OLD: the foundation book The Open Source Everything Manifesto
ROBERT STEELE: There are two schools of thought on effecting political (and hence economic and social) reform. One school is the school of love — this school emphasizes trust building and doing no harm as conversations create choices in ever-widening circles. The other school is the school of fear — occupy the front lawns and home offices of every Senator and Representative and Supreme Court Justice and Cabinet Member who represents the 1% and who refuses to restore integrity to our electoral system and hence to our government and thereby to our economy and society. I embrace both schools.
I also embrace non-violent revolution joined by truth & reconciliation for two simple reasons: first, we have lost enough, no further destruction is warranted; and second, confiscating digital wealth does nothing for the 99% here at home or the five billion poor worldwide — we need to redefine prosperity, dump the existing financial system that gives the Koch brothers $3 million an hour in illegitimate “interest” wealth every hour, and focus on infinite community wealth rooted in land and labor. I cannot say it often enough: there is nothing wrong with America the Beautiful — the good people trapped in bad systems — that cannot be fixed, and fixed quickly, through the restoration of integrity to our electoral system. Now, this year, in 2015, I am devoting my personal time to two tracks: Electoral Reform, and Public Empowerment.
UPDATE OF 3 MAR 2015:
WHY must we make the revolution — a non-violent revolution replete with truth & reconciliation but one that strikes deep fear into the heart of every elected representative who has sold us out to the two-party duopoly that is a bribed servant to the 1%? The chart below, from my 1976 thesis but updated to show the preconditions of revolution that exist in the USA today, says it all. We are being screwed, and yet we have the power to heal ourselves in the instant — within the space of one year and in time to elect an Independent / Unaffiliated / Coalition team in 2016, not just to the Executive, but a sufficiency to the Legislative side as well. On that point see Eric Liu’s YouTube below my chart, and then reflect on the proposals that I have aggregated from others and now place before the 99%.
Electoral Reform must bring together the leaders of the small parties blocked from ballot access by the two-party duopoly, along with Independents, Occupy, and civil society elements that have been betrayed by the two-party system — labor, for example. The school of love will be important to this convergence, in order to achieve trust unity of effort. Together we must demand the Electoral Reform Act of 2015. However, to achieve this end in the face of the entrenched “deep state” will require the school of fear. The incumbents will not give up their power to steal — or to channel public treasure to those that give them 5% kick-backs, without the school of fear. Love is simply not sufficient in this larger context. We must have a summit, make a demand, obtain pledges, and then hold accountable all those who fail to pass the Act with the most oppressive public pressure possible within civil and legal boundaries.
Public Empowerment must bring together the leaders of all eight of the information “tribes” but particularly the progressive activists, first in the USA and then world-wide. For a quarter century I have been doing the wrong things righter — seeking to reform government intelligence under the mistaken assumption that government had ethics and simply needed to learn. Now I know better. It is the public that must achieve intelligence with integrity first, and that is a challenge. As Micah Sifry has so ably articulated in the post Micah Sifry: Progressive Activism Frustrated by Lack of Tools — And Refusal to Share… and the book Review: The Big Disconnect – Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet), the tools are not there.
I have myself written — building on the work of hundreds of others — on the need for open source everything and the need to integrate holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering (we need three revolutions among progressive activists: one of process, one of tools, and one of content). Here is my concise summary 2014 Robert Steele – An Open Letter along with two books, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, and Trust (2012) and Intelligence for Earth: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (2010). The latter book is free online along with my one political book, Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (2008). See also my background paper for the United Nations, and my critical commentary on the sorry state of analytic foundations today.
I believe that if we as a public could be effective at coming together in 2015 to achieve both the Electoral Reform Act of 2015 and the empowerment of the public with an open source information sharing and sense-making toolkit, then these two advances can converge in 2016 to restore integrity to the US Government and hence to our economy and our society. I believe in America the Beautiful — and in the Average American — and I am certain we can achieve this renaissance, in 2020 if not 2016. I am not giving up on 2016 until the day after election day.
There is no question in my mind but that the USA is now ready for an Independent President with a Coalition Cabinet and a sufficiency of Independents in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, to restore integrity to our governance. The Supreme Court we can deal with later — all five of the Justices voting for CITIZENS UNITED must be retired, and the matter of corporate personality eradicated from our political landscape forevermore. Whether we are successful in 2016 depends on angel donors coming forth early on, a structured approach to both of these opportunities (electoral reform and public empowerment), and BigBatUSA taking off as a fund-raising meme — $10 a person from 100 million citizens — one third of the public — wins when combined with social media and people on the street and in the faces of our corrupt two-party duopoly political pawns.
Below is my original reading list on democracy lost & found with two enhancements: revised groupings and several more recently reviewed books added, and a one-paragraph extract from each review to provide a flavor for those that wish to merely skim the existence of the books rather than delve into their substance. Everything is connected so all of the reviews in all 98 categories in which I read are somewhat relevant, this is a slice focused on the concept of democracy.
Six-Star Reading (My Top 10%) . Citizen-Centered (Moral Aspect) . Citizen-Centered (Technical Aspect) . Third Party Politics . Democracy Lost (US Focus) . Books by Politicians . See Also (Other Lists)
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Pssst — want to read my most radical ideas? We the People Reform Coalition.
WARNING NOTICE: My long reviews (1,000 to 2,000 words) can be seen by clicking on the linked review title. My reviews are summary in nature, and itemize in detail the content of these extraordinary books. The extracts below are a superficial highlight, nothing more, do not fail to read the full summary review for any book that captures your attention.
Six-Star Reading (My Top 10%)
Clay Shirky. Elevated by Phi Beta Iota to 6 Stars and Beyond because this book is much more readable than Wealth of Networks and captures the essence for the general reader in a manner more likely to accelerate understanding and transformation. Recommended as THE book to understand the fundamentals of social media collaboration. Technologists will initially be disappointed as this is not a technical book, but I ask them to read the book carefully and think about how technologies create the means to bring collaboration together. After all, successful social collaboration involves a unique blend of social and technical systems. The technical piece is significantly more straightforward than getting the right social systems and this is what this book is all about.
John Clippinger. I will begin with his conclusion: we are in the process of a “Big Bang” in human identity that shifts us away from organizations and nationalities and races and religions, and toward the realization that we are all “one” in terms of fractional variations of the same DNA, and hence, the world is going to start to revolve around the human end-users, not the organizations that turned them into slaves, amoral components of the industrial system, or mindless fundamentalists party to intolerant religions. For a sense of how the industrial era introduced evil by killing the role of kinship in trust, see Lionel Tiger’s The Manufacture of Evil. In my view, this is one of three really great books on the coming revolution in human organization. The other two are Max Manwaring’s The Search for Security and Philip Alott’s The Health of Nations. As Alott says, we took a wrong turn at the Treaty of Westphalia, and the world is long over-due for a return to localized kinship and global responsibility.
Nathan A. Allen. Six Star Pre-History Ignored Until Now. This is a BARN-BURNER of a book!Depending on one’s interest, this can be a quick read to confirm that we need a second American revolution-or a slow read to savor the loneliness, the persistence, the integrity of one man called a lunatic and a traitor for one reason only: he was twenty years ahead of his time. It is on the shoulders of James Otis that the Founding Father stood, and this author, Nathan Allen, has performed brilliantly in identifying a slice of American history here-to-fore overlooked, and in deeply investigating and then publicizing what can only be appreciated as both one man’s cross to bear, and one nation’s long lead-time in the gestation of liberty.The work adds deep perspective to the underlying intellectual and moral foundations of the American revolution, and in particular helps present the difference between the traditional view (taxation without representation) and a much more nuanced and philosophically founded view, objection to the entire feudal hierarchy that placed power in the hands of a very small elite-very similar to the “one percent” that rule America today, using the two-party politicians as their servants, pawns, or co-conspirators.
Cornel West. Nobel Prize Material–Extraordinarily Thoughtful and Articulate. This is, easily, Nobel Prize material. The reflections of Professor West are extraordinary, and they are well-presented with a wealth of both names and carefully selected quotations from the works of others that make this book both a tour of the horizon, and a bright shining light on the topic of democracy and how to save the American democracy. This is an absolutely grand piece of reflection, ably presented, with enormous respect for the views of others and very delicate manners in the discourse of disagreement. Very few books have aroused in me a passion such as this one has–Bonhoffer would say it is the passon of the black Church. I would say that this one man truly represents all that could “be” in the American democratic tradition. He merits our affectionate respect, embodiying as he does the thought that struck me early on in the book: life as religion, religion as life. In God We Trust, and damnation to those lawyers that seek to remove God from our Republic’s identity. One can separate the church from the state, but one cannot separate religious faith from the foundation of democracy–it is as water is to cement, an essential ingredient for a lasting construct.
Richard Moore. Perhaps the Most Revolutionary and Liberating Book Going Into 2008. This book has jumped to the top of the transpartisan list. Together with All Rise and several of the other books on that list, it is an actionable practical formula for restoring the Republic and then spreading participatory democracy and moral capitalism–communal localized capitalism–to the rest of the world in a non-violent information-driven manner. Key themes in this world interconnectedness instead of separation; community sovereignty instead of federal sovereignty, distributed economics (no absentee landlords) instead of concentrated wealth, transformation and harmonization instead of adversarial, common sense judgments instead of special interest judgments, and finally, the reconstruction of social will to completely overpower, in a non-violent manner, the class war and globalized predatory looting of the commons that the central bankers have wrought on the planet. This non-violent social transformation, according to the author, includes local empowerment, human liberation, participatory democracy, sensible economics, and cooperation on a global scale for mutual benefit of all.
Mitch Ratcliffe, Jon Lebkowsky. SIX STAR #OWS Primer Wow Wow Wow. Because #OWS has brought to life the ideas the co-editors and various contributing authors understood well before 2004 and articulated in 2004, now I can absorb this book as much more meaningful and inspirational. QUOTE 6): “Politics is always changing as a society incorporates new technology for disseminating information and connecting people.” From Gary Johnson and so totally relevant to #OWS it is scary good: QUOTE (25): “In complex systems the role of the leader is not about determining direction and controlling followers. The leader maintains integrity, mediates the will of the many, influencing and communicating with peers and other leaders. The leader becomes more of a facilitator (or hub), and custodian of the process, than a power figure.” QUOTE (126): “The network strategy does not require a large war chest of political contributions. It does require time and energy and understanding of the social dynamics.” I have a note: 100 million voters times $10 each is US$1 billion. 2012 is a do-able do if #OWS will integrate, adapt, and MOVE. QUOTE (211): “Whatever else it [extreme democracy] achieves, if anything, I hope you take from it the essential recognition it shares with open-source development: that we can teach ourselves what we need to learn, share whatever knowledge we glean, build on the insights of the others engaged in the same efforts. Just as the novice programmer is invited to “hack” open-source software, the minimal compact invites us to demystify and reengineer government at the most intimate and immediate level.” We can hack democracy.”
Elinor Ostrom. 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons. This book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics. Two recurring themes across the author’s case studies characterized by SUCCESS deal with information on the one hand and learning on the other. 01 INFORMATION — lots of it, very detailed, in real-time, constantly updated, always shared, is the heart of getting it right. In every instance where successful Common-Pool Resources have been managed ably, there has existed an information advantage that cannot be replicated by corporations or governments. 02 LEARNING — always incremental, always trial & error, always with pooling and blending of local and scientific knowledge.
Ken Conca. Spectacular–An Original Priceless Contribution. The author deconstructs and reconstructs the three core themes of knowledge (what Earth Intelligence Network calls public intelligence), territoriality, and authority. In all three instances, intelligence and ethics play huge roles. He devotes a chapter to the destabilization of knowledge (not “owned” by anyone), the hybridization (his word, very important) of authority, and the deterritorialization of nature (or recognition of reality 101). In his concluding two pages he brings up the term “politics by other means” and I find that absolutely fascinating. To me it means a rejection of the two-party or one-party tyranny’s that subvert so many countries, and the emergence of participatory budgeting and Open Everything (see my brief by that title at Phi Beta Iota). He diplomatically slams political science for equating regimes, institutiions, and states, and generally calls for a broadening of the governance model to include all humans with access to all information all the time. I’m putting the last bit in, but we are clearly on the same track.
Charles Hill. Beyond 5 Stars–Can Frustrate, But Righteously Broad. Read to the bitter end this magnificent book is both an indictment of the nation-state system, and an ode to the role of literature as a foundation for understanding and enhancing civilization and relations among peoples rather than nations. QUOTE (7): “To be more specific about why literary insight is essential for statecraft, both endeavors are concerned with important questions that are only partly accessible to rational thought. Such matters as how a people beings to identify itself as a nation, the nature of trust between political actors or between a government and its people, how a national commits itself to a more humane course of governance–all these and many more topics dealt with in this book–can’t be understood without some ‘grasp of the ungraspable’ emotional and moral weight they bear.” The book is state-centric, but in a clever way. The author recognizes failed states and toward the end of the book it is crystal clear that the author believes, as I do, that the suppression of self-determination has been the root cause of conflict. He looks to literature to understand the tribes and networks that were displaced or repressed by the state, as a starting point for making them whole again.
Stephen Lendman. 6 Star (My Top 10%) Primer for Every Citizen. If you read only one book on the destruction of the US economy, the destruction of the US Republic, the destruction of legitimate governance in the USA, this is the one book I recommend. It should not only be read, but also shared. As I go back over the table of contents thinking about what to highlight (I no longer mark up books now that I donate them all as I finish reading them), I am just blown away by the medticulous, sensible, systematic, intuitively coherent manner in which the author starts with the fraud and treason of the Federal Reserve (neither Federal nor a reserve), and ends with his prescription for public banking that I heartily respect. This book is both a good undergraduate and public reader, and a very fine introductory overview for graduate students. It manages to cover, in one concise volume, the tri-fecta of fraud: the banks led by the Federal Reserve and the global banking system that is privately owned and certainly never acting in the public interest; the illegal, inept, and often treasonous behavior of the US Government and the two political parties that have betrayed the public trust and helped both loot the US Treasury and destroy the US labor market; and the 1% class warfare against the 99%. If there were one book that captures all that Occupy should be addressing but is not, this is that book.
Peter A. Corning. Beyond 6 Stars–And a Seventh for Accessible Pricing. I could spend a lifetime reading and re-reading this book, and each of the cited sources, and not waste the time at all. This is one of the most extraordinary works I have encountered, and while I cannot do it justice, I will summarize it. Four other books that join this one in framing my third and last stage of life: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge; Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny; A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change; The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. Bottom line: Humanity can evolve, must evolve, and the Whole Earth, Co-Evolution concepts that Stewart Brand and others pioneered (not mentioned here), that indigenous people’s everywhere have understood for centuries, are a natural path for us all. We *can* create a prosperous world at peace. Short version of the book: Synergy is cool again, synergy and self-organization complement each other and are distinct; bioeconomics is hugely important and supports the premise that the whole is larger than the sum of the parts and that interactions and exchanges can and should be done for the whole, “beyond selfishness,” cybernetics rules, information is the space between, and ethics is both a form of cybernetics and a cultural adaptation that helps the whole evolve and persist.
Edgar Morin. Six Star Keeper – Joins Durant, Fuller, Ackoff. His core point, decades ahead of the rest of us–is that holistic thinking is the sine qua non for any form of serious deliberation. The next big idea in this book is the underdevelopment of the idea of development.The third big idea deal with both the urgency of maintaining diversity while also embracing unity, and in addition points to the youth and the rebellion of youth as the key indicator of failed civilization. The fourth big idea revolves around the reality that is there is no “single” great problem facing Earth OTHER THAN the polycrisis (all crises and challenges together, inter-mingled, unaddressable in isolation), that it is this polycrisis that is our number one problem, and from this the author then migrates to the urgency of restoring, enhancing, healing, evolving, and extending our way of thinking about thinking.
David Bornstein. Single best book I have read in past five years. This book blew my mind, literally. It has not altered my course, but it has dramatically accelerated my ability to make progress by illuminating a path I thought I would have to discover. This book is the first “map” of a completely new form of endeavor, profoundly individual in inspiration and global in scale, that of social entrepreneurship, not to be confused with non-profit or non-governmental, more traditional forms. The author, apart from mapping examples (33, focused on education, health, protection, and access to electricity and technology), provides what I consider to be the single best preface/introduction I have ever read. This is an Earth-changing book, an utterly brilliant, timely, ethical, wonderful piece of scholarship, journalism, vision and information sharing. I actually have tears in my eyes. This book is Ref A for saving the Earth seven generations into the future and beyond.
Ron Paul. I have read and reviewed earlier books by Ron Paul, such as The Revolution: A Manifesto and A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship. This book moves into a higher class (only 10% of the books I read and review get 6 Stars, see all my reviews in 98 categories at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog). I decided in this instance, thinking of Ron Paul as a viable Presidential candidate for the first time, to deconstruct the book down to 50 one liners. I offer these as a short form of the book, not a substitute for the real deal, but intended to help inspire more people to either buy the book, or absorb this free summary as we all try to break free of the corrupt two-party tyranny that fronts for a neo-fascist state. Bottom line: liberty is a human condition diminished by a leviathan state.
David Loye. 6 Star Plus — Simple, Sensible Revolutionary. The heart of the book, and certainly more than enough to warrant buying and appreciating this book, is the matrix for measuring evolution, with fifteen elements, each with three columns, one for indicators of progression, another for indicators of regression, and a third for regressive syndrome policies. I will just list the fifteen and heartily recommend the book: Levels of Evolution 01 Cosmic 02 Chemical 03 Biological 04 Brain 05 Psychological 06 Cultural 07 Social 08 Economic 09 Political 10 Educational 11 Technological 12 Moral 13 Spiritual 14 Consciousness 15 Action
Allison Fine. One of Two MUST READS For Any Social Activist. This book, and the much more detailed book by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Made to Stick are perfect partners in putting really actiionble public intelligence in the hands of social activitists and transpartisan political reformers. I have added both books to my list of transpartisan books. This book focuses on digital tools for social change, on creating connected activism, on addressing the listening and communicating deficits. The author provides a checklist of 12 points for evaluating how connected your activist organization is, another checklist of 8 points on powering the edges, and a final 95-point summary of the “Cluetrain Manifesto,” another book I have reviewed. All of these are useful. The author points out that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, and I could not agree more. Epoch B leadership is a form of swarm leadership, and the connected collective can easily bring the hierarchical authority down.
Robert Wright. Beyond 6 Stars–Nobel Prize (Of Old, Before Devalued).QUOTE: “Non-zero-sumness is a kind of potential–a potential for overall gain, or for overall loss, depending on how the game is played.”This book is one of the most sophisticated, deep, documented, and influential I have ever read, right up there with Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Published in 2000, this book has NOT received the marketing promotion or the public attention it merits. Historically rooted, this book takes a very long view, and discerns patterns in history that I find credible. In brief, cultural evolution is the advance in social complexity and the means of dealing with complex challenges facing dense complex social systems. It is rooted in the advance of technology with particular respect to the technologies of communication, transportation, and energy, but culture is itself a “technology” that is “at bottom a way of learning from the learning of others without having to pay the dues they paid.” THIS BOOK HAS SUBSTANTIALLY ALTERED MY PERCEPTION OF EVERYTHING ELSE.
Anthony Olcott. 6 Star Insider-Outsider Unique Offering. The author, an academic rather than a CIA body, has done a phenomenal job of integrating multiple literatures in studying the history and culture of the CIA’s open source endeavors as well as its overall culture, and in his conclusion, offers up sound ideas that need to be implemented if we ever get a national leadership that is interested in intelligence with integrity. I certainly recommend that this book be read along with Hamilton Bean’s No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence (Praeger Security International). What I like most about this book, and one reason I leave it at six stars (top 10% of the books I review), is that it goes in directions I did not anticipate and appreciate all the more. The author opens with an absolutely riveting discussion of the different “tribes” that emerged out of WWII and into CIA. I have a note: “most useful.” QUOTE (171): “The IC has become like a panda, an animal over-specialized in one particular kind of (secret) food.” The book ends very very well.
Jane McGonigal. This is a world-changing book, and while the author has benefited from a fabulous personality and personal presence, and first rate representation and promotion, when read carefully and completely and placed in the context of all that is about us today, the originality, relevance, and imminent potential of this book and the ideas in this book cannot be denied. The author does not do what Medard Gabel has done–provide the architectural underpinings for the digital EarthGame(TM) and global to local holistic “dashboards” that integrate the ten high-level threats to humanity, the twelve core policies, the true costs of every good and service–she is still at the “one of” level rather than the meta level–but if she can reach out to Medard Gabel and others and actually harness not just the cognitive surplus of the crowds, but the contextual pioneering of those who have spent decades before her thinking and doing in this arena, then she will be the righteous public face of what I am starting to call “Open Everything: from Autonomous Internet to Global Panarchy.”
Peter G. Peterson. 6 Star Holy Cow! “Insider” Speaks Truth, Tars Both Parties. I find it extraordinary to have the Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, which I have always considered to be an old man’s club of established elites, largely out of touch with 80% of the real world (that is to say, the 80% that has almost nothing in the way of wealth, health, or rights), step up to the plate and speak truth.This book addresses the second core issue in America’s future, i.e. the twin deficits that are not only going to kill the business of America, but also deprive the children of America of their future. (Lapham addresses the first: restoration of honest democracy). The author is balanced, focused, deliberative, and earnest. He carefully explains how both the “mainstream” political parties have completely abdicated all responsibility, and completely betrayed the public interest in their eagerness to sell legislation to the highest corporate bidders. There is one grievous flaw in the book. In concluding that we can only survive by educating ourselves and then finding our voice, the author neglects to address the fast means of achieving short-term fiscal recovery in tandem with campaign finance and electoral reform: the elimination of subsidies, tax fraud, and tax relief for corporations.
Edgar Morin. This book can serve in so many ways. For myself, it is an independent confirmation of all that I have been exploring through the minds of others–the 1,800 plus authors whose works I have reviewed here at Amazon. It is a spectacular indictment of the existing educational, intelligence, and research systems that have become so fragmented and wasteful as to be an impediment to progress. This book would make a phenomenal high school senior honors class, and it could certainly be used to good effect as the starting volume for the freshman in college. It would enlighten any policymaker or politician or corporate chief. Among the many bottom lines in this marvelous treasure of a book — a keepsake for a lifetime of reflection — are these: 1. Holistic knowledge, not isolated knowledge, is what matters.
2. Understanding of the other, not depth of personal knowledge, is critical; 3. Appreciation for our Earth and humanity contexts must precede our becoming intelligent as a species; 4. Individual intelligence is nothing without social intelligence.
