Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Ten Favorite Books I read in 2007

By Time for change

In choosing books for this list I considered the importance of the information contained in them, the quality of the evidence the authors use to make their case, and how easy they were for me to read and understand and enjoy. I feel that my understanding of today’s world was improved a great deal as a result of reading each of the books that I describe in this post. They are discussed here in alphabetical order.

The Bush Agenda – Invading the World One Economy at a Time

The Bush Agenda”, by Antonia Juhasz, gave me a better understanding of the motives behind the Iraq War, as well as other related aspects of the Bush agenda, than any book I’ve read.

In summary, the Iraq invasion provided a great opportunity for many of George Bush’s wealthy supporters to make millions, billions, or tens of billions of dollars from contracts with the U.S. government to assist in the war effort and the reconstruction of Iraq and through access to Iraqi oil and other resources. A highly related purpose is for the occupation of Iraq to provide a launching site to occupy much of the Middle East, in order to satisfy the Bush administration’s imperial ambitions and acquire access to literally trillions of dollars worth of oil and other resources. The evidence for all this is overwhelming and is summarized in substantial detail by Juhasz.

It begins with Dick Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force meetings, launched just 10 days after he took office, and attended by representatives of many of the corporations who most benefited economically from the Iraq invasion. Minutes of the meeting showed the Task Force recommending to “make energy a priority of our trade and foreign policy” and “support initiatives by Mid-East suppliers to open up areas of their energy sector to foreign investment”.

L. Paul Bremer III, Bush’s appointee as the administrator of Iraq, quickly put into effect 100 orders which facilitated the recommendations of Cheney’s Energy Task Force and plans for the economic transformation of Iraq: All members of the Ba’ath Party and of the Iraqi Army were fired from their jobs without pay, thus putting hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (many who were highly skilled) out of work and paving the way for U.S. corporations to receive billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts; the “Trade Liberalization Policy” provided many benefits to U.S. corporations, devastating Iraq’s businesses and industries in the process; an order for “Prohibited media activity” essentially outlawed any news media criticisms of the Bush administration’s role in Iraq; The Foreign Investment Order provided the legal framework for the invasion of U.S. corporations into Iraq; Americans were placed in numerous key positions; and many other repressive orders were decreed by Bremer, including the granting of criminal and civil immunity for all Americans from Iraq’s pre-existing laws.

Billions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts were provided by the U.S. government for reconstruction and security purposes. But while almost all of this money was awarded to Bush and Cheney cronies, the Iraqis were almost totally excluded from the process. Furthermore, the reconstruction effort was a miserable failure, with electricity, potable water, and sewage services remaining far below pre-war levels. Audits of U.S. taxpayer funds found contract files to be unavailable, incomplete, and unreliable, while $8.8 billion from the Development fund for Iraq were completely unaccounted for. Yet none of this interfered with U.S. corporations receiving the full amounts of their contracts plus much more.

And as for U.S. oil companies, Production Sharing Agreements were put in place to ensure their access to Iraq’s oil, that access was multiplied manifold, their profits have skyrocketed since the occupation began, and the Bush administration remains hard at work to ensure that their access to oil increases and becomes permanent.

Juhasz sums up the situation prior to publication of her book:

While violence increases daily in Iraq and the resistance grows, the Bush administration can be confident about a few things. First, the economic restructuring is well in place and moving forward… Second, U.S. corporations continue to earn billions of dollars for work in Iraq and have the potential to earn far more. Third, a government is in place that, while not ideal, is certainly preferable to the previous regime in terms of its willingness to advance Bush administration goals. Fourth, and most important to many, the oil sector has been opened to U.S. corporate access and control… all things considered, Bush’s key political and corporate allies have much to be optimistic about….

