Review: Thieves in High Places–They’ve Stolen Our Country–And It’s Time to Take It Back

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Government), Democracy, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Politics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Long Opinion Piece, Part of the Big Picture,

October 28, 2003
Jim Hightower
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.
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Review: Madame Secretary–A Memoir

3 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Democracy
Amazon Page
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, Not Great, Travelogue, not Strategic Dialog
October 10, 2003
Madeline Albirght

This is a diplomatic companion to Hillary Clinton’s lightweight personal story. Madame Secretary will never be confused with Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski. It merits comment that Hillary appears to have had a great deal to do with Albright getting the job. If you want a read that covers the years superficially, and glosses over a great deal of what actually did or did not transpire, this is the book for you. If you want serious reading about international relations, or grand strategy, or how to deal with the twenty big problems facing the world, see the other books I have reviewed for Amazon, including Joe Nye, Kissinger, Boren et al, Jonathan Schell, Shultz et al, E.O. Wilson, J. F. Rischard, and so on. Half the book is about the personal path to power, the other half is about very narrow slices of what the Clinton Administration chose to focus on–an administration where foreign policy and national security were largely on automatic pilot and very much in a back seat compared to domestic matters.

Most troubling to me is the chapter on terrorism, chapter 22, titled “A Special Kind of Evil.” In exactly 17 pages (.03 of 512 text pages), Albright manages to gloss over the fact that she deliberately and repeatedly sided with Sandy Burger in constantly suppressing intelligence that warned suicidal terrorism was on the rise, and took a back seat–or no seat–on the subject of devising a national grand strategy for counter-terrorism. She is proudest of getting $1 billion for turning our Embassies into bunkers, something 9-11 demonstrated to be inconsequential.

She says “The response by the Clinton administration to the Africa embassy bombings and other attacks on our watch resulted in the apprehension of many terrorist suspects and established a strong precedent for international cooperation in fighting terror.” This is absolute and utter baloney. The reality is that neither the CIA nor the FBI or any foreign governments were actually put on a war footing, because the Clinton’s did not want to dim the lights and bear down.

I find it quite noteworthy that “intelligence” does not appear in the index as a term. This is a book about travel and personal meetings, which is how Clinton’s national security team spent its time. We have gone from that extreme to the other, of neo-conservatives who never served in uniform throwing military force around unilaterally and indiscriminately.

The next president must find a middle ground, an informed middle ground where intelligence, strategy, policy and spending (“it’s not policy until it’s in the budget”) are fully integrated, and America is able to devise a sustainable, strong, smart foreign policy that includes a robust homeland defense with homeland counterintelligence, a massive peace force, a considerable global constabulary force, and a big war force sufficient for two major regional conflicts at once. We cannot cut the national security budget by one penny, but by golly, we can do a *lot” better than either the passive Clintonians or the psychopathic Bushies.

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Review: The Two Percent Solution–Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Best Practices in Management, Change & Innovation, Congress (Failure, Reform), Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Future, Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Survival & Sustainment

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Re-Opens the Door to a Bright Future for America,

September 24, 2003
Matthew Miller
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

This book is politically and economically *explosive*. It joins The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (Halstead & Lind) and The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Ray & Anderson) as one of my “top three” in domestic US political economics, and it *also* joins The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy (William Greider) and Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (Clyde Prestowitz) is my “top three” for international political economics.

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. The author crafts a viable proposition for thinking really big and coming to grips, in time to avert the looming disaster of the baby boomer pensions and the collapse of health care and education, with the four biggest issues threatening the national security and prosperity of the United States of America: universal health care; equal education for all, a living wage for all, and sustainable reliable pensions for all.

He sums it up in a gripping fashion: if we don’t fund smart well-educated kids across the entire country, then we will not have the productivity we need to expand our pension funds and care for the boomers when they hit retirement. Smart kids now, safe retirement for today’s adults. Any questions?

He is candidly (but politely) blunt when he states, and then documents, that both the Republican and Democratic party leaders (less Howard Dean) are lying to us about the answers that are possible (Prologue, page xiii). His book is an earnest–and in my judgement, hugely successful–attempt to create what the author calls an “ideologically androgynous” agenda for achieving social and economic justice in America with a commitment of just two cents on the tax-revenue dollar.

On the issue of teaching, he documents the “teacher gap” as one of the primary reasons for varying levels of performance–a gap that is more important than genetics or environment, and that is also resolvable by sound educational policy and funding. He brutally undresses both the Bush Administration, which is leaving every child behind, and the Democrats, who are “more symbol than cure.” Republican hypocrisy and Democratic timidity receive an equal thrashing.

