The Inevitable (Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future)
By: Kevin Kelly
Narrated by George Newbern
Kevin Kelly (Author, co-founding executive of Wired magazine).
Kevin Kelly’s book is a Libertarian’s guide to minimalist government. Kelly paints a clear picture of today’s internet of things and the direction in which it seems to be heading. If sharing replaces ownership, American Democracy must change or die.
Kelly implies the evolution of technology will make all but defense of country the sole purpose of government. This is a Libertarian dream. What Kelly glosses over is the disinformation system of a sharing economy that misleads the public and foments anarchy.
Kelly argues block chain technology decentralizes the last bastion of government oversight by producing value (bit coin) based on an algorithm. Kelly infers there is no need for a Federal Reserve, or a bureaucracy to assure value of exchange, if currency is based on a mathematical formula.
Without the oversight of government, which includes bureaucratic regulations, a sharing economy diminishes the role of checks and balances. Kelly correctly outlines what is happening in this technological world, but his extrapolation is frightening.
In Kelly’s vision of a sharing economy, democracy is at risk of anarchy like that seen on January 6, 2021.
The public puts its head in the sand if they ignore Kelly’s view of the 12 technological forces in play today.
He describes flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning as the twelve technological forces that make the public codependent. His observations reflect the “now” that presages a future.
The terror in Kelly’s observation is that human nature is not going to change in a sharing economy where nothing is owned but only shared. Humans will game the system either by raiding the block chain vault or manipulating code to enrich their lives at the expense of others.
Without a degree of centralized oversight (government), anarchy replaces equal rights and rule of law.
Any realization of codependence is anathema to the tradition of America. Human beings do not interpret the truth of facts in the same way. Each has their own view of the world and their place in it.
There will always be climate deniers, tree huggers, gun lovers and gun haters.
Kelly acknowledges there is need for some oversight of a sharing economy but implies the inclusion of everyone’s expression or belief will result in balanced self-governance and companionable A.I. for societal improvement. One may have a difference of opinion based on the events of January 6, 2021. That event’s aftermath will offer further clues to American Democracy’s future.
Decentralization of culture by the internet of things and A.I. dependence may be as “…Inevitable” as Kelly suggests. The question today has to do with what can be done to allay its negative consequences.
Louise Erdrich (Author, National Book Award winner plus other honorifics.)
(Louise Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Erdrich’s parents, a Chippewa mother and German father, taught at the “Bureau of Indian Affairs” in Wahpeton. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and her husband was the director of “Native American Studies” at Dartmouth.)
Like Ellison’s “…Invisible Man”, Louise Erdrich offers “The Night Watchman” to show how invisible native Indians are in America.
The headline in the 1/4/21 “New York Times” National page is “Indian Country Loses a Hospital at a Crucial Moment–Tribe Members Feel Abandoned as the U.S. Turns a New Mexico Facility Into a Clinic”–today’s example of Indian invisibility.
“The Night Watchman” is not Erdrich’s first attempt at explaining Indian’ invisibility. She also wrote the best seller “The Round House”. Both reveal the ignorance and unfairness of Indian reservation life and American government attempts to subsume Indian culture.
Erdrich notes “The Night Watchman” is a true story with names changed to hide American political shamefulness and abhorrent treatment of a young Indian woman. On the one hand, her story may be distorted because of truth written as fiction. On the other, Erdrich offers a distinctive picture of Indian reservation life and reminds reader/listeners of American power’s treatment of Indian people.
Erdrich offers a distinctive picture of Indian reservation life and reminds one of American power’s ill treatment of Indian people.
America’s history of violating contractual agreements with Indian tribes is well documented. A part of Erdrich’s story shows how those contractual agreements are broken.
(This is a photo copy of a Senate Agreement with Crow Indians for Sale of Their Reservation in Montana-1891)
An elected official submits a bill to a state legislature suggesting native Indians have achieved equality before the law and that they have become Americans who should not be restricted to reservations (a euphemism for break-up of Indian culture and land confiscation). The submitted bill gives no value to the tradition and history of Indian culture. The bill might offer compensation to a tribe for the taking of the land, but at an unspecified price.
The people of the reservation are legally notified of the prospective legislative bill. People on the reservation are offered a public hearing to discuss the bill.
There is no offer of financial help for traveling to the hearing or for legal defense of Indian contractual rights to the reservation land.
In Erdrich’s story, effort to organize and pay for travel and legal expense is left to reservation people who have no money to spare. What money they have is to survive, to have a roof over their head, and food on the table.
“The Night Watchman” is a story of big government against “invisible” Indians.
The bill is created by a Mormon legislator in the state whose family settled in the area in the 19th century. He argues reservation land was a temporary holding until Indians were integrated into American culture. The legislator reasons the day for full integration into American culture had come. He reasoned job availability, education, and welfare of tribal populations had reached the same level available to all Americans. It is the same lie offered to women and minorities in the history of the world.
Erdrich’s story begins with vignettes of Indian life on the reservation. This is somewhat confusing but gains momentum as her characters are fully developed. The night watchman is an Indian named Thomas Wahhashk. He works off the reservation at an industrial plant.
Patrice Paranteau is an Indian who works at the same plant as Thomas. She has a sister named Vera who has left the reservation to live in the city. Vera disappears. Patrice goes to the city to find Vera but only finds Vera’s baby who appears abandoned.
The disappearance of Vera is one of the drivers of Erdrich’s story. What happens to Vera is unconscionable. She is kidnapped and held in a ship’s hold to be abused by its sailors.
There is a burgeoning love story threaded into Erdrich’s story that reflects the striving of an Patrice to become an equal partner in life. Patrice chooses her own path to become an independent woman in a world defined by government and men.
