READING WITH XIPHOS #6

I have not done one of these since the end of June so I figured it’s time. It’s an odd collection of books I’ll be reviewing. I think that is due to the fact that I was marooned in Hawaii for a few months like I was a passenger on Oceanic Flight 815 and I’m now being held as an enemy combatant at Quantico. So without further preamble, let’s dig in.

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Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds (Charles Mackay 1841) If you think economic bubbles are a modern phenomenon caused by Wall Street, London Bankers and Droid, you would be very wrong. In 1841, Scottish newspaperman Charles Mackay wrote a two-volume set of books debunking the economic bubbles of the time. Mackay also destroyed Alchemy, The Crusades, Witch hunts, Fortune telling and a bunch of other delusions that are still popular today. The work that Mackay put in, especially on economic matters, is considered so good that this book is held by many to be one of the classic and great books on economics. That puts Mackay in the company as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Thorstein Veblen and that worthless piece of shit, John Maynard Keynes who I devoutly hope is slowly roasting in hell and marinating in his own juices that incredibly evil fucktard.

Even though the book was written in 1841, Mackay has a breezy writing style (for the time) that is fairly easy to follow and often times quite droll and amusing. Mackey tackles some interesting ideas and goes after sacred cows. This book is proof yet again that nothing is new under the sun, only the technology changes.

If you like to read about economics like I do this is a fascinating book. If you wonder why people are dumb this book gives you answers and lastly if you weep at the thought of humanity, this book won’t change your mind.


SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner 2009)

This is the follow up book to the highly successful Freakanomics published in 2005, The Freakanomics idea is a culmination of a profound shift in the study of economics. Once upon a time economics was the province of stuffy, egg headed, academics that reveled in the comparison of wheat production of the upper the Volga region to wheat production in Kansas in 1932. Oh joy. What fun the university academics once had and none of it meant a damn thing. Around the mid to late 70’s, the study of economics started to shift its focus from pure number relationships to the study of the effect choice has on an economy. This is a paradigm shift in thinking since it puts the human element into the study of economics and how to think about how an economy works. This change in the cognizant thought processes has revolutionized the study of how people make decisions not only about money and markets but the relationship of both economies and people. This revolution in thinking of relationships can be applied to anything, which is the underlying premise of “Freakanomics.”

Stephen Levitt, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has made himself into the point of the spear for the new study of economics with his books. The writing style is brash and irreverent and often times in your face and contentious but it is always well thought out and meticulously researched. Do I agree with all his ideas? No, of course not. But Levitt did get me to think about them and challenge my ideas and look into his alternatives on my own. An added bonus is that this book got the environmental jackal’s hemp thongs in a twist. It’s always good when those ass hats whine like the rat bastard, lying cocksuckers they are. Fucking hippies.


The Road To Serfdom (Friedrich Hayek 1944): Is another seminal work in the field of economics that is continually attacked by the statist lovers on the basis that his predictions didn’t pan out 100%. It seems 80% is abject failure to those vultures. Hayek’s work is a study in classic liberalism (Liberalism is not a bad word in the classical meaning. It is the current incarnation that is profoundly disgusting and evil.) and Libertarian thought. The central tenant of the book is that central economic planning, by the government, leads to the loss of individualism, freedom and the collective tendencies of those ideas are the road to serfdom and fascism. The title of the book is a clever play on the title of another classic liberal thinkers book, Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Road to Servitude.

The writing in this book can be spare, precise and dry and a lot of the ideas go over my simple, feeble-minded head unless I do a lot of research and pondering but the book is a profound work of genius in my opinion.


The Temeraire Series (Naomi Novik 2006-2010): I absolutely LOVE these books and in preparation for reading the new entry in the series, Tongues of Serpents, I re-read all five books. I’m not going to spend time here on this because I’m going to give them their own review. If you are unfamiliar with Temerair I’ll leave you with this tease, think Master & Commander but with dragons!







