Review: Shadow Government — Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World

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Tom Engelbardt

5.0 out of 5 stars Responsible and Compelling — Avoids Some of the Darkest Facts, October 16, 2014

A more timely relevant book for US citizens could not be imagined, at least by me. By the sheerest coincidence, I have also recently read two books that in my view form a tri-fecta of perspective that could help launch an abolishment of the present government of the USA, a two-party tyranny in service to the legalized crime families of Wall Street.

Micah Sifry: The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet)
Darrell West: Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust

I won’t repeat my summary reviews of those two books, here I will only say that while Tom Engelhardt is ably laying out the criminal insanity of what we have now in the way of a secret government that has become a “lockdown state” toxic to all forms of life everywhere, Micah has documented why the progressive and activist civil movements are dead in the water without a clue, and Darrell has documented how there are at least 25 billionaires out there who want to get it right but have no one to work with.

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Oct 16

Review: Beautiful Trouble — A Toolbox for Revolution

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Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell (editors)

5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense Of, By, For the Community, October 5, 2014

From a second reading after attending The New Story Summit at Findhorn Foundation in Scotland.

QUOTE Stephan Duncombe (104): “”Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But waiting for the truth to set us free is lazy politics. The truth does not reveal itself by virtue of being the truth: it must be told, and told well. It must have stories woven around it, works of art made about it; it must be communicated in new and compelling ways that can be passed from person to person, even if this requires flights of fancy and new methodologies.”

I bought this book at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) in NYC, along with Michel Sifry’s The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet) that I am reviewing now, both of these books are huge, and the Sifry book relatively unknown when it should a “top 10″ reading for all progressives.

This book (Beautiful Trouble), at 138 pages in pocket size (3/5ths of a normal pocketbook), is an utter gem. At a minimum it forces reflection. Produced by a team of people and organizations, this is a community resources in every sense of the word.

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Oct 5

Review: STOP, THIEF! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance

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Peter Linebaugh

5.0 out of 5 stars David Bollier’s Review is Better, This Is My Attempt, April 21, 2014

I was very impressed by David Bollier’s review of this book at his web site (look for < “Stop, Thief!” – Peter Linebaugh’s New Collection of Essays > and am encouraging him to port that excellent review here to Amazon. Indeed, after working my way through the book myself, I consider myself unable to do proper justice to this deep work that integrates history, poetry, political economy, anthropology, and sociology among other disciplines. Hence I hope others will write substantive summary reviews and I again recommend Bollier’s review above.

Three thoughts keep recurring as I went through this book of original current essays and presentations:

01 Holy Cow. This guy is DEEP and BROAD in terms of arcane as well as popular sources, delving down into little known poems, essays, public statements, etcetera. This book is the one book version of the Durant’s Story of Civilization applied to one topic, the commons.

02 Holy Cow. This is what my top political science professor was trying to explain when I was in college in 1970-1974 – yes, a half century ago — and I was just not smart enough, patient enough, to appreciate it.

03 Holy Cow. This book is not just subversive, it does a magnificent job of head slapping every politician, economists, talking head, and other pretender who presumes to talk about public welfare without for one instant understanding that wages are a form of slavery and disconnection of humanity from everything else. Lionel Tiger makes related points in The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System but this book — if you focus and do not get lost in the poetry and minutia of exemplar citation — beats the commons versus capitalism drum along every possible note on the musical scale.

Among my high-level notes:

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Apr 29

Review: The Politics of Haunting and Memory in International Relations

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Jessica Auchter

5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Extraordinary — a Pioneering Book — Builds on Others But Original and Compelling It Its Own Right, April 27, 2014

I took an interest in books on trauma and dealing with refugees a month or so ago, and this is one of the books that I included in my list easily found online Worth a Look: Books on War and Torture Victims, Asylum and Refugee Trauma. The other book I have reviewed from that list is Peter Levine’s In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.

The author has rendered an extraordinary work. While building on the works of others this is a pioneering book that helps open the door toward holding states [and I would add corporations] accountable for the dead [and I would add amputees]. I found this book compelling, engaging, and original.

The bulk of the book and the bulk of the value is in the literature review and the author’s conclusions. Three case studies are provided — on Rwanda where the state “erased” the victims; on illigal immigrants who die on US soil or are “exiled” into non-person status; and on 9/11 where the state and its corporate controlled media “excised” all photographs of the vicitms, particularly those who jumped to their deaths from the towers.

