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Real Change: The Fight for America's Future
Real Change: The Fight for America's Future
by Newt Gingrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $2.76
62 used & new from $1.55

3.0 out of 5 stars Newt's lame attempt to save the USS Titanic, September 19, 2014
Next to Bill Clinton, Mr. Gingrich still might be the brightest politician in Washington, D.C. However, one would not know that by reading this confusingly incoherent book.

The first few chapters were such a "dog breakfast" of a mishmash of ideas that I was seriously considering not wasting my time completing the book. But then it became clear to me why it was that Mr. Gingrich was so "tongue-tied" and incoherent in the early going: He was using all of his literary skills and powers to avoid having to criticize the failed leadership of his own party under GHW Bush, aka, "Junior." Somehow he did manage to finesse his way through the dismal Bush record, but it was not a pretty sight to see. Even Katrina was seen as just an unfortunate mishap.

Newt only began to hit his stride after this unceremonious and failed attempt to "cover" for his political cell mate: GHW Bush. The summary of the first 50 pages is basically: that the GOP knows how to get elected but does not know how to govern. (Now, where did we last hear this criticism? Oh, yes! With the current President, Mr. Barack Obama (BHO)) Therefore, surely Newt meant, just beneath his breath, that both parties "outsourced" the task of government to lobbyists, political hacks and campaign managers -- like to Karl Rove and David Axlerod.

Unwittingly, Newt had just "tapped" into the "mother lode" of the bipartisan condominium of failed American politics: The leadership of both parties is so "boxed in" by the campaign money of the plutocrats, that they have no choice but to turn our democracy into a four-year beauty contest, a virtual Kabuki dance, an emotionally-based four-year Mardi Gras celebration, in which the "right" and "left" put on their campaign hats and claw at each other for a while, and then dutifully go back to their respective corners where they put out an empty dog bowl, perpetually waiting for the promised "goodies" to be disposited in it.

Painfully, we are finally learning however, that no goodies will be forthcoming to "we the people" because its all just a game, a cruel K-Street three-card monty trick: Red, Blue or Newt's Red, white and Blue, it doesn't matter, "we the people" have been tricked out of our power by feeding us emotional cow dung, while our power is slowly drained from our back pockets -- "outsourced" directly into the hands of the lawyers, lobbyists, and campaign managers, who act directly as agents for the monied interests. These coutiers have become the "stand-in" for the nation's new sovereign: Only the "Big Dog" contributors are now allowed to call the shots for anything that even remotely looks "real substantive" policy in America. End of story.

But I digress ...

After getting his tail tied in knots over Junior's colossal failures for the Republican Party, Mr. Gingrich then proceeds to tell us what three principles are required in order to make the changes we need. But again, like BHO before him, he does this without first even defining what the nation's problems are, or what kind of change is needed? Despite this, Newt's guiding principles for change are: (1) Jettison the politically correct values of the elite (who control both parties and also control America's social as well as its political system); (2) make the bureaucracy more effective; and (3) stop being uncertain about the dangers in the world? That ladies and gentlemen is Newt's formula for a new kind of undefined and unspecified abstract change."

Why does it just coincidentally have the same "other worldly" ring and feel to it as that old democratic mantra "the audacity of hope and change?" Surely they must both hail from he same political pedigree, from the same swamp of bought-and-paid-for politically constrained ideas. From this framework, according to Newt, we can uproot the "entrenched permanent government" in Washington, reassert our core values and principles, protect the nation's safety, reward achievement, and return the government back to the people. And once we have adopted these, Newt's three core principles, we can then expect the next set of bold solutions from the right side of America's political spectrum? Why is it that Newt's formula for change sounds exactly like BHO's "hope and change fairy dust?"

Then Newt moves on to the real problem. It is not the "monied cluster-f#ck" going on in Washington DC that is the problem. It is the apathy of "we the people:" We don't vote enough, participate enough, volunteer enough, cling too much to the ideologies of the past, so how can we expect government to "act on the facts and adopt commonsense solutions" ... ad infinitum?

The solution, according to Newt is that we need to become "Citizen Leaders" again? Presumably, so that we too then can be sucked into the maelstrom called the Washington, D.C money pit (like Scott Brown, Paul Ryan and a host of other newly minted "Citizen Leaders," right?) Newt then gives us a diagramed flow-chart of how we all are to become "Citizen leaders?" And I must say that Newt's flow-diagram on page 80, makes clear that politicians like him just don't get it.

Newt, read my lips: The system is rotten at the core and the core is made only of money: unlimited campaign contributions, giving corporations the same rights as people, and the Wall Street and K-Street corruption that allows the "culture of no accountability" at the top to roll on, trumping any and every objection to it that "we the people" might voice.

Look at Occupy Wall Street? Is this not the very activist citizen leadership your three principles require? Do you think that what we really need is more "Occupy Wall Street groups? Is that what "we the people are lacking? If you do, there is a bridge right around the corner from Wall Street that I would like to sell you. Or do you think the faux "Tea Party," which is just another "stalking horse" for the rich, is the answer?

Newt, don't you get it yet? "Occupy Wall Street" is being ignored in exactly the same way that "we the people" are being ignored."

... No, Mr. Gingrich, although your idea of a "Citizen Leader" is quaint and may have worked in 1876, today, in 2014 the American system perhaps for the first time has been permanently broken: systemically and permanently changed. Like "humpty-dumpty, I doubt if it can ever be put back together again.

We can no longer throw the money changers out of the Temple because they own the temple; they pay the politicians who make the laws that governs how money is changed in the Temple; they pass laws that make the crimes they have not yet committed legal before the fact, they make the money out of nothing and call it CDOs, and then tell us its gold; they control every branch of our government, including the new "national Security state." They can explode our economy at will without consequences; and they now monitor every idea that comes out or goes into the political process. If you don't believe it, just ask Edward Snowden?

No, Mr. Gingrich, it is not "we the people" that is the problem. Can you not recognize this well trod fascist path? We have seen this movie before, In Europe, with Hitler, with Stalin and Mussolini. Soon "we the people" will be like al Qaeda: We the people, will soon become "we the enemy!" Taking our government back from the money changers in the Temple has already become subversive.

Mr. Gingrich, it is not us who are the problem: It is all of the slimy "bought-and-paid-for" corrupt politicians like you that are the problem. And if you don't believe it, here is the ultimate test of our two theories: your theory that the problem is "we the people;" and my theory that it is you, your fellow corrupt politicians and campaign money that is the problem. The test is this: Get rid of them both and I will bet you any amount of money that America will return to A state of freedom and sanity, and all our problems will go away forthwith. Three stars


Physics: The Easy Way
Physics: The Easy Way
by Robert L. Lehrman
Edition: Paperback
178 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Review of High School Physics, but ...?, September 18, 2014
This review is from: Physics: The Easy Way (Paperback)
This book amounts to a good review of high school physics, with wonderful "worked out" problems, but misses the grand opportunity to introduce the calculus, thus bridging the gap between high school and college physics.

I guess in hindsight it seems that it would have been such an easy thing to do. I sure wish I had learned high school physics via the calculus. Maybe I would have been a Physicist. Four stars


Conquests And Cultures: An International History
Conquests And Cultures: An International History
by Thomas Sowell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.40
128 used & new from $1.94

1.0 out of 5 stars Ideological Witchcraft as Voodoo History, September 18, 2014
As usual "Tom" Sowell is skillful at only one thing: never veering one millimeter away from the radical Conservative party line. This hodgepodge of selective excerpts from mostly Western history and culture is so flawed it would take all day to give a point-by-point refutation of it. The margins of my book are so full of corrections that I finally just had to give up! What this Hoover Institute scholar has produced here is what I would expect of a sophomore term paper in History, no more. And that Sophomore would get a D-plus if he were in my class.

Mr. Sowell, like his ultra-Conservative compatriot, Denesh D' Sousa, has cultivated a nasty habit of culling their research materials only for things that agree with the conservative party line, everything else, including the truth, be-damned. These days, with the internet available to cross check every assertion, he is playing a dangerous game with his already very thin reputation.

I wanted so desperately to comment on all of the things he got wrong in this book, but I had nowhere to start? So I will just comment on a few of his juvenile tactics.

Repeatedly he sets up a straw man by asserting "a given" as if it is a contested fact. Then of course he proceeds uses the straw man to knock down and demolish his targeted (always ideological) counter assertion, which was never an issue in the first place, except in his own head. An example given early on in the book is this phrase: "While migrations have transferred knowledge, skills, technology, and economically valuable aptitudes around the world, conquests have played a more varied and ambiguous role." This of course is just "straw man filler" to set up his justification that conquest is not all bad. Well, whoever said that it was all bad in the first place? (No one!).

Then there are his misstatements of facts, directly, but usually by omission. For instance, early on in the book he also says: "Just as slavery became a general moral and political issue in Western civilization in the 19th century, so the 'right of self-determination of peoples' became a general moral and political issue in the 20th century. In both cases, the overwhelming military power of the West stood behind these moral and political imperatives."

Sowell knows as well as anyone that this is utter nonsense since Western power repeatedly was used to enslave and then to colonize large snatches of the world -- from India to Africa, and everything in between, that is to say, as many weaker nations as it could. This is not even a contestable fact.

Then there is the granddaddy lie of them all: "The greatest abuse of all - the slave trade - was ended as a direct result of the political influence of evangelical Christians in Britain, who were connected with missionary work in Africa." Well, la-dee-dah: this is nothing less than a royal fib, as it seems that the same thing that happened to France and Spain (whom the British Empire replaced and emulated in toto), happened to Britain: it became over-extended and had to sue for peace on the terms of those occupying its island colonies and causing costly insurrections, their slaves. British religions, like Catholicism in Spain, were just another arm of the colonial government until it ceased to be morally convenient. And anyway Spain ended slavery way before Britain did, (1542 vs 1772 with the Somerset case), so what is Mr. Sowell taking about here? Does he think we all are just fools? One star


Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union
Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union
by Robert Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
52 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Black Man's Tale of Two Countries, September 18, 2014
What we have here is the well-written extraordinary memoir of a black man who endured the trials and tribulations of having lived the first third of his life in the U.S. and Cuba, and the last two-thirds of it (44 years), in the Soviet Union.

Towards the end of the book he warns against making facile comparisons between U.S. and Russian societies, because both the differences between the two societies, and the changes in them over time, could make such comparisons unreliable. Despite this, on the issue of race, the curiosity of the astute reader is likely to get the better of him. I simply could not resist the temptation to compare Russian and U.S societies on the issue of race as it is seen through the eyes of the only man I have read about who spent the bulk of his life living in both societies.

Mr. Robinson, a Jamaican, trained as a journeyman Mechanical Engineer in Cuba, migrated to the U.S. with his mother and brother during his early adulthood. He spent most of his life in Harlem, where he was unable to get hired in the area of his training because of his color. So, following ads that touted jobs in his field in the auto industry, he moved to Detroit, where he also applied and was repeatedly rejected because of his race.

When a white career counselor suggested he first try to get his foot in the door by listing his training as a floor sweeper, he was hired immediately. And after about three years he had "wormed" his way into a position as a machinist trainee. Since he was already trained in the field, when his white colleagues tried to "wash him out" and otherwise sabotage his training, it didn't work, as owing to his Cuban training he was already much more experienced than they were -- so much so that he came to the notice of a Russian trade delegation in the U.S. on a recruitment trip at the Ford motor company.

