncanny similarity and anticompetitive market was the result of coincidence or conspiracy. Thanks to my populist tendencies and a healthy distrust of powerful institutions, I opted for the sinister explanation.”

Politics? Big Tech? Medical, legal, music, sports or oil industry?

The above quote happens to refer (in various ways) to all of the major Hollywood movie studios, just after their most lucrative years. The skyrocketing size of the home video market in the 1980’s made movie studios richer and richer, what with cable TV, VCRs and global distribution. They retained the best entertainment law firms on an ongoing basis so that whenever any powerless parties who felt wronged, tried to hire those firms to bring legal actions against them, there were conflicts of interest.

In 1988, Art Buchwald and Alain Bernheim– respectively a seasoned humorous newspaper writer and lecturer who dabbled in the movie industry, and a producer– sued Paramount Pictures Corporation for thirteen causes of action; among them, breach of contract in connection with the movie Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy. They were fortunate in that they were able to hire a big firm and could afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire topnotch attorneys to fight a years-long legal battle.

The crux of the dispute involved the boilerplate contracts almost everyone in Hollywood was compelled by their agents to sign, in order to get work. The studios engaged in cartelizing behavior, so the powerless creative personnel were at their mercy at contract-signing. Only a tiny percentage of powerful elite stars reaped a ton of money for all movies they did, regardless of financial success. The agents claimed they were getting great deals for their less powerful talent, but that was a lie. For, starting in the 1950’s, the contracts evolved pursuant to the studios’ shady accounting practices, in a way that cheated screenwriters especially.

By the dawn of the 1990’s, big-name actors were allowed to behave like prima donnas, basically enjoying excessive expense accounts and reaping outrageously generous compensation from gross movie revenues. The movie idea originators and writers received net profit participation– i.e., the crumbs after all expenses had been deducted. The studios’ definition of “profit” was topsy turvy so when it came time to pay lowly workers, they claimed their movies were losing money!

O’Donnell and his legal team argued that certain provisions in Buchwald’s and Bernheim’s contracts were unconscionable, and therefore legally unenforceable. On principle, the studios’ oligopoly was economically bad not just for his clients, but for society (See this blog’s post “Wikinomics / Courting Justice”).

Read the book to learn every last detail of the case.

Featured

You Can’t Trust Them – BONUS POST

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YOU CAN’T TRUST THEM

This is the song Steve Bannon is singing now.

sung to the tune of “You Can’t Touch This” with apologies to (M.C.) Hammer.

You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
No. No. No. No.
You can’t trust them.
Again, you made America GREAT,
makes me say, just you WAIT.
Thank you, for voting TRUMP
with a Wall to build
and a fist to BUMP.
We feel good, even NOW
we won again in this cheating TOWN.
We’re innoCENT.
So they can’t charge me with conTEMPT.
We beat the radical left.
You can’t trust them.
Yeah, that’s how we roll,
and you know, uh,
you can’t trust them.
Don’t look in my files, man.
You can’t trust them.
I ignore the subpoenas.
You can’t trust them.
We deflect their licks,
we keep it REAL.
We’re strong like that.
We say stop the STEAL.
So get out on the STREET
and get a big sign
and use your free SPEECH
while we’re polling.
On TOP.
Update a little bit.
Keep on fighting. Don’t STOP.
Like me, like me.
They’re hot on my trail,
so back me up.
They accuse us of trying a PUTSCH,
but we’re the winners, uh, they can’t TOUCH.
Yo, don’t even.
You can’t trust them.
Why they harassing me, man?
You can’t trust them.
Yo, let freedom ring,
election’s still on, sucker.
You can’t trust them.
Give me a rally and a MIC,
they’re so dull.
See we’re all PSYCHED.
Now they JUMP,
you mess with the Bannon
you’re messing with TRUMP.
That’s risky, and NAIVE.
Accusers are hatin’,
we’re not gonna LEAVE,
won’t CAVE IN.
We know, how to catch the next WAVE IN.
We’re LEGIT.
We’ll take over, so they might as well QUIT.
Sure thing.
They’re so not.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
We’re on a roll.
Stop. Bannon time!
I’m not guilty, this I KNOW.
If you can’t groove to my podcasts,
you’re too SLOW.
So wave, your arms in the AIR.
Take back the country.
The ballot-counting was so UNFAIR.
We can’t stand this any LONGER.
Stick with me and you’ll get STRONGER.
Now listen, Biden’s going down,
let’s open our eyes and look AROUND (around, around, around).
No. You can’t trust them.
Get with it.
You can’t trust them.
You’ve got lots of problems, ’cause
you know, uh, you can’t trust them.
Let freedom ring, election’s still on.
We keep it real.
Stop. Bannon time!
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
We’re on a roll.
Stop. Bannon time!
No bones about it,
that Bannon’s just so DEFT.
I’m always on your phone
and I shame the radical LEFT.
Now they won’t ever, stop with their PLOTS.
To end this outrage, we can do LOTS.
I visited the world,
from China to D.C.
It’s Bannon GO
Bannon, Steve Bannon YO
Keep calm and follow ME.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
You can’t trust them.
No. You can’t trust them.
I’m bad. You can’t trust them.
So deft. You can’t trust them.
Yo, we’re on it. You can’t trust them.

