What I’m Reading

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American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. If you’re not already depressed about America’s future, this book will hit you with a triple whammy: The Iraq invasion was all about oil, not terrorism. Fundamentalist religion is having an ever-growing influence US foreign policy. And the federal deficit is going to sink our kids if it doesn’t sink us first. Well-documented and well-reasoned, which makes it even more depressing.

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Great background for the ongoing Enron trials. The Oscar-nominated documentary is out on DVD if you haven’t got time for the book.

Recent favorites on the US military:

The Fall of Baghdad by John Lee Anderson. Even-handed and extremely well written.

The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military by Dana Priest. Written in 2003, a must-read if you want to understand the modern role of the US miliary around the world.

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What I’m Reading

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–I’m embarrassed to admit that I never got around to reading Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business–and Bad Medicine, by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. I’m remedying that now.

–In The Brass Check, Upton Sinclair muckrakes the news business. It’s not a pretty picture.

What I was reading

–She was the first sex symbol, the first celebrity (complete with a studio-written biography), and one of the biggest box office draws in the country. Sadly, we barely get to know much at all about Theda Bara, who gave the world its first mass market Vamp, in Eve Golden’s book, which seems to rely rather heavily on Bara’s own scrapbooks of movie reviews.

–The French poet and thinker Paul Valery published a collection of essays called the Outlook for Intelligence; I can’t imagine anyone having Bernard Shaw for a contemporary would have worried overmuch at its prospects. Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion — particularly the wonderful preface — reminds us that it is possible to think and write intelligently about matters of faith, with skepticism, good humor, and not an ounce of condescension.

–Started an Upton Sinclair kick with I, Candidate for Governor, and how I got licked, in which the famed muckraker recounts his 1934 candidacy for governorship of California. Sinclair, who ran to promote the ideas of his EPIC campaign — End Poverty In California — tells how he handily won the Democratic nomination, then how he was done in by a combination of hostile press, big business and special interest money, a Republican opponent who could afford to move to the moderate middle, and his own missteps as a candidate. It’s amazing how little things have changed.

— Finished this a while ago: I’m re-reading Boss Tweed’s New York, by Seymour J. Mandelbaum, which seems quite timely. One of the points Mandelbaum makes is that administering a city well in the late 19th century was all but impossible given the era’s technological limitations (particularly its poor communications). Coordinating activities or political and reform movements for cleaner streets, better port facilities or housing regulations for New York’s tenements was thus frustrated. Paradoxically, it was only a centralizer like Tweed (who relied on patronage, kickbacks, bribery and corruption to accomplish their aims) who could accomplish much, but obviously at a tremendously high cost (both figuratively and literally: Tweed and his ring are believed to have stolen something like, adjusting for inflation, the staggering sum of $2 billion).

What I’m Reading

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What’s On My Reading List

Hostile Takeover:How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government — and HOW We Take It Back, by David Sirota

Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga

American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury, by Kevin Phillips

The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, by Benjamin M. Friedman 

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell