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The USA is highly influential educator specializing is teaching democracy the countries with oil reserves or having strategic importance for other reasons. For some reason Saudi Arabia regime is exempt (as well as other Golf monarchies) and that makes that the whole cycle of "lectures" just a hypocrisy fair. Nobody take it seriously and probably should not.
This is just a smoke screen for promotion of vital economic interests and imperial ambissions. In a way "Illusion of Democracy" along with Hollywood production is one of the top US export product (sometimes on the tips of bayonets, exactly like Trotsky envisioned the export of revolution). This is an integral part of the American Exceptionalism which positions the county as God blessed "a shining city upon a hill". What the USA neoliberal oligarchy means by the word "democracy" is the rule of ruthless financial elite that creates high unemployment and sells country assets for pennies on the dollar. In this sense Yeltsin was the exemplarity neoliberal democrat. As Is Poroshenko in Ukraine and Jair Bolsonaro in Brasil
The administration's September 2002 National Security Strategy, which lays out our post-September 11 strategic vision, prominently features "democracy promotion" as the key instrument of foreign policy. The strategy describes it as a core part of our overall national security doctrine and is applicable mainly to countries that contain oil or significant other raw material deposits. Here is a pretty typical post from guardian.co.uk (Why American ‘democracy promotion’ rings hollow in the Middle East Mark Weisbrot):
I have to laugh when I see the International Republican Institute (IRI) described by the international media as an “organization that promotes democracy” (in this case, on NPR). The IRI is in the news lately because Egypt’s military government has put some of its members on a “no-fly” list and thereby trapped them in the country, facing investigation and possible trial. I am wondering just how credulous these journalists and editors are: if I were to describe the Center for Economic and Policy Research as “a magical organization that transforms scrap metal into gold”, would that become CEPR’s standard description in the news?
Internal use of democracy in the USA does exist on the local level. But on the national level it is very limited by two party system which is actually an improved variant of Soviet one party rule. In reality the USA is the country that is ruled by neoliberal oligarchy, like most other countries in the world. The only problem here is that the USA neoliberal oligarchy is more aggressive then others, more allied with military industrial complex (and especially with intelligence agencies).
In any case the USA after dissolution of the USSR managed to create a huge global empire rules from Washington, which since 2008 is experiencing some troubles.
That's why hiding behind the slogan of defending "democracy" and "freedom" to justify their actions for patching cracks in the empire facade.
For example, the Bush administration as well as later Obama administration actually pursued an extremely pragmatic, ruthless steps directed on maximum gain of power and influence of America and the weakening of real and imaginary opponents. In other word "democracy promotion" serves as empire repair kit.
As Anatol Lieven noted in his classic article Putin versus Cheney - The New York Times
WASHINGTON — In many ways, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney are rather similar characters. Both are highly intelligent, but both see the world above all through the restrictive prisms of security and national power.
Both are patriots, but - like so many leaders - with a tendency to see national power and their own power as one and the same thing. Both are capable of great ruthlessness in defending what they see as the vital interests of their countries. Both are publicly committed to democracy and human rights, but both have been responsible for policies that have called this commitment into question.
But to judge by their records, and especially their speeches of the past week, there is also an important difference between them. Putin is a statesman, and Cheney is not.
Cheney's tub-thumping speech in Vilnius, Lithuania, attacking Russia for lack of democracy and energy "blackmail," coupled with his attempts to create an energy alliance against Russia, invited a blistering response from the Russian president. With perfect fairness, and with the approval - in this case - of most of humanity, Putin could have torn Cheney's speech apart on a whole range of issues.
These include the hypocrisy of denouncing Russia over democracy and going straight on to lavish praise on the oil- rich dictators of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan; the general weirdness of Cheney talking about human rights at all; theinsolence of an administration with the Bush-Cheney team's record in the Middle East daring to demand automatic Russian support against Iran in the name of "the international community," and so on.
If Putin had issued such a response in his state of the union address on Wednesday, he would have had the approval of the overwhelming majority of Russians - while of course doing still further damage to U.S.-Russian relations.
It is hard to imagine a U.S. president turning down a domestic political opportunity like this, whatever the likely effect on his country's interests. But apart from a couple of mild and indirect comments, Putin said none of these things. Instead, he focused on the issue that is indeed the greatest threat to the Russian nation, namely demographic decline.
Putin's calm response to Cheney may be rooted partly in a new confidence in Russia's strength, especially when it comes to influence within the former Soviet Union. One of the marks of Putin's statesmanship is that with some exceptions (mainly with regard to Ukraine, about which Russians tend to be irrational) he has displayed an accurate feel for Russia's real strengths and weaknesses.
To give one example, Putin last year withdrew the remaining Russian military bases from Georgia proper, where they were provocative and vulnerable, while continuing the Russian military presence in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where it enjoys overwhelming local support.
On critical issues like the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear program, Putin has tried to resist U.S. pressure while keeping Russia in line with China and whenever possible Western Europe as well.
This is statesmanship - cynical maybe, but still statesmanship.
The Bush-Cheney administration, by contrast, has a record of grossly over-estimating American power. To judge by Cheney's speech in Vilnius, it may be repeating the same disastrous mistake with regard to U.S. policy towards Russia and in the former Soviet Union.
For if Washington's chief goal is to destroy Russian influence in this region and replace it with that of the United States, it needs to remember that whatever its weakness on the world stage, in its own backyard Russia has some tremendous latent strengths.
If, on the other hand, the more important factor behind Cheney's attack was Russia's role in the U.S. struggle with Iran, then his attack on Russia in Vilnius raises two possibilities - one of them depressing, the other disastrous.
The first is that Cheney and other leading U.S. officials genuinely believe that the United States can gain support for its policies by abusing and threatening other major states.
If so, this reflects not only a Neanderthal approach to diplomacy, but a failure to grasp the damage to American power from the Iraq debacle, and the increased strength and confidence of Russia, China and other countries.
The other possibility is that Cheney is no more interested in a negotiated compromise with Iran than he was with a deal to prevent the Iraq war; and that by driving Russia into Iran's arms, he hopes to wreck any possibility of such a compromise and leave military action against Iran as the only apparent U.S. option.
If this is so, then given the potentially catastrophic implications of a U.S. attack on Iran, not only Russians but the world in general should be grateful for the statesmanship of Putin's response, and should hope that this Russian line continues.
(Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. His book "Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy," cowritten with John Hulsman, will be published in October.)
Timothy Griffin, July 2, 2011
Required Reading for Patriots
To the extent we can take Mayer at her word, this is a disturbing and compelling read. The metaphor of the "dark side" is a rich one. While Dick Cheney intended the expression, during his famous interview, to signify America taking off the gloves to combat terrorists, it was an unintended (or perhaps subconscious) premonition of the ugly part of ourselves that can emerge when we are threatened. If you believe America is worth fighting for (and even after reading this I still think it is), reading this book will remind you of the why and the how of going about that fight. We must fight to preserver our values, not flout them in the name of a false sense of "security".
Mayer portrays a gaggle of scofflaws, such as Dick Cheney's legal council David Addington and DOJ Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, essentially conducting national foreign, military, and legal policy like a group of unruly boys who have discovered their fathers' caches of guns and beer. Along with the rest of the "War Council", they routinely contrived Constitution- and treaty-skirting legalese to justify intensified aggression in the war on terror, circumvention of normal chains of communication and command, routine violation of accepted standards of military and legal conduct, and "enhanced interrogation" techniques including the well-discussed water boarding but numerous other barbarities as well. What you sense from reading the book is that these people genuinely thought they were cutting through the red tape of legal procedure to act in American interests, although Mayer `s language does not directly grant them the benefit of the doubt for this reasonable motive.
What Mayer does hammer home is her view that these activities were not just illegal and immoral (many examples of innocents needlessly suffering at American hands turn the stomach), but were ultimately ineffective relative to traditional investigation and counterterrorism technique. It would be a more compelling dilemma if water boarding KSM actually accomplished anything, but it turns out it did *not* accomplish anything that was not already being achieved through routine investigation. Furthermore, false intel from terror suspects simply attempting to end their torment by telling interrogators what they wanted to hear led to numerous goose chases, including the war in Iraq. Its one thing to break the law to win; it's quite another when you break your own laws and hurt your own cause in the process.
While some view the book as an anti-Bush/Cheney screed, many ideological conservatives--the type of people Mayer would otherwise be at odds with--come off as heroes for their willingness to oppose the Bush Administration's renegade approach and eventually restore order to American criminal procedure.
In the end Mayer praises those who were willing to resist hysteria in the name of the rule of law, and reminds us of why America is supposed to be worth fighting for in the first place.
Response to other reviewers:
Whenever I like a book I always read the other side, so I went and checked all the one-star reviews. The best criticism was from someone who noted the reliance on some anonymous sources forces some skepticism. This is certainly true, but it's ironic when you consider that similar anonymity of sources prevailed during some of the very criminal/intelligence operations the book portrays. Another critic said that Mayer's portrayal of John Lind's extradition was flawed, but never specified how. In any event Mayer's key point about the Lind case was that Lind had a reasonable defense against charges of consciously acting against the United States. The critic did not challenge this central point and it makes me wonder if it's because he knows no such challenge is possible.
Here was one odd criticism:
"She [Mayer] attributes legislative power to Bush when almost every elementary student knows that Congress, not the president, makes the laws, and the president's duty is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed, If Bush's acts were as unconstitutional as she claims, Congress could have, but did not, refuse to pay for them."
This is an argument?
Mayer's entire point is that the Bush administration did *not* faithfully execute American law *or* abide by constitutional and international norms. Mayer clearly explains that Congressional resistance--whatever form it might have taken--was stifled precisely because no one wanted to look "soft on terror" in the post-911 context. If that is to Congress's shame so be it. But this does not in any way diminish the accuracy of Mayer's work.
Here were some juicy ones:
- "Thank God for George Bush and Dick Cheney that protected us from these civilian killers. If it takes pouring water over their face to simulate drowning to save mine, or your family.........sign me up. Humiliation is not torture."
- "Do[sic] [Mayer] understand that under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, matters of national security would have to be disclosed to defendants during a criminal prosecution? Is that really wise and would it keep us safe?"
- "Ms. Mayer clearly represents that large group of liberals who prefer to be dead rather than even twist the pinky toe of a terrorist. Bush-haters will love this book . . . "
- And most poignantly: "In this book she takes a moral position that murderous people with evil intentions have more rights than the people they kill and that the men and women trying to defeat them are essentially evil. That sadly is just not true."
All of these comments illustrate the very xenophobia and paranoia that got us into the moral and legal wreck that Mayer describes in her book.
The first critic claimed to have "hated" the book when it is clear he did not read it. One of Mayer's key points is that water boarding and other violations of international law and military codes of conduct *hurt* our prospects in the war on terror by alienating allies and steeling the resolve of our enemies. Furthermore, the issue of "matters of national security" became a blanket protection against disclosure of misconduct. The Bush administration disrupted a generally noble (if of course imperfect) American tradition of humane treatment of enemy combatants that had served us well until the War Council decided they knew better and threw out two centuries of American tradition.
What these critics also don't realize is that under the Bush administration, virtually *no one* was ever prosecuted for crimes--*precisely* because their interrogations would never withstand scrutiny in any reasonable court.
And I *dare* the last negative reviewer to produce any quote that substantiates this slur that Mayer believes murderers have "more rights" than their victims. If this fat-mouthed critic had actually read the book, he would have known that what we learned to our horror was that numerous *innocent* people were caught up in this crazed witch hunt.
Simply put, these abuses hurt innocent people, wasted our material and personnel resources, and made us no safer--and possibly less so.
B. Buehler January 10, 2010
Screened from the eyes of the world: torture in the dark dungeons of American gulags Of the nearly two dozen books published so far that describe and document the nefarious deeds of George Bush's administration, Jane Mayer's book, "The Dark Side" , is perhaps the most thoroughly researched, meticulous, impressive, and deeply disturbing. It is also gripping and highly readable.
This book represents the best education possible in the Bush Administration's commission of (and the Obama admin's perpetuation of) horrible abuses across the globe. Liberals and conservatives alike will be shocked at the mal-administration of our intelligence services and the abuses committed for no gain whatsoever in actual homeland security. Read it!
Yesh Prabhu July 15, 2008July 15, 2008 By Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree (Plainsboro, New Jersey) - See all my reviews (VINE VOICE)
Of the nearly two dozen books published so far that describe and document the nefarious deeds of George Bush's administration, Jane Mayer's book, "The Dark Side" , is perhaps the most thoroughly researched, meticulous, impressive, and deeply disturbing. It is also gripping and highly readable.
I am convinced that what Woodward and Bernstein's book "All the President's Men" did to the Nixon administration, Jane Mayer's book "The Dark Side" will do to George Bush's administration: blow away, like a piece of straw, the last sliver of credibility that the few remaining supporters of George Bush desperately cling to. "We don't torture", said the President, and Jane Mayer has responded with this book, as if to say: "That is a lie".
Although many of the incidents and details narrated in this book have been well known for quite some time, what is remarkable is the thorough and painstaking manner in which the author has arranged them together, as if she were connecting the haphazard dots and linking them together, to create a clear, convincing, and devastating picture. She has included a significant amount of new information also. Reading this book will make the hair on your nape stand up, as if electrified, and shock you to the very core, and leave you speechless.
The book is full of passages based on well-documented facts that will stun the readers and shake their conscience. For example, she has written that: "For the first time in its history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held captives, making torture the official law of the land in all but name."
The International committee of Red Cross wrote a secret report about the torture the prisoners were subjected to, under the supervision of the CIA at the prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and gave a copy to the CIA. Jane Mayer wrote: "The Red Cross document warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.", and she states emphatically, "The International Committee of the Red Cross declared in the report, given to the C.I.A. last year, that the methods used on Abu Zubaydah, the first major Qaeda figure the United States captured, were `categorically' torture, which is illegal under both American and international law". The book states that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to water-torture("Waterboarding") as often as ten times a week, and up to three time a day. The CIA shared the report, later, with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
It is quite shocking to learn that almost half of all prisoners tortured were found to be innocent of harming the United States in any way, and were eventually let go, without being charged of any crimes, and after spending more than five years in jails. The author has written: "The analyst estimated that a full third of the camp's detainees were there by mistake. When told of those findings, the top military commander at Guantanamo at the time, Major Gen. Michael Dunlavey, not only agreed with the assessment but suggested that an even higher percentage of detentions -- up to half -- were in error. Later, an academic study by Seton Hall University Law School concluded that 55 percent of detainees had never engaged in hostile acts against the United States, and only 8 percent had any association with al-Qaeda."
Reading this book will make you stop and think and wonder how a small group of people in the White House could wreak so much havoc around the world, and tarnish our reputation. This is an extraordinary, thought-provoking, riveting and frightening book. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comments (32)
Edwin C. Pauzer (New York City) September 5, 2008 - See all my reviews (VINE VOICE)
Without Liberty and Justice for All
History is supposed to teach us lessons from the past. From the Alien and Sedition Act, the "Red Scare" of 1919, the detention of thousands of Americans during World War II because of their Japanese ancestry, we were supposed to learn that even through the most dire threat to our safety, the rule of law ennobles us and protects us from tyranny. In "The Dark Side," Jane Mayer explains how easy it is for history to repeat itself in the name of security.
By September 11, 2001, the President of the United States had already spent fifty days of his first eight months in office on vacation. Despite several warnings of an impending attack from foreign intelligence sources as well as our own, the administration never quite understands the threat.
The attack on a clear summer morning changes that, and it changes things for worse. The subsequent invasion of Afghanistan allows the military and the C.I.A. to round up hundreds of Taliban prisoners. An offer of a $5,000 bounty for the capture of al-Qaeda and Taliban nets them hundreds more. The administration screams for actionable intelligence from these detainees, but sorting them out and interrogating them is another matter. The assumption is that "enhanced interrogation techniques" will bring more accurate results in a shorter period of time. It also has to be justified.
That comes from John Yoo, the legal counsel for the Justice Department who provides just the argument Dick Cheney and his attorney, Dick Addington are looking for. It says the president can do essentially anything he wants, and ignore Congress, if it is for the security of the country. Yoo also states that such interrogation methods are not torture unless it results in organ failure or death. Alberto Gonzalez joins in describing Afghanistan as a failed state, and their detainees as unlawful combatants. The state department is not consulted.
America's shame is just beginning.
With John Yoo's memo providing the green light, American military and C.I.A. begin to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Saddam Hussein's Abu-Ghraib prison, and one in Afghanistan. The techniques they employ are standing for prolonged periods, the absence of light and irregular meal periods to enhance disorientation, water boarding, extreme cold and heat, constant loud music, humiliation, no toilet breaks, confined spaces, prolonged restraints, especially Palestinian hangings, irregular and insufficient periods of sleep, and threats. Other detainees are sent to countries for rendition, countries known for human rights abuses. Prisoners will die of exposure, heart attack, asyphixiation, or from simply being beaten to death.
While the administration claims that the techniques work, there are too many instances where the tormented harden their resolve during harsh treatment, and cooperate when treated well. Many who are tortured provide false information that sends our intelligence assets on fools' errands. The most damaging disinformation comes from Sheikh Ibn als-Libi who gives evidence against Saddam Hussein while he is being tortured. This is the justification for going to war with Iraq. He only wanted his torturers to stop.
In 2003-4, the policy begins to unravel. Charges are reduced, dropped, or changed against John Walker Lindh, Yasser Hamdi, and Jose Padilla. Since they were tortured, their charges won't stand up in court. Justice Department lawyers begin to question John Yoo's legal precedents. The CIA Inspector General begins to investigate abuses. JAG officers refuse to prosecute or serve on military tribunals. In 2005, the Abu-Ghraib scandal will break. It is later estimated that most of the detainees at "Gitmo" are people who were rounded up when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were turned in for the generous bounty offered. They include an eighty-year old deaf man, and a wealthy Kuwaiti businessman who will indignantly refuse to buy another Cadillac after his mistreatment. A German and a Canadian citizen will be kidnapped and tortured before they are set free. Three hundred forty of 749 detainees held in Gitmo will remain there with only a handful being charged.
In spite of a growing rebellion inside the Departments of Defense and Justice, the President refuses to remove people he promised he would hold accountable for abuses. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel were involved in torture.
The true leader of this policy holds a tight rein and his resistance to change is fierce. It is Dick Cheney and his loyal lawyer, Dave Addington. Even the new attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez refuses to go toe to toe with Dave, a tall, snarling bully. Cheney takes the unprecedented step of summoning the C.I.A.'s Inspector General to his office while he is conducting his investigation. The military holds a number of investigations that limit them to looking at the lower ranks. It is also clear by 2005, that Bush is fully aware that some of his senior officials believe that Gitmo should be closed and his detention policy changed. The dissenters and naysayers are excluded from any more discussion. To this day, Bush refuses to budge.
This is a powerful story. She tells us that we must look at ourselves if we ever hope to recapture our moral greatness. Even this she concedes will take years. Her book is a good place for our national introspection to begin. It is organized and well-written. Her appeal is persuasive. It is a classic page-turner, and held my interest throughout. There were no "dry spots." Equally important are her sources and references, which are impeccable.
She concludes this powerful report with the following: "Seven years after Al Qaeda's attacks on America, as the Bush Administration slips into history, it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America's security became, and continues to be a battle for the country's soul."
"This country does not believe in torture." George W. Bush, March 16, 2005. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comments (24)
James Hiller (Beaverton, OR) July 26, 2008 - See all my reviews (VINE VOICE) (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
As of late, I've read three books on the Bush Administration. The first was What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, the next wasThe Bush Tragedy, and now this. With Bush's administration finally ending (I'll willingly admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat), I thought it was time to read some early "look backs" of this presidency gone so wrong. The first book allowed me to see the inner workings of the White House, while allowing me to see, if briefly, the human Bush. The second book explained some possible patterns and trends in Bush's psyche by examining his family tree. Out of all three, the one that has absolutely scared the politico out of me is Jane Mayer's astounding new book "The Dark Side".
This book is an examination of how the Bush presidency, in many ways, used the war on terror as a subversive tool to start to undermine the basic civil rights we had in this country up until then. Starting with that horrible day we all remember, we see Cheney in action, who apparently had been expecting some country wide issue that would require him to work from a "shadow government" base near Camp David. As the World Trade Center buildings came down, Cheney was stationed in the White House bunker, commanding everything as well as he could. Fear instantly pervaded the adminstration, deservedly so. Anthrax popping up in letters and people dying from it made Cheney sure that America was under attack and it wouldn't stop. As Americans, we turn to our government in times of crisis to quickly handle the problem.
The problem wasn't their fear, ultimately, it was the unfortunate decisions made at this time that would send our country into a civil liberty tailspin. Cheney long since believed that our presidency had been weakened by Nixon's administration, not because of Watergate, but because of a series of laws passed by Congress that he thought ultimately weakened the president. Cheney saw the 9/11 attacks as an opportunity to regain the power of the presidency, seemingly to go as far as suggesting that our president has absolute power (didn't George Lucas do a series of movies about a person wanting absolute power?).
Being a prime presidential confident, Cheney manages to convince Bush to make a series of decisions early on that ultimately would infringe on our basic civil rights: domestic spying, advocating torture, bypassing Congressional oversight on the war on terror, to name a few. Mayer goes into detail about all of these movements, and the effect of these decisions had on people in and out of our country.
Clearly, in reading Mayer's book, she is clearly not a fan of the Bush administration. However, the reading is literally so scary that you forgive that immediately. Bush, a novice on domestic aggression issues, gives Cheney the power to conduct the war on terror, agreeing to support all of his decisions. Mayer introduces us to some new players in this governmental travesty, and her clear writing never becomes so overburdened with names that I was confused. Her chapters on the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisoners debacle are absolutely horrifying.
Bush and Cheney's publicly stated goal in the "War on Terror" was to protect America. Ultimately, our position in the world has deteriorated, and we are only making other countries more angry with the "either you are with us or against us" dogma. It's certainly frightening, but it's important the truth comes out now, lest we make the same mistakes. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
David W. Straight (knoxville, tennessee United States) July 27, 2008- See all my reviews (REAL NAME)
l'etat, c'est moi!
This is a singularly depressing work, and the worst of the worst is when a study concluded that only 8% of the Guantanamo detainees were alleged to have any association with Al Qaeda. Only 5% were captured by US forces (the other 95% by Pakistanis and bounty hunters, etc, mostly for hefty fees). 55% were not implicated in any hostile act against the US, and for many of the rest, "hostile acts" included fleeing US bombs. The book describes how Bellinger took the study to the White House--and was confronted by Addington and Gonzales. Addington told Bellinger that there would be no discussion of the matter: President Bush had decided that every single one of the detainees was an enemy combatant and that was the final word.
The Magna Carta bound kings to follow certain legal procedures and is the basis for governance in English and American jurisprudence: habeas corpus and other legal matters were codified. It's the forerunner of the US Constitution. It has remained in force in England from 1215 to the present day and was the basis for the US (Louisiana state law is founded on the Napoleonic Code) until 2001. Much of our legal system is intact, but in 2001 the Bush Administration decided that the law was whatever the President and his advisors said it was. Habeas corpus delenda est. The Dark Side shows that the law, when inconvenient, was routinely broken. Normal chains of authority were destroyed, legal decisions were made by people who were not lawyers--such as Cheney--and people who wanted the President to have--literally--life and death firmly in his hands, unrestrained. The Geneva Convention's restrictions on torture was, in Gonzales' words, "quaint". Objections by Powell and legal experts (inside the military and out), were ignored: the objectors were considered not to be team players and "soft on terrorism". Euphemisms and weasel words such as "robust interrogations" became the norm. The Dark Side notes that the TV series "24" in which the hero tortures people to prevent terrorist acts was immensely popular with the CIA, and the Guantanamo forces. I've never seen it myself--but I wonder if Jack Bauer ever makes mistakes? Does he torture innocents who don't have any information? As Dark Side and other sources make abundantly clear, the vast majority of information you get during torture is useless.