I’ve read a lot of academic books and dissertations, and found that the manner in which this author reviewed the works of others, and personalized that review by artful use of the names of the authors being cited in text, was for me a most professional and yet also humanizing and engaging exercise.

This is a very subversive book is you have the courage to actually contemplate holding a state accountable for both those it has killed or allowed to be killed by legalized crime and elective war and deliberate non-intervention; while also contemplating how the state relegates so many to the status of “virtual dead.” At root, this book opens a super-highway into the heart of the deep state (I would add deep corporation including those that practice eugenics), one that could inspire the living to challenge the faux legitimacy of states that are in the view of one author, Greogry Sams, long overdue for deconstruction, see his just released book that I have ordered and will review, The State Is Out of Date: We Can Do It Better.

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Apr 27

Review (Guest): Dynamics Among Nations – The Evolution of Legitimacy and Development in Modern States

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Hilton Root

5.0 out of 5.0 Stars Complexity thinking that shifts the paradigms of international relations

By J. P. Massing on December 5, 2013

In ‘Dynamics Among Nations’, Professor Hilton Root convincingly challenges the propositions of the liberal international consensus and re-frames the prevailing conceptualisation of development by introducing complexity thinking to the fields of political economy and international relations.

I highly recommend this intellectually stimulating and excellently written book to decision makers, researchers and students – as well as to anyone who is interested in gaining an advanced and well-informed understanding of the complex realities of development and global policy.

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Apr 14

Review (Guest): Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving Into Liquid War

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Pepe Escobar

5 out of 5 stars Tour de Force!

By Donald L. Conover

Tour de Force! That’s the only way to describe Pepe Escobar’s remarkable achievement with Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving into Liquid War. In page after page, Mr. Escobar demonstrates his remarkable erudition gained in a peripatetic career, spanning the caves of Tora Bora to the slums of Sao Paolo and Mumbai; from the halls of venality to the palaces of the gluttonously wealthy; from conversations with forgotten Pentagon warlords to raps with Brazilian gang lords.

Our Neocon leaders seem to think the rest of the World is frozen in situ, waiting for them to hatch their nefarious schemes. Globalistan shows us the consequences of such a blindered [or should I say "blundered"] attitude.

Producers for the talking heads of “mainstream” media will have to have this book. It is the one volume necessary to make sense of our churning humanity in the 21st Century. A quick scan can provide the background on every crisis from Iran to “Chindia”; from Shiiteistan to the Gazprom Nation; from PetroEurostan to the Bush White House.

Escobar demonstrates why it is true that if we don’t find ways to spread our prosperity around the World, the have-nots will come and take it away from us with guns and bombs and box cutters. All of the walls and fences cannot protect the United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia from overwhelming illegal immigration. Weapons and fences doom us, like the Texans at the Alamo. Eventually they will be overrun by 3 billion human beings living in abject poverty, but with access to the latest episodes of “24” and “Sleeper Cell,” unless we help the Mexicans achieve their dreams of Texas in Mexico.

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Feb 9

Berto Jongman: Gray Work – Confessions of an American Paramilitary Spy

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

Can be ordered now, releases on 27 May 2014.

Jamie Smith.  Gray Work: Confessions of an American Paramilitary Spy (William Morrow, 2014)

Book Description:

An unprecedented, raw, first-hand look into the life of America’s private paramilitary warriors and their highly secretive work around the world. Jamie Smith, a contractor with more than two decades under his belt, has planned and executed hundreds of missions on behalf of government agencies and private industry in some of the world’s most dangerous hot spots.

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They are elite warriors who run highly dangerous missions deep inside foreign countries on the brink of war. Jamie Smith knows these men well. Not only is he one of them, but he cofounded one of the most successful private contracting multinational firms in the world. For the first time, he breaks his silence, detailing the ultimate danger and risk of paramilitary operations—both officially government-sanctioned and not. Pulling back the curtain of secrecy, he reveals in very intimate terms exactly what private soldiers do when the government cannot act or take public responsibility.

Combining the thrilling narrative of a riveting international spy thriller with boots-on-the-ground realism, Gray Work follows Smith through his CIA training and career as an operative, his co-founding of and eventual exit from Blackwater, and his creation and direction of his own company. Espionage and assassinations, rescues and renditions, the turbulence of the Arab Spring, the fall of Qadhaffi, the grit and gristle are all here in covert black ops from Syria to Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and beyond.

As the founder and director of Blackwater, Smith’s initial vision has undeniably shaped and transformed a decade of war. He argues that this gray area—and the warriors who occupy the controversial space between public and private—has become an integral element of modern warfare.

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Jan 30