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The Daughters of Kobani

The Book of the Week is “The Daughters of Kobani, The Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, published in 2021.

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“She didn’t have time to offer hourly updates to her family, who were tracking every moment of the battle for Kobani on Facebook and WhatsApp.”

No, the above referred NOT to an American political campaign, but a real-life war.

Violence in northern Syria resumed between Kurds (an oppressed minority in Iraq and Syria) and non-Kurds in March 2004 after tensions boiled over at a soccer game. At the same time, there was hostility over water-rights of the Euphrates river between Syria (a non-NATO member) and Turkey (a NATO member).

Turkey harbored anger and resentment toward Syria’s leader, and wanted him out. The Soviets backed Syria’s leader, as did the U.S. initially. In the 1990’s, a Marxist-Leninist activist named Abdullah Ocalan formed a violent (some might say terrorist) pro-Kurdish, pro-gender-equality group called PKK, that agitated for self-rule for the Kurds in Syria.

The decades-long cliche is: the latest terror group (ISIS) obtained modern war weaponry from Iraqi forces, who had received the equipment from America. As is well known, the region has been a foreign-policy conundrum for the governments of industrialized countries (with their strategic interests), for forever. The U.S. thought it needed to fight ISIS, but didn’t want to send in ground troops (and invite yet another “Vietnam” in the Middle East). But it did want to protect its physical diplomatic and military presence in northern Iraq– Kurdish territory, near the Syrian border. So it sent some in, anyway.

The author described a handful of females who volunteered to join one of PKK’s spinoff militias (YPK and YPG). From the city of Kobani in Syria, the females were resistant to their arranged marriages and limited educations decided on by their families’ patriarchs. Two of the females commanding troops engaged in guerrilla warfare that resembled “capture the flag” or paintball, but with real war weapons, real deaths and really widespread destruction of civilians’ communities.

During the early 2010’s, the U.S. decided to let the Kurdish militias on the ground do the most dangerous fighting. The YPG had communications devices of radios, cell phones and walkie-talkies, and U.S.-supplied guns. ISIS had rifles, rocket launchers, artillery, car bombs, snipers, IEDs, land mines and suicide bombers. In summer 2014, the U.S. launched tens of airstrikes on ISIS in and around Kobani.

Read the book to learn: the fate of the fight’s many stakeholders that included countries, groups and individuals, how ruling authorities furthered gender-equality for Tunisians and Syrian Kurds in 2014 and 2016 respectively, and much more about the tentative progress made by various parties.

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I Am A Girl From Africa

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The Book of the Week is “I Am A Girl From Africa, a memoir (sic)” by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, published in 2021.

Born in 1975, Nyamayaro grew up in Zimbabwe. Her family belonged to the Shona tribe. She spent her early years residing in a hut in a rural village, where she was treated like an only child, unwittingly through dysfunctional-family circumstances. Her grandmother taught her to do all sorts of chores: fetching water, hunting birds with a slingshot, fishing with a sharp stick, shelling maize, tending to the goats and chickens, weeding the fields, and cooking vegetables in a clay pot over a fire that she ignited.

Life-threatening conditions abounded from diseases, poor nutrition, hostile animals such as hyenas, and droughts such as those that occurred in 1983 and 1985. The author’s gratitude for the life-saving rehydration by a member of UNICEF, led her to develop a burning desire as an adult to “give back” through working for the United Nations.

In the early 1980’s, initially, Nyamayaro’s grandmother rejoiced at the news from her battery-operated radio, that the country had a new leader, the dark-skinned Robert Mugabe. The end of British colonialism ought to have meant an end to the needless killing of wildlife, theft of precious stones, and oppression of Africans. However, a new leader is just one individual who might or might not change things for the better in the long run, given his personality and the vicissitudes of his time and place in history.

The author– who appears to have bragging-rights, given the hardships she faced– made progress on various Third-World, quality-of-life causes during her career. Mitigation of the global oppression of females was one such cause. The author was pleased to report that in 2013, the nation of Rwanda, in the previous decade, had made great strides in electing women to its parliament. But there is still so much work to be done in Mongolia, India, Zimbabwe, and the United States, etc. because propagandized gender-stereotypes are still discouraging women from running for office.

The author recounted that one day in 1975 in Iceland, all the women went on strike. The country then realized how vital females were to life. Even so, it took until 2018 (!) to legislate there on the issue of gender equality in the private sector, of equal pay for equal work. Additionally, on so many other fronts, gender equality is lacking even in the nations that consider themselves the most advanced on earth!

Read the book to learn many more details on the struggles Nyamayaro faced in her life and times.

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20 Years of Rolling Stone – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “20 Years of Rolling Stone, What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been” edited by Jann S. Wenner, published in 1987. This volume was comprised of some of the best articles from the magazine on its twentieth anniversary.

One contributing writer who always delivered rich, colorful prose was Hunter S. Thompson. In April 1972, he described his beef with America’s brand of leaders thusly: “…crowd pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage to whup their supporters to orgiastic frenzy, then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards to the Conglomerate Loan Company for a nickel apiece.”

In March 1975, Howard Kohn penned a serious piece (headlined “Malignant Giant”) about Karen Silkwood, a nuclear-power plant worker and whistleblower who tried to alert America to the dangers of radioactive substances such as plutonium. Sadly, her story is typical for this country, on the nuclear power conundrum. The author provided (scary!) information on the link between radiation– especially that emanating from plutonium– and CANCER:

  • lab animals have developed cancer from as little as a millionth of a grain of plutonium;
  • all people on earth would very nearly certainly develop cancer from a carefully dispersed softball-sized parcel of plutonium;
  • “Silkwood learned that several [workers] had no idea that plutonium could cause cancer.”
  • When airborne plutonium is inhaled, human lungs cannot be decontaminated.
  • The cancer rate among employees of Silkwood’s workplace was seven times higher than that of the population of the United States, according to the Denver Post at the time.

The article causes the reader to wonder what the real cancer rates are from the toxins to which everyone is unwittingly exposed on a daily basis (never mind power plants), not only in the U.S., but in Japan, China and France.

Anyway, read the book to learn about or nostalgically relive the era of (excuse the cliche) sex, drugs, and rock and roll of Wenner’s crowd, and see (uncensored!) photo spreads.

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Exorbitant Privilege

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The Book of the Week is “Exorbitant Privilege, The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System” by Barry Eichengreen, published in 2011.

“Often these individuals had little professional training, there being no meaningful federal or in some cases, even state licensing requirements.”

No, the above refers to neither tax preparers nor life coaches.

The author was referring to the bandwagon-jumpers who worked for lenders taking advantage of the excessive deregulation that resulted in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis in America.

The author listed some factors favoring, and some disfavoring the American dollar’s ability to maintain its global power as a currency and store of value. However, one major factor the author completely neglected to mention (a glaring omission) was that of cryptocurrencies.

Anyway, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, raised the alarm in the late 1990’s on the excessive deregulation that was to lead to the subprime crisis. She deserves more of a historical footnote than she has since received, because sadly, greedy alpha males are better propagandists than prescient, conscientious public-officials such as she.

The author contended that one major reason the American dollar will continue to maintain its dominance in the world, is that other industrialized nations can’t agree on what financial instrument should replace the American dollar as a stabilizer of the world’s other currencies. The greenback has compiled a longer history of trustworthiness, value-consistency, related liquidity-maintenance, and other benefits, in connection with transactions and international trade balances, more than any other instrument. China’s policy of keeping its central banks’ foreign-reserves balance a secret, reduces China’s currency’s trustworthiness.

The powerful U.S. government backs up its currency through treasury bonds and bills, while a (sometimes contentious) collective of European countries (not one government) must agree on how to act when a monetary crisis rears its ugly head. It stands to reason that disagreement or indecision leads to uncertainty, which leads to instability, and a possible worsening or hastening of, the collapse of modern civilization.

The aforementioned are just a few reasons why 54 countries pegged their currency’s values to the American dollar, while 27 pegged theirs to the euro, as of 2009. As is well known, the George W. Bush administration did a number on the U.S. economy, as “… tax cuts and unfunded spending increases [on two extremely expensive wars and a Medicare drug benefit] pushed the budget from surplus in 2000 to a structural deficit of 4 percent of GDP in 2007-2008.” The next two years saw the American government’s debt explosion at its worst.

The author outlined several possible (yet raucously controversial) ways to keep the American dollar globally powerful, through cost-cutting:

  • In a period of non-war– less defense-spending;
  • Reforming healthcare;
  • Raising the retirement age– less pension spending;
  • Liberalizing immigration policy — helps fund Social Security going forward; and
  • Increasing taxes of all kinds.

Read the book to learn a lot more about how the American dollar has fallen in stature in recent decades, and about other geopolitical international: monetary, financial and economic issues; explained for laypeople.