What I’ve been reading

by on September 6, 2017 at 12:22 am in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

1. George W. Bush, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.  Not only are the paintings good, but this book is the perfect antidote to too much time spent on Twitter, especially if you read the text about all the injuries sustained.

2. Dennis C. Rasmussen, The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought.  A beautifully written book, with wonderful balance, about a beautiful friendship.  Recommended.

3. Richard White, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896.  This will make the year’s “best of” list for sure.  I’m not usually a fan of reading a 900 pp. plus survey book to cover a period of more than three decades.  Usually too much stays superficial, and the author does not apply consistent quality standards to the whole work, if any of it.  But this book is interesting and informative on virtually every page, and it is unfortunately all too relevant for the current day.  Here is a good Kyle Sammin review.

Two books I have only browsed, but both look good:

Lizzie Collingham, The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World, with a slightly different title for the U.S. edition, and

Brian Fagan, Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization.

There is also:

Thomas S. Mullaney, The Chinese Typewriter: A History, is a thorough and informative treatment of what its title suggests.  Here is a WSJ review.

John L. Campbell and John A. Hall, The Paradox of Vulnerability: States, Nationalism & the Financial Crisis, considers the state capacities of Denmark, Ireland, and Switzerland in responding to the financial crisis.  I liked what was there, though wanted more.

Barry Riley, The Political History of American Food Aid: An Uneasy Benevolence, I have only perused bits, but it seems to be the book to read or own on this topic.

1 Kyle MacDonald September 6, 2017 at 12:35 am

Is Fagan’s title a shoutout to Lincoln Paine’s (wonderfully enjoyable) The Sea and Civilization?

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2 Ray Lopez September 6, 2017 at 6:57 am

Brian Fagan writes a lot about oceans and global warming, seen his name before. From the Amazon page “Brian Fagan was born in England and studied archaeology at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was Keeper of Prehistory at the Livingstone Museum, Zambia, from 1959-1965. During six years in Zambia and one in East Africa…”. Colorful. But I already have a sea book to read, David Abulafia’s “The Great Sea”.

Bonus trivia: Joe Conrad wrote about the sea. In real life, as a teen he shot himself in the chest, survived, and lived to a ripe old age.

PS–broken link for the WSJ review of the Chinese typewriter.

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3 Kyle MacDonald September 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Abulafia’s book is also a treasure. First history book that made me want to read more history books.

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4 Dick the Butcher September 6, 2017 at 8:20 am

A suitable subtitle for the book would be “Men’s Lives.” Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations.

In addition to mariners feeding civilization, the ancient Greeks were notorious pirates and sea raiders.

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5 Thor September 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

Most ancient Mediterranean civilizations were not against piracy if their sailors could get away with it, but the bigger advanced ones (Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans) realized the importance of trade along stablized pirate free routes.

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6 GHQ September 6, 2017 at 12:57 am

The requested page “/article/450904/reconstruction-gilded-age-populism-america-today-richard-white-oxford-history-united-states/marginalrevol-20” could not be found.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450904/reconstruction-gilded-age-populism-america-today-richard-white-oxford-history-united-states/marginalrevol-20

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7 Todd K September 6, 2017 at 5:50 am

“I have only perused bits, but it seems to be the book to read or own on this topic.”

peruse:
a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study
b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

Tyler blew his chance to help push peruse back to its original definition…

(Oh, thanks for mentioning The Infidel and the Professor.)

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8 Cptain Obvious September 6, 2017 at 6:28 am

#1 Is this a joke? This guy does not have any shame?! Either he is a complete idiot (plenty of evidence, he had some mental disease throughout his presidency for sure…), or well, lets be realistic he is a war criminal, and belongs in prison. (even if you think dick cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are the real bad guys, of course they belong in prison too).

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9 Ray Lopez September 6, 2017 at 7:10 am

It’s not a joke, and Dubya Bush is a pretty good painter, speaking as an artist myself, and not a DC b.s. artist either. It’s hard to paint the human face. Reason: humans are good at picking out imperfections in paintings of other humans (unless abstract like in modern art or primitive art). For example, I can draw a very good horse and people recognize it as a horse, only because most people really don’t know what a real horse really looks like (if you were a horse however you would). But, if I draw a human face and make a slight mistake, like the nose is too big, people will spot it right away. Now keep in mind though Bush Jr. is ‘pretty good’, he’s not great. Likely, these paintings of his are his best attempt at ‘photo realism’ in painting, which means Bush is pretty mediocre by professional painter standards.

