Review: The Accidental Admiral – A Sailor Takes Command at NATO

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James Stavridis

5.0 out of 5 stars In Ike’s mold — a future Secretary of Defense or State or both if we are lucky…, December 11, 2014

This is three books in one, and none of them do justice to the author, who is easily considered by my naval officer colleagues to be a person of most extraordinary intellect and absolute integrity — he is considered a “five star” flag in every possible respect, and there are many of us whom he has mentored or who run with those he has mentored, who hope he will one day be Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State or both. I discussed this book with CAPT Scott Philpott, USN (Ret), among those selected by the author as an innovator, and this point cannot be overstated: to the extent the Services have toxic leadership that must be retired, those mentored by Admiral Stavridis and a few other leaders (General Tony Zinni, for example) are the vanguard for a new generation of leaders who are agile, clear, daring, frugal, and above all, able to bring to bear intelligence with integrity.

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Dec 11

Review (Guest): The Accidental Admiral – A Sailor Takes Command at NATO

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James Stavridis

5 Stars Essential Reading from the Finest Naval Officer of a Generation

ByMichael N. Pocalykoon November 3, 2014

Admiral James Stavridis is the finest naval officer of a generation and almost parenthetically a magnificently gifted writer. This memoir, his second, is an incredibly incisive book packed with meaning, history, and introspection. Published just after his retirement from active duty and taking the helm of The Fletcher School, THE ACCIDENTAL ADMIRAL is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the challenges and struggles of modern statecraft from a distinctly military vantage.

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Dec 9

Review: Death of a King – The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year

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Tavis Smiley

5.0 out of 5 stars OK to Challenge Racism and Poverty — NOT OK to challenge militarism and the national security state, September 12, 2014

The publisher has done a rotten job of summarizing this book. Here, paraphrasing the author as he just spoke on the John Stewart show, is the bottom line:

The minute that Dr. King turned against militarism and denounced the USA as the greatest purveyor of violence upon the world, he was first marginalized and then assassinated. “The System” was fine with Dr. King focusing on racism, and even poverty, but it would not tolerate for one moment his questioning the military-industrial complex and the national security state.

The author — whom I found to be very inspiring, coherent, and concise — a brilliant articulator of the key points in the book — goes on to have a conversation with Jon Stewart about how the USA simply cannot handle truth-tellers in relation to “big money” matters such as elective wars (racism and poverty being “little money” matters, and deliberately so).

Dr. King was ultimately assassinated by a US Army sniper on detail to the FBI and under the personal direction of J. Edgar Hoover. The story is told in An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King and has also been documented and validated in a judgment by a federal court awarding the King family the single dollar in damages they requested.

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Sep 12

Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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Ben Horowitz

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING – Requires Open Mind, March 16, 2014

I generally read all the reviews before writing my own, in part to see if anyone has already covered the ground the way I like to, with a summary evaluative review. There are only two reviews before mine that I consider world-class, please do read them if you have the time. I refer to the reviews by Mercenary Trader and Scott S. Bell, I salute both of them for providing substance useful to all.

This is not a comprehensive book in that it is a very personal perspective, brings together many specific snapshots, but never addresses “root” in relation to how the team went from great idea to source code to buzz to market share. As I read the book I thought often about a book I read in the 1980′s, still a classic, Tracey Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine.

I would say this book is an absolutly priceless gem for the “hard knocks” at the CEO level perspective, and should be combined with any of several alternatives on start-ups such as Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website, and, forthcoming, Peter Thiel of PayPal’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

I’ve built two companies, both failures in that I never made the leap from one man with an obession to a movement (OSS.Net, Inc. and Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3) and what I did not see in this book, or any other book I have found, is the roadmap for getting from a big idea to big marketshare. That book remains to be written, and it could be that it should be written by Marc Andressen and a team. Jim Clark’s Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft is a fine but dated (1999) start but we need something now tailored to the Internet of Things (what everyone else is thinking about) and free individual access to and ability to leverage all information in all languages all the time (what I have been thinking about since 1986 — visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn more). I am also reminded of Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story.

All this by way of saying that you have no business reading or buying this book if you are expecting a holistic 360 degree soup to nuts outline of how to zero to Mach 2. The greatest value of this book for me was in learning that it is possible to keep flying when you lose power and both wings fall off at the same time.

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Mar 16