Thank You for Your Service
“I feel so f**king violent right now,” wrote a young soldier in the journal he maintained as part of the healing process during his transition from the battlefield to civilian life.
In David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service, recently named by Amazon as the “best nonfiction book of the year,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer followed a group of young yet troubled male veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Like those who served in Vietnam, our most recent veterans are burdened with similar adjustment issues.
Whether it’s excessive drug or alcohol use, suicidal thoughts, violent outbursts, or domestic abuse, the twenty-something-year-old vets that Finkel chronicled are suffering from varying degrees of PTSD and are in need of much more assistance than their families or even the VA normally can provide.
The horror that combatants experienced make this insightful and well-told book–a sequel to the author’s previous book about the war, The Good Soldiers–difficult to plow through. Hopefully, it serves as a reminder to the 99% of Americans unaffected by these recent conflicts that we need to do more for our veterans.
Sarah Crichton Books
Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
Rightful Heritage by Douglas Brinkley is not your average autobiography of a President. Franklin D. Roosevelt is known for many things, being the only 4 term president, a Depression Busting, War Waging, Polio Battling warrior, but also a fierce conservationist. Roosevelt was the recipient of a Hudson River upbringing, where his respect of nature was instilled by his father. Roosevelt was raised to believe in conservation of Natural Resources, his cousin and President Theodore Roosevelt was also a conservationist who extolled the virtues of wildlife. Roosevelt would learn to love & respect nature in his love of birds, being an amateur Ornithologist. He further cultivated a learning of nature at Groton and Harvard University, but also as caretaker of his father’s estate after James Roosevelt’s death. Roosevelt would meet a kindred spirit in his conservationist leanings with his bride Eleanor.
Throughout his political ascent, FDR would espouse wind and hydroelectric power years before it became a trend. His empathy for the plight of the farmers and their economic well being would propel him into the Oval Office in the 1932 election. Roosevelt’s election would usher in a breath of fresh air into a dying economy and his dynamic cabinet and 100 days legislation would bring to the surface numerous ways of healing the land and unemployment. The Tennessee Valley Authority and Civilian Conservation Corps were just a couple of highlights in a storm of ideas to better the landscape of the US. Roosevelt would never stop caring about Mother Nature through his 12 years in Office.
Douglas Brinkley’s look at another side of the 33rd President combines many aspects of FDRs 63 year life with his lifelong quest to heal nature’s wounds. Wars would be fought (internally and externally) to temper his efforts. There has never been a conservationist president such as FDR and that is seen as a shame, especially since some subsequent presidents have trampled over his progress.
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.
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.”
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.
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.