Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Review of The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland by Shlomo Sand

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (03/16/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Israel), 


Watch Short Review

Excerpts

Such a view could be maintained only by providing the masses with a mythological image of the exile of a people that ostensibly took place in the first century BCE, despite the fact that the scholarly elite was well aware that such an exile never really occurred during the entire period in question.  For this reason, not even one research-based book has thus been written on the forced uprooting of the “Jewish people.”” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter, Page 12

“The original Christian Zionist idea of settling Jews in Palestine presented itself as a means of bypassing this obstacle to the establishment of an imperial foothold in the Middle East.  After all, the Jews were a natural ally of Britain, which was known to be the least anti-Semitic country in Europe and a long-standing admirer of the ancient Hebrews.” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter Three: Toward a Christian Zionism: And Balfour Promised the Land, Page 154

“As a result of the increasing pressure on the Jews of Europe, and the absence of countries willing to grant them entry and refuge, more and more Jews and non-Jews alike came to be convinced of the importance of this new consciousness of right, transforming it into an indisputable “natural right.”  The fact that for thirteen hundred years the inhabitants of the region had been overwhelmingly Muslim was countered by maintaining that this local population did not possess the unique attributes of a nation and had never claimed self-determination.  By contrast, according to Zionist discourse, the Jewish nation had always existed and, in every generation, had aspired to return to its country and realize its right, although to its great misfortune it had always been prevented from doing so by political circumstance.” – Shlomo Sand, Chapter Four: Zionism versus Judaism: The Conquest of “Ethnic” Space, Page 205


Review

Is This An Overview?

Jews were settling in the Middle East since the 19th century, but Israel was made possible by early 20th mass immigration due to persecution, consequences of war, and anti-immigration policies of other states.  Ideas of settling Palestine were a 19th century Christian Zionist invention.  Supported by the British as a way to overcome colonialization limitations in the area, which would have given the British access to the area along with allies. 

To take territory that would become Israel, a historic claim was made on the land.  That the people owned the land who did not live on it for over two millennia, while denying the right to the land to those who lived on the land continuously for centuries.  That the local people did not claim self-determination. 

Sovereign ownership of the land was justified by a myth, that the land was the ancestral land in possession of the Jewish people.  An exile was part of the myth, an exile that never happened.  A myth of a people having a desire to return to the ancestral land, but when Jewish groups were expelled from other regions due to religious persecution, they did not historically want to seek refuge in the sacred land.  Jews relocated to other locations.

 

What Myths Justified Israel?

Myths were created by disregarding history.  To avoid the history of Judaism as a dynamic and proselytizing religion.  To pretend that history does not contain various Judaized kingdoms that flourished.  To forget the converted Jews by the Judaized kingdoms.  Myths meant to disregard the territory’s local peasants.

There was no exile, nor was there yearning to return.  Faithful Jews spread across the world.  Jews were not limited to a small territory, but where to be found everywhere.  Believers not through punishment.   

The myth was developed to get Western sympathy, particularly Protestant Christian community who preceded Zionists ideas.

 

How Was The Concept Of Israel Formed?

The term Land of Israel came after the destruction of the Temple.  With the area being defined as Palestina by the Roman Empire.  It was during the 20th century that the Land of Israel became a theological concept due to the Protestants.  It was the Puritans which interested the Bible as historical text before the Jewish Zionists.  That was when the geonational concept was refined.  Israel as a homeland came after nationalism, making sacrificing for the sake of homeland a much later interpretation and myth.

 

How Does Power Transforms A People?

Founded on fluid borders, which had the option of expanding.  And did expand.  Founded on ideas that Jews were persecuted who had nowhere else to go, but the territorial expansion and military victory that were not related to Jewish suffering.

 

Jews had been powerless and persecuted, but had become powerful and abused their power.  The persecuted had become the persecutors.

They portrayed themselves as saviors rather than conquerors of foreign lands.  There is debate whether Palestinians left willingly or because of the bombings.  Many have justified Zionist colonization by the ancestral lands claim.  Israel controls a large Palestinian population who have no sovereignty.

 

Caveats?

The focus is on how the concept of Israel came to be.  The myths involved in making Israel, and breaking the myths.  The practical reason for how Israel came to be.  This is not a detailed political or social history of Israel.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What Jewish myths were created?
•What were the myths used for?
•Why migrate to the Middle East?
•Where did the historical concept of the land of Israel come from?
•What justified taking the land of Israel?
•Did the local people have sovereignty?
•Do the Jews have an ancestral land?
•Were Jews exiled from the Middle East in the 1st century B.C.E.?
•Did Jews want to return to the Middle East?
•Were there Judaic kingdoms?
•Did Judaism proselytize? 
•How were Israels borders defined?
•Have Jews changed after being in Israel? 
•What is the Temple?
•Are humans biologically territorial?  
•How do homelands develop?  
•How did marriage customs change?
•How does Israel maintain its political and military power? 

Book Details
Translator:              Geremy Forman
Original Language: Hebrew
Translated Into:       English
Publisher:               Verso [New Left Books]
Edition ISBN:         9781844679461
Pages to read:          281
Publication:             2012
1st Edition:              2012
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          5
Overall          4






Saturday, January 27, 2024

Review of Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History
Book Club Event = Book List (06/08/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (World History), 


Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“By contrast, Western Europe in 1411 would have struck you as a miserable backwater, recuperating from the ravages of the Black Death – which had reduced population by as much as half as it swept eastwards between 1347 and 1351 – and still plagued by bad sanitation and seemingly incessant war.” – Niall Ferguson, Introduction: Rasselas’s Question, Page 4

“For Europeans, sailing round Africa was not about exacting symbolic tribute for some high and mighty potentate back home.  It was about getting ahead of their rivals, both economically and politically.” – Niall Ferguson, Chapter 1: Competition, Page 33

“The reality of Chávez’s regime, however, is that it is a sham democracy, in which the police and media are used as weapons against political opponents and the revenues from the country’s plentiful oil fields are used to buy support from the populace in the form of subsidized import prices, handouts and bribes.  Private property rights, so central to the legal and political order of the United States, are routinely violated.” – Niall Ferguson, Chapter, Page 128


Review

Is This An Overview?

Until the 15th century, the east held power and wealth while the west was impoverished.  But the relative status was reversed.  The rise of the west was due to various empowering factors, that the east either lost or lacked.  As the west rose, the rest began to adapt western institutions and operational methods. 

Six factors brought power to the west which were competition, science, property rights, medicine, a consumer society, and a work ethic.   Decentralized decision making enabled competition, that created conditions for a need to improve to be able to overcome rivals.  Science was used to systematically understand the world, which provided military advantages.  Property rights provided an incentive for people to invest in their future, and resolve disputes peacefully.  Medicine improved health and life expectancy.  The consumer society enabled a sustainable system of economic development.  A work ethic that enabled the production of wealth. 

 

Caveats?

The west and east are homogenized, using different states to compare and contrast each other.  Making each state representative of other western or eastern states.  The different factors are represented through different states, rather than how they coalesced and effected a state.  Although the factors can be generalized, they did not affect each state on either side the same way.  

The factors were influential, but there is a survivorship bias.  The evidence given supported the claim that the factors gave rise to the west, but nothing on societies that had the factors while did not rise.  The book focuses on events and the factors during and after the 15th century, with some information about the empowering factors before the 15th century in the east.  Showing the effect of the factors before the 15th century on the east would have given the factors more validity. 

The empowering factors were not the only factors effecting states.  Historically wealthy states had their successes, and problems.  The focus on only the empowering factors leading to success, creates data gaps that can lead to a wrong understanding on the effect of the factors. 

The author complains about the lack of historic learning.  That when people do learn from history, that they learn idiosyncratic history without connection.  This book does not improve historic explanations by much, as the examples are idiosyncratic even if they are generalized.  Sometimes the context and explanations do not match.  The explanations need to be improved.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Why did the east and west have a power and wealth reversal?
•What factors were involved in the rise of the west?
•How did competition effect society?
•What was science used for?
•Why was science valued in the west and not the east?
•Who made the Enlightenment possible?
•What are property rights?
•How did medicine effect society? 
•Is a consumer society only for consumption?
•How did infinite choice become homogenizing societies?
•How does a work ethic effect society? 
•What was the source of the west’s work ethic?
•Who made most of history? 
•How to think about history? 
•What are the aspects of civilization? 
•What happened to the voyages of Zheng He?
•What did Bolivar want for South America? 
•What kind of democracy did Hugo Chávez have? 
•Why did the British use coal? 
•How was a consumer society formed?  
•What is the effect of religion? 

Book Details
Edition:                   First American Edition
Publisher:               The Penguin Press [Penguin Group]
Edition ISBN:         9781594203053
Pages to read:          341
Publication:             2011
1st Edition:              2011
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3






Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Review of The Myth of Left and Right: How the Political Spectrum Misleads and Harms America by Verlan Lewis, Hyrum Lewis

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Politics
Book Club Event = Book List (06/01/2024)
 

Watch Short Review


Excerpts

“As an alternative to this essentialist theory of ideology, we propose the social theory of ideology.  While the essentialist theory says that distinct political positions correlate because they are bound by a unifying essence, the social theory says that issues correlate because they are bound by a unifying tribe.  According to the essentialist theory, people start with an essential principle, use that principle to think themselves to hundreds of distinct political positions, and then join the tribe that just happen to agree with them on all of these positions.  The social theory says this is backward: people first anchor into an ideological tribe (because of family, peers, or a single issue), adopt the positions of the tribe as a matter of socialization, and only then invent a story that ties all of those positions together.  Ideologies, in other words, are reverse engineered to fit tribal actions and attachments.” – Verlan Lewis, and Hyrum Lewis, Chapter 1: The Myth of Left and Right, Page 18

“But even as more dimensions were added to politics, Americans retained their old unidimensional model.  The ideological landscape had changed, but the map of the landscape had not.  The political framework in the late twentieth century when a proliferation of new political issues rendered a unidimensional approach to politics obsolete, and yet ideologues wouldn’t face up to this reality: they wanted to believe that their side was right about everything and the other wrong about everything.” – Verlan Lewis, and Hyrum Lewis, Chapter 3: The Development of Left and Right, Page 44

“The problem for American politics, then, is not tribalism per se – after all, tribalism is a fundamental part of human nature and an inevitable part of politics – the problem is that we don’t acknowledge the tribalism.  Instead of confronting the reality that we are conforming to tribes, we tell ourselves reassuring stories about how everything our party believes just happens to grow out of a principled ideological essence.” – Verlan Lewis, and Hyrum Lewis, Chapter 5: The Persistence of Left and Right, Page 93


Review

Is This An Overview?

Humans are social animals.  Wanting to belong to a tribe is normal, but the tribal categories are not.  There are different ways to understand the political spectrum.  The essentialist theory of ideology, or alternatively, the social theory of ideology.  Principles or group dynamics.  The essentialist theory of ideology claims that all political issues are related to a single underlying issue, an essence.  That diverse issues are connected to a unifying essence.  That people find a tribe that that fits all of the myriad issues they agree with.  The social theory of ideology claims that diverse issues are connected by a tribe.  People choose a tribe, then defer to the tribe for their values.  People are socialized into the values of the tribe, then construct a narrative to justify their choices.   

Political discussions tend to assume that there is an essence to each tribe, that there is an underlying theme for each tribe.  But no such underlying theme exists.  The political spectrum of left or right is not an indicator of what an individual thinks about ideas.  All it indicates, is a commitment to a tribe.  When making claims, people signal support for a tribe rather than the claim.  They signal tribal solidarity, rather than adherence to principles.  People are willing to abandon their beliefs, but not their tribes.

