REPARATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Learning from the Germans (Race and the Memory of Evil)

By: Susan Neiman

Narrated by: Christa Lewis

Susan Neiman (Author, Moral Philosopher).

Not many authors are more qualified than Susan Neiman to write about “Learning from the Germans”. As an American moral philosopher and cultural commentator who lives in Germany, Neiman offers an analysis of race and evil. One may disagree with her conclusion but not with her understanding of the subject.

Neiman notes being raised in Atlanta, Georgia by her Jewish mother, and father. Regarding race and evil, Neiman understands what it is like to be white in America and Jewish in Germany. Southern discrimination and religious persecution are vivified by Neiman’s experience in both cultures.

What comes as a surprise to some is Neiman’s argument that Germany handles guilt and shame for the holocaust better than America handles guilt and shame for racism, slavery, unequal treatment, and murder of people of color.

The primary theme of Neiman’s book is that post WWII Germany dealt with the history of the holocaust more forthrightly than America has dealt with racism and its evil.

Neiman explains memory of the holocaust is memorialized in Germany after the war. It has only been in the twentieth century that America has begun to memorialize 200 years of black slavery, lynching, and murder.

Pictures below are German sites preserved showing concentration camps, a prison, a museum, as monuments and reminders of holocaust atrocities. In Germany, by 1950, reparation for holocaust survivors is being negotiated.

With the exception of the Thomas Ball memorial to Emancipation in 1876, no monuments of slavery’s horrendous history are noted in America until the mid-1900s. What Neiman shows is that, only in this American generation, have reparations for slavery been seriously considered.

In the 1950s Germany began to deal with financial reparations for holocaust victims. In the 21st century, America is just beginning to discuss reparation for slavery. Even in 2022, most Americans reject reparations. However, a well-known American, David Brooks, changed his mind in 2019.

David Brooks (Writer, conservative political and cultural commentator, reporter, editor.)

Brooks writes:

“Nearly five years ago I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind. What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?”

“The need now is to consolidate all the different narratives and make them reconciliation and possibility narratives, in which all feel known. That requires direct action, a concrete gesture of respect that makes possible the beginning of a new chapter in our common life. Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.”

Robert Jones, the Founder of the Public Religion Institute, and a graduate of the Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book suggesting reparations are the only way white America can find forgiveness. Neiman acknowledges the high cost of determining fair reparations for American slavery but implies money spent on defense would be a good place to search for money to invest in white America’s forgiveness for slavery. Neiman notes Germany rebuilt itself after WWII. Her inference is that America has enough wealth to do the same with reparations for slavery.

Neiman notes Germany, like America, has right wing extremists who continue to vilify ethnic minorities, but discrimination is institutionally rejected by German government leadership while American leaders like former President Donald Trump say there are very fine people on both sides of racial discrimination.

Trump refers to the 2017, Charlottesville, Va. alt-right and white nationalist rally where a white supremacist plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters to the racist rally, one of which is killed.

Neiman recalls the murder and torture of a  Black 14-year-old boy, Emmitt Till, in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955.

Two white Americans admitted their guilt in Till’s torture and murder, after being acquitted for the crime by an all-white jury. The murderers went free to live their remaining lives in Mississippi.

Neiman reflects on the murders of nine African Americans in Shelby, North Carolina by Dylann Roof in 2015. Roof self-identifies as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi.

Neiman’s point is that Germany has done better to acknowledge and repair their relationship with holocaust survivors than America has done in reconciling its racist and evil actions regarding slavery and what has become institutionalized racism. Germany’s success has been in the face of an east and west Germany reconciliation after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Neiman notes the difference in east and west German survivors’ beliefs while showing they acted to reconcile their Nazi past with memorialization, and demonstration of shame and guilt for the holocaust. A significant part of that reconciliation is legislated reparation for holocaust survivors.

Neiman explains, just as there remain Nazi collaborators in the East and West, there are racist collaborators in the northern and southern United States. Neiman infers if Germany could reunify within 40 years after WWII, the U.S. should be able to reunify after the end of the civil war. Why is it taking the U.S. over 150 years to get to the point of just talking about reparations for slavery, let alone memorializing its evil?

BEING BRILLIANT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal History of Our Times

By: Howard Zinn

Narrated by: David Strathairn

Howard Zinn (1922-2010, died at age 87, Author, Historian, Pacifist.)

Howard Zinn’s personal biography suggests being brilliant does not mean being good. Zinn is a controversial historian who grew up during the depression. He became a famous anti-war activist during Vietnam and wrote a controversial book about American history.

Zinn characterizes his family as poor with a father and mother who were factory workers with little formal education. He tells of his early life and how it influenced his political and social beliefs. He joins the Army Air Force during WWII and becomes a bombardier. That experience reifies Zinn’s early anti-war beliefs that become a consuming passion during Vietnam.

