I have to be away from the keyboard.
Have a great weekend.
Thank you, and I’ll see you next week,
Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health—and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative book, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time. In The Body Economic, Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health. Full of shocking and counterintuitive revelations and bold policy recommendations, The Body Economic offers an alternative to austerity—one that will prevent widespread suffering, both now and in the future.
Dr. David Stuckler is a Senior Research Leader at Oxford University and Honorary Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He lives in Oxford, England. Dr. Sanjay Basu is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and an epidemiologist at the Prevention Research Center of Stanford University. A former Rhodes Scholar, he lives in San Francisco. (Perseus Books)
Don Blankenship, head of Massey Energy since the early 1990s, ran an industry that provides nearly half of America’s electric power. But wealth and influence weren’t enough for Blankenship and his company, as they set about destroying corporate and personal rivals, challenging the Constitution, purchasing the West Virginia judiciary, and willfully disregarding safety standards in the company’s mines—in which scores died unnecessarily.
As Blankenship hobnobbed with a West Virginia Supreme Court justice in France, his company polluted the drinking water of hundreds of citizens while he himself fostered baroque vendettas against anyone who dared challenge his sovereignty over coal country. Just about the only thing that stood in the way of Blankenship’s tyranny over a state and an industry was a pair of odd-couple attorneys, Dave Fawcett and Bruce Stanley, who undertook a legal quest to bring justice to this corner of America. From the backwoods courtrooms of West Virginia they pursued their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and to a dramatic decision declaring that the wealthy and powerful are not entitled to purchase their own brand of law.
The Price of Justice is a story of corporate corruption so far-reaching and devastating it could have been written a hundred years ago by Ida Tarbell or Lincoln Steffens. And as Laurence Leamer demonstrates in this captivating tale, because it’s true, it’s scarier than fiction.
Laurence Leamer is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including The Kennedy Women and Madness Under the Royal Palms. He is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and Playboy, and has most recently written cover stories for Newsweek. (Henry Holt / Macmillan)
So ends the first chapter of this brilliantly readable counterfactual novel, reminding us that America’s Christian fundamentalists have been consistently clear about their vision for a “Christian Nation” and dead serious about acquiring the political power to achieve it. When President McCain dies and Sarah Palin becomes president, the reader, along with the nation, stumbles down a terrifyingly credible path toward theocracy, realizing too late that the Christian right meant precisely what it said.
In the spirit of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, one of America’s foremost lawyers lays out in chilling detail what such a future might look like: constitutional protections dismantled; all aspects of life dominated by an authoritarian law called “The Blessing,” enforced by a totally integrated digital world known as the “Purity Web.” Readers will find themselves haunted by the questions the narrator struggles to answer in this fictional memoir: “What happened, why did it happen, how could it have happened?”
Frederic C. Rich is a partner with a law firm based in New York. He has studied at Princeton University; King’s College, Cambridge; and the University of Virginia. He lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley. (WW Norton)
Fresh from the first $10 billion election campaign, two award-winning authors show how unbridled campaign spending defines our politics and, failing a dramatic intervention, signals the end of our democracy
Blending vivid reporting from the 2012 campaign trail and deep perspective from decades covering American and international media and politics, political journalist John Nichols and media critic Robert W. McChesney explain how US elections are becoming controlled, predictable enterprises that are managed by a new class of consultants who wield millions of dollars and define our politics as never before. As the money gets bigger — especially after the Citizens United ruling — and journalism, a core check and balance on the government, declines, American citizens are in danger of becoming less informed and more open to manipulation. With groundbreaking behind-the-scenes reporting and staggering new research on the money power, Dollarocracy shows that this new power does not just endanger electoral politics; it is a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself.
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written The Nation’s Online Beat since 1999 is their Washington DC correspondent contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, he is also the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers and he is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. Nichols lives in Madison, WI and Washington DC.
Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author or editor of sixteen books. He is the President and co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois. (Perseus Book)
Are Tea Party supporters merely a group of conservative citizens concerned about government spending? Or are they racists who refuse to accept Barack Obama as their president because he’s not white? Change They Can’t Believe In offers an alternative argument–that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics which is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto show that what actually pushes Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is being stolen from “real Americans”–a belief triggered by Obama’s election. From civil liberties and policy issues, to participation in the political process, the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act.
The authors argue that this isn’t the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege. In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that “American” values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past, including the Know-Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences.
Linking past and present reactionary movements, Change They Can’t Believe In rigorously examines the motivations and political implications associated with today’s Tea Party.
