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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
Quite frankly, I'm shocked that there are only six reviews on this provocative book. Eric Alterman gives an analysis regarding our rigged political system that is thoughtful, factual, and given without hysteria. To his credit, he makes no bones about the fact that his politics are liberal, yet he presents his material without hyperbole. In my opinion, Kabuki Democracy was written for a left of center audience, not the least of who are the leftist critics of President Obama's accomplishments, or the lack thereof.

I don't know that it's necessary to list the topics that Alterman addresses or the merits of his conclusions -- most of which I agree. These are well-discussed in other reviews, as well as information about the book. Stylistically, this is not the easiest of reads; although a professor of journalism, Alterman's prose can seem convoluted because of the lengths of his sentences and paranthetical explanations within them. I did, however, read it in a few hours and will use the book as an outstanding resource when defending my political opinions regarding the state of our system and President Obama's job performance.

Let's get one thing straight: Kabuki Democracy is NOT an apology for Obama's policy failures since 2008. At the outset, Alterman lists those failures and acknowledges his own disappointment in the things President Obama has given in to. He believes that White House strategy had been politically naive and that Obama's advisors were ill-equipped to make wise decisions in face of the brutality of Washington politics. What Alterman does do is analyze those factors that have crippled Obama's ability to meet his 2008 campaign promises in a robust way: the unrelenting power of corporate and monied interests, the abuse of money in politics, and a media that no longer attempts to foster useful public discourse.

Agree with Obama or not, this book is worthy a read for every progressive who truly wants to understand what has gone wrong -- and why. Alterman's discussions left me feeling physically ill at times, and ill at ease all of the time. Our government is deeply corrupt and without a strong effort to change the scourge of money in politics we do not have much hope of setting it on the path of actually serving the people who elects its lawmakers, instead of special interests, corporations, and the very wealthy.
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42 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2011
Many years ago I read an article in The Atlantic which discussed economies as oil tankers. In the same way that oil tankers can't turn on dimes, any President's impact on the economy is slow to marerialize - - that is, if you're looking for everything to be sewn up in the same 22 minute horizon of a sitcom. Presidents have an impact, but you wouldn't feel it soon enough for the next election. That was the point of the article in The Atlantic.

Alterman's taken it beyond lowering your expectations due to slow reactions. He looks at the numerous constraints which surround change - - structural, political, and cultural. He also looks at the personalities of the players. Short term, there's plenty of reason to lower your expectations from what Obama can deliver in one term, back half of a mid-term, or a second term.

This is a call for patience and diligence, to moderate your expectations. I first read this over the summer, when portions were published on The Nation's web site. It's not an easy message. But truth doesn't always come easy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2012
Eric Alterman is a well-known liberal blogger, professor, and political journalist, and I enjoy reading his columns just as I enjoy reading political analysis from many points of view. I looked forward to this book, even though I just read it (a bit late in the game). Note that I'm not reviewing from any particular point of view here, just trying to lay out this book in its own terms.

If you enjoy discussions such as Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (whether you agree with them or not), then you likely will enjoy this book. It presents a laundry list of problems (from a liberal point of view) that engulf Washington: corporate influence, the domination of PACs, the complicity of the media, democracy-blocking rules in the Senate, etc. And it faults President Obama for naivete at how the system really works.

All of that is fine as far as it goes. However, that's also the problem: that is ONLY as far as it goes. I was hoping the book would have a grand thesis, as is hinted in the title: "oh, yes, we are like kabuki and here's how and why." But it doesn't. It calls for reform of this, change of that, alteration of rules over there, better behavior, more transparency, and so forth and so on. In other words, a bunch of little to medium changes that might, somehow, add up to systematic reform.