Erdrich’s story reminds one of Ellison’s invisible Black who identifies with a personal culture while wanting to be treated as an equal in American culture.
Minorities do not wish to lose their identity but to be equal participants in a wider culture. It should not be difficult to be a Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, or other American and enjoy the benefits of democracy’s freedom.
Erdrich combines the theme of cultural identity with a story of human relationship, hardship, success, and failure. Erdrich offers a glimpse of our hard it is to be an Indian in a culture dominated by a largely white American culture.
Erdrich, like Ellison, shows how multiculturalism is denied by a country that purports to believe in equality of opportunity for all.
Like Ellison pictures what it is like to be Black in America, Erdrich shows what it is like to be Indian in America.
Walter E. Williams (1936-2020, Economist, essayist, political pundit)
Walter E. Williams addresses the conflict between what he perceives as “reality” and “darkness” in essays on Libertarianism. Williams essays were written in the 1980s, but they resonate with Libertarians today.
The focus of Libertarians’ is on individual freedom and objection to any coercion by government to compel actions of an individual for the good of society. They generally endorse individual liberty and private property. They defend civil liberties like equal rights for all; some argue for decriminalization of drugs, and open borders. They oppose most military interventions.
To some, Williams is a hero of democratic, capitalist freedom. To others, Williams is a nihilist like Kurtz in “The Heart of Darkness” who implies there is little difference between most government representatives (“civilized” people in Kurtz’s world) and savages. Williams argues that government regulation distorts the American constitution’s explicit guarantee of freedom.
Williams consistently argues that any government tax collections promoting the general welfare of Americans is stealing from one American to give to another. He suggests individual liberty and defense are the only Constitutionally mandated requirements of American government. To Williams and many Libertarians, taxes should only be collected for those two fundamental purposes.
However, in 1937 the Supreme Court defined “the welfare clause” of the Constitution as a right of the federal government to legislate welfare for American citizens.
Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870- 1938, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Wrote 7-2 majority opinion on the welfare clause of the Constitution.)
Williams joins an elite cadre of educated Black Americans that have achieved success in America. Like avid abolitionist Frederick Douglas, fellow economist Thomas Sowell, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Williams is a convert to Libertarianism. They feel they have the right to their Libertarian arguments because of their achievement. They infer their success is available to anyone who exercises their right to freedom of choice.
Libertarian Americans believe American government should not legislate or promote equality based on race, ethnicity, or any measure of human difference. Government should only legislate or promote based on public defense and individual freedom.
Williams argues public education, food stamps, care for the homeless or disabled should not be paid by government because it denies individual freedom of choice and reinforces perpetual economic dependence. Williams’ argument is based on the belief that American economic prosperity and common good come from capitalists’ freedom to choose.
Libertarians argue for no government legislation that provides help to the unemployed, homeless, and indigent. They suggest legislation that supports such service should be abolished. Libertarians believe that “individual freedom of choice” made America the richest country in the world. Libertarians believe any infringement on individual rights diminishes America’s competitive spirit, innovation, and economic opportunity.
To a Libertarian, a rising economic tide raises all boats.
Williams implies the poor are poor because of their choices; not because of their genetic makeup, economic circumstance, or discrimination. Williams and other Libertarians argue that choices made by government to help others diminishes freedom and steals money from tax-paying citizens.
One must ask oneself, what would have happened to America without President Roosevelt’s government intervention in the depression? What would have happened without George Bush’s decision to bail out America in 2007? What would have happened without Barack Obama’s rescue of General Motors, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac in his first term in office? What would have happened if the federal government had responded more forcefully when the pandemic infected America?
What would have happened if President Trump had managed the beginning of Covid19 better?
Some are pleased by William’s argument; others are appalled. The “some” that are pleased are those who have overcome life’s challenges. The “some” that are appalled suggest genetic circumstance is a matter of luck and birth.
Drive for equality of opportunity and treatment is affected by genetics and how one is raised. Genetics, family love, and life’s challenges are affected by economic well-being, homelessness, education, and health that can be positively influenced by good government.
Overcoming adversity is the sine non quo of Williams’ argument. Williams aptly observes the waste that is inherit in America’s legislative system. Pork barrel negotiations between the Senate and House of Representatives create legislation that reminds one of blind men touching an elephant. Each describes a different image–a tree trunk, a hose, a feather duster; with none realizing it is an elephant.
Omnibus Congressional legislation regularly stretches to more than 1,000 pages which few elected representatives fully read or understand.
This is a part of a Libertarian’s objection to use of tax dollars for the common good. It often benefits the few rather than the many, and inevitably has unintended consequence.
One might agree with the legislative’ waste argument of a Libertarian, but legislation that serves the homeless, the hapless, the ill, and the hungry throws out valuable help when circumstances are beyond their control.
The Covid19 pandemic is an example of circumstances beyond individual human control.
America is the richest country in the world. Capitalist democracy is messy, but freedom is only part of America’s history of economic prosperity. We are free but freedom has always been qualified.
Democracy is a constant work in progress; not a means to an end.
Every American who survives and prospers from American democracy deserves their success, but each has an obligation to help those who are failing. Democracy is too complicated for a singular person or company to provide for health, education, and welfare of a nation.
Williams essays leave out good government as an essential ingredient of success for any Democracy. Taxes are the obligation of every American to insure that success. There should be no homeless, uneducated, or hungry citizens in America, the richest nation in the world.
However, Obama’s success in international intervention is arguably less exemplary. That is true of many Presidents of the United States who fail to gain the explicit cooperation of other sovereign nations when intervening militarily in another country.
Our intervention in Libya had 4 U.N. abstentions for U.S. bombing of the country. After America’s intervention, Muammar Gaddafi is murdered by the Libyan people. This is not to say Gaddafi did not deserve his fate, but American intervention left Libya a failed state that remains failed 9 years later.