James McEnteer. Both a Tour of Substance, and an Eye Opener for Book People. I was so impressed, so engaged, so absolutely educated by this author that I spent no less than four hours, and it might be as much as six, creating a table of all 120 films that he mentioned, with the directors, the year of release, and hot links. The complete list with hot links is at Phi Beta Iota, and should have been an appendix–I certainly will give the list to the author should he wish to post it anywhere. QUOTE xii: Why the sudden prominence of nonfiction films? There exists in America a great hunger to understand what’s really going on. These films help feed that need. Much of that hunger has to do with the concentrated ownership of news media; the corporatization and trivialization of the news, and the decreasing spectrum of information. Instead of innovation and investigation, we get repetition and imitation.” QUOTE (24-25): Entrenched corporate and government powers resist an openness that may challenge their preeminence. They use their political and financial clout to restrict the content of American television. Murrow’s 1958 admonition that television should be enlisted in the “great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference” seems wildly idealistic today, as television exists to trumpet majoritarian values, kill time, and hawk material wares. It’s not a marketplace of ideas, just a marketplace. New technologies have made television more seductive, but not more substantive.” The author offers extraordinary political relevance when he addresses the irrelevance of the left and right divisions. He says: QUOTE (48): In fact, categories like liberal and conservative are irrelevant and misleading. The real division is between those who protect and serve the bureaucratic apparatus that perpetuates crimes against humanity–like career politicians Orrin Hatch and Joe Biden, and FBI thugs Jeff Jamar and Larry Potts–and those like journalist Dick Eavis and Davidian lawyer Dick De Guerin, who seek accountability from individuals and institutions nested with the faceless machinery of death.
Sokari Ekine (editor). Beyond Six Stars–Hugely Important Useful Collection. This is potentially a game-changing book, and since I know the depth of ignorance among government policy makers, corporate chief executives, and larger non-governmental and internaitonal organization officials, I can say with assurance that 99% of them simply do not have a clue, and this one little precious book that gives me goose-bumps as I type this, could change the world by providing “higher education” to leaders who might then do more to further the brilliant first steps documented in this book. The authors are a deeply impressive “baker’s dozen” (13), most of them of, by, and for Africa.
Jim Rough. Renaissance of We the People, Unifying the Young and Old. This is one of the most brilliant and compellingly comprehensive books I have read in recent time, and certainly one of less than 100, probably less than 25, and perhaps even one of the ten most important books available in English. The author’s conception of the Wisdom Council, which is now enjoying significant success and public appreciation in the Eco-topia of the Pacific Northwest, is one of a continuous Constitutional Convention with all of us as permanent delegates. It is a way “We the People” can come into existence and collectively choose topics, explore them and evolve consensus … possibly some sensible sustainable decision or policy that goes out 200 years (what the Native Americans called 7th Generation thinking).
Rickard Falkvinge. 6 Star Authentic World-Changing Book. Perhaps the biggest counter-intuitive lessons from this book is that swarms wants and need focused leadership that can provide a structure — an architecture and easy to grasp prioritization of effort. Swarms are the opposite of bureaucracies — agile, inclusive, transparent — but they still need structure setting and goal/task definition if they are to be effective [witness Occupy versus the Pirate Party for a study in ineffectiveness versus tangible results]. HOWEVER, the author makes it clear that “leaders” of a swarm are more janitorial than managerial in nature. There is ample humility in this book.Magic numbers are 7, 30, 150 — a squad, a platoon, a company. BIG BIG OBSERVATION: The only “organization” that matters is the relationship between people. Four key functions that require dedicated attention from specific individuals at each level across each regional break are Public Relations/Media; Activism; Swarmcare; and Web/Information-Sharing.
Micah Sifry. Should Be Top Ten Book Across All Progressive Communities. This is one of the most useful important books I have read in the past couple of years, and I am stunned that the publisher has failed to properly present the book for purchase on Amazon. This book should be one of the top ten books across the progressive communities of the world. I rate this book at SIX STARS, which puts it into the top ten percent of the 2000+ non-fiction books with some DVDs (139) I have reviewed at Amazon. This is an *amazing* book of passionate informed truth-telling and in my view, it should be the starting point for a totally new conversation among all progressive minds going into the future. QUOTE (34): “…has not made participation in decision-making or group coordination substantially easier.” QUOTE (49): “We can save the body politic, but to do so we must remember that the purpose of democracy isn’t only for each of us to have our say, but to blend individual opinions into common agreements. … We need a real digital public square, not one hosted by Facebook, shaped by Google, and monitored by the National Security Agency.” QUOTE (159): “Many weak causes do not add up to a stronger movement.” QUOTE (161): “First, we need to insist on tools and platforms that genuinely empower users to be full citizens. And second, we have to take back our own digital agency.”
Robert R. Carkhuff. Productivity Primer–One of Five Basic Books for InfoAge. This book had a profound influence on me, helping me to understand that the functions fulfilled by an employee dealing with “things” are completely distinct from the functions fulfilled by an employee dealing with “ideas”, and that completely different educational, training, management, and compensation models are needed for the new “Gold Collar” worker. From this book I realized that virtually everything we are doing in U.S. education and U.S. personnel management and training today is way off the mark and at least a decade if not two or three decades behind where we could be in human productivity management.
David C Korten. People are the new super power–local resilience, global community. The book ends with four strategic elements: 1) Awakening of cultural and spiritual consciousness; 2) Resistance of the imperial empire’s assault on children, families, communities, and nature; 3) Form and connect communities of convergence; 4) Build a majoritarian political base. In parting notes he points out that the status of our children is the key indicator of our future, and that today one out of every two children is born into and lives into poverty (one reason why the High Level Threat Panel put poverty above infectuous disease and environmental degradation). He ends by calling for local living economies at a human scale. If you have the time to only read one book within the broad literatures of imagination, corporateism, and constructive prospects for the planet, this is probably that book.
David Halpern. Beyond 5 Stars, a Cornerstone Book, Most Extraordinary Strategic Depth. This is a Beyond Five Stars book. Although there is a fine literature emerging on collective intelligence and wealth of networks–and there is an increasingly robust Open Money movement that also includes local communities currencies that keep the wealth local–this book does something no other book has done–it connects economics to humanity and reality and the intangibles in all their forms. This is not a book about underground economies, barter systems, alternative currencies, etcetera. It is one of the most profoundly relevant, erudite yet easy to read books I have ever read, with a direct bearing on every aspect of human life, and in particular the role of government as it should be. Having read quite a bit on resilience, I am much taken with the author’s emphasis on resilience as being founded largely in social trust, social savings, social capital accumulation, not financial. He uses the term “the economy of regard,” and also speaks of “affiliative welfare,” while noting that existing approaches to poverty do not work because they ignore the two thirds of the equation that is social rather than financial. I am much taken with his discussion of the falling salience of government and the emergence of alternative forms of democratic engagement and I especially like the comparison of Gross Domestic Product (GDP, counts hospitals and prisons); Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI); and now Gross National Happiness (GNH). Thirteen policy implications are listed early on; there is no substitute for reading the book to truly appreciate each of these.
Richard J. Spady. Astonishing Powerful, Easy to Read, MUST Be Reprinted. This book was recommended to me by Joseph McCormick, former Army Ranger, world-class philosopher, and one of the founders of Reuniting America, 110 million strong and totally transpartisan in nature. We both agree with Peter Peterson’s views in Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. None of the political candidates today, with one possible exception, understand Epoch B Swarm LeadershipIf you are completely unfamiliar with the broad literature on co-intelligence, wisdom councils, citizen councils, large-scale human collaboration, this one book is a superb overview and reflects over two decades of pioneering by the authors.
Danny Sheehan. 6 Stars on Substance, Revolutionary Illumination. This is a book for smart people who care about the Constitution, the Republic, and America the Beautiful — the America of good people with big hearts and strong souls who do the best they can while trapped amidst a complex of corrupt systems that now include most labor unions, most non-profits, and most religions — all the safety nets are gone. It is not an easy read but it could be the most important book you could read right now, as we prepare for the 2014-2020 civil war between the 99% and the 1%. For a sense of where I see Danny Sheehan in modern US history, see my review of Arsonist: The Most Dangerous Man in America. Danny Sheehan’s is to the second American revolution as James Otis was to the Founding Fathers. The 1% and their political bi-opoly (the best of the servant class in the eyes of the 1%) are the target for a massive apolitical cross-cultural uprising rooted in natural law, social justice, and common sense. The book cannot be fully appreciated without first understanding that the author has been a major player in every fundamental Constitutional case having to do with public agency — the sovereignty of the public versus the assumption by the “government” that it has inherent powers once reserved for kings, and that the citizens “donate” (abdicate) their powers once they “elect” said government. I highly recommend Wikipedia’s biography on Daniel Sheehan (attorney). This — or the timeline below — is what should have opened the book in the first place. I take the trouble to do this because the value of this book lies with the next generation, the generation now in college and graduate school (or unemployed and unOccupied), not in the generation that rose with Danny and failed to beat down New York money, Texas energy, and the Nazi hydra combined with elite embrace of drugs, money laundering, and pedophilia, among other high crimes against the Republic.
Chuck Sudetic. 6 Star Special–Soros Out-Grows Broken System. On its own merits, without the Foreword from George Soros, this book is a solid five. With the most extraordinary Foreword, a Foreword that draws the lines of battle between a totally dysfunctional global governance and financial system of systems all lacking in integrity–where truth is not to be found–and the need for transparency, truth, and trust, the book goes into my top 10%, 6 stars and beyond. This essay is phenomenal, and bears on the book at large, because Soros has finally put his finger of the sucking chest wound that I, John Bogle, William Grieder, and most recently Matt Taibbi have been sounding the alarm on: the lack of intelligence and integrity in the system of systems. Soros is halfway there; he is now outside the system looking in, and that is good news for all of us. “I am looking for novel solutions in order to make an untidy structure manageable.” “As I see it, mankind’s ability to understand and control the forces of nature greatly exceeds our ability to govern ourselves.”
Bernard Manin. 6 Star Wake Up Call – The Democracy That Never Was….The author makes it clear from page one that democracy as conceived by the Founding Fathers is an ALTERNATIVE to popular self rule, what one author calls Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. He writes in a very measured academic manner, but I cannot help equating democracy with a shell game — the Founding Fathers persuaded the public that the “consent of the governed” conveyed authority and legitimacy to what was in essence a government, of, by, and for the wealthy. The book ends as it begins, outlining how “democracy” today comes in three flavors, parliamentarianism, party democracy, and audience democracy. On the latter two I cannot help but think of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny and Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq. Early on the author cites Rousseau’s distinction between a free people makings its own laws, and a people electing representatives to make laws for it. Later in the book the author points out that once an elite is elected to make laws, they will never overturn laws that favor them. Witness the nine times a bill has been submitted to the US two-party Congress to put all accredited national parties on all state ballots and all debates (for federal elections). Nine times the two-party tyranny has refused to do the right thing and the public has not noticed. QUOTE (8): Representative government gives no institutional role to the assembled people. That is what distinguishes it from the democracy of the ancient city-states. He draws on and cites with admirmation the work of M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles, and Ideology and this is the start of a very lengthy and fascinating section on how important “lots” were, with the caveat that citizens first had to volunteer to be among the chosen, and then the lots would be drawn. Early on he points out that the core principle for maintaining INTEGRITY is ROTATION — regular rotation of average citizens, with a constant deep distrust of “political professionalism.”
Tom Atlee. Utterly Sensational–Basic Book for Humanity. I cannot say enough good things about this book. If the authors cited above have been coming at the same challenge from a “top down” perspective, then Tom Atlee, the author of this book, gets credit for defining a “bottom up” approach that is sensible and implementable. This book focuses on what comes next, after everyone gets tired of just “meeting up” or “just blogging.” This book is about collective intelligence for the common good, and it is a very fine book.
Curtis J. Bonk. 6 STAR Wake Up Call for All Educators. The basic premise up front: anyone can learn anything from anyone at anytime. The author charms me early on with his recognition of how broken our existing educational delivery system is, and his passion for how information and communication technologies (ICT) can empower all (at the end of the book he specifically focuses on the five billion poor and how they can learn via mobile learning) and create an “egalitarian learning frenzy.” The ten key trends: 01 Web-Searching 02 Blended Learning 03 Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) 04 OpenCourseWare 05 Learning Portals 06 Learners as Teachers 07 Electronic Collaboration 08 Alternative Reality including Serious Games 09 Mobile Real-Time Learning 10 Networks of Personalized Learning.
Anonymous. Beyond 5 Stars, Epic, Poetic, Startling, Reasoned. This is hard truth, straight up. It should certainly be translated into Arabic, Chinese, and other languages. This book goes into my top ten percent “6 Stars and Beyond.” See the others at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, under Reviews (middle column). Right up front, let me give the author and this book my highest praise: both have INTEGRITY. Integrity is not just about honor, it’s about doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing righter, it’s about being holistic, open-minded, appreciating diversity, respecting the “other.” There is more integrity in this book than in the last thousand top secret intelligence reports on Afghanistan, all full of lies and misrepresentations. As I moved through the chapters, each of the quotations resonated with me. Each chapter is filled with poetic and deeply educated turns of phrase-I completely disagree with those reviewers who confuse elegance with posturing. The author is one of the most educated, broadly read, open-minded, patriotic truth-tellers I know-right up there with Ralph Peters, Robert Young Pelton, William Greider, to name just a trio. Here are seven core concepts that this book offers [read full review].
Lou Dubose. 23 Documented High Crimes That Should Put Cheney in Irons Immediately. This book is vastly more detailed, and covers more high crimes and misdemeanors, than either State of Denial, which misunderstands Bush as being in charge, or Crossing the Rubicon, which focuses primarily on Cheney’s role in first permitting 9-11, and then working assiduously to cover up his malicious malfeasance. See also Ron Susskind’s book, “One Percent Doctrine,” which crucifies Cheney, Rumseld, and Rice. I take this book so seriously that I urge everyone to get the “Do It Yourself Impeachment” kit. He should be required to immediately resign or be impeached. He should not be allowed to serve another month in office. For the sake of brevity, here is a list  of impeachable offenses documented by this book: [read full review].
Harrison Owen. Some Warts But If You Buy Only One Book, Try This One….I cannot help but read into this book (the author never mentions any political party or ideology) the raw correlation with the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, and Ron Paul’s constant focus on how the federal government is both broken and out of control. His early discussion focuses on the importance of: INVITE instead of command CIRCLE instead of pyramid PASSION instead of control HELPLESS is good; trying to “be” in charge is bad. The author concludes that most deliberate organizing and planning is a waste and also destructive of the natural adaptation that complex systems have inherent in themselves. The final bits of the book that matter to me: The lifeblood of self-organizing is accurate free-flowing information. The mental model being applied to that information MATTERS. The Internet is shifting power from formal to informal [i.e. from state to non-state].
John Taylor Gatto. Beyond Six Stars–a Manifesto for Liberty. This book shocked me, and while I am not easily shocked, in shocking me made me realize how even my own radical outlook (as Howard Zinn notes, a radical is someone who no longer believes government is part of the solution) has come to accommodate, to accept, the most obvious tool of subordination, the public school system. The author’s bottom line: public schooling is a deliberate transplant from Germany that Carnegie and Rockefeller and Ford and other foundations designed as a deliberate means of dumbing down the mass population and segregating elite learning from mass “functional” learning devoid of political or philosophical reflection. Schooling is about obedience, not about learning. The author says “Mandatory education services children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants.” (xxii). Early on the author supports his radical critique by pointing out that literacy dropped with the spread of mandatory schooling, from 4% going into World War II to 19% going into Korea (a mere 10 years later) to 27% going into Viet-Nam. Further on the author expresses the view that compulsory schooling set out to destroy self-reliance, ingenuity, courage, competence, and other frontier virtues, because they threatened management. He explicitly relates both the “scientific method” with social control, and takes pains to show how schooling is administrative control far removed from learning.
Lee Iacocca. National Enema With Wit and Character. This book earns my vote for top transpartisan book of the decade, along with “All Rise” (see link below). This great man is saying things that I and others have been saying since 2000, but because of his stature, we now finally have the national enema that we all need. Lee Iacocca, in my personal view, should link up with Reuniting America, and volunteer to form a Sunshine Cabinet of transpartisan retired leaders (corporate, military, law enforcement, education, and others). We need to show America that it is possible to create a balanced sustainable budget, and to have common sense priorities. The book opens with a discussion of the nine C’s of leadership: Curiosity, Creativity, Communicator, Character, Courage, Conviction, Charisma, Competency, and Common Sense. In evaluating the current crop of candidates for President, all fail with the exception of Joe Biden for President and John Edwards for Vice President. He stresses people and prioities, and for the first time in any book I have read, he calls for all presidential candidates to appoint their Cabinet BEFORE the election so the people can evaluate the team and not just the Man. This is something I have advocated since 2000.
Citizen-Centered (Moral Aspect)
Empodera.org. Free online book in four parts (experiences, reflections, tools and applications, interview) in Spanish and English.
It is an American Story in the grandest possible manner. In no way does that excuse the continuing segregation and abuse of people of color, the really rotten education system for all, the two-party tyranny, the corruption of the US government at all levels–but in one small very real time and space, one family–one mother–got it right.
Daniel Ellsberg. What comes across throughout this movie are a few persistent trends: 01 Grotesquely disproportionate commitment of resources 02 Routine lying to the public by those who knew better 03 Increasing doubts by McNamara, but loyalty prevailed over integrity 04 Confronting the reality that public service demands integrity 05 Elsberg describes his tutorial to Kissinger on the negative and deceptive impact of being flooded with secrets while considering everyone else to be uninformed when they are actually closer to the open truth 06 Mort Halperin appears multiple times. 07 Honest history does not support imperialism. America was wrong from the Geneva Accords onwards. Kennedy and Nixon both lied.
James Billington. The Librarian of Congress is the author. Reviewer Henri Porter says: It answers the question of the two opposing “secret” warring groups one the proponents of freewill the others proponents of the collective and or the secular super powerful state. All this and according to Billington’s work, the most startling aspect, is that journalists are the very agents of this revolutionary activity. Puts a very scientism spin on things like global warming and afro-centrism. Phi Beta Iota: If this book were written today, all but a handful of journalists and most think thanks being corrupt to the bone, the Librarian of Congress would probably identify bloggers and “truthers” as the sparks of revolutionary flame.
Douglas Rushkoff. Quote from the book: “Instead of learning about our technology, we opt for a world in which our technology learns about us.” The most intriguing aspect of Rushkoff’s worldview is the realization that “we the people” have always been one step behind the technological innovation of the age. From the creation of a written language to the creation of the Internet, the majority of us lag behind the people in positions of knowledge/power who are creating the systems that shape our daily lives.
Joan Valerie Bondurant. This could quite well be the best book ever written about Gandhi’s philosophy of conflict: satyagraha. [The author] she claims that Gandhi’s philosophy made a contribution to political science that no system of political theory has ever adequately dealt with before. In that sense, she says, that Gandhi’s greatest contribution to the world may have been overlooked. And this, I think, is what makes this book one of the most important books of the 20th century.
Robert David Steele. B. Tweed DeLions: If there’s a single Founding Father of the Open Source movement, Robert D. Steele is it. Everyone else has been playing catchup. And if you don’t know what the Open Source revolution is, you need to read this book. Open Source Systems turn individual human brains into Brain Networks. In a sense, each individual brain then becomes a cell within a much larger brain. And because human brains have skills of analysis, perception, and creative problem solving that computers will never have, this new hybrid form of intelligence is much more powerful than artificial intelligence will ever be. Open Source Intelligence is a new tool of problem solving *and* a new system of organization at the same time.
Robert W. Fuller. Manfiesto for Transpartisan Democracy and Moral Capitalism. I have never encountered a book quite so straight-forward or quite so vital to our future. At 54, I simply did not understand the fundamentals of “all men are created equal” until this author pointed me to the one word I was missing: “dignity.” This book is nothing less than revolutionary, nothing less than the manifesto for the new politics of transpartisanship and being developed by Don Beck and Jim Turner and Reuniting America (80 million strong and growing). At the very highest level, the author suggests that “rankism” or the abuse of rank, not to be confused with the proper use of rank and authority for the good of the group, is an umbrella term that encompasses racism, sexism, fascism, and even (I add) fundamentalism that excludes “the others” and offers an almost cult-like sense of belonging to the “initiated.” We are all in this together, and with one word, DIGNITY, the author has completely shredded all excuses for abusing others, and opened the door for a new politics of one for all and all for one.
Howard Zinn, RIP, an eminent historian, is the people’s historian. He alone has documented the many times in which public resistance brought odious government programs to a stop. The author is compelling in cataloging the litany of lies by our Presidents, and the manner in which our Founding Fathers designed the government to protect the rich and enslave the poor. The author is compelling in pointing out that we must all question authority, and that the one thing we should all recognize now is that we can unite and be invincible, non-violently invincible, in demanding dignity, justice, and liberty for all–not just all Americans, but every person on the planet and especially those repressed by the 44 dictators, 42 of whom are Bush-Cheney “allies.”
William Greider shines. QUOTE (1): We live in a country where telling the hard truth with clarity has become taboo. QUOTE (7): From the birth of our nation, it was always ordinary people, pushing from the bottom against an entrenched status quo, that led to the most momentous changes in American life. QUOTE (14): An authentic democracy would learn how to listen respectfully and incorporate this private knowledge of citizens into the process of public decision making. QUOTE (288): To rehabilitate democracy and reclaim our role as citizens, Americans have to change the architecture of political power by creating a third front for popular sovereignty. The empty space between big government and the private sector’s concentrated power could be filled by citizens in many new formations–groups large and small, local and national, that would speak independently and use their powers to persuade or punch the existing order.
Barbara Marx Hubbard. A Theological Masterpiece–A Practical Manifesto. The core strategic idea in this book is that we are now capable of coming together across all boundaries at all locations to discourse on Conscious Evolution. The author uses the metaphor of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly to make several points, including the need to end our Industrial Era’s wasteful, destructive, and violent practices, the need for deconstruction to make way for new construction, and the manner in which the design for the new is embedded in the old. There are a number of operational ideas in this book, and as dismayed as one might be to reflect on the fact that the author knew all of this a decade or more ago, the reality is that NOW is the time for her ideas to be implemented by organizations such as the Transpartisan Alliance. Big Idea #1: Presidential candidates in the future should not just select a Vice President, but an entire Cabinet, each member fully familiar with the social innovations in their respective fields. Big Idea #2: The Office of the Vice President in particular should be responsible for discovering and then disseminating more broadly “what works,” and for managing a Peace Room that would, for every region of the world, for every high-level threat to humanity, “scan for, map, connect, and communicate what is working to create a humane regenerative world–a cocreative society.” Big Idea #3: We are now ready to move beyond the Liberal Arts education that is more of a survey of ideas, and into a program that fosters conscious evolution.
Thom Hartmann. Heart-Felt, Intelligent, Useful but Still Believes in Democratic Party. I admire this book and recommend it highly. I could not give it the full five stars for two reasons: first, the author blindly accepts the Democratic Party as “good,” not recognizing that they are actually “crime lite” in contrast to the Republican Party (and also the new face of Wall Street, with the Republicans designated to take the fall this time around in what has been a “fixed” and fraudulent electoral system since the 2000 fraud made pre-selection a given option); and second; he actually thinks Nancy Pelosi knows what she is doing–I think she is a doormat with no spine, so right off we have some cognitive dissonance. This case has been made by Peter Peterson in Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It so I will not belabor it. BOTH parties are evil and BOTH parties have betrayed the public trust.
Tom Wagner. Creating Innovators is NOT What Most US Schools Do…. This book was for me absorbing, capturing my attention early on with this quote on page xv: “….most policymakers — and many school administrators — have absolutely no idea what kind of instruction is required to produce student who can think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaboration versus merely score well on a test. They are also clueless about what kind of teaching best motivates this generation of thinkers.” QUOTE (156): Citing Paul Buttino, who says “The value of explicit information is rapidly dropping to zero. Today the real added value is what you can do with what you know. and it is — in the doing — in the probing of the universe, the pursuit of a query — that the real learning takes place.”
Robert Fuller. I had previously read and reviewed All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents (Hardcover)) and as much as I liked that first book, this is the one I recommend as a broad use item. It is ideal for any company or organizational off-set as a pre-arrival required reading, as a gift (including as an anonymous gift to the rankism-challenged, and as a personal easy to read book. There are 24 sidebars, each a little gem, the key points are summarized at the end of each chapter, and I believe this book finally meets the need for a Citizen 101 Guide.
Tom Atlee. To the extent that I have been constructively radicalized toward open everything and the core principles of transparency, truth, and trust, I owe a great debt to Tom [Atlee] and the Seattle wizards that I met because of him, not least Jon Ramer, Susan Cannon, and Sheri Herndon. By way of contextual appreciation, I would also mention Harrison Owen, whose first book Tom cites but whose most recent book I am compelled to present here, Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World, and Peggy Owen, whose most recent book is Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity. I am delighted that he also honors Jim Rough (Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People) and the team of Juanita Brown and David Isaacs (The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter among many others. Tom provides both an appendix of key concepts with links. This book is a capstone work, one that brings all that Tom can offer–and all that Tom has ingested and integrated from many many others that he credits in the bibliography. If I had the means, this is the one book that I would encourage all citizens to buy, read, and then discuss, first in block parties, then in neighborhood meetings, and finally in Town Hall gatherings that every elected official is required to attend (with their mouths taped shut and all electronic devices confiscated at the door.
Tom Atlee, one of a handful of pioneers in the Collective Intelligence arena, offers all of us a launch point for what he calls Evolutionary Activism, which is a process—an enabling function—for the achievement of a civilization that actually makes sense: conscious evolution of both the individual and the society, such that we appreciate reality in detail (something most government refuse to do); create and innovate in that firmly-rooted context, and consequently make ourselves and our society “fit” for survival on a rapidly changing Earth where changes that used to take 10,000 years now take three.
Steven Walkdman. Extraordinary–Elegant in Concise Insights and a Holistic Appraisal. This is a very special book. The author has done an utterly superb job of original research and elegant concise representation of the nuances in belief, practice, and circumstances with respect to the matter of religion as confronted by the Founding Fathers, and especially Ben Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
Naomi Wolf. Major Contribution to Loyal Dissent & True Patriotism QUOTE: We need a strategy for a new American uprising against those who would suppress our rights; we need what Lincoln would have called “a new birth of freedom.” As readers of Tom Paine’s Common Sense had to realize, we are not declaring war on an oppressor–rather, we have to realize that the war already, quietly, systematically, been declared against us. The author has some gifted turns of phrase throughout, for example, stating that the Declaration of Independence “is about our continual duty as Americans to rebel,” going on to say that the Declaration is a MANDATE to continually confront abusive power in all its forms. The author also correctly interprets “happiness” as the fulfillment of one’s gifts and potential, not as free-riding joy.
Alexander Christakis, Kenneth Bausch. The primary author of this book was closely associated with Dr. Jan Warfield, one of the giants of reflexive practice and cybernetic coherence, along with Dr. Russell Ackoff, and that alone makes this book a special read for me. As the book self-describes, it is focused on “participatory interactive human-centered democracy.” It is a handbook for structured design process and the science of dialogic design. The work is to be admired in part because it specifically strives toward panarchy, beyond participatory democracy in a hierarchical context. The authors itemize ten major assumptions and twenty methods, positing that in the aggregate, they can create a foundation foundation for a science of human settlements that is rooted in dialogue and design. The core point, certainly one that the National Council on Dialog and Deliberation (NCDD) would agree with, is that true dialog (as opposed to ideological jousting characteristic of “debates”) creates meaning jointly–the Yin and the Yang, the DNA spiral of co-evolution that Stewart Brand and Howard Rheingold and Tom Atlee have helped describe. Phi Beta Iota: “Conversations creating choices,” as Jim Rough would say — voting and abdicating thereafter is not democracy.
Elizabeth Janeway. “It used to be legal to oppress people of color and women–that did not make it right.” The author, and the book, are central to any literature or discussion of the role of dissent in society, and the manner in which the public can ultimately triumph over any external authority including dictatorships and abusive corrupt regimes. What is done in our name today with drones and assassination teams and incarceration without due process is unConstitutional in the USA and a crime against humanity abroad. I am a patriot. A patriot does not let traitors get away with hijacking the government and must at a minimum speak their mind.
Paulo Freire. The translator emphasizes that across Friere’s works, he condemns false claims of neutrality and objectivity, and says clearly that education is an ethical calling that has a strong need to take a stand on what is good and right. The book emphasizes that the study of the oppressed has been squelched by those in authority, inclusive of higher graduate education studies, as an ideological act that declines to recognize that the oppressed are in fact, OPPRESSED, not just poor, lazy, stupid, or otherwise self-condemned. Friere repeatedly returns to a key point, that thinking is an act of communication, and can only take place interactively. Teaching and research should comprise an endless cycle and not be a one-way street (didactic is a fancy word for “I talk, you listen.”)
Jeff Jarvis. An early understanding of sharing impacting on 99% prosperity versus 1% continuing to concentrate wealth.
Charles Hampden-Turner. Seminal Work, Get It Used, Should Be Reprinted. It was not until I chanced across this work, which the author points out is the first ever theoretical dissertation at the Harvard Business School. I share the author’s disdain for the Know-Nothings stepped in their rote learning who label all that they do not understand as “naive idealism.” They’ve become prostitutes, while the author and those like him continue to “live free.” What this book did for me personally was provide and explain “Radical Man” in terms precisely suited to explode my first thesis from something pedestrian to something that today, a quarter of a century later, is still “best in class” (available at OSS.Net in Library, Steele’s Early Papers). He provided a model of psycho-social development with the following elements: + Perception + Identity + Competence + Investment + Suspension & Risk + Transcendance + Synergy + Integration + Complexity
Dan Korem. Extraordinary, Compelling, Urgently Applicable to All. The bottom line, without seeking to simplify the book, is avoid de-personalization, prevent bullying, open up to individuals and empower them, and above all, be alert for any sense that they see teachers or other authority figures as “CONTROLLING” and rules as “INAPPLICABLE.” The author’s finding that terrorism is a rich kid’s game, and that most US-based random actors will come from upper middle class families in small towns, are consistent with my own research and practical experience with revolutionaries. Sadly, the underlying theme across the book is that of societal collapse. Phi Beta Iota: see also the December 2014 post, Robert Steele: Killing Cops – The Canary Dies Too
Howard Rheningold. At the very end of the book, the author quotes James Madison as carved into the marble of the Library of Congress: “…a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” And there it is–Howard Rheingold has documented the next level of the Internet, in which kids typing 60 words a minute with one thumb, “swarms” of people converging on a geospatial node guided only by their cell phones; virtual “CIAs” coming together overnight to put together massive (and accurate) analysis with which to take down a corporate or government position that is fradulent–this is the future and it is bright.
George Will. Brilliant Insights into What Makes Nations Great. Today we are beginning to understand that the moral aspects of national character are 3-5 times more important than the physical and economic and technical aspects. Michele Borba’s new book, Building Moral Intelligence, together with George Will’s dated but still powerfully relevant book, comprise the urgently needed elementary education for all adults who would be responsibile citizens–or leaders of citizens.
Kevin O’Keefe. One Extra Star for Cool Idea That is Also Uplifting. The idiocy and mendacity of our leaders aside, this is a great Nation, and I have tears in my eyes as I conclude the book, where the man chosen by the author as the average American, informed on the 4th of July, properly concludes that it is a great honor. Honor indeed. This is a superb book.
Steven Pinker. One of a Handful of Revolutionary and Liberating References. This is a truly extraordinary book, some of the finest scholarship I have ever read, easily up there with E. O. Wilson’s “Consilience” and other such works. Four bridges from biology to culture: 1) cognitive science; 2) cognitive neuroscience; 3) behavioral genetics; and 4) evolutionary psychology. I am of course reminded of Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold, and the long-standing views on Co-Evolution. The author’s primary and most adroitly presented view is that the human mind is NOT a blank slate, and that we must completely separate science from religion as well as politics, because in failing to recognize human nature, we are making bad decisions in many areas.
Dacher Keltner, Jason March, Jeremy Adam Smith. Extraordinary Collection, Unique, Timely, No Notes. This is a truly extraordinary collection of essays from the magazine Greater Good, a magazine I had no idea existed. The editors have done a tremendous job in selecting 35 essays (click on the cover above to see the Table of Contents and over all I am hugely impressed. Multiple literatures are in convergences, from the consciousness side to the global brain side to the waging peace side. I arrived at this book from the “beyond genes to culture” side, and list ten other recommended books spanning those literatures at the end of this review.
Paul Ray. Not Yet a Movement (2001), But Showing Serious Potential (2015). This book should be read together with Imagine: What America Could be in the 21st century, edited by Marianne Williamson. Taken together, the two books are inspirational while still being practical. This is neither a tree-hugger book nor a mantras R us book. This book provides a thoughtful review of how different movements–first the environmental movement, then the human rights movement, and finally the consciousness movement–have come together to define an alternative lifestyle and alternative paradigm for political and economic and social relationships in the larger context of a sustainable “whole” earth.
Anne-Marie Slaughter. Best of Intentions, Good Individual Effort. I have two competing views of this book. The first, beyond five stars, is earned by this quote from page 13: QUOTE: In our history, the greatest patriots have been those leaders and ordinary citizens who have dared to hold America to our own highest standards–even at the cost of ostracism, punishment, imprisonment and, at times–e3ven death.” I would add unemployment to the list–Washington today does NOT want to hear truth about anything at all. My second view is somewhat jaundiced, as the author is both limited to the usual suspects in her citations (a cup of Founding Fathers with a sprinkling Council on Foreign Policy elites holding forth on the ideals at the same time they are working actively against the public interest across the board).
Paul Loeb. Superb Collection, Needs to Identify Original Pieces. The first and most important point: this is not a “do gooder feel good” book–it is a compelling, absorbing book that lays out some good insights and provides an antidote to paralysis and dispair. It is, in short, a book that inspires many small actions that in the aggregate could lead to revolutionary improvements in democracy and our quality of life. At a tactical level, this book complements Bill Moyer’s Doing Democracy, and is a personal counterpart to Jonathan Schell’s work, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People.
Clay Johnson. Gift Book, Gift Idea, Gift Economy, Get a Grip. This is the first manifesto, beyond The Age of Missing Information, to actually focus on how out of control our relationship is to the world of information. As a lifetime professional in these matters I can state clearly that not only are governments substituting ideology for intelligence and corruption for integrity, but so are all the other communities of information (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government / non-profit. We live in a totally corrupt world where — right now — banking families (Rothschild et al) own the banks and the banks own the two-party tyrannies (or the outright dictators) that own government, and they own the the corporations, with the 99% being expendable fodder for 1% theft from the commonwealth. This book is a cry from the heart, and an eloquent one at that. The author does a fine job of building on the work of others and captures the nuances of technology-degraded thinking and the loss of the hand-eye-reality interface. Books such as Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media and The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge set the stag: we are all enmeshed in one gigantic, persistent, pervasive, pathological mesh of lies. To live that lie is to die. To break free of the matrix and find the truth is to live life to the fullest extent possible for our extraordinary species.
Carne Ross. A superficial overview, useful in that sense only.
Amitai Etzioni. Learned Introduction to Social Ethics. My eyes glazed over in places, and I had to struggle to finish the book, but on balance believe the author provides a learned introduction to social ethics and the topic of how morality, community, and democracy are inter-twined. My over-arching note on the book is that information can and should be a moral force, and a force for good within any community.
Joel Garreau. Merits Reprinting and Slight Updating. As America strives to migrate from a disasterous and nearly fatal two-party spoils system and an Executive that is both corrupt and delusional, those who seek to lead America into a brighter future need to understand America in a new and more nuanced way. It is not about left or right. This book has been on continuing value to me as a point of reference, and I recommend it very highly in its existing state, more so if renewed. The nine nations, each unique, are: 1. The empty quarter (which global warming will open up) 2. Quebec 3. Ecotopia (a model for the rest of us) 4. The breadbasket (which wastes water on excess foot and grows corn for fuel and cattle that is inedible and wastes more water) 5. New England 6. The Foundry (mid-Atlantic coast) 7. Dixie
8. MexAmerica 9. The Islands (of the Caribbean, where Cuban sugar cane sap could power 30-35 million cars, while Cuban health care would inform our own). Phi Beta Iota: see more recently: Review: American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.
Robert David Steele. End Result of Quarter Century Walk-About. The book evolved from my January 2007 keytone to Chris Prillo’s Gnomedex in Seattle, the 64 minute video (and various shorter remixes including one that has gone around Anonymous circles) easily found by searching for < YouTube Steele Gnomedex 2007 > without the brackets. Contact Random House Special Markets to buy the book by the case at whatever discount is the norm for them. I am very eager to receive invitations to talk about this topic, especially in relation to the November 2007 “election” that pits one wing of the two-party tyranny against the other wing, with no difference for We the People. I have to credit Tom Atlee, Jim Rough, Harrison Owen, Buckminster Fuller, Russell Ackoff, David Weinberger, Lawrence Lessig, Kent Myers, among many others, for the raw material that helped me flip the tortilla–this book is a rejection of tyranny, toxicity, and theft in favor of transparency, truth, and trust. I list a few books below, but point to all + of my non-fiction rewviews as relevant to the evolution of my thinking since I recognized the pathology of secret intelligence and rule by secrecy.
Vaclav Havel. Public Truth Can Overcome Political-Corporate Corruption. Vaclav Havel is a poet-president for whom we do not have a counterpart in the USA. Living within the truth is the ultimate act of citizenship, and such living, even in the face of totalitarian repression (as in Czechoslovakia) or consumerist subversion and corporate corruption of the political and financial systems (as in the USA) can ultimately empower the powerless.This is an *extraordinary* book that is directly relevant to the circumstances that we now find ourselves in–what Ralph Nader calls “corporate socialism,” where the nominal owners of both the federal government (the voters) and the corporations (the stockholders) find themselves disenfranchised, abused, shut out, and their life savings looted by the most senior chief executive officers and politicians. Brutally stated, from the point of view of the normal wage earner, there is no difference between totalitarianism and corrupt capitalism. In page after page, Havel, poet and president, documents this truth. Havel places most of his emphasis on reform at the individual and community level, outside of politics and economics. He is especially encouraging in speaking of how unlikely it is to predict the moment when widely differing groups can come together in truth and freedom to overcome an oppressive regime, and yet how likely it is, in today’s environment, that such a change might occur.
John Elkington. Remarkable, Inspiring, Instructive, a Total “Wow.” This book is remarkable, all the more so for being the third in the series that started with Cannibals with Forks in 1997 that introduced the term “triple bottom line” (financial, social, environmental); and in 2001, The Chrysalis Economy: How Citizen CEOs and Corporations Can Fuse Values and Value Creation, anticipating the period of creative destruction coming from 2000-2030. Citing George Bernard Shaw, they explain early on that “unreasonable people” are seen so for their seeking to abandon outmoded thoughts, mindsets, or practices. Amen, brother! This is not a feel-good book in intent, although it achieves that effect. It is a serious book that methodically reviews new business models, leadership styles, and thinking about value creation.
Ori Brafman. Compelling and Sensible, Offers Hope in Face of High-Level Threats. From a business and governance perspective, the book is valuable in emphasizing that any endeavor based on information will improve with decentralization–more dots will be captured, shared, understood, and acted on in a timely fashion. I have been saying for over a decade that in the age of distributed information, central intelligence is an oxymoron, something the Central Intelligence Agency, my former employer, simply refuses to believe. The authors offer us a number of gems and conclude with ten rules I will list [in my full review]. The key point is that a distributed brain or organization is more resilient and more likely to pick up weak signals. Distributed consensus is both scalable and sustainable, while centralized coercion is neither.
Laurence G. Boldt. Very Satisfying, Will Take Time to Fully Appreciate. My first time around I drew the following out of it: 1) System is the Ego. Escape the matrix by escaping ego; 2) Trust the innate intelligence of nature in harmony; 3) Money should not cost you your soul or everything else.
Howard Fineman. Alexis de Tocqueville 2.0–Extraordinary Analytic Review. 1. Who Is a Person? 2. Who is an American? 3. The Role of Faith 4. The Limits of Individualism 5. What Can We Know and Say? 6. Who Judges the Law? 7. Debt and Dollar 8. Local versus National Authority 9. Presidential Power 10. The Terms of Trade 11. War and Diplomacy 12. The Environment 13. A Fair, “More Perfect” Union. The message of the book is revealed on page 243, and I quote: “We need to calm down, get engaged, and look for leadership. We have been here before: the seeming gridlock; the sudden, uncharacteristic loss of faith in the future; the sense that we cannot produce leaders capable of dealing with real problems. Facing despair and danger, we have always found in our storehouse of conflicting paradoxical traditions a way forward.”
Christopher James Clark. Quiet Extraordinary — With an Index & Bibliography Would Be a SIX. I stumbled on this book by accident, and it has astonished me. With all the books I have read, this is the one book I might recommend to anyone — in school or beyond school — including those who (like myself) have multiple graduate degrees and/or read continuously. Although the author takes care to cover the usual suspects — the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, etcetera, he is the first author I have found who truly “gets” that every organization is a “front” and that no organization has a New World Order agenda — that is the preserve of the top 200-300 families who regard the Earth as their personal farm. They operate under what is called “deep secrecy” (no paper trail, no audio trail). The organizational leaders — including the President of the United States — are puppets who are fed a mix of information and money to keep them on “on course.” This is a book that names names, recognizes dates [a timeline would be another 6 star element]. It is also a book that is very up to date. It reaches back to the 1902’s and comes all the way forward to 2010, its year of publication. This book helps me realize that the 50% fraud, waste, and abuse of the US Government, the United Nations, and so many other organizations is not an accident. The author spends a lot of time on the environmental movement, essentially suggesting that this movement, like many others, has been created to keep the “little people” busy and distract them from focusing on the root of all evil.
Jonathan Schell. Restores Faith, Non-Violent Restoration of People Power. Across 13 chapters in four parts, the author provides a balanced overview of historical philosophy and practice at both the national level “relations among nations” and the local level (“relations among beings”). His bottom line: that the separation of church and state, and the divorce of social responsibility from both state and corporate actions, have so corrupted the political and economic governance architectures as to make them pathologically dangerous. His entire book discusses how people can come together, non-violently, to restore both their power over capital and over circumstances, and the social meaning and values that have been abandoned by “objective” corporations and governments.
Alan Korwin and Steve Maniscalco. Better Information Than Available Online or From Government. For those of us that believe in the Constitutional right of all citizens to own and bear arms (the National Guard is NOT a militia–individuals, not groups, have this inalienable Constitutional right), and who feel that the combination of random fatal violoence is accelerating, along with fatal crime, carrying a side arm makes sense. Carrying it concealed makes even more sense, to avoid attention or upsetting the soccer moms (plus weapons cannot be on school grounds except in the car). I picked this book up today while on a trip, and finally sat down with it tonight. Here are highlights: [read full review]
Sarah van Geider et al. Annoying, But Recommended. This book is annoying because it is just a bit too slick and opportunistic for my taste. Use Inside the Book to see what you are getting. It is priced very reasonably (and cheaper if bought directly from YES Magazine) and it certainly deserves to be in any library intent on capturing as much about the Occupy movement as possible, but this is not a world-changing book nor does it actually help Occupy get anywhere specific. In fairness, though, consider visiting the YES book sale site for paragraphs on each of the ten ways YES believes Occupy has changed everything; I will only list the ten blurbs without debating their merits. 1. It names the source of the crisis. 2. It provides a clear vision of the world we want. 3. It sets a new standard for public debate. 4. It presents a new narrative. 5. It creates a big tent. 6. It offers everyone a chance to create change. 7. It is a movement, not a list of demands. 8. It combines the local and the global. 9. It offers an ethic and practice of deep democracy and community. 10. We have reclaimed our power.
Evan Keliher. Recommended by habeas corruptus & Robert Steele. This book is a HOOT. It deserves to become a CULT CLASSIC. Nothing would please me more than to see 10 million copies of this book being shared across the land. The author know Washington, knows the bureaucracy, and certainly understands the high crimes and misdemeanors that are so characteristic of Congress and the partisan White House (regardless of which party). Although a book of fiction, this book could well be a cultural prediction of the revolution that is brewing. Personally I support a General Strike that quite simply demands the same conditions as the author outlines at the end of the book, but for a fun thriller, a fast read, and a strong sense of the power of We the People armed with both knowledge and weapons, this book CANNOT BE BEAT. Send a copy of this book to every public official whose blatant corruption you cannot stand. If you cannot afford to buy and mail the book, print the cover of the book and this review and mail them that.
Gene Sharp. Foundation Work Not Yet Appreciated. This is a practical book with very specific case studies and very specific itemizations (198 of them) that may replicate some of the author’s earlier work, but easily make this one book a stand-alone reference work for advanced studies by diplomats, warriors, and policy wonks long isolated from the real world. This book is not a replacement for Howard Zinn’s A Power Governments Cannot Suppress or Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People. The three go well together. The author outlines three main situations where non-violent changes of power can occur: 01 Non-violent protest and persuasion 02 Non-coperation (economic boycotts or labor strikes, political) 03 Non-violent intervention — it is in this arena that I believe the USA has wasted 50 years and allowed corruption to displace good will. I note with interest the author’s emphasis on openness versus secrecy as the underlying value for non-violent resistance, as well as his emphasis on solidarity (cultural) and discipline (moral and physical) as essential to facing down repression.
