The following are suggested books and other resources on topics covered in this issue.
For further reading and advanced hellraising:
The Sperm Crisis
For a regular update on Mother Nature’s environmental abusers, try Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly, a one-page newsletter full of facts through an unequivocally leftist lens. Call the Environmental Research Foundation at (410) 263-1584 for subscription information, or write P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403. $25/year (52 issues).
In its 13th edition, State of the World (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996) is the flagship publication of the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization in Washington, D.C. Essays by leading thinkers in the field explore topics that range from population growth to deforestation, and include pertinent statistics. Passed among CEOs and leaders of nations, and read in more than 500 college courses, the tome is an indispensable resource.
From the MoJo Wire staff: The Spermatology Home Page contains information on recent research on sperm, and tells you how to join their mailing list so you can keep up with the latest news.
Medicare and Money
Like so many hot button issues, there’s plenty of confusion surrounding Medicare, but for a few simple facts try Medicare Reform, published by the Twentieth Century Fund, a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation that sponsors research on economic, social, and political issues. A part of the fund’s “basic” series (which also explores welfare, social security, health, and taxes), this small-but-sure booklet gets beyond the bunk and presents pure, unadulterated info on the issues. Sections include: “What’s Right With Medicare?” (it’s more efficient than private insurance), “What’s Wrong With Medicare?” (like most private insurance, it does little to encourage preventive health care), and “Proposals for Reform: Strengths and Weaknesses.”
It’s all presented in language that makes sense, and is accompanied by relevant charts and graphs. For further information, point your Web browser to: http://epn.org/tcf/tcmedi.html, call (212) 535-4441, or write to 41 E. 70th St., New York, NY 10021.
For the basic rap on how your legislator is going to vote on Medicare or on any of the other blockbuster bills moving through the U.S. Congress this election year, check out The Price of Admission, a 250-page financial chronicle of the 1994 elections by the Center for Responsive Politics. Author Larry Makinson illustrates the patterns behind the flow of money from industries and interest groups to members of Congress–and the bills they support. Least surprising finding: a dramatic increase in large individual contributions to Republican candidates, which peaked just before the election. Contact CRP, 1320 19th St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 857-0044.
From the MoJo Wire staff:
The federal goverment has two useful sites for information and research on Medicare: The Department of Health and Human Services has their own Web page, while The Social Security Administration has set up a page to answer frequently asked questions.
For some other opinions, read Phil Gramm’s essay “Why We Need MSAs”, further MSA information courtesy of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and a doctor’s statement before Congress on the potential problems with MSAs.
Looking Back 20 Years
Two nuts-and-bolts resources that provide good condensed historical information are Chronicle of America: From Prehistory to Today (New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1995) and Who We Are: A Portrait of America Based on the Latest U.S. Census (New York: Times Books, 1995). Chronicle is a colorfully packaged Cliffs Notes of American history, one that isn’t afraid to include our worst moments as well as our best. Who We Are is New York Times columnist Sam Roberts’ interpretation of the latest census report. It presents surprising (if somewhat selective) snapshots of people from across the country.
For a little comic relief to go with your social commentary, pick up a copy of Freaks of Nature (New York: Quill, 1995), the latest collection of outrageous strips from John Callahan, the quadriplegic satirist who doesn’t much care what anyone thinks. His comics offer up scathing, uproarious opinions on everything from the media to public health, with some especially strong opinions on Connie Chung. The “freaks of nature” in the title refer to “the honest lawyer,” “the obedient cat,” and the “happy-go-lucky feminist.” You get the point. (Note from the MoJo Wire staff: Callahan also has his own home page, which collects some of his cartoons, essays, and letters.)
While the last 20 years comprise only a small part of The People’s Almanac Presents the 20th Century: The Definitive Compendium of Astonishing Events, Amazing People, and Strange-But-True Facts (New York: Little, Brown, 1995), this text nonetheless deserves a place at the resource table. In more than 800 well-written pages, editor David Wallechinsky has included everything from trivial pursuits (16 stupid thieves) to political milestones (the 10 deadliest wars of the 20th century); from famous moralists (Jim Bakker, Father Divine) to breakthroughs in science and fashion firsts (although he seems to have passed over the Wonderbra).
Don’t judge China Pop by its glossy cover. Subtitled How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture (New York: New Press, 1995), Jianying Zha’s peek through China’s sociocultural window is anything but cheap thrills. Zha, once a writer in China, moved to the United States and wrote for the Village Voice. From that perspective, she examines China’s cultural transformation (“the slow, soft, and messy meltdown of the old structures”), including an exploding consumer culture.
To jump into the current feminist debate, pick up To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism (New York: Anchor Books, 1995). Editor Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice) has rounded up some of today’s most interesting young–often contrarian–feminist thinkers. Highlights include Donna Minkowitz’s candid defense of her violent sexual fantasies; Veronica Webb’s explanation of how a supermodel can still be a feminist; and Village Voice writer Greg Tate’s “Born to Dyke,” a highly personal piece about why this straight black male has decided to live largely in the world of black lesbian feminists.
From the MoJo Wire staff: A number of our 20th anniversary commentators also have web pages, including Paul Wellstone, Robert Reich, Stewart Brand and Neil Postman. There’s also an online speech of Eduardo Galeano’s in Spanish.
Political junkies can get a brief history of the GOP front-runner in Richard Ben Cramer’s Bob Dole (New York: Vintage, 1995), a condensed version of the author’s earlier book What It Takes. Is this puffy paperback worth three hours of your time? Yes–if you believe, with Cramer, that “campaigns for president aren’t about the sound bites, 30-second ad spots, and poll results that pass as news in our elections. A candidacy is the sum of a long life’s doing.” Bob Dole is an uncritical portrait of the politician as a human being, replete with colorful war stories (“Dole scrambled from the hole on his belly, slithered out on the dirt, while the shells tore the air over him….”) and lots of slobbering on about the man who just might be elected the next leader of the free world.
But before you vote, pick up a copy of The Buying of the President (New York: Avon, 1996). Author Charles Lewis and the staff at the Center for Public Integrity give a firsthand look at who’s funding the 1996 presidential candidates and which special interests will get a payback if their candidate wins. CPI details the top 10 “career patrons” (wealthy corporations and individuals) backing candidates Clinton, Dole, Gramm, Alexander, Buchanan, and others–with some surprises: e.g., despite Archer Daniels Midland’s well-known and lucrative support of Dole, the Ernest and Julio Gallo family tops Dole’s patron list. This is the book presidential candidates least want you to read before you cast your ballot.
From the tech-know-files: Wanna play president? Pop in the Doonesbury Election Game: Campaign ’96 (San Francisco: Mindscape, 1995), a CD-ROM for Windows that simulates a presidential race with the help of Zonker, Steve Dallas, and Duke. From Georges Washington and Wallace to JFK and Gingrich, players choose from more than 60 people to run for president and first mate of choice. Once you’ve got your candidates, the game lets you field public opinion, raise tainted money, and slander the competition–just like in real life.
As though campaign paybacks aren’t enough, White House E-Mail: The Top Secret Computer Messages the Reagan/Bush White House Tried to Destroy (New York: New Press, 1995), edited by Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, reprints and annotates e-mail missives and gossip between Ollie North, John Poindexter, and other players from the Reagan-Bush era. In one, North tells Poindexter that CIA director William Casey feels Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is stalling on providing weapons for the arms-for-hostages deal. It reads: “…met w/Casey lst night after W’bgr speech. Casey then tried to contact Cap but he had already departed. Casey’s view is that Cap will continue to create roadblocks.”