Arguing that "élites have always sought to maximize not the amount of energy they could extract and use, but the profit stream from those energy sources," Timothy Mitchell of Columbia University has wrriten a new book Carbon Democracy Political Power in the Age of Oil (Verso, 2011), analyzing "the history of the relationship between carbon-based fueling sources and modern political systems," Matt Stoller wrote in a glowing review posted on Truthout on Sept. 17.[1]   --  Mitchell stands on its head Daniel Yergin's classic The Prize, which is, in Stoller's words, "a classic story of hardy entrepreneurs taking huge risks to find oil in the most remote places."  --  (See here for UFPPC's synopsis of Yergin's famous book.)  --  Mitchell argues instead that, again in Stoller's words, "the story of oil is one of parasitic cartels manipulating governments and inventing concepts like mandates, self-determination, and national security to ensure they could retain high profits selling a widely available commodity" while also looking more carefully at "questions of labor and colonialism."  --  "The coal industry was the key radicalizing force in bringing democracy to the Western world."  --  "Even the creation of modern economics, he shows, the notion of the 'economy' itself, is a function of coal and oil."  --  Looking forward, it follows from Mitchell's analysis that it is scarcely conceivable that "our cultures will look remotely similar to what they look like today in just a few years."  --  BACKGROUND:  Since 2008 Mitchell has taught at Columbia, where he is chair of the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, after 25 years at NYU; Mitchell's 1984 Ph.D. in Politics and Near Eastern Studies is from Princeton University, and his undergraduate degree is from Queen's College, Cambridge)  --  Some of Mitchell's previous writings have focused on the history of Egypt.  --  See here for a 45-minute lecture by Mitchel on the ideas in his book at U. Mass Amherst....

The development of the bicycle and the automobile depended on raping the Congo for its rubber, Colm Tóibín notes in a London Review of Books piece on Edith Grossman's recent English translation of Mario Vargas Llosa's The Dream of the Celt.[1]  --  No one did more to expose these crimes than "the Irish patriot and human rights activist Roger Casement," the subject of Vargas Llosa's novel.  --  The author of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter decided years ago that Roger Casement "deserve[d] the honors of a great novel," but, in Tóibín's estimation, in The Dream of the Celt Vargas Llosa has failed to deliver one. . . .

 

A new book published this week about the FBI's war on dissent in the 1960s also sheds light on the rise of Ronald Reagan  --  Michael Kazin (son of Alfred Kazin), writing for the Daily Beast, called Seth Rosenfeld's Subversives "a damning portrait of the feds spying on, harassing, and denouncing largely innocent Berkeley students in the 1960s -- with Ronald Reagan as a star FBI instigator and informant."[1]  --  By exploiting "tens of thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI documents" that required "30 years and four lawsuits to pry out of the Bureau," Rosenfeld shows that "J. Edgar Hoover and his zealous underlings viewed the ragtag Berkeley left as a dire threat to the American system and did all they could to discredit and destroy it."  --  In a "Fresh Air" interview with Terry Gross broadcast on Buffalo's WBFO and other NPR stations, Rosenfeld noted that his book also reveals that Ronald Reagan "was far more active" as an informant "than we know from previously released FBI records.  As a result of this, Hoover repaid him with personal and political favors later."[2]  --  Hoover (obsessed with the absurd notion that the Free Speech Movement was a Communist plot and that UCB's president, Clark Kerr, was soft on dissent) and Reagan (beginning his reactionary political career) used each other to advance each other's causes, which always involved distorting the truth in order to malign innocents.  --  Democracy Now! devoted three long segments to the book on Thursday and Friday.[3,4,5]  --  Rosenfeld told Juan Gonzalez that after more than thirty years of research into his subject, "what I found most shocking is the extraordinary breadth and depth of the FBI’s activities concerning the University of California and its focus on First Amendment activities under J. Edgar Hoover.  The documents show that the FBI took techniques developed for use against adversaries during wartime and turned them against people involved in legitimate public dissent at U.C. Berkeley.  And ultimately, my book, Subversives, is a cautionary tale about the dangers that secrecy and power pose to democracy."  --  COMMENT:  So far Rosenfeld's book is receiving scant press.  --  A Google News search and our own sleuthing suggests that the only media outlets to comment so far on Seth Rosenfeld's book are Democracy Now!, the Daily Californian, WBFO (Buffalo, NY), Newsweek's "Daily Beast" blog, and Harper's Magazine.  --  Perhaps the lack of media interest in Rosenfeld's book comes from a natural disinclination of corporate-owned media to take an interest in an exposé that reflects badly on the political figure who, more than any other, achieved the historic binge of corporate profiteering that have marked the past thirty-odd years....