Review: Building Social Business–The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

6 Star Top 10%, Associations & Foundations, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Change & Innovation, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Economics, Environment (Solutions), Humanitarian Assistance, Information Society, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Public), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Justice (Failure, Reform), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Priorities, Public Administration, Technology (Bio-Mimicry, Clean), True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, United Nations & NGOs, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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5.0 out of 5 stars 4 in isolation, beyond 6 in context–a cornerstone book

July 14, 2010

Muhammad Yunus and Karl Weber

While I sympathize with those who feel that the book lacks reference to prior art, that social business has been around for a very long time, and that much of the book is somewhat similar to his first book that I also reviewed, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, I am rating this book a five here and a “6 Star & Beyond” at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, for the simple reason that he is not just doing it, but doing it on a global scale, pushing the envelope across all boundaries, and setting the stage for realizing what Nobel-candidate C. K. Prahalad articulates in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.

The Nobel Prize to Yanus was a righteous one–unlike the political idiocy of awards to Al Gore and Barack Obama. I can only hope that the Norwegian public shames its overly political Nobel Committee into getting back on track with awards such as this one.

My friend Howard Bloom has a new book out that complements this one: The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism and of course there are others both recent and past, such as Capitalism at the Crossroads: Next Generation Business Strategies for a Post-Crisis World (3rd Edition).

Three things are changing that make this book a cornerstone book:

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Review: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times

5 Star, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Crime (Organized, Transnational), Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Economics, Humanitarian Assistance
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short Article from the Author, April 28, 2010

Linda Polman

It’s a real shame this book is not being represented properly on Amazon, in part because the UK publisher is just not geared up for the US audience. This is an important book. Below is the author’s summary as appeared in TimesOnline 25 April 2010.

See also:
Policing the New World Disorder: Peace Operations and Public Security
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict

Easy money: the great aid scam
Foreign aid is big business and much of it simply vanishes. In a devastating new book, we reveal how millions are lost to waste, corrupt local officials and warlords who realise more blood means more money

In the swimming pool beside the neatly laid tables at the Mamba Point restaurant in Freetown, white women were doing aerobics and the conference hall was hosting a seminar called “The Traumatised Child”. Mantovani’s strings played, ice cubes tinkled in our wine glasses and waiters slunk about with steaming platters.

It was summer 2002, a year after the signing of the peace accord that ended Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war. We had steak — on the menu at 47,000 leones, or 15. That was over half a month’s salary for the waiters serving us, the Unicef representative to my left told me.

For three full years Sierra Leone had been the darling of international donors and humanitarian organisations. Where all that money was going puzzled me, since the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had recently declared Sierra Leone, yet again, to be the world’s poorest country.

“How do people actually survive here?” I asked my dining companions. They all burst into ebullient laughter. “Juju!” they cried in unison — sorcery. “Come on, let’s pop another bottle of wine, guys,” the European commission representative shouted above the jovial hubbub.

Related Links
Haiti hell continues months after quake
Charity insiders know the score. “There’s a market for good works, and it’s big business. Call it the `moral economy’ if you like,” says Nicholas Stockton, a former emergencies director of Oxfam.

We see what looks like one big happy family moving in concert into crisis zones to ease human suffering, but the most powerful link between humanitarian aid agencies is that of commercial competition. It’s certainly a long time since the relief of suffering was carried out by people wearing sandals; now they dress in sharp business suits. Organisations that want to remain competitive need to know all about integrated marketing strategies, cost-benefit analyses and competitive incentives.

Those that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed by competing organisations that do show up. Whether it’s the construction and supply of refugee camps and orphanages, the repair of bombed roads and buildings, the re-education of child soldiers, or the inoculation of entire populations against polio, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that send official donors the most competitive bids for the huge amount of work involved will come out on top.

Start-up costs in distant, crisis-hit countries are sky-high. Aid organisations have to recruit and hire staff, rent and furnish housing and office space, and bring in Land Cruisers, aid supplies, satellite dishes, computers, air-conditioners, office equipment and generators. Once at work in a “humanitarian territory”, NGOs have to ensure they can remain active there for at least as long as it takes to earn back their investments.