As President Bush has repeatedly said, Iraq is only the beginning. In the name of spreading peace and democracy, he has revealed plans to take his administration’s model of imperial-style corporate globalization from Iraq to the rest of the Middle East… Having begun in Iraq, U.S. corporations are once again in the lead, eager to expand their own interests elsewhere…

Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Perhaps the most comprehensive explanation I’ve ever read about the world-wide environmental situation that now confronts us was written by Jared Diamond in “Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” (Chosen as “Best Book of the Year” by The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and others). Diamond’s book describes the environmental causes of past and present failed societies, and compares them with other societies that have succeeded, in order to identify the causes of failed societies. The theme of his book can be summarized as:

Environmental crisis + failure of society to address it == > societal collapse

Diamond’s reason for writing his book is to make the point that we humans have it within our power to either fail to address the problem, which will lead to world-wide catastrophe, or to avoid catastrophe by addressing the problem while we still can. In making this point, Diamond identifies eight environmental causes of the collapse of past societies, and he adds four more that are additionally relevant to our current world.

He defends the relevance of his analogies to the past in many ways. In doing so he notes two extreme and opposite points of view that attempt to minimize the relevancy of those analogies. One is the racist point of view that holds that past failed societies deserved their fate because of their inherent failings as people. The opposite and equally invalid point of view holds that “past indigenous peoples were gentle and ecologically wise stewards of their environment, intimately knew and respected Nature, innocently lived in a virtual Garden of Eden…”

Diamond’s book is almost devoid of present day political content – as illustrated by the fact that George Bush is not mentioned once as a contributing cause to today’s environmental crisis. It’s not that he doesn’t recognize the importance of political factors to the state of our environment. He ends his book by giving an overview of our current situation and concluding that it can go either way, that he is “cautiously optimistic” that we will succeed in addressing our environmental problems, and that it all depends on whether or not we have the “political will” to do so.

Diamond makes his points with a great many examples of failed and successful societies. His examples of failed societies include Easter Island, the Anasazi, the Maya, the Greenland Norse, and the Rwandan genocide, among others.

Diamond summarizes our current situation as follows:

Our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course, and any of our 12 problems of non-sustainability that we have just summarized would suffice to limit our lifestyle within the next several decades. They are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years…. Any of the dozen problems if unsolved would do us grave harm… If we solved 11 of the problems, but not the 12th, we would still be in trouble… We have to solve them all.

Thus, because we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustainable course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another within the lifetime of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. While all of those grim phenomena have been endemic to humanity throughout our history, their frequency increases with environmental degradation, population pressure, and the resulting poverty and political instability.

Diamond ends his book with his bottom line reason for writing it:

Thus, we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of distant peoples and past peoples. That’s an opportunity that no past society enjoyed to such a degree. My hope in writing this book has been that enough people will choose to profit from that opportunity to make a difference.

The Conscience of a Liberal

Economics is generally a very difficult subject for me to read about and comprehend. Paul Krugman, more than any economist I’ve read, explains economic issues in terms that are easy to understand, along with detailed and referenced explanations for the reasons behind the economic trends that he discusses.

The main theme in “The Conscience of a Liberal” is how “movement conservatism” took over the Republican Party and our country in the early 1980s, made substantial progress in dismantling the New Deal, and produced a degree of economic inequality not seen here since what Krugman refers to as the “Long Gilded Age”, which lasted from the late 1860s to the Great Depression of 1929.

When a political movement that benefits the few at the expense of the many comes to power in a democracy, that demands an explanation. Krugman discusses several explanations for it, but he believes that racist backlash against our nation’s efforts to end racial discrimination provides the main explanation. However, he also discusses the evidence that race as a winning issue for Republicans is now in its last throes.

In the last parts of his book, Krugman provides an overview of the situation now facing us and comments on where he thinks we need to go from here. He concisely spells out the difference between us and our political opponents:

Liberals want to restore the middle-class society I grew up in; those who call themselves conservative want to take us back to the Gilded Age, undoing a century of history. Liberals defend long standing institutions like Social Security and Medicare; those who call themselves conservative want to privatize or undermine those institutions. Liberals want to honor our democratic principles and the rule of law; those who call themselves conservative want the president to have dictatorial powers and have applauded the Bush administration as it imprisons people without charges and subjects them to torture…. with a political strategy that rests, at its core, on exploiting the unwillingness of some Americans to grant equal rights to their fellow citizens – to those who don’t share their skin color, don’t share their faith, don’t share their sexual preferences.

