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


Thu

01

Oct

2009

A Stunning Review of Sacred Demise - Carolyn Baker Book Review
Thursday, 01 October 2009 08:45
by Carolyn Baker

Keith Farnish lives in the UK and manages the EARTH BLOG. He is the author of Time's Up: An Uncivilized Solution to A Global Crisis.

I’m staring at a bit of a dog-eared wreck, to be honest; but it’s the words that matter, providing I can still read them. The thing is, my copy of Carolyn Baker’s Sacred Demise has followed me around on walks, road journeys, train trips, in the rain, in the sun, under trees, over hills and in dirty streets littered with Coke cans and paper. I had to finish it, despite it not being an obvious thing of beauty; despite it being a book that I learnt to fear as much as embrace with love and empathy – some things are just necessary, like hugging your children and eating your greens.

Sacred Demise is not an easy book to read; for sure, Carolyn’s words trip across the page, often with a delightful spring in their step, but then without warning they cross your path and send you flying into the nearest ditch, leaving you wondering how you ended up there. The idea of accepting the end of civilization as inevitable can be approached pragmatically, in the style of Dmitry Orlov, which is ideal for those who are mentally prepared; but for the vast majority of us who still identify – deep down – with the culture we were born into, you don’t only need rope and handholds to descend the Dark Mountain: you need the will to get you through the journey.

This is not a book to read quickly. Do it right and for the most part you will be reflecting on and writing about what you have just read. Each chapter ends with a set of questions that take into account the previous text, and which ask you to consider your feelings and physical situation – in effect, how ready are you? From a technical point of view, Sacred Demise could have been laid out in a manner that emphasises the importance of this self-reflection process better: perhaps a separate workbook, larger pages for journaling – but to give Carolyn her due, she does provide note space, and the book is, to all intents and purposes, self published (yes, I was rather surprised too).

One thing that Carolyn Baker does do very well is express complex and emotive ideas in an easy to understand way, far better – if I may be so bold – than some of the writers that she quotes from. She does have an occasional tendency to present ideas of faith as fact, for instance in quoting Eckhart Tolle, she states: “While it is true that we are more than our bodies,” which is a fine topic for discussion, but not something that would be welcome on the table of many modern philosophers. There is also an element of parochialism in some of the text, as though the civilized world consists of America and nothing else – more of an irritant than a major flaw, being English myself, but nevertheless something that could alienate non-American readers.

But these are minor flaws in a superb book. Sacred Demise is little short of seminal; the start, perhaps, of a way of writing and speaking that is paramount at the end of the Age of Empire. There are far too many lucid and memorable moments to quote them all, but if I had to choose a passage that sums up what Sacred Demise means to me, it would be this, from the cathartic chapter, “Hospice as Holy Ground”:

Had civilization not spent the last five thousand years attempting to murder the indigenous self inherent in all humans, we would not have to be told, as native peoples and the more-than-human world do not, that most of the time, life on this planet is challenging, painful, scary, sad, and sometimes enraging. What our indigenous ancestors had and still have to sustain them through the dark times was ritual and community. Our work is to embrace and refine both instead of intractably clinging to a “positive attitude” in the face of out-of-control, incalculable abuse and devastation.

Had I read this at the beginning of the book, then I may have given up there and then, but the aim of Sacred Demise is not a quick grab-you-by-the-arms and haul you up into the safety of the tree canopy; instead, it is a journey, and a damn hard one at that if you are not prepared to open up and accept the fate of civilization. This means that this book is perhaps not the first thing you should read when approaching the subject of ecological collapse and your place in the future; on the other hand, if you don’t read Sacred Demise then you had better be ready for the shock of your life when the collapse comes.
 

Tue

22

Sep

2009

The Case for Revisiting Nuremburg - George W. Bush, War Criminal? - Book Review by Paul Balles
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 10:09
by Paul J. Balles

Following the antics of George W. Bush during his eight-year presidency was something of a roller-coaster ride at times. Believing that it was right to invade Afghanistan after 9/11 to locate, capture and prosecute Osama bin Laden made sense. However, that sensibility went downhill when it seemed the coalition forces weren’t even looking for bin Laden.

At other times, Bush’s arrogant aggressiveness in foreign policy was simply disgusting, leading me to write numerous articles critical of his foreign policy. There was no doubt in my mind that Bush was a war criminal. Now, a notable scholar has written a great book giving credence to what I simply believed.

In the Bush administration, the US lost its traditional respect for the rule of law. In his book George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes, Michael Haas makes the case for prosecuting Bush for 269 war crimes.