In some ways, Zinn’s enlistment in the Air Force seems a contradiction but the fascist nature of Nazi Germany, subsequent realization of the holocaust, and his Jewish heritage undoubtedly influence his decision to join the military.

Zinn’s role in bombing civilians creates an ambivalence about WWII; particularly when the atom bomb is dropped on Japan.

“You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” is a codification of Zinn’s ambivalence. Zinn suggests there is no “Good War” (as WWII is sometimes characterized) because bombing of civilians, even in a war against fascism, is a step too far.

One wonders what Zinn would write about the Russia-Ukrainian war?

Howard Zinn’s fundamental objection to WWII is American bombing of innocent citizens of Germany and Japan. Now, it is the indiscriminate bombing of innocent citizens by Russia in Ukraine.

America did not militarily enter WWII when Poland was invaded. Similarly. America has not militarily entered the Russia-Ukraine war. However, in both circumstances America financially invested in a western alliance against war. Eventually that financial investment turned into American military participation. One wonders how Zinn would view America’s financial investment in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Is our investment a prelude to military intervention?

Returning to the biography, the nuclear attack on Japan is considered barbaric and unjustified by Zinn.

Some, like President Truman reason the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings avoided loss of thousands of Americans and Japanese that would have been killed in an invasion of Japan.

A question is whether those thousands are different than the thousands killed immediately and later from radioactive fallout? To some Americans, the answer is yes because none of the added deaths would have been American. Presumably, Zinn would say using an atomic bomb is a step too far.

Zinn survives WWII and uses the GI Bill to get a college education. He becomes a professor at Spelman College, a Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia.

Roslyn Zinn (1922-2008, Artist, Activist, Social Worker, Teacher)

Howard Zinn and his wife live in a low-income, largely Black neighborhood.

The Zinn’s become political activists for equal rights. In the 50s and early 60s, the Zinn’s become acquainted with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and civil rights activism in the South.

Later, Zinn tells the story of his life as a professor at Boston University. He becomes a tenured professor, having written some novels and a controversial academic book about American history.

In his life at the University, Zinn continues political activism against the war in Vietnam. This is in the 70s. Nixon is bombing North Vietnam and Cambodia in an effort to get Ho Chi Minh to the table for a negotiated peace. Daniel Ellsberg becomes one of Zinn’s acquaintances. Zinn also becomes friends with Reverend Daniel Berrigan and his brother who become jailed activists because of the Vietnam war.

Daniel Ellsberg (analyst who became famous for Pentagon Papers disclosure about American government lies about Vietnam. Shown here at age 91.)

Daniel Joseph Berrigan SJ (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016) on the left–an American Jesuit priest, opposed the Vietnam war, (1923-1979 his brother Phillip equally opposed the war.)

A theme of Zinn’s anti-war story is reflected in his experience at Boston University in conflicts with the President of the University. Zinn’s reputation with students is characterized as a highly popular. That popularity and his political activity put him in direct conflict with the President of the University.

John Silber is the seventh President of Boston University. He is from Texas but earned a PhD in philosophy from Yale University. Though Zinn does not mention this, Boston University is having financial problems at the time of Silber’s hiring. Zinn’s story is that Silber is overpaid for his work and disliked by several professors and their staffs.

Zinn characterizes Silber as a misogynist who denies tenure to women professors. A female professor takes Silber to court over denial of tenure. She wins her case, and the Judge requires Silber to give her tenure. The judge fines the University and orders a $200,000 settlement for Silber’s unfair treatment. (Despite Zinn’s proof of Silber’s misogyny, a brief review of Silber’s Boston University’ history suggests the faculty and financial picture of the school substantially improved under Silber’s management.)

The fundamental point made by Zinn is that history is filled with brilliant political, military, and academic leaders but they, like all of us, are flawed human beings.

Misogyny, inequality, and war are unforgivable human tragedies to Zinn and most rational human beings. It seems the smart ones are the greatest perpetrators of these tragedies.

Brilliance takes many forms. No leader of any country is dim witted. Each has their own kind of brilliance, or they would not be leaders.

DIGNITY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

By: Francis Fukuyama

Narrated by: P. J. Ochlan

Francis Fukuyama (American author, political scientist, political economist, graduate of Cornell and Harvard.)

Having reviewed Francis Fukuyama’s “The Origins of Political Order” and “Political Order and Political Decay”, his view of “…Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” during the Trump years is important. Fukuyama’s earlier books offer impressive insight to the strengths of democratic government.

Fukuyama’s political support and participation in the Reagan administration and his association with neo-conservatism give weight to his opinion.

Though Fukuyama’s broad view of political “Identity” is mind-numbingly complex, his criticism of Trump shows how consequential democracy’s loss of “…Dignity…” is to America and nascent democracies.

Fukuyama shows how America has lost its way with the election of Donald Trump. Trump is not the cause of American democracy’s disruption, but he represents its symptoms.