Citizen-Centered (Technical Aspect)
Robert David Steele. This book began my exploration of work by others on Collective Intelligence and was my first exploration of the reality that the public should be receiving intelligence but is not, at the same time that the President receives less than 5% of what he needs at a cost to the taxpayer of $65 billion and more per year. See especially Chapter 15 with the 26 new rules for the new craft of intelligence: 001 Decision-Support is the Raison D’être 002 Value-Added Comes from Analysis, Not Secret Sources 003 Global Coverage Matters More 004 Non-Traditional Threats Are of Paramount Importance 005 Intelligence without Translation is Ignorant 006 Source Balance Matters More 007 “Two Levels Down” 008 Processing Matters More, Becomes Core Competency 009 Cultural Intelligence is Fundamental 010 Geospatial and Time Tagging is Vital 011 Global Open Source Benchmarking 012 Counterintelligence Matters More 013 Cross-Fertilization Matters More 014 Decentralized Intelligence Matters More 015 Collaborative Work and Informal Communications Rise 016 New Value is in Content + Context + Speed 017 Collection Based on Gaps versus Priorities 018 Collection Doctrine Grows in Sophistication 019 Citizen “Intelligence Minutemen” are Vital 020 Production Based on Needs versus Capabilities 021 Strategic Intelligence Matters More 022 Budget Intelligence Is Mandatory 023 Public Intelligence Drives Public Policy 024 Analysts are Managers 025 New Measures of Merit 026 Multi-Lateral Burden-Sharing is Vital
Hamilton Bean. The Folly of Secret Intelligence. The hallmark of our free society is the First Amendment, which stipulates that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” Had it occurred to the framers that the Executive Branch would acquire equivalent law-making powers–Executive Orders with the “force of law”–they likely would have constrained that branch of government similarly …and perhaps an activist judiciary, as well. So, if open sources are of such benefit both to the efficiency of our intelligence apparatus and to our democracy, why aren’t they used more? This is a question asked and answered, if inadequately, many times by many authors (including this reviewer). It is this question that Hamilton Bean, in No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence (Praeger, 2011), brings new energy to the issue, new insights, and new clarity.
David Korten. In the context of all the complex books I read, this is one of the most complete, elegant, well-stated, thoughtful, and relevant books it’s been my pleasure to enjoy in the past few years. This is a market- and life-changing work. + WALL STREET CANNOT BE FIXED. I agree. See The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. He says “We need to rebuild the system from bottom-up.” Later on he says that Wall Street is “corrupt beyond repair” and must be eliminated. I agree. + Global poverty (the #1 high-level threat according to the UN High-Level Threat Panel (which is senior to the fraud-ridden International Panel on Climate Change), is directly rooted in the falseness of the financial system and its inevitable failure (my words: the house of cards, the Ponzi scheme, is over–every Secretary of the Treasury since Central Banking was introduced has been a Bernie Madoff). + Another great quote: “Empire’s greatest tragedy is the denial and suppression of the higher-order possibilities of our human nature.” I certainly agree and would point readers to the work of Stewart Brand, Harrison Owen, Paul Hawkin, Tom Atlee, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and others–others would add Ken Wilbur and Don Beck. + Seven principles of healthy living systems are articulated.
Mark Tovey with Robert Steele. Ralph Peters: This is a wonderfully stimulating collection of offerings on the interplay between human collectives and the “information age.” Inevitably, some insights are more gripping than others–but each essay by the more than fifty futurists (for want of a better term) engaged in this effort is worth reading. While we may think we’re frightfully clever and sophisticated when it comes to our “information age,” it struck this reader that, in relation to information exploitation, we’re at a point equivalent to the mid-seventeenth century in the physical sciences: We’ve gotten some of the basic parameters figured out, but haven’t yet begun to understand their myriad applications. This volume is stimulating, useful, sometimes brilliant, and always worth turning over the page. Very highly recommended for those involved in intelligence, government or the media–as well as for citizens concerned about our collective future. Brain food for grown-ups.
Joe Bageant. Serious Book Highly Recommended. Senator Obama may or may not have read this book. It’s author does open with the observation that life is so hard among the white poor and working poor that they seek solace in beer, overeating, Jesus, and guns. This is, however, a very serious book, a first-hand deep look into the hearts and minds of the 60% of the country that cannot control its lifestyle, environment, pay check, or future. A few notes (read full review for others): + Parallel world to that of the educated urban liberals
+ Life runs from complete insecurity to looming job insecurity + Just over half the poor in the US are white and this is the only group that is growing in number + For someone earning $8 an hour, if nothing goes wrong, they have $55 a week for groceries, gas, and incidentals
+ Insurance can cost as much as rent or mortgage + One third of working Americans make less than $9 an hour + They are inherently anti-union, facts are irrelevant, Christian radio is their primary source of information and viewpoint + This is a permanent underclass, two out of five have no high school diploma while all over 50 have major health issues, and low to no credit + The leftist middle class does not realize that this group votes right in part out of a feeling of revenge + Right owns the bars, the non-Internet real world
Joel Hirschhorn. Needs Updating, A Fine Start, Some Serious Mis-Steps. This is an important book, one of many about the downfall of democracy in the USA with some suggestions for action that are a mix of great ideas, out of date items, and a couple, such as Instant Run-Off, that I also fell prey to and have now been corrected on by the crowd-sourcing of the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 (easy to find online). First off, the author was well-ahead of his time and this book joins four books in particular: Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny; Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It; Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders; The Broken Branch : How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy). I absolutely urge one and all to buy this book, carry it around, wave it around, and get folks talking about Electoral Reform as the ONE THING we can all agree on. Check out the viral video someone make of me, the last words are “there’s nothing wrong with America the Beautiful that cannot be fixed by flushing Congress down the toilet.
Xavier N. De Souza Briggs. 5 for Academics, 4 for Isolation from Corruption. The author does a first rate job of summarizing the book in advance, the core focus being on democracy as civic capacity. QUOTE (ix): “This blurring of the traditional divide between direction setting (policy making) and outcomes (implementation) is at the heart of the story…” QUOTE (12): “Breakthrough problem solving in democratic societies calls for more multidimensional forms of accountability, and more practiced, skillful combinations of learning and bargaining by civic actors, than most contemporary rhetoric about ‘acting in partnership’ or ‘bottom-up’ change has even hinted.”
Bill Moyer. Extraordinary Strategic/Tactical Guide for People Power. This book is both a strategic orientation to, and a tactical primer on, how to develop and manage non-violent social movements at the grassroots or “people power” level.The reason this book is important is because it solves the most important problem or gap facing all social movements: the lack of strategic models and methods that help activists understand, plan, conduct, and evaluate their social movements. I endorse the primary author’s view that social movements are needed now more than ever, for the simple reason that the powerholders are making life on the planet unsustainable–everything they do (think Dick Cheney here) to increase profits, control, and power, is also “increasing unemployment, the gap between rich and poor, violence, ecological collapse, and unsustainability”. There are four aspects of the book that are especially valuable as we all find ourselves in a “world war” between fundamentalist groups (both Islamic and extremist Americans of the religious right falling prey to neo-conservative doctrine) and progressive individuals seeking the common good: 1) the author’s focus on sub-movements, on creating a strategic campaign that specifically embraces each sub-movement as a distinct but coordinated element, is the “aha” factor in leaping forward. 2) the author’s specific discussion of negative rebels and how much harm they can do to the larger movement is compelling, to the point of actually suggesting that we need to create a counterintelligence service within social movements to address this. The few violent protesters in Seattle got all the media coverage, and the non-violent mass lost a great deal of credit. 3) the eight-stages of social movements are extremely detailed and the case studies help to explain why the “slump” must be overcome in the fifth stage, when success has been achieved but there is a perception of failure. 4) the importance of having an economic strategy for where the social movement’s vision needs to go, is not understood by most presidential candidates.
Marc Prensky. Nails It–Secretary of Education Needs to Read This Book. The greatest complement I can give this book is that my 15-year old, a master of Warlock, saw this book come in the door and immediately took it away from me and read it overnight. He gives it high marks. This is also the book that inspired me to take Serious Games and Games for Change *very* seriously. Most gamers do not understand the need to work toward an EarthGame that includes actual budgets and actual science, but Medard Gabel of BigPictureSmallWorld gets it, and that’s enough for me. I admire this author. In a most positive manner, he is telling us the Secretary of Education is quite naked, and what we can do about it. This is a foundation book for any parent of “digital natives.”
Elza S. Maalouf, Foreword by Don Beck. Extraordinary — Empowering, World-Changing, Rich in Substance. 01 Practical application of the pioneering work of Clare W. Graves 02 Practical integration of previously unpublished work by Don E. Beck 03 Most extraordinary handbook for mapping the psycho-social political-economic environment of any conflict 04 Precise articulation of a new concept in context, that of Indigenous Intelligence 05 First rate graphics including graphical depictions of leadership forms for each of the value-system bands 06 Practical model of dealing with Flamethrowers, Zealots, Ideologues, Moderates, Pragmatists, and Conciliators 07 Thoughtful conclusion on how to approach functional (hybrid) governance and (honest) capitalism.
Fernando Pargas. STUNNINGLY Intelligent, Timely, A Study in Ethics, Business, & Governance. QUOTE (75): In the new age powered by relationships, coalitions, and consensus, the male style of single leaders will not work. Female leadership is the recipe for getting us out of the mess we find ourselves in. I am quite taken with the author’s discussion of “tribalism” and how modern tribalism combined with media manipulation make us all both stupid and dangerous.
John Lenczowaki. Long Needed Treatise, But Too Expensive. Where the author and the book are strongest–beyond five stars–is in their emphasis, insight, and coherence with respect to public diplomacy as a much needed “first string” activity. Today what passes for public diplomacy at the Department of State is a couple of ladies who came up through television broadcasting, are gaga over Silicon Valley, and appear to have no idea how to actually engage in Information Operations (IO), how to create an Autonomous Internet with Liberation Technology including OpenBTS, or even what concepts and cultural values we should be striving to share with the rest of the world.
Frances Moore Lappe. Frances Moore Lappe for Vice President! This is a brilliant Nobel Peace Prize level of work, and I note with interest that the author has received the “Alternative Nobel,”the Right Livelihood Award. This book can read and appreciated at multiple levels from strategic to tactical. I list some other books below, but this book is now at the top of short list of books important for all time. If I could make a wish, it would be that every American voter read this book and share this book and enter into the active listening active dialog mode that the author outlines in clear terms. In combination with Reuniting American and with the Naitonal Initiative for Democracy, I believe that we have a real chance of taking about the power and implementing the author’s program.
Willis Harman. Tragedy of Scientific Myopia, Portal to the Future Paradigm. This is a wonderful indictment of the Western scientific tradition, less comprehensive than Voltaire’s Bastards but more readable and more focused as a result. The author shows a clear connection between existing global problems (ethnic violence, water scarcity, pollution, poverty, criminalization of society) and the earlier Western decisions to adopt scientific objectivity (with all of its inherent bias and ignorance) as well as the primacy of economic institutions such as have given rise to the consumerist society, regardless of the external diseconomies, the concentrations of ill-gotten wealth, and the cost to the earth resource commons. The author is especially strong on the need to restore sprituality, consciousness, and values to the decision-making and information-sharing architecture of the world–only in this way could community be achieved across national and ethnic and class lines, and only in this way could environmental sustainability and justice (economic, social, and cultural) be made possible. This is not a “tree hugger” book as much as it is a “master’s class” for those who would be master’s of the universe. It is a very fine portal into the growing body of people who wish to be cultural creatives, and easily one of the guideposts toward the next major paradigm shift, away from scientific materialism and toward a new communitas in which people really matter.
Clay Shirky. Five for Synthesis & Explanation. I was modestly disappointed to see so few references to pioneers I recognize, including Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Joe Trippi, and so on. Howard Rheingold and Yochai Benkler get single references. Seeing Stewart Brand’s recommendation persuaded me I don’t know the author well enough, and should err on the side of his being a genuine original. Certainly the book reads well, and for someone like me who reads a great deal, I found myself recognizing thoughts explored by others, but also impressed by the synthesis and the clarity. A few of my fly-leaf notes: + New technologies enable new kinds of groups to form. + “Message” is key, what Eric Raymond calls “plausible promise.” + Can now harness “free and ready participation in a large distributed group with a variety of skills.” + Cost-benefit of large “unsupervised” endeavors is off the charts. + From sharing to cooperation to collective action + Collective action requires shared vision + Literacy led to mass amatuerism, and I have note to myself, the cell phone can lead to mass on demand education “one cell call at a time” + Transactions costs dramatically lowered.
Kirkpatrick Sale. Should be Re-Issued, a Seminal Publication Relevant to Governance. I am finding that books written in the 1970’s and 1980’s a making a comeback and people realize that certain of those authors were a quarter century ahead of their times. Richard Falk is one, Kirkpatrick Sale is the other. This book could usefully be read with Leopold Kohr’s “The Breakdown of Nations,” Joel Garreau’s “Nine Nations of North America,” and Philip Alcott’s “The Health of Nations,” on why sovereignty and the Treaty of Westphalia should be overturned in favor of more localized governance with more universal rights and protections. The bottom line in this book is crytal clear half-way through the book: at a specific point of scale, variable depending on natural resources, technical and cultural sophistication, etc, an individual’s share of earned income goes MORE toward “power” goods and services of common concrn than to their own benefit. It is at this point that “the state” has outgrown its utility and becomes a burden on the individual taxpayer. It merits comment in this context that there are 27 seccessionist movements in the United States of America, and at least 3 in Canada.
Marianne Williamson. Vastly More Practical (and Political) Than Title Suggests. Four “great truths” are articulated many times over across the various readings, and they merit listing here: 1) Campaign finance reform is the absolute non-negotiable first step that must precede every other reform. Until the people can reassert their great common sense for the common good, and restore the true democratic tradition, nothing else will happen. 2) Neighborhoods are the bedrock of both democracy and sustainable development, and we have spent fifty years building in the wrong direction. New legal and economic incentives must be found to redirect both urban and suburban real estate management back in the direction of self-contained neighborhoods. 3) Local production of everything, from electricity to food to major goods like automobiles) appears to be a pre-requisite for deconflicting high quality of life needs from limited resource availability. The book includes several very intelligent discussions of how this might come about. 4) Networking makes everything else possible, and by this the book means electronic networking. I was especially fascinated by some of the examples of near-real-time sharing that electronic networking makes possible–everything from a neighborhood car to scheduled hand-me-downs of winter coats from one family to another. We have not progressed one mile down the road of what the Internet makes possible at a personal and neighborhood level, and I would recommend this book for that perspective alone.
Cass Sunstein. Complements Wikinomics, Solid but Incomplete. In the general overview the author discusses information cocoons (self-segregation and myopia) and information influences/social pressures that can repress free thinking and sharing. The four big problems that he finds in the history of deliberation are amplifying errors; hidden profiles & favoring common or “familiar” knowledge; cascades & polarization; and negative reinforements from being within a narrow group. The book draws to a close with further discussion of the challenges of self-segregation, the options for aggregating views and knowledge and for encouraging feedback, and the urgency of finding incentives to induce full disclosure and full participation from all who have something to contribute.
Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels. Influential, Integrative, with Integrity, Avoids Three Core Topics. The book is strongest — no doubt as the publisher and the authors intended — in relation to the impact of social networks as feedback loops helpful to governments, whether democratic or mandarinate, that are capable of LISTENING. Chapter 4, “The New Challenges of Governmance,” is certainly suitable as a stand-alone assigned reading. The authors are heavily reliant on David Brin (I am a fan of his) but distressingly oblivious to Howard Rheingold, Tom Atlee, Jim Rough, Harrison Owen, and a host of others that have spent — primed by Stewart Brand — decades thinking about deliberation and consensus-building. Having said that by way of balance, this chapter strikes me as the heart of the book, and it gets high marks for pointing out that Google and all other options today are not facilitative of deliberative dialog.
Grover Norquist. Can Cause Discomfort, But This Book MATTERS. The five core reforms that he builds up to are: 1) Portable pensions; 2) Competitive health care; 3) Educational choice including home schooling; 4) Outsourcing of all government functions possible; 5) Transparency (see not only Groundswell, but also Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations). The author posits a stark choice between the Leave Us Alone movement, that appears to be growing daily (and included 27 secessionist movements that meet annually at a conference organized by Kirkpatrick Sale, author of Human Scale, and what he calls the Takings Group, the tax and spend elected officials both Republican and Democratic.
Chip Heath. Excellent Presentation of Core Ideas with Lots of Examples. * Simplicity: the idea must be stripped to its core, and the most important concepts should jump out. * Unexpectedness: the idea must destroy preconceived notions about something. This forces people to stop, think, and remember. * Concreteness: avoid statistics, use real-world analogies to help people understand complex ideas.
* Credibility: if people don’t trust you, they’ll ignore you. In some cases, they will be openly hostile, which means they’ll actively try to dispute your message! * Emotional: information makes people think, but emotion makes them act. Appeal to emotional needs, sometimes even way up on Maslow’s hierarchy. * Stores: telling a story [gets] people into paying closer attention, and feeling more connected. Remember the Jared Subway commercials?
Carol Gilligan, Janie Victoria Ward, Jill McLean Taylor et al. 1988 Precious Gem–Richly Deserves Appreciation Today. Underlying the female focus on caring is the female focus on intangibles such as community and good will…..so much so that I have a note, women may be the archetype of what it means to be human. The book opens very ably with observations about how detachment and dispassion are in fact moral choices with tangible outcomes and consequences. The contributing authors make the next logical point, which is that the male moral archetype over-emphasizes the individual and leads to the Culture of Narcissm while de-emphasizing, even disparaging, any culture of community. The varied authors make the obvious but important point that how we teach our young will impact on every single discipline and endeavor, i.e. on we perform both the social sciences and the sciences, and how we manage our organizations and networks. In the absence of BOTH the female caring morality and the male justice morality, we are half-human and therefore ill-equipped to achieve what Barbara Ehrenreich calls Conscious Evolution: Awakening Our Social Potential and Steve MacIntosh Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
Robert E. Ornstein, Paul Ehrlich. From 1989, Not Updated, Superb Never-the-Less. As I reflect on the book, I appreciate two key points from the book: 1) The evolution of our brains and our ability to sense cataclysmic change that takes place over long periods of time is simply not going fast enough–the only thing that can make a difference is accelerated cultural evolution, which I find quite fascinating, because cultural evolution as the authors describe it harkens to noosphere, World Brain, co-intelligence, and what the Swedes are calling M4 IS: multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information sharing–what I think of as Open Source Intelligence–personal, public, & political. 2) One of the more compelling points the authors make is that not only are politicians being elected and rewarded on the basis of short-term decisions that are by many measures intellectually, morally, and financially corrupt, but the so-called knowledge workers–the scientists, engineers, and others who should be “blowing the whistle,” are so specialized that there is a real lack of integrative knowledge. I realized toward the end of the book, page 248 exactly, that Knowledge Integration & Information Sharing must become the new norm.
Dee Hock. Innovative Capitalism. The book is at root about the failure of all of our instititutions, and the need to find a third way between over-bearing centralization and anarchic decentralization. The author coins the word “chaordic” to deswcribe an even-handed and often-changing balance between the two. In one example with the US Army, he explores how rules-based organizations waste 45-85% of the time and value of their employees. He specifically notes that human ingenuity is the ultimate resource and is abundant, but too often constrained if not crushed by schools, armies, corporations, and so on. The entire book is about the creation of an organization in which participation is the primal element, agreement is dynamic, and trust and tolerance are the prevailing values. He states that organizational heaven is purpose, principle, and people. Purgotory is paper and procedure. Hell is rule & regulation. On page 284 he lists ten attributes from a living organization in Spain that represents the best of the chaordic model.
Robert F. Hawes. If you have not already, start your reading program on secession by seeking out, free online, Allen Buchanan’s lovely essay on Secession in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Then buy and read Thomas Naylor’s 2008 Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire, and if you want the best over-all detailed review, also buy and read Albert Bledsoe’s 1866 (eighteen sixty six) book, Is Secession Treason?. I have summarized both in earlier reviews. This book is a solid recommended fourth reading. It replicates and complements Bledsoe’s book, which I am surprised to not see cited as a reference. The two books dovetail perfectly with three bottom lines: 1) The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution are all compacts among STATES, and the Union is a plurality of STATES, not a unity of one people. 2) Secession is not treason; secession is in fact the only moral legal option open to any state when the federal government becomes both lunatic and pathologically dangerous to the well-being of the citizens that each state represents.
Harrison Owen. Low-Cost Priceless Guide Worth Hundreds of Thousands. I cannot over-state the value of this book to anyone who has a complex and expensive problem but cannot afford to get the author there personally. While the book is no substitute for the genius, the intuition, the experience, and the sheer “quiet energy” that the author can bring to any endeavor, it is not just a starting point, it is more than enough to get you through your first self-organized event, and the results are sure to astonish as well as excite about the potential benefits of having the author lead the next session.
Buckminster Fuller. Not What I Expected But Hugely Satisfying. I was actually expecting an Operating Manual. Although what I ended up with is a 136-page double-spaced “overview” by Buckminster Fuller, a sort of “history and future of the Earth in 5,000 words or less, bracketed by a *wonderful* introduction by grandchild Jamie Snyder, an index, a two-page resource guides, and some photos and illustrations including the Fuller Projections of the Earth. OUR MISSION IS “To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” Inside front cover.
Lance H. Gunderson. Mixed Feelings–Mix of Brilliance and Gobbly-Gook. The book is the outcome of a three year effort, the Resilience Network as they called themselves, and there are some definite gems in this book, but it is a rough beginning. Among other things, it tries to model simplicity instead of complexity, and continue to miss the important of true cost transparency as the product and service end-user point of sale level, and real-time science that cannot be manipulated by any one country or organization (Exxon did NOT make $40 billion in profit this year–that is a fraction of the externalized costs, roughly $12 against the future for every $3 paid at the pump–that level of public intelligence in the public interest in missing from this book).
Anwar Shah. The Best Book on the Topic, with a CD-ROM, Totally Rich. This is the very best book on Participatory Budgeting I could find (other than those on Puerto Alegre specifically, I will review one of those later) and once in hand, it has fully satisfied. The higher than normal cost for a book of this type is fully justified by the CD ROM. For my purposes the two most important parts of the book were overview by the editor Anwar Shah (top expert with the World Bank); the guide to participatory budgeting by Brian Wampler; and the concluding appendix by Alan Folscher, on Citizen Participation and State Effectiveness, and also–very important–Preconditions and Enabling Factors for Citizen Engagement with Public Decisions. The rest of the book is regional case studies, and the CD ROM is country case studies.
Peggy Noonan. 5 for elegance and good intent, 2 for being blind to reality, a strong 3 overall. When Noonon calls for “bi-partisan” collaboration in the middle of the book, I must immediately put her in the same class as lawyers for organized crime leaders. Democracy in America has been destroyed. The League of Women Voters was pushed out of the debate business so that the Republican-Democratic debate commission could exclude Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, Cynthia McKinny, Gloria La Riva, and the ever so arrogant and hence irrelevant Bob Barr. We are NOT one nation, we are NOT one people, and there is nothing wrong with America that Electoral Reform will not fix. A third of the country’s voters have been illegally gerrymandered out of their vote, and another third have been disincentivized by the idiocy of our campaigns.
David Cortright. An Utterly Superb Intellectual Contribution–a Major New Reference. This book is a gift to humanity, a foundational reference of such extraorindary value that I earnestly believe it should be required reading for every single liberal arts program in the world, and used as a core book in all graduate international relations programs. Part I reviews the history of peace movements; Part II reviews core themes of peace within religions, populism, democracy, social justice, responsibility to protect and wraps up with three cahpters on a moral equivalent, realizing disarmament, and realistic pacifism.
