Sunday, November 27, 2005

Innovative definition of capital

The Mystery of Capital:
Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
Hernando De Soto

Innovative definition of capital

De Soto takes the reader of economics through the alleyways and barrios of the great surging cities of the developing world and easily exemplifies the limitations placed upon the world's poor through bureaucratic malfeasance, legalistic intrigue, or the political relativity of its intralegal master capitalists to their barriers of entry to market capitalism. His tasteful wit peppers the book with a wide pallet of market principles, theories, and real world systematic operations.

His argument regarding the vast differences among intercultural perceptions of capital, dead-capital, extralegal capital and the attendant struggle between stakeholder-oriented consumption maximization versus empire building are timeless and perhaps the shadow-play of universalist versus particularist traits of human nature regarding the perception of capital.

Particulary a relevant read when one seeks to extrapolate projected Chinese growth versus what De Soto has to say about social upheaval, Marxist theology, or the bell-jars and "grubby concrete basements" of the poor of the present...while trying to imagine their hoped for transition to the maximized, productive consumers of the future.

Will Marxists inherit capital of the poor of the third-world? De Soto clearly illustrates how and why capitalism is not their current best option.

Thurow...old but still relevant

Head to Head: The Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe, and America

Thurow...old but still relevant

Actually this book's original publication date is not 2003, and even if it actually is, then it was based on a ten year old manuscript.

Thurow was writing from the perspective of an IMF and World Bank led globalisation effort, even if they refuse to admit it, those hallowed halls (some of which have changed their game plans as often as Greek freighters change names) have made a mockery of economic reform plans, on the backs of the world's poor. Of course Thurow never said that either. For example, he never mentioned how closely US currency exchange rates could quickly devaluate as the ruble did in defiance of IMF dictates to eliminate 70% of American held foreign debts overnight on any day.

What then did he do wrong with this book? Well, for starters his interests and dire warnings regarding US trade deficits and balance of payment deficiencies were being written about approximately a decade too early for his critics to actually visualize what he was talking about. Reviews of his book on tend to pan him for bad modeling. Too bad they were not exacly right. Thurow did a good job of linking massive US debt and federal overruns to the sanctions and tariffs that would be required to boost exports. Productivity is not the only issue in that case. The billions of dollars lost by foreign exporters as a result would dry up foreign export growth, and dry up US treasury bonds purchases.

Then, the Clinton era was not so much good US business management as a root source of American growth from Thurow's point of view. It was the sale and purchase of US assets at home and abroad. Rather, the similar effects of localization of value-added facilities to secondary or third tier production. He and others have often believed that the trade deficits of US global growth have been the engines of globalisation and the prime reason the IMF and World Bank exist? To design and maintain US imports to drive consumption up and up. It would all work except fewer and fewer nations, the US included, are even considering following their own traditional trade patterns.

Another failure of Thurow's perspective was only a passing regard for China as a peripheral battlefield for US, European, and Japanese competition. Clearly, the growth China continues to insist is unstoppable is correspondant to a nervous decline in exports in traditional markets of his examined troika. But Thurow's solutions for what ails the US, might better have been included as a discussion of each chapter on a chapter by chapter basis. By the end of the book, the cumulative decline of all three players is evident in the present, one is able to reflect clearly on what his analysis had wrong, and it continues to be the failure of the western cultural perspective to adapt orthodox methods of sustainable economic growth and learn only from the current innovators.

As Japan illustrates innovation of supply side economics, Europe illustrated union and management cooperation versus America's consumption patterns which everyone insists are at the end of the road, like GM for example. Now if this economic giant might look again at the crystal ball and figure out how the world's economic leaders could have all three dynamics at the same time. That would be an economic show stopper. The question is...does China have all of those fundamentals? In that case, will it represent a cyclical rise and fall of another new entrant to the export growth led game?

Read Thurow for how well he defines the current big three players, and how his silence on a fourth...leaves it up to the reader to imagine who or where that fourth will appear. China could again slide on many thorny issues, such as labour laws, oil supplies, infrastructure, and artificial market stimulations, not to mention a fading but still possible sanction and tariff barrier wall unseen since the Cold War Era. Thurow may have written on China already? He really missed the boat on Chinese income patterns. He failed to evaluate the effect of foreign entry and speculations in the major centres anyway. Somewhere I am sure there are still many more millions living in Thurow's China.

Oh Derrida...there is no end?

Derrida, Jacques, Collins, George (Translator)

Oh Derrida...there is no end?

The Politics of Friendship is a little fiend of a book. The contextualized chapters are independent essays all bending towards a deconstructionist and dis-evolving labyrinth of thought from the point of contemplating the phrase, "O Friend, there is no friend!" (Montaigne). Of course, Derrida seeks to weave in and out, to and fro, over, and under this phrase as he reviews the possible permutations of philosophical thought from Aristotle to his friend Blanchot... it is a little mind-numbing how many tacts he takes on points of views which are at times highly cryptic.

My favourite chapters dealt with liberty as it is thought of in a democracy, the outward hostility of democratic politics and thankfully the final chapter/essay on the hope for true democracy for everyone in the world some day in the future?
However, his insistence on analyzing the great thinkers in his typically gossammer-like meanderings make the idea of finally discovering The Minotaur or The Superman (all are apparently waiting for this character-archetype to define the philosophical context of politics and friendship)as a form of climax beyond our present abilities to render the topic. Lack of definition thereof is again evidence of Derrida's deep penetration of the intricacies and linkages, the evolutions, and underpinnings throughout western philosphical history. I hope?

However he touches on silence and claims even the hermit has a friend; his own subconscious mind, which requires a third person to make a friend. Feminists again will be less than impressed with the exclusionary tendancies of archetypal theorists; they would prefer to preserve a male-oriented understanding of friendship, and claim women are incapable of the best aspects of what true friendship ought to be. Derrida notes historical dismissiveness.

But in the end, if you are reading this review you are a really ponderous reader, you must quickly realize, early, that Derrida is not painting a story by numbers here, his "The Politics of Friendship" is never about a challenging debate among intellectual equals; it is a thorough sweeping and piling of Derrida's thoughts in review of what the most renown philosophers of history have to say about the topic, and at least not in the world of history, or Derrida's contemporary French context, are any of those women.

Not yet. However the future is a bright sun of hope for an evolutionary thought in the areas of the politics of friendship in democratic societies; Derrida recognizes that politics have never matured to the virtuous ideals of true politics which the philosophers insist is a worthy destination. In that sense, postmodernism is not absolutely the end; but perhaps the beginning of the end of illusions on this topic.

Worth a read, but expect little clarity and much confibulation.

Much bluster, perhaps re-readable?

Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question
Derrida, Jacques, Bowlby, Rachel (Translator), Bennington, Geoffrey (Translator)

Much bluster, perhaps re-readable?

This is my first excursion into Derridian philosophical wanderings and that being said I am afraid it was quite confounding. Philosophically it was a similar read to Hawking's A Short History of Time. I made it to the end because it is fairly brief.

Of Spirit presents Dierrida's niggling analytics in full flower as he tickles and trips upon a minutae of precious ponderings and burbling musings immersed in a liquid and flowing text, drifiting off into litteral translations and flitting endlessly from German to English to French to try to estimate how one which is best followed without pause or cause for concern is, in this case, a root cause of incomprehension. So one must have capabilities in multi-lingual translation to say, "Ah yes.Interesting." How relevant is the discourse?

Perhaps part of his raison d'etre is interpretive digressios, which ponder and pause without any real destination at times, in which he must be the finest crafter of thread upon thread of information which often only settles upon rocks of impenetrable thoughts as his references to the allusions of Hegel's lizards upon rocks do attest to the futility of attempting to nail spirit without the abilities of his "Dichten so dicht". Certainly Derrida is one of those lizards rather than a poet, what would indeed be necessary for interpetation of Hegel's thoughts on spirit, but which Derrida could never aspire to be.

He is a bumbler as a writer, perhaps a fine philosopher, and another is Jagdish Bagwati, the eminent economist who referenced Derridian logic as the defence that many anti-free traders use (hijack) to attempt to impact upon WTO or World Bank economic principles. Rather than take his word for it, I would attempt to confirm or deny it. But Derrida is proving a more difficult nut to crack than the weaknesses of competitive advantage. I guess I wanted to read Derrida because of Baghwati, who can also appear extraneous at times. They certainly belong together on a rock with a big lizard on it.

"Of Spirit" picks upon Hegel's interpretations upon the essence of spirit, as it impacted heavily upon German values previous to and during the time of the Third Reich. Where one would automatically seek to disavow Hegel's ehtnocentric philosophies, there are obviously enough readers who seek to examine interpretations from writers like Derrida, at least enough for him to warrant publishing his thoughts. However Derrida insists, as all non-Nazis do insist, that Germany was never and is not the centre of global culture or the greatest expression of spirit. Enough non-Germans of the period believed this, strongly enough to resist the Hegelian-spawned expansion of German ambition. Enough still believe this.

In the end, if one reads widely and deeply enough, the heuretics of Derridian discourse must speak more clearly over time. "Of Spirit" does not exactly put me off Derrida, but I wish sometimes he could get to the point a little sooner.

However then maybe he would have almost nothing to say about anything?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Old but perhaps classic?

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
Huntington, Samuel P.

Old but perhaps classic?

Huntington takes the reader on a review of a simplified social theory of cultural interconnectedness to define the issues of political and economic tides in our times. It is an old but critical assessment of our global societies. His most illuminating contribution on the uniqueness of democractics and welfare states of the western nations, as well as the defined rights of individuals is probably one of the best explanations I have read of how clearly the US and others are not prepared for a more realistically aligned international sphere of influence.

His discussion of the movement towards more multicultural stratifications in western policies is also interesting, it is a good description of what a gap exists between pluralistic, tolerant societies and the needs and goals of special-interests. However, critics believe Huntington has over simplified the debates at hand, for example, his insistence that Islam and Muslim tribal conflicts coincide with greater ferocity than many practitioners of the faith would agree.

His thesis for such unrest, however, is based on sound judgement. Basically it is that since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, most well depicted in Lord Kinross's "The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire", the Islamic civilizations of the Middle East have lost the civilizational key stone or pyramid, or the capital of conscensus, or the leader of growth and development among their interested parties.

For example, with the fall of Rome came the great fragmentation of a diverse and deriviative empire. So too, Huntington posits that the old Ottoman Turks might again be the leaders of the Muslim world in the future. But their fall has barely been a century past and their rise would paradoxically perhaps also take centuries.

Pan-Arabism as a political undercurrent has almost no discussion in Huntington's book, and it would be useful to illustrate that plenty of inter-Arab alliances have come and gone since colonization and a full review of some of the reasons behind this could be explored by highly defined tribalism which predates Islam and maintains its principles of association and familiarity throughout the region.

However, Huntington believes through his models that border areas of cultural clashes represent the coordinates of strife and civilizational goal keepers at the centre of their societies are the bridge menders. He does not seem to advocate trickle down of power in such a theory. Localized issues are hard to universalize and when we do we tend to lose the arguments. Maybe Huntington lost credit in his attempt to bring the issues of cultural ethnocentrism, in its highest forms, to the masses.

Certainly it is not his theory that it is natural to consider our own cultures superior to others. That belongs to Clyde Kluckhohn. However Huntington does not dive deeply into it, by all appearances cultural clashes appear innately connected to essential flaws of human nature.

However, this book is not overly flawed, it is well worth reading.

Blueprint for Global Counter-Revolution?

The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World
de Soto, Hernando, Abbott, June (Author)

Blueprint for Global Counter-Revolution?

Hernando De Soto's, "The Other Path" should be required reading for any western-educated, pseudo-left wing, liberal, or otherwise middle-class couched idealists who hold any romantic notions about the desirable benefits of maoist or proletarian revolt among third-world or developing nations.It should also be applied to global economics studies. This book is not great just because it is sanctioned by Clinton, Bush, or Kissinger...(touche)

But it is admittedly an earlier treatise than, "The Mystery of Capital". Written from an issues specific and culturally-specific perspective as a counter point to the Shining Path which slaughtered up to 25,000 Peruvians. The turmoil induced by The Shining Path and Guzman is framed within the self-same self-destruction of Cambodia, China, and Russia to name a few nations under misguided and ultimately failed Marxist (but for tactics, say strictly Stalinist or Maoist) principles. No opposition permitted to imposed status quo.

De Soto defeats revolutionary arguments with good analysis. This is probably why he was leading a think-tank called ILD (Institutio Libertad y Democracia). In a nut-shell, some of his arguments:

1. DeSoto said most Peruvians are not blue-collar workers but emerging
entrepreneurs. This could be applied globally. One could say most of the poor are not blue-collar, they are business people sans jobs.

2.The revolutionary class, as evidenced currently in Bolivia, is made up of newly arrived migrants from the countryside.

* Note that Chinese newly arrived migrants number about 200 million annually in China today. Incredible extralegal work sectors thus exist, as in inter-migrant illegals all over south-east Asia (check out for statistics).

* Note the current strife in areas of South Thailand, inter-Malaysia and Indonesia.

Extralegals in the eighties Peru made up nearly 60-80% of the nation's population constructing seven out of ten buildings. So how can current growth rates in Asian economies even be purported to be adequately accurate figures for growth in comparison if similar variables exist there?

De Soto's argument was strong enough to engage the general public in support of government instituted reforms, and proves his argument that most extralegal workers would prefer to work within the law. Similar studies (See Spring 2005 Economic Perspectives Journals and The Far East Asian Review) support that Chinese economic reform is currently following a similar entrepreneur-motivated path. For the same reasons.

De Soto illustrates the point of dead capital more clearly in "The Mystery of Capital" so it is enough to say here that extralegals in Peru in the early eighties held extralegal assets fourteen times the rate of total FDI. He also went on to prove that simliar cases and proportions exist in comparative developing economies worldwide. He says basically that governments must be willing to engage extralegals or at a certain point disappear.

It would be interesting to note that Chalmers Johnson makes a good contribution to the case that many contemporary bloody revolutions have been the result of American backed, right-wing governments (In "Blowback"). Left-wing or right-wing, De Soto says international interference usually does more harm than good.

However people who would support bloody revolutions probably never read writers like De Soto. This book is about providing laws and legal statues that include new entrants to an economic system and distribute the benefits, especially the taxes back into a government structure which grows more responsive to the needs of all of its business people.

However now I would like to read about Fujimori and try to get a sense of where Peru is today. I also believe it took more than De Soto to bring down Guzman. One might credit a certain US organisation for his capture. Overall, the message of this book cannot be withered over fifteen to twenty years of global growth and change. De Soto illustrates great wisdom in attempting to turn the tides of revolution into political and economic evolution.

It reads very simply.

A Wonderful Read

The French Foreign Legion: Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force
Porch, Douglas

A Wonderful Read

Douglas Porch has constructed a character sketch of some strength and force which draws upon his extensive research efforts and produces startling portraits of the people and places of the Legion. This being said, the early portion of the narrative drags a bit, as I am sure early legionnaires also dragged a lot, and the vignettes of their desperate circumstances makes a wonder that they ever willingly fought at all.

Porch puts paid to the romantic notion that this bunch of essentially charlatans, thieves, gangsters, criminals, and opportune monkeys were hard-boiled, desperate, down and out misfits and miscreants, which should be of an occasional interest to any English instructor out on the cowboy trails. Little weavings of information, that Porch seems to dazzle with the telling of, define the characters of these poor souls, the scrounging and quarreling over clean cups of water costing more than their daily wage or miserable scrawny chickens or worn out whores, makes it an incredible journey to read.

The genius of some of the Legion's masters comes to the fore, the Battle of Camerone, and those of Vietnam pour thickly of the unbelievable corps of spirit and honour among such a rabble. It is also a sociological anomaly in the European theatre that there is nothing else quite like it and it speaks for whatever good or ill it portends upon, a cross-section of the very essence of French nationalism and or its exclusivity and or repression of immigrants.

You read this book, and it becomes clear that the French have done more than run from every battle they ever entered. Particulary Porch posits the idea that legionnaires were always and always have been the most modern of soldiers, if only in the facet that in so many ways their lives were already dead. He writes in the shadows of their formidable presence on the field, of men who already had nothing to live for and won every success despite incredible odds. A powerful part of the mystique of such soldiers.

This book is a powerful and poignant memory built by Porch of men without pasts, or presents, and still an immortal stillness and credit long after death...of efficiency and usefulness? In some way, the paradox, that the Legion built honour out of nothing stands alone. Fascinating.

Unemotional and Understated

Opus Dei: An Investigation Into the Powerful, Secretive Society Within the Catholic Church
Walsh, Michael J.

Unemotional and Understated

Certainly Walsh has received reviews of this book which criticize his analysis of an old doctrinaire of practice from the late forties or fifties in an attempt to explain what exactly Opu Dei was, is, and will be. But there is obviously such little documented, and if documented, then available, research data on this topic.
Where else could the followers of Escriba then be observed professionally but in their liturgical material?

For a group which is particularly introspective, and obviously capable of extremely effective influence in Church hierarchy, any documented evidence must be considered credible data for objective analysis. Walsh is also accused of extreme emotionalism in his review of Opus Dei, which again, seems baseless. He interviewed first-hand accounts from former members. Anecdotal evidence? Of course. Emotional? Why would these people bother to explain their experiences other than to inform and instruct the unwary?

As anyone who has read this book with the intention of merely learning more about Opus Dei from a scholarly point of view, as in, objectively, there are few other texts written on the topic. Thus, Walsh's emotion appears pretty subdued, as by logic it is an unrequired element of his task, which I believe he performed fairly well. It is the first I had read of this Escriba De Balaguer and it was a powerful reinforcement of other books I have read about Catholic Church practices, Hans Kung's "A Short History..." and "The Shroud of Secrecy" by the Millienari.

In line with the reviews of other writings upon the lives of saints, I have read some pretty fantastic whoppers of miracles performed, but never of such base, and documented, comments made about people as those Walsh attributes to Balaguer.
Much conjecture is made of certain events, mostly the financial elements of the early 1980s and the Ambrosian Bank. But such books are of little consequence in effective change management of Catholic hierarchy.