Trump is shown as an unrepentant narcissist who panders to those who have been underserved, under-represented, and ignored by most Americans. The rising tide of violence and discontent of ignored Americans is ignited by a President concerned with personal power and prestige, not betterment of democracy or service to the unrepresented.

Fukuyama is not a bleeding-heart liberal that believes in handouts like a minimum wage for the underemployed or unemployed.

He endorses importance of work and fair pay for fair performance. He acknowledges the rising gap between haves and have nots in America but infers the answer is political reform that endorses dignity and discourages inequity.

“Identity” is lost among Americans who do not have jobs or are grossly underpaid for the work they do.

Fukuyama implies American culture has lost its way. With inequity, people revert to tribes that fight for tribal rather than national interests. Whether the tribe is a union of teachers or Starbucks’ employees who are underpaid or disrespected, they look to their tribe rather than the interest of their students, company executives, or owners.

Fukuyama endorses diversity and, presumably, prudent immigration policy.

However, Fukuyama notes there is another aspect of “Identity” that cannot be ignored. He strongly argues for acceptance of nationalist “Identity” by those who request citizenship. One who emigrates to a new country must learn to read and write the adopted country’s language, be willing to defend the country for which one accepts an oath of citizenship and must adhere to laws of the land.

Fukuyama notes concern for equal treatment within a country is as important as fair treatment between nations.

The rise of nationalism reaches a point of destruction when authoritarians like Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin invade other countries. What becomes clear from Fukuyama’s book is democracies can lose their way with an authoritarian, narcissistic leader. Leaders like Trump have no concern for equity.

The demand for equity and the rise of resentment splits people into tribes when not being addressed by government leaders. Fukuyama reaches into ancient and modern history to identify how “…Demand for Dignity…” is often accompanied by “…Resentment…” which leads to political unrest, or revolution.

Fukuyama reviews policies of government that mitigate the causes of “tribal” identity and resentment that roils America. Fukuyama’s ideas may be up for debate, but he clearly believes in democracy.

Fukuyama expresses some concern over “tribal” identity within America when it violates the interests of the country. He endorses diversity while indicting Trump for inciting “tribal” difference.

In the last chapter, Fukuyama addresses the effect of the internet on the “…Demand for Dignity…” and “…The Politics of Resentment…”. He argues the internet’s impact is both negative and positive. The negative is the internet’s use to spread falsehood and its potential for invading privacy. The positive is its potential for telling truth to power.

Fukuyama optimistically implies the internet’s spread of truth will outweigh its spread of lies.

Fukuyama implies the internet’s potential for gathering tribes for the betterment of government policy is greater than its present-day disruptions. This seems more likely in a democratic than authoritarian society.

The fundamental value of Fukuyama’s peregrination is that America has managed to survive and prosper for over 200 years, even in the face of “tribal” identity and resentment. Surely, America will survive Trump.

AUTOCRACY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Cold War (A World History)

By: Odd Arne Westad

Narrated by: Julian Eifer

Odd Arne Westad (Norwegian author, historian, professor of History and Global Affairs Yale University.)

Westad argues “The Cold War” rises from the industrial revolution.

Od Arne Westad’s book is summarized here but not fairly assessed based on his erudition and the book’s voluminous facts and opinions. He argues the industrial revolution improves economic conditions of the world’s population via two fundamental forms of government, i.e., one Democratic and the other Socialist.

Westad notes America and the U.S.S.R. are principal representatives and antagonists of “The Cold War” because of their way of capitalizing on the industrial revolution.

Westad implies communism is a form of extreme Socialism. Some might argue America is a form of extreme Democracy. The facts Westad reveals show both countries have autocratic tendencies and have made historical mistakes that have cost millions of lives. The irony of those mistakes is that America became a more socialist-capitalist country and the U.S.S.R., now Russia, became a more capitalist-socialist country.

In broad outline, Westad’s historical facts define “The Cold War” as it developed in the 20th century. Westad covers most of the world in recounting the consequence of “The Cold War”. He notes key players like Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Zedong, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Joseph Stalin, Josip Broz Tito, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Yasser Arafat, David Ben-Gurion, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and others.

There are so many stories of so many leaders, one may lose sight of Westad’s argument–“The Cold War” is defined by the industrial revolution. In some ways, Westad gives short shrift to the significance of one person’s impact on “The Cold War”. However, historians choose their facts to make their point.

The importance of Gorbachev is perfectly identified by Westad’s characterization of the Gorbachev era. The impact of glasnost on world history is a book by itself.

When Khrushchev gave his speech that revealed Stalin’s atrocities, Mao lost all respect for U.S.S.R. leadership. President Xi is a strong proponent of the ideals of Maoist communism which implies Russian/Chinese’ relationship is utilitarian more than ideological. The same might be said of Russia’s and China’s support of North Korea.