With the exception of WWI and WWII, America’s history of military intervention is abysmal. One must ask oneself–are Bosnia/Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or Korea better off today than before American intervention? Idealism is not exportable, whether it is America, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, or any other militarily powerful sovereignty.
Though people of the world may have similar ambitions and motivations, they are raised in countries that have their own cultural traditions, religions, legal systems, and histories. Even if all humans have a desire for money, power, and prestige; they are bound by their own country’s history and culture.
One might argue Khadafy, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hosni Mubarak, Xi, Putin, and Kim Jong-un either led or are leading the most repressive and authoritarian countries in the world. Their reigns are readily associated with imprisonment, torture, and murder. (Some would argue America has a history of the same transgressions.)
H.W. chose not to eliminate Hussein once America achieved its objective of removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia/Herzegovinian, George Bush’s intervention in Iraq, and Obama’s intervention in Libya are three examples of countries that remain in turmoil. America had little effect on meaningful change from American intervention in these countries.
This is not to argue that international influence and political diplomacy should not be used to fight against false imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder but sovereign nations must be respected for their own choices. Only a sovereign nation’s citizens can make right or wrong decisions about their country’s leadership.
This is not to argue for isolation but to realize no nation has a right to invade another nation’s sovereignty. It is up to each nation to choose their own path.
Every sovereign nation has a right to condemn another through national example, economic sanction, economic support, or political persuasion. But, American military intervention in a sovereign country is an error of immense consequence. In the case of Iraq—American soldier’s deaths, injuries, and American dollars are wasted. The evidence of that waste is in the Iraqi government’s continued dysfunction.
Barack Obama (44th President of the United States.)
One does not have to be a fan of former President Obama to appreciate his authorship and presentation in “A Promised Land”. Putting aside animosity about political parties, Obama rings America’s liberty bell. Americans have lost their trust in democracy.
“A Promised Land” is a clarion call to every politician to quit bickering. Being a President, Congressional leader, or Supreme Court justice should not be about self aggrandizement but about representing the American public. Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, President Trump, and President-Elect Biden have one more chance to return trust in government to Americans.
Procedural delays in the Senate on the Corvid relief bill victimize the poor and lower middle class. Johnson should be ashamed. His ability to pay a mortgage or monthly rent is not in question, but what about others?
Trump’s usual lies and misrepresentations are pitched again to deluded Republicans. As the March 2, 2021 editorial page of the WSJ notes–“If he was so great for the GOP, why is the party now out of power?”
Obama is a great orator and writer who offers insightful thumbnail opinions about the character of elected officials in American government. He may not be objective but he is extraordinarily persuasive. He argues Mitch McConnell is more concerned with power than any other motivation for being a representative of the United States. In today’s headlines, that opinion seems prescient.
Mitch McConnell (Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky)
McConnell chooses to obstruct the Covid relief legislation until after the decision in Georgia. He wants a Republican controlled Senate to approve Covid relief legislation. He cares not a whit for Americans who are suffering. It is about power, power that corrupts his judgement.
The Georgia race for the Senate is a calculated maneuver by McConnell to exercise power that might slip out of the Senate’s hands.
Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)
The case might be made that Nancy Pelosi plays the same game for power. That might be true except it seems Pelosi has been consistent in her belief that another Covid19 relief package is necessary for the good of all Americans. In contrast, the leader of the Senate at one point argued that no additional assistance is required because the economy is getting better.
What makes “A Promised Land” interesting is its candor about the office of the President of the United States and the limitations of a President’s or any human being’s judgment. Unlike the tenure of Trump, Obama consistently demonstrates empathy for the people of America. In one sense, some may interpret that as a weakness. Others will see it as the greatest strength of democratic government.
When a President makes life and death decisions for the American people, one presumes he/she is driven by something called the “greater good”. Of course, “greater good” is interpreted differently by every culture, every individual, and every political leader.
“A Promised Land” is a summary of Obama’s vision of the “greater good”. History will be the final arbiter of Obama’s and Trump’s contribution to America as Presidents of the United States.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
By: Nancy MacLean
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Nancy MacLean (American author, historian, professor at Duke University)
Labeling people is mind numbing. Labeling of political and economic interests is a crime against reason. Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, libertarian, Tea Partier, right-wing, and left-wing are some of the most common political labels. In the light of reason, none of these labels make consistent sense.
In politics, labels attach themselves to people like Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Sarah Palin, and the Koch Brothers.
In economic theory, political labels attach themselves to Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan, Milton Friedman, and others.
The only common characteristic of these representatives is that they are human’. Their labels only speak of partial truths about what they believe and what economic policies they support. Nancy MacLean uses most of these labels to make her case for “Democracy in Chains”.
Depending on one’s point of view, MacLean enlightens one side of her argument that, indeed, democracy is in chains. The chains of which she writes are manufactured, distributed, and applied by corporate America. MacLean identifies Noble Prize winner in Economics, James Buchanan, as the theorist that gave momentum to the Koch brothers’ political drive for unfettered free-enterprise.
Humans, even historians, are not omniscient. They are burdened with personal experiences that shape their beliefs and often compound their biases.
Beliefs are not objective. They are right and wrong within the boundaries of facts and societal norms. Facts are facts, but norms are accepted behaviors that conform to a group, community, or culture.
An appeal Trump has to some Americans has to do with his consistency in denying the truth. Covid19 is a devastating killer but Trump gives comfort to many who want to believe his denial of reality. The same might be said about Trump’s global warming opinions. The science shows his chosen facts are wrong and America will pay for it in one way or another.
Trumpism is a disease of America’s own making but this too will pass. History will reflect how dangerous modern media is in promoting the worst qualities of the American electorate.