It turns out that in 1930, when Robinson, along with a group of about 100 other white Americans, accepted a lucrative offer to go to the USR to work, a lot was going on in the world politically. In the US, the Depression was in full force with unemployment at 30%. As well, the fallout of the 1917 revolution was not just still in progress in Russia, but "political scores" were still being settled between the White and Red Russians.

In fact, there were two subtexts lurking in the background of Robinson's hiring: One was that his recruitment was a part of a vanguard of new foreign teachers recruited especially to train the Russian proletariat, so that at the soonest they could replace the White Russians still occupying key post across the Russian economy. Foreign expertise and Stalin's brutal purges took care of this aspect. Robinson got to see this spectacle up close and personal.

The second subtext, was the emerging competition between capitalist America and revolutionary Communist Russia. The Russians were anxious to show the world that a black man from the capitalist and fascist U.S. could live a racist-free life in revolutionary Communist Russia.

And at first, things were going so well that Robinson was repeated honored for his work, and thus he continued to renew his year-to-year contract. In fact, the only real problem he had encountered early on was his fellow white American's jealousy that the Russian women were not just treating him like a normal human being, but found him interesting an exotic and thus flocked to him at dances and other social affairs. Also his white colleagues did not want to eat or share an apartment with him, and two were caught, tried and found guilty of starting a fight in which they were actually trying to kill him. They were expelled from the program and one was sent back to Depression era America, where soup lines were awaiting him. Robinson, in the mean time, was made a local hero in the aftermath of the trial, which was exploited for all the propaganda value it could muster.

With the hardships on WW-II on the horizon, arguably that was the end of Robinson's love affair with revolutionary Russia -- as he slowly began to understand that there was yet another much more sinister layer to Soviet society: To put it simply, Russia was little more than a rigidly enforced Police State. Its society was "fake," run mostly on propaganda and intimidation. Those who became Communist Party members at least temporarily were safe, and those like Robinson who did not, were left to the wolves.

What Robinson was to experience for the rest of his tenure was not racism per se as much as a combination of racism, hatred of foreigners generally, and not being a Party member. Everyone who found themselves at this triangular intersection, were outcasts of Soviet society, period. And while it was true that Robinson did get to meet high level people in the government and world-class entertainers who visited, he was also under constant surveillance, discouraged form fraternizing with Russian women, passed over repeatedly for promotions, and most importantly of all, now that he had become a Soviet citizen, was not allowed to leave the country. In the main, this created within him a fierce yearning, to at the first chance, get the hell out of Russia. It took him 40 years before he could finagle a vacation visa to Uganda, where he defected and eventually found his way back to the U.S. What an odyssey! Five stars


Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror
Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror
by Richard Miniter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.20
118 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Chicken Little is not always wrong, September 15, 2014
What this well-written and well-researched book taught me, a retired, ex-member of one of the first mid-level interagency terrorist task forces created during the Clinton administration, is this: (1) that not all rightwing ideologues are wing-nuts; (2) sometimes when consultants (who have perfected a culture of raping the government for contract money by scaring them) say the sky is falling, it is; and (3) whenever you think that someone else in the government is dealing with the problem: they aren't (you are it!)

Nearly everything in this book is factually true, except the context of the government culture of problem-solving is totally wrong or missing. Whenever a new problem emerges, the bureaucratic culture has to adjust, and its way of doing business has to be reset so that it can evolve into thinking in an entirely different and new direction -- towards a radical new mindset in the case of a one-man terrorist. Adjusting the bureaucracy is like turning a ship around.

Why is this so? Because usually we have been lulled to sleep by so many scare tactics that we are loathe to believe anyone who seeks to scare us into spending more money to patch up new security problems. Scaring government bureaucrats into spending on security problems is the most common way to cajole them into "letting" new contracts. Why? Because the implicit threat is that if you do not give us this contract, and close this security threat, it will be your butt that remains uncovered. And as anyone knows, CYA is the first amendment of all government and corporate employees.

So, I remember very clearly what my reaction was when Richard Clark was a paid consultant, and one of his team members was invited to give a talk to our interagency task force. My reaction was: this guy sounds like "Chicken Little;" here we go again with this "the sky is falling BS? This bin Laden guy must be ten-feet tall and carrying nuclear and chemical weapons in each of his back pockets? Plus, look at the presenter's eyes and his shrill presentation, the problem cannot be as bad as he is claiming it to be, for if it were, surely someone else in the government higher up the food chain, with higher security clearances and more responsibility would already know about it and would be "on it," period. That is exactly what I thought.

At least at my level, our bureaucratic culture had not yet been properly socialized to be able to accept and properly assess a one-man terrorist threat from the other side of the world, to American security. One thus could argue that this attitude was just a special case of one hand in the government not talking to another; or a case of those charged with acting not having enough information to act; or worse, a case of our consultancy process being so corrupt that at the working level at least, we all tend to act as if it is a game in which all contracts are rigged, and if the word does not "come down" from on high that this guy as the "fix in," then we just ignore everything that he and his people say?

I am not using these examples as excuses. This is exactly as I remember my thought process when bin Laden's name was first introduced in an interagency terrorist task force that I chaired. In fact, I remember that I reported to my boss that this guy (the presenter a subordinate of Clark's named Bob Wollan) came to the meeting "crying wolf" again in the worse kind of way. If my report was relied upon, then either I am responsible for the USG doing nothing about bin Laden, or the system was broke.

