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highly recommended book - dupes by paul kengorFive GoldenYak (tm) award

A good portion of the book is available for browsing (click on the picture of the front cover at amazon.com).

“... here is a critical point and lesson: under communism, totally different national cultures, from all over the globe, sharing only communism as their common characteristic, all committed mass violence against their populations. This violence was an institutional policy of the new revolutionary order. Its scope and inhumanity far exceeded anything in the national past of these cultures”

“ ...a roughly 70-year period that equates to almost 40,000 deaths per day.”

And foolishly, the author even seems to avoid the socialist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini.

This a long book of over 500 pages with another 100 pages of references.

Dupes is heavily researched and wide-ranging. it traces communist infiltration and propaganda from early in the 20th century.

Most particularly, it concentrates on Communist front organisations with their penetration of leftist and soft liberal groups in the USA.

The title comes from the constant duping of lefties, hiding behind lefties and persuading lefties to support communist objectives.

The book’s timeline goes back to President Wilson, through Franklin Roosevelt, right up to Barack Obama.

There are sections on Hollywood dupes, on Vietnam dupes, on Carter and on the House Committee on Unamerican Activities [McCarthy].

Marker at abelard.org

Another 2003 book on similar topics is Useful Idiots by Charen.Three GoldenYak (tm) award

This book has over 250 pages plus notes and index.

There is a useful section on Central America, not covered in Dupes.

It is easier to read read than Dupes, but it is already somewhat out of date and much less detailed.

Dupes: how America’s adversaries have manipulated progressives for a century by Paul Kengor
Dupes: how America's adversaries have manipulated progressives for a century by Paul Kengor

Intercollegiate Studies Institute,1st edition, 2010
ISBN-10: 1935191756
ISBN-13: 978-1935191759
$9.71 [amazon.com] {advert}

ISI Books; 2nd edition, 2010
£25.60 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First by Mona Charen
Useful idiots by Charen, pbk

Harper Paperbacks, 2004
ISBN-10: 0060579412
ISBN-13: 978-0060579418
$11.86 [amazon.com] {advert}

Regnery Publishing Inc, hbk, 2003
ISBN-10: 0895261391
ISBN-13: 978-0895261397

Useful idiots by Charen, hbk

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who is barack obama?
socialist religions
fascism is socialism


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“bought and paid for” - gasparino on obama Five GoldenYak (tm) award

I have so far read one third of this book, and I’m impressed by both the accuracy and the organisation. I’ve only noticed one small, analytic error so far, but I’ve not noted it down .

Now completed, this is simply one of the most useful political books I have read. It is particularly interesting in analysing the interactions between crony capitalism and Washington, including the real story of the recent banking clag-up and political corruption.

The book analyses the incestuous corruption in the USA between Wall Street, Big Money and government. Bought and paid for details the large donations from Wall Street to Obama (50% larger than those to the Republican Party).

This book is awarded Five GoldenYaks, and is recommended for anyone who wishes to understand the nature of big government, instead of being suckered by the constantly repeated myths peddled by the fossil media.

“The fact of the matter is, when you strip away the name-calling and class warfare coming from the Obama administration, and when you ignore Wall Street's gripes about the new financial reform legislation that will put a crimp in some of its profits, these two entities are far more aligned than meets the casual eye. They coexist to help each other-in an unholy alliance against the American taxpayer.” [p.9, Bought and paid for]

Marker at abelard.org

“But he faced formidable obstacles in creating his dream, which a few years later would turn into the nightmare named Citigroup. Under the Glass-Steagall Act, a deal of this nature would create something that was in violation of the law. To forge ahead with his plan, Weill would have to spend a few million dollars on lobbyists to get the law repealed once and all.

“An even bigger challenge would be more political than financial: the government's housing advocates, people like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others, who would view the potential merger as an opportunity to demand major concessions from the company in exchange for their vote of approval. They would protest, hold hearings showing alleged racial disparity in lending practices, and force Congress to think twice before allowing the merger —unless Weill's banking empire stepped up its lending to poor communities.

“But Sandy Weill had an answer to that as well: Jesse Jackson. The famed civil rights activist wasn't above demanding that banks give more loans to the poor, even if the poor couldn't repay them. Indeed, he had been using his stature inside Big Government, his access to key lawmakers, and now his friend President Bill Clinton to achieve his political and financial goals for years. Lately, he had developed a simple but lucrative new business model wherein he would threaten protests of the lack of diversity of various corporations, including, now, the big Wall Street firms. He labeled this latest campaign the Wall Street Project, whose purpose was to bring greater diversity to the nearly all-white and all-male power structure at the typical Wall Street firm. Jackson told me those firms that donated money to his new Wall Street Project were simply demonstrating their commitment to diversity. The firms that gave called the money the price of doing business and, in a rare moment of candor, a form of extortion.” [pp.71-72, Bought and paid for]

Marker at abelard.org


“With that, the firms began feeling good about themselves as they partied on more than $140 billion in bonus money for 2009, doled out during the early part of 2010. It was as if 2008 had never happened, and in the minds of most of Wall Street, it hadn't.” [p.194, Bought and paid for]

“The firms would have to hold more capital to cover trading activities, but there would loopholes for those that played ball with Big Government: Banks would given breaks on the capital standard for so-called community-based or socially responsible lending.”
Shockingly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac wouldn't be touched by the reform. In fact, as I write this, the Obama administration and Congress are feeding the monster once again, trying to revive the agencies, which are now completely wards of the state, with a bailout estimated at $1 trillion.” [p.209]

“Even worse, government will be intruding in the financial system more than ever before, based on the false premise that a lack of regulation caused the financial crisis, rather than the nanny state of bailouts over the past three decades (most notably in 2008) that let Wall Street believe consequences did not go hand in hand with risk taking.” [p.236]

Bought and Paid For by Charles Gasparino

Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street by Charles Gasparino

$16.17 [amazon.com] {advert}

£15.36 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Sentinel, hbk, 5 Oct 2010
ISBN-10: 1595230718
ISBN-13: 978-1595230713

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on china destroying itself, and maybe the rest of us: when a billion chinese jump by watts Four GoldenYak (tm) award

Updated: I’ve read over 200 pages (over a half) of When a billion chinese jump. It is useful background so far. The author has a bit of a heavy potato style and a definite list to the left, but I can live with that.

From the half that I’ve read so far, this is an excellent travelogue around modern China. It puts into context fossil media hype claiming that China will soon rule the world. I would recommend this book as an introductory reader for any relevant studies, as well as being very useful background for those trying to keep abreast of a rapidly changing modern world.

At least four GoldenYaks within its ambitions.

Here are some extracts:

On the tragedy of the commons and pollution in China:

“The deregulation of herd sizes in the early 1980s prompted nomads to buy as many goats, sheep and yaks as they could afford. Subsequent policies that, for the purposes of taxation, valued yaks four times as highly as sheep led to a surge in the numbers of the latter, which were far more damaging to the grasslands. The situation was not helped by a ban on polygamy that encouraged status-conscious Tibetan men to compensate for the loss of wives .by increasing the size of their herds.

As a result, swaths of grassland were so overgrazed they turned to desert. This was calamitous. Denuded of its thatch covering, the roof of the world was less able to absorb moisture and more likely to radiate heat. The result? The mountains of Tibet warmed more than any other part of China.

“To make matters worse, the high Kunlun and Himalayan ranges acted as a chimney for water vapour to be convected high into the stratosphere instead of being trapped at a lower level and released as rain or snow. This was bad for three reasons: first, water vapour has a stronger greenhouse gas effect than carbon dioxide; second, its dispersal over a wider area potentially deprives arid areas of China of water; and, third, it mixes with pollution, dust and black carbon from India and elsewhere, which creates brown clouds that spread over the region. Xiao Ziniu, the director general of the Beijing Climate Centre, told me Tibet's climate was the most sensitive in Asia and impacted other parts of the globe. Changes in the soil here fed back rapidly into the atmosphere, affecting global air circulation just as rising ocean surface temperatures affected storm patterns.” [pp. 45-46]

On China’s water reserves:

“At 4,776m, this was one of the great doorways to the top of the world. It was also the northern shore of a vast sea of permafrost that stretched more than 600km across the plateau towards Tibet and the Himalayas, prompting some to describe it as the third pole of the world. It was an apt term. The plateau and the mountain ranges around it contained 37,000 glaciers, some of which were 700,000 years old. Together they contained the largest body of ice outside of the Arctic and Antarctic.” [p.47 ]

On panda breeding:

“Zhang told me his breeding techniques had been developed after twenty years of trial and error. No experiment, it seemed, was too bizarre. Concerned that the captive-bred pandas might lack basic instincts, the keepers provided sex education in the form of wildlife videos showing the animals mating in the forests. When this panda porn failed to boost the beasts' sex drives, the scientists tried the remedy used by millions of humans: Viagra. 'We'll never do that again,' Zhang said with a wry smile. 'The panda was excited for twenty-four hours. We had to beat his erect penis with a stick.'

“I laughed in sympathetic horror. Funnier and more pitiful still was the matchmaking deception used to minimise the risk of. inbreeding. Male pandas were a discerning bunch. Left to their own devices, they would all mate with the sexiest females, which would shrink an already small genetic stock. To avoid this, researchers had to find a partner for even the least alluring females. How did they do that? 'We tricked them,' Zhang said with another mischievous grin. The ruse was to put a fertile and attractive female into a breeding pen, where the point for the zoo-keepers to bring in another, less attractive female scented with the urine of the animal she replaced. The 'ugly panda' was introduced into the mating pen rear end first, so the male could not see the face of his partner until they finished copulating.

“ 'Don't they get upset?' I asked, incredulous.
“ 'Oh yes,' Zhang replied. 'When the males find out, they get very angry and start fighting the female. We have had to use firecrackers and a water hose to separate them.' ” [p93-94]

On refuse dumps:

“I left with a mini-scoop and a major feeling of guilt. The Guangdong recyclers were clearing up the world's mess, yet they were treated as if they created it. Pushed ever further out of sight along with the rubbish, they helped to maintain the illusion of environmental improvement in developed Western nations and rich cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. In reality, there was no clean-up, just a widening of the distance between consumption and its consequences. This was the opposite of responsible self-governance but Guangdong - despite its lawless history. 4·was not primarily to blame. Sniffing around the province’s waste dumps, I had found a stinking pile of hypocrisy. The stench followed me all the way home and beyond, to other, supposedly wealthier, cleaner parts of China.” [p.121]

Marker at abelard.org

“During years travelling around China, I saw the beginnings of what Watts describes. What staggered me in his book was this: in the West we are suffering fear and loathing of the Chinese Century and China's impressive 10 per cent national growth, compared with our paltry advances. But I didn't know that the World Bank, as Watts shows, has calculated the annual bill for Chinese pollution - health costs, premature deaths, damaged infrastructure and crops - at 5.8 per cent of GDP. That lowers the Chinese miracle to our level. And if you add in erosion, desertification and environmental degradation, the World Bank calculates there is an 8 to 12 per cent bite into China's GDP, stopping the miracle in its eroded tracks. Watts suggests that if we factor in climate change and the gobbling up of non-renewable resources around the planet, 'it becomes conceivable that China's environmental crunch contributed to the global financial crash of 2008'.” [Quoted from literaryreview.co.uk]

Marker at abelard.org

“Collieries destroy arable land and grazing pastures, erode topsoil, worsen air and water pollution, increase levels of river sediment (raising the risk of floods), and accelerate deforestation (especially if the coal is used to make charcoal). The country's most pressing environmental problems - acid rain, smog, lung disease, water contamination, loss of aquifers and the filthy layer of black dust that settled on many villages - can all be traced back in varying degrees to this single cause.”

“ More than 170,000 miners have been killed in tunnel collapses, explosions and floods, a death rate per tonne at least thirty times higher than that in the United States....” [Quoted from danwei.org]

There’s an interview at worldchanging.com.

“One of the sub-themes of the book is an exploration of China’s Daoist side. There have always been competing philosophies in China. It intrigued me that you can’t really have a Daoist civilization – it’s almost an embrace and acceptance of the wild, of anarchy and chaos. Most of the time Confucianism has been the predominant philosophy, though there have been times that China is more Legalist. However, in Chinese history, you hear that some Mandarins were Confucians while working in their official positions, but when they went home they tended their gardens, or wrote poetry, and gave space to their Daoist sides. Maybe that's one of the secrets of Chinese civilisation and why it has lasted so long: that balance of the two sides.”

When a billion Chinese jump by Jonathan Watts

When a billion Chinese jump by Jonathan Watts

When a billion Chinese jump: how China will save mankind—or destroy it
by Jonathan Watts

8.54 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

$11.94 [amazon.com] {advert}

Scribner, original edition, 26 October 2010
ISBN-10: 141658076X
ISBN-13: 978-1416580768


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Peoplequake by Fred Pearce - a review four GoldenYak (tm) award

Peoplequake is a useful survey of current knowledge on demographics, looking at some myths concerning over-population, immigration and the like. It is like the previous book by Fred Pearce reviewed here, in the form of somewhat notey articles cobbled together, rather than as an organised book. This book is overloaded in the rhetoric department, but reads easily. It is a good antidote to many uninformed beliefs regularly paraded in the fossil media and by politicians seeking the votes of the naive and innocent.

Four GoldenYaks awarded by virtue of its usefulness and information. Highly recommended for background and general education, and for civic courses.

