Sunday, November 29, 2009

Violent Politics or The CEO of the Sofa

Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq

Author: William R Polk

In the current Middle East, insurgency tactics are used with frequency and increasing success. But guerrilla war-fare is not just the tool of modern-day terrorists. Its roots stretch back to our very own revolution.

In Violent Politics, William Polk takes us on a concise, brilliant tour of insurgencies throughout history, starting with the American struggle for independence, when fighters had to battle against both the British and the loyalists, those colonists who sided with the monarchy. Instinctively, in a way they probably wouldn't have described as a coherent strategy, the rebel groups employed the tactics of insurgency.

From there, Polk explores the role of insurgency in several other notable conflicts, including the Spanish guerrilla war against Napoleon, the Irish struggle for independence, the Algerian War of National Independence, and Vietnam. He eventually lands at the present day, where the lessons of this history are needed more than ever as Americans engage in ongoing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq—and beyond.

Kirkus Reviews

A captivating but disquieting examination of how insurgencies begin, grow, persist and either succeed or fail. Former State Department advisor Polk (The Birth of America: From Before Columbus to the Revolution, 2006, etc.) accompanies a dozen accounts of national uprisings with eye-opening and remarkably similar explanations of their history. Initially, insurgents are too few for organized resistance so they fight as terrorists-American colonists' opposition to British taxation in the 1770s qualifies. When the dominant government tries to suppress terrorism, it inevitably disrupts lives and kills innocent bystanders, thereby producing recruits seeking vengeance. Vicious Nazi reprisals, executing hundreds of civilians to avenge a single German soldier, only fed resistance in Yugoslavia, Russia and Greece. Despite a policy of not harming civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, America's immense firepower has accomplished the same thing. To succeed, a growing insurgency must win recognition as the nationalist movement. Ho Chi Minh's forces had achieved this by 1945, Polk concludes, so American intervention was doomed from the start. Insurgents fail if, like the Irish Republican Army and the Basque separatists, they don't win over most of their countrymen, and full-blown insurgencies disrupt the administration of the dominant power. By the 1960s, the Viet Cong had murdered so many local officials that South Vietnam's government virtually ceased to function outside Saigon. The American colonies' committees of safety expelled British officials and loyalists and set up their own local governments. After listing insults directed at insurgents (bandits, thugs, terrorists, anarchists, communists,religious fanatics), the author convincingly drives home his point: Nationalism trumps ideology. Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia was communist, but almost all his fighters simply hated Germans. Most Iraqi insurgents are no more religious than the average citizen. Once people see their rulers as foreign or dominated by foreigners, an insurgency that has achieved national acceptance is essentially unbeatable. Readers hoping America can win hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan will find no encouragement here. A lucid, absorbing analysis of the theory and reality underpinning three centuries of insurgent movements.

Go to: Fireside Politics or Perspectives on Organizational Communication

The CEO of the Sofa

Author: P J ORourk

New York Times bestselling author P.J. O'Rourke has toured the fighting in Bosnia, visited the West Bank disguised as P.J. of Arabia, lobbed one-liners on the battlefields of the Gulf War, and traded quips with Communist rebels in the jungles of the Philippines. Now in The CEO of the Sofa, he embarks on a mission to the most frightening place of all - his own home. Ensconced on the domestic boardroom's throne (although not supposed to put his feet on the cushions), he faces a three-year-old who wants a cell phone, a freelance career devoted to writing articles like "Chewing-Mouth Dogs Bring Hope to People with Eating Disorders," and neighbors who smell like Democrats ("That is, using smell as a transitive verb. When I light a cigar they wave their hands in front of their faces and pretend to cough."). Undaunted - with the help of martinis - by middle age, P.J. holds forth on everything from getting toddlers to sleep ("Advice to parents whose kids love the story of the dinosaurs: Don't give away the surprise ending") to why Hillary Clinton's election victory was a good thing ("We Republicans were almost out of people to hate in the Senate. Teddy Kennedy is just too old and fat to pick on").

And P.J. leaps (well, groans and pushes himself up) from the couch to pursue assignments such as a high-speed drive across the ugliest part of India at the hottest time of the year, a blind (drunk) wine tasting with Christopher Buckley, and a sojourn at the U.N. Millennial Summit, where he runs the risk of perishing from boredom and puts readers in peril of laughing themselves to death.