Westad implies Mao considered Stalin a near God.

The rift between China and Russia that developed when Khrushchev demeans Stalin’s role in the growth of U.S.S.R.’ communism will never be mended even in the era of reproachment between Xi and Putin.

The importance of Gamal Abdul Nasser to the Arab world is exemplified by Westad’s explanation of Nasser in Egypt. A similar misreading of history is dispelled about Indira Gandhi and the lack of respect given by Nixon and Kissinger of her role in India.

Westad’s explanation of Stalin’s disrespect of Tito is enlightening. Tito idolizes Stalin but that feeling is not reciprocated by Stalin because, to Stalin, there could only be one leader of the communist movement.

In a trip to the countries formed out of Yugoslavia, it is interesting to note the respect the older generation had for Tito. That respect for authoritarian leaders is noted by Wested when he writes of Stalin. In spite of the millions of Russians murdered or incarcerated by Stalin, improvement in living standards of many Russians endeared him to many citizens.

Wested’s history reminds one that autocracy is not limited to any particular form of government. Just as Tito was an autocrat of Yugoslavia, one might view Trump as a Wanna-Be autocrat of America. Both had their committed followers.

In the modern age, Russia’s hegemonic role in the world has been replaced by China. Like Russia, China adopted a more socialist/capitalist economic system. “The Cold War” continues but the major representatives have changed.

The only political ideal that saves humanity from tyranny is freedom within rule-of-law.

Russian People protest the Ukrainian war.

A peaceful settlement of the #RussianUkrainianWar will be difficult. It is not America’s or other countries’ job to pick winners and losers. Ultimately, it will be Ukraine’s decision whether the #PutinWarCriminal prevails or fails.

What one is left with after finishing Westad’s history is the belief that neither Democracy, Socialism, nor Communism offer final answers for the future. Autocracy infects all three systems of government.

CHURCH AND STATE

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

White Too Long (The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity)

By: Robert Jones

Narrated by: Holter Graham

Robert P. Jones (Author, Founder of Public Religion Institute, Baptist Theological Seminary Graduate, Ph.D. in religion from Emory Univ.)

Though history shows Americans have wavered, freedom (within the limits of rule-of-law) has progressed.

Fundamentally, “White too Long” is about equal rights for all Americans in the face of white privilege and white supremacy. Jones argument is a powerful explanation of how inequality is institutionalized by American Catholic and Protestant religions.

Jones focus is on discrimination against people of color in the south, but his evidence applies to many states-of-affair and every State in America. Raised in the south, born in 1968 and educated as a seminarian, Jones has intimate knowledge of religion and its practice.

Robert Jones reflects on institutionalization of racism by Christian religions in the United States.

Images of Christ as “God’s offspring” are of a white man in most (if not all) Christian religions. Christ is rarely identified as a person of color, or obviously as a woman. God as the Father is presumed by white America to be male and to be white.

It seems fair to say Americans have made progress in reducing racism and improving equal rights, but it has been two steps forward and one back. A basic tenant in the formation of the United States is separation of church and State.

The concern that America had in its beginning is government sanctioning of a particular religion for any state or jurisdiction. To keep that from happening, the Constitution stipulated separation of state and religion.

What Jones focuses on is the south’s history of slavery in “White Too Long”. Jones offers a detailed history of how religion reinforces white supremacy in the South. He argues that southern leaders of various religious denominations assumed beliefs in white supremacy and spread that belief through their religious preaching. They preached to white audiences constituting the bulk of Americans in the first 200 years of American history.

He notes the 2015 murder of 9 Black church members in Charleston S.C. as a turning point for the south. Dylann Roof walks into a Black church and murders the minister and 9 members of the church. Of course, the south is not the only source of white supremacists’ violence against people of color. There is the horrendous “Tops Market” murder of ten non-white citizens in Buffalo N.Y. in 2022 by Payton Gendron.

Jones notes how southern white America justified slavery as their right as a superior race. He recounts numerous stories of his experience in the south and his awakening to the subtle ways white superiority became an assumed right of his white friends. Preachers preached the gospel of white superiority. Jones notes how belief in white superiority became real to white Americans. Any opposition to that belief would be met with violence, before and after the civil war.

Though it is not part of Jones’ book, America’s religions also institutionalize discrimination against women. Like people of color, women of all races are treated unequally. Recent action by the Supreme Court in a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth is a case in point.

The Supreme Court’s decision in “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” is a step backward from equal opportunity for women in the United States.

Some would say abortion is different because it involves taking a life and not being punished. Is that different than the lives of people of color who have been hung, mutilated, and discarded by white supremacy and not punished? Some would say yes because a baby is innocent. Being innocent and born to a mother who does not care destroys both a mother’s and baby’s innocence. America does not have a good record for taking care of the homeless, let alone poorly cared for children.

