Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 30, 2013

What are the people around you reading?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 30, 2013

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

I came across that quote from Haruki Murakami yesterday.

I don’t know what everyone else is reading, so I asked them.

OK, not everyone, but at least the people who were around me yesterday, either physically or virtually.

Since 99% of the people I know have something to do with homeland security (that’s another story), the resulting list is mostly about homeland security.

And I do work at a university; that probably influenced the list a bit.

Plus the university is on a military base, so there’s that.

I did ask one person who was fixing a video screen near my office what he was reading. I’d never met him before, but he had no trouble immediately replying.

Two other people who responded are parents of small children who, at least for today, were the focus of their homeland security attention.

Here’s the reading list. I learned about some books and other material I had not heard of.

If you’d like, try the same experiment wherever you are today. Ask people you work with what they are reading. Keep it to one book per person. If you have the chance, post the results in the comments section.


1. Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God. 1st ed. Ballantine Books, 2001.

2. “Articles that explore the use of Social Network Analysis to better understand: 1) cohesion factors in groups, 2) structure of message contributions, 3) pattern of exchange, 4) the role of the critical mass, 5) role and power network structures as they related to various type of on-line collaboration and knowledge creation.” (Right, not a book; the person who sent me this also included 15 pdf articles to illustrate the point he was making.)

3. Berggruen Institute on Governance. “Think Long Committee for California” a new governance tool to repair California’s government. (Not a book, but it’s what she was reading.)

4. Carafano, James Jay, and Paul Rosenzweig. Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom. Heritage Books, 2005.

5. “Cub Scout Committee Chair Training Manual” (That was her third choice.  Her first choice was somewhat more “shaded.”  She also said if I planned to use her name I had to say she was reading the Bible.).

6. Deardorff, Brad. The Roots of Our Children’s War: Identity and the War on Terrorism. AgilePress, 2013.

7. Desmond, Leslie, and Bill Dorrance. True Horsemanship Through Feel, Second Edition. 2nd ed. Lyons Press, 2007. (At first I thought this had nothing to do with homeland security, but on second thought….)

8. Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. Simon & Brown, 2013.

9. Eco, Umberto. Serendipities: Language and Lunacy. Mariner Books, 1999.

10. Gardner, Howard. Five Minds for the Future. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

11. Hirsch, James S. Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend. 1st ed. Scribner, 2010.

12. Lemov, Doug, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. 1st ed. Jossey-Bass, 2012.

13. Lewis, Ted. “The Book of Extremes: Why the 21st century Isn’t Like the 20th Century.” 2013. (This book is in a prepublication format, and won’t be published for a few more months; it’s a follow up to Lewis’ Bak’s Sand Pile: Strategies for a Catastrophic World.)

14. Mackey, Sandra. Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict. 1st ed. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.

15. McCauley, Clark, and Sophia Moskalenko. Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2011.

16. Moghaddam, Fathali M. The Psychology of Dictatorship. 1st ed. American Psychological Association (APA), 2013.

17. Mudd, Philip. Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

18. Owen, Mark, and Kevin Maurer. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. First Edition. Dutton Adult, 2012.

19. Rejali, Darius. Torture and Democracy. Princeton University Press, 2009.

20. Sodium Polyacrylate: My life would be a mess without it. (Not actually a book. But it could be, should be, one.)

21. Stegner, Wallace. Angle of Repose. Penguin Classics, 2000.

22. Williams, Gary. Seal of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN. Naval Institute Press, 2011.

23. “What am I reading? I can’t think of anything in particular…. Wow. How sad is that,” said a person who works as hard as almost anyone I know.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The person who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the person who can’t read them.”


If you do ask people in your ecosystem what they’re reading, please post what you learn here.  And if you get to talk with each other about what you’re reading, that’s even better.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2013 @ 2:11 am

Thanks Chris and interesting additions to some of my reading lists. Never will get to them all.