Krugman concludes that movement conservatism does not represent the vast majority of the people of our country, and therefore there is no room for “bipartisan consensus” with them. He explains the futility of compromise with these people and where we need to go from here:

The central fact of modern American political life is the control of the Republican Party by movement conservatives, whose vision of what America should be is completely antithetical to that of the progressive movement. Because of that control, the notion… that we can make progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish. To be a progressive, then, means being partisan – at least for now.

The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition. And achieving that kind of political preponderance will require leadership that makes opponents of the progressive agenda pay a political price for their obstructionism – leadership that, like FDR, welcomes the hatred of the interest groups trying to prevent us from making our society better.

Ghost Plane – The True Story of the CIA Torture Program

In “Ghost Plane”, Stephen Grey, Amnesty International Award-Winning Journalist for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, meticulously documents the illegal and horrendous system of torture and other human rights abuses that George Bush has perpetrated upon the world as part of his so-called “War on Terror”. That system has three major components: Known U.S. operated prisons at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan, where torture and other grave abuses of human rights occur routinely; Secret U.S. prisons throughout the world where similar or worse abuses occur routinely; and worst of all, the program of “extraordinary rendition”, whereby U.S. officials kidnap (or otherwise gather into their custody) men or boys and transport them to prisons in countries where few or no barriers to the most horrendous kinds of torture exist, in full knowledge that those men are likely to be systematically tortured and never released until dead. In his book, copyrighted in 2006, Grey estimates that 11 thousand have encountered such a fate since the onset of George Bush’s “War on Terror”.

Grey makes every effort in his book to avoid exaggeration or any statement that might be seen as an exaggeration. Here are excerpts from his basic description of the U.S. torture program from his introduction:

As I continued my reporting in Washington, I heard whispers that there was something much bigger going on: a system of clandestine prisons that involved the incarceration of thousands of prisoners, not just the few hundred in Cuba. While the president spoke of spreading liberty across the world, CIA insiders spoke of a return to the old days of working hand in glove with some of the most repressive secret police in the world…

Much later, when more pieces of the puzzle were in place, I thought of the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the dissident writer. When he described the Soviet Union’s network of prison camps as a “Gulag Archipelago” he was portraying a parallel world that existed within physical reach of everyday life but yet could remain unseen to ordinary people. After years of persecution, Solzhenitsyn described a jail system that he knew from firsthand experience had swallowed millions of citizens into its entrails. At least a tenth never emerged alive.

The modern world of prisons run by the United States and its allies in the war on terror is far less extensive. Its inmates number thousands not millions. And yet there are eerie parallels between what the Soviet Union created and what we, in the West, are now constructing…

The Gulag was so very vast and extensive, and yet still it could be hidden in people’s minds. Ordinary citizens could persuade themselves that all was normal even as their next-door neighbor disappeared…

How much more than surreal, more apart from normal existence, was the network of prisons run after 9/11 by the United States and its allies? How much easier too was the denial and the double-think when those who disappeared into the modern gulag were, being mainly swarthy skinned Arabs with a different culture, so different from most of us in the West? How much more reassuring were the words from our politicians that all was well?

In the last chapter of his book, titled “Conclusion: Winning the War”, Grey explains how George Bush’s “War on Terror” has only increased the terrorism risk, and he notes that “it is imperative that an informed debate begins on whether the West’s approach, conducted largely in the shadows, is the right one”. Introducing his recommendations for radically changing our approach, Grey says:

I’ve spoken both to those who waged this war – those closely connected to the CIA and the U.S. government – and to those caught up in its operations, including many former prisoners. Despite describing things from different poles, I’ve found that most have described a similar story. Few on either side doubt, for instance, the scale of torture implemented within many of the jails where America has sent its prisoners…

Grey ends his book by noting:

Ignoring human rights helps recruit terrorists, justifies terrorism, and defeats the best thing we have going for us – the fact we stand for something better: for freedom, tolerance, and laws that protect all.

