The United States enjoyed an amazing public library system for nearly a century, but that century is very clearly over. These pagan poodles have no respect for civilization, but their iPad hypnosis is my dark victory, because library hardcovers are ubiquitous and cheap. Last month I received a generous donation from someone I respect a great deal, and resolved to really stretch that sum into a library unto itself. Thanks to the slow-motion collapse of the United States of America, I was so successful I'll have to do this in two parts.
Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" was originally brought to my attention as a compliment to "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence," one of my favorites from 2012. Her book is a study of the first month of World War I, with a focus on the arrogance of the generals and failures of leadership that made WWI such a memorable abattoir clusterfuck.
"The Mighty Wurlitzer" is a book I have read before and recommend to anyone with an interest in the exercise of power, the mechanics of propaganda, or the history of the CIA. My new copy is a mint hardcover from the Guelph Public Library, and I noticed with some sadness it was never checked out prior to being, as the stamp says, "WITHDRAWN." Big thanks to whatever clueless functionary up in Canada passed me this gem.
I was exasperated to find out there are two books named "October Surprise" in existence and both of them come highly recommended by various folks I take seriously. I'm starting with the Barbara Honegger version, which was published first. It's interesting to note that Honegger, decades down the line, found herself working Al Stubblebine's beat as a "government insider" feeding horseshit into the 9/11 Truth disinfostream. Still, any book or article on this subject is primarily written by Oswald LeWinter and/or Michael Ledeen already, I'm approaching this one with an open mind. Sort of.
"Friends in High Places" is a book I've been intending to read for probably a decade now, a dense & un-sexy history of the mega-contractor Betchel that had a hard fight even getting released. Remarkably, it is also the first of two signed copies that I wound up getting courtesy of the fine folks at the Fresno Free Library. The second was David Corn's "Blond Ghost", a very unauthorized but mostly uncontested biography of CIA operative Ted Shackley. The inscription reads "To Neil - a fellow watcher of spooks!" -- so if Neil ever reads this, drop me a line.
"The Powerhouse" is an account of Robert Keith Gray, a man who is of great interest to my study of covert blackmail operations. As the title and cover obviously imply, he was a hot shit power broker in Washington, DC for quite some time, peaking during the Reagan Era. Most readers have probably noticed an abiding preoccupation with the Reagan Era, and it's a subject I won't get over anytime soon.
Life can't all be 80's vintage parapolitics, though. I have also procured a copy of "What Goes Up", a colorful and brutally frank 'oral history' of Wall Street drawing from a truly ridiculous roster of titans. These are the guys who were slitting throats and building skyscrapers, and the author/editor Eric Weiner seems to have a rare gift for getting them talking. Highly recommended.
I have been increasingly impressed with the work of James Grant, the founder and primary author of Grant's Interest Rate Review, probably the best financial publication in existence. (Also, slightly expensive.) Although the Amazon comments for his books are ripe with complaints that these are mostly just collections of his GIRO columns, I'm happy to pay $3 for a hardcover edition of precisely that. I find his writing to be engaging and his clarity of thought to be nearly terrifying.
Speaking of Walter Karp, we've got another one of his books in the pig pile...
I only found out about Mr. Karp recently - but he has passed on some time ago, having been a mentor and friend of Louis Lapham, who I have been reading for many years and respect tremendously. Karp was eloquently outspoken in an era when most folks were not. I was not surprised to find all of his work cheaply available, and decided to start with the two titles that interested me the most.
I finished "Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy" today and it was overall pretty excellent. Bearing in mind this is an airport book all the way, Eamon Javers manages to slip in a lot of sly insights and gets away with some big reveals by making them casual asides. It's a good compliment for Jim Hougans "Spooks: The Private Use of Secret Agents" and the more recent & badass tome "Spies for Hire," by Tim Shorrock. Javers takes a broad view of the subject but his writing style only allows for one idea per chapter, so this is a very sparse history for the first half. The second half, featuring actual journalism, is way more informative & entertaining.
"The Spike" is actually a work of fiction, by Washington Post globe-trotting spook Arnaud De Borchgrave. I picked this up because 1) I'm working on a piece about his role in Craig Spence's death and figure this will be relevant, and 2) I have read NYT archival chatter about Zbigniew Brzezinski being a primary and barely fictionalized character, and going off angry letters to the editor alone, this book seemed to ruffle a lot of feathers in Washington, DC. I will probably pick this one up next.
This is an absurd amount of books. I can see that now. This particular stack brings us to the halfway point of the General Patton Collection, because slow shipping is the only real downside of plundering Alexandria with a debit card.
"Blowback" is a book I have only read a few character-specific chapters of, back when I had beef with Klaus Barbie just for existing. It is by Christopher Simpson, an exiled academic who has written a lot of great books. This one focuses on Operation Paperclip and the "Rat Lines" that brought Nazi personnel to America and set them up with US military jobs.
"Twilight War" is a rare mistake: I had ordered a recent history of US special operations vs. Iran, and instead got a different book, which happens to be about the weaponization of space. Better yet, it's written by a serious scientist with professional experience monitoring and auditing secret defense projects. Therefore I consider this a synchronicity win. "Munitions of the Mind" is a dry but expansive history of propaganda by a British military practitioner who is far too coy about his own accomplishments and capacities once the narrative starts marching towards the cold war. Still, this is a foundational text for the Psychological Operations wing.
"Senseless Secrets" I purchased primarily because of the bad reviews. It is a history of military intelligence failures told by a hilariously bitter front line soldier. I am a few chapters in and it's definitely entertaining -- sure, it's one-sided and pretty superficial, but his survey is rich and well told. Having read quite a bit about this subject in recent months, so far this almost entirely new material to me.
Finally -- for now, but finally -- two books I used to own but had never read: "House of Bush, House of Saud" and the dubiously titled followup, "Fall of the House of Bush." Craig Unger has been a tenacious watchdog team monitoring the money pipeline between the Bush clan and the Saudi Royal Family. Without question, I have far more precious, precious hardcovers than I could conceivably read in the next month, but I have made a Viking Vow to digest both of these. They shall not suffer the same fate.
"Après moi, le déluge."