Monday, December 25, 2006

2006 in books (Martha & Shirley)

Martha & Shirley: Unless we've screwed up, there are ten books on this list. These are the ten chosen by the community as the ones that spoke to them this year. With nine of the books, we've selected one excerpt that we think introduces you to the book. If, most likely, you are already familiar with the book, you may have chosen a different passage.

We can certainly relate to that. The tenth book contains no excerpt because we narrowed it down to six choices and that was as far as we could get. In the end, for that book, we're providing you with links. It's that or continue to debate why each of the six passages would best represent the book.

IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal by Anthony Arnove. As the title indicates, Arnove is addressing the case for withdrawal. If the book's not familiar but the title is that may be due to the fact that it's similar to the title of Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal which was written by Howard Zinn during that conflict. Zinn provides both a foreword and an afterword in this book. As Zinn notes, his book came out in 1967. Hopefully, getting out of Iraq will take fewer years than it did to get out of Vietnam. This excerpt is from page 85:

ON THE DAY that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq reached two thousand, President Bush boasted to an audience at Bolling Air Force Base, "We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory."
John F. Kenney, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon made similar claims about the U.S. war against Vietnam. In the end, the U.S. ruling class discovered that its boasts about assured victory against "Communist insurgency" in Vietnam were empty.
The United States and its allies will be forced from Iraq in defeat or will at some point find a way, through overwhelming brutality, to impose the appearance of a "victory," perhaps under a new president who can remove the stain of illegitimacy that has marked the Bush administration's management of the war.
The real question, then, is: how many more will have to senselessly die before the conclusion of this bloody occupation?

The Death of Media by Danny Schechter. This powerful book was discussed at The Third Estate Sunday Review twice and Ava, Jess, Mike and C.I. told us not to be surprised if it gets discussed again in 2007. That's due to the fact that this isn't a book you read and then put down. Instead, you find yourself picking it back up to read again, to discuss, and to explore. Of the two of us, Shirley got the book first and when she finished it, she couldn't describe it no matter how many times she was pestered. She wanted to "live with it a couple of days" before commenting. In a world of quick reads and page turners, this is a book that will stay with you. This excerpt is from pages 114 through 115:

This showed another relationship between media attention and public opinion. Put another way, when an issue is not on TV, it doesn't exist in a media saturated country like the United States. When Globalvision produced a series on South Africa's flight for democracy, we were repeatedly told that the public would not be interested. And yet, the program rated well. We found that people can be interested in programming that is interesting in its approach.
This leads to what Groucho Marx used to call "the hundred dollar question": Why? Why do thse misperceptions persist? Wouldn't politicians benefit by responding to what the public really wants and believes? The answers to these questions take us beyond the realm of contested issues and bi-partisanship into the often sub-rosa worlds of interests and ideology. But clearly this also points to a massive media failure -- the failure of news organizations to cover the world more perceptively and in greater depth, to help Americans understand the issues of concern to the rest of the world. It may be that policy makers perfer that the public not be made aware of underlying problems since questions about their own government's policies and commitments are soon to follow.

Center For Constitutional Rights' Articles Of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. A list of twenty books instead of ten would include additional books on impeachment. This was the first one published and the most popular among the community. If you purchased this book, you know the biggest problem with it: you can't keep it on your bookcase. Someone sees you reading it and asks if they can read it when you're done, someone sees it in your house and asks to borrow it, or you end up circulating it through your family. The biggest benefit of the book is the discussions that follow reading it. Our excerpt pick is from pages 45 through 46:

A crime against peace is a war that is not authorized by the United Nations or undertaken in self-defense. Self-defense is defined by the UN Charter as the employment of force against an "armed attack." It also includes anticipatory self-defense. A country need not await an actual attack to use self-defense; if it is to be imminently attacked it can try and prevent that attack with force. This is sometimes referred to as "preemptive attack." However, the concept of self-defense does not include a preventive attack. In other words, one country cannot attack another just because at some time in the future it believes the other country might launch an attack.
In attacking Iraq the Bush administration claimed it had the right to make a preemptive attack on Iraq, but the administration did not show that Iraq posed an "immediate threat" or that it was planning an "imminent attack." Therefor an attack on Iraq could not be legal under the doctrine of self-defense. While there were many Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, and many claims that Iraq violated those resolutions, there was never a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. That would have been the only lawful basis for the U.S. to attack Iraq. The war against Iraq cannot be justified as a measure of self-defense, nor did it have Security Council approval. Thus, in going to war, President Bush committed and international crime, a "crime against peace," and failed to execute the laws of the United States.

Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache To Activism by Cindy Sheehan. We were slow to pick up this book. It came out later in the year, the topic was covered and there were all the impeachment books coming out. In the discussion at The Third Estate Sunday Review, it was obvious a book people enjoyed. Mike obviously loved it and, during a rough semester, made time to read it. Martha called Mike and asked, "If I have time for one book this month, do you really think it should be this one?" He did so we both got copies and started it at the same time. Shirley reads faster and was on the phone asking, "Have you finished it yet?" She was in agony waiting to discuss it. Yes, you know the story. But Sheehan takes you through the difficult journey and you learn (and feel) so much more than you might expect from a book. We picked this excerpt, from pages 107 through 108, because we think it captures the heartache and the strength:

The ninth month was also incredibly arduous for me because I kept on thinking about the first months of Casey's existence, before I even knew he was Casey. In those days, we didn't take automatic tests to find out if there were any anomalies of what gender the baby was. We just waited until the birth to see if we had a boy or a girl. Being in the womb has often been described as another world and birth as a death to that world. Casey was protected and fed by me in my womb for nine months, then he was dragged out kicking and screaming. Casey was protected and fed by me for twenty-one years until he went into the Army. Even after that, I tried my hardest to protect him and enjoyed cooking for him when he came home. Then he was violently jerked from this world and sent to the next. On January 4, 2005, Casey had completed his first nine months buried in the cold womb of our mother earth, and it was so freaking hard for me to endure that day: even harder than other days.
While I was trying to live my life without Casey in it, I had a brainstorm: since I knew so many other people in the same circumstances who felt the same way that I did about the war and about George and the other neocons, I would start a group made up of those same people. On January 20, 2005, Jane Bright, Bill Mitchell, Dede Miller, I, and a few others launched Gold Star Families for Peace.

Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast. Sometimes you need a laugh. Sometimes you need one really bad. Palast provides you with plenty while digging into the very serious corruption of the Bully Boy administration. This is a pleasure to read and our excerpt pick is from page 321:

I don't want to give the impression the President did nothing. He swiftly ordered the federal government to dispatch to New Orleans 18 water purification units, 50 tons of food, two mobile hospitals, expert search teams, and 20 lighting units with generators. However, that was President Chavez, whose equipment was refused entry to the disaster zone by the U.S. State Department. President Bush also flew in generators and lights. They were used for a photo op in the French Quarter, then removed when the President concluded his television pitch.
The corpses floating through the Ninth Ward attracted vultures. There was ChoicePoint, our friends from Chapter 1: The Fear. They picked up a contract to identify the bodies using their War on Terror DNA database. In the face of tragedy, America's business community pulled together, lobbying hard to remove the "Davis-Bacon" regulations that guarantees emergency workers receive a minimum prevailing wage. The Rev. Pat Robertson got a piece of the action. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site encouraged those wanting to help victims to donate to the charities he controls. Within the week, the Navy penned a half-billion contract for reconstruction work with Halliburton. More would come.
Our President, as he does in any emergency situation, announced additional tax cuts. He ordered immediate write-offs for new equipment used in rebuilding. That will likely provide a relief for Halliburton, but the deductions were useless to small New Orleans businesses which had no income to write off. The oil majors, the trillion-dollar babies, won a $700 million tax break.
Don't think of hurricanes as horrors, but as opportunities. For the schoolchildren among the refugees, instead of schools, our President promised school "vouchers" on a grand scale.

Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, And The People Who Fight Back by Amy Goodman and David Goodman. Not a good year for independent media and, like most, we weren't eager to read this book due to the lengthy summer break independent media took from Iraq. When Dona and C.I. discussed this book at The Third Estate Sunday Review, we did wonder, "Is this for real? Is C.I. just doing that 'in fairness' that irritates Yazz so much?" We gave it a chance and had the same reaction that many members did. We think Kendrick summed it up best when he sent his vote, "I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it." To clarify something for one reviewer who didn't appear to have read the book, Amy and David Goodman are sister and brother, not wife and husband. Our excerpt pick is from pages 93 through 94:

CBS was the CIA's preferred TV network. In the fifties and sixties, CBS correspondents would join the CIA's top brass for annual private dinners and briefings. CBS owner William S. Paley and CIA director Allen Dulles personally established the close cooperation between the network and the Agency. Among the arrangements was that CBS provided the CIA with news film, including outtakes. In addition, Frank Kearns, a reporter for CBS-TV from 1958 to 1971, and CBS stringer Austin Goodrich were both undercover CIA employees who were hired in arrangements approved by Paley. In 1976, when CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr leaked the contents of a suppressed congresional report about CIA and FBI activities in the media and subsequently refused to reveal his source, Paley was furious and reportedly wanted him fired; Schorr ultimately resigned from CBS.
Newsweek was also a schill for the government. The magazine had several stringers who it knew were CIA contract employees, and the CIA "occasionally used the magazine for cover purposes."
[. . .]
In 1973, CIA director William Colby revealed that he had "some three dozen" American journalists "on the CIA payroll," including five working for "general-circulation news organizations." In 1976, an unpublished report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence chaired by Rep. Otis Pike revealed that at least fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operations.

Failed States by Noam Chomsky. Forget Oprah, we're more interested in what Hugo Chavez's next book pick will be! We should clarify, for the Bobble Head Pundit Helene Cooper, Chavez did not say that Chomsky was dead. We think Helene must have listened to Chavez's comments backwards. If so, she misheard. What Chavez is saying is: "The walrus was Paul. The Bully Boy was Bush." Chomsky's not light reading. He is rewarding reading. We selected the excerpt because we're still shocked by the Dexy lies of Falluja and the failure of the mainstream media, even now, to report the slaughter. This is from pages 48 through 49:

Turning beyond the US mainstream, we discover also that "Dr. Sami al-Jumaili described how US warplanes bombed the Central Health Centre in which he was working," killing thirty-five patients and twenty-four staff. His report was confirmed by an Iraqi reporter for Reuters and the BBC, and by Dr. Eiman al-Ani of Falluja General Hospital, who said that the entire health center, which he reached shortly after the attack, had collapsed on the patients. The attacking forces said that the report was "unsubstantiated." In another gross violation of international humanitarian law, even minimal decency, the US military denied the Iraqi Red Screscent access to Falluja. Sir Nigel Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, condemned the action as "hugely significant." It sets "a dangerous precedent," he said: "The Red Crescent had a mandate to meet the needs of the local population facing a huge crisis." Perhaps this additional crime was a reaction to a very unusual public statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross condemning all sides in the war in Iraq for their "utter contempt for humanity."
In what appears to be the first report of a visitor to Falluja after the operation was completed, Iraqi doctor Ali Fadhil said he found it "completely devastated." The modern city now "looked like a city of ghosts." Fadhil saw few dead bodies of Iraqi fighters in the streets; they had been ordered to abandon the city before the assault began. Doctors reported that the entire medical staff had been locked into the main hospital when the US attack began, "tied up" under US orders; "Nobody could get to the hospital and people were bleeding to death in the city."

The BU$H Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time by Antonia Juhasz. We have a question for the Texas community members, specifically for the Dallas-Fort Worth area ones, how many of you heard Juhasz speak? This was a book the community enjoyed early on but we really think the write up of Juhasz speech in the gina & krista round-robin reminded members how much they enjoyed this book. When we read In Dallas' column, we both picked the book back up as well and, honestly, regretted we weren't present for her speech. Fortunately, we all have access to the amazing book. The excerpt is from pages 185 through 186:

Imagine that the United States is currently under a foreign military occupation. The foreign occupiers have thrown out the Constitution, the Amendments to the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They have actively and publicly participated in the writing of a new constitution to replace all three. There will be a popular vote on the new constitution, although its contents have not been made public and our elected officials have not seen the final version. Some of the contents have been leaked in the press, but the leaks are contradictory. Three days before the vote, a small handful of leaders -- not all elected and at least one who represents the foreign occupier -- meet and make changes to the constitution. That same day, a paper copy written several weeks earlier is made available to the public. However, there are only enough copies for less than one-third of eligible voters. Few legal experts have read or analyzed it, so those voters lucky enough to get a copy must decipher its meaning on their own. Political and religious leaders who feel some confidence about the larger points of the constitution advise their followers how to vote based on their limited knowledge. You know it is a critical vote that will impact every aspect of your life, so you go to the polls and cast your ballot.
This was the situation faced by the Iraqi public when, on October 15, 2005, 9.8 million people voted in a national referendum on a new constitution for Iraq. Around the world, the image used to capture the event was of Iraqi women, heads covered with the traditional Muslim Hejabb, smiling broadly and raising their freshly dyed purple fingers in a now iconic sign of success. When asked, most Iraqis said they were casting their votes in a spirit of hope, for a chance at change -- any sort of change. Few, however, were voting on the actual content of the constitution. As described earlier, three days before the vote, U.S. Ambassador, and long-time Bush Agenda stalwart, Zalmay Khalilzad and a select handful of Iraqi leaders rewrote key provisions of the constitution. That same day, five million paper copies of an earlier draft were distributed among Iraq's 15.5 million eligible voters. Without access to adequate information, discussion, debate or analysis, Iraqis voted on a document that they knew little about.
Therefore, few Iraqis could have known that the constitution they endorsed locked in the most crucial aspects of the Bush Agenda in Iraq: the military occupation, the economic invasion, and increased U.S. access to Iraq's oil.

Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace edited by Maxine Hong Kingston. Goldie, Mike, Ruth and Cedric have Iraq discussions group. Maxine Hong Kingston has war and peace workshops. The point of her workshops is understanding and healing through sharing and the art produced is gathered for this thick volume (610 pages). You'll come across a variety of opinions and expressions that will move you -- in prose and poetry. This should have been the book that led to the most debate about what excerpt to include; however, a section on war resistance was noted at The Third Estate Sunday Review and that freed us, mothers both, to pick the one that spoke to us most clearly. This is from Clare Morris "From Strength to Stregth: A Story of Mothers and Daughters" page 318:

Our wrists are so alike, Mother's and mine: flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone. A single pair of handcuffs encircle them -- a new umbilical cord. My childhood dependence has become adult interdependence.
We ride facing the rear window of a police wagon, wondering if someone could be following us on the freeway. Someone we know? We laugh as we think of my attorney father, now dead three years. What would he say about our arrest and jailing? He viewed law as process, meant to serve humane values; he respected protest and the right to live from conscience. If he were still alive, he too would have found a way to cry out agains the habit of war.
Our transport deputy switches on the radio, settles the dial at a rock station. I try to escape its beat by sweeping over the past five days. Riding backwards, I find it easy to think backwards, from Tuesday to Monday to Friday.
Early Friday morning, we arrived at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Division in Sunnyvale, where the Trident submarine and its missiles are designed, where the ground between us and the nuclear edge is eaten away. We were six and looking small in the face of the military-industrial complex. Noting our small numbers, Edith, my mother, remarked, "Can 'what is enough' be measured in mere quantity?"

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Light In A Time Of Darkness by Alice Walker. Walker is Martha's all time favorite author. So when we narrowed the choices for an excerpt down to six, it might have seemed easier to just let her pick. She said she felt as though she was being forced to pick a favorite among her children. We then tossed to C.I. who offered that not being able to narrow it down to just one might capture the book better? We liked that suggestion. Of all the books that made the top ten, this is the one which was most recently published (November of this year). Though it was the top pick on Martha's ballot, we weren't sure it would make the top ten due to the fact that it was so new and coming out when people were in the midst of the November holidays and then this month's. Shirley said, "If it makes the top twenty but not the top ten, we'll go ahead and do a top twenty list." Being as busy as most of you are, we weren't looking forward to that; however, to make sure no one missed this book, we were ready to do that. Fortunately, we didn't have to. If you haven't yet read the book, there's an excerpt at Truth Out (the excerpt contains no passages that were in our final six picks which just goes to show you how difficult it is to pick the best from the best) and you can also watch, listen or read the discussion Amy Goodman did with Alice Walker about the book.

In 2007, we're most eagerly anticipating Naomi Klein and Dahr Jamail's books but we're sure there will be many more worth reading and worth discussing.