As the book shows, there are plenty of those who say "We must treat terror suspects harshly. Why should they have any legal rights?" The Dark Side recounts many tales of where mistakes were made, and people without any connection to terrorism were arrested, tortured (or robustly interrogated if you prefer), rendered to Egypt, Syria, etc. (Clive Smith's The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side focusses on one such poor soul at Guantanamo.) The book shows that for altogether too many of these people, the harsh treatment continued long after it became readily apparent that they had no connection to terrorists. Under Stalin, being a suspect was a crime in and by itself--you had no legal rights at all. Plus la change, plus la meme chose, as they say. The final sentence in the book is a quote from Phillip Zelikow speaking of the internment of Japanse-Americans in WW II: "Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools". Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comments (5)
Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" (Phoenix, AZ.), July 17, 2008 - See all my reviews (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
Becoming the Devil Ourselves!
"The Dark Side" documents how the Bush Administration immediately took the wrong direction post 9/11 in an effort to avert blame for what was a colossal bureaucratic failure (people not doing their jobs or using common sense), combined with inattention and lack of political will at the top. Instead of trying to learn from the tragedy, as Roosevelt did after Pearl Harbor, we blamed it on too much international law, civil liberties, and constraints on the President and covert actions.
This "blameless" direction also fit neatly in with Cheney's effort to strengthen executive powers - his secret energy task force. Cheney immediately saw to it that lawyers came up with rationale sanctioning vast expansions of power in the War on Terror, including physical and psychological torment of captives, and secret capture and indefinite detention of suspects without charges.
Those failing to fall into line, one way or another, were demoted or simply cast aside. Later, as criticism continue to mount, Bush et al tried evading responsibility through new legal opinions, convoluted hair-splitting, and lying.
Where did all this get us? We now have nearly-unanimous negative world opinion (India and Russia being the exceptions), thanks to the Iraq War, the continuing middle-East conflict, deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan-Pakistan, AND the torture of detainees. Nearly seven years post 9/11 not one terror suspect held outside the U.S. criminal justice system has been tried, cases have been dropped because of concerns regarding "evidence" acquired through torture, and no senior Bush Administration person has been prosecuted or fired in connection with prisoner abuse - despite Human Rights Watch' estimates that over 600 U.S. personnel have been involved abusing over 460 detainees, the International Red Cross' unqualified conclusion that torture was utilized, and General Taguba's similar conclusion. Finally, a well-intentioned Congressional ban on torture has been defeated through explicitly excluding the CIA and a Bush "signing statement." Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comment (1)
Avid Southwest, July 18, 2008
Scary - best read in small doses if you have anger issues
This book is a must read, if only to confirm what many of us expected and believed that the Bush Administration was capable of doing to human beings. Graphic, nauseating, disgustingly filled with tidbits regarding the Bush Administrations gradual dismantling of the US Constitution and its full blown assault on human rights (including of course, their Trademark Torture), misuse of the judiciary and general attack on US citizens in general, this book will scare your socks off - and it's true.
The American public should be required to partake of this gem. We as citizens, have allowed these people to smash our rights and our Constitution and commit War Crimes in the name of our country without being held to any type of ethical standards.
You will come away believing that Bush and Cheney should stand trial at the Hague for War Crimes or be impeached for failing to uphold our Constitution and violating their Oath of Office.
Criminals - that's all they are. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comment
M. Pitcavage (Columbus, OH USA), July 31, 2008 - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)
The Scariest Book of the 21st Century,
Jane Mayer's The Dark Side is "eye-opening" in the same way that walking into a bedroom to find someone sexually assaulting a minor is "eye-opening": it is shocking, dismaying, anger-provoking, and saddening all at the same time.
With abundance evidence, most of it gathered from the most "inside" of sources, Mayer lays out the case against the Bush Administration and how its war on terror became in so many appalling ways a series of wars on other things--human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law among them. The callous disregard exhibited by the so-called "War Council" for everything from basic human rights to the checks and balances established by the Constitution is appalling.
This book is not a polemic, nor a jeremaiad. Though sometimes Mayer inserts comments or facts that serve only to gild the lily, most of the book is a straightforward accounting of the events and decision-making behind a number of different areas, some well known (Abu Ghraid, rendition, etc.) and some less so. She also chronicles the courageous--but almost always unsuccessful attempts of a number of people within the military and the Pentagon, within the FBI, within the Justice Department and sometimes elsewhere to stop or slow down or mitigate the endless series of abuses, often at the expense of their careers.
This is especially, above and beyond everything else, a book about lawyers, and I think this is a fact that Jane Mayer herself perhaps did not fully consciously realize. Many, perhaps most, of the actors in this book are attorneys--usually counsels, those who provide legal advice and guidance for government agencies. Some of those attorneys used their skills to try to subvert the law, while others were motivated by their love of and respect for the law (as well as by a basic sense of humanity) to try to end the abuses. It would be an amazing book to use in a law school legal ethics class.
I highly recommend this book. It is disturbing, depressing, and damning, and you need to read it. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse
Andrew J. Rodriguez (Golden, Colorado), July 22, 2008 -- See all my reviews (VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME)
Americans are clueless about terrorism
Cuban born, I lived in Havana until two years after the 1958 communist takeover. Fortunately I escaped to the Land of the Free in 1961. Never in my wildest nightmares I would have envisioned that the brothers Castro will remain solidly in power for over fifty years, especially in a country only ninety miles away from "the most powerful nation Earth has ever known."
Yet my friends, it wasn't a bad dream. It was and still is a crude reality. Never in my wildest nightmares I would have imagined my beloved America, the country that fed and warmed our hearts after escaping communist terror, falling prey to opportunists of the same kind and with equal objectives, and never in my entire life as an American citizen I considered the possibility of terrorism thriving in our adopted homeland as it does today.
As a teenager I lived under the terror of Batista's butchers. Friends died under the explosion of bombs placed by Castro's terrorists aka "revolution freedom fighters" underneath random cars, in shopping centers, garbage cans, movie theatres, public transportation and in every imaginable location where the end justified the means.
Those were the days when Cubans refused to believe in the reality of a communist country existing at swimming distance from the US. Unbelievable? When I attended college after dark my mother awaited me every single night and thanked God on her knees upon my arrival, for I had made it home safe, sound and untortured one more time.
When Fidel arrived, terrorism got even worse because it was perpetrated by brothers against brothers, friends vs. friends, blacks against whites. The country became divided and as a result evil thrived in its midst. Shortly thereafter my family decided to escape from hell into the Land of the Free. Today, some forty years later I detect so many similarities between my former country during those years and the US today, that I'm scared to the bone about the fate of my grandchildren.
Are most American citizens waiting for John Wayne to come alive and save us from our own form of terrorism by shooting the enemy from the hip Hollywood style? Have we become so greedy in America that only money makes us think straight? Are we dumb enough to believe that America still is the world's strongest superpower therefore invincible by the will of God?
"The Dark Side" is the best book I've read this year, not because it is great literature but because it is much more than a simple book. It is an ominous warning about the loss of freedom and the birth of a dictatorship.
Like Milovan Djilas's "The New Class" and George Orwell's "Animal Farm" opened my eyes to the sources of terrorism in the Cuba of the fifties, "The Dark Side" should be read and fully understood by every responsible American, black, white, yellow, green, republican, democrat, gay or straight.
After all aren't we brothers and sisters first and foremost? Together let us change the history proven adage; "Imbedded in democracy are the seeds of its own destruction." GOD SAVE AMERICA! and Damn it, buy the book!
Andrew J. Rodriguez Award-winning author: "Adios, Havana," a Memoir Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you?
Douglas S. Wood "Vicarious Life" (Monona, WI)
A Lady Asked Dr. Franklin, "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."
Quoted in the Afterword from the papers of Dr. James McHenry at the time of the 1787 federal convention in Philadelphia.
`The Dark Side' by Jane Mayer tells one of the most profoundly disturbing stories that I have ever read. Mayer details how the Bush Administration led America to what VP Dick Cheney called `the dark side' in order to fight terrorism. A small coterie of officials at the highest level of the administration took this country down a path that ignored and thus destroyed the rule of law. Whether the damage is permanent remains to be seen.
Here are some of the most salient points:
Mayer confirms what others have asserted: that Cheney runs the national security apparatus. At least in this realm, Cheney operates like the prime minister. What is less known is the extraordinary power exercised by his legal counsel, David Addington. Cheney and Addington share a belief in an extreme view of the proper powers of the President in the national security area. In their view, the President has no limits on his power. None. Cheney used 9/11 to snatch greatly increased power for the executive.
To be fair, the top officials felt a huge personal responsibility to protect the US from another terrorist attack. One can only imagine the burden. This burden caused them to act out of fear and panic. Any action that might help reduce the chances of another attack even by a small amount was worth doing. They acted as if they and all Americans were cowering weaklings willing to jettison liberty for security. As Ben Franklin's aphorism concluded, we got neither.
As a lawyer, I found it personally distressing that lawyers played the key role in providing the `golden shield' of legal immunity for all manner of horrific acts in the quest for `actionable intelligence'. Lawyers, especially government lawyers, are supposed to tell their clients `no' when a proposed action crosses the line into criminality. A handful of lawyers, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Addington in particular, always gave their bosses the answer they wanted, `yes, we can torture, spy, kidnap, hold secret prisoners in secret prisons without charges'.
A few lawyers within the administration did resist. When Jack Goldsmith the newly appointed head of the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel discovered John Yoo's secret `torture memo', he moved successfully to get it revoked. Less known is that after Goldsmith left under extreme pressure, a new memo authorizing torture was issued by Steven Bradbury. Most other lawyers either caved in to Addington's bullying intimidation or were simply cut out.
Mayer's triumph was getting so many people to talk to her both on and off the record about closely held administration secrets. The reliance on unnamed sources necessarily forces the reader to place a certain amount of faith in Mayer's judgment (although certainly not to the extent of Bob Woodward).
Mayer established that the US killed several subjects during interrogation and kidnapped (`extraordinary rendition') at least 8 entirely innocent people, tortured them, and held them in secret prisons. Mayer was able to establish that one of these people was held on the `hunch' of the head of the CIA's al Qaeda unit and was not finally released until weeks after it was clear he was just had the same name as a wanted suspect. The fate of the other seven is unknown.
Beyond dispute is the affect the torture and kidnapping regime had on America's reputation. It will take at least a generation to recover it. Perhaps most worrisome is that these actions will serve as a precedent for future administrations, which only criminal prosecutions would obviate. Mayer provides the basis for the indictments. My only quibble with the book is that it needed a little tighter editing. Highest recommendation if you can stomach it. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Report abuse | Permalink Comment Comments (3)
TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified PurchaseBeyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it by Robert B. Reich
"Beyond Outrage" is a plea for action for those who care about the Future of America. Accomplished author of twelve books and current Professor of Public Policy, Robert Reich provides insight to what happened to our economy and how to fix it. In a lucid and persuasive manner, Reich provides compelling arguments in support of his main thesis: that our economy and democracy has been manipulated against average working people and what can be done about it. This Kindle Single is an intellectual appetizer. This 1744 KB book is broken out into three parts:
- Part One. The Rigged Game,
- Part Two. The Rise of the Regressive Right, and
- Part Three. Beyond Outrage: What You Need to Do.
- Well written, accessible book that gets to the points.
- Robert Reich is an excellent author with a mastery of the subject.
- Establishes upfront the main thesis of this Kindle Single and what the reader should expect from the main body of the book.
- Provides seven dots that when connected show why our economic system is out of whack.
- Thought-provoking comments, "Republicans want us to believe that the central issue is the size of government, but the real issue is whom government is for."
- The gist of the problem; the super-rich have rigged our economy in their favor and at the expense of the average American. Reich provides an overwhelming amount of data in support of his argument. Outrage indeed.
- The issue of revolving doors with regards to regulators and the corporations they were supposed to regulate.
- The relation between the super-rich and their political influence. The political influence that money can buy.
- The best definition for regulation..."regulations make sense where the benefits to the public exceed the costs, and regulations should be designed to maximize those benefits and minimize those costs." Will Dodd-Frank legislation be effective?
- What economic history has taught us. A look at presidential policies from the past.
- The conservative agenda. The rise of the Regressive Right and their strategy.
- A look at the Tea Partiers, their political views.
- The ten biggest economic lies. Interesting.
- How to make a movement.
- An agenda with specific points. Sound policies.
- Links to further information.
- If you have read some of the author's previous books this Kindle Single may come across as déjà vu.
- No formal bibliography or links to notes.
- I'm never happy when a term like "Social Darwinism" is used. It's a bastardized term. Oh well...
- Tax Reform , that is, tax simplification is needed.
In summary, if you have read previous books or have followed Professor Reich's videos this book will feel like déjà vu but if you haven't or just like the idea of having this specific thesis as a refresher or aren't familiar at all, by all means get it. Reich writes in a lucid and direct manner, and always provides thought-provoking insight into the economy. His arguments are sound and it will take you a short time to go through it. I recommend it.
Further recommendations: "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future (Vintage)" by Robert B. Reich, "Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present" by Jeff Madrick, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else" by David Cay Johnston, "Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class" by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street" by Robert Scheer, "The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy: And Everything Else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America" by Joshua Holland, "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back", by Thomas L. Friedman, "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))" by Thom Hartmann, and "War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back" by Lou Dobbs.
Chairman Luedtke, Old School Political Science January 26, 2001
Polanyi's "The Great Transformation" is a broad, sweeping work that encompasses history, sociology, economics and political science. MacIver writes that the book's particular relevance for a political scientist is that "it will help him to restate old issues and to evaluate old doctrines" (xi). However, with the recent renaissance of liberal/classical economic doctrines (what Polanyi would scornfully call the utopia of the "self-adjusting market") it seems that the issues restated and the doctrines evaluated by Polanyi are not so "old" after all. For this reason, the book has even more relevance now than it did for past readers, even just twenty years after its publication, when the heyday of planned economics appeared to be carrying out Polanyi's proposed remedies for the excesses of free marketism, and blunting the force of his critique as applied to post-transformation society.
But in the era of WTO and NAFTA, a strong case can be made that his critique has attained newfound relevance beyond even its original application. This critique can be phrased into a causal historical argument as follows: The Great Depression and two World Wars are Polanyi's dependent variable (the outcome to be explained). For Polanyi, this turmoil of 1917-1945 was a catastrophic indicator that 19th Century civilization had collapsed. And since 19th Century civilization rested upon the "classical" economic liberal doctrine of a self-regulating market, (with accompanying balance-of-power system, gold standard, and laissez-faire liberal state that defended property rights above all else and viewed human labor as no more than a commodity) it is this doctrine that is Polanyi's independent, explanatory variable. For him, the "utopian" and unattainable ideal of the self-regulating market was in reality a destructive force that robbed humanity of its freedom, by causing one hundred years of relative peace (the veritable calm before the storm) and then unleashing heretofore unheard of levels of economic dislocation and political repression. The "Great Transformation" itself is merely the mechanism by which this causal relationship unfolded. It is the process by which the ideal of the self-regulating market utopia brought about the destruction of the old world and the dawning of a new, more dangerous world.
Polanyi's evidence for this process is both deductive and inductive. Most of the book masquerades as a straightforward historical account of the Great Transformation and its exact social processes, but at times Polanyi reads less like an empiricist and more like a deductive rationalist. For instance, he proposes a general covering law of historical causality whereby countries that are apparently "opposed to the status quo would be quick to discover the weakness of the existing institutional order and to anticipate the creation of institutions better adapted to their interests" (28). He then gives Germany in the 1930s as an example of such a process, Germany for him being one of the "catalyst" states that sped up the Great Transformation by abandoning market liberalism in favor of fascism. While the example is fascinating and has obvious historical merit, it's not clear how Polanyi arrived at the general law of which Germany is an example, not to mention whether he truly believes that such a law applies consistently throughout history, or whether he merely means to inductively show the importance of Germany's opposition to the status quo for the particular historical causal mechanism of the Great Transformation.
Polanyi's work obviously runs counter to a great deal of conventional wisdom on the topic of economic and political doctrines and their relationship to social change in the 19th Century. For instance, the 19th century is often called the "age of nationalism," but Polanyi's Great Transformation, like the work of Marx, minimizes the role of the nation-state in shaping the lives of its own citizens, by arguing that state governments were merely pawns for the ideal of the self-regulating market and its stooges in power, both financial and political. Indeed, as a remedy to the negative effects of the Great Transformation, Polanyi seems to advocate a rise in the power of the nation-state, through the active securing of freedom and rights by its citizens in opposition to the stateless self-regulating market. One could brand Polanyi a collectivist for this reason, although he would resist such a charge precisely because of his defense of individual freedom against the market and his warnings about the dangers of erring on the other side: the potential loss of human freedom that would come from free individuals attempting to subjugate and regulate markets through government. "Regulation both extends and restricts freedom; only the balance of the freedoms lost and won is significant" (254). In other words, Polanyi is certainly not a Marxist, because of his lack of both economic determinism and any clear theory of class conflict and revolution, but neither can he be an apologist for capitalism since he seeks to shatter the myth of the self-regulating market as being a "natural" ideal independent of social moorings and above general social welfare. Therefore, instead of these two extremes, he strikes a middle ground that is as paradoxically complex as it is eloquently defended.
Robert Moore, A masterpiece of economic history that is as relevant as ever sixty years on June 12, 2006
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Although this book was published in 1944, the same year as Hayek's THE ROAD TO SERFDOM, it remains as relevant as ever. Some say that it is dated and it is true that many of the historical references are not the ones that would spring to mind today, but the critique of the myth of the self-regulating free market remains as relevant and to-the-point as ever. One of the main targets of his book was the Vienna school of economics, the central figures of which were Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek. What Polanyi does is help one to see how hopelessly naïve and ahistorical many of their central assumptions are. Though one might question some of the details of Polanyi's thesis, especially regarding the gold standard the causes of the two world wars, he makes two incredibly powerful arguments about the myth of the self-regulating market to which proponents of that theory have offered no convincing reply. More of this is a second.
Polanyi's method is multi-disciplinary. He wants to show by a multitude of ways that the central historical contentions of those advocates of the self-regulating market are simply false. These people have argued, for instance, that by nature humans engage in market trade and that these markets by nature are self-regulating. If this were, as they insist, true, then wherever one would look in human history one would find markets that were by their nature self-regulating. Remember, Adam Smith's Austrian heirs were making arguments not just about what ought to be, but what naturally is in a state of nature. They are making claims about what is the case if government and others will just get out of the way of the workings of nature. So to this end Polanyi looks at the results of anthropological and historical studies to see what the evidence shows. Overwhelmingly, he finds no evidence that things have been in the course of human history as the self-regulators have claimed. In fact, Polanyi finds little or no evidence of the worldwide prevalence of markets at all. He finds little historical evidence for the kinds of claims about the state of nature that self-regulating free marketers posit. Instead, he finds a world of evidence that free markets were human artifacts, created and maintained entirely by government intervention. The chapters that detail Polanyi's argument can be a bit heavy going, but they are crucial to his overall argument.
Polanyi makes two central claims about the myth of the self-regulating free market. The first is that in its essential nature it is utopian and nonhistorical. It is utopian in that it describes not the world as it ever has been or ever could be, but a fantasy that exists only in the minds of its adherents. It is a powerful myth because whenever one points to the failures and shortcomings of attempts to promote free market principles, its adherents reply by insisting that the market hasn't yet been made pure enough. If only we decrease government involvement, further reduce regulation, remove restrictions on the kinds of compacts companies can form with one another, further gut the power of trade unions, and so forth, we will see the birth of a glorious new economic world in which all will be right in the world and God will be on his throne. But as Polanyi argues, not only has such a creature as a self-regulating free market economy never existed, it never could. In fact, what has passed for self-regulating markets has in fact been the result of drastic and pervasive government intervention. Additional interventions take place to protect society as a whole from the damage that a self-regulating economy inflicts on the citizenry as a whole.
The second major point that Polanyi makes is that of embeddedness: any economic system is embedded in society as a whole, with a host of moral, political, and religious values that are not primarily economic in nature. The self-regulating free marketers would somehow wish for an economic system that is distinct from and separated from those values; that is, an economic system that is not embedded. But such a thing, Polanyi argues, is impossible. This is another reason why belief in a self-regulating free market is a sheer fantasy: it is predicated on a host of impossible situations being possible. As the effects of a self-regulating free market occur, society intervenes to counteract the harmful effects of that economy. For instance, workers compensation is neither required nor desirable by pure free market principles. The same is true for unemployment insurance or anti-trust legislation. Or pollution standards. There is no question that keeping a plant from polluting is an interference with the market, but this is an example of noneconomic values trumping economic ones.
The basic dilemma of free market capitalism has always been this: is an economic system that generates a great deal of wealth for a society as a whole but concentrates most of that wealth in the hands of a few people, leaving most with less than they would have in a different economic system, a good economic system? Most of us would say no. Even free marketers would have to concede this, which is why they have had to concoct articles of faith (though not of fact) such as the trickle down theory. "Trickle down" has been debunked repeatedly over the years, both in theory and reality, but perhaps never so eloquently as by Will Rogers. Some people, he said, thought gold water like water: put it at the top and it will trickle down to everyone below. But, he went on, gold wasn't like water at all; put it at the top and it just stays there. Polanyi's book gives meat to the question of whether one would prefer a society where a very large amount of profit were concentrated in the hands of a very small number of people (essentially the situation in the United States today) or a somewhat smaller overall amount distributed more equitably among al the people. Yes, the few who profited under the former would have less, but the vast majority would have more.
I want to question one reviewer below who says that Polanyi doesn't understand the essential nature of the free market. I find that an amazing statement. The reason that the myth of the self-regulating free market has spread so easily and widely is that it is so incredibly easy to understand. What one can question is whether this easy-to-understand, perhaps simplistic, theory is right. We have no examples of self-regulating economies from history even American Empire and the Illusion of Democracyhat it is the "natural" course of things. Of course Polanyi understands the theory he is criticizing. He just finds it naïve and silly. My only hope is that more people in the United States come to realize this. Ever since the election of Reagan in 1980, though in fact the tendency began under Jimmy Carter (most Americans don't seem to remember how conservative he was on economic matters, far more conservative than either Ford or Nixon), America has toyed with ideas promulgated by the free marketers. The result? Vast accumulation of wealth, especially in the financial markets despite the progressive decay in the industrial base, concentrated almost exclusively in the top 2% of the population. In fact, real wages for the vast majority of Americans has fallen since 1980, the percentage of the population to live below the poverty line has increased, and America has become the industrial nation with the greatest economic inequality.
