Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Political Science

New Releases from Thomson-Delmar

UNDERSTANDING POLITICS: Ideas, Institutions & Issues (Seventh Edition).Thomas M. Magstadt. Thomson Wadsworth.

The Seventh Edition of this text provides, at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of how political systems work and how they affect people’s lives.

To this end, readers will want to immediately give attention to Magstadt’s commentary on how political socialization is both affected by – and in some instances controlled by – the media. In identifying how “opposition research” is often used by political opportunists to dirty the opposition on the eve of voting day, Magstadt states:

“With the emergence of ‘opposition research’ as an important dimension of political campaigns, this type of tactic is becoming more and more common. Candidates and party committees now often hire private investigators to probe an opponent’s past. These ‘political sappers’ use hidden camera, sift through trash, pose as journalists, and even volunteer to work for the candidate they are being paid to work against — a form of spying that ought to be a crime. Unfortunately, the politicians choose to look the other way. No surprise there.”

(Page 304)

In addition, Magstadt also provides an excellent summary of various theories as to how government works, including analysis of the works of C. Wright Mills and Robert Michels:

“Elitist theories of democracy hold that government is governed neither by the voters nor public opinion nor a variety of competing interests, but by a small number of wealthy individuals. It was propounded most influentially in the 1950’s by sociologist C. Wright Mills. Mills studied the ruling class in the United States, which enshrines the principle of political equality. By putting the ‘power elite’ in the spotlight, Mills challenged the idea of ‘government by the people’ and called into serious question whether it exists (or has ever existed) in America.”

(Page 336)

Analyzing Michels’ “Iron Law of Oligarchy”, Magstadt writes:

“According to this view, the people, for whose benefit democratic institutions were originally conceived, are inevitably shut out of the political or organizational process as corporate officers or bureaucratic officials govern in the name of the rank-and-file shareholder or citizen.” [Id.]

Given the power of the mass media, the level of apathy and ignorance in the citizenry is not only shocking, but points to political decay and the failure of basic institutions. Accordingly, this book is meant to spark an interest in the student reader’s role in government — the idea is to teach/show students that an active voice in government begins through a complete understanding of history and the many forces which create political science:

“Many adult Americans cannot identify the names of government leaders, are unfamiliar with election issues, and are ignorant of politics. Dead candidates are elected to state offices; accused felons, running for public office on a lark, get thousands of votes . . .A recent study discovered that four out of ten Americans could not correctly name the vice president while two-thirds could not correctly identify the person who served in the House of Representatives from their legislative district . . .Give such a lack of knowledge, how can Americans make thoughtful or wise decisions?”

(Page 334)

by Frank Aiello

THE WORLD SINCE WORLD WAR II. William J. Duiker. Thomson Wadsworth.

Few will be able to dispute the fact that Western society suffers from a superiority complex. Still, Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, continue to be amazed that they are despised by so much of the “Third World.”

William J. Duiker opens his chapter on “Emerging Africa” with a poem written in 1946 by the Ghandian, Michael Francis- Dei Anang, excerpts of which bear repeating now:

“Forward! To what?

The Slums, where man is dumped upon man,

where penury

And misery

Have made their hapless homes,

And all that is dark and drear?

Forward! To what?

The factory

To grind hard hours

In an inhuman mill,

In one long ceaseless spell.”

(Page 124)

To this day, Africa and Asia continue to be burdened by both the residue of colonialism and continued exploitation by the West; Duiker writes:

“The legacy of colonialism in the form of political inexperience and continued European economic domination has combined with overpopulation and climatic disasters to frustrate the new states’ ability to achieve political stability and economic prosperity. At the same time, arbitrary boundaries imposed by the colonial powers and ethnic and religious divisions within the African countries have led to bitter conflicts . . .”

(Page 125)

Such conflicts have easily allowed thugs such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to exploit their own people. Yet, even in the wake of such atrocities, black leaders of note continue to emerge (including Margaret Dongo, sometimes called the “ant in the elephant’s trunk”).

In trying to inspire some pride of purpose among his people, Dongo has stated that “…we didn’t fight to remove white skins…We fought discrimination against blacks in land distribution, education, employment.If we are being exploited again, what did we fight for?” [p.137.]

