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Still too Busy to Blog Properly….But Hey, Look What I’m Reading!

Were it not for guest posts, November would have seemed like I went on hiatus ūüôā¬† Normal blogging will resume in a few weeks.

I did find time to pick up a few new books to read in the late hours of the night, one of which will be the subject of a book review by a new guest poster.


The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism by Howard Bloom

The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future by Vali Nasr

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America  by Rick Perlstein

The only thing these three tomes have in common is that the authors have a penchant for contradicting conventional wisdom, at least to a degree. 

Howard Bloom is an offbeat, pop science to pop culture¬†master of horizontal thinking whose earlier work, Global Brain, I very much enjoyed and highly recommend. Bloom’s intellectual reach is first rate and he is one of the few writers who can take very difficult concepts from wildly disparate fields and¬†tie them together for a lay audience¬†with comprehensible analogies and anecdotes¬†.

I put Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival¬†on my list back after the high praise Thomas P.M.¬†Barnett gave¬†Nasr in his book,¬†Great Powers – in my experience, Tom does not hand out comments of “brilliant”¬†all that¬†often ( Great Powers, BTW, is also a “must read” book for those interested in strategy and geoeconomics). I am approximately 80 pages in to The Shia Revival and I will say that as a writer, Nasr does not waste time getting to key points in explaining his subject – concise but not simplified.

Rick Perlstein, while far to the Left, has the uncommon quality among leftwingers of working very, very hard at the scholarship of attempting to understand conservatism and leading conservatives ( must be a legacy of attending the University of Chicago). Much like Orangemen in Ulster, eavesdropping¬†on a Catholic mass, I suspect the essence of conservatism¬†eludes Perlstein, but at least he takes the ideas seriously.¬† That Richard Nixon is¬†Perlstein’s subject is an added draw, since Nixon’s foreign policy was an area of historical research for me. Very interested to see how Perlstein’s take on Richard Nixon¬†compares to that of Robert Dallek and Richard Reeves.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear….”

5 Responses to “Still too Busy to Blog Properly….But Hey, Look What I’m Reading!”

  1. Eddie Says:

    Nasr’s latest, "Forces of Fortune" is also well worth your time. 

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Pearlstein’s chapter on the Democratic convention in 1972, from that book, was excerpted somewhere.  It was very good, and very funny.  Basically, the New Left took over the party and botched the thing very badly.  Nixon is a major figure whose importance is too little appreciated, since he is still treated more as a mythical boogie man than as a president who was holding a really bad hand in January 1969 and played it remarkably well. 

  3. zen Says:

    Had not heard of Forces of Fortune – thx Eddie!
    "Basically, the New Left took over the party and botched the thing very badly."
    You mean, like kicking out the elected Illinois Democratic delegation headed by Mayor Daley out of the convention in favor of an unelected one headed by Rev. Jesse Jackson? To me, that’s a kind of enduring paradigm for Boomer New Left authoritarianism. "Higher" political needs (i.e. lust for power) trump reality, rules, democracy, rights etc.

  4. democratic core Says:

    "Higher" political needs (i.e. lust for power) trump reality, rules, democracy, rights etc.

    In terms of "rules", the seating of the rival Illinois delegation was actually consistent with the then-existing rules of the convention (whatever you may think of the wisdom of those rules), which established quotas for minorities and women in all delegations and which the Daley delegation clearly violated.  It was really more a measure of Daley’s arrogance than anything else – he clearly could have put together a delegation that complied with the rules but essentially dared the credentials committee to rule against him.  A better example of your point might be the case of the California delegation, which allowed McGovern to benefit from the California "winner take all" system of delegate selection, even though that was also clearly in violation of the convention’s rules, which required proportional representation.  In general though, the 1972 Democratic Convention was probably the first political convention that represented something approaching representative democracy, in that all delegates were chosen either through primaries or caucuses – people forget that Humphrey did not win a single primary in 1968, but he had an overwhelming lead in delegates because most delegates were selected through state committees (i.e., "smoke filled rooms") and not primaries or caucuses (that’s why I question people who say that RFK would have been the nominee had he lived, given LBJ’s hatred of him and LBJ’s control over state committees, although an endorsement of RFK by Daley, which was not inconceivable, might have made the difference).  This change in delegate-selection procedures had an enormous impact ultimately on both parties by enhancing the power of party activists and thereby making the parties more reflective of the ideological extremes, thus making it possible not only for McGovern to become the Democratic nominee in 1972, but also for Reagan to complete the conservative takeover of the Republican Party in 1980.

  5. zen Says:

    Hi DC,
    Actually, your expansion on the point pretty much sums up my problem with the Democratic Party’s governing ethic – circumvention of democracy by a process of ongoing, cynical, rule manipulation in favor of an elite.
    You can’t get "representative democracy" with ppl appointed in place of those who were elected – particularly if the rule for "proportional representation" is going to be enforced selectively. It’s many things but by definition it isn’t "democratic".
    Your analysis of the impact these changes had on both parties though, is spot on. Agreed.

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