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Old 02-17-2017, 01:11 AM   #76
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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I reviewed Dark Money itt. I think it's crucial and a must read, though if you've read something similar it might not be so much. It's very informative and well written.

I read Listen Liberal shortly before I started reviewing books here and liked it quite a lot. I think you'll also like it as I think we're both somewhat in the choir ready for the preaching on that one. Others might not like it so much. It's kind of flip and humorous and someone who is predisposed to think Frank is a punk for one reason or another might not enjoy it, which is part of the point. D-money is way more serious and should be read by the choir, people in the pews, people who hate church, and everyone else.
Thanks for the input, I'm sold on Dark Money! I'm in between Frank and Lakoff on the other.
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Old 02-17-2017, 01:48 AM   #77
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Why do you think she is a hack?
She's a conspiracy theorist who develops an uber-thesis and then brutally crams tortured, screaming facts into it. She's like the Gladwell of leftist politics, except worse at writing and with enormously less convincing theories.

I have only read No Logo and a bunch of essays from her, but Jonathon Chait's review of The Shock Doctrine is very much in accordance with my Klein experiences. I'd be surprised if This Changes Everything wasn't more of the same.
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Old 02-18-2017, 12:38 AM   #78
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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She's a conspiracy theorist who develops an uber-thesis and then brutally crams tortured, screaming facts into it. She's like the Gladwell of leftist politics, except worse at writing and with enormously less convincing theories.

I have only read No Logo and a bunch of essays from her, but Jonathon Chait's review of The Shock Doctrine is very much in accordance with my Klein experiences. I'd be surprised if This Changes Everything wasn't more of the same.
Interesting and will keep in mind for devil's advocate if I end up reading her stuff. She recently got hired by The Intercept.

I ended up going with Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right as my second one. Looks interesting and maybe can help me to understand? lol
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Old 02-18-2017, 12:43 AM   #79
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Strangers in their own land is on my list. I heard the author on the radio and it sounded interesting.
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Old 02-21-2017, 03:20 PM   #80
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I just listened to Lakoff on the radio for a long interview. (Letters and Politics which is a great program) I will definitely read the Elephant book and compare and contrast with the Haidt book.
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Old 02-21-2017, 04:27 PM   #81
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I have Dark Money ready to go and looking forward to that.

Lakoff--I was just talking about him in another thread a week or two ago--maybe worth a read and has some things to chew on but he wanders both in his writing and from his AoE.

Also got "Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism" by Jay Hamilton who heads up the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab. Essentially pushing a data-driven tech approach to make up for some of the gap in investigative journalism since budgets for that are going down, to better track things like campaign financing. More here. I wandered across him in this article in The Atlantic a while back
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Old 03-01-2017, 03:52 AM   #82
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Anna Karenina

I've been busy with this one and it's only partly political, so this is only a snippet of a review. I enjoyed the story somewhat though I wasn't really in the mood for it. I credit Tolstoy quite a bit with refusing to let any of the characters be truly heroic or villainous. The inner world and feelings of his characters are so well described that they certainly betrayed his own feelings regarding his own relationships and I can see his intimates feeling that it was often brutally honest.

There's a fair amount in there in regards to socialism/anarchism, religion, and existentialism, but it's hard to mention any details which aren't spoilers for the narrative. The integration of the political and religious ideas with the narrative is a bit too far on the blunt side, though you aren't quite beaten over the head. It's not like my thumb up or down should have much impact here; it's freaking Anna Karenina, but thumb up with moderate enthusiasm anyway.
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Old 03-03-2017, 05:59 PM   #83
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I've been reading Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History but I just can't take it anymore. I liked the early section about the emergence of the Sapiens brain, but upon reflection I think that was because I didn't know enough to know better. My enjoyment was regularly in inverse proportion to how much I knew about a subject.

Take the section on the emergence of European dominance. He reduces it, without trepidation, to Europeans having more curiosity to explore and then conquer. While mindset is important, Harari's simplifications are not a synthesis of vast data and paring it down to popularized but defensible snippets. His are the simplifications of mile-wide gloss. I was genuinely surprised to learn he's a history professor, not a journalist.