There is no grand vision here -- which is OK, as long as you know what to expect. FWIW, I'm not sure anyone has such a grand vision, and analyses like the ones here may be helpful to get there.
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on April 2, 2015
Here, Eric Alterman, a superb political analyst, in this book, "Kabuki Democracy: The System vs Barack Obama," gets us very near the crux of the matter in describing just how both the mechanics of our Kabuki Democracy works, and how the structural constraints that control it from above operate. But since he unwittingly conflates the two, actually seeing structural (or procedural) issues as being secondary to the mechanical issues, his analysis falls just short of actually getting us to where we really need to be.

Despite this, we owe him a serious debt of gratitude, and must be grateful for such a clean and detailed analysis of the "low theater" that the American legislative process represents. However, arguably, rather than the "shadow boxing," or "Kabuki dance" that goes on, on the congressional floor, what we really needed was a synthesis -- a connecting of the dots between "high" and "low" theater; i.e., between the way the money and influence is deployed and flows from the top to the bottom to set the parameters for rule-making and constraining the procedural issues -- where the steps of the Kabuki dance are designed and used to gum-up the works of the American political process.

In Mr. Alterman's hands, the dance of our democracy is more about "low theater" -- the "tools and mechanics" used to manipulate the asymmetric levers of the Corporate instigated ideological culture -- things like secret holds, ear marks, controlling the message of the press, suppressing the vote, lobbyists rewriting legislation, etc. rather than about "high theater," -- the implicit money that causes Congressmen to consistently jump out of their skins to vote against the people's interests, and thus is corrupting the process -- which, operating at a much higher level (not at a lower level as the author contends), constitutes the only real structural constraint on the American political process.

It is thus this often vulgar, poisonous, take-no-prisoners, often racist ideology that corporate money buys and promotes, that acts as the controlling lever for the procedures as well as the rule-making mechanics that go on on the congressional floor. It is this "high theater" of American politics that matters most, not the "staged burlesque show" going on down on the congressional floor with which the author seems most preoccupied. Arguably, the author not only has smoothly conflated the two here, but also has given sole priority to the mechanics rather than to the procedural and structural issues where it should be. Thus, in my estimation, he has unwittingly used a very clean and careful analysis of "congressional mechanics" as little more than a mask for the only real structural constraint the American political process has: the illicit money being spread around like so much cow manure to manipulate the procedural and rule-making aspects of the system at all levels.

Describing these "mechanics" as "structural constraints" is not just a misdirection of effort, but more importantly, is also maximally misleading. I get the fact that it is difficult for "we the people" to fight battles about how to reform procedures, which are never sexy, but that this is the reality does not change the character of the battle that needs to be fought!

I agree with the author that there are two areas of concern responsible for gumming up the works of the dysfunctional American political process. On the one hand (and at the highest level, not at the lowest level), are the structural constraints driven mostly by a large "emotional red meat driven vote against the people's interests" ideology. And even though the Republican Party acts as a wholly-owned subsidiary of this ideology, the corporate money that shapes and underwrites it, is by no means restricted just to the Republican Party. Even the most liberal democrats are also guilty of taking tainted money from big pharma, the insurance companies, Wall Street bankers, the oil cartels, as well as from their heavy-handed ideologically driven pacts, their strategically placed K-street lobbyists, and their "plants" across the media.

For those interested in "low theater," i.e., for those who just want to become familiar with the pure unadulterated mechanics of how the hydra-headed monster, collectively called "corporate influence" has gotten a strangle-hold over, and has rigged our democracy against itself, then you can do no better than this book. I highly recommend it in this regard.

But for those more interested in "high theater," i.e., in understanding the "whys" and "wherefores" of why people posing as being loyal to our shared democratic ideals and principles are in fact, rigging and willfully destroying our system of democracy, while turning it against us, and robbing it blind in the process, this is not the book for you.

True enough, as Mr. Alterman suggests, it is a dance with many complex steps. But is it really only the confusing complexity of the steps that should matter to us? Should we not be equally concerned with the fact that "we the people" are no longer even invited to the dance? We are no longer allowed to get involved in making up the rules of the game. Nor, that when we do manage to squeeze through the door, uninvited, there no longer is a seat at the table for us?

