Review: Nickel and Dimed–On (Not) Getting By in America

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Photography Books (Countries)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars If You Can Afford to Eat Out, You Need This Book,

October 10, 2002
Barbara Ehrenreich
This is an extraordinary book that every American who can afford to eat out, or rent a video, or visit a doctor, should be required to read.I had no idea just how irrelevant the “poverty” line as a measure of true poverty–nor did I realize how constained people are, the 60% of America that earns less than $15 to $20 an hour, in seeking out other options.

The author does a really effective job of investigating and communicating the horrible realities of life where…managers and corporate regulations and plain meanness deprive hundreds of thousands of people of things many of us take for granted: the right to go to the bathroom, to pause for a few minutes, even to sit down quietly for a few minutes in a clean room.

Especially admirable is her focus on rent and the conditions that are imposed on the poor and lower working class (between minimum wage and $15 an hour)–not having enough money for a deposit, being forced to pay outrageous rents for decrepit motel rooms rented by the week, having to spend a precious working day finding a place to stay, etcetera.

This is a very valuable book, both from the perspective of someone who might benefit from a little humility and gratitude for their blessings and advantages; and from a policy point of view–our understanding of poverty and welfare and what it takes to allow decent hard-working people to have a *life* appears to be terribly, terribly flawed. As the author documents so ably, it is not enough to have a job in America, you need to have one that pays enough to cover rent, food, and medicine.

I was especially moved by the many details the author provided on how life at the lower levels brings on more and more hardships–not enough money for good shoes, bad shoes causing major spinal and related injuries and pain. The pain–the endless hours, the desperation for aspirin and other pain killers, cigarettes as the least expensive narcotic for the pain–this is very powerful stuff.

At a minimum, this book changes how I will evaluate politicians that speak in ignorance about welfare and poverty and safety nets–and it is going to substantially increase how much I tip and how I tip–from 15% to 25%, and in cash… This might be a good time to think of ourselves, and follow the Golden Rule–our welfare system should be what we would want it to be if we were the ones asking for welfare.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Democracy, Electoral Reform USA, Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page

Greg Palast

5.0 out of 5 stars Let Freedom Ring–Truths the Corporate Thieves Can’t Hide

May 29, 2002

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.

Even more timely are his stories about the current Administration continuing a practice of the former Administration, spiking, curtailing, forbidding intelligence investigations into Saudi Arabian government funding of bin Laden’s terrorism as well as Pakistani production of the “Islamic” atomic bomb.

His exposes of corporate misdeeds, some criminal, some simply unethical, all costing the U.S. taxpayer dearly, are shocking, in part because of their sleaziness, in part because our own newspapers do not dare to fulfill their role as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, of informing and educating the people of this Nation upon which the government depends for both its revenue and its legitimacy.

Although I take this book with a grain of salt (wondering, for example, why he did not ensure that Gore’s campaign had all that he could offer in time to challenge the vote disenfranchisement as part of the Supreme Court case), there is enough here, in very forthright and sensible terms, to give one hope that investigative journalism might yet play a role in protecting democracy and the future of the Republic.

Vote and/or Comment on Review

Review–The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Atrocities & Genocide, Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Politics, Priorities
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Truth–Left, Right, or Independent, It Is The Truth

May 29, 2002

Patrick Buchanan

Patrick Buchanan has impressed me enormously with this book. For one thing, he has his facts right. The English-speaking peoples, as Churchill called them, and the Caucasian peoples, as our Russian colleagues as well as Europe might be inclined to describe them, are not replenishing their populations. Immigrants have been a blessing to this country (my mother, for instance), but in the absence of a judicious combination of repopulation, immigrant integration, and sustained civic duty by the larger population, we become hollow and fragmented.

Most interestingly to me, Patrick Buchanan and Lee Kuan Yew, former Premier of Singapore, perhaps the most intelligent man in Asia, are in total–and I do mean total–agreement on the vital importance of the family as the foundation of civilization and continuity. I grew up in Singapore, and have extremely deep feelings of respect for Lee Kuan Yew, and what I see here is two men, as far apart as the earth and philosophy might separate them, who agree on the one core value apart from religion (it does not matter which religion, only that one respect within a religion): FAMILY. Family is the root of cultural continuity and civil sustainability, and if we allow the traditional nuclear family to enter into minority non-replenishment status, we are in fact destroying the Nation.