My own fantasy is that more people would read Polanyi and fewer Hayek. I can understand why they don't. Hayek is easy to read and understand and feeds the fantasy that one can pursue economic advantage with no thought of the damage it might do; the invisible hand will take care of everything. Polanyi is difficult and complex and subtle and pricks a hole in the fantasy. Polanyi reminds us that economics has to be tempered by our values as a whole, that we cannot be reduced to economic animals. My fantasy--or is it a hope?--is that we as a society will come to care more for the welfare of the majority more than the welfare of the few. I would love to see a world in which our highest values did not have a price put upon them. 8 Comments |
A Kid's Review, Absolutely Brilliant January 23, 2005
Polanyi's The Great Transformation is truly a masterpiece of historical analysis and social theory. Polanyi deftly uses his extensive knowledge of economic history, anthropology, and political theory to demonstrate the failure of "market society" and the myopia of those who believe that the "free" market is the answer to all social ills. He's at his best when he combines his historical analysis of 18th and 19th century capitalism -- an experiment with a free market economy that resulted in the Great Depression and world war -- with anthropological data showing that there is no innate human propensity to engage in trade or accumulate wealth at the expense of others.
Conservatives and libertarians hate this book because it thoroughly undermines their claims that markets are natural, spontaneous, and reflect the uncoerced interaction of free agents; the reviewer below who gave it 1 star is a case in point (he argues that "Polanyi fails to understand the essential nature of a free market, voluntary trade for mutual benefit," but the problem isn't that Polanyi doesn't understand such a concept, but rather that he shows it isn't true). Other critics like to misrepresent Polanyi's arguments and paint him as a Marxist, a romantic, or an opponent of modernity; in reality, he was merely pointing out how devastating it is when every aspect of human life is left up to the market, with its cold logic of efficiency.
The Great Transformation is an exceptionally lucid and well-researched study that should be required reading for anyone interested in economics, social theory, political history, or international relations. Some reviewers have suggested that the book is outdated, but anyone interested in the current debates surrounding free trade, the IMF/World Bank, or Social Security privatization would be wise to pick up a copy of this fascinating book.
By now, many of you will have heard of the eBook "Beyond Outrage" thanks to Robert Reich's spectacular and tireless marketing efforts. These include a notable appearance on The Daily Show, and a mock feud between him and Bill O'Reilly. But all this does little to cover up the reality: that Reich's new eBook contains very little content that does not resemble his columns, blog posts and television appearances.
The stated aim of Reich's eBook is to urge "Americans to get beyond mere outrage about the nation's increasingly concentrated wealth and corrupt politics in order to mobilize and to take back our economy and democracy". Reich's argument is that Americans should not hope that their unequal system will change through electoral politics alone, but through educating the public and thereby pressuring the politics even after the election. In order to accomplish this, Reich has created a short eBook (87 pages) full of information about the inequalities of the system. He provides many comparisons between America's current problems and the "golden age" of American growth and prosperity. He provides much insight, and for only 87 pages there is a hell of a lot of information contained within.
However, as stated before, there is not much NEW information. I am quite a bit a Robert Reich fan. I read his columns, occasionally read his blog posts, and catch his media appearances wherever I can. I respect the man, and I respect his opinion. But because I do catch so much of his work, this eBook gives me the feeling of deja vu. He expressed much of his argument on his Daily Show appearance, and the rest of it during most of his writing in the last few years. About the only difference between Reich's existing (free) work and this eBook is the historical references and comparisons he is able to make in this long form essay, much of which he does not have the time to do in his normal work. However, the book is not referenced, and does not have a bibliography, so it would unlikely be a good source for academic work.
To be honest, in my opinion, $2.99 is not a lot of money to pay for this eBook. It is a very well written treatise. And if your aim is to enlighten your fellow citizens, as Reich intends, then buying this eBook certainly will arm you for your task. However, for the rest of us casual observers, I would suggest merely sticking to Reich's (free) blog posts and columns.
The general election of 2012 starts today.
We need to do everything we can to make sure Barack Obama is reelected president. But we also need to mobilize for the long haul -- beyond Election Day. We need to fuel a movement to take back our economy and our democracy.
Presidential elections can draw peoples' attention to larger challenges facing our nation, but they can also be distracting. The media focus on the game -- who's up and who's down, and which political strategies are winning or losing -- rather than on the big issues. Campaigns are also geared to winning on Election Day, not to building long-term strategies and movements for fundamental change.
I've been involved in public life, off and on, for over forty years. I've served under three presidents. When not in office I've done my share of organizing and rabble-rousing, along with teaching, speaking, and writing about what I know and what I believe. I have never been as concerned as I am now about the future of our democracy, the corrupting effects of big money in our politics, the stridency and demagoguery of the regressive right, and the accumulation of wealth and power at the very top.
We are perilously close to losing an economy and a democracy that work for everyone, and replacing them with an economy and government that exist mainly for a few wealthy and powerful people.
That's why I've written an ebook called Beyond Outrage (see the above video). You have every reason to be outraged. Moral outrage is the prerequisite for social change. But you also need to move beyond outrage and take action. The regressive forces seeking to move our nation backwards must not be allowed to triumph.
The point of Beyond Outrage is to help you focus on what needs to be done and how you can do it, and to encourage you not to feel bound by what's politically possible this year or next. You need to understand why the stakes are so high, and why your participation - now and in the future -- is so important.
In my experience, nothing good happens in Washington unless good people outside Washington become mobilized, organized, and energized to make it happen. Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change.
Robert Reich, one of the nation's leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future;" "The Work of Nations," which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen's group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.
Douglas Doepke (Claremont, CA United States) - See all my reviewsWendell Murray (Kennett Square PA USA) - See all my reviews
That Forbidden Word: Empire, January 30, 2004
For practical purposes the eastern Pacific is an American lake, yet how many readers understand the role an obscure island like Okinawa plays in keeping it so. I didn't. But I do now, thanks to Johnson's valuable little book. Yes, the work's title is misleading; it needs a qualifier like Blowback in East Asia to be more accurate. Nonetheless, the chapters on Japan, and Meltdown, respectively, are little gems. Everyone knows that Japan sells alot to the US, but buys little in return. It doesn't seem fair. Their workers are employed, while ours increasingly aren't, and those who are need food stamps to survive. So should we blame them for taking away good American jobs. Not if Johnson is correct. The primary locus lies in Washington and Wall Street, not in Tokyo, Seoul or Jakarta. Simply put, it's the economics of empire that's to blame, although the term "empire" is never used in polite discourse, nor for that matter does Johnson bother to define it. But, regardless of what the network is called, reality is reality, and problems of imperial maintenance do arise, even for the experienced managers of Washington DC.
The challenge lies in strong but dependent economies, like Japan's and South Korea's, who have evolved their own competing form of capitalism, yet still need markets to survive. Hence, to keep dependent Asian economies dependent and their subordinate polities subordinate, markets must be regulated and upstarts punished. The chief tools in this regard are trade policy and capital flows, topics about which the American electorate thankfully knows little. If using these for reasons of empire requires undercutting America's own manufacturing sector and the good wages that go with it, then that's the price of remaining Number One. How long the imperium can continue the juggling act, however, remains to be seen.
Not every chapter is the equal of Japan, or Meltdown. The chapter on North Korea is very helpful for understanding the current standoff. The two on China are informative, but have little to do with blowback or empire, while the one on stealth imperialism is sub-Noam Chomsky. Moreover, the final chapter, which should be strong in summation, has little substance beyond the mildly speculative. On the other hand, prologues are often little more than bland introductions. This one however isn't. Johnson's prologue outlines in brief but telling detail a personal journey from empire's unwitting spear-carrier to that of clear-eyed critic. In its own way, it's a rather inspiring odyssey. One can only hope that increasing numbers of Americans make the same journey, because, unfortunately, empires are neither peaceable nor democratic, and rarely if ever self-liquidate.Astonishingly good, October 9, 2007Aaron
I came across this book when I was looking for the recently published book by Profs. Mearsheimer and Walt on the Israeli lobby. I was familiar with Chalmers Johnson's name, but knew nothing about his work. I just read Blowback and am eager to read the other two in his trilogy. I have a generally good awareness of the idiocy of most American foreign policy simply from reading newspapers regularly and well-researched books occasionally on foreign policy or political science or history - as well as from spending some time outside the USA at various times and in various roles.
The disparity between how the USA as an entity and through the citizens (mostly soldiers) it sends abroad to perform official roles behaves outside the confines of its borders and how the average citizen goes about his/her daily life and therefore perceives his/her country is frighteningly wide. However, I was truly stunned at the well-written, clearly well-researched and even-handed account that Prof. Johnson gives of USA policy and USA actions in regard in particular to Asia. I do not doubt the accuracy of his analysis and reporting. In support of his recounting of the utter waste of citizens' tax dollars on most military and military-related activity (so-called intelligence-gathering, covert undermining of non-dictatorial governments and the like) I noted that the Bush Administration recently (summer 2007) had one of its flunkies start blathering about the fact that the USA maintains bases throughout the world, notably in Western European countries, Okinawa and Korea even though there are no "hostilities" there.
The inadvertent raising of a pertinent issue regarding the USA military presence (in less polite words, occupation) in those countries was quickly excised from the arguments for establishing a permanent military presence in Iraq. Good point. Why does the USA maintain a military presence in these countries? Mr. Johnson's book admirably traces the why and thereby makes clear the horrible impact our presence in these countries has had on many people in the world and in turn on innocents in the USA, such as those who died at the hands of Tim McVeigh and the suicide airline pilots. It is books like Mr. Johnson's that should be on the forefront of discussion among politicians, editorial-writers and any others who attempt to make or debate policy. As the inanities, nonsense and outright lies that have no basis whatsoever in fact emanating from the current roster of right-wing, know-nothing Republicans in Congress - abetted on occasion by poorly informed Democrats - attest, the current unending propaganda regarding events and conditions in the rest of the world, notably in Iraq and in the Middle East in general, is likely to continue to overwhelm outstanding analyses such as this. I wish it wouldn't. I hope that those with some curiosity about the wonders and diversity of the world - not to mention facts about how the USA and other countries behave in the world - will discover this book as I did.The one disappointment I had with this book was the lack of focus in the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is to be expected since the author is an East Asia expert and most of book focuses on American actions there.
Great introduction to the unseen side of America's foreign policy, June 15, 2010
If all you do is read the standard textbooks and listen to the platitudes that come out the mouths of our ruling class, you will never get the complete picture of "why they hate us." Former Cold Warrior Chalmers Johnson details how the national security apparatus set up during that era and the foreign policies implemented has laid the groundwork for most today's international troubles. "Blowback", a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of polices that were usually kept secret from the American public, is detailed and explained in depth. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has not fully adapted to the post-communist era by rolling back militarism and government secrecy. America continues to maintain a global garrison of bases and relentlessly intervenes in the internal affairs of other countries openly and covertly. In Johnson's words, "The evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulation. The world is not a safer place as a result."
Sep 1, 1995 | Amazon.com
Mark B. Cohen(Philadelphia,PA USA)An Angry Call For Radical Reforms To Shake Up Washington, May 28, 2007
The author Kevin Phillips is an exemplary example of a frequent Washington type: the former insider turned angry, prophetic outsider. Trained as an attorney, experienced as a a Republican Congressional aide at the modern lowpoint of Republican strength in Washington, acclaimed as a key strategist in Richard Nixon's 1968 Presidential comeback, the author has long been given to gathering masses of data and reaching bold new conclusions with a stunning certainty that is only partially vindicated by subsequent events.
The author's top six suggested governmental reforms are "(1) dispersing the capital and having Congress meet in another city for part of the year; (2) allowing congressmen and senators to vote from their home states and districts; (3) establishing a mechanism for national referendums; (4)concentrating a major attack on the hired-gun culture in Washington; (5) reining in abusive finance and its political influence by regulating electronic speculation, curtailing the nonaccountability of the Federal Reserve Board and establishing a federal financial transactions tax; and (6) fudning deficit-reduction largely by taxing its obvious beneficiaries."