Pirate Latitudes (Michael Crichton 2009) This is a cracking good read that was published posthumously after being found on Michael Crichton’s computer when he shipped over (there is another book scheduled for 2011). Pirate Latitudes is a fun action story that could be considered the anti-pirates of the Caribbean. The story takes place on/in the waters of Jamaica circa 1665. The dashing privateer Captain Charles Hunter has been tasked, on the down low, by the British Royal Governor of Jamaica, to seize a Spanish treasure galleon that is under the protection of the psychotic religious nut Captain Cazella of Spain. Hunter gathers his crew and sets out, against all odds, to secure the vast treasure and we readers get treated to a well researched, well written and fun read. I really enjoyed the hell out of this book and I’m not alone. The Beard optioned it to make into a movie. Hopefully he’ll leave his schmaltzy tendencies at the door and make a great hard-core, R rated, adult adventure movie.


Fields Of Battle: The Wars For North America (Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL 1995)

In the world of military historians one of the paramount names is Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL.

For 26 years Keegan was senior lecturer for military history at Sandhurst, the Military Academy of the UK. During his time at Sandhurst, he began to publish some of the best books written on military history. Also, and thank the Gurus, Keegan began to beat the drums against Carl von Clausewitz’s nonsense of “war is a continuation of policy by other means.” The fucking Krauts are weird.

In Fields of Battle, Keegan turns his historians eye towards battlefields in North America. (Keegan left Sandhurst to teach at Princeton and Vassar.) Keegan masterfully covers Wolfe’s Siege of Quebec, the British defeat at Yorktown at the hands of General Washington, the Union Army collapse during the Seven Day Campaign and lastly Custer’s criminal stupidity at the Little Big Horn.

Keegan writes in a witty, (“I” think so. Others complain that he is rather haughty and off-putting. I think he’s just English.) dry, straight forward style that anybody can follow. Even if you aren’t into military history it won’t matter. Keegan’s straightforward prose is easy to understand and he fills any gaps in your knowledge about the subject at hand during his dissection of events. Keegan also wrote two very personal essays about his relationship with America that wraps the book and are quite moving. I highly recommend this or any book by John Keegan. Although if you aren’t really into Military history but want to take a crack at Keegan’s work, ask me which book to get. One or two could be a slog if you aren’t familiar with the subjects.


Happy Reading,

Xiphos

If anybody has any suggestions for books please feel free to offer them below.

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About Xiphos0311

Sporadic genius but mostly IDGAF.

55 responses to “READING WITH XIPHOS #6”

  1. Bartleby says :

    Good read here Xi. Temeraire is excellent. Im looking forward to the new one.

    Actually, I’m curious what you would think of this little series of books by this nice mormon lady named Stephanie Meyers. I understand they are all the rage.

    Seriously though, there is a fantasy series I’d love to hear your take on. It’s by Jim Butcher and it’s known as The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden is a sorcerer and private detective and so the books are dark fantasies and mysteries at the same time. I think you might get a kick out of them.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Thanks Jonah.

      I could care less about twatlight. I just enjoy rattling the cage of the cultists.

      I have read the first 2 Butcher books. They really didn’t work for me. They’re not bad it’s just i couldn’t get into them.

      • Continentalop says :

        You’re way to humble Xi. But the only history I probably know more than you is the history of early professional wrestling…

        …Which brings me to a recommendation to you. The Fall Guys: the Barnums of Bounce by Marcus Griffin (1937). It is an over-the-top but fun expose on when pro wrestling turned from shoot (real) to work (fake) and our boy Stanislaus Zbyszko, the Great Gregarious from Night and the City, plays a very interesting part in it (reminiscient of his part in the movie). The book is also public domain and you can find a link here:

        http://martialhistory.com/reprints/fall-guys-the-barnums-of-bounce-by-marcus-griffin-1937/

  2. ThereWolf says :

    Wow, some of that stuff is definitely over my simple noggin.