Patrick Buchanan speaks of how we are no longer one nation under God–or one nation, period. There is a great deal to what he says. For one thing, Mexico has reclaimed American territory all the way up to the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty line, and the at least one major Republican family seems to be an active element in support of Mexico’s illegal as well as legal immigration subversion of America. For another, and Joel Garreau did this in his book by this title, very intelligently, America is geographically, culturally, and economically really NINE nations in terms of geophysical and cultural separation.

The author also alludes to the growing separation between the federal government, which is agreeing to supra-national deals that hurt the states and the population at large–or refusing to sign off on deals (e.g. the Kyoto Treaty) that would actually benefit future generations. One is left with the feeling that we have three different Americas–the federal bureaucracy, the state-level authorities, and the people, and somewhere in here our methods of governance are failing to reconcile the behavior of the first two with the values of the third–in part because the people are all over the lot in terms of values, and we have lost our social cohesion.

Bottom line: he may never be President, but Patrick Buchanan speaks to the core of American values, and he must always be respected and listened to at the high table of American politics.

Vote and/or Comment on Review

Review: See No Evil–The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Biography & Memoirs, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Culture, Research, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Misinformation & Propaganda, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Straight Talk from Patriot–Should Testify at 9-11 Hearings,

January 31, 2002
Robert Baer
As a former clandestine case officer, leaving the Agency in 1988 after unsuccessfully chasing terrorists for a few years, I knew we were in bad shape but I did not realize just how bad until I read this book. The author, working mostly in the Near East (NE) Division of the Directorate of Operations, and then in the Counter-Terrorism Center when it was just starting out, has an extremely important story to tell and every American needs to pay attention. Why? Because his account of how we have no assets useful against terrorism is in contradiction to what the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) told the President and his top advisors at Camp David on Saturday 15 September. According to the Washington Post of 31 January 2002, page A13, on the 15th the DCI laid out an ambitious “Worldwide Attack Matrix” and told the President that the United States had a “large asset base” from its years of working the terrorism target. One of these two men one is closer to the truth than the other. In my judgement, I believe Baer has three-quarters of the weight on his side. This discrepancy warrants investigation, for no President can be successful if he does not have accurate information about our actual capabilities.There are four other stories within this excellent book, all dealing with infirm bureaucracies. At one level, the author’s accounting of how the Directorate of Operations has declined under the last three leaders (as the author describes them: a recalled retiree, an analyst, and a “political” (pal)) is both clearly based on ground truth, and extremely troubling. The extraordinary detail on the decline and fall of the clandestine service is one that every voter should be thinking about, because it was the failure of the clandestine service, as well as the counterintelligence service (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) that allowed 9-11 to happen…at the same time, we must note that it was a policy failure to not have investigated similar incompetencies when a military barracks in Saudi Arabia, two Embassies, and a naval destroyer were attacked, and it was clearly known in open sources that bin Laden had declared war on America and had within America numerous Islamic clerics calling for the murder of Americans–all as documented in an excellent Public Broadcast Service documentary.

At a technical level, the author provides some really excellent real-world, real-war annecdotes about situations where clandestine reporting from trusted operations officers has not been accepted by their own superiors in the absence of technical confirmation (imagery or signals). As he says, in the middle of a major artillery battle and break-out of insurgent elements, screaming over the secure phone, “its the middle of night here”. We’ve all known since at least the 1970’s that the technical intelligence side of things has been crushing human sensibility, both operational and analytical, but this book really brings the problems into the public eye in a compelling and useful manner.

At another level, the author uses his own investigation for murder (he was completely cleared, it was a set-up) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and at one point by the Secret Service, to shed new light on the complete break-down of internal security processes within the CIA. At its lowest point, he is pressured by DO management with a psychological evaluation to determine his fitness for duty–shades of Stalinism! I know this technique, of declaring officers unfit for duty based on psychological hatchet jobs, to be a common practice over the past two decades, and when Britt Snider was appointed Inspector General at CIA, I told him this was a “smoking gun” in the 7th floor closet. That it remains a practice today is grounds for evaluating the entire management culture at CIA.

There is a fourth story in the book, a truly interesting account of how big energy companies, their “ambassadors” serving as Presidential appointees within the National Security Council, and corrupt foreign elements, all come together. In this the spies are not central, so I leave it as a sidenote.