Just finished the 2006 update of Ted Steinberg’s ACTS OF GOD- The Unatural History of Natural Disaster In
America, which documents to some extent disasters that were caused or aggravated in part by man’s activities. All labeled natural disasters in an effort to avoid accountability and focus on relief as opposed to prevention and mitigation. Public relief of course. And usually deisgned to benefit certain groups or classes.

Should be read in conjunction with Naomi Klein’s SHOCK DOCTRINE [2007]!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 30, 2013 @ 4:48 am

The Satyricon by Petronius, translated by William Arrowsmith, University of Michigan Press (1959)

The Epigrams by Martial, translated by “M.S.B”, privately published, book 51 of 350 printed (1921)

The Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, (1991)

That’s about as bawdy a collection as ever, confessed in humility or humiliation. An antidote perhaps to the dull government and academic reports I am also carrying. You would ask when I have to admit to reading Martial, in translation yet.

Comment by HGRATTAN

April 30, 2013 @ 6:24 am

One vote for Gardner’s Five Minds For the Future (required reading in my HLS graduate class.

Add to the list: 35 students in an undergradate HLS class recently read:

Dave Eggers Zeitoun. IMHO, Zeitoun captures the misfortunes of HLS (collateral damage)

Comment by HGRATTAN

April 30, 2013 @ 6:28 am

Misspell check and my apologies. I hit send too fast.

I mispelled undergraduate

[uhn-der-graj-oo-it, -eyt] Show IPA

a student in a university or college who has not received a first, especially a bachelor’s, degree.

Comment by Sally Chapman

April 30, 2013 @ 10:06 am

Great blog entry! I would be interested in what blogs people follow.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

Two I follow on a regular basis are (1) Sic Semper Tyrannis; and (2) Lawfare.com!

About 7 others from time to time such as Juan Cole’s Informed Comment and Claire Rubin’s Recovery Diva.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

April 30, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

An avid reader, I keep rereading the story about the tragedy of the White House Doors Closed to Our Kids Who Deserve Better when they arrive Washington shortly with classmates and the fact that individuals have closed these doors intentionally to promote the suggestion that our nation’s valued history found in the White House so proudly displayed should be kept from our kids who yearn to see our identity more than this “Chicago city street slicker” and Michelle Obama who so eloquently displays her hips as role model on late night television and at last week’s White House party for selected guests only where Secret Service stood by, yet they are not available to protect the very heart of our nation where our brave Patriots on 911 when hearing of a proposed attack to destroy our White House, yelled, “Let’s rock ‘n roll” and assured that the doors of the White House would very much remain in tact and open to their children, nieces and nephews, friends an neighbors and as parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts in your obvious slothful ways, you allow the doors to remain closed! What a pity and how much an insult to our beloved Republic and children for there is far more to our history than slavery and divisive mannerisms promoted by this “Chicago-Hollwood-Washington Express” – How dare you?

We shall never forget our brave Patriots whose were left to be slaughtered at the “Benghazi Massacre” and any reading these days other than scripture is to learn how our obvious “injustice” system led by this AG can find a way to place Barry and Hillary under arrest for suspicion of breach of faith, treason for their blatant lies….and direct indifference to the pledge in oath they took as “entrusted” officials who are Not above the law!

God Bless our nation for we are on a perilous path….the self-serving, partisan mannerisms as displayed by this charade will be our demise for certain….

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Michael Brady

May 1, 2013 @ 12:12 pm


I’m reading:

“The Qur’an: Arabic Text and English Translation” M.H. Shakir (Translator) http://www.amazon.com/Quran-Arabic-Text-English-Translation/dp/0940368560

“Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive” by Bruce Schneier http://www.amazon.com/Liars-Outliers-Enabling-Society-Thrive/dp/1118143302

“The Last Temptation of Christ” by Nikos Kazantzakis http://www.amazon.com/Last-Temptation-Christ-Nikos-Kazantzakis/dp/068485256X

My actual reading list so far this year is here:


My original plan for 2013 is here:


A quick poll of the associates I can get at just now discloses they are reading variously:

“How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One” by Stanley Fish http://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Sentence-And-Read/dp/006184053X

“Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion” by David Lewis-Williams http://www.amazon.com/Conceiving-God-Cognitive-Evolution-Religion/dp/050005164X

“The Art of the Rifle” by Jeff Cooper http://www.amazon.com/Art-Rifle-Jeff-Cooper/dp/1581605927

“Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment” by Steve Harvey http://www.amazon.com/Act-Like-Lady-Think-Relationships/dp/0061728985

“The Professional Protection Officer: Practical Security Strategies and Emerging Trends” http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Protection-Officer-Practical-Strategies/dp/1856177467

“Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” by Mary Roach http://www.amazon.com/Gulp-Adventures-Alimentary-Mary-Roach/dp/0393081575

“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen http://www.amazon.com/Lies-My-Teacher-Told-Everything/dp/1595583262

Yes, I have a very special circle of friends…

Comment by Michael Brady

May 1, 2013 @ 12:26 pm


I would be interested in what blogs people follow.

My blogs are listed here:


Comment by William R. Cumming

May 2, 2013 @ 9:50 am

Michael! Thanks for your blog list and I do stream your Electric Breakfast blog!

Comment by Dan O'Connor

May 3, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

Long but cathartic!


We spend a lot of time talking about what is homeland security. It’s a relative question. We spend a lot of time speaking about policy. Again, relative and necessary from a strategic point of view. The problem is neither effectively addresses the”… the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…”

We’ll invariably discuss the efficacy of the selection of Rand Beers as S2. The naysayers already have the long knives out questioning his capability and leadership. According to rumblings within the “enterprise” the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) has not distinguished itself and is referred to by many as the “No Particular Program Division”. We shall see what he brings…but he should not be the focus. He should not be the focus because of finite time and resources. We have more important thinking to do.

There is so much going on that affects the idea of a robust capability and resolve to thwart, mitigate, absorb, and respond to disruption…sounds like resilience!

it is going to cost the U.S. an investment of over a quarter of a trillion dollars to upgrade our nation’s schools just to working order, and nearly half a trillion to bring them into the 21st century. The cost of tuition continues to skyrocket and what it yields in terms of building capable, innovative, and adaptive thinkers remains to be seen. The idea of education liberating creativity and synthesizing information seems to be a bit of epistemological quackery based on some of the interaction I have had with recent academics and the colleges of America. It is an issue.

The burden of obesity on American taxpayers is about $147,000,000,000 a year. That is a conservative estimate. It is the primary cause of chronic disease. The average American has gained a whopping 20lbs since 1990. Its affects are felt everywhere. Some studies having obesity rendering upwards of 75% of the population unfit to serve in the military. Over 75% of First Responders are overweight or obese as well according to other reports. At the increase of 1lb a year, by 2030 the average American male will weigh 200lbs. In 1950, that average American male weight was 155lbs. We’d like to blame the gluttonous and sloth-like American for their behavior because it’s easy.

Never mind that the food industry has increased the amount of sugar we eat, subsidize those who create it, reduce its nutritional quotient, and then tells us to eat a diet that is 65% carbohydrate… Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in per year. That’s not even counting the high Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) we ingest. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, each person in the United States consumes on average 69 pounds of corn-based sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup every year.

We are sick, we are fat, and there is far more wrong than right in our food system. It’s an issue.

A third rail subject to be sure. However, it needs to be addressed. An unprecedented number of our neighbors, citizens, and “others” are using food stamps, known today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Why? Enrollment in the food stamp program has increased by 70 percent since 2008, to 47.8 million people as of December 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported. The biggest factor driving the increase is the stagnating job market and a rising poverty rate. This means that a staggering 15 percent of the US population receives food stamp benefits, nearly double the rate of 1975. I find it ironic that the USDA and their trillion dollar subsidy programs for corn, wheat, and soybean (the key ingredients in processed food and the fuel of obesity and diabetes) is also in charge of food stamps.

Let’s not leave out JP Morgan though.
According to the company’s most recent quarterly filing with the SEC, the Treasury & Securities Services segment, revenue was up 2% in the last three months of last quarter and brought in $5.47 billion in net revenue. Each month, JP Morgan makes between $.31 and $2.30 for every single person on food stamps (and that does not even include things like ATM fees, etc.). It’s a good business if you can get into it. It’s an issue.