Harari argues that it was the European's sophisticated "global vision" that allowed them to defeat new lands. One such careening, half-paragraph example is that not one Asian power attempted to conquer America until Japan in 1942 seized two Alaskan islands, and "The Japanese never got any closer to the mainland." Gawd. This had nothing to do with narrow vision. Japan had no intention of invading the US, which would have been foolhardy, not global minded. The war was to expel the US from East Asia. The Aleutian expedition was a feint, not a pathetic expression of the furthest they could think.

Another one. Vietnam defeated the US because it finally copied the Europeans by thinking broadly and creating a global solidarity campaign. Yes, the Vietnamese did outreach, but that was a tiny part of their success and Harari knows barely a page of that war. His description of Cortez defeating the Aztecs is hackneyed: Aliens riding strange beasts could "produce lightning and thunder out of shiny metal sticks." Bah. Cortez won by allying with the Aztec's many enemies and because Tenochtitlan was weakened by disease. Harari does mention the devastation of epidemics, but mistakenly places it after conquest instead of before.

He also said the Civil War erupted in the US when "a majority of American citizens concluded that African slaves are human beings." I grant an author the right to simplify immense events into one sentence, but that's not the sentence. It was the dispute over whether northern white workers would have to compete with slaves in new western states.

He's an engaging writer and I know many people find him thought provoking and that's fine, just understand there's little rigor to it.

And there's only six continents, not seven. Harari is going to help earn someone a doctorate for showing that Orientalism still rules the academy.

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Old 03-05-2017, 04:52 AM   #84
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread



Whether you've read the books or not (I've only read the first volume of LBJ so far) if you're reading this thread you'll almost definitely enjoy this interview with Robert Caro.

Although its unnerving to watch people talking about politics two short years ago and realizing what innocent times we were living in.

Still lots of insight relevant to today's situation of course.
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Old 03-05-2017, 05:02 AM   #85
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Anna Karenina

I've been busy with this one and it's only partly political, so this is only a snippet of a review. I enjoyed the story somewhat though I wasn't really in the mood for it. I credit Tolstoy quite a bit with refusing to let any of the characters be truly heroic or villainous. The inner world and feelings of his characters are so well described that they certainly betrayed his own feelings regarding his own relationships and I can see his intimates feeling that it was often brutally honest.

There's a fair amount in there in regards to socialism/anarchism, religion, and existentialism, but it's hard to mention any details which aren't spoilers for the narrative. The integration of the political and religious ideas with the narrative is a bit too far on the blunt side, though you aren't quite beaten over the head. It's not like my thumb up or down should have much impact here; it's freaking Anna Karenina, but thumb up with moderate enthusiasm anyway.
I read Anna Karenina last year, some of the political and religious stuff definitely strikes a tone that seems a little odd today, but its still fascinating.

One really interesting little bit I remember is that there's a scene over drinks at the end of a dinner party where they lament the fact that the old day children did what they're told and the parents were in charge and in control of their own lives, but now the parents are all falling over themselves to indulge their children and its like their lives are built around the children's every little whims.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la męme chose.
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:08 PM   #86
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I noticed that comment and thought the same thing at the time. Iirc it was said by a random old guy after the political meeting, so wondering how directly Tolstoy meant it as his belief as opposed to the character's I was just looking up his family life. Anyway, I came across something unrelated to that, but to my earlier comment that much of the story seemed like a brutally honest depiction of his own life. And, like Levin, Tolstoy showed his wife his diaries and like Kitty she was quite upset about his earlier affairs.
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Old 03-07-2017, 01:23 AM   #87
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan

This is an account of the Battle of Berlin. It switches between accounts of civilian life in Berlin, behind the scenes machinations on all sides (Russian/Western Allies/German), and accounts of troop movements and engagements. It covers the time period from a few weeks before the battle up until the raising of the Soviet flag over the Reichstag.

It's well written and well researched, with a lot of the information drawn from interviews the author conducted with figures in the story. I found the details of troop movements and battles a bit tedious, but people familiar with the geography of Berlin might find it more interesting. The slice of life stuff and behind the scenes accounts were more interesting. I'm not sure I learned much that will stick with me. Probably the main takeaway from the book was the competence of the commanders of the Wehrmacht in comparison with the incompetence and delusion of Hitler and his inner circle. It's also interesting to have accounts presented neutrally from a Nazi perspective, it's good to be reminded that that side was also composed largely of normal human beings.

