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Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann (71)

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have top-ranked talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Ralph Nader first told me about this novel, first published in 1888 and how it was one of the major inspirations of the Progressive movement of the late 19th century. It positively inspired Eugene Debs, for example, Nader told me.

At the time, I was also reading Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," an excellent read in the classic, formula-adventure-fiction of this century that's so much fun to read. But once I started reading Bellamy's book, I had to suspend Brown's (I'm still working on it as I write these words) – Bellamy's book totally captured me, even though it was written more than 100 years ago.

The plot device of Bellamy's novel is that the hero is "Mesmerized" – hypnotized – and the trance is so deep that he wakes up in the year 2000, his bodily functions having been so dramatically slowed that he's still a young man in his twenties and in fine physical health (albeit a bit hungry and weak).

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have top-ranked progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

If the number of dog-eared pages thickening the upper corner of a book on my bookshelves is any indication of how important that book was to me (and it is), then "The Impact of Inequality" is one of the top ten books in my library (and it is).

Wilkinson has, quite simply, identified the One Single Issue That Drives Everything Else.

Obesity, cancer, infant mortality, homicide, gun violence, imprisonment ratios, depression, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, venereal disease rates, use of prescription antidepressants, workplace satisfaction, trust of one's neighbors – pick from the menu. ALL of them are driven by a single variable.

And that variable isn't wealth. While America is the richest nation in the world with a median income of around $44,000/year, we're way in the back of the pack in all the indices mentioned above. So is the second richest nation, Great Britain.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have top-ranked progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Back on Iyyar 2, 5769 (that's April 26th of this year to most Americans) the most left of Israel's major newspapers, Haaretz, published an article by Amer Oren titled, "Why Lawrence of Arabia is still relevant, from Gaza to Kabul." I resolved to watch the movie, and ordered it from a popular online seller. Last week I caught enough time (it runs over 3 hours) to watch it. Oren was right.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have top-ranked progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. (This is the book that Hugo Chavez gave to President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas and that Obama said that he would read.)

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez famously gave US President Barack Obama a book as a gift, that book – Open Veins of Latin America – became an instant and overnight international bestseller. Having now read it, I must give a strong commendation to Chavez for finding the perfect book to let an American (as in “a US citizen”) understand how most of the peoples in the rest of the Americas view us, and why.

Not only should Obama read this book – as soon as possible (because not only is Latin America viewing us this way, but now Iraqis are, too, and disgruntled Saudis, etc., etc.) – but it should become a basic text in every high school civics class in the United States.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

What if the Japanese never really did “surrender” to us, inasmuch as we think they “adopted” our culture and values after World War II, but instead have been playing us for suckers, angry about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ever since? What if they’re collaborating with the Chinese in creating an Asian sphere of influence – decidedly un-democratic – to rule the world over the next century?

What if the Chinese have perfected a neo-Confucian system (with surprising resemblance to Machiavelli’s “The Prince”) that melds an oppressive and fascistic state with laissez faire capitalism, creating greater strength for both than has ever been seen before on Earth? And they are using this to both co-op and change our values, to take over our corporate and economic system, and to ultimately gain control of our political system? What if they were already well over halfway to that goal?

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

There’s no shortage of excellent histories of the progressive movement, from the beginning of this nation to today. One of the very best of the early Progressive/Revolutionary Era is Harvey Kaye’s “Thomas Paine and the Promise of America,” an earlier one of my BuzzFlash Book of the Month reviews. Others are large and fairly substantial tomes, rich with information, such as several of the writings of Chomsky and Zinn, or Charles and Mary Beard's brilliant (and encyclopedic) 1928 "History of America."

But what’s nice about Michael Lux’s “The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came To Be” is that it’s tight and largely focused on events within the past fifty years. Bookend it with Kaye’s book, and one of the excellent histories of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Beard in particular), and you’ll have the entire arc of Progressive History in America.

Of course, Lux starts with Paine and Jefferson and the early progressives in his second chapter, “A Progressive Revolution: How Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson Literally Invented the Idea of America,” and it’s a great summary. The following chapter, “The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Right to Think and Speak Freely” lay out how Paine’s and Jefferson’s liberal/progressive ideas came into concrete form in our founding documents and the American ethos. Lux lays out how the radical ideas of the Enlightenment birthed this nation, and how conservative/hierarchical/kleptocratic/autocratic forces have fought the progressive notions present at our founding quite literally since those first days.

