Four Short Book Reviews

Published by marco on

Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror by Tariq Ali
Ali’s scathing recap of the Blair/New Labour era in British politics reminds the world that the British have just as much to answer for as the Americans when it comes to picking absolutely corrupt leaders. It’s a very short book, but packed with a very succinct rundown of the depths of Blair’s moral depravity – depths which brings him to the nadir once monopolized by good old “iron balls” Maggie Thatcher.
Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture by Jeremy Rifkin
Older than Pollan’s more popular “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, but packed with much more usable information and far less self-indulgent. Despite the high information level, Rifkin’s style lends itself to quick reading and you’ll be appalled to discover that not a damned thing has improved in the way we prepare and consume food – especially beef – since the book was written in 1993. Rifkin manages to convincingly argue that many of the problems of our world can be traced back to our predilection for consuming food that takes a tremendous amount of energy and water to produce. Our overarching need to promulgate this lifestyle to cultures that have historically been much healthier and low-energy in order to generate revenue for a domestic – arguably now international – economy continues to this day, with devastating consequences.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
Gripping detail of the dark heart of globalization told by an economist who helped make it all happen. He was personally involved in Indonesia, Guatemala, Panama and Saudi Arabia and seemingly holds nothing back. The writing is at times a bit ham-fisted, but it’s incredibly earnest. It’s quite a quick read even if you don’t have a lot of familiarity with the topic (which most people don’t) and avoids the gritty details of the econometrics. Easily takes its place alongside similar books by Jean Ziegler, Greg Palast and Joseph Stiglitz.
Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal ‘08,No Child’s Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War by Greg Palast
A rollicking read packed with information by a reporter so good and so well-connected he’s only allowed to work in Great Britain for the BBC because the U.S. media has no need for his rather uncomfortable revelations. His coverage of the outright criminal state of American politics and electoral practices is impeccable and has to be read to be believed (spoiler alert: the U.S. has a lot of brass to claim that it is demcratic in anything other than name). The analysis of the oil wars, OPEC and the exact state of the global oil supply is spot-on and will be eye-opening for most. Hugo Chavez’s role in rescuing much of South America from the predatory lending practices of the first world is also given a much-needed airing. More than anything else, Palast eloquently – and with much supporting information – cries out for the lower classes who’ve increasingly gotten the short end of the stick in an America that’s gone off the rails established by those oh-so-revered founding fathers. He’s got a lot more information than Michael Moore (and way less bombast) and all the moral indignation of Ralph Nader (without the stigma).