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


Sat

28

Feb

2009

Sacred Demise: New Book by Carolyn Baker: Book Foreword By Sarah Anne Edwards, Ph.D.
Saturday, 28 February 2009 11:16
by Carolyn Baker
Within the next three weeks, my forthcoming book, Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse will be released and will be available for purchase at this website and at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Below is the book's foreword written by Sarah Anne Edwards, Ph.D. and co-author of Middle Class Lifeboat. She also teaches at Pine Mountain Instituteand manages the Eco-Anxiety Blogspot. Sarah has gracioulsy consented to write the foreword for my book which is an emotional and spiritual roadmap for navigating the decline of industrial civilization. I extend my deepest gratitude to Sarah for her insight into the book's message and for her eloquent description of it.

The book's cover depicts the decline of an ancient civilization alongside the enduring thread of its deepest sacred traditions.

by Sarah Anne Edwards, Ph.D

If you're reading this book you already know we're living in perilous times. By now most people are waking up to that fact. Even President Obama has warned us that difficult times lie ahead. Just days before taking office when asked if sacrifice will be required of everyone, Obama told the nation, "Everyone is going to have to give. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game."

But even recognizing that times are tough, chances are reading this book will feel overwhelming and unsettling at times. I know it has been for me and I've been studying, writing, and teaching about the implications of such threats as peak oil, climate change, and economic collapse over half a decade. But I'd like to suggest that we welcome whatever feelings of overwhelm or disquiet this book may stir in us, because like the medicine our mothers gave us as children, they will make us better.

I say this because Carolyn is not one to beat around the bush. Her focus is not on statistics, charts, and data demonstrating the factual realities of our eco-nomic situation. There are ample books with such information. Most of them touch lightly on the focus of this book, firmly acknowledging its importance, but skittering on to the facts.

In Peak Everything, for example, Richard Heinberg emphasizes that "Much of the human impact (of peak oil and climate change) will be measurable in economic terms; however, individual and collective psychological effects will perhaps be of equal and often greater significance." Having observed the effects economic collapse of the USSR in the 1990's, Dmitry Orlov agrees. In Reinventing Collapse, he writes, "Economic collapse is about the worst time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens."

Fact is, the future is going to be hard to swallow, not only presenting practical day-to-day challenges but deeply impacting our emotional and spiritual lives. In Sacred Demise Carolyn doesn't just touch on this fact. She dares to make it the sole focus of our attention, reaching far beneath the statistic, charts, and generalizations about their implications and delving deeply into the heart and soul of the inner traumas and turmoil we will most likely encounter. She zeroes right in on the very places we want to run away from, ignore, and rationalize, including the profound loss we will feel.
 

Mon

23

Feb

2009

A Dozen Book for Americans that Tell it Like it is...
Monday, 23 February 2009 12:21
by Sherwood Ross

If newspaper readership is plummeting, maybe it’s because readers are turning elsewhere to catch a glimpse of the causes behind the official story. Recognizing this, some book publishers courageously are using their printing presses to bring interpretive reporting to the reading public. Here are a dozen books Americans need to read as they paint a realistic picture of how our government’s policies are inflicting needless suffering at home and globally.

Legacy of Ashes: The History of The CIA”(Anchor) by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Weiner, contains some sweeping, but accurate, generalizations, such as this one: “By 1970, the CIA’s influence was felt in every nation in the Western Hemisphere, from the Texas border to Tierra del Fuego.” Weiner spotlights how the spy agency’s operatives exerted more influence than the State Department. “In Mexico, the president dealt exclusively with the station chief, not the ambassador, and he received a personal New Year’s Day briefing at his home from the director of central intelligence. In Honduras, two successive station chiefs had privately pledged the support of the United States to the military junta, in defiance of the ambassadors they served.” Weiner doesn’t mince words about how President Kennedy, who once said he was proud to be a liberal, “first approved a political-warfare program to subvert (Salvador Allende) more than two years before the September 1964 Chilean elections” when the CIA pumped $3 million into the pockets of his political opponent.