It is a little like brand marketing tactics. The most loyal of followers or brand loyalists are the most unlikely to change their affiliations and Opus Dei is described by Walsh as a pseudo-sect, an extremely orthodox contingent of The Church.
The upper echelons of the Vatican are also unlikely to be seriously effected by such critical reviews of Church practice, as the ultra-conservatives remain in control there, and the liberation theology spoken of by Walsh is still mostly directed at global laity.

By the time the laity actually impact upon the rule makers of Catholicism, where will Opus Dei be then? It appears clear that by any dogmatic standard, Opus Dei leaders write and rewrite the rule book at their leisure.

In the interests of Christianity, on the face of it, I agree with the author, Opus Dei does not appear very Christian. But if Opus Dei had their way, my freedom to read would also be curtailed, among many other freedoms I associate with organized religion. Nevertheless, I would be one of the pigs Balaguer speaks of, even though sinners were to be most favoured according to The Bible.

It is a logic of exclusion, an easily understood abberation of Christian values that Opus Dei appears to practice as described in this book, which they would quickly discredit. I have not read the Da Vinci Code but I might consider non-fiction as a result of this read.

Penetrating to the Depths

Penetrating to the Depths

Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres by Jean Markale is an easily readable short history of one of the nearly undocumented nemetonic centres of the Pre-Christian Western European Celtic Civilisation.

First of all, this is a truly illuminating book. Markale first begins with a personal narrative of his own relationship to The Beauce and the surrounding countryside of Chartres. He leads through exemplary skill, as a reader one is able to follow his inferences and silences through a carefully constructed presentation of facts and reasoned conjecture. He then proceeds to describe in detail almost all that is historically known, questioned, and pondered about the Black Madonna of Chartres, the works of art and symbolism of the stained glass monuments, and the structural architectural elements present in the cathedral itself.

Startling in example, he details that the windows of the cathedral and the artworks which adorn it once represented some of the sole instructive materials for many of the faithful; a folk history required in pre-literate Europe. Thus pilgrimage takes on an even more practical element. Markale ties the possible bridges between the Virgina Paritura, once believed to have been set in a cavern found deep beneath the cathedral, to the Pre-Christian, thus Druidic beliefs in a perpetual virgin, and the Christian veneration of the Virgin Mary, bringing into the world a perpetual son of god.

He illustrates with strong parallels the transitionary representation of the virgins of this cathedral over a long history and its significance to the Christian Marian Cult. Markale suggests that the idolatry of much of Europe may not have been entirely unacceptable to Christian evangelists and conversion of purpose appears possible in the eary years of Christian growth.

Especially, his central arguments include that Druidic conceptions of polytheism may have actually masked a completely monotheistic faith; and that even the Christians themselves were perhaps appropriating the idols of Ancient Thebes for example, effectively adapting their appearances and transplanting them in foreign lands through successive waves of dominion, wars, and migrations. This is certainly possible, as the Roman scribes detailed the Gaulish invasions of Rome and Greece by Brennus and 150,000 infantrymen; all bent on pillage.

Markale details the Madonna of the Underground, the Madonna of the Pillar and The Well of Strength and their combined significance to Christian history in Western Europe along with the less documented history of the cathedral crypts and their significance to what is known of the Carnutes and Druidic traditions. He references many ancient texts, mostly Roman accounts of Celtic gods and goddesses, and aligns the belief systems of both Pre-Druidic and Pre-Christian beliefs with known folk mythology, such as Birgit, Apollo/Mac Oc, etc. and makes many controversial comments and conclusions.

His most surprising assertion is that the Druids themselves may have had an appropriate foreshadowing or coincidental revelation of Christianity itself; hundreds of years before their Christianization the Druids were already preparing for the birth of one God over all other gods through the miracle of a perpetual virgin, and that Minerva and Bo'ann already were representative of a Christian-aligned virgin. Markale also raises the interesting observation that the liturgical rites of Druidic and Christian traditions serve some of the same sociological purposes.

Markale really covers a lot of fascinating territory in this book, and his description of the importance of the Virgin Mary as the greatest arbitor of amelioration of the belief systems of evangelized peoples of Christianity certainly stands as a monument to his communicative ability on the topic.

I look forward to reading a few others of his numerous books on various associated topics.

Remember this is "The Art of..."

The Art of Love
Ovid, Michie, James (Translator), Malouf, David (Introduction by)

Remember this is "The Art of..."

Love? Well this book is all about how to get shagged, the ins and outs, and Ovid got into a spot of trouble making allusions to Caesar's favourite dedicated promenades as being ideal locations for picking up babes.

Add that to Augustus's penchant for banishing his in-laws and relatives for infidelities, and well, this book got Ovid exiled to The Black Sea.

That said, feminists might have a few objections to the proported timelessness of this work.

Instead of dedicating himself to getting into Augustinian good graces (he could not return to Rome until Caesar Augustus was dead and buried) it was more like he was explaining how easy it was to get into the pants of Augustinian blood-relatives, just not a good idea at that time anyway, in Rome.

However it took several years for Augustus to catch on and tag him out. He must have been pretty busy chasing down non-puritans in his own family.

In the meantime Ovid had attained some fame and glory for his audacity even though he claimed he never intended such allusions.

This book is handy, brief, and supple with full Latin text and a rhyming translation.

I just wish I knew a little more Latin.

I have a feeling full knowledge of Latin would give full impact of the naughty genius of this text which is attested to by the scholars anyway.

Then maybe I could put the lessons to work most effectively?

Then I could write a true testimonial to Ovid's genius?

A Riveting Memoir

Blood and Oil: Inside the Shah's Iran
Farmanfarmaian, Manucher, Farmanfarmaian, Roxane (Joint Author)

A Riveting Memoir

This book tells the story of one Manucher Farmanfarmaian, son of a Qajar Prince who was procreating among a bevy of wives until he was 80.

Farmanfarmaian sets the story from childhood, and includes many insights into the Iran of the Persian Empire, to the period of the Early Imperialist Era; when Britain and the Europeans were setting stakes in the Middle-Eastern world with Russia. Finally he details the modern era up until the fall of the Shah, and the rise of The Islamic Revolution. Mr.Farmanfarmaian was, among many of his peers, an early student of western internationalist expansion fueled by the very oil found under his nation; he does an admirable job of describing the numerous events of the turn of the century, and details with precision the exploits and outright exploitation of national interests which companies like The Iranian National Oil Company and The Seven Sisters were able to achieve globally by negotiating from strength.

He highlights the outright inequities of royalties payments and the virtual subversive creation of subsidiaries the world over which consolidated oil company control and from which most national interests were cut off or severed. The details describe how some corporations consolidate shareholder interests in commodities; the scale of vertical integration in oil companies is easily explained by the patterns of their growth until nationalization of oil interests globally. Farmanfarmaian quotes Khomeni as having said that foreign influence had "striken Iran", and it can fairly be said that all nations holding oil reserves had been similarly striken.

Feudal, tribal, or even nomadic states, in some cases highly ordered and structured societies, though pre-industrial and non-Christian, were beset by influences under which almost no nation could successfully overcome or maintain a semblance of enacted or actual sovereignty. The impact of the turn of the century was less pronounced; the family of Farmanfarmaian were able to weather through destructive forces through tact and education and under the pronounced negotiation of Farman Farmah, Iran itself was able to maintain some semblance of order despite asassinations. Manucher was among many noble elites far removed from the feudalism of his predecessors, through offshore educations that could last fifteen and twenty years, a paradox of modernization, where local leadership influences might have developed, all appeared to be far removed and localized.

Centralized power was formulated into a standing army of dubious allegiances and questionable hereditary succession in the Shah in Shah's lineages instituted only with American and British support. Farmanfarmaian appears to indicate that without proper representation, the rural areas were unable to process change. USAID and other NGO agencies, only hurried the destruction of the Iranian agrarian economy.
Thus a simmering clash between modernization and secularization on one hand and an initially disparate regionally isolated religious opposition on the other grew unimpeded as local feudal lords had been effectively shut-out and "re-educated" along contemporary lines.

Farmanfarmaian describes his life as a politician, government servant, and diplomat and his views on land reform, the Shah's power or lack thereof and the development of OPEC, for which he shares a significant contribution. He reflects with amazing clarity upon the Gulf States, and oil nations in general, how the overpowering influence of US and European policies impacted upon his nation.

In my collection of books, I have what may be a very rare copy of a wonderfully bound and printed book on the land reform policies of The Shah written by a British academic in the early seventies. I bought it because I had met a beautiful young Irani woman named Leyla in Dubai. Farmanfarmaian confirmed for me some of her comments on the regime in power today. I am fully convinced after reading Blood and Oil that the Islamic Revolution and its effects were of far greater negative influence upon the peoples and aspirations of the nation of Iran than those revolutions and evolutions of the Shah's Era.

However, the entire century could be said to be a tragedy for the nation.

Farmanfarmaian is a ghost of a former time.

Still on the Forbidden Lists?

The Anti-Christ
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Mencken, H. L. (Translator), Mencken, H. L. (Introduction by)

Still on the Forbidden Lists?

I am sure for many Christians and Catholics even in the present day, Nietzsche must still represent a far too critical and perhaps blasphemous analysis of the actual Christian-ness of Christianity and Christians.

Too bad the majority of the post-modernist developed world for which he was writing, namely the educated, the powerful, the elites probably see or read his arguments as being far too philosophical and far too bland - for current interests appear to exceed his with overt Anti-Christian, indeed perhaps anti-religious rhetorics which are fully supported by the consumerism and relativism which rush to fill the gaps in faith or belief systems through products, promotions, purchases and sales of products, all appear far more powerful than philosophy in our age.

But mostly Nietzsche simply mauls herd mentality, and the lack of critical analysis, the preference of leadership and power to simply engage conformity and submission from our individual group minds.

No powerful entities avoid influence of the activities and beliefs of the herd, their measures and levels of conformity differ, but still exist today; submission to a lack of values in many cases might just have easily been Nietzsche's target in the post-hegemonious Christian world which exist at the present time.

Nietzsche's manifest expounds the intellectual detachment of learning from cultural values, in fact, seeks to redefine the borders and limits of group belief systems, seeks to engage the independent mind to gather information and make judgements based upon reason and logic.

He has a strong dislike for theologians and clergymen for their engagement of interpretive filters with which they read scriptures and pervert the message of Christ to the ends of dogmatics, and acknowledges to some extent that this is the nature of social organisation at all levels.

However Nietzsche insists that there must at all times, in all social networks, in all communities and cultures, there must exist "free spirits"; at war with traditional concepts, willing to challenge status quo, willing to elevate and test the freedom to express dissent.

Here Christians must act and abide by the historical record and Nietzsche is fairly well versed in some original conditions of Christianity; he challenges the moral beliefs upon which many churches rest far too comfortably to go un-noticed or to be faithfully followed.

The true test of Christianity today is thus to preserve the dignity of those who might choose, even with full knowledge of the arguments and many validities of Nietzsche's perspective, to remain members of the faithful.

At what point however, does criticism become religious bigotry or hatred?

In these days of political correctness the Christian churches and Catholicism in particular appear often to be merely the largest, easiest targets. However depraved, it is almost if a revolution of thought can sometimes be as forceful as technological changes which accompany the destruction of communitarian social values.

There are some who would argue Nietzsche helped perpetuate the relativism of contemporary social values; others might say he simply defined the difference between the all powerful and the powerless.

In that sense he defines 'free spirit' as one who may protest and live to talk about it.

I hope that tolerance never truly becomes eradicated from the Christian west. For truly it is an anomaly in the world and in human history. And ultimately, Christianity helped build whatever space within which Nietzsche's 'Free Spirit' may be read or analyzed.

A Fun Little Book

Pure Pagan: Seven Centuries of Greek Poems and Fragments
Raffel, Burton, Raffel, Burton (Translator)

A Fun Little Book

These translations are new, and most of them are originally published in the fifties so I was a little disappointed that none of them came out of recent archaelogical findings.

However they are highly enigmatic and interesting tidbits and I recommend the book even though the fragments are often quite fragmentary they do stick in the mind like little ancient post-it notes.

Waiting for the Next Revolution

The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea
Micklethwait, John, Wooldridge, Adrian (Joint Author)

"The Company" is a succinctly written modern library chronicles book, one of a series on various topics written in short bursting prose to pack as much detail into a small delivery system as possible, a possible foreshadowing of the future of books in an increasingly abbreviated view of the world and history in contemporary cultures.

However, "The Company" provides enough bibliographical material to allow fact and trail hounds to pick up the scent on other, perhaps more volumionous texts of similar content. Thankfully, there are still a fair number of authors out there who can treat the same material in more detailed literature, and deliver an attention expanding mind trip at the same time. Too bad they are always on back-order. Which explains why I am stuck hanging around for a history on Portuguese Empire.

The history of what the present knows as companies did not begin to actually transform trade or capital in the past on the scales known in the present without a full divorce between investment capital and associated liabilities. Limited liability corporations are not the only dramatic turn in business dealings to account for the explosive growth of trade, especially in Europe after the discovery of the New World; state sponsored acquisitions, territorial land claims, and sponsored explorations also played a role in corporate expansions.

In turns, Micklethwait and Wooldridge note the wide swaths cut through traditional business dealings through the efforts of the Florentines, the Venetians, the Medicis, the fattori, et al. But through the advent of full chartered companies the complexity of international mercantilism and corporatism exposed and exploited the benefits of empire; Hudson's Bay Company, East India Company, while British, represented only a portional entry in a dynamic and multinational effort to infuse European capitals and destinies with stock market capitalisations and speculations.

Semi-private organisations, sanctioned by their states, became so large, so powerful, so monopolistic in nature, that in many cases, popular consent and national interests were strong enough to renationalize many; even the precipitation of the Boston Tea Party is blamed upon British nationalizing interests. However, it is a fair comparison that many today might echo; governments have early wrestled with the perpetual balancing of public exchequer and private growth interests.

Joint-stock companies often provided the capital, labour, and organisational impetus to construct massive infrastructural projects; be it on the backs of slaves and slave-trading at the same time, many mineral and commodities markets could only deliver economies of scale through such industrial enterprises. It was only by the early 1800s that the prospect of regulation and law making became a serious proposition for companies. Commerical laws were being set to the tunes of corporations however. The essence and concept of limited liabilities only evolved following massive losses, charlatan and bogus stock offerings, the dot com crash comes to mind over the necessities of the time in law-making.

A century later, companies began to turn toward legitimizing the shareholder interests in a closer variation on today's models; entire railroad empires came and went, first through monopolistic tendencies risen and fallen, while their transportation increases faciltiated the growth of American industries, and the retainer of economies of scale never before seen, supplemented by increasingly variated supplier and consumer choices. However, the standardization of process and procedure extended through time and motion studies through a scientific management model which could not withstand growing socialist and unionist demands made by various levels of maunfacturing and consumer interests. Companies had to take a step back, and reform their labour policies.

"The Company" then turns to British, German, and Japanese corporate expansion in a similar period, which helps track the diversification of corporate labour interests and cultural specificity. Until the end of WW II, the UK remained a financial capital for the world, retaining an empire of trading blocks which was only superannuated due to its net losses in debt and equity swaps with US financiers to further the war efforts. At the same time, German engineering and industrial outputs were put to the same ulitmately destructive ends under the same patterns of financing; bankrupt and hobbled by Hoover and foreshadowed by Keynes, the entire machine was wrecked under insane leadership.

The Japanese economy developed highly skilled engineering in military technology, borrowing bankrupt enterprises from British owners following the losses of WW One and then not developing a quality goods export driven economy until after it had bludgeoned itself on the same American bankbook as the German and British Empires had done fully thirty years earlier. The overwhelming evidence of "The Company" illustrates that of all nations, the US was most adept at putting capital gains to work; however the chapter on corporate paradox details what befalls every corporate nation. Companies rise and fall, and for economically minded people, these are not just facinating, potential means of accruing wealth; they are a perpetual entertainment as no soap opera quite defines that the truth is stranger than fiction. The triumphs and failures of the world's companies are the stuff of titans.

"The Company" carries right on into the present and beyond into the growth of the MNCs who creepingly and relentlessly pursue growth in their proportional employment, indirect, and direct, of the vaster majorities of people of the earth. It is here that a conclusion can be made about who should read this book. Namely, anyone who thinks they already know enough about the world to entirely blame its ills on these behemouths. They are lumbering leviathans, and for the most part, those of us literate enough to read anyway, enjoy the excesses and luxuries they provide, increasingly.

"The Company" challenges the mistaken believe that as individuals in a post-modern world , we are in any way not influenced, or influencing, their patterns of growth, diminishment, rise and fall. Anyone who reads such a book, in such a manner, quickly realizes that "The Company" is more about each worker on the planet than not. It is not so far from reasoning, that "The Company" espouses "The World" as it has become.

Pitfalls of Corporate Responsibility

Empires of Profit: Commerce, Conquest and Corporate Responsibility
Litvin, Daniel B.

Pitfalls of Corporate Responsibility

I thought this book was as fine a read on the dynamics, the revolutions, and evolutions of multicorporate growth and reductionism across the planet as any. The method of focus on each particular case is unique among his peers, and Litvin readily details the re-occurring growth and diminished power of some of the world's most outstanding or illustrious corporations.

He makes an entertaining and perceptive review of current and past global leviathans.

Yet he does not turn this wonderful eye upon his own former employer, Rio Tinto. I believe that this omission is as useful a gauge of his seriousness and dedication to the craft of corporate responsibility as is his eloquent review of global business practices.

Is he merely muzzled or observing a self-imposed silence on what would surely be his best elucidation ...that of Rio Tinto's safety records and affairs within the borders of his first hand knowledge and accounting?

That is what is missing from Litvin's well-written discourse on global trade and the mistakes which are often made.

While I cannot agree that MNCs set about dominance of vertical or horizontal integration by accident or by virtue of patrimonious oligopoly, sometimes I had the feeling that is what Litvin would like readers to believe.

Then again it would depend on the reader and what is being written. And with Litvin, what is not.

His silence on his former employer's actions may be more than professional discretion. A good read on the tactics corporations use to silence opposition either to their products or methods is well detailed by Judith Richter in, "Holding Corporations Accountable : Corporate Conduct, International Codes, and Citizen Action."

A Required Text for Adult Educators

Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults
Vella, Jane

A Required Text for Adult Educators

Vella is the cosmic guru of adult education, or so I was told. Reading what she has written here about her travels and teaching experiences (more than once) globally probably inspires many to jump on the escapist ship and hurl themselves into every NGO Agency out there facilitating and leading the down-trodden to chipper enlightenment.

How this lady achieves what she does, namely making gains and turning challenges into learning and teaching experiences is more than most mortals can hope to attain in life. I read her work, there is great power of perception and her absolute resolute optimism always leaves me thinking that she would turn being run over by a herd of wildebeest into a profitable learning experience. Anyway, the herds pay thousands to sit in on her seminars.

Put it to Vella, "Do we all have the skills to learn?" Answer, "Yes, but in multifarious ways, learn and espouse the ways". But that would be putting words into Vella's mouth and that is not one of her twelve principles.

Vella thinks in quanta, discretely, like a beautiful African or Indian crane fishing the ponds of unknowing, but deftly snatching her learning evaluations out of murky mediums as snakes or frogs for a satisfying denoument, and there is always a denoument for Vella.

She provides that grannie-sensitive measure to virtually every learning experience she participates in, and accountability is as important as relevance. In an ideal world, yes, everyone who be as easy to learn and teach as Vella says we all essentially are.

However for me this was required reading, and so I yolk against required readings even if they do have adequate contents. Perhaps if I had been told, "Here is Vella, take it or leave it" then I would have an effluvial, effervescent review of her seminal adult education tome here.

But I still at times fell like a force-fed duck, especially when I see how mindlessly her meanings and tunes can be taken up and balthered on about, even in a mildly caustic review.

But I grudgingly support her theories. They comprise:

1) Competent needs assessment
2) Dialogue-style education process
3) Informed course design
4) Learning Needs and Resources identification
5) Safe learning environment
6) Using the power of friendship
7) Support and reinforcement
8) Praxis
9) Learners as decision-makers
10) Learning Ideas, Methods, Actions
11) Relevancy
12) Dialogue
13) Teamwork
14) Engagement
15) Accountabilty

Read this book if you have to pass a certificate like I do, or on a whim that you would like to learn more about adult education.

It is no picnic in my mind, but in Vella's it is an all consuming quanta.

Another pocket guide to the abbreviated history universe

Peoples and Empires: A Short History of European Migration, Exploration, and Conquest, from Greece Tothe Present
Pagden, Anthony

Another pocket guide to the abbreviated history universe

Pagden has thirteen listed titles here (known) alone on his area of specific expertise, namely inter-empire history from the earliest days to the present.

That said, these little pocketbooks of the modern libraries chronicles are accessible entries to more developed treatises; however the more shortly-run, the longer it appears one can wait for derivative reading selections. What Pagden writes is the history of the world in less than two hundred pages, no pictures, that would slow down the magic-carpet ride. Actually it is a roller-coaster, high altitude glimpses of world history, and the low rumblings of racing thunder, a little like swooping amazon satellite images of the world, reading this is like flying with the condors.

If you want to sweep down and really have a full taste of the riverine salmon, you have to dig into the bibliography, and it is at fifteen pages, supplemented with a full cast of characters and empirical figures of variable repute. First, there is the dabbling about in the Greeks. Very little wandering takes place among the likes of Titus, it is all a hopping and jumping into Alexander the Great. I am surprised Pagden did not abbreviate to "Alex the Big G" for brevity's sake, and piercing detours into Sparta and Thebes, we are presented the uncomfortable beds of defeat at Issus for the Persians and Mesopatamians soon paving the ways to the subcontinent. So Alexander is crowned King of the Conquerors and Empire Builders of All Empire Builders.

Then the reader is raced in a fast beaked ship far before red-fingered dawn into the Italian ports of Roma, poking and brooding over Julius the Ides of March Caesar. The spitting and reining of arisot-cats, the hauling in and feasting upon of much girth in taxes, Virgilian golden age-ism and the waving of fronds, all held in the wise graspings of truths by Cicero and his nodding converts. So stands and falls the Romans in their over-aweing propensity to bloat and bubble over in enterprise, laws, regulations, an empire crumbling in upon its own over-awed illustriousness and forum.

Augustus and Constantine figure in their heavy blood-lettings to maintain the golden rules on things and thinking, but finally it all shatters into an enclave ravaged by Saracens and Marmalukes in the bitter sieges and rapacious fall of Constantinople to the Muslim hordes. A tipper of Holy Roman Emperors is poured over this lovely souffle and a thicket of European Kings sally forth to dance like ginger bread men upon the swimming foxes of continental European intrigue. Charles of Burgundy has the finest icing in his Half-happening-Hapsburg Empire. But the festering sores appeared in the plagues of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and British exploits to crab and spice the inner continental wheels of fortune.

The Haps found few opportunities to better Prince Henry, Prester John, Magellan, and the big Columbe, that man with a funny, funny hat. Certainly not as flat as the Rhineland. Given to him by Charles the Fifth. Christian world order, or as Annie Lennox so well termed, "The Missionary Man" came to the fore, an age of encomenderos, real "lovers of the rigours of religion" with far too few Montesinos or Las Casas, but far too much Philip, the Spanish crashed following eighty years of gold wars, followed by a Lutherian rebranding of the entire evangelical enterprise. Commerce became the new motto for world peace, as it appeared clear, from the Beguines to the Diderots. But intercolonial fidgets and squabbles continued to pop up nearly anywhere rival Europeans swarthed about.

Suddenly it seemed everyone had an axe to grind splitting a new morality which purged itself on the likes of Hastings. His leading attackers being Burke-ish in nature. Suddenly the British self-decidely implied, "All of the Queen and we" know best. So they decided to abolish slavery, at the befuddlment and bemusement of their West African suppliers. So Diderot's vision finally included the slave and effectively ended the trade globally by 1870. Then the French implicated as they tend to do even today, that the earth was borne with "Noble Savages" and struck out upon Tahiti to prove it.

Even Captain Cook was informed of serious hints on the conduct of fair treatment of native peoples to lead British imperialism in an attempt to do everyone else a real favour of civilisation. So racism reared its white, pretty, superior head in the likes of Gobineau (The little goblin), even J.S. Mill had a hand in working pompous magic in labelling Ango-Saxons as hard working, and southerners as lax, lazy, latins. A great froth and fuss about the eminence of the Aryans, or even the existence of an Aryan race courtesy of the likes of Lord Curzon, and Bentincks's "all bent" ideas flourished.

The buffet of justifications of British Empire roused the blood of good aryans everywhere in civilising the perceived heathens and federalizing the pre-literate, and pre-industrial cultures of the world's fetid swamps, border lands, and scrub deserts. At the same time relieving them of any spare commodities. A certain resistance to colonial rule erupted in many nations, namely China, India, and other long past servlings to the British croner. All European nations either bankrupted themselves out of their imperial holdings through European wars, or bloodied many dissenters until they ran out of bullets and will to win the unwinnables.

The heathens have taken to home rules with mixed results all around. Pagden finally eulogizes the entire concept of nation itself with a whistlestop at globalisation, which is hardly a threat in such terms as remarked by Ian Clark. Pagden's fears of omnipresence as an outstripping of local flavours are rushed, and there is ample evidence that standardization does not implicate diminishment of specific cultural distinctiveness. It might appear imperialistic to even suggest so.

Pagden translates empire in an express train of narration. It is a good trip overall, and hints that for all of its flaws, imperialism has neither yet withered nor died in the West or the East. It remains a dirty little thought in the backs of many cultural precepts. So take breaks reading this book. And think about what you might read next after the ride ends.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Not Sure Hitchens Answers The Question

Why Orwell Matters
Hitchens, Christopher

Not Sure Hitchens Answers The Question

It speaks of literal hypocrisy itself to write a review, particularly a critical one, upon an analysis of a highly analyzed author like Orwell.

Oh well, so be it, this book irked me a little bit, Hitchens might have applied more facing in the spirit of Orwell as exemplified in articles, publications, books, and novels. I just was not feeling a heart and soul in the analysis and I think the best ones have it.

So not satisfied that Hitchens really developed the analytical strategy that would bring Orwell out of the Orwellian; "heart included" is a request that hints at the humanist and humanism lurking about in Orwell's messages on fascism, totalitarianism, and communism.

Hitchens just does not strike that chord the way Orwell did. These ills that we are consciously and subconsciously aware of, in ourselves, as individuals, and as members of societies, Orwell decried these ills, all of these perhaps more well organized, developed, and fully flowered in the cradles of western democracies than in any artifical or real enemies of our social conditionings.

Our cultures and societies of refinement, power, and graceful wielding of the global economy are a fully cast sword which swings as willfully in the present as it clattered in machine guns over The Somme or Vietnam.

