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Atlantic Free Press Book Reviews
Book Reviews from Atlantic Free Press Writers and Bloggers 


Mon

03

Dec

2007

Maureen Faulkner and Mumia: Vengeance Isn't Sweet
Monday, 03 December 2007 22:52
by Dave Lindorff

The new book Murdered by Mumia, by Maureen Faulkner and right-wing Philadelphia radio talkshow shock jock and Bill O'Reilly wannabe Michael Smerconish, due out this Thursday, got top billing in the feature section of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday with an excerpt headlined “A Widow Speaks,” which implied that the wife of slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was finally breaking her silence. In fact, Faulkner has been quite vocal for a quarter of a century in her tireless campaign, backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, to have Abu-Jamal, who was found guilty of murdering her husband, executed.

She has persisted in this campaign, of which this book written with the help of equally avid death penalty booster Smerconish is a kind of culmination, despite reams of evidence that Abu-Jamal never got a fair trial, despite the fact that the prosecution hid evidence of possible innocence and that the police or the prosecutor coerced false testimony from key witnesses. They have persisted in that campaign despite a 2003 study by a state supreme court-appointed committee confirming that the entire Philadelphia legal system and the Pennsylvania appellate courts that review that system are rife with racism, and that death penalty prosecutions, especially in Philadelphia, are poisoned by prejudice.
 

Fri

30

Nov

2007

A Diary Of The Onset Of The Greater Depression - Carolyn Baker Book Review
Friday, 30 November 2007 09:38
by Carolyn Baker
Carolyn Baker Reviews Danny Schechter's e-book SQUEEZED (Click on link to Download)
Vulture restructuring is a purging cure for a malignant debt cancer. The reckoning of systemic debt presents regulators with a choice of facing the cancer frontally and honestly by excising the invasive malignancy immediately or let it metastasize through the entire financial system over the painful course of several quarters or even years and decades by feeding it with more dilapidating debt. Henry Liu,

For more years than I can count I've heard Danny Schechter's name bandied about in progressive circles, but for all his tireless activism, he did not fully capture my attention until I saw his stunning documentary "In Debt We Trust." By that time I had forsaken my myopic focus on imperialism, the Iraq War, the Democratic Party, and of course, Bush-bashing. It was becoming painfully and increasingly clear to me that history was repeating itself, and being an historian, I was well aware that it never does so in exactly the same manner but often with enough mirroring of earlier eras that it behooves human beings to sit up and pay attention.
 

Fri

30

Nov

2007

Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies – Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation. Jim Miles Book Review.
Friday, 30 November 2007 09:13
by Jim Miles

If I had to provide an overall rating for Barbara Slavin’s “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies” I would have to tell the reader that it is well worth reading, but with several qualifications that make the recommendation somewhat underwhelming. It is an uneasy read, something I could not quite put into thought until two phrases summed it up.

First the phrase “accurate yet superficial” came to mind, as what Slavin says is true, but does not carry a broader or deeper perspective that other works do. Most of what is reported here, other than some of her personal interviews, is very much newspaper level journalism, a phrase I use pejoratively indicating a narrow perspective that is available from reading or listening to most U.S. media rather than other media and more academic research. There is also a very important misrepresentation of information early in the work that helped set up the uneasiness of the read. I’ll return to that in a moment.
 

Sat

17

Nov

2007

Treacherous Alliance – the secret dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States - Jim Miles Book Review
Saturday, 17 November 2007 21:21
by Jim Miles

As the prospects of a limited ‘strike’ or a full out attack on Iran become more and more familiar in the media, and as the end date for the Bush-Cheney regime in the United States draws ever nearer to its close, a better understanding of the tripartite relationship between Iran, Israel, and the U.S. requires a strong presentation of the underlying so far verbal conflict between the three governments. Trita Parsi succeeds in this goal in Treacherous Alliance, in which he discusses the relationship between the three. There are two main overlapping views that Parsi uses within this examination: first, that of the difference between the public rhetoric (ideology) and the often secret governmental discussions and deals between the three (geostrategy); secondly, he accounts for the many flips in the geostrategy views depending on the perceptions and needs of a particular moment in time. In sum, it is about the conflicting views of ideology and geostrategy, with the prime mover of events being geostrategy, not ideology in its many manifestations (religion, rhetoric, ‘clash of civilizations’).