In “Free Lunch” (Penguin Books), Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston, writes, “Over the past three decades the rules affecting who wins and who loses economically have been quietly and subtly rewritten,” and “In the past quarter century or so our government has enacted new rules that have created not only free markets, but rigged ones.” One outcome of these policies is that, in 2005, “the 300,000 men, women, and children who comprised the top tenth of 1 percent had nearly as much income as all 150 million Americans who make up the economic lower half of our population.”

The Three Trillion Dollar War”(W.W. Norton) by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes charts the true costs of President George W. Bush’s tragic aggression against Iraq, a war waged with borrowed bucks. Noting the total cost to American taxpayers “will turn out to be around $3-trillion” the famous economist and Harvard government finance expert, respectively, write large in their Preface: “Miserable though Saddam Hussein’s regime was, life is actually worse for the Iraqi people now. The country’s roads, schools, hospitals, homes, and museums have been destroyed and its citizens have less access to electricity and water than before the war. Sectarian violence is rife.”

Armed Madhouse”(Plume) by Greg Palast, is subtitled “Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House GONE WILD” and contains much factual data about how the members in good standing of the military-industrial complex are profiting from the Iraq holocaust. “For the first time in its (General Dynamics) history, (profits are) exceeding a billion dollars a year. Lockheed Martin is doing even better, scoring a record $2.5 billion. I know that with weaponry profits bouncing off the clouds, you’re concerned that the firms will have a huge tax bill. Not to worry. In 2004, just before the election, the Bush Administration slipped a special provision into tax legislation to cut the tax on war profits to an effective 7% compared to the 21% paid by most U.S. manufacturers.”

In “House of War”(Houghton Mifflin), winner of the National Book Award, James Carroll writes, “The Pentagon is now the dead center of an open-ended martial enterprise that no longer pretends to be defense. The world itself must be reshaped. Nothing less than evil must be vanquished. Its good intentions heavily armed, its scope extending from ‘prevention’ to something called ‘operations other than war,’ the Pentagon has, more than ever, become a place to fear.”

The Sorrows of Empire”(Henry Holt) by Chalmers Johnson, also tackles the issue of the Pentagon’s spreading hegemony: “Overseas bases, of which the Defense Department acknowledges some 725, come within the scope of the peacetime standing army and constitute a permanent claim on the nation’s resources while being almost invariably inadequate for actually fighting a war. The great enclaves of bases, such as those in Okinawa or Germany, have not been involved in combat since World War II and are not really intended to contribute to war-fighting capabilities. They are the headquarters for our proconsuls, visible manifestations of our imperial reach.” Johnson is also the author of the national bestseller “Blowback”(Henry Holt), in which he relates how the CIA intervened in the Afghan civil war and the ensuing cataclysm “turned Kabul, once a major center of Islamic culture, into a facsimile of Hiroshima after the bomb,” words President Obama might ponder as he prepares to inject more warriors into that luckless nation.
 

Sun

15

Feb

2009

Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon is a Must Read - Book Review by Jim Miles
Sunday, 15 February 2009 07:42
by Jim Miles

Israel’s Occupation. Neve Gordon. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2008.

A must read

There are many sources of information from websites through newspapers to books that carry significant referenced information about the history and context of the Israel/Palestine problem that, with the support of the U.S. government and the ambitions of the Israelis, has become a global problem. There is much material that accounts for the misery and suffering and imposition of a military regime on an occupied territory, and it all supports the general idea of an occupied people suffering under the power of an invading military.

Now added to this relatively strong list of materials is Israel’s Occupation, a book that is so well written and presented that it provides a captivating and amazingly powerful read. It is one that I would describe as a ‘must read’ for anyone – from those already knowledgeable about the situation, to those who are relative newcomers. Neve Gordon’s description, analysis, and examples are clear, concise, and authoritative (most from Israeli sources). His arguments and perspectives are fully supported and well sequenced. While I hesitate to describe any purely academic work as captivating, this work fits.