House of War – The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power

House of War” by James Carroll is a must read for anyone who wants to thoroughly understand the rise and effects of the military industrial complex in our country. Carroll is a former priest and the son of a three star U.S. Air Forces general. Though he maintained a great deal of respect for his father, he nevertheless developed strong anti-war views in his youth – which led to tensions with his father. Though he writes from an anti-war point of view, all of the facts on which he bases his opinions are thoroughly documented. At the same time, his emotional investment in the issues he writes about makes his book all the more interesting.

The main theme of Carroll’s book is that the Pentagon has become a tremendously powerful entity unto itself, beyond the control of anyone, even American presidents. In the last pages of his book he says:

The Pentagon defines America’s reach across the world, and for countless millions that reach is choking… The Pentagon is now the dead center of an open-ended martial enterprise that no longer pretends to be defense. The world itself must be reshaped… The Pentagon has, more than ever, become a place to fear.

Though his book is even-handed from a political standpoint, Carroll is very straight forward and scathing in his description of the irresponsible way that the Bush administration has handled his “War on Terror”:

Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons… was the primary reason given for the Bush invasion of Iraq… Yet the concerns about weapons of mass destruction that justified the attack on Iraq, and may yet do so on Iran, are absurdly misplaced. When it comes to nuclear danger, Washington is by far the graver problem, beginning with its post-Cold War refusal to significantly downsize its own nuclear arsenal… to the Bush administration’s 2003 repudiation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the 2004 deployment of missile defense, which motivated Russia and China to add “hair” to the hair trigger; to the Bush administration’s stated – and unprecedented – readiness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states… Under Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon embarked in 2002 on the stunning project of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons…

The effect of all this… is to legitimize nuclear-based politics, giving other nations, friend and foe alike, compelling reasons to acquire a nuclear capacity, if only for deterrence, and prompting them to behave in similar ways. That pattern was fully evident in Iran and North Korea, beginning almost immediately after the launching of the Global War on Terror, and the pattern promises to show itself in “nuclear-capable states” like Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Australia, South Africa, and others that long ago renounced nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan are all furiously adding to their nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon has become the engine of proliferation.

We come to what amounts to an ultimate betrayal by the national security establishment of its most solemn obligation, which is to provide for national security. The probing of questions about government failures before September 11, 2001, is meaningless when measured against the new jeopardy into which America was plunged by the war that Bush embarked upon… In late 2003, Donald Rumsfeld said, in an internal Pentagon memo, “We lack the metrics to know if we are winning or losing the Global War on Terror.” This odd assessment from a secretary of defense… actually reflects the Pentagon’s interest in an open-ended war. Permanent war means permanent martial dominance…

Nemesis – The Last Days of the American Republic

Chalmers Johnson calls “Nemesis” the last of his “inadvertent (non-fiction) trilogy” – a series of three books which were meant to warn Americans of pending catastrophe and the “decline and fall of the American Empire” if they don’t change their ways soon. He never planned to write three volumes, but the first two warnings were ignored so he gave it one last try – though he believes it is probably already too late.

His first book, which I haven’t read, was called “Blowback”, where Johnson warned of retaliation against the United States for the “covert, illegal violence” that we perpetrated abroad for the purpose of overthrowing democratically elected governments of other nations. It was written prior to the 9-11-2001 attacks on our country, but it didn’t receive much attention until after that date. His second book, “The Sorrows of Empire”, which was one of the best books I’ve ever read, warned about the disastrous effects of the monumental militarization of our country. And the focus of his current book can be pretty well ascertained from its subtitle – “The Last Days of the American Republic”.

Johnson explains the consequences of most Americans buying into the myth of a purely good and innocent nation as the victim of a world wide evil conspiracy:

Because Americans generally failed to consider seriously why we had been attacked on 9/11, the Bush administration was able to respond in a way that made the situation far worse…

Then he expands on the disastrous consequences of buying into Bush’s myth by explaining what otherwise could have happened, and what instead did happen.

We could have… won the hearts and minds of populations al-Qaeda was trying to mobilize… avoided entirely contravening the Geneva Conventions covering the treatment of prisoners of war and never have headed down the path of torturing people we picked up almost at random in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government would have had no need to lie to its own citizens and the rest of the world about the nonexistent nuclear threat posed by Iraq or carry out a phony preventive war against that country.

Instead, we undermined the NATO alliance and brought to power in Iraq allies of the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. Contrary to what virtually every strategist recommended as an effective response to terrorism, we launched our high-tech military against some of the poorest, weakest people on Earth. In Afghanistan, our aerial bombardment … gave warlordism, banditry, and opium production a new lease on life. In Iraq our “shock and awe” assault invited comparison with the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongols. President Bush declared that… you are either with us or against us… His actions would ensure that, in the years to come, there would be ever more people around the world against us….

Overthrow – America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

In “Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer explores all 14 instances of regime change, overt or covert, by the United States since 1893, including only those episodes where the intended regime change was successful and where the United States played the decisive role, rather than where it acted in concert with other nations or as part of a larger war (as in WW II or the Korean War). The 14 episodes describe regime changes in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

For most of the regime changes described in Kinzer’s book the results have been catastrophic for the country whose legitimate government we overthrew, often in behalf of a small wealthy elite that profited enormously from gaining access to the resources of the country. Kinzer describes the long term results of the regime changes as well as the motivations behind them and how they were carried out. Here is his description of the long term results from our overthrow of the legitimately elected government of Nicaragua in 1909:

In few countries is it possible to trace the development of anti-American sentiment as clearly as in Nicaragua. A century of trouble between the two nations, which led to the death of thousands and great suffering for generations of Nicaraguans, began when the United States deposed President Zelaya in 1909… Zelaya was the greatest statesman Nicaragua ever produced. If the United States had found a way to deal with him, it might have avoided the disasters that followed…

That terrible miscalculation drew the United States into a century of interventions in Nicaragua. They took a heavy toll in blood and treasure, profoundly damaged America’s image in the world, and helped keep generations of Nicaraguans in misery. Nicaragua still competes with Haiti to lead the Western Hemisphere in much that is undesirable, including rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and deaths from curable diseases.

The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine”, by Naomi Klein, is the only book on my 2007 list that I haven’t finished yet. But it is too important to leave off any list.

I believe that this book goes a very long way towards explaining why so much of the world’s population is impoverished today. It is no accident. Third World nations have to a very large extent been kept down by external human forces who seek to profit from the labors of the poor. To a very large extent today, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are both very much under the control of the United States, are instruments which facilitate this process. They loan money to impoverished nations that are desperate for it, imposing conditions on those nations which work to keep the great majority of its inhabitants impoverished indefinitely. The process is something akin to loan sharking or indentured servitude. Since the governing elites of those nations usually profit from the deal, they have some motivation to play along with it.

The underpinning for the whole system is right wing economic ideology of the type first put forth by Milton Friedman. Since the rules of the game are so painful to the vast majority of a country’s inhabitants, various methods have had to be developed to keep the population in line. Sometimes that involves martial law and widespread kidnappings, executions, disappearances and torture, as under Pinochet in Chile. But many other methods have been developed as well, and often financial pressures or threats are enough to do the job. Taken as a whole, Klein terms these methods “shock therapy” – a therapy that is brutal enough to make a person or a population docile enough to go along with what they’re told to do. This is how she describes the beginnings of it in the introduction to her book:

Friedman first learned how to exploit a large-scale shock or crisis in the mid-seventies, when he acted as adviser to the Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock following Pinochet’s violent coup, but the country was also traumatized by severe hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy – tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation… It was the most extreme capitalist make-over ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a “Chicago School” revolution… Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the economic shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that “facilitate the adjustment”. He coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic “shock treatment.” In the decades since, whenever governments have imposed sweeping free-market programs, the all-at-once shock treatment, or “shock therapy,” has been the method of choice. Pinochet also facilitated the adjustment with his own shock treatments…

It is also important to note here that Klein’s book exhibits an interesting parallel with two books written by John Perkins – “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and “The Secret History of the American Empire – Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption” (also excellent books, but I didn’t have room for them on this list). Klein and Perkins write about very much the same phenomenon and reach very similar conclusions. The difference is that while Perkins bases his account mainly on his personal experiences and observations, Klein takes a wider view of the situation and bases her conclusions on extensive research and investigation.

It is worth quoting John Perkins here on his summary of how the system works:

We build a global empire. We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs (Economic hit men) provide favors...

Static – Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back

Amy Goodman is one of our country’s most valuable journalists. Any time I read a book that deals with issues of substantial importance to our country and our world, it turns out that Amy Goodman has interviewed the author on her radio program, “Democracy Now”.

Static” was written by Amy and her brother, David Goodman. The book is a scathing but accurate and very well documented critique of journalism in our country today. It describes how much of the “news” we receive today is more akin to corporate propaganda than it is to news. Related to that, it also describes how the Bush administration goes to great lengths to control the news that Americans receive and suppress news that it feels threatened by.

Here is the Goodman’s description of some things the Bush administration has done to suppress news of the Iraq War, especially related to American atrocities:

The Al Jazeera offices in Afghanistan and Basra were bombed by American planes, and two of its correspondents have been imprisoned on unspecified terrorism charges… Al Jazeera’s journalists are not the only ones under siege. The Iraq War has been among the deadliest conflicts ever for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that by mid-2006, over 100 journalists and media assistants had been killed in Iraq while doing their jobs. By comparison, 66 journalists lost their lives over the course of the 20-year-long Vietnam conflict. More than half of those killed in Iraq were Iraqi and other Arab journalists. Fifteen journalists have been killed by U.S. fire…

Journalists also risk arrest while reporting on the war in Iraq: In 2005 alone, U.S. forces arrested seven Iraqi journalists “for prolonged periods without charge or the disclosure of any supporting evidence,” according to CPJ. All were eventually released, and no charges were ever filed. CPJ concluded that the Pentagon has “displayed a pattern of disregard when confronted with issues involving the security of Iraqi journalists and citizens.”…

In an extraordinary attack on the press, the U.S. military declared in April 2004 that there could be no peace for Fallujah unless Al Jazeera abandoned the city … In August 2004, the U.S.-backed Iraqi government ordered Al Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau closed.

The take home message of the book is:

Now, with lives and freedoms on the line, we need a media that cuts through the lies and fakery that obscure the truth. A media that is fiercely independent. Unembedded. Journalists that works to inform, not to deceive. The soldiers and civilians in harm’s way in Iraq deserve no less. The citizens of the devastated and abandoned Gulf Coast are counting on it. And the people shackled in America’s secret gulags cry out for it. Free speech is democracy’s last line of defense. We must demand it. Defend it. And most of all, use it – now.

Takeover – The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy

There isn’t much more to say about Charlie Savage’s “Takeover” other than that it is an excellent and thoroughly documented story of every major step the Bush/Cheney administration has taken to subvert our Constitution for the sake of increasing their own power. His conclusion:

The expansive presidential powers claimed and exercised by the Bush-Cheney White House are now an immutable part of American history… The importance of such precedents is difficult to overstate. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once warned, any new claim of executive power, once validated into precedent, “lies like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.

Sooner or later, there will always be another urgent need.

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