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‘Tis the Holiday Season and a time congenial for reading books. Here are my recommendations of recent books that relate to the quest for understanding today’s events:
1. Jeno: The Power of the Peddler, (Paulucci International) is the biography of
89 year old multiple entrepreneur, Jeno Paulucci, of Duluth, Minnesota and Sanford, Florida. One of a kind, this human dynamo, starting from the raw poverty of the Iron Range, built company after company and sold them when they became successful. Along the way, he championed labor unions for his large companies, workers rights, sued even bigger companies, heralded the need to use the courts, defended prisoners unlawfully imprisoned and launched many other counter-intuitive initiatives. He just started another company before his 90th birthday. You want to absorb human energy, read this book!
2. The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi by Les Leopold, (Chelsea Green) is the story of whom I consider to be the greatest labor leader of our generation. It was Mazzocchi who connected the labor movement with environmental group and scientists specializing in occupational diseases, with a broad humane agenda for working people so that they had a decent living standard and plenty of time for other pursuits. This World War II combat veteran probably traveled more miles, spoke with more blue collar workers and championed "just health care" more than any other American before his passing from cancer in 2002.
3. Corpocracy by Robert A.G. Monks (Wiley Publishers) summarizes its main theme on the book’s cover-"How CEOs and the Business Roundtable Hijacked the World’s Greatest Wealth Machine-and How to Get it Back." Corporate lawyer, venture capitalist and bold shareholder activist, Monks gives us his inside knowledge about how corporations seized control from any adequate government regulations and especially from their owners, their shareholders, and institutional shareholders like mutual funds and pension trusts. This is a very readable journey through the pits and peaks of corporate greed and power that shows the light at the end of the tunnel.
4. Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots, by Kevin Danaher, Shannon Biggs and Jason Mark (PoliPoint Press.) This is a practical book about on-the-ground, successful green businesses and neighborhood initiatives that live sustainability, not just talk it. There are also pages of crisp interviews with practitioners and thinkers including Rocky Anderson, Mayor of Salt Lake City and Lois Gibbs, the extraordinary organizer against toxics regarding this emerging sub-economy that challenges greed, concentrated power and destruction.
5. You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (paperback, The New Press) by Matthew Rothschild. This book by the editor of The Progressive magazine aggregates accurate stories of the post-9/11 violations of the civil liberties and and civil right of the American people, including veterans, by the dictacrats in Washington, DC. Ordinary people exercising their rights of free speech and assembly found harassment, arrest, expulsion from public meetings, surveillance and malicious prosecution to be their rewards. Rothschild end on a hopeful note, describing the resistance by freedom advocates and the various individual and community ways that people are fighting back to defend their Bill of Rights.
6. The Bank Teller and Other Essays on the Politics of Meaning, by Peter Gabel (Acada Books.) Law Professor, Law Dean and college President, Peter Gabel gets down to fundamentals about the "politics of meaning." This is not a muckraking expose but rather a relentless push on readers to examine their isolation and alienation from one another, their neighborhood, workplace, and community without which a functioning democracy cannot evolve.
7. The Four Freedoms Under Siege, by Marcus Raskin and Robert Spero (Praeger/Publishers.) Raskin and Spero take off from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proclamation of the Four Freedoms in his annual message to Congress, January 6, 1941 and apply them to present day America. These four freedoms are the freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It is not a pretty picture. It can be changed, and this book contains wise words for such liberations.
8. Medicare; Facts, Myths, Problems & Promise (in Canada!), edited by Bruce Campbell and Greg Marchildon (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.) At last an authoritative answer by authorities on health care in Canada and the U.S. to the distortions, prevarications, smears and putdowns of the Canadian health care system by the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh and other servers of their corporate paymasters. In 39 concise chapters, 39 specialists cover the achievements of Canada’s way of guaranteeing everyone health care, how it happened, the pressure by the corporatist lobbies and their thoughtless think tanks to undermine Medicare piece by piece, and the future development of Medicare toward prevention and sustainability. A tour de force for anybody fed up with the "pay or die," wasteful, profiteering corporate morass that blocks comparable progress in the United States.
9. Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of The New Global Economy by John Bowe (Random House.) This book is an eye witness gripper of the conditions of the workers who harvest our fruits and vegetables and make our garments from Florida to Oklahoma to Saipan. Laws are weak, unenforced, and raw power takes over these defenseless workers’ lives. You’ll soon ask: where are the police, the prosecutors, the politicians? The real question is: "Where are the people to make the required changes on behalf of humanity?"
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions