Review (Guest): Creating the National Security State: A History of the Law That Transformed America

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Douglas Stuart

5.0 out of 5 stars From National Interests to National Security April 24, 2011

ByKenneth J. Dillon

Many observers recognize that the U.S. Government has for decades placed too much emphasis on military might to the detriment of other interests. This book provides a sobering explanation of how such a skewed approach emerged. Stuart is an historian at Dickinson College and also adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College. He shows how the 150-year tradition of peacetime pursuit of national interests headed by the State Department gave way to the “Pearl Harbor System” of viewing the world through the perspective of potential threats to national security.

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Jan 18

Worth a Look: Reforming Intelligence Obstacles to Democratic Control and Effectiveness

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Thomas Bruneau and Steven Boraz (eds.)

These days, it’s rare to pick up a newspaper and not see a story related to intelligence. From the investigations of the 9/11 commission, to accusations of illegal wiretapping, to debates on whether it’s acceptable to torture prisoners for information, intelligence—both accurate and not—is driving domestic and foreign policy. And yet, in part because of its inherently secretive nature, intelligence has received very little scholarly study. Into this void comes Reforming Intelligence, a timely collection of case studies written by intelligence experts, and sponsored by the Center for Civil-Military Relations (CCMR) at the Naval Postgraduate School, that collectively outline the best practices for intelligence services in the United States and other democratic states.

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Jan 18

Review: Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War

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Lars-Erik Cederman, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Halvard Buhaug

5.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY – a modern version of the causes of revolution literature from the 1970′s, January 12, 2014

I am absolutely delighted to see this book published, and to also see it win awards. In the 1970′s there was a strong political science literature on the causes of revolution (see a few examples below) as well as on governance alternatives intended to achieve dignity and equality such that revolutions do not occur. A few examples:

Harry Eckstein, Internal War: Problems and Approaches
Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel: Fortieth Anniversary Edition
Chalmers Johnson, Revolution and the Social System

The book earns five stars but could reasonably be reduced to four stars for failing to have a holistic analytic model and any substantive reference to true cost economics.

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Jan 12

Berto Jongman: Howard Clark (RIP) Memorial Post of Key Works on Non-Violent Conflict

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

In Commemoration of Howard Clark’s Work with ICNC

On November 29, 2013  colleagues from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) learnt about Howard Clark’s passing.

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He left us much too early and too suddenly. And we lost not only a close, dear friend that could cheer and energize people around him but also an effective collaborator and a scholar-practitioner with a deep knowledge about and a sophisticated understanding of the field of nonviolent conflict.

. . . . . . .

He worked unwaveringly and patiently with me and other authors to bring to fruition the work that people can now enjoy reading: Recovering Nonviolent History. Civil Resistance in Liberation Struggles published this year.

Learn more — many videos and links.

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Jan 6

Worth a Look: Muslims and ICT

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Berto Jongman recommends….

Forthcoming (2014) According to some global estimates, one in ten internet users is a Muslim. This volume offers an ethnography of ICT in Muslim communities. The contributors to this volume also demonstrate a new kind of moderation with regard to more sweeping and avant-gardistic claims, which have characterized the study of ICT previously. This moderation has been combined with a keen attention to the empirical material but also deliberations on new quantitative and qualitative approaches to ICT, Muslims and Islam, for instance the digital challenges and changes wrought on the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred scripture. As such this volume will also be relevant for people interested in the study of ICT and the blooming field of digital humanities.

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Available now (2011).  “Muslims and the New Medias” explores how the introduction of the latest information and communication technologies are mirroring changes and developments within society, as well as the Middle East’s relationship to the West. Examining how reformist and conservative Muslim ‘ulama’ have discussed the printing press, photography, the broadcasting media (radio and television), the cinema, the telephone and the Internet, case studies provide a contextual background to the historical, social and cultural situations that have influenced theological discussions; focusing on how the ‘ulama’ have debated the ‘usefulness’ or ‘dangers’ of the information and communication media. By including both historical and contemporary examples, this book exposes historical trajectories as well as different (and often contested) positions in the Islamic debate about the new media.

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Jan 6

Review: Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity

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Noam Chomsky

5.0 out of 5 stars Explosive Opening, Less Satisfying Conclusion, January 5, 2014

The book explodes on page one: no bankers arrested — none, zip, nada, rein — 7,762 Occupiers arrested from the first 80 in NYC on 24 September 2001 to the two arrested in SF on 15 June 2013. Talk about GRIFTOPIA — the police work for the thieves and arrest the owners!

There are a number of key insights within this book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wishes to pulse the state of the union — Chomsky, who eulogizes Howard Zinn throughout, brackets our current situation with two trenchant observations early on:

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Jan 5

Mini-Me: The Future of Democracy

Who?  Mini-Me?

Who? Mini-Me?

Huh?

By Mark Mazower

Financial Times, 25 October 2013

The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, by David Runciman, Princeton, RRP£19.95/$29.95, 408 pages

Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience, by Stein Ringen, Yale, RRP£20/$35, 264 pages

The Last Vote: The Threats to Western Democracy, by Philip Coggan, Allen Lane, RRP£20, 320 pages

EXTRACT:

The worry that emerges from these three lively and thoughtful books is not that democracy faces extinction but that the kind of democracy that now envelops us – with its billionaires and its unemployed millions, its surveillance state and its unelected technocrats, its individual gratification and its ever-narrowing visions of the collective good – is one that previous generations would have regarded as a nightmare. Coggan wants to rouse us, and in different ways so do his fellow authors. But, as de Tocqueville warned, this is the kind of nightmare from which democracy may never awake.

Mark Mazower is professor of history at Columbia University and author of ‘Governing the World: The History of an Idea’ (Penguin)

Read full review of all three books.

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Dec 15

Review (Guest): BREACH OF TRUST – How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country

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Andrew J. Bacedvich

A disturbing but vitally necessary read. Take note, Mr President, and Congress too

By Timothy J. Bazzett on September 10, 2013

Andrew Bacevich’s latest offering, BREACH OF TRUST, is going to make a lot of people squirm – if people read it, that is. Because in this book he tells us flat out that an all-volunteer army in a democratic society simply does not work, and that the present system is “broken.” It is bankrupting our country, and not just financially, but morally. He tells us that Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the longest and most expensive wars in U.S. history, have evoked little more than “an attitude of cordial indifference” on the part of a shallow and selfish populace more concerned with the latest doings of the Kardashians, professional superstar athletes or other vapid and overpaid millionaire celebrities, reflecting “a culture that is moored to nothing more than irreverent whimsy and jeering ridicule.”

Bacevich cites General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who spoke about having “skin in the game,” meaning that when a country goes to war every town and city should be at risk. McChrystal went on to say the unthinkable: “I think we’d be better if we actually went to a draft these days … for the nation it would be a better course.”

Horrors! That dreaded “D” word finally uttered aloud. Well, I’d say it’s about damn time. And Bacevich agrees, noting that in his many speaking engagements over the past ten years “I can count on one hand the number of occasions when someone did NOT pose a question about the draft, invariably offered as a suggestion for how to curb Washington’s appetite for intervention abroad and establish some semblance of political accountability.”

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Nov 19

Review: On Complexity

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Edgar Morin

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Foundation Work for Everything Else, August 19, 2013

This is a remarkably coherent book about the most important topic for all of us, the matter of complexity and more to the point, thinking about complexity. I certainly recommend it most strongly, along with two other books by the same author that I have reviewed:

Homeland Earth : A Manifesto for the New Millennium (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity and the Human Sciences)
Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future (Education on the Move)

The Foreword by Alfonso Montuori is easily the equal of the main body by Edgar Morin, and I am totally awed by the mastery demonstrated in Montuori’s synthesis and framing of Morin’s work. I venture to say that I would not have gotten as much from the main body without the structure of the Foreword.

Montuori, always drawing on Morin, emphasizes a number of core concepts that I note down:

01 We must abandon the architectural or machine metaphor that assumes a foundation or base for what is actually a complex complete whole that can be viewed from any point.

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Aug 19

Review: Swarmwise – The Tactical Manual to Changing the World

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Rickard Falkvinge

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Authentic World-Changing Book , July 20, 2013
EDIT of 19 AUG 2013: Finish book, adding my new remarks at the top, dropping the preliminary review to the end.EDIT OF 13 AUG 2013: I have a 17 hour aviation trip coming up Friday-Saturday, will try to get the detailed review posted sometime in the days after I reach my destination. I regard this book as one of a half dozen essentials for hybrid public governance in the 21st Century — for participatory panarchy in which the public achieves consensus using collective intelligence methods that leverage ethical evidence-based decision-support that is transparent, truthful, and that produces TRUST as the “glue” for holistic ecologically and socially sound decision-making.

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My last comment first: this book ends beautifully, and I am personally deeply inspired. Rickard Falkvinge has been and will continue to be a change agent, and this book is a form of persistent, ubiquitous sharing of insight that could help accelerate and broaden the emergent public bottom up demands for clarity, diversity, integrity, and sustainability.

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Jul 20