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 (Guest): The Empire of Necessity – Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

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Greg Grandin

5.0 out of 5 stars The complexity of the moral landscape during America’s founding generation, March 2, 2014

Herbert L Calhoun “paulocal”

The reader is unlikely to find a book that better contextualizes or sharpens the focus of the moral issues confronting America’s founding generation than this book. Using the metaphor of “empires of necessity,” the author shows how America’s westward expansion made it the advance-guard of the world, beating a path through the wilderness. But America has never acknowledged that it was enslaved peoples who were in fact beating that path called Manifest Destiny: cutting down forests, turning the wilderness into plantations and into marketable real estate, and picking cotton and cutting the sugar cane that drew more and more territory into a thriving atlantic economy. Slavery alone was the issue at the top of the world’s agenda throughout the era of the founding of America. The evils of slavery and the slave trade was the constant refrain of sermons each Sunday from Connecticut to Montevideo; and from Seville to London.

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Mar 2

Review (Guest): Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

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cover kill anything that movesNick Turse

5 of 5 stars. I was there, he is right on some things. By George James Kalergis on September 8, 2013

There is some evidence for his proposition. He greatly overstates the incidence of rape and deliberate murder of civilians however. He makes it sound as if this was a routine/daily occurrence. In my year there in combat, I did not see one incident such as this.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my experience in Vietnam as a result of reading this book. It has some elements of truth to it, especially concerning the inflated body counts and influence from the chain of command for bodies. However, from my experience he has looked for (and found) many individual instances of abuse of civilians in that war and made it seem that was much more of a regular occurrence than it was.He doesn’t point out the danger we were in from women and children who would set booby traps or shoot at us. It was a nightmare scenario and I’m sure many soldiers lost their lives because they were not cautious enough with women and children. Read the rest of this entry »
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Jan 18

Review (Guest): Goliath – Life and Loathing in Greater Israel

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Max Blumenthal

5.0 out of 5 stars When tribalism trumps democracy, January 10, 2014

Herbert L. Calhoun

In the Middle East, another war of biblical proportions is taking place. It is the war between Judaism and democracy. This book tells us that the most famous outcome in the bible, the tale of David slaying Goliath, is now being reversed. This time around, David (Israeli democracy), loses, and loses badly to the Middle East’s new conservative run, nuclear-armed Goliath of Israeli neocolonialism, tribalism and racism.

Whatever else this book does, it forces us to face straight up, one of our worse hidden fears about that besieged little middle eastern nation: Right before our eyes, little brother Israel, has become the 21st Century’s first full-bred racist and fascist state. But how is it that in our life time, the collective guilt and heart-felt dreams for a Jewish homeland come true — one free of the evils of the kind of racism and anti-Semitism imposed on European Jewry by Adolph Hitler, has now been turned completely on its head?

This author tells us that it is happening because Israeli’s demographic and racist fears about neighboring Arabs has metastasized into wanton crimes and embarrassing politically motivated violence against the Palestinians and other Arabs under Israel’s occupation. The Israeli predilection for violence, coupled with justifications rooted in visceral racial fears, is systematically turning Israel into a modern-day race-based dystopia.

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Jan 10

Review: Theodore and Woodrow – How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom

PRINTABLE DOC: (4 Pages): Review Theodore and Woodrow

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Andrew P. Napolitano

4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Op-Ed Book, Missing the Eye Candy, October 31, 2013

I broke with the Republican Party over Iran-Contra and belatedly, the one trillion a year that Reagan started shamelessly borrowing to fund the dual welfare system — a dysfunctional military-espionage-industrial complex for the right, and a dysfunctional regulatory myopic and equally toxic individual welfare system for the left, all while ignoring banking and corporate predation. Fox News broke with me when I said, on live Fox, that the Global War on Terror was a fraud. Fox may be getting smarter, certainly this book causes me to reconsider where the right might be. I like the book very much. Although an Op-Ed book that lacks the eye candy (the Constitution as an appendix, and charts showing the specifics of Roosevelt’s and Wilson’s violations, maps of global and domestic depravities carried out in the public name and at the public’s expense), this is a superb primer, a superb eye-opener, not just for the normal American with little time to read, but also, absolutely, for those like myself who read a great deal but may not have been well grounded in the areas where Judge Napolitano has spent hard time in the trenches.

I notice immediately that among his many books are two that resonate with everything that I and others do at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog (“The truth at any cost lowers all other costs”):

Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws
Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History

This book is a measured and hence valuable overview of thirteen unconstitutional turns in our last century and a half. I thought, with all the other excellent reviews already up, that the best contribution I could make is single out the one where I learned the most, and then offer an additional recommended reading in each of eight other areas where the author has sharpened my understanding and heightened my patriotic anger.

EYE OPENER: I never gave much thought to the 17th amendment that took states’ right away by taking away the role of the Senators as representatives of the State, instead turning them into the standard mob mouthpieces of the two-party tyranny. Now I am in Afghanistan, where a federal system has made corruption the central fact of life, destroyed the diversity and integrity of the provinces, and set the stage for another civil war when the US limps out. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I treasure grass-roots diversity down to municipal and county rights — NO from the bottom must trump “because I say so” from the top. I am adding reversal of 17th Amendment to my “to do” list at We the People Reform Coalition, joining my view that secession is the right of every state, and nullification in the public interest is the OBLIGATION of every Governor and state legislature.

Now here are eight of the thirteen chapters, each a lesson plan on its own, my only contribution here is to add a short blurb and one recommended additional reading for each of these chapters (I have reviewed each, my reviews are summary in nature for those who do not have the time or do not wish to purchase the books).

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Nov 1

Review (Guest): The House of Wisdom – How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization

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Jonathan Lyons

5.0 out of 5 stars A Few Inconvenient Details about Western History, October 29, 2013

Herbert L. Calhoun

For centuries after the fall of Rome, Western Europe was unaccountably still locked in the dark ages, a period referred to as “dark” for good reasons. Despite the rich intellectual heritage from both Greece and Rome, it is not well known that little of it had seeped into the medieval feudal and violence-torn Western European veins before the thirteenth century. Even less well known is that what little did seep in came by way of the rich history and cultural institutions of the Arab dominated Near East, a region that drunk the intellectual wines of both Greece and Rome nearly a millennium earlier than the West did.

Although Western Europeans were ever ready to fight each other, most of them could not read, write or tell time. There were only a handful of libraries. Neither streets nor people had unique names or numbers. Violence and instability were the order of the day. Even as the Kingdom and the Catholic Church viciously vied for power, Europe was essentially a region being run by “outlaws,” the equivalent of petty warlords that we see today in places like Afghanistan.

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Oct 29

Review: American Interests in South Asia (Ho Ho Ho)

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Nicholas Burns (Editor) , Jonathon Price (Editor) , Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Foreword) , Brent Scowcroft (Foreword)

3.0 out of 5 stars Parallel Universe — Divorced from Reality, September 20, 2013

I am in Afghanistan with the opportunity to think about all of the external and internal realities impacting on 2014, and this book attracted my immediately interest, along with Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure: A War Doomed By The Coalition’s Strategies, Policies and Political Correctness. If I had the time I would buy and read both books, but sadly I have to focus on the here and now with just two comments:

01 All of these big names write great stuff, but I have to ask myself, who are they writing for? Who, if anyone is listening? Among all these great ideas, there is not a single one that has been implemented, funded, sustained, or effective. So why do we have smart people and think tanks? Are they a form of public entertainment, of public self-stroking, completely removed from the reality that the White House and Congress are so lacking in moral and intellectual fortitude as to be a constant danger to both the Republic and all other nations?

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Sep 20

Review: Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia

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Alexander Cooley

3.0 out of 5 stars Neither the Book Nor the Other Reviews are Serious, September 16, 2013

I am in Afghanistan, where I spend my time thinking about all external and internal factors bearing on 2014, and I was greatly looking forward to reading this book. It arrived, I read it, and I am hugely disappointed. Judging by the long list of grants and stipends that the author names in the front of the book, I have to ask myself, how on earth did he ever arrive at such a sadly simplistic rendering of what is in essence the center of the world?

This book gets three stars from me because it fails across virtually every significant point of analysis — not that the facts are wrong — journeymen argue about facts, masters debate models and assumptions. I gave this book the benefit of my “first class” read, which is to say, I started with the index, the bibliography, and the notes. Here are reasons this book does not rise about the three star level:

01 No strategic model, no intelligence in the sense of decision support. Visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn everything that academics and think tanks have absolutely no clue about in relation to the evolving discipline of intelligence.

02 Afghanistan is a side show, not really included in the book in any substantive sense, nor is the author at all cognizant with the major tribes that bleed over the borders, the key personalities, etcetera. This is an anticeptic book that could easily have been written from an air-conditioned cubicle in the USA.

03 India gets 10 mentions, Iran 6, Pakistan 13, Turkey 5, and Saudi Arabia 3. Granted, the author is focusing his article in a hard cover (I have written longer monographs) on Russia, China, and the USA in relation to the ‘stans less Afghanistan — but this alone is grounds for disqualifying the book from any serious collection. The book is largely devoid of historical knowledge of the great game, and it is laughably empty when it comes to itemizing and explaining the local rules.

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Sep 16

Review: Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror

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Paul Vallely and Thomas McInerney

1.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Guide to Morons in Power, June 19, 2013

This is the single best book for understanding what morons in power think when they pretend to think but are actually pursuing ideological and financial objectives far removed from the public interest.

The authors, who demonstrate how far one could get in the Cold War military without reading or thinking, call this a military assessment. It is not. It is a one-track discourse on why we need to use our heavy metal military to wipe out Syria and Iran and intimidate Libya and Pakistan. It avoids discussing Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Central Asia, Muslim Africa, and Muslim Pacifica. This is not analysis, this is flim-flam.

By way of context in my specific criticism of this book, let me just note that the bibliography does not reflect any appreciation for strategy, e.g. Colin Gray’s “Modern Strategy”, or Col Dr. Max Manwaring and Ambassadors Corr and Dorff’s “The Search for Security”, or Willard Matthias “America’s Strategic Blunders” or Adda Bozeman’s “Strategic Intelligence & Statecraft” or Jonathan Schell’s “Unconquerable World.” I looked in vain for any sign the authors might comprehend the strategic context in which their specific beliefs and recommendations can only be seen as ill-advised. For example, a reference to Shultz, Godson, and Quester (at least one of whom is a neo-conservative), “Security Studies for the 21st Century”, or Robert McNamara and James Blight “Wilson’s Ghost”, or Dean Jeffrey Garten’s “The Politics of Fortune”, or Republican and conservative Clyde Prestowitz’s “Rogue Nation”, or Ambassador Mark Palmer’s “Breaking the Real Axis of Evil”. No cognizance of Kissinger, even.

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Jun 19

Review (Guest): The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland

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Shlomo Sand

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Complement to First Book! December 6, 2012

“The Invention of the Land of Israel” is the follow up to the fascinating and controversial “The Invention of the Jewish People“. This excellent book serves as a complementary addition to the aforementioned book and fills gaps left behind. Historian and outspoken professor, Shlomo Sand does it again with this enlightening and educational book that reveals the history behind the Land of Israel. This 304-page book is composed of the following five chapters: 1. Making Homelands: Biological Imperative or National Property?, 2. Mytherritory: In the Beginning, God Promised the Land, 3. Toward a Christian Zionism: and Balfour Promised the Land, 4. Zionism Versus Judaism: The Conquest of “Ethnic” Space, and 5. Conclusion: The Sad Tale of the Frog and the Scorpion.

Positives:
1. A well-researched and well-cited book that takes you into the always fascinating world of Jewish history.
2. As candid and forthright a book as you will find. Professor Sand provides solid and well-cited evidence in support of his arguments.
3. Enlightening and thought-provoking book to say the least.
4. An excellent complement to his best-selling book “The Invention of the Jewish People”.
5. The myth that was the forced uprooting of the “Jewish people.”
6. The book does a wonderful job of explaining how the dissemination of a formative historical mythos occurred. “Never did I accept the idea of the Jews’ historical rights to the Promised Land as self-evident.”
7. Clarifies some of the misunderstood points made in his previous book.
8. Professor Sand takes pride in his historical scholarship and it shows. The quest for primary sources. The author does a good job of letting the readers know what he does have a good handle on and what he doesn’t.
9. Explains what really precipitated the establishment of the State of Israel.
10. The book achieves its goal of tracing the ways in which the “Land of Israel” was invented.
11. The book achieves the main goal of disparaging the official historiography of the Zionist Israeli establishment.
12. The notion of “homeland” in perspective. “It is important to remember that homelands did not produce nationalism, but rather the opposite: homelands emerged from nationalism.” The concept of territorial entity.

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Apr 29