I've been an avid reader of Glenn Greenwald's writing on Salon.com and his former blog "Unclaimed Territory" for some time. A former constitutional laI've been an avid reader of Glenn Greenwald's writing on Salon.com and his former blog "Unclaimed Territory" for some time. A former constitutional lawyer from New York, in this book Glenn has turned his keen eye toward the Bush Administration and it's unprecedented increase of executive power. Through analysis of the Yoo memorandum and other quasi-legal arguments that BushCo. has put forward to legitimize their increasingly authoritarian governing (which is a term that can only be loosely used there), Glenn offers an insight into the minds that have crafted this power grab as well as a repudiation of the concept of an over-powerful executive branch.
A short read, and well worth it. If you like this, be sure to check out his next book, A Tragic Legacy, due out June 26 from Crown....more
The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is a strong contender thus far for my year-end "Best Of" list. The story of Attila Ambrus, a Transylvanian emigre whoThe Ballad of the Whiskey Robber is a strong contender thus far for my year-end "Best Of" list. The story of Attila Ambrus, a Transylvanian emigre who arrives in Hungary fleeing the persecutions of Ceausescu's Romania just as the former Warsaw Pact countries are beginning to move toward uber-capitalist economies, this is also the story of these Eastern European countries and their haphazard rush to embrace all things American.
Attila struggles to find any means of employment while living in a converted horse paddock while also serving as the 3rd string goalie for Budapest's premier hockey team, UTE, not because of any particular skill at hockey (anytime Attila is played the UTE team invariably ends up losing by double digits) but merely because of his dedication to the idea of being a good hockey player. After his illicit pelt smuggling operation is ended by increased border security between Hungary and Romania, Attila turns to robbery as a means to fund his lifestyle becoming a people's folk hero in the vein of Robin Hood, Ned Kelly, and the 19th Century Hungarian robber, Sandor Pintza.
The book is hilarious as it outlines Attila's meticulous planning for each robbery, the attempts by the under-funded and comical police to apprehend him (the lead detective learned all of his investigative techniques from watching dubbed episodes of Columbo), and the overall picture it paints of corruption and poverty in the transitioning country. The reader's affection for Attila grows, even as his form crumbles and he stumbles ever close to capture, as Rubinstein explains some of the larger political context occurring in Hungary at the same time, closing the book by outlining that the sum of Attila's total robberies never even broke $1 million (US), for which he received 17 years in a maximum security prison, while the autocrats and mafiosos that systematically crippled and bankrupted his country, when they were ever charged at all, walked away scot-free. It makes one glad to live in a country where such double-standards don't apply- until you realize that they, in fact, do. War profiteers, Enron execs, the Bush administration- no one will hang for their crimes, while our prisons continue to be filled with victims of class oppression and mindless drug wars. We are not so different from the Third world country that this story is set in....more