On living wages, he documents the 25 million that are not covered; on pensions he documents the coming collapse of Social Security and other “off budget” and unprotected funds.

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.

The book includes an excellent and understandable review of both economic and social justice theory. Of special interest is the author’s discussion of the Rawls Rule for social justice, which is to imagine everyone in an “original position” behind a veil of ignorance where no one knows what their luck will be in the future–the design of the social safety net should provide for the amelioration of any injustice that might befall anyone, and a social promotion system that prevents wealth concentrations that are not beneficial to the larger society–to wit, we must “set some limits on the power of luck to deform human lives.”

The author concludes the book by suggesting that the public is ready for a revolution in U.S. political economic affairs, and in so doing points out how ill-served the U.S. public is by surveys that confuse myopia with honesty–surveys that ask generic questions without revealing the scope of the problem (40 million affected, etc.) with the result that the public is not informed of the depth of the problem–or, as the author suggests–they would *want to do something about it.”

This is a sensible, heartening book. It is a book that gives hope for the future and that displays a proper respect for the good intentions and ability to think of the average citizen. It is a book that, if adopted by any Presidential candidate–or by all of them–could radically alter the public debates that lie before the public in the period leading up to the 2004 election. Every American should read this book and the four books cited above. If Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said, “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry,” then Matthew Miller just became the first tutor to the new Nation.

New Comment: Between a Tobin tax on every Federal Reserve transaction, an end of income taxes on individuals, and this author’s idea, I am quite certain that we can find and apply a trillion a year against global and domestic high-level threats from poverty to transnational crime, while winding down the military, secret intelligence, prison, and hospital complexes. This is one of the books I would recommend the next President read sooner than later.

See also, with reviews:
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives

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Review: The Unconquerable World–Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People

7 Star Top 1%, America (Anti-America), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Consciousness & Social IQ, Cosmos & Destiny, Democracy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Future, History, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Public), Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Public Administration, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars7 Star Life Transformative  Restores Faith, Non-Violent Restoration of People Power,

September 13, 2003
Jonathan Schell

Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links

This book, together with William Geider’s The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and Mark Hertsgaard’s The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World, in one of three that I believe every American needs to read between now and November 2004.

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.

The book has applicability to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the US is foolishly confusing military power with political power. As he says early on, it is the public *will* that must be gained, the public *consent* to a new order–in the absence of this, which certainly does not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan, no amount of military power will be effective (to which I would add: and the cumulative effect of the financial and social cost of these military interventions without end will have a reverse political, economic, and social cost on the invader that may make the military action a self-inflicted wound of great proportions).

Across the book, the author examines three prevailing models for global relations: the universal empire model, the balance of power model, and the collective security model. He comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the latter as the only viable approach to current and future global stability and prosperity.

A quote from the middle of the book captures its thesis perfectly: “Violence is a method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.”

Taking off from the above, the author elaborates on three sub-themes:

First, that cooperative power is much greater, less expensive, and more lasting that coercive power.

Second, that capitalism today is a scourge on humanity, inflicting far greater damage–deaths, disease, poverty, etcetera–that military power, even the “shock and awe” power unleashed against Afghanistan and Iraq without public debate.

Third, and he draws heavily on Hannah Arendt, here a quote that should shame the current US Administration because it is so contradictory to their belief in “noble lies”–lies that Hitler and Goering would have admired. She says, “Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish relations and create new realities.”

Toward the end of the book the author addresses the dysfunctionality of the current “absolute sovereignty” model and concludes that in an era of globalization, not only must the US respect regional and international sovereignty as an over-lapping authority, but that we must (as Richard Falk recommended in the 1970’s) begin to recognize people’s or nations as distinct entities with culturally-sovereign rights that over-lap the states within which the people’s reside–this would certainly apply to the Kurds, spread across several states, and it should also apply to the Jews and to the Palestinians, among many others.

On the last page, he says that we have a choice between survival and annihilation. We can carry on with unilateral violence, or we the people can take back the power, change direction, and elect a government that believes in cooperative non-violence, the only path to survival that appears to the author, and to this reviewer, as viable.

This is a *very* important book, and it merits careful reading by every adult who wishes to leave their children a world of peace and prosperity. We can do better. What we are doing now is destructive in every sense of the word.

Other recommended books with reviews:
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship

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Review: At War with Ourselves–Why America Is Squandering Its Chance to Build a Better World

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Complexity & Catastrophe, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Education (General), Environment (Problems), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Insurgency & Revolution, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful Supporting Views for Prestowitz’ Rogue Nation,

September 1, 2003
Michael Hirsh
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add comment and links.

New Comment: I am distressed to see so many important books no longer available. Even though it makes my summative reviews valuable as a trace, I have tried to get Amazon to realize that it should offer such books electrionically, micro-cash for micro-text, and Jeff Besoz just doesn’t want to hear it. I predict that Kindle will fail.

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 endorsement of the book by the Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs is a very subtle but telling indictment of the unilateralist bullying that has characterized American foreign policy since 2000–indeed, the author of the book coins the term “ideological blowback” as part of devastatingly disturbing account of all the things that have been done “in our name” on the basis of either blind faith or neo-conservative presumption.

The book received four stars because at the strategic level, Clyde Prestowitz’ book, Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions is better in all ways–easier to read, more detailed, more specifics. Historically, I would bracket this book with the collection of Foreign AffairsThe American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World Essays from 75 Years of Foreign Affairs articles, , and I would add Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century by McNamara and Blight, Kissinger on Does America Need a Foreign Policy? : Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century, Boren et al on Preparing America’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century, and finally Joe Nye’s, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone There are many other books I have reviewed on these pages, and one could make a fine evening of reading only the reviews, as they are summative in nature.

In any event, and the reason I mention other books above instead of in the last paragraph, is to make the point that everyone–other than a few obsessive neo-conservatives who happen to hold the reins of power–is saying the same thing: America must engage the real world, in a multilateral fashion.

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. Although Prestowitz does this in a more useful fashion, this book is very valuable and has many gifted turns of phrase. Consider this one, from page 10: “Despite a century of intense global engagement, America is still something of a colossus with an infant’s brain, unaware of the havoc its tentative, giant-sized baby steps can cause. We still have some growing up to do as a nation.”

A third aspect of this book that I found compelling was the author’s continued emphasis on the need to change mind-sets and emphasize *awareness* over “guts”–as he tells this compelling tale, Americans are too quick to show “toughness” when they perhaps should slow down, orient, observe, decide, and then act on the basis of a fully-informed appraisal of all the linkages and potential consequences of their actions.

A fourth valuable feature of this book is the author’s focus on one chapter on American vulnerabilities in the age of globalization and super-empowered angry men. He quotes the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in explaining to Congress the military’s incapacity to intervene on 9-11, as saying “We’re pretty good if the threat is coming from outside. We’re not so good if it’s coming from inside.”

This leads to the fifth and final aspect of the book that I found noteworthy: the author’s discussion of the mismanagement–even lack of management–of the broad spectrum of the varied instruments of national power. As Suzanne Nossel, a top Holbrook aide puts it, “Today, when it comes to U.S. diplomacy, one hand rarely knows what the other is doing. The U.S. government has no central ledger in which bilateral relationships are tracked. There is no place to turn to find out what the United States has done for a particular country lately, or what a country may want or fear.” The book clearly supports what appears to be an emerging consensus within the Senate that some form of “Goldwater-Nichols Act” for civilian and joint civilian-military national security management.

The endnotes are good, the index useful but annoyingly below 8 font type (possibly as low as 6) which is a very foolish act on the part of the publisher. A readable index would have increased the reference value of this book by at least 10%. The book lacks a bibliography, and here we urge the author to consider one for what we hope will be a second printing: books on realism, books on unilateralism, books on blowback (e.g. The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World, or Why Do People Hate America?), etcetera.

See also:
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Review: Manufacturing Consent–The Political Economy of the Mass Media

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Capitalism (Good & Bad), Censorship & Denial of Access, Communications, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Information Society, Misinformation & Propaganda

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars 25 Years Ahead of the Crowd–Vital Reading Today,

August 22, 2003
Edward S. Herman
Edit of 22 Dec 07 to add links.

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.

Thomas Jefferson said “A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry” and Supreme Court Justice Branstein said “The greatest threat to liberty is an inert public.” Today we lack the first and have the second, but as Amazon rankings show, the people, they are awakening. It is through reading, and following the links, and informed discussion, that the people can come together, using new tools for peer-to-peer information sharing and MeetUp’s, and take back the power.

Chomsky had it right. It took 25 years for all of us to realize he had it right. I rise in praise of this great man.