At the risk of belaboring a fine point, I believe this author, a worthy adversarial voice, even though it drips with rightwing vituperation, has a compelling narrative, and had it properly taken into account the true nature of the bureaucratic culture, this would have been a "barn-burner" of a book. Since it failed to do so, it is only a five star presentation.


Beyond O.J.: Race, Sex and Class Lessons for America
Beyond O.J.: Race, Sex and Class Lessons for America
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
2 used & new from $10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars How to Flummox the Racist US Criminal Justice System without even trying ..., September 13, 2014
Just when I thought I had read every book on the subject of OJ, I ran across this one, which as it turns out is surely one of the very best of the lot. Here, Professor Hutchinson begins and ends where all things in America begin and end: with its subtext, which always is about race, sex, violence, money, power or religion.

He contends here, and I agree, that the double murder that took the lives of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman was never just about the murders themselves, or just about domestic violence, or even just about class, but first and foremost was always about the one issue that animates Americans most. America's most sensitive taboo: the issue of race and sex, and then it was about the "going price" of "purchasing an acquittal" in the American justice system.

Exhibits one and two for Professor Hutchinson (that this was indeed the case) was the fact that two other cases of black husbands allegedly murdering their white wives occurred at the same time -- one in Oregon, and another just two doors down the Hall from the OJ trial. But since both blacks were summarily convicted and given life sentences, not a whimper was heard from the white tribe or the white press.

It seems that the real issue in the OJ trial was the palpable white fear that unlike these other two black murderers, who got just what American society said they deserved, OJ, the black superhero and corporate pitchman, and honorary white for a day, was rich enough to purchase himself the same kind of justice that whites buy routinely. And thus, there was the palpable fear in the air within the white tribe, that by doing so, OJ might just be able to buy his way out of double murder -- which is exactly what he in fact did.

With upwards of 10 million dollars and a "dream team," OJ ended up bankrupt but out of jail and happy, as he single-handedly turned America's racist justice system on its head: A black man killed a white woman in the USA and got away with it? Now, how often does that happen in the good old US of A?

With a constant backdrop of lies about suspected black criminals (like those of Susan Smith and Charles Stuart), falsely darkening and spreading an image of blacks as being the nation's super-criminals; plus with the likes of iron Mike Tyson and a host of misogynistic Rappers gunning each other down in drive-bys, and all the black-on-black crime in America's inner city ghettos, actually confirming this image, most whites thought that crime as a characteristic of blacks had been tied so securely around their necks that not a single one could ever escape it?

OJ and the "dream team" proved them all wrong. That rich black buck bought himself an acquittal and strutted out of the court room in his three thousand dollar suit, confident and scot free.

... At least he did so temporarily.

Sex, crime, violence, race, money, power and religion make up the substrate of American culture and are so hopelessly intertwined in the American mind that cheap mind tricks and visceral fake imagery are needed to keep things straight and the white supremacy social order upright. That is why we need a knee-jerk racist press, conservative talk radio, a fatally skewed justice system and the Susan Smiths and Charles Stuarts of the world. If full equality and justice were ever to breakout in America, then overnight America would cease to be the good old white supremacist nation it was designed to be. Therefore tribal insults like that made by the OJ acquittal, against the white tribal culture of racism, must be erased and then redressed -- by hook or crook.

And so it came to pass. even after being acquitted, Mr. Simpson is now spending the better part of his retirement from football in a hot prison cell in Nevada and undoubtedly he will soon die there. Case closed! [And as Richard Pryor said about Mudbone: ... "and the American white tribe ain't mad no more either." ]

How did OJ manage to flummox the tightly controlled and profoundly racist American justice system? Professor Hutchinson tells us he did it by using a single device normally used only by whites: OJ's money was able to buy him a "crack jury selection firm," Trial Logistics.

Trial Logistics could tell you what color the juror's underwear were; which ones had sex last night; and whether or not they had Champaign with their dinners too. So, shaping a set of questions in racist America that would ensure that a jury was selected that would acquit OJ was a piece of cake. They confidently nailed the jury selection and OJ's acquittal was a forgone conclusion. QED. End of story.

"The Juice" actually went free only for a hot minute. ...

And then, as if pulled by an invisible centripetal force centered in the San Francisco Potrero ghetto of his upbringing, OJ returned to the call of the wild, to his Persian Kings mentality: There he was silhouetted standing with a gun in his hand, and in living color, "set-up" by the Nevada police and the FBI, trying to rob a man who had stolen his own memorabilia? Now, how frigging sick is that?

Boy, was it painful watching "the Juice" beg for mercy before the same racist court he had used his money to flummox -- getting away scot free. Why didn't he just have the good sense to accept a win as a win? No, like his Persian King buddies would have done, he too had to try to rub his nose in his own poop? Keeping his big head ugly down, apparently was not an option? Five stars


The Religion of the Future
The Religion of the Future
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.67
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a bolt out of the blue, September 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Professor Unger is that rare trail-blazing genius that comes along once in a generation. Like a bolt out of the blue, like a Buckminister Fuller or a Sigmund Freud for instance, he rethinks and resynthesizes everything from scratch, and comes up with his own reformulations. The most obvious contribution to this approach is filling in the cracks between our willful ability to delude ourselves in our own theorizing and his much more careful reformulation of what is actually "out there."

Thus the reader must be forewarned that Unger's theorizing, reformulating and re-synthesizing from scratch, is novel and often lies in the nuances, in the subtleties, in the refinements and in the fine points of his reformulations. Therefore reading him is like trying to see the difference between Newton's and Einstein's theories.