The big handsome hero of a Nigerian soap shown on television all over west Africa isn’t a pilot or a fireman but a project leader for Unicef. In every scene, the broad-shouldered hunk parades about in a dazzling outfit while beautiful women squirm at his feet. After all, a civil servant or local chief attached to an NGO project as an adviser or supervisor can earn a salary dozens of times higher than normal — and local administrators can easily “supervise” many competing projects simultaneously.

The relevance, quality and results of aid projects are not a priority. A co-ordinator for the European commission in west Africa explained to me: “The things local officials weigh up are: will they get access to imported aid supplies, training, study trips, per diems and people needing to rent houses and vehicles? Will an aid project put them in a position to hand out jobs to brothers and cousins? If the answer is no, it may take a very long time to get the necessary permits.”

A story I’d just told him about a wheelchair project in Liberia had made him feel even more dispirited. Medical NGOs had arranged for a batch of wheelchairs to be flown in, to ease the sufferings of war invalids. The chairs turned up in the streets of Monrovia modified into ice-cream carts and mobile shops. Vendors who had nothing wrong with their legs were using the chairs, while amputees went on dragging themselves on their hands and knees through the filthy streets. Local government workers had distributed the wheelchairs among their own kith and kin, who in turn had rented them out to small-time entrepreneurs.

The growing number of aid organisations and the rising value of the aid supplies and services they deliver to warring countries make humanitarian aid an increasingly important supplement to war chests: countries with no other sources of income turn the aid industry, supposedly neutral and unbiased, into a potentially lethal force that the belligerents need to enlist.

Take the $825m aid operation in Darfur, which in 2008 was reckoned by the UN to be the most expensive in the world. In March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir for playing an “essential role” in the murder, rape, torture, pillaging and displacement of a large number of civilians in Darfur. He faces the charge of crimes against humanity — yet the NGOs in Sudan are still the milch cows of Bashir’s state apparatus.

An employee of an American NGO explained to me how it works. “It’s an open secret among UN organisations and NGOs that the government earns several million dollars a quarter on visas, travel permits, work permits for humanitarians and permit extensions. Entering Sudan costs. Leaving Sudan: ditto.

“To set up an NGO you need approval from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, whose minister was also indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. At every stage of the application process, you pay again. It drives me wild that the `humanitarian community’ is so spineless in its dealings with the regime. If there was some collective spirit, we might be able to avoid becoming, in effect, sub-branches of the Sudan state.” But there isn’t.

Only 30 minutes after the ICC ordered the arrest of President Bashir, the regime retaliated with an order for 13 NGOs to leave immediately. Oxfam GB lost £5m, £2m of it in possessions and accounts. Médecins sans Frontières admitted to having lost 2m (£1.7m). But none of the NGOs or the donor governments protested — they all hoped to be allowed to return to Sudan.

Meanwhile, between 2001, when the war on terror began, and 2008, more than 60 donor governments allocated a total of more than $15 billion to aid for Afghanistan — but exactly where the money ended up is unclear. Neither the donors nor their NGOs dare to visit the projects they finance. The result is an unfathomable channelling of aid billions that is highly susceptible to fraud.

Clinics never actually built, girls’ schools where only boys are taught — everyone in Afghanistan can give examples of aid projects that have been financed but not realised. The majority of western NGOs never venture outside Kabul. Instead, they subcontract local and other NGOs to implement their projects, which in turn engage further subcontractors. A total of four intermediate organisations, each creaming off a portion, is common. Steadily seeping away, project finance passes from hand to hand until finally someone gets down to bricklaying, carpentry or ploughing. In the intervening stages, effective supervision of budgets is impossible.

CorpWatch, an independent research institute that investigates and exposes corporate fraud and corruption around the world, eventually managed to trace what had happened to the $15m USAID had earmarked for the building of a road from Kabul to Kandahar in the south. The money turned out to have been transferred from USAID, via the UN, to an American company that hired a Turkish roadbuilder. Each intermediate layer absorbed between 6% and 20% of the project funding, so that in the end only cheap, inferior materials could be purchased. According to CorpWatch, the stretch of tarmac that resulted was barely any improvement on the unsealed road it replaced.