In view of Jones education, one presumes Jones would not condone abortion but his argument of religions’ role in institutional racism seems equally applicable to women’s rights. The conservative tone of today’s Supreme Court bodes ill for American equal rights. Separation of church and State is a fundamental tenant of the U.S. Constitution.

Jones has written a damning and enlightening report on white supremacy, and its tacit perpetuation by Christian religions.

The most difficult chapters of Jones book are at its end. When one accepts that America has been “White Too Long”, what can we do about it? The author’s answer is to come to grips with truth, repent, and offer restitution to descendants of slavery. Jones recalls the story of Cain and Abel and identifies white Americans as the embodiment of Cain.

In Jones belief forgiveness only comes from truth, repentance, and restitution. Most rational white Americans accept the idea of truth and repentance, but restitution is derided by powerful Americans like Mitch McConnell who resist the idea of restitution because it is too difficult to trace descendants of slavery.

One might ask oneself-how difficult is it to offer native Americans restitution for the theft of their land? Reservations, and the right to create income producing properties have been a haphazard solution but they have been steps toward restitution.

Jones suggests some first steps have been taken by organizations that have set up endowments for restitution for slavery’s descendants. He argues, only with restitution can the stain of slavery be removed from the conscience of White America.

While one may ignore the issue of restitution, today’s American Supreme Court encroaches on separation of church and State by choosing to change support for Christian schools and “Roe v. Wade”. Erosion of church and State separation sets a table for more American violence. Unequal treatment cannot be sustained in a world of demographic change.

INTERVENTIONIST FOLLY

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

No Good Men Among the Living (America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes)

By: Anand Gopal

Narrated by: Assaf Cohen

Anand Gopal (Author, Journalist, formally embedded with the Taliban in Afghanistan.)

“No Good Men Among the Living” should be read or listened to by Presidents, Senators, Representatives, and Ambassadors of the United States. Anand Gopal gives a journalist eye view of errors and consequences of America’s intervention in Afghanistan where neither language nor culture are understood.

In the beginning of Gopal’s book, one is skeptical of its objectivity. However, as Gopal’s interviews of Afghan Taliban and non-aligned Afghanis accumulate, a listener begins to believe what is being said and reported.

The trials of Afghan women are appalling to Americans. What is missed is the struggle younger Afghan women have with the older generation.

Grandparents are appalled by what they perceive is abandonment of a life of duty to Allah and men in their families, whether fathers, husbands, or sons. This duty is based on generations of a culture that protect the tradition of male and female relationship. That protection is anathema to freedom, which is an inviolable tradition in America, but not Afghanistan.

The experience of Russian intervention and American training of the mujahideen led to a culture of non-Islamic terrorism.

The violence of interventionist states and training of mujahideen became fertile ground for Taliban revitalization. Violence, repression, and religious zealotry became tools of Taliban growth, resistance, ascendance, and resurgence.

Gopal notes Afghani women were raped and killed by American trained Mujahadeen after Russia was expelled. The Taliban restored order. Later, when America chose to dismantle the Taliban because of the Afghanistan leader’s refusal to release bin Laden, Afghanis began to see America as a new occupier rather than liberator.

Afghanis began to see America as a new occupier rather than liberator. The Taliban secretly regained power and influence as the perception of America’s intervention changed.

The cause of the change in perception of America as an occupier grew because of its dependence on self-interested tribal Afghanis who used American forces to eliminate rivals. All a respected Afghani translator had to do was identify a rival as a Taliban ally. America would arrest, jail, or kill the translator’s rival.

America presumes it is helping rid Afghanistan of Taliban control when in fact it is only serving a translator who has a tribal self-interest.

Internecine tribal conflict in Afghanistan creates an all-against-all culture with survival of the fittest as an objective assuring Taliban resurgence. The Taliban could maintain a level of peace and relative stability between tribes; America could not. America’s lack of understanding Afghan culture and American dependence on self-interested translators assures its failure.

America’s ignominious Afghan abandonment is a tragedy for both countries.

The fault lies with America’s failure to define a limited objective, execute a plan, and leave when a defined objective is achieved. It is unrealistic to believe an interventionist country can understand another country’s culture well enough to offer benefit to both invader and invaded.

The sad consequence from America’s view is that women will continue to be suppressed in Afghanistan.

There is a slender hope drawn from Gopal’s interviews of a young Afghan woman. She becomes a regional representative in Afghanistan despite the murder of her husband by the Taliban. She is supported by a tribal leader who respects her independence. The road traveled by women in Afghanistan is certainly more difficult now that America has left, but Gopal shows there is a road. However, Gopal infers help can only come from those who understand the culture in which they live.

Without a precise and achievable interventionist objective and an immediate withdrawal plan, military intervention historically leads to national tragedy, both for perpetrator and victim.

With the qualified exception of Korea, America’s interventions in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are national tragedies for both interventionist and subject nations. Today’s contest is in Ukraine with Russia, once again, testing intervention.

ISLAM

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

God’s Shadow (Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World)

By: Alan Mikhail

Narrated by: James Cameron Stewart

Alan Mikhail (Author, Chace Family Professor of History, Chair Dept. of History at Yale.)

Alan Mikhails’s “God’s Shadow” speculates on the historic impact of the Ottoman Empire on the rise of the Islamic religion and its conflict with Christianity. His book is well received by the public but panned by some who believe Mikhail’s scholarship is more speculative than factual. That criticism seems well earned when the last chapter of Mikahail’s book summarizes his opinion about Islam’s past and future.

What is surprising to this reviewer is not Mikhails’s speculation about Islam’s future but his failure to explore Ottoman history’s success in diminishing Shite Muslim growth while hugely increasing Sunni Muslim Islamic influence.

When Muhammed, the founder of Islam, dies, he leaves no heir to Allah’s teaching. In not leaving an heir, a split occurs between those who argue only a direct descendant of Muhammed, not a mere follower, can be a leader of the faith.

Shite Muslims believe an heir to Muhammed’s leadership can only be to a male descendant of the Muhammed’ family. Sunni’s argue Islamic leadership is based on any man who demonstrates success and ability to spread the faith.

It is estimated that 85% to 90% of religious believers in the Islamic faith are Sunni. Only Iran and Iraq have a Shite majority while other nation-states are principally Sunni.

Sultan Bayezid II (1447-1512, reign 1481-1512.)

The spread of the Muslim religion is laid at the feet of Sultan Selim I. He is one of the sons of Sultan Bayezid II who gains control of what is known as the Ottoman Empire.

“God’s Shadow” recounts the rise of the Ottoman Empire which is the primary cause of Sunni growth in the Middle East. A major part of Mikhail’s book is about Selim I because he is the leader that conquers and combines most of the Muslim world into the Ottoman Empire.

An interesting opinion of Mikhail is the role of harems in the Islamic world. He argues male heirs are a primary function of the harem. Once a male is born to a concubine of a Sultan, Mikhail suggests further conjugal relations cease. Every born male is a potential Sultan.

This naturally leads to a competition and often death of male heirs who are chosen by the acting Sultan to be his replacement. “God’s Shadow” tells the history of a younger son who disagrees with Sultan Bayezid II’s choice and successfully replaces that choice by force. Selim I ascends the throne of Sultan despite his father’s choice of heir. Selim’s road to hegemonic Sultan is through the conquering of nations beyond Istanbul and the Balkans, to Hungary on the north, Egypt on the south, Algeria on the west, and Iraq on the East.

Selim I (1470-1520, 9th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire-reigned from April 1512-September 1520.)

An apocryphal story told by Mikhail is that, in the earlier years of Selim I’s conquests, he is presented a colored map of the then-known world that shows nations beyond the Ottoman Empire. Selim I  tears the map in half because he is satisfied with what he has done. Mikhail notes that incident occurs in Selim’s earlier years because when a later map shows the Americas, Selim suggests more is to be done. A fundamental argument made by Mikhail is that the growth of the Ottoman Empire is the precursor of modern governance.

In the final chapter of Mikhail’s book, a step beyond reason or history is taken. Mikhail posits Selim’s reign and the rise of the Islamic religion presages future dominance of Islam in the world. He argues by 2070 Islam will be the dominant religion of the world. That seems hyperbolic when the role of religion in the world is arguably in decline. Mikhail compounds hyperbola by suggesting the world’s reaction to Islam has been a foil to create Christian and democratic nations. The growth of Christianity and democracy are patently more than a reaction to the religion of Islam.

This is an unfortunate digression for Mikhail because he makes a good historical case for the Islamic religion’s tolerance of other faiths in the face of historically murderous Catholic Crusades. On the other hand, many atrocities accompany Selim I’s expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Mikhail notes Selim’s soldiers are compensated by plunder and rape when ordered to invade new territories. And of course, there is the faction of the Muslim faith that carried out the death of over 2,000 people on 9/11/21 in America.

Interestingly, Mikhail offers an encomium to President Erdogan in Turkey by praising him for resurrecting the legend of Selim I in a bridge dedication.

Erdogan is revivifying the Islamic religion in Turkey even though its history was dramatically changed by Ataturk who turned Turkey into a secular rather than Islamic state.

Erdogan seems an odd choice for comparison to Selim I’s Islamic reign based on a personal perception of this critic’s visit to Turkey. Erdogan seems much less a revered leader by the public than Ataturk, let alone Selim I depicted in “God’s Shadow”.

CHINA’S FUTURE

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

   China’s Great Wall of Debt (Shadow Banks, Ghost Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle.)

By: Dinny McMahon

         Narrated by: Jaimie Jackson

Dinny McMahon (Author, former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, and former fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.)