Christopher S. Parker is the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of Fighting for Democracy (Princeton). Matt A. Barreto is associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle, and director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality. He is the author of Ethnic Cues. (Princeton University Press)
We don’t have an energy crisis. We have a consumption crisis. And this book, which takes aim at cherished assumptions regarding energy, offers refreshingly straight talk about what’s wrong with the way we think and talk about the problem. Though we generally believe we can solve environmental problems with more energy—more solar cells, wind turbines, and biofuels—alternative technologies come with their own side effects and limitations. How, for instance, do solar cells cause harm? Why can’t engineers solve wind power’s biggest obstacle? Why won’t contraception solve the problem of overpopulation lying at the heart of our concerns about energy, and what will?
This practical, environmentally informed, and lucid book persuasively argues for a change of perspective. If consumption is the problem, as Ozzie Zehner suggests, then we need to shift our focus from suspect alternative energies to improving social and political fundamentals: walkable communities, improved consumption, enlightened governance, and, most notably, women’s rights. The dozens of first steps he offers are surprisingly straightforward. For instance, he introduces a simple sticker that promises a greater impact than all of the nation’s solar cells. He uncovers why carbon taxes won’t solve our energy challenges (and presents two taxes that could). Finally, he explores how future environmentalists will focus on similarly fresh alternatives that are affordable, clean, and can actually improve our well-being.
Ozzie Zehner, who has collaborated on numerous projects in industry, government, and academia, is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. (GreenIllusions.org)
It’s NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40 Year Fight for Marijuana Smokers’ Rights by NORML Founder and Legal Counsel, Keith Stroup, provides the first ever account of the history of NORML’s forty decade fight for a sane marijuana policy direct from the person who started it all.
From the highs of the early 1970′s, to the tumultuous 1980′s to early 90′s, to being on the verge of legalization in 2012, It’s NORML to Smoke Pot will introduce you to the colorful cast of players involved. The book provides you with unparalleled insight into the politics and strategies involved and you’ll discover the blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into fighting for the civil liberties of adult cannabis consumers.
Mr. Keith Stroup is a Washington, DC public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970. Stroup obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Illinois in 1965, and in 1968 he graduated from Georgetown Law School in Washington, DC. Following two years as staff counsel for the National Commission on Product Safety, Mr. Stroup founded NORML and ran the organization through 1979, during which 11 states decriminalized minor marijuana offenses.
Stroup has also practiced criminal law, lobbied on Capitol Hill for family farmers and artists, and for several years served as executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
In 1992 Stroup was the recipient of the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform presented by the Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, DC. In 1994 Stroup resumed his work with NORML, rejoining the board of directors and serving again as Executive Director through 2004. He is currently serving as Legal Counsel with NORML. (Amazon-Kindle / B&N-Nook)
Governments today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts–austerity–to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.
That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea. First of all, it doesn’t work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy. In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin. Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.
Mark Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University. He is the author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century. (Oxford University Press)
Behind every financial crisis lurks a “political bubble”–policy biases that foster market behaviors leading to financial instability. Rather than tilting against risky behavior, political bubbles–arising from a potent combination of beliefs, institutions, and interests–aid, abet, and amplify risk. Demonstrating how political bubbles helped create the real estate-generated financial bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, this book argues that similar government oversights in the aftermath of the crisis undermined Washington’s response to the “popped” financial bubble, and shows how such patterns have occurred repeatedly throughout US history.
The authors show that just as financial bubbles are an unfortunate mix of mistaken beliefs, market imperfections, and greed, political bubbles are the product of rigid ideologies, unresponsive and ineffective government institutions, and special interests. Financial market innovations–including adjustable-rate mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, and credit default swaps–become subject to legislated leniency and regulatory failure, increasing hazardous practices. The authors shed important light on the politics that blinds regulators to the economic weaknesses that create the conditions for economic bubbles and recommend simple, focused rules that should help avoid such crises in the future.
The first full accounting of how politics produces financial ruptures, Political Bubbles offers timely lessons that all sectors would do well to heed.
Nolan McCarty is the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs and chair of the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Keith T. Poole is the Philip H. Alston Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Howard Rosenthal is professor of politics at New York University and the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Princeton University. (Princeton University Press)
From its invention as a cocaine-laced patent medicine in the Gilded Age to its globe-drenching ubiquity as the ultimate symbol of consumer capitalism in the twenty-first century, Coca-Cola’s dramatic history unfolds as the ultimate business saga. In this fully revised and expanded edition of For God, Country & Coca-Cola, Mark Pendergrast looks at America’s cultural, social, and economic history through the bottom of a green glass Coke bottle and tells the captivating story of the world’s most recognizable consumer product.
The unauthorized history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it. Pendergrast tells the full story of why Coke–more than 99% sweetened water–is the quintessential American product and how it changed the course of American capitalism. Also reveals high jinks, family dramas, and shady deals behind the scenes. Three 8-page photo inserts.
Mark Pendergrast is a freelance journalist and the author of six works of non-fiction, most recently Japan’s Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World. (Basic Books)
The American approach to law enforcement was forged by the experience of revolution. Emerging as they did from the shadow of British rule, the country’s founders would likely have viewed police, as they exist today, as a standing army, and therefore a threat to liberty. Even so, excessive force and disregard for the Bill of Rights have become epidemic in today’s world. According to civil liberties reporter Radley Balko, these are all symptoms of a generation-long shift to increasingly aggressive, militaristic, and arguably unconstitutional policing—one that would have shocked the conscience of America’s founders.
Rise of the Warrior Cop traces the arc of U.S. law enforcement from the constables and private justice of colonial times to present-day SWAT teams and riot cops. Today, relentless “war on drugs” and “war on terror” pronouncements from politicians, along with battle-clad police forces with tanks and machine guns have dangerously blurred the distinction between cop and soldier. Balko’s fascinating, frightening narrative shows how martial rhetoric and reactionary policies have put modern law enforcement on a collision course with the values of a free society.
Radley Balko is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes about civil liberties, police and prosecutors, and the broader criminal justice system. He is a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post. Previously, he was a senior editor for Reason magazine and a policy analyst for the Cato Institute. Balko’s 2006 Cato report Overkill is considered the seminal work on the rise of SWAT teams and paramilitary police tactics in America. Follow him on Twitter: @RadleyBalko (Public Affairs Books)
In community after community, pro bono and student-run health clinics have sprung up over the past 30 years, providing critically needed care to medically underserved populations. Free Clinics is a mosaic formed by accounts of such clinics around the United States. These wide-ranging narratives-from urban to rural, from primary care to behavioral health care-provide examples that will assist other communities seeking to find the model that best fits their needs.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care for many Americans, but millions remain and will remain uninsured or underinsured. Free clinics provide non-emergency care to those in need. Nationwide, professionals can be found offering volunteer services at these clinics.
Contributors to this volume-typically people with personal familiarity (as clinicians or area residents) with the clinics they write about-cover a variety of topics, including a review of the literature, data-driven accounts of clinic usage, and ethical guidelines for student-run clinics. They describe the motivations of clinic staff, the day-to-day work of a family nurse practitioner working in clinics and teaching at a university, the challenges and rewards of providing health care for homeless people, and more. Student-run clinics are the topic of the second section: in addition to providing care to a small subset of those in need, student-run clinics are an important venue for training future clinicians and helping the seeds of altruism with which many enter their professions to germinate.
Free Clinics will be useful to policymakers, students and faculty in public health and health policy programs, and clinicians and students who are embarking on launching new clinics.
Virginia M. Brennan is an associate professor in the Graduate School at Meharry Medical College and editor of Natural Disasters and Public Health: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, also published by Johns Hopkins. (John Hopkins Press)
Building Home is an innovative biography that weaves together three engrossing stories. It is one part corporate and industrial history, using the evolution of mortgage finance as a way to understand larger dynamics in the nation‘s political economy. It is another part urban history, since the extraordinary success of the savings and loan business in Los Angeles reflects much of the cultural and economic history of Southern California. Finally, it is a personal story, a biography of one of the nation‘s most successful entrepreneurs of the managed economy —Howard Fieldstad Ahmanson. Eric John Abrahamson deftly connects these three strands as he chronicles Ahmanson’s rise against the background of the postwar housing boom and the growth of L.A. during the same period.
As a sun-tanned yachtsman and a cigar-smoking financier, the Omaha-born Ahmanson was both unique and representative of many of the business leaders of his era. He did not control a vast infrastructure like a railroad or an electrical utility. Nor did he build his wealth by pulling the financial levers that made possible these great corporate endeavors. Instead, he made a fortune by enabling the middle-class American dream. With his great wealth, he contributed substantially to the expansion of the cultural institutions in L.A. As we struggle to understand the current mortgage-led financial crisis, Ahmanson’s life offers powerful insights into an era when the widespread hope of homeownership was just beginning to take shape.
Eric John Abrahamson is co-author of Anytime, Anywhere: Entrepreneurship and the Creation of a Wireless World and founder and principal of Vantage Point History, a consulting firm that focuses on history, public policy and communications. (University of California Press)