JG Ballard in "Empire of the Sun" touched on Orwell's assertion of perpetual war in post-modern society through an estimation that WW Three had started the day Little Boy was dropped and continues onward to the present day.

But Hitchens ends up playing a game of "he said/she said" which really obscures the magnum suma of Orwell's vision.

There were doubtlessly authors out there writing in the same vein as Orwell. I would have preferred to have a closer inspection; Hitchens sniffs a few, but does not cast gleams in their direction.

Orwell was facing the tougher facts than most and maybe the real world details and events which correspond to Orwell's experience, and his living through of those details, and events, would more brilliantly reflect his facets and points.

Examining and giving significance to Orwell's implied message requires facing questions themselves, such as:

Were the victorious allies not a little too self-satisifed with their conquest of the Nazis and the Japanese? To what purpose and benefit?

Were the Allies not just a little too eager to comply with not only US financial institutions in clearing their accounts but in placating Stalin and his designs? To what purpose and benefit?

For example, who were the "Majors"? Did Eisenhower not delist German POWs from the UN conventions that would protect them from concentration-camp-like conditions following European D-Day ?

Was the Katyn Massacre not an early and easily interpreted foreshadowing of what Stalinist Russia had in store for millions of returning Eastern Front Russian soldiers, intellectuals, writers, artists, poets, and even tenant farmers ?

Orwell was not only a writer with the will and courage necessary for facing such issues and evidences, he was a willing reader, obviously a capable observer, and pre-eminently a listener.

But Hitchens does not seem interested in availing the reading public of Orwell in his roles as a nearly singular member of a society of apparently blind, deaf, dumb, and mute rationalists.

However Orwell matters most because he was seemingly the only man of his period to take a singular and surrounded facing.

Yes he mentions it, but it never feels like the centre of Hitchens' analysis.

He does not really examine Orwell in the Christ-like context of literary symbolism, the soul transformed, the vicious Saul turned to Paul, the flawed but somewhat forgiving human-being that he became. The transformative aspects of his work. Is there any evidence that Orwell transformed anyone other than himself ?

It is there... the bitter irony...his most famous books, "Animal Farm or 1984" considered seminal elementary literature. Fairly trite. So obviously this man was not a Hans Christian Anderson.

There is the scope of the Orwellian nightmare which engulfs us and his conscience, which acts as a moral essential to the concept of universal soul, revealed, but not often enough recognized as an admission of common guilt, that there is no relative withdrawal possible from personal responsibility for the self, the totality of entire human history is possessed by all, and for the injustices and cruelties we perpetuate and must witness in ourselves, the issue is how do individuals grow from this maturation and ownership?

Perhaps, "Grow from this?", such as Orwell implies.

But Hitchens just does not get to that.
I wish he would have.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Prelude to Review: The Death of Credit (1880)

A Soldier's Story
Omar N. Bradley

Prelude to Review: The Death of Credit (1880)

One reviewer commented that this book is surpassed by the magnificent volumes of Winston Churchill. While I read only a soft-cover abbreviated edition of his volumes about a decade ago, I prefer Bradley's style currently (my feelings may change on the matter) as it is more about actions and decisions made on the field of battle during the Second World War in Europe than it is addressing all of the theatres and encampments as Churchill does. Bradley does not try to meet every event with an explanation. Churchill often appeared preachy in his prose style and tried to cover much more content, but his defense would be that the reason for such unabbreviated ranting and rattling on is necessitated due to the UK's three year head-start into global conflict. Again. One might try to begin to pick-up ahead of the game where history often appears a little foggy or hazy. One really has to start in the 1880's or so to understand exactly why Bradley was on the battlefield to begin with in the 1940's. There is the danger in hindsight to paint glory over what occurred from 1939-1945. Victors often gloss over the suffering, and the fact that, "War is Hell", as Grant determined it to be.

Bradley does not gloss, he merely polishes facts as he saw them. It simply takes even the most general international business texts, if any one takes the time to read them, such as those written by Charles Hill, to get a grand scope of the achievements of globalisation and the economics of business at the turn of the last century. I am an amateur in history but I will attempt to mark some of the milestones that carried the world through two world wars.

The 1880's began a period of the largest spiked jump in consumption and production of manufactured goods in world history thanks to the streamlining of the industrial revolution. It was concurrently a period of few worker defined roles, only the beginning of modern thought or philosophy on the rights of the common worker, and even then often limited to agricultural labourers working with combines and threshers for the first time. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) took decades to form and was born toothless and clawless. Industrial man became like a cog in the wheel of steam propelled industry. This period gave rise to the scientific management methods of Charles Taylor which dehumanized the working classes even further and pushed enlightened thinking, in the realms of social theory, further forward towards attempts to re-balance or set compromises on what was obviously only a new evolution in the divisions of rich and poor, particularly the increasing, ever increasing gaps between the richest of the rich and poorest of the poor in terms of income and gross control of capital. Corporate mercantilism began to fade, flowering instead an enormous mutation of old traditional guild-type monopolies in a monstrous way, what corporatism became, which pushed blue collar workers further towards communist manifestos which always look good on paper, but in reality result in broken Chinas and Russias.

In the west, the compromise was organized labour, a union movement completely spun internationally but begun in the U.S. and the beginnings of minimum working and safety standards, which owed a lot to the principles of Fabian Socialism in the western world. It was a small 'give' considering what was 'taken' from the Tsar and eventually from the various permutations of puppet nationalists in the PRC. It was one way an aspiring merchant class could hope to grow forward, onward and upward to amass conglomerations, limited liabilities and what is seen today as international or multinational corporations.

E.M. Forster, especially in his novel "Howard's End" was not singular among his contemporaries to symbolically depict a foreshadowing of trouble brewing between the British and the Germans, economically, socially, and geo-politically, cleary three to four decades prior to the outset of the Second World War. The rivalry was no surprise. It was almost engrained since the beginnings of recorded history. Even among his contemporaries such as John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, P.G. Wodehouse and the like, the status quo of the time in the English reading world (and the result, speaking) was always that a war between Britain and Germany was inevitable to settle a long running question of continental dominance. No such ideas of peace movements existed per se. The pros and cons of war were discussed. The chaos and mayhem were always distant realities. The scene and setting had been built by the drive among European competitors to industralize, and industrialisation would now determine the winners and losers fresh from continental European battles a la Napoleanic Wars raging on and off every couple of generations to start with. Industrial man thought war could be easily waged and settled almost mechanically, cleanly, humanely, as easily as a process or production cycle. Every few generations it appears, as the intervening years obviously dull the slate, far too many forget the costs of war. Only the spoils appear apparent from age to age. So it was at the turn of the century.

Great economic success, Great Britain and Germany were both seeking among others to out-strip their competitors in export dominated growth, increased domestic productivity and multiplying rates of consumption, improvements in technology and standards of living. The Europeans were caught in a cycle which depended on the continual opening and closing of trade between nations and colonies, requiring faster and faster production and delivery cycles to stay ahead of the race. Unfortunately, Germany was hemmed in with fewer ports for slower logistical advances, fewer international contracts for infrastructural projects, even though industrially advanced in many ways.

Britain maintained a debt payments based strangle-hold on global capital markets that determined largely which European nations would benefit in speculation, which was almost always in the form of extension of new loans contingent upon the payment of current debts rather than upon the extension of bonds issues on debts, hedges, or equity swaps. Capital was almost exclusively generated on accrued profits alone. This maintained a slow rate of growth in comparison to today's standards. Germany felt quite tied to a losing markets strategy. War was seen as a ready method by which to accrue capital gains based on resources, territorial expansionism, and the assumption of global colonial markets and the associated federal gains in taxes, productivity, and self-sufficency. These are the same moderating tendencies which exist in the economic world today. Economists measure and rate increases and declines in trade balances, and attempt to adjust factors of production and captial gains or flight to adjust to minimize losses. But at a certain point, the localized capital markets could not keep up with the desire on the part of national European governments and their local powers to compete and grow in areas of military strength, economic colonial rivalry, and social reorganisation. A new player on the economic block began to provide new, bigger, easier to finance loans. The U.S. corporate banking industry.

International banking to fund war drive efforts were in their infancy. The U.S. was financing all parties, similarly to their Swiss counterparts. Especially prior to the immediate outbreak of war, munitions and their commodities were becoming more and more efficently produced in the U.S. mostly because U.S. industry proved more quickly capable of standardizing and minimizing production process and parts or materials design, increasing supply rates and reducing unit costs, providing more profits and more investment capital to be funnelled into what was becoming a credit-financed global economy. For the first time, corporate financing could guarantee that national governments could owe more than they owned. What the U.S. was able to produce was bought and sold on U.S. corporate loans guarantees as well as European innovations in areas of newer, better, more efficient weapons produced with U.S. commodities. The role was extended to Canadian business interests as well. Nearly every private industry in North America was somehow involved. So current account balances began to bend in US favour for obvious reasons. A steady supply of exported products, paid for by outstanding and building current account deficits in capital movements financed by U.S., Canadian, Swiss banks. It was not so important which banks were involved, it was the act of extending the largest credit lines and loans to "western allies" and "western potential enemies", for decades of build-up. This was the beginning of the end of a purely European War. For these reasons, US and Canadian trade surplus grew and grew, and exponentially standards of living and GNP also expanded. Mostly on the sale and trade of associated commodities and armorments.

