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February 14, 2007 09:27 PM UTC

Reading Recommendations

  • by: Mr. Toodles

(This is a diary written by a Colorado Pols reader. You can make your own diary by using the toolbar on the right. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

So we all like politics and talking politics and reading about politics and anything with the words “politics,” “political,” “pol.” And since there is a massive number of books out there that discuss this sacred issue, and since I need some new reading material, and I assume that you do too, lets recommend some books. Any political flavor or ideology welcome as long as it is a good read. Come to think of it, if there are any books on Colorado specifically, please post those too.

Also, my use of the word “and,” is reaching a level of obscene use.


59 thoughts on “Reading Recommendations

    1. He actually works for “Wake Up Wal-Mart.”  Weren’t we a bit shocked…

      Yeah, he is the master.  My hat’s off, I just wish he was on “our” side.

      1. Had an endorsement on the back, something along the lines of “Republicans have a Paul McCartney in Luntz; while we got yoko ono.” John Kerry also provided an endorsement.

      1. I’m going to look for it, again….after 30 years or so when I first picked it up.

        BTW… is a great site to find books. Anyother good sights to find books Copols readers?

      2. Alex predicted the 20th century would be dominated by a totalitarian Russia, and a democratic America. 

        That raises some interesting questions as to the actual importance of Marxism in the Soviet system:

        i)  Was the USSR simply Russian imperialism with an imported ideology?

        ii)  Was the totalitarian aspect of Soviet Marxism the Marxism, or the national tendancy to imperialism?

        iii)  Was the result so tragic because of synergy between reenforcing totalitarian tendancies in both Marxism and Russian imperialism?

        Tootles, you need a thesis subject; write paper(s), check back in, in a year.  Of course the quesion also rises as to whether a 25 year old would even be interested in the old Soviet questions.  Probably there are more interesting and contemporary issues.  Hard to believe the cold war is now mostly a subject for historical speculation.

        1. I started this thread in part to bulge my reading list, but I also knew that you, Xenophon, and others would have interesting insight into different texts. Thanks everybody for the contributions.

          1. don’t know if it’s still used, but it was the gospel in foreign policy studies in the 1970’s

            Politics Amoung Nations
              Hans J Morgenthau

            One of the many odd but encouraging contradiction of America is this:

            Morgenthau openly opposed the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, and articulated very coherent arguments for that position.  The University of Maryland offered undergraduate courses at U.S. military bases around the world, including the UM extensions in Vietnam.  We used Morgenthau’s book in our classes.  Studying in bunkers at Cam Rahn, we learned why we shouldn’t be studying in bunkers in Cam Rahn (we had other hints, but they were non-intellectual).

            Morgenthau’s ‘realism’ (or Real Politik) approach is very much at odds with the ‘values’ approach, which sees foreign policy as a projection of moral values.  Jimmy Carter had a values foreign policy.  George W Bush has a values orientation.  In many ways Carter’s idealism is similar to Bush’s.  That isn’t going to sit well with some other COPOLers, but Bush’s road to hell was paved with good intentions (many of which Liberals openly subscribe to). 

            Marx: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

        2. in college I will briefly answer your questions.

          I. Yes, especially once Stalin took charge. There’s plenty to study with regards to how much Bolshevism bended orthodox Marxism to fit Russia (especially with regard to agriculture and the peasants – they stole their program wholesale from a competing group known as the Social Revolutionaries) but Stalin as a leader looked back to none other than Ivan the Terrible as a model leader. But even before his rise the Bolsheviks largely took control of the existing imperial bureaucracy (including the Secret Police which would become the Cheka, then the NKVD, and finally the KGB) and did little to overhaul its structure.

          II. I’d say the latter option, given my answer to question I. The Bolsheviks and Stalinists did rely on Marxism’s “scientific certainty” as justification for their actions, but very little of what they did resembled classic Marx, especially since it was predicated upon the notion of “Socialism in One State.” Marx had to be flipping cartwheels in his grave when they came up with that one.

          III. I’d say that I don’t believe that “synergy between reenforcing totalitarian tendancies in both Marxism and Russian imperialism,” existed because I don’t think that there was that much Marxism in the Soviet Union. I think totalitarianism arose in the 20th Century because communication technology finally developed to the point that could exist. (Without the telephone and telegraph you can only have authoritarianism.) That’s why there were many totalitarian governments that had no Marxist foundation to begin with. It has more to do with human nature and a society’s makeup than it does with the higher philosophical foundations of modern government.