Oh yes, it is true that every two to four years, we get our "pro forma invite." We are sold a "wolf ticket," as the price of admission, a "wooden nickel" as it were, called the ballot, "the neutered right to vote." But each time we go to the polls to "cash it in," it has already been declared a dead letter: counterfeit, bogus, not even worth the rigged voting machine image it is displayed on. And when people get too disgusted to even show up for the "false invite," we get an admonishment from party chairman, Mr. Obama, saying if you don't show up at the polls, you can't have a say in the process. (Say whaat? Since when did a vote give us a stake in reforming the process? These whorish congressmen think they are all gods, and we are not their masters, but their serfs?)

I say back to Mr. Obama, that that would be true only if voting carried the same power that it once had back in the days before the system was rigged against us. We are not fools all of the time, just some of the time. It seems to me that in order to avoid the obvious -- that robbing a nation's political system of its vote, so that "we the people" are left holding only an empty shell of democracy filled with dust -- is not at all a random innocent throw of the political dice; it is not just a normal act of everyone with interests scrambling equally to get a seat at the table; or just a question of who can best dance the Watusi at the four-year Congressional Ball, as this book would have us believe.

To the extent he is conscious of it at all, I believe the author is being just a tad disingenuous in not explaining and then emphasizing what actually lies beneath the complex dance steps going on on the congressional floor -- in not telling us just how the whole affair is put together and being orchestrated from above (not from below!) by those working 24/7 and furiously against our interests.

Why is it that the author is not giving us the whole story, not telling us the whole truth, that being skillful on the congressional dance floor (which is just for show in any case), involves a lot more than just strategically deploying huge sums of money in the right whoring Congressmen's hands, but also requires a great deal of deadly serious Machiavellian behind-the-scenes planning and maneuvering that goes on both before and after the money is deployed -- the kind of strategic backroom planning designed specifically to undermine the power of the American people, and thus to undermine our democracy itself, purposefully rendering it impotent and dysfunctional. Even the congressmen themselves admit that they spend two-thirds of their time not legislating, but "raising money," , which is a euphemism for "whoring themselves out to the highest bidding "Corporate John."

Consciously destroying our democracy with premeditated willful mal-intent, is not only immoral and treasonous, but if our increasingly weakened and wobbly democracy is to continue to survive, doing so must eventually be recognized for what it is: a colossal crime against the American people. In which case, just maybe the first remedial step is not, as the author has suggested, to get the congress to reform itself, but to bring before the bar of justice, all those deploying money, as well as those who use it to weaken "people-based sovereignty." (Now wouldn't that be a novel way to stem the tide of American political corruption and thus correct the only real structural defect in our political system?)

But this only gets us back to the crux of the missing argument the author attempts to hoodwink us with, about how to fix the structural problem , which he confuses with the mechanics or steps to the Kabuki dance. The author gives us his list, and a "long song-and-dance" about how to bring secret holds out into the light of day, stop the scheduled filibusters, etc. Surely the author knows that doing this is still all "low," not "high," theater. Its like fixing the barn door after the horses have already bolted. What good is that going to do if the rules about how money is deployed remain unchanged?

How do we know that the author knows that this is the case? Because in his conclusions he belatedly realizes that all his own suggestions make no sense in a body that writes its own rules in exactly the way that its political paymasters intended for it to do. And despite having slowly and belatedly come to this realization, and then at least in principle, finally accepted the fact that there is no clean or easy way out our dilemma -- that is, that there is really no way to reform a system that benefits from the rules it makes to further enrich itself, he still would not pull the trigger and say so out loud.

In summary then, the difference between "low" and "high" theater, is the difference between describing the "mechanics," and describing how money, and "back room wheeling and dealing," that is fashioned into a "low grade insidious ideology," together, are rapidly causing all of our democracy to seep out through the cracks of the very congressional dance floor where the Kabuki dance is taking place.