Dinny McMahon lived in China for ten years before writing “China’s Great Wall of Debt”. He is neither the first nor undoubtedly the last chronicler of modern China’s future.

Taking his observation of China’s remarkable advance in the last 27 years, McMahon joins others who argue China is at the precipice of a cyclical economic trough.
Visiting China for the first time, one is amazed at the modern look of Beijing. Its bullet trains, wide boulevards, and streetscapes remind one of model cities like other storied capitols of the world.
On the other hand, outlying suburbs, and cities fit the description of McMahon’s “Ghost Cities” with block-to-block, mid-rise apartment buildings, no tenants, and slap-dash HVAC wall-units.

Wealth is a function of the have and have-nots in China. This is a familiar refrain to many who believe it equally describes America’s economy.

McMahon explains how the last twenty years of economic growth in China is a function of real-estate monetization that has reached a mortgage nadir, teetering on the edge of collapse. McMahon notes the difference between America’s real estate booms and busts and China’s is that it has taken America two hundred years to reach its present prosperity while China has done it in less than 3o years. He implies that time difference has benefited America by giving it more tools than China for dealing with economic inequality.

Adding to McMahon’s note about the time difference is the political difference between America and China.  America’s political system is tested by checks and balances, both by party and governmental organization.

China has a singular party with one leader who has few checks and balances, with a singularly authoritarian governmental organization.

When leadership changes in America, political and economic policies are only incrementally adjusted. In leadership change in China, political and economic policies may be dramatically altered or even abandoned. That truth is evident in China’s transition from Chiang Kai-shek to Mao to Deng Xiaoping, to Xi Jinping.

McMahon’s fundamental point is China’s rapid economic growth is founded on a financial structure dependent on real estate financed by the state and a poorly governed semi-private banking system that artificially inflates China’s assets.

McMahon notes there was pent-up demand for private real estate ownership when all land was owned by the government. That pent-up demand is the source of China’s rapid economic growth. However, in the current market, McMahon suggests real value in that real estate is diminished by a public that is not wealthy enough to afford it. A kind of Ponzi scheme is growing with consumers that are buying land without real collateral but with a ghost banking system that is condoned, if not supported, by the state.

McMahon leaves some doubt about China’s near future collapse because of adjustments President Xi is making in reducing bureaucratic corruption that allows ghost banks to prosper. McMahon also notes that President Xi is addressing the domestic needs of China’s citizens by emphasizing economic growth within China to make them less dependent on international trade. However, McMahon notes Xi Jinping is a singular leader. The question is—what happens when Xi Jinping is no longer China’s leader?

McMahon is not alone in suggesting China may be headed for trouble. Whether shadow banks, ghost cities, and massive loans will be the end of the Chinese Miracle seems less important than what a Chinese economic collapse would mean to the rest of the world.

A STEP TOO FAR

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

   We the Corporations (How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights)

By Adam Winkler

         Narrated by: William Hughes

Adam Winkler (Author, Connell Professor of Law at UCLA.)

If only minorities could have kept pace with corporations’ pursuit of and success for civil rights, American society may have become more equal.

Liz Truss (Newly elected Prime Minister of the UK.)

It is announced this morning (9/5/22) that the new Prime Minister of the UK is to be Liz Truss. A primary issue in Ms. Truss’s campaign is to reduce taxes. America’s experience of reducing taxes seems a replay of the Reagan/Thatcher years. Many consider these two leaders as just what was needed at the time to advance their respective countries’ economies. As a result of their tax reduction policies, the gap between the rich and poor widened with corporations and their leaders being the primary beneficiaries. Hopefully Ms. Truss’s tax reductions do not benefit only corporations.

Experience of reducing taxes in the UK may be a replay of the Reagan/Thatcher years in America.

Corporations need to consider their responsibility for passing on those tax benefits to workers. If Ms. Truss’s tax reductions only increase the gap between rich and poor, democratic government is doomed.

It may be a surprise to many that corporate pursuit of civil rights dates to the early beginnings of American history. The first battle for corporate civil rights began with Alexander Hamilton’s drive to create the first American bank. His major political opponent is Thomas Jefferson. 

Jefferson opposes a national bank because he believes it diminishes State’s rights by ceding too much control to the national government. Winkler notes the irony of Jefferson’s objection in that Jefferson relies on national bank loans to subsidize his profligate lifestyle.

Winkler notes some level of civil rights for corporations is needed to protect the public from exploitation. If a corporation is not recognized as a singular public body, individual Americans could not sue for redress. Harm from unfair or harmful practices of corporations could not be tried in a court of law. However, Winkler explains an underlying concern is the gain of personhood for corporations. By being recognized as a person, corporations gain political influence beyond any individual person’s rights.

To many Americans, a 21st century Supreme Court decision on corporate civil rights is a step too far.

With the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court allows unlimited corporate donations to Americans running for political office.