And as these remarks by Duiker will attest, the roots of terrorism are far-reaching indeed:

“The first conclusion will involve the responsibility of the Western world, which throughout history, has allowed religious fundamentalism to thrive when it served Western interests. Thus, the West unconditionally backed the monarchies of the Gulf, a breeding ground of fundamentalism, because of their oil resources while at the same time lending blinkered support to Israel’s expansionist policies. Against the will of their people, Arab and Muslim leaders have been coddled by the West, spurring popular anger to fever pitch during the Gulf War.”

(Page 144)

However, popular American media appears to have adopted the hypothesis of the American scholar, Francis Fukuyama, who argued in his book, The End of History and the Last Man, that the industrial capitalist democracies in the West triumphed over the Soviet Union precisely because their ideology is more effective than rival doctrines and that this ideology would come to be applied universally over the globe.

Although Duiker notes that Fukiyama’s ideas have provoked a firestorm of debate, Fukuyama’s hypothesis appears to be nothing more than a reworking of old beliefs in the superiority of Western colonialism which dominated the world prior to the advent of the Twentieth century, in turn building the ideological foundation for much of the bloodshed in the world today.

by Frank Aiello

EUROPE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Fourth Edition. Robert O. Paxton. Thomson Wadsworth.

Appropriately, Robert O. Paxton’s 2005 Update Edition opens with a 1908 photograph of the upper class at leisure snapped by the French photographer, Lartigue – -a scene directly in contrast to what closes this story of Twentieth Century Europe: Sarajevo grave diggers burying their dead in a soccer field hastily being converted to a cemetery.

In between these startling images, Paxton chronicles the history and heartbreak of a Europe bathed in bloodshed, war, revolution and turmoil. And for those who choose to read between the lines, there are ominous warnings.

Consider the following passage from a superb chapter outlining depression politics in authoritarian states prior to World War II:

“After Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany in January, 1933, the new Nazi regime adopted economic policies totally different from the deflation of Bruning. The results seemed nothing less than a miracle. Germany was transformed from the country hardest hit by the depression in 1932 to the frightening giant of 1938. Unemployment dropped from 6 million in 1932 to 164,000 by 1936. . .”

(Page 312)

Paxton specifically points out how this “miracle” was accomplished. First, vast deficit spending on public works created employment. Second, the inflation which followed required state control of prices and wages. And finally, Germany insulated its currency from international speculation by rearmament, the dissolution of unions, and economic self-sufficiency.

Moreover, Mussolini’s solution to the depression should be required reading for current American policy makers who tout the benefits of government partnerships with “Corporate America”; writes Paxton:

“[C]orportists proposed to regroup each branch of industry, agriculture, and commerce into its own syndicate, or corporation. Each of these could then regulate its own affairs: allocating resources, dividing up the market, rationalizing production, and replacing the liberal free market with planned, managed economic activity. The main questions of course, were who would run the corporations and whom their decisions would favor.”

(Page 314)

And further illuminating the issue:

“The most lasting monument to what corporatism meant in practice in fascist Italy was the IRI Institute for Industrial Reconstruction). When some important Italian business leaders approached bankruptcy as the depression worsened, the IRI was established in January, 1933 to lend them money. By the time the IRI was made permanent in 1937, the government’s loans had evolved into a controlling interest in Italian steel, heavy machinery, shipping, electricity, and telephones. In this way, the Fascist regime rescued unprofitable sectors of the Italian economy by what amounted to partial nationalization. Even then, however, civil servants had little role in so-called corporatism. Organized business continued to manage the cartelized economy very much on its own terms.”

(Page 315)

As he moves through the history of a volatile continent, Paxton notes that in the later 1950s and early 1960s, “[f]actory workers leveled off to about a third of the population, instead of becoming the predicted absolute majority; by contrast, the number of clerical workers and service workers began to grow rapidly. In the 1950’s, it seemed that white-collar workers might actually outnumber blue-collar workers in advanced industrial countries. The ‘proletariat’ was being replaced by a ‘salariat.’ ” [p. 565.]

As America moves closer to the European model, with its reliance on government controls of the economy, corporate oligarchies and the broadening of distinctions based upon class and status, both its leaders and its populace would do well to consider the frightening lessons suffered by Europe in the last century.

Look close and you will see that America is heading down a similar path.

Each of these mark brilliantly conceived texts with long-lasting reference value. Accordingly, they are recommended as either primary or supporting texts in political science or political- history courses examining how current governmental structures both at home and abroad were formed. Also recommended for libraries at the college-level for their long-term reference value.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

Other Current Government Texts From Thomson

AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AND PROCESS. James M. McCormick. Thomson/Wadsworth.