Within the political triad, the main role falls upon the relationships between Iran and Israel, with Israel mainly operating under a “doctrine of the periphery” and Iran operating under the view of maintaining or strengthening (dependent on the era) its “natural” hegemony over its nearby neighbours. The United States arrives as a mainly dishonest broker, manipulating and being manipulated as it strives towards its own changing goals, from its overblown opposition to the communist menace, through its muddled behaviour after the Soviet collapse, into today’s even more muddled “war on terror.”

Parsi provides an excellent summary of his work in the final chapter (as all well written arguments should) and then proffers suggestions for possible solutions (other than the apparent Bush-Cheney goal of some form of pre-emptive attack). He concludes “Washington has sought to establish an order that contradicts the natural balance by seeking to contain and isolate Iran” and follows with his well-developed arguments that “The major transformation of Israeli-Iranian relations have all coincided with geopolitical rather than ideological shifts.” Contrary to many perspectives on political Islam, “ideology is not an absolute for the rulers of Tehran,” although the public rhetoric would make it seem otherwise. While not part of the subject of this book, that same view can be considered for the Palestinian Hamas, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, both ideologically partnered with Iran to a degree – practicality over-rules rhetoric. The argument concludes, “no force in Iran’s foreign policy is as dominant as geopolitical considerations.”

While it may seem tiringly redundant when foreshortened into a review format, Parsi effectively reiterates the ideology/geostrategy idea throughout his work through strong examples and many quotes from sources that were or are involved in the apparent and real conflicts of the triad. Another note emphasizes the constraints of geostrategy over ideology as “Neither the honor of Islam nor the suffering of the Palestinian people figured in the deliberations.” Although the Israeli-Palestine question “touches everyone…in a profoundly emotional way, it is not a conflict that sets the geopolitical balance.”
 

Thu

08

Nov

2007

Lords of the Land - The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 (Jim Miles Book Review)
Thursday, 08 November 2007 12:00
by Jim Miles

In my previous article I entered into a direct discussion on possible outcomes for the Israel-Palestine question based on a CBC radio interview between two different proponents and the most recent books they had written. Within that, while I was not fully receptive of Akiva Eldar’s arguments for the two-state outcome, I also mentioned his most recent book, co-authored with Idith Zertal, identifying it as an excellent political read concerning the issue of settlements in the occupied territories. To do justice to this book, as it is an important view of the settlement process from within the Israeli political structure and from within the settlers themselves, I feel it needs more emphasis as a positive work in relationship to the historiography of Israel-Palestine.

The title Lords of the Land - The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 requires a second look, as the ‘war’ that is discussed here is not the war between the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers, although that is by necessity part of the whole, but is the war between the settlers and the Israeli government itself. Again that needs a qualifier as that ‘war’ was, and is, a war of words and ideology. It is a war of words based on ideas for internal motivation and support for the settlers, on ideas for public consumption, ideas for mass media presentation in the west, and ideas for moments of opportunistic convenience wherein today’s hero becomes tomorrows enemy. The war of words extends into the physical war of the occupation of Palestine, within the context of the judicial system, politics, and military ‘governance’, all enabling factors for the settlers to succeed.

Settlement has always been a Zionist ideology from the moment the movement was founded, seen as a means of incrementally changing the cultural geography into the ‘fact’ of Jewish predominance. It was practiced well before the UN partition of 1947 and the nakba of 1948. Between the nakba and the Six Day War in 1967, settlement and dislocation remained internal to the conquered territories within the Green Line, the armistice line between Israel and the Arab countries. Eldar and Zertal’s story begins in 1967 when the whole of Israel is occupied and the Westbank and Gaza strip become part of the greater Israel.

After 1967, the first settlers retained the idea of establishing settlements scattered between Palestinian population centres to establish facts on the ground that would prevent a contiguous Palestinian state. With a military government established in the occupied territories, the settlers manoeuvred their settlements into permanence by arguments that avoided the civilian settlement issue and based them ideologically as “work camps”. The arguments contained elements of security of Israel proper, but also turned on arguments of security for the settlers themselves after they had insinuated themselves into Palestinian demographic areas. The first section, “Blindness”, examines the initial settlements and the political fights that occurred between the Israeli government, the settlers, and increasingly, the military ‘government’. By 1977, there was a “new political force” with “innovative modes of action and effectiveness” leading to the “confiscation” of the settler ideology “by the new alliance of the Revisionists and the national-religious.”

The second section, “Bad Faith” follows on with the political-geographical story. Among the topics discussed are the Jewish terrorist organizations formed in the Westbank and its correlate, racism. The “pervasive illegality of the settlement project” supported by the “fervent belief in the approaching Redemption” made violence directed at the Palestinians a “negligible detail.” Other issues are addressed up to 1992: court favouritism, the build-up of land banks and infrastructure, the huge cost of the settlements creating a deficit budget - the latter eventually aided by $10 billion in loan guarantees to absorb immigration from the former Soviet Union.

“Fire on the Hillsides” develops the political story further until the end of Camp David, a period that saw the rise of Palestinian terrorism and the initial ‘success’ then failure of the Oslo Accords. Of the accords, Hana Ashrawi, a Palestinian professor, “the woman who became the outstanding voice of the Palestinian resistance” said, “We know that they will exploit their advantage as occupiers to the fullest and by the time we arrive at discussing a final-status agreement Israel will have already irreversibly changed the reality on the ground.” Along the way “America lost the last drop of its pretensions to being a fair mediator.”
 

Mon

22

Oct

2007

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy
Monday, 22 October 2007 23:35
by Tom Engelhardt

They came in as unreformed Cold Warriors, only lacking a cold war — and looking for an enemy: a Russia to roll back even further; rogue states like Saddam's rickety dictatorship to smash. They were still in the old fight, eager to make sure that the "Evil Empire," already long down for the count, would remain prostrate forever; eager to ensure that any new evil empire like, say, China's would never be able to stand tall enough to be a challenge. They saw opportunities to move into areas previously beyond the reach of American imperial power like the former SSRs of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, which just happened to be sitting on potentially fabulous undeveloped energy fields; or farther into the even more fabulously energy-rich Middle East, where Saddam's Iraq, planted atop the planet's third largest reserves of petroleum, seemed so ready for a fall — with other states in the region visibly not far behind.

It looked like it would be a coming-out party for one — the debutante ball of the season. It would be, in fact, like the Cold War without the Soviet Union. What a blast! And they could still put their energies into their fabulously expensive, ever-misfiring anti-missile system, a subject they regularly focused on from January 2000 until September 10, 2001.

They were Cold Warriors in search of an enemy — just not the one they got. When the Clintonistas, on their way out of the White House, warned them about al Qaeda, they paid next to no attention. Non-state actors were for wusses. When the CIA carefully presented the President with a one-page, knock-your-socks-off warning on August 6, 2001 that had the screaming headline, "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.," they ignored it. Bush and his top officials were, as it happened, strangely adrift until September 11, 2001; then, they were panicked and terrified — until they realized that their moment had come to hijack the plane of state; so they clambered aboard, and like the Cold Warriors they were, went after Saddam.

Chalmers Johnson was himself once a Cold Warrior. Unlike the top officials of the Bush administration, however, he retained a remarkably flexible mind. He also had a striking ability to see the world as it actually was — and a prescient vision of what was to come. He wrote the near-prophetic and now-classic book, Blowback, published well before the attacks of 9/11, and then followed it up with an anatomy of the U.S. military's empire of bases, The Sorrows of Empire, and finally, to end his Blowback Trilogy, a vivid recipe for American catastrophe, Nemesis: The Fall of the American Republic. All three are simply indispensable volumes in any reasonable post-9/11 library. Here is his latest consideration of that disastrous moment and its consequences as part of a series of book reviews he is periodically writing for Tomdispatch. Tom

A Guide for the Perplexed

Intellectual Fallacies of the War on Terror
By Chalmers Johnson [This essay is a review of The Matador's Cape, America's Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 367 pp., $30).]

There are many books entitled "A Guide for the Perplexed," including Moses Maimonides' 12th century treatise on Jewish law and E. F. Schumacher's 1977 book on how to think about science. Book titles cannot be copyrighted. A Guide for the Perplexed might therefore be a better title for Stephen Holmes' new book than the one he chose, The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror. In his perhaps overly clever conception, the matador is the terrorist leadership of al Qaeda, taunting a maddened United States into an ultimately fatal reaction. But do not let the title stop you from reading the book. Holmes has written a powerful and philosophically erudite survey of what we think we understand about the 9/11 attacks — and how and why the United States has magnified many times over the initial damage caused by the terrorists.