It develops several themes about the occupation that keep recurring, with alterations, as it develops the history of the occupation from 1967 to the present. First is the theme that the occupation is both temporary and arbitrary. Not that the occupation is temporary, but the means employed to control the population are fully temporary and arbitrary. Control of the population is another ongoing theme, as the Israelis desired a “land without people for a people without land” and therefore perpetuated this idea through these arbitrary controls on the population, while at the same time using that control to confiscate and annex Palestinian land, piece by piece, through quasi legal means. The third theme is of excesses and contradictions that ties into the arbitrary and temporary theme. For all that Israel tried to do to control the population, to “normalize” the situation, the built in contradictions of their actions and the excesses they went to in order to create this similitude of normalcy, all created more and more problems that in turn created further actions with contradictions and excesses.

Homo sacer

Ultimately, Israel simply does not care about the Palestinian people. At first normalizing meant trying to keep the population relatively pacified, divided, and comfortable while extracting the most utility from them as a labour resource and market for Israeli goods, while investing as little as possible into Palestinian infrastructure. As explored by Gordon, this changes to the point where at the end – the ‘now’ of Gaza – the people have become fully disposable to the violence that the Israeli military is ready, willing, and able to use against the Palestinians – and the Lebanese, and others in the perhaps not so distant future - in order to secure the land and resources of Eretz Israel and its near frontier hinterland consisting of compliant and complacent Arab states.
 

Sat

14

Feb

2009

When Technology Fails - Book Review by Carolyn Baker
Saturday, 14 February 2009 17:30
by Carolyn Baker

Watch Mat Stein demonstrate his emergency survival kit on PEAK MOMENT TV Rarely in the specialized milieu of industrial civilization does one encounter a Renaissance man or woman-someone who is well-versed in a wide spectrum of disciplines and who can expound upon them in writing that is both articulate and engaging. So when I discovered Mat Stein's phenomenal When Technology Fails: A Manual For Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving The Long Emergency, I immediately contacted the publisher, Vermont's own Chelsea Green, for a review copy of this fabulous tome on preparing wisely for the end of the world as we have known it.

While this book at first glance may resemble something of a 21st century Whole Earth Catalog, it is so much more. Whereas that classic of some three decades ago served as a primer for individuals and groups seeking to live simply and sustainably, primarily because it felt good and seemed like the right thing to do, When Technology Fails, feels as if it has erupted out of the urgent necessity of this moment. Its intention is unmistakable: to offer a "bible for emergency preparation and survival" as well as green and healthy living. However, one should not assume that this book is a "survivalist" manual. It isn't about grabbing your bug-out bag with a few cans of beans in it and running into the woods dressed in camo. It is a book about surviving but also about living well in harmony with the earth community while using methods that allow one's lifestyle to endure and flourish.

The book begins by noting that technologies frequently fail and that the greater the number of earth's population and the more is consumed by it, the more the likelihood of irreversible failure of many aspects of technology. "Emergency preparedness," Stein says, "is cheap disaster and terrorism insurance." After offering a number of resources to introduce the reader to self-sufficiency, the book offers an explanation of the various threats now facing humankind: eco-threats, Peak Oil, bio and terror threats, and of course, natural disasters. As if to underscore humanity's intuitive sense of what lies ahead, Stein references the plethora of prophecies that have been around for millennia, originating primarily from indigenous peoples, and pointing to a culmination of catastrophes.

From here Stein launches into a chapter on short and long-term preparation-survival kits, first aid kits, and of course, food storage-recommending if possible, a cache of one year's supply. In the following chapter on "Emergency Measures for Survival", he includes not only the proper equipment and how to use it, but a remarkable section on developing a survivor personality and the importance of paying attention to one's intuition. Because some individuals may feel "intuition challenged"-as if they can't quite access it when they need it, Stein offers a "Testing Your Intuition" exercise which facilitates the process. Concluding this chapter and indeed all chapters in the book, are abundant references to books, websites, DVD's and other resources related to the topics at hand.
 

Thu

05

Feb

2009

Violence in the holy land – Witnessing the Conflict in the Middle East - Book Review by Jim Miles
Thursday, 05 February 2009 20:50
by Jim Miles

The original concept for this work, as described by the editor Robert Wolf, is that of a writing workshop during which Israeli and Arab participants discuss aspects of writing technique at the same time having a dialogue about the issues involved. Wolf admits, “Up until the final workshop, few Arabs had participated,” with the result that several (the number is not given) titles from the Arab perspective were delivered after the workshop. While that would short change the dialogue portion of the workshop, the final product does have a balance of writings between Israeli and Arab.

