We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Rumsfeld – American Icon

Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait
Midge Decter
Regan Books, 2003

This sympathetic study can almost be regarded as a pre-emptive strike from the right from someone whose neo-con credentials are impeccable. Her personal motives or incentives to write the book are not clearly and explicitly given, but the Prelude, which comes between the Acknowledgements and the Introduction, gives perhaps a hint that Rumsfeld’s appeal to women, even at age 70, might have something to do with it. Perhaps again she views him at the right distance; she has known him for several years, certainly not intimately and through official contact. The inside of the dustjacket has a sub-title, not found elsewhere: The Making of an American Icon. The man himself is not given to self-revelation and the impression is that he knows when best to keep his mouth shut – and those of any others that might be tempted to speak for him.

Born in 1932 and therefore “too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam” (p. 178), the chief influences on his early life, though indirect, were the Depression and World War II; his father, who worked as an estate agent, first for a firm, then for himself, went into the US Navy at a mature age and his mother followed him with her family to each port nearest his assignment. Donald was successful at school; though too lightly built for American football, he became a champion wrestler, continuing to be one when he followed his father into the Navy.

He went to Princeton ( “the most military of the Ivy League colleges” – p. 31) on a scholarship, studying “government and politics” and passed into the US naval air arm, also on a scholarship and hence as an officer, marrying his schoolmate Joyce and introducing her into the same peripatetic way of life his parents had had. During his years of service, 1955-7, he became a pilot trainer and then went to Washington to enter politics as a Republican, working first as a staff assistant for a member of the House of Representatives.

He was elected to Congress himself in 1962. He served for six years (3 terms) and was then invited by Nixon in 1968 to join the Executive in the White House. He was put in charge of the Office for Economic Opportunity, about as far left an organisation as a Republican could stomach and the setting up of which he’d opposed – but Nixon had, after all, been elected after the student riots and general mayhem that concluded Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. Even worse was to be put in charge of a Cost of Living Council, a thinly disguised Prices and Incomes Enforcement Body, a concept to which he was totally opposed. Neither of these bodies, both totally of the contemporary Zeitgeist, would work – or survive.

Soon after Nixon was re-elected in 1972, he appointed Rumsfeld US Ambassador to NATO, who thus avoided contamination with the messiness associated with Nixon’s having to resign in 1974 because of Watergate. He was recalled to the White House by Ford, an old friend, first to sort out the new presidential team, then to become Ford’s Chief of Staff and finally his Secretary for Defence. He was thus involved with the policy of detente with the USSR and the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), but though loyal to Ford’s initiatives, clashed with Kissinger about how far to follow them up, making Kissinger characterise him as “ruthless”, i.e., someone who stood up to him and carried his point. → Continue reading: Rumsfeld – American Icon

Not rolling back malaria

Malaria and the DDT Story
Richard Tren and Roger Bate
Institute of Economic Affairs, 2000

This is a short “Occasional Paper” of about 100 pages, including Introduction and Bibliography, which I read without reviewing when I received it . After reading Robert Ross’s Memoirs, Honigsbaum’s The Fever Trail and Rocco’s The Miraculous Fever Tree, books about cinchona/quinine and Sallares’ Malaria and Rome, I thought I had better re-read it with more attention.

DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) is the safest, most efficient and cheapest insecticide used to eradicate Anopheles, the mosquito that transmits malaria from person to person. There are three species of malarial parasites in humans, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium falciparum (a pedant would add a very rare fourth), of which falciparum is by far the most deadly and essentially the cause of the problem under discussion. → Continue reading: Not rolling back malaria

The Chilean disaster

Small Earthquake in Chile: Allende’s South America
Alistair Horne
1990 edition

This paperback edition, published 1990, seems now to have been remaindered. It is very necessary to run through the history of this book. It was first published “towards the close of 1972” (p. 344), as “Allende stumbled from crisis to crisis, walking close to illegality”. What happened after that is given in a final chapter “The Deluge … and After”, pages 345 to 384, added in 1989.

