Disappointing, Revisionist, Misleading, Incomplete, January 21, 2008
Edit of 13 Feb 08 to remove extraneous negatives.
Although Newt Gingrich is one of a handful of previously elected officials who has both a brain and an appreciation for history, this book is disappointing. It is primarily a base-pleasing blast on a variety of issues that are generally described with no implementation specifics, and certainly nothing in the way of an over-all balanced budget that would show what the trade-offs are.
1) Newt Gingrich was “present at the creation” of the brutally destructive practices of extreme partisanship, and I am not surprised to read, but feel compelled to question, his “immaculate conception” in this book as being good and clear-headed, while relegating all those “left behind” to the role of “evil-doers.” Cf. Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency; The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)). In my view, the number of Republicans bailing out of Congress is starkly indicative of their realization that America is fed up with party-line corruption.
2) Claiming that most of America is center-right and that the Democratic party now represents the fringe left places this author at the edge of delusion. Presumably he has read Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, but I question whether he has a clue about Liberty Coalition, Reuniting America, Cultural Creatives, World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility, Bioneers, or any of the other groups that in the aggregate represent over 150 million American voters who despise BOTH the Republican and Democratic parties and are–as Lou Dobbs urges–declaring Independence.
3) Neither Dick Cheney nor Lou Dobbs appears in this book, nor is there any mention of the manner in which Congress and the White House have deceived and misled the public for over a century (Cf. Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil)
4) His specious recommendations on Iraq are completely inconsistent with reality as I have observed it across many many reviews. He fails to point out that the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Shinseki, correctly told Congress that 400,000 were needed to assure orderly stabilization & reconstruction, and that it was Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney who over-ruled the Army and insisted on listening to a combination of Ahmed Chalabi (an Iranian agent of influence) and the Israeli government all too eager to have us do their dirty work. He natually avoids discussing the fact that we were snookered by Iran into doing what they could not do for themselves. Cf. A Pretext for War : 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies)
Now for the substance, such as it is:
1) Platitudes on steroids. This is a facile book that explodes a YouTube video into a 242-page double-spaced booklet (not counting the last third of the book, appendices).
2) There are no footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography. This is a massive Op-Ed that is totally disconnected from the need to take account of any larger reality.
3)He touches lightly on young people, education, the judiciary, privatizing social security, immgiration (never mind that he consistently failed as Speaker to funded urgently needed border patrol positions), and green conservatism. “National security” gets two double-spaced pages, other topics as many as four to six. Whoopee.
3) His approach to a balanced budget is disingenius as well as mis-directed. He chants the four mantras: 1) cut taxes; 2) increase spending on what I like, decrease it on everything else; 3) end pork barrel spending; and 4) smarter spending. He certainly has a point with respect to the idiocy of rewarding Lockheed Martin for consistently failing NASA, but the last time I looked, the President and Congress had an Office of Management and Budget and a Government Accountability Office, so this is pontifical. He has no serious observations on how to eliminate income taxes (introduce the Tobin tax on Federal reserve transactions); increase revenue (end the import-export pricing fraud, the crop insurance and other frauds, different corporate books for IRS versus stockholders, the list is long and he does not have it).
4) He calls for citizen leadership and more entrepreneurship without any reference to what has been going on for over a decade in the way of World Cafe, Nexus for Change, National Online Deliberation, Wisdom Councils, Wealth of Networks, etcetera.
The book asks three relevant questions and fails to answer them to my satisfaction as a broadly-read person who believes that transpartisanship, not bipartisanship, is the necessary solution:
1) Whom do we serve?
2) What do we value?
3) How do we measure achievement?
The book contains scattered impulses, some good (Hart-Rudman emphasized that the failure of US education, especially in mathematics and science, was a major threat to the future of the Republic), and some bad (several blatant overtures to evangelicals).
By way of larger context for those who believe non-fiction can be useful:
1) There are ten high-level threats to mankind identified by LtGen Dr. Brent Scowcroft and other members of the High-Level Threat Panel, as reported out in A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change:
02 Infectious Disease
03 Environmental Degradation
04 Inter-State Conflict
05 Civil War
07 Other Atrocities
10 Transnational Crime
Bush-Cheney, and Gingrich, ignore the first 8 threats as well as the last. The global war on terrorism is a fraud. What we *should* be doing is orchestrating a $250 billion a year program against the first seven threats, stop being the world's largest arms merchant, and start phasing out the 44 dictators, all but two our best pals (see Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025.
2) There are twelve policies that must be harmonized if we are to stabilize and reconstruct our own country:
3) Nothing the USA or EU in the next ten years will matter EXCEPT AND UNLESS they create an EarthGame, an Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, that compellingly demonstrates to the eight demographic challengers (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards like the Congo) how they can avoid our mistakes.
Earth Intelligence Network is offering a free book online today that will be available on Amazon in late Feburary, “COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.” Here is the bottom line: the age of top-down elite “management” of complex societies, using secrecy, scarcity, and fear to concentrate wealth and abuse the majority, is over. There is a broad literature on the emergence of bottom-up consensual citizen power including localized wisdom councils, and I have over 70 lists that can guide the earnest reader, but I will content myself for now with my last alloted link: The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All.
This book will, I hope, make money for the author. It will not, however, do anything for the Republic. Below I list seven REAL changes:
1) Electoral Reform Act (One-Page Outline at Earth Intelligence Network
2) Debates Open to ALL Parties, Not Just the Two Corrupt Parties
3) End Winner Take All in Both Cabinet and Congress
4) No Legislation Without Prior Public Posting in Detail
5) End Individual Income Taxes, Substitute Tobin Tax on Federal Reserve
6) End CEO Greed, Top Salary No More Than 1000X Lowest Salary
7) End Secrecy, Make All Government Decisions Transparent
To end on a positive note, I am quite certain that Speaker Gingrich would be a most valuable participant in any transpartisan cabinet that brought together leaders from across the spectrum. Our Nation needs more than platitudes–it needs a Transpartisan People's Trust that buys back the government; and an EarthGame in which each person has full access to all relevant information and we can self-govern in the context of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers. It does not help that we have lost an entire generation to lazy rote mediocrity in our schools.
The bottom line is that this book does not reflect the demonstrated breadth and depth of the Speaker's knowledge. It's a shallow quickie.