Ideologies do not define tribes, rather, it is the tribe that defines ideologies.  The tribe makes a decision, even if opposing eve0rything they have done before, then the people justify the decision and following actions as being in accordance with the essence.  What essentialism does is reduce cognitive ability, as it enables a confirmation bias.  The more intelligent people are better able to misinterpret information to protect their tribe, and justify tribal prejudice.

 

Do Political Tribes Have An Essence?

The political parties have similar decision and do similar activities, they just do them differently.  But they want to create division, thereby claim that the opposition is different.  Both claim to want to reverse their opposition’s policies.

The political spectrum is defined in a way that includes people who have polar opposite ideas, but are forced to be on one side.  Narratives can be created about any essence that unite diverse issues.  A narrative that validates false beliefs.  The tribes redefine terms to make the opposing tribe guilty by definition.

Even if a political party changes its policy entirely, their supporters consider it a move to their side whether left/right.  Under the essentialist theory, no matter the change in policy is a further move to in their direction.  They define a move to a side based on what their party does.  A case of circular reasoning, as they redefine the conclusion by the conclusion. 

The political spectrum is useful for coalitions.  To share values during a specific place and time, but there is no underlying essence.  People have not changed their values, but the ideologies have.  As the tribes have changed their values, the people now stand on opposing tribes.

Reality is complex, with a search for an essence part of a need for simplicity.  The problem of the search, is that the simplification loses content and harms dialogue rather than aid in understanding.

 

What Effect Does Essentialism Has?

Ideological tribalism turned people away from respecting other people’s rights, democratic values, accepting election outcomes, and follow the rule of law.  Essentialism leads to conformism and hostility, which creates tribal stereotypes that become self-fulfilling.  Tribal identity leads to hating the alternative.  Disagreements can be divisive, but the animosity is amplified by tribal identity.  Discrimination has become acceptable when using ideological labels.

Although people need to be part of a tribe, people deny their tribalism.  Essentialist theory disguises tribalism.  People earn membership in their tribe by signaling their support for the tribe’s claims.  Extremist reaffirm tribal commitment when signaling support for the tribe’s claims, it does not mean they agree with the belief itself.  Although people will claim to follow the same principles.  Left-right essentialism persists to hide partisan values, to be tribal without feeling tribal.  To conform to tribal values without admitting the conformation.

Tribalism is not a problem, the problem is not acknowledging tribalism.  The problem is assuming that the socialization process does not affect the individual, when it actually does.  The self-deception makes ideological essentialism attractive.  They claim to be principled when actually they invent stories of their ideological coherence.  The essentialist illusion enables the party to change principles without losing membership.  Essentialism allows parties to change policies without appearing to change anything.

Essentialism reduces cognitive ability.  Ideological Essentialism leads to confirmation bias, and a willingness to misinterpret information.  To be self-righteous, and self-justify.  Essentialism turns intelligence as a tool against reality.  The more educated are able to defend their claims better than the uneducated.  Intelligence enables the rationalization of self-deception about the opposition, to justify tribal prejudices.  

There have been many inappropriate studies done on tribal fear sensitivity.  The studies were inappropriate because they checked for sensitivity using questions meant to illicit a response from what an opposing tribe would fear.  Individuals in a tribe have similar fears, defined by the tribe.  When the studies asked neutral questions, the different tribes turn out to be equally considerate on various aspects.  Although neither tribe is more intolerant in general, each tribe is intolerant to the other tribe.

 

How Did The Political Spectrum Come To Be?

Before the 1920s, Americans might have had different political parties, but there was no political spectrum.  The parties stood for certain political principles during the moment.  Later historians anachronistically imposed a political spectrum on those of the past, even if they did not actually think in those categories. 

What turned the American political system into a political spectrum was reporting done on the Russian Revolution.  As the Russians categorized between left-right spectrum, the reporters used the terminology.  But starting in 1919, journalists applied the left-right to competing factions of American socialists.  The terms were then domesticated to the main parties. 

As more political dimensions were added, Americans retained a unidimensional model.  Although the unidimensional approach was obsolete due to the proliferation of political issues, the ideologues would not change the way they approached the issues.  What ideologues wanted was for them to be right about everything, and the opposition to be wrong about everything. 

 

How To Overcome Essentialism?

Recognizing susceptibility to the essentialist myth is a step to overcome the problems that essentialism creates.  Recognizing that the myth creates distortions.  As essentialism packages ideas, the reverse is to use granularity by referencing the ideas separately.  This is part of a way to change the way ideologies are discussed.  Use constructive political disagreement. 

There are many tribes, which means that there are options to choose from.  As there are tribes that hurt the person and society, people should find better tribes to belong to. 

 

Caveats?

The focus of this book is on the problems of the essentialist political framework.  There are many examples given as evidence, they are diverse but short and can be self-similar.  The explanation of the resolutions are more limited, and tend to have mixed qualities.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is the myth of the political spectrum? 
•Why do tribes exist?
•What is the essentialist theory of ideology?
•What is the social theory of ideology?
•Is there an underlying theme to tribes?
•What does support for a tribal claim signal? 
•Did the tribes change?
•Did the tribes become more extreme? 
•How are the tribes defined? 
•How did essentialism effect the U.S.?
•Are people tribal?  Why do people hide their tribalism?
•How does education effect tribal essentialism? 
•What do the tribes fear?  
•How did the U.S. get a political spectrum? 
•How to overcome essentialism? 
•What is the private language fallacy?
•Can there be more than two political categories? 
•Is there a true essence that defines ideologies?  
•Is change an underlying essential principle?
•Is did Christianity change political ideology?
•What size of government do the political parties want? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Oxford University Press
Edition ISBN:         9780197680636
Pages to read:          121
Publication:             2022
1st Edition:              2022
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5






Friday, January 19, 2024

Review of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth by Stuart Ritchie

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (04/13/2024)



Watch Short Review


Excerpts

“Science’s social nature does come with weaknesses, however.  Because scientists focus so much on trying to persuade their peers, which is the way they get those studies through peer review and onward to publication, it’s all too easy for them to disregard the real object of science: getting us close to the truth.  And because scientists are human beings, the ways that they try to persuade each other aren’t always fully rational or objective.  If we don’t take great care, our scientific process can become permeated by very human flaws.” – Stuart Ritchie, Chapter 1: How Science Works, Page 20

“The irony is palpable.  Science, as we’ve discussed, is considered the closest we can come to objectivity: a process that can overcome individual biases by subjecting everyone’s work to review and security.  But by focusing too much on this ideal of science as an infallible, impartial method, we forget that in practice, biases appear at every stage of the process: reading previous work, setting up a study, collecting the data, analyzing the results and choosing whether or not to publish.  Our tendency to overlook these biases turns the scientific literature, which should be an accurate summary of all the knowledge we’ve gained, into a very human amalgam of truth and wishful thinking.” – Stuart Ritchie, Chapter 4: Bias, Page 84

“The system of science is now set up to reward those who engage in underhand methods.  If the more trustworthy researchers – those who are in it for the science, rather than status, money, or other non-scientific goals – can’t compete in this system, they’ll be more likely to drop out of the world of academia and get another job elsewhere.  At the very least, they’ll be less competitive for the top jobs.  Meaning that as well as pushing everyone towards unreliable research practices, the system selects against researchers who have strong convictions about getting it right, filling their places instead with those who are happier to bend the rules.” – Stuart Ritchie, Chapter 7: Perverse Incentives, Page 188


Review

Is This An Overview?

Science is a collaborative effort in error correcting information and improving on the knowledge that is available.  As a collaborative effort, as a social field, the research needs to be shared and people convinced.  Scientists are humans themselves, who have human biases.  Scientists choose how to approach their research, they choose how to interpret their research and competing research, choose whether to publish or not, and choose how to persuade others.  Each choice contains biases that can and has led to the spread of misinformation. 

Scientists have been trusted, and are trusting themselves, but the system has enabled those who can exploit the system of science to wield power.  The scientific community has perverse incentives as those who are untrustworthy are more likely to be promoted for they are willing to compromise the research process, than the trustworthy who seek to improve the knowledge base.  Incentives that reduce the reliability of research. 

Research is shared through a publication, but what is wanted for publishing is not necessarily what is needed to be published.  What often gets published are the exciting results, exaggerated, misleading, and often wrong.  The research that challenges or replicates other research are not welcome in publishing, even though they are needed to provide the limitations and legitimacy for the claims.  Not publishing seemingly unimportant research, distorts the scientific record and enables harmful outcomes.  There are costs to time, effort, and money when using and providing research that is uninformative.

The practice of science has been corrupted.  Rather than error correcting, science enables misinformation to spread.  Science needs to change how it is practiced to enable trust in the community.  This book provides guidance on how science has been exploited, and methods to improve the practice of science.

 

Is Science An Ideal Field?

Science depends on a communal process to find errors and faults to determine whether claims are reliable and important.  Being a communal process, requires persuading peers.  But by focusing too much on persuading peers, scientists lose track of the purpose of science which is to get closer to truth.  Persuading peers can take on various human biases that reduce the validity of the scientific process. 

Skepticism is supposed to be the basic norm of science, but has enabled incompetence, delusion, lies, and self-deception.  The very ideal that scientists hold about science, that of an error correcting system, has given space to research done with human biases while claiming to be objective and unbiased. 

 

Which Research Is Published?

Scientific studies need to be replicated to prove that the results did not come by chance, fraud, or equipment error.  Replication is meant to prevent false findings, bad experiments, and inappropriate data.  But replication is not taken seriously, and studies are not often replicated.  Claims are accepted without checking for replication.  There are barely any attempts to replicate prior results.  Creating a replication crisis, in various fields.  When replication is attempted, many results fail to replicate.  Various research results are used to make policy and health choices that have immediate negative consequences when the results have not been replicated.

News and journals focus on the new and exciting research, which tend to be primarily positive results with a few null results.  Positive results are those in which discoveries are made, while null results are those in which no discovery is made.  Repeat studies are usually rejected from publications, even if they show a different or contradictory result than the original.  Scientist choose to publish results when they have positive research while not publishing null results.  As positive, flashy, novel, newsworthy results are rewarded much more, scientist are incentivized to produce those results, and convince others that the research has the wanted attributes.  Creating a publication bias.  By failing to publish null results, there is an exaggerated importance of effects that create misleading beliefs.  Publication bias distorts the information that is used to make decisions, leading to making decisions based on partial information.  Decisions that are liable to create problems. 

To get hired and promoted, scientists need published papers with appropriate journals.  Universities are ranked by the papers they produce, which results in a publish or perish mentality.  As scientists have limited time to publish papers along with the rest of their responsibilities, the scientific standards become bypassed.  Quantity matters more than quality.  Scientists can split their research into many papers, providing an artificially better CV.  Without knowing the content of the papers, readers of one or few can think there is more evidence for results than there actually is.  Low citation count can be an underappreciated work, but scientists are willing to publish useless works to secure jobs and grants rather than advance science. 

Hype can be very harmful in science.  Many press releases give recommendations to change behavior based on results that the research could not support.  Press releases are important because journalists are time-pressed and therefore closely copy the language of the press release.  This is known as churnalism.  The problem with hyped science is that while the hyped research gets a lot of attention, the refutations are barely able to catch up.  The scientific system incentivizes the lack of caution, restraint, and skepticism.