At any given moment, several thousand aid projects are under way in Afghanistan. Jean Mazurelle, former director of the World Bank in Kabul, estimated that 35%-40% of all international aid to Afghanistan is “wrongly spent”. “In Afghanistan, the wastage of aid is sky-high: there is real looting going on. In the 30 years of my career, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

When asked, aid workers and donors naturally say they control what happens to the money. But an Afghan accountant who carries out spot checks on control methods for USAID thinks this is highly unlikely. “I can tell one Afghan’s handwriting from another’s, but foreigners only see squiggles and dots. Sometimes I’m shown 150 receipts with the same signature,” she said. And photographs of USAID projects? “I sometimes see pictures of exactly the same project with different donors. Aid groups are happy to be financed three times over. After all, the donors don’t come and look.”

This systematic lack of control of aid funding has been nicknamed “Afghaniscam”. Not only do Afghan racketeers rake off aid money unhindered, but in some areas Taliban fighters are able to use unsupervised aid funding to strengthen and expand their popular support.

The 21st-century aid business is booming as never before. And it’s increasingly lucrative — which is why the 2001 announcement that Sierra Leone had once again been named the world’s poorest country was the occasion for a festive gathering in Freetown. The poorest countries, you see, are eligible for enormous, special international aid programmes.

The cream of Freetown society had gathered to toast this dubious first prize in a conference room at a recently opened luxury hotel, the property of a Chinese investor. The vice-president handed a copy of the UNDP report to his president, “Pa” Kabbah, who waved it triumphantly. “Nice hotel, this,” the vice-president said. “But it gives foreigners the wrong idea. They’ll start thinking we’re a country of comfort and luxury.” The guests nodded in agreement.

Further along the same Freetown road is the Mammy Yoko hotel, currently serving as the HQ of the UN mission in Sierra Leone. That day, negotiations about a ceasefire were taking place there between the rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and donor governments.

The RUF delegation seemed to consist of wiry teenagers. A month ago, they had still been prowling the bush; now they strolled in oversized western suits to the UN dining room. Now and then, they slapped each other on the back and laughed loudly, the way they’d seen important international functionaries do. The coastal strip, a quarter of the country, was under the control of UN blue helmets. The remaining three-quarters of Sierra Leone, a region of jungle and diamonds, would be left in the hands of at least four warring parties until an accord was signed. No matter: the international peace negotiators were more than prepared to meet RUF demands, since donor governments want to see results.

Many experts dismissed the warriors in Sierra Leone’s bush as drug-fuelled maniacs, but some suspected that a rational, calculated strategy lay behind their destructive frenzy, which left 200,000 dead. They suggested it was a deliberate attempt to drive up the price of peace.

From the viewpoint of the warriors, the logic of the humanitarian era is simple. Without violence and devastation, no aid. And the more ghastly the violence and the more complete the devastation, the more comprehensive the aid.

© Linda Polman 2010 Extracted from War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times by Linda Polman, published by Viking at £12.99. Copies can be ordered for £11.69, including postage from The Sunday Times Bookshop on 0845 271 2135.

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Review: Peace–A History of Movements and Ideas

5 Star, Civil Affairs, Civil Society, Consciousness & Social IQ, Democracy, Diplomacy, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Future, History, Humanitarian Assistance, Insurgency & Revolution, Iraq, Justice (Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Truth & Reconciliation, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Utterly Superb Intellectual Contribution–a Major New Reference

January 10, 2010

David Cortright

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.

The footnotes, the bibliography, and the index are world-class. The paper is glossy and annoyingly unreceptive to ink, but as a library volume or one that does not allow notes, this is an absolute top-notch production at a phenomenally reasonable price. I have the note mid-way: utterly brilliant blending of works of others within own architecture–superior scholarship.