A zero sum game for British and European methods of amassing capital gains, it was economic suicide, but only in a sense that outstanding principles on long-term loans were with often flexiblized interest rates, which works quite well in a credit-based capital distribution system were settled in a flip of capital accounts control to the larger international banks. It becomes more important who owns the debts, who pays the interest, and who collects the interest to issue more debts to pay the interest. A pyramid scheme. So there were hawks and doves as there always are in every camp, but industry never suggested a slow-down in the production of war materiel to encourage those camps to start aggravating for war.

Thus the profits and the sales of three to four generations of production were ground into the dust of the First World War from 1914-1918 just as an entire generation of young men in virtually the entire western world were similarly used. The U.S. delayed its entry, out of an unwillingness publicly to involve itself in foreign military affairs. Already the distinctions between allies and enemies were hard to define. Eventually, the U.S. allowed provocations such as the status quo shift following the sinking of The Lusitania off the coast of Ireland carrying many Americans to their deaths in 1915 as evidence of a moral duty to enter the allied war efforts. But economically, the longer the U.S. delayed, the lower the costs, in materiel, human losses, and national spending rather than international lending. Once the war was fully underway, the U.S. government offered to underwrite every Allied purchase in the U.S. starting with the announcements made by President Taft to the effect that no supplies would require payment in future. The Europeans credited heavily. Following the end of the war, he provided his "Allies" with the bill, to the effect that it guaranteed repayments which continue to this day. The governments of Britain and its WW One Allies are criticized for arranging debt repayments and reparations agreements which even according to Keynes, following the Armistice agreements from 1918-1919, could predict the collapse of the German economy decades ahead of the fact.

The pyramid scheme shifted. The U.S. instead of accepting orders for new products, began receiving massive reparations payments and interests due on debts outstanding, and continued to lend money to European nations in the private banking sectors to guarantee reparations dues. The European economy was shattered by the war, and hopes for recovery were slim to none, especially in Germany, still a perceived threat to world peace, its threat was guaranteed by the impoverishment of its populace, a decade ahead of the World Depression which was blamed on U.S. instigated trade barriers on those goods which could be sold under the principles of competitive advantage. Thus, German political right wing elements took over, as they often do in such economic circumstances, in the form of the Nazi movement. The Europeans scrambled to keep up with reparations rather than enforce strict military rearmourment programs, and the U.S. banking industry, following the 1929 collapse, heavily relied even more on profits gained from the financing of European military build-ups.

In effect, Bradley arrived to fight in first Africa, and then Europe, mostly because a fully globalised economic mushroom had grown for more than fifty years without a watchdog and created the very embodiment of five wasted decades. It was the birth of the US finance-based global economy. And the long death of credit.

(Photo: Harry Dexter White & John Maynard Keynes)

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
Mander, Jerry

A Good Book for Avid Readers...

If you are reading books at a rate higher than one per year, then you are above the US national averages as of 2002, I am sure they have fallen since then. And how many of those people are only reading a dog-eared copy of T.V. Guide (maybe the same one, over and over?).

That statistic came from a survey of information I was forced to compile during graduate studies on the potential effects of and companies like Bertlemann AG who succeed only to monopolize the sales channels of information that we read in books through economies of scale production and standardization of product which requires irresolute narrowing down of the variabilities of subject, content, and message.

Thus fewer and fewer opportunities for authors to publish, especially works which might incite fewer than a requiste number of customers for a large scale enterprise. That there are fewer and fewer print media available for scale publications helps explain the growth of web logs, and user-defined comments and information such as this review.

But what reader would really prefer to be wedded to a computer screen than a well printed and bound book?

As my sister said, "You can't curl up with a computer". But for many, books are already out of style, and out of print.

So too, TV is continously narrowing global perspectives which obviously leads back to the route causes of forced concensus: television and its effects upon the information content and utility of data to be transmitted and consumed to the masses; not for the sake of education or enlightenment but to implicate the subconscious human complexes and modes of desire which will effectively promote a mass-consumption society to maintain a driven capitalism which only increasingly appears to successfully separate individuals from the ability to analyze their own minds and reflect on better usages for their disposable incomes than mass marketing and advertising would permit.

So Jerry Mander helps explain why a book like his is hard to find, too few are critical of the media which are inseparably sewn into the fabrics of our globalized and increasingly standardized consumer cultures worldwide.

I took to reading books in the last few months specifically because cable rates which I felt were fair were unavailable.

I also felt it was a waste to purchase another DVD or video player, I have one stuck in a box on the other side of the world.

Mander may have relied on scant data, but he helps a reader appreciate the benefits of reading, particularly in the ability to process large amounts of information as a controlable and variable input for each individual. Also the scale and depth of information which can be gained over considerable time through extensive reading practice; his discussion of these topics is still quite relevant.

However, TV is losing market share to internet and thus there must be some connection to verifiable and reputable data loss inherent in the leap from narrow-focused market driven information such as TV delivers and the as yet fully-developed internet technology which could overwhelm in the area of special-interest defined information without relevant research for recommendations and conclusions on various topics.

Mander realigned my perspectives on television and its effects and caused me to think of internet as a form of extension of it. But I would not eliminate either of them.

For the differences in the quality of information available for processing is more highly user-defined over time. As in, as we age, we must take greater responsibility for the inputs we allow to enter our minds.

I am happy to have chosen this book as an online purchase anyway. Television sucks compared to about 80% of the books I have read. This book will encourage you to make more time for books in general.

As a result my T.V. is my second or third entertainment option. Mander says TV helps us unlearn how to think. I agree.

Economics That Makes Sense.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (Yunus, Muhammad )

Microcredit...significant hope for the poor

This book is a well written example of how the world's poor are capable of helping themselves, namely through the extension of low-interest, non-collateral-type loans.

As Dr. Mohammed Yunus was the originator of the micro-credit finance organisations which appear to be proliferating in the world today, he is obviously the best advocate to describe its nature, and deflect the opposition of developed world economists who have often apppeared reluctant to put micro-financial opportunities in place.

Dr. Yunus writes in an easily readable and informative style, his exemplary efforts to improve the lives of the poor globally, starting with his efforts in Bagladesh, provide a case study in results-oriented economic research and development.

Dr. Yunus makes a strong case in favour of micro-credit even when larger aid agencies such as The World bank, USAid, etc. continue to funnel large endowments into less successful programs.

Dr. Yunus also details the reactionary forces at work in poor communities, in financial and government institutions, and western public opinion which have impacted upon Grameen Bank's ability to account for significant gains in the realm of the improvement of living standards for those participants in microcredit programs.

This book provides a look at the simple economic principles which work for the poor and questions the complexity of many government and NGO sponsored programs which tend to evolve into negative impact where greed and corruption often subvert the aims and donations made to development programs.

Dr. Yunus shares his aim to convert academic economists from high-altitude observers of eloquent theories and research into ardent applicators of ground level, worm-specific progenetors of real change, progress and improvement for the world's poorest poor.

Anyone who wants to simply know more about significant hope for the poor should read this book.

A Lot Went Wrong.

Reviewing a Bernard Lewis book is not the easiest task. His long list of titles on the topic of the Middle East place him in a category all of his own.

To many who only took an interest in the region post 9/11 some of what he writes might appear pedantic or pragmatic. But I can detect little change in his style from previous works I have read by the author.

His understanding of the issues is clear. However he often revolves around details which the general or casual reader might find monotonous. A lot of background and historical relevance.

But there really is no other authority on the topic of the Middle East outside of the region itself who has dedicated so much of his time and creative energy in attempting to relate, if not the differences in cultural values, then certainly he relates the challenging path the Middle Eastern states have taken, under numerous imperial and financial influences to the often bumpy modern age.

While what he writes can lead a reader to the conclusion that there is little for western economists, business people, or average citizens to learn from Middle Eastern values, such a closed interpretation would be limited.

Lewis does not demonize and does not suggest that Middle Eastern cultures do not have anything to contribute to current world consciousness. However, what Lewis writes about current perspectives in the region allows for hope and development that might allow these cultures and peoples to live peacefully with their neighbours.

Understanding the path that led them to where they are now is a relevant exercise. Lewis helps paint that path without any attempt to terrorize the travellers.

Bone-Jarring Red Knuckle Read

The China Dream (2002, 2003)
Joe Studwell

Pick up any issue of Businessweek or The Economist in the last decade of reporting and it is highly likely that you will read an article related to the Chinese economy. Even last year's figures reported that while Korean investment in China has increased, that of European, Japanese, and US MNCs had shown a steady decline. It is an important topic namely due to the export market trade which propels many local Asian economies. Studwell takes a historical perspective and reviews the seemingly unending lists of new entrant failures to profit from China's perceived domestic purchasing power. Western, as well as Chinese diaspora efforts to sell products and services in China have often failed to secure profits and exit with enormous losses.