Peer review is enough to prevent flawed ideas from being published.  Peer-review researchers can prevent alternative conclusions from being published.  The h-index ranks citations based on number of studies, but this measure can be corrupted.  Reviewers created conditions to make sure that papers they published listed the reviewer’s papers.  Researchers have even created a citation cartel with editors collaborating with others for citations. 

There are even problems with reproducibility.  Results do not reproduce using the same data.  Often because the method of reporting was not clear enough, or steps were left out of the report. 

Papers that have been proved to be wrong are retracted.  They remain in the literature with a retracted mark indicating that the paper is no longer considered legitimate. 

 

How Can Science Go Wrong?

Not even highly respected scientific institutions are exempt from protecting their reputation by protecting the activities of fraudsters.  Fraud comes about by exploiting trust.  There will always be those who want fame and success above other concerns.  Fraud does disproportionate damage to science because it takes time to investigate the findings, which takes researchers away from their own research.  Fraud also wastes money through theft, people spending money trying to obtain results that were never real, and researches waste their funds trying to replicate fraudulent research.  Fraud damages the reputation of scientists. 

Although relatively few papers are retracted, for various reasons that include fraud.  Anonymous surveys asking scientists if they committed fraud results in a relatively large portion of scientists admitting to fraud.  Worse, as the portion of fraud increased when asked about known other researchers committing fraud.  The actual numbers are higher, because not everyone would be willing to admit to fraud even anonymously. 

Researchers can put in fake numbers into their papers to make their paper appear more attractive than it actually is.  But that means that everyone who is looking at the paper and making use of the paper, are using wrong information.  There are instances when measurements are accidentally incorrectly recorded, known as measurement error.  There is an expectation that numbers are noisy.  But, made up numbers do not have the properties of genuinely collected data. 

There is sampling error which means generating wrong interpretations about the population from the sample.  The different samples can have different averages, along with chance providing very different averages. 

P-value indicates the potential randomness of getting a result if the hypothesis was not true.  It does not indicate if the result is true or important.  Statistical significance is given a p-value of 0.05, which is an arbitrary number.  Significance does not indicate a worthy result.  Scientists can also p-hack.  They can run a plethora of tests until they find a test that is statistically significant.  Alternatively retroactively come up with a hypothesis after they find a result they approve of.   Both versions of p-hacking invalidates the p-value as they create methods of getting results through random chance.  Running many tests increases the likelihood of getting a significant result by random chance.  Without sharing the results that were not significant, leads to people being convinced of fake results.  More opportunities means more chances for false-positive results.  P-hacking is a way to make noise appear valuable. 

 

How To Improve Science?

What is measured gets focused on.  Creating conditions that make the metric meaningless, which overrides genuine scientific progress.  Removing arbitrary measures is not necessarily going to resolve bad research practices, for that might introduce other sources of subjectivity. 

Pre-registration enables researchers to be accountable to what they are planning to do.  If a paper has the condition of being published no matter the results, as long as they maintain the pre-registration plan, then that eliminates many incentives for bias and fraud. 

 

Caveats?

The listed problems of science are common in life.  What the author does is reference the problems with scientists as their source.  This book is critical of how science operates, for by knowing where science can go wrong, can science be corrected.

The author references the lack of publications on replication and null results from which no discoveries are made.  Both types are needed in science, but they can also be corrupted.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How has science been corrupted?  
•How to improve science? 
•What are the sources of bias in science?
•What are the consequences of inappropriate science?
•Is science a collaborative effort?
•Should scientists be trusted? 
•What perverse incentives effect scientists?
•What are the consequences of perverse incentives?
•What is the effect of replication on science?
•What is the replication crisis? 
•What is the publication bias?
•What research is favored and unfavored to be published?
•What does the ideal of science effect the practice of science?
•What is the purpose of science?
•How do scientists get hired and promoted? 
•What effect does hype have on science?
•How can citation count be exploited?
•What is peer review and how can peer review be exploited? 
•What is reproducibility and are papers reproducible? 
•How does a paper become retracted? 
•How can wrong results be found without fraud?
•What are the ways in which scientists commit research fraud?
•What is the sampling error?
•What is the p-value and what is p-hacking?
•What is pre-registration? 
•What is the pace of scientific progress? 
•What is the Standford Prison Experiment?
•What was the outcome of the Reinhart and Rogoff paper which was about GDP and debt? 
•How much of an effect can a single gene on human traits? 
•Is there a difference between conclusions presented in a research paper or in a book?
•How did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers incentivize contractors after the California wildfires on 2017? 
•What is the cross-species leap type of hype? 
•How does science get funded and how does that effect publication? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Metropolitan Books [Henry Holt and Company]
Edition ISBN:         9781250222688
Pages to read:          236
Publication:             2020
1st Edition:              2020
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5






Thursday, January 11, 2024

Review of Hybrid Warfare: The Russian Approach to Strategic Competition & Conventional Military Conflict by Curtis L. Fox

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History, War
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Russia), 


Watch Short Review

Excerpts

At the operational level, Hybrid Warfare holistically uses all levers of national influence (political, cultural, economic, military, or informational) to create asymmetric advantages in support of discrete objectives.  At the tactical level, hybrid warfare deploys non-military influence to sow chaos ahead of elite troops who are tasked with swiftly seizing objectives and terrain to pave the way for conventional forces.  These tactics leverage deception and ambiguity, allowing Russia to straddle the watershed between interstate political competition and overt warfare.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter One, Page 30


“Russia maintained its strategic position by prying social cracks open, supporting dissident groups, employing propaganda, and avoiding direct and unwinnable engagements.  In between the luminary leaders who fostered cultural revivals and economic improvement in Russia (Catherine the Great, Peter the Great), this approach to foreign policy preserved Russia during times of famine and economic catastrophe and in the face of technologically superior competitors.  Hybrid warfare was and is the modern manifestation of this foreign policy tradition.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter Two, Page 46


“Many Soviet “illegals” stole identities from dead children in the West.  Soviet operatives would steal or forge a birth certificate and then fabricate a history for the child as though it had grown up, creating a paper trail for a false identity that one of their operatives could assume.  “Illegals” even trained as couples, getting married in Russia and then moving to the West where thy could “meet for the first time” and fall in love in the presence of Western friends.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter Five, Page 131

Excerpts with permission from the publisher


Review

Is This An Overview?