The book does not touch on the evolutionary activism, conscious evolution, integral consciousness literature, and this is not a criticsm as much as a roadsign: the following five books complement this work in a distinct fashion.
Reflections on Evolutionary Activism: Essays, poems and prayers from an emerging field of sacred social change
Conscious Evolution: Awakening Our Social Potential
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

HUGE EYE-OPENER; Pashtun Peace Army in Pakistan-Afghanistan, the Servants of God, discussed on pages 193 and 313. I’ve been working Information Operations (IO) and used to do Covert Action and I am pretty sure neither CIA nor DIA have a clue that this is a major historical movement that could be reactivated.

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Review: Power & Responsibility–Building International Order in an Era of Transnational Threat

4 Star, Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Environment (Problems), Humanitarian Assistance, Stabilization & Reconstruction, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), United Nations & NGOs
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bubba Book

January 6, 2010

Bruce Jones, Carlos Pascual, Stephen John Stedman

EDIT of 7 Jan 09.  I got halfway through another book last night and now understand the Princeton-based idea that the US has enough power to demand changes and that earlier “balance of power” constraints might not apply.  On the one hand, this is an idea worth pursuing, but if you know nothing of strategy, intelligence (decision-support) and how to integrate Whole of Government and Multinational Engagement campaigns against the ten threats by harmonizing the twelve policies and engaging the eight demographic leaders, then this is just academic blabber.  On the other hand, this is 100% on the money–if the USA were a Smart Nation with an honest government, now is the time to lead–but it’s not going to come out of the ivory tower or politicals in waiting for their next job, it will come from the bottom (Epoch B), the poor, and the eight demographic powers (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as South Africa, Thailan, and Turkey, with the Nordics and BENELUX always lurking positively on the fringes.

Original review:

I tried hard to find enough in this book to warrant five stars, but between the pedestrian threats, buying in blindly to the climate change fraud, assertions such as “There is no prospect for international stability and prosperity in the next twenty years that does not rest on U.S. power and leadership,” and the general obliviousness of the authors to multiple literatures highly relevant to their ostensible objective of answering the question “how do we organize our globalized world,” this has to stay a four. It has some worthwhile bits that I itemize below, but on balance this is an annoying book, part cursory overview, part grand-standing proposals for new organizations, and part job application–at least one of these authors wants to be the first High Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism.

Although the authors are familiar with A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which was published in 2004, this book does not resonate with the ten priorities set forth there, in this order:

01 Poverty
02 Infectious Disease
03 Environmental Degradation
04 Inter-State Conflict
05 Civil War
06 Genocide
07 Other Atrocities
08 Proliferation
09 Terrorism
10 Transnational Crime

Had the author’s actually sought to tailor their suggestions to the above elegant threat architecture, this could have been a much more rewarding book. As it is, it strikes me as a book written around a few ideas:

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Review: GIS for Decision Support and Public Policy Making

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Change & Innovation, Complexity & Resilience, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Disaster Relief, Games, Models, & Simulations, Geography & Mapping, Geospatial, History, Humanitarian Assistance, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Stabilization & Reconstruction, Strategy, True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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ESRI Sales Material, Excellent Price, Recommended,

July 20, 2009
Christopher Thomas and Nancy Humenik-Sappington
As a publisher who is also an author, I continue to be outraged by the prices being charged for “trade” publications. This book is properly-priced–other books on GIS I would have bought are priced at three to four times their actual value, thus preventing the circulation of that knowledge. Those publishers that abuse authors and readers refuse to respect the reality that affordably priced books are essential to the dissemination of knowledge and the perpetuation of the publishing industry.

The book loses one star for refusing to address Google Earth and elements of the Google offering in this industry space. While Google is predatory and now under investigation by the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice, to ignore Google and its implications for cloud management of data in geospatial, time, and other cross- cutting contests, is the equivalent of poking one eye out to avoid seeing an approaching threat.

Having said that, I found this book from ESRI charming, useful, and I recommend it very highly, not least because it is properly priced and very well presented. Potential clients of ESRI can no doubt get bulk deliver of this volume for free.

