Friday, December 2, 2022

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire - Book Review


 BOOK REVIEW: FIVE STARS 

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire by Axel Abella

This book is a revelation on just how right wing radical corporate America unlocked the link to the financial takeover sidestepping and plundering community values. Private enterprise was exterminated while schools, health care, and even prisons were corporately privatized making billionaires while wringing the last cent out of the general public.

America had the very best politicians and lobbyists that money could buy.

EXCERPTS

Many of these were recruited to help RAND design what was intended to be the most powerful weapon in the world—the “super,” the top-secret H, or hydrogen, bomb meant to be thousands of times more powerful than the twenty-kiloton blasts that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Controlled by a single ruler, as the Soviet Union was under Stalin or Germany under Hitler, is even capable of sacrificing millions of its citizens in this kind of venture. A purely quantitative analysis misses the historical fact that collective-leadership governments, like the Soviet Union’s in 1959 under Khrushchev, no matter how authoritarian, cannot afford to take those chances as the leadership will quickly splinter into opposing factions. Only absolute rulers—or a nation under attack—may take such risks.

It is the American people who have bought into the myth of rational choice, it is the American public that wants to consume—politics, culture, technology—without paying the price of sacrifice and participation, it is the American voter who has closed his eyes and allowed morality to be divorced from government policy. We’re okay as long as we get what we want, be it Arab oil, foreign markets for our products, or cheap T-shirts from China. The American empire is for the good of America, after all. Or so we’re told. If we look in the mirror, we will see that RAND is every one of us. The question is, what are we going to do about it?


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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Doings of Dudley Doolittle: Ben's Beer Bomb, 12th in series December 2022

Doings of Dudley Doolittle: Ben's Beer Bomb, 12th in series December 2022

Doings of Dudley Doolittle: This is the name I use in the sometimes hilarious, outrageous, or cynical short stories posted monthly.

A fictitious name will be used in most of the stories. It is there to protect the identity of the guilty.

These true stories are over half a century old or more.


Ben’s Beer Bomb

Jane and I became winemakers when a friend got us “kicking” plum, persimmon, elderberry, and sassafras wines, made from things available in the Daufuskie Island woods.

Interest grew with our successes and making beer became appealing.

We received a beer recipe from friends. This “home-brew” was made using Blue Ribbon Malt Extract. The extract resembled molasses, was tasty on its own and intended for making bread. It came in a variety of flavors. Other ingredients needed were water, sugar and yeast. The amount of ingredients determined the body and alcohol content. Timing was another factor; if the beer was bottled too soon it would taste yeasty.

The quantity of ingredients gives beer its taste and determines how heavy it is.

You should be able to drink quality beer at room temperature and still have it taste good. We joked; there were only two kinds of beer in Georgia, hot and cold.

After a year of production aboard our sailboat Dursmirg, we refined the process and got raves.

This is where Ben Smith enters the story: Ben remembered back in Prohibition days his family was making home-brew with malt extract. He thought he would like to try his own because it was a long way to town and it would be a savings.

Jane gave Ben a recipe and helpful hints to make brewing a good experience.

Ben thought he could improve on everything. He added extra sugar and doubled the yeast. It kicked in record time in the South Carolina heat.

Ben rounded up old Coca-Cola bottles that dated from World War II and were so tough you could back a truck over them. He borrowed our caper and caps. He bottled his beer and put it to rest in his cabin under his bunk.

The big surprise! After a couple of days the extra sugar built pressure, making the bottles into hand grenades.

The first explosion came in the night, almost giving Ben and his wife Shorty cardiac arrest. The explosion sent shrapnel of glass and spray of beer throughout their shack. Containment was imperative so Ben covered his prized “brew” with a heavy canvas.

The explosions continued. Ben got a large tub, again covering it with canvas. The explosions continued and tore the canvas cover to shreds.

Ben came to Jane for advice. He related his alterations. The problem was apparent. Ben used enough sugar to make 25 gallons in a five-gallon batch.

I told Ben I would pry up the caps and relieve the pressure, recap. and then the beer would be okay.

A crowd gathered to witness the happenings.

Carefully I picked one of the little bombs up, handling it like it was nitroglycerin and stepped outside. All eyes were on me. I confidently took my opener and eased off the cap holding my mouth ready to catch any beer that might escape. I had the situation totally under control.