The author was correct in noting that Mr. Obama was far from being transformative, or a game changer -- as at least one other set of authors have claimed him to be. Yet, the reader cannot fail to note too that the author, apparently with tainted liberal affectations himself, spends a lot of time making Mr. Obama appear to be a victim of a Republican drive-by shooting -- an innocent bystander who has been politically carjacked: (that he just plays the cards he is dealt, p9; or that he shows up at a knife fight carrying a library book, p19, or instead of going for the whole hog, Mr. Obama is perfectly content to settle for a ham sandwich, p3, etc.). But these facts would all suggest that these are all just the colorful characterizations of wounds that Mr. Obama has inflicted upon himself, by trying to play chess on the wrong side of the board? We know that when a politician's agenda is being set by the other side, he has already lost the battle, as clearly Mr. Obama had done coming out of the starting blocks in 2008.

Indeed, they suggest perhaps that what Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says gets us a bit closer to the truth when Krugman implies that Mr. Obama may not be a part of the solution after all, but may indeed be a part of the problem. Is it not the case that Mr. Obama is just another member in good standing of the "good Ol boys and girls club" of corporate influenced political hacks and whores?

Remember that when he was in Chicago, is it not true that he and Michelle were both card carrying members of a club of those who would degrade effective government through the same kind of antidemocratic maneuverings the Republicans are now using in DC? Yet, now that this power couple has moved on up to the White House, they are pretending to have been carjacked by the reptilian-brained Republicans? That old "blame the other party card," whether played nationally or sectionally, is just another tried and true Kabuki dance step too, just more "low theater," and incidentally, as the Obamas well know, has long been played out.

I think Krugman may have hit on to something valuable that this author missed when he also suggested that no one in Washington, including our faux progressive president, seems to have a strategic stake in returning this country's political system back to sensible governance.

It seems to me that all of this author's preoccupation with how devilishly complex the American political system is, at some point crosses over into a gray area of being just a convenient dodge, an overly detailed mask for covering up the obvious question being begged by the whole book: Why are those who have criminally rigged the system against us, doing so? And why are they being allowed to get away with it? Even rewarded for it?

The only uncontested unalloyed truth seems to be that they are suicidally greedy, having undying fealty and loyalty only to their own personal God of profits and their own bottom lines. Improving or even saving American democracy does not even register on their agenda.

In China, would they not all be lined up against the wall and shot? Yet, in America, at least if you are on the "right" end of the political spectrum, you cannot be arrested for undermining our form of government, or working to gum-up the works, or forming a militia unit to overthrow and take it over, or, for undermining the national agenda, or for consistently throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of our political system. Undermining our democracy, spitting in the president's face, rigging the system so that it robs sovereignty from the people, handing it over to those with the most money, is now considered just a normal part of the ugly process of making democratic sausage, a normal part of the American political process: just another tool to be deployed in the democratic Kabuki dance taking place on the congressional floor? Would that it were so?

Since this book reaches the same conclusion that most Americans have already reached: that since it is impossible for the congress to reform a structure of rules invented precisely to allow them to serve their corporate paymasters, and thus get away with murder, as in literarily killing our democracy, then maybe it is getting high time that the American people begin to consider using its own last resort nuclear option. The only redress that the U.S. Constitution has provided "we the people" to use against all forms of tyranny, including blatant runaway rule-making tyranny, is another American Revolution. Four stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon September 17, 2012
Eric Alterman (born 1960) is a journalist, blogger, and commentator, who has also written books such as Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals,The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama,What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, etc. ("Kabuki" is the stylized Japanese classical drama, with elaborate make-up and costumes worn by performers.)

