Every week I get the e-mail version of the New York Times Review of Books. I can generally judge whether or not a book is worth reading by the review. This is because the Review of Books is normally a megaphone for the furtherest left of the New York leftists. It is aimed, not so much at the vast majority of readers, but at those who know exactly what is wrong with the world and how only they can correct it
Look at the review of two books about the dean of Conservativism William F. Buckley Jr. There are plenty of people qualified to review books on Buckley. Writers from news magazines, people that worked with him at National Review or even Christopher Buckley, whose wit and humor, not to mention his advantage of having observed the subject at close range for a number of years, would have brought a lot to the review.
But no, who do we get? Not someone who knew him well or admired his work. What we get is what we almost always get from Review of Books A reviewer who not only did not know him, but is actually a partisan from the opposite reaches of the political world.
I am reminded of these ruminations when I think of the late William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review, the magazine he founded way back in 1955, because as former editor and then publisher of The Nation I spent more than my share of time taking exception to and attacking Buckley and his National Review reprobates.
While we do occasionally get a reviewer from the conservative point of view, he is invariably reviewing a book from a similar point of view. Even then, it most conservative writers were to review a book about a “progressive” personality, we could expect them to accentuate their agreements and downplay their differences. Look at the almost universal sympathy for Teddy Kennedy from the “right-wing” pundits compared to the widespread virulence directed at President Bush. VP Cheney, and Justice Clarence Thomas.
After Kennedy passes and tomes are written on his life, what do you think the chances are that the NYT Review of Books will ask Pat Buchanan or Ann Coulter to review them?
Moving right along. In the same issue of the NYT Review of Books we have this book which looks interesting. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the freeing of Eastern Europe, we have had an explosion of organized criminal gangs branching out throughout the world.
I guess that whole experiment with building the “new socialist man” didn’t take very well. Most people in the former Soviet bloc grew up since WWII and knew nothing of the evil Capitalist system other than the screeds against it that they were taught in school. You would think that if it were true that the “Workers Paradise” instilled an ethic so far superior to that of the West, that so many former bureaucrats turned so quickly to crime. After all, greed, racism and the other evils of the world are routinely laid at the feet of the Western societies.
Misha Glenny has achieved an encyclopedic knowledge of the crime organizations that grew out of the former Soviet Union.
But in the eyes of the NYT Review of Books he committed the most grievous of errors. He treats his subjects as being responsible for their own actions. Their organizations made up of former policemen and apparatchiks grown out of their society.
The reviewer will not let it go unremarked that he missed the most obvious connection, when viewed from the West, the complicity of the West in all organized crime everywhere. Former socialists and peasants are just not capable of the thought and initiative that building such a crime network entails. Only Westerners can do that. He forgot to absolve his subjects of blame for their actions and place it where it really belongs. On the societies of the West.
Glenny’s criminal geography centers on the post-Soviet countries, whose influence he sees spreading outward to “countries as far away from one another as India, Colombia and Japan.” He signposts but doesn’t travel a “new Silk Route, a multilane criminal highway” linking the old Soviet periphery with central and eastern Asia.
“McMafia” has great anecdotes but lacks structure and is fatally weakened by global overstretch. There’s no big picture here, no corporate brand, no franchise. In global crime, the structures, the methods, the personnel, the channels, the merchandise, the alliances change even faster than they do in the world of legal business. There are patterns of complicity, however, and closer to home than Glenny’s nightmare settings.
Of course, any book which “exposes” the failings of the the western Capitalist system, which has outperformed the Socialist and Fascist models whenever it has been tried, can expect a warm review from the Review of Books.
The next one is no exception. In it Greenhouse finds that businesses are just incapable of providing the “safety net” for the workers. Accordingly he finds that the only entity capable of providing everything that someone would need is…the government.
In Greenhouse’s mind the same government who’s bureaucrats are driving Social Security into bankruptcy, can’t run the Veteran’s Hospital, can’t handle a natural disaster and who have put most of our energy resources out of reach while we suffer huge increases in gas prices and shortages of other types of energy, is the obvious choice to put in charge of every facet of the lives of its citizens.
Book Review – ‘The Big Squeeze,’ by Steven Greenhouse – Review – NYTimes.com
As Greenhouse observes in his closing chapter, the components of an efficient social safety net are reasonably well understood. For instance, we could easily afford a single-payer health system like the one in France, which covers everyone and delivers better health care for about half the amount we now spend per capita. We could easily afford to supplement the American Social Security system, which transfers income from workers to retirees, by establishing a national retirement savings plan in which a portion of each worker’s wages was deposited in a tax-sheltered investment account, enabling families to take full advantage of the miracle of compound interest. We have ample resources to supplement lagging wages by raising the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Ronald Reagan called the most effective antipoverty program ever devised by Congress. And we could easily reduce the college-tuition burden on low-income families by expanding the existing program of Pell Grants.
As Greenhouse’s interviews vividly remind us, no economic system can prosper in the long run if people who work hard and play by the rules cannot meet their basic needs. The workers profiled in “The Big Squeeze” cannot afford to pay for health care or to send their children to decent schools. And precisely because of their precarious economic position, their sons and daughters are far more likely than others to go into the military. Six days after the subrogation order was issued against Deborah Shank, the family learned that their 18-year-old son, Jeremy, had been killed on duty with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.
What the reviewer, Robert H. Frank, meant to say is that if you don’t get the proper education, you end up in Iraq. I think I heard that opinion expressed before. In his opinion, the only reason someone goes in the military is because they have no other choices, not because they want to do something for their country.
On the other hand, you have to take Greenhouse’s apparent belief that in an America run by “progressives” every school would be Harvard and every clinic the Mayo, with a whole shaker of salt.
And just to cap an exemplary issue of the NYT Review of Books we have this one. In keeping with the views expressed in the previous review, this book comes right out and says it. Everything that is wrong with American is the fault of the Conservatives.
As the occupation of Iraq grinds through its sixth year, many who view American involvement there as a disaster are content to blame the neoconservatives, those operatives and intellectuals inside and outside the Bush administration who once believed they could democratize the Middle East at the point of a gun. Even some right-leaning critics have declared that the neoconservative project in Iraq was both utopian and imprudent, and therefore at odds with basic conservative principles.
Not so fast, says J. Peter Scoblic. In “U.S. vs. Them,” Scoblic, the executive editor of The New Republic, argues persuasively that neoconservatism isn’t the problem — plain old conservatism is.
That is the view from the Ivory Tower. The only problem with American is the half of the citizenry that don’t agree with the “progressives’. All they have to do now is figure out a way to keep the conservative half of the nation quiet and prevent their views from being heard in Washington DC, or anywhere else for that matter.
They have seen the enemy and it is us.