Wow! Pow! Whoosh! An uncontrolled eruption in what seemed like a nanosecond, and I only got misted by the explosive ingredients. The contents totally left the little hand grenade. I didn’t get a drop. The crowd went wild with laughter. I too had to laugh. In my years with all of the beers I had opened, I never witnessed anything so totally beyond my control.

Ben did the ultimate in home-brewing. His brewery was short lived, but luckily we all gleaned a hilarious story—thanks Ben.

Copyright © 2011 John M. Grimsrud


Link to index of Dudley Doolittle Stories

Doings of Dudley Doolittle - INDEX to stories

Index of Doings of Dudley Doolittle stories by John M. Grimsrud

Doings of Dudley Doolittle: This is the name I will use in the sometimes hilarious, outrageous, or cynical short stories posted monthly on https://bingsbuzz.blogspot.com/

A fictitious name will be used in most of the stories. It is there to protect the identity of the guilty.

These true stories are over half a century old or more.


 1. Cowboy Wannabe

 2. Adventures - St. Augustine, Florida

 3. Keg of Beer - St. Augustine, Florida

 4. Captain George Tappin: A True Story

 5. Guckin: A True Story

 6. Dad's Story

 7. Strength of Hercules

 8. Persistence Pays

 9.Luperios...Or Flying with Armando

10. Friends

11. My Norse Connection

12. Ben's Beer Bomb

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Stilwell the Patriot Vinegar Joe, the Brits, and Chiang Kai-Shek by David Rooney BOOK REVIEW

 

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS

Stilwell the Patriot Vinegar Joe, the Brits, and Chiang Kai-Shek by David Rooney

This book covers Chinese history beginning with the Japanese invasion in the 1930s and America’s military intervention on behalf of China. After reading the book I was amazed at how blind the Americans could have been to political corruption, power grabbing and incompassionate greed that cost millions of lives and untold misery for decades to come.

This is a great book with a clear message that is a must read.

EXCERPTS:

The American public, accustomed to seeing war as a frontier skirmish or modest foreign adventure in Cuba or the Philippines, with no likelihood of a threat to the homeland, had never accorded the military a high priority, and in 1914 the army was ill-prepared to take part in a modern war. Something of a dress-rehearsal had taken place in 1916 when General Pershing led a punitive expedition against Mexico with infantry, cavalry, artillery and even some air squadrons, but their enemy, the Mexican insurgent Pancho Villa, was hardly of the calibre of the German army.

By the end of 1937 Chiang’s HQ had been withdrawn to Hankow, about 200 miles southwest of Nanking. Stilwell had to follow. Thus he was close at hand when, in December 1937, the Japanese perpetrated the rape of Nanking, in the course of which their troops raped and massacred nearly 200,000 people. All women and girls were brought in for mass rape by platoons of soldiers and then shot.

1940 Japan joined the Rome–Berlin Axis.


Because of Chiang’s rotten system, Mao Tse-Tung and the Communists might win.

I never heard Chiang Kai-Shek say a single thing that indicated gratitude to our President or to our country for the help we were extending to him. Invariably, when anything was promised, he would want more. Invariably, he would complain about the small amount of material that was being furnished … Whether or not he was grateful was a small matter. The regrettable part of it was that there was no quid pro quo.

By the time of Pearl Harbor Chennault was commanding a force of more than eighty pilots in what became famous as the Flying Tigers. Early in 1941 the Flying Tigers were leased an airfield in southern Burma, and on 20 December 1941 they had their first successful clash with Japanese bombers. From then on the Flying Tigers were in constant and effective action against the waves of Japanese bombers that attacked Rangoon, and in February 1942 they shot down twenty-five enemy planes in one day They co-operated with the RAF, but this had obsolete Buffalo fighters and was rapidly knocked out. Then the Flying Tigers, like all other units, were swept back by the Japanese advance, but they moved adroitly and managed to return to China intact while at the same time helping to halt the enemy advance at the Salween bridge on the Burma Road.


The summer of 1942 was the lowest point of the war for the Allies. Rommel was threatening Egypt and the Suez canal. The Nazi drive to Stalingrad looked unstoppable, and it was feared that these two pincer movements might meet up in Syria and Iraq and cut off Allied access to all Middle East oil. It is no wonder that the situation in China appeared less urgent.