It's a pretty good read if you're interested in the subject, but by no means essential. I listened to the Audible version narrated by Simon Vance, I've listened to his stuff before and he's very good. Impeccable RP accent and to my ear anyway his German pronunciation was excellent. I'm not competent to even make a guess at whether his Russian was any good.
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Old 03-07-2017, 01:39 AM   #88
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Was the behind the scenes stuff all military or any of civilian life? At this point wasn't Germany like throwing 12 year olds without boots into battle? Did they get into that or was it all like central command?
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Old 03-07-2017, 02:33 AM   #89
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

The behind the scenes stuff I'm talking about was military, for instance accounts of meetings inside the Fuhrerbunker, between generals, etc. The book was really two parallel books. Firstly a history of how Berlin was taken, presented as troop movements, battles, accounts of military and political decisionmaking, personal experiences of military commanders and collective assessments of on the ground soldier experience (stuff like "The 9th army were in good spirits"). Secondly, a wide range of accounts of civilian experiences from many different people (a zookeeper, a priest and an Allied spy, to name a very few) presented as anecdotes. Stuff that didn't fit into one of those two categories tended to be mentioned only in passing. So the book did mention the conscription of the Hitler Youth into the Wehrmacht but didn't discuss details, and there were a few accounts of grunt-level soldier experience, but less than you'd think. The boys fighting for the Wehrmacht thing was mostly mentioned in contexts like explaining why certain army units still appearing on the war map were actually incapable of providing any real resistance.
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:39 PM   #90
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Walden - Thoreau

I listened to this book mostly on my phone while walking my dog. I don't know how true this is anymore because it's been so long since I've tried, but I used to have very limited patience for reading flowery poetry or any long descriptions of scenery. None of that bothered me here much. Perhaps it was because I'm different or this book is better than others, but it's like that it is well suited to an audiobook. And the reader was a bit hammy. I listened to the free version read by Gordon Mackinzie.

This is the account of two years spent living in the woods near Concord Massachusetts from 1846-48 (might be off by a year). I think there is a popular impression that it's a survival guide or perhaps a boast that Thoreau was living independently off the land. That's not really the case. He is pretty clear that he goes to town often, gets visitors often, and purchases food like grain to make bread he also never asserts complete independence as an objective. Another criticism from a poster in another subforum was that they had a hard time getting through some boring parts having to do with the accountings he made for expenses on his house and for the beans he grew. Perhaps that is boring, but I wonder if sections like that give people the wrong impression that he's trying to demonstrate his independence. That's not what he's doing. The accounts of expenses isn't meant as a political statement or as a survivalist's guide. It's poetry.

This is not primarily a political book. It's more philosophy and poetry than politics, but this is the politics forum and I did read it with politics in mind. Thoreau, in this book, is very anti-state and individualistic. His most direct political position is as an abolitionist and is briefly jailed in the course of the story for not paying a tax for reasons he attributes to a protest against the fugitive slave act. In the story he does encounter a man fleeing slavery and in outside of this narrative he did harbor and aid people in those circumstances. Individualistic as he is, he's not anything like an anarcho-capitalist as he's anti-capitalist and really anti-economics altogether. He's not anti-social in the sense of being misanthropic, he's just anti-materialist (colloquial use of materialism) which is more religious/philosophical than political. He's very anti-practical. All of this I sympathize with very much. In the recent political season I've been immersed in the concerns of the world at the moment, but my general outlook in life has been more along the lines of acting locally and occasionally thinking globally.