But then one has to question “balance” as current media try to “balance” their stories with what the media consider to be equal representation from both sides of the story even if one side is fully dominant in all other contexts. Fortunately for this book, there is a balance of quantity as well as, for the most part, a balance of either reasoned response or honest emotional response on both sides. As a reviewer, I do not look for balance, I work as an advocate towards a certain objective – in this case, two groups being able to survive and prosper peacefully within the same geographic space.
Peace

For the editor, the purpose is to promote much needed dialogue between the two viewpoints. As a starting point, this volume works well, but it is not so much a dialogue as a series of statements from both sides of the conflict. Underneath it all is one of the essential questions of humanity – why cannot we live in peace?

For all that, this series of personal stories works, creating an effective image of two estranged people. One expresses the anguish of loving a land their families have lived on for many generations, and the suffering yet undeniable resilience of a people under occupation. The other expresses a different view, from the fear of living under the threat of terrorist suicide bombings, to the anguish of loving a land that is riven with violence, to the awareness that the military occupation and the denial of the “other” has corrupted the dream of a homeland. Is there a common theme? Yes, that of ordinary people not fully comprehending why the violence and why cannot there be peace.

Several points along the way are revealing and conducive towards further dialogue. One writer states “People make peace. The leaders will find any reason to continue the conquest only because of the fear of losing the helm.” She then asks “Is it at all possible to educate a whole people…so that positive behavior will emerge on both sides. Who has the courage to undertake this education?” Fortunately the answer to the question is that many have the courage to undertake the education, but part of the answer also involves those in power, the leaders who fear losing their own position in power.
 

Mon

02

Feb

2009

No Innocent Bystanders - An interview with Mickey Z
Monday, 02 February 2009 17:42
by Gregory Elich

mickey_z_no_innocent_bystandersJust out is the latest book by political activist Mickey Z, and like his other works this one is packed with incisive analysis and engaging wittiness. Never reluctant to take on sacred cows, Mickey looks at our political culture and lays bare all of its pretensions and illusions.

[Q] Your new book, No Innocent Bystanders, is just out. It’s a book amply filled with food for thought and interesting insight. What were you looking to achieve with this book, and what audience do you hope to reach?

[A] I was looking to achieve radical immortality and was hoping to reach all 6.6 billion humans in the process. However, I’d settle for starting a little discussion among those who identify as "leftists" but seem too easily satisfied by Democratic Party propaganda.

[Q] Leftists comprise a tiny portion of the population, but your assessment does appear to be the norm for the U.S. Left. An examination of the post-World War II era would seem to indicate cause for skepticism about the Democratic Party. Yet regardless of how often the pattern repeats, support never wavers.

[A] Sounds like Chicago Cubs' fans, huh? Anyway... it may be that only a "tiny portion" identify as being leftist (because that term has been so effectively demonized), but I’ll bet that if you asked most people, they’d often choose what amounts to a "left" stance. They’d want universal health care, a cleaner environment, affordable housing, etc. I think so many Americans cling to the two-party fantasy because - on some level – they understand that to believe otherwise would then require them to take action.

[Q] That’s a good point. Your book covers several topics of importance, some of which are eloquently laid out in your chapter, "America's Top Exports: Grief, Sorrow and Loss." The intent of your book seems to be to hold painful facts before your readers and ask them to not turn away. Some of the information you provide lacks nothing for drama, yet the public at large remains largely indifferent. What are your thoughts on this?

[A] That thumping noise you hear is me hitting my head against the wall... repeatedly. All it takes, so it seems, is a modicum of creature comforts and mindless diversions to keep the Average American (AvAm) from displaying even a hint of social consciousness.

The Average American is hoodwinked supporting a sociopathic culture underwritten by materialism and mendacity (SCUMM). Conditioning, propaganda, fear tactics, programming, a modicum of creature comforts and mindless diversions - all designed to dupe us out of both our tax money and our critical thinking faculties thus turning us into a nation of pawns with lawns, scattered across this coast-to-coast mall,

choosing denial over duty. Comfortably numb - as they say (although the "comfort" part is increasingly in question).

