Frantz Fanon: The Militant Philosopher of Third World Revolution
Even though he died at a young age, in his 30s, the work of Frantz Fanon had a big impact in the revolutions that ended colonialism; and is still cited and referred to by radicals and leftists against modern day neo-imperialism and other forms of struggle. While this is not just a strict biography, his short life would work against that, this book is more of looking at how his life and his writings intersected and influenced each other. It also examines the impact he had on other’s thinking in the immediate years after his death. The organizations that rose in Algeria to overthrow the French show how far his thinking and influence went for someone who died from cancer at such a young age.
This is an interesting work in that the author puts Frantz Fanon into his context of his time and place. From the experience of racism in France as a student, to trying to help the people of Algeria against that same racism and how it came to define him and his writings. While mostly known to academics, hopefully this book will keep his memory alive.
The Annoyed Voter’s Guide to 2014 & 2015
The Annoyed Voter’s to 2014 & 2015 speaks for itself. One of a handful of voter guides available for American voters, Wilcox’s concise handbook goes beyond the essential electoral politics leading up to the 2016 presidential election by addressing the concern of many Americans who wonder “where this country is heading in the near-and-also-distant future.”
Political blogger (FairPayNow.org) Anthony Wilcox may consider himself “both a humble fellow citizen and a concerned American voter.” But Wilcox, who holds a M.A. in Political Science, has a way with words that are reminiscent of something one would hear on the Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert shows. Barring vulgarity, Wilcox is, in his own right, a pundit whose political analyses and predictions not only speak to older voters, but also to disheartened college students who have been waiting for their turn to make a difference in Washington, only to observe complete chaos among the nation’s leaders.
Wilcox’s approach is a bit different from a lot of analysts who look to 2010 “as a sign of things to come for Democrats in 2014.” And although he doesn’t disagree with their results, Wilcox chooses to focus on 2006 (the final midterm before the end of George W. Bush’s Presidency) and 1998 (during Bill Clinton’s administration). Wilcox sees these years as “true equivalents to 2014. As he states, “after six years in power, even popular Presidents have faded often into becoming ‘just another one of those guys…'” But added to the national mood that seems to be going against President Obama and his Party, Wilcox doesn’t anticipate districts shifting over to the Democrats anytime soon.
While covering a detailed alphabetical 2014 state-by-state election analysis, Wilcox saves the most critical state, Illinois, for last. Not that political corruption isn’t existent elsewhere in the U. S. of A., Illinois is known for being a hotbed for dirty business – thus its nickname, The Windy City. This segues nicely into gubernatorial races and mayoral and municipal elections in a handful of states and cities, respectively. His predictions, unsurprisingly, do not paint a stunning picture for those rooting for the Democrats. Nonetheless, Wilcox keeps his narrative flowing by including his list of potential presidential candidates and possible contenders for both parties. Indeed, an interesting mix of both men and women!
Wilcox winds down his guidebook by taking a stark look at the issues that have been and will continue to affect the American people. Current issues include same-sex marriage, Edward Snowden and national privacy, income inequality, gun control, Ferguson and other race relations, the recent immigration trends, global warming, campaign finance reform, and voter suppression. Older issues that just keep evolving year after year include foreign policy, religion and violence – particularly with Islam (which is ironic since most Muslims are peaceful people), marijuana legalization (which seems to have been going on forever), and a real oldie – one that would make Susan B. Anthony turn in her grave – women and minorities in American politics.
In closing, Wilcox includes open letters to both the Democratic and Republican parties. He not only reminds them of their incredible and invaluable history in this country, but also challenges them (especially to John Boehner) to take a good look at their present images and turn their lack of effectiveness back into a strong and vital operational component that supports the American people. Most importantly, Wilcox suggests to voter readers that while the world is constantly changing, they need to do more than just show up at the polls every few years. He includes a slew of activities to keep them from becoming cynical and dropping out of the voting arena altogether.
A great resource, The Annoyed Voter’s Guide to 2014 & 2015 can offer positive direction and a bit of hope for young and seasoned voters during these trying times.
California’s Next Century
America is in a recession, and California is one of the hardest-hit states. Many solutions have been put forth to help get us all back on track, but this book offers one of the most radical. Marcus Ruiz Evans proposes that America grant California independence so that it can become a new global negotiations hub, a place where all countries can come together to work out trade deals along with other pieces of international legislation.
This idea is extreme, but Evans supports it well. The appendices are clearly organized and cite many respectable sources to effectively argue that California is well positioned to become a place of global cooperation and that the transition from an American state to an independent nation is both beneficial and precedented.
Unfortunately, the main text of the book is not so straightforward. The chapters are arranged in a confusing manner, and the book is riddled with grammatical errors that sometimes make it difficult to understand. The author also fails to consistently and properly cite his sources, an error that is highlighted by the perfect citation in the appendices. The biggest problem, however, are the occasional glaring factual inaccuracies. For example, at one point the author claims that President Obama granted West Virginia statehood. While these inaccuracies do not detract from the author’s overall argument, they do interrupt the reader’s progress and call into question the author’s authority.
All of that aside, however, Evans does provide solid evidence for California’s independence, and he effectively argues that independence would be good for California, America, and for the world as a whole. I just wish that the clarity and citation presented in the appendices were present throughout the entire book. Were that the case, this text would be impossible to ignore. As it is, California’s Next Century has provided me with lots of food for thought, but also with a lot of confusion.