The author's top ten broad proposals are "(1) Decentralizing or dispersing power away from Washington; (2) Modifying the U.S. Constitution's excessive separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches; (3) Shifting U.S. representative government more toward direct democracy and opening up the outdated two-party system; (4) Curbing the Washington role of lobbies, interest groups, and interest peddlers; (5) Diminishing the excessive role of lawyers, legalism, and litigation; (6) Remobilizing national, state, and local governments through updated boundaries and a new federal fiscal framwork; (7) Regulating speculative finance and reducing the poltical influence of Wall Street;(8) Confronting the power of multinational corporations and minimizing the effects of globalization on the average American; (9) Reversing the trend toward greater concentration of wealth and making the tax system fairer and more productive; (10) Bringing national and international debt under control."
To get to these and numerous other reforms and secondary goals, the author gives us a sweeping tour of what ails America, full of a unique collection of facts ( for instance, the decade by decade growth of governmental employment and population in the Washington metropolitan area), world historical parallels (comparing the broad trends of American economic history with that of Holland, Great Britain, Spain, and other countries), and American historical parallels (declaring frustration that as our country ages there is not the sweeping change with new administrations that there was with the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.)
The author tends to see Washington interest groups as part of a kind of vast conspiracy, focusing on its own interests at the expense of the public interests. He gives short shrift to the reality that many of the interest groups are in constant competition with each other for scarce resources: governmental funds in an era of tax cuts, favorable regulations in an era suspicious of any regulations, and the time and favor of relevant governmental decision-makers.
The author focuses a disproportionate amount of attention of the U.S. House of Representatives, as the body most susceptible to governmental reform. Yet, in this, the author ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of lawyers and lobbyists are focused on the executive branch, which his gneral collection of reforms tends to ignore or downplay.
The author believes that the U.S. is at a crisis point, and he advocates this with a mixture of public opinion poll data, quotes from angry, longshot Presidential candidates, Washington think tanks, and historical parallels with other countries, especially English-speaking countries. But this wide-ranging collection of information, impressions, and attitudes tends to dilute the case he is making as well as strengthen it. If hostility to government among the populace is, in fact, a worldwide democratic phenomenon, then it is somewhat contradictory to argue that the unique governmental system of the United States is responsible for it.
The author believes America is a country past its peak, a country entering a profound stage of economic decline. Internationalism is not a series of policies designed to benefit the average American, the author warns, but rather a series of policies aimed to benefit a small wealthy slice of the public at the expense of the rest of the public. Public policy's goal should not be to promote internationalism, but to curb its negative effects on the average American, the author says.
Reading the author is always an eye-opening, thought provoking experience. He does not generate his own research, but is a broad and creative user of an incredible array of secondary sources--from Karl Marx to Ross Perot to leaders of Washington think-tanks to newspapers to histories of the U.S. and other countries. He is a peerless summarizer and polemicist whose contstant search for broad themes gives life and purpose to what otherwise might be a quicksand of statistics and studies.
A Comprehensive Discussion of Power Elite in the U.S.,
February 25, 1999
This is one of the most detailed and accurate accounts of the power elite model in American politics. Domhoff shows his command of this material by his use of detailed analysis and careful consideration of possible opposing arguments (i.e. pluralist). He systematically proves that there is an elite group of people in this country that, in order to fit their agenda, can dictate government action.
He destroys the idea that public opinion has anything to do with political maneuvering, by proving that it is those who have the money who control primaries, elections, and entire administrations.
His manifestation of the working man's personal inadequacy myth, due to the individualistic American ideal, makes this book a must read. Domhoff really makes us wonder how feasible the "Amercian Dream" really is.
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium)
A ruling oligarchy, July 22, 2004
There is a minor shift in this new version of G. William Domhoff's magisterial analysis of the US power system.
He adds 'top-level managers' to the power elite, which is composed of the owners of large income-producing properties. He adds also one more question to the three ones quoted in his former book: who shines?
Those income-producing properties are, on the national level, big corporations, banks and agribusinesses and, locally, real estate, construction and land development companies.
The owners and top-level managers constitute at best 1 % of the US population and have an enormous share of all income and wealth in the US.
G. William Domhoff shows clinically how they defend their interests through a small cluster of people and institutions ( a social upper class, a corporate community and a policy-formation network). Individual members (the oligarchy) of the upper class and the corporate community are involved in the policy-formation network. See, as an example, the members of the president G.W. Bush government.
The power elite dominates the two major political parties and the federal government through a coalition of Republicans and rightist Southern Democrats.
Concerning the general public, G. Wiliam Domhoff remarks that it has little or no influence except in times of unpopular wars or domestic social upheavals. He sees no change in the actual situation and predicts that the corporate-conservative coalition is most likely to prevail for a long time.
G. William Domhoff's arguments are extremely powerful. Therefore, this book is an essential read for the comprehension of the political/economical functioning of the US power system.
A Customer, April 28, 1999Domhoff presents a theory with evidence of a power-elite model of the American political-socioeconomic condition. His remarkable gifts in rhetoric and writing skills make this book an easy and convincing read while offering a wealth of information on many hard-to-follow ideas and subjects. Domhoff's organization and selection of titles and subtitles of sections in the book make for an interesting and coherent view of the power-elite model. Going into the book there was an expectation of a controversial and even radical theory, however, most of Domhoff's claims, in one form or another, were theories that are ingrained into modern culture- at least in America where skepticism and a steady decline of trust in big business and government constructs many views and theories that are en vogue at this time. It seems that class dominance is the main issue Domhoff drives, and though he does in several instances support this claim, many times Domhoff weakens his argument by offering evidence and support for an interest-group pluralist model that seemingly negates the mold of power elite and class dominance.
He mentions labor policy in the 1930s and the social movement of the 1960s; both of which go against a class-dominance theory. He does admit that these are rare cases in society and the exception not the rule. More questionable is his mention of the power of the social legislature of the progressive era, claiming this doesn't challenge a class-dominance view. His explanation for why this doesn't challenge a class is summed in two lines-compared to the numerous paragraphs contributed to the fact that the power existed outside of class-and lacks detail and conviction. Domhoff further weakens his argument at times by offering questionable and sometimes faulty causal reasoning. His argument for Presidential influence over public opinion revolves around an example from LBJ's time in the white house.
Domhoff claims that early in 1968 people approved bombing of Vietnam, but by April the public shifted its opinion because the President had shifted his. The important elements Domhoff misses are that the Tet Offensive, escalation of troops sent to Vietnam and the Mai Lai massacre all took place during this time.
The public's opinion was influenced by the violence they watched on TV every night more than by a government official who the public was beginning to not trust. Nevertheless, Domhoff does present a great source for fleshing out and reevaluating personal beliefs in a corporate or elite rule in America, and surprisingly enough doesn't strike a chord of fear or hopelessness for the future of America.
J.L. Populist (WI,USA)
In this large book Kevin Phillips takes the reader on a lesson of economics and politics. Much of the history in WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY is of the American variety. He does, however, examine Spain, Holland,and Britain and the commonality these past governments have with the current American political and economic scene. The biggest common thread is the shrinking of the middle class a/k/a stratification of wealth.
One of Mr. Phillips observations is that in the 1990s transnational corporations posted record earnings while hiring few Americans. Sometimes slashing employment to boost the bottom line.
Along that line he quotes Peter Cepelli, a professor at Wharton School of Business- "Today, a CEO would be embarrassed to admit he sacrificed profits to protect employees or a community."
He also describes the shifting of the tax burden from corporations to low and middle income individuals through FICA taxes.
His quote on page 242 sums up American politics of the 1890s- "For two or three decades, then, democracy was corrupted at its constitutional core. Control of the Senate secured not just that chamber but the federal courts, the U.S.Supreme Court, and the U.S. Army to the service of American industry and finance."
He demonstrates in this book that wealth has been a factor in the politics of the United States from the very start. Finance (banking) has had it's proponents like Hamilton and some presidents through time while it has also had it's opponents; most notably Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.
The author takes a look at the worth of some former Cabinet members, Warren Harding's especially, although he wasn't the only president to tap the wealthy for his service.
Another interesting point that Mr. Phillips makes is that globalization can be, and has been in the past, reversed.
One of the curious inclusions in this book is found on page 71. It's an excerpt of a letter from FDR to Col. Edmund Mandell House. (House is a rather controversial, mysterious figure in American political history and the subject of conspiracy theories. He was a close adviser to Woodrow Wilson during his presidency). "The real truth... is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson- and I am not wholly excepting the Administration of W.W. The country is going through a repetition of Jackson's fight with the Bank of the United Sates- only on a bigger and broader basis."
The author also quotes such figures as John Kenneth Galbraith and Thorstein Veblen
The moral of WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY as I take it, is that our economic ills now are nothing more than a recurring pattern that has been experienced by various powerful governments in their heydays. Part of the problem is hubris or the belief that it can't happen again.
This is a large book and some sections are laborious to read, but the message of the book is comprehensible and detailed very well. It may just be the most detailed book on the subject of wealth and it's adverse affect on government, especially a democratic form of government.
Golden Lion "Reader" (North Ogden, Ut United States)
The Game!, May 13, 2006
The middle class is not democratizing economically or politically. The middle class is not taking control of its money and instead the middle is rapidly transferring money from its savings into the massive market profits for the super rich. The middle class should immediately abandon any transfers from savings into the stock market and preserve their wealth, but instead they will be lured into hedge funds and mutual markets speculating that someday they will be super rich.
Richard Goodwin says, "money establishes priorities, holds down federal revenues, revises federal legislation, shifts income from the middle class to the super rich." "Money restrains the enforcement of laws written to protect the country from abuse of wealth-laws that mandate environmental protection, anti-trust, laws to protect the consumer against fraud, laws that safeguard the securities market...and more." Money in Babylon has become all powerful, while reform has dawdled. Politics has capitulated to the Market barons. For example, lobby investment dollars can turn a 100,000% return. Manufacturers craft industry-specific subsidies, insert tax breaks into code, extend patients or give away public property for free. The Timber industry spent $8 million in campaign contribution to preserve the logged road subsidy worth $458 million. Glaxo Wellcome spent $1.2 million to get a 19th month extension on Zantec worth $1 billions. The tobacco industry spent $30 million in tax contribution for tax breaks totaling $50 billion.
Historically, conspicuous consumption became a pillar of statecraft in Venice. Licentiousness stimulated art demand increasing competition for nude paintings. The market attacked and destroying all moral codes inhibiting content in the market and lead to opulence, extravagance, and vice. "The world we inhabit today, with its ruthless competitiveness, fierce consumerism, restless desire for ever wider horizons, discovery, and innovation...is a world which was made in the Renaissance." Renaissance emerged as Materialism philosophy reigned supreme; objective argument provided the ideology within the corrupting gatherings of individuals. American Renaissance and industrialism embraced Darwinism. Darwinism represented the longest-lasting philosophic shield held up by the American Wealth Accumulators: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockerfeller, Chauncey Depew, and James J. Hill. The trinity materialistic God equaled Darwinism, conspicuous consumption, and self interest. The Renaissance lionized the idols of consumption, the top artist and purveyors of luxury goods: Bottielli, Titan, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. Monetarist, Milton Friedman said, "Greed was the basis to society" and wanted a system "setup an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm. Capitalism is that kind of system."
Chicago University indoctrinated students with doctrines of big business. Public choice argued American law was a system of commands, prohibitions, and rules often contradicting and countermanding, the "natural logic" of the markets. The cleansing of the law of interferences like government regulation worked to facilitate the freedom of the markets. Disillusionment strengthened and market utopia was a idealism not a reality. Consumption drove debt burdens. Debt burdens peaked in the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s. Debt is the double edged sword that threatens the wealth accumulation of the super rich. The super rich flee markets heavy in debt at a certain point of no return. "Speculative excesses supported by the tendencies of elites spin illusions for themselves and the less-sophisticated public about the new capacities of government and private sector management. Manias require convincing siren songs: insisting that things really are different this time, financially as well as technologically." Debt has transformed the two headed eagle into on head. The fed and the treasury, in a sense have become joint, proactive managers of the multi-trillion dollar "USA fund". Markets economies might be claim, but globalizing U.S government economic management has become the game.