“For me, environmentalists are at their best when they alert us to the dangers - and at their worst when they succumb to the belief that their worst predictions are designed to come true. The optimists are at their best when they convince us that anything is possible - and at their worst when convinced that we don't have to change in order to achieve it. That all we need to do is to trust in god or the markets.” [p.247]
(Handy list of carbon intensity for different national economies.)

Marker at abelard.org

“The stage is set for population peak and decline. Europe is into negative growth already. Its native population could halve by mid-century. By 2100, on current fertility trends, Germany could have fewer natives than today's Berlin, and Italy's population could crash from 58 million to just eight million. Even if fertility recovers to about 1.85, Ukraine will lose 43 per cent of its population, Bulgaria and Georgia 34 per cent, Belarus and Latvia 28 per cent and Romania, Russia and Moldova each more than more than 20%.” [p. 294]

The population replacement rate is often quoted as 2.1 children per female. More careful analysis plumps for 2.3 children per female. In fact, the replacement rate per female varies considerably between societies. it may be 2.1 in an advanced western society, and go as high as 3.5 in an African society riddled by AIDS. Another major reason that a higher replacement rate can be required is the widespread killing, abortion and neglect of females east of Suez. [See pp. 150,151]
CIA total world fertility rate, listed by country

Note: be cautious when reading the above numbers and tables. Such figures can often be unreliable or changeable, according to the assumptions made.

Peoplpequake by Fred Pearce

Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash
by Fred Pearce

9.09 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}
Eden Project Books, pbk, 2010
ISBN-10: 1905811349
ISBN-13: 978-1905811342

$13.79 [amazon.com] {advert}
Transworld Digital, 2010, Kindle 573kb
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services


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the sampling problem - on Fooled by randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

There are badly written books in the field of science, and there are worse. This book is well up for a prize in the category of ‘worse’. Unfortunately, Fooled by randomness may also have some interest. It is written by an author who clearly does not have first language fluency in English. To add to his problems, he has the arrogant belief that his writing will be improved as long as no editor tries to interfere with it. Surprisingly, Penguin Books seem to have accepted these standards, possibly on the basis that it sells as a word-of-mouther .

The book concerns itself with what I would call ‘the sampling problem’, a false belief that a short (several years) time-series sample, especially in the area of financial instruments - stocks, bonds, etc. -

  1. is representative of long-term behaviour,
  2. conforms to a random/normal/Gaussian distribution.

Some will recognise this under headings such as ‘the induction problem’ or ‘the black swan problem’. Even while knowing the problem exists, it is very easy to get carried away, to overlook or ignore the problem - to apply a perceived pattern to circumstances where it no longer applies.

Very few people can think clearly about statistics. For those people, the hard work of reading this book may even repay the investment in time and irritation.

Any competent statistician should already have a good feel for these problems. As previously said, the subject matter is not generally covered sufficiently, while many people who appear quite highly educated in mathematics have insufficient grasp of statistical realities required or necessary to exercise adequate caution.

In among the rambling text are amusing or sad (according to your taste) stories of Wall Street high-flyers stumbling, unaware, into ginormous losses by trusting abstract mathematical formulae above that nasty real world stuff.

If I give this book a One GoldenYak award, then those that should read it might think it useless. If I give Four GoldenYaks, then those who don’t need it might waste their time. So I’ve decided to avoid the problem!

related material
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Fooled by Randomness by N.N. Taleb

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

5.40 [amazon.co.uk] {advert} Penguin, pbk, 2007
ISBN-10: 0141031484
ISBN-13: 978-0141031484

$18.48 [amazon.com] {advert}
Random House, 2nd hbk edition, 2008
ISBN-10: 1400067936
ISBN-13: 978-1400067930

Fooled by Randomness by N.N. Taleb


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The Quants: How a Small Band of Maths Wizards Took Over Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed it - Scott Patterson Two GoldenYak (tm) award

Here is an Amazon review. By and large, I regard it as fair comment.

This book is, as another review says, “sophomoric”. It looks like an eager student assiduously taking notes on a subject he can hardly understand. However, he does copy down some useful references, some of which will be followed up.

The author, in my view, misuses terms on a grand scale, and he misapplies ‘blame’ to those who were merely ‘doing their jobs’.

He seems to have not the slightest grasp that the problems were primarily political errors, while those ‘playing the markets‘ are mostly little different than those playing Las Vegas.

So, this book is a useful, but very crude, history by an diligent ‘reporter’ with very little intellectual depth.

The Quants: How a Small Band of Maths Wizards Took Over Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed it
by Scott Patterson

[amazon.com] {advert}

Crown Business, Feb. 2010
ISBN-10: 0307453375
ISBN-13: 978-0307453372


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