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on October 8, 2009
Thom Hartmann is a man of many voices. To many, he is the harbinger of optimism for those afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder. To others, he is a guide to conscious living in such books as The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century, The Prophet's Way, and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. To more still, he is the radio talk show host and political analyst who penned What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy and Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class. With his latest book, Hartmann has truly crossed the threshold to becoming one of the most lucid voices of the Progressive movement.

In many ways an amalgam of many of his previous books, Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture serves not only as a cautionary proclamation of our unsustainable lifestyles, but also a guide to getting us back on the right track toward environmental sustainability, working democracy, and social justice. Hartmann highlights three main areas where Western Culture and the Capitalist/Consumerist mentality have impacted the planet: the Environment, the Economy, and the Population. He then outlines the four mistakes which have led to the perils we face and how we can correct them. Hartmann postulates that the greatest detriment to our future is our way of thinking. If we can only change that and look at the world and our interaction with it from a different perspective, we can avoid what could possibly result in the extinction of mankind.

First, we need to stop thinking of humankind as something separate from nature. Though we like to classify ourselves as more than animals because of our opposable thumbs and ability to philosophize, it is imperative that we realize the planet is a living organism of which we are a part. It is not something that we can beat into submission, but a part of ourselves for which we must take care.

Secondly, we must unravel the myth that our free market economy is the natural order of things and the only way to run a democratic society. With the misguided acceptance of a corporation as a person though it needs no food, water, shelter or any other basic human need, America is coming perilously close to becoming completely "corporatized" and sacrificing the experiment of democracy for fascism. Hartmann demonstrates the truly natural order of democracy and the unfortunate plight of 95% of our wealth and decision-making being placed into the hands of .01% of the population.

Third, we need to validate the role of women throughout the world and empower them. Hartmann reveals the differences in societies that honor women and those that treat them as the property of man. By realizing the wisdom they offer and empowering them to make their own decisions, our population crisis could be averted, abortions would be largely minimalized, and balance could return to our society.

Lastly, we need to realize that we cannot bomb the world into democracy and force the world to like us through violence. Just as we need to realize our unity with nature, we as Americans need to realize our connection to the rest of the world. The ongoing tragedy of our fear-based reaction to terrorism is not only that we are depleting our financial and human resources, but that we are also disintegrating our souls and becoming exactly like the enemies we have sworn to rub out. To truly oppose the activity of terrorism and to gain allies around the world, our own activities must be those of creation and not destruction.

As an author and researcher, Hartman weaves a stunning array of information into an accessible page-turner that should be considered required reading for everyone in the Progressive movement. He pulls no punches in his disdain for the conservative ideology and the desire to trade democracy for the feudal "corporatocracy" of fascism. To those who continually decry the role of government and view it as an enemy to be fought against, Hartmann reminds us that in America our government is supposed to be comprised of the People, was created for the People, and must be reclaimed by the People.
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VINE VOICEon August 19, 2009
It is nice to know that some things in this world are reliable and predictable. Books by Thom Hartmann fall into that category. This book is smart, loaded with new information and as with most of Thom's books, visionary, seeing both the forest AND the trees. He identifies some of the biggest problems we are facing in what we do and how we think... and he provides concrete solutions-- not necessarily easy though.

His discussion on the evolution of freedom is excellent.

His discussion of how we are connected is fascinating and the new info on how an ancient connection to nature is healing autoimmune diseases is incredible.

Thom explains why CEOs of the biggest companies are psychopaths. It makes a lot of sense.

If we're going to change this planet and save humankind, we need to change our ways of thinking and seeing. Hartmann delivers a lucid, enlightening, enjoyable read that gets to the heart of the matter. As always, Hartmann weaves in new facts and an incredible access to history and historical anecdotes that puts new ideas into historical context.
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on September 6, 2009
This is a must read for progressives and liberals that are concerned about the direction our democracy is headed in and should be required reading for conservatives. Mr. Hartmann pulls material from some of his other books but he puts it all together so the reader gets a very comprehensive view of what's happening in our world and in the American democracy. Mr. Hartmann knows history and his book is a refreshing read for anyone that feels they are not getting the whole truth when reading most contemporary writers of political commentary. His description of corporatocracy and its impact on our world, and the gradual movement to the right of our democracy are both a wake up call and a real insight into how it all came about. This book is a serious work about a serious issue in our time.
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Thom Hartmann is one of a handful of individuals that I consider to be true guides for the rest of us, and I consider two of his earlier books, Cracking the Code and SCREWED, to have been instrumental in my own transformation from recovering spy to intelligence officer to the public.

The book does cover a lot of ground lightly, but it is coherent, and because it is Thom Hartmann, whose voice is hugely important to all of us, I settle on a five instead of a four. Other books that complement this one include Tom Atlee's The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All, Jim Rough's Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People, and The People's Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy.

Here are my notes:

+ Book may be missing pages, mine starts at page xi (Preface) so I am left wondering, what happened to i through x?

+ Book opens with quotes from Einstein and Schweitzer with respect to the urgency of widening our circle of compassion to include ALL living things, and explicitly ALL humanity.

+ The author is at pains to honor Gottfried Mueller, the subject of his earlier book The Prophet's Way: A Guide to Living in the Now, and later in the book he honors Greg Mortinsen Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time and I am hugely impressed.

+ The book can be summed up as a) population explosion is the root problem behind the ten high level threats to humanity (see A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility--Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change; and b) empowering women will solve most of that problem. While simplistic, I agree.

+ The book is structured with one chapter each for each of three major thresholds:

01 Environment (not just Climate Change but Oceanic Decomposition, Atmospheric Degradation, etcetera)

02 Economy Owned by 1% of the Public with Corporatism Rampant

03 Explosion of Human Flesh (which is his broadest and deepest concern

+ That section is followed by chapters on each of the four mistakes:

01 Separating ourselves from nature

02 Economy as an abstraction

03 Subordination of women (who used to rule)

04 Focus on governance by fear instead of governance by love

+ Cool phrase early on: "Edges are where all the action is."

Book opens with Darfur as hell on earth but still showing a sense of community. The author uses Maslow's hierarchy to discuss what has changed and how "cultural overhead" that used to be low is now very high. He discusses how oil, religion, and "civilization" changed the entire dynamic.

While there are those who might be critical of the author's flitting about combined with a lack of mention of many, many works relevant to each of the points he makes, I would point such people to the annotated bibliography in Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography), a book that enjoys a preface by Thom Hartman as well as several others--I view all of my reading and all of my reviews as being explicitly supportive of this "once over" tour. Use Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to browse across 98 categories, all reviews there lead back to Amazon, but one can easily see all books on Democracy, or on Capitalism (Good and Bad), or Pathology of Power, or whatever.

There is a lot of neat stuff in this book I would not have encountered otherwise. A few examples:

+ Worms in our bodies provided specific immunizations that have been lost with the their elimination.

+ Ann Rand was a Russian emigree originally named Alisa Zinov'yevna

+ Game theory only works on economists and psychopaths, everyone else chooses collaboration over deceit

+ Tim Roper and Larissa Conradt, "Group Decision Making in Animals as published in Nature in 2003 is huge for me

+ Democracy trumps despotism in the animal world over both the short and the long terms.

+ Cost of 1 cruise missile could buy 20 schools instead

+ Ecolonomics seeks to quantify external costs. Here it is possible to be critical, instead of Al Gore the Nobel should have gone to Herman Daly, pioneer of Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications, and is is evident Thom is drawing on what he knows to reach important conclusions, but there is a great deal more to explore

+ Chidlren that do NOT learn to read by the age of seven (he has been inpressed by Nordic examples) end up having more balanced brains and also learn to read very quickly immediately after the age of seven. See Howard Bloom's Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, a book that made me realize we have to occupy Israel and Palestine for 50 years in order to raise two new generations that can live in peace and do not regard, from the age of five, each other as pigs and monkeys.

The book draws to a close with strong expressions of concern about corporate personality, sociopath CEOs, the emergent feudalism that characterizes the USA, the control by corporations of the government, and the reality that 7-10 million Americans were deliberately disenfranchised in the 2008 election, the Republicans having perfected the techniques that Greg Palast exposed in the summer of 2000 as pioneered by Jeb Bush.

QUOTE from page 238: "If we want to end terrorism in the world, we must ends its cause--poverty, oppression, and the domination of women by men under the guise of religion. Building hospitals and schools around the world would cost us a tiny fraction of the trillion dollars we spend every year on our military (and on the interest on the money we borrow to fund our military."

I quite agree, and at Phi Beta Iota show Medard Gabel's pie chart documenting how global peace and prosperity can be had for $230 billion a year in comparison to the $1.3 trillion a year we spend. I also connect to other books since Amazon limits me to ten here.

The one book that I would recommend as a substantive complement to this more populist philosophical overview is that of J. F. Rischard, then the Vice President for Europe of the World Bank, High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
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on November 17, 2009
If only it were manditory for all of our political leaders to read this book. Thom zooms out to give us a wider perspective on human behavior. Like all of his books his research is solid, his expertise is broad and his hopes are for our highest good.
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on December 15, 2009
I have read many of Thom Hartmanns political books and he is truely fair, completely honest, and always a very interesting read. I have this book on my kindle and have read it several times. He takes a very complicated issue and makes it easy to read.
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on September 23, 2009
This is one of the most important books you can read if you have children or grandchildren. To put it quite simply, we are running out of time to deal with problems that will devastate the planet. Thom Hartmann, like the prophets of old is calling for no less than a complete reordering of society, not to mention a reordering of our own souls.

Open your mind, open your heart, and open your wallet and buy this book.
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on January 3, 2010
Threshold, by Thom Hartmann, is terrific. The biggest challenges threatening humanity are reflected with fresh perspective. Hartmann's historical overview of the Maori culture is particularly compelling. In the U.S., government `of, by, and for the people', has been replaced by `of, by, and for' transnational corporations and the wealthy. The root of this takeover is based on two corrupt legal constructs; `Corporate personhood', and `money equals free speech'. Hartmann makes the case that restoring democracy in America depends on a public groundswell against these two feudal ideas. I've read many of Thom Hartmann's books. Threshold may be his best. The scholarship is excellent and impeccably documented. Hartmann's writing style is easy and accessible. No matter what one's cause, the root of the problem likely boils down to `Corporate Personhood' and money being treated as speech. The way to restore democracy begins with the nullification of these deeply entrenched and highly destructive ideas. Nothing much will change until public awareness reaches critical mass, and we all start pulling our oars in the same direction, away from fascism, and back toward real democracy.
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on September 5, 2009
Thom has written another very readable and informative assessment of our American condition. He calls on all of us to take that information and use it to make change before it is too late to save this "democracy".
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on September 5, 2010
A MUST READ for every American that wants to know where we are and
where we're going as a nation. Excellent short history and changes
we must make to stop our slide towards a 2nd status country.
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