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT: Political Change and Institutional Development (Third Edition). Cal Jillson. Thomson/Wadsworth.

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS TODAY: The Essentials (2004-2005 Edition). Barbara A. Bardes. Mack C. Shelley. Steffan W. Schmidt. Thomson/Wadsworth.

Kicking off this focus on Thomson/Wadsworth Government textbooks is James M. McCormick’s excellent text — particularly appropriate given recent events at home and abroad. The book serves as an analysis of how United States foreign policies have been shaped, completely examining America’s role over-seas.

In chapter eight of the text, McCormick outlines attempts by Congress to rein in the power of the executive branch and to limit the perceived growth of the President through the enactment of the Case-Zablocki Act and by repealing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. However, as the author notes, the results of presidential compliance are, at best, mixed:

“Any hopes that the War Powers Resolution had gained any new standing with the executive branch, however, were quickly dashed with American military involvement in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. In each instance, Presidents Bush and Clinton reverted to a more familiar pattern since the resolution’s passage in 1973.”

(Page 308)

Moreover, subsequent to the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Congress enacted Public Laws 107-40 and 107-243 granting sweeping powers to the President which go far beyond the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (authorizing the President to use force against “nations, organizations or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks . . .”).

In effect, the President has been authorized the sole power to determine who is a “terrorist” and to unleash the power of the American military on both nations and individuals alike. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider McCormick’s analysis of one interpretation of the media as an accomplice of government in light of the continuing war with Iraq:

“A second role for the media might be stated most strongly as one wholly at variance with the first: The media, knowingly or not, acts as accomplice of the government. Put differently, they become the “handmaidens” of the government in the portrayal of news and information. At least three kinds of evidence support this view. First, the media are ultimately dependent upon the government for information and for providing sources of information on many foreign policy questions that arise. Second, the media elite and the political elite often share similar values and beliefs about foreign policy. Third, government officials often seek to utilize the media for promotion of particular policies, and increasingly, they are trained to do so.”

(Page 508)

Readers will note that Cal Jillson’s text, now in its third edition, also has a chapter entitled “The Mass Media and the Political Agenda,” and the author pointedly comments that the country in general maintains a romanticized view of reporters doggedly searching for large scandals and researching the background of each story. The reality is much different; writes Jillson:

“[R]eporters depend heavily on routine and official channels of information, including press conferences, formal briefings, press releases, background and for-the record interviews and leaks. Most of the time politicians are happy to give their view of public issues or programs that they support or administer, and journalist report their comments as authoritative.”

(Page 113)

Yet, Jillson notes that, despite the institutional canning of news, tensions can still rise (as evidenced by the first reporting of the disaster in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina). As this is written, less than a week has passed since that storm hit landfall. Clearly, despite the spin which the Bush Administration has placed on its handling of both the storm and its aftermath, the obvious truth is that the Bush Administration was initially brought to its knees by the images and reporting of the storm by major news services like Fox and CNN.

No politician can remain complacent when reporters working for conservative news entities liken the urban poor of New Orleans who bore the brunt of the hurricane to an “American Somalia”. In this one instance, the institutional media did what the Founders intended it to do: To focus both moral outrage, responsibility, and accountability on all branches of government.

Although offered as a primer, AMERICAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS TODAY: The Essentials, poses a fundamental question to students: Who governs America, and is this country is really run by a super-elite?

The authors note:

“Elite theory describes an American mass population that is uninterested in politics and that is willing to let leaders make decisions. Some versions of elite theory posit a small, cohesive elite class that makes almost all the important decisions regarding the nation, whereas others suggest that the voters choose among competing elites.” [p.15.] That government is often indifferent to the people is illustrated by an aside in the text chapter on public policy. The Greenville, South Carolina Department of Social Services wrote a food stamp recipient who had died that his food stamps would no longer be sent ” because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in circumstances.”

(Page 462)

by Frank Aiello

WHY NATIONS GO TO WAR, Ninth Edition. John G. Stoessinger. Thomson/Wadsworth.

The Ninth Edition of John G. Stoessinger’s text is particularly relevant today, as we continue to fight a war in Iraq — our resources stretched paper thin, our national debt swelling.

Accordingly, Mr. Stoessinger prefaces his superb chapter on the American involvement in Indochina, ( aptly titled “A Greek Tragedy in Five Acts: Vietnam”), with a quotation from Nietzsche: if one looks too deeply in the abyss, the abyss will look into you.

