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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.

Thom Hartmann's Review -- Exclusively for BuzzFlash -- for March 2010:

"Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction"

By Barry C. Lynn

Reviewed by Thom Hartmann

This book is about power.  It documents how practices that were illegal at the opening of the Reagan administration have not only been legalized but used extensively to consolidate economic and political power in a way that threatens our very republic.  It’s almost impossible to overstate its importance.

Most adults in America have, at one time or another in their lives, played the game Monopoly.

Monopoly started out as a game invented by Elizabeth Magie and patented in 1904 (she sold her patent to Parker Brothers in 1935 for $500, and they incorporated it into the modern Monopoly game, which was patented that year by Charles Darrow).  The goal of the game is to buy up every business and property available, and through the monopoly ownership of all business and rents, over time bleed every other player into poverty.

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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.

"It Could Happen Here: America on the Brink"
By Bruce Judson
 
Reviewed by Thom Hartmann

In some important ways, Judson’s book follows perfectly on a line of thought presented in three of my previous Buzzflash book reviews: 
In “Reinventing Collapse,” Dmitry Orlov talked about his experience as a teenager in Russia when the USSR collapsed and how now, as an American resident, he sees the same dynamics at play here – only we’re less well prepared than was the former Soviet state. 
In “The Great Crash of 1929,” John Kenneth Galbraith laid out how Republican/conservative economic policies played out through three successive Republican presidencies led directly to the Great Depression in 1929, and implicitly how thirty years of Reaganomics/Clintonomics is leading us in the same direction now. 
And in “The Impact of Inequality” Richard Wilkinson shows how the more unequal a society is, the more sick and unstable it becomes – and documents how the United States is now the most unequal industrial society in the world.

            In “It Could Happen Here,” Bruce Judson walks us right up to the edge of a total political collapse in the United States – a “revolution” is the word he uses – and points out that we’re a country that has often experienced both revolutions and violence in response to economic crises. 

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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.

For about half of the 20th Century, corporate excesses were kept on a relatively short leash. Then, in the last two years of his administration, Jimmy Carter began drinking the Milton/Thomas Friedman Kool-Aid and "deregulation" hit a series of industries from travel to trucking.

Two years later, Reagan became president under dubious circumstances (involving his campaign manager and his VP candidate working with the Iranians to hold U.S. hostages through the election campaign), and he blew the doors wide open. Corporations could ignore the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its more recent updates, and get as large as they wanted. An unprecedented era of "Mergers and Acquisitions" or "M&A" activity exploded across the corporate landscape, mostly fueled by Leveraged Buyouts (LBOs). The mantra was "greed is good." Bigger was better. Efficiency was the magic word, even when it meant destroying the lives of workers and employees.

The most recent incarnation of the sharks that came to both swim in and then dominate the waters of American business are called "Private Equity" companies, although they're most often engaged in the same "pump and dump" and "slash and burn" techniques their "M&A" and "LBO" predecessors did.

This changed business landscape has been a boon for psychopaths, note two psychologists in their book "Snakes in Suits."

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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.

The Book of Genesis is arguably the most important of our cultural foundations today. And R. Crumb’s illustration of it – and his postscripted commentary – is astonishing. Jewish and Christian “believers” as well as anthropologists and atheists will find a gold-mine in the stories which most inform our modern culture’s interpretation of who we are as humans relative to the world, its other life forms, and the “god” of the Bible.

In the Introduction, he says, “I, R. Crumb, the illustrator of this book, have, to the best of my ability, faithfully reproduced every work of the original text…” It’s true. For the first time, even the boring or confusing parts of Genesis are readable. Crumb took five painstaking years to produce this masterpiece, and it truly deserves that word when being described.

But it’s in the commentary at the end of the work that R. Crumb reveals a thoughtful brilliance that almost transcends the artistic brilliance he brought to the text. Simple, straightforward, and almost buried with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever at the end of the book, Crumb lays out an understanding and vision of the early Hebrew tribes that is startling, revolutionary, and ultimately totally credible.

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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).

Published in Thom Hartmann

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.

Published in Thom Hartmann

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.

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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.

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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?

Published in Thom Hartmann

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

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