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Showing posts from February, 2012

A Law Unto Itself

Tim Wiener's new book, Enemies: A History of the FBI sounds very promising, as he seeks to lay the federal bureau of investigation bare,

Under J Edgar Hoover’s 48-year reign, the FBI was a law unto itself, and more than one president compared it to the Gestapo. “No holds were barred,” admitted Bill Sullivan, the bureau’s head of counterintelligence during the late Fifties. “Never once did I hear anybody, including myself, raise the question: ‘Is this course of action which we have agreed upon lawful? Is it legal? Is it ethical or moral?’ ” Another agent put it more succinctly: “Nobody knew what was right or wrong.” The FBI was the closest thing that America had to an Eastern European-style secret police. 

This book follows up on his award-winning book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.

Ike gets a makeover

Eisenhower appears to be the latest president under reconsideration for his achievements, although Ike has generally been held in high regard by historians for his bipartisanship and "hidden hand" approach.  I think most presidential polls by historians have him in the Top Ten.  Nevertheless, Jean Edward Smith feels compelled to remind us what a good president Dwight Eisenhower was in his new book, Eisenhower in War and Peace,

In recent years, the “I Like Ike” sentiment has gained momentum with biographers and historians, among them Michael Korda, Jim Newton, and now, Jean Edward Smith with his new biography of Eisenhower. Much as he did with his 2007 doorstop biography of FDR, in Eisenhower in War and Peace Smith sifts through mountains of earlier appraisals, anecdotes, and historical documents and synthesizes the information into a crisply written and meticulous analysis of Eisenhower.

It is a much taller order rescuing U.S. Grant from the bottom of the presidential barrel,…

Dick and Bebe

Just when you think there couldn't be any more dirt left to dig up on Nixon, Don Fulsom comes out with a new book, Nixon's Darkest Secrets, which paints Tricky Dick in the worst possible light,

The President's closest colleagues complained at the way Rebozo monopolised Nixon's time. General Alexander Haig, his last chief of staff, is said to have imitated Rebozo's 'limp wrist' manner and joked that Rebozo and Nixon were lovers.

Fulsom explores the unusually close relationship between Nixon and Rebozo, calling Nixon's 53-year marriage a sham.  Seems we have another Nixon movie on the near horizon.


I realize this has nothing to do with American History, but wow! A genius and slightly mad at the same time:

Remember the Alamo!

This is the Alamo movie (1955) I remember as a kid, starring Fess Parker as Davy Crockett,

Of course, there was the more famous one (1960) with John Wayne, but I don't remember ever seeing it.  Then, we have this more recent one (2004) with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton, which tried to parlay action into gravitas, as if it was Ft. Sumter they were fighting over.

Wind Across the Everglades

I saw that today marks the sale of Florida by Spain to the US in 1819, although I believe Britain controlled much of South Florida.  One of the recent books on the Sunshine State is Michael Grunwald's The Swamp, which charts the tumultuous history of the Everglades and the last ditch effort to seal a deal to restore the national treasure before the Clinton administration folded its tents.  There were some unlikely allies in this battle,

Elections, Mr. Grunwald points out, tend to be very good for the Everglades. In 2000, the $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was making its way through Congress. It passed because E. Clay Shaw Jr., the 10-term Republican congressman from Fort Lauderdale, found himself in a tight race, and the Republicans held a razor-thin majority in the House. The speaker, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, threw his full weight behind the plan. "We knew this could come down to two seats, and if that meant we had to spend $8 billion for Mr. Shaw,…

The Met at 146

Happy Birthday, Met!  Apparently the Met dates back to 1866,

when a group of Americans agreed to create a "national institution and gallery of art" to bring art and art education to the American people. The lawyer John Jay, who proposed the idea, swiftly moved forward with the project upon his return to the United States from France. 

Santorum says Obama agenda not "based on Bible"

I realize Rick Santorum is a political opportunist of the lowest order, but I would think an attack like this is even beneath his already low standards,

"He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I'm not going to," Santorum told reporters.

At some point you would think enough is enough, that Republican voters would refuse to accept this phlegm that their candidates keep coughing up on the campaign trail, but given dear Rick's surge in the polls, it seems that the teabaggers have found their "man."

Also worth noting is his less than original use of the "O" in his name.