[Q] Is it that the corporate culture in the U.S. is so effective at what it does? Or are people here socialized at home and school to conform? It seems that there is more than just contentment with creature comforts at play here.
 

Sat

31

Jan

2009

The Uncultured Wars – Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought - Book Review by Jim Miles
Saturday, 31 January 2009 10:07
by Jim Miles

jim miles review
The Uncultured Wars – Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought. Steven Salaita. Zed Books, New York, 2008.

“The Uncultured Wars” comprises an excellent series of thought provoking essays, the excellence deriving from their ability to provoke thought that should be one of the hallmarks of academic works. As such Steven Salaita writes as an advocate of a position rather than pretending dispassionate objectivity, or “myth of disinterest” in Salaita’s own words. I will return to that idea later as for my own personal interests it is contained in one of his more interesting essays. Generally, these essays are well constructed, leading the reader to consider how subtle and yet how obvious racism is in the U.S., Arab/Muslim racism in particular.

Salaita’s introduction discusses the medium of the essay as a format to represent ideas and helps define what I have always thought, but perhaps not with the same clarity: “…most newspaper columnists are corporate exhibitionists, not essayists. Or, to be fair, most of them are simply bad essayists.” Salaita’s essays are mostly highly academic, using language that would be difficult for many readers, yet I would estimate that the targeted audience is that of academia, the liberal press, and others that are – or should be – discussing the ideas of liberal thought within the context of racism, terrorism, culture, and morality. Whether they would recognize themselves within that context is open to their own interpretations.

The introductory essay, “Anti-Arab racism, American liberals, and the new civilian terrorists” looks at the defining features of Arab racism through a critique of media and their view of current events. Current events at the time of writing were the Israeli attacks against the Lebanese population - and unfortunately every place where Lebanon came into this argument, Gaza could be readily inserted without changing the argument or the descriptors of events. Salaita starts with a couple of “exemplars” of anti-Arab racism, using Dershowitz’s writing in The Nation, Ruth Conniff in The Progressive, and Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. He arrives at his definition with “the most consistent feature of anti-Arab racism” being the “incessant equation of Arabs with ruthless, innate violence devoid of the context invariably granted every instance of American or Israeli aggression.”

The corollary is also true if one takes ‘American or Israeli aggression’ as being ruthless, innate violence as it too is always removed from the context that it is to protect the elites holding on to the privileges of power. The latter leads to Salaita’s definition of being anti-racist as “being willing to sacrifice privilege to the benefits of all humans.” A short simple statement but it carries significant truth. He then exorcises the liberal position of tolerance, recognizing that tolerance does not equate to equality or anti-racism, but rather, "reflects their unwillingness to undertake what is necessary to eliminate racism.”
 

Tue

27

Jan

2009

Pseudo Capitalism – Socialism for the Rich - Book Review by Michael O'McCarthy
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 09:28
by Michael O'McCarthy

Corporations Eat the Poor, Survivors Fed in Halliburon's Worldwide Soup and Gruel Kitchens


Stephen Bindman's just published book, Pseudo-Capitalism - Socialism for the Rich, represents the best critical examination of today's new carnivorous ruling class. Equally important is that this spare, razor sharp volume of example and analysis was written for the average educated layperson.

Not since the quintessentially breakthrough work of C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite (1956) has a volume tackled the complexity that "describes the relationship between the political, military, and economic elite," (people at the pinnacles of these three institutions.) Connects the triangular of this complex prior to and prescient to President Eisenhower's warning about the looming monolith of the "military industrial complex. Therein Mills describes that these people share a common world view:

  • the military metaphysic: a military definition of reality
  • possess class identity: recognizing themselves separate and superior to the rest of society
  • Cooptation / socialization : socialization of prospective new members is done based on how well they "clone" themselves socially after such elites.

These elites in the "big three" institutional orders have an "uneasy" alliance based upon their "community of interests" driven by the military metaphysic, which has transformed the economy into a 'permanent war economy.' And I suggest has been the "capitalist girder" for its foundation since World War II, in whole and in part going back to the War World I when the industrialization the Euro-American capitalist axis was formed over the dying power of the monarchy.