He wrote in the Introduction to this 2011 book, "For the truth... is that it does not much matter who is right about what Barack Obama dreams of in his political imagination. Nor are the strategic mistakes made by the Obama team really all that crucial... The far more important fact for progressive purposes is simply this: The system is rigged, and it's rigged against us. Sure, presidents can pretty easily pass tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful corporations. They can start whatever wars they wish and wiretap whomever they want without warrants... But what they cannot do... is pass the kind of transformative progressive legislation that Barack Obama promised..." (Pg. 4-5)

He cautions, "a similar sense of false security about any number of aspects of our government's regulatory responsibilities presently permeates our public life... this politically poisonous legacy of malign neglect has the potential to despoil almost every aspect of President Obama's agenda... It's as if Bush and Cheney left one time bomb after another and the Obama administration is being held responsible for failing to predict where and when each one will explode." (Pg. 16)

He asserts that the Fox News channel is "something new---something for which we do not yet have a word. It provides almost no actual journalism. Instead, it gives ideological guidance to the Republican Party and millions of its supporters... And because Fox manages to earn over a half a billion dollars a year... it functions as the equivalent of a political perpetual motion machine." (Pg. 74-75) He adds, "yet instead of objecting to the manner that Fox perverted the news for political purposes, the other networks appeared intent on aping it." (Pg. 98)

He laments, "Obama badly misjudged the willingness of Republicans to treat actual governance as their responsibility. He wasted months and months in pursuit of bipartisan support that was never going to materialize and in constructing what may have been unnecessary and counterproductive compromise proposals that were adopted largely for their likelihood to appeal to a group of chimerical Republican 'moderates,' almost all of whom felt far too threatened by the rise of the 'Tea Party' extremists in their districts even to contemplate cooperation with (him)." (Pg. 150)

Alterman's books are always thoughtful and provocative, and this one is no exception; progressives (or others) wanting to assess the Obama administration will appreciate this book.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2011
I believe this book should be a must read for the middle class, and lower income families. This sheds quite a bit of light on how the politicians manipulate our destiny, and how they prevent whatever good the President is trying to do, if it cost them money in the form of tax breaks for the wealthy. The bottom line is they don't care if the country is in debt, as long as they get there money.
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33 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
This book is a must read for everyone. We all need to know the details of the rigging of this system we are told everyday is a democracy. We need to memorize these details so we spot them tomorrow in action, and so we stop blaming Obama for not getting done the work we thought we put him there to do.

Alterman sees the phenomenon exceptionally well. He explains why this government can move forward to cut taxes on the rich, spend ever increasing borrowed money on war contractors, and declare war on little countries under any pretense on any side of the world. That agenda is freely advanced, while progress for the Middle Class and working families is routinely and mysteriously thwarted despite Super Majorities in Congress and our man finally in the White House. His view is from the very center of an elaborate chessboard that's been constructed over decades to block legislation before the cameras and our very eyes. He sees every move into the distance up and down the rows and on the diagonals.

The details of the various systems are all things we all need to know to see through this fog of class warfare: senate rules to avoid having a Bill in the first place. Then there are the pinch hits, the last minute additions and deletions that escape press detection sneaked in to gut the Bill's intent. If that has to fail for the cameras, exemptions are the consolation prize. Enforcement is anyway a non-starter since by now for a few decades regulatory agencies have been stacked with "kill the beast" appointees converted into permanent government employees. Agency rules can be suspended anyway by small separate bills nobody notices or has to talk about. The details are myriad and extend as far as the eye can see up and down the chessboard in every direction. I'll leave the rest of the best for the reader to discover.

We need to talk more about the conditions that give rise to this phenomenon, however, while giving him five stars for focusing the conversation. He speaks about the power of culture to seduce and blind. Just like the personal writings of enlightenment thinkers Capernicus or Spinoza are riddled with metaphors for sin and god, desperately searching for words to reach out of the linguistic fog of their times, Alterman's own scrupulous and dutiful "inside progressive media" knowledge doesn't allow him to see behind the painted screens on the sidelines of the kabuki stage. He mentions David Koch and the Koch Brothers as behind so much of the nasty deception. He cites Buckley vs Valeo which most neglect as the quantum attractor factor in all this mess even though that ruling enabled in the first place all this deception of voters, taxpayers, property owners, and retirement savers starting in the 1970s. Most of his peers leave that detail out despite their ad nauseum writings and railings about deception and its results across the heartland all the time.