In my capacity as a reviewer of most intelligence-related books within these offerings, I want to make it clear to potential buyers of this book that the author is not alone. His is the best, most detailed, and most current accounting of the decrepit dysfunctionality of the clandestine service (as I put it in my own book’s second edition), but I would refer the reader to two other books in particular: David Corn’s “Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades”–its most memorable quote, on covert action in Laos, being “We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed, and we didn’t get much for it.”–and Evan Thomas’ “The Very Best Men–Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA”–its best quote: “Patriotic, decent, well-meaning, they were also uniquely unsuited to the grubby, necessarily devious world of intelligence.” There are many other books, including twelve (12!) focused on reform and recommended by the Council on Intelligence.

The author is a brave man–he was brave on the fields of war and clandestinity, and he is braver still for having brought this story to the public. We owe him a hearing.
Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: Betrayal of Trust–The Collapse of Global Public Health

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atlases & State of the World, Complexity & Catastrophe, Corruption, Culture, Research, Disease & Health

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Way Too Long, But Someone Had To Write This Book,

November 15, 2000
Laurie Garrett

It took me over a month to do justice to this book, and I have taken into account the thoughts of other reviewers. A book of this importance would indeed have benefited from an international advisory board of public health, medical, insurance, and policy experts; it would certainly have benefited from greater structure, firmer editing, and a foreword by someone like a former Surgeon General of the United States. As it is, it appears to have overcome these deficiencies with hyped-up marketing and sweetheart reviews, and this in some ways counterproductive because this book could have, should have, become a mainstream topic in the Presidential campaign. It failed to do so for several reasons, not least of which is the propensity of both candidates and their advisors to avoid serious thinking, but also because the book is not helpful to a popular understanding of the very real global and domestic threats to the health of our children today and in future generations. Having said all this, I commend the book for its content and do not recommend it as avocational reading. There are some very important points that the book brings out, and I will itemize these in order of importance: 1) Public health is about detection and prevention, medicine is about remediation. In the long run, investments in public health are vastly cheaper and more effective than after-the-fact medical intervention; 2) The insurance industry in the developing world has failed to support public health investments, and in a remarkable collusion with the pharmaceutical, hospital and managed health care industries, has created a very expensive and increasingly ineffective system focused on drugs (to which diseases are increasingly resistant) and hospitals; 3) Hospitals are no longer reliable in terms of protecting patients from both error and secondary infection from other patients. People are coming out of hospitals, in many cases, with more diseases than when they went in; 4) The health of our nation depends on the health of all other nations-not only does a collapse of public health in Africa lead to failed states and forced migrations, but it also is but an airline flight away from infecting Kansas; 5) Clean drinking water, uninfected food, and good environmental and occupational health conditions are at risk in many parts of the United States and Europe, not only in Russia and the rest of the world; 6) The United Nations, and the World Health Organization in particular, are in disarray and ineffective-in large part because of a lack of support from member nations-at dealing with the public health commons. There is no question but that the author has hit a “home run” in terms of describing the harsh reality of epidemics in India and Africa, the collapse of public health in Russia, the rapid migration of many diseases from Russia through Germany to the rest of Europe and the U.S., and the severe costs in the U.S. of a retreat from the collective good with respect to public health. Unfortunately, it is a home run hit in isolation, not a game-winning home run, because it fails to drive home, to the only audience that matters-the U.S. voter-exactly what political and economic initiatives are required to achieve three simple objectives: 1) re-establish the public health infrastructure in the U.S.; 2) redirect the entire health care industry toward preventive measures-including water and food quality controls-instead of remedial prescriptions; and 3) provide compelling incentives to the rest of the world for cleaning their own house (this presumes that we are able to clean our own first, a very questionable assumption at this point in time). This is a valuable book, a five in terms of intent, a three in terms of execution, and I am glad that I took the time to read it. It provides a wonderful foundation for enjoying, at an intellectual and policy level, the medical and public health novels by Robin Cook.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: In the Absence of the Sacred–The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Complexity & Catastrophe, Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Information Society, Information Technology

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary, Thoughtful, Whole Earthish, Worthy,

April 7, 2000
Jerry Mander
By the author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, this is actually a manifesto for a popular revolution against banks, corporations, and states-a peaceful cultural revolution that has as its objectives the restoration of land ownership to the commonwealth; the acceptance of alternative economic models that optimize group cohesion instead of individual or organizational profit; and the liberation of 3,000 nations of relatively distinct groups from the subjugation imposed by the states that now have sovereign (that is to say, violent coercive) power over the individuals and groups that fall within their imposed territorial claims.
Vote on Review
Vote on Review