Bonus trivia: did Picasso really know how to paint, in the classic (i.e., realistic) style? Yes and no. See his excellent early self-portrait and compare to his horrible early drawing of a horse.

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10 Thiago Ribeiro September 6, 2017 at 7:17 am

“For example, I can draw a very good horse and people recognize it as a horse, only because most people really don’t know what a real horse really looks like”
Actually famous Brazilian painter Pedro Américo was, even as a child, capable of painting chairs his father used to fool his customers and convince them ro try to seat on them and, as a consequence, fall to the ground. And everyone in Brazil knows what chairs look like
His painting Independence or Death https://www.google.com.br/search?q=independencia%3Aquadro&oq=independencia%3Aquadro&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i58.3603j0j4&client=tablet-android-samsung&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=Vrf4COs8wv6GfM: is one of the most famous in Brazilian history.

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11 Ray Lopez September 6, 2017 at 7:29 am

+1 for this artist, just Googled him, I like his woman in Venice painting, shows a mastery of light.

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12 Thelonious_Nick September 6, 2017 at 11:07 am

Silly comment about Picasso. He could draw/paint whatever he wanted, and early on did lots of naturalistic paintings.

As for horses, I seem to remember Stan Lee in his autobiography, or maybe an interview I read with him, saying he always had trouble finding artists for Marvel’s western comics, because apparently horses are a particular pain in the ass to draw and most artists don’t want to have to do it multiple times per page for a whole issue of art.

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13 David S September 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Since at least Nixon’s Admin, nearly all the higher ups in the State Department, DoD, and Executive branch have been war criminals. No longer a disqualification for anything.

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14 Art Deco September 6, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Other people in the dayroom want to use the computer. It’s also time for your Haldol.

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15 rayward September 6, 2017 at 6:31 am

Here is the link to Greg Mankiw’s (multifarious) reading list for a freshman seminar: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2017/09/a-reading-list.html Here is the link to David Beckworth’s very good interview of Mankiw: https://soundcloud.com/macro-musings/gregmankiw No, I don’t have a man crush on Mankiw, but Mankiw’s reading list would be helpful to anyone interested in the subject of economics without being bound to a particular ideology. It mirrors Cowen’s (multifarious) reading lists of recent books. I linked the interview by Beckworth because it captures the non-ideological side of Mankiw.

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16 Ray Lopez September 6, 2017 at 7:20 am

Multifarious or nefarious? But in reality, his first three books are ancient history, not really freshman reading material, which should be preferably something easier to understand like a modern secondary or tertiary source, though Heilbroner is I guess a good secondary source.

The Worldly Philosophers, by Robert Heilbroner <–OK as a freshman book
On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill <–surely you jest, Mr. Mankiw? Might as read Moby Dick by Melville for a treatise on whaling
Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman <–OK, this is light reading, albeit dated and likely boring.

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17 rayward September 6, 2017 at 8:07 am

Last year my Godson entered the freshman class at that well-known and highly-regarded college in the mid-west that emphasizes the empirical method for solving problems including, especially, economic and social problems. So what did I give him as a high school graduation present? A copy of A Theory of Justice by John Rawls.

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18 KM32 September 6, 2017 at 7:18 am

I wish not only Bush, but all the other people who have supported this war and the others that we continue to fight year after pointless year, would reflect a little more and ask themselves how many more broken lives are worth this imperial project of pounding the recalcitrant parts of the world until they look like little mini versions of America.

And until America looks like a mini version of the world.

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19 Ray Lopez September 6, 2017 at 7:24 am

Rome did the same thing. Japan does the same thing. Your local supermarket does the same thing (puts stuff in the same place, groups like stuff like dairy in the same place). Lern from nature KM32. Uniformity increases efficiency. You like diversity? Then you like North Korea having nuclear weapons, and you are OK with a apocalyptic cult in Japan owning and using chemical weapons like sarin?

Bonus trivia: watch the 12 year old chess prodigy GM Nihal Sarin, he’s good!

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20 Just Another MR Commentor September 6, 2017 at 8:07 am

#1 so he paints nice pictures of the guys he caused injuries to due to his own war of choice? I know Tyler wants to whitewash all that because he’s “one of the elite” so he must be good guy after all.

