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


Wed

24

Jun

2009

Reviewing F. William Engdahl's "Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order:" Part I
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 04:46
by Stephen Lendman

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. He contributes regularly to business and other publications, is a frequent speaker on geopolitical, economic and energy issues, and is a distinguished Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Engdahl's two previous books include "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order" explaining that America's post-WW II dominance rests on two pillars and one commodity - unchallengeable military power and the dollar as the world's reserve currency along with the quest to control global oil and other energy resources.

Engdahl's other book is titled "Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation" on how four Anglo-American agribusiness giants plan world domination by patenting all life forms to force-feed GMO foods on everyone - even though eating them poses serious human health risks.

Engdahl's newest book is reviewed below. Titled "Full Strectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order," it discusses America's grand strategy, first revealed in the 1998 US Space Command document - Vision for 2020. Later released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, it called for "full spectrum dominance" over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.

Other means as well, including propaganda, NGOs and Color Revolutions for regime change, expanding NATO eastward, and "a vast array of psychological and economic warfare techniques" as part of a "Revolution in Military Affairs" discussed below.

September 11, 2001 served as pretext to consolidate power, destroy civil liberties and human rights, and wage permanent wars against invented enemies for global dominance over world markets, resources, and cheap labor - at the expense of democratic freedoms and social justice. Engdahl's book presents a frightening view of the future, arriving much sooner than most think.

Introduction

After the Soviet Union's dissolution in late 1989, America had a choice. As the sole remaining superpower, it could have worked for a new era of peace and prosperity, ended decades of Cold War tensions, halted the insane arms race, turned swords into plowshares, and diverted hundreds of billions annually from "defense" to "rebuild(ing) civilian infrastructure and repair(ing) impoverished cities."
 

Wed

17

Jun

2009

In Mortal Hands – A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age - Book Review by Jim Miles
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 04:38
by Jim Miles

In an era when the corporate media and the corporate politicians and the corporate military men gang up together and denounce and threaten other countries because of their nuclear related activities, they should spend much of that rhetorical energy by cross-examining themselves in a mirror. North Korea’s latest nuclear test received much more attention than its earlier ‘possible’ test because of its greater power and the strategic message sent by its politically timed Taepodong II rocket launch. Iran has moved a little bit off the radar screen as its elections have proven more interesting than its nuclear ‘threat’ but it is under increasing scrutiny as it reaches weapons potential. When placed in relation to this “cautionary history”, North Korea and Iran are acting only as all other nuclear powers have acted in the past, for the main theme behind In Mortal Hands is that of lies, deceit, deception, cover-ups, and secrecy to cover up the real issues with the nuclear industry.

In Mortal Hands – A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age. Stephanie Cooke. Bloomsbury, New York, 2009.

The real issue as reiterated constantly and perceptively by Stephanie Cooke is that of an industry whose central purpose is to create fissile material for weapons production regardless of and in spite of all other attempts to equate nuclear energy with peaceful purposes and with the ‘greening’ of the energy industry. It is a trillion dollar industry, supported by governments of all genres as no private developer is able to cover the costs of development, the insurance liabilities in case of accident (highly likely, already highly significant), and the huge timelines and costs of decommissioning the radioactive waste from the reactor’s fuel as well as the radioactive hulks of the reactors themselves.

In short, it is an economically unfeasible and environmentally dangerous business that is supported by public officials and the media in order to keep making weapons.

That statement will of course lead to derision by spokespeople for the nuclear industry, whether they are within the industry or members of the political and media propaganda that supports them. As we head into a future with the advertised benefits of nuclear power in an era of ‘green’ energy, In Mortal Hands is indeed a cautionary tale that all those involved and everyone in the public should be reading.

 

Mon

15

Jun

2009

Igor Sutyagin and I. F. Stone: Spies?
Monday, 15 June 2009 05:31
by Walter C. Uhler
A Review of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev

Igor Sutyagin and I. F. Stone: Spies?

A Review of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev

My first and only meeting with Igor Sutyagin occurred on 7 September 1998, in what was then the Taiga Café of Moscow's Aerostar Hotel. A senior scholar in the Department for Military-Political Studies at the Institute for the USA and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sutyagin was given the task of dining with an American "People to People" delegation - of which I was a member - and briefing its members on the economic crisis ravaging Russia since its catastrophic default just three weeks earlier.

Although we peppered Igor with questions about Russia's economic collapse, his answers clearly demonstrated - to me, at least -- that the Russian economy was not his area of expertise. Which is why, near the end of our dinner, I changed the subject by asking him a series of questions about the Russian military, my specialty. "What was Russia doing to capture the so-called "revolution in military affairs?" Was he familiar with the massive American study, Atomic Audit (which I reviewed in the July 13, 1998 edition of The Nation) especially its startling revelations about the high risk of accidental nuclear war that was hanging over our unwitting heads during the Cold War? What is Russia doing today to assure control over its nuclear arsenal?

After Igor gave lengthy answers to each question, I asked him what he thought of President Clinton's recent decision to permit the expansion of NATO. Much to my surprise, Igor's face turned crimson as he reached into his wallet to withdraw a folded newspaper article that described a deal struck between former Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

According to the article, Baker assured Gorbachev that, in return for the Soviet leader's assistance in accomplishing the peaceful unification of Germany, the United States would not pursue any further expansion of NATO. (Gorbachev reiterated Baker's promise as recently as March 2009) Having read Baker's promise, Igor characterized Clinton's decision to expand NATO as a "stab in the back." He quickly added: "Why should Russians trust the United States to honor any of its agreements?"

After dinner, I invited Igor to my room, where we spent two hours discussing the collapse of the Russian military, the consolidations currently occurring in defense industries of both countries, FIGS (financial industrial groups) and Gorbachev's role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Like most Russians I've met, Igor didn't share my high esteem for Gorbachev.

But, he seemed quite interested in my soon-to-be-published review of Gary Hart's book, The Minuteman: Restoring and Army of the People, which called for a sharp reduction in active-duty forces and increased reliance on arguably less competent reserves, because "a permanent standing military seeks causes for its continued existence and resources to maintain itself."
 

Sat

06

Jun

2009

The Devil We Know – Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower - Book Review by Jim Miles
Saturday, 06 June 2009 05:56
by Jim Miles
The Devil We Know – Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. Robert Baer. Crown Publishers (Random House), New York, 2008.

Iran is obviously a key player in the Middle East. The many references within other texts dealing with other aspects of the Middle East and the several texts dealing specifically with Iran highlight its significance. Part of that significance is that Iran - whether discussing the topics of nuclear weapons, terrorism, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas, empire, or the now broadening ‘AfPak’ war – is a rational player, flexible, able and willing to negotiate.

This viewpoint is strongly reinforced by Robert Baer’s work The Devil We Know, an ironic title in that one of his central themes is that we – the United States – do not know them at all correctly but as caricatures of evil reinforced by our – the United States – ignorance of their long history and characteristics of pragmatism and flexibility. When compared to the failures of all the other governments in the region which are “bound to collapse,” Baer’s conclusion reads, “Iran is the only stable, enduring state in the Gulf.” One of his summative paragraphs deserves full reiteration:

If we ignore their words and focus on their actions, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are rational actors. They’re willing to talk to the West. They’re willing to set bounds. They have fixed reasonable demands.

That could be compared to U.S. words and actions, also often in conflict with each other, but going the other way – fine words, colonialist mentality actions – in which “there’s a persistent, mistaken belief that the Iranians are irrational and dogmatic.”

War and Nuclear Weapons

The relationship between Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel runs through the writing. For all the hot air rhetoric that continues to rise from the Obama administration and from the Israeli right wing about nuclear weapons, Baer recognizes that “Iran definitely knows that a nuclear confrontation with Israel isn’t winnable. The Iranians know that Israel would massively retaliate…and everything Iran has worked so hard to win would be lost.” Later he adds, “Iran’s real leaders [not Ahmadinejad] know that a nuclear bomb is very much a secondary interest.”

