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Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Books & Book Reviews: May 2007

By Larry James on May 15, 2007

The National Urban League released its annual report a couple of weeks ago, The State of Black America 2007: Portrait of the Black Male.

The Urban League does the nation a service every year by tracking and evaluating the progress, or lack thereof, among African Americans, as compared to whites, along six "weighted index values," including Total Equality, Economic, Health, Education, Social Justice, and Civic Engagement.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post senior Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks's Fiasco is masterful and explosive reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on the unprecedented candor of key participants.

The American military is a tightly sealed community, and few outsiders have reason to know that a great many senior officers view the Iraq war with incredulity and dismay. But many officers have shared their anger with renowned military reporter Thomas E. Ricks, and in Fiasco, Ricks combines these astonishing on-the-record military accounts with his own extraordinary on-the-ground reportage to create a spellbinding account of an epic disaster.

Fair, vivid, and devastating, Fiasco is a book whose tragic verdict feels definitive.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul - they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

With heart-wrenching power and suspense, this author, a recipient of the Humanitarian Award from the U.N. Refugee Agency, shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Millions of Americans lack health care and millions more struggle to afford it. Politicians claim they care, then pass legislation that just sends more cash to the HMOs.

Wages have been stagnant for thirty years, even as corporate profits skyrocket. Politicians say they want to fix the problem and then pass bills written by lobbyists that drive wages even lower and punish those crushed by debt. Jobs are being shipped overseas, pensions are being cut, and energy is becoming unaffordable. And our government, more concerned about maintaining its corporate sponsorship than protecting its citizens, does nothing about it.

In Hostile Takeover, David Sirota, a major new voice in American politics, seeks to open the eyes of ordinary Americans to the fact that corporate interests have undermined democracy, aided and abetted by their lackeys in our allegedly representative government.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich examines the trail of fictions manufactured by the Bush administration from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, exposing the most brilliant spin campaign ever waged.

Demonstrating the candor and conviction that have made him one of our most trusted and incisive public voices, Rich brilliantly and meticulously illuminates the White House's disturbing love affair with "truthiness," and the ways in which a bungled war, a seemingly obscure Washington leak, and a devastating hurricane at long last revealed the man-behind-the-curtain and the story that had so effectively been sold to the nation, as god-given patriotic fact.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists first spoke of the United States becoming a Christian nation that would build a global Christian empire, it was hard to take such hyperbolic rhetoric seriously.

Today, such language no longer sounds like hyperbole but poses, instead, a very real threat to our freedom and our way of life. In American Fascists, Chris Hedges, veteran journalist and author of the National Book Award finalist War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, challenges the Christian Right's religious legitimacy and argues that at its core it is a mass movement fueled by unbridled nationalism and a hatred for the open society.

His book reminds us of the dangers liberal, democratic societies face when they tolerate the intolerant.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

The Bush Agenda is the first book to expose the Bush Administration's radical economic agenda for global domination, a plan more extreme, unilateral and audacious than any of his predecessors, a plan that has created the greatest level of violent opposition to America and Americans in recent history.

It concludes with specific alternatives to guide the U.S. on a more peaceful and sustainable course in the future. Using Naomi Klein's No Logo and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation as models, The Bush Agenda is based on hard analytic fact and presented so that it will not only be persuasive, but highly engaging and entertaining to a broad audience.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

"More than fifty years ago, the brilliant and outrageous Saul Alinsky wrote the holy scripture of community organizing, Reveille for Radicals, and it became a best-seller in an America determined to translate its highest ideals into concrete deeds. Now Mike Gecan, inheritor of Alinsky's mantle with the Industrial Areas Foundation, has given this nation a muscular manual for the century ahead. There is nothing ethereal about the moral vision in Going Public. It is a book about doing right and making social change not by playing the pitiable victim but by wielding power against power.." - Samuel G. Freedman, author of Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

"Venality, brutality, and hypocrisy are imprinted on the leaden soul of every state. But when a country ceases to be merely a country and becomes an empire, then the scale of operations changes dramatically. So may I clarify that tonight I speak as a subject of the American Empire? I speak as a slave who presumes to criticize her king."- Arundhati Roy