Return on Investment factors that ESRI highlights up front include:
+ Cost and times savings
+ Increased efficiency, accuracy, productivity of existing resources
+ Revenue generation
+ Enhanced communications and collaboration
+ Automated workflows
+ More efficient allocation of new resources
+ Improved access to information.

The book consists of very easy-to-read and very well-illustrated small case studies, most previously published in Government Matters, which appears to be a journal (there are a number listed by that title).

Here are the highlights of this book for me personally:

+ Allows for PUBLIC visualization of complex data
+ Framework for “seeing” historical data and trends
+ Value of map-based dialog [rather than myth-based assertions]
+ Allows for the visualization of competing perspectives past and future
+ Illuminated land population dynamics, I especially like being able to see “per capita” calculations in visual form, especially when per capita can also be sliced by age, sex, income, religion, race, and so on.
+ Mapping derelict vessels underwater is not just a safety function, but opens the way for volunteer salvage and demolition
+ GROWS organically by attracting new data contributors who can “see” the added value of contributing their data and then being able to see their data and everyone else’s data in geospatial terms. This is a POWERFUL incentive for information-sharing, which more often than not receives lip service. GIS for me is the “key” to realizing sharing across all boundaries while also protecting individual privacy
+ Shows “pockets” of need by leveraging data gaps in relation to known addresses (e.g. immunizations, beyond 5 minute fire response, etc.)’
+ Gives real meaning to “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)” and–not in this book–offers enormous potential if combined with a RapidSMS web database that can received text messages from hundreds of thousands of individuals across a region
+ Eliminates the time-energy cost of data collection in hard copy and processing of the individual pages into an aggregate database.

The book discusses GIS utility in the routing of hazardous materials, but avoids the more explosive (pun intended) value of GIS in showing the public as well as government officials where all the HAZMAT is complacently stored now. For a solid sense of the awaiting catastrophe, see my review of The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters.

The book also avoids any discussion of the urgency as well as the value of GIS in tracking and reducing natural resource consumption (e.g. water usage visible to all house by house), and the enormous importance of rapidly making it possible for any and all organizations to channel their data into shared GIS-based aggregations. For a sense of World Brain as EarthGame, see my chapter in Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace the chapter is also free online at the OSS.Net, Inc. website forward slash CIB.

This book, 189 pages of full color, is a righteous useful offering. I would encourage ESRI to become the GIS publisher of choice, buy out the titles that I could not afford, and enter the business of affordable aggregate publishing in the GIS field. Other titles by ESRI on GIS:
Measuring Up: The Business Case for GIS
The GIS Guide for Local Government Officials
Zeroing in: Geographic Information Systems at Work in the Community

Five other cool books on data pathologies that GIS can help resolve:
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Fog Facts : Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin (Nation Books)
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’
Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography
The Age of Missing Information (Plume)

The latter remind me that GIS will not blossom fully until it can help the humanities deal with emotions, feelings, and perceptions across tribal and cultural boundaries. Right now, 23 years after I first worked with GIS in the Office of Information Technology at CIA, GIS is ready for the intermediate leap forward: helping multinational multiagency data sets come together. ESRI has earned deep regard from me with this book and I will approach them about a new book aimed at the UN, NGOs, corporations, and governments that wish to harmonize data and in so doing, harmonize how they spend across any given region, e.g. Africa. This will be the “master leap” for GIS, enabling the one billion rich to respond to micro-needs from the five billion poor, while also increasing the impact of aggregated orchestrated giving by an order of magnitude.

ESRI: well done!

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Review: The Challenge for Africa

5 Star, Change & Innovation, Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Country/Regional, Culture, Research, Disease & Health, Education (General), Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Humanitarian Assistance, Information Operations, Information Society, Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Stabilization & Reconstruction, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

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A Gift–Properly Priced, Presented, and MOST Rewarding,

July 18, 2009
Wangari Maathai
Of the three of four books I have consumed so far for an introduction to Africa’s current condition, this one is by far the best, and if you buy only one, this is the one. The other two, each valuable in its own way, are:
The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

Tomorrow I will plow through Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future and post a review.

