Review: Swimming with Warlords

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Kevin Sites

4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read travelogue, some nuggets, some flaws, October 22, 2014

Previously I have reviewed, very favorably, two other books by this author, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. Both of those books were authentic works of genius and the true measure of the author.

This book is a quick-read double-spaced travelogue, some nuggets on corruption, suicide, humanity, but some severe flaws as well. Almost a three for lacking an index and getting some key facts wrong.

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Oct 22

Review: Beautiful Trouble – A Toolbox for Revolution

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Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell et al

5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense Of, By, For the Community, July 23, 2014

EDIT of 5 October 2014 to add bullets (highlights) 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, just concluded, 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, 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.

By all means use Look Inside the Book, it does offer a Kindle version look at the contents, otherwise I would have repeated the table of contents here. This is an important book, perhaps most useful as an inspiration and as a source of reflection on what is possible. It is a book I will carry in my briefcase to visit across many days and places.

Here are some highlights from my notes:

+ Book offers a “pattern language,” in essence a formula for telling a new story with new means
+ See the website, a growing community
+ Song creates sympathy
+ Coordination across organizations and industries is key — most are fragmented beyond imagination
+ Debts are shared fictions – pull the plug
+ Winning the revolution is an information challenge — challenge the core premises publicly
+ Flash mobs work well, especially under repressive conditions
+ Strikes are non-violent but only work when they are general and cross-industry
+ Guerilla projection (projecting truth messages against facades without doing damage) is HUGE tool
+ Hoax stories that get picked up by mainstream media reveal the larger mosaic of lies that is the mainstream media
+ Core practices include clear motive and story, disruptive action with disciplined non-violence, open to participation
+ Strategic non-violence demands DEEP education of all participants to avoid false-flag provocations to violence
+ Repressed female and minority power is a huge resource to be respected and embraced
+ Highlighting human (and true) cost of any issue is not something the media does — we must
+ Play to your SECONDARY audience (the follow on viewers of the YouTube)
+ Shift the spectrum of allies from hostile to neutral to friendly to stalwart
+ Tell the story — the “naked truth” is simply not that effective because the story grabs the heart and the heart is central
+ Message discipline is vital — leave the conspiracy theories even if known to be true – for after the revolution
+ Listen to those most affected by the issue, let their authenticity be your foundation on that issue
+ Challenge the behavior in context, not the person — everyone really is a good person trapped in a bad context
+ Most are ignorant of the power they can exercise by withdrawing consent and buycotting

Below I list other titles to consider in two blocks — five in this genre, specifics of organizing, and five in the larger context of collective intelligence and public power.

Organizing for Social Change 4th Edition
Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today
Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements
The Occupy Handbook
Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity (Occupied Media Pamphlet Series)

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Participatory Budgeting (Public Sector Governance and Accountability)
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth, & Trust

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Jul 24

Review: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

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Elinor Ostrom

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014

I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.

On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.

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May 28

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: 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