The speculative bubble of 2000-2001 experienced real damage in early 2000s as the recession hit manufacturing and deepened the damage with a crisis in several technology industries, and spread widely into the service industry. The share of U.S manufacturing assets in foreign hands jumped 3% in 1970, 8% in 1980, 19% in 1990 and foreign ownership surged from $270 billion in 1997 to $497 billion in 2000. US companies traded hands with foreign owners: Dresdner Bank purchased Wasserstein Peralla; Sumitomo owned 15% of Goldman Sachs; ING owned Actna Financial Services; Zurich Financial took S Investments, Credit Suisse bought First Boston; and UBS Warburg purchased Paine Webber.
William Hare (see more about me) from Fort Lauderdale, Florida United StatesSuperb Reporting from a Unique Patriot, May 26, 2002Garrett Aja (see more about me) from Las Vegas, Nevada United States
Greg Palast is a superb reporter with the courage and instincts to open many doors that were hermetically sealed, uncovering answers that interested citizens should welcome in the manner of unearthing hidden treasures. As Vincent Bugliosi wrote concerning Palast, "Astonishing -- gets the real evidence no one else has the guts to dig up." Jim Hightower notes with awe, "The type of investigative reporter you don't see anymore --a cross between Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes."
Mesmerized readers learn early that it is incomprehensible to speed read or partially digest Palast's reportorial classic, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." The danger is that the very information glossed over could prove to be the most significant of the book as Palast piles facts upon facts, providing the kind of illuminating insights into the real workings of American and global governments available only through reading alternative journalistic sources. As Palast points out, the major media is interlocked with the corporate establishment. As a result a "don't rock the boat" mentality prevails.
Palast begins rocking the boat with a brilliant opening chapter in which he nails Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and his Secretary of State Catherine Harris for blatant violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a BBC correspondent Palast personally confronted Florida's Director of Elections, Clayton Roberts, with his smoking gun, a list verifying that no cross checking was done on the basis of raw data commissioned by Bush and Harris with the ostensible purpose of preventing felons from voting in the 2000 election. Despite having paid for a cross check, which would have reduced a list of almost sixty thousand voters made ineligible to a mere fraction, Bush and Harris chose to accept the raw data list, which was preliminary and failed to even verify that names on it correlated with affected citizens in Florida. When Roberts was confronted with the smoking gun by Palast he ended the interview, darted into his office, and bolted the door shut. It was all captured on camera, which Palast invites interested citizens to view on the Internet.
Having unmasked the Florida vote theft and subsequent triumph of an unelected president in the first chapter, one wonders where Palast can possibly go from there. He does not disappoint, taking dead aim on the World Trade Organization and its Siamese twin, the World Bank. Palast points out why President Bush is so insistent on obtaining "fast track" authority regarding agreements not subject to amendment by Congress, which conflicts with the U.S. Constitution. Fast track authority is needed since the WTO's authority overrides that of national legislatures. Palast reveals how the WTO in concert with the World Bank left nations such as Russia, Brazil and Argentina destitute in the wake of ponderous obligations, which through the ripple effect resulted in crushing poverty and unemployment. He also details the provision of WTO in which nations with less pollution, such as Russia in the post-Communist era with sharply diminished factory production, can provide points to a nation such as the U.S., which then has purchased rights for the corporate establishment to produce more gases and toxic fumes for its citizens to breathe.
Palast, a one time student of Dr. Milton Friedman at Chicago University, exposes the charlatan economics of a man who, in the midst of taking credit for economic success in Chile, produced cataclysmic disaster. He exposes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "the toy boy of globalization" and looks into the charlatan economic endeavors of Pat Robertson.
Greg Palast is one of America's great patriots, someone who looks after the rights of citizens who are being trampled upon by the Bushie march into the New World Order, which he notes has a decided Orwellian 1984 character. Palast is one of the patriotic contingent of the information super highway exposing the corruption of the powers that be, along with others such as Mike Ruppert of the "From the Wilderness" website and Michael Moore.
These courageous Americans dare to speak out! May their tribe increase!An eye-opening read, June 5, 2003
A reader from Chicago, Illinois United States
While I've spent my (fairly short) adult life being critical of the government and most everything else, the 2000 presidential elections were probably the last straw. However, I thought that Florida was a relatively crude and small-time operation.
Boy, was I wrong.
Greg Palast's book begins with a detailed account of his investigations into the controversial vote in Florida (the whopping majority of which has been widely available only to the people of Britain), where it becomes quickly obvious that Florida was far worse than any US citizen was aware of. The following chapters discuss globalization, the California energy crisis, the American press, Wal-Mart, and other targets with the same level of disdain-all of which are backed up with loads of evidence.
Of course, the Republicans receive most of the blows in this book....but only because they're in control of the White House and Congress at the moment. If you've got a fairly open mind, this book which open your eyes. If not, feel free to keep the wool firmly over your eyes (just as the people described in this book would like).
Republicans, Democrats, everyone else should read this book, May 5, 2003
Read this book as a civic duty. Even if you don't want to know, you need to know how utterly corrupt our government, corporations and media are.
Greg Palast is the muckraker of our times, and he's virtually exiled from America because no one will print his work. PBS won't even show the documentary illustrating how the voter rolls in Florida were tampered with before the 2000 election.
Don't dismiss Palast for being partisan in the sense of Republicans and Democrats; he dishes the dirt on the Clintons and Gore, as well as Bushes Jr. and Sr. and Tony Blair. He is, however, biased towards social justice. If you are more concerned with corporate profits than corporate responsibility, you will find this book to be rather obnoxious.
Greg Palast was at a book signing in Chicago on May 4, which this reviewer attended. He said that the centralized Florida voter database is being held up as a model for every other state to follow. Republicans take heed: Palast pretty much said that Democrats in Democratic-controlled states were just as happy to have the opportunity to monkey with their voter rolls, as Republicans are. Meanwhile we are switching to ballotless voting booths and doing away with exit polls, with no way of knowing if our votes were counted as we cast them. Draw your own conclusions folks - how long before our vaunted democracy becomes another banana republic?
Timothy Scanlon (see more about me) from Hyattsville, MD United StatesDouglas Doepke (see more about me) from Claremont, CA United States
Few stones left unturned, April 30, 2003
All right, I'll admit it. My attitudes about various things, corporations, the World Bank, and countless other items, change as do my experience with them. But this fine text brought me back to the planet earth.
And to get the criticism out of the way, yes, there were a few editing errors. Like another reviewer or two, I noticed that (have, unfortunately, reduced my evaluation by one star.) But I don't make it as big a deal as some others. Get over it, and keep on reading.
Palast starts the book with an appropriate blast at our first unelected president. I saw a film on the same subject and to that and this book I have the same comment: "Racism" is a word that's so overused that it's lost its original effect. Doubtless those who manipulated the records to keep thousands of Democrats from practicing their right to vote were conscious of race. But it gets boring to claim they did it because of their unadulterated racism. I think they did what they did out of convenience: They knew that those they targeted for elimination were almost all Democrat, as are the bulk of the black and Latino population. Well, I don't want to dwell on that, and I understand Palast's point, but the bottom line is that the election was a sham. (I blush that we Yanks claim to be such a thriving democracy and now, thanks to the GOP, the rest of the world sees us as a joke.)
A good deal of the focus of the book is a subject on which I've expressed bitterness for decades: the media. Even in the electoral sham, Palast starts that such foolishness wasn't even reported in the US press, but was exposed in his journal which is British. Other items, such as the sell out of much of the world's poor by the World Bank and related organizations not only frequently occur but are NOT covered by the good old boys of American journalism. Indeed, it is from this book that I learned a lot, for instance of the police slaughter of demonstrators in Bolivia, or of the half a million or so who marched in favor of the president of Argentina. (The US press only covered the less that half of that number who marched against him.) Then there was the Exxon-Valdez sinking. I'd bought into the fairy tale that the ship's captain was drunk and ran the vessel aground. Palast educated me by showing that the corporation had conspired against all kinds of regulations and THAT'S why the ship eventually sank. The rest was typical PR generated to make the serfs look responsible.
Palast is not just a Yank basher. In fact, he's is far more critical of British libel law. At least in this country we can express something without fear of criminal penalty from the government itself. In Britain, they're not so lucky. (And, with respect to Britain, Palast exposes the, shall I say "mercenary"--with that I'm being a real gentleman--nature of Tony Blair's government. I'm not saying we Yanks are better, but if I found my representatives being so blatantly corrupt, I'd send them to prison!)
There's a great essay on Pinochet's Chile, notably that, contrary to what we hear all the time, Pinochet's "economic miracle" was a travesty (AND a slaughter) while the "liberal" policy is the only thing that worked for that country, and for the others he discussed. And the corporate collaboration with those who overthrew Allende is truly criminal.
And, again, of course, the US press didn't cover that. They're too busy passing on the PR copy of the "corporate relations" offices.
Even Pat Robertson gets exposed by this book in a way that should make us all pause and reconsider everything about that "religious" figure.
There's so much more I could say but I don?t want to give away everything on this book.
If you want to read how this country really runs, I cannot recommend this volume strongly enough. It gets depressing, and many heard me let out shouts of anger as I learned more and more. But the end implores the reader to DO something. There's any number of web pages to refer to from which to learn more. And I'm still not sure what I'll do. But it's time to do something, again.Ugly Mosaic, April 26, 2003Will Podmore (see more about me) from London United Kingdom
Our government is corrupt. Most Americans know that, but don't like pondering the consequences. The brazeness of the Bush gang, however, makes our national avoidance hard to sustain. Now the rot extends to national elections, rigging the very heart of a beleagured democracy and its claims to legitimacy. Palast details the shenanigans in meticulous fashion that no candid person can deny. Should this palace coup surprise us? Of course not. There's big money at stake in rolling back 70-odd years of progressive reforms aimed at making capitalism livable -- after all, one man's clean water is another man's business expense. Now the wraps are off. No more Let's Compromise. No more labor movement to challenge the big money steamroller as it plows across the globe, buying off a legislature here or a Blair administration there. All is dragged into the same slime pit of corporate-IMF rule. The author presents a series of revealing snapshots, but the reader must fill in the picture. It's an ugly one, but, national denial or not, it is the unrelenting reality we all face. Hang in there, Mr. Palast.
Brilliant attacks on capitalist 'ethics', April 22, 2003
The brilliant investigative journalist Greg Palast was the first to detail how Florida's Governor Jeb Bush stole the Presidential election for his brother George.
He investigates the truth behind Blairite rhetoric about the inevitability of globalisation. The IMF made Tanzania charge for hospital appointments, cutting patient numbers by 53%, and charge school fees, cutting enrolment by 14%. GDP fell from $309 to $210 a head; those in abject poverty rose to 51% of the population. In Chile in 1973 unemployment was 4.3%; after ten years of Pinochet and wage cuts of 40% it was 22%.
Between 1960 and 1980, when the welfare state was still the model, income per head rose by 73% in Latin America and by 34% in Africa; people lived another ten years longer. Since 1980, under the Thatcher-Reagan model, income per head in Latin America has risen by only 6%, and fell by 23% in Africa; life expectancy has fallen - which the Financial Times' monetarist Sam Brittan intelligently attributed to 'bad luck'.
The European Community's secret memo 'Domestic Regulation: Necessity and Transparency' abandons the 'sovereign right of government to regulate services' that Trade Minister Richard Caborn promised MPs that the General Agreement on Trade in Services would observe. This won't just apply to what we think of as services, given that the US Government succeeded in defining bananas as services!
Between 1983 and 1997, 85% of the increase in US wealth went to just 1% of the population; productivity rose by 17%, real wages fell by 3%.
Blair is in the US's pocket. Who gained from his deals? GTech of New Jersey, Entergy of Little Rock, Reliant of Houston, Monsanto of St Louis, Wal-Mart of Arkansas, Wackenhut (the prison company) of Florida, Columbia Health Care, Bechtel of San Francisco, Enron of Houston. Palast writes, "In his heart, Tony Blair hates Britain." In his what?