          Hope this is food for thought for someone…

      3. Toqueville is amazing.  I find it remarkable how few politicophiles (yes, I’m making up a word) have read Dem in Amer. 

        On an entirely seperate note:  If anyone cares about California politics, anything by Bruce Cain is awesome.  So, if you’re willing to put your Colorado pride aside, Cain has some remarkable stuff (though, admittedly nerdy).

  1. by Loevy and Cronin…many things have changed since 1993, but I still think it is a nice book. And yes, both authors are from CC. Just finished “Overthrow” by Stephen Kinzer, which was a nice read. And if your attention span is short, read this poem by Wendell Berry: http://www.context.o….

  2. I’ve read “Team of Rivals” which is excellent, and Lincoln by Gore Vidal…not so hot IMHO. Chasing the Lincoln myth I started in on the 4 volume set “Lincoln-The War Years” by Carl Sandburg and I love it, although it’s a lot of reading. He was of an age he could interview either direct participants in the war or their children so it has tremendous personal accounts of the civil war era. Tiring of that a bit, I’ve recently picked up Theodore Rex and am enjoying it immensely. Both Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were preimminent politicians and wonderful hyuman beings. It’s refreshing to read about these political leaders, and I am saddened by the loss of these type of talents.

    As I opened Theodore Rex, Teddy was receiving a telegraph as he vacationed in the Upper Adirondacks from Secy. of State John Hay. I asked myself if this could possibly be the same John Hay that Lincoln brought from Illinois as a young man to be his personal secy. It was. He was secy. to Lincoln, Secy. of State to Garfield and McKinley. He worked with THREE assasinated presidents! History is indeed incredible.

      1. the masterpiece remains Allen Nevins, “Ordeal of the Union,” his eight-volume history of the civil war and the times leading up to it.  (You have to read four volumes, about 600 pages each, just to get to Fort Sumter.  But it is worth it.

    1. Thank you for applying for the position with our new administration.

      While we find you highly qualified, there are certain disturbing propensities which we would rather not see continued.


    1. My wife bought this one for me for Christmas.  Starting it as soon as our newborn gives us a free moment – ok, maybe I’ll finish it by next Christmas.

    1. Heard Jim Wallis while he was on tour for the book.  I think that the left type evangelicals are finally pissed off about that adjective being usurped by the fundamentalists.

  3. Is an interesting piece on the Russo-Afghan war as financed by the CIA. Charlie Wilson was a congressman who was instrumental in increasing the funding. Written by George Crile.

  4. by Dan Baum.

    It’s a must read, I think.  Blew my mind how the Coors family is so connected to all right-wing politics in America.

    What I found most fascinating was how the murder of Adolph Coors the III (I think) completely shook and changed the Coors family.  It’s like the tipping point where they start to go heavily right-wing and also embracing the evangelical Christian thing.

    I often wonder what our world would look like if Ad Coors had not been murdered. 

    1. Not sure where you get “widely revered” from, at least outside of your circle of like thinkers, but that’s an aside.

      I read the publisher’s notes, the reader reviews, and some of the very inflammatory forums on this book, pro and con.

      There is little doubt that he is correct in terms of demographics, population trends, etc.  But it is highly ethnocentric, We Good, Others Bad.  Not that I’m saying a nice burka is as appealing as a nice bikini……

      Very similar in tone to Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West, which I did read.

      What I recall of the latter book was a distinct “Southern Tilt”, i.e., the brown hordes down there vs. Steyn’s concern with Islam. 

      The declining birthrate of the advanced nations will happen to the Muslims, too, as they get wealthier, whether in Europe of the Middle East.  To imply that we need to fuck our way out of this dilemma is simplistic and fails to recognize the population Ponzi scheme that it is.

      1. It was number two here and in Germany and it hit the top five on Amazon for a while. 

        And, yes, it is highly ethnocentric.  His stunning belief is that Western civilization is basically good because we believe in things like pluralism, tolerance, democracy, etc. while the Islamic civilization we are up against does not.  Surely, Parsy, you can be ballsy enough to say that Americans do things better than the Saudis…

        1. Pat Buchanan and Steyn raise valid issues, IMHO, but lose a lot of audience with thinly veiled, and sometimes not veiled contempt for others.  It says on Wikipedia that he has made some pretty unsavory comments and used racist tersm.  And how much credence do we give someone who thinks Rumsfield is a genius and the war would be over in no time at all?