The author, a Nobel Peace laureate for the Green Belt Movement, delivers a very straight-forward, practical “woman’s voice” account of both the past troubles, present tribulations, and future potential of Africa. This book is replete with “street-level” common sense as well as a real sense of nobility.

Early on the author addresses the reality that uninformed subsistence farming, what 65% of all Africans do, is destroying the commons. I find that ignorance–and the need to educate and inform in their own local language (no easy task when speaking of thousands of local languages)–is a recurring theme in this book. I see *enormous* potential for the application of what the Swedish military calls M4IS2 (multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information-sharing and sense-making).

The author provides an ample tour of the horizon of aid, trade, and debt imbalances, of the dangers of culture and confidence of decline, of the need to restore cultural and environmental diversity, and of the need to reprioritize agricultural, education, and environmental services instead of bleeding each country to pay for the military and internal security (and of course corruption).

CORE POINT: The *individual* African is the center of gravity, and only Africans can save Africa–blaming colonialism is *over*. The author’s vision for a revolution in leadership calls for integrity at the top, and activism at the bottom, along with a resurgence of civil society and a demand that governments embrace civil society as a full partner.

CORE POINT: The environment must be central to all development decisions, both for foster preservation and permit exploitation without degradation. Later in the book the author returns to this theme in speaking of the Congo forests, pointing out that only equity for all those who are local will allow all those who are foreign to exploit AND preserve.

I am fascinated by the author’s expected discussion of the ills of colonialism including the Berlin division, the elevation of elites, arbitrary confiscations of lands, and proxy wars, what I was NOT expecting was a profound yet practical discussion of how the church in combination with colonialism was a double-whammy on the collective community culture of Africa.

The author observes that any move away from aid, which has been an enabler of massive corruption at the top, and toward capitalization and bonds [as the author of Dead Aid proposes in part] will be just as likely to lead to corruption absent a regional awakening of integrity.

The author discusses China, observing that China has used its Security Council veto to protect African interests, and the author observes that the West continues to destroy Africa with arms sales, France and Russia especially, followed by China, with the US a low fourth.

I learn that patronage and the need for protection are the other side of corruption as a deep-seated rationalization for keeping power, and I learn that pensions in Africa are so fragile that retirement is fraught with risk, another reason to seek long-term power holding. I am inspired to think of a regional pension fund guaranteed by Brotherly Leader Muuamar Al-Gathafi.

On a hopeful note the author praises the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as leader of Liberia, and sees real promise in the AU leadership summits that she attends.

CORE IDEA: Leadership training at all levels must keep pace with the changes in technology and the complexity of Africa’s engagements. Civil Society in particular must be understood and embraced by government leaders at all levels.

The author spends time around page 134 discussing her pilot project to create local empowerment, devolving decision-making to create a multi-layered structure that establishes priorities while also providing accountability and transparency, minimizing corruption. Using a trained facilitator, the author brought together around 40 fifteen-person committees to create a strategic plan, and that is now useful as a map regardless of turn-over.

On page 158 the author briefly discusses ECOSOC (Economic, Social, and Cultural Council of the African Union) founded in 2005 to bring the voices of the people into the AU deliberations; to educate the peoples of Africa on all aspects of African affairs; and to encourage civil society throughout Africa.

My reaction: ECOSOCC is a center of gravity and could be the lever needed to create a regional M4IS2 network that substitutes information for violence, capital, time, and space. A harmonization of investments to address regional cell phone access (Nokia ambient energy devices), regional radio stations using solar power; and a regional public information program on the basics of mosquito control and other key public health topics, all call out for action in partnership with ECOSOCC.

Later in the book the author equates misinformation with alcohol and drugs. Ignorance is a recurring theme.

The conclusion of the book is full of deep wisdom on re-imagining community, restoring family by returning the men, stopping the brain drain, and making it easier for remittances to return; of the need to create micro-nation forums within each macro-nation; of the need to create local radio stations in each of the local languages and dialects; of the need to address energy shortfalls while stopping the march of the desert; and finally, of the need to address the pressing twin issues of land ownership and tourism management so as to restore the primacy of African interests.

