Review (Guest): How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World? A Scorecard From 1900 to 2050

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Bjorn Lomberg et al

2.0 out of 5 stars It just gets better and better!, November 15, 2013

By David Wineberg “David Wineberg” (New York, NY USA) – See all my reviews  (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

Milton Berle once appeared for an interview on a morning TV show in New York. After, his interviewer threw to the weather woman. Berle left his seat and took over doing the weather. His analysis? A line of tornados ripped through New Jersey last night, causing $100 million in IMPROVEMENTS. That is the feeling I got with How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?

Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus got a bunch of academics to look at issues from a common denominator. Everything has to be evaluated as a percentage of GDP. Everything has to be monetized to make the models work. Lives, disease, biodiversity – everything gets a dollar value in these studies. Lack of historical data is not a problem either; the models “backcast” to 1900. The conclusion is that our worrisome problems are an ever shrinking cost to us, relative to GDP.

But of course, prices have never reflected the ecological cost of production or use, so we’ve been freeloading, with GDP expanding while costs have been controlled. The bill will go to our grandchildren. These models don’t reflect that. Instead, the ballooning GDPs of the last century simply leave the cost centers in their wake, taking an ever smaller share.

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Mar 11

Review (Guest): The Empire of Necessity – Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

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Greg Grandin

5.0 out of 5 stars The complexity of the moral landscape during America’s founding generation, March 2, 2014

Herbert L Calhoun “paulocal”

The reader is unlikely to find a book that better contextualizes or sharpens the focus of the moral issues confronting America’s founding generation than this book. Using the metaphor of “empires of necessity,” the author shows how America’s westward expansion made it the advance-guard of the world, beating a path through the wilderness. But America has never acknowledged that it was enslaved peoples who were in fact beating that path called Manifest Destiny: cutting down forests, turning the wilderness into plantations and into marketable real estate, and picking cotton and cutting the sugar cane that drew more and more territory into a thriving atlantic economy. Slavery alone was the issue at the top of the world’s agenda throughout the era of the founding of America. The evils of slavery and the slave trade was the constant refrain of sermons each Sunday from Connecticut to Montevideo; and from Seville to London.

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Mar 2

Review: American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

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Colin Woodard

5.0 out of 5 stars Nine Nations Was a Snap-Shot — This Is Deep History & Ends Thoughtfully, February 16, 2014

I bought this book prepared to dislike it, having given a rave review to Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America. Let me settle that one immediately. I loved this book. As the author himself points out early on, Garreau’s book was a snap-shot, this book is a deep history. I was also quite taken, at the end of the book, with the author’s acknowledgements that begin with Garreau and go on to others such as Wilbur Zelinsky’s The Cultural Geography of The United States: A Revised Edition and Raymond Gastil’s Cultural regions of the United States.

Although I would have liked some illustrations and maps in relation to each section of the book — there is only one map for the entire book — I found the book riveting, and would like to see it become a standard text for multi-disciplinary education across history, political science, sociology, and cultural studies.

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Feb 16

Worth a Look: SINGAPORE Central to Great Convergence

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The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

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Political genius is never without controversy, or without mystery. This is what makes it so interesting and so rare. Is Lee Kuan Yew the feral, authoritarian figure that Western critics claim? Or a stoic pioneer in new approaches to developing a nation—uncorrupt, modern, almost scientific?American journalist Tom Plate first interviewed the founder of modern Singapore in 1996 in a continuing back-and-forth with LKY that led to the summer of 2009, when the former prime minister agreed to sit down for two days of unprecedentedly informal but intense conversations that led to this special book. This new edition includes fascinating excerpts from prior interviews, as well as the author’s assessment of the man who goes down in history as the world’s longest-serving prime minister—and as one of the most unforgettable political figures of modern times.

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Feb 5

Review: God’s Terrorists – The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad

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Charles Allen

4.0 out of 5 stars Important History Not Understood By Most, November 22, 2013

The historical half is mind-glazing, the more recent chapters highly relevant to understanding the deep ignorance of the US Intelligence Community and the US policy (prostitution) community these past 12 years.

I have given the book four stars in part because it is not designed to illuminate the threat in visualizable terms, and it is not up to date. Now that Saudi Arabia has declared war on the USA and the West generally (joining with Israel in a truly bizarre satanic alliance), and on Iran and the Shi’ite portion of Afghanistan specifically, this book absolutely merits updating and republication, hopefully with some decent maps and graphics and tables this next time around.

Early on in a nut-shell: Wahhabism spread in the 19th century, first throughout the Arabian penninsula and then to the Indian subcontinent including what are now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Wahabbism is both a fundamentalist ideology that wins over deep converts, and a form of mercenary religion, buying its way into susceptible corners.

The most important point stressed throughout the book is that Wahhabism is outside the mainstream of Muslim society.

