By Ralph Nader
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Taleb (Random House, 2018). Taleb writes: “The necessity of skin in the game is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster. Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them.” Taleb includes people who spearhead military interventions and make financial investments for others. This book is a must-read for those who make or will make decisions affecting others.
Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows (Pantheon, 2018). For five years, the Fallows have been flying their single-engine prop airplane into dozens of towns to understand what the people there see as their community’s problems and how they are handling them. If you are similarly concerned about your town or city, there is no better book to provide a roadmap for what it takes to improve your community.
Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own by Dr. Andrew Weil (Little Brown, 2017). Dr. Weil is a pioneer in integrative medicine and a professor of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at the University of Arizona; you may have seen him on Oprah. According to Dr. Weil, “too many Americans are taking too many drugs—and it’s costing us our health, happiness, and lives… Prescription drug use in America has increased tenfold in the past fifty years, and over-the-counter drug use has risen just as dramatically.” The situation has gotten so dire that “adverse drug reactions are America’s fourth leading cause of death.” Dr. Weil’s most recent book is specific, useful, and will alert you to the dangers of living in a society that has become “drastically overmedicated.”
It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston (Simon and Schuster, 2018). Johnston is the last man on Earth that Trump would want to be questioned by or debate. Following Trump’s past business practices and now his White House antics, Johnston rolls out the facts and adds to his bestselling books and articles that have earned him journalism’s top prizes and built his devoted readership.
“Rule of Law,” Lapham’s Quarterly (Spring 2018). Drawing from a collection of essays, sayings, proverbs, and excerpts from the most insightful legal minds of the past 5,000 years, this edition of Lapham’s Quarterly paints a compelling portrait of what the law encompasses. This 220 page journal is stunning, gripping, and can best be read in small slices on the beach or in the mountains. I have an essay, “Land of the Lawless,” in this collection.
Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five by Miko Peled (Just World Books, 2018). Post 9/11, Bush’s Feds were looking for scapegoats. They persecuted the people at the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Muslim charity, and lost. The Feds then brought another documented miscarriage of justice, a brazen malpractice of the judicial process, to put innocent elders in prison for many years. Peled, a courageous and prominent Israeli champion of justice for Palestinians, takes you through the trauma this persecution caused and the shameful lack of media coverage of this travesty. Meanwhile, mass war criminals, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are at large, enjoying big speech fees, while Iraq still burns.
Citizen Clark: A Life of Principle (La Polama Films, produced by Joseph C. Stillman, 2018). This film on the life of former U.S. Attorney General and bold human rights activist Ramsey Clark won the best documentary award at the Berkeley Film Festival. Fearless, dauntless, calm and focused, Clark journeys around the world representing both the righteous and the wrongdoers because of his belief in due process of law and the adversarial system of justice. In a serious society dedicated to the rule of law, Clark would be a household name up there with the entertainers, athletes, and bloviating politicians.
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Duke University History Professor Nancy MacLean (Viking, 2018). This is the archive-based story of a systemic, cunning conspiracy led by a determined professor of economics, the Koch brothers, and other morally bankrupt plutocrats who helped their cruel ideologies secure footholds in our political institutions. MacLean outlines the steps the radical right took to take control of Congress, the courts, state legislatures, governorships, and the White House. Sadly, their sheer energy of purpose and financial resources towers above their liberal/progressive/affluent counterparts. Sobering reading that should galvanize readers who want to see progressive change in the United States.
Thoughtful Pause: A Political Philosophy by Michael G. Merhige (2017). Who could have ever envisioned this 67 page book full of laser-beam wisdom and insights by a former college baseball player, U.S. army careerist, former CIA officer in the Far East, and corporate development executive? Niccolo Machiavelli, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, and Will Rogers would have wanted to review these hundreds of memorable observations—so timely in today’s world.
America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges (Simon and Schuster, August 2018). Chris Hedges, the realist and no-holds-barred award winning journalist and war correspondent gives us the full antidote to Trump’s and other politicians’ fantasies and sugarcoating of what Americans are experiencing in this inverted home of the free. Hedges walks you through the reality of this “other America” blows away the insidious incense of the pontificating plutocrats and their toady oligarchs.
When the Senate Worked for Us by Michael Pertschuk (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017). This book should not be ignored by today’s Senators and staff. It is a throbbing narrative of the days in the sixties and seventies when enough Senators and their valiant staff overcame the corporate greedhounds and gave our country the structures of health, safety, and consumer justice that today’s Trumpsters are trying to tear down and make America Dread Again. Story after story about autos, drugs, energy, cigarettes, food, product safety, herbicides, flammable fabrics and much more will make it hard to forget a time when the Senate indeed worked for us—we who gave them the constitutional power that their successors now so abuse.
As we know, readers think and thinkers read. Enjoy!