Societal norms change with time and human experience. Facts do not change but their interpretation is changed by new societal norms.
A prime example of facts that change, based on social norms, is the fact of world misogyny. “Me Too” has changed the meaning of the fact. Harvey Weinstein is now in prison and Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.
That part of the American Constitution’s preamble that says the purpose of government is to provide for “general welfare” of all, is at issue with political and economic labels.
MacLean creates an argument that sounds like a conspiracy theory, a cabal of rich benefactors and political zealots who collude to reinterpret the American Constitution.
The principals of this conspiracy are the Koch brothers based on a theory grounded on an interpretation of von Mises’ economics.
Ludwig von Mise’s economic theory is artfully resurrected by the economist James Buchanan, modified by Friedrich Hayek, and reinforced by Milton Friedman.
Buchanan’s fundamental argument is that free enterprise should be free. He argues that the profit motive outweighs the negative consequence of social inequity by offering equal opportunity.
In Buchanan’s opinion, the only purpose of government is to provide for the common defense of the country. Education should be financed by private ownership of schools. Buchanan argues government financing of social service interferes with the benefits of a free market.
Buchanan reinforces a Spencerian belief in a “survival of the fittest”, a beggar thy neighbor distortion of Darwinian evolution. MacLean suggests the Koch brothers adopt Buchanan’s economic theory and implement it through clandestine proselytizing of others, and financial support for candidates who will vote for maximal unregulated free enterprise.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) conflates Darwinian evolution with free enterprise.
MacLean points to the folly of Buchanan’s economic policy in his consultation with President Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Buchanan recommends creation of a constitution that establishes and enforces Buchanan’s free-enterprise theories that forbade trade unions and encourage privatized social security. Unlike America, Pinochet’s free-enterprise government had no checks and balances.
Augusto Pinochet (Junta leader, military Commander and Chief, and then President of Chile from 1974-1990, died in 2006.)
With military oversight and control, Pinochet’s government victimized its citizens in the guise of a government that supposedly embraced libertarian free-enterprise. In fact, Pinochet’s constitutional government enriched a small minority and victimized (both economically and physically) the majority of the Chilean population.
Ludwig von Mises, an economics professor of the Austrian school, is the teacher of Friedrich Hayek. MacLean reviews papers written by James Buchanan who endorses von Mises economic theory; without any acknowledgement of Hayek’s tempering of von Mises’ “no quarter” for the poor or disabled. Buchanan becomes a theorist who motivates the Koch brothers to spend millions of dollars to undermine Government regulation of free enterprise.
MacLean explains how the Koch brothers create a non-profit foundation to elect Senators and Representatives to undermine unionization, government support of public health, public education, social security, and other public services supported by government tax dollars. This cabal is formed in the 1960s, particularly after Johnson’s “Great Society” movement. The cabal is built on belief that health, education, and welfare are best served by free enterprise, not government programs.
MacLean notes how this cabal fights increased taxes on the rich to pay for public services that subsidized public health, education, and welfare. Buchanan identifies federal taxes as a form of confiscatory government action, tantamount to a tyranny of the majority over a rich minority.
The cabals’ argument is that private enterprise is the real engine of improved public health, education, and welfare for all Americans. Their supporting evidence is the rising wealth of the economy, and the general health of the American population.
The “libertarian” Koch followers imply the gap between rich and poor is a motivation for climbing the ladder of American opportunity.
Though MacLean labels this cabal as Libertarian in motive, it hides behind a cloak of Republicanism. MacLean argues that Republicans who fight this secret organization either change their tune or lose their public office. Her evidence is Republicans who have lost their seat in Congress, like John Boehner, or switched their tune, like Orrin Hatch, who retired after 42 years as a Republican Senator from Utah.
Putting aside labels, “Democracy in Chains” is simply about self-interest. Human nature is to seek one’s own interest whatever one’s political or economic label. Until self-interest becomes care for all Americans, there will be opposition to government tax dollars for public health, education, and welfare.
MacLean implies American Democracy is chained by the self-interest of the rich and industry lobbyists who feed the electoral process. The issue of government competence is deeply affected by dollars spent by corporations and the rich to elect sycophants.
The election process in America needs reform. Government competence in providing public welfare is distorted by lobbyists pursuing their own agenda.
Only competent government can deal with the complex causes of homelessness, a failing public education system, international conflict, pandemics, and environmental disasters.
When homelessness, poor education, crime, a pandemic, or physical disaster directly affects the self-interest of the many, even the …Radical Right…will turn to government for help.
An irony of MacLean’s labeling of the Koch cabal is Donald Trump’s election as the President of the United States.
Trump is his own label, neither Republican, conservative, libertarian, or liberal, but he is a product of the Koch brothers’ division of the Republican party.
Trump’s veto of Congress’s approval of a Defense bill and Covid19 relief reflect the temper tantrum of an eight year old.
Trump’s life may be spared by the experimental medicine he has been given. His response is “don’t be afraid” of Covid19. Whether he lives or dies, all people should be afraid.
Trump is a carnival barker trying to attract patrons to an entertainment venue. He has no particular philosophical underpinning. That may explain why he became the President of the United States. America has lost its way.
Toward the end of MacLean’s book, the libertarian attack on social security is shown as a penultimate example of the threat of ideas in the United States. The irony of that statement is that the U.S. is a monumental beneficiary of ideas in its Constitution.
MacLean explains how Buchanan recognizes how social security in the United States is an election killer for anyone who argues it should be privatized. Buchanan, and presumably the Kochs and their followers, devise a scheme to split the electorate that supports social security.
Co-opt those nearing retirement by making them exempt from any changes in the social security benefit.
Offer IRA’s as an attractive alternative to government subsidized social security.
Enlist the finance industry into a campaign for privatization of social security as a benefit to them for more private investment through their investment houses.
Emphasize the frail financial viability of social security for the younger generation by suggesting it will go bankrupt before they are eligible.
Explain the potential for increase in taxes on the rich to maintain social security when now their contribution is limited to the same payroll contribution as the poor and middle class.
If this divide and conquer scheme works, opposition to privatization of social security becomes less of a problem for “libertarians” who wish to be elected. The principle of divide and conquer exemplifies a nation founded on self-interest. To true believers-everyone needs to fend for themselves. Only the strong (the relatively rich, and/or clever) will survive in Buchanan’s world.
As Supreme Court’ Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” That may be liberal jargon, but private enterprise would have foundered, and society would have been less civil without checks and balances written into the Constitution. MacLean makes a strong case for reducing corporate influence in the American electoral process.
In the Enemy’s House (The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies
By: Howard Blum
Narrated by David Colacci
Howard Blum (American author and former reporter for NYT and The Village Voice)
Howard Blum offers some clarity and historical perspective on the infamous Rosenberg spy case. One might argue it is as much a revision of history as a clarification. Blum accesses historical files not available in the past to write this book.
These files explain how a Russian spy network was set up, who the agents were, why and how American collaborators were recruited, and the way information was transmitted.
Though the Rosenberg’s may be guilty of espionage, their motive appeared ideological, not economic. Blum raised the question whether the Rosenberg’s betrayal of America warranted execution.
“In the Enemy’s House” reveals some facts about the halcyon days of the FBI. A listener finds how FBI agents are chosen, the internecine conflicts that occur when investigations go awry, and how difficult it is to live an agent’s life.
FBI agents are chosen from the general public. Some may be highly educated, others less so, but all are patriotic, loyal, and committed to American ideals and pursuit of truth. They are subject to judgement errors in their personal lives, their suspect’s lives, and in their understanding of the truth. They, like all human beings, make mistakes.
Expertise in the field for FBI agents varies. The example is in the way suspects are followed, how long suspects are tracked, and how suspects are questioned. As in all life’s endeavors, some are better than others in doing their jobs.
The isolation of agents and the long hours of suspect’ investigations have an impact on personal lives. Like police work in general, stress is put on family relationships. In the era the author covers, being married makes a wife a potential liability because of inadvertent disclosure of classified information. Blum notes that Robert Lamphere, the principle agent in the story, is personally warned by Herbert Hoover about disclosure risks because of marriage’ intimacy.
Robert J. Lamphere (1918-2002, FBI Agent.)
Lamphere joined in 1941. In 1945, he is assigned to the Washington, DC office to investigate Soviet atomic espionage, particularly regarding the Manhattan Project. In 1947 he is assigned to supervise Soviet code breaking and is introduced to Meredith Gardner, who is considered by many to be a linguistic genius.
Meredith Gardner (working among mostly women in the cryptographic Arlington bldg) provides leads to the FBI that reveal two of the most famous names in communist espionage history, the Rosenberg’s, and Karl Fuchs. Gardner dies in 2002.
A looming issue in Blum’s history is the decision to execute the Rosenberg’s for spying for the Russians. Blum tells the story of an FBI investigation of Russian espionage, code name Venona. Russia’s spy network recruited western scientists and ideological converts who believed communism is the future.
Blum describes “Operation Enormoz” as a Russian spy network that recruited Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Karl Fuchs to pass information about the nuclear bomb to agents of the U.S.S.R.
The judge in the Rosenberg case warranted execution for both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The judge reasoned, with the advent of the Korean war and communist China’s invasion of the northern peninsula, the Rosenberg’s gave license to Americans who might betray their country.
Irving Robert Kaufman (1910-1992–Presiding judge in the Ethel and Julius Rosenberg case.)
Blum infers, even if that judgement is correct, the facts revealed in his book suggest Ethel Rosenberg was not an active participate in her husband’s betrayal of America. Blum’s research shows deciphered encryption from Russian messages show Ethel Rosenberg did not participate in the spying activity of her husband.
An FBI agent and a brilliant linguist expose the Russian spy network in America by deciphering coded messages. The agent and linguist could not provide evidence that might have exonerated Mrs. Rosenberg because the Russians did not know their coded messages had been cracked. If the evidence the FBI agent had were revealed, America would have lost a critical source of intelligence.
One of the greatest surprises in Blum’s book is that the spy network that led to Stalin’s atomic bomb has little to do with financial bribery. It had more to do with the success of communist propaganda.
In the internet age, Russia’s success in the 1940s suggests how dangerous Russian interference in American elections is in the 21st century.
Blum touches on growing communist hysteria gripping America after the war. As history books reveal, Stalin tries to thread a needle by entering an alliance with Germany to expand the Russian empire and avoid a ground war with Germany.
Stalin realizes his mistake in 1941 when Germany invades the U.S.S.R. Stalin is compelled to join the Allied Powers against Germany. Both Americans and Brits are suspicious of Stalin. However, Stalin’s change in sides becomes critical to the outcome of the war.
The Russian army is the only effective fighting force on the eastern front. Russia is estimated to have lost 16,825,000 civilians and soldiers in WWII. The WWII’ casualty estimate (both Allied and Axis powers) is 60,000,000. If these estimates are correct, over 20% of WWII casualties were U.S.S.R. soldiers and citizens.
By any measure, the eastern front and Russia’s fight with the Germans was critical to Allied success in WWII.
Some Americans were sympathetic to the ideological goals of Russian communism. The truth of Stalin’s Russian gulags and the KGB were generally unknown to many Americans before, during, and immediately after the war.
Some civilians were seduced by communist propaganda to become tools of a Russian spy network. Blum recounts the two most notorious Russian spy’ incidents. Blum tells the story of the discovery and prosecution of the Rosenberg’s and an British scientist named Karl Fuchs.
