One Morning in Sarajevo: 28 June 1914
by David James Smith, 2008
David James Smith is a British journalist and One Morning is his second book. My copy was printed in the UK and has rave cover blurbs on it from various English publications. I don’t recall the book making any splash this side of the Atlantic. Something wrong with that; the book is very good.
I am delighted that your recent editorial takes to task the nonsense of education, particularly higher education, as a panacea for what ails us here in the US in regards to a better economic future for all of us.
I have never thought that the push for more college spending and putting more people in college was ever an honest social policy prescription. The people behind it had too much of an economic stake in the policy for me to ever take it seriously.
Reading more than I should lately–now that the weather has turned good I ought to be out hustling on getting more work and starting a business and instead I’m reading books about the middle east and our wars therein, both present and future. First book that has taken up time that it shouldn’t have, or more accurately, more time now than it should have is The Oil Kings, by Andrew Scott Cooper. Book is of late 2011 vintage and it seems to have not attracted critical attention, which is wrong, as it is an excellent piece of history of recent times.
No Shit, Sherlock. Or Duh! Or any other of those common expressions we all know so well when something obvious to everyone else is news to you because you were sleeping or in a coma or something equally incapacitating. The information in these two outstanding books–Intel Wars, by Matthew M. Aid, and The Operators, by Michael Hastings–at least the information that really matters is pretty damned obvious and has been for a very long time to me at any rate and that doesn’t change the sad fact that most people don’t know it. Or worse, won’t acknowledge it.
Michael Lewis’ newest book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World is a wonderful book, probably his best to date, and is a thoroughly enjoyable read and is full of some of the best descriptive sociology a reporter can do and still it isn’t quite right. Even though it is mostly as right as it can be. I heartily recommend the book and am disappointed by it too. Not the usual reaction to any book, whether it is one you liked or disliked. Which in a way is a recommendation for it, a unique one.
Palgrave Macmillan’s publicity department saw what I wrote here on Dandelion Salad and sent me a free copy of their newly published book, The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight To Lead Afghanistan Into the Future in exchange for a review of it. Got to wonder if the folks actually read what I’ve written about us and our adventures abroad before making me this deal. Shoot I am flattered to actually get some recompense of sorts for the writing I’ve done, but I aint pulling any punches on this turkey. I’m calling it as I see it, now as always.
Generally always I never get my hands on a new book in time to get a review of it out while the book is still in play in circles print and intellectual, but for once I did, with Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well, and for once via the local library no less. Unfortunately, I have failed in getting this review out in the very narrow time slot the book world allows for reviews to see the light of day in a first tier publication; perhaps I may yet get it somewhere significant on the web. Perhaps still my efforts will get some people to read it, as this book is dreadfully necessary and overdue both. And I am personally obligated, as an American patriot concerned about us and our times, to put my voice and my reputation in Mr. Van Buren’s service with this review, and by whatever other means I have, as his employer, the United States Department of State, is well on its way to firing him for writing this book and telling the truth about the abject failure of our occupation, governance, and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and more, the failure of US policy in the war in achieving any worthwhile results for the Iraqi people or the United States government from our war efforts.