Portraits from the Revolution: Interviews with the Protestors from Occupy Wall Street, 30 September – 8 October 2011
E pluribus unum: “out of many, one”. The motto carried by the eagle on the United States’ seal sums up remarkably the paradox –one would say the magic- that was at work during the two months the “99%” occupied the Zuccotti park, besieging Wall Street, and what this institution stands for –the vested interests of the “1%”. Rob Couteau in Portraits from the revolution provides us with a gallery of portraits of a few of the “occupants”, through a series of interviews in which we meet the “99%”.
This was maybe the only possible way by which one can hope to get an authentic feel of what was happening at that time: any attempts to theorize, to synthesize, to put a clear-cut label on this movement would have lost completely what made it so special, what made it a cornerstone for protest movements to come. There was no clearly defined goal, no theory or program; these people did not unite behind a message that was already spelled out. The only tie these people had was a shared condition as humans, as citizens of a world, and a shared grievance: we have lost sight of the full meaning of what it is to be human, of what it is to be citizens of the world. Their message is not an idea but an emotion, the sense that something is very wrong, and that there is a way of turning things around if only we could, as one of the “occupants” put it, “let go of fear”.
Who better than a poet -and Rob Couteau most certainly is- could embrace that emotion and understand what was at stake in park Zuccotti? Who better than a poet could “move” us, in both meanings of the word: bringing us emotion, and putting us in motion against the plethora of realities we condemn? The Occupy movement does not call for an interpretation, for a political analysis: it is a diamond in the rough that would lose all value should it be cut and polished. Each “occupant” we get a glimpse of through Rob Couteau’s interviews is like a facet of this diamond –each has a special shine. And yet each one is so like us. That is maybe the paradox, or the magic, of Couteau’s Portraits from the Revolution: it is a priori a piecemeal assemblage made up of bits and pieces, of fragments of this “revolution” –and yet one cannot shake off this strong sense that there is somehow an underlying unity: these people are us. That is maybe Couteau’s master stroke: his deep understanding of the problem lying at the heart of any society –of our society more than any other- : it takes a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of faith –and maybe a little bit of magic- to make “one” out of “many.”
The Rise of the American Corporate Security State: Six Reasons To Be Afraid
People don’t trust the government. They’re suspicious of large corporations. And the people have good reason for both of those feelings, given recent revelations about NSA spying on private citizens and the rampant cronyism and self-interest at banks and companies that led to the financial meltdown in 2008. So what would happen if all that government spy data was made available to those untrustworthy large corporations? Well, you’d have the end of democracy in a nutshell: the Corporate Security State.
And Beatrice Edwards, executive director of the Government Accountability Project, has six damn good reasons for why The Rise of the American Corporate Security State would be a monstrous blow to the rights of the people and the regulation of big business.
Utilizing information painstakingly revealed by whistleblowers and investigative journalists, Edwards lays out the facts about how the 2008 financial collapse happened, why so few on Wall Street were prosecuted, and what it all has to do with Edward Snowden’s work uncovering the NSA’s vast abuse of civil liberties.
This is a well-presented, easily-digested read with information that every American should have, internalize, and use as fuel to push for greater change. I hope everyone reads this book.
The Beltway Beast
According to a Gallup poll in October 2013, only 26% believe that two major parties adequately represent Americans, and 60% of Americans think a third party is needed. This book is designed to be a platform for the 74% of Americans who are yearning for an option outside of the two-party monopoly.
And so, Munir Moon succinctly states the purpose for his excellent, thoughtful book. There is a bit of a trend recently in books that look to re-invent the clearly flawed political systems in the Western democracies. (You may disagree with that statement, or at least the latter part of it, but do keep reading.) As I write this review, the number one best-seller in the UK is Russell Brand’s Revolution. Brand calls for a boycott of all established institutions, including a refusal to cast votes in elections contested among elite parties. So in many ways, both Moon and Brand are coming from the same place while heading in only slightly different directions.
Let’s get back to that flawed political system. Writing before the 2014 mid-term elections, Moon notes the following:
– Women represent 51% of the population but made up only 20% of the Senate and 18% of the House in 2013.
– African-Americans comprise 15% of the population, but there was only one black elected US senator in 2013, and only five African-Americans have been elected to the US Senate since this country was founded.
– There were only three Latino senators in 2013, all of them men.
– Sixty-seven percent of senators are millionaires.
– The average age of a senator is sixty-two years, while the median age in America is only thirty-seven.
– Seven of the top ten counties with the nation’s highest household incomes are located in the Washington Beltway.
I’d call that flawed. How about you? Furthermore, Moon brings this to our attention:
“Then there is the issue of overseas military bases that we maintain at a cost of about $102 billion annually, or about $1 trillion over 10 years. Germany alone has 227 US bases, which may have been justified during the Cold War, but why now?”
I cannot over-stress the quality of Moon’s research. To cite just one example, he takes apart Obamacare for being what it is: a giant transfer of capital from the public sector (that would be the American taxpayer) to the already wealthy insurance companies. Moon instead advocates for an idea called the Smart Patient Credit, which would empower consumers by giving them all price options and rewarding them for making the most economical choice. To be frank, I am still an advocate for the Single Payer system, however Moon must be applauded for at the very least provoking discussion.
This book needs to be not just read, not just shared, but acted upon immediately. The Beltway Beast is vital in these times.