Klaus Fuchs (1911-1988, served nine years in prison for providing theoretical information on nuclear weapons to Russia in the 1940s.)
America’s realization of the Russian spy network’s existence became widely confirmed with Russia’s detonation of its first atomic bomb in 1949. This is during the McCarthy era when Russian spies were alleged to be under every bed and in every government agency.
Joseph McCarthy (Republican Wisconsin Senator who fanned the flames of communist infiltration in America).
President Truman initially did not believe the Russian’s had the scientific capability to create the bomb.
But the facts prove otherwise. In one sense Truman may have been right. Russia’s atomic bomb success does not strictly come from Russian scientists. Stalin creates a world wide spy network to steal other countries’ scientific work.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003, NY State Senator)
Blum notes that Patrick Moynihan said Russian scientists, with German expatriate help, would have discovered the bomb anyway.
The point is science is a universal pursuit. (After all, America used Wernher Von Braun to accelerate experiments in rocketry that led to America’s moon landing in 1969. This is the Von Braun who created Nazi Germany’s V-2 rocket program that terrorized London.)
What is surprising to America is a nuclear detonation by Russia, only four years after Hiroshima. Blum suggests Russia could not have done it in such a short time without stealing American and British scientist’s work. On the other hand, Blum infers Russia would eventually succeed in creating a nuclear bomb, without stolen scientific documents.
As most will recall, trade secrets have always been an issue in international trade. In the past, Japanese, South Koreans, and now Chinese are accused of stealing American trade secrets. Of course, weapons of mass destruction are a more serious threat, but the principle is the same.
All nations seek economic and social advantage, with science as a universal pursuit.
“In the Enemy’s House”, there is a nagging feeling that execution of the Rosenberg’s was wrong. The inference is that if all the facts were known, the Rosenberg’s execution would have been commuted to a term in prison. Blum’s argument is not particularly compelling when taken out of the context of its time. However, considering no one else was executed for treason in the Venona investigation, the Rosenberg execution seems unjust.
The Red and the Blue (The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism)
By: Steve Kornacki
Narrated by Steve Kornacki, Ron Butler
Steve Kornacki (American political journalist and correspondent for NBC News.)
Steve Kornacki identifies the source of 21st century political tribalism in his book, “The Red and the Blue”.
Political tribalism is not new. Political tribalism shows itself many times in history. Tribalism is shown in the early days of political party formation, in the American Civil War, in the South’s reconstruction after the Civil War, and in the 1929 depression’s aftermath. Though Lindsay Graham has been wrong in pandering to Trump, he seems right to vote against trial of Trump in the Senate.
As reprehensible as Trump’s actions were on January 6, 2021, impeachment seems an inappropriate way of addressing political tribalism represented by misinformed and misled Trump supporters.
Granted, the twenty first century is not the eighteenth. The #internet and its wide open falsehoods unquestionably mislead the public. But, 70,000,000 Trump2020 Americans act on what they believe is truth. Most are not criminals. Trump will be punished by history and a state judicial system that will prove his guilt for crimes as an dishonest human being and business man.
In the late 18th century, it was the Federalist Party versus the Democratic-Republican Party. Alexander Hamilton’s tribe is the Federalist’ party. Thomas Jefferson’s tribe is the Democratic-Republican’ party. Hamilton’s tribe insists on a strong central government. Jefferson’s tribe insists on State’s rights.
In the Civil War, the stage is set for the northern state’s political tribe (largely Republican) versus the southern state’s political tribe (largely Democrat). In some sense it is a continuation of the two tribes represented by Hamilton and Jefferson. The respective leaders of the northern and southern tribes are Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.
During the Franklin Roosevelt years, the followers of Herbert Hoover headed the Republican tribe, rallying against Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act.
The vituperative relationship between earlier political tribes was as vicious then as it is now. What Kornacki tells us in “The Red and the Blue” tribalism is revivified, if not reborn, in the 1980 s and is playing out in today’s America.
Of course, tribalism in America goes beyond political parties. Tribalism exists in the long history of American discrimination. Kornack touches on that reality with his recollection of Jessie Jackson’s 1984 and ’88 presidential campaigns.
Discrimination is a tribal conflict. It is not exclusively held by any political party but by a cultural divide.
Murder and isolation of Indians, and slavery are the most egregious examples of cultural tribalism in American history. That conflict is seen when a tribe with political power discriminates against another. Indians, blacks, Italians, Japanese, Hispanics, and Indians (not to mention various religions) have experienced tribal discrimination because of their weaker political power.
In America, the tradition of slavery began in mid-17th century. Indian discrimination dates to the American revolution and reaches a peak with President Andrew Jackson’s enforced “Trail of Tears”.
Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson are polarizing political figures that drink from the same trough. They reflect the tribalism of both Red and Blue political power brokers against minorities.
Trump’s attack is disingenuous chest thumping that is being supported by Republicans and sycophants hoping to receive some of the public contributions received by the Trump campaign to overturn the election.
Andrew Jackson is the Father of the spoils system in which the president uses his power and position to appoint civil servants.
Trump is a “spoils to the victor” and “loyalty above all else” President. Jackson, like Trump, appoints civil servants based on loyalty to the President, without necessary qualification. To Trump and Jackson, the goal is to win, and when they win, they expect all who report to them to be loyal to their President. Trump and Jackson consider themselves Kings in their roles as Presidents. Neither defer to Congress, or the Judiciary. They use their power and position to prove their “royalty”.
The 20th and 21st century exemplars of sexual tribalism are the behaviors of Clinton and Trump. Kornaki’s book reminds listeners of Paula Jones. Her story is no less reprehensible than Trump’s dalliance with Stormy Daniels when his wife is pregnant. Many men use power and position to disrespect women. Men’s reasons are many but the consequence reinforces the world’s history of gender inequality.