Despite the fact that the attacks on 9/11 were monstrous unprovoked crimes that left everyone feeling vulnerable, the US Senate rejected Bush's request for unlimited war powers. As Haas points out, the Senate passed the Patriot Act, which Bush used as an excuse to take action that was clearly illegal.

According to Haas, "In the process, the Bush administration unnecessarily violated American statutes and international treaties that establish the law of warfare."

Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believed that international law placed unrealistic restrictions on the U.S., about which Bush commented, "I don't care what the international lawyers say. We are going to kick some ass."

Of course, Bush and his administration, with his approval did much worse than "kick some ass." They committed wars of aggression, took prisoners, paid bounty hunters for captures of innocents and tortured prisoners.

The torturers were looking for information about al-Qaeda. Many of the prisoners created fake scenes only to satisfy their torturers. Haas writes, "Some fantastic plots...were fabricated by suspected terrorist leaders who were being tortured and wanted the cruelty to end."
 

Mon

21

Sep

2009

From Complicity To Contempt - An American Writer And Veteran Speaks Out Against American Lies - Book Review by Steve White
Monday, 21 September 2009 05:11
by Steve White

Tim Gatto is a rising voice in the Liberal Left and is destined to become a major thorn in the side of the Republican Fascist Right Wing. In his first of three books, “From Complicity To Contempt”,  Gatto calls a spade a spade – and then he shows you how to use it to dig the truth out of NeoCon Lies.  

In this collection of articles, written from August 2005, to January 2007, we see the evolution of a man, a man who served his country for nearly 21 years in the United States Army – including the last few years as an Army recruiter. We learn how that recruitment came to trouble him as young people signed up for what would become a seemingly endless series of wars.  And where were the money, and the motivation, for these wars coming from? 

It is here we see the loss of political innocence as Tim Gatto comes to the realization that a – his word – “Corporacracy” runs the country, profits from these wars, and has bought and sold both of the two major Political Parties – robbing the American people of their voice and leading into slaughter a generation of warriors dying for the Corporate bottom line. And speaking of Generations, Gatto wonders, where is ours? Where the Flower Children, where the Hippies and the war protestors of the Vietnam era that defied Nixon and helped bring down the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson? Where are those who valued social justice above all else? 

We have met the enemy, and they are US. The generation that Tim and I share, the generation that took to heart the warnings of the late President Dwight D Eisenhower about the dangers of the “Military Industrial Complex” has sold out to the same Capitalist greed we fought so righteously in the Vietnam era. 

We need to find ourselves. We need to reignite a social revolution in our country, ban corporate contributions to election campaigns and once again teach a lost generation and the NeoCon Right Wing the real wealth of a country is NOT its corporations but its people. They call us the “Grey Panthers”. So be it. It’s time we started to prowl again. And to the Fascist Right, beware. We hunger. We are coming for you. 

“From Complicity To Contempt” runs the course from darkly humorous to deeply disturbing. It is the start of a clarion call to action, and Tim Gatto is leading the charge. 

The book is available from AMAZON.COM and all on line bookstores.   338 pages - Published by Oliver Arts & Open Press

 
 

Fri

04

Sep

2009

David Swanson's Daybreak Is A Chart-Topping Inspiration - Book Review by Linda Milazzo
Friday, 04 September 2009 04:56
by Linda Milazzo

It's a GREAT DAY in America when heralds of hate, specifically Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, are booted from their Amazon best seller slots on DAY ONE of the publication of progressive leader David Swanson's breakthrough tome, DAYBREAK - now at Number One on Amazon's non-fiction best seller list.

From this terrific response to Swanson's new book, arises my sincere hope that DAYBREAK attracts a good many of Beck and Malkin's readers, so that they, too, have the opportunity to absorb the depth of information and dedication to solutions that David Swanson offers. Those who regularly read the writings of David Swanson, posted daily across the internet on influential websites, are uniquely informed by his cognizance of the Constitution and wisely instructed on the laws of proper governance. They are similarly impressed by his solutions - yes SOLUTIONS - to the issues he elucidates.

He's an endless source of information and a catalyst for strategic clear-minded citizen action and government action to correct the wrongs he sees. Swanson is consistently less about the problem and more about the solution. DAYBREAK, Swanson's long awaited political tome, delves deeply into his political and strategic expertise.

It's a delectable and teachable feast.