Other links that validate his ethics and intellect:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Al On America

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Review: Downsizing Democracy–How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public

4 Star, Democracy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Important Message, A Strain to Read,

May 29, 2003
Professor Matthew A. Crenson
The authors are substantively at the top of the heap in terms of making sense and documenting their observations. The book loses one star to poor decisions by the editors and publishers on dark paper, single spacing, small almost crowded type, and an over-all look and feel that makes this book annoying and difficult to read.The authors discuss and document ten points in each of ten chapters:
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.
4) Patronage has changed, with corporations rather than citizens getting to feed at the public trough, and the focus being on influencing policy after election, never mind who the people elected. The authors also do an excellent job of discussing polling and the manner in which it misrepresents the actual concerns and beliefs of the people.
5) Three chapters–one called “Disunited We Stand”, a second called “From Masses to Mailing Lists, and a third called “Movements without Members” all make more or less the same point, but in different ways: political mobilization–people actually joining, doing, writing, demanding–are out, and instead we have micro groups, sometimes actually limited to the employed staff of an advocacy group, that raise funds, take stands, and get what they want, without ever having actually mobilized people to come together in a political manner.
6) A very thoughtful chapter covers the manner in which law suits and the judiciary have become a new battleground, a means of overturning laws and regulations made by the legislative and executive branches. While the authors do not go into the recent scams where a “nature conservation” non-profit sells prime environmental land to rich people below cost, and then accepts their tax-deductible contributions, they might also have explored how the law is being used to subvert the public interest, often with the help of the very “advocacy groups” that are nominally representing the public interest.
7) The authors do an excellent job of discussing how the out-sourcing of government functions to private enterprises undermines accountability and lead to severe abuse. Similarly, non-profits, including notional churches and other tax dodges, can enjoy enormous public subsidization in the way of tax breaks, while giving less than they should to the public treasury.
8) The author’s end by asking “Does Anyone Need Citizens?” and the last two words in the book are “Who cares?” Today, the Administration’s answer would clearly be “no”, we don’t need citizens. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the US public is both uninformed, and unengaged. Citizens have allowed themselves to be side-lined, and by this excellent account from the authors, should they choose to re-engage, they will have very hard work in front of them as they seek to overturn a half-century of deliberate ventures all seeking to reduce citizenship, increase bureaucracy, and reward corporate patrons of individual politicians who choose not to act in the public interest, but only their own.

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Review: Statecraft as Soulcraft

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Culture, Research, Democracy, Education (General), Information Society, Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Insights into What Makes Nations Great,

February 28, 2003
George F. Will
Although George Will can be an extremist in some of his views, he has a good mind and is gifted as an author and orator. This is nowhere more evident than in this collection of 20th century essays, where he focuses on “statecraft as soulcraft.” Thomas Jefferson understood that an educated citizenry was a Nation’s best defense, and the Vietnamese have clearly demonstrated that a nation with a strong strategic culture can defeat the United States when it practices the American way of war (lots of technology, little public support for the war). 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.
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Review: Selling Out

5 Star, Congress (Failure, Reform), Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Democracy, Impeachment & Treason, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Nitty Gritty, Worth Every Penny to Any Voter,

January 19, 2003

Mark Green

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.

Although I found the book inspiring, I also found it depressing. Absent another 9-11 (or two–or suicidal shooters in an elementary school in every state of the union, or cataclysmic failure in Iraq and North Korea) I see no immediate prospects for America’s dropped-out citizens “awakening” and taking back the power. There is still time for corporate money to get smart, pump a little more down to the poor, and avoid a revolution at the polls.

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Review: Smart Mobs–The Next Social Revolution

5 Star, Change & Innovation, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Information Society, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Public), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Describes the Techno-Powered Popular Revolution,

November 11, 2002
Howard Rheingold
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.As I go back through the book picking out highlights, a few of the following serve to capture the deep rich story being told by this book–breakthroughs coming from associations of amateurs rather than industry leaders; computer-mediated trust brokers–collective action driven by reputation; detailed minute-by-minute information about behaviors of entire populations (or any segment thereof); texting as kid privacy from adult hearing; the end of the telephone number as relevant information; the marriage of geospatial and lifestyle/preference information to guide on the street behavior; the perennial problem of “free riders” and how groups can constrain them; distributed processing versus centralized corporate lawyering; locations with virtual information; shirt labels with their transportation as well as cleaning history (and videos of the sex partners?)–this is just mind-boggling.

Finally, the author deserves major credit for putting all this techno-marvel stuff into a deep sociological and cultural context. He carefully considers the major issues of privacy, control, social responsibility, and group behavior. He ends on very positive notes, but also notes that time is running out–we have to understand where all this is going, and begin to change how we invest and how we design everything from our clothing to our cities to our governments.

This is an affirming book–the people that pay taxes can still look forward to the day when they might take back control of their government and redirect benefits away from special interests and back toward the commonwealth. Smart mobs, indeed.