The last half of the book, led into through the transitional chapter five, “The Battle over Democracy,” arcs from the Civil War era right into today’s ongoing battle to hold conservatives at bay, and is particularly thorough and readable. For those old enough to remember the sixties, it’s a great recap and condensation of forty years of “culture wars” and efforts to keep America American. For those who were born after the sixties, this is one of the great and must-read historical summaries of the previous generation’s early battles against anti-American conservatives.

The nicest thing about “The Progressive Revolution” is how cleanly and neatly Lux frames the issues and the players. The book is comfortably readable in a weekend (224 pages) yet drills into enough depth that you’re well armed for the water cooler wars. It manages to condense over 230 years of American history – through the lens of progressives from Paine to today’s Obama generation – into a history that is coherent, linear, and (amazing/impressive to me as a writer) manages to avoid the temptation to wander off into rambling detailed discursions.

Michael Lux’s “The Progressive Revolution” should be required reading (along with Kaye’s book). And you’ll want to be sure to pick up a couple of extra copies to share with your friends and relatives – it’s that good …

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1939 has been an unending source of mystery, fascination, and disinformation for the past four generations. As you’re reading these words, there’s a huge push on by conservative think-tanks and wealthy political activists to reinvent the history, suggesting that Roosevelt prolonged the Depression or that New Deal programs were ineffective. At the same time, folks like David Sirota are valiantly pushing back with actual facts and statistics, showing that Roosevelt’s New Deal was startlingly effective, particularly when compared with the Republican policies of 1920-1929 that formed the bubble that crashed in 1929, and the Republican failures to deal with its consequences during the last three years of the Herbert Hoover administration (1929-1933).

To really understand what brought about the great crash, however, it’s most useful to read an historical narrative written by one of the world’s preeminent economists when that world-changing event was still fresh in his and his readers’ minds. The Great Crash is that book, first written by Galbraith in 1953-54 (and published in 1955) and updated for modern readers in 1997 (the author is now deceased).

Reading The Great Crash is an eerie experience; it's as if somebody had taken the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years – particularly the W. Bush years – and written a screenplay about them, just changing the names. The parallels between the Republican zeal for deregulation and "free" markets of the bubble 1920s and the bubble 1990s and 2000s are shocking, particularly given that Ben Bernanke's PhD thesis was on the Republican Great Depression, and there is no shortage of so-called "experts" on the topic in the Bush administration and both political parties.

Still, in retrospect, there it is. And it's damn near impossible to read this book without coming to the conclusion that, when the current generation knowledgable of the Republican Great Depression of 2007-201? dies off, as the generation that remembered the RGD of 1929 has largely recently died off, history will again repeat itself. There will always be greedy men and women, and there will, in all probability, always be Republicans trying to elevate greed into a noble philosophical construct.

There was even, in late 1929, the era's own Bernie Madoff – a fellow by the name of Clarence Hatry. All the players are there. An incompetent president, regulators willing to look the other way, libertarian ideologues who think they'll change the world for the better (and get rich at the same time), Democrats and free-market skeptics yelling, a hype-driven press, insiders making out, average people getting wiped out. It's all there.

And, perhaps most interesting, because this is history, we get to find out how it turned out, what helped and hurt, and extrapolate from that what we should be doing now.

The Great Crash is a quick Saturday afternoon read at a comfortable and well-written 194 pages. It's difficult to put down once you start; it reads like a novel. And you'll be infuriated, entertained, and – ultimately – enlightened and better prepared to deal with the further downturn that is certainly coming.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Bill Ayers is doing interviews with Chris Matthews, John McCain based his campaign on his Vietnam War service, and Barack Obama is constantly compared with JFK or RFK. As much as time has passed, the Sixties are still with us.

It was a time when the middle class in America experienced the peak of its power. My wife worked her way through college working as a waitress in a Howard Johnson's restaurant; I did the same with a $2.35 (as I recall) an hour job at a radio station. College was accessible, jobs were plentiful, the economy worked, and "60 Minutes" actually did investigative reporting that had corporate American quaking in their boots. It was a time of prosperity for the "middle" not seen since the 1770s, as well as a time of social ferment that bore striking parallels to the Founders' generation.

Along those lines, although right wingers had a disconcerting habit of murdering progressive icons (and shooting students, as at Kent State), youth and minorities were demanding rights, one of the most popular things going was to recite Jefferson's words from the Declaration of Independence (particularly that part about our having an "obligation!" to overthrow oppressive governments, and the established power structure of the day seemed totally clueless.