Beginning to peer behind the painted screens, he cites the TWO taxpayers behind "Concerned Taxpayers of America", and the ONE behind "Taxpayers Against Earmarks". He cites these same types behind Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institution, American Crossroads, American Action Network, etc. in their game to dominate the political debate "with the demands of the exclusively super-rich". He cites the complicity of the Supreme Court in all of this duplicity since Burger, Rehnquist, Stevens, and Roberts despite Marbury vs Madison and their obligation to overturn anything disproportionate and imbalanced passed by congress that prevents all of us from protecting equally our property against the whims of these Tax-Cutters and Bubble Makers (who do always profit in both cases!). But, isn't Buckley vs Valeo and all these other chessboard moves invented and put in place since the 1970s simply a new rigging to preserve the long-held grip by these families or their predecessors over America that was slipping after the labor movement against FDR (over which he caved but gave them WWI war ships in Pearl Harbor and provocations against Japan) and the Civil Rights movement against Johnston (over which he caved and gave them more Vietnam, but anyway paid with one term)? Somehow an argument about protecting property rights from the capricious redistributing whims of a labor union unified mass democracy merited this ruling in this case brought for his social class by WF Buckley now known as "money as speech".* The minds of dynastic litigators can come up with this stuff. Now they have Roberts!

"When 'free-market' Republicans vote to support milk subsidies or sugar tariffs, or when 'pro-consumer' Democrats vote to exempt used car dealers from consumer financial protection legislation, it is easy to understand the mistrust and hard to believe that the influence of money hasn't weakened the ability of members to serve the principles, or even the interests, they were elected to represent."

What else is hard to believe here? Other writers who study declassified State Department and CIA papers call this phenomenon Alterman so well begins to deconstruct 'permanent government': an assortment of banking, academic, and clandestine alphabet agency operatives working the revolving agency doors in plain view on the chessboard squares no matter which party is "in power", and behind the scenes in clandestine operations to advance the interests of this small group of hidden super-rich. They are always in place to make their moves once all the front of screen Kabuki theater chessboard moves have been exhausted.

Anyone with any knowledge of any of these families and their money can see that sanctions against Cuba are now clearly linked to New York and New England banking interests who owned sugar plantations in that country for 300 years. Add to them expatriated dynastic land-owning Cuban families, who were always their peers and collaborators, perhaps suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome common in colonized countries. The sanctions against Iran are clearly linked to the losses of Rockefeller Chase Bank interests, designed as sanctions are, to undermine the 'respectable elements' and push an economically degraded and desperate populace of common people toward a belligerent reactionary right-wing with which we and our other puppet allies can more easily pick fights for the cameras, and for more right-wing votes here and everywhere. Add to that the money and property interests of powerful collaborator Iranians now expatriated across the USA. They are playing on all our post Powell political chessboards, and of all religions, they are active even in AIPAC. All these conflicts are called something else of course for public consumption, aided by media details Alterman covers superbly, but also Buckley vs Valeo, and now Citizens United. That something else sells to a gullible and misled American people whose property and wages are being systematically redistributed upward advancing only the interests of the super-rich. The real details of the sordid back-story behind those painted screens evades even the writers inside progressive media.

Despite mounting evidence like the Loyd Jowers civil case won by the Martin Luther King Jr Family in Memphis and other investigations into scandals like Watergate, Iran-Contra, War on Drugs, and 9/11, independently funded, independently acting 'permanent government' to advance interests of the chessboard and outside the Kabuki theater is an idea Alterman mentions not at all. Nor is the idea of clandestine operations against American people committed right here in sovereign territory. But, one step at a time is good. Whistle-blowers are increasingly coming forward to talk about it.