          I am a liberal who is not thrilled with my peer’s fascination with “diversity” and “multiculturalism”, so I do undersand what Buchanan and Steyn are saying.

          I love to tweak my liberal friends into apoplexy by stating that some cultures are superior to others.  I define superior as a culture that can meet the physical needs of the members, fend off enemies of whatever kind, and survive even if it means assimilating and adapting “foreign” influences.  I could add a sort of a Maslow Heirarchy, allowing individuals to reach their potentials.  But it’s the first three that really count. 

          I believe that not just Western culture, but specifically the culture of the Enlightenment that is superior to all others so far.  It has given us science, modern democracy, freedom from religious superstition, and broadly, human rights.  It is the culture all others are trying to attain by either immigration or adaptation.

          The European nations that were not part of the Enlightenment have failed as surely as Africa until recently.  The biggest impediment Latin America has to economic and political success is the heritage of Spain. 

          Off my soapbox.

            1. Failures all, but what have they to do with the philosophies and impetus of the Enlightenment?  What the Enlightenment replaced, mostly superstitious religious world views, continue to have the same problems today.

              1. I read an implication in your post that Europe was better than other “cultures” and that was due to the “Enlightenment.”….I am pointing out that Europe was a nightmare for itself and the rest of the  world during the 20th Century…and those facts can not be overlooked in evaluating European “culture”  Even though, I am uncomfortable with the term “culture.” in any but a artistic or anthropological sense.

                1. that a culture that becomes “Enlightened” does not commit war?  “The Enlightenment” was a philosophical movement with political ramifications. It was part of the movement out of the “Dark Ages.”


                  It was the foundation for our revolution and Constitution.  Never said it should therefore be the end of warfare or that Europeans walk around Buddhalike since then.

                  I remain puzzled.

                  1. I do not think that European culture is superior to all others. You list some attributes which you admire.  I list those which I do not.  I find your definition of a “superior culture” simplistic.  It is my opinion. It is different from yours. That should not be puzzling.

  5. Imperial Grunts  tells the story of America’s far flung empire….and the GIs who mann its barricades….then read anything by Ward Churchill about imperialistic US….and then decide.

    A sweet sad little book is called “Waging Peace” about a civil affairs unit operating in Baghdad in 2003-2004…..sad because their efforts have been washed away …sadder yet because at least one of the soldiers…Bob Paul, was blown up in Afganistan last September….

    those books are  not about colorado politics, per se, so I hope the suggestion doesn’t get you in hot  water again with Coloradopols…

    Colorado Classics:  Phil Goodstein: Denver in Our Time…Vol I…Big Money in the Big City and Vol II  DIA and other Scams,,,,,,

    1. Imperial Grunts is an absolute must.  So is Lawrence Wright’s “Looming Tower.”  To understand the Global War on Terror, the American military, and our standing in the world today, you MUST read these books.

      1. Imperial Grunts, as I understood it….which could be way off,….argues the US is using the same strategy to maintain a world empire which it used to conquer the west and defeat the Indians (which is Ward Churchill’s point)…..small units along a far flung border…the work of empire being done by GIs not generals…..each one of those places has a strategic importance to American interests….imperial interests..  Kaplan’s sheer arrogance is an important part of the story….he never questions US’s actions and never finds anyone in the US military who does…

        Here’s an historical example:  He talks about the “creation” of Panama in order to get the land for the US Canal…….he then talks about sending the marines in to quash the Sandinista Rebellion in the early part of the last century in Nicaragua…he doesn’t mention why Nicaragians wanted to be free of an exploitive dictorship..etc.etc….he just says that instability in that country threatened the security of the Canal, so of course we intervened….no questions asked…

        1. Reminded me of Roman soldiers – mostly mercenaries, actually – on the Rhine with the proto-Germans on the other side way back when.

          Smedley Butler is still a good read.  Most people don’t know that he was approached by the conservative powers in the late thirties to head a coup to take power from FDR and Congress.

          Man, those cons hate equality and justice!

  6. Bob Woodward has the most amazing access to D.C. If he told me I was a silverback gorilla, I would believe him because he probably has better sources on the subject than I do.

    Also good are Tony Zinni’s The Battle for Peace (has some great ideas about restructuring the DoD and the state department) and Thomas Friedman’s the World is Flat (made me decide globalism isn’t necessarily as bad a thing as I originally thought).

    1. Extremely good reporting. As usual, little analysis.

      Made DR the bad guy, showed Bush was delegating war to DR instead of running DR and the generals. It is a tremendous political story about a president who is not a Lincoln. He’s not an LBJ, either. He has failed to tell Defense and the generals to win. Instead, he worries about offending the Saudis, Iranians, Turks, Europeans and Russians.

      He’s a huge disappointment.

      If you want to understand military and WH politics and back stabbing, this is Woodward’s best book yet, and I’ve read them all.

  7. I thought his “The Grand Strategy” was a smart commentary on what geopolitics should look like (if I didn’t always agree with him).  For Iraq stuff, Packer’s Assassin’s Gate was very good.

    For classics, don’t forget about the Federalist Papers.

  8. by John Perkins

    A good look at the role of the United States in the world today and how, since WWII, we have reshaped the methods of retaining power and control.

  9. I’m just getting into the Luntz book (and trying to think of ways to apply his techniques on behalf of Democratic issues and candidates). Also, I’m currently enjoying Terry McAuliffe’s “What A Party,” a good read but sort of lightweight and (predictably) self-indulgent. Anyone looking for excellent background on Bin Laden, al Qaeda and the CIA has to read Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars.” I have just picked up John Lewis Gaddis’ new history of the Cold War but haven’t started reading it yet.

  10. I just started Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (brothers).  The book is about the structure, wording and form of ideas that stick.  This can be applied to a campaign or crafting legislation.  Seems like it is going to be an interesting book.

  11. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger because you don’t like Riffkin or his message!  Read the book (sometimes a bit dry, admittedly.)

    The book really consists of two parts: his thesis that both Europe and American seek security, but we are doing it by two different means.  In America, our mythos is individualism and opportunity (“mythos” selected intentionally.)  Europe, after a half century of devastating warfare, is choosing cooperation.  Obviously, this results in two very different cultures. 

    The second part is a comparison, mostly of economics.  Yes, the Europeans have a higher unemployment rate (although less than we think because they count EVERYONE, not like here).  But what should disturb objective Americans are undisputable facts like: 1.  A child born poor in America now has far less upward mobility than before, or in Europe; 2. The EU is creating more small businesses and more millionaires than the US on – as I recall – either an outright basis or per capita. 

    I feel about America as I would a once noble friend that is drinking himself to death.  The Righties want to ignore the empty bottles all over the house.  I want to be able to know what is going on so that I can best correct this course of destruction that my hypothetical friend, or my nation, is on.  We don’t have to emulate the Europeans, although I find much to like, but we at least have to correct ourselves within our mythos to once again be that city shining on a hill.  Imperfect, but struggling.

    The easiest way to get back on the road to perfection (speaking spiritually here) is to stop being a militaristic state with it’s soul-sapping budget and muscle flexing.

  12. I second the recommendations on Frank Luntz’s new book. I keep underlining the sections that emphasize “simplify, simplify, simplify” and thinking about John Kerry’s “Who amongst us does not love Nascar?” line.

    I would add David Broder’s book on the citizen initiative, although it is a few years old, entitled Direct Democracy. It outlines the progressive history of the citizen initiative and shows how money and interest group politics have perverted the original intent of the initiative process as aprogressive reform.

    Finally, on a personal note, it is most refreshing to have someone asking for a book recommendation. This past weekend at Rootscamp, I made what I thought was a stunningly appropriate literary reference to E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, the famous quote “Only connect.” How fitting for a conference about organizing on the web, I thought. Well, not a person in the room recognized the reference and I left feeling TOTALLY nerdy and over-forty. Oh well.

  13. by Bob Woodward.  Very insightful as to why things went wrong with the war, and how W mostly surrounded himself with yes men (and women) and didn’t really know the situation on the ground.

    It made me really feel for some of the people involved who wanted to get things done ( Paul Garner, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage) but ran into a brick wall at every turn.  Makes you hate Cheney, Rumsfeld and Feith even more.  Good book.

  14. Locke and Hobbs (of course)

    De Tocqueville (yes)

    The Federalist Papers

    Churchill “The Second World War” – esp. vol 1 – The Gathering Storm

    Ted Lowi – “The End of Liberalism” (1969) – the roadmap for much of the Reagan rhetoric, not as much of the policy – I’ll have to right more on this because it is no where nearly what most people read the title to mean

  15. The classic morality tale of the corruption of populist ideals by political power, set in an unblinking portrait of the Depression-era Jim Crow south–and with barn-burning romance thrown in.

    Also Gore Vidal’s Lincoln as suggested above–it shows how a real war president held the country together and accomplished his mission without losing his humanistic vision.

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