Hybrid warfare is a mixture of covert and conventional overt actions.  Covert actions enable a more effective use of conventional efforts.  Sovereign states use hidden methods to interfere with other states which prepare advantageous conditions for conventional efforts.  Covert actions increase the chances for successful conventional forces operations.  Hybrid warfare is a method of managing political competition and overt warfare through deception and ambiguity.  Meant to reduce costs to international politics and reduce the loss of troops in overt military conflict.  Hybrid warfare enables the projection of power with plausible deniability. 

Russia has historically needed to use hybrid warfare to defend their sovereignty and intervene in other states.  Before an intervention, Russian operatives gain access to a target government using diplomatic ties.  The operatives then generate civil unrest through propaganda, politics, and economics.  While seeking and gathering individuals who are sympathetic to Russian causes and ideology.  These actions reduce political and military resistance to Russian narrative and demands.  Chaos from civil unrest changes the operational environment to favor Russia, and justifies Russian intervention as a way to resolve the crisis.  In this way Russia has opportunities to influence the policies of the target government. 

 

How Does Russia Protect Its Sovereignty?

Russia is using the same type of warfare strategy for centuries, as there are similar geopolitical constants.  The Russian winter was used to deter invaders as invaders could not concentrate their forces nor could they protect long supply lines. 

Russia uses buffer states to protect its sovereignty rather than military might across its vast border.  During the USSR phase, there were neighboring states that had socialism imposed on them.  The states had their cultures, economies, and identities suppressed.  The states became known as the Eastern Bloc, and were meant to prevent Western influence.  When the USSR regime collapsed, many buffer states gained independence.  Russia has been trying to rebuild the buffer states network since the fall of the USSR.

During the 1990s, democracies have proven a more effective governance method than centrally-planned governance.  Russia was destitute and feared invasion from the West.  Many sought U.S. allegiance to defend against USSR influence, but Russia was not longer seen as a threat after the fall of the USSR, which led to many U.S. allies to question their reliance on the U.S.  As U.S. foreign policy had become to be seen as a distraction, Russia gained foreign influence.

After WW2, growth was not dependent on new territories and colonial possessions.  Growth was obtained through economic expansion that was facilitated by U.S. efforts to protect the global commons, the sea borne routes.  Rather than colonize, Russia creates permanent client-states that support Russian choices.

 

What Are Some Details On Russia’s Military Use?

While Boris Yeltsin decentralized military authority to prevent any from having a monopoly of information and provide a system of checks and balances on power.  Vladimir Putin centralized military authority into the FSB.  

Russia has long term information gathering operations, but their effectiveness has been negligible.  They are not trusted in Russia after being undercover for a long time.

Russia uses paramilitary groups for overt political subversion, and prevents rival states from building coalitions.  Russia also uses a mercenary organization to take actions.  These are considered military advisors, but are mercenaries.  They enable actions that appear to be voluntary on their own behave, but they obtain a salary from a Russian proxy.  They are considered volunteers and tend to be disavowed and disbanded after the conflict is over.  When caught, Russia claims they are volunteers or soldiers on extended leave. 

Russian soldiers have psychological problems from how they are treated.  Russian soldiers deal with various abuses from their colleagues, and hierarchy.  Conditions of military barracks are a factor of low retention rates of soldiers. 

 

Caveats?

This book focuses on Russia, while the ideas of hybrid warfare are applicable to all groups of power.  The book was dedicated to those with military experience, with many parts of the book focusing on the miliary aspects.  A diverse set of factors that influence political decisions are acknowledged and provided, but they tend to be limited. 

Hybrid warfare increases the chance of successful outcomes, but does not determine them.  The author describes the successes and failures of hybrid warfare from which Russia learned how to change operating procedures.  Hybrid warfare is referenced as something comparatively new, while the methods described have been used throughout history.  The appearance of novelty may come from a survivorship bias that favors the overt actions, more than the covert actions. 

The caveat of hybrid warfare not being something new can be described in more detail.  The covert actions are meant to be hidden which makes them more difficult to recognize and acknowledge.  Alternatively, the overt actions are salient and are given the credit for their efforts.  Creating a survivorship bias in favor of overt action while minimizing the information on covert actions. 

Hybrid warfare is meant to influence other states to favor Russia decisions, prevent political counter criticism, and reduce resistance to Russia.  But, the author references that various states became resistant to Russia due to Russian efforts, gained independence from Russia, and sought out Russia’s political opposition to defend against Russia.  What are missing are the methods Russia uses or can use to influence other states to be willing to want to join Russia rather than oppose Russia.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is hybrid warfare?
•What are the tools of hybrid warfare?
•Why did Russia need to rely on hybrid warfare?
•How do states interfere with other states?
•How does Russia justify interventions in other states?
•What are buffer states and why does Russia rely on them?
•How does Russia’s geography influence which territories Russia seizes?
•What happened to Russia under Bolsheviks governance? 
•What happened to Russia after the USSR collapsed? 
•What was Russia’s role during WW2?
•How did WW2 change economic power projection? 
•How does the energy sector effect Russia? 
•How did Russian military change?
•Who are the “illegals”?
•How are military personal promoted? 
•How are military personnel treated? 
•What is the Wagner Group? 
•What is the Night Wolf biker gang?  How does Russia use the gang? 
•How did Russia handle Napoleon? 
•How did Stalin try to break the Ukraine’s resistance to Communist collectivization?
•How did Russia use Sub-Saharan African conflicts? 
•How did Russia handle the Chechnya conflict? 
•How did Russia handle the Georgia conflict?
•How did Russia annex Crimea?  How dose Crimea effect Russia? 