Judith Innes, David Booher. The book lays down the redirection away from top-down “fixes” and instead toward creating and implementing new forms of deliberation among a broader diversity of stakeholders. Three trends the authors identify: 01. Linear formal process being replaced by nonlinear socially-constructed processes (no mention of corruption); 02. Scientific knowledge is no longer the only knowledge at the table, other knowledges are now entertained, with lay local knowledge being among the most prized (never mind that 1% at the top could care less and make the decisions absent any concern for the public interest); 03. New forms of reasoning include story telling and role playing. For the best book on story telling see Steve Denning’s The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations (KMCI Press).
Barry Johnson. Much Less Complicated Than Expected, a Great Workbook. This is a very straight forward book that I recommend as a read-ahead or work book for any group seeking to radically evolve their internal decision making processes away from the current standard of “I talk, you listen; I decide, you obey.” It has clear charts, the right amount of white space, and I put it down thinking very well of the book. Panarchy is an evolution of the whole systems approach to anything, with the clarity and integrity of FEEDBACK LOOPS among the elements being the core of any successful system. If everyone does not talk; if everyone does not listen; if everyone does not decide; if everyone does not act in harmonization with all others, system failure is inevitable.
Thom Hartmann. Short Smart List, Not a Roadmap or Game Plan. Here is the “checklist” 01 Bring manufacturing jobs home; 02 Roll back Reagan tax cuts; 03 End crony capitalism and too-big-too fail; 04 An informed and educated electorate; 05 Medicare for Everybody; 06 NASCAR Patches for Congress; 07 End Fossil Energy Dependence; 08 Bring Military Home, Offer the Good; 09 Illegal Immigration is Illegal Business; 10 Corporate personality (“Wal-Mart is NOT a Person”) begins with a repetition of a story I have heard before but never seen fully documented, that the Supreme Court did NOT grant personality status to corporations but a court reporter erroneously created a record that they did; 11 In the Shadow of the Dragon is about the possibilities of employee-owned companies and getting back to ethical capitalism that restores the connection between production useful to humanity, and well-off consumers who can support a cycle of constant innovation INCLUDING social and ecological efficiencies.
Cass Sunstein. 21st Century Primer for Cyber-Constitution. Every page offers up elegant thoughtful, *relevant* ideas that connect people, technology, and their government in dramatic useful ways.Core ideas explored by the book include the difference between populism and deliberative accountable judgment; the relationship between free speech and social well-being; the vital importance of being exposed to diverse opinion, not just similar opinions; the danger of cyber-cascade information, a form of Hitler-esque propaganda with malicious effect; the true potential (unlikely to be achieved at this point) of the Internet if managed in keeping with the original Constitutional understanding of the role of education and free speech); the absurdity of the notion of free speech as an absolute [on this see my review of Roger Shattuck’s Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography, St. Martin’s Press, 1996]; the importance of thoughtful regulation; and the destructive effects of market pressures on both culture and government.
David Gershon. Undeniable Genius Isolated from Other Movements. Early on the book grabs me in a Buckminster Fuller sort of way when the author emphasizes that not only do we have to re-invent the world, we have to re-invent the process by which we re-invent the world. Of course Jonas Salk and others have addressed that with Epoch B leadership, but not for mention here. I am totally impressed by the 30 years of hard work at the grass roots level that the author builds on in this book, one of the reasons it is a solid five stars on its own merits. While sustainabile design and design of government and community have a long way to go, the author and this book are clearly a touchstone for sustainable communities that “in passing” TURN RESIDENTS INTO NEIGHBORS. Overall a work of genius, truly profoundly important to our future, but a local step, not a global solution.
Philip Dine. Possibly the Most Important Book to America’s Future. In the introduction to the book, Congressman Gephardt laments that union membership is down to 8% from 35%, for two reasons: good employers whose workers do not feel the need to unionize, and intimidation by bad employers who will stop at nothing to squelch any attempt to unionize. He emphasizes the direct relationship between the health of the unions and the health of America’s economy and its linch-pin middle class. The book itself is phenomenal. The author, a very rare journalist who not only cares about labor issues but has also won the trust of labor leaders, has written what is in my mind the single most important book relevant to how every American should perceive the 2008 election. No candidate is serious about labor at this time. Our job is to change that, and to help labor, notably the AFL-CIO and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), change that by putting labor issues in the forefront of the economic discussion. I am simply blown away by extremely balanced, well-told, important review by a journalist uniquely qualified to provide us with a book-length review of where labor has failed, where labor shows promise, and how labor is America’s bottom line: as he concludes the book, Labor defines who we are as a people.
Ori Brafman. Super Book, Fast Read, Relevant to Participatory Democracy. his is a very fine book, a fast read, and highly relevant to Web 2.0 and all the emergent opportunities to turn our world right side up, restoring power back to all the people. My reading has moved heavily toward cognitive science and “open everything,” and my avowed goal, apart from creating public intelligence in the public interest, is to make “true cost” visible to the public on every product and service, penetrating through the kinds of sway barriers this book describes. Each chapter is excellent, with a nice teaser diagram. + Diagnosis bias is huge. + Hidden currents in the individual and group decision support process include loss aversion, value attribution or negatiion, and a commitment to the wrong strategy. + Labels *matter* and deeply influence outcomes. + Visualization *sells* just about anything. + Cues and subtle messages are nuanced and complex and omnipresent. + Need to be heard is vital and the more one does that, the more value is created (this is social networking 101, as Web 2.0 starts to go over the cliff so Web 3.0 can rise like a Pheonix.] The authors stress that those offering to listen must *hear* each individual voice. + Blockers matter, i.e. there have to be people in the loop who have the courage, the commitment, the *role* of saying no to abuses of authority including rankism.
Peggy Holman. Utterly Phenomenal: *The* Book for Living Life to the Fullest. I have to confess that this book is over-whelming, and I can barely scratch the surface. This is more of a book where you should read one author, one segment, each night, and fall asleep thinking about how to implement that one small section, how to embrace someone else and engage them with that one method. Everything in here is what we *should* have learned in school, what we *should* be practicing in fulfilling our civic duty.
Michael J. Weiss. Powerful with Global Implications, Needs a Third Transformative Work. Although others have written about the nine nations of North America (Joel Garreau), various “tribes” across the nation, and demographics in general, Michael Weiss stands head and shoulders above all of them in providing the definitive reference work that is also a form of novel about America. With this book he also begins the process of extending his ideas to he world, showing how neighborhoods in 19 countries can be classified into 14 common lifestyles, the bottom three being Lower Income Elderly, Hardened Dependency, and Shack & Shanty….billions of people disenfranchised by amoral capitalism, whose desperate circumstances have not quite made themselves felt, yet, in America.
Thomas Greco. Greco writes about how to change what has gone wrong. His credentials as an engineer, college professor, author, and consultant are impeccable. His book is among the most important written in this decade. It is truly a book that can alter the world and, if taken seriously, give large numbers of people a practical way to survive the gathering catastrophe. Rather it’s about individuals, groups, and communities taking control of the monetary system at the grassroots level and creating an entirely new basis for trade than bank-owed debt. Greco writes about “a new paradigm approach to the exchange function.” The solution, he says, “is to provide interest-free credit to producers within the process of mutual credit clearing. That is the process of offsetting purchases against sales within an association of merchants, manufacturers, and workers. It will eventually include everyone who buys and sells, or makes and receives disbursements of any kind.” Greco is one of the world’s leading experts in describing alternative or complementary currencies. These are self-regulating systems that facilitate “reciprocal exchange,” not using government legal tender but which are still allowed under the currency laws so long as taxes are not evaded.
Virginia Postrel. Freedom without Restraint–Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. This is a quick read, in part because it is a series of essays that are loosely connected. It is a reasoned attack on both government regulation and imposed technical standards. To the extent that it seems to deny the value of any standards, any oversight, any structure, it is unreasonable.Indeed, while I whole-heartedly agreed that government regulation has gotten completely out of control, I am much more concerned about corporate corruption (Enron simply being the latest case), and so I would say this book is valuable and worth reading but it is missing the bridge chapter to “what next?” However, I like the book and I recommend it. Its value was driven home to me by an unrelated anecdote, the tales from South Korea of my data recovery expert. Bottom line: they are so far ahead of the United States, with 92% wireless penetration in urban areas, and free-flowing video and television on every hand-held communications-computing device, in part because they have not screwed up the bandwidth allocations and reservations as badly as we have. I was especially inspired by the thought that we should no longer reserve entire swaths of bandwidth for the exclusive use of the military or other government functions–let them learn how to operate in the real world rather than their artificial construct of reserved preference.
Lawrence Lessig. Public Warning of looting and Destruction of the E-Commons. The author is laying bare the raw threats to the future of the electronic commons. He discusses in detail how very specific government policies to sell and control bandwidth, and very specific corporate legal claims being backed by “the people’s” lawyers within government, are essentially “fencing” the Internet commons and severely constraining both the rights of the people and the prospects for the future of ideas and innovation.
Barbara Benedict Bunker. Something May Be Missing, But World-Class Original Merits Appreciation. Key Point: Must recognize and engage ALL stakeholders, including those that may be “external” to “the system” but are either inputs or outputs or victims, etc. Key Point: This literature has developed from the 1960’s focus on the social psychology of organizations, to the social psychology of networks. Key Point: Many Small Groups = a Large System (susceptible to whole systems methods) = Future Search and Shaping. Key Point: Real time strategic change is now known as whole-scale change (I am reminded of Kirkpatrick Sale’s seminal work, Human Scale Five methods for planning the future: + Search Conference + Future Search + Whole-Scale Change + ICAA Strategic Planning Process + Appreciative Inquiry
Matthew Hindman. Righteous New Knowledge, Rock Solid Achievement. I read in threes and fours, this book is part of the set that includes SMS Uprising: Mobile Activism in Africa and Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful. This book educated me. It challenged and soundly negated some of my assumptions, but it also reinforced my view that the Internet at this time is a communications network, not a knowledge network or an action network. Here is the last paragraph: “Yet where the Internet has failed to live up to its billing has to do with the most direct kind of political voice. If we consider the ability of ordinary citizens to write things that other people will see, the Internet has fallen far short of the claims that continue to be made about it. It may be easy to speak in cyberspace, but it remains difficult to be heard.” Totally awesome. This is an impressive piece of work. [PBI: for a more recent version of the same theme, see Review: The Big Disconnect – Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet).
Inger Lise Oelrich. Addresses a Major Vacuum in Our Approach to Any Challenge. Although the author and the book focus on the role of story-telling in relation to peace-making, I would emphasize its value in creating common prosperity at well — in creating the means of self-governance with respect for the limits of nature and the importance of doing no harm. The book consists of 12 chapters, among them chapters on Being Moved, on Learning to See, and on Community of Belonging. There is also a strong chapter on technology as a negative, and I am reminded of Jerry Mander and Bill McKibbin, among others. Within those 12 chapters are 33 exercises and many stories as well as provocative quotes. Fully half the training having to do with story-telling revolves around listening — not speaking, but listening. Learning to see. Learning to hear. Learning to feel. Learning to embrace empathy. Being non-judgmental. Above all else, story-telling leaps across all boundaries — story-tellers without borders are easily as important as doctors or engineers without borders.
Andrew Bard Schmookler. Tough Reading, Great Bottom Line, a Classic. The author’s bottom line: not only must we come to grips with how power is managed in every nation and organization, but also we must manage at the *global* level if we are to succeed in optimizing fulfillment at the *individual* level.
Michael Crane. Solid Four on Content. The author is brilliant, and the cover quotes are phenomenal. Instead of my favorite quote for Thomas Jefferson (“A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry”) the author uses one new to me, but I love it, “If all Americans know all the facts, they will never make a mistake.” Join that with Abe Lincoln’s “cannot fool all of the people all of the time” and you have the Republic at its finest.
Derek Bok. Absolutely Righteous, Mis-Leading Title. This book is not about the politics of happiness. It is more about the possibilities of public administration of happiness. The author opens with Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) concept, with four pillars (good governance, stable-equitable social development, environmental protection, preservation of culture). Elsewhere (on the web) I learn that the 72 indicators are divided into nine domains (time use, living standards, good governance, psychological wellbeing, community vitality, culture, health, education, and ecology). The author identifies and discusses six factors pertinent to happiness in the US context as he defines it: Marriage; Social Relationships; Employment (wherein trust in management is VASTLY more important than the paycheck); Perceived Health; Religion (in sense of community not dogma) and Quality of Government (as which point I am reminded of George Will’s superb Statecraft as Soulcraft; Quality of government is further divided into Rule of Law, Efficient Government, Low Violence and Corruption; High Degree of Trust in Public Officials and Especially Police; and Responsive Encounters by Citizens with Government.
Donna Zajonc. Formula Book “Good Enough” for Many. Here are the topics covered in a very easy to read fast book: Four Stages of Political Evolution 1) Anarchy 2) Fear & Polarization 3) Silence & Resignation 4) Politics of Hope. Seven Practices for Beocming a Concious Political Leader 1) Finding Your Spiritual Center 2) Serving with Higher Motives 3) Sharing Your Unique Gifts 4) Cultivating Your Political Habitat 5) Communicating with Integrity & Trust 6) Trusting the Mystery 7) Answering the Call.
Iain Bruce. Important Book with Deep Insights. Here’s what I got out of this book: + Progressives facing ambiguity have lost sight of the objectives + Participatory budgeting is completely different from consultative budgeting, and should eventually be joined by participatory planning. + Progressives are not likely to succeed any time soon (UNLESS we can mount a mass movement with teeth–Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. We are all trapped in a strait-jacket of existing legal, constitutional and fiscal frameworks. + Local governments are going to become at least as important as national governments as they strive to deal with very large scale challenges characteristic of urban areas with large concentrations of both the poor and the young.
Harrison Owen. Peace Through Open Space. This book does something I was not expecting: it directly relates, in a tight DNA-like spiral, the use of open space technology (process is really a better word) to the practice of peace. This is not a book on Quakerism–the author has made an original contribution that has moved me further down the road toward Evolutionary Activism (focus on connecting all humans to all information, not on arriving as specific answers)-but I better understand the value of such books as Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through the Quaker Tradition as a result of this reading. ALSO unexpected, I found this book to be a handbook for a “Whole Systems” approach to peace and prosperity. The author writes of “Multi-Factorial Development” attempting to do that, but i have the margin notation that putting a bunch of singular discipline experts (one from each discipline) in a room together does not create in any of them the ability to *do* systems thinking (or sustainable design). See Critical Path and The Philosophy of Sustainable Design. The author is one of the originals in the Human Dynamics movement that I believe is now supplanted by Evolutionary Dynamics (humans are not the only ones evolving, and ALL species must evolve in co-evolutionary harmony if the Whole Earth is to evolve).
Joe Trippi. Great personal story, important national message. There are a number of gems throughout the book [read the full review]. Tripi’s final chapter has “seven rules”: 1) Be first; 2) Keep it moving; 3) Use an authentic voice; 4) Tell the truth; 5) Build a community; 6) Cede control; 7) Believe again.
Matthew Miller. Re-Opens the Door to a Bright Future for America. This book is politically and economically *explosive*. This is a cross-over, transformative book that should be meaningful to everyone in the world, but especially to those Americans who wish to break out of the vicious downward spiral caused by partisan politics and voodoo economics–by elected politicians corrupted by special interests and consistently selecting short-term fraudulent “solutions” at the expense of long-term *sustainable” solutions. By “2% solution” the author means 2 cents of every dollar in the national budget, or roughly what we have already wasted or committed to waste on the misbegotten Iraq invasion and occupation. He provides four reasons why we have a dysfunctional debate (and one can surmise: why we need to change the Presidential election process in order to achieve truly open and substantive debates): 1) paralysis from political party parity; 2) old mind-sets and habits shared by *both* Republican and Democratic leaders (less Governor Dean); 3) the failure of the national press to be serious and critical and to contribute to the debates; and 4) the tyranny of charades funded by political contributions.
Juanita Brown. Bridges the Gap From Atlee to Wheatley. This book is in fact a handbook for both educating the world, and for reforming education. Instead of the current didactic form of instruction (one-way lectures) we should be teaching, at every level, interactive discovery. It’s not what you can remember from the past, but what what you can discover in tandem with others, and apply constructively! Context, hospitable spaces, questions that matter, encouraging everyone’s contribution, cross-pollination of diverse perspectives, listening for patterns, cultivating collective intelligence and insight through dialog instead of debate–this book has it all. My last annotation in the book is “Wiki!” As smart people like Jock Gill and Howard Rheingold start to think about how to create a global Wiki that enables a World Cafe with a space for every topic, every challenge, every zip code, every neighborhood, I have a strong feeling that “bottom up people power” may at last be in the offing.
Melvyn Leffler and Jeffrey Legro. Superb From Right of Center–VERY Satisfying Competent Collection. Early on as I go through the book fast I am impressed by the balance between skepticism of the traditional thinking and spending habits (one size fits all heavy metal military) and a focus on the importance of having a broad capability that can respond to and impact on a diversity of threats most of which cannot be easily anticipated. Leffler and Legro sum up SHARED beliefs among the authors as: 1) Leadership by US needed 2) Preponderance of power is a good thing 3) Freedom is worth fighting for 4) Economic openness is important 5) Collaboration is helpful. Leffler and Legro sum up DISAGREEMENTS among the authors pertaining to 1) Future of the system 2) Ability of US to reform 3) US legitimacy in peril
4) Democracy as a fixed goal 5) Value of getting new institutions.
Daniel Yankelovich, Will Friedman (Editors). Good Mainstream View, Not Enough, Out of Touch With Alternative Models. I recommend this book as a superb example of mainstream thinking, while also respectfully observing that this approach is both inadequate, and out of touch with the alternative Epoch B bottom-up models that have been proven not only recently, but centuries ago within indigenous societies, as documented by, among others, Charles Mann in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Jim Rough: “Toward Wiser Public Judgment” highlights tools which allow the public to thoughtfully select better options, but it ignores tools where the public creates new solutions and builds shared vision.”
Michael Sedler. Christian Social IQ Book with Moral Foundation. The author distinguishes between questioning (bad) and asking questions (good), and this I noted down: QUESTIONING 1. Persisting 2. Complaining 3. Challenging 4. Debating and disputing 5. Making accusations 6. Taking up an offensive ASKING QUESTIONS 1. Prepare 2. Timing 3. Get to the point 4. Recognize authority 5. Ask for more information if not clear 6. Avoid becoming defensive 7. Avoid trying to justify self 8. Thank for time. The author concludes with a special focus on the role of Judges and Senators as dissenting voices, and I am reminded of Senator Robert Byrd’s courageous and erudite opposition to the illegal war on Iraq, with his speeches available to all in book form as “Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency”).
Cass R. Sunstein. Essential Contribution to Democratic Dialog. The core of the book addresses what the author names the two influences (most people get most of their information second-hand; and the general desire for good opinion of oneself) and the three phenomena (conformity, social cascades, and group polarization). He notes that pluralistic ignorance is dangerous; that groups and systems work better when there are incentives for sharing information openly; and that “free speech” requires BOTH legal protection AND cultural acceptance.
Beth Simone Noveck. Almost a Five–Making Wrong Things Righter. QUOTE (xvi): Done right, it is possible now to achieve greater competence by making good information available for better governance, improve effectiveness by leveraging the available tools to engender new forms of collective action, and strengthen and deepen democracy by creating government by the people, of the people, and *with* the people. QUOTE (17-18). A handful of employees in an institution–any institution-cannot possess as much information as the many dispersed individuals who make up a field. … in an exploding ecosystem, including government: most knowledge lies outside the boundaries of the institution.” QUOTE (40): What is lacking, though, are effective ways for government to be responsive to the public, as opposed to corporate interests, large stakeholders, and interest groups. US Government shortfalls include failure to provide underlying data to the public; failure to provide for effective online search of taxpayer-funded data used by government, and failure to execute proper peer review on all fronts (not just patent). Author concludes with ideas of policy wikis (see Earth Intelligence Network), civic juries, national online brain trust, and structured notice and comment. Ten lessons are suggested.
H. G. Wells. Updated Edition is Even Better. Very much focused on how a world-brain might alter national policy-making, how Public Opinion or an “Open Conspiracy” might restore common sense and popular control to arenas previously reserved for an elite. The information functionality of the World Brain easily anticipated the world wide web as it might evolve over the next 20-30 years: comprehensive, up to date, distributed, classification scheme, dynamic, indexes, summaries and surveys, freely available and easily accessible. We have a long way to go, but the framework is there. The communication functions of the world brain would include a highly effective information retrieval system, selective dissemination of information, efficient communication facilities, effective presentation, popular education, public and individual awareness for all issues, and facilitate social networking between organizations, groups, and individuals. The world brain is the “virtual intelligence community” qua noosphere. This is one of the fundamental references for anyone thinking about the future of politics, economics, or social systems.
Third Party Politics & Popular Movements
Paul Hawken. Pleasantly Brief for a Magnum Opus–Opens the Door to the Future. He directly connects environmental advocacy with advocacy for social justice. The very few repeated themes from past works focus on how business had always created value but never been held accountable for the true cost of what they produce, since they are so clever as well as duplicitous in legalizing the externalization of most of their costs (not talking small business here, just the 10% mega-business element that scorns humanity). The author calls for third party objective science that is neither politicized nor fanaticized by religious zealots. The author ends with four time frames, the timeframes of commerce, of culture, of governance, and of nature, and tells us about blessed unrest as the Nation’s immune system. If Silent Spring was the first call to action, this book is not just a renewed call to action, but a roadmap as well.
Frances Moore Lappe. This is a delightful, thoughtful read that is totally transpartisan in spirit, and joins other books like Escaping the Matrix and Society’s Breakthrough in setting the stage for a non-violent restoration of We the People as the working owners of the Republic. I have a note in my margin, “Lappe for President.” Seriously. The author distinguishes between thin and living democracy, points out that democracy is a process, and you must live it or lose it. The two appendices are superb, one on competing frames (one page) and one on restoring the meaning of language for democracy (3 pages). I recommend taking a look at them before reading the book itself. I am quite pleased to learn from this author that townships are passing laws abolishing corporate citizenship. This needs to be a nation-wide finding. Pension fund managers are one key to victory over corporations. This book is magical in its common sense and imminent applicability.
Jacqueline S. Salit. TIRED — Out of Touch with Substance and Reality. Salit and Michael Bloomberg “made” each other, and this properly puts IndependentVoting.org, which does not stand for anything other than “give us a place at the table,” in the Bloomberg/Wall Street circus act that includes NO LABELS, Americans Elect, former Comptroller David Walker with his movie and bus tour, and now the Bloomberg PAC that buys influence on Member at a time. All of this is TIRED. Salit has had multiple chances — as has Ron Paul and other third party presidents — to break away from trying to do the wrong thing righter, and in each instance has failed to rise to the challenge. A national Electoral Reform Summit concluding with a Statement of Demand and an Occupation of every home office of every federal Senator and Representative, is the WIRED approach to changing the rules of the game. There is nothing wrong with America the Beautiful that cannot be fixed by restoring the integrity of our electoral system and thence of our governance. Salit means well, but she and her organization are on the margins (as are the Paulistas betrayed by Ron Paul, the Greens, the Justice Party, etcetera).