Money is power, particularly in a capitalist economy. Elected officials become beholding to corporations rather than private citizens when running for office.

A prime example is the pharmaceutical and gun lobbies that have dominated both Democratic and Republican parties.

The rights of these corporate enterprises distort the benefits and dangers of both drugs and guns in American society. Over prescribed drugs and opiates advertised to the public by the pharmaceutical industry are more widely spread than ever before. If elected officials were not so beholding to gun lobbies, national background checks and red flag laws would not be so difficult for Congress to pass.

The opiate epidemic and the 5.25.22 Uvalde murder of 19 children and 2 adults is evidence of the harm done by granting too many civil rights to corporations.

Winkler’s book about corporate pursuit of personhood is burdened by legal explanations for non-lawyer listeners. However, his history gives one a deep appreciation of how civil rights can bring both good and harm to American society.

AMERICAN CAPITALISM

Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?

By Robert Kuttner

     Narrated by: Mike Chamberlain

Robert Kuttner (Author, journalist, professor of social policy at Brandeis University)

Robert Kuttner personalizes the history of capitalism as an historian and journalist, not an economist. This book is a tedious fact-filled tour of capitalist experimentation. Kuttner illustrates how government economic policy is like a roulette game. Government leaders spin the wheel. The ball drops on a numbered slot that is either black or red. A player chooses Kuttner’s fundamental point and the answer to the question “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?” seems a matter of luck.

Choice for survival of global capitalism seems dependent on reducing the gap between billionaire/millionaire capitalists and the wage-earning public. However, what Kuttner’s rambling history shows is that there is no definitive answer. There are some clues but the balance between democratic freedom and equality of opportunity teeter on the metallic edge of a black and red slot of a roulette wheel. He asks the question whether America is going to become more like China or China more like America?

Kuttner offers some examples of economic policy in Scandinavian countries, Africa, the Baltics, Great Britain, France, Germany, Greece, China, and the European Union. Kuttner implies, if there is a common denominator for survival of global capitalism, it is government policy that benefits wage earners.

A rising tide (economic prosperity) must benefit more than a simple minority or small majority of citizens within a country.

Kuttner’s history shows achievements in democratic capitalism have been hit and miss with luck as much a factor of success as policy. Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes theories offer hints about what can be done to grow and sustain capitalist economic stability. What gets in the way of their theories is interpretation, policy, action, and results.

Kuttner offers many good and bad examples democratic capitalism’ interpretation. Denmark denies Ryan Air’s employment model in their country because it is unfair to employees of the Airline. Public benefit services like mail in the United States assure delivery of the mail in a timely manner, regardless of profitability.

Unions are formed in various countries to give wage earners a seat at the table in determining fair compensation and benefits in privately held companies.

On the other hand, privatizing prison management only reduces cost to the public by reducing pay and training of prison guards. The prisons are not better managed, but costs are less because quality of service and overhead is reduced while prisoners are poorly managed. Immigrant labor is farmed out by private companies to reduce corporate costs but at the expense of laborers that work for less than a livable wage. Private companies higher “independent contractors” like Uber drivers for which the company does not pay medical premiums or employment taxes. Corporate raiders buy faltering high cash-flow companies with borrowed money. These corporate raiders reduce wages of employees, drives formally marginally profitable companies into bankruptcy, and walk away with millions paid by loans used to buy the company in the first place.

Kuttner caps these negative global capital maneuvers by revealing how American corporate owners and leaders move manufacturing to foreign competitors because of cheaper labor. That movement benefits corporations at the expense of American manufacturing.

Kuttner explains corporate outsourcing unfairly diminishes American workers and decimates American manufacturing. He notes Germany chose to improve the quality of their manufactured products to remain viable manufacturing global competitors even though their workers are paid more than comparable American workers.

This is a frustrating book to use as evidence for the survival of global capitalism because there are many examples of government policies meant to do good that fail.

This history reinforces the analogy of the roulette wheel. Either red or black may be the best result one can expect but the consequence seems as much luck as foresight.

Hope lies in reducing the gap between haves and have-nots by insuring equality of opportunity through public education and job opportunities. This is not to suggest homelessness and poverty will disappear in democratic capitalist societies, but it becomes a manageable societal responsibility.

Having lived in different areas of the United States shows homelessness and poverty are presently out of control.

Today, in the United States, homelessness and poverty are not being well managed because public education and job opportunities are not being adequately addressed. As one of the richest countries in the world, American democratic capitalism can do better than just survive.

Education and employment are key to turning these crises into something that can be managed.

One cannot dismiss Kuttner’s observations as liberal ranting. Wage earner respect and treatment, whether in manufacturing, technology, or service industries, are the key to survival of world capitalist democracies. America can choose to become more like China and support authoritarian miscreants like Donald Trump or elect leaders that experiment with political ideas that have made America great.