With Unger he too does not simply dismiss the old, but makes mid-course corrections and refinements that may not show up until the fifth decimal point. Despite this, the reader can be rest assured that these subtle refinements, however small they may be, do indeed constitute the "old way" giving way to a "new way," to a new kind of social reformulation, indeed to a new kind of social order. And thus, it takes some effort on the part of the reader to see where he is headed and often the slenderness of the threads that make up the differences between existing theories and the subtly refined theories that he is using to replace them. With that as caveat, here is my summary of this book.

The old Paradigm: "The fear of Death Model."

Because we fear death, we seek visions of the world that will allow us to hold on to, and then live out, an illusion that in some way leaves open the possibility of eternal life. In fact, the author argues here that because we are unable to grasp the totality of the universe, or of our own existence, we anchor and orientate our lives and our world-views around myths and reassuring institutions that confirm our wish-fulfilling thinking about the possibility that we may somehow be able to overcome the certainty of death. We use god and religion to fill in the gaps between what we don't know and the illusions that give us comfort, so that together they help provide a more comprehensive explanation of our fears of nature and our fears of death. As well, they give answers to other cosmological mysteries that continue to bedevil our minds.

Now, due primarily to the scientific revolution, we have a better grasp of nature and as a result, the emphasis of religion has shifted from a preoccupation with the unknowns of nature to the four primary flaws of man: his fear of imminent death; the groundlessness resulting in his failure to understand existence, his inability to understand and explain the beginning or the end of time; and his own social and personal flaws as an individual.

According to Professor Unger, the future of religion lies in our ability to give up our fears and illusions and embrace our mortality. In order to better understand how we might do this, and thus be better able to shape a new kind of social understanding on the backside of these revelations, he focuses-in on what living in a world of illusions has done to man. As he understands it, there are three major responses in the history of human thought to man's four flaws: escapism, humanization, and struggle or confrontation.

Escape from the world has led us to deny our subjectivity, opting instead for a crude kind of objectification of mankind. At the same time, the humanization of the world has allowed us to create meaning out of nothing but our social interactions and an emphasis on our reciprocal responsibilities to each other. This benevolence towards others, however, comes at the expense of an indifference to suffering and change. And then there is confrontation, our struggle to survive in the world. Through struggle, suffering and moral action our illusions teach us to believe that we can be transformed into something near god-like, to a place where immortality is guaranteed. These are the paths of responses that existing religions allow man to take.

Our illusions have been framed as being "spiritual," and this essentially spiritual orientation to our struggle with the world, has left open and given rise to secular movements that seek to emancipate us from our illusions. It is through secular emancipation from our illusions that Unger sees the religion of the future.

Emancipation from the "Fear of Death Paradigm"

The problem, as Professor Unger sees it, is that established religion has not been true even to its own raison d'etre. Consistently it has betrayed its own stated reasons for existing, opting instead for a coziness with the established social order. It has betrayed its own religious tenets and principles by accepting the hierarchies of class and power structures in society. It has accepted the transfer of money as the basis of solidarity. In short, existing religions are more heavily invested in reaffirming and preserving the conservative basis of existing political, economic, and social institutions than they are in promoting the tenets of their respective religion? Thus, in order to redress this institutional betrayal, Unger has proposed that the "new religion" must be radicalized against both established institutions and society's dominant beliefs and hierarchies.

Unger's call is for an "empowered democracy," a revolution not just in our religious beliefs but in our society, one that will reform and transform our market economy, education, politics, and civil society. It will be a revolution designed not to "humanize society," but to "divinize humanity." It will be a revolution that encompasses both individual transformation and institutional reorganization; a revolution that will create change in the life of the individual as well as in the organization of the church and of society. The ultimate goal is to shed all illusions and replace them with a new level of awareness about the possibilities of ordinary life, so that we as individuals, and it as society, may be able to reach a new threshold of intensity and capability.

The first part of the program is that of individual transformation, in which through individual awareness, we awaken from the haze and dreams of immortality. We thus stop reaching for feel good theologies, philosophies and alternatives. The second part of the program of social transformation requires supplementing the metaphysical revolution with institutional practices that create social institutions that allow us to constantly overthrow the constraints of our context, and to make this overthrow not a one time event but an ongoing process. Ten stars


The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog
The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog
Price: $9.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Notes from "The Universe Next Door", September 9, 2014
The essence of each worldview is to express the character of realty; the nature of the universe; the nature of humanity; what happens to us after death; how we acquire knowledge; the basics of ethics and the meaning of history.

1. Christian Theism: "A universe Charged with the Grandeur of God:" Christians agree that the personal God of their Bible exists and is good, transcendent, infinite, all-knowing, the only Sovereign, and is the creator of the universe from nothing as he reveals himself as a trinity. After this, Christians do not agree on much. Some believe that God created the cosmos as a uniformity of cause and effect in an open system; that human beings are special since they are created in God's own image and that they thus possess personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, creativity, morality, gregariousness, self-knowledge as well as knowledge of God, and that God communicates to them personally and directly; that humans were created good. However, through the Fall, they became sinners who later could be absolved of their sins and given everlasting life by being redeemed through God's good graces and by believing in his death and resurrection, as well as by being Baptized. Christians believe that ethics are transcendent and goodness is based only on God's character. History for Christians is linear and teleological, leading to the fulfillment of God's purpose only through revelations.

2. Deism: "The Clockwork Universe." Deists believe that God created the world and then left it to run on its own. The universe thus is a result of uniform cause and effect in a closed system: no miracles are possible. Humans are not special, and God does not talk to them; they are just part of the clockwork. Ethics are created externally by God and are limited to his revelations. History is linear and its course is set at the creation.

3. Naturalism: "The Silence of Finite Space." Naturalists believe that matter exists externally in a closed cause and effect world and that that is all there is. God does not exist. Humans are complex machines with personalities that are not yet fully understood. Death is the extinction of personality and individuality. History is a linear stream of cause and effect without purpose. Ethics are created only through human interactions.

4. Nihilism: "The Zero Point." Nihilists believe as the naturalists do, that matter is all there is; that there is no god; that the cosmos operate on cause and effect with chance as a key system generator operating in a closed system. There is no meaning inherent in the universe. They too believe that humans are complex machines whose personalities are not yet fully understood. Reason alone cannot establish values, values are created by the choices we make and relative to cultures, which is the crucible for establishing all meaning.

5. Existentialism: "Beyond Nihilism." Existentialists, like the Naturalists, believe the cosmos is composed solely of matter, and that reality comes in two forms: subjective and objective. For Existentialists, existence precedes essence. It is people's choices that give meaning to the world and make them who they are. Each person is totally free, and thus responsible for his own nature, ethics and destiny. The objectivity of the world is absurd, but that is all we have out of which to fashion our only reality. Theistic Existentialists believe that God can be added to a cold impersonal world and known through the meanings humans create. To them, God's existence (and knowledge of Him) cannot be solved by reason but by faith. Man's choice to be must be a radical act of faith. History as fact is unimportant, but as myth is of supreme importance.

6. Pantheistic Monadism: "Journey to the East." Hinduism as best captured by Herman Hesse in "Siddhartha," and Zen Buddhism believe in monism -- the idea that only one impersonal element constitutes reality: Brahman and is the soul of everyone and of the cosmos: Every person is God, and everything is God. God is all their is, period. Ultimate reality is beyond specification; it just is. Knowledge is the act of realizing the oneness of all. But some things are more one than others, therefore humanity is hierarchical: some people are closer to unity than others. To realize oneness implies consciousness. The One is ultimate reality, and all that is not One is nothing of value. Most roads lead to the one. The problem is not for all to be on the same path but to be headed in the right direction. Realizing oneness with the one is not a matter of belief but of technique, the techniques of clarity and solitude. To realize oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond personality and knowledge to collective consciousness. Easterners reject reason as a category because the principle of noncontradiction does not apply where ultimate reality is concerned. While death may be the end of personal existence, it changes nothing essential in an individual's nature. The difference between Hinduism and Zen is that one holds that ultimate reality is "the One," while the other holds that it is "the void." Both believe that history is cyclical.

7. New Age: "A Separate Universe."New Agers believe that consciousness denies the existence of a transcendent God. To the extent there is a god at all, he exists within each of us. They believe that human consciousness is not contained within the brain but transcends space and time; so too does morality. It is evolution that brings about change. Life is about recognizing the unity of reality, but reason is not a good guide to reality. The world is irrational and demand new modes of apprehension such as enlightenment through drugs.

8. Animisim: "The primal worldview:" The basis of Pagan religions. Paganists believe that the universe is inhabited by a hierarchy of spirits. At the top is the impersonal "Sky God." Gods can be good or bad spirits; spirits must be placated if one is to live without harm. They also believe that there is unity to all of life; that the cosmos is a continuum of spirit and matter; people and animals may be interchanged by spirits and transformed into different forms of life.

9. The New Consciousness Worldview: Adherents of this worldview believe that whatever is the nature of reality, the self is at its center. Through awareness, humans can change and can change reality. The soul of each person is the essence of prime reality. What exactly is the soul remains unclear: Is it an idea, a spirit, or a cosmic force: a cosmic energy field? Man is the grand manipulator of the universe and his imagination is the same as the universe: All and everything that one can imagine exists. The god-force is: taking responsible for one's own creative powers. When the self is submersed in subjective certainty, no reason or objectivity is necessary. The self is surrounded by the visible and the invisible universes, the latter being accessible only through altered states of consciousness. The universe is elastic and can be turned inside out, with time flowing backwards. The self has made up the rules to the game of reality. In cosmic consciousness time, space and morality disappear. Physical death is not the end of the self.

10. Post-modernism: "The vanished Horizon." Nietzsche's acknowledgment of the death of god is the beginning of postmodernism. It is also the end of history as a single white man's story, the Western meta-narrative. It is the end of the glue that has held Western culture together. Thus, postmodernism is both more and less than a worldview. Originating among Sociologists rather than among philosophers, postmodernism is more concerned with how people behave in society than with metaphysics or epistemology; that is, they do not ask what is true about reality, but how the notion of "being" and "knowing" arise and function in society. They seek to understand how language functions to create meaning. Questions about the origins of reality thus shifts from "being" to "knowing" and on to "constructing meaning." Descartes began the shift with his "I think therefore I am." It moved us away from "what we know" to "how we know," and away from the premodern emphasis on "knowledge based on revelations from god," to the more modern notion of "knowledge base on reason." This opened up Science and gave knowledge power over nature. Society then moved from Medieval hierarchy to Enlightenment democracy -- on to what today looks like postmodern despair and anarchy. One way of understanding this shift is to understand that during the modern era, man began to identify the preconceptions of his analysis: he began to "reflect" on his own "reflecting." The larger story of modern Philosophy thus is one of moving from "knowing" to "how we know," and then on to "meaning."

Nietzsche took Descartes doubts about knowledge to newer heights, when he disavowed the certainty and priority of "thinking." Suppose thinking did not require an agent (the I)? Nietzsche thus called into question the certainty of any "truths." He concluded that reality is hidden, that all we know for sure are the stories we tell ourselves. Our reality thus reduces to language, "a mobile army of metaphors," as it were. Truths are illusions that we have been trained to forget are illusions. We have been trained to lie according to fixed social conventions. However, with our lies and our meta-narratives, we can have meaning, but we cannot have truth because nothing we think we know can be checked against reality as such. All language is a human construct. Apart from our linguistic systems, we can know nothing. We can't determine the truthfulness of any language, only its usefulness, and the primary usefulness of language is that it has survival value. The world is mute: It does not speak. We speak. Truth is whatever we can get our community to agree to. If we can get them to repeat our narrative, then that is as true as anything will ever get. Thus, the only kind of truth there is is pragmatic truth. Obviously our narratives have power over people. Michel Foucault says that all narratives but one's own are oppressive. The self, ethics, the social good are all language constructs. The good in society is whatever those in power say it is.