The Bush Administration might seriously think about these words, and should further consider the lessons we learned from Vietnam (beginning with President Truman who saw himself as the leader of an embattled ‘free world’ resisting the expansion of a ruthless totalitarian foe):

“Thus President Kennedy — essentially a man of reason with a profoundly skeptical bent — became the victim of that particularly American form of hubris that blithely assumed that technology, computer-like efficiency, production, air power, and above all, competent American management could overcome any adversity. This mindset ignored the reality of an army of guerrillas who were quite prepared to die for their cause, would match the American escalation man for man, if not weapon for weapon, and were prepared to fight for a generation or more.”

(Page 101)

It is now an inescapable fact that the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was made on false assumptions:

“In this connection, it should be noted that the alleged terror links between bin Laden and Saddam were never definitely proved. Indeed, there is strong circumstantial evidence that there was no love lost between these two men. Bin Laden was a religious fanatic while Saddam was a secular, womanizing despot living in opulent imperial palaces reminiscent of Emperor Caligula in ancient Rome. Moreover, numerous interrogations of Al Quaeda detainees in Guantanamo, Cuba, have revealed bin Laden categorically refused even to consider any collaboration with Saddam…The irony is that Iraq became a magnet for Al Quaeda fighters after the war, when they swelled the ranks of anti-American resistance in ever increasing numbers during the occupation.”

(Page 292)

Finally, Mr. Bush might wish to consider the painful lessons learned by President Johnson, who chose to adopt the mindset of trench warfare in Vietnam:

“Because he believed he could not lose, Johnson dropped still more bombs and sent still more men to their death. He shielded himself with the belief that America was fighting in Vietnam for selfless and idealistic reasons. A credibility gap had become a reality gap: The myth of false innocence enabled the United States to wreck destruction on a grand scale in Indochina, all in the name of kindliness and helpfulness. Gradually, the means became so horrible that it became increasingly difficult to justify the ends. The war in Vietnam finally became a lost crusade.”

(Page 106-107)

Stoessinger’s text is a warning to both the present administration and the American populace that the lessons of history fall without pity. The equation remains simple: if we choose not to respect the past, then we will be condemned to repeat it.

Each of these texts is recommended as either a primary or supporting textbook in all college-level Political Science or History courses that examine topics of foreign policy, the institution of governmental structure or the concept of war among nations. Each is also recommended to college-level libraries for their long-term reference value and direct relevance to current events.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, Tenth Edition. Susan Welch, John Gruhl, John Comer, and Susan M. Rigdon. Thomson-Wadsworth.

This tenth edition of American Government is not only in depth in its coverage of United States government — it is also current. An example of its timeliness can be found in the authors’ comment on the Bush Administration’s attempts to encourage an “ownership society” (partly through the use of structuring low interest rates during a period of massive borrowing):

“Home ownership has been encouraged even in the face of record debt held by consumers. The Fed has helped this policy along by keeping interest rates low during a period of massive and consumer borrowing. Home purchases have been increasing, especially of larger homes with bigger mortgages. About 40 percent of the mortgages have variable, rather than fixed, rates of interest . . . Much of this buying has been made possible by the government-backed mortgage giants, whose debt load of $4 trillion was sufficiently large in 2004 to cause Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan to warn Congress to restrict the level of debt that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can carry.”

(Pages 603-604)

This excerpt mirrors the recent reporting by Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post and others who warn that the government has created an artificial and over-inflated housing market by allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy home loans from lenders (now estimated at more than three-fourths of single-family mortgages in the country ), and then “bundling” those loans as securities for eventual sale on Wall Street. The securities are then offered for sale by the same guys who told us Enron stock was such a great deal.

It is this type of insightful analysis of current events that makes American Government so valuable to students, forcing them to analyze the things that are happening in the country in relation to classroom theory.

Recommended as a class text for all beginning United States Government classes for its timely analysis of the history of government in relation to issues of today.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

EDUCATING ISRAEL: Educational Entrepreneurship in Israel’s Multicultural Society. Yehuda Ben Shalom. Palgrave-Macmillan.

As this review is being written, Israel is again locked in a battle with its Arab foes, exchanging bombs across the border Lebanon, writing the tale of a tragedy which carries with it the seeds to begin World War III.

