Election Books
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Date: 09 November, 2004

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'Did you know that the machines used to count votes are often owned by companies with political links?'


Would the policies from the White House be that different if Kerry had won? Probably not, as Charlotte Haines Lyon finds out.

The Future Dictionary of America
Jordan Bass et al (Editors)
Hamish Hamilton £14.99

Democrazy: moral cowardice gussied up as a moral superiority. Dubya Emdee: an imaginary threat, upon which is based an extreme action. College: to steal an election through the esoteric workings of the Electoral College.

Such words and delightfully sharp definitions adorn the pages of this unusual dictionary. Writers such as Dave Eggers, Diane Ackerman and Simon Schama have pitted their wits together to come up with the dictionary that will one day (hopefully) define America.

Dodgy electioneering and politicking are historic entities and compassion and looking after the environment are new found realities. Superbly funny but with a bitter twist this dictionary is a must for all those who think they know about American politics. The attached 20 track CD containing REM, David Byrne and Tom Waits is worth the money alone, which by the way goes to good causes.

Imperial America, Reflections on the United States of Amnesia
Gore Vidal
Clairview £9.95Click to buy

Essayist extraordinaire, Vidal, doesn't just cover past and present problems with American imperialism. He questions the behaviour of politicians - mainly that of Bush but the democrats don't escape his glare either.

Whilst defence policy and certainly its cost is criticised, the Bush administration is also castigated for its lies regarding tax cuts, expenditure, social security and AIDS. The current policy on aid for HIV abroad has apparently led to condom shortages in Africa and the closure of five clinics in Kenya.

As well as asking why Bush hasn't been impeached under the false statement statute, there is a whole chapter looking at the privatisation of elections. Did you know that the machines used to count votes are often owned by companies with political links? And it is not just the 2000 election that raises questions; disturbingly there is evidence of election fraud on a far wider scale.

An easy but worrying read if for no reason but for the realisation that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will necessarily make the changes needed.

Another American Century
Nicholas Guyatt
Zed Books £9.99Click to buy

How did America come to dominate the world and is it all George Dubya's fault? Guyatt answers these questions with great insight and powerful analysis.

Guyatt dissects the American understanding of the "international community". He then questions how much this community has really benefited from such views over the years.

The critique of the United States since the end of the Cold War is fascinating, in that it probes the economic and military facets of their foreign policy. Most intriguing are the ideologies that have made for America's dominant grip on the world.

He is quick to point out that US led internationalism is not just the territory of the Bush administration and wonders if the average US citizen has a real choice in their foreign policy.

In fact we are reminded that in October 2000 Bush pledged to make America more humble. He believed that the Clinton administration had pushed the US agenda, by way of optimistic humanitarian gestures, too far on the rest of the world which was bad for everybody. Of course after 11th September such humility became a different story.

Neo Conservatism
Edited by Irwin Stelzer
Atlantic Books £19.99
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Tellingly it was difficult to find political books that are not anti Bush for this article. However look and ye shall find - and what a gem I found. Stelzer has collected an amazing collection of essays by such luminaries as Irving Kristol, Condoleezza Rice, Maggie Thatcher oh and a little known Tony Blair.

Neo conservatives are often described as a conspiratorial, secret group of Zionists who have access to the Bush government. This book demythologises them and shows that they are far more powerful and wide reaching than that. It also helps us to understand some of the underpinning thought.

Rice provides a staunch defence of pre-emptive action, though amusingly she says "it is not a green light to act first without exhausting other means." Well that explains Iraq then.

Thatcher provides a critique of the UN and NATO and argues for a new Atlantic initiative by way of reviving and broadening NATO.

Most glorious of all is Tony Blair's contribution, which was actually written in 1999, when Clinton was still president. It is great for those of us who miss the old Third Way rhetoric and the heady days when we still weren't' sure if Blair was Thatcher or Michael Foot in disguise. He even gives a warning to the US about not taking over the world. How times have changed.

Imperial Overstretch George W Bush and the Hubris of Empire
Roger Burbach and Jim Tarbell
Zed Books £9.99Click to buy

We are at a pivotal point in history. Money is power. Thanks to globalisation we are all just commodities to be used as and where desired. Global warming is no longer a threat but a brooding presence.

America is the most powerful country on the planet and may have more than a little to do with our current state. How has this world order been able to be created by fear and what lengths with the US go to, in order to secure their world?

Burbach and Tarbell analyse the unprecedented growth of the empire by looking at past and present actions. But it is their examination of the Bush dynasty that is of particular interest during this election fever.

Just how did Bush make it? Furthermore, should his tight relationship with the Christian right and his monopoly of faith be a concern? And let's not even mention the tangled web he weaves with corporate America.

However, despite America's seemingly unending drive for dominance, the authors leave us with the prospect of a very fragile empire. Will people really start to resist such imperialism? Only time will tell. However, just the title of this book justifies a place on your bookshelf, or certainly a reservation at your library.

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