Sunday, October 8, 2023

Books: On Current Events

There is a lot going on in the world, and there are three new books that will enlighten your knowledge on how we got here, and what the future holds: Justice Is Coming: How Progressives Are Going To to Take Over the Country and America is Going to Love It, by Cenk Uygur; Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal, by Bettina L. Love; and Cold Peace: Avoiding the New Cold War, by Michael Doyle.


Justice Is Coming: How Progressives Are Going To to Take Over the Country and America is Going to Love It 

By Cenk Uygur

St. Martin's Press; hardcover; $30.00

Cenk Uygur is known as the host, founder, and CEO of The Young Turks, the largest online news show in the world. He co-founded the Justice Democrats, a political action committee that has helped launch the careers of many progressive politicians, and he also was previously the host of MSNBC "Live."

In the engaging new book, Justice Is Coming, Uygur presents two ideas you won't hear from pundits and politicians, that progressives are correct on all issues, and that America is actually a very progressive country.

The media makes it seem as if the gridlock in Washington is caused by a handful of stubborn Republicans, while Uygur sees a government taken over by big business and their allies in both political parties. The geataway driver for this hoax was corporate media. To counter this is the fact that progressives will take over Washington, which Uygur contends will delight many Americans.

This book is a manifesto of sorts that seeks to apply the momentum progressives have already built to a concrete progressive agenda that activists, voters, and citizens can all rally behind. Uygur looks past former President Donald Trump (how many books can say that?) to the larger historical forces that have brought us to this unique political moment, and explains why and how people should fight, and how they will win. 

Unlike most commentators, who pledge a fealty to one side, Uygur calls out toxic Republicans, politely-ineffectual Democrats, and mealy-mouthed media mavens equally. There is no doubt, though, that Uygur crafts his message to Democrats and progressives who seek to change politics and society for the better.

In this excerpt, Uygur writes of the battles he sees in politics: "I sometimes think about that famous quote everyone puts on their Instagram feed, by the late poet Maya Angelou: 'When someone showed you who they are, believe them the first time.' The Republican Party shows us every day what it is. I'm talking about all of them: the leaders, the activists, the pundits, the voters. It is a party built on corruption that attacks anything and anybody that brings you facts - college professors, the media, scientists, experts in a variety of fields, and now even doctors. In other words, any neutral or objective authority that brings you facts, data, or information. You know who is opposed to facts? Someone trying to lie to you.

But look, as a political candidate and then president, Trump got good ratings. No, not approval ratings - he's been the most hated presidential nominee and president in modern American politics. No, he got good television ratings. The press never tired of Trump's act, and the truth is that most Americans didn't, either. Trump is entertaining. He is ridiculous. He is outrageous. The thing is, the news media shouldn't be infatuated with entertainment and entertainers. It shouldn't be about ratings and viewers and clicks and web traffic and listeners. But it is. And Trump knows it.

Throughout his political career, Trump kept upping the ante - saying more and more batshit-crazy stuff and getting correspondingly more and more media coverage for it. It was an addiction for news executives, and they are still hooked. Trump got about five bullion dollars in free media coverage during the 2016 election.

But as you'll see here, the Republican party had already gone down a dark path by the time Trump arrived on the scene. It had laid the foundation for the extreme direction he would take. And the media had covered it up all along. It wasn't just because they were intimidated by Republicans. It's also because the mainstream media in America are part of the corporate machinery that has taken over the country. Republicans are the party of Big Business. The media had a vested interest in their winning. The more the GOP won, the more tax cuts and deregulation media companies received. The GOP was good for business.

In fact, there are two different story lines here. One is conservatives versus progressives. As you'll see throughout this book, that's a relatively east competition for progressives to win. Most of the country agrees with us on nearly every issue, the younger generations are overwhelmingly progressive, and progressive ideals are woven into the fabric of American society. America is indisputably progressive.

The harder battle to win is the one against the establishment. This is outsiders versus insiders. The rebel alliance versus the corporate machines. As you'll see here, we live under corporate rule, but we don't know it. The media serve as the Matrix that plugs us into a completely skewed version of reality. They are the great protectors of the status quo. Populists have to unplug our fellow citizens from that machine and fight back against the establishment.

These fights will not be easy, but the good news is that our victory is inevitable. Progressives always win at the end. That is the story of human history. Change is the only constant. So, change is coming - and bringing justice with it."

Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal

By Bettina L. Love

St. Martin's Press; hardcover; $29.00

Bettina L. Love is the William F. Russell Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, the bestselling author of We Want To Do More Than Survive, and in 2022, was named by the Kennedy Center as one of the Next 50 Leaders making the world more inspired, inclusive, and compassionate. 

Dr. Love is a co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), whose mission is to develop and support teachers and parents fighting injustice within their schools and communities, and they have granted over $250,000 to abolitionists around the country. She is also a founder of the Task Force that launched the program In Her Hands, which distributed more than $15 million to women living in Georgia. In Her Hands is one of the largest guaranteed income pilot programs in the United States. In 2018, she was granted a resolution by Georgia's House of Representatives for her impact on the field of education.

In the new, insightful book, Punished for Dreaming, Dr. Love shows how the changes in education over the past 40 years have implicated children of color, Black children in particular, as low-performing and criminally minded. It became all too easy to turn a blind eye to the disproportionate conviction and incarceration of Black minors and young adults. Ultimately, these children became scapegoated as the cause of America's decline in global dominance.

This cycle began in 1983 when the administration of President Ronald Reagan published A Nation At Risk, a report that solidified the idea that American public schools were falling behind the standards of other western countries. In response to it, public schools implemented and then taught to standardized tests, and private interests were allowed to infiltrate the educational system through charter schools, No Child Left Behind, and waivers.

"The cruelest part of the so-called reform efforts that have shaped education in the past four decades is that they have relied on and taken advantage of Black people's aspirations - their hopes for education, self-determination, economic mobility, and ultimately, freedom," Dr. Love writes. "When Black people have dreamed big, organized effectively, and fought hard enough that justice and grand-scale change seem not only possible but imminent - the insidious pushback to this comes in the form of reform."

Dr. Lowe locates herself in the story as an '80s baby, and she examines how her own youth was shaped in a public school divided into two worlds in which opportunity blossomed for one group and the carceral state loomed for the other. Through her story and those of her peers, Dr. Love makes the case for reparations as he delivers and accounting for the potential lost by her generation as she gives the reader a meaningful reckoning of this racist school policy.

"My life and the lives of my peers were forever shaped by coming of age in a generation whose own government declared war on them, not only in the streets but also in the schools, at the intersection of economic gain and racist ideology," Dr. Love writes. "Long-standing public institutions (education, housing, health care, public assistance, and labor) were abandoned; the impact of this intentional 'organized abandonment' criminalized our everyday lives inside and outside of schools, making carcerality inevitable. The stories people told themselves about kids who came from zip codes like mine, which they heard only on the nightly news, didn't end in high school. That story traveled with me to college along with the shame of being stamped inferior."

Cold Peace: Avoiding the New Cold War

By Michael Doyle

Liveright; hardcover, 336 pages; $30.00

Michael Doyle is a university professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He received his AB, MA, and PhD from Harvard University, and he has written several books on international relations, including Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism. Doyle lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Berlin, Germany.

Doyle is a renowned international relations expert, and his new book, Cold Peace, is an urgent look as the world is careening toward a new Cold War.

In 1990, the first Cold War was concluding, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Warsaw Pact was crumbling. The years to come were a time of immense hope and possibility, and heralded an opportunity for creative cooperation among nations, an end to strife over ideologies, and possibly the start of a stable international order of liberal peace.

The days of optimism are now over, as the world faces the devastating prospect of a new Cold War, this time orbiting the trilateral axes of Russia, the United States, and China. It is exacerbated by new weapons of cyber warfare and more insidious forms of propaganda.

Doyle contends that a conflict at this stage of our world history would have catastrophic repercussions. It would thwart collaboration between countries on reversing climate change, preventing the next pandemic, and securing nuclear nonproliferation. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is both an example and an augur of what costs lie in wait.

Despite all of this, Doyle sees hope, as there is an unprecedented level of shared global interest in prosperity and protecting the planet from environmental disaster. While unlikely that the United States, Russia, and China will ever have a "warm peace," there are compromises that could lead to detente. There is an elegant set of accords and non-subversion pacts that Doyle proposes in this voluminous work that could save the world.

Doyle writes, "In the end, we must understand the threat of a new cold war and take measures to curb it, lest we burden a new generation with a long twilight struggle of arms races and missed opportunities to address global challenges. Above all, we must strive for a detente in which covert operations directed against domestic political institutions and vital infrastructure are taken off the table in the name of mutual survival and global prosperity. This book is an invitation to begin that project."

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