Friday, June 26, 2009

Driving a VW suggests you're smart, he says

Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psychologist at University of New Mexico. Click here for biography. David Brooks' column today was inspired by Geoffrey Miller's book called Spent: Sex Evolution and Consumer Behavior. Apparently Brooks thinks the ideas in Spent are too biological and not focused enough on "nurture." Miller's book was ranked #1,750 on Amazon, well behind Michael Jackson.

This is the sort of topic that Brooks should have well-developed ideas about, because of Brooks' book called Bobos in Paradise.

I don't understand how people can be so passionate about whether it's nature or nurture that dominates. I don't really understand how anyone knows or why we think that people generally are more governed by nature or by nurture. Maybe you could tell for some individuals, but I think we're a long way off when it comes to deciding whether humans generally are dominated by nature or nurture or whether a majority of humans are dominated by one or the other. The limits of human understanding matter.

Human motivation and cause and effect are huge mysteries, insofar as I can tell.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Political Upheavals

Conservative David Frum noted these five books in the WSJ March 28, 2009. These are all controversial books, but maybe that was the point. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum admonishes the Republican party to stop using gimmicks. Frum appeared on The Daily Show in January 2008. He wrote Comeback:Conservativism that Can Win Again.

The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800, by
Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick (1993) Publisher's Summary Abebooks has it.

Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President, by Allan C. Guelzo, 1999: Out of Print
Guelzo has a religious tinge to his work. He wrote Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. His current book on Lincoln is Lincoln: Man of Ideas. Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, Director of Civil War Era Studies, and Associate Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Abebooks has it.

The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, by Richard J. Jensen, 1971: Out of Print See this site for for this book priced at $135 for a copy.
No wonder Amazon suggests that it is hard to get. Abebooks has it.

Richard J. Jensen, professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of several books, including Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983.

Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan, by Michael Barone.
Free Press. 805 pp. $29.95, 1990. Abebooks has it.

This comes from a review in Commentary magazine: "This book is mislabeled. The title promises that it will do for 1932-88 what Mark Sullivan's Our Times did for 1900-25 and Frederick Lewis Allen's Only Yesterday did for 1920-30. Barone's book is even longer than theirs, but his focus is much narrower: it is essentially an electoral history, an account of the presidential and congressional campaigns and elections from the launching of the New Deal to the end of Reagan's second term." Barone works for American Enterprise Institute, US News & World Report and Fox News.

Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism by Jonathan Rieder (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985) From a review: "The product of Rieder's time in this neighborhood is an ethnographic study of the residents that attempts to explain why a once liberal community turned its back on the Democratic Party in favor of staunch conservatism." The review says, " Rieder fills his book with interviews with the angriest residents of Canarsie." Canarsie is a part of Brooklyn. Here's the reproduction of this book. Rieder is apparently a professor at Barnard College. Abebooks has it.

Frum picked these books because they're about upheavals, he said. Interesting choices.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

William O. Douglas

Now appearing in paperback:

Here's a link to the paperback version:

This is from the Wikipedia entry on Douglas:

Douglas was a self-professed outdoorsman, so much so that according to The Thru-Hiker's Companion, a guide published by the Appalachian Trail Club, Douglas hiked the entire 2,000-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. His love for the environment carried through to his judicial reasoning.

He loved nature, but his legal work was not always conducted in a traditional way. Here's an account at the Arlington Cemetery site:

There's a William O. Douglas Wilderness in Central Washington:

I F Stone

The new biography of IF Stone is gathering comment: On Slate for example:
The Village Voice reviewed it.

Although he's long dead, he has his own web site.

"Guttenplan’s admiring but not uncritical biography has been nearly 20 years in the making." The NYTimes reviewed it here.

Here's another review of Guttenplan's book.

American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone by D.D. Guttenplan, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 570 pages, $35.00; the new biography is (the graphics are copied straight from Amazon):
American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone

American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone

Author is D. D. Guttenplan.

Here's a reference to the Myra McPherson biography of IF Stone:
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America

by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev Yale University Press, 650 pages, $35.00

Some say IF Stone spied for the Soviets. I don't know what he knew that the Russians could not have figured out for themselves. Here's a wikipedia entry regarding the Venona project. There obviously were some spies. It is not obvious that Stone was among them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Lots of Books of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are appearing.

WaPo Magazine will feature exclusive excerpts from the book "Decline and Fall: The final days of Donald Rumsfeld's troubled reign" by Pentagon correspondent Bradley Graham.

He reveals Rumsfeld was ready to leave President Bush's administration in 2006:

Around September 2006, Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, had discussed the prospect of his stepping down as Secretary of Defense. "We said there's no way he would stay if either the House or the Senate went Democratic because he would be the issue," Joyce recounted months later. The criticism "would have been relentless until he was gone."

Link to excerpts:

Scribd also gives publishers 80 percent of revenue. Amazon reportedly gives publishers about half of the list price of books sold for the Kindle, but also discounts many titles and in some cases chooses to make no revenue itself from those sales.

Interesting blog entry from Charles Nesson, Harvard Law School professor:

Henry Fairlie

BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU: Essays and Provocations (New Republic/Yale University, $30)

Here's what Christopher Hitchens wrote about Fairlie:

Quote from Fairlie:

The foundation of humility is truth. The humble man sees himself as he is. If his depreciation of himself were untrue,... it would not be praiseworthy, and would be a form of hypocrisy, which is one of the evils of Pride. The man who is falsely humble, we know from our own experience, is one who is falsely proud.

Amazon has a Henry Fairlie page:

Hapsburgs and Ottomans

THE ENEMY AT THE GATE:Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe

By Andrew Wheatcroft (Illustrated. 339 pp. Basic Books. $27.50) (

Here's the Times Review:

The book was reviewed in September 2008 in the UK's The Telegraph:

Here's a review of his book Infidels.

Four Titans


How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945

By Andrew Roberts (Illustrated. 674 pp. Harper/­HarperCollins Publishers. $35)

Here's the author's web site:

Here's the Times' review:

Rebirth of Nation

Jackson Lears wrote Rebirth of a Nation to show why our guns culture leads to debacles and failures like Iraq. Here's the review from the Times last Sunday. (

Bear Stearns' fall - House of Cards


A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street
By William D. Cohan (468 pp. Doubleday. $27.95) (

Cohan is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Graduate School of Business. He spoke at a recent Columbia alumni event. He had recently published this:

James Stewart was the interviewer at the event (

These fellows who get along in the business generally accept things, even when they don't agree with them. Charm is important. Cohan was more dyspeptic than the others on the stage. I liked him.

I'm reminded of three lessons we learned in the S&L debacle of the early 199o's.
First, when Congress changes the rules, the outcome is hard to predict and likely to be hurtful to many.
Second, the fellows running major financial institutions don't really know what they are doing.
Third, don't borrow short and lend long. That is, in essence, what Bear Stearns was doing by borrowing overnight and owning securities. People criticize the high amount of leverage at places like Bear Stearns, but you don't hear much criticism of the practice of lending long while borrowing short.

Kate Kelly also has a book on the fall of Bear Stearns, called Street Fighters.

Here's a comment inspired by her book: AND

Fools's Gold


How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J. P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe By Gillian Tett (293 pages. Free Press. $26.)

Reviewer Paul M. BARRET wrote, "The Morganites sold the notion that financial gravity had been overcome---that risk had been vanquished and that lending could proliferate endlessly."

Gillian Tett is an assistant editor of the Financial Times and oversees the global coverage of the financial markets. In March 2009 she was named Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. In 2007 she was awarded the Wincott prize, the premier British award for financial journalism, for her capital markets coverage. She was named British Business Journalist of the Year in 2008.