What is striking about “The Red and the Blue” is its political spin. Living through the years of which Kornaki writes, one is struck by how much one forgets. From Kornaki’s reminder of Clinton’s caricature as “Slick Willie”–to his conclusion that Newt Gingrich is the source of 21st century tribalism–to Patrick Buchanan’s “make America Great Again” campaign—to Ross Perot’s “Bloomberg like” pitch for the presidency, Kornacki’s reminders are revelatory.
Clinton seems heir to Franklin Roosevelt, while Trump seems heir to Andrew Jackson. (This is a personal observation; not Kornaki’s suggestion.) Clinton is a dissembler, like Roosevelt. Clinton and Roosevelt knew what they wanted and pursued it through manipulation of legislators, either by the clever use of words or through the power of office.
Bill Clinton (42nd President of the Untied States.)
Clinton understands politics and how to translate the will of Washington’s Red and Blue tribal leaders.
In contrast, Trump bulls his way through the Presidency. Trump bypasses, intimidates, or co-opts Washington’s Red and Blue leaders.
One realizes after listening to Kornaki’s book, Clinton is twin to Trump in respect to moral turpitude. However. Clinton is a cleverer and more effective President. Trump, like Perot, finds politics is not for sissies. History shows politics cannot be separated from governance. Neither Trump or Perot understand politics.
Kornaki reflects on Clinton’s rise to the presidency. Kornaki shows how politically astute Clinton is in dealing with the scrutiny of candidates for public office. Kornaki artfully illustrates the era by recalling the details of Reagan’s appeal and defeat of Mondale, the weakness of the Dukakis’s campaign, Jesse Jackson’s misreading of Clinton, Patrick Buchanan’s tribal speech at George H.W. Bushes second nomination, the Clinton “White Water” and Lewinski scandals, and other stories. Kornacki shows how the table is set for deep Red and Blue conflicts in the 21st century. Kornacki explains how and why Bill Clinton defeats George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole despite Clinton’s disingenuous dodge of military service, extramarital affairs, budget crises, and ultimate impeachment.
Clinton is considered by some to be the greatest politician of the 20th century. His intelligence, charisma, and ambition overcome personal sexual scandals, draft dodging accusations, Red and Blue tribal conflicts, and the tumultuous effects of minority discrimination. Despite all of his personal challenges, Clinton manages to become a two term President.
The national debt grew to over 1.4 trillion dollars during the Reagan years. After the election of George H.W. Bush, the deficit remained high which led Bush to raise taxes when he has said “read my lips-no new taxes”. That and Clinton’s political skill derailed Bush’s election for a second term. Some would argue America prospered under Clinton.
“The Red and the Blue” is not about the birth of tribalism. Trump shows himself to be an inept politician. The emperor has no clothes. To overcome tribalism, American leaders must have political skill.
In the foreseeable future, tribes will exist. Steve Kornacki shows America is a Red and Blue nation disrupted by political tribalism. It is its strength and its weakness. Politics is the art of getting things done despite tribal differences. What is needed in America is a leader who can bridge tribal differences.
Democrats believe Joe Biden is the person to bridge tribal differences. Republicans seem not to care and continue to support President Trump.
The only way forward is through politics (the activities associated with the governance of a country).
American Carnage (On the front-line of the Republican Civil War and the rise of President Trump)
By: Tim Alberta
Narrated by Jason Culp
Tim Alberta (Author, Politico reporter, contributor to the National Review, National Journal, and Wall Street Journal.)
Alberta welcomes reader/listeners to a grudge match in American Carnage.
Alberta details the rise of President Trump.
Alberta has credential as a conservative considering the publications for which he writes. In his analysis of the rise of Trump, he details Republican discontent with the idea of a Trump nomination. Many Republicans object to Trump’s rise. However, their objections are overcome by the truth of the public’s disgust with the direction of American government.
In the best light, the rise of Trump punches American government in the face; in its worst light, it denigrates the institution of Democracy.
As one finishes Alberta’s analysis of Trump’s rise to the Presidency, both American views seem correct.
Some Americans will be offended by Alberta’s book.
Americans might argue Alberta impugns the reputation of the “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” President. In their minds, government deserves a punch in the face. Trump gives voice to many American workers. Particularly, Americans who have been marginalized by corporate America.
Some say American Democracy needs reform because Americans are being left behind by their political leaders.
Others will laud Alberta’s exposure of what some say is the worst American President in history.
Trump is characterized as a “showman” with no moral center who panders to the ugliest instincts of humankind. Democracy will be the judge of Trump’s performance in November 2020.
Government’s punch in the face is detailed by Alberta with inappropriate remarks Trump makes about immigrants, women, and minorities. Trump manages to conflate loss of jobs with false accusations and self-serving actions.
President Donald Trump falsely claimed that the Obama administration was responsible for slowing diagnostics testing, CNN reported.
However, an aide for a Republican senator said Trump’s claim is inaccurate.
The Trump administration however, has cut funding for several agencies responsible for battling the current corona-virus outbreak.
Arguably, American government does deserve a punch in the face. However, even if true, Democracy remains the best form of government in the world.
Alberta implies Trump’s punch to government fails to address the real causes of job loss. Creating a trade war has not, and will not, increase American manufacturing.
Contrary to Trump’s belief that the balance of trade will improve with increased trade sanctions, America’s balance of trade has worsened. Other countries are exporting more while America is exporting less.
Reality suggests re-education of workers are what America needs; not trade-wars, and border walls.
Trump’s ubiquitous tweets offer titillation and news coverage without providing solutions. Technology is displacing manufacturing which means job skills must be changed. Alberta, in detailing Trump’s rise, shows Trump is more show than go.
In 2008, loss of homes from unscrupulous lenders hurt working Americans who could not fight back. They lost their jobs and could not pay their mortgages. Countrywide Financial became the face of lenders accused of misleading marketing to sell mortgages to people who could not afford them.
Angelo Mozillo (Former Chairman of the Board and of Countrywide.)
One might argue Obama, Bush, and their administrations manage to keep American out of a deep depression but at the same time–banks and corporate America were bailed out at the expense of most Americans.
In the 2016 election, Trump capitalizes on worker discontent while Democrats ignore their grievances as something in the past that will be changed in the future. To every person who lost their home or job, the future is now.
Hillary Clinton and most Democrats, in the previous election, failed to understand how working middle class and lower income Americans felt let down by their government. One might argue many Trump votes were simply anti-Clinton votes. Ironically, that will be the plan of some voters in the next election, but it will be anti-Trump.
Hillary Clinton (American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker, former New York Senator and U.S. Secretary of State.)
Hillary Clinton may have been the most capable of the candidates for the Presidency in 2016, but her negatives outweighed her positives in the minds of the electorate. Clinton, as with all the world’s women, had to deal with gender discrimination.
Today, the Republican party is unquestionably standing behind Donald Trump. He might even be re-elected. But Alberta illustrates there are Republicans (like Cindy McCain, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Jeff Flake, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Tim Scott, Bob Corker to name a few) who decry many of Trump’s racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments. These Republicans will not disappear. Their time may not be 2020 but they will carry water in future elections.
Whatever happens in 2020, Democracy will prevail. Tim Alberta offers many facts that illustrate the resilience of American Democracy. There are, and always will be, good people on both sides of the political aisle in America. One hesitates to use that phrase in view of Trump’s ugly remark about the South Carolina conflict between white supremacists and the public.
History shows the Democrats will rise again; and so will Republicans. That is the strength and weakness of Democracy in America.
Having the wonderful experience of visiting New Zealand as an America tourist was like visiting a biblical Eden. However, no country is without political controversy.
On the one hand, New Zealand has the ambition of being an ecological Eden with no natural predators and a perfectly balanced environment.
Is that realistic? How can nature be nature without predation? From times untold, wild animals have eaten each other.
And then, there are humans. Humans are by nature predators. Environmental degradation is accelerated by economic prosperity.
American media gives positive marks to the current Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. In part because of her immediate response to the Christ Church mass shooting but also because of her environmental effort to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution.
Ardern is also lauded for her response to the Covid19 crises.
Looking back to a 2019 trip, first impressions are renewed by today’s headlines about New Zealand’s democracy. Elections in New Zealand reinforce egalitarian ideals Americans covet. The NYTs’ headline notes “…Ardern’s 2nd Term…Seats Most Diverse Parliament Ever.” Election of women and indigenous Kiwis is a message to all democracies.
Nanaia Mahuta (New Zealand elected official, indigenous Maori politician, Minister of Foreign Affairs,).
New Zealand is blessed with renewable energy sources from geothermal-power, hydro-power, and a burgeoning wind and solar power industry. Not that this is something only the Prime Minister has done in her short term, but it illustrates the environmental sensitivity of the country.
Prime Minister Ardern is not universally applauded by fellow New Zealanders. Contrary to Ardern’s press coverage in the U.S., some New Zealand farmers seem quite upset with Ardern. We had the happy opportunity to spend a day and night with a farming family in New Zealand.
The farming family we spent time with explains there is a conflict between New Zealand’ farmers and the current administration. Over 45 percent of New Zealand is farm land. It is distributed among farmers that have an average size farm of over 350 acres. An important distinction between our countries is that American corporations may use farms as a tax shelter while New Zealanders use farm land to produce more product. There are few if any corporate farms in New Zealand. New Zealand farms are owned by real farmers.
However, farming is a major polluter of land in America; as well as New Zealand.
Over 50% of methane and nitrous oxide in the world comes from farm animals. Adern puts the burden of correction on private farms. Over 50% of methane and nitrous oxide in the world comes from farm animals. Cattle, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca, llamas, goats, and chickens are common farm animals raised on New Zealand farms. Land, water, and air quality issues being raised by the current administration are a big concern of the farming community.
New Zealand farmland regulation is creating a furor among some farmers that are being told to change their practices to reduce pollution. The cost of these changes are to be borne solely by the farmer according to the farm family we visited.
Real farmers in both America and New Zealand have a reputation for being independent. That independence is distorted by corporate ownership in America but not in New Zealand. The New Zealand farming community is made of farmers who work the land. One gets the impression they will not re-elect Ms. Ardern unless she changes direction.
The irony of what we were hearing is that farmers like all people are concerned about the environment. The problem is in the cost of adjusting farming practices to accommodate environmental concern.
From an outsider’s perspective, the solution seems simple. Farmers in New Zealand are not constrained by corporate farming practices like America. New Zealanders do not farm to shelter income but to produce product. It would seem reasonable for the government to assist New Zealand’ farmers financially to adjust to less environmentally damaging practices. The perception we had from the family we spent the night with was that the current government wants all of that cost to be borne by the farmers.
When the word subsidization is mentioned, both husband and wife of the New Zealand farm family seem to wince. Without knowing the history of farming subsidization in New Zealand, one wonders what happened in its history.
As long as real farmers are producing groceries there seems every reason for tax dollars to be used to help farmers mitigate pollution. Farmers are as concerned about the environment as environmentalists. Where would the world be without food production and real farmers?
Visiting other countries is a guilty pleasure. It is an expensive undertaking that many cannot afford. We loved our time in New Zealand. One sees there is no perfect country. Every country has its discontents; America, not withstanding.