It is a little difficult to assemble all the events of the book into a context so hazy in my memory, to say nothing of remembering the situation in a number of South American countries as it was 31 years ago, with a last chapter added 14 years ago. Although the book is mainly about Chile, as the title implies, there are substantial chapters on Colombia and Bolivia, Peru is more than mentioned in passing and there is something about Ecuador. This leaves Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela unvisited and undiscussed. A feature of the 1970s, much less one of today’s, is the emphasis throughout the book on the population explosion. It is interesting to find that Horne’s only mildly exasperating companion and one of the book’s dedicatees, was Bill Buckley then-editor (I think) and certainly founder of National Review; his right-wing conservative views don’t greatly intrude. The other dedicatee is the charming, ever-helpful Nena, clever enough to become Director of Chile’s National Art Gallery just before the coup, and still be there at the end of the book (p. 346).

What is important about Chile (and here everyone seems to agree) is that it was politically the most stable and perhaps the most prosperous South American state, not without its poverty-stricken peasants (like everywhere else) and marginalised Indians (like everywhere else bar Argentina, where they’d largely been exterminated), but with a functioning democracy, regular free elections (though only those literate could vote – not a bad idea), an enlarging middle class and a free, diversified press with a relatively large circulation. Perhaps its most unusual feature, for a Latin American country, was the fact that the armed forces (of which the army had the least chic) did not interfere in politics.

Under these circumstances, what could seem more reasonable than a spot of land reform? Unfortunately, the person who took this on was Allende. Like most revolutionaries (though a fairly conventional politician originally and minister of health in 1940) he came from the middle class, a fact which still seemed to surprise his egregious friend and confidant, the nut-case intellectual Regis Debray, ex-friend of the defunct martyr Che Guevara, to whom he’d given just as bad advice. Allende’s rhetoric and nationalisation plans scared the middle classes, who left the country in droves. He intended to carry out most of his program within the country’s legal framework, which seems to have been sufficiently elastic to enable him to do so. However he, and apparently everyone else, expected this to provoke a clumsy attempted right wing coup, which he could then crush with “revolutionary violence” (p. 149). As for his democratic credentials, it is worth pointing out that he won the presidential election in a three-cornered contest with only a slender majority over the second of two other candidates to the right (36% to 35%), a situation reflected in the composition of the Legislature. Yet the impression given is that he was an improvisatory bourgeois amateur; such was David Holden’s estimate, which I must have read in Encounter in January 1974, an actor in love with a revolutionary part, rather than a serious leader who knew where he was going” (p. 357). → Continue reading: The Chilean disaster

In praise of the dynamic future

The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress
Virginia Postrel
Free Press, 1999

The title, modelled (unacknowledged) from Popper, equates the future with the victory of dynamism (defined as evolution through variation, feedback and adaptation, p. xviii; “a world of constant creation, discovery and competition”) over stasis, the static state, or even a planned attempt at change, “a regulated, engineered world” (p.xiv). In the opening chapter the author points out that the situation is no longer a simple Left-Right alignment: Pat Buchanan and Jeremy Rifkin are both against such things as globalization, NAFTA, WTO, and Free Trade generally. Both want control over people and processes they disagree with and, disturbingly, with the Left wrapped up in Conservation and the Right in Conservatism, the similarity of the two concepts results in an alliance of people in search of stability.

The plight of the superbureaucrat, longing to administer what he knows is good for other people and thwarted by the market, is almost comically enunciated by Jacques Attali, who fears that as a result “Western Civilization is bound to collapse”. There is an unwillingness to admit that freedom to investigate the unknown cannot possibly guarantee the discovery of anything in particular, only an attempt to make use of what is found.

That, hearteningly, things have changed from what they were twenty to thirty years ago is instanced by the Nixon Administration’s attempts to control the price and distribution of oil and petrol and Galbraith’s dictum that entrepreneurs were no longer possible. The book is very interesting and multi-faceted in a way that makes it difficult to summarize structurally and, although it is packed with illustrations and examples, I should like to have had an examination of “externalities” and whether self-correcting mechanisms exist for such problems as environmental degradation.

Parents count for less and peers count for more

The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
Judith Rich Harris
Free Press, 1998

A really worthwhile book to have. The author is very much a free-lance, though with academic training and credentials. Her thesis is roughly that sociologists have misread the origins of child development, putting excessive emphasis on family environment, ignoring or denying the genetic element, and completely failing to identify the prime importance of the “peer group”. This thesis is backed up by interpretations (more strictly re-interpretations) of large numbers of studies, making use of adoptees, identical and fraternal twins, kept together or separated, and simply family studies of sibling differences. In all of these the parental influence is, rather to the author’s regret, discovered to be minimal to nil.

Why this common (sociological) misperception? The author makes the point on the last page: we keep up with our parents and family, far less so with our peers. She rights the balance of blame away from the parents, who have borne it for a long time (she names Bruno Bettleheim as a culprit, but not, I think, R. D. Laing), pointing out that just as children react to their parents’ treatment of them, so it happens the other way round.

She makes much of the fact that the most notable and clearcut example of peer group vs family influence is language, especially as learnt by children of immigrants; their birth-language does not grow up to cope with their mature interests, but remains a language of childhood. This situation is paralleled by the acquisition of speech by non-deaf children of parents both of whom are deaf (only about 10% of children born to such parents are themselves deaf).

There are exceptions, such as cooking, which tends to be, or can be, learnt in the home. She spends considerable space refuting claims to any effect of birth-order, particularly by Sulloway (including a 25 page-length Appendix). It was interesting that she should suspect that such claims arose from the once widespread, now near-obsolete, custom of primogeniture.

The author assures us she is not kidding about the names of Ernst and Angst, on whose research she draws.

Thomas Sowell’s Odyssey

A Personal Odyssey
Thomas Sowell
Free Press, 2000

The autobiography of this economist is an impressive one, first as an achiever in the usual sense of someone making a life for himself, from a heavily disadvantaged childhood to a respectable career as both an academic and practical economist. Born in North Carolina and soon orphaned, he was brought up in New York by a great-aunt as part of her family, a relationship that ultimately broke down under the pressure of his trying to better his education. Then there is an interesting account of his experiences as a conscript at the time of the Korean War; he never went to Korea, partly due to his photographic expertise.

Apart from “merely” achieving, he also chose to follow a more rigorous self-imposed regime in his academic career, in opposing any dilution of standards, lowering pass-marks, acquiescing to special pleading in individual cases, let alone cheating (at Howard University). This attitude got him into trouble with two or three university faculties and administrations. He had the misfortune to have to try to teach during the disturbances of the late ’60s and “while approving the Civil Rights campaigns and legislation, he was uneasy at the obsession of black activists with these aspects of black improvement and opposed “affirmative action” as an incorrect extension of the struggle for black advancement, which he saw as basically a matter of education.

He never alludes to suffering from race discrimination himself, apart from a mention of segregated southern lunch counters and he summarises his own good fortune: “I happened to come along right after the worst of the old discrimination was no longer there to impede me and just before racial quotas made the achievements of blacks look suspect.” He continues “… many of the paths I took [have] since been destroyed by misguided social policy, so that the same quality of education [is] no longer available to most ghetto youngsters, though there was never a time when education was more important.” Though sounded out as a possible adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan, he refused to be considered; he feels he lacks the politics gene. He is not affiliated to any political party and gives the impression that he does not even vote.

There is not much about his personal life: he married, had two children, a boy and a girl, divorced and remarried. His son, though bright in other ways, did not learn to speak until he was four; his story is told in another book, so that the therapy is only sketchily given here; he seems to have developed into a normal person. Sowell himself suffers from high blood pressure, as do or did the siblings he was separated from at birth but later got to know; after a 20 year gap of estrangement he also contacted again his great-aunt’s daughter.

The vision of the self-anointed

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
Thomas Sowell
Basic Books, 1996

The title illustrates the difficulty of captioning and characterising the problem the author is up against. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” seems to be the sentiment behind the title – except that “the anointed” are the self-anointed. To some extent the sub-title of the book helps: “Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy”, defining as it does the moral complacency of the left-liberal consensus and its absence of self-doubt even when policies fail. Sowell does not like the classification into left and right, but it is difficult to avoid.

He also points out that while the attitude of controversialists on the right to those on the left is that they are misguided or foolish, the converse attitude of the left is that the others are evil and “Problems exist because others are not as wise or as virtuous as the anointed.”

