Review: Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012

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Amazon Page

Vahid Brown, Don Rassler

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly deep yet concise review of Haqqani balancing act — local, regional, global, November 22, 2013

This book is in our J-2 library in Afghanistan and while I have not discussed it with others, believe it is well-regarded. For me it accomplishes something I have not seen elsewhere: it explains the Haqqani, the second most violent and largest group after the Taliban, and it does so concisely.

What I particularly appreciate about this book is the coherent manner in which it examines the value propositions that have positioned Haqqani today at the local, regional, and global levels.

The author’s credit Haqqani’s emergence in the early days to two value propositions: first, the offering of safehaven in Waziristan; and second, the ability to deliver violence on order for the Pakistani military and ISI.

The authors conclude that Haqqani displaced Hezb-i-Islami HIA/HIG) because the Haqqani have had and still have a superior savvy of tribal politics which in turn led to their earning a larger share of the CIA money passed through the ISA by CIA. Above all the authors credit the Haqqani with being able to manage a nuanced balancing act across borders and interests.

Here is the meat, summary notes for those without the time to absorb this excellent book directly:

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Nov 22

Review (Guest): State of the World 2012 – Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity

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Lester Brown, Erik Assadourian, Michael Renner et al

4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration for both policy makers, negotiators and me as “normal” civilian  August 3, 2012

By H.J. van der Klis

In the 2012 edition of its flagship report, celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Rio de Janeiro 1992 Earth Summit with a far-reaching analysis of progress toward building sustainable economies. Written in clear language with easy-to-read charts, State of the World 2012 offers a new perspective on what changes and policies will be necessary to make sustainability a permanent feature of the world’s economies. The Worldwatch Institute has been named one of the top three environmental think tanks in the world by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program.

The first part consists of 15-20 page articles reviewing recent sustainability developments, such as:

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Oct 14

Review: World on the Edge – How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse


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Lester Brown

4.0 out of 5 stars The One Book to Buy of Brown’s–By No Means the Whole Picture, September 10, 2011

I’ve read and reviewed a number of books by Lester Brown and his advocacy agency, and have especially appreciated the State of the World series, and his Plan B Series that keeps getting pushed back, and now has a Plan B 4.0, but between that latter book and this one, I chose this one.

It gets four stars for reasons I outline in passing below. The author has his pet rocks, they are all here, but NOT in this book can one find corruption, disease, mercury, rare earths, a strategic analytic model that is holistic, actual true costs across the spectrum of options, or a strategic analytic model.

However, and this is strong praise, if you are going to get only one book by Lester Brown, this is the book to get. There are others I recommend, including High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, and A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, the latter also free online.

Here are highlights, generally things I did not know and thought worth putting into my notes.

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Sep 10

Review (Guest): Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion–Illusions, Delusions, and Realities about Human Nature

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Malcolm Jeeves and Warren S. Brown

5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquently written review! Best of Class. Congratulations!

February 16, 2010

By Kenneth J. Garcia “Jazz Is …” (Baltimore, Maryland United States)

In my early 20’s, circa 1973, I questioned why each culture had it’s own distinct religion much like they spoke a distinct tongue? Clearly, people speaking a language addressed a universal need to communicate. Did religion address some need so fundamental to human nature that, like our different languages, groups of people, separated in time and space would evolve different religious systems independently? The 1960’s saw the world grown smaller by telecommunications and jet travel, increasing awareness of the disparities in belief systems and the consequent conflicts arising therefrom, convinced me that we were entering an era in which an appreciation of our universality was critical as our capacity for self-destruction grew. The works of individuals, like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, began to build bridges across an enormous chasm of endless distinctions in practices and details.

A rare accomplishment, this book journeys to the heart of those questions at the level of a Scientific American article; with eloquence and an impressive scope and command of the research. It is the most balanced account of the neuroscience perspective on religion that I have had the pleasure to read. Readers seeking more imaginative interpretations of the neuroscience data, where authors find “the God Module” on fMRI or proof of God’s existence in the brain’s design, will be disappointed. Here, as well, there is no treatise of comparative religious mythology or proof in the validity of any particular belief system over others. Despite being written by two admittedly Catholic scholars, they are, as well, first-rate neuroscientists. The only faith peddled here is what brain science can inform us about the phenomenon of religiosity as seen on it’s effect in the central nervous system and visa versa. This is a cutting edge neuroscience view of how the brain begets the mind and what is specific to a mind hooked on religion.

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Mar 21

Review (Guest): Web of Debt–The Shocking Truth About Our Money System


Amazon Page

Ellen Hodgson Brown

5.0 out of 5 stars Follow the Yellow Brick Road… to comprehend a financial system on the brink of collapse

September 16, 2007

By GK (Bay Area, CA) – See all my reviews

I have been researching this topic myself for four or five years now and am familiar with almost every other book in this genre, and I can unequivocally say that this is now the definitive work on the world’s financial and banking system, the history of money and power in Western civilization, and the dire prognosis for our economy and our personal freedoms, in general, as a result. It is vastly superior to “The Creature from Jekyll Island”, to compare it to one other fine book on the subject that is now outdated, both in terms of its complete historical coverage, as well as a completely up to date perspective on recent financial history and a deeply insightful analysis of our current debt crisis, why it was let out of control, and who would benefit from its ultimate unwinding. Quite frankly, looking back four to five years from now, this could be the most profound non-fiction work of our times. Robert Hemphill, Credit Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, when speaking on the same topic as this book, stated, “It is the most important subject intelligent persons can investigate and reflect upon.” I couldn’t agree more, and even encourage many unintelligent persons to give it a go. The mechanics of money and finance have a profound affect on every person’s life and well being, and is inextricably linked to the fabric of our society and our freedom. Yet it is almost completely ignored and poorly understood by the common man. As Henry Ford said, “It is well that the people of this nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be revolution before tomorrow morning.” It’s time we all started to understand what’s been going on and how it will affect our immediate future.

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Jan 8

Reference: Conversational Leadership

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Click on Image to Enlarge, on Title Below for Article


by Thomas J. Hurley and Juanita Brown

Feature The Systems Thinker Vol 20 No 9 November 2009

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Nov 4

Review DVD: The AMERICAN Ruling Class

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Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Remarkable–Provokes & Entertains

December 10, 2009
Robert Altman, James Baker, Bill Bradley, Harold Brown, Hodding Carter, William Coleman, Walter Cronkite, Barabara Ehrenreich, Vartan Gregorian, Robert Hackney, Doug Henwood, Mike Dedavoy, Joseph Nye, Samuel Peabody, John Perkins, Pete Seeger, Lawrence Summers, Arthur Sulzberger, William Taft,  Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn

This DVD is superb and also subversive. I doubt that the “stars” in this movie, particularly James Baker, Bill Bradley, Howard Brown, and Larry Summers, really knew what they were getting into, since their words–and their bland denials–ring so false in this context.

I put the film in while trying to deal with Microsoft’s latest “update” that cost me half the morning, and I recommend it very strongly as a Christmas present or for classrooms and book clubs.

My notes:

+ A Peabody, whose ancestors came on “the boat” and also founded Groton, laments that whereas all the leaders used to pass through Groton, now there is no real “source.” I am reminded of Lee Iacocca’s Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.

+ Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all “content.”

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Dec 10

Journal: Chuck Spinney Sends–Katrina & Fear

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

The Detritus of Katrina and the Paralysis of Fear:
A Metaphor for Contemporary Politics

The vast Mississippi Delta in Louisiana is sinking as sea water from the Gulf of Mexico seeps in to destroy its fresh water marshlands.  The Army’s Corps of Engineers says it can not protect New Orleans from the inevitable storm surges caused by hurricanes (see the Guardian report attached below).

Some may dismiss this warning as alarmist hype, and the Army’s Corps of Engineers certainly does not have an enviable track record in this regard.  That said, the Corps’ warning does make evident the political-economic  detritus left over from Hurricane Katrina.  Inferentially, the warning also highlights the hollowness in the scare tactics used by global warming advocates to raise money for their far more costly ambitions, not to mention the paralyzing political-economic consequences posed by the politics of fear practiced by the Pentagon.

The reality of the Delta thus becomes a metaphor for the larger emptiness that now pervades American politics.

Below the Fold: Balance of Spinney Comment, Full Article with Highlight, Books
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Nov 3

Journal: Tech ‘has changed foreign policy’

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Full Story Online

Full Story Online

Tech’s inroads to a “global society” will influence its governance, Mr Brown said

By Jonathan Fildes

Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

Technology means that foreign policy will never be the same again, the prime minister said at a meeting of leading thinkers in Oxford.

The power of technology – such as blogs – meant that the world could no longer be run by “elites”, Mr Brown said.

Policies must instead be formed by listening to the opinions of people “who are blogging and communicating with people around the world”, he said.

Mr Brown’s comments came during a surprise appearance at TED Global.

“That in my view gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world,” he told the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference.

“Foreign policy can never be the same again.”

Global change

The prime minister talked about the power of technology to unite the world and offer ways to solve some of its most pressing problems.

He said that issues such as climate change could not be solved alone, adding that digital technology offered a way to create a “global society”.

You can’t deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions
Gordon Brown

“Massive changes in technology have allowed the possibility of people linking up around the world,” he said.

In particular, he said, digital communications offered the possibility of finding common ground “with people we will never meet”.

“We have the means to take collective action and take collective action together.”

He talked about recent events in Iran and Burma and how the global community – using blogs and technologies such as Twitter – was able to bring events to widespread attention.

He also highlighted the role of technology in recent elections in Zimbabwe.

“Because people were able to take mobile phone photographs of what was happening at polling stations, it was impossible for [Robert Mugabe] to fix that election in the way that he wanted to do.”

But Mr Brown also stressed the need to create new organisations to tackle environmental, financial, development and security problems.

“We are the first generation to be able to do this,” he told the conference. “We shouldn’t lose the chance.”

He said that older institutions founded after the Second World War, such as the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund, were now “out of date”.

“You can’t deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions,” he told the conference.

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Jul 22

Review: The Social Life of Information


Social LifeSuperb Primer for Any Age

January 19, 2008

John Seely Brown

I come to this book eight years after it was first published, and with all the accolades and superb reviews that it has already accummulated, my primary focus here, apart from flagging the book for those that follow my reviews, is to suggest that it is one of the finest overviews available and easily exploited as a primer for undergraduates, graduates, or adults pursuing their own continuing education via Amazon, which is now the hub of the World Brain.

As is my custom, I provide here a few highlights from my flyleaf notes, and then link to ten books that can be used to study discrete aspects of the digital age as I have come to understand it.

This is one of the best books I have found that makes the case that “fiber to the forehead” is next to worthless, it is not about acquiring more information, but rather about the nuanced networking and social interpretations of information in context.

Indeed, they say that with all the technologies now pushing and creating digital information, consumption of this information is only increasing among individuals by 1.7 percent a year.

I value this book, in part because I have seen the U.S. secret intelligence community lose its mind, today spending $60 billion a year of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money, to create monstrous and often counter-productive technical program that access the 4% of the information we can steal, while ignoring the 94% that is in 183 languages we do not speak, and more often than not, NOT online.

The authors write well, and gifted turns of phrase about, such as “the radical instability of infopunditry.”

They do a superb job of addressing the ills of technology-centered tunnel vision, a point that Peter Drucker made in Forbes ASAP 28 Aug 98, and I repeated in my keynote in Vegas to the National Security Agency (NSA) IT conference, in the early 2000 timeframe. We’ve spent the past 50 years on the T in IT, we need to start focusing on the I now.

The authors are eloquent in saying that more of the same is not the answer, and I totally agree. Returning to the secret world, I paraphrase an Australian journalist commenting on the pathologies of secret programs, who said that giving more money to dysfunctional secret agencies is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Right on. I want to reduce the secret budget to $12 billion a year, and redirect everything else to US education, global access to open sources in all languages, and free on demand education to the five billion poor via a network of 100 million volunteers with skype and internet access who can answer a cell phone question in any of 183 languages: education “one cell call at a time.”

The authors point out that at its best, technology augments and enhances human capabilities, it does not replace them (less the truly repetitive mechanical aspects).

They observe (in 2000) that 1-2 exabytes of information per year are created, but that much of this is not useful, and there is a major short-fall in sense-making and precision access.

They discuss, most usefully, the reality that designers underestimate what people do (and I would add, what they want or need).

“Information fetishism” is defined as the belief that information and information technology can replaced nuanced relations among people and their individual and shared insights. In Body of Secrets, link below, Jim Bamford ends his second book on NSA by saying that with all the trillions they have spent, they have still not built the ultimate computer, one that runs on a tiny amount of energy, weighs less than a few pounds, and can make petabyte calculations per second: “the human brain.”

The authors respond to earlier criticism about not addressing LINUX, and point out that LINUX is social innovation, not technical innovation. See Wealth of Networks below.

They note that the primary advantage of IT is that it enhances both local and global access. On the downside, it neglects periphery and context.

The authors reassert, compellingly, the value of intermediation, and I am reminded of our earlier criticisms of the Internet, still valid, in that most information is unedited, unformatted, unpaginated, undated, and lacking in source bias insight. This is still true, and Google is making it worse.

By the authors own account, this book addresses:
1) Limits of infopunditry
2) Challenges of software agents
3) Social character of work and learning
4) Limits of management theory
5) Resources for innovation
6) Unnoticed aspects of the document
7) Implications for design
8) Future of information, especially for university

I have a couple of nits, but not enough to warrant removal of one star. This is clearly a seminal work of lasting value.

Nit #1: Organizational Intelligence (Wilensky, 1967) is not to be found in this book. The authors do not go past Quadrant III (see loaded images).

Nit #2: While they have a superb bibliography and include works by Barlow, Kelly, Strassmann, Toffler, and Turkle, they do NOT include the seminal works directly relevant to this book, specifically, Barlow’s seminal manifesto, and the following:

Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
Information Payoff
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit , Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Amazon limits us to ten links. See my earlier lists (the first ten) for 300+ books covering information and intelligence. Here are six more:
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

I regret the limitation on links. See also such gems as Forbidden Knowledge; Voltaire’s Bastards; Age of Missing Information; etc etc.

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Jan 19