Stalin, ruthless and well prepared, was determined to establish – as he argued – an independent Poland under his influence. Because of their differing agendas Roosevelt and Churchill were outsmarted by Stalin. Attempting to be the benign elder statesman, Roosevelt thought he was better than Churchill at handling Stalin, but in fact they were both hoodwinked (it was later discovered that all their rooms and even the garden around the former imperial palace where they stayed had been bugged).


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The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples by Tim Flannery BOOK REVIEW

 

BOOK REVIEW – FIVE STARS

The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples by Tim Flannery

This story is centered around a meteor that impacted the earth 650,000,000 years ago on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula with such devastating force that life on earth would be forever after altered. The age of the great dinosaurs was obliterated, but this was just one immediate catastrophic change. The good news was however that we the humans would then have the opportunity to materialize.

This fact-filled book amazingly takes you, the reader, on journey to the present day down the path of that aftermath. I loved the fascinating and very true story of how humans and particularity we got here.

EXCERPTS:

In one northern hemisphere group after another, whether in the depths of the Arctic Ocean (as plankton, snails or clams), or in the forests on the northern lands, the Arctic Circle was the only sure sanctuary from the devastation of Chicxulub.

North America, paradoxically, is also the global center of Creationism, whose dogmatic followers believe that the Earth was formed just 6000 years ago.

The sea itself began to circulate in a different way at this time, for differing saltiness in the various oceans began to drive currents that brought warm, salty water to the poles, only to see it cool and descend into the depths to be reheated at the equator.

The planet had become a true greenhouse world, whose warmth would open the continent's polar portals and allow massive immigration between North America and Eurasia. Such conditions have not been repeated in the 50 million years since, but industrial emissions may ensure that in coming centuries the world will again enter such a greenhouse.

By the time the pilgrims stepped ashore and began constructing their rude shelters at Patuxet in January 1621, Mexico City was an established and elegant European-style capital, its university seventy years old. Its cathedrals, markets and mansions were magnificent, and Mexican-Spanish influence had spread as far north as Florida and New Mexico.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Into the Abyss by Carol Shaben-Book Review

 

BOOK REVIEW-FIVE STARS

Into the Abyss by Carol Shaben

This book is a life altering account from Canada’s Northwestern wild frontier. This gripping true account deliverers a mind wrenching chronicle before, during, and after a tragic crash. The book leaves an everlasting thought -provoking memory that is worthy of more than five stars.

EXCERPTS:

Bush pilots have the highest mortality rate of any commercial pilots and bush flying consistently ranks in the top three of the world’s most dangerous professions, after commercial fishermen and loggers.

Now I realize that life is so fragile. People talk about the right to life. I don’t talk about the right to life; I talk about the privilege it is to live because any one of us can be killed at any time. It is so easy and it happens so quick. So if you haven’t done the things that you’ve always wanted to do, it’s time to do them.”

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Anything for a Vote by Joseph Cummins - Book Review

 

BOOK REVIEW-More than five stars

Anything for a Vote by Joseph Cummins

Anything for a Vote is American political history revealed from the first uncontested President of George Washington to present day computer generated dirty tricks.

Excellent revealing read. It is worthy of more than five stars.

Excerpts:

The only clean election in American history was the first one, in 1789, in which George Washington ran unopposed. By the next ballot, in 1792, the nation’s first political parties had begun to form. Four years later, the two rivals were going at it full force and they haven’t stopped since.

By 1800 the American population had increased to 5.3 million, Washington, D.C., had replaced Philadelphia as the new “Federal City,” and a mellow dude named John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) was dispensing wisdom as well as gardening tips throughout the Ohio Territory.

Most of America’s farmers were unimpressed with his rich-boy charm. (After talking to an unsympathetic audience at a South Dakota state fair, Kennedy muttered to aides: “Well, that’s over. Fuck the farmers.”)

Daley called Kennedy and said: “Mr. President, with a bit of luck and a few close friends, you’re going to carry Illinois.” In Illinois, Mazo found evidence of cash payments for votes by precinct captains, dead voters, duplicate voting, and “pre-primed” ballot machines, which would automatically record three votes for every one cast.

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Beaver Coats and Guns: The Adventures of Radisson and Des Groseilliers-Book Review

 

BOOK REVIEW: FIVE STARS

Beaver Coats and Guns: The Adventures of Radisson and Des Groseilliers by Richard Lapointe

This book is real history of the North American wild frontier when it still remained pristine over four hundred years ago as told by Radisson who lived with the Indigenous, learned their languages and survival techniques. This gripping true story reveals an in depth look into this now long gone world. I loved the book’s presentation of American history.

EXCERPTS:

Each of us carried a pack with supplies and ammunition as well as a gun, a hatchet, and a knife. Snowshoes strapped to our feet kept us from sinking into the snow which was still knee deep. I first used them in the winter after my arrival in Canada, when I was on my way to Trois Rivières from Québec. Almost as long as a man is tall, they were made of rawhide mesh stretched across an oval frame of birch. Snowshoes and toboggans were among the many marvels of the New World that fascinated me.

Along with the other prisoners, they dragged him to an open space where fires burned. There, as I later heard, they beat him and plucked out his nails and poked him with hot sticks – his screams mingling with the agony of other victims. Before letting him expire from his wounds, the mob burned him alive at the stake.

I adapted too easily to Mohawk ways which included the killing and torturing of our enemies.” The French soldier interrupted. “Remember, dear lady, it wasn’t long ago that good Catholics gathered to witness the persecution and burning of their own neighbors, accused not of murder but merely suspected of being heretics or witches. I’m afraid we are not as far from being like the Iroquois as we like to think.”

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Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Doings of Dudley Doolittle, My Norse connection, 11th edition

 

Doings of Dudley Doolittle: This is the name I use in the sometimes hilarious, outrageous, or cynical short stories posted monthly.

A fictitious name will be used in most of the stories. It is there to protect the identity of the guilty.

These true stories are over half a century old or more.

Doings of Dudley Doolittle, My Norse connection, 11th edition

August 1983: Jane and I landed in Luxembourg, Europe, spent the night, took the train to Gutersloh, Germany, then took a taxi to the Volkswagen factory at Wiedenbruck and picked up our new camper van. We provisioned the next day and headed north to Norway.

Camping at a truck rest stop in Northern Denmark, we next purchased seafood and Danish beer. Our camper van made a delightful place to dine with a scenic view, the front seats swiveled along with the tables. The mini galley had a sink, two burner cook top and a refrigerator. We brought our one portable toilet. We could sleep up above or down in the folding beds. We were like turtles traveling in our home..

I told Jane the Danish beer was really cheap. Jane said she thought it was cheap because it had a zero on the cap. Surprise! I discovered that I had purchased zero alcohol or near beer. Denmark was a “one of a kind” experience.

At Hansholm, Denmark, where the ferry for Norway departed, a windstorm sprung up that night. We parked our camper behind sand dunes to keep from being blown away.

As we departed Hansholm the next morning the ship was packed with jubilant happy passengers. A few moments later as the great ship cleared the breakwater the violent sea crashed up and over it. The giant ferry seemed to have shrunk while pounding into that angry sea. The jubilant crowd quickly lost their exuberance and commenced puking. The hideous stench drove us out on deck to the stern for fresh air and a smoother ride. We ate smoked fish and drank beer. Amazingly we were the only passengers eating among the seafaring Scandinavians.

I was the first of my grandfather’s descendants to visit the rock bound coast of the Old Country. Grandpa had left in 1895 at the age of sixteen. It was now 1983. This was an enchanting moment and I was forty three.

What made this Europe trip and purchase of our new camper van possible? My old friend Bubba said “You have become a born again capitalist.” First we purchased a handyman special apartment complex restored and upgrading it because of post Vietnam inflation of twenty-two percent. We later sold the apartment and purchased a waterfront property nearby with the down payment money where we built a dock and duplex with office. Next, we bought a shrimp trawler that needed work with money from selling my coin collection when silver hit twenty dollars an ounce. We worked the trawler from our own dock for four years while upgrading and renovating it to pristine condition. We caught the last shrimp and sold the shrimp boat.

Four days after we sold the shrimp trawler we were on an airplane headed to Europe.

Back of our Europe trip: We spent six weeks with my cousin Kari , the family historian who had visited America in 1948 when I met her. Morning, noon, and night, she had arranged a fast moving intense schedule of family visits. My grandfather had thirteen brothers and sisters. We visited all my grandfather’s brothers and sisters families still in Norway and historical places of significance. Their stories were illuminating as they treated us to an extensive cuisine of delightful Norse delicacies and tons of coffee.