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21 Bob from Ohio September 6, 2017 at 10:02 am

All wars are wars of choice.

You criticize Obama of course for continuing our involvement?

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22 Just Another MR Commentor September 6, 2017 at 10:16 am

Pointless and unnessary war of choice I should add. Absolutely I criticize Obama I don’t play Red Team/ Blue Team like you, clown.

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23 Anonymous September 6, 2017 at 6:11 pm

“All wars are wars of choice.”

Ask someone old about Perl Harbor. (If it is not too late.)

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24 Anonymous September 6, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Heh, someone might be a programmer.

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25 Sure September 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm

The Middleast is a Charlie Foxtrot regardless of what you do. Carter rolled over on the Shah and we saw thousands dead in Iran and of course the Iran-Iraq lifted off.

Reagan played realpolitik and saw the Iran-Iraq war hit new heights of brutality.

GHWB intervened in a measured manner, and watched Saddam slaughter tens of thousands of Iraqis after they rose and the US did not intervene to topple Saddam.

Clinton decided not to actually go to war, and instituted sanctions. This, we were told, killed untold numbers of Iraqis through starvation, malnutrition, etc.

GWB invaded the place again and we had a nice low level conflict for a decade where many people died.

BHO pulled out and we had ISIS, Assad, and a few others go to town killing a bunch of people.

And let us not forget the many, many places like Lebanon and Yemen where violence has basically been endemic. There are no good options. We have had consistently bad body counts regardless of holds the presidency and what foreign policy is in play – going back to at least Eisenhower.

Frankly, of all the trouble spots in the world, where exactly has doing nothing lead to lower body counts? Nepal – barely on DC’s radar yet had a brutal civil war. Bhutan is nicely isolated from world affairs – and managed to ban all of modern progress for decades. The world basically ignored Rawanda … and then they had a rather massive genocide.

But was there ever a time when the US was not playing imperialist and looked only to its own shores? Absolutely. The Harding administration, the Coolidge administration, and the Hoover administration all had minimalist foreign policies. Of course that seemed to have ended pretty poorly what with the largest death tolls in the history of the world following from the misadventures of Germany, the USSR, and China.

But is that the only time? Well Taft’s foreign policy was also mostly anti-imperialist and restricted. Of course it again seemed to seemed to coincide with some rather nasty times just a few years down the road.

At the end of the day, Bush made a decision based on the intelligence he had, the policies he wanted to achieve, and the general understanding of the world at the time. A huge number of people died and he was proven wrong about many specifics of the war. Of course the same happened with the Korean War. Perhaps in the long run we will see another period of mass killing, terrible domestic rule, and the eventual rise of a prosperous society like in the Republic of Korea. Who knows, but let’s no pretend that all the world’s problem ride irredeemably on one decision at one point in time.

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26 dearieme September 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm

“Clinton decided not to actually go to war”: bombings don’t count?

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27 Sure September 6, 2017 at 4:37 pm

No that would be the “actually” part. Going to war is more than just using military force. There is a line somewhere between “using force” and “going to war”, but it is not particularly quibbling to say this fails to cross it.

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28 Potato September 6, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Great comment. The Wilsonian liberals (include Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hillary) have been a plague. They’ve always been a disastrously stupid voice on international affairs. Assuming that all people are the same and have the same wants/desires has to be the archetypical academic/think tank sheer idiocy that any dude on the street in Brooklyn or Selma would call bullshit on.

Bush is an idiot for continuing the Wilson legacy and for not understanding the critical truth that government is a REFLECTION of culture/values and not vice versa.

Government is a mirror to society. In the 1930s government was racist, homophobic, and efficient. In 2017 government is affirmative action prone, beholden to idiots, and incapable of simple tasks. The trains won’t run, but they will have gender neutral bathrooms.

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29 dearieme September 6, 2017 at 8:16 am

“informative on virtually every page”: or on virtually every page you actually looked at?

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30 TMC September 6, 2017 at 9:59 am

#1 ….perfect antidote to… a recent President who despised them.

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31 Thiago Ribeiro September 6, 2017 at 10:35 am

The one who prefers those of them who were not csught? Let’#s be honest: the American system has descended into chaos and suffering a long, sad agony that precedes its death. Prophet Bandarra has predicted that King from North will fall like a ball.

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