Sunday, December 24, 2017

Coming this week (December 25-December 31)

Not many meetings or events this week. Just a TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26 meeting of the Upper Northside Logan Neighborhood Association at 6 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church. (By the way, please SUBMIT YOUR EVENT FOR THE CALENDAR using the form or by emailing couleeprogressive at hotmail.)

Here are a few good books we've heard of recently and some old favorites. Please add your favs in comments.

The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule by Thomas Frank is a little old, but if you want to know what's coming up for 2018 Republican Hell, read this book. Rich documents how conservatives get rid of all the social programs they hate by cutting taxes for their rich crony contributors (and themselves), going nuts on deficit spending, and  starving government of funds, necessitating (according to them) massive cuts in everything but the military. Sound familiar? A friend recently reminded that Kansas, one of the test labs for evil conservative policies, has messed up their state budget so much that many schools are holding classes only four days per week. (Oklahoma and Missouri, too.) Those of us who live in Wisconsin need only try driving a few miles down a state roads to see how great giving most people a six pack of beer's worth of tax cuts per week works out for funding the state's vital infrastructure.

No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein came out just a few months ago in response to the Trump administration. We can't just watch the news and shake our heads. People's lives are at risk in this new political paradigm.  "The book’s chief value lies in synthesis. Klein’s particular background and expertise allow her to pull together the disparate threads of what it would be misleading to call 'Trumpism', if only because of the unwarranted suggestion of system and control. How you view her political proposals will depend on your politics, particularly on the value one ascribes to what used to be called 'the extraparliamentary left'. She insists, rightly in my view, that there is a need to promote a positive alternative social vision, and that ostensibly “utopian” aims and proposals are a way to avoid being caught in a politics that is merely reactive or timidly reformist." - Hari Kunzru in The Guardian, June 22, 2017

Another old but new again (alas) book is The Origins of Totalinarianism by Hannah Arendt. It was mentioned last December by Washington Post columnist, Jeffrey Isaac. "Origins charts the 'grotesque disparity between cause and effect,' which made the horrors of the 1940s so surprising, and shocking, to so many. One reason the book resonates so strongly today is its fixation on the way many “bads” long taken for granted can come together to generate a maelstrom of evil and horror foreseen by no one, perhaps not even the protagonists themselves. The lesson: Freedom is fragile, and when demagogues speak, and others start following them, it is wise to pay attention. 

Again, it's short and you can get it from the library if you way. Read Prof. Timothy Snyder's book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons for the 20th Century fits here, too. (You can even check it out from the digital public library).

Donna Brazile's new book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, is important in that it sheds light on the sorry state of the Batmobile. Dem leaders' reneging on their DACA promise made in September, broken in December, is one more point of proof that something needs to change if the opposition is to really be ready to oppose. Too many Dem pundits, it seems, don't get that we are operating in a different dimension now.

Sarah Kendzior has recently opined that Trump is using Russian hacked Republican emails to blackmail them into submission (how else to describe the fawn-fest). The expert on authoritarian states published a book last year, a collection of essays from her time at Al Jazeera English, The View from Flyover Country. Omair Ahmad's review at Wired begins, "Please put everything aside and try and get hold of Sarah Kendzior’s collected essays, The View From Flyover Country. I have rarely come across writing that is as urgent and as beautifully expressed. I came across Kendzior on Twitter, as the Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter organisations took off. At some point between those protests and the Trump campaign, Kendzior made the point that while we talk of the decline of Middle America, the loss of jobs disproportionately harms women and minorities – thus privileging the resentments of the 'white working class' was only a sophisticated form of racism, privileging white distress over those who are affected worse. This is the type of insight that is missing from the big mainstream newspapers and as publications such as the LA Times, rush to normalise the horrible lot that Trump drags with him into the White House, the need for clarity and a moral stand has never been more important." 

Jane Mayer's book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, shows how methodical has been the plan to bring back the bad old days of bought politicians and policies. From her website: "Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?     The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against 'big government' led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system."

David Cay Johnston has a book coming out in January - It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. He's the greatest and I highly recommend in advance. 

There are some hopeful movements. Here are three books

Kali Akuno was on DemocracyNow recently talking about his new book, Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. The book "is a chronicle of one of the most dynamic experiments in radical social transformation in the United States. The book documents the ongoing organizing and institution building of the political forces concentrated in Jackson, Mississippi dedicated to advancing the Jackson-Kush Plan

A 2016 book, We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States  
"Instead of fighting against what we don’t want, this book can teach us to create from the ground up what we do want, basing our vision in local control and law. By refusing to cooperate with the unjust laws that favor corporate profit over local sustainability, communities can show the way forward, driving their rights into state constitutions and, eventually, into the federal Constitution."

Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis by George Monbiot is an optimistic look at how this mess may give rise to a new politics and new ways of community. This description accompanied his appearance at the Festival of the Future City, "In his new book, Out of the Wreckage, Monbiot seeks out the best new ideas and creates a coherent, inspiring story that describes the present and shows the way to a better future. He explains how communities can be rebuilt, how economies can be recharged without destroying the living planet and how politics can once more inspire and thrill."

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