Conversely, the U.S. perspective is described as focussing “obsessively on whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons….blinded by worst-case scenarios, which happens not to be Tehran’s preferred scenario.” Baer indicates that the U.S. is “miscalculating the nature of the Iranian threat,” but the reader needs to consider the U.S. tried and true use and abuse of the fear factor to promote its often illogical intentions. Another aspect touched upon is the U.S. attachment to Israel that “possesses no oil” and “is demographically insignificant.” A former Khomeini aide, Amin, is cited as saying, “Israel’s greatest conquest wasn’t the West Bank and Gaza…It was the American imagination.”
 

Thu

04

Jun

2009

Mike Ruppert Reviews Carolyn Baker's 'Sacred Demise'
Thursday, 04 June 2009 04:25
Mike Ruppert Reviews Carolyn Baker's 'Sacred Demise'

Reprinted from MIKE RUPPERT BLOGSPOT

[Author: “Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil” and “A Presidential Energy Policy: Twenty-five points Addressing the Siamese Twins of Energy and Money”]

In the rare instances where I come across a book that is a feast for the mind and soul I wrestle with it as with a lover. Pages get dog-eared, the pen comes out and notes appear all over. Great passages are underlined. There are coffee and wine stains. This marks my affair with a great book. “Sacred Demise” is the first such book I have read in many years. In spite of the profoundly disturbing topic: the collapse of industrial civilization and possible extinction of the human race; it is a book which has left me feeling joyful, hopeful, humorous and deeply comforted. It has made me love more completely and – in that process – has allowed me to be more alive in this present moment.

This isn’t a mass-consumption book nor should it be. My life and experience have taught me that few humans have evolved or are aware enough to even grasp its significance. The book is like a great sacred text from antiquity that makes us love our forbears and take comfort in our connectedness to them. If intelligent life is able to find “Sacred Demise” in two or three millennia I can see it being revered as a great testament to what our potential as a species might have been… or might yet become.

“Sacred Demise” is an incredible how-to, first-aid, healing map and manual of how one can navigate an aware psyche through the emotional and spiritual challenges of collapse – to find and to give love, comfort and even great joy in the midst of pain, despair and death. It teaches and reminds us that death is not a bad word but a “parenthesis in eternity” as Joel Goldsmith wrote. I know of no one who has had the courage to address these crying needs in detail and Baker is uniquely qualified to do it. Every ounce of her heart, mind and soul were committed to this book’s writing and that is clearly evident throughout. This book is an act of love. I am no different than any human in that I respond instantly and involuntarily when I see that someone has the courage to place a naked heart in front of my eyes. It reminds me that we are never stronger than when we are most vulnerable.

The book’s genesis comes from Baker’s clear statement that, “while many individuals will be able to physically navigate collapse, some will not be able to do so emotionally”. I consider the book to be profoundly spiritual, although others may approach it as a psychological or cultural text that finally and beautifully addresses what I have seen as a crying need to deal with the emotions that collapse surfaces. Emotions ignored always return to bite us on the behind. They sap rather than enhance our strength. “Sacred Demise” is an emotional and spiritual guide for the treatment of those of us who understand what collapse means and by which we can give comfort, aid, assistance and great strength to ourselves and to those we love.
 

Thu

21

May

2009

The Hebrew Republic – Book Review by Jim Miles
Thursday, 21 May 2009 09:41
by Jim Miles



The Hebrew Republic – How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last. Bernard Avishai. Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin), Orlando. 2008.
 
Two events have severely diminished the prospects of this book since it was published in early 2008 – the IDF attack on Gaza and the current global recession. In what are somewhat hopeful but weakly expressed arguments, Bernard Avishai was on slim grounds to begin with. His two main pillars of Israel of the future are of a Hebrew republic based on “globalization” – essentially the Washington consensus economics of finance capitalism. While there is some room for hope that he has expressed certain ideas that are progressive, they are surrounded by misleading ideas and omitted ideas. Finally his arguments are based much more on philosophical musings without a significant amount of practical logistics on how to achieve his end – a Hebrew republic that is also secular and democratic, inclusive of the Palestinians in Israel.

