Sunday, September 03, 2006

Some book notes


As always, I'm behind on the reading I'm supposed to be doing, but I'd like to put in some plugs for the books I'm finding interesting lately, especially where I've received review copies and haven't been able to get a full write-up done yet.

- I just finished David Dellinger: The Life and Times of a Nonviolent Revolutionary, by Andrew E. Hunt. I was excited to hear that this biography of one of the 20th century's preeminent peace activists was coming -- I first became familiar with Dellinger in high school when reading accounts of the "Chicago 8" trial -- and it doesn't disappoint. The book comes at a very good time from two perspectives that I care deeply about: Dellinger, while a pacifist and while certainly regarded as a leftist, was also an avowed anarchist; and his long-time publishing vehicle, started during WWII between his stints in prison as a war resister, was called (pay attention, liberventionists) "Libertarian Press." A fascinating read, and I'll get a full review done as soon as possible.

- I'm just digging into Anthony F. Lewis's Middle America, volume two of his libertarian "alternate future history" series which began with The Third Revolution (see my two-part review here and here). I wanted to read this one earlier, but I also wanted a timeframe when I could sit down with it and get up when I finished it. I've unfortunately been unable to block out that kind of time, so I'm reading it in little spurts -- and regretting it every time I have to put it down. Read it now, so you can nod your head in agreement with me when I review it.

- The final item in the "review copy" section is a forthcoming book by two men I'm privileged to work with as a contributing editor at Free Market News Network: Anthony Wile and Mark Fadiman. High Alert hasn't been released yet, but FMNN is already running a contest to hand out 12 autographed copies.

High Alert is huge in scope: It's an investment plan, wrapped in a near-term predictive model, based on an articulated historical worldview and an assessment of the impact of current technologies, analyzed in terms of economic premises. More narrowly, it's an attempt to differentiate its authors' historical worldview from the wilder "conspiracy theories" while retaining the parts of such theories which are in their opinion demonstrably true, or at least useful. Frequent sidebars relate the claims being made to their more bizarre "conspiracy theory" variants.

At first blush, I'm not by any means certain that this "separation surgery" is successful. Over the last couple of centuries, the general tendency to react skeptically to any suggestion of purposive action on the part of large groups has become more and more pronounced. Wile's description of a "visible power elite" should be, but probably won't be, non-controversial, and his analysis of that elite's actions will certainly raise flags with many readers. That doesn't mean the idea is without merit, of course. As a matter of fact, those advancing the notion of a "libertarian class theory" will likely find High Alert a veritable gold mine of useful material.

I've only just had time for a quick browse of High Alert -- once again, full review forthcoming ASAP -- but I predict that it will be the subject of much discussion and debate within the freedom movement over the next year so.

- In the "not a review copy" section, I'm also reading Jayna Davis's The Third Terrorist. You've probably heard of this one: It argues that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was not just the work of a couple of American racists, but of a larger conspiracy including terrorists headquartered in the Middle East. I'm reading the book because a number of liberventionists have cited it as part of their pro-Iraq-war arguments, maintaining that it constitutes evidence of a pre-existing, justifiable US casus belli versus Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion.

I've not finished The Third Terrorist yet, so I can't tell you whether that argument stands up or not. So far -- I've only finished the first four chapters -- it reads like a cheap "inspirational dramatization," written in "of course, we know Bill Clinton is a commie rapist" tone, with little cliffhanger/teaser hooks holding out the promise of more substantial material to come. In other words, it reads like a typical "conspiracy theory" exegesis (of the sort that liberventionists love to hold out as exemplary of their anti-war opponents' positions). I'm not impressed yet. But that may change.

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