Ronald Dworkin. Solid, Insightful, Relevant, Useful, Pointed, a Pleasure to Read. The author opens by telling us he is concerned about the lack of political argument (dialog) in the USA, including substantive coherent dialog about core issues such as: 1. Nature and role of human rights in defining legitimate behavior by both individuals and governments 2. Role of religion in politics and governance 3. Distribution of community’s economic wealth. I bring back from page 125 the following superb quote: “But our national politics fails the standard of even a decent junior high school debate.” And on page 127: “So Americans are horribly misinformed and ignorant about the most important issues.”
Mark Satin. Superb Personal Effort, Fits in With Other Vital Contributions. Early messages from this book include: Ignore the noise including Moore and Franken; Creative borrowing from all points of view to achieve public policy; Radical middle provides concrete answers instead of platitudes; Work with corporations instead of attacking them blindly; Idealism without the illusions. Four on key values: maximize choices, fair start for all, maximize human potential, help the developing world. The author then gives us five sections, with the highlights. The last: Be a player not a rebel 1) professional schools, not radical groups, are our incubators now (compassionate MDs, holistic MBAs, visionary JDs, 2) stay informed 3) join groups that matter and push them to the middle 4) run for office 5) open up the political process (free media, tax credits, proportional representation, instant run-offs, non-partisan redistricting.
Micah L. Sifry. Beyond Five Stars–a Foundation Stone for Third Party Bid in 2008. + Although the author does not provide a policy framework, there is a great deal of compelling detail about how Jesse Ventura combined fiscal conservative and social liberal values in a centrist independent common sense platform that attracted the votes of the working class (the author notes that this class is bigger than most imagine, while the middle class is now smaller than most imagine). + Four constituencies elected Jesse Ventura: women, moderate Republicans, blue collar suburbanites, and alienated 20-30 somethings. To this the author adds “unlikely voters” and says the polls always miss them but they make the difference for third party or independent candidates and are twice as likely to branch off from either of the two criminal parties. [I won’t belabor this latter point, just see Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. + This book is a mother lode of useful data in a coherent structure. My notes cannot do it justice. + The author concludes that Minnesota’s Independence Party, Vermont’s Progressive Party, and New York’s Working Families Party are models that can inform any emergent national campaign.
Ann Florini. Governments Broken, New Combinations with Business & Civil Society Needed. The author is at the forefront among those who understand that governments are either broken or partisan, and that only new combinations of government, business, and civil society can devise new means of governance. The two most important words in this book are governance, and transparency. The most important concept in this book is the need for citizens to demand, receive, and exploit full access to all relevant information from governments, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and others, including corporations. The author worries that the center will not hold–that the polarization of wealthy versus poor may obviate the long-standing role of the center.
Lawrence Goodwyn. Major Work Relevant to Reuniting America Today. He notes that mass protest requires a higher order of culture, education, and achievement, especially in harmonization of disparate nodes. He identifies four steps within which the third is clearly of vital importance: 1. Autonomous institution emerges as a hub 2. Recruiting of masses takes place 3. Educating of masses takes place (40,000 “lecturers”) 4. Politicization of the masses actualizes their power to good effect. The author does a superb job of stressing the importance of internal communication, and says that IF this can be achieved, THEN a new plateau of social responsibility is possible. He calls this plateau of cooperative and democratic conduct “the movement culture.” The seven “demands” of the populists, ultimately crushed by the banks: 1) Abolishment of banks, issuance of government tender 2) Government ownership of the means of communication & transportation 3) Prohibition of alien ownership of USA land 4) Free and unlimited coinage in silver 5) Equitable taxation among classes 6) Fractional paper currency 7) Government economy. The populists opposed “organized capital”, emphasized living issues over dead or archaic contracts, and tried to establish their own newspapers because they understood that the mainstream media had been co-opted by the railroads and the banks.
Ted Halstead, Michael Lind. This is it! The opening document for citizen-governance. This book has three simple focal points and they are powerful: 1) More Americans identify themselves as Independents than as either Republicans or Democrats, and the way is open for a new “radical centrist” choice of leadership; 2) The original social contract that placed highly educated experts in charge of everything (government, corporations, even non-profits), taking care of the largely ignorant masses, is *history*. The people are smart, the people are connected, and the people want *choices* rather than ideologically-contrived menus. 3) Young adults are the key to the future and will decide the next few major elections, but only (a huge caveat) if leaders of vision and charisma can come forth with truthful options grounded in reality–the authors are carefully critical of political “triangulation” that seeks to manufacture false representations of common interest, only to betray those the moment after election. The bottom line in this book is that the artificial trade-offs imposed on the people by menu- and elite-driven party politics are no longer acceptable nor enforceable, and the opportunity now presents itself for the voting public to remake the government from the outside in.
A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner. Conversational Book, Valuable. I went through my copy today and here are the critical points that grabbed me: + “Old (partisan) politics squeezes the public out of politics. + Transpartisan capitalism (not to be confused with Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution) creates a valuable new concept that melds private interests and public good. + National security is broken, in part because the US “system” is optimized for state to state relations, for “hard power” from the military, at a time when we need to distinguish between–and deal differently with–strong versus weak states, and weak states versus their societies (often fragmented ethnically, tribally, and by religion). + Restoring local ownership is a key principal in energizing change. I personally support “home rule” and the reasonable demand that corporations forego their illicit use of “personality” to avoid liability. + The authors present the need for an informal network for deciding upon and then delivering foreign assistance that is separated from US “policy” and not necessarily funded by the taxpayer. + The authors quietly present the alternative to individual income taxes, crediting economic professor Edgar Feige with the idea of an automatic banking transaction tax. + The authors call for changing the debate from left-right to a four quarters matrix (see Paul Ray’s work for a more sophisticated depiction) and for creating new means (not further defined) for engaging all of us in participatory democracy. [The most obvious need is for all budgets to be online and open to the public prior to being voted on by Congress or other bodies, and for the elimination of all secret earmarks.]
Kevin Alexander Gray. Essays, Fundamentals, a Corner Stone. The author is very strong in thoroughly discussing Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as frauds who play the race card but in fact align themselves with the Wall Street class that pays them, and he does a number of Strom Thurmond, rewriting the latter’s epitaph to “Segregation Forever.” He is especially damning of Clinton as a lite version of Thurmond, and warms my heart with his candid disses of Madame Clinton. I am fascinated and instructed throughout as he discusses black leaders and how the movement model works (he does not discuss the murder of Martin Luther King as documented in An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, New and Updated Edition and I generally agree with his conclusion that “The powerful have learned that it is easier and cheaper to buy black leaders than to bust them.” (p 153). He refers primarily to Jesse Jackson Sr with some roll-over to Jr. I am distressed to not see Cynthia McKinney listed among those who pass for leaders, and I certainly agree that Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun are in the mix. I consider Colin Powell (listed) and Michael Steele (not listed) to have betrayed the public trust and have written them off completely. Cornell West, whose Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism I rated as Nobel-level writing, is not listed as he is not a politician, but I think we need to hear of from West in the political arena. I note with interest the author’s mention of Lani Guinier being blocked by Clinton from Justice (flash forward to the dismissal of Van Jones, the one authentic person on Obama’s staff), and the lack of mention of the Independent Progressives that Lani Guinier is helping to nurture, constantly making the point that to be progressive does NOT equate to being a “take for granted” Democrat. Throughout the book the author is careful to distinguish black solidarity from black nationalism, and black politics from anti-black politics, challenges to the status quo versus separatism. From where I sit as a white man of Hispanic heritage who learned to love his dark green brothers in the Marine Corps, the black community needs to gather its leaders from across academia, commerce, civil society, labor, and other segments, and “get it together” on the basis of reality, transparency, and independence. Doug Wilder joined Colin Powell as a class flunkie. Right now, it’s Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley-Braun, and in the wings, Cynthia McKinney and Lani Guinier, both of whom have been very badly abused by the Democratic Party, half the two-party tyranny and undeserving of the black vote. I think we *can* come together, and it starts between Cynthia and Lani while embracing Al and Carol.
Marcia Ford. More Religion Than I Expected, But Totally Righteous. The author discusses how from 2006-2009 the polls consistently have shown that 33-39% of America is neither Democratic nor Republican, and I observe a Pew poll just in the last two weeks that puts self-defined independents at 39%, the Democrats at 33%, and the Republicans at 26% or so and falling. The author discusses a number of electoral reforms that are needed, including non-partisan elections, universally-available write-in options, the instant run-off (and variations I was unaware of), term limits, getting rid of the money, an end to gerrymandering (tightly drawn distrcits), and an end to party registration as part of the voting process. All good stuff, see my comments for the list of eight reforms in the Electoral Reform Act that a number of us have press pressing on since the year 2000 while Al Gore sold his integrity for what we now know has become a $100 million pay-off. See The Best Democracy Money Can Buy for the back-story, all known to Gore three months in advance of the election. I am much taken with the author’s brief discussion of how Independents are NOT “undecideds” and are not “swing” voters either. The discussion of how the media ignores (disenfranchises) independent voters, and how the Internet is now empowering ordinary people, is worthy.
Democracy Lost (US Focus)
Robert David Steele. Chapters free online individually: prefaces, paradigms of failure, legitimate grievances, candidates on the issues, balanced budget 101, call to arms (fund we not them), annotated bibliography).
F. William Engdahn. Overviews of Full Spectrum Dominance, Gods of Money, and Seeds of Destruction. This trio of books is well-worth deep study, but should also be taken with a grain of salt. The vast majority of both government and corporate employees are good people trapped in bad systems. Inter-locking boards of directorates and elite “clubs” and networks have been well-studied since the 1970’s. Nothing is every as simple as it may seem, nor can the disasters in Japan or the revolutions in the Middle East be ascribed to one monolythic entity. What we can do is get a better grip on “who benefits” as well as “true cost” information, and over time, defeat global crimes against humanity through the non-violent dissemination of knowledge.
Eva Waskell’s concise verdict: “Our public servants gave up their ability to understand, and hence control and effectively manage, the vote counting process.” “Privatization was packaged and sold as modernization, efficiency, cost savings, a way to speed up ballot processing and the release of election results, and cost savings. No one seemed to notice that control of the vote counting had now silently and irrevocably passed from our public servants who could be held accountable to the anonymous and unaccountable employees of a private company.”
Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all “content.” The movie ends with a very inspiring walk down a country lane and the discussion of how the banks are like rocks in a big basket, and the other basket is being filled by teaspoons of sand, much of it leaking, as the many race against the few to achieve a balance of power. Powerful. See also The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits and A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.
I chose this movie for reflection, as I have come to the conclusion that the U.S. Government, at the policy level (Cheney & top political appointees) is insane, criminal, and destroying the Republic. Like Lee Iacocca, I keep asking myself, “where is the outrage?”
Resting on the deep knowledge of David Walker, former Comptroller General of the USA, I.O.U.S.A. boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States. Burdened with an ever-expanding government and military, increased international competition, overextended entitlement programs, and debts to foreign countries that are becoming impossible to honor, America must mend its spendthrift ways or face an economic disaster of epic proportions.
George Orwell. Too soon, however, the pigs, who have styled themselves leaders by virtue of their intelligence, succumb to the temptations of privilege and power. “We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of the farm depend on us. Day and night, we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.” While this swinish brotherhood sells out the revolution, cynically editing the Seven Commandments to excuse their violence and greed, the common animals are once again left hungry and exhausted, no better off than in the days when humans ran the farm.
James Wilson. Comprehensive Guide to Government Bureaucracy. Wilson clearly and convincingly demonstrates the reasons what the government agencies do and why they do that in the way they do. According to the typology Wilson forms the government agencies are classified into four groups. That is, production organizations, procedural organizations, craft organizations, and coping organizations.
Jeffrey D. Clements. David Swanson entitled his review “It’s Worse Than We Thought But More Easily Fixed Than We Imagined.” The books is a review of the quarter-century campaign led by Justice Lewis Powell and the US Chamber of Commerce to subvert public health and safety in favor of corporate right to profit at any public cost.
Sheldon S. Wolin. John P. Jones III entitled his review “Managed Democracy, Superpower, and alas, even, “Inverted Totalitarianism.” The author shows the influence of the ancient Greeks, both Plato, as well as the Athenian political operative, Alcibiades, on the neo-cons “founding father,” Leo Strauss. He examines in detail the efforts of some of America’s own “founding fathers,” particularly Madison and Hamilton, on how democracy should be contained and managed. He quotes at length an amazingly prescient passage from Tocqueville predicting one possible scenario for the future of the American democracy, which ends with “…and finally reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd”
Yves Smith. Looks at how economists in key policy positions put doctrine before hard evidence, ignoring the deteriorating conditions and rising dangers that eventually led them, and us, off the cliff and into financial meltdown. Intelligently written for the layman, Smith takes us on a terrifying investigation of the financial realm over the last twenty-five years of misrepresentations, naive interpretations of economic conditions, rationalizations of bad outcomes, and rejection of clear signs of growing instability.
William Poundstone. Poundstone’s latest book deals with an issue that is fundamental to democracy, yet almost totally ignored in the U.S. While many books focus on the role of money in elections, or voter registration, or voting machine integrity, relatively few popularly written books have tackled the more fundamental question of how votes get translated into representation. This is not a question of voting machine technology, but of logic. Most Americans are remarkably unaware of the variety of voting methods available, nor of the fact that the plurality voting method that predominates in the U.S. is not the norm among modern democracies, and, in fact, is probably the most problematic of all voting methods.
Jesselyn Radack. Extremely Important. The Justice Department lied about how Lindh was treated. Michael Chertoff even perjured himself in the U.S. Senate. Senator Kennedy and others knew the truth and still voted to confirm Chertoff to head up efforts to keep our “homeland” secure. Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence and is under a gag order not to talk about it. Our government is torturing the innocent and guilty alike around the globe. And many secrets are being kept secret by those who know better, because they’ve seen what has been done to Radack and others like Bunnatine Greenhouse, James Yee, Sibel Edmonds. The Justice Department aggressively attacked Radack, costing her a job there and a later job with a private law firm, threatening her license to practice law, damaging her reputation, denying her income, placing her on the “no-fly” list, and endlessly harassing her. Her book recounts the hell she went through.
Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Ways to Share That Benefit You and Others. From bartering to exchanging, fixing, giving away, renting or more efficiently using what you have, this book is the most complete (and lively) resource I’ve found. You’ll not only read about the better-known businesses and organizations that are tapping into “collaborative consumption” like zipcar and Meetup but many lesser-known groups and methods that you might join or reinvent to adapt to your situation or interest. As someone who has had a long interest in collaboration I was delighted to learn how many more clever methods people are inventing to get along well on less, often through the use of collaborative technology. For example, I’ve been a longtime fan and user of freecyle, Zipcar, Netflix and Zilok (and was building up the nerve to try CouchSurfing or Airbnb) yet I’d not heard of many of the others including Snapgoods, SwapTree, SmartBike, TechShop, HearPlanet, iLetYou, SolarCity, UsedCardboardBoxes or OurGoods. Perhaps like me, you’ll finish this book convinced that sharing in all its forms is a major trend – and not just for the frugal or the greenies.
Charles Lewis. Title Short-Changes Value — This is One of the Most Important Books of Our Time. Among the many integrated elements of this book that inspire my admiration are the woven tale of how information has been controlled by the government in a manipulative manner, and truth foresaken — mission abdicated — by the professional press — along with stellar selections of quotations from key figures. … Chapter five, “Doubt Is Their Product,” focuses on corporate lies and corporate pressures that have essentially shut down investigative jouralism. Chapter six explores the beginning of media self-censorship, media executive complicity with government misbehaviro and misrepresentation. The last chapter floored me. This is the one chapter that should be in every single journalism course — and every scientific research seminar, every civil activist training class, every government school, every business school (they still don’t teach commercial intelligence), every law enforcement, media, military, and non-profit curriculum. This is the chapter that brings it all together and outlines an inspiring future in which non-profit journalism and a new model combining non-profit reporters, academic interns, and many others across all boundaries, come together what is in essence a healthy World Brain. The author ends with a call for a new multi-disciplinary field he calls “Accountability Studies.”
Justin Raimondo. I was so impressed by the AUTHOR of this book and the manner in which he so ably presented in summary form the very complex economic, philosophical, and consequently political reflections of Murray Rothbard that I immediately looked for “About the Author” and did not find it. So let me start with the author rather than the subject. Justin Raimondo an American author and the editorial director of the website Antiwar.com. He describes himself as a “conservative-paleo-libertarian.” In addition to his thrice-weekly column for antiwar.com, he is a regular contributor to The American Conservative and Chronicles magazine. Raimondo also writes two columns a month for Taki’s Top Drawer. He has published three other books. In the course of reading this book I felt that I was receiving three different values: 1. A history of Libertarian thought in America; 2. A summary of the reflections of the subject, Murray Rothbard; 3. An orientation for the coming war between Middle America and populism, and the corrupt two-party tyranny and its Wall Street masters.
Clyde Coughenour. Alternative Perspective, Very Naive on US Reality. I would normally rate this book at four stars, there is a lot missing, but I have to say that in terms of earnest honest patriotic down-to-earth common sense and indisputable pro-labor attitudes, this book is solid, so I am putting it at five stars and linking below to some books that add the missing “weight” to this read. My reviews of all of the books I list are summary in nature, to help those with little time or little money. The book is scattered, providing snapshots of all of the issues, showing very clearly where neither party, but especially the Republicans, can be trusted to look out for workers. Politics is theater–nothing is decided in the open, the real deals are behind closed doors and the taxpayer ALWAYS loses. I certainly give the book high marks for distilling a very complicated corrupt mess into a simplified structure, and I totally agree with the author that there are no reliable statistics from the government or corporations.
Useful Supporting Views for Prestowitz’ Rogue Nation. The author has provided a very informed and well-documented view of the competing “axis of thinking” (unilateralism versus multilateral realism) and “axis of feeling” (isolationism versus engagement). The two together create the matrix upon which a multitude of ideological, special interest, and academic or “objective” constituencies may be plotted. The author of this book differs from other authors in that he explicitly recognizes, in his preface and then throughout the book, the fact that a coherent U.S. foreign policy cannot be achieved without the U.S. public’s first understanding what is at stake, and then making its voice heard. The author is also noteworthy in detailing the hypocrisy and ignorance of existing U.S. national security policies.
Houston A. Baker. My Head Hurts–Time for a Black Caucus on Black Power. First off, this is a book that had to be written and must be read. There are, amidst the “wordier than thou” broad brush critiques, some real gems, some really engaging turns of phrase. It is unfortunate that the nature of the inquiry demands fairly personal explicit attacks on avowedly great black intellectuals, but there is some meat here. + There is a divide between black intellectual and political leaders and the bulk of the black population that lives in the most wretched of places where 40% or more are below the poverty line. The author also refers to the divide between those blacks who achieve college education, and all others. + The black working class is the center of gravity for tru progressive reform, and nothing the Democratic Party has done under Clinton or Obama has been beneficial to that group (Clinton in particular is slammed for destroying welfare and exporting jobs). There is a great deal of repressed anger in this book, and while I have been calling for two Truth & Reconciliation Commissions for some time (one for what US Government has done to its own people, another for what the US Government has done “in our name” to everyone else on the planet), this book made me realize that an absolute top priority, RIGHT NOW, must be to have an internal black community truth & reconciliation circle in which the political leaders of note (my favoriates are Cynthia McKinney, Carol Moseley-Braun, and Al Sharpton) bring together Cornell West and others on both sides of this argument for a good old-fashioned clearing of the air.
Tex Sample. Recommended by Micah Sifry, Final Review–McCain Benefits. Micah Sifry in Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America recommends this book. This book is a seminal reference, a vital, urgent reading for anyone who wishes to do the right thing for our massive blue collar population that has been betrayed by both parties (see Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. + He discusses five types of blue collar groups: – Blue Collar Winners, a threatened species – Blue Collar Respectables, want family, school, and church to be in harmony, conformists, a morality of repression, lowered social norms make it harder to be “respectable,” and there is no social mobility – Blue Collar Survivors, trapped like inmates, a daily struggle to stay even with life in the face of multiple challenges – Blue Collar Hard Living, heavy drinking, marital instability, toughness, political alienation, rootlessness, present time orientation, strong sense of individualism. The author’s greatest contribution is his full exploration of how a pastor in a blue collar neighborhood cannot think of themselves as being on the pinnacle of a pyramidal organization between the community and God, but rather as a member at the base, part of a web of giving and love, dignity and local empowerment. This book should be required reading for EVERY pastor of ANY faith. It should also be required reading for every Precinct Captain for any political party, ideally a third party such as the Libertarians or Greens. This book is a handbook for connecting, empowering, and enriching at the local level.
Laura Flanders. It is important to note that the author, in lamenting the total breakdown of the Democratic Party, did not anticipate the outright purchase of the Party by the Trilateral Commission and the financial industry that fielded both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (a protege of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who also gave us Jimmy Carter). A very exciting “show” is being run, and regardless of which candidate wins, we all lose as the two criminally-corrupt parties remain under the direct control of the financial elite.
Ted Cohen. Work of genius, superb detail, ignore the critics. This is a fast read, but it is truly scary, for anyone who has actually paid attention and read such strong non-fiction books as The Bush Tragedy. Not only does this book provide searing, gripping “reality” but as we fast-forward to understanding how a nothing like “W” could get to the White House and unleash Dick Cheney (see for instance Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency), it helps to put the well-intentioned village-idiot president in context. It is clear to me that the Bush Family is a crime family (see for instance Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America, that W was a Walker, not a Bush, that he was abused his entire life and naturally became an abuser himself. What this book drives home is that our political institutions have hit bottom. The author has a claim to credibility in writing this book. Others may not like it, but it reeks of the truth and in my view is a useful depiction of the reality that is now known as “W.”
Matthew A. Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg. Important Message, A Strain to Read. 1) The tyranny of the minorities has reached its ultimate peversion–single individuals, well-educated, well-off, get what they want, and the poor masses lose the power that came from groups with diverse backgrounds. 2) Citizenship has lost its meaning–taxation is automatic, and the US can be said to be back in a situation where the broad masses are experiencing “taxation without representation.” 3) Elections now feature only the intensely loyal minority from each of the two major parties–the bulk of the voters have dropped out and elections are thus not representative of the wishes of the larger community. Read seven other points.
Michael Moore. Great Detail, Lacks Index. Although there is some repetition from “Stupid White Men” and there is a clearly a hot publishing trend in pushing out “liberal left outrage” books, the level of detail in this book on specific things that have gone wrong and specific lies and misleading communications from the Bush Administration make this an extraordinary reference work. Michael Moore has done the Democratic’s political research for them.
Chris Hedges. Potential Straw to Break the Camel’s Back.I disagree with those who dismiss this book, however erudite their claims. The author first impressed me with American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.Reading this book on the heels of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, on top of my own cry of the heart in the preface “Paradigms of Failure” in Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography), I have to say in the strongest possible terms that this is a capstone book of great service to both those who know it all and those who know little at all. + Slams the left generally and Barack Obama specifically, doing to them with fewer words what he did to the extremist religious right in his book on fascism in America. He says the left has crumbled, sold out, and that “Obama offers a false hope” (page 155) as Obama is of, by, and for the elite, NOT of, by, and for the progressives, much less the black community, which is increasingly Independent and NOT Democratic these days.
Lewis Lapham. Elegant Essay, Among Best of 475+ Books on Future of America. This is an elegant essay, possibly the best single individual work I have read within the 475+ non-fiction books on national security and global issues including the future of America. There is a solid strain of economic thinking woven throughout the book, and one can only conclude that the concentration of wealth and the crimes against the working poor now being perpetuated, can only lead to a Great Depression as the labor economy collapses and the technology economy is attacked by the combined ills of overdue break-down, deliberate sabotage, and a withdrawal of foreign credit. The author makes the point on page 85 that America has elevated capital above humans–capital votes in America, humans do not, in the one place where it really matters: the crafting of legislation that transfers wealth from the individual working poor to the privilege elite that own the military-industrial-prison complex. Gifted ideas and turns of phrase abound. Absent an awakening of the upper middle class that does read and think for itself, the author has written the epitaph of democracy in America.
Glenn Beck. Minus 1 for Fluff, Plus 2 for Bringing Us Back to Paine. My notes from the first half of this double-spaced book (the second half is the original work of the original Thomas Paine, and I loved having a chance to reread that): + Principles must displace the two political parties + Creative extremists are needed–non-violent *armed* extremists better + Government is imposing both sacrifices and intrusive conditions on a public that has been sacrificing since the 1960’s + Shortcuts have consequences, national debt IS bad + Political leaders are parasites (Amen, Brother!–I would add, “and prostitutes uncaring about the public interest.” + Social Security and Medicare are a scam because the money is being spent and an IOU put in its place–close to $10 trillion in unfunded future obligations (but see my review of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth + “Smiley-faced fascism” is the order of the day + Tax code is a weapon and a scam + Election manipulations anti-democratic, need term limits and an end to gerrymandering (see my review of Grand Illusion linked above) + “Green Government” is a scam that is radically increasing federal government powers to intervene and impact negatively on private property.
Theresa Amato. Final Detailed Review: Our Bunker Hill. I am giving this book five stars instead of four because it is the de facto “Bunker Hill” of our 21st Century Nation, doing for politics what Silent Spring did for the environment. The book needs to be re-issued immediately in paperback with four additions that should themselves be offered free online: an annotated bibliography that properly embraces those who have gone before; an annotated legal list of cases; a list of the worst of the 527’s; and a Presidential Decision Memorandum that itemizes the Electoral Reform Act of 2009. Across the entire book, using the two Nader campaigns as a source of actual experience–this is non-fiction at its very best–non-fiction of great consequence I might add–the author documents the degree to which state documentation requirements and voting procedures vary “wildly” and can also be intimidating. Citing Steven Hill and his book Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics PB, the author quotes Hill: “Winner take all is horse & buggy technology.” “Campaigns are simultaneously over-regulated, under-regulated, and ineffectively regulated.” The entire book documents this assertion. Over 6 million “lost votes” across the Nation. Diebold is trash (I already knew that, but the book does a fine job of documenting Diebold’s criminal insecurity. Observers are blocked from vote counting by being called “threats to security.” I have a note, “Insanity prevails.” The concluding review covers: Electoral College Vote Counting Voter ID Absentee & early Voting Military & Overseas Votes Write-In Votes Provisional Votes Recounts The recommendations for reform are comprehensive: Eliminate Electoral College Add Affirmative Right to Vote Federalize Federal elections
Federal Administration (24 specifics) State-Level Reforms (25 specifics) Judiciary Integrity.
Joel Dyer. Explains Violence and Anger in Rural West. This book joins a growing body of literature that I have been exploring that suggests that America is losing its mind as a nation, is fragmenting in multiple ways including states planning for secession, divides between rural and urban, increased ethnic violence especially among poor whites, and so on. There is also a growing literature on government ineptness if not actual mafeasance and betrayal of the public trust. In terms of details, this book is persuasive in documenting either a federal cover-up or massive federal incompetence. The suspects not interviewed, the suspects blocked from testifying, it all adds up to the federal government having a story line that is not supported by the facts.
Rick Shenkman. Best Depiction of Worst Case, Needs Sense of Best Case. I cannot improve on the reviews by Kerry Walters and Retired Reader, in that order. I was drawn to this book by the fact that it is the “other” book that readers buy when considering Joe Trippi’s great book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything which will be out in a new expanded and revised edition at the end of this month (September 2008). I am continually shocked by the ignorance and apathy as well as the growing obesity of the American people, and this book has shaken me to the roots. To not know three branches of government, and to be violently opposed to immigrants who do, turns my world upside down.
Mark R. Levin. Articulate, Intelligent, Relevant. This is a fast read being double-spaced, but it has good endnotes and a logical structure with amply documented points. A call to arms, the book ends with ten elements of a conservative manifesto, and I will list them here: 01 Taxation 02 Environment 03 Judges 04 The Administrative State 05 Government Education 06 Immigration 07 Entitlements 08 Foreign Policy and Security 09 Faith 10 The Constitution.
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. 25 Years Ahead of the Crowd–Vital Reading Today. It is quite significant, in my view, that today as I write this Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right is #2 at Amazon, and Sheldon Rapton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraqis #114 at Amazon. Not only are the people awakening to the truth, which is that they have been had through a combination of inattention and manipulation, but these two books and several others in this genre are validating what Chomsky was telling us all in the past 25 years. The ability to set the agenda and determine what is talked about and how it is talked about is at the root of hidden power in the pseudo-democratic society. Chomsky was decades ahead of his time in studying both the power of language and the power of controlling the media message. Today, as we recall that so-called mainstream news media *refused* fully-funded anti-war advertisements that challenged the White House lies (62 of which have been documented with full sourcing in various blogs, notably Stephen Perry’s Bush at War blog), we must come to grips with the fact that America is at risk.
Martin L. Gross. Great Airport Book, Really Substantive. Although the author certainly has a formula, I do not consider these formula books or light in any sense of the word. The author’s introduction is a proper overview of all that follows, and the conclusion connects the dots. I am not going to list the 44 alphabetical topics here, from Alasakan Oil to Zip Codes–the publisher really needs to do their duty to the reader and the author and get Inside the Book details posted. I am hugely impressed by the details in this book, and its over all coherence. If the public ever wanted a czar for both structural and financial reform of the federal government which is, as Ron Paul, the author, and I and manz others agree, totally broken, this author is the man for the job.
Bart DePalma. Brilliant on the problems, missing the reality of the two-party tyranny. I received this book as a gift, along with Capitalism 101. Of the two I prefer this one. On the positive side, both books represent a growing body of citizens who understand that big government is very much alike to central government, and both are forms of fascism / socialism that are bad for the majority. On the negative side, neither book seems to appreciate the fact that the Republican Party is every bit as corrupt as the Democratic Party.
Webster Griffin Tarpley. Polemical, Provocative, Frightening, & Credible. In the context of all that I know and have read, this book shocked me into realizing that the author may well be correct, and that Senator Obama and his wife, as intelligent and well-intentioned as they may be, are nothing more than puppets to a Trilateral Commission/Federal Reserve mafia. I say this as someone who believed in the potential of this candidate, but who subsequently found that his campaign staff, his senior political advisor, and even Oprah Winfrey, are so enthralled with the prospects of an easy engineered win (money talks), that they are refusing to engage with or listen to Libertarians, Greens, Reforms, Naderites, or Independents. They refuse to mention the word “transpartisan” that outs the lie of bipartisanship (“keep the two-party spoils system alive, continue to exclude Independents and others from all debates”), they refuse to address the need for Electoral Reform and the naming of a transpartisan cabinet in advance of the election, and they refuse to create much less publish any semblance of a balanced budget, without which all of their promises are empty (as well as often mis-guided). So for all of these reasons, as polemical as the author’s book it, I find it credible and compelling. This book also explains why Mike Bloomberg has gone silent–others with more money than he appear to have persuaded him he could, like Bear Sterns, be punished by being bankrupted.
Jacob S. Hacker. We Have to “Go For Broke” in 2008. This is a tremendous book. It joins The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World; The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics and Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders (by Tom Coburn, about how the “Party” turns elected representatives into slaves to the party line and against their constituencies). When combined with the latter books and Ralph Nader’s long-standing complaints about “the system,” these authors can take credit for adding useful new insights as to how extremist Republicans (who can indeed be likened to Hitler’s movement in the efficacy of their take-over of a Nation with limited numbers–and I say this as a moderate Republican furious over the loss of MY party’s reason) have pulled off the theft of a Nation and the looting of the middle class through the working poor. I am especially taken with the authors’ examination of how the extremist Republicans have been able to systematically lie to the public and get away with it. Their discussion of “backlash insurance” and how they have managed to coerce the moderate Republicans (such as my favorite moderate Republican, Congressman Rob Simmons, R-CT-02) into going along is a very helpful contribution to public understanding of how we got so far off center. The authors conclude with a fine review of the four major obstacles to political reform.
Sanford Levinson. Solid Five for Good Sense, Elegance, and Timing. Although I have recently lauded State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence as perhaps the most important book in 2008, I confess that while I still believe that in terms of restoring democracy in November, this author has provided all of us with a compelling intelligent case for demanding a constitution convention in 2008, both through a nation-wide petition to all serving Members, and through direct controntation with our three candidates (two kids and an old guy–Bloomberg is looking better and better). My flyleaf notes begin with INSPIRING! Coinfirms we need a new constitutional convention, ably distinguishing between then and now. He discusses the problems with the Electoral College, with Executive power, with the Supreme Court being appointed for life, and with 13 states being able to block the rest if and when a constitutional amendment is proposed. He ends the introductory section by surmising that the Constitution is both insufficiently democratic and dysfunctional.
Joe Klein. Pages of Notes on This Book–Other Reviews Largely Worthless. There are several key points that I take very seriously, and I believe that this book could usefully be read with moderate Republican Clyde Prestowitz’s ROGUE NATION, and Senator Edward Kennedy’s AMERICA: Back on Track. Readers interested in my recommendations might also look at my lists, especially my lists of Democracy and on Collective Intelligence. Key point #1: AUTHENTICITY is lacking in politics. Key point #2: Consultants have drained democracy dry and actually driven voters away. Key Point #3: Politics, in its highest form, was Bobby Kennedy in Indianapolis on the night of Martin Luther King’s murder by assassination. The author opens with this vignette, the rest of the book is about politics at its lowest form. Key Point #4: Television has changed how we select our leaders, and this is generally a very very bad thing. In turn, the cost of television advertisements has fueled massive corruption within both parties. Key Point #5: Witch hunts and negative politics are the stock of the mediocrities that populate both the Republican and the Democratic parties (I am a moderate Republican and consider both parties to be equally corrupt, the Democrats are simply more inept). Key Point #6: Here the author is supported by Henry Kissinger (see my review of DOES AMERICA NEED A FOREIGN POLICY?), as both consider the speed of politics and the speed of the real world to have dramatically out-paced the sources and methods by which we acquire, evaluate, and act on information.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The Single Best Examination of Secrecy Costs. I testified to this Commission, both publicly and also in a private session in the office of Daniel Patrick Moynihan (RIP). This is the single best non-partisan overview of the costs of unnessary secrecy, as well as the imperatives of providing proper definition and protection of necessary secrets. I note with appreciation that my testimony led him to include the words “open source” in his cover letter of transmittal to the White House.
Lawrence Lessig. Diplomatically Provocative — A Foundation, Not a Structure. The highest praise I can give this book is that I found it engrossing and learned from it. Gary North has done a great job in his article at featured at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, “Administrative Law (New World Order) versus Democracy (Live Free or Die).” What I learned from this author is that administrative regulations are how Congress creates its “protection racket” and manipulates conditions so that those who gain ($1 in lobbying yields $6 to $20 in government earmarked pork) have to “give” every year. QUOTE (1): Government is an embarrassment It has lost the capacity to make the most essential decisions.” That is of course because all of government is corrupt — the Cabinet officers are there to protect budget share and serve the recipients of the taxpayer dollar, not to serve the taxpayer — the President is a puppet, all theater, today with a nanny from Goldman Sachs installed as “National Security Advisor.” Mindful of Amazon’s quote limit, here is the heart of the book: QUOTE (7): The greatest threat today is in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people. The bulk of the first third of the books explores the twin outcomes, bad governance and lost trust, and the three corruptions: the author’s articulation of “dependency corruption” that is in turn the foundation for very limited “venal corruption” (direct bribery) and pervasive “systemic corruption” where a “gift economy” and implied obligations destroy the integrity of the government across all topics. From start to finish this book provokes me.
Mark Green. Nitty Gritty, Worth Every Penny to Any Voter. I’ve chosen this book, together with Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men” and Greg Palast’s “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” to end a lecture I give on the top 50 books every American should read in order to understand why America is not safe today and will not become safe anytime soon, unless the people take back the power and restore common sense to how we spend the $500 billion a year that is now *mis-spent* on the military-industrial complex instead of real capabilities for a real world threat.Mark Green knows as much as anyone could know about the intricate ways in which the existing system provides for *legally* buying elected representatives away from the citizens’ best interests. The details he provides in this book–as well as the moderate success stories where reforms have worked–are necessary. The bottom line is clear: until the 60% of America that is eligible to vote but does not vote, comes back into the democracy as active participants who question candidates, vote for candidates, and hold elected representatives accountable *in detail and day to day,* then corporate corruption will continue to rule the roost and will continue to concentrate wealth in the hands of an unreasonably wealthy few at the expense of the general public.
Paul A. Rahe. Erudition Demanding Concentration–Need Lay Chapter or Pamphlet. This is an extraordinary book offering a very detailed and superbly integrated examination of the consistencies and differences among Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, both to illuminate precisely what was in the Founding Father’s minds when they sought to create a Republic of, by, and for We the People; and how distant we have migrated from that ideal. As other reviewers have noted, this is not for the lay person or even the average Libertarian, for whom I would like to see (and would benefit myself) a pamphlet or article version. This is erudition in its highest form, offering a painstakingly devised integration and application of the works of three author’s to the question: “what is the ideal state of unfettered democracy, and where does the USA stand in that regard?” The book begins with an utterly devastating full page quote from Tocqueville in which I underline the words “petty and vulgar pleasures,” “elevated an immense, tutelary power,” “a network of petty regulations,” and “it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born.”
Floyd Abrams. From Pentagon Papers to NSA Wiretapping: NYT and Freedom of the Press. “Speaking Freely” is an extraordinary book that documents, over and over again, why our national security lies not only in force of arms but also in, quoting Judge Murray Gurfein (June 1971), a “cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitious press (that) must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” This book, “Speaking Freely,” is a massive vaccination for the public against the disease of “state secrecy” that is used to cover up incompetence, inpropriety, and high crimes and misdemeanors richly deserving of impeachment.
Bob Woodward. Stake in the Heart of the W Presidency. The Federal Government is broken, and was made worse by a President who knew nothing of foreign policy, a Vice President who closed down the inter-agency policy system, and a Secretary of Defense who was both contemptuous of the uniformed military and held in contempt by Bush Senior.
Greg Palast. Let Freedom Ring–Truths the Corporate Thieves Can’t Hide. The most distressing aspect of this book, written by an American expatriate publishing largely through newspapers in the United Kingdom, is that all of this information should have been published in U.S. newspapers in time to make a difference–to inform the voting public–but was not. One can only speculate how corrupt our media have become–how beholden to their owners and advertisers–if we cannot get front page coverage of the Florida government’s disenfranchisement of over 50,000 predominantly black and democratic voters, prior to the presidential election; or of the raw attacks on our best interests by the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and others linked in a “trigger” network where taking money from one demands all sorts of poverty-inducing and wealth theft conditions.
Thomas E. Mann. Helpful to Anyone Planning to Vote in November 2008. I have long understood the original terrible sin of Congress, the obscene corruption. I did not understand party line corruption (forcing Members to vote the party line instead of for their constituents until I read Tom Coburns Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders. This book helped me understand that the third sin is that partisan politics have turned Members into (the author’s term) “footsoldiers for the President” and thus a complete abdication of their role as the Article 1 (i.e. first) branch of government. This book helped me understand that it is the long-serving Members who are often shaking down lobbyists and extorting funds from people, not the other way around, where bribes are offered by the lobbyists.
Andrew Sullivan. Philosophical, Practical, Gifted Turns of Phrase, Starting Point. This is a philosophical essay, not a political diatribe. This is a very educated, articulate, thoughtful, and practical book. It is so good it probably needs to be read more than once. As an estranged moderate Republican who believes in a balanced budget, smaller government, and minimalist interference in state, local, and individual rights not assigned to the federal government by the Constitution (and also the elimination of central banks that are NOT authorized by the Constitution), I found provocation, solace, and humor in this book (the discussion of the role of the penis and its eternal sperm, in relation to fundamentalist strictures and fears, is alone worth the price of the book). Gifted turns of phrases as well as erudite references to both ancient and modern philosopher-kings abound. I especially likes “Immoral decisions, in other words, are like environmental pollutants” (page 125), and on page 209, “In this nonfundamentalists understanding of faith, practice is more imporant than theory, love more important than law, and mystery is seen as an insight into truth rather than an obstacle.”
Carol Gilligan and David A. J. Richards. Epic Work, Small Blinders, Over-All a MAJOR Integrative Work. This is an epic work, and I am deeply impressed by the rigorous documentation in notes, the spectacular bibliography, and the deliberate mention of names of minds being quoted in the body of the book, a certain mark of integrity that I always look for. Hence, while some of the points below in my notes come without the cited source, be assured that the authors have been meticulous. QUOTE p. 19: “…patterns of injustice and moral slavery are supported by the repression of resisting voice and to show how such resisting voice is rooted in the human psyche and preserved in cultural forms that preserve and maintain it. …What patriarchy precludes is love between equals, and thus it also precludes democracy.” For the political science version of this, see The modern state. + Gender and how gender equality and sexual tolerance are handled is both the foundation for democracy (dignity and equality for all) and the canary in the coal mine for failing democracy such as we have in the USA. + Resistance, once it acquires critical mass, is the pre-condition for being able to achieve transformation. This is a very important point and merits its own book.
Jeff Faux. Borrowed Title, Missing Bits, Worthy Restatement of the Threat to Labor. This book is valuable for its one main point reiterated and documented over and over again: the American elite has joined with other elites world-wide to reach accommodations that favor the investors and the ruling elites over the individuals that are employees. If I had not also read William Greider’s The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy as well as John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and (over two decades ago), Lionel Tiger, Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System I might have seen this book in a different light. In the larger context of the 700+ books I have reviewed at Amazon, this book sums up a key factor that the public must consider when going to elect its leaders over the next few years. As the author documents and discusses, the combination of neoliberalism and neo-conservatism has led to government being in the service of corporations and the wealthy, rather than the public and especially the working public. The author suggests, citing another author, that the working class is 62% of America, the middle class 36%, and the ruling class 2%. He also notes that America is no longer a mobile society, with 77% of the people “stuck” in their parent’s rut, and with wages now BACK to where they were in the 1970’s–in other words, no real gains in quality of life or purchasing power across the land.
Duncan Crary, James Howard Kunstler. Unique in Its Own Right, NOT a Substitute for Long Emergency. THIS IS AN OCCUPY BOOK. It illuminates legitimate grievances being talked about by Occupy. First, having read The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, I urge anyone interested in this book to buy both. They are completely different. This book is not a substitute for the first book. Second, although the “author” Duncan Crary takes great pains to minimize his role, I have dealt with massive transcripts and historical artifacts covering long spans and would say that he has done a heroic job–he has excelled–at pulling out “just enough, just right” pieces and ordering them into the following section (since Look Inside the Book is not available, I list them): Geography of Nowhere; End of Surburbia; American Culture; Architecture; Getting There; The City in Mind; Urban Polemicists; Parting Words. The key word in this book is DESIGN. That word is absent from all planning in the USA today. SOLUTIONS: – Smaller cities and town near sustainable water (Great Lakes, major rivers) will prosper – Need to get serious about “rails to trails” – Canals can and should make a comeback. Bottom line as I got it: America’s norm–dense cities and sprawled suburbia–are peverse. NEITHER is good. Need to break the cities down and recover farmland, break suburbia down and recreate rural areas.
David Christopher Naylor Swanson (editor). America Desperately Needs More Illumination Such as This. America desperately needs more illumination on the corruption in our government, and the evil done in our name without our permission but very much at our expense. As a career veteran of the national security community–the Marine Corps and the Central Intelligence Agency–followed by seventeen years teaching 90 governments — 66 directly — how to get a grip on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) that provides 95% of what we need to know at 2% or less of the cost of what we spend now on secret intelligence–I am well-qualified to read this book from a patriot’s point of view. A strong national defense capability does NOT exist in the USA today. This book, edited by David Swanson, is a very good deal at $25. Its 368 pages include chapters from thirty other authors besides the editor, and include contributions from Ray McGovern and Karen Kwiatkowski, whose work I have admired in the past. If there were one flaw in the book, but not so serious as to lose a star, it would be its isolation from the pioneering work done by Pierre Sprey, Chuck Spinney, and Winslow Wheeler, with a genuflection toward John Boyd, the real pioneer of smart sufficient national security. What is uniquely valuable about this book, something I have not seen elsewhere, is its provision of a holistic examination not just of the military-industrial process and fraudulent, wasteful, abusive bad design, bad performance, and bad cost, but of the costs that the military-industrial complex imposes on all of us and our economy and our society. This is a world-class book that should be translated into other languages to help others avoid our long-running mistakes. See my full review for some of the blinding flashes of insight.
Mike Lofgren. 6 on Republicans, 3 on Democrats, 0 on the Other 50% of America’s Voters. I read this book is in original incarnation, “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” (truthout, 3 Sep 2011), and have to give the author high marks for fleshing out his original litany of Republican felonies against the public. For that he gets a 6 — beyond five stars and long overdue. He is especially strong on showing how hypocritical, unintelligent, and generally unethical my former party has become. He barely earns a 3 on the Democrats, and this is a pity because his success on the Republicans really calls for a similar indictment for the Democrats by an insider. Where I was most dismayed by the book is in the author’s complete failure to grasp that the REASON the Republican and Democratic parties are so corrupt is precisely because they have excluded the Independents, Constitutionals, Greens, Libertarians, and Reforms from ballot access, while also disenfranchising them through gerrymandering–our corrupt Congress chooses its voters, not the other way around, which is why Peggy Noonan was able to supply Ronald Reagan with the killer saying, “there is less turnover in the US Congress than in the Soviet politburo.” What this all boils down to is the complete loss of integrity across all sectors of the no-longer-a-Republic. I have reviewed many books, almost all non-fiction, that bear on the current state of the world and the union dismembered by the two-party tyranny and all it has made possible against the public interest, my two lists, one negative (an assessment of the situation) and one positive (what we could do if I–who ran for President as a Reform Party candidate long enough to understand the corruption in person–could get one patron to sponsor an Electoral Reform Summit in September of this year. Mike Lofgren’s book may be the ultimate insider look at the naked Emperor, but it is not a precipitant for revolution. For that we need at least one soccer mom torching herself on the steps of Capitol Hill after giving an exclusive interview to CNN. It has come to that.
Norman Cousins. Brilliant Detailed Exposure of Power Killing Intelligence. This is a new edition of the book, and so very timely. If I had the money to give one book to every American, this would be it, followed by TYRANNICIDE The Story of the Second American Revolution and my all time God Bless America favorite, The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen. Here is the author’s opening statement: “Connected to the tendency of power to corrupt are yet other tendencies that emerge from the pages of the historians: * The tendency of power to drive intelligence underground; * The tendency of power to become a theology, admitting no other gods before it; * The tendency of power to distort and damage the traditions and institutions it was designed to protect; * The tendency of power to create a language of its own, making other forms of communication incoherent and irrelevant; * The tendency of power to spawn imitators, leading to volatile competition; * The tendency of power to set the stage for its own use. This is simply a brilliant, reasoned, well-documented and well-structured look at the greatest threat to any Republic’s national security and prosperity: absolute power with its attendant absolute corruption.
Michael Walsh. 48 Pages – A Masterpiece of Brevity: Now Do the Same for the Republicans. 30% of the eligible voters elected Obama, and a major reason he won so narrowly, despite breaking his promise to run on public funding, despite getting $750 million, $300 million of which is still not accounted for, was the treason within John McCain’s own camp. Staffed by Bushies, the McCain campaign was largely clueless, and not attentive to the correct gut feeling of the House Republicans — no bailout, insure from the bottom up with no evictions and no foreclosures. What the author does not address is the FACT that on every charge that he makes against the Democrats, the Republicans [I was a Reagan Republican] having easily taken the lead under Newt Gingrich, who single-handedly overturned Article 1 of the Constitution and converted the Senate and the House into “foot-soldiers” for the President (when he was a Republican) and subversive obstructionists when not. We in the USA live in a two-party tyranny, a criminal tyranny that excludes from both ballot access and vote relevance six other parties: Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Reform (active), and Natural Law and Socialist (inactive).
Jeffrey Grupp. You need a brain to read this book; if you have one, the book will scare you. I am hugely impressed by this author. He does detailed, meticulously documented research and the presentation is excellent. I especially like footnotes I can see while reading the body instead of endnotes. I think so much of this book that in addition to the ten links that Amazon allows here, I am creating a testimonial to this author by adding to my copy of the review as posted to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, a complete list, with links to all of the cited books–and there are many. Everything in this book resonates with me, including the very scary detailed documentation of how humans, who have uniquely huge brains not necessarily evolved from chimpanzees, are being “dumbed down” with great deliberation, by a combination of food, medicine, television and other media, and really rotten rote education. See also: Poisons on Our Plates: The Real Food Safety Problem in the United States (Politics and the Environment) and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. I am shocked by the author’s suggestion that the various school shootings are staged, part of a larger plan to eventually disarm the public. While I am not sure I agree with this, I do see how the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 were part of a larger mosaic of make it happen or let it happen. See also: Harvest Of Rage: Why Oklahoma City Is Only The Beginning and 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA. The author covers Iraq as an example of brainwashing. While I am personally familiar with the 935 lies that are documented at Truthdig and discussed in Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq, this book is for me largely a detailed documented indictment of all media, media that creates distracting non-news rather than discovering or covering real world news. The author is especially strong (and surprises me) with his detailed indictment of both the History Channel and the National Georgraphic Channel, two of my favorites. On the specific points he makes, he is compelling. The author considers both Al Al Qaeda and Hezbollah to be creations of the CIA. I have no direct knowledge, but from secondary reading I can certainly see how CIA has a history of doing very bad things. See for example: Edward Lansdale’s Cold War (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War) and Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.
Ron Suskind. Forgery is old news–focus on the loss of morality. The core value of this book is NOT in the forgery, which is old news, but in the broad picture it paints of a Republic that has become a Third World dictatorship in which Cheney calls the shots, Congress is complaint (both parties be damned, the Republicans for being collaborators, the Democrats for being doormats), the war loots the individual taxpayer for Halliburton’s financial benefit, and brave Americans die for an illegal, immoral war justified by a cadre of liars: Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Feith. Much of what the author has brought together is not new for those of us that continually monitor and agonize over crimes against the Republic, but I have to give him credit for crafting an elegant presentation that makes his book a moving and hence essential wake up call for the Republic. The people are NOT sovereign today, the people are sheep whose civil liberties, freedom of expression, right to bear arms, even their right to assemble, are all under attack. The USA has become a Third World nation. We let it happen by abdicating our moral and civic responsibilities as citizens of a Republic. Right now, regardless of who “wins” in November, we all lose. THAT is the point of this great book. The Republic is adrift and sinking fast.
David K. Shipler. Needs Policy Summary, But Provides Full Details. The most important point made in this book, a point made over and over in relation to a wide variety of “case studies”, is that one cannot break out of poverty unless the **entire** system works flawlessly. To hard work one must add public transportation, safe public housing, adequate schooling and child care, effective parenting, effective job training, fundamental budgeting and arithmetic skills, and honest banks, credit card companies and tax preparation brokers, as well as sympathetic or at least observant employers. The author is coherent and compelling in making the point that a break or flaw in any one of these key links in the chain can break a family.
Jim Hightower. Very Long Opinion Piece, Part of the Big Picture. Although Jim Hightower appears to have been first on the block with satirical and details critiques of the extreme rightists and corporate cronies of the neo-conservatives, it was not until Al Franken and Michael Moore made the genre popular that this book seems to have taken off. It is the equal of Franken’s and Moore’s books, but lacks any sort of footnotes or bibliography while helpfully including an index for looking up specifics. In combination with the first two books mentioned, and William Greider’s earlier and most serious Who Will Tell the People as well as his most recent block-buster, The Soul of Capitalism (about immoral capitalism and why this leads the rest of the world to fear and hate us), as well as Weapons of Mass Deception, this book rounds out a very satisfactory public case for sending the current Administration back to the holes they crawled out of.
Thom Hartmann. Five for the Voice, Four for the Substance. Thom Hartmann is one of a handful of individuals that I consider to be true guides for the rest of us, and I consider two of his earlier books, Cracking the Code and SCREWED, to have been instrumental in my own transformation from recovering spy to intelligence officer to the public. The book does cover a lot of ground lightly, but it is coherent, and because it is Thom Hartmann, whose voice is hugely important to all of us, I settle on a five instead of a four. Other books that complement this one include Tom Atlee’s The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All, Jim Rough’s Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People, and The People’s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy. + The book can be summed up as a) population explosion is the root problem behind the ten high level threats to humanity (see A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change; and b) empowering women will solve most of that problem. While simplistic, I agree. + The book is structured with one chapter each for each of three major thresholds: 01 Environment (not just Climate Change but Oceanic Decomposition, Atmospheric Degradation, etcetera) 02 Economy Owned by 1% of the Public with Corporatism Rampant 03 Explosion of Human Flesh (which is his broadest and deepest concern + That section is followed by chapters on each of the four mistakes: 01 Separating ourselves from nature 02 Economy as an abstraction 03 Subordination of women (who used to rule) 04 Focus on governance by fear instead of governance by love.
Carroll Quigley. First Stone in the Digital Study of Abusive Wealth. I give this book 5 stars for substance, 4 stars for personal bias, and 4 stars for being both too late, and too soon–to late to have saved us from what Derek Leebaert calls The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World, too soon to be centerpiece, as I would have it be, of a massive public intelligence digital project to nail down all the relationships and follow all the money. Carroll Quigley’s book is excruciatingly dull and filled with thousands of facts in very small print. I never-the-less recommend it for purchase because it may well be one of the more fundamental references of our time. Two other books that complement this one are Mike Rupert’s Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil and Jim Marrs’ Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids. See also Moises Naim, Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy. Quigley is the cornerstone for a public intelligence digital map that will emerge over the next few years. I anticipate that thousands of books and articles, including Sterling and Peggy Seagrave’s “Gold Warriors” (which has strangely disappeared from Amazon but is being read by millions of Chinese in both Mandarin and common Chinese) will all “make sense,” and I believe they will make enough sense to warrant a massive restriction on illicit wealth such as has never before occured under non-violent circumstances. I am NOT saying repossession, but rather an end to banks lending money they do not have, governments borrowing from banks, and intermediaries charging excessively while ignoring “true cost” of their goods to the planet. This book is revolutionary, but it is also before its time.
Lou Dobbs. Single Best Handbook for We the People Seeking to Take Back the Power. I read a lot, and my highest praise for this book is that it is easily a single coherent substitute for at least 50 others books including Barbara Ehrenrich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America; David Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America; Jeff Faux, The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back; Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and many many others including books I have reviewed on the broken government, immoral capitalism, the failure of education and health care, and so on. He covers it all, including how Wal-Mart is trying to use the World Trade Organization to force US states to back down on laws protecting them from this predatory organization (see my reviews of the book and DVD about Wal-Mart). Summing it all up: take back the power by voting and demanding that Washington represent the people instead of corporations; fair trade not free trade; end illegal immigration (and I would add, demand English as a common language); self-insure as a Nation with respect to health care.
John P. Avlon. Theater–Follow the Money to Understand. Unquestionable a great book, with one big missing piece: it does not follow the money back to Wall Street. Buckminster Fuller understood in the 1960’s that the White House had become theater, I did not understand his meaning until the economic meltdown and my noticing that Goldman Sachs has provided the Secretary of the Treasury for the last six or so Administrations. The Tea Party, a grand mix of idealistic individuals who really think they have a shot at making a difference, is funded by the Koch Brothers, and all the other wing-nuts this book discusses all have financial underpinning that serve a purpose: to create theater. They are the American version of a political circus that keeps people’s eyes off the raw fact that the US is a two-party tyranny with election manipulation so embedded that we no longer qualify as a democracy according to international standards. Wing-nuts is an “order of battle” for the extremist fringe, but it does NOT explain why the US government and US economy are in the toilet. For that we need just one word: INTEGRITY (lost).
Hedrick Smith. Compelling Narrative–Could the Book Tour Spark a Revolution? The book is a solid five. I would have liked to see a great deal more outrage, a lot more calling of a spade a spade (abject corruption on the part of all concerned), but that is me. The author has created a very compelling narrative that manages to avoid offending anyone in particular, and I can only feel inadequate in admiration for his balance. If I were to re-write this book, most readers over 40 would be dead of a heart attack by chapter four. On second thought, not killing the reader with truth may have its own special merits! The book opens with reflections of Arnold Toynbee on how civilizations fall, from schisms of the society and schisms of the soul. Being an admirer of George Will’s collection entitled “Statecraft as Soulcraft,” this resonates with me. The author chooses to start his account in the 1970’s, focusing on Justice Powell and the memorandum that created the US Chamber of Commerce led business lobbying industry–an industry that now has 130 lobbyists for every Member of the Senate and House of Representatives–130 for EACH–and outspends labor 60:1. That is a safe place to start. Starting with the JFK assassination and the LBJ cover-up that neutered the presidency might have been too incendiary. In the author’s view, gross inequality made possible by a corrupt Congress destroys the “virtuous circle” Henry Ford pioneered–pay the workers enough and they become consumers. I have to give the author enormous credit — this is a masterwork and he provides in one book what I have had to learn across at least 200 books. Led by the Business Roundtable of 180 CEOs, this campaign, catalyzed by the Justice Powell memorandum, sought to: #1 Neutralize Ralph Nader and his idea of a Consumer Protection Agency #2 Sideline organized labor and advance the class war #3 Repeal the regulatory regime across the board #4 Implement a corporate bankruptcy law that allowed facile default on pensions and other debts to the working class #5 Create the 401(k) as a means of ending corporate pension obligations #6 Implement tax cuts at any cost.
Paul Krassner. Less Funny, More Provocative–Price is a WOW. This is NOT a funny book. There are a few places here and there where one can see the deep tragic comedy possibility, but more than anything this is a very provocative book that beats a single theme: the obscenity of all that we allow to be done in our name, to our bodies and our environment, to our families, schools, economy, and the Republic itself. Obscene, they name is a two-party tyranny and a Congress so corrupt they shame every dictator (all 40+ of them, all but two “best pals” of the US Government) in their craven greed and lack of democratic integrity. Ariana Huffington’s foreword is useful. Midway through the book I note how deeply I am appreciating the author in relation to: 01 Reflections on resistance 02 Price one pays for insanity (or deep corruption) in government.
Deron Acermoglu and James Robinson. Helpful to Most, Can Be Summed Up as Integrity & Clear Feedback Loops. INTEGRITY is the one word that matters. If organizations, including political organizations, have INTEGRITY, the nation prospers. If they do not, poverty prevails. INTEGRITY is about much more than personal “honor.” It is about being able to see the whole, connect the dots, achieve rapid constant open feed-back loops among all elements of the complex system, and so on. Nations fail when education is reserved for the elite, and the elite lose their INTEGRITY. When the burden becomes too great and the masses rebel, they can either re-create the corrupt system they are bringing down, or they can branch toward a system of systems where INTEGRITY prevails.
Books by Politicians
BOREN, David. Review: A Letter to America
Elegant essay with embedded references. This is an elegant intelligent book of reflection, but I have to say up front that is misses the core point: the need to end the strangle-hold of the two parties that dismissed the League of Women Voters from the presidential debate process because they had the temerity to want to ask questions not provided in advance, and to include third, fourth and fifth parties. I know many people will be reading this book, and perhaps also this review, and the mere existence of the book as a focal point for dialog is worthy of five stars. There are eight specific electoral reforms that could be easily passed, four in time to impact on November 2008, the others for impact in 2010. The fact is–and I saw this demonstrated in Oklahoma where I went to see for myself how Michael Bloomberg fared. He was, in my view, made to look the fool because no one there knew the difference between bipartisanship (code for keeping the the two party spoils system alive) and transpartisanship, which buries the two party mafiosos and restores sovereignty to the people.
BRADLEY, Bill. Review: We Can All Do Better
Shallow Book, Old Think, He Quit the Fight to Join the Worst of the Wall Street Manipulators. This book makes me very angry. My step-father and I both believed in Bill Bradley a decade ago, and today I feel about him the way I feel about Ron Paul: each betrayed the public trust by refusing to break with their side of the two-party tyranny, knowing full well that neither party represents the public or the public interest, while disenfranchising 50% of the public [the Independents, Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, Reform, and Socialist parties, all but the first accredited at the national level and blocked from ballot access and debate access by two of the most corrupt parties on the planet] so corrupt they outdo the Soviet Politburu in avoiding turnover at the top. This book fails the authenticity test on three counts: [read full review].
One of A Handful of “Must Reads” for Christmas. This book is a perfect complement to that by Lou Dobbs. This may well be one of the most important books at the dawn of the 21st Century, along with Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit‘ The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism, and A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. + This may be the most credible and thoughtful author on the subject of treason in modern times. He explicitly accuses corporate chiefs who favor globalization and “transnationalism” with being traitors to the Republic. + He states that Islamic militarism is not a threat to America. I agree. + Pages 153-154 provide a brilliant articulation of seven reasons why China is not a threat to the US.
BYRD, Robert C. Spine of Iron,Brain to Match–Voice Against Theft of Power. The book offers up some real gems, including a devastating “character” analysis of George W. Bush (p. 19, p. 107, p. 146), a useful comparison between Herbert Hoover who helped bring on the Great Depression, and George W. Bush (pp. 30-31), a helpful comparison of how Congress tries to balance the Executive while having only 31,033 employees versus 2,673,100), a brutally accurate comparison of how John Ashcroft chose to spend his time, avoiding testimony, substituting news conferences calling on Congress to pass the law without review (p. 47), the return of the multi-billion dollar Presidential slush fund (p. 68), the importance of independent information to Congress in confronting deceitful Executive officers (p. 70), a troubling catalog of the billions in funding for homeland security that the Executive has refused, seemingly wanting to “starve the beast.” (pp. 10-114); special reference to Eisenhower, his warnings of the military-industrial complex, and a very troubling page of what the trade-offs are, such as buying a single destroyer versus building new homes for 8,000 people (pp. 141-142), an examination of Don Rumsfeld’s prevarication when being questioned about the bio-chemical weapons that Rumsfeld helped supply to Iraq during the Reagan Administration (p. 149), and an absolutely BRUTAL, RIVETING comparison of the billions the current Administration has asked to spend in Iraq, where Halliburton can steal it, versus in the US for the same kinds of things: $4.6 billion for Iraqi water and sanitation, only $3.1 billion for the USA–the list goes on and it is DAMNING (p. 202).
Extraordinary Case for a New Independent Party. This is an extraordinary book, an easy to read book, which is organized to provide 10 truths, 3 myths, 4 dangers, and 5 actions that citizens can take to restore the integrity of the Congress (both Senate and House). The author’s conclusions, based on his experience as a three-term Congressman, are consistent with both the recent polls that show that Americans damn both the Democrats and the Republicans as corrupt and ineffective at representing We the People, and with books such as Peter Peterson’s Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.
HUCKABEE, Mike. Review: Simple Government
Great Mind and Heart, Too Simple, Good Start. Book in a nutshell: Family, Local, Money, Taxes, Health, Education, Environment, Immigration, Terrorism, Military, Enemies, Faith
Quick Read, Somewhat Bland, Best of Intentions. Reagan Republican who echoes President Carter’s “malaise” concerns by saying “there’s a feeling of hopelessness out there.” p 21. “Good politics shouldn’t be about us or them.” On page 75, after starting off by saying that politics should be about saving the world, he says “We haven’t seen middle ground for so long I am no longer certain it exists.”
“Must Read” Indictment of Both Major Parties. I was among those who thought Ralph Nader was a “spoiler” and deprived Al Gore of the election. After reading this book, I now realize that Nader is correct-the major premise of his book is that both the Democratic and Republican parties have become so corrupt and so removed from citizen interests as to be identically disqualified from putting forward viable candidates for the future. He puts forth a vision for a new democracy in which the citizens take back the power and demand that third party candidates be allowed to join the Presidential debates and be heard by America.Some will accuse Nader of name-dropping and self-aggrandizing in this book, but that is an unfair charge. He has dedicated 40 years of his life to a quest for fairness in American life. As I went through the book and reflected on his very early efforts on everything from women’s rights to product safety to the environment I could not help thinking that the breadth and substance of his accomplishments make the Democratic and Republican candidates look like Johnny-come-latelys who are also bluffing snake oil salesmen. This guy is “the real deal.” 1) This is the only book that addresses the totality of the challenges and threats to America in a sensible balanced way, without platitudes and upon a foundation of fact. 2) This is the only book representing the new political paradigm in which the citizen-voters take back the power by wiping out the ability of corporations to buy politicians. 3) This is the only book that thoughtfully and convincingly demonstrates that the Democrats have morphed into shadow Republicans, and both parties have completely lost their ethical and popular foundation.
A Gift to Newlyweds of Decency and Traditional Values. The seventeen lessons cover listening, family table, health, history, scarcity, equality, education, discipline, simple enjoyments, reciprocity, independent thinking, charity, work, business, patriotism, solitude, and civics. While very heavily leavened with autobiographical reflections, this absolutely beautiful, moral, intelligent, well-written book is a gift to us all.
A detailed review by Sam Stein and Lisa Shapiro, Huffington Post.
I have read and reviewed earlier books by Ron Paul, such as The Revolution: A Manifesto and A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship. This book moves into a higher class (only 10% of the books I read and review get 6 Stars, see all my reviews in 98 categories at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog). I decided in this instance, thinking of Ron Paul as a viable Presidential candidate for the first time, to deconstruct the book down to 50 one liners. I offer these as a short form of the book, not a substitute for the real deal, but intended to help inspire more people to either buy the book, or absorb this free summary as we all try to break free of the corrupt two-party tyranny that fronts for a neo-fascist state. Bottom line: liberty is a human condition diminished by a leviathan state.
Ron Paul + Jesse Ventura = Critical Mass. Ron Paul excels at the Constitutional fundamentals: individual liberty, sound money, and non-interventionist foreign policies. Although I am dismayed by his unwillingess to play well with others (Ralph Nader has the same problem, Jesse Ventura does not), and he does not have a strategy for governance as much as a laundry list of non-negotiable starting points, he is still, for me as an estranged moderate Republican, an inspiration for breaking with the two-party spoils system. This is an eloquent book in which he draws with extreme care from the thoughts of others, always attributed in the text, and provides a series of arguments that do not call for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney, but certainly do call for the impeachment of the complicit Congress.
SHARPTON, AL. Review: Al On America
Leader with Specifics, with Dignity, with Persistence. Black Commentator noted in November that Al Sharpton has assumed the mantle of leadership for black America, and that it is highly likely that he will receive a majority of the black votes, at least in the South. For that reason alone, this book is *must reading* for every Democratic and non-Republican voter. Reverend Sharpton is strongest in his articulation of the hypocrisy of America, its lip service to slogans. I take him at face value when he speaks of the need to unite the country again around its values, and when he speaks of the emerging black/Latino coalition that resonates on the street level. He is powerful and convincing when he addresses the prison-industrial complex, a complex as threatening to America’s long-term security and prosperity as the more well known military-industrial complex. As he points out, prisons are big business, and politicians on pay-offs have every incentive to keep pumping out contracts for major construction and related services including guard employment. Reverend Sharpton is intellectual and emotional dynamite when he describes the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) as an anti-Rainbow Coalition organization, and Bill Clinton (and by extension, Joe Lieberman) as rich boys eager to stay to the right and reap the benefits, rather than true Democrats committed to delivering people from poverty. In brief, Al Sharpton has to run for President precisely because neither the DLC nor Dean are unwilling to reach out to and represent black America in the truest sense of the word. On this basis, I see Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign in a different light–Nader was campaigning for those that the DLC had shut out of the Democratic Process, and Al Gore was too slow to understand that he was leaving a very big crowd out of the big tent. Bottom line, and I say this with the utmost respect, being scornful of most beltway politicians and bandits: Al Sharpton may have baggage and be a spendthrift in some ways, but when all is said and done, his voice absolutely must be fully and consistently heard as America charts its course into the future. Like Pat Buchanan, Sam Nunn, and a few others great voices that may never be President, Rev Sharpton has a depth of intuition, understanding, and experience that he has ably articulated in this book.
VENTURA, Jesse. Review: Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me!
The Real Deal–He Should Campaign on Substance in 2008. I put the book down at the end of a very long very rainy day feeling good about this author, his independence of mind, his integrity. In combination with Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beau; Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People; The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All; and Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, I have a very strong feeling that the national immune system is going to kick in and finally out these frauds that pretend our elections are honest and meaningful.