Positives

Avishai admits to being within the Zionist tradition, but that of the ‘progressive’ viewpoint of a socialist all-inclusive state of Palestinians and Jews. It is fairly obvious that Israel is here to stay as its military dominance is unquestionable and its relationships with its Arab neighbours of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, at least the elites that make up those in control, seem relatively stable. Avishai develops his ideas within the concept of the elites, both for the Arab states and for Israel. Given that, Avishai attempts to formulate some ideas that are “centrist” in that they avoid the extreme views of the Orthodox fundamentalist Jewish sects and the extremes of the right wing secularists fearing the Palestinian demographic explosion. I am not sure I have interpreted Avishai’s definition of centrist properly, but that view is what remains after reading his mostly philosophical musings.

At any rate, the positives, at least for those supporting the right of an independent Palestinian people are his statements about Palestine itself. For historical items he recognizes that “large tracts [of Palestinian land] were expropriated after the 1948 War, effacing some four hundred Arab villages,” after “some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs either fled their homes or…were driven out.” The current settlement initiatives are seen as “oddly greedy and provocative,” not in his mind similar to the initial “pioneering settlements.” Recognition is given to the ongoing attempts to deprive the Palestinians of their land, from the lack of a constitution (which in many U.S. minds denies the ideal of democracy) and the development of the Basic Laws, “the Jewish Agency, Zionist land banks and mortgage companies…the labor federation Histadrut…the Law of Return…the Orthodox rabbinate’s determination of what a Jew is…all of these mechanisms for appropriating and distributing land.” Finally he recognizes that the current occupation is counterproductive for the development of the Israeli state.

Looking towards the future Avishai posits some progressive views on Israel/Palestine. His first point is that Israel “would have boundaries” and “agree in advance to a border based on the internationally recognized Green Line. It would welcome a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in return for an internationally recognized Israeli capital in West Jerusalem.” Secondly Israel would “pass a bill of rights and a formal constitution, guaranteeing all of its citizens an impartial state apparatus,” and “would retire the Law of Return and replace it with an immigration bill.”
 

Thu

23

Apr

2009

The Predator State - Book Review by Jim Miles
Thursday, 23 April 2009 20:40
by Jim Miles

The Predator State – How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too. James K. Galbraith. Free Press, New York, 2008e.

Not too many economists make much clarity these days, and the general run of the mill economists that populate the majority of political and business positions seem to be mired in their own illusions and myths about what the economy actually is. James Galbraith stands out in contrast to that group and is able to see through the myths of the “free market” and provide well conceived, simple, and effective solutions to the problems of our current economy. In The Predator State, Galbraith follows in his father’s footsteps (whom I had the pleasure of reading and understanding many years ago) with a well structured, well argued, and clearly written examination of the supposed free market.

Galbraith stays within a well-defined focus, examining the myths of the market and solutions in economic terms, which necessarily reach over into other areas. He does not dwell on these other areas, but in his final analysis he provides three lines of insight that indicate where others could expand on the topic, denouncing in effect the “hidden fist” that supports the U.S. economy.

First is a comment on terrorism, stated simply that “the global war on terror is a fraud,” and “the solution to the threat of terror is political, diplomatic – and a matter of police work. It is not primarily military.” Following that is the comment, “A system based mainly on military power, financed through the dollar reserve system, provides neither comprehensive security nor a compelling case for preserving the reserve system.” Finally, as he reaches his final summation, he says, “The existing system has been held together by military power and by a shared perception of threat.” The military is certainly part of his analysis, mainly as an element of social structuring and governmental rules and regulations at home that deny the idea of a free market.

In his preface Galbraith outlines the plan he intends to follow and the basic outline of his arguments. The first section of the book “is to describe the myth, its logical structure, its popular appeal, and especially the set of rules for policy to which it leads.” After that, the second section examines what he calls predation, “the systematic abuse of public institutions for private profit or equivalently, the systematic undermining of public protection for the benefit of private clients.”

He then turns to solutions, offering three that are “the most despised, the most dangerous, the hardest to get across” to a culture steeped in free market mythology. The solutions sound simple (and really are, perhaps that is why they are so despised): a capacity to plan – as counter-witnessed by the events around Katrina; secondly “the setting of wages and the control of the distribution of pay and incomes is a social, and not a market decision;” and thirdly, to “prepare for the day when the unlimited privilege of issuing never-to-be-paid chits to the rest of the world may come to an end.”