The root causes, from as early as the first European explorer, Marco Polo, are a result of perceptions of trade and consumption potential which has always been applied with non-complimentary or non-relevant research or wishful analysis aggregations. China due to its large size and enormous population has always been believed to retain outstanding market capitalisation and consumption capacity. But time and again, due to economic factors unique to China, reality fails to meet expectation.

Studwell surveys the early industrial imperial era and with the outrageous exception of Chinese opium trading routes which originated in the silk routes and impacted upon Adam Smith's influences on global trade economics, it appears China was never historically more than a consumer of specialty items affordable to cultural elites and luxury commodities from far flung trading partners. Exports were usually foreign owned and concessional. Eventually European nations fought their ways in to the marketplace through outright hostilities and threatening military intimidations which ultimately impacted upon the royal destabilisation of Chinese provincial unities and alliances. The nation became loosely aligned through foreign investments in infrastructural developments such as railways, trade, manufacturing, and real estate from the mid-1800s up to the early 1930s. Shanghai grew as a singular trade hub and the most robust global trading center in the inter-world-war period. But growth soon became decline.

Perhaps no single negative economic growth inhibitor has limited Chinese aspirations more than Communism. Studwell describes Mao's influences indirectly as they are more related to the strategies Deng employed from the 1980s to set a domestic and international buzz that originated in real, qualifiable changes but from which few profits could be squeezed domestically. Certain sectors, mostly limited to foreign fast food francises flourished and the dip in global public opinion caused by the Tiananmen Square Massacres was a fleeting one.

Studwell notes a frenzied increase in FDI from 1992. Deng's tours and speeches were directed towards a new cause, "globalisation" which became the mantra of a generation of multinational investments internationally not seen previously since the 1880s. Some economists see the possibility of a cyclical element influencing such global growth periods. The pitch was set with new development zones and a high turn over among party membership leaders. Promises of reform stoked "stir-fried stocks" frenzies never before (or since) seen in places like Hong Kong.

Growth was primarily taking place in the manufacturing export sectors, with heavy profits being taken in industrial real estate development. The signs of impending doom were implicitly couched in the irregularities and idiosyncracies of reality versus legislation and outright law breaking. Studwell details that the primary growth points were often coastal areas, often in the south, within easy logistical reach of Hong Kong and Taiwan. His description of Hainan real estate speculation is especially satisfying reading. Repeatedly with such examples he demonstrates the root causes of expectation misalignments.

These feeding fests spread to far flung provinces and culminated in several glad-handing and golden tour visits by greedy global capitalists and heads of states all cozying up to an economic growth pipe-dream which easily explains why trickle economics became synonymous with trickle human rights standards as part of western business. It fits western political leaders strategies to explain what exactly they were doing giving away their tax-payers money for Chinese infrastructural projects such as nuclear powerstations, subways, and feel-good profitless exercises. The calishtenics Studwell describes performed by the likes of Helmut Kohl, Canadian former slippery P.M. Jean Chretien and several US roving congressmen makes it look all like a freakish ballet taking place when what everyone should have been doing was rearranging those deck chairs on The Titanic. There appears to have been precious little enlightened self interest displayed by CEO after greedy CEO and one head of state signing worthless fortune cookie deals or another after another.

This is where Studwell really begins to bring the blueberry filling to an already crusty and satisfyingly well baked pie. He nails several high-flying individuals for their antics in China paid for by other peoples' money, something necessary, the trimming of the fat. But the industries will rarely acknowledge whistle blowing and horn hooting over their fumbles and squabbles. For such a bunch of intelligent financiers, I hope I never unwittingly entrust my investments to any number of greedy wastrels which make the antics of Enron look merely as a continuation of business as usual. The mere fact that so many cooks and business interests and sectors could be so utterly caught with their collective pants down in China from the 1990s to the present...have any of them really learned for the experience? Or are there just so many companies falling over themselves to weather years of Communist party red tape and downright dirty dealings to eke out a profit in a domestic basket case of an economy?

One cannot even begin to describe briefly what is wrong with Chinese domestic growth expectations. Utterly, it has existed as a failed economic system for generations. It perpetuates the sin of enslaving the majority of its participants savings and investments potentials in loss making industries, banks, and ludicrous lack of accountability measures. State flippings of state enterprises, loans, perpetual bad debts, the infinte rolling of one short term unpaid debt into a longer term one, on and on, and on... A chosen elite, capable of doing and buying anything, bleeding the system dry of virtue, accountability and global competitveness. Scratching the backs of foreign investors stupid enough to pay for the privilege to sell themselves short, in virtually every domestic market save a few such as telecoms and technology, in hopes for future bonanzas.

The entire descriptions of GM and MacDonnell Douglas woes simply reaffirm that these MNCs which so ignorantly assume positions which are unattainable due to misplaced allocation of investor resources cannot but fail due to the short-sightedness and lack of overall common sense which would have prevented astounding, jaw-dropping losses.

This book is about five years out of date. But I have read corraborating reports in several studies in the areas of intellectual property rights and the absolute corruption of Chinese judicial and legislative processes in regard to foreign owned companies. Studwell is right to exemplify the differences in purchasing power between slower growth, more developed economies, and the frantic profit taking going on in China today over a few dollars of increased purchasing power annually. As investors seem to be following or being led by the nose more often than not as is the case in China, I think I would place more faith in the fundamentals of Eastern Europe, and even the post-Saddam reconstruction of

Actually I have more faith in the economic future of Afghanistan than China after reading this book. China's long-term future simply looks far too gloomy to contemplate. But you be the judge. Read the hype. Then read this book. The gaping distance between promotion and some hard to define reality is evident in the comparison. China simply holds the potential for the largest economic meltdown in world history.

According to the red tape, it appears inevitable.

The Kama Sutra should be read simply.

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana
Translated by Sir Richard F. Burton
Introduction by Margot Anand

Burton is probably most famous for his translation of "The Arabian Nights". His early interest in the world was fostered by his extensive travels throughout Europe in the early to mid- 1800s. He became talented in languages and fluent in the classical ones prior to college. He joined The East India Company and was long resident of Sind. He is also quite famous for dressing as an Afghani and traveled to Medina and Mecca, a great cause for worry as it is "haram" (forbidden) for a non-Muslim to venture into the holy sites of these cities.

So this translation is Victorian in presentation; something which many contemporary readers and writers might find a little too elegant a depiction of the content, to which there are several other more explicit translations with diagramatic accompaniments.

However, one must approach a written text with the the idea that an understanding of classical Indian erotica was quite available to the reading public of the late 1800's and was acceptable reading material. So perhaps the content is questionable only to the degree from which the translation might deviate from an exploratory and explanatory translation rather than interpretation.

In this regard, Burton contends with the erotic topics at hand with a great deal of civility and gracefulness.

However Margot Anand's introduction is contemporary, filled with current relativist perceptions on the extension of a centuries old original text and its universally applied validity. Anand does explain some of the circuitous routes by which the Kama Sutra has taken form and character for the considered "Rule Book" on lovemaking which goes far beyond Ovid's exhortations on the topic of sensuality and art of living and loving.

But I take some reserve in sharing her esteem for the vast lists of Indian and spiritual characters, as is my taste. I would not, for example, nor ever assume in fact, that the Guatama Buddha, Dali Lama, or Mother Theresa should be mentioned in the same breath as a charlatan like Osho or the likes of the Tantric Cults which abide by Oshoist practices.

Spirituality is a living act in itself; Buddhists and Christians, Muslims, and Jews, share many similar historically mysterious practices and meditations. I would not breath their faiths in the same realm as "Sky Dancers", or "Love and Ecstasy Trainers", etc. as Ananad does.

I am far too conservative and respectful of world religions for that.

While Anand doubtlessly has researched some of her beliefs, I must agree that India is a paradoxical place, and the manipulations of men or women by men or women or vice versa could at times be aided by some of the strategies described in this book.

But somehow that would appear less than purely spiritual.

The author or authors as it may be, of The Kama Sutra speak clearly at one point that this book is meant for husbands and wives, that the tales and lessons of this book are intended primarly for application to the maintenance of a loving union, and pointedly not for the abuse of such knowledge, not for the taking advantage of by men or women seeking to ruin the lives, marriages, or relationships of others.

It is from this perspective that the loving arts described could be fulfilled by most and would preclude the needs for services such as those which Anand provides. It is too easily assumed that there are others in the world who are capable of delivering or providing the skills and lessons necessary for the winning and keeping of a loving mate, for a loving union, and a loving life.

A reader should then embark on the tale of The Kama Sutra, especially if they would refuse to grant credence to any practioners of profit-making ventures which would seek to exploit their lack of enlightenment in such matters, and then try to teach them, not only what they already know intrinsically about their own loving and sexual capabilities, in the realms of ecstasy but their ability to reason with their own needs and characters.

Such "experts" would seek to interpret rather than explain or translate simply, as Burton has done, a work of classical art, from one language to another, in a form which does not offend the sensibilities or privacies of the curious reader.

So The Kama Sutra should be read simply. There is much of value within its pages. As there is in many other classic texts, such as The Illyad, The Oddessy, or even The Bible, The Koran, or The Baghavad Gita.

Burton's text is worth reading. But I would recommend selectivity when perusing Anand's introduction which should be classified as less than an elegant accompaniment to the path.