Next came Dumhoff's critical next chapter in defining what the conservatives and neo-conservative hate to admit exists within "democratic" America: that is class division and one form or another of constant class war. Dumhoff explains in WHO RULES AMERICA 1967 (and following updates,) the essence of the burgeoning new ruling class:

"Who has predominant power in the United States? The short answer, from 1776 to the present, is: Those who have the money have the power. George Washington was one of the biggest landowners of his day; presidents in the late 19th century were close to the railroad interests; for George W. Bush, it is oil and other natural resources, agribusiness, and finance. But to be more exact, those who own income-producing property — corporations, real estate, and agribusinesses — set the rules within which policy battles are waged. Domhoff.com

While essential works in the developing zeitgeist, Dumhoff had yet to put the poster face on the American billboard for the working and middle class to see.
 

Tue

27

Jan

2009

Tomgram: Waltz with Bashir, Part 1
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 09:18
by Tom Engelhardt

As a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Ari Folman took part in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and was on duty in Beirut during the notorious massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Just a week ago, Waltz with Bashir, the animated documentary film Folman directed in which he explores his own nightmarish, half-suppressed memories of that period, was given its first underground screening in Lebanon — not far, in fact, from Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut — though the film is officially banned in that country. It has also been screened in Palestinian Ramallah and is reportedly soon to be shown in the Arab Gulf states. It has already won six Israeli Academy Awards, best foreign film at the Golden Globes, and is now nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film.

Waltz With Bashir
Waltz With Bashir: A Lebanon War Story
by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

CLICK TO BUY THE BOOK

At this moment, when the Israeli assault on Gaza has ended in catastrophic destruction and death, director Folman's remarkable voyage — he calls it a "bad acid trip" — into the oblivion of war trauma and the horrific recent history of the Middle East is as stunning, moving, and unnerving an experience as anything you'll see this year, or perhaps any year. A no less remarkable graphic memoir, Waltz with Bashir, was developed in tandem with the film. It will be in your bookstores in a couple of weeks, but can be ordered in advance by clicking here. Not surprisingly, the book and film have some of the impact that the first "graphic novel," Art Spiegelman's MAUS, had when it came out in 1986, and that assessment comes from the fellow — me, to be exact — who published MAUS back then. The single best piece on Waltz with Bashir and its relevance to the recent invasion of Gaza was written by Gary Kamiya of Salon.com. He concludes: "Of course, Israel's moral culpability for the 1982 massacre [in Sabra and Shatila] is not the same as its moral responsibility for the civilians killed in the current war. But there are painful similarities. Sooner or later the patriotic war fervor will fade, and Israelis will realize that their leaders sent them to kill hundreds of innocent people for nothing. And perhaps in 2036, some haunted filmmaker will release 'Waltz With Hamas.'"

Given the power and timeliness of this thoughtful, dreamlike memoir from a living hell, it's a particular honor for TomDispatch to be releasing two long excerpts, exclusively, over the next two Saturdays. Thanks go to Metropolitan Books, the book's publisher, for allowing it to happen. I hope what follows stuns and intrigues you. Keep an eye out for part 2 next Saturday. Tom

 

Tue

16

Dec

2008

Unspeakable Narrative: Review of William A. Cook’s Tracking Deception
Tuesday, 16 December 2008 07:51
alt

by Edward Jayne

Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy
By William A. Cook
Publisher: Dandelion Books, LLC (September 16, 2005)
ISBN-10: 1893302830

Tracking Deception, by William A. Cook, offers a sustained diatribe against Israel and the United States, comprising forty-three articles published between September, 2002, and April, 2005, when the two governments were escalating hostilities against their respective enemies of choice. Not more than thirty-two months transpired, but Cook’s articles went into print on the average once every three weeks for this entire period. The result is something more than a book.

Most histories relax somewhat to let the story tell itself, as may be seen, for example, in the impressive investigative books about Iraq by such authors as Thomas Ricks, Bob Woodward, and Chalmers Johnson that were published at about the same time. In contrast, Cook’s admixture of data and acrimony was persistent in all his articles and therefore throughout his text as a whole. Dates, laws, quotes, sources, and fascinating lists of names and transgressions abound to illustrate and justify his sense of outrage. Granted, his “hard” information is now and again incorrect (usually on the short side of the truth), but this is typical during warfare, and in retrospect it is obvious that Cook’s distortions were far more accurate than most of the reportage in the respectable press at the time.