A heck of a book, 30 stars!


A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Kahlili. Reza ( 2010 ) Hardcover
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Kahlili. Reza ( 2010 ) Hardcover
by Kahlili. Reza
Edition: Hardcover
4 used & new from $15.28

3.0 out of 5 stars A cautionary tale about how religions make bad politics and even worse revolutions., September 7, 2014
The author watched with horror as the Iranian fundamentalist revolution turned sour -- from hope to chaos, to systematic "state sponsored" violence, repression, torture and terror, against innocent people, including women and even teenage girls. What the author saw was so blood-curling that it was enough to send him over the edge.

He knew it was time to act to save his country in the only way he saw available to him: by betraying the revolution in the same way that it had already betrayed him and his nation. He thus began to ingratiate himself with his higher-ups and used his feigned religious enthusiasm and his position as one of the Revolution's key Computer Specialists as "cover" to draw himself closer to, and burrow himself deeper into the bowels of the Khomeini regime.

Using his aunt's old age as a pretext to return to the U.S. (where he had earlier graduated from USC with a Master's Degree in Systems Engineering), Reza instead "walked into" the CIA to become a Spy against the fundamentalist Regime in which he was also serving as a respected member of the much revered and much feared, "Red Guard."

What ensued is his journey, an odyssey that makes up the narrative of this book. The reader gets a ringside seat at the Revolution as it unfolds televised in full color. What one sees in the streets of Tehran and in the notorious Evin prison, is horrifying, and is matched only by how seamlessly and easily religious fanaticism can take over the minds of a people and then quickly turn into willful repression and terror by the most devout of religionists.

In the hands of religious zealots, the Iranian Revolution of "hoped for" freedom justice and equality, quickly got transmuted into an ideology of moral and religious purity, one that justified all kinds of recrimination, repression, violence, torture and terror for the slightest violations of religious moral codes -- all done in God's name. In revolutionary Iran, Allah became the judge, the jury, and the executioner -- as well as the "mother of all Big Brothers."

Reporting to his CIA handlers on what was going on behind the scenes inside the Khomeini regime for the better part of four years, Kahlili told of everything from personnel and policy changes, to acquisition of new weapon systems, to what Saddam was up to during the war against Iraq.

Most fascinating of all however is Kahlili's behind the scene reporting on the Khomeini regime's negotiations with Ronald Reagan as Khomeini consistently out-maneuvered him to embarrass both Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Even as Kahlili was reporting to the CIA in "back channels" to Langley, on Iran's involvement in both the bombing of the Army barracks in Lebanon (that killed 241 American marines), and its involvement in the bringing down of the passenger aircraft over Lockabie (which killed 103 Americans), the Reagan-Bush traitors were busy setting up the "October Surprise" by trading the blood of 344 dead Americans and a parcel of banned missiles and other banned military equipment to Iran, for hostages -- hostages that would ensure Reagan's re-election victory over an ignominious and twice embarrassed Jimmy Carter.

The Khomeini revolutionaries simply laughed at the depth of the Reagan-Bush treachery against their own people, finding it simply unbelievable the level of hypocrisy and contempt Reagan-Bush had for their own vows not to trade with terrorists, and for wanton violations of American laws in particular and the American political process more generally. Three stars


Analyze West: A Psychiatrist Takes Western Civilization on a Journey of Transformation
Analyze West: A Psychiatrist Takes Western Civilization on a Journey of Transformation
by Dr Nicholas Beecroft
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.59
5 used & new from $16.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Western Civilization on the Psychiatrist's Couch, August 29, 2014
This clever attempt to place Western Civilization (in the person of a generic, color-blind, unisex, "Mr. West") on the psychiatrist's couch, is perhaps "too clever by half." Indeed, it reminds me of the famous quip attributed to Mahatma Gandhi answering the question: "What do you think of Western Civilization? To which Gandhi responded: "I think it would a good idea?" The same can be said for this fictional account of a very serious non-fictional reality. For while it serves as a very useful platform for displaying dazzlingly new techniques of psychotherapy, such as "Spiral Dynamics," it does powerful little to get at the real root causes of the patient, Western Civilization's, psychological problems.

It is true that we do get a chance here to listen to Mr. West's well-rehearsed laments of guilt over a host of world class-evils committed in his name over the last millennium. We watched as he was brought back from the brink of suicide; and even listened to a recitation of his genetic pedigree of evil deeds, all in part being little more than rationalizations for the precipitous decline over the last 50 years in his status and mental well-being. And while we can agree that Mr. West "has issues," as is always the case, guilt and feelings of worthlessness are mere symptoms of deeper causes.

We get a clue as to the direction and depth of the Psychiatrist's analysis when Mr. West pretends to be confused about his own identity -- claiming not to know whether he was male or female, black or white, etc. It seems to me this should have been the perfect clue and teachable opportunity for the Psychiatrist, Dr. James, to say directly and bluntly to Mr. West: Sir, wait a minute, I think I recognize your sickness, it has been a familiar part of "the spirit of Western Civilization" since its inception: It is called the "Alpha white male hero syndrome." You have a worse-case version of it.