Educating Israel is identified as a comparative ethnography of five Israeli schools. In turn, an examination of these schools offers a glimpse of not only how Israeli society has viewed its neighboring Arab and Muslim cultures, but also sheds light on how alternative educational systems in Israel (“community schools”) offer an opportunity for change.

As the author notes in his preface (describing one such school):

“The Democratic School in Hadera offers a radical educational alternative to regular Israeli schools. Of all the schools discussed in this book, the distinguishing feature of this school is that the problem it addresses is of a universal rather than uniquely Israeli character. Nevertheless, the school adds an important voice to the discourse on education and on democracy and civics in Israel’s discourse that is negligible or nonexistent within Israeli society.”

Throughout the text, Ben Shalom refers to the “Ideology of Repair,” a phrase taken from the traditional Jewish term, “Tikkun,” meaning the repairing or mending of a society. Ben Shalom notes that this mending of Israeli society necessarily will require an encounter with the “other,” which in the past has unfortunately meant a rejection of any person, idea or culture which interfered with a monolithic Israeli identity:

“[T]his ideology contains remnants of the Jewish Socialist ethos that has undergone many changes over the years, (but has not completely disappeared) alongside a conscious rapproachment of some of the Jewish texts that discuss one’s responsibility toward those who are different, weak, or alien. [fn.]”

(Page 144)

According to Ben Shalom, Israeli society has rejected Zionism; instead, it has started to adopt the values of Western capitalism, a trend which has come at a huge social cost:

“Many people have been injured due to the rising level of alienation in Western consumer societies. This alienation leads many to seek alternatives to the social interaction that is gradually vanishing form the human landscape. [fn.] There has also been a decline in the level of public discourse relating to the search for common goals and values. [fn.] A growing tendency to nihilism accentuates the emergence of materialism and extensive consumerism as ostensibly desirable models for human behavior. Radical and extreme individualism, manifested widely in the media, politics, and economics cannot meet the needs of the human spirit. [fn.] In my opinion, the atomization of Israeli society into communities of difference reflects a protest against this radical and materialistic individualism, among other causes.”

(Page 133)

Such community schools are viewed as “subversive” in that they “constitute a voice of protest within Israeli society against the uncritical addiction to the values of materialism and excessive consumerism as a means of achieving happiness.” (Page 135)

Likewise, the attitudes of both the teachers and managers of such schools can also be considered contrary to the values of Western corporate materialism. For instance, Ben Shalom noted that each of the principals of the five schools covered “do not accept the general political direction adopted by society. On the whole, they can be identified with a nonbougeois, left-wing approach…” (Page 139)

As Ben Shalom notes in his concluding remarks, although Israeli society is now at a serious crossroads, the principals and educators discussed in his text appear committed to a complete overhaul of Israeli society and its myriad social structures. Accordingly, this text is a clearly written and informative analysis of how that change may be taking place before the eyes of the world.

Recommended as either a primary or supporting class text inPolitical Science courses focused on analysis of the Israeli society. Further recommended to all college-level libraries as a general reference text.

by Frank Aiello

Of Related Interest From Palgrave

HUGO CHÃVEZ: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. Nikolas Kozloff. Palgrave-Macmillan.

Refreshingly, Nikolas Kozloff does not pretend to be an “objective journalist” in this text. Instead, Kozloff often speaks in the first person narrative in describing the rise of Hugo Chavez as both a national leader and international player in the world of geopolitical oil.

Kozloff makes no secret of the fact that he views “free trade” agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as instruments of economic repression supported by the United States, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, these trade policies that stress “deregulation, privatization of state industries, implementation of austerity plans and trade liberalization.”

(Page 37)

Kozloff defines “neoliberalism” as follows:

“In essence, neoliberalism advocates maximum and efficient exploitation of the world’s resources, including labor, raw materials, and markets. Under structural adjustment, countries were obliged to remove obstacles to foreign investment and force governments to orient their economies to produce exports typically produced by or sold to multinationals. Neoliberalism then is similar to the idea of globalization, which has stressed a trade-liberalized planet…”

(Pages 37-38)

If all this sounds like dialogue from Hyman Roth’s birthday party in The Godfather, Part II, readers should remember that the United States has a well-documented history of meddling in the affairs of its South and Central American neighbors. That history includes some sordid tidbits generally ignored by scholars and historians– such as the assassination of Charlemagne Peralte by an American Marine (Peralte was a Haitian guerilla leader who led peasant farmers in the so-called Caco War against an occupation by U.S. Marines who were in place to protect American business interests), and the Dan Mitrione affair.

Mitrione, a former Indiana policeman working for the United States government who reputedly trained Brazilian and Uruguayan police as well as SAVAK (the Shah of Iran’s secret police) in effective torture techniques, was subsequently kidnapped by Tupamaro guerillas and executed. Mitrione’s funeral was quite the high-profile affair attended by top officials of the Nixon administration.

Readers watching the nightly news and the invasion of America’s southern borders by desperate illegals might do well to read Kozloff’s passage in the text regarding Mexico’s forced devaluation of the peso in order to attract foreign investments:

“The devaluation proved devastating, with 8 million families being pushed from the middle class into poverty. The agreement, they charged, would intensify NAFTA’s ‘race to the bottom’ by imposing deregulation and business-friendly privatization throughout the hemisphere. [fn.] Critics charged that the business community enjoyed unprecedented power over the FTAA negotiating process and no mechanisms were set in place to address labor, human rights, consumer safety and environmental concerns.”

(Page 40)

In his opening chapter, Kozloff hurls an impressive array of statistics, such as the fact that Venezuela has the western hemisphere’s largest conventional oil reserves (reserves equal to Saudi Arabia’s reserves in addition to trillions of cubic feet of natural gas). Furthermore, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Pdvsa, accounts for 11.8% of U.S. imports, a statistic not lost on Chavez.

Following a coup attempt in April, 2002,Chavez began to at least outwardly radicalize Venezuela’s social institutions. And Kozloff writes:

“At his Ministry of Popular Economy, officials have already created 6,840 cooperatives employing 210,000 people nationwide. [fn.] The new cooperatives produce everything from cheese, vegetables and fruits to baked goods, textiles and even shoes. [fn.] Crucial to Chavez’s efforts has been the banking system. Currently, regulators demand that private banks set aside 31.5 percent of all loans to agricultural projects, housing construction, tourism, and micro credits (loans to small start-up businesses).”

(Page 70)

In addition, Chavez instituted “Plan Bolivar,” whereby he expanded the role of the military into realms of social and economic development. Kozloff notes that “[t]he armed forces became involved in infrastructure projects and public transportation. Additionally, troops distributed consumer goods to the poor and even provided medical services.” (Page 83)

Although Plan Bolivar was not without its problems (including charges of corruption by some military officers), the practice achieved tangible results, including the vaccination of 2 million children, widespread medical assistance for the citizenry, and the repair of thousands of schools, hospitals, parks and churches. Still, none of these developments has done anything to quell the Bush Administration’s fears of Chavez’s “real intentions.”

As a result of his actions, Hugo Chavez is clearly not on President Bush’s list of favorite people. Indeed, the Bush Administration may actually have played a key role in the attempted coup against Chavez which took place on April 12, 2002:

“Although Reich and senior government officials have denied there was any U.S. role in the coup or foreknowledge of a plot, the veteran Cuban-American diplomat met regularly at the White House with alleged coup plotters like Pedro Carmona. [fn.] Furthermore, Eva Golinger, a pro-Chavez lawyer based in the United States, reportedly uncovered a top-secret document showing that the Central intelligence Agency had prior knowledge of a coup plot. The document, a Senior Executive Security Brief distributed to the top 200 or so U.S. government officials, was dated April 6, 2002, six days prior to the coup. The brief showed relatively detailed knowledge of the plot.”

(Page 88)

Recently, the American televangelist, Pat Robertson, openly called for Chavez’s assassination. As Kozloff treatise shows, Robertson’s call for Chavez’s removal from the public stage has ominous historical roots in the use of U.S. missionaries for purposes unrelated to the Kingdom of Heaven:

“John Perkins, the author of the recently released book Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, writes about an evangelical group called the Summer Institute of Linguistics that worked with the Huaorani Indians of the Amazon Basin during the early years of oil exploration. [fn.] Perkins, who says he was originally recruited by the super secretive U.S. National Security Agency, later worked for private corporations. His job, as he described it in a radio interview, was to get poor countries like Ecuador into debt. [fn.] According to Perkins, whenever seismologists reported to corporate headquarters that a particular region might contain oil, the summer Institute of Linguistics went in and encouraged the indigenous people to move off their land and relocate to missionary reservations.”

(Page 154)

It is interesting to note that, throughout the regular episodes of upheaval and strife he has had to contain, Chavez has been able to artfully side-step the pervasive influence of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund over South American economies by engaging in nonmonetary barter deals with other countries, in turn avoiding the need to use the dollar as principal currency.