    But “Master & Commander – with dragons”… having some of that!

    Read any Lee Child?

    Nice one, Xi.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Naw nothing is over your head Wolf.

      The Temeraire books are truly excellent. I’ll get on that review for you probably sometime this coming week.

      Yeah I’ve read the first Reacher novel and I have the second in the read pile. I wasn’t to enthralled by the first book.

      • ThereWolf says :

        I’m about three-quarters through the first one (The Killing Floor). I don’t think it’s particularly outstanding – just a good, fast read.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I have a lot of technical issues with the book plus the character is an MP which is laughable in and of itself.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Right. So basically, Reacher doesn’t behave the way his character should do?

        Is there anything specific about him that nags you?

        See – technical stuff = over my head! I just accept what the author is telling me.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I am incapable of taking any MP seriously as a “bad ass” it’s physically impossible for me to do so.

        Some of the weapon handling, names employment etc are off way off.

        The author is British and thinks the US armed forces are as horizontally integrated like the UK armed forces which isn’t the case now let alone over a decade ago. Since the American armed forces are so much larger then the UK forces it’s almost impossible to integrate the way it is in the UK. On a totally unrelated side not It just sad the state the once mighty English navy has fallen to. Sharing aircraft carriers with the French. It’s sad.

        There are some other things but I can’t remember what they are.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I agree they are a fast easy read. Great for traveling or killing some time.

      • ThereWolf says :

        I hear you on the Navy thing…

        I saw a news report featuring our esteemed leader, David Fucking Cameron shaking hands with… what’s his face, Sarkozy (?) – but hadn’t understood what was taking place.

        Now I know, it’s extremely annoying. Don’t know if the decision is a Cameron brainwave or something that’s been in the works for awhile.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I think that plan had to have predated Cameron. I would imagine a shit load of horse trading had to have happened to pull something like that off, and If I’m not mistaken, Cameron hasn’t been in power all that long.

      • ThereWolf says :

        You’re not; he hasn’t.

        I would expect it’s been cooking for some time. But still, he could’ve nixed those plans, or at the very least put them on hold.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I think the biggest problem, according to my Jane’s Defense mag, is that the English Navy has to mothball two carriers before they even go into service, which frankly makes no sense to me, but that’s what Jane’s said.

        That sounds even more like BS when you factor in that both the French and UK navies are buying the new US F35 JSF as their aircraft to fly off of the joint carrier. This whole thing stinks.

        How is this supposed to work sharing a carrier? What if the UK decides to send it somewhere but the French object or vice a versa.

        Then there is supposed “European expeditionary force” they are putting together. It won’t work because the French Army sucks, it’s horribly lead, their “best” units are Mercs and they suck and the French always balk at “joint” anything. I know I’ve had to put up with their BS for two decades.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        There was a really funny gag in Flushed away where the Jean Reno-led French Frogs all Surrender INSTANTLY–w/out cause—I hadda laugh.

      • ThereWolf says :

        I didn’t read the two carriers were being mothballed; apparently one was being put to sea with no planes on it and the second, possibly, would be sold to somebody else.

        Either way, it’s a joke. Fucking farce.

        As for aligning ourselves with France – I’m fucking speechless.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        What’s the point of putting an AIRCRAFT carrier to sea without any AIRCRAFT on it? The purpose of a Navy in general and an aircraft carrier in particular is soft force projection. If you lack the primary weapon on board the boat all you have is a large floating landing strip with some defensive capability. It’s mind boggling.

        I was wrong about the both ships getting held out of service.

      • chipps says :

        hilarious

  3. Tom_Bando says :

    So what is his take on the 7 day campaign? McCllelan was a chicken frankly. Malvern Heights or whatever it was he banged the beagle hard and then some.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      That’s a complicated question you’re asking becasue there are several factors involved in the collapse but generally speaking terrain favorite the Rebs, The Rebs were better led and better soldiers and McCllelan was not competent in the least.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        He was good at training’em, sure–but he was lousy at actually leading them. No way a US Grant, for example, only gets away w/ a draw at Antietam, let’s put it that way.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        I still enjoy that big Chicken from Apache Jct. That’s fitting!

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Antietam cast the seeds of the Confederacy defeat. Lee was god awful stupid to try and defend the boarders of the CSA in the traditional manner.

        Jackson showed during the Shenandoah Valley campaigned how to win. It would have been much better to fall back and use your superior knowledge of terrain and vast maneuver area to destroy Northern armies.

        That strategy would have prevented the final nail in the coffin of the CSA from being formed, The Army of the West under Sherman. That army of his was the single most lethal Army on earth for its year of existence

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I read recently that the big chicken’s restaurant get hit with a $250.00 dollar fine because of pollo grande.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        It is fascinating to read about the whole Wilderness/Cold Harbor campaign of Grant’s–that was just plain nightmarish for everyone concerned. Bloody Angle, anyone?

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Everybody always lauds Lee as some sort of genius but it was really Jackson that was the creative one. Lee was quite conventional in thinking, like Grant was. Between Lee and Grant they got way to many people killed with their poor leadership. Thank God for Sherman.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      There’s an awful lot to be said for Pap Thomas too, I think. Rock of Chickamagua and all that.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I agree to a limited extent about Thomas.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Wasn’t he also the Gen. at the battles of Nashville and Franklin? both of those pretty well nuked the last of the CSA’s armies in Tenn. Pretty terrible losses of life in both.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        According to wiki that is correct Tom. Actually the most import thing that Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland did was provide logistical support for Sherman. They were Johnny on the Spot when Sherman needed something, like the pontoon bridges they manufactured on the spot for The battle of Peachtree Creek.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Plus face it-when you have such complete Idiots as Bell and Hood facing you, it makes your work that much easier.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Yeah it’s even easier when the supposed cream of the crop of the confederacy runs away from you.

  4. Tom_Bando says :

    Buck buck!

  5. redfishybluefishy says :

    yeah, i’ve been meaning to read those Temeraire books… gonna get on that pronto. thanks for the reminder!

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Hiya Fishy,

      I can’t say enough about the books but I will try sometime this week.

      The first book is His Majesty’s Dragon.

  6. Continentalop says :

    I’m finally reading Shelby Foote’s Civil War books, but I’m thinking of putting them down and picking up a Dummies guide to the Civil War as a primer. These books look imposing!

  7. Continentalop says :

    And while I am nowhere the military historian Xi is (fuck, I’m even anywhere the historian or literiary critic he is) I’m gonna throw in Gen. Burnside’s name into the hat for worst Civil War general. But at least he apparently knew he was incompetent.

  8. Bartleby says :

    Xi, killing a few hours yesterday, your column inspired me to pick up a book which I then promptly finished. It’s a dingbat story, but rather enjoyable in the Crichton bent–it’s called Fragment and deals with an island discovered where the typical evolution broke off from ours millions of years ago and has followed it’s own path.

    Its sort of like Mike Crichton by way of the syfy channel. Dippy, but good fun.

  9. LB says :

    Ha-I’m a big Lee Child fan-but it’s not say that the Jack Reacher novels are indefensible. All’s I will say is that the early books it’s quite obvious the author is a Brit, but as the series progresses, his editors and fact-checking get muchly improved.

    In their defense, I think in only 2 or 3 of the books does the author attempt to have any action from when the fictional Reacher was in active service.

    I imagine this is out of respect for malingering actual soldiers like Mr. Xiphos.

    Ha! Well, I at least got a review of the first book from Xiphos-yowch-didn’t know Lee Child was *that* far off…

    If had any money-I’d pay Xiphos to review the rest of them just so i would know what’s right and wrong-there’s one clunker in the lot that even had me rolling my eyes…haha.

    oh, “lodged as enemy combatant?” Joke, yes?

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I haven’t been a malingering soldier since the mid 90’s.

      Having a better fact checker and editor would help the series immensely.

      Not lodged Bronco held. Quantico is the home of the “real” Marine Corps, all the REMFS and pouges, who think field Marines get in the way of the proper running of the Marine Corps.

      • LB says :

        Ha! Took me 2 minutes to remember what REMFs are-no wiki.

        Translation: Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers.

        So, you got promoted into Dumbfukistan-the office people.

        Congratulations.

        Maybe you can compliment them on their awesome telecommunications and phone service.

        I’m talking out off my ass, so I apologize in advance to the fine personnel who staff Quantico and the USMC in general-yourself included.

        A side story, one I’m proud of.

        I talked a gal out of OCS because she was having problems with her weight. She was and would be a great Marine.

        I talked about some stuff, but threw a fit when she said I want to be in communications.

        I said I got a buddy who was on a comm team.

        3 fire fights. Been shot twice.

        She decided the next week to walk away. She was quite good, and the guys didn’t say shit.

        That said, I would recommend you attempt a much later book in the Jack Reacher series-something in the books 10 through 15 range and see if it’s less annoying.

        Probably all of them are going to have niggling issues, but the later ones are quite good.

        Hence my obsession to read the early ones which aren’t as well constructed.

        Everytime I see a post by you, basically, I imagine Jack Reacher, for real if they cut you loose from a job you are very good at (The Corps).

        The six five, 250 lb thing just by itself is unrealistic, but I still think of Jack Reacher as the truly ass-kicking re-invention of Sherlock Holmes.

        It’s fun stuff.

        I believe that in later novels Lee Child got straightened away by technical advisers-probably current and ex-military who were dog-piling him about his technical flaws.

        To conclude, I want to thank you for providing an example to us all of an example of a pistol-whip smart infantry Marine.

        You’re not the only one I have had the pleasure of chatting with-but boy are you guys scary!

        That is a sincere compliment, to be clear.

        You’re Reading lists always make me feel like I’m sitting on my ass reading trashy fiction and goofing off.

        They are greatly appreciated.

        Thanks for the post, as always.

        ps-in future, act dumber and stuff, or they will keep promoting you. It’s quite annoying, I’m given to understand.

        Peace!

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I’m not permanently station here Bronco I’m just up here teaching a class temporarily becasue of a lot weird circumstance that combined into the perfect storm.

        I’m nowhere near 6’5″ 250 I miss it by 6 inches and 50 pounds.

      • LB says :

        To reply I’m 6′ 1″ 207 lbs currently

        10 to 20 pounds of that is beer flab.

        Christ, I tried to PT with one of your guys.

        The difference is aerobic muscle versus anaerobic muscle.

        Fucking Stamina.

        You got it or you don’t.

        I don’t got it.

        Peace!

  10. Tom_Bando says :

    Orton Hulk>Cassel Hulk. It’s a lost year, but we’ll take what we can get.

  11. chipps says :

    Readings

    Very interesting reading list, but we have a few different ideas on economics.

    Firstly, Keynesian economics works. It’s not the be all and end all, you would not use it by itself, but after 60 odd years it holds up pretty well. I realise that it runs contrary to much of American political philosophy but it still holds up. In the current context it isn’t working fantastically in America, but this reflects other facts. The main problem that America has with it at the moment is that under George bush (as with regan) the budget deficit spiralled out of control. Who is the only president in the last 40 years to balance the budget? Clinton. Clinton only had one deficit year, the year he took over from bush (with much of the budget locked in) bush 43 only had one year of surplus (the year he took over – with much of the budget locked in). 43 inherited a deficit of $200b (roughly) that was declining. BEFORE the bailout pack of Paulson et al bush 43 had the deficit at over $1 trillion. And was continuing to reduce taxes! He based this on disproven economics that revolve around an incorrect interpretation of the laffer curve know generally as Reagan economic (his own father contemptuously referred to them as ‘voodoo economics’). So when the crash hit there was nothing in the coffers to use for Keynesian economics. England is in a simular position. Compare this with Australia. When the gfc (the get fucked cunt) hit Australia had a balanced budget. We immediately (and contentiously) spent money Keynesian style. We never even had a recession. In fact we were the only western nation not to go into recession. The reason? Keynesian economics. Current projections have us at balanced books three years after the crash.
    How did the crash even occur? I know Americans have a particular horse they like to beat over this one, but this reflects the partisan nature of their politics more than anything. An American would say that it is because of the repeal of the glass stegal act. Partly true but in reality rubbish. Much of the world essentially does not have a version of this act. Australia does not. The largest managed fund in a Australia is owned by the largest bank. All banks have funds. This is true of deutcher and many others. Since deposit taking intuitions are not as profitable as investment houses if you don’t want your local banks bought out by foreigners you need to allow them to be competitive and have managed fund wings. What you don’t want to do is what happened in the early 2000s – essentially remove oversight by dramatically reducing the budget for finance ‘cops.’ America’s response to all this can be compared to the following: You get mugged. There are laws against this already, but there are no police where you live. Instead of passing a law increasing the number of police, your local government creates additional laws on top of those that already exist for robbery. The problem was in the oversight of the laws. Add to this bizarre bonus packages. Then your next problem: crowding out of credit. The first phase of the gfc was the credit crunch. This occurred because the scale of US debt was so massive that US consumed all available credit. Credit stopped being extended. Loans got called in. There were stacks of bad ones. Things went south. Of course, it is crazy to force banks to take on loans, but this was not the key to the problem. Also, American bankrupts get off quite lightly. Not many countries in the world let you just hand in the keys and walk away. There are clear issues with this.

    The first known bubble was ‘tulipmainia.’ It remains one of the best examples. And it is hilarious.

    Just started superfreakenomics myself having read the first one. Great books. Have got into arguments with economists as to whether it is economics. It is.

    It is amazing to me how consistently American politicians incorrectly define the word liberal.

    Now I havn’t read this book but it depends on how you are defining economic central planning. Obviously the government shouldn’t be stepping into the business decisions of individual firms, but it does have a key role in the economy, and liberalism (the right wing kind laissez faire) is demonstratably rubbish. It comes down to externalities. The theory of externalities revolves around the fact that the thing that is best for an individual (or firm) – the thing they will chose to do – is not necessarily the best thing for an economy. Imagine in your country there is a lake. This lake produces $400m in exportable fish per year. A firm sees an opportunity to make some money and sets up a wood pulping mill on the edge of it. This mill produces $100m worth of wood per year, but the run off goes into the lake, killing the fish, ruining the $400m dollar business. Left alone the mill will continue to do this – it is making a profit. None the lest the net effect of this firm doing business is negative to the economy. The roll of government is to step in in these situation and transfer the economic incidence onto the decision making firm. That way the externalities are internalised. Only government can do this. Does the market always provide? Of course not. Left alone the market will provide a dramatically inefficient amount of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, defence and many other things. This is the roll of government. Schools and hospitals are simply and investment in capital. If your tractor gets a flat it seems obvious that you would fix it. If a many with forty years of tax paying ahead of him gets ill, it seems obvious you would fix him. You up grade your physical capital, why not your human capital. Would the American tax payer be better off if the bills gateses of the world only get to go to school if they are rich or do we benefit from INVESTING in them. Simply put, the market does not provide. Comand economies are stupid, but there is a major roll for govenerment to fill various gaps in the economy

  12. Xiphos0311 says :

    Chipps I proudly disagree about Keynesian economics. It doesn’t work, has never worked and never will work and I’ll leave it at that. I get violently angry becasue of how profoundly wrong and evil it truly is.

    There are a few other things in your post that are incorrect but I’m to tired and lazy to do anything about it.

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