This leads to my only real disappointment with the book - as with any book that is concerned about rapidly changing current events – that an examination of the really current events, the last three or four months, are not within this discussion. Galbraith however is one of the few economists who seems to have read the situation correctly and knows the possibilities of what might be coming. I then re-read his most current commentary that deals with the Geithner ‘plan’, posing many questions and providing further logical arguments to the positions presented in the book. [1]
 

Tue

24

Mar

2009

American Raj: Liberation or Domination? – Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World - Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 18:19
by Jim Miles
American Raj: Liberation or Domination? – Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. Eric S. Margolis. Key Porter Books, Toronto, 2008.
In a wide-ranging and thorough overview of essentially the Middle East, but also the rest of the Muslim world, Eric Margolis’ recent work American Raj should become a first source of information on current events in the Muslim world. It is not encyclopaedic in trying to fit in all the details about people and events, and other works dig deeper into specific areas and ideas, but it is comprehensive, covering all the main themes, ideas, places, and personalities that have shaped the area over the last century. More importantly as compared to a more narrow focus, Margolis shows the linkages and cross-currents between events that are often seen as disparate unrelated items in the west – other than being classified as “terrorist.”

Terrorism is the theme provided by the western media, but as viewed from the perspectives (and there are many, it is not a monolithic system of beliefs or structures) of the local populations, the theme becomes imperial domination for resource control and power vis a vis other empires and religions. From Morocco through northern Africa, from Israel through the now better known countries of the Middle East extending into South Asia and the complications of a nuclear Pakistan, from the Balkans and the northern Caucus regions of Chechnya to the African Sahel, there is a wide range of Muslim belief (think of Christianity as a comparison and the many sects and divides that are involved within it, and how they frequently battle with one another) and a wide range of secular belief that the west generally remains ignorant of.

Margolis reveals this world of variety, the inner turmoils, and the differing views from one nation, one group, to another. Superimposed on this native range of variety and difference are the western imperialists, formerly with France and Britain in the lead, now with the U.S. and its right wing western supporters (Canada, Australia mainly), in the lead and France and Britain following along trying to regain some remnant of their former imperial power. China remains quietly active on the eastern edges. Along the northern edge, the resurgent Russian state is fully involved with both its own “terrorism” and with the intrigues and plots of the others in trying to control their unruly southern neighbours.

And what makes them unruly is the very presence of the forces of empire in the first place. The common thread, the unifying idea behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and also the separate (although not separately seen by western media or governments) moderate and secular hatred and despisal of the U.S. and its allies is a combination of occupation and religious intolerance. Combining the natural differences of the region, its developed internal animosities (e.g. Shia vs Sunni, Persian vs Arab) with the controlling effects of the imperial powers, and the whole region is a complete mess of plots and counterplots fuelled mainly by U.S. dollars and military support for the vast majority of all governments in the area.
 

Tue

24

Mar

2009

When Giant's Fall - By Michael Panzner - Book Review By Carolyn Baker
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 17:00
by Carolyn Baker

When Giants Fall: An Economic Roadmap for the End of The American Era (John Wiley & Sons), 2009

For many Americans, the years ahead will be nothing short of a modern Dark Ages, where each day brings forth fresh anxieties, unfamiliar risks, and a deep sense of foreboding.
- Michael Panzner

We've heard of the economist, Nouriel Roubini, aka "Dr. Doom", and readers of Truth to Power are quite familiar with James Howard Kunstler and Dmitry Orlov, but Michael Panzner serves up a recipe that contains the carefully blended ingredients of all three. In fact, we might call his latest masterpiece, When Giants Fall, "Dr. Doom meets ‘World Made By Hand' and ‘Re-Inventing Collapse' with ‘Long Emergency'(Kunstler) and ‘Long Descent' (John Michael Greer) waiting in the wings." I have remained a fan of his website, Financial Armageddon, and his book by the same title since the publication of it in 2008, but since that time, in following Panzner's writings, I've observed a fine-tuned incisiveness and a deepened resolve to deliver to his readers the harsh realities of the collapse of empire and the economic ramifications of that. While he does not leave us without options in the face of the decline, he sugar-coats nothing and just this past week carried on his site a number of chilling scenes of collapse in recent photos taken across the country.

While the styles of collapse-aware writers such as Kunstler, Orlov, Greer, Astyk, Heinberg, and myself are perhaps more socio-cultural, Panzner writes in economic terms that economists or those versed in the discipline can readily appreciate. If we had any doubt about the fiscal statistics on which our forecasts are based, Panzner puts them to rest with his carefully-researched data.

He begins "Giants" with the reality that has become ubiquitous in the current economic collapse: Financial nirvana is now history. "Spend. Borrow. Repeat" is over because as a result of the "mistakes and excesses of the past" the financial chickens are coming home to roost with the disappearance of fuel, food, water, and all the other lubricants of the machinery of empire. The author emphasizes that these are not merely creating little bumps in the road for the titans of globalization but that "taken together, these various developments constitute a clear and present danger to the economic well being of every American, especially those who have been conditioned to believe that life can only get better in the future." (xxi)

While briefly tracing the economic history of how we arrived where we are, he examines the myriad hostilities that are likely to erupt in a resource-depleted, economically scaled-down world, China and Russia being two 800-pound gorillas, along with less obvious hot spot nations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. What is fundamental, he drives home to us, is the waning influence and eventual irrelevance of the United States in the global economic landscape. He points to our disastrous campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, our ghastly dependence on the kindness of foreigners to purchase our debt, and the near total reversal of globalization now in process in the current economic meltdown. Crime, politics, and economics intersect to undermine the stability of international relations everywhere.
 

Sat

21

Mar

2009

David Holmgren's Future Scenarios - Book Review by Carolyn Baker
Saturday, 21 March 2009 08:43
by Carolyn Baker

...without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline. Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state.

Taken together with the words of NASA climate scientist, Jim Hansen, who tells us that "the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge worldwide effort at mitigation", David Holmgren's words above cause me to pause and on some level stand in awe of the current global economic meltdown. I notice, first of all, that climate change now probably has a life of its own and has permanently escaped the influence of the human species. I also notice that economic collapse, while having unfolded rapidly within the past two years, has not done so in a falling-off-the-cliff scenario and may be slowing down the collapse of the ecosystem.

In Future Scenarios, (Chelsea Green, 2009) David Holmgren, the author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability offers four possible sketches of transition from industrial civilization to a post-petroleum world. The characteristics and likely outcomes of them compel us to view them more closely.

Physically, this paperback book is quite reader-friendly, embellished with colorful illustrations and beautiful photos and fits snugly into pocket or purse for effortless transport.

The first scenario Holmgren names the Brown Tech, Top-Down Construction in which energy descent is slow, and climate change is fast. Brown Tech is essentially the corporatist system that has dominated the United States for the past sixty years, reaching its zenith during the George W. Bush administration. It is "top-down" in the sense that "national power constricts consumption and focuses resources to maintain the nation-state in the face of deteriorating climate and reduced energy and food supply." (68) Brown Tech is characterized by centralized systems, high-density systems, national banks and currencies, a nationalist/fascist bias, male domination, and culturally speaking, a super-rationalist/fundamentalist dichotomy.

Conversely, the Green-Tech scenario is characterized by slow energy-decline rates and mild climate change symptoms. The sense of chaos and crisis "is more muted without major economic collapse or conflict." (68) This scenario is the one embraced by those well-meaning progressives who may believe that we have enough time for strategically transitioning to a post-petroleum, downscaled world. In Green Tech there is good conservation, a great deal of renewable energy use, compact towns and small cities, regional currencies, the gender status is balanced and blended, and the philosophical orientation is essentially humanist and eco-rationalist. What makes Green Tech unrealistic and somewhat utopian, in my opinion, is the speed with which climate change is actually occurring. For Green Tech to be fully implemented, climate change must be slow. "The relatively benign climate allows a resurgence of rural and regional economies on the back of sustained and growing prices for all natural commodities including feedstock for biofuels." (69)
 

Fri

20

Mar

2009

Torture Team – Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law. Book Review by Jim Miles
Friday, 20 March 2009 06:51
by Jim Miles

Only a few pieces of paper can change the course of history. On Tuesday, 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfield signed one that did.” From such a singular beginning Philippe Sands writes the history of U.S. attempts to abrogate international laws and conventions on the use of torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners of war. This is the memo Rumsfield approved with the sarcastic comment about standing: “However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Perhaps Rumsfield should have been subjected to the other seventeen “techniques” that accompanied the memo to see if his limits for them were any better.

Torture Team begins carefully, reviewing and structuring the trail of evidence and the chain of command. Most of the participants in the chain of command were interviewed, some more willingly than others, and good portraits of their characters come through. They varied from casually ignorant and insouciant to defensively firm in their self-perspectives on the various papers, actions, and events that occurred. Through it all, the only groups/people that appear to be relatively ‘clean’ in these events are the military themselves and the FBI. All others, politicians (starting at the top with Bush, Rumsfield, Douglas Feith, Wolfowitz et al), government lawyers and advisors (Gonzales, Haynes, Jay Bybee, John Yoo et al), medical personnel, psychologists, anthropologists – pretty much anyone who had a hand in the interrogation – become complicit in war crimes under international law.

Singularities


As with the one action paper signed by Rumsfield, much of the evidence comes from a singular detainee, Detainee 063 (Mohammed al-Qahtani) whose record of torture is described in an Interrogation Log over a period of several months. Around the one piece of paper and the one detainee is a history of the attempted subversion of international law, and the evasions and rationales used by the chain of command to avoid culpability.

As another singularity, much of the argument is based on Common Article 3 - labelled so because it appears in each of the four Geneva Conventions – prohibiting “cruel treatment and torture, as well as ‘outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” A violation of this article “would be a war crime, leading to possible investigation in many countries,” in deed it is incumbent on signatory countries to prosecute war crimes. Further “There are no exceptions to Common Article 3 – not even necessity or national security,” making anyone who contravenes it “an international outlaw.”

A final singularity appears later in the book when Sands discusses the situation in comparison with Nuremberg and a particular Nazi government official, a lawyer, whose argument acted within the same parameters as those presented to Douglas Feith. While Sands agrees that the actual actions are not comparable on scale, the arguments presented as lawyers trying to avoid culpability are similar.

Feith and U.S. exceptionalism

Douglas Feith (apparently pronounced ‘Fife’), Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, is one of the main characters in the history. He is one of the “chicken hawk” neocons advocating for a new world order, arguing that the war on terror is a “new kind of war.” The Bush administration and its many other neocon supporters argue that the world changed on 9/11, that the U.S. was fighting a new type of war, against non-state actors. An external view of the situation more correctly identifies that the world remained essentially the same, as non-state insurgents and jihadists had been active for some time, propelled to their modern image by the U.S. itself in liaison with Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Yes, something in the U.S. changed, but not its record of foreign military interventions, but its outward attitude that now it could what it wanted openly against the terrorists.
 

Wed

11

Mar

2009

Angler - The Rise and (Finally!) Fall of Dick Cheney
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 12:04
by Bernard Weiner

Reading Barton Gellman's "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" (Penguin Press, 2008) is yet another reminder that all too often those who were right early on about the massive dangers facing American society under the CheneyBush Administration were ignored, marginalized, reviled, often punished.

There were scores of us in the media, most on the internet but a healthy handful inside corporate mainstream journalism, who from the very beginning were warning of a power-hungry Administration out of control, with terrible consequences to our foreign/military policy and to the integrity of the Constitution. (See this one, for example, from December 2001.)  Eight long years were lost to this catastrophically wrong turn in American politics, while the corporate mass-media in the main served as an effective lapdog for the neo-conservative madness.

But Bart Gellman's voluminously-researched volume, along with recent revelations by Obama's Department of Justice about the run-amok legal philosophy in the Bush White House has demonstrated the incontrovertible truth that no longer can be ignored:

The United States came justthisclose to an irreversible militarist coup, and leading the charge at every step of the way was Dick Cheney. I think virtually everyone outside the 30% GOP base, at least by 2006 or so, sensed there was something deeply wrong with the guy and/or in how he operated. Gellman, who (along with Washington Post co-writer Jo Becker) won a Pulitzer Prize for this reporting, nails it. In so doing, he provides an object lesson for how Obama and future presidents might want to treat the Constitution, the separation-of-powers tradition, the rule of law, transparency in governing, etc.

If you haven't read "Angler," do so: It's extraordinary history and a great read. But be prepared: Cheney's actions are worse, more wide-ranging and more scary that you might even have imagined.

THE SEARCH FOR HIMSELF

It seemed fairly clear how much of an influence Cheney had on Bush, especially, say, in the first five or six years. Bush was not prepared, informed, curious, sufficiently intelligent, and, since politics like nature abhors vacuums, Cheney flowed into all the holes. He had appointed himself Vice President precisely to fill that role. How Cheney maneuvered himself into the #2 job is deliciously told by Gellman. Cheney in effect organized "a nationwide search for himself," and made sure that neither his medical records nor his policies and connections would ever be vetted, by anyone.

Cheney, after his decades in the federal structure, knew the byways and little-known corridors to information and power, and used all that knowledge and collected on favors-owed. He also placed cohorts in key positions of power around the capitol, from Cabinet members to sub-Cabinet and even middle-grade officials. Cheney, in charge of appointments, believing that "personnel was policy," installed his guys into these linchpin positions and began to manipulate the levers of power. The result was that Cheney, in effect, was running his own government within the government.
 

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Last Rites for the United States, and Himself - Book Review by Walter C. Uhler of Last Rites, by John Lukacs
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 21:30
by Walter C. Uhler

A Review of Last Rites, by John Lukacs

In 1990, at the age of sixty-five, John Lukacs wrote a well-received "auto-history" entitled Confessions of an Original Sinner. Now, almost twenty years later, Mr. Lukacs has given his readers part two: Last Rites. The book not only appears to constitute a valedictory for an erudite and influential 85 year old man — who admits that his curiosity, reading and appetite for life are weakening — but also the swan song for the five hundred years of European culture carried forward, until recently, by the United States.

Which is to say that Mr. Lukacs sees signs of America's decadence all around: academics who neither buy nor read books, the widespread decline of serious reading, "the rapid deterioration of attention, the nervous constriction of its span," an "unwillingness to think," the rise of pictorial culture (a new "Dark Ages of symbols, pictures, images, abstractions"), and, most ominously, the emergence of a militaristic political conservatism in the United States.

He notes: "In 1950 there was not one American public or political or academic or intellectual figure who declared himself a 'conservative.' By 1980 more Americans declared themselves 'conservatives' than 'liberals.'" Accompanying this rise of political conservatism was a "militarization of the popular imagination" that abetted the replacement of normal patriotism with aggressive nationalism.

Relying upon such ugly nationalism, the President and Vice President who occupied the White House prior to the Obama administration believed "that going in Iraq and crushing its miserable dictator in a quick war would be popular, resounding to the great and enduring advantage to…[their] reputation and to the Republican Party's dominance in the foreseeable future. There have been many American presidents who had chosen to go to war for different reasons: but I know of no [other] one who chose to go to war to enhance his popularity."

Sick, but widespread, American nationalism also goes far to explain why the opinion elite, the mainstream news media and the misinformed public would lend their support to an unprovoked, illegal, and thus evil, war of aggression. It wasn't the behavior one would expect from a civilized people.

(Writing about the fate of liberalism in the United States, Mr. Lukacs asserts, "Ten years after the 1960s it was just about dead. It belonged to the past; it had nothing more to achieve; it was exhausted. Its tasks had been done." Unfortunately, Last Rites is silent about America's recent economic collapse and the overwhelming decision by America's voters to elect a liberal, Barack Obama, to direct its recovery and, perhaps, its transformation.)

Nevertheless, Last Rights leaves much to be desired, especially when compared with two recent and exceptionally thoughtful books by Mr. Lukacs — Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred* and George Kennan: A Study in Character ** (see links below). Beyond the swan songs, it's a watered-down goulash containing sketches of his life in Chester County, Pennsylvania, tender memories of his native Hungary and brief vignettes capturing the loving and lovely essence of each of his three wives. It also is weakly seasoned by Mr. Lukacs' poorly reasoned epistemological "grand truth," which he presents in Chapter One: "A Bad Fifteen Minutes."
 
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