I mean the United States, not North Korea, of course. The Koreans will get along if not fine, at least no worse than before Kim Jong Il’s recent departure from the scene. No, the United States faces a crisis it is completely unprepared for. We have had entirely too much invested in demonizing Kim and his nation and what with the recent exit of Gadaffi from the scene, and Saddam’s and Osama’s too, all the leading bugbears of the US’ national security (read: permanent war fear and of late permanent war) state are gone, and we must ask ourselves what are we to do now, with them all gone? Who can replace them? How can we replace them in time to keep people from asking embarrassing questions about our gross overexpenditures on our transparently incompetent and incapable military? Continue reading →
Books that deserve some comment, for good or bad. First is Colby Buzzell’s new book, Lost in America. Buzzell wrote his first book, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, which told his experiences as an 11-M* in Iraq in 2003-4. That book, based on or started from at any rate from his blog postings from Iraq, got rave reviews in the US press. I seem to recall reading it and I can’t recall any much of it at all now, sorry. That book’s rave reviews–the US press has done such a terrible job of covering the war, has from the git-go and every day since, and has entirely shitcanned its critical thinking faculties about any facet of the war. US press war coverage is all either re-hashed government press releases in news article form or asskiss navel-scratching pundit-natter, mixed with a good sized dose of the regular infantile journalist human-interest sentimental garbage about schoolchildren and dogs in those far parts. Continue reading →
As you might notice when you read it, I enjoy giving academia a good kicking whenever I get the opportunity. Particularly my alma martyred, the University of Texas at Austin. My latest encounter with them was yesterday, when John Nagl, author of the counterinsurgency tomes du jour, spoke at the Strauss Center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The LBJ School–I’ve never been impressed with the level of talent there, either students, who mostly all were unimaginative unread drones, or professors, who mostly were second-rate second-tier National Security Geopoliticostrategico wonkapologists Continue reading →
Living in Austin, Texas, you still, this many years on, are living in the shadow of LBJ. His footprints are all over this place, if you know what to look for. I doubt that’s the case for most other presidential stomping grounds, certainly isn’t from what I’ve seen of other presidents’ home towns. Austin, current trendy poster child for creative urban post-industrial America was a pretty damned hick and small place in LBJ’s day, and LBJ’s larger than life personality, and his immense force of will, put one hell of a mark here on these parts here. Continue reading →
Reading too much lately, too much time, not enough work, not enough money in the bank to travel or start a project. That’s Christmas for you. Picked up and read Waiting on a Train, by James McCommons. Short, well-written first hand account of the author travelling the entire length, near as I can figure it, of the Amtrak passenger rail system. Did so over a two year spell, and during so went off and interviewed most of the important players, both political and rail industry, on the passenger rail issue here in the US.
There’s two good ways of looking at Andrew Young’s new book on John Edwards. First way is that it is a National Enquirer sort of trashy cashin dishing out all the inside dirt on John Edwards and his sex life, mostly at the expense of his saintly cancer infected and now dead wife Elizabeth. All that is there, sure. I suspect that most of the reviewing press looks at this book this way, and that academia, if they pay it any attention, will as well. The other way of looking at it is that the book is Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men in real life form, a political right-hand man’s story of his life in politics with a talented and charismatic and powerful politician, from his rise to his fall. That’s how I see it, and I see a great deal of value to this book because of that. Whatever the tabloid aspects are to this story, it is a most valuable truthful account of the inside of American politics and of the people in it. It also is a cautionary tale for us all, but not in the usual sense of “This could happen to you–beware!” of most cautionary tales. It has a more disturbing one than that, I’m afraid.
The main building of the University of Texas at Austin, built in part with oil revenues (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Had a day completely off back in July, which isn’t normally the case for me during the summer months when I’m usually busy as hell. Wasn’t a planned day off doing something I wanted to do–I had a jury duty summons and had to go downtown to the courthouse. Parked about two miles away–that’s the nearest free parking to the courthouse downtown in Austin, and jurors don’t get free parking or parking meter passes here. You do get all of a six dollar per diem, which buys most of your lunch I guess. So I walked over to the courthouse from my truck, plenty early for my summons, and got stopped at the security checkin on account of my pocketknife, which I’ve toted one of around in my front pocket ever since I graduated from diapers. Continue reading →
The old man was career military, Air Force, pilot, for 24 or so of the prime years of his life. He went in the Army Air Forces during Deuce with the burning hard-on to be a fighter pilot, and instead spent the war years stateside as an aerial gunnery instructor for B-17 and B-24 bombers. His dad might have had something to do with that assignment–he was career Army, made Colonel before the war, and having served through the earlier chapter of German-Inspired Festivities had a better idea of what war was about than his gung-ho teenage sons did, and might have pulled strings to get his sons in a safer assignment than they might have otherwise. No way of telling now–that’s one of those things that career military do but don’t ever talk about, on either side.