Ch. 2 defines a “Pattern of Failure” when the anointed initiate a program as involving four stages “The Crisis”; “The Solution”; “The Results” and “The Response” and illustrates this with three examples – President Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, Sex Education (starting at about the same time) and Criminal Justice (the new “criminals’ rights” initiated a little earlier). Matters had actually been improving in all three, so that whether any of the changes were needed is questionable. After all these programs or initiatives had been in operation for some time, all three situations were manifestly worse.

The “response” was usually to talk about something else rather than to admit the problem wasn’t solved. The War on Poverty was to abolish dependency; it increased it, but, naturally “it benefitted a lot of people”; sex education was to reduce teen-age pregnancies; these increased but “people felt better about sex”; crimes increased after criminals were given more rights, but Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had been most responsible for this merely claimed that people were “overlooking the root causes of crime” – without explaining how these must have got worse after 1960. This chapter is perhaps the most tightly argued in the book, but other chapters are also valuable, pursuing the contorted reasoning of those who know they are right, despite everything that happens to the contrary.

Later, he introduces the instructive concept of “trade-offs” (see Index): that improvements in one direction may result in deterioration in another and that cost is something that must always be taken into consideration.

There are also “mascots” (Index), normally “undeserving” sorts of people who are treated as if they can do no wrong – vagrants, homeless persons, the “handicapped”, homosexuals, AIDS sufferers. Just as some hazards are exaggerated (ignoring the “trade-off” factor), others are pooh-poohed, perhaps the most tragic being AIDS. Transfusions had been proclaimed safe (without testing); about half of all haemophiliacs in the US became infected with AIDS from them, because homosexuals were “mascots”. And there are extraordinary contortions of logic to let criminals off. The victimisation of business and the professions is nothing short of frightening.

What is not so clear is where the mind-set comes from that so persistently flouts conventional wisdom. It seems to result from the idea that, because any situations is not perfect – and is therefore a problem – some alternative must be better. What could be simpler than to carry the honourable Anglo-American tradition of dissent to its reductio ad absurdum and proclaim that to do the opposite of what always has been done must be the solution? But who started this Gadarene rush?

The case for invading Iraq put (before it actually happened)

The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq
Kenneth M. Pollack
Random House, 2002

The author, a (presumably ex-) CIA operative, has written this book, published in the Autumn of 2002, as an advocate of “regime change” in Iraq, listing the various alternative options, five in all: Containment, Deterrence, Covert Action, The Afghan Approach” and (the preferred one) Invasion (p. xxix and Part III, pp. 211-386).

Iraq’s History and Relations with the US to Gulf War I

Part I (pp. 1-108) Iraq and the United States, following a 30 page Introduction, gives a concise summary of Iraq’s history and relations with US, with greater concentration after the fall of the Shah turned Iran from a Western bulwark to Islamic menace. From someone regarded with repugnance, Saddam became the “man we can do business with”, which meant tolerating some ghastly atrocities in the chemical warfare line against rebel Kurds and Iran, which Saddam had rashly taken on after its armed forces had been purged by the mullahs and sabotaged by departing US and dissident technicians. If the US rescued Iraq by supplying weapons, others – China, Russia (still the USSR), France, Germany and Britain – followed suit, many selling the ingredients for the nuclear, chemical and biological programs that have subsequently given so much trouble (p. 19). Officially Saddam could claim a victory and emerged from the 1980-88 war with a large well-armed army, but with 200,000 dead, terribly in debt and his economy badly degraded. His decision to attack and occupy Kuwait for its wealth, in gold, goods and oil, was fortified by his mistaken belief that his army could defeat an American riposte, and not unassisted by misguided pacific overtures and reports by the US ambassador, Susan Glaspie – and what has happened to her, I wonder? → Continue reading: The case for invading Iraq put (before it actually happened)

Dawkins vs. Gould: who will prove the fitter?

Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest
Kim Sterelny
Totem Books, 2001

This relatively short book (156pp., no index) should, perhaps be taken at a gulp, which I have not done. Much is made of the ding-dong controversy between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould on the mechanisms and implications of evolution (“punch-ups … notorious for its intensity … savage battle …” – from the blurb), but unfortunately not in the words of the two antagonists. Instead Sterelny (a male, by the way) sets about describing what they disagree about. Perhaps unfortunately, as tends to be the way in Biology, it does not seem possible to set up some experiment, or look for a crucial observation, that will settle their differences.