The power attained by the middle class and their children -- it was those 15-30 who were driving the whole thing, in large part -- was unprecedented. As was the conservative backlash, with people like William F. Buckley openly pointing out how "dangerous" such an empowered middle class apparently was, setting up the 1997 words of Alan Greenspan to The Wall Street Journal about how his job as Fed Chairman was, in large part, to keep the economy from getting so good that a strong (and, thus, challenging to the establishment) middle class would re-emerge. (Greenspan said he had to maintain a certain "minimum threshold of worker insecurity" to keep society stable.)

If you lived through it, you know the power of the times. If not, you need to. Which brings us to Bill Eppridge's brilliant book, viewing the Sixties through the lens of the life and work and campaigns of Robert F. Kennedy, "A Time It Was."

This is the first time I've ever recommended what is generally referred to as a "coffee table book," but this is a must-have for anybody who lived through or wants to know about the political side of the Sixties, and the text is every bit as rich as the photos.

Bill Eppridge took the iconic photo of Robert Kennedy as he died in the arms of a busboy, but the book is so very, very much more than that. Pete Hammill's introduction (titled "The Last Campaign") is an evocative, thoughtful, and brilliant first-person story of the times and places of RFK and the era. The photos by Bill Eppridge capture Bobby in a way that I've never, ever seen before. The book both fills your heart with pride and honor for what was, and brings tears to your eyes for what could have been.

But most important, it captures the vitality and power of a fully economically empowered - and thus politically empowered - middle class. Kids could pay for college with a summer job (I did radio, picked apples in northern Michigan, pumped gas, and worked as a dishwasher and cook in a Bob's Big Boy restaurant). Adults could raise a family with a single income (my dad raised four boys with a job at a tool-and-die shop, had full health care and a pension until the day he died, paid off his house and car, and lived the American Dream that, since Reagan, has slipped away from most working people).

It was a time of power, a time of change, a time of revolution -- in a very real sense (witness the women's and civil rights movements, and the revolts in the Castro, not to mention our shutting down campuses and cities with anti-war protests). It reshaped America.

This marvelous book is not only history in your hand, it is inspiration, transformation, and love. It's essential viewing and reading. 

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

I read two books yesterday. The first was Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” a dense, profound, and insightful academic/archeological discussion of why civilizations have a stubborn habit of crashing. Following that, I read Dmitry Orlov’s “Reinventing Collapse,” about how the USSR collapsed and how the US is on the verge of doing the same – for many of the same reasons – any day now. What Tainter did for academics and archeology wonks (I confess I’m one), Orlov did for you, me, and Joe The Plumber.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

Given this point in the election cycle, the title of this book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, is easily misunderstood as having to do with the challenges Barack Obama faces in becoming president. That’s not its topic, however.

Instead, Kuttner assumes (for the purposes of the book) that Obama is already president or has just won the presidency, and shares with him – and all of us – the vital and important lessons to be learned from both highly successful transformational presidents (Lincoln, FDR, JFK, LBJ) and Clinton’s tragic incompetence at producing true and meaningful transformation while instead settling for political “triangulation.”

The stories of the transformational presidents are startling, both in the power of personality these men brought to office and in the similarities of the techniques they used. They were all true to their principles, enlisted the aid of the American public, and were highly pragmatic. They were all committed to true change.

He also explodes a number of myths about these presidents, particularly FDR, who had been elected on a platform that was principally focused on balancing the budget and cutting federal spending.

Kuttner takes on the conservative frames that the government is usually incompetent, that private markets work better, that we’re out of resources, that tax cuts are the only thing government can do worth a damn, and that for Democrats to win they need to talk more like Republicans. All are demonstrably false.

He lays out the characteristics both of the times and of Obama himself that make it possible he could be a truly transformational president on the order of a Lincoln or Roosevelt.

And he lays out a series of specific programs and policies – tried and true, by and large – that could bring the nation back from the financial, societal, and international disaster 26 years of conservative rule (including Clinton’s) have brought us.

At a mere 200 pages, this is a book you can read in a weekend without difficulty. And yet it’ll probably more powerfully transform your understanding of American politics, progressive economics, and the role of leadership in saving a nation than any other book currently in print.

Even should – G-d forbid – John McCain win the presidency, this is an important and vital book that all Americans should read, because it lays out a roadmap for progressive change that is now so necessary for our democratic republic to survive.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

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