I've read two of Greenwald's previous books (How Would a Patriot Act, With Liberty and Justice for Some) before he became famous for his connection toI've read two of Greenwald's previous books (How Would a Patriot Act, With Liberty and Justice for Some) before he became famous for his connection to Edward Snowden. So, I was acquainted with both his views and his writing ability. [As an aside, I found Greenwald's book about the American justice system particularly instructive as it laid bare the mistaken but commonly held belief that the US is a nation of laws and not men.]
With that said, I gave Greenwald's latest book 5 stars not for the writing and the book itself since I have a few criticisms about it. I gave the book the highest rating possible due to the importance of the message and the role that Snowden (almost a secondary character in Greenwald's narrative) and Greenwald himself played in revealing the sheer size and scope of NSA spying on just about everyone under the sun if he or she has an electronic footprint of any kind.
Let me get my complaints (relatively minor complaints in the scheme of things) out of the way since most of it has to do with the structure of the book.
First of all, there's no index which makes referencing parts of the book later on more difficult. The book could have also benefited from the inclusion of at least one appendix, including a glossary of terms to include all the myriad acronyms. A graph of a timeline of court rulings and gov't actions would also have been helpful.
I also think it would have been beneficial to include a brief history of US gov't surveillance on American citizens going back to the early 1900s and the exact set of circumstances that ultimately led to the creation of the FISA court in the first place. Furthermore, I think that should have come at the front of the book so that the reader had a real grasp of past abuses prior to reading about our present day situation.
Now for the book as it's written:
The early part of the book reads like a recitation of inside baseball in the sense that we find out exactly how Greenwald got involved with Snowden from day one. In fact, as hard as it is to believe, it almost borders on the kind of boring stories one of your friends might tell you when they include more details than what you need in order to understand what happened. However, I get the impression that Greenwald did this, at least in part, to offer both the public and the gov't a personal defense of his role in Snowden's actions in an effort to minimize any smear campaign against Greenwald based on any false stories that got published and those subsequent assumptions of his role being taken for granted as true.
In fact, as shocking as the revelations are about the widespread spying the NSA does on virtually all Americans all the time, in my opinion, the most powerful part of the book is the second half where Greenwald outlines the incredibly poor job the media does in general and the incestuous relationship that has developed in the last few decades between the gov't and the media. If anything, it reminds me of the relationship that gov't seems to have with corporate America in general when one (the gov't) seems to be doing the bidding of the other (big business). Of course, in this particular case the roles are reversed since the media seems to be doing the bidding of the gov't instead of acting in an oversight role.
Although I think Greenwald tries to downplay any reference to Orwell's book, 1984, (probably because it simply sounds so outlandish and hyperbolic), what's happening right now in America, with the widespread spying that the gov't and corporate contractors are engaging in as symbiotic partners, the events of today could easily be a prequel to Orwell's world.
Unfortunately, we as Americans would be making a huge mistake if we assumed that it can't happen here as Sinclair Lewis tried to warn us in his 1935 book by the same name. Alas, I worry about both apathy in the general population and the average American's undue preoccupation (a fixation, really) with nonsensical celebrity culture which, ironically, the other end of the media culture is shoving down our throats even as they're failing in their responsibility to keep us informed about what's really going on behind the scenes while people are being distracted by reality shows that aren't real.
That's why Greenwald's book deserves every star it gets, and more. Because he's keeping us informed. The only question is what will we as Americans end up doing with what we learn....more
This is a book that needed to be written in order to deflate the myth that is Sarah Palin. Perhaps the funniest moment in the book is when someone remThis is a book that needed to be written in order to deflate the myth that is Sarah Palin. Perhaps the funniest moment in the book is when someone remarks that Sarah is so real when in reality, she's little more than a pleasing image with no real substance. But that's not why she worried me. It was a combination of her pettiness and her high school mean girl personality combined with her ability to seemingly engender worship in her supporters that I found disturbing. That's why I believe that Joe McGinniss performed a public service in writing this book. Thanks, Joe....more
His books are not for everyone. But I find him to be a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale world of political writing. Perhaps that's why thisHis books are not for everyone. But I find him to be a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale world of political writing. Perhaps that's why this is the fourth book of his I've read.
He's an intellectual who was born into a religious family, experienced privilege in our educational system, and then covered wars all over the world for several years. So, he has a unique perspective that the average citizen would not have. He's also probably more well read in terms of the depth of his reading that most people who read his books.
But this book can be grim at times since it's a history of the liberal class (not the definition most people think of when they think of the liberal class), and how it's been decimated in the last hundred years and ultimately sold out in order to join the establishment.
Hedges' books do have a tendency to feel negative in his predictions of the future based on current trends, but this book is particularly difficult in the sense that Hedges sees so many forces lined up against human beings. It's not just greed and the political system. It's technology and our inability to face pending environmental disasters we're creating in our quest to have more of everything.