If you know anyone who still doubts that capitalism and Labour are corrupt, get them this book. It provides all the evidence for indicting this government - but when are we going to act on it?
Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy
No Place for Amateurs How Political Consultants Are Reshaping American Democracy
"[T]he race for office has become a race for money"
Ain large part because of political consultants, says Johnson. He should know: he's a former top political consultant and now associate dean of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. Johnson offers an insider's view of what political consultants do and what the repercussions are for the American democratic system.
The consultant's role during a campaign is to leave as little as possible to chance. Consultants...
An inside look, November 12, 2001
Reviewer: Jeffrey Ellis (see more about me) from Richardson, Texas United States
As of late, political consultants have become convenient boogeymen. It seems whenever the American people decide they'd rather be apathetic than devote a few minutes out of their day to voting or whenever a politician is caught breaking the law, it somehow turns out to be the ultimate fault of political consultants. And so, every few months or so, we get a lot of people demanding a lot of new laws and vague terms like "campaign finance" get tossed around by commentators who obviously haven't got a clue as to what they're actually talking about. Yet somehow, nobody ever seems to really bother with, say, investigating what campaign consultants actually do. Luckily, veteran consultant Dennis W. Johnson has written "No Place For Amateurs," an inside look at campaign consultants that manges to avoid the anti-consultant hysteria of most recent insider books while at the same time never embracing the shallow arrogance of the "how-to" books of consultants like Dick Morris (who is featured in the opening chapters of Johnson's books and -- no great shock -- comes across as an egotistical cad). Chapter-by-chapter, Johnson explains, in detail, what pollsters, direct mail consultants, and advertising gurus actually do. He also explains how political consultants came to be so powerful in American politics and shows that the situation isn't quite as bad as we might think. At the same time, Johnson doesn't allow himself to be a shill for his fellow consultants. He does highlight some trouble spots and the reforms he suggests manage to be both effective and fair without resorting to the hysterical fearmongering of so many other reformers. As well, Johnson's book is also full of several entertaining anecdotes from previous campaigns and it should be a lot of fun for people with a taste for political trivia.
Fascinating inside look at modern political machinery, July 26, 2001
Reviewer: Richard Turner (see more about me) from Washington, DC United States
This is a great read - especially for news and politics junkies. Johnson writes with authority, candor and humor about real people involved with real campaigns and facing real ethical issues. Not only does the book describe the tools and techniques of modern campaigns, but it provides real insight into their strengths and weaknesses when used in varying situations.
I have to admit, though, the best part of the book is the anecdotes. You get a sense of the decision making speed required in the chaos that surrounds candidates and staffs. In fact, you may actually gain some sympathy for the people who choose (or are driven) to enter the political arena.
If you liked The War Room or Primary Colors, you'll love this book.
Who Will Tell The People The Betrayal Of American Democracy
Are We Close to Losing Our Democracy to Corporate Interests?, September 4, 2000
Reviewer: Eric H. Roth (see more about me) from Venice, CA USA
Written in the era of Ross Perot and Jerry Brown and focused on the Savings and Loan scandal that cost taxpayers at least $200 Billion dollars, this insightful book identifies many factors behind the growing power of transnational corporations to set the national agenda. Villains include an expanding executive branch, the collusion of both major parties with Wall Street interests, the increasing use of technical jargon in the halls of power, and a press that seems more focused on selling celebrities than examining policies.
Greider's prophetic book, written in 1992, anticipates how NAFTA, GATT, and the most favored trade status with China all passed - could be pushed through by a Democratic president (Clinton) and a Republican Congress in a bipartisan effort. Polls, by the way, showed the vast majority of Americans oppossed to all three pieces of legislation. A populist political critic, Greider suspects what is good for Wall Street might not be good for Main Street. (Of course, many people living on Main Street owe some stock too.)
I first read this book in 1992, and wondered if Greider was exaggerating to make more compelling copy. Re-reading parts today and knowing the disaster caused by NAFTA, Greider emerges as one of the few political analysts aware of the signifance of trade to Wall Street and the negative influence on corporate money on both parties.
"We're perilously close to not having a democracy," warms Greider, noting that while many elements are involved in disenfranchising the American public, none are buried secrets and all are familiar features. Campaign finance reform, of course, remains the preferred euphemism for legalized bribery used to win Congressional votes and manipulate regulatory decisions. Incumbents like the system (shock, shock) and reformers seem to lose in primaries (McCain, Bradley.) Greider makes a few commonsense suggestions: more press coverage of how government actually works, campaign finance reform, and elections on the weekends.
Unfortunately, this witty tirade, written with outrage and fury, seems more relevant today than ever. Both moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats support unrestricted trade leaving true outsiders like Nader and Buchanan to articulate the fair trade argument. Greider suggests that the possibilities for renewing American democracy are dwindling -despite technological advances that could revitalize citizen activism.
A fascinating, sobering book for the 2000 election season.
Penetrating Analysis Of Federal Political Corruption!, June 24, 2000
Reviewer: Barron Laycock (Labradorman) (see more about me) from Temple, New Hampshire
Ah, once more into the breach, dear friends. Like Shakespeare's goode King, Rolling Stone editor and contributor William Greider is once more up in arms, and in this powerful and provocative book takes thoughtful aim against the bloodied and crippled state of the contemporary American polity. Greider convincingly details the many ways in which the democratic process has been compromised, corrupted and co-opted by the powerful economic influences of corporate America. In doing so, he focuses on the actual process of how the federal government works, and illustrates in shocking fashion with a number of specific anecdotes the degree to which the political system has been bought off by transnational corporations and the media.
The author's list of un-indicted co-conspirators is long and illustrious; transnational corporations, the electronic media, the political parties, so-called interest groups like the NRA and the Milk Lobby, and an occasional populist group, all trying to foist their narrowly focused interests into self-serving legislation and regulation against the much broader interest and liberties of the citizenry at large. The fact that they consistenly succeed to our detriment is powerful testimony as to the accuracy of this analysis. The author reserves special vile for the activities of the two political parties, who he contends are more aptly described as the power-drunk fraternal twin children of the wealthy power elite than they are a responsive and representative force out to accomplish the messy business of democratic governance. Acting in the elite's perceived social, economic, and political interests, the federal government manages the tax structure, social benefits, and economic policies in ways that ensure the rich and powerful gain further advantage at the cost of the rest of the populace.
Yet Greider sees a unique opportunity in the brave new world of post-cold war conditions to right the existing wrongs of the present situation. Through a re-energized populist political movement, he argues, the people could seize control of the process and demonstrate the continuing power of the citizenry to manage and control their collective destinies. By such practical means as organizing boycotts of errant transnational corporations to bring them into line in order to continue benefiting in our domestic marketplace (the largest single economy in the world), the people could bargain by using the power of their purse strings.
As much as I like Greider and enjoy his critical skills and analysis, even I have to admit that such a social revolution is an unlikely event; anyone aware of the degree to which our citizenry are politically apathetic, and who recognizes that the only energy an average middle class American expends is usually associated with an self-absorbed pursuit of video games and backyard barbecues, also realizes that they are unlikely to be the nucleus of any kind of meaningful social revolution. Viewed in such circumspect terms, it is hard to picture the citizens of contemporary society gaining anything like that sort of enlightened self-awareness or concerted political action in the near future. Yet despite his unrealistic hopes for such an unlikely change in the present arrangements, this is a good book, and has a worthwhile and penetrating analysis that quite specifically blueprints the nature of the corruption and co-option of the federal government by the transnational corporations. I enjoyed reading it, and plan to read sections of it again because of its powerful analysis. Enjoy.
The Zinn Reader Writings on Disobedience and Democracy
World on Fire- How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
From Publishers Weekly
A professor at Yale Law School, Chua eloquently fuses expert analysis with personal recollections to assert that globalization has created a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world. Chua illustrates the disastrous consequences arising when an accumulation of wealth by "market dominant minorities" combines with an increase of political power by a disenfranchised majority. Chua refutes the "powerful assumption that markets and democracy go hand in hand" by citing specific examples of the turbulent conditions within countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Bolivia and in the Middle East. In Indonesia, Chua contends, market liberalization policies favoring wealthy Chinese elites instigated a vicious wave of anti-Chinese violence from the suppressed indigenous majority. Chua describes how "terrified Chinese shop owners huddled behind locked doors while screaming Muslim mobs smashed windows, looted shops and gang-raped over 150 women, almost all of them ethnic Chinese." Chua blames the West for promoting a version of capitalism and democracy that Westerners have never adopted themselves. Western capitalism wisely implemented redistributive mechanisms to offset potential ethnic hostilities, a practice that has not accompanied the political and economic transitions in the developing world. As a result, Chua explains, we will continue to witness violence and bloodshed within the developing nations struggling to adopt the free markets and democratic policies exported by the West. (On sale Dec. 24)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Globalization is not good for developing countries, insists Yale law professor Chua. It aggravates ethnic tensions by creating a small but abundantly wealthy new class and it's stimulating a new wave of anti-Americanism.
Excellent book!, February 10, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from LA, CA USA
Through this book Amy Chua has taught me so much about the failure of free market and democracy in much of the Third World. This is an excellent book that adds to, rather than contradicts, the conventional U.S. theory about exporting our system to the rest of the world.
I would point out a couple of shortcomings of the book for other readers.
(1) The cultural, political and economic legacy (not to mention the brutality) of European colonialism is inadequately analyzed. The fact that the Chinese and Lebanese have become so successful in many parts of the world owes a great deal to the historical circumstance in which these immigrant minorities collaborated with and profited from the oppressive colonial regimes.
(2) The comparison between Jewish people and the overseas Chinese is rather superficial. In addition to the collaborationist colonial role they played, the Chinese differ from the Jews in that the former, perhaps out of their sense of culutral/racial superiority, refuse to regard their "indigenous" countrymen as equal. Only when assimilated successfully by the indigenous government, the Chinese seem to accept the fact that they are a part of their adopted country.
Unconventional Wisdom, Strong Chinese Element, May 29, 2003
Reviewer: Robert D. Steele (see more about me) from Oakton, VA United States
This book is a solid five stars in part because the author ably bring forward a well-documented (solid notes, good index) case for suggesting that both Western democracy and unbridaled (that is to say, uncontrolled) capitalism, are not only harmful to lesser developed countries, but also ultimately, through their creation of instability and the export of terrorism, harmful to the very proponents of unbridled democracy and capitalism.
She is on strong ground. Robert Kaplan has written many books examining failed states and lower tier nations and come to the same conclusion with respect to democracy, while George Soros has published "The Crisis of Global Capitalism." More subtly, Thomas Stewart, in "The Wealth of Knowledge", slams much of what passes for effective industrial and corporate organization as archaic and inappropriate to the new environment.
What I found most intersting, having spent much of my life in Asia and Latin America, and been close to some Chinese elements in Singapore, was that much of the author's case is based on Chinese examples, not American. This makes the book especially valuable to Americans, because when she speaks of a world on fire and the dangers of ethnic conflict coming out from under market-dominant minorities, she is speaking about Chinese examples, not American examples. As the Godfather would say, "This is not personal, this is business."
The author ends with a number of recommendations that appear sensible, but that at this point have no hope of every being considered by the US or other Western powers--or in China. The author's recommendations require an educated public exercising its political power in the pursuit of both global stabilization and national prosperity as seen through a long-term lens. It may take another 9-11, the meltdown of Arabia, and several more genocides in Malaysia and Indonesia, the utter chaos in the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Sudan, and Burundi, to name just four failed states that are testing the United Nations, before the public ultimately realizes that what is exported overseas "in their name" ultimately comes home on fire. The book is well-titled, the author's thesis is important, and those who do not like this book are well-qualified to represent the problematic organizations that the author is discussing.
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