There's a lot to think about in terms of a person's relationship with nature and society. One's obligations to others and to one's self. I think it's a fair criticism and one that would be used disparagingly by critics but accepted without insult by Thoreau, that his outlook is profoundly irresponsible. Personally and for most people in the world I think an important missing aspect of life is illustrated. It's not all of life, just an aspect. I accept that some people have a hostility towards this. A pretty clear recent illustration is the book/movie Into the Wild. The hostility is hard for me to understand. Not everyone should be reckless all the time, but I'm very forgiving of people who do something like this where they get past the expectations other people have knowing full well that people will think they are foolish, self-indulgent and self-righteous. In practice the idea of going Walden is pretty appealing to me and I really think it's likely to take up some part of the last quarter or so of my ambulatory life. At the moment about one fourth of the time going Walden, one fourth walking the earth like Kwai Chang Caine and half with the wife and kids sounds like a good recipe for retirement. Some of that will probably have to involve earning some money, but there are a lot of ways to mix that in.


There's also a lot to think about in terms of what in society led to romanticism and what its impacts were. I'm thinking about that and have put a couple things on my reading list which may help me figure that out a little better.

I think the writing, organization and poetry of the book is really excellent. It's clever and randomly funny. It's informative and to me inspirational. I know people will hate this book and really intensely hate Thoreau and getting to the heart of why is something I'm going to think about a lot. For now this article at New Republic describes how so many people, even the uber-lefty-cultural-elite (even Garrison Keeler), love to hate Thoreau. Is there a need to look around and see someone as the smug hypocrite?

https://newrepublic.com/article/1231...-david-thoreau
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Old 03-09-2017, 02:29 PM   #91
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

My brother, who's a typical HS only educated floated from one menial job to another guy has read Walden multiple times and quotes it all the time. It's like one of those odd artsy TV characterizations against cast that he'll be talking about drinking cheap beer and the hard scrabble life in one second and dropping Thoreau the next. High school English does have some effect, I guess.

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Old 03-09-2017, 02:43 PM   #92
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SEFAIRI...ng=UTF8&btkr=1

A lot as been made about this book. It's been called a book that white liberals say they read. It's been called the most essential reading in a while.

In a sense it's all of that. It's short.It is essential reading because it's a well done short travel in the life of a black writer.

He does have good points and lines. That race is the child of racism not the other way around. That those who hope for some future were we can all interbreed and there won't be any more white or black miss out that there are already mixed race children who get classified as black and/or white (incidentally that idea came up as one of the ideas from the Founder's time period in reading White Trash so it has a long history of never coming true), that racism isn't some abstract bad idea but manifests itself in a baton against someone's head, a broken shoulder, lead poisoning, etc, that schools in poor neighborhoods aren't some magic ticket out of poverty but another system of control to discipline young children and then toss the undisciplined ones out into the streets.

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Old 03-13-2017, 11:58 AM   #93
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I've read Coates' wonderful article in the Atlantic on reparations and learned a great deal from it. Deeply researched. He starts his brief for reparations not with slavery but with the present day housing situation. The biggest source of the racial wealth disparity is not from income but from generations of barriers to black home ownership. Houses are the biggest repository of family wealth and when blacks have to rent they have little to pass on. Federal housing policy participated in redlining and helped destroy neighborhoods. Without home ownership, families have little investment in a neighborhood.
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Old 03-13-2017, 12:33 PM   #94
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SEFAIRI...ng=UTF8&btkr=1

A lot as been made about this book. It's been called a book that white liberals say they read. It's been called the most essential reading in a while.

In a sense it's all of that. It's short.It is essential reading because it's a well done short travel in the life of a black writer.

He does have good points and lines. That race is the child of racism not the other way around. That those who hope for some future were we can all interbreed and there won't be any more white or black miss out that there are already mixed race children who get classified as black and/or white (incidentally that idea came up as one of the ideas from the Founder's time period in reading White Trash so it has a long history of never coming true), that racism isn't some abstract bad idea but manifests itself in a baton against someone's head, a broken shoulder, lead poisoning, etc, that schools in poor neighborhoods aren't some magic ticket out of poverty but another system of control to discipline young children and then toss the undisciplined ones out into the streets.
One of the disquieting potential facets of human nature is that we contain in us the great potential to brutalize and dominate and isolate, and we invented race and ethnic divisions to justify and satisfy the thing we really want to do anyway, not the other way around. The more traditional notion is that our ethnic bonds are vast and identity is powerful, and the lack of empathy and willingness to cause suffering spread forth from that. Instead, I've read the contra argument which is even more depressing -- similar to what Coates is arguing -- some of us want to inflict harm and see ourselves as superior to others and that race gives us a shared fiction we can utilize to justify it. It's why notions of interbreeding don't work, why racism simply redefines and reappears and moves on without recognition of the empirical facts changing around it, and isn't just an abstractly bad idea but is always coupled with physical violence, suffering and degradation. Racism solves a need for humans to be horrible, not a violation of our innate goodness.
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Old 03-13-2017, 01:38 PM   #95
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

That is consistent with the way the target group isn't always about race. It can be religious, ideological, or class based. Affinity for an in group and animosity towards an outgroup is clearly innate, but who is defining the groups and towers what end?

I think the end is usually money.

A human *need* to be horrible is overstating it. It's on the palette of potential human behaviors, but it doesn't need to be taken up by the brush. And I don't just mean it's a personal choice only. The environment has an impact on what feelings and thus behaviors come to exist in the population as a whole.

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Old 03-14-2017, 02:13 AM   #96
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Anarchism and Other Essays Emma Goldman (1910)

This wasn't all bad, but the badness came in multiple flavors. It was generally all written poorly. It was written at the level of what I would expect from an Anarchy pamphlet being handed out at a strike or what you might have heard from a soap box. Not like the intellectual underpinnings of a political theory. This is especially true of the title track Anarchism: What It Really Stands for. H.L. Mencken would call this boosterism. Goldman would boldly and without shame call it propaganda.

The second essay Minorities Versus Majorities is somewhat more interesting, but is frighteningly undemocratic and disdainful of the general population. Not being able to call an anarchist philosophy authoritarian, this just leaves the popular conception of anarchy as unbridled violent revolutionary action. When combined with the pollyanaish first essay it makes one understand how anarchy came to mean senseless violence to many people.

The Psychology of Political Violence is an apology for anarchist assassins, but it's actually somewhat of a good apology imo. Goldman doesn't openly endorse violence and neither am I right now, but most of the actual violence was directed at people who caused a tremendous amount of destruction themselves. To my way of thinking something like the assassination of King Umberto I was more justified than one random soldier killing an opposing random soldier in any war. That said, Goldman didn't justify the actions by calling anyone justified or doing something which protected others. She went for pop-psychology.

Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure Prisons come up in more than one of the essays and it is probably her best stuff. It's not an the level of Michelle Alexander or anything, but it's good. She goes into abuse in prison and the economic abuse of prisoners and the judicial system which unfortunately is as timely as ever.

Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School was another pretty solid essay. Although it again was in the tone of the first essay, it seemed more appropriate. Due to a combination of my ignorance and the essay being 107 years old I did find that I wasn't as familiar with some of the things brought up which I might have been and iirc some of it seemed like lists of obscure people and things.

The Hypocrisy of Puritanism is preaching to the choir and I liked it pretty well.

Of the remaining essays three were pretty atrocious (The Traffic in Women, Woman Suffrage, The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation, and Marriage and Love and one was very boring (The Modern Drama: A Powerful Disseminator of Radical Thought). Goldman is for a complete radical revolution and against participation in the current system including voting. Ok, interesting arguments could be made, but they weren't. At the very best it's pop drivel before its time and at the worst it's deeply misanthropic and misogynist. There are a few good points in there, but it's all super naive and preachy.

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Old 03-14-2017, 03:45 AM   #97
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I admire your apparent desire to expose your mind to a variety of thought, but hundred year old Nielsio ranting is in nope not even once territory for me.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:33 AM   #98
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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I admire your apparent desire to expose your mind to a variety of thought, but hundred year old Nielsio ranting is in nope not even once territory for me.

Anarchism as a system of political thought is so so so so much more than Neilsio's posting ever aspired too and such an attitude would leave you painfully ignorant of that reality.
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:40 AM   #99
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Are ChrisV's attitudes the reason Nielsio can't be free?
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:53 AM   #100
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Are ChrisV's attitudes the reason Nielsio can't be free?
Not aware enough of relevant in jokes to get that but it is a simple reality that Neilso's postings should not be taken as anything close to representative of the tradition of anarchist political philosophy.

Virgin in basement ranting about ACism =! anarchism.
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