Alterman closes the books as if new awareness of the Kabuki moves and new self-organization by people like us alone can unite Americans to withstand this phenomenon once enough of us know about it. He can suggest this only perhaps because he doesn't know what other writers covered about CIA study programs starting in the 1970s that deconstructed the genesis of labor and civil rights movements with Phd students using complexity theory, so they could be permanently blocked. Deconstructing the Kabuki theater notwithstanding, the questions remain unanswered: blocking moves authorized by whom? paid for by whom? in the interests of whom?

Alterman's book is a great start. From the mere category of 'interesting if true', committed readers should now revisit the inconclusive conclusions of Church and Warren commissions to fully understand the extent to the rigging of this government off the chessboard of legislating, and behind the painted screens on the sidelines out-of-view of audiences and media insiders. Evidence without a doubt will be hard to come by because clandestine operatives are trained to avoid detection and arrest. Is Alterman's culture of peer review at university or inside progressive media a barrier to investigating such 'interesting if true' leads? Is the power of culture in academia and progressive media so severe, is the object lesson of others like Pierre Salinger who ventured in too far, or an anthrax package at ABC News, too much of a specter?

"The problem, moreover, can only worsen, as the big American banks become increasingly global in their orientation and thereby put the entire world economic system at risk with their irresponsible investments, undertaken outside the authority of any US or even West European regulatory agency."

Irresponsible for whom? It only takes knowledge and insight of the whys and wherefores of the players in the Napoleonic Era to know just how lucrative is putting the "entire world economic system at risk." Bankers in that era made their fortunes seducing Kings and their Courtesans into costly expansionary war, borrowing money, blowing up nations in asset bubble and debt crises, and then enforcing austerity on the working families while cleaning up in "distressed asset" markets. Distressed by whom? Such good fortune became the basis for "Dialogues in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu" and reused again in "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in the next century. When another King and his entourage of money men and war industrialists needed a cover-up, his secret police and conservative media tools of a different era obliged!

"Lewis Powell laid out the ambitions of the wealthy conservatives in a now infamous 1971 memo to director of the US Chamber of Commerce to use their financial power to transform American political culture into one in which wealth and power could be unleashed upon the rest of us without the need for stealth or even explanation. Powell...identified the enemy...sought to undermine the 'respectable elements of society' whom he intended to replace with people like themselves." Those respectable elements of society are clearly the decent hard working honest Middle Class families who were always the majority here.

ACORN, Sherrod, covered by Alterman, and now Arizona are all "first strikes". It doesn't matter what happens afterward with a criminal charge let's say against Sarah Palin for speech to incite violence. The useful damage is already done. The Tipping Point toward destabilization is one more step toward reached. First strikes show not only to us but to the perpetrators themselves the power they possess over us at each turn where they are not stopped by States Attorneys or Courts. They already know their power over the chessboard and all the players on it so aptly defined by Alterman. That they designed themselves. They already know what their other powers are behind the painted screens to undermine 'respectable elements'. That is what we now need to know!

The construction of the elaborate chessboard of blocking moves would only be required in society that must keep up the appearance of a constitutional democracy. Only as the public grew in education and money making skill did it learn to challenge long held authority and become a threat. This is the same story for a rising French Protestant Middle Class in a similar gambit started against them 500 years ago. Reading between the lines and into the future we see how the system distorts and manipulates our minds, but also how it easily advanced "no child left behind" with the aim of enforcing multiple choice tests in place of critical thinking.