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Review: The Power of the Powerless–Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe

7 Star Top 1%, Civil Society, Consciousness & Social IQ, Democracy
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 Star Life Transformative Public Truth Can Overcome Political-Corporate Corruption,

July 26, 2002
Vaclav Havel

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.

The book is slightly mis-represented, with “et al” in small print after Havel’s name as the author. I was even tempted to skip the additional small essays (his leading essay constitutes 44% of the total book, with ten other essays each being roughly 6% of the book) but that would have been unwise. There is real value in the other essays.

Both Eastern Europe prior to the revolution, and the USA in particular but Western democracies in general, share a common overwhelming problem, that of the silenced majority. As both Havel here and Nader elsewhere observe, the word “progressive” is contaminated and diluted, while democracy and capitalism (or socialism) in the ideal are completely compromised by a combination of asymmetric information (keeping the people uninformed) and corporate or bureaucratic or political corruption.

Havel opens by noting that “the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for …nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures.” This forces the vast majority of the public to “live within a lie,” and accept, either consciously or unwittingly, the huge chasm between political freedom and economic fairness in the ideal, and what the totalitarian or hijacked capitalism models offer in reality.

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.

Speaking specifically of the West, Havel notes that Western leaders, “despite the immense power they possess through the centralized structure of power, are often no more than blind executors of the system’s own internal laws–laws they themselves never can, and never do, reflect upon.” Who does that remind us of? Clue: it makes no difference which party is in power. Havel specifically relates the Czech and Eastern European experience to the West, “as a kind of warning to the West, revealing its own latent tendencies…”

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.

In many ways his long essay reminded me of George Will’s collection of thoughts published as “Statecraft as Soulcraft,” except that Havel has found the state (either communist or capitalist) to be a failure at its most important function–the people must instead constitute an alternative polis that is initially side-by-side with the state, and ultimately displaces the state with a fresh new start. Incumbents beware, Havel finds that more often than not a clean sheet fresh start is the way to go.

As the USA confronts terrorism and a right-of-center approach to law enforcement, Havel offers a clear warning to citizens at risk of being labeled as terrorists when in fact they are only dissidents and speakers of truth. He speaks of the communist regime “ascribing terrorist aims to the ‘dissident movements’ and accusing them of illegal and conspiratorial methods.” Shades of the present in the West, where anti-globalization activists and legitimate Arab and Muslim personalities have been tarred with the terrorist brush, held without recourse to lawyers, and generally abused in the name of an ill-defined and badly-managed counter-terrorism program.

Among his deepest thoughts, and I will stop here for the essay needs to be read by the same thoughtful people that are reading “Cicero” and “What Kind of Nation” and “Crashing the Party” and “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”, is the following: “The ‘dissident movements’ do not shy away from the idea of violent political overthrow because the idea seems too radical, but on the contrary, because it does not seem radical enough. For them, the problem lies far too deep to be settled through mere systemic changes, either governmental or technological.” Havel, perhaps in concurrence with Lawrence Lessig and his “Future of Ideas” finds both the law and the legal code to be oppressive and abusive of the people–the recent effort to modify bankruptcy laws to reduce the protections of the people from abusive credit card companies, are but one small example–the outrageous extension of copyright and patent laws to keep innovation from the marketplace are another.

Havel anticipates the “whithering away and dying off” of traditional political parties, “to be replaced by new structures that have evolved from ‘below’ and are put together in a fundamentally different way.” He speaks briefly of technology being out of control, and of the ultimate war now taking place, between state control and social control. He concludes that parliamentary democracies are essentially institutionalized forms of collective *irresponsibility*, and that only a moral reconstitution of society, the resurrection of core “values like as trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love” will show the way out of the “classic impotence of traditional democratic organizations.”

The other authors are not to be missed, and provide complementary but distinct views that are helpful to sparking debate and reflection. This volume will in my opinion stand as one of the great basic texts for political science and public administration, and it has great value for courses and reflections on ethics, citizenship, sociology, and economics.

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2002 THE NEW CRAFT OF INTELLIGENCE: Personal, Public, & Political

Books w/Steele, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Democracy, Future, Information Society, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Public), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Strategy
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My  second book, a further expression of my view that intelligence is not about secrets, it is about decision-support, with most of the needed information being open source information, albeit in 183 languages the secret world does not understand.  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.

The preface focuses on the manner in which the Internet now makes possible–but governments and corporations at all levels continue to deny–transparency and accountability to the public at the line item level.  The tax revolt that is taking place in America today is a direct consequence of the separation of those who pay from those who allocate the funds “in our name,” and those who collect from the public treasury funds earmarked for special intersts, not actually in the public interest.

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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)
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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.

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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
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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.

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