This inspiring and eclectic book includes quotes from: Marcus Garvey, William Blum, Jomo Kenyatta, Simon Bolivar, Eduardo Galeano, Ho Chi Minh, Edward Said, Sunera Thobani, Vandana Shiva, Haile Selassie, Tecumseh, Toussaint L'Ouverture, June Jordan, Eugene Debs, Huey Newton, bell hooks, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Ward Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Bobby Sands, Leonard Peltier, Maya Angelou, Kuwasi Balagoon, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Compiled by members of the Midwest Academy this book is a bible for anyone who wants to effectively organize to change the quality of their lives or the lives of others. Now in its third edition this book has already sold 60,000 copies in all of its editions since 1991.

This book has been an ideal work book for social movement groups for over a decade.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, is a major new collection of essays on American history, class, immigration, justice, and ordinary citizens who have made a difference. Zinn addresses America's current political/ethical crisis using lessons learned from our nation's history.

"America's future is linked to how we understand our past," writes Zinn; "For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act."

Considered a "modern-day Thoreau" by Jonathon Kozol, Zinn's inspired writings address the reader as an active participant in history making. "We live in a beautiful country," writes Zinn, in the book's opening chapter, "But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back."

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Since the Holocaust, it has been almost impossible to hide large-scale crimes against humanity. In our communicative world, few modern catastrophes are concealed from the public eye.

And yet, Ilan Pappe unveils, one such crime has been erased from the global public memory: the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948. But why is it denied, and by whom? The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine offers an investigation of this mystery.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

In this dramatic expose of U.S. penitentiaries and the communities around them, Sasha Abramsky finds that prisons have dumped their age-old goal of rehabilitation, often for political reasons. The new "ideal," unknown to most Americans, is a punitive mandate marked by a drive toward vengeance.

Surveying this state of affairs - life sentences for nonviolent crimes, appalling conditions, the growth of private prisons, the treatment of juveniles - Abramsky asks: Does the vengeful impulse ennoble our culture or demean it? What can become of people who are quarantined for years in a violent subculture?

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Michelle Goldberg, a senior political reporter for Salon.com, has been covering the intersection of politics and ideology for years. Before the 2004 election, and during the ensuing months when many Americans were trying to understand how an administration marked by cronyism, disregard for the national budget, and poorly disguised self-interest had been reinstated, Goldberg traveled through the heartland of a country in the grips of a fevered religious radicalism: the America of our time. From the classroom to the mega-church to the federal court, she saw how the growing influence of dominionism-the doctrine that Christians have the right to rule nonbelievers-is threatening the foundations of democracy.

"A potent wakeup call to pluralists in the coming showdown with Christian nationalists." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

With her trenchant interviews and the telling testimonies of the people behind this movement, Goldberg gains access into the hearts and minds of citizens who are striving to remake the secular Republic bequeathed by our founders into a Christian nation run according to their interpretation of scripture. In her examination of the ever-widening divide between believers and nonbelievers, Goldberg illustrates the subversive effect of this conservative stranglehold nationwide.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Why do Americans mistrust the news media? It may be because shows like The McLaughlin Group reduce participating journalists to so many shouting heads. Or because, increasingly, the profession treats issues as complex as health-care reform and foreign policy as exercises in political gamesmanship. Or because muckrakers have given way to "buckrakers" who command huge fees lecturing to the very interest groups they are supposed to cover.

Moving from rigorous analysis to concrete proposals, the result is a devastating critique that is indispensable for anyone who makes the news - and anyone who reads or watches it.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Although middle-income families don't earn much more than they did several decades ago, they are buying bigger cars, houses, and appliances. To pay for them, they spend more than they earn and carry record levels of debt.

In a book that explores the very meaning of happiness and prosperity in America today, Robert Frank explains how increased concentrations of income and wealth at the top of the economic pyramid have set off "expenditure cascades" that raise the cost of achieving many basic goals for the middle class.

He also suggests reforms that could mitigate the costs of inequality.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

"The Uses of Haiti tells the truth about uncomfortable matters - uncomfortable, that is, for the structures of power and the doctrinal framework that protects them from critical scrutiny. It tells the truth about what has been happening in Haiti, and the U.S. role in its bitter fate." - Noam Chomsky, from the introduction

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Six years' worth of symposiums come together in this rich collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans, explaining how individuals and households can make changes that will immediately improve their circumstances in areas ranging from health and education to crime reduction and financial well-being.

As we witnessed in the 2004 presidential election, Americans are deeply divided between race, class, gender, political ideology and moral values.

A divide so extreme, that in order to bridge it, we must speak openly, freely, without judgment and work together. It is imperative that we take this opportunity to consider the issues of particular interest to African Americans and to establish a national plan of action to address them.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

A college degree is the new high school diploma - but it now costs a fortune to get that degree and students graduate with crippling debts. Good jobs are scarcer thanks to stagnant wages and disappearing benefits. And, the cost of everything - starter homes, health coverage, childcare - keeps going up and up. Budding families, even those with two incomes, struggle to pay the bills, while Visa and MasterCard have become the new safety net. Young adults are starting out behind the financial eight ball-borrowing their way into adulthood and wondering whatever happened to the American Dream.

Witty and wise, Strapped brims with ideas for fashioning a new kind of America in which every young person can go to college, buy a home, and start a family. The future starts here.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

What was really behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq? As George W. Bush steered the nation to war, who spoke the truth and who tried to hide it?

Hubris takes us behind the scenes at the Bush White House, the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department, and Congress to answer all the vital questions about how the Bush administration came to invade Iraq.

Written by veteran reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, this is the inside story of how President Bush took the nation to war using faulty and fraudulent intelligence. It is a news-making account of conspiracy, backstabbing, bureaucratic ineptitude, journalistic malfeasance, and, especially, arrogance.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

President Carter describes his own involvement and reactions to some disturbing societal trends that have taken place during the last few years. These changes involve both the religious and the political worlds as they have increasingly become intertwined, and include some of the most crucial and controversial issues of the day -- frequently encapsulated under "moral values."

Sustained by his lifelong faith, Jimmy Carter assesses these issues in a forceful and unequivocal but balanced and courageous way. Our Endangered Values is a book that his millions of readers have eagerly awaited.

This is a book of reason and tolerance but also of indignation.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Leora Tanenbaum's Slut! is a groundbreaking account of the lives of young women who stand up to the destructive power of namecalling, written by one of the rising young talents of journalism today.

"Through bitter experience, either their own or a friend's, [young women] know that Leora Tanenbaum is right." - The Washington Post

Slut! seamlessly weaves together three narrative threads: powerful oral histories of girls and women who tell us their stories and how they finally overcame sexual labeling, Leora's own story, and her cogent analysis of the underlying problem of sexual stereotyping.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

"The book is about Palestine, the occupied territories, and not about Israel. Forced segregation in the West Bank and terrible oppression of the Palestinians create a situation accurately described by the word (apartheid)... this abuse is not based on racism, but on the desire of a minority of Israelis to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land. This violates the basic humanitarian premises on which the nation of Israel was founded." - Jimmy Carter

In this book, President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid is a challenging, provocative, and courageous book.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

No matter what your political persuasion, this is your guide to influencing lawmakers, candidates, and reporters. It reveals fifteen powerful, proven grassroots actions that persuade lawmakers and candidates to see things your way.

Real-life examples of effective letters, e-mail, phone calls, public testimony, and news story pitches from concerned citizens just like you illustrate the actions.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Praised by the New York Times for his "ferocious moral vision," Cornel West returns to the analysis of what he calls the arrested development of democracy with a masterful diagnosis.

Pointing to the rise of three antidemocratic dogmas that are rendering the energy of American democracy impotent - a callous free-market fundamentalism, an aggressive militarism, and an insidious authoritarianism - West argues that racism and imperial bullying have gone hand in hand in our country's inexorable drive toward world dominance, including our current militaristic excesses.

This impassioned and empowering call for the revitalization of America's democracy, by one of our most distinctive and compelling social critics, will reshape the raging national debate about America's role in today's troubled world.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Illuminating, often troubling, and unapologetically frank, Righteous is dynamic young journalist Lauren Sandler's report from the nexus of religious fundamentalism and youth culture.

"A thought-provoking report, worth a look no matter what side you fall on." - Dallas Morning News

As a secular guide through the passion and politics of the teenage evangelical "Disciple Generation," Sandler offers the first front line exploration of the Christian youth counterculture and what its influence could mean for the future of America.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Despite its enormous wealth, the U.S. leads the industrialized world in poverty. One Nation, Underprivileged unravels this disturbing paradox by offering a unique and radically different understanding of American poverty.

It debunks many of our most common myths about the poor, while at the same time provides a powerful new framework for addressing this enormous social and economic problem.

This book vividly shows that the fundamental causes of poverty are to be found in our economic structure and political policy failures, rather than individual shortcomings or attitudes. It establishes for the first time that a significant percentage of Americans will experience poverty during their adult lifetimes, and firmly demonstrates that poverty is an issue of vital national concern. Ultimately, this book provides us with a new paradigm for understanding poverty, and outlines an innovative set of strategies that will reduce American poverty.

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By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

In this book, leading American scholars and activists explore the question our leaders have been working overtime to ignore.

Drawing on the best and latest research, the contributors explore issues such as the real story the numbers tell about how America has changed. Enlightening and compelling, this book concludes with a plausible and hopeful policy path - beyond redistribution - to a more just and humane economy.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Few would argue that there is a greater need than that of growing food without wrecking society and the land and poisoning the global ecosystem. What is necessary is to build this agriculture to the point it can produce enough food for all, and repair the social and ecological fabric of the world's countrysides. Yet "scientific" agriculture and agricultural policies ignore or attack the small family farm and peasant alternatives to conventional farming.

It is dangerous fighting futile wars against nature. Food is nutrition, politics, ecology, and culture all rolled into one.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

As a reporter for the staunchly antiwar Pacifica Radio, twenty-seven-year-old Aaron Glantz had spent much of early 2003 warning of catastrophe if the U.S. invaded Iraq.

But, as he watched the statue of Saddam topple, he wondered whether he had been mistaken. In interviews with regular Iraqis, he found wide support for the Americans. Then, public opinion changed.

His book shows how the U.S. squandered its early victories and goodwill among the Iraqi people, and allowed the newly freed society to slip into violence and chaos.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Digging up reams of documents marked "secret" and "confidential," Palast provides the latest lowdown on Bush's secret plans to seize Iraq's oil, the fix planned for the 2008 election, who drowned New Orleans, and the horror and the humor of the War on Terror.

With diligent detective work, moral outrage, and a keen sense of the absurd, Palast takes on the "armed and dangerous clowns that rule us" as only he can.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Imagine for a moment that you live in a country where nobody is sure how most of the votes are counted, and there's no reliable record for performing a recount. Imagine that machines count the votes, but nobody knows how they work. Now imagine if somebody found out that the machines were vulnerable to attack, but the agencies that operate them won't take the steps to make them safe. If you live in America, you don't need to imagine anything. This is the reality of electronic voting in our country.

There are simple solutions and, before you vote in the next election, you should know what they are so that you will know that you vote will count.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

While politicians spew shallow sound bites that describe a "free" American people who govern themselves by selecting their representatives, in reality politicians from both parties maintain control by selecting particular voters.

How? Incumbent politicians maintain thousands of election practices and bureaucratic hurdles that determine who votes and how votes are counted - such as the location of election district boundaries, long lines at urban polling places, and English-only ballots.

Anyone concerned about flaws in our voting processes should read this book.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

Learn why it is so revolutionary that emails don't wear skirts and why learning about a zoning board hearing through emails from your friends is critically important to social change efforts.

How can we move from serving soup until our elbows ache to solving chronic social ills like hunger or homelessness? How can we break the disastrous cycle of low expectations that leads to chronic social failures?

The answers to these questions lie within Momentum, a fresh, zestful way of thinking about and organizing social change work.

Read more of this post here ...

By an everyday book reader on May 1, 2007

A gripping narrative that spans five decades, The Looming Tower explains in unprecedented detail the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The author re-creates firsthand the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of the most successful terrorist group in history. He follows FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new threat.

"A towering achievement. One of the best and more important books of recent years. Lawrence Wright has dug deep into and written well a story every American should know. A masterful combination of reporting and writing." - Dan Rather

Read more of this post here ...

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The previous archive is Books & Book Reviews: April 2007.

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