Preferences of one centralized Board of Education in one state of Texas can easily purge the nation's textbooks of any heroic references to the struggle for democracy, or even the European or Athenian Enlightenments. They can easily find a way to redact Thomas Paine to suit them. No need for enlightenment in Texas. Profits are good and the desperate workers from an "economic system put at risk" are coming despite the lowest % for healthcare coverage, lowest % of college education, and highest % of illegal NAFTA refugees(speaking of economic systems south of the border put at risk) to keep wages preternaturally low. They'll have more pawns on our chessboard soon. With the systematic dumbing down of Americans, even this expensive elaborate chessboard constructed since the 1970s will soon be obsolete! We'll be back as they always wished it had remained, in the 1880s!

It lets software billionaires decide that small class size (and therefore higher unit cost and tax assessment) doesn't matter, "good teachers do". But, that is nothing new. JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie formed education foundations to re-design education systems and shape the American mind the way they wanted it shaped. Rockefeller very successfully introduced petrochemicals into medicine with a philanthropy in medical education program that "unleashed wealth and power without the need for stealth or explanation". That is old hat around here that Powell only wanted to re-up. Being a law firm partner, he was always well paid to advance his secretive clients' interests as agent.

This book is an excellent start to a story that has to continue, get bolder, and step out of insider cultures and comfort zones! In "power of culture", we also need to identify the Stockholm Syndrome that keeps this whole system going. It replenishes the ranks every generation, decade, and mid-term election with dutiful tools to undermine the 'respectable elements'. They are the people who are not us, will never be us, will never marry our daughters, but who do want to be us! It can even keep the respectable elements themselves in line, evidently! Great book to spread around!

*In light of the lengthy discussion in the book about this SCOTUS genetic predisposition toward advancing Corporate personhood and "money as speech", since Corporations are people, effectively serving the same unifying function for unearned income dividend earners as labor unions once did for wage earning working families, can't the case be made on the same property protection precedent that labor unions should now be people too? To give working families the equal collective protection corporate shareholders get disproportionately to protect their property from redistribution? Redistribution up or down should be irrelevant. The property of the masses has clearly been disproportionately pillaged from Bubble Bust and Deficit Spending whims of those over-protected by the Supreme Court, and who are really in power. We'd better hurry to get the cases up, before Roberts guts the precedent for use of statistical evidence to show systemic injustice! He's working on it, according to Fortune this week!
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7 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2011
* It's not his fault he decided, after knowing the economy was ever-sinking even on the campaign trail, that he skipped a jobs bill (or a band-aid, cheap version of one, as he has now) and pushed the Congress to write a health care overhaul that the majority of America didn't want before, during, or after it was passed - and still does not want.
* It's not his fault he cozied up to Wall Street so much and for soooo much money, etc (Read: Charles Gaspirino's book [...] .

* It's not his fault 4 points he guaranteed for his Stimulus/Pork-U-Lust bill would do/not do failed (including unemployment would go past 8% if it didn't pass).

* Waited until re-election time to put out a so-called jobs bill (seems to be a cheap, band-aid, perhaps) he cooked up over a weekend or so.

* Not his fault he didn't keep his promise to Latinos/Hispanics to push/pass 'comprehensive immigration reform' his first year.

* Has a Democrat-controlled Congress for 2 years and did not do a lot he could have, but didn't.

We've been hearing this robotic mantra for 3 years from BO & his devotees.
Get's tiring.
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37 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2011
If you have ever wondered how quickly a Leftist can change directions based upon who is in the White House, read this book. As opposed to his other book, The Book on Bush, Alterman goes into great detail about how Obama can't be held responsible for anything that happens under his administration, due to a burdensome Washington bureaucracy. While everything that happened from 2000 to 2008, according to Alterman, was entirely Bush's fault, nothing that will happen from 2008 to 2012 will be Obama's fault because he is, by definition, faultless. From the increase in troops in Afghansitan, to the increase in Predator assassinations, to the failure to close the Gitmo prisons, to the increase in domestic's all got nothing to do with Obama and his empty promises. It's all due to Washington, and that inevitable faceless bureaucracy.
So take heart Leftists. Your guy isn't a wimp, he's a Don Quixote.
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