In fact, these fall into two categories, one theoretical and technical, the other philosophical.

For the first, there is the disagreement between Dawkins’ theory of selection at the level of the gene as against Gould’s emphasis of the species as the selective unit (if I understand this aright). While Dawkins seems happy to accept the assumption of a gradual, steady, uniform pace of evolution, Gould has espoused the theory of “punctuated equilibrium”, in which selection acts in short concentrated bursts after some catastrophic alteration to the environment, such as the impact of a meteorite, which has resulted in the wiping out of most other species, as with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.

However, as Sterelny says, these disagreements are not adequate to explain the antagonism and in Chapter 12 (p. 123) he gets down to the more philosophical ones. “Dawkins is an old-fashioned science worshipper” he states (and lines up with him), while “Gould’s take on the status of science is much more ambiguous. … In Gould’s view, science is irrelevant to moral claims. Science and religion are concerned with independant domains.”

It should be said that Gould is as much an atheist as Dawkins, but whereas Dawkins sees religions as erroneous explanations of the world with usually unfortunate consequences, “Gould … interprets religion as a system of moral belief” and seems to think that science is in danger of being contaminated by its social milieu. Sterelny does not quite make the point that Gould is scared that science will lead him where he doesn’t want to go, but this is certainly implied by his statement, “Gould hates sociobiology.”

And surely this is simply the old Marxist dogma that human psychology and behaviour have no innate characteristics, but are infinitely plastic and manipulable, together with the social systems that have been and can be founded upon them.

Gould has died. Is that the end of the controversy? After all, as Max Planck said, he didn’t need to convince the opponents of his theory: “They died.”

The incident with the poker

Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
David Edmonds and John Eidinow
Ecco, 2001

“Wittgenstein’s reputation among twentieth-century thinkers is … unsurpassed. … A poll of professional philosophers in 1998 put him fifth in a list of those who had made the most important contributions to the subject, after Aristotle, Plato, Kant and Nietzsche and ahead of Hume and Descartes (p. 231).” Yet there is nothing in this book that is comprehensible to the layman about Wittgenstein’s philosophy, or even, I have to say, much of an attempt to make it so. His eminence and influence and his credibility to other philosophers we have to take on trust.

On the other hand, Popper – the antagonist to Wittgenstein’s protagonist – has two well-known and accepted achievements to his credit, his book The Open Society and Its Enemies and his “falsifiability” theory on the structure of scientific hypotheses (though I have often wondered if “vulnerability” would not be a better term). But in Britain and America, Popper is slowly being dropped from University syllabuses; his name is fading, if not yet forgotten … a penalty of success rather than the price of failure (p. 230).” Or perhaps, being transferred from the useless category of philosopher to that of scientist? Far from turning his office there into a shrine, the LSE has had it converted into a lavatory.

The allusion in the title is, of course, to the famous incident with the poker on Friday, 25th October, 1946 about which none of the supposedly acute seekers after truth present could agree. This was the only time the two philosophers actually met, though both came from Vienna, both were of Jewish descent (though neither of religion), and both had to leave Austria when the Nazis took over. As far as I can make out, the dispute was whether philosophy, as a discipline, could or should deal with real “problems” (Popper) or merely with “puzzles” (Wittgenstein), say with language expressions. The meeting was of a discussion group at Cambridge University, called the Moral Science Club (MSC), of which Wittgenstein was actually the Chairman. He was, however, usually overbearing and difficult, tending to hog the discussions, often leaving meetings half-way through – something Popper probably didn’t know.

Popper had been invited to give a paper and Wittgenstein interrupted and shouted his disagreement, making his point brandishing the poker that lay by the moribund fire, laying it down when Russell told him to, and then leaving. Smoothing matters down, someone asked Popper for an example of a moral principle. “Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers,” was the reply, provoking a laugh and, I imagine, relaxing the tension. Popper later claimed that Wittgenstein was still present when he made this retort, but the general agreement is that he had gone, one witness even accusing Popper of lying. The poker itself disappeared.

The book, however, is much more than an account or investigation of this episode. Tracing the lives of both personalities, both of them combative and obsessive, the authors also fill in the background they grew up in – the increasingly anti-semitic Vienna of the post-WWI war decades, despite the efforts of those of Jewish ancestry to assimilate, including many who discarded their religion and became Christians. Wittgenstein’s was an extremely rich family (though his grandfather had adopted the name of his aristocratic employer, to whom he was not related) but he divested himself of his own share of its wealth. He had served with distinction in the Austrian Army in WWI, volunteering for dangerous posts, being decorated several times and during it writing his seminal work Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He ended the war in an Italian POW camp. On the other hand Popper, some thirteen years younger, came from a bourgeois but impoverished family. He had difficulty in escaping from Austria; with perhaps some exaggeration he claimed that taking a Chair in New Zealand left free for another (Waismann) an opening to a temporary lectureship at Cambridge (p. 221). His “war effort”, he said, was writing The Open Society (p. 71), though he tried, unsuccessfuly, to join the armed forces as well. “Popper’s impact on academic life [in the University of Canterbury, New Zealand] was greater than that of any other person, before or since,” judged that institution; he acted as a kind of intellectual champagne after the dry depression years (p. 172).”

Wittgenstein died in 1951, Popper in 1994. The authors do not try to give much information on the later work of either, though there is a joint chronology (pp. 245-242). They do seem, in my view, to be somewhat biased against Popper, if only because he’s left more evidence against himself; presumably also they cannot help but be influenced by the poll of philosophers given above (and in which, presumably Popper comes nowhere). Neither men come across as particularly pleasant, let alone lovable, though Popper seems to have kept friends as well as making enemies, while the impression is given that Wittgenstein despised everyone – no list of friends is given for him, though mention is made of disciples and acolytes who imitated his mannerisms. Although Popper died only six or seven years before the book was written and published, there is no indication that either author ever interviewed or even met him. It is also a little disappointing that no mention is made of any relationship between him and other thinkers on the right, such as Bauer and Hayek, who, in contrast with both Popper and Wittgenstein, was noted for his courtesy towards opponents. Perhaps these don’t qualify as philosophers. Isaiah Berlin is mentioned, but once only to have his philosophical pretentions pulverised by Wittgenstein (p. 24), and twice in passing.

A minor but irritating typographical blemish is the close resemblance between 3 and 5.

The Surprise Presidency

The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
David Frum
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003

It would be nice to think that a lot of people will read this book and have their perception of and attitude to George Bush altered for the better, but given the relentless negativity of the media, I’m not too hopeful.

David Frum, a not very “observant” Jew, was offered a job of speechwriter to GWB shortly after his election. Though a Republican, he was not a strong supporter of Bush in particular, but grew to be impressed by him, mainly from his straightforwrd character and his persistence in trying to do what he considered right, rather than expedient or merely strategic.

It is clear that GWB’s character was radically altered for the better by his Christian conversion, and the White House ambience reflected his beliefs. Those chosen to work with him tended to be notably pious. Indicative of this, the book opens with “Missed you at Bible study,” a remark made to Frum’s companion, it’s not clear by whom, as they entered the White House together. Mutual courtesy and consideration extended to restraint to any rivalry. Profanity (even “damn”) was out, sober suits, jackets and ties in and all stood when the President entered a room, unless waved down. “Yet sometimes I found myself wondering whether there was not a danger of overdoing this solid and sensible business … my colleagues reminded me of the sort of girl my grandmother’s friends encouraged me to take out … Nice – and what else?’ [he’d ask] Just nice – what else do you want?'” → Continue reading: The Surprise Presidency

The Memoirs of Edward Teller

After reading his Memoirs, I sent Edward Teller my enthusiastic opinion of it – and a personal “Thank you”. I did not expect, or receive, a reply.

Dear Professor Teller,

You will have received many tributes to your wonderful book and I should like to send you mine. During the last few years I have decided to write, just for myself, reviews of the books I read. Usually brief, this one has got entirely out of hand and I cannot expect you to read it, but perhaps its length will impress you of the impact your book has had on an ordinary person. Also a “Thank You”. I was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai and it is uncertain how things would have gone if the ending of the War had been long drawn out and messy. The Bomb you helped to make ensured it was sudden and conclusive.

Edward Teller died in on September 9th of this year at the age of 95. The review that follows was written shortly before his death. → Continue reading: The Memoirs of Edward Teller