Apparent toward the end of 2002, when the book begins, was that a major invasion was imminent in Iraq and that Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon had been doing everything he could to intensify the conflict with Palestinians since he came to power eighteen months earlier, most notably by having scuttled negotiations both at Taba and in response to the generous Saudi Peace Plan. By spring, 2005, when Cook’s diatribe ends, the invasion of Iraq had degenerated into outright warfare that culminated in the siege and total destruction of Fallujah once Bush was reelected. Meanwhile, Israeli troops had isolated Arafat in his Ramallah compound, where he would be “contained” until his death, and Sharon had refused to negotiate with his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, despite his generous peace plan that began with a unilateral ceasefire.

Predictably, American activists were outraged by the development of events, if with far more concern about Iraq than Israel. Cook’s articles, most of them published by CounterPunch, rectify this imbalance by focusing on the tactics of Israel as well as its enlarged dependence on the United States since 1948. Most of them discuss the two in combination with an emphasis on Israel’s tactics. Obviously, Cook was willing to risk displeasure from the predictable chorus of angry Zionist apologists who go after anybody who dares to criticize Israel.

2

Tracking Deception’s final essay, “The Destructive Power of Myth,” at least double the length of any of the rest, turns out to have been written in response to the 9-11 catastrophe a full year later. It seems intended as an appendix providing a final overview of Cook’s historic perspective, but it can also be appreciated as a theoretical introduction that clarifies his effort throughout the text to challenge the merits of public mythology exemplified by both Zionist ideology and the misbegotten patriotic support of Bush’s foreign policy shared by the vast majority of the American people. Contrary to Marxist base-superstructure assumptions, Cook features the paramount impact of ideology at the expense of economics, but then traces chauvinistic enthusiasm in both Israel and the United States to the highly successful effort of relatively small but powerful minorities in distorting this shared consciousness to meet their own needs. Crucial to their success, he argues, is their ability to manipulate relatively simple myths to serve this purpose. Such myths, he argues, usually put to use the perceived virtues of the community at large (e.g., a nation’s presumably unique dedication to freedom or its right to occupy its ancient “homeland”) as well as the need to take action now and again in defense of these virtues.
 

Tue

02

Dec

2008

Hamas vs. Fatah – The Struggle For Palestine. Book Review by Jim Miles
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 06:46
by Jim Miles

Hamas vs. Fatah – The Struggle For Palestine. Jonathan Schanzer. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008.

I’m not sure where to start with this volume – other than to say it is a history so out of context and so biased in its language that it is essentially meaningless. If a scientist were to isolate human blood cells and study them under a microscope – and only blood cells under a microscope – they could learn and report about all sorts of facts about the cells, how the chemicals work, how different chemicals block certain other chemical reactions, how different components of blood will attack certain other components of blood, how the cells became less responsive to stimuli and ultimately die. In that out of context scenario, without considering other interactions and engagements with the hundreds of other factors involved in the overall body, the scientist could conclude that blood cells do not function properly and should be considered a rogue element within the body. But scientists aren’t that ignorant, only political scientists are.

Jonathan Schanzer does not describe himself as a political scientist, but rather as a scholar. Examined from a scholarly perspective, this work remains fully out of context and with a language bias that places it well outside a true scholarly effort. His brief biography states that he has travelled widely, including Israel and the Palestinian Territories and that he speaks Arabic and Hebrew. Along with the lack of scholarly rigour in the manner in which he uses sources, there is also a lack of scholarly insight that might have been gleaned from any visits to the Palestinian Territories if he had actually communicated openly with the Palestinian people.

The book jacket claims that this is a “ground breaking” work, but judging by the number of articles and books used in the reference notes, there is nothing really new here. With so many references from other resources, and so very little in the way of personal insight from interviews and experiences from the Palestinians, it could hardly be considered a groundbreaking work, nor scholarly. Further described as providing “a roadmap for a potential way forward” is also disingenuous, as the only solution provided is the old one of having the Palestinians acquiesce to all of Israel’s demands. It is, at best, a compilation of information concerning the political and militia fights between Hamas and Fatah, combined with a total lack of context and biased language.
 