Book Details
This book was provided by the publisher
Foreword Author:   Ashley Franz Holzmann
Edition:                   First Edition
Publisher:               Four Minute Men Books [-30- Press Publishing]
Edition ISBN:         B0CPHPLR9N
Pages to read:          270
Publication:             2023
1st Edition:              2023
Format:                     eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall          4






Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Review of The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means For The United States by Ross Terrill

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 


Watch Short Review


Excerpts

“When China attacked a neighbor, it was considered almost a favor to that lesser people.  Heaven, through the instrumentality of the Chinese emperor, was reestablishing a proper order of things.  |  At times, non-Chinese regimes profited from fitting into this Chinese worldview.” – Ross Terrill, Chapter 3: We Are The World, Page 57

“The stones of Paris offer the visitor an actual presence of the medieval era.  But the contemporary French polity reflects little or nothing of the political system of Philip Augustus (ruled 1180-1223) or Louis IX (ruled 1226-1270).  With China the converse is true.  The edifices of the past are little to be found.  But the Way – of ruling, thinking, behaving – still lives.  It has endured in part because it was implicit, flexible, and honored as much in the breach as in the letter.  Also, because the Chinese Communist Party appropriated the more autocratic elements of the Way for its own social engineering purposes.” – Ross Terrill, Chapter 3: We Are The World, Page 76

“Yet central planning in a Communist system is a political policy.  Mao chose to hear only what he wanted to hear about the results of the Great Leap, and to blame “class enemies” for such of the disasters as could not be denied.  In turn, this hunt for class enemies reduced the chances of truths being uttered and tightened the screws of political repression.  Mao never renounced the centrally planned economy; he simply sought scapegoats for its failure.” – Ross Terrill, Chapter 5: Red Emperor, Page 127


Review

Is This An Overview?

Ancient Chinese architecture might not have survived the ravages of time, but the way of ruling, thinking and behaving has endured.  Chinese traditions did not end with a fall of a government.  The traditions were rebuilt by forthcoming governments.  The methods were flexible, and could be adapted to by supporting or opposing them.  The autocratic elements of the traditions were used by the Chinese Communist Party for social engineering purposes. 

Rather than a religion, Chinese ethics philosophy of Confucianism was used to coordinate people’s behavior.  A malleable system that enabled its various interpretations throughout Chinese history, that provided an understanding on how to treat others.  Deference was needed for superiors.  Chinese sense of superiority was evident by foreign governments throughout history, which created a variety of misinterpretations from each perspective.  China was portrayed as virtuous, no matter their actions.  That China’s interventions in other regions were for the benefit of the others, to civilize the barbarians. 

China uses history as a weapon by disregarding unfavorable events, and changing events to favor Chinese views.  During the 20th century, China turned away from Dynasty and monarchy, but the methods were similar.  The government only accepted as true what they wanted to, and blamed others for that which could not be denied.  Using philosophy that enabled people’s deference to society over their own interests.  Inventing new methods to deal with problem, using prior methods differently, and applying foreign ideas in their own way. 

 

How Does China’s Philosophy Effect Behavior?

Confucianism is an ethic, rather than a religion.  Confucianism had mixed qualities, but what Confucianism did was provide an ethics that brought government and people together.  The ethics coordinated behavior.  Confucianism was malleable and could represent different ideas to different people and contexts. Confucian claims of virtue could be misused and favor the individual who does the action. 

Heaven was favorable to people, but had imperatives.  To have virtue, humans need to be filial, respectful, and obedient.  Confucius and Mencius logical systems overlapped with religious views and law-and-order Legalism.  Ordinary Chinese carefully paid deference to the Gods, emperor, and their immediate superiors.

Confucianism was made possible by government enforcement, through Legalism and institutions of governance.  A legal framework that could use physical force.  Emperor had a practical interest in statecraft, rather than the supernatural. 

 

How Does China Think About Others?

China has an enduring us-and-them system, a distinction between Chinese and Barbarian.  That China is the civilizing force and natural rulers of barbarians who are a lesser breed.  That the barbarians should be grateful to be influenced by China.  These views create a tendency to overlook what China learned from other people.  Foreign agents that interacted with the Chinese court, commented on Chinese sense of superiority.

The emperor was the representative of Heaven and Earth.  Giving justifications and virtue to any decisions made by the emperor.  When China attacked neighboring states, or governments who sought independence, China maintained a claim of virtue for their actions.  That their actions were justified and meant for the betterment of the people they were intervening in, to rid them of an oppressive regime.  Attacking a neighbor was a favor to lesser people, as that enabled Heaven to reestablished a proper order.  Chinese like to pretend that barbarians have accepted China’s reign of virtue rather than admit how regularly China had to use force against barbarians. 

Given their superiority attitude, China has a history of making political gifts given to them, be seen as tribute.  In this way, the supposed gifting party appears to have submitted to China, and China accepted them as a vassal.  These views caused conflict.  What is rarely referenced are the times that China had given gifts and tribute to others. 

China has a large Han majority who do not have much territory.  With minority nationalities who have the vast territory and resources.

 

How Is History Turned Into Politics?

For China, history is a political tool.  Changing and interpreting what happened to fit political goals.  Even archaeology is a political project.  Myths about history are used as political weapons.

Chinese history does reference events in which China was not the superior force.  Does not reference when China could not get its way.  Does not reference when others did not accept Chinese ways with China not being able to do anything about the situation.  This occurred when negotiating with semi-equal forces. 

One China has become the ideology, but Mao thought that China was to be divided into 27 countries.  China believes that any territory that has come into contact with China, has become part of China and is part of China’s history.  While other states that lost territory do not dispute the loss of the territory, China does dispute their prior losses.  Even the territories that were part of the conquerors of China are considered to be Chinese history and territory.

 

What Was The Succession Plan?

Emperors had a succession problem as they needed to designate a child, but they had many children.  Conflict and power struggles threatened the stability of the polity.  Gaining power through murder was common in ancient China and in the Communist Party.  Legitimacy and succession are perpetual problems. 

 

What Was China’s 20th Century Experience?

After the collapse of the monarchy, China has been trying to reconcile the methods of monarchy and fitting into the different political understandings.  They have kept much the same, while the changes have not made them into an effective state that manages the different social expectations of the era.  Unlike a democratic state whose political system is shaped and reshaped continuously by the citizens decisions.  China’s imperial components remain even if the imperial structure was removed.  China still relies on imperial repression and myths to hold together the diverse cultures. 

During the early 20th century, when the Qing Dynasty was failing, many provinces declared independence.  Their reasons for independence were diverse, but they could not apply different political systems than those already used.  The revolutionaries had immediate success, but could not provide a constructive agenda afterwards.

Mao wanted China to be neutral to foreign governments.  But the Chinese Communist Party saw central power as a tool for China’s advancement.  Provincial autonomy and federalism were dismissed.  The feudalism that emerged after Qing Dynasty, was party new and partly a continuation.  New western tools such as the railroad, were used as methods of power to control the kingdom.  Bolshevism offered China a way to be progressive and anti-Western, while also provide quick solutions to Western influence on China. 

One party state meant that no alternative political parties were allowed, no elections, or free press.  A system akin to an emperor, authoritarian, political tutor.  CCP’s reach was greater than prior governance structures.  CCP branches existed in every county.  A surveillance network meant to foster benevolent paternalism and work.  The party controlled communication and what everyone was able to do.  Socialism was omnipresent, with class categories separating various peoples, and how the individual was meant to subordinate to the collective purpose.  Truth was what the CCP wanted truth to be.  There needed to be unfailing loyalty in the leader, who was infallible and needed to be constantly studied.  Death was an accepted means of punishment to maintain the collective morality.

Mao recognized that very little information came to Mao.  Mao chose what to hear which were only favorable information about the Great Leap.  Information that could not be denied, Mao blamed the problems on scapegoats which were class enemies.  Mao could not accept socialism as a flawed political system, therefore did not accept outcomes that indicated the flaws.

Ideology began to be reduced during Deng’s changes, but that did not allow for plurality of ideologies.  There was no individual independence, nor was criticizing China an option.  People were trusted with their money, but not their minds.  What was allowed was what the Communist Party found acceptable.  Publishers were shut down for politically incorrect viewpoints. 

China is oppressive and afraid of its own people.  Freedoms have been experimented with, giving some freedoms to people, but the government has generally opted for repression when disorder was a perceived threat.  The legal system remained harsh and was attached to the wants of the political party rather than justice and proportioned appropriate punishment.  The state depends on confessions, false confessions, to justify the system.

Marketization under Deng enabled private firms, and joint ventures between the foreign and local capital.  The private business and joint ventures crowded out state factories.  State factories began to produce less share of the market, and they were mainly losing money.  Banks were closely attached to the government that lead to the subsidization of state factories, which made profit and loss meaningless.  China’s socialism is enduring, transforming into market socialism rather than becoming capitalistic.

 

Caveats?

The focus of the book is on China during the 20th century.  There is a lot of information on China’s history before that era, but that information is sporadic and is used to provide evidence for a claim.  The reader would need to research more Chinese history for a better understanding of the events. 

The struggle between a changing and changeless China is part of the myth structure that the author describes, disagreeing with, but applies as a theme in the book.  The problem is that appearances of similarity, does not represent similarity in anything but appearance.  There were ideas and methods that appear to be a theme, but what makes them similar is their association with China rather than the core claims being consistent.  The ideas and methods were influential, but as the author recognizes, they have been misused and reinterpreted. 

The author expresses Chinas flexibility and creativity, and criticism when considering China as perpetually stagnant, changeless, and isolated, as those views were formed by the end of the Qing Dynasty which had become rigid.  But throughout the book the author considers various themes in China to have been reused, used differently, but still considered consistent even if much has changed.  Alternatively, the author provides the impression that other states have more completely changed their political systems.  Other states also have used their historic methods to legitimize their own political structures through support or disagreement with the prior methods.  Just as Chinese governments had chosen how to use their historic methods to legitimize their rule.     


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How has China changed and stayed the same?
•What is the life cycle of Chinese traditions compared to other traditions?
•What traditions did the Chinese Communist Party utilize?
•How did China change after removing the monarchy?
•What is Confucianism?
•What are the concepts of Heaven and Earth? 
•Why does China have a sense of superiority?   
•How to treat others?
•What is China’s us-and-them system? 
•Did China learn from other peoples? 
•How did China view gifts from other peoples? 
•Why did China intervene in other regions? 
•How are Chinese actions morally defined?
•How does China use history?
•Which regions belong to China? 
•What is allowed to be accepted?  What is rejected? 
•What is the Nationalist regime that came after the Qing Dynasty?  
•How did Mao use Hong Kong? 
•What did Mao want for China?  How did Mao’s views about China change? 
•How did China use Bolshevism? 
•What does a one party state imply? 
•How did China change and stay the same under Deng’s governance? 
•Which foreign power tried to change China?  What effect did they have on China? 
•How did USSR effect China?
•Why did China defect from USSR influence? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Basic Books [Perseus Books Group]
Edition ISBN:         0465084125
Pages to read:          342
Publication:             2003
1st Edition:              2003
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          4