The visit was a glorious high point of my life and I wrote and posted several memorable stories.

Our meeting with my father’s cousin Anders and his wife and daughters was a good example of how we reconnected with my Norwegian family.

When we returned to Florida we continued correspondence with my Norwegian family. One of the most interesting letters was from the daughter of Anders. Lis was interested in visiting and wondering if we would help her find an a position as an au pair in Florida. First we had to find out what an au pair was! We told Lis that we would be happy to do what we could and invited her to come. 

John, Jane and Lis
We picked her up in Minneapolis where we were visiting family and friends the summer of 1985. Then we made a tour from Minnesota to Florida visiting family and interesting places. The trip was delightful in our 1971 camper van. Lis was amazed at all we saw and did in America, the New Country.

In Florida we lived aboard our boat Dursmirg, and Lis stayed in the newly built office of our duplex with a commanding view of the ocean inlet. Jane found a listing for an au pair job with a well to do couple in Sawgrass south of Jacksonville. Lis went for an interview and was hired. She cared for two children and had a five star experience.

It was now fall and cooling down in North Florida which prompted Jane and I to head south to Yucatan, Mexico. Lis was very happy with her job but felt the allure of Mexico. She told her employers her feelings. They said they would pay for her to visit us in Mexico if she would return to them. The agreement was made.

We were happy to have Lis visit us in Yucatan. We made arrangements for Lis to stay with a Yucatecan family who had children about her age. The head of the family, Luis who worked for Mexicana Airlines. He met Lis at the airport when her flight arrived from Miami. The next two weeks were action packed and overbooked with activities. Lis was introduced to the food of Yucatan. She especially liked the fruit bars specializing in licuados made in industrial strength blenders that beat the numerous fruits into frothy delights! A favorite of Lis was piña con agua or pineapple with ice water. It was also our favorite. However, I usually added a shot of caña or sugarcane rum in mine.

When Lis first arrived in Florida she let us know that she would not be imbibing any alcohol. Later we learned that her farewell party from Norway involved excessive drinking, and she had enough for a while.

Our two week action packed time flew by to fast. We were staying at the port of Progreso and Lis visited us there. We took her to Soberinis Restaurant on the main street. It was one of our favorite seafood places. Lis ordered a piña con agua. The waiter brought a piña colada! Lis loved it, she was ecstatic! She said that was the best she had ever had and ordered another one. Note: Piña coladas are heavily dosed with rum.

There you have a glimpse of how stories were born from renewing my Norse family connection.

This four month Europe trip took us to seventeen countries from Norway and Sweden and south to Italy and Spain and many countries in between.

Our camper van was a package deal including insurance, license plates, and shipping home to Florida. When we returned to Florida we traded the camper van for a waterfront property where we built a 3 bedroom home as a rental, and later sold.

INDEX TO DUDLEY DOOLITTLE STORIES

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain by Crawford by Alan Pell Crawford-Book Review

 

Book Review-Five Stars

How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain by Crawford by Alan Pell Crawford

After reading all of Twain’s writings this book was a great way to look into this champion of American story tellers life from a different prospective. I loved the book that gave me a glimpse of this rare personality to see the motivating forces driving him and the financial conundrums he faced, and how he and his family handled them. This book puts a real human face on a one of a kind man...my hero.

EXCERPTS: He was rich. Raised in genteel poverty in small towns in Missouri (when Missouri was still the West), Twain as a grown man had rubbed elbows with the greatest business tycoons of the time. As the author of The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he had seen the world, or much of it. Russian princes and English lords fawned over him. Hundreds of thousands of people bought his books and lined up to hear him speak. With his earnings—and his wife’s inheritance—he had built a startlingly opulent, twenty-five-room mansion in high-toned Hartford, Connecticut.

He could see himself as one of the true benefactors of the era. And it was an era he had named when he chose the title of one of his own bestsellers: The Gilded Age.


The turning point, for him as well as for the riverboats, was the Civil War. He was in New Orleans in April 1861, when President Lincoln announced a blockade of the South, including the Mississippi, and Twain was suddenly out of work. While Bixby stayed on throughout the war, piloting an ironclad Union gunboat, Twain, a Southern sympathizer in his early years, had other ideas.

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