How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything

book jacket plain white with gold bulletsHow Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon by Rosa Brooks (2016)

Considering the United States seemingly has been at war somewhere, declared or not, for my entire life, despite protests in the Sixties to the contrary, this book provides multiple perspectives on the business of perpetual war.

The author worked in prominent Pentagon capacities and provides real intimate details of what it was like to live in that particular bubble.

Those two years were strange, almost surreal in their intensity. For me — a law professor and journalist brought up in a family of left-wing anti-war activists — working for the Pentagon was like conducting anthropological fieldwork in some exotic and unpredictable foreign tribe. (p. 6)

I saw her on Book TV talking about this book and knew that it was going to be special because, as it is described on the cover flap, “it is by turns a memoir, a work of journalism, and a scholarly exploration of history, anthropology, and law.”

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From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World by Marilyn French

 

book jacket abstract image of womanFrom Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World by Marilyn French (2008) Volume 1: Origins. Foreword by Margaret Atwood.

Marilyn French has a smooth writing style that is easy to read but still packs a punch by her coherence and context for absorbing new information.

The bbook jacket illustration of wall and women in red with white hatsook is divided into 3 basic parts: 1. Parents, 2. The Rise of the State, 3. Gods, Glory, and Delusions of Grandeur. Under the States part it is a treat to go back all the way to Peru, Egypt, and Sumner. Other nations include a chapter on China, India, Mexico and a concluding analysis on the State in the abstract. She adds descriptors to identify the nature of the respective states: Secular=China, Religious = India, Militaristic = Mexico.

Under the Gods portion she covers Judaism, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Islam. There are number of supplemental notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and and index as well as some maps.

Here’s a bit from Margaret Atwood’s foreword:

Women who read this book will do so with horror and growing anger: From Eve to Dawn is to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex as won is to poodle. Men who read it might be put off by the depiction of the collective male as brutal book jacket photo of author Simone de Beauvoirpsychopath, or puzzled by French’s idea that men should “take responsibility for what their sex has done.” . . . However, no one will be able to avoid the relentless piling up of detail and event — the bizarre customs, the woman-hating legal structure, the gynecological absurdities, the child abuse, the sanctioned violence, the sexual outrageous — millennium after millennium. How to explain them? Are all men twisted? Are all women doomed? Is there hope? French is ambivalent about the twisted part, but, being a peculiarly American kind of activist, she insists on hope. (p.x)

Her intention was to put together a narrative answer to a question that had bothered her for a long time: how had men under up with ALL THE POWER — specifically, with all the power over women? Had it always been like that? If not, how was such power grasped and then enforced? Nothing she had read had addressed this issue directly. In most conventional histories, women simply aren’t there. Or they’re there as footnotes. (p.xi)

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Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

book jacket with futuristic cityPhysics of the Future: how Science will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku (2011) — author of Physics of the Impossible.

I must confess I did not end up reading the whole thing cover to cover. I started at the back with his conclusion, recognized his complete naivete of the real world, and excessive optimism due to (I assume) having been a gifted scientist and achieving high status without having ever had to be on food stamps or be a retail clerk. He was a co-founder of string theory, so that kind of says a lot by the fact that most people have heard of it, even if only because Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory used to research this aspect of theoretical physics.

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Remembering Great Reads – books still burning bright in my memory

We are all kind of used to the “since you like that, you might like this” helpful features of shopping sites like Amazon or GoodReads recommendations. In Library and Information Science this type of search is sometimes referred to as a “pearl growing” strategy. You find a known, truly amazing author (or musician in Pandora for example) and an algorithm figures out what other things you might like. Pandora has the nice added feature of thumbs down so if you get something that is really off the range, you don’t have to suffer more of that same offering.

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The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

shock doctrineThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (2006)
(author of No Logo)

From the inner jacket blurb: “Klein traces back the intellectual origins of disaster capitalism back to the University of Chicago’s economics department under Milton Friedman whose influence is still felt around the world.” And not in a good way. This is the cabal that persuaded Reagan et al that trickle down theory was a sensible plan. Not sure if they did so maliciously or for fun, or just some esoteric playing but with real world consequences.

These events [like 9/11] are examples of what Naomi Klein calls “the shock doctrine”: the use of public disorientation following massive collective shocks — wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters — to push through highly unpopular economic shock therapy. Sometimes, when the first two shocks don’t succeed in wiping out all resistance, a third is employed: that of the electrode in the prison cell or of the Taser gun. [from jacket blurb again]

It is a long hard read. ¬†Descriptions of torture of prisoners is just one example. After the horrific photos were released and having been shocked to learn it was not Americans being tortured but Americans doing the torturing, I was dumbfounded. My dad was a bomber pilot in WWII and while the Geneva Convention wasn’t completely complied with, and he easily could have been killed, I don’t think I ever heard of Nazi’s treating POWs like we treated Iraq POWs. That is to say, brutally, lawlessly, and criminally. Yet Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld are free to enjoy doing a little painting or whatever enjoying the profit of the 40 million or more that Halliburton made for Cheney off the no-bid contracts for the war supplies. I would love to see an audit of there costs versus what they charged the government. I’ll bet it would show such blatant overpricing that it would even make Republicans cry foul.

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