The big surprise for me, and one reason I am distressed at how badly we prepare people for service in this area, is the deep history of Wahhabism among the Pashtun. Today Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent Qatar and the United Arab Republic seem bent on funding a religious war in Central and South Asia, and no one seems to be paying attention to this emergent threat. I would go so far as to say we are now, in this region, where we were in 1988-1989 when the Saudis first began funding the global Islamic outreach program led by Sheikh Binbaz and represented in part by young Bin Laden.

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Nov 22

Review (Guest): The House of Wisdom – How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization

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Jonathan Lyons

5.0 out of 5 stars A Few Inconvenient Details about Western History, October 29, 2013

Herbert L. Calhoun

For centuries after the fall of Rome, Western Europe was unaccountably still locked in the dark ages, a period referred to as “dark” for good reasons. Despite the rich intellectual heritage from both Greece and Rome, it is not well known that little of it had seeped into the medieval feudal and violence-torn Western European veins before the thirteenth century. Even less well known is that what little did seep in came by way of the rich history and cultural institutions of the Arab dominated Near East, a region that drunk the intellectual wines of both Greece and Rome nearly a millennium earlier than the West did.

Although Western Europeans were ever ready to fight each other, most of them could not read, write or tell time. There were only a handful of libraries. Neither streets nor people had unique names or numbers. Violence and instability were the order of the day. Even as the Kingdom and the Catholic Church viciously vied for power, Europe was essentially a region being run by “outlaws,” the equivalent of petty warlords that we see today in places like Afghanistan.

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Oct 29

Review: Pakistan on the Brink–The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

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Ahmed Rashid

5.0 out of 5 stars REF A — 12 Years of Lessons Learned in Time for 2014, October 13, 2013

This is an extraordinary book that required a great deal of time, not in the reading, but in the reflection. This will be a longer review than usual, even for me, because this book contains all of the insights that the US and the Coalition have refused to embrace for the past twelve years. It is never too late to learn.

The author opens with a well-known quote on the dangers of drawing a line between fighting men and thinking men, lest one end up with the fighting being done by fools and the thinking by cowards. To this I would add another group, the “deciders,” who in the absence of any familiarity with fighting or access to intelligence with integrity, end up making decisions whose true cost in blood, treasure, and spirit crosses the line dividing legitimate actions “in the national interest” from “crimes against humanity.

Positive up front: US under Obama has given more of everything and progress has been made across both military (stronger Afghan army, degraded Taliban) and socio-economic (education, health, media) domains. To that I would add elections. Afghanistan is about to experience the most extraordinary election cycle it has ever been my privilege to observe.

In contrast, the author finds that Pakistan has worsened in every possible manner, in large part because the US has not understood Pakistan, has lacked a strategy (or the intelligence with which to devise a coherent sustainable strategy), and in failing, the US has allowed Pakistan to drag itself down and Afghanistan to be a regional albatross – a cancer on all others.

The author is quite blunt in describing an incoherent even infantile US decision-making environment characterized by “contradictory policies, intense political infighting, and uncertainty.” In being inept, the US opened the way for regional players to manipulate, exploit, and exacerbate.

Chapter 1 on the Bin Laden raid is utter nonsense, this may be the price the author pays to maintain access and avoid being assassinated. See instead The Bin Laden Story 00-90 at Phi Beta Iota.

The author points out that by 2014 the Coalition engagement in Afghanistan will have been longer than WWI and WWII. In my own mind this highlights the fact that the US in particular, but the Western nations in general, have lost their integrity. They are incapable of collecting and analyzing the truth, thinking holistically, evaluating true costs over time, or devising a sustainable strategy that ultimately achieves the desired end-state: peace and prosperity. A churlish skeptic would point out that no, the West has achieved precisely what it wants, public theater at home, a massive transfer of wealth from the individual taxpayer to the military-industrial complex, and personal enrichment of most policymakers, at least in the USA. Either way, the larger publics lose at home and abroad.

Pakistan and Afghanistan matter not only to Central Asia, where other countries such as Uzbekistan are beginning to implode, but to the Middle East and India. At the very end of the book the author ponders how Afghanistan might follow the Turkish example of Islamic/secular regeneration, and I cannot help but wish that 12 years ago the Coalition had had the brain to leave the British home and make Afghanistan a collaborative effort among Muslim nations led by Turkey.

QUOTE (19) “After a decade, NATO has achieved none of its strategic aims – rebuilding the Afghan state, defeating the Taliban, stabilizing the region – so what assurances can it now plausibly give that it will do so by 2014?

The author defines Afghanistan today (2012) as a corrupt and incompetent government, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and inoperable justice system, high on drugs and illiteracy, with a police force that has the highest desertion rate in the world.
The sucking chest wound: no indigenous economy. Bush specifically refused to invest in roads, dams, water, and power. Karzai has been a complete failure [the author gives Karzai credit and cause across the book, outlining the many ways in which the US failed to develop a relationship of trust with him.]

Pakistani military is out of control and the deal breaker. Nothing the US or other can do will overcome an arrogant ignorant Pakistani military continuing to support extremists and their violence within Afghanistan.

