This book must have been recommended to me several dozen times over the course of the past year, from activists from either side if the ideological diThis book must have been recommended to me several dozen times over the course of the past year, from activists from either side if the ideological divide. Written by a rabid political organizer who cut his teeth organizing in the Depression-era south-side Chicago who makes no secret of the fact that he views a worker's revolution as inevitable and something that leftists should constantly work toward, and given that President Obama got his start organizing with the late Alinsky's group back in the 80s, it's understandable why Gingrich started slinging around Alinsky's name in the Republican debates. Union organizers I know swear by this book to no end, some hailing it as a bible for community organizers.
I wish I felt nearly as passionate after reading it this morning. Alinsky is fiercely passionate, of that there can be no doubt. He dedicated his life to organizing the lesser privileged in our society so that they could be better agents of their own freedom. He had a cunning tactical mind and his books are great attempts to try to share the lessons he learned in decades of organizing. Which really makes it such a shame that he comes off as such an asshole. Examples? I have a couple.
He makes an understandable point that groups you are organizing with need a win from time to time to minimize activist burnout and to show that change is possible. I find no fault with this- it is damned difficult to keep people enthusiastic in the face of constant setbacks and the unceasing apathy of those not involved. However, the tactic he uses as an example is very unsettling to me. In the heavily Catholic population of Chicago's south-side the churches had kicked out an Infant Welfare Society because it was rumored they were offering birth control. Of course, without the aid the society had offered, citizens noticed an uptick in infant mortality. Alinsky knew that all the citizens had to do was to simply ask the society to return, yet coordinated an exceptionally disingenuous march to the group's headquarters, stormed in, demanded that services be returned to this neighborhood, and refused to let the society's spokesperson say anything other than 'yes.' Sure, it was an easy win at a necessary time, but to deliberately mislead the group you are organizing is not an effective way to engender trust and a surefire way to get them to turn on you when your deception is discovered.
Still, there are numerous useful tips for readers willing to overlook Alinsky's less than desirable personality and more than a few things that I'm going to work to bring into my day-to-day work. It's definitely worth the read and easy to see why both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have embraced it as an instruction manual in their efforts to bring their concerns into the national dialogue....more
A fantastic how-to that can be said to have served as the 2006 guide to retaking Congress. Armstrong and Moulitsas take a lot of criticism for their rA fantastic how-to that can be said to have served as the 2006 guide to retaking Congress. Armstrong and Moulitsas take a lot of criticism for their respective blogs, MyDD and DailyKos, but never let it be said that they are ignorant of electoral politics. A great read that should be picked up by anyone who works on a campaign or has even a passing interest in how democracy works in the 21st Century....more
I've been an avid reader of Glenn Greenwald's writing on Salon.com and his former blog "Unclaimed Territory" for some time. A former constitutional laI've been an avid reader of Glenn Greenwald's writing on Salon.com and his former blog "Unclaimed Territory" for some time. A former constitutional lawyer from New York, in this book Glenn has turned his keen eye toward the Bush Administration and it's unprecedented increase of executive power. Through analysis of the Yoo memorandum and other quasi-legal arguments that BushCo. has put forward to legitimize their increasingly authoritarian governing (which is a term that can only be loosely used there), Glenn offers an insight into the minds that have crafted this power grab as well as a repudiation of the concept of an over-powerful executive branch.
A short read, and well worth it. If you like this, be sure to check out his next book, A Tragic Legacy, due out June 26 from Crown....more
I enjoyed this novel a lot. It shed some light on the ancient pirate states of North Africa- Algiers, Tunisia, Tripoli, and Sallee- which I had previoI enjoyed this novel a lot. It shed some light on the ancient pirate states of North Africa- Algiers, Tunisia, Tripoli, and Sallee- which I had previously only known of in passing, particularly the Barbary Wars in Tripoli. Wilson did a fantastic job of digging up as many primary and secondary sources possible from such non-literary societies as well as charting the progress made within those Islamic societies by European pirates and renagadoes who would turn "Turk", or convert to Islam, to escape slavery and achieve a position of stature. Sometimes the story drags, as is true with most historical texts, but my major complaint comes with Wilson's fixation on pederasty within the Moroccan culture. One gets the impression that he is using historical examples of pederasts as a means of legitimizing some personal feelings of his own. I had first noticed this when I read his Temporary Autonomous Zone writings under the name Hakim Bey but at the time wrote it off. However, this book leaves no doubt. Wilson is fixated on justifying the behavior of pederasts and while I can understand the point that he is trying to make by constantly returning to this topic, it is only loosely related to the subject matter at hand, pirates, and just gets monotonous after a time....more