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Eight recent books that illuminate the state of affairs in America today

In recent months I’ve reviewed eight nonfiction books in this blog that collectively represent a panoramic view of America today — and of our prospects to thrive in the future. It’s a decidedly mixed picture, but I’m convinced it’s real. Together, the books in this accessible little collection constitute a primer on the challenges we face as a nation.

If you want to read the original review of one of these books, simply click on the title below.

Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, by Mark Hertsgaard. An able journalist who specializes in reporting on the environment generally and global warming in particular interviews many of the world’s top scientists in the field — and comes away gloomier than ever.

The Self-Made Myth, and the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed, by Brian Miller and Mike Lapham. The directors of United for a Fair Economy and its project, Responsible Wealth, respectively, explode the Ayn Rand myth that corporate leaders are self-made “job creators” who did it all on their own, and that the rest of us deserve our fate.

99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It, by Chuck Collins. The founder and former director of United for a Fair Economy, now at the Institute for Policy Studies, is one of the country’s top experts on the gap between the really rich and the rest of us. He prescribes action to build a new economy that will benefit all 100%.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. A veteran civil rights lawyer exposes the horrific consequences of the War on Drugs, including the institutionalization of racism in American jurisprudence. This is a shocking indictment of our political and judicial leadership over the past three decades.

Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It, by Jeffrey D. Clements. A former Massachusetts assistant attorney general examines the four-decade legal history that culminated in the Citizens United decision, details how it undermines American democracy, and lays out a strategy to fight back.

Rebuild the Dream, by Van Jones. One of our nation’s most passionate and insightful young leaders, building on his experience both as an activist and in the White House, analyzes the similarities and differences among the Tea Party, the Occupy Movement, and the 2008 Obama campaign and its aftermath. He advocates a grassroots citizens’ movement to regain political advantage over the extreme Right Wing.

Republican Gomorra: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, by Max Blumenthal. A young journalist, author, and blogger digs through the history of the Religious Right and turns up an astonishing story of its antecedents — and of the true, often masked, beliefs of its current leaders.

Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. A Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post and her researcher and co-author root around through the maze of our country’s 16 federal intelligence agencies and reveal just how far we’ve come in the years since 9/11 from our cherished self-image of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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