What intense pleasure this book gave me, despite the dull topic: bureaucracy. Anthropologist David Graeber is perhaps best known for Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011), which became required reading for the Occupy Wall Street movement. In that book, Graeber showed that the standard explanation for the origins of money, rehearsed in dozens of economics textbooks, was a fairy tale.
4.0 out of 5 starsValentine for the Real Conservatives — Bland and Not Transformative, March 9, 2015
Positive up front: reading a book by another person is like getting a few hours of their time to yourself, so any book by Ralph Nader is a substantive value to anyone interested in ethics and governance. However, this is not the transformative book I was hoping for, and I even have to wonder if all the great minds providing blurbs even read the book. For the long critique of this book, which I totally embrace, see Herbert Calhoun’s 3-star review, This is Both an Accurate and a Useful Treatise, But …?, October 25, 2014. I’d like to see it voted up, Mr. Calhoun, whom I have had the privilege of meeting at Amphoras in Vienna, is one of the most intelligent and broadly read individuals I have ever encountered.
Author Steven Druker raises an interesting parallel between computer systems and genetic manipulation. While computer systems – especially those that are life-dependent and life-sustaining – are carefully tested and retested to make sure that no “glitch” or “bug” could cause catastrophic harm, alterations to the far more complex genetic code of plants are made without similar precautions. These novel plants are grown, harvested, and consumed with little or no independent testing.
Essentially: We now live in a time of “forever-war.”
The worry about the government instituting martial-law is sooo 1990’s because we now truly live a martial life. And we’ve accepted it. There is no “over there” anymore when it comes to the militarization of our lives. Over there is here. We live to assist the government in everything. See something, say something. And the bottom-line of everything that the government does in the name of national security is not to serve, protect, or assist you but to preserve itself. It’s all part of the Continuity of Government (COG) and it’s been in place for many years but it spectacularly grew into the multi-headed hydra immediately after 911.
LORDS OF SECRECY is one of the finest books I’ve read on national security “creep.” Scott Horton manages to retain at least some distance from obvious bias, but some of the information he lays out would cause any legitimate American citizen clenched teeth and a few well-placed emphatic comments.
I believe Thieves of State is a must-read for anyone concerned about promoting peace and civility in communities, nations, and the world. Sarah Chayes compellingly discusses how the corrupt practices of governments and authorities spawn violent reactionary movements that undermine the security and stability of societies. Chayes’s voice is strong and confident, her prose is taut, fact-rich, and colorful, sometimes passionate but never indulgent. The book is intelligent and well-researched and refreshingly accessible, with a strong narrative current to draw the reader along. More than that, this is an important book, one with the potential to alter the discussion and–one may hope–the U. S. government’s approach to diplomacy and national security issues.
4.0 out of 5 starsDeep Insights, A Couple of Misses, Certainly Recommended as Core Reading, November 8, 2014
A hold over from my time in Afghanistan, I finally got around to reading this book on a long flight and give it a solid four stars. There is some very good eye opening stuff in this book, including some facts I itemize below that I plain did not know before. However, the author is also very wrong on a couple of key points, I address those at the end of my review when I suggest ten other books to also read. I do respect this book and the author’s candid useful appraisal, and recommend it to anyone thinking about how criminally insane our US national insecurity/fraud system really is. We are our own worst enemy, and as Martin Luther King said before he was assassinated for saying so, “the greatest purveyors of (illegitimate) violence in the world.”
At a meta-level, this is a five-star read and absolutely worthy of being included in any orientation collection. Meta points I salute:
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant, Intricate, Non-Violent, and Optimistic, November 4, 2014
In relation to the 2,000 plus non-fiction books I have reviewed here at Amazon, this book is brilliant. Normally I would consider giving it four stars for lacking an index and endnotes, obviously needed for the poorly educated morons that cannot grasp the many (many) direct references to top authors and thinkers. For crying out loud, Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is received by the author in his home and cited in this book, as are so many others. So a solid five stars for impact and self-made erudition.
Let me state very clearly that the publisher has sodomized this author by not including an index, a bibliography, or endnotes. As the top Amazon reviewer for non-fiction, reviewing books across 98 distinct non-fiction categories, I am blown away by the clever, poetic, and pointed manner in which the author has integrated a vast (vast) range of reading and personal conversations into this book.
When New York Times report James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn’t wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication — so it may be that the Times’ claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen’s book.
5.0 out of 5 starsOK to Challenge Racism and Poverty — NOT OK to challenge militarism and the national security state, September 12, 2014
The publisher has done a rotten job of summarizing this book. Here, paraphrasing the author as he just spoke on the John Stewart show, is the bottom line:
The minute that Dr. King turned against militarism and denounced the USA as the greatest purveyor of violence upon the world, he was first marginalized and then assassinated. “The System” was fine with Dr. King focusing on racism, and even poverty, but it would not tolerate for one moment his questioning the military-industrial complex and the national security state.
The author — whom I found to be very inspiring, coherent, and concise — a brilliant articulator of the key points in the book — goes on to have a conversation with Jon Stewart about how the USA simply cannot handle truth-tellers in relation to “big money” matters such as elective wars (racism and poverty being “little money” matters, and deliberately so).
Dr. King was ultimately assassinated by a US Army sniper on detail to the FBI and under the personal direction of J. Edgar Hoover. The story is told in An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King and has also been documented and validated in a judgment by a federal court awarding the King family the single dollar in damages they requested.