No wonder it booted Glenn Beck from his first place position. Insightful trumps spiteful any day, just as reflective trumps invective. Swanson motivates through explanation and clarification. He's a teacher, not a screecher. A journey through DAYBREAK is an educational awakening, and an alert to the misdeeds of those we've elected. It's a clarification of why these deeds are wrong, why they must be challenged, and how they can be changed. It's an invitation to 'we the citizens' to right them once and for all, and an informative guide to get it done.

In DAYBREAK, David Swanson's knowledge of the machinations of American government is brilliantly expressed. A prolific writer/blogger and progressive strategist, Swanson fills DAYBREAK with insights into the myriad ways our government dupes its citizens to believe that it's working, when in reality it produces CSPAN theater and little (if any) pro-citizen legislation. Swanson's microscopic scrutiny of all facets of government, including its leaders and their cronies, is palpable. In Parts I and II of his book, he deftly explains how the Executive Branch expanded its power, and how the Legislature, which Swanson points outs has great Constitutional power, convened committee after committee and hearing after hearing and still allowed the imperial presidency to happen.
 

Thu

03

Sep

2009

Syria and Iran - Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East - Book Review by Jim Miles
Thursday, 03 September 2009 05:58
by Jim Miles

Syria and Iran - Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East. Jubin M. Goodarzi. I.B. Taurus & Co. New York/London. 2009.

“In the past we prepared for a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities,” said one insider, “but Iran’s growing confidence after the war in Lebanon means we have to prepare for a full-scale war, in which Syria will be an important player.”

At a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, Ahmadinejad said that "Iran and Syria stand in a united front" and the West strongly needs to cooperate with them, drawing upon Iran and Syria's key roles in regional issues.

One can learn a great deal by analyzing the visit of Syrian President Bashar Assad to Iran last week. Statements made by Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reveal a great deal about the allies' strategy which seems to escape Western observers.

"Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance," Ahmadinejad said. "They will continue to do so. We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated."

"It is time to evict the foreign presence, which has caused so many problems for the people, from the region," Ahmadinejad said. "We did not invite them, they are uninvited guests."

Assad: Syria-Iran ties serve stability and strength of Mideast, Editorial, May 06 2009.

Except for the first, the above quotes occurred within the past month and reflect the accepted position that the alliance between Syria an Iran is still cooperative and aligned against U.S. interests and for Palestinian interests in the Middle East. This alliance has been ongoing for the past thirty years and recent U.S. statements about separating the two appear highly naïve in light of so much information about the strength and duration of the alliance.

In a well structured academic work, Jubin M. Goodarzi details the interactions of the two countries “in response to acts of aggression orchestrated by Iraq (1980) and Israel (1982), in both cases with the prior knowledge and tacit support of the USA.” His position is that it has been “a defensive alliance aimed at neutralizing Iraqi and Israeli offensive capabilities in the Gulf and Near East, and thwarting American encroachment in the Middle East.”

While the work contains many reiteration of ideas, as necessitated by the many interweavings of different diplomatic efforts, they emphasize several ongoing themes: opposition to Israeli interests in the region (with Syria being the only active frontline state against Israel); support of the Palestinians (with major complications along the way vis a vis Beirut and Southern Lebanon); antagonism towards U.S. interests in the region (and their original tacit, now overt support of Israel); and the convoluted manoeuvrings between Arab countries, some aligned with Israel, some against, and both groups desperately balancing rhetoric and actions to maintain their own status and power within the region.

 

Thu

20

Aug

2009

Global Depression and Regional Wars - Reviewing James Petras' New Book: Part I and II
Thursday, 20 August 2009 02:54
by Stephen Lendman
James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, he's a noted figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region' popular struggles. He's also a prolific author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, most recently his new one titled, "Global Depression and Regional Wars" addressing America, Latin America and the Middle East.
Part I - Global Depression

Variety's famous October 30, 1929 headline is again relevant: "Wall Street Lays an Egg," or as economist Rick Wolff puts it: "Capitalism hit the fan" following a familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles punctuated by bubbles that always burst. Petras explains it this way:

"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system."

Grim prospects are ahead:
— a world depression with one-fourth of the labor force unemployed;
— global trade in free fall;
— a proliferation of bankruptcies with General Motors a metaphor for a decaying system;
— free-market capitalism in disrepute; and
— "planning, public ownership, nationalization(s and other) socialist alternatives have become almost respectable" because most sacred cow "truisms" and solutions have failed.
Today's global crisis reflects an unsustainable system - crisis-prone, unstable, anarchic, ungovernable, self-destructive, and eventually doomed to collapse. Its early death throes may now be audible - despite intense "psycho-babble" reengineering of facts to portray the current situation as a "failure of leadership....lack of understanding....willful ignorance of what markets need, (and) loss of confidence."

Samuel Boswell explained that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps "psycho-babble" is its equivalent for "capitalist ideologues, academics, (self-styled) experts, and financial page editorialists, all of whom use "shoddy economic arguments" to pump life into a bankrupt ideology - one based on:
— repeated boom and bust cycles;
— unsustainable growth to stay viable;
— direct foreign investment for the highest rates of return, producing a race to the bottom the result of some nations benefitting at the expense of others and all of them eventually losing out;
— technological advances for "greater social and political power;"
— pillaging countries, crushing labor, cutting wages, and limiting or ending social services;
— privatizing "public enterprises, land, resources and banks;" and
— reducing governments to servants of business with America the hub of the corporate universe.
Today's crisis is systemic - "embedded in the contradiction between impoverished labor and concentrated capital" gone wild. "The current world depression is a product of the 'over-accumulation' process of the capitalist system in which the crash of the financial system was the 'detonator' but not the structural determinant: the exploitation of labor" that sooner or later bites back. The longer capital interests pillage state resources at their expense, the less tolerant they'll be for mass unemployment, homes and savings lost, grim futures, and the end of the American dream. Then, watch out.

The World Depression: A Class Analysis


"It is a well-known truism that those who caused (today's) crisis are also (the) greatest beneficiaries of government largesse." Rulers create crises. Workers pay for them.
 

Thu

13

Aug

2009

One State, Two States - Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Book Review by Jim Miles
Thursday, 13 August 2009 05:36
by Jim Miles

One State, Two States - Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Benny Morris. Yale University Press, New Haven, NJ. 2009

This is a rather oily work to deal with, operating under the pretence of academic objectivity that "does not flatter anyone's prejudices." And while Benny Morris obviously knows his historical facts, One State, Two States reveals more of a prejudice than the original reviewers seemed capable of understanding.

The main theme - resolving the Israeli/Palestine conflict - is poorly introduced without a lot of contextual information that could change the reader's perspective on the situation.  What Morris arrives at through implication and cherry picking information is that the Israelis are the good guys (generally, with only one mention of the "grinding, stifling Israeli occupation of the territories" near the end of the book) and the Palestinians are the reluctant, recalcitrant, demagogic perpetrators of evil. Okay, that is overstated, but it is an overstatement as an example of the kind of language used occasionally by Morris that seriously erodes his academic pretensions of neutrality.

There are several faults with the development of his arguments that should be noted, some being omissions of information, others being a working of the information to fit the author's preconceptions.

Unequal Partners

One of the more subtle misinformation themes is that of the ongoing dialogue of whatever form, through negotiations, written tracts, informal talks or whatever, that leaves the implication that the two sides - Israelis and Palestinians - are equal partners in the negotiations, with an occasional underlying motive of the adaptations the Israelis have to make in order to accommodate the Palestinians' demands. An informed reader will understand that the two sides are far from equal and even from the very beginning with the support of the Balfour Declaration (never an official government policy) and the British rule of Mandatory Palestine, the Jewish settlers had a bias in their favor.

The continual complaints of the Israelis that the Palestinians have no leaders needs to be put beside the information that the Israelis assassinate as many of the Palestinian leaders as they deem necessary or possible. Historically this also occurred during the Arab revolt in the 1930s. After the recent democratic elections of Hamas in 2006, Morris' argument is that Hamas set up government then took over Gaza. What is not mentioned is that the U.S., the EU, and a few others never recognized the democratic process that they had so long advocated in the region, stopped their already minimal funding to the Palestinian government and did everything in their power to alienate and eliminate Hamas from the Palestinian government. Thus the democratically elected partners were not ever accepted as anyone worth negotiating with, yet in contradiction to Morris' own suggestions, successful negotiations with terrorists have occurred elsewhere (South Africa, Ireland).

Palestinian Terror

Anyone reading this as their first history book on the Israeli/Palestine situation would receive this bias along with the associated bias of the Palestinians being the terrorists, the Israelis the victims of that terror. Yet as much as the British assisted the Jewish settlers to a degree, the settlers were also considered terrorists in their own fight as in later years they fought with the British in order to establish their own dominance of the territory. As for later terrorism, the only terrorism mentioned by Morris is that perpetrated by Hamas and Fatah, without any mention of the Israeli tactics in the occupied territories that could also be fully considered as terror.

Arab Ethnic Cleaning

Much of the history of the conflict elucidated by Morris is that of the 1920s and 1930s with very short shrift given to the actual war of independence/nakba of 1947-8 and the subsequent developments through to the Clinton-Arafat-Barak negotiations whose failure Morris places squarely and completely on Arafat. Most of the quotes throughout his development are chosen to highlight the single minded non-democratic desire of the Arabs to push the Zionists back into the ocean (his definition of their one state solution), and the benign nature of the Jewish response in accommodating and accepting a two state solution (demonstrating how peaceful and practical the Israelis are by contrast).
 

Mon

03

Aug

2009

The Inheritance – The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power. Book Review by Jim Miles
Monday, 03 August 2009 18:35
by Jim Miles

The Inheritance – The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power. David E. Sanger. Harmony Books (Random House), New York. 2009.

David Sanger makes it clear what his book, “The Inheritance”, is all about. Simply stated in the first line of the preface he says, “This book looks backward at the seismic events that led America to lose so much standing and leverage in the world and looks forward to reimagine ways we can rebuild our influence and power.” While the book itself makes for an interesting – but not enlightening – read, it does not do well with either looking backward or looking forward.

Backwards

The look backward is essentially a look back at the Bush years, a commentary on current events as seen as a newspaper correspondent who has some kind of access, direct or indirect, to many of the higher officials in the administration. It does not go back far enough to cover important aspects of the pre-Bush history – a history that served as Bush’s “Inheritance” as well. In other words, U.S. history cannot be isolated to one era without fitting it into the overall context of its foreign and domestic policies that are intertwined into a much longer string of history. Certainly references are made to earlier historical moments, but there is little analysis, little context, and as with many U.S. writers, the context of “blowback” from previous negative U.S. policies is not truly accounted for. There is little acceptance of U.S. foreign policy practices that over the decades have helped shape the mess they currently find themselves in.

Forwards

The problem with Sanger’s look forward is that there really is not one, certainly not on the scale of Stern’s “The Global Deal” or Starobin’s “After America”[1]. While I am not always a fan of conjecture into the future, as unintended and unexpected consequences tend to be the norm, there should be more room given to developing more ideas on how Obama could move forward to help untangle the current foreign policy difficulties. His look forward consists mainly of three short items, all really one and the same thing – a terrorist attack of some sort on the homeland, and one piece of advice.

The three items are familiar to anyone who reads any kind of newspaper or internet site with news on it: rogue nuclear weapons; chemical weapons in the form of plagues, toxins or poisons; and computer cyber-attack. This look forward occupies the last ninth of the book and consists mainly of scary scenarios from think tanks and the poor job the administration is doing to prevent any of them.

When Sanger talks about Obama in the Epilogue “Obama’s Challenge,” a meagre ten pages is devoted to Obama’s prospects for ‘change’. He quotes Rahm Emanuel who said, “Never allow a crisis to go to waste; they are opportunities to do big things.” The intent is to spur Obama to action. Unfortunately it fits into the general trend of U.S. history that a “crisis” includes the context of history, it also includes the creating and fomenting of a crisis that can be taken advantage of, a strong point of the CIA and special ops teams. Pakistan/Afghanistan and Iran are the current crises, treated by Sanger as special developments of the Bush era.

Illusions

Four illusions from the Bush era face Obama, according to Sanger. The first is the shift of global power – more economic than military, but also including the latter - is heading east. The second illusion is that the rest of the world “will naturally seek to emulate the American model.” The other two illusions are smaller in scale. Free trade is not primarily responsible for job loss. The U.S. will no longer use the “Big Stick and no longer threaten force to contains some of the world’s biggest perils.”

These are not just Bush illusions, they are U.S. illusions and can be writ boldly. And illusory or not, Obama has not done much to dispel them and if he follows Sanger’s main line of advice, will only affirm the “illusions” in the minds of the citizens:

“Marry the use of force to a comprehensive plan to build up states, pursued with the same gusto and resources as Bush used to pursue al Queda cells.”

That about sums up the proposals for the future – marry force with state building plans and dispel a few illusions! Sounds pretty much like the same old Bush program, but as with all things Obama, it will probably be carried out with much finer sounding rhetoric than the gunslinger lingo that Bush employed.
 

Mon

03

Aug

2009

Reviewing F. William Engdahl's "Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order:" Part II
Monday, 03 August 2009 17:04
by Stephen Lendman

Reviewing F. William Engdahl's "Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order:" Part I is located here.

For over 30 years, F. William Engdahl has been a leading researcher, economist, and analyst of the New World Order with extensive writing to his credit on energy, politics, and economics. His newest book is titled "Full Strectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order."

Part I was reviewed earlier. Part II continues the story of America's quest for global dominance and why its own internal rot may defeat it.

The Significance of Darfur in Sudan

In a word - oil in the form of huge potential reserves with Chinese companies involved in discovering them. Washington's genocide claim is a hoax. Yet it's trumpeted by the media and foolhardy celebrities used as props for the charade. By 2007, China was getting up to 30% of its oil from Africa prompting its "extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives that left Washington furious" and determined to respond.

Beijing offers African countries "no-strings-attached dollar credits" compared to exploitive IMF and World Bank terms. It paid off with important oil deals with Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan's Darfur region. China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is now Sudan's largest foreign investor, around $15 billion in the past decade, and it co-owns a refinery near Khartoum. It also built an oil pipeline from southern Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea from where tankers ship it to China.

With its need for oil growing at around 30% a year, China must have all the secure sources it can arrange, so what Africa can supply is crucial. Hence the Darfur confrontation, fake genocide charges, and Washington pressuring the government to sever its ties with China, something Khartoum won't countenance.

For years as well, America used proxy Chad, Eritrea, and other forces, poured arms into Southeastern Sudan and Darfur, and trained the Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) John Garang at the School of the Americas for his role as a Pentagon's stooge. His campaign in the country's south, and that of others in Darfur, killed tens of thousands and left several million displaced. At stake is vital energy and other resources from Sudan and elsewhere, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, long reeling from Washington-initiated aggression using proxy forces for the dirty work.

For one, Chad's thuggish "President for life" Idriss Deby's elite troops, trained and armed by the Pentagon, for attacks in Darfur and to aid rebel forces against the Khartoum government in Southwestern Sudan. A US/World Bank-financed pipeline also extends from Chad to the Cameroon coast as "part of a far grander scheme to control the oil riches of Central Africa from Sudan to the Gulf of Guinea" - an area with reserves potentially on a par with the Persian Gulf making it a great enough prize to go all out for.

Enter China with "buckets of aid money" offered Chad the result of Deby wanting a greater share of the revenues, creating his own oil company, SHT, and threatening to expel Chevron for not paying its required taxes. Things got resolved, "but the winds of change were blowing" with China taking advantage, something "not greeted well in Washington."

"Chad and Darfur (are) part of a significant Chinese effort to secure oil at the source(s), all across Africa," a matter Washington's Africa policy is addressing with AFRICOM and various military bases on the continent plus others planned. Washington wants global control of oil. Because of its growing needs, China represents a challenge everywhere but especially in Africa and Latin America. The result - "an undeclared, but very real, New Cold War (is on) over oil."

Tibet is another battleground with unrest unleashed ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The operation dates from when George Bush met the Dalai Lama publicly in Washington for the first time, signaled his backing for Tibetan independence, and awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. It clearly angered China that considers Tibet part of its territory.
 

Sat

01

Aug

2009

Low-Wage Capitalism: What the new globalized, high tech imperialism means for the class struggle in the US today - Book Review by Kéllia Ramares
Saturday, 01 August 2009 10:10
by Kéllia Ramares

With the corporate capitalist economy falling apart as it is, some people are looking at socialism with a less jaundiced eye. Of course, there are some people for whom socialism was never the spawn of Satan that banksters and other corporate cutthroats and their political minions would have us believe. One of these people is Marxist author Fred Goldstein, who was inspired as a college student to become a Marxist by the Cuban revolution. Goldstein, a contributing editor to Workers' World newspaper, has demonstrated, in the book Low-Wage Capitalism, that Marxist economic theory is alive and well in the post-Soviet era. In fact, Marxist theory provides an excellent analytical tool for explaining the failures of globalized capitalism to provide a decent way of life for the world's people.

Low-Wage Capitalism: What the new globalized, high tech imperialism means for the class struggle in the US today.
By Fred Goldstein
World View Forum
ISBN 0-89567-151-4
312 Pages, Softcover
$19.95 USD or available free online at
http://www.lowwagecapitalism.com//Low-WageCapitalism-lores.pdf

The book looks at major developments in the past three decades which have led us to the current crisis. In considering the growth of the available world labor force, Goldstein shows that 19th Century Marxist theory can be applied to a world very different from that in which the theory was born. A world in which more women and people of color are in the labor force still operates according to Marx's law of wages. Just add sexism and racism to the various ways the bosses exploit labor.

The essence of this book, however, is Goldstein's analysis of the role that technology plays in the exploitation of labor. Technology has its own chapter in the book, but it is a recurring theme in other chapters. Technology, which should make life and work easier and safer for workers, is instead used to reduce the labor force, so that the unemployed and underemployed compete with the employed, thus keeping a downward pressure on wages. Technology is also used to “de-skill” jobs, making workers more fungible. This way, workers who are being too “troublesome” in their demands for higher wages or union representation can be more easily replaced.

Economic conditions have gotten desperate, says Goldstein, despite the fact that more families have at least two earners. He explains the decline as inevitable, given the way capitalism works. Goldstein amply demonstrates the decline with statistics, graphs and reports without getting overly academic. This is a book one could easily read on the train or bus to work.

Goldstein believes that the workers need to do something on the political front to change things. He argues for more understanding on the part of workers of the existence of class differences and the need for class struggle. This is where the book left me a bit dissatisfied because the argument is for an old way of doing things: a class struggle or “war”, if you will. There are definitely class differences in this country, and the overwhelming majority of workers end up in the class in which they were born or lower, despite the myth of upward mobility. Goldstein makes an excellent point in saying that people who believe that they are in the owning class because they own a business or are middle managers in a large corporation have to realize that they have more in common with the employees under them than with the bosses above them. (Owners of Chrysler dealerships that were recently terminated, even if they were profitable, should take heed!)
 

Fri

31

Jul

2009

After America – Narratives for the Next Global Age - Book Review by Jim Miles
Friday, 31 July 2009 22:10
by Jim Miles

After America – Narratives for the Next Global Age. Paul Starobin. Viking (Penguin), New York, 2009.

After a half decade of books on the ‘American empire’ and many more on the politics, military, religion, and economics that are pieces of the whole, a new trend is now appearing on the book market. After the election of Obama as president, the new material is all forward looking, promoting ideas or creating possible scenarios of where the U.S. can, may, could, or should direct its energies. The general trend is the recognition that the “empire” is in significant decline, generally considered due to a combination of economic and military misadventures under the Bush regime, with recognition that it all started well before. While some see the imperial role as one that requires regaining U.S. dominance and power others see it as finding a balance in a new ordering of the world in which the U.S. will still be important but will no longer be dominant.

Any conjectural interpretations must be treated with care. The danger in writing conjecturally is that it involves knowledge in a broad range of areas and not necessarily the author’s relative knowledge or specific area of expertise. The future involves everything – global climate change, the military and its full range of activities, politics at home and abroad, the global economy, and to tie all the above together should be a broad based human geography and cultural understanding of the many diverse attitudes and perceptions found around the world.

Themes

Paul Starobin’s After America sits comfortably within this category of forward-looking narratives. To my pleasant surprise, the book works very well, a combination of plausible/possible outcomes based on a quickly and accurately sketched history of the penultimate decade preceding the decline. It is easy to work through, as the writing is very well structured both for its technical writing skill and for the development of the main thesis. The defining moment for the U.S., the “high-water” moment, came at precisely 11:28 Moscow time, August 22, 1991. Okay, that is a bit too precise, but historians by necessity need to create book-marked dates to define their purposes.

That moment in the history of the fall of the USSR began an era of U.S. imperial dominance that in itself could have turned out many different ways. However, rather than becoming a magnanimous benefactor to help elevate the world to a new level of social comfort, the U.S. spent the first decade in awe of itself without any coherent idea of where it was going, and then when a coherent direction determined itself, it was towards hegemony and the full spectrum dominance of the whole world by a combination of military and economic might. That era passed swiftly in historical terms, although like most nightmares it seemed to go on forever, and remnants struggle on.

The main theme then is that of the myth U.S. exceptionalism (below) and its two underlying themes in the modern era of the U.S. acting as a global policeman, and the U.S. acting as the new imperial Rome, quashing all dissent and rebellion to create a peaceful world. However, empires are held “through terror” and overall, “The Rome formula is a fantasy.”

The past

Starobin begins his arguments with the establishment of one of the ideas that has given support to U.S. adventurism around the world, an idea, a myth that underlies it all.

“Ideas, of course, can have great consequence, especially when they are interwoven with emotion to form the fabric of myth. And Jacksonian America proved to be the creator – or at least the completer – of America’s most cherished myth, the myth of American Exceptionalism.”
 

Wed

22

Jul

2009

Bad Moon Rising - Book Review by Jimmy Montague
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 11:12
by Jimmy Montague

Among those who will read this item, there are probably a few who already believe that followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (aka 'Moonies') are crazier than a trainload of shit-house rats. My hat's off to those who think so, for they are correct.

Most readers probably won't believe such an extreme statement. If you are one of them I will not argue but urge you instead to point your browser at Messages from the Spirit World. At the center of the image is a link that reveals "Messages from God and former U.S. Presidents to the United Nations." Click on the link, and read those messages.

By the time you return from that bizarre adventure, the Moonies themselves will have convinced you (as they convinced me) that they are indeed crazier than a trainload of shit-house rats. And if, like me, your curiosity drives you to learn more about Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church, you may be of a mind to read author John Gorenfeld?s book, Bad Moon Rising (PoliPoint Press: Sausalito, CA; 2008; $24.95).

Unlike this critic, Gorenfeld avoids extreme statements because he is a good journalist. Mr. Gorenfeld evidently gives credence to the idea that in making a joke of someone, we discount the possibility that he, she, or they might actually be dangerous. And as a Moonologist of several years' experience, Gorenfeld also seems to understand and appreciate that while members of Moon's Unification Church may actually be insane, their collective insanity must be methodically directed because it works toward a coherent purpose.

The Rev. Moon's story is one of the strangest this writer has encountered. Born Yong-Myung Moon in 1920, the penniless son of North Korean peasants, he became Sun Myung Moon only after he experienced an epiphany in 1935. During Easter, Moon went up a hill to pray. God appeared and told him: "You are the son I have been seeking, the one who can begin my eternal history."

Moon then went to Japan, where he trained as an electrical engineer. His training finished, he went back to Korea. There he began his ministry but was rejected by his congregation. He was also arrested and imprisoned by authorities in North Korea. Escaped from what amounted to slavery, Moon fled to South Korea. There he started a church that combined Moon's own, weird take on Christian theology with a virulent anti-communism.

While Moon nurtured and grew his flock, the Republic of Korea created its own Central Intelligence Agency. The ROK CIA then created the Unification Church from whole cloth. Secret agencies being what they are, details of the action are sketchy where they're not entirely lacking. Somehow the Rev. Moon ended up as leader of the ROK CIA's new church, and he brought his flock of some few thousands with him. The Unification Church proved popular in Japan and over the years gained a toehold in the United States and in other countries, as well.

By the middle Sixties, Moon was in America and evangelizing furiously. Here in the States, the message of the Unification Church proved most appealing to confused and rebellious youth, to dropouts who were alienated even from the counterculture, to young spiritual cripples of most every stripe.

Survivors of the crazy, drug-sodden street scene of the Sixties and Seventies will recall how it was: after the Manson murders and the Jonestown massacre, parents nationally were terrified of anything that smacked of 'cultism.' Moonies — who did weird things such as travel in flocks and sell flowers on the street — were one group suspected of 'cultism.' They were believed to have been hypnotized or brainwashed — call it 'spiritually hijacked' if you will. Frantic parents sometimes kidnapped their own children and dragged them home, away from Moonie influence, where the kids were confined for weeks or months under close supervision by professional (and sometimes brutal) 'deprogrammers.'
 

Tue

07

Jul

2009

"Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent" - Book Review by Stephen Lendman
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 04:48
by Stephen Lendman

Reviewing Marjorie Cohn and Kathleen Gilberd's "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent"

Marjorie Cohn is a Distinguished Law Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where she's taught since 1991 and is the current President of the National Lawyers Guild. She's also been a criminal defense attorney at the trial and appellate levels, is an author, and writes many articles for professional journals, other publications, and numerous popular web sites.

Her record of achievements, distinctions, and awards are many and varied - for her teaching, writing, and her work as a lawyer and activist for peace, social and economic justice, and respect for the rule of law. Cohn's previous books include "Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice" and "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law."

Her newest book just out, co-authored with Kathleen Gilberd (a recognized expert on military administrative law), is titled "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent." It explores why US military personnel disobey orders and refuse to participate in two illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also explains that US and international law obligate them to do so.

Cohn and Gilberd write:

"Rules of Engagement limit forms of combat, levels of force, and legitimate enemy targets, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. (They're also) defined by an established body of international (and US) law" that leave no ambiguity.

Nonetheless, in past and current US wars, virtually no "Rules" whatever are followed. Soldiers are trained to fire at "anything that moves," place no value on enemy lives, and often treat civilians no differently from combatants. It results in massive civilian casualties, dismissively called "collateral damage." It also gets growing numbers in the ranks to resist - to challenge so-called "Rules" they believe are illegal and immoral.

"Rules of Engagement" "discuss(es) the laws and regulations governing military dissent and resistance - the legal rules of disengagement (and offers) practical guidelines (that include) political protest to requesting discharge from the service."
 
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