Mon

10

Nov

2008

The Limits of Power – The End of American Exceptionalism - Book Review by Jim Miles
Monday, 10 November 2008 16:36
by Jim Miles

The Limits of Power – The End of American Exceptionalism. Andrew J. Bacevich. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2008.

Before the war in Iraq started Robert Kagan wrote a wonderful little narcissistic view of the United States and its abilities to provide peace in a world of democratic capitalism. It climaxed in my favourite statement of hubris and jingoism that I have read in recent supposedly academic scholarly works, stating

The proof of the transcendent importance of the American experiment would be found not only in the continual perfection of American institutions at home but also in the spread of American influence in the world.

Beyond that statement, Kagan indicated that while the rest of the world may welcome, ridicule, or lament that belief, “it should not be doubted.”[1] Current events, if not the many contra-indicators from previous historical events, clearly demonstrate the patriotic presumptiveness in this expression of U.S. exceptionalism.

Five years later, with the “transcendence” of the United States clearly not in effect, and its institutions clearly demonstrating their lack of perfection, Andrew J. Bacevich’s new work The Limits of Power provides a wonderful cerebral antidote to the unsubstantiated claims of U.S. greatness professed by Kagan.

Bacevich does not come up with an all-encompassing statement similar to Kagan’s, but his summaries and conclusions provide a degree of succinctness to his supporting arguments.

His general theme is that “freedom” as espoused by the United States is from a need to expand and consume, an imperial ambition that uses the military to try and guarantee ongoing consumption by the U.S. public for the economic power of the elites. The introduction, “War Without Ends,” begins with the word “freedom…not so much a word or even a value as an incantation, its very mention enough to stifle doubt and terminate all debate.” A common thread throughout the presentation is the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr, beginning with the recognition that U.S. dreams of managing the world are “born of a peculiar combination of arrogance and narcissism.”
 

Sun

02

Nov

2008

Report on Obama - Book Review by Eric Larsen
Sunday, 02 November 2008 16:29
by Eric Larsen

Endgame - An Essay in Two Parts on Webster G. Tarpley's New Book, Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography

A Note To The Reader: Although the publisher of Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography, is also the publisher under whose imprint I have just published my third novel, The End of the 19th Century, there is no relation between that fact and my writing of this present essay. I had already bought a copy of the Unauthorized Biography and embarked upon the writing of this essay well before any arrangement was made between me and Progressive in regard to the novel.

1

It's well known now by all thinking people that the mainstream media in the United States—including the pseudo-progressive-left elements of it—are every bit as corrupt, sinister, and dangerous as are the national and international figures and the dark forces they work, lie, disinform, filter, mislead, cover, and deceive for. This includes not only the pure and empty Orwellian gibberish on the dying commercial television networks, but it includes as well the likes of Amy Goodman and cohort, who work for the enemies of the republic under cover of a long-cultivated "touchy-feely" kind of "progressive journalism"—a "tea cozy" sort of thing, if you will. And it includes, equally, the pseudo-bombast and high rhetoric of another of what Webster G. Tarpley calls the "media whores," the highly exercised, harrumphing, and 100% sold-out Keith Olbermann.

For news about reality and the actual world we live in, you've got to go to writers like Rand Clifford, Mike Whitney, Sherwood Ross, Mickey Z., Chris Floyd, Jerry Mazza, Glen Ford, and others like them. And you've got to go to sites like Countercurrents, Online Review, Global Research, Information Clearing House, Judy Wood's website, the Atlantic Free Press, and certain others like them.

The writers, investigators, commentators, editors, and scientists at these sites are of an increasingly—desperately—rare kind in today's United States. They remain—still—independent-minded, and they remain, still, authentic and empirically-based observers of events and evidence around them, evidence from which they speak, write, analyze, or further research the truth. They are not paid to lie, or if so, they've turned the payment down. They have not been corrupted in any variety of other ways into lying, they have not been intimidated into lying, and they have not been frightened—at least not yet—into lying. They—right now—are almost all we've got left of a significant free press in the daily, weekly, and monthly "print" media.

 
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