White men down through the ages from Jesus Christ (who was a Jew but was adopted as an "honorary white") to Adolph Hitler (who was a Jew but pretended he was Aryan), have come down with it. Its primary instrumentality and enabler is a package of ideological tools in a tool box called "the Alpha white male hero system." The elements in this tool kit, taken from the devil's own workshop, look and smell like "existential tribal virtues" because they all promote the idea that whiteness is biologically pure and superior, and that the white man, the self-designated Alpha male hero of the world, is the sacred protector of this biological and tribal purity. Being a hero and protector of the superior white gene is the highest value of Western Civilization, full stop. This is the meme that has evolved into a complex germ, a meta value, that is so deeply embedded within your psyche that you cannot even see that it is still your only obsession and fetish?

But this is not what the Psychiatrist, Dr. James, told Mr. West. Instead, Mr. West was introduced to a color-coded system of mumbo-jumbo called "Spiral Dynamics." When one looks under the hood of "Spiral Dynamics" what one sees looks suspiciously like the old "white Alpha male hero system" in disguise, i.e., continued white male dominance by other means, desperately trying to shed its skin so that it can live unchanged for yet another day?

Thus, if the truth be told, the colors in the Spiral Dynamics color wheel are just stages along the developmental path of the white male hero system, and nothing more. The spiral wheel is a self-report of a self-reflection by the white man of himself in his most complimentary state. And with it, as always, there is the embarrassing attempt to "generalize" and "universalize" any and all decrepit, dying, or bankrupt white values and norms. Only this time it is done through the back door using a color chart with a sexy name like "Spiral Dynamics." With "Spiral Dynamics leading the way, Mr. West is allowed to forget about the millennium of white racist destruction wrought upon the world.

This technique of trying to universalize (and thus save) bankrupt white values by renaming them and then moving them around on the chessboard, is the very hallmark of the "Alpha white male project." It has never worked in the past and will never work in the future -- until, and unless, that is, Mr. West first begins to come to grips with what is really bothering him: his "unacknowledged tribal superiority complex," which is in fact really an "inferiority complex." [Did I not read somewhere in my Psychology 101 book that the two are just flip sides of the same coin? Indeed, otherwise why would there be a need for a superiority complex at all? Why would truly superior people need to feel inadequate when their own subjective reality is accepted by them as being coterminous with the reality of the world? ]

To compensate for deep feeling of inferiority and insecurity, Mr. West has been forced to build a sandcastle of false white superiority and call it "Western Civilization," and then he has used his power and dominance over the world to "objectify" and then "impose" a well-regulated "racist reality" atop his inferiority. This racist reality is at every point tailored to agree seamlessly with his own male white subjectivity. He in fact has been so successful at it that "scared racist male white reality" now is indistinguishable from the "Western world's only reality?"

But is this really true? Is "scared racist white male reality" really coterminous with the reality of the rest of the world? I believe that deep within, Mr. West knows that creating a racist reality by fiat is a lie and that "his pose" that this is somehow okay, is maximally "inauthentic," in the Sartre sense. That he has the power to enforce his will and his subjectivity on the rest of the world, of course, makes it no less true.

This book then, in my humble opinion, is just a sophisticated, even clever at times, apologia for white racism, and for the unrecognized consequences of at least a half millennium of unforgivable and unnecessary race-based destruction and its continuing consequences. Now that the world has overtaken Mr. West, he has nowhere to hide his insecurities. He is much too weak to admit that, he, like Adolph Hitler, "bought into" the racist tribal nonsense -- hook, line and sinker -- and thus has no graceful route of retreat. So, what does he do? He takes over the steering-wheel and tries to sell us, through Dr. James, more Alpha white male snake oil, called "Spiral Dynamics."

Let us admit it, the "white Alpha male hero system," of which Mr. West is the definitive example, is an emperor with no clothes: Naked as a baby before he is spanked into life. Yet, despite this, the best that can be done on Mr. West's behalf, is for the psychiatrist, James, to try to help him "fall uphill" using "Spiral Dynamics" where he can then still try to snatch victory from certain defeat by continuing to pretend that he is still the "Alpha dog" on the hill, and that racist white reality, slightly adjusted and modified, is still the only reality?

It is a colossal lie and James knows it. Thus, Dr. James himself is just a gentle old white male fool and fraud, still trading on the fruits of his white male hero status as he sneaks around on the job trying to screw his Korean/Chinese colleague Dr. Suki Chen. No wonder he cannot help Mr. West, for he is so trapped by the "Alpha White Male Hero syndrome" himself that if all were right with the world, he would recuse himself from trying to help other white males like Mr. West, and go back to his cold apartment, and drink martinis in the dark alone with his stray cat.

There is yet another way that we know that James is both a fool and a fraud. It is clear that Mr. West's problem has sexual origins, when he claims that he is confused about his sexual identity, his race, etc.? Yet, Dr. James does not call on the father of psychiatry, the original sex therapist himself, Dr. Freud himself. Instead he whips out the untried, facile and elementary "Spiral Dynamics" as the tool of choice for fixing Western Civilization. Why not Dr. Freud?

Far be it for me so suggest that maybe he omitted Freud precisely because that would have gotten too close to home, opening up a whole new can of worms in uncovering "the real white Alpha male project:" continuing to hide feelings of sexual inadequacy and sexual inferiority.

Some white psychiatrists (excluding Dr. James) are finally beginning to crack into this under-acknowledged but very sacred nut. Even one of the author's fellow Brits, Dr. Robert Young has done some pioneering work in this area. For my money, if I had a choice between Sigmund Freud and "Spiral Dynamics," I would pick Freud in a heart beat.

Despite my somewhat critical essay, this is a delightful, carefully thought out piece that holds together well. It will challenge the best "crap detectors." Five stars


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