Stephen Holmes is a law professor at New York University. In The Matador's Cape, he sets out to forge an understanding — in an intellectual and historical sense, not as a matter of journalism or of partisan politics — of the Iraq war, which he calls "one of the worst (and least comprehensible) blunders in the history of American foreign policy" (p. 230). His modus operandi is to survey in depth approximately a dozen influential books on post-Cold War international politics to see what light they shed on America's missteps. I will touch briefly on the books he chooses for dissection, highlighting his essential thoughts on each of them.

Holmes' choice of books is interesting. Many of the authors he focuses on are American conservatives or neoconservatives, which is reasonable since they are the ones who caused the debacle. He avoids progressive or left wing writers, and none of his choices are from Metropolitan Books' American Empire Project. (Disclosure: This review was written before I read Holmes' review of my own book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic in the October 29 issue of The Nation.)
 

Sat

20

Oct

2007

The Israel/Palestine Question - Book Review by Jim Miles
Saturday, 20 October 2007 14:32
by Jim Miles

Ilan Pappe’s highly revised second edition of The Israel/Palestine Question offers the reader a very instructive read on changing historical perspectives about Israel/Palestine within one over-riding theme — land tenure and population control.

Apart from two chapters dealing with women’s issues within Palestinian culture, this main theme — as with most recent revisionist histories of the region — explores the various permutations on the methods and ideas on how to control the land and the indigenous population, its settlement patterns, the control of resources and people, and the expulsion or marginalization of the Palestinian population within Israel. In consideration of the upcoming ‘conference’ or ‘peace talks’ to be arranged by the Americans, and Condaleeza Rice’s ignorant warnings to the Israelis about not seizing land in East Jerusalem, this volume should be considered “required reading” for all American participants. One must ask Ms Rice, “What about the other millions of dunums of land already seized?” The past continues on.

As presented by Pappe, the purpose of the book is “to introduce an interdisciplinary methodology into the research as well as to inject a more sceptical view of the historical narratives written under the powerful influences of nationalist elites and ideologies.” History, sociology, and political science are interwoven into this perspective. For those not familiar with the histories of the Palestine/Israeli conflict, Pappe’s previous works, A History of Modern Palestine and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine [1] would be a good place to start, as the first section of this collection of essays is a difficult read without some background knowledge of the situation.

One of the first questions addressed is that of Palestinian national identity as located within the geography of the Ottoman Empire. The first essay analyzes the writings about ‘Palestine’ concentrating on a need to examine previously ignored basic issues at the people’s level (as Howard Zinn does with U.S. history) rather than through the official Ottoman records during the 1700s and 1800s. That of course obviates the “Orientalist” view (modernity versus decay/empty land rescued by Jews) and the Israeli apologetics of their own cultural history in the region. A more specific look is then taken at the Ottoman ‘sanjaks’ or district provinces, with the Jerusalem sanjak “as a separate entity from the other regions of Syria [being] of tremendous importance for the emergence of Palestine about fifty years later.” It helped “determine the character and future of Palestinian politics” as well as contributing “to the emergence of Palestinian nationalism as distinct from Syrian-Arab nationalism.” The essay is a political summary of events in the 19th Century that helped shape the ideas of a nation of Palestinians as compared to Palestine being just a political response to later Jewish immigration.
 

Wed

10

Oct

2007

James Petras' "Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire" - Stephen Lendman Book Review
Wednesday, 10 October 2007 14:19
by Stephen Lendman

James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology whose credentials and achievements are long and impressive. He's a noted academic figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region's popular struggles as well as being an advisor to the landless workers (MST) in Brazil and unemployed workers in Argentina. Petras is also a prolific author. He's written hundreds of articles and 63 books (and counting), published in 29 languages, including his latest one and subject of this review - "Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire."

The book is information rich on a core issue of our time. It discusses the US empire's "systemic dimensions," evolving changes in its ruling class, its corporatist system, myths about its coming collapse, contradictions in the current debate on immigration and market liberalization policies, the use of force and genocidal carnage, corruption as a market penetrating tool, the Israeli Lobby's power and influence, Latin American relations and events in the region, social and armed resistance, and much more in four power-packed parts under 17 subject chapter headings.

It's all covered below giving readers a detailed sampling of Petras' thoroughly documented, powerful and insightful account of his subject - who rules America, who's ruled, the US imperial role in the world economy and politics, and challenges to it in China, Latin America and the Middle East. This is another must-read book by a distinguished intellect and major figure on the left who writes dozens of them. This is his latest.

Part I: The US Empire As A System

Petras distinguishes between who sets policies and rules America and whose interests are served. He defines the ruling class as "people in key positions in financial, corporate and other business institutions" with rules "established, modified and adjusted" as the composition and "shifts in power" within the ruling class change over time. One example is manufacuring's decline (from outsourcing to low cost countries) as a "multidimensional financial sector" (finance capital) rose in prominence with Wall Street's influence especially dominant.

Petras defines "finance capital" to include investment banks, pension funds, hedge funds, saving and loan banks, investment funds and many other "operative managers" of a multi-trillion dollar economy they've all benefitted hugely from. They've been the driving force powering real estate and financial markets speculation, agribusiness, commodity production and manufacturing. Petras calls "finance capital" the "midwife" of wealth and capital as well as a "direct owner of the means of production and distribution."

He stratifies it into three sub-groups from top to bottom in importance: big private equity bankers and hedge fund managers, Wall street executives, and senior officials of private and Wall Street public equity funds as well as major figures in top law and accounting firms. Political leaders are drawn from their ranks with Wall Street in the lead and one firm in particular standing out - Goldman Sachs. Today, its former CEO Henry Paulson is the de facto US economic czar in charge of proving doomsayers wrong about the US economy with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's money creation power partnered with him. Both of them must also navigate around the powerful Israeli Lobby and its pro-war agenda that could lead to catastrophic consequences if the US and/or Israel attack Iran and the Middle East explodes and disrupts oil flows.
 

Sat

06

Oct

2007

The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God – A Political, Economic, Religious Statement - Jim Miles Book Review
Saturday, 06 October 2007 01:27
by Jim Miles

Based solely on the title, this book appeared to be something that could have some strong revelations on the nature of the American Empire and its relationship with religion. Having read several books from the religious right, including the first volume of the “Left Behind” series (summed up as a compilation of Star Wars, Harlequin Romance, and end of times theology), I thought this volume might have a more rational approach than the fear mongering and devilish rhetoric that saturates the right wing material.

Surprisingly, The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God is quite full of what for many are very common sense observations concerning the nature of the empire. It is not until three-quarters of the way through the volume that religious issues are addressed, and it is definitely not supportive of the evangelical end of times demonizing rants against the evil arising in Iraq and Iran. The four authors (three of whom are professors of theology) have, as would be expected, very similar viewpoints and understanding of the empire, and more surprisingly, have a strong similarity stylistically with their writing such that the reader can hardly tell which author is writing what without referring to the table of contents. That makes for a very clear and coherent read overall, with the work divided into three broad sections: The Nature of the American Empire, Alternatives to the American Empire, and finally, Religious Reflections.

The book starts with a religious conviction, that “We oppose the American empire on the basis of what we believe to be the sacred divinely rooted moral law of the universe” a statement that needs to be juxtaposed against the “universal values” so broadly declared by the empire’s leaders. Given that the “dominant image of the Divine Reality has been easily used to support empire, this image is profoundly wrong, even idolatrous.” From that strongly worded contradiction of the evangelical right, its end of times prophecies, and complicity in the Israeli Zionist project, the authors settle into a fully secular argument.

Quite straightforwardly the authors state “the United States has long been working toward the goal of exercising unchallenged and exploitative control of the planet,” based on the apologists argument that it is an empire “dedicated to the spread of democracy.” In counter-argument, the authors “find nothing in the history of U.S. foreign policy in general or that of the Bush-Cheney administration in particular to lend credibility to this conceit.” The replacement of the present global order, “which is based on violence and other modes of coercion, with a world based on democratic principles will be a shift of enormous magnitude,” but that for this shift, “a threefold vision already exists.”

 

 

Fri

28

Sep

2007

The State of the American Empire – How the USA Shapes the World – Jim Miles Book Review.
Friday, 28 September 2007 21:59
by Jim Miles

On first perusal my perceptions told me this was my kind of book: lots of graphs, charts, and maps for my visual learning strengths, more akin to the National Geographic where I can glean most of the significant information from the photos and captions as much as I can from the text. But then as I delved into the text that introduces and accompanies the visuals, I realized that this was a bit more than just an atlas – it also made political statements through choice of words and topics.

The State of the American Empire: How the USA Shapes the World by Stephen Burman


Unfortunately, that position wavered in front of me, at one time apparently saying this, at another time apparently saying that. The State of the American Empire has a slippery and elusive perspective, but one that finally settles down into a relatively clear theme, perhaps the slippery metaphor being appropriate for American ‘idealism’ as it stands today. Ultimately, the underlying theme to the book, even though it brings forth some very strong criticisms of American actions, is that we, the royal ‘we’, the global ‘we’, need the empire for stability that will bring about the security we need for our energy demands, for our currency markets, for our trade relations.

In the fifth chapter, “Military,” another related theme, much more clearly stated, not nearly as slippery, more like a grasping hawk, much more clearly defined, arises, giving the truth to the type of empire the world is dealing with, and the type of security and stability America is quite literally gunning for. Burman states, “…the USA has its own agenda and national interests to pursue, and it is its capacity to mobilize its armed forces, rather than economic strength, that is the bedrock of its imperial power.” Initially arguing for security through the idealistic goodness of empire and its economic idealism of free trade and global mobility of capital and labour and resources – mainly oil - that has been lost during the Bush ‘regime’ (I’ll come back to that word), the concept of stability falls upon the stability of a military ‘regime’ not unlike that promoted by the likes of Friedman, Ferguson, Ledeen and other hot war promoters: we are morally superior, might is right, and we are going to use it to protect our interests.

Domestically, Burman also recognizes the nature of this militaristic view, as the “…military expenditures make it difficult to cut spending, and this is one of the drivers behind the US creation and exaggeration of threats to its security.” It is not further defined as such, but following the artificially inflated fear of communism to the artificially inflated fear of ‘terror’, the US military keeps corporate as well as domestic America rolling along financially.
 

Wed

19

Sep

2007

Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" - Stephen Lendman Book Review
Wednesday, 19 September 2007 14:51
by Stephen Lendman
Naomi Klein is an award-winning Canadian journalist, author, documentary filmmaker and activist. She writes a regular column for The Nation magazine and London Guardian that's syndicated internationally by the New York Times Syndicate that gives people worldwide access to her work but not its own readers at home.

In 2004, she and her husband and co-producer Avi Lewis released their first feature documentary - "The Take." It covered the explosion of activism in the wake of Argentina's 2001 economic crisis. People responded with neighborhood assemblies, barter clubs, mass movements of the unemployed and workers taking over bankrupt companies and reopening them under their own management.

Klein is also the author of three books. Her first was "No Logo - Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies" (2000) that analyzes the destructive forces of globalization. Next came "Fences and Windows - Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate" (2002) covering the global revolt against corporate power.

Her newest book just out is "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" that explodes the myth of "free market" democracy. It shows how neoliberal Washington Consensus fundamentalism dominates the world with America its lead exponent exploiting security threats, terror attacks, economic meltdowns, competing ideologies, tectonic political or economic shifts, and natural disasters to impose its will everywhere. Wars are waged, social services cut, and freedom sacrificed when people are too distracted, cowed or bludgeoned to object. Klein describes a worldwide process of social and economic engineering she calls "disaster capitalism" with torture along for the ride to reinforce the message - no "New World Order" alternatives are tolerated.

"Free market" triumphalism is everywhere - from Canada to Brazil, China to Bulgaria, Russia to South Africa, Vietnam to Iraq. In all cases, the results are the same. People are sacrificed for profits and Margaret Thatcher's dictum applies - "there is no alternative."

"The Shock Doctrine" is a powerful tour de force, four years of on-the-ground research in the making and well worth the wait. In an age of corporatism partnered with corrupted political elites, it's must reading by an author now firmly established as a major intellectual figure on the left and champion of social justice. Naomi Klein is all that and more. Even for those familiar with her topics, the book is stunning, revealing, unforgetable and essential to know. This review will cover a healthy sample of what's in store for readers in the full equisitely written text. It's in seven parts with a concluding section. Each will be discussed below starting with a brief introduction.

Naomi Klein: Disaster Capitalism

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Introduction - Blank Is Beautiful: Three Decades of Erasing and Remaking the World (into Hell)

New Orleans, post-Katrina, is a metaphor for an American-style "New World Order" with unfettered capitalism unleashed in its most savage form. Klein quotes Republican congressman Richard Baker telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it but God did." And New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro added: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again (and take advantage of) big opportunities." Their scheme is erasing communities and replacing them with upscale condos and other high-profit projects on choice city real estate at the expense of the poor mother nature forced out and government won't allow back.

Enter the "grand guru" of free-wheeling capitalism, then age 93 and in failing health. This was conservative/libertarian economist Milton Friedman's moment that he first articulated in his 1962 book "Capitalism and Freedom." His thesis: "only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When a crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around....our basic function (is) to develop alternatives to existing policies (ones Friedman rejects, and have them ready to roll out when the) the impossible becomes politically inevitable." Klein calls crises "democracy-free zones," and Friedman's thesis "the shock doctrine." For New Orleans it means "permanent reforms" like destroying public housing and issuing vouchers for privatized schools in lieu of rebuilding public ones with government reconstruction funds.
 

Fri

14

Sep

2007

Iraq – The Logic of Withdrawal. Anthony Arnove - Jim Miles Book Review
Friday, 14 September 2007 09:59
by Jim Miles

With George Bush having General Petraeus tell him that success is possible in Iraq “although doing so will be neither quick nor easy,” and with his own speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that rewrote the history book on the Vietnamese war with some strange twists of conjecture, it would appear that the U.S. is settling in for the long haul in Iraq. In a similar vein, Ambassador Ryan Crocker called Iraq “a traumatized society,” adding to the old tired excuse that the U.S. cannot quit the war as the Iraqis themselves are not capable of managing their own affairs. The essential message becomes the same as in Vietnam: the Iraqis are not capable of working things out themselves and in order to give them freedom and democracy, we need to continue fighting the insurgency that mysteriously continues to battle on. Nowhere does the message go out that, yes, “we” are the problem, “we” started it (leaving aside for the moment all the arguments about illegality, lies and deception, and oil), and “we” should get out and go home and let the Iraqis work out their problems on their own or with the assistance of their neighbours and perhaps the sidelined UN.

It is at this point the Anthony Arnove’s book (second edition) Iraq – The Logic of Withdrawal, becomes very timely. It is a clear, well written work, a short read that presents arguments in a concise and well-referenced manner. In order to get to the ‘logic of withdrawal’ Arnove presents strong summary chapters on the overall picture of what has and is happening in Iraq. From that it could be considered a ‘primer’ on what has occurred in Iraq, historically from the fall of the Ottoman Empire, through to the period of U.S. involvement since the Second World War, continuing on into current events with the protracted ‘sanction’ phase against Iraq followed by the deceit of the current war.

In the introduction Arnove recognizes that Iraq matters to the U.S., that a defeat will be “far more significant” than that in Vietnam, as it would be a reversal of a long applied geostrategy to control the Middle East. Further, it signifies that the U.S. has “run up against the limits of empire,” and that “popular forces” within the civilian, military and international world need to “force the U.S. government to this conclusion.” He looks even further and sees a larger challenge, “the need to transform the irrational economic and political system that led to the wars…and that is today directly threatening the survival of the human species.”
 

Fri

07

Sep

2007

Making Globalization Work. Joseph Stiglitz - Jim Miles Book Review
Friday, 07 September 2007 09:19
by Jim Miles
Having read Stiglitz' first work, "Globalization and its Discontents", having thought at the time that it was a strong work, then having read his second book "Fair Trade For All", which is not even mentioned in this current work — indicating perhaps that he is not that proud of it, as he should not be, it was terrible — and now having read his latest book "Making Globalization Work", I am now thoroughly disenchanted with his ideas and thought development.

"Making Globalization Work" is much like his first book in that it is a reasonably clear read, and while there is by necessity the use of the economic and political lexicon (that's jargon for 'jargon'), it is not so obtuse (that's jargon for difficult) that it is not unreadable. It is simply not well argued, and retains the major faults that were obvious in the middle  work, "Fair Trade For All". [1]

From that previous work, I criticized his development — or lack thereof — on such issues as social development, the environment, democracy, and the military. These remain his weaknesses in the current book, weaknesses that are built into his pattern of thinking, and even though there are chapters or sections of chapters on these, they are simply longer dissertations in the same manner of thinking. Longer does not mean better.

There remains a complete lack of discussion on several important aspects of 'globalization' that are ignored almost entirely. The military, other than for a few passing comments that lead nowhere, receives no recognition at all, although "trade in arms" is mentioned a few times then passed by. The United Nations receives equally short shrift, and is not really brought into the discussion until the final chapter on democratizing globalization (in Stiglitz' arguments this becomes pretty much an oxymoron) and even then only receives passing recognition for very small sections of its overall functioning.
 
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