Publishers Weekly

Not content to rest on his laurels, the bestselling humorist O'Rourke (All the Trouble in the World, etc.) instead settles back on his caustic couch to offer a wide-angled worldview from his own living room, his salon of sarcasm. He introduces readers to his assistant, friends, family and smart-aleck babysitter, as he reflects on such topics as cell phones ("People are willing to interrupt anything, including hiding under the bed, to answer a cell phone"), Christmas catalogues, Instant Messaging, MP3s, Nasdaq, toddlers, TV and how the "Gettysburg Address" would have turned out if written on an iMac. On a serious note, he praises the "philosophical legerdemain" of Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He also reviews the "profound cogitations" of Hillary Clinton's 1995 It Takes a Village ("Some kinds of stupidity cannot be faked"), compares Vegas's Venetian resort to the real Venice ("Will video poker ever inspire a novella by Thomas Mann?") and contemplates the results of bias-free language ("What a piece of work is person!"). For "senior-management types," one hilarious chapter explains youth culture and current celebs, including Moby, Eminem, Carson Daly, Hilary Swank and Beck: "Beck dropped out of school after junior high so we can't blame the dot-com mess on him personally." Though his vitriolic wit is couched in humor that elicits the gamut from giggles to guffaws, O'Rourke never cushions its impact. The comedic crescendo is his centerpiece, a summary of mankind's achievements at millennium's end. This insightful (yet also funny) essay alone is worth the price of admission. (Sept.) Forecast: The 150,000 first printing is backed up with an appealing cover photo, a $150,000promotional budget, a national ad campaign, an 18-city author tour plus online promotion. O'Rourke will undoubtedly find himself on the bestseller list again. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Library Journal

In The CEO of the Sofa, O'Rourke shows that while he may be having trouble remembering the story of his life, he certainly hasn't lost one iota of his wit. He uses this book to point out, with heaps of sarcasm, the horrors of the cell phone, the UN, MP3 files, and childbirth. When his alterego, the political nut, takes over, you know which way the chad will fall as he discusses the absurdities of recent political history. O'Rourke has a gift for taking a mundane assignment and turning it into the funniest story you've ever heard and he does this nonstop. His tale on traveling through India is worth the price of the program. And who else would think of doing an essay on blind-drunk wine tasting? The author's humor works on both sides of the political aisle, and to make it even better, Dick Hill's performance is perfect. Highly recommended for all libraries we can all use a laugh these days. Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

O'Rourke (Eat the Rich, 1998, etc.), sharpest of the right-wing comic writers-not a populous gang, to be sure-this time stays at home to deliver his caustic, frequently malevolent commentary. The stock characters who help the this domestic Republican Dagwood launch miscellaneous brickbats at "dupes," "bakeheads," "nooky-moochers," "hair farmers," "bird-brains," and a "hay-breath" include a clever spouse, assistant Max, a couple of offspring, and a teenage neighbor. There are a dozen chapters with monthly headings, though there's little relation to monthly events, in which O'Rourke unloads on disparate topics. Of course, there's the UN, Social Security, and Third Way Economics (with help from the Cato Institute). There's much ad hominem about the Clintons. (He alludes to the distaff Clinton as "that she-ape from New York State.") There are digressions regarding drugs, booze, art, and business management as well as connubial and parental matters. For no special reason, there is also a long, patently recycled piece about India. Venice as presented in Las Vegas is preferred to the Italian original. He proposes a campaign for a politically correct cause ("Slogan: 'Alzheimer's-Fergedaboutdit!' ") and waxes kind of enthusiastic about cigars (though a beat behind the craze). Throughout, O'Rourke is as self-assured as any New York mayor, grandly dissing any ideology insufficiently libertarian. Sometimes it's quite funny and sometimes, like the wine-tasting parody, it has no nose, no legs-it's simply jejune. One natural target for any other professional political japester, George W. Bush, is never approached-but no surprise there. By the final entry, for August 2001, the rant is no more thanbile. Conservatively speaking, O'Rourke's current patchwork is not up to his previous entries. But as Dave Barry's goofy, evil twin, he's still funnier than Pat Buchanan or Arianna Huffington. First printing of 150,000; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour

Table of Contents:
Chapter ISeptember 20001
Oliver Wendell Holmes has been agreeing with the CEO's opinions for nearly one hundred and fifty years
The CEO's wife does so less frequently
The CEO speaks on the subject of mobile phones in the manner of a 1959 curmudgeon inveighing against transistor radios
Imagine if cheap devices to broadcast noise for idiots had allowed idiots to broadcast noise in return
The UN is visited--a nice enough place until it was discovered by foreigners
Chapter IIOctober 200024
The CEO considers stock market investments and decides that risk may be involved
His wife suggests getting a job but wonders if anything is available in the field of monkey business
The CEO considers employment and decides that work may be involved
He conceives a brilliant idea for making his fortune by thinking like a toddler but cannot find a play group with a wet bar
Chapter IIINovember 200044
The candidates for the 2000 presidential election are given a thorough examination although the mainstream media are allowed to do the part involving a check for prostate enlargement
The mainstream media encounter themselves up there
Hillary Clinton is praised for her abilities as a GOP fund-raiser
The Political Nut, who often shows up in the CEO's household during the cocktail hour, thinks eBay could make political corruption more market-oriented
Chapter IVDecember 200062
The CEO argues that Las Vegas is superior to Venice as a vacation destination--having found himself in better shape after being pulled over in traffic by the Nevada Highway Patrol than he was after being pulled out of a canal by the Italian carabinieri
Christmas gifts are chosen
The CEO carefully inspects the catalog from Blunderwear--lingerie that would be a mistake for anyone other than the catalog models
Hillary Clinton is embraced again--not, thank goodness, in her lingerie
The CEO attempts to bring modern ideas of caring and compassion to great works of literature but discovers that banning the death penalty ruins many masterpieces
At the end of A Tale of Two Cities, Sidney Carton has to explain to his parole officer that he's become a better person
Chapter VJanuary 200177
Decadence is pondered and found to be a rotten old idea
The CEO begins an essay on how to get properly inebriated but realizes he has important research to do
He embarks, with his friend Chris Buckley, on a blind (drunk) wine tasting, the results of which have to be carried home flat on their backs in an SUV
The Political Nut beats a dead horse but Bill Clinton keeps whinnying
The impeachment is fondly remembered, and plans are made for a Bill Clinton/Ken Starr reunion tour
The CEO meditates upon hypocrisy and decides that you can't fake it
Chapter VIFebruary 2001108
The CEO is perplexed by the quantitative nature of modern celebrity and wonders how many times Thomas De Quincey would have to be arrested for opium eating to become as famous as Robert Downey, Jr.
The CEO is--thanks to the miracle of modern car alarms--able to teach his teenage godson how to parallel park by sonar
The CEO lectures his young assistant on the virtues of the automobile: Consider having a hot date and needing to borrow your father's feet
Chapter VIIMarch 2001136
The CEO intends to write his memoirs but forgets
He helps with his godson's homework instead, asking, "What's all this argle-bargle about the loss of certainty in modern mathematics? I was never able to get anything to add up the same way twice."
The CEO explains the concept of "spring break" to his godson who hears the lyrics of "Where the Boys Are" with disbelief and disputes the idea that Connie Francis and George Hamilton were ever teenagers
Chapter VIIIApril 2001159
The Democrats next door are vanquished by the CEO's logic and are forced to resort to low political tactics such as not letting the CEO borrow their string trimmer
As an Oprah guest, Hitler is suggested: a larger-than-life personality who wrote a popular book about his struggle with personal issues
The CEO argues against legalizing drugs, now that the statute of limitation has expired on his behavior in the 1960s
Then the CEO argues in favor of legalizing drugs, if the federal government promises not to tell his wife
Chapter IXMay 2001178
A new baby-sitter arrives on the scene causing romantic disturbance--for those in love with Keynesian economic assumptions
The CEO reveals his secret for avoiding stardom as a television commentator
The CEO holds forth on the proponents of Earth Day and declares them "Dirt of the Earth."
Counsel is consulted and a brief is filed on missile defense
The CEO prefers a plea of guilty rather than nolo contendere
The CEO's baby-sitter and young assistant are chastised for swiping tunes with MP3 technology--especially since none of the tunes swiped is "Volare" or "Moon River."
San Francisco passes a law forbidding discrimination against the fat, and the CEO is outraged that the lazy aren't included
Chapter XJune 2001203
A blessed event occurs consisting of the arrival, in plain brown wrapper, of cigars from Cuba
The CEO's wife has a baby, too
The CEO's godson finds there are difficulties in dating a young lady who can do risk-analysis computations
Breast feeding is an excellent method of getting a big baby to sleep, but the CEO is up in the middle of the night anyway
The second anniversary of the air war in Kosovo is celebrated with suitable pomp
The CEO declares the e-mail fad has run its course and buys stock in the Mimeograph corporation
Wives are praised for not killing their husbands, particularly the husband the CEO's wife is married to
Chapter XIJuly 2001225
India is traversed and the wild Indians are ... well, let's just say Dancing with Wolves got it all wrong
The CEO proposes that an inexpensive second honeymoon could be had right in the living room if a second bottle of scotch can be procured
The CEO's wife goes in search of the keys to the gun cabinet
Chapter XIIAugust 2001247
The CEO's godson's sister experiences rather more enlightenment than can stand the light of day
The Political Nut counters with a more sensitive and less judgmental upgrade of the Ten Commandments
Good feelings prevail
The Political Nut decides to apologize for all the horrible things he's said about Democrats--especially the true things
The baby-sitter tutors the CEO's godson in the higher mathematics of: [characters not reproducible]
The CEO's young assistant gets a real job
Hunter S. Thompson is shown, through rigorous textual analysis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to be a heck of a nice guy
The CEO's wife gets the CEO to shut up
A happy ending is had by all

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