QUOTE (22): “If the west is to depart Afghanistan by 2014 and leave behind relatively stable regimes in Kabul and Islamabad, it will need a multidimensional political, diplomatic, economic, and military strategy.”

Answering this challenge is the purpose of the book.

My nine page detailed summary for professionals coping with Afghanistan and not having the time to read this excellent work, is posted at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Books Cited by the Author:

Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign
Power Struggle Over Afghanistan: An Inside Look at What Went Wrong–and What We Can Do to Repair the Damage

Books I Have Reviewed Circling AF-PK-Islam:
Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security
Surrender to Kindness: One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace
Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West
Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond
Uncomfortable Wars Revisited (International and Security Affairs)
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam

Also Recommended:
Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

20131014 RASHID Pakistan on the Brink Review by Steele [Short & Long]

- – - – - LONG REVIEW (SUMMARY) BELOW THE LINE – - – - -

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Oct 13

Review: Lessons of History (First Edition)

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Will and Ariel Durant

5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond 6 Stars, So Fundamental as to be Priceless, October 10, 2013

When I donated my 2500 volume library to George Mason University (down from 5000 in earlier years), this is one of a tiny handful of books I held back, along with Buckminster Fuller’s Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure.

This edition is the FIRST edition. The reprinted currently in stock version The Lessons of History is more readily available, but if you can get the first edition, it is priceless at multiple levels.

This is the first book that I discuss in my national security lecture on the literature relevant to strategy & force structure. It is a once-in-a-lifetime gem of a book that sums up their much larger ten volume collection which itself is brilliant but time consuming. This is the “executive briefing.”

Geography matters. Inequality is natural. Famine, pestilence, and war are Nature’s way of balancing the population.

Birth control (or not) has *strategic* implications (e.g. see Catholic strategy versus US and Russian neglect of its replenishment among the higher social and economic classes).

History is color-blind. Morality is strength. Worth saying again: morality is strength.

They end with “the only lasting revolution is in the mind of man.” In other words, technology is not a substitute for thinking by humans.

See my various lists. Other books I recommend:

The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Age of Missing Information
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition

And of course the nine books I have published, all but the last free online as well as within Amazon.

Robert Steele
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust

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Oct 11

Review: The Assassination of JFK – Who Really Did It and Why

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Craig Newman

4.0 out of 5 stars I hate electronic books, but worth considering, June 24, 2013

I’ve reviewed the major books on the JFK assassination and list them at the end of this review.

First off, since the table of contents is not in Look Inside the Book, where it should be, here is that bit:

Preface
1. The 1960 Campaign and Election
2. Vietnam and the CIA
3. The Conspiracy and the Global Elite
4. Oswald and his Part in the Conspiracy
5. Why Johnson was only a Part of the Conspiracy
6. The Real Reasons
7. Repercussions
8. Conclusion

The book asks and tries to answer a few questions about the Kennedy assassination that haven’t been asked often enough even after nearly 50 years.

Questions like, “Why?”, “Who benefited?”, and “Why the major cover-up?”.

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Jun 24

Review (Guest): The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland

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Shlomo Sand

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Complement to First Book! December 6, 2012

“The Invention of the Land of Israel” is the follow up to the fascinating and controversial “The Invention of the Jewish People“. This excellent book serves as a complementary addition to the aforementioned book and fills gaps left behind. Historian and outspoken professor, Shlomo Sand does it again with this enlightening and educational book that reveals the history behind the Land of Israel. This 304-page book is composed of the following five chapters: 1. Making Homelands: Biological Imperative or National Property?, 2. Mytherritory: In the Beginning, God Promised the Land, 3. Toward a Christian Zionism: and Balfour Promised the Land, 4. Zionism Versus Judaism: The Conquest of “Ethnic” Space, and 5. Conclusion: The Sad Tale of the Frog and the Scorpion.

Positives:
1. A well-researched and well-cited book that takes you into the always fascinating world of Jewish history.
2. As candid and forthright a book as you will find. Professor Sand provides solid and well-cited evidence in support of his arguments.
3. Enlightening and thought-provoking book to say the least.
4. An excellent complement to his best-selling book “The Invention of the Jewish People”.
5. The myth that was the forced uprooting of the “Jewish people.”
6. The book does a wonderful job of explaining how the dissemination of a formative historical mythos occurred. “Never did I accept the idea of the Jews’ historical rights to the Promised Land as self-evident.”
7. Clarifies some of the misunderstood points made in his previous book.
8. Professor Sand takes pride in his historical scholarship and it shows. The quest for primary sources. The author does a good job of letting the readers know what he does have a good handle on and what he doesn’t.
9. Explains what really precipitated the establishment of the State of Israel.
10. The book achieves its goal of tracing the ways in which the “Land of Israel” was invented.
11. The book achieves the main goal of disparaging the official historiography of the Zionist Israeli establishment.
12. The notion of “homeland” in perspective. “It is important to remember that homelands did not produce nationalism, but rather the opposite: homelands emerged from nationalism.” The concept of territorial entity.

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Apr 29