For example, in 2004, Venezuela supplied Argentina with emergency fuel oil in exchange for cattle, agricultural products and medical equipment. Chavez is reported to have made similar oil-for-food trades with other countries in an attempt to diversify the Venezuelan oil market into Asia (all this pointing to his emergence as a future source of concern for free trade proponents and the international corporations they serve).

In the end, Kozloff’s text is a superb and extensively documented primer on manipulation of power, oil and money in South and Central America, a study well-worth being read by anyone wishing to understand the continuing instability in the region created by centuries of colonialism and exploitation. Simply, much of the information Kozloff has stocked these pages with won’t be found anywhere on the evening news.

This text is suggested as a either a primary or supporting class text in courses analyzing the evolution of South & Central America, notable for the new information it presents and for the author’s impeccable research which compels as it teaches. In addition, recommended to libraries in both the academic and public sectors as a general reference text.

Order from amazon.com or direct from Palgrave.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.


Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

DIASPORA, POLITICS, AND GLOBALIZATION. Michel S. Laguerre. Palgrave-Macmillan.

In this text, Professor Michael Laguerre (Director of the Center for Globalization and Information Technology at the University of California, Berkeley) has chosen to focus on the effects of the Haitian migration (with special emphasis on the technological consequences which contributed to the downfall of both the first and second Aristide governments).

To this end, one particular passage is telling:

“The use of IT by the Diaspora has evolved over time, going through different phases. For example, during the crisis of the overthrow of the first Aristide government in 1991, the main means of communication of the Diaspora were the Haitian American radio and television programs, traditional telephone calls to each other and loved ones in the homeland, Haitian American newspapers, and before the embargo, audiocassettes in which information and strategies of resistance were exchanged. . .By 2004, Haitian American television and newspapers had become truly transitional, with offices or subsidiaries in Port-au-Prince and a strong readership in both hostland and homeland. In addition, two new modes of communication have been added to the mix: the Internet and the cell phone…The use of the Internet has become pervasive as a means for the sustenance of the diasporic public sphere.”

(Pages 122-124)

Indeed, Laguerre shares with his readers an interview with a Haitian American “cyberactivist” who stated that the Internet is now accessible in every Haitian neighborhood (in turn contributing to the radicalization and sophistication of the very people responsible for Aristide’s downfall and personal Diaspora):

“Likewise, the cell phone, in the aftermath of the coup, has been the primary mode of international communication for people who live in remote villages in Haiti or who are in hiding. Some use it to report about the postcoup violence in their areas, as happened in the case of the mayor of Milo, a village in Northern Haiti, who called a California radio station from his hiding post to detail the atrocities committed by the rebels.”

(Page 126)

While the cell phone and the Internet have contributed to the globalization of the Haitian Diaspora,Laguerre also notes that the Internet, “with its diverse forums and audiences, has led to a fragmentation or Balkanization if the Haitian American diasporic public sphere …” [Id.]

Thus, although the Internet has provided dispossessed Haitians with both access to media and a podium through which refugees can be heard, it has also contributed to the widespread fragmentation of the Haitian community in its adopted homeland.

Recommended as a supporting text in Sociology courses which examine the myriad affects of technology on world culture. Further recommended to all college-level libraries as a general reference text.

Order from Palgrave.

by Frank Aiello

THE AMERICAN PROMISE: A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Volumes A & B & C. Fourth Edition. James L. Roark. Michael P. Johnson. Patricia Cline Cohen. Sarah Stage. Alan Lawson. Susan M. Hartmann. Bedford’s/St. Martin’s.

These three volumes provide a complete historical summary of the United States, spanning Ancient America (before 1492) to present times. Volume A begins with America’s genesis and continues to 1800; Volume B begins in 1800 with the Republican power march and continues to 1900; and Volume C begins in 1900 with grassroots progressiveness and concludes with the reign of George W. Bush (and the on-going ‘war on terror’). Comprehensive in tone as it confronts the story of America in deep and vibrant tones, this text offers students an intimate tour through the labyrinth of a nation’s historical skeleton (dissecting it piece-by-piece until we hear the buried voices of its pioneers cry out from beyond the grave).

In terms of undergrad history texts that create a timeline and then analyze it from top-to-bottom, there are none better.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2013 by in Reference and tagged .
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