Here's a book I'd like to read this summer

Here we go again

ACTA was first promoted by the Bush administration in 2006, and appeared more an extension of the Homeland Security Act than it did a treaty on anti-counterfeiting trade.  But, here we are 6 years later under Obama with the US and Japan successfully able to bully the EU and other countries to sign onto this agreement which potentially could greatly curb the free flow of information, as this treaty would essentially use IP servers as watchdogs to monitor internet activity.  Already, many Internet providers have created individual IP addresses, much like old telephone land lines, that allow them to track individual activity.  The aim is mostly to clamp down on uploading, but this will no doubt impact downloading as well.

Not surprisingly there are protests worldwide over ACTA, including Lithuania which signed on last week.  Some EU countries are holding out, notably Germany, which didn't feel it had sufficient time to review issues of sovereignty in regard to this act.  American cit…

West Coast Sound

This looks like it could be an interesting diversion,  The Wrecking Crew,

On hit record after hit record by everyone from the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and the Monkees to the Grass Roots, the 5th Dimension, Sonny &  Cher, and Simon & Garfunkel, this collection of West Coast studio musicians from diverse backgrounds established themselves as the driving sound of pop music—sometimes over the objection of actual band members forced to make way for Wrecking Crew members. Industry insider Kent Hartman tells the dramatic, definitive story of the musicians who forged a reputation throughout the business as the secret weapons behind the top recording stars.

KENT HARTMAN is a longtime music industry entrepreneur who has worked with dozens of well-known artists, including Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Hall & Oates, Counting Crows, and Lyle Lovett.

Oops as Rick Perry would say ....

Bogus Quotes

One of the things I've noticed on Facebook the past two years is the great number of bogus quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers and other historical figures.  This is one currently making the rounds,

Like Washington would have encouraged insurrection while he presided as President.  This is a blatant distortion, as noted by guncite, of a speech Washington gave before Congress in 1790.  The actual quote is,

A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.

Washington, like many other Americans, was worried the fledgling United States was in a poor military position in regard to its hostile neighbors, Britain, France and Spain, and was encouraging the manufacture of more weapons to arm state militias and the marginal US Army. Yet, …

New Books

A couple of interesting new books that couldn't be at more distant ends of the spectrum.  In the first book, The Partnership,

Philip Taubman’s fascinating, haunting book, “The Partnership,” is about the drive to abolish nuclear weapons — and, implicitly, about why it will probably fail. Taubman, a former reporter and editor for The New York Times, tells the stories of five American national security mandarins who, in the twilight of their illustrious careers, stunned their peers by campaigning to scrap all nuclear arms.

In the second book, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History,

For a gripping narrative of that period, there are few better places to turn than “Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution,” by Laurent Dubois, a Duke University scholar of the French Caribbean. Now Dubois has brought Haiti’s story up to the present in an equally well-written new book, “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History,” which is enriched by his careful attention to what Haitian intellectua…

Baptism in America

I was perusing the Internet bookshelves for something recent and fell upon this book on Roger Williams.  It has received favorable reviews far and wide, as it places Williams at the center of the battle over free will.  In many ways, Williams appears to have beaten Thomas Paine to the punch, in his determination to defend civil liberty,

In several publications, he argued that the individual conscience should not — could not — be governed, let alone persecuted. If God was the ultimate punisher of sin, it was impious for humans to assume his authority. And it was “directly contrary to the nature of Christ Jesus . . . that throats of men should be torne out for his sake.”

This book explores Williams and the world he was a part of in the mid 17th century.

Mr. Romney Goes to Washington

You have to love how Mitt Romney is trying to recast himself as the Champion of the Middle Class, fresh off his big victory in Florida.  This from a guy who made over $45 mil the last two years as an "unemployed" governor.  I wonder if he tells his campaign staff to call him "Governor," as this was the only public office he has ever held, unless you count his stint as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He was noted as a moderate in Massachusetts, supporting traditional "liberal" policies such as health care, which he now runs away from.  He used additional "fees" on everything from drivers' to gun licenses to help cover additional expenses, rather than raise taxes.  He even came up with a "gasoline retailer fee" of 2 cents per gallon to generate about $60 million in additional revenue.  Obviously, this is a guy who knows how to count his pennies.  One would suppose he would come up with similarly creative means of…