All the Truth Is Out: The Fall of Gary Hart and the Rise of Tabloid Politics
Politics in the 1980s were conducted completely differently from now. Before a tattered Senator Gary Hart left the presidential race in 1987, it was unheard of to ask a politician about his private escapades. Prior to the events that forced Hart to leave the race, journalists routinely ignored any private dalliances of a promising politician. According to Bai, a confluence of events changed that as he writes in All the Truth Is Out, which focuses on the week that changed the relationship between journalists, politicians and the public and dissects what happened and why, and what those events say about the electorate. Bai, who spent about 20 hours interviewing Hart about those days, also talked to journalists who reported the story that became a seemingly perfect storm of events that involved stakeouts and the then-burgeoning 24-hour news cycle. Bai’s telling of the events offers an amazing glimpse of how the public perception has shifted through the years—when did the senator challenge journalists to follow him? Did damning photos of Hart accompany the initial stories or not? The answers are fascinating and they seem to startle Bai. This book should be mandatory reading for American politics students, if it isn’t already.
Havoc, Thy Name Is Twenty-First Century!
Havoc, Thy Name Is Twenty-First Century posits that our civilization doesn’t have a problem . . . our civilization is the problem, and nothing less than a new global system is required to turn the tide. Disaster looms in our future, one sparked by an overreaching economy, poor resource management, and incompetence bordering on criminal idiocy when it comes to the planet, our population, and the global ecosystem we all inhabit.
There are plenty of books out these days that detail, lament, or otherwise herald the approaching twin catastrophes of climate change and overpopulation, some focusing on societal or governmental issues, others on science and refuting pseudoscience, and still others on the role religion plays in how we approach global crises like this. But Havoc stands out in this ever-growing field by combining economics, thermodynamics, and philosophy to explain how we reached this tipping point and what it will take to pull us back from the brink.
The author doesn’t waste any time getting started, launching straight into the scientific side of things by defining “the sphere”—the thermodynamic ecosystem we’ll be discussing—both physically and mathematically, then processing the forces at work within the sphere. We’re introduced to the GLOPPE—the global population plus its economy—and how these two concepts (the GLOPPE and the sphere) are affected by the overall economic and collective social construct that defines our civilization at this time. This construct is the global system, and Havoc defines our current global system, GS2, as a result of World War II, and characterizes it as a runaway capitalist mindset complete with deluded belief in limitless growth potential.
It’s easy to drown in all this data; Pogany clearly believes that even casual readers will process what he has to say, and he never takes a break to allow people to catch up. As soon as you’ve processed the math, he hits you with philosophy. Still processing that? He’s already moved on to history.
Although Pogany’s narrative progresses quickly and throws a LOT of new terminology at the reader, the fundamental message is clear: most people could not care less about the unsustainable resource demands their actual level of living generates, whereas we need to realize that we both impact the world and are part of the world. Although the core message is bleak, Havoc‘s end game is all about shifting to a new global system, GS3, formed by twin pillars of understanding and belief.
The author has a monumental task here, trying to cover economical, scientific, social, and philosophical bases for how to restructure our entire society in order to save the world and ourselves. And although he does an impressive job communicating while running all those bases, the sheer wealth of information threatens to overwhelm readers.
But perhaps that’s the point. It must be overwhelming to consider this, because we have overwhelmed already. We’ve overwhelmed the world, and the power we hold is overwhelming. Havoc is both cautionary tale and reminder that we can do incredible, impossible things. But only if we want to.
Although I think Havoc might be too big a first step for undecided readers or newcomers to the topic, it nonetheless remains a valuable, thoughtful resource toward understanding the long road ahead.
The Devil Inside the Beltway: The Shocking Expose of the US Government’s Surveillance and Overreach Into Cybersecurity, Medicine and Small Business
In 2008, Michael Daugherty, CEO of LabMD, a private Atlanta-based cancer detection facility, received a call from Tiversa, a Pittsburgh-based data security firm, stating that they had obtained a 1,718-page patient health information file belonging to LabMD through a peer-2-peer (P2P) network. Tiversa wasn’t about to divulge any further information about its acquisition until LabMD bought into their unsolicited lawyer-fee services. Daugherty had no idea that his polite refusal to Tiversa’s assistance would lead to an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and thereby thrusting him into a nightmarish four-year journey Inside the Beltway – “an idiom used to characterize matters that seem to be important primarily to U.S. federal government officials, its contractors, lobbyists, and the corporate media who cover them, as opposed to the interests and priorities of the general U.S. population.” (Edited from Wikipedia).
Written with a “Jon Stewart flair” minus the colorful metaphors, Daugherty’s satirical humor isn’t simply for the sake of satire. He narrates a story that could easily be mistaken for conspiracy theory. If it wasn’t for the copious amounts of well-documented information directly connected with the ridiculously superfluous process that he had to undergo with the FTC, as well as the company’s development funds that were drained to cover traveling expenses, court costs, and the myriad of lawyers hired in an effort to, as Daugherty puts it, “make them (the FTC) go away,” Daugherty could quickly be labeled a nut case.
The Devil Inside the Beltway is not limited to Daugherty’s harrowing story. It is replete with enough factual information about the FTC that would make our Founding Fathers voluntarily turn in their graves just to hide their utter shame over a system they painstakingly sculpted that has gone awry. As of January 29, 2014, Daugherty announced on his blog (http:michaeljdaugherty.com/) that “the debilitating effects of the FTC investigative practices and litigation have forced him to wind down operations” at LabMd. His story, which has “transcended” his own personal troubles and now turned him into a whistleblower, is not over. “What started with a phone call from Pennsylvania has turned into a call for action.” We will have to see what form that action takes.
Hope into Practice, Jewish women choosing justice despite our fears
To reach a place to be able to put hope into practice, to choose justice, despite fear, the author begins this book with a look at why many a Jewish woman, told she doesn’t look Jewish, would act as if it is a compliment. This leads into the first chapter, which asks how things got so hard. The author, to her credit, leaves no topic untouchable, exploring anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, politics, Israel, Palestine, and more, where it relates to being a Jewish woman today in America. She explores issues such as reactions of family, neighbors and friends, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, Jewish and non-Jewish, and how all play into the unconscious mind causing a fluctuation between feelings of being either a victim or privileged. The author discusses each with intelligence and compassion, providing quotes from others to illustrate her points and sharing a vignette of activist work. After including an action-orientated reader’s guide, a section of notes and index, the author places her acknowledgments at the end.
“Although I quote from a plethora of activists, scholars, journalists, and friends, this work in its entirety reflects no one’s perspective other than my own. That said, there is no way I could have transformed my Ph.D. dissertation into this book without the extraordinary help, generosity, and support of my community.”
This reviewer found the book to be one of hope as it shared the many sides of being a Jewish woman, looking for ways to remedy the many injustices of the past by going forward to create justice for everyone. Readers, whether Jewish or not, will rethink the stereotypes that limit us all. This quote from Anne Frank personifies hope. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
The author has begun this improvement.
Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas
Here’s a travelogue by Troy Parfitt, a man who sets out to explore the twenty-two provinces of China, but discovers he doesn’t really like the places he visits. He abandons the venture after seventeen and returns to Taiwan, where he has lived and worked for some ten years. This sets up a most curious dissonance. Mostly, he’s written a road book as he travels among the mainland Chinese, spending only a day here and another day there, digging out nuggets of information about the places and their history, capturing moments of interaction, and offering insights. This makes the book impressionist in spirit (i.e., it’s not journalistic realism, nor is it genuinely autobiographical).
Why China Will Never Rule the World is highly editorialized. When you gather so much experience in such a short period of time, and the publisher imposes a physical constraint on how much will appear in print, you distill the mass into a heady spirit, the essence you hope will be intoxicating to your readers. The title says it all and, if it speaks to you, you will find the book enlightening and entertaining. Put simply, here’s a literate and intelligent human being, capable of wit and possessed of a good eye for description. Better still, the prose style is engaging. Yet this is what I imagine Marvin, the Paranoid Android might have written in The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Not that either this author, or the original Marvin, is actually paranoid. Marvin’s just consistently downbeat and, depending on your point of view; that’s the strength or weakness of Why China Will Never Rule the World.
So if you want snapshots of potential tourist destinations for those interested in Chinese history, a river cruise to the Three Gorges Dam, or of life in Beijing (which he claims to like), interspersed with explanations of why Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai were villains, why both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong lost the civil war, and why Mao lost the peace, this is the book for you. As a postscript, Nanjing is the cleanest city and both the Terracotta Army and the Tsingtao Brewery are worth a visit.
This leaves the final third of the book in Taiwan. The contrast in tone is quite dramatic as we come to understand why he prefers residence on the island. Except, after mature reflection, he decides he’s had enough of the Chinese on both sides of the Straits and returns to Canada. This is writing as therapy, exorcising ghosts of the past and looking forward to life in the “old country.”
Portraits from the Revolution: Interviews with the Protestors from Occupy Wall Street, 30 September – 8 October 2011
E pluribus unum: “out of many, one”. The motto carried by the eagle on the United States’ seal sums up remarkably the paradox –one would say the magic- that was at work during the two months the “99%” occupied the Zuccotti park, besieging Wall Street, and what this institution stands for –the vested interests of the “1%”. Rob Couteau in Portraits from the revolution provides us with a gallery of portraits of a few of the “occupants”, through a series of interviews in which we meet the “99%”.
This was maybe the only possible way by which one can hope to get an authentic feel of what was happening at that time: any attempts to theorize, to synthesize, to put a clear-cut label on this movement would have lost completely what made it so special, what made it a cornerstone for protest movements to come. There was no clearly defined goal, no theory or program; these people did not unite behind a message that was already spelled out. The only tie these people had was a shared condition as humans, as citizens of a world, and a shared grievance: we have lost sight of the full meaning of what it is to be human, of what it is to be citizens of the world. Their message is not an idea but an emotion, the sense that something is very wrong, and that there is a way of turning things around if only we could, as one of the “occupants” put it, “let go of fear”.
Who better than a poet -and Rob Couteau most certainly is- could embrace that emotion and understand what was at stake in park Zuccotti? Who better than a poet could “move” us, in both meanings of the word: bringing us emotion, and putting us in motion against the plethora of realities we condemn? The Occupy movement does not call for an interpretation, for a political analysis: it is a diamond in the rough that would lose all value should it be cut and polished. Each “occupant” we get a glimpse of through Rob Couteau’s interviews is like a facet of this diamond –each has a special shine. And yet each one is so like us. That is maybe the paradox, or the magic, of Couteau’s Portraits from the Revolution: it is a priori a piecemeal assemblage made up of bits and pieces, of fragments of this “revolution” –and yet one cannot shake off this strong sense that there is somehow an underlying unity: these people are us. That is maybe Couteau’s master stroke: his deep understanding of the problem lying at the heart of any society –of our society more than any other- : it takes a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of faith –and maybe a little bit of magic- to make “one” out of “many.”