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: 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 (Guest): Governing the Commons – The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

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Elinor Ostrom

4.0 out of 5 stars Addressing the Collective Action Problem August 2, 2007

By Matthew P. Arsenault

Ostrom attempts to refute the belief that only through state and or market-centered controls can commonly pooled resources (CPRs) be effectively governed. Ostrom writes, “Communities of individuals have relied on institutions resembling neither the state nor the market to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long periods of time” (p. 1). Governing the Commons sets out to discover why some groups are able to effectively govern and manage CPRs and other groups fail. She tries to identify both the internal and external factors “that can impede or enhance the capabilities of individuals to use and govern CPRs.”

The first section of the book examines both state-controlled and privatization property rights regimes, and illustrates failures in both regimes; namely, that central authorities often fail to have complete accuracy of information, have only limited monitoring capabilities, and possess a weak sanctioning reliability. As such, a centralized governing body may actually govern the commons inaccurately and make a bad situation worse. In the case of privatized property rights regimes, Ostrom illustrates two main points: 1) it assumes that property is homogenous and any division of property will be equitable; and 2) privatization will not work with non-stationary property (fisheries, for example).

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Apr 28

Review (Guest): Working Together – Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice

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Elinor Ostrom, Army R. Poteete, and Maroc A. Janssen

5.0 of 5.0 Stars An inspiration for Transdisciplinary Researchers By Herbert Gintis on June 7, 2010

This book, which is based on the several decades of research by Nobel award winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom and her talented colleages, vigorously asserts two messages with equal fervor. The first is that “it is possible for individuals to act collectively to manage shared natural resources on a sustainable basis.” (215) The second message is that the existing structure of academic disciplines in the system of higher learning deeply handicaps researchers from attaining true insights of this type. The possibility of people managing their own common pool resources through democratic and egalitarian participation was determined through research “based on field studies, laboratory and field experiments, game theory, and agent-based models,” and no discipline recognizes the legitimacy of models that span such a broad range of statistical, qualitative thick description, formal analytical and computer simulation methods.

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Apr 28

Review (Guest): How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World? A Scorecard From 1900 to 2050

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Bjorn Lomberg et al

2.0 out of 5 stars It just gets better and better!, November 15, 2013

By David Wineberg “David Wineberg” (New York, NY USA) – See all my reviews  (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

Milton Berle once appeared for an interview on a morning TV show in New York. After, his interviewer threw to the weather woman. Berle left his seat and took over doing the weather. His analysis? A line of tornados ripped through New Jersey last night, causing $100 million in IMPROVEMENTS. That is the feeling I got with How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?

Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus got a bunch of academics to look at issues from a common denominator. Everything has to be evaluated as a percentage of GDP. Everything has to be monetized to make the models work. Lives, disease, biodiversity – everything gets a dollar value in these studies. Lack of historical data is not a problem either; the models “backcast” to 1900. The conclusion is that our worrisome problems are an ever shrinking cost to us, relative to GDP.

But of course, prices have never reflected the ecological cost of production or use, so we’ve been freeloading, with GDP expanding while costs have been controlled. The bill will go to our grandchildren. These models don’t reflect that. Instead, the ballooning GDPs of the last century simply leave the cost centers in their wake, taking an ever smaller share.

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Mar 11

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: American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

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Colin Woodard

5.0 out of 5 stars Nine Nations Was a Snap-Shot — This Is Deep History & Ends Thoughtfully, February 16, 2014

I bought this book prepared to dislike it, having given a rave review to Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America. Let me settle that one immediately. I loved this book. As the author himself points out early on, Garreau’s book was a snap-shot, this book is a deep history. I was also quite taken, at the end of the book, with the author’s acknowledgements that begin with Garreau and go on to others such as Wilbur Zelinsky’s The Cultural Geography of The United States: A Revised Edition and Raymond Gastil’s Cultural regions of the United States.

Although I would have liked some illustrations and maps in relation to each section of the book — there is only one map for the entire book — I found the book riveting, and would like to see it become a standard text for multi-disciplinary education across history, political science, sociology, and cultural studies.

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Feb 16

Worth a Look: SINGAPORE Central to Great Convergence

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The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

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Political genius is never without controversy, or without mystery. This is what makes it so interesting and so rare. Is Lee Kuan Yew the feral, authoritarian figure that Western critics claim? Or a stoic pioneer in new approaches to developing a nation—uncorrupt, modern, almost scientific?American journalist Tom Plate first interviewed the founder of modern Singapore in 1996 in a continuing back-and-forth with LKY that led to the summer of 2009, when the former prime minister agreed to sit down for two days of unprecedentedly informal but intense conversations that led to this special book. This new edition includes fascinating excerpts from prior interviews, as well as the author’s assessment of the man who goes down in history as the world’s longest-serving prime minister—and as one of the most unforgettable political figures of modern times.

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Feb 5

Review: God’s Terrorists – The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad

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Charles Allen

4.0 out of 5 stars Important History Not Understood By Most, November 22, 2013

The historical half is mind-glazing, the more recent chapters highly relevant to understanding the deep ignorance of the US Intelligence Community and the US policy (prostitution) community these past 12 years.

I have given the book four stars in part because it is not designed to illuminate the threat in visualizable terms, and it is not up to date. Now that Saudi Arabia has declared war on the USA and the West generally (joining with Israel in a truly bizarre satanic alliance), and on Iran and the Shi’ite portion of Afghanistan specifically, this book absolutely merits updating and republication, hopefully with some decent maps and graphics and tables this next time around.

Early on in a nut-shell: Wahhabism spread in the 19th century, first throughout the Arabian penninsula and then to the Indian subcontinent including what are now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Wahabbism is both a fundamentalist ideology that wins over deep converts, and a form of mercenary religion, buying its way into susceptible corners.

The most important point stressed throughout the book is that Wahhabism is outside the mainstream of Muslim society.

The big surprise for me, and one reason I am distressed at how badly we prepare people for service in this area, is the deep history of Wahhabism among the Pashtun. Today Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent Qatar and the United Arab Republic seem bent on funding a religious war in Central and South Asia, and no one seems to be paying attention to this emergent threat. I would go so far as to say we are now, in this region, where we were in 1988-1989 when the Saudis first began funding the global Islamic outreach program led by Sheikh Binbaz and represented in part by young Bin Laden.

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Nov 22

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