Hedges suggests people need to resist 'the system' in order that we can individually and collectively maintain our humanity in a world which demands conformity. But anyone who does so must be prepared to pay a high price....more
I've been following the conservative Christian movement for probably over thirty years with increasing concern. They have consistently pushed the boun
I've been following the conservative Christian movement for probably over thirty years with increasing concern. They have consistently pushed the boundaries and gained more power and influence along the way. I know they've essentially taken over the GOP primary apparatus in most states which means that candidates don't have a prayer (no pun intended) of even winning a nomination unless they can pass their litmus test. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the GOP House looks like it does now?
If there's a weakness in the book, it's that many statements are not necessarily supported with enough end notes. But the writing is first rate, and Hedges makes some very fine points throughout. I also have a few problems with the structure of the book, although, to be fair, I say the same thing about almost any nonfiction book I read.
The overwhelming strength of this book is when Hedges attends Christian events or retreats and reports what goes on there. Frankly, it IS frightening just how uncompromising Dominionists are and how willing they are to employ any tactics in the furtherance of their agenda. The truth (as in independently verifiable object truth) obviously means virtually nothing to them in that regard. I find that wholly disturbing.
Hedges also makes a very good point that movements such as this often seize power without the support of a majority of the population such as the Communists in Russia early in the 1900s and the Nazis in Germany some 15 years later.
Another well-advised warning that should be seriously considered, especially by people who very well may tend to dismiss Hedges as an alarmist (which he both is and isn't), is the fact that liberals have a tendency to be far too complacent in their general attitude toward these people and this kind of warning and too willing to try to seek common ground and or compromise. Compromise only works with people who have a compromising attitude. Unfortunately, the glaring truth is that these Dominionist leaders and their followers are not interested in living in a pluralistic society. They will never be satisfied with a live-and-let-live approach when it comes to how society should be structured. They want to dominate the culture and force everyone else to comply with their vision and their values. In that sense, they are very much like the Imams that run Iran and whose edicts pervade every level of society to the point that I could even foresee a day when these people would enforce a societal dress code just like Saudi Arabia has, not that that should even remotely be anyone's primary concern.
Read this book for one reason if no other. If the last thirty years is any indication of where the Dominionist movement is going, the time for complacency has passed. ...more
The Party is Over is a concise must read indictment about the current highly dysfunctional state of American governance which begs the following questThe Party is Over is a concise must read indictment about the current highly dysfunctional state of American governance which begs the following question: Which is worse? Is it Republican rule, or is it obstructionist gridlock where nothing gets done and problems only get worse?...more
I enjoyed the book. Frankly, I've long known for a long time that big business (corporations) use gov't to get favorable legislation and rules to makeI enjoyed the book. Frankly, I've long known for a long time that big business (corporations) use gov't to get favorable legislation and rules to make it easier for them to do business and make money. After all, those lobbyist aren't getting paid just to create some kind of nebulous "better business climate." Those campaign contributions come with the expectation of specific favors in mind. So, I appreciate the specifics since most, but not all, of what was in the book, I was previously unaware.
With that said, I had a few problems with the book. The first thing is that the beginning of the book was all lover the map. The author kept changing the focus of the narrative so often that it was difficult to follow where he was trying to go. It's as if he was trying to impart too much information all at once and kept changing the subject.
Secondly, it seems as if sometimes Johnston left out information that would have helped better flesh out his points. For example, I would have liked to have had more information about the 19th century case (Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific RR) which established corporations as legal persons by applying Constitutional protects to corporations as well as natural person through the use of the 14th Amendment.
Additionally, sometimes the author made statements of belief (as opposed to fact) that weren't adequately supported by what was included in the text of the book. For example, on page 85, Johnston states in the second paragraph that an article in the Times-Picayune referring to Entergy Corporation as New Orleans' only Fortune 500 company made it clear that there was a journalistic tilt toward the rich and powerful rather than to their readers. Really? Based on what was written in the book, I don't see that at all. If Entergy was NO's only Fortune 500 company, that's a statement of fact. And unless something else was included in their article which was not mentioned in the book, I don't see any slant or favoritism at all in that statement. Unfortunately, this and other claims (like the one on page 97 where Johnston claims that a PUC commission "put off the vote" rather than hear citizens' concerns or complaints) were not supported by the evidence presented within the book. Alas, this tendency tends to make Johnston himself appear to be slanted or engaged in favoritism against the corporations which are the focus of his book. I would only suggest that Johnston offer better supporting evidence for his claims within the book or at least openly state that at certain points he's offering an opinion as opposed to implying that he's reached factual conclusion.
But all things considered, the facts presented in the book make it clear that average people are unknowingly and unwittingly paying higher fees to corporations because corporations are using the gov't to codify higher fees than market competition would otherwise allow. ...more