The percentage of self-employed Americans was fairly stable between 1970 and 1990, but since 1990 it has been steadily eroding and it has now reached a level never seen before…

At this point, only about 7 percent of non-farm workers are self-employed. The rest, according to simple math means that the overwhelming majority of those that are employed in America are working for the system in one capacity or another. Who is generating jobs and revenue? There is anecdotal evidence that the U.S. policy environment has become inadvertently hostile to entrepreneurial employment. The bottom line is we make less, do less, and create less than ever before.

But not to worry. Hiring is picking up steam, according to CNN. 165,000 jobs have been added. The report goes a long way “toward soothing fears of another spring slowdown,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics. Really? If hiring keeps up at its current pace, it will take about five more years to get back to a pre-recession job market. It has been five already. Wall Street reacted as expected and we celebrate that all is right in America. But wait, there’s more.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that currently there are 89,967,000 working age Americans that are “not in the labor force”. While astonishing and a record of sorts that number increased by a whopping 663,000 during the month of March alone. When you add 11,742,000 working age Americans that are officially unemployed to the 89,967,000 working age Americans that are “not in the labor force”, you come up with a grand total of 101,709,000 working age Americans that do not have a job.

For new veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate averaged 20.4% in 2012, more than five percentage points higher than the average among non-veterans aged 18-24. So how is it that we celebrate? It is an issue.

The American malaise
It seems like an awful lot of American are sad. Currently, eleven percent of U.S. adults are taking an antidepressant medicine. How is it that antipsychotics are now the largest revenue producers among all classes of medicines? These mental health prescriptions bring approximately $15 billion per year — much of it coming from excessive use in vulnerable populations of children and the elderly. We are hurting ourselves a lot too. Suicide rates have climbed sharply for middle aged Americans.
Pat Smith a violence-prevention program coordinator for the Michigan Department of Community Health said the recession — which hit manufacturing-heavy states particularly hard — may have pushed already-troubled people over the brink. Let’s not forget our .03% of the population either.

The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year as the number of troops who took their lives rose to a record high. Service members committed suicide at the rate of one every 25 hours. 349 took their own lives across the four branches. And it’s worse for Veterans. Almost once an hour – every 65 minutes to be precise – a military veteran commits suicide, according to a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is an issue.

No matter how you cut the data, torture the facts, and shape and bend the information, there is far more important “stuff” to be discussing than what “it” is and how to politicize it. Given the time and opportunity I am sure someone could refute all my claims as rhetoric or histrionic…go ahead, that’s your right. To me, the fact remains that we are spending more time eroding trust, robustness, capability, and civility for the sake of power and politics.

“To all who shall see these presents, greetings: Know ye that reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of…” these are the words on a promotion warrant for enlisted Marines.

Special trust and confidence in the fidelity and ability of! If we lose that; that special trust and confidence, then nothing else matters. We once knew or thought we knew “… great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The time for timidity and weakness, political and moral malfeasance must end, now. There is much to talk about and more to do. These are a few of my thoughts. I am grateful for the opportunity to share them in an open forum on open mike Friday. Thanks, Phil, Chris, Bill, Tingus, HGRatten, Brady, Bogus et al. Your contributions are routine and provocative…therefore useful and necessary to move along those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Semper Fidelis and good day.

Comment by James Madia

May 4, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

Hi Chris,

As usual, your social scientist’s curiosity about the reading habits of others has captured my fascination. I temporarily swore off any reading immediately after CHDS, but happily I’m back to my usual voracious appetite for books. I won’t bore you with the list, but I will say, I like diversity. Spirituality, leadership, homeland security, Greek and Roman philosophy, and the arts have dominated the past year.

Last 2 books:

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra
The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident, by Dick Couch

It seems as though my natural curiosity to know everything has only been supercharged after hanging out with you and your merry band of social scientists. I fear there is no cure now!

Your friend always,


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