The book ends on a hugely positive note calling for Africans to reclaim their land; reclaim their culture; and reclaim themselves.

Other books I consider relevant to respecting Africa:
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era

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Review: Dead Aid–Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Assistance, Information Operations, Information Society, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Stabilization & Reconstruction
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Goldman Sachs Pitch Dressed in Don’s Robes,

July 18, 2009

Dambisa Moyo

I bought this book cognizant of the negative reviews, and I break with them in giving this book four stars instead of one, two, or three stars.

This book is worth reading, and it makes points that I summarize below that are in my view meritorious.

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Review: The Trouble with Africa–Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atrocities & Genocide, Civil Affairs, Complexity & Catastrophe, Corruption, Country/Regional, Democracy, Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Economics, Education (General), Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Humanitarian Assistance, Information Operations, Information Society, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Security (Including Immigration), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Truth & Reconciliation, United Nations & NGOs, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Credible, Pointed, Relevant, Useful, Essential,

July 17, 2009
Robert Calderisi
I read in groups in order to avoid being “captured” or overly-swayed by any single point of view. The other books on Africa that I will be reviewing this week-end include:
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa
The Challenge for Africa
Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s FutureUp front the author stresses that since 1975 Africa has been in a downward spiral, ultimately losing HALF of its foreign market for African goods and services, a $70 billion a year plus loss that no amount of foreign aid can supplant.

The corruption of the leaders and the complacency of the West in accepting that corruption is a recurring theme. If the USA does not stop supporting dictators and embracing corruption as part of the “status quo” then no amount of good will or aid will suffice.

Continue reading “Review: The Trouble with Africa–Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working”

Review: First Do No Harm–Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Humanitarian Assistance

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Superb Re-Discovery of Core Knowledge, Presents New Insights,

July 4, 2009

David N. Gibbs

At the age of 56, having been educated in the 1970’s when political science created “comparative studies” as a ruse for avoiding field world and foreign language mastery in favor of statistical comparisons from afar, I am now quite accustomed to seeing each generation rediscover core knowledge.

Even more distressing for one who loves books as artifacts of human wisdom, is to see each generation re-discover knowledge known to earlier generations, without citation. Scholarship seems to be on a wheel making little forward progress, at least in the humanities.

This is a fine book. It is exceptional for both its clear-eyed understanding of the combination of evil and banal ignorance that characterizes those in power, whether of one party or another. In the 1970’s, for the US Institute of Peace, I wrote that the greatest threat to peace was the cataclysmic separation of those with power from those with knowledge. This book manifests all of that brilliantly.

It is also exceptional in this era for being a clear-eyes appraisal of the evil of military intervention. This again is not new knowledge, but it is helpful to have this generation be reminded.

Great evil has been done “in our name,” for the basest of reasons. I pray that our rising generation of digital literati will not be as ignorant in power as those who now surround world leaders–sychophants, dilitants, and craven opportunists.

See also:
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict
Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

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Review: First Do No Harm–Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Humanitarian Assistance
Amazon Page
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Superb Re-Discovery of Core Knowledge, Presents New Insights, July 4, 2009

David N. Gibbs

At the age of 56, having been educated in the 1970’s when political science created “comparative studies” as a ruse for avoiding field world and foreign language mastery in favor of statistical comparisons from afar, I am now quite accustomed to seeing each generation rediscover core knowledge.

Even more distressing for one who loves books as artifacts of human wisdom, is to see each generation re-discover knowledge known to earlier generations, without citation. Scholarship seems to be on a wheel making little forward progress, at least in the humanities.

This is a fine book. It is exceptional for both its clear-eyed understanding of the combination of evil and banal ignorance that characterizes those in power, whether of one party or another. In the 1970’s, for the US Institute of Peace, I wrote that the greatest threat to peace was the cataclysmic separation of those with power from those with knowledge. This book manifests all of that brilliantly.

Continue reading “Review: First Do No Harm–Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia”