It’s time for that Holiday reading period and here are some deserving but little publicized recommendations:
1. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Spectre of Inverted Totalitarianism by Sheldon S. Wolin (Princeton Univ. Press, 2008). Princeton Professor emeritus Wolin examines how the pathology of concentrated corporate power and its control of government is shattering our democratic institutions and traditions. Brings the abstractions down to the hard earth of reality.
2. The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril by Eugene Jarecki (Free Press, 2008). The acclaimed documentary film maker (Why We Fight) Jarecki tells you why President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” from what he famously called “the military industrial complex” and how separation of powers has fallen to the imperial presidency and beyond constitutional accountabilities.
3. Plowshares Into Swords: From Zionism to Israel by Arno Mayer, (Verso, 2008). This Princeton scholar’s detailed history returns facts to the evolution of this political movement in the broader geographic, economic and military contexts feeding today’s headlines. Reviewers somehow missed this book, but you shouldn’t.
4. Spinner-in-Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves by Stephen J. Farnsworth (Paradigm, 2008). This meticulous George Mason University Professor fills his pages with engrossing examples of how Presidents and presidential candidates market themselves with a media willing to be used to further executive power the concentration of which drains the public dialogue and debate through weapons of mass distraction.
5. Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal by Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008). When raw imperial and corporate power shape, control and interpret “the rule of law,” the latter becomes, in the commentary by William Grieder, “an ideological mechanism for subjugating peoples and imposing injustice.”
6. Undoing the Bush-Cheney Legacy: A Took Kit for Congress & Activists, edited by Ann Fagan Ginger (Meiklejohn Civil Liberties, Berkeley, California, 2008) Compiled by a veteran constitutional and human rights attorney, through this paperback (see mcli.org) Ann Ginger cites specifically the legislation, regulations, executive orders and presidential signing statements that violate our constitution, treaties and other basic laws. She urges a omnibus “Restore Democracy Act” in 2009 to repeal the official illegalities of the Bush regime.
7. The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book by Michael Ratner (New Press, 2008). Ratner heads the Center for Constitutional Rights. He does not believe that Rumsfeld will be tried in the United States or by the international tribunal that the U.S. government refuses to recognize. So he makes his strongest book case that Rumsfeld and other high officials of the Bush government “ordered, authorized, implemented and permitted war crimes, in particular the crimes of torture.”
8. Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal by Danny Schechter (Cosimo Books, 2008). Long-time film, television and radio producer, Schechter reports how this subprime scheme came about and who should be held responsible for these engineered hyper-risks that were peddled to pension and mutual funds and to places far around the world.
9. The Power of the Peddler by Jeno F. Paulucci with Les Rich and James Tills (Paulucci International, 2005). Jeno is a quite different kind of peddler–creating more companies challenging giant corporations into his nineties than you can count, supporting and insisting on labor unions in his factories, defiantly defending the peoples right to “sue the bastards.” This generous man, an old friend, even printed blurbs on his book jacket from detractors.
10. For stimulating reflection try: A Year With Emerson edited by Richard Grossman (David R. Godine, 2005). Long-time Ralph Waldo Emerson scholar, Grossman selects a thought, musing or observation by Emerson for each day of the year–all 365 of them. What a way to start or end a day for a man who took time to think and urge us toward self-reliance.
Earlier in the 20th century, the cartoon character Mr. Dooley said “Reading ain’t thinking.” But it is a pretty good headstart today when so many people are glued to their screens. Enjoy and ruminate.
RALPH NADER is a consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate.