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Book Review

Stanford in Turmoil: Campus Unrest in the Turbulent 60s

May 5th 2009

Book Covers - Turmoil at Stanford

Stanford in Turmoil: Campus Unrest, 1966-1972. Richard W. Lyman. Stanford University Press. 2009.

In 1966, when I was an undergraduate there, Haverford College set out to find a new president to succeed the austere, formal Hugh Borton. They came up with John R. Coleman, an outgoing, accessible leader who turned out to be the right man for that time and place. Haverford was small—fewer than 600 undergraduates—and intense, and although the spectrum of its campus politics was relatively narrow, ranging from anti-war liberal to anti-war radical, its disputatious undergraduates demanded a lot of their elders. Coleman’s warm inclusiveness and respect for students’ seriousness made the institution a far more civil place than many other colleges in that agonized and angry time.

Coleman’s appointment also seemed to confirm the Pendulum Theory of Presidential Hiring: search committees seek to make up for the perceived deficiencies in the departing executive by hiring his opposite. So imagine my surprise when, 43 years later, Richard Lyman reveals that Haverford had offered him the presidency first. Reading this in the light of my own vague recollection of Lyman’s buttoned-up persona, I couldn’t help but wonder what Haverford had seen that made Lyman seem the right man for the job. That question stayed with me as I read the rest of his book. Read more ..

Author Appearances

Edwin Black to Appear at Borders White Flint For Autographing

May 1st 2009

Book Covers - Nazi Nexus

Author Edwin Black will drop by Borders Books in Rockville MD for a brief autographing of his new book Nazi Nexus. The visit will be the first scheduled visit to a Borders by Black in years. His appearance was sponsored by History News Network and cosponsored by the National Association of Child Holocaust Survivors, State of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Spero News, The Auto Channel, Energy Publisher, The Cutting Edge News and Dialog Press.

Black, who makes hundreds of appearances each year at universities, churchs, synagogues, and at special institutes, has avoided bookstores in general preferring traditional lecture venues for his book tours. He was recently featured in a Miami Herald article about best selling authors who become incessant "road warriors" on book tour.

"At this time when book retailers--large and small--are suffering the ravages of the economic downturn--like every other segment--authors should make an effort to support their favorite bookstores. The Rockville Borders is one of my favorite and has been for years." The author will not make remarks or a presentation but will merely drop by for a brief autographing and will answer any questions. 

More than that, Black is using the opportunity to introduce the latest edition of his award-winning international bestseller IBM and the Holocaust. The new edition just released, and the Rockville Borders is the first in that chain to get their hands on copies. Nearly a million copies of IBM and the Holocaust have been sold in 14 languages in 60 countries. The investigation of IBM will be among the topics discussed in a 90-minute presentation on Nexis Nexus which will air on Book-TV May 16 at 7 PM EST.

If you have news of an author appearance, send the information to booknews@thecuttingedgenews.com

Book Review

An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies is...well, Irreverent

April 27th 2009

Book Covers - State Fare

State Fare:  An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies. Don Graham. TCU Press. 2008.

Lights, camera, action!  On September 24, 1900, Thomas Edison’s men began filming the shambles that was Galveston. Only two weeks before, a powerful hurricane had devastated the island city. The earliest image of Texas in the movies thus started “with a documentary of disaster.” So begins Don Graham’s smart little history, State Fare: An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies. 

During the industry’s infancy, the leading movie producer in Texas was Frenchman Gaston Melies, founder of San Antonio’s Star Film Ranch. Between 1910 -1911, Melies produced over seventy films, including The Immortal Alamo (1911), the “first significant movie made in Texas.” Actor Francis Ford (brother of legendary film director John Ford) appeared in Melies’s feature, as did a group of cadets from the Peacock Military Academy, who played General Santa Anna’s troops. 

But Texas was not destined to be the motion picture capital.  California beckoned. Despite Melies’s “valiant efforts to turn San Antonio into a mecca of moviemaking,” Graham observes, “it was another town in the West, Hollywood, that soon dominated the nascent film industry.” In late 1911, Melies departed Texas for the West Coast.

Graham divides his study into six chapters, several of them cleverly titled:  “When the Shooting Started,” “The Strong Silent Type,” “A Handful of Texas Steers,” “Grade A Texas Beef,” “Tex Messaging,” and “Schmaltz Across Texas.” He assesses a number of motion pictures, iconic, middling, and minor. Read more ..

Book Review

The Accidental Zionist: Why Israel Matters in Being Jewish and Saving the World

April 20th 2009

Book Covers - Accidental Zionist

The Accidental Zionist. Rabbi Ian Pear. New Song publishers. 296 pages.

'Know with whom you are speaking" is one of the many lessons Rabbi Ian Pear learned in his younger years, and is one of the primary tactics he employs in his inspiring and down-to-earth new book The Accidental Zionist: What a Priest, a Pornographer and a Wrestler Named Chainsaw Taught Me about Being Jewish, Saving the World and Why Israel Matters to Both.

This may seem like a mouthful, but Pear makes it go down easy as he unabashedly poses and attempts to answer a fundamental question: "Why has Judaism failed?" In a free-spirited but well-structured argument speckled with personal anecdotes, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Orthodox Shir Hadash congregation outlines the purpose of Judaism as the dissemination of ethical monotheism - that is, ethical behavior in the service of God - on a global scale, and the Jewish people as the messengers of this cause. He defines and describes the importance and advantages of this philosophy, and goes on to show how a halachic lifestyle is the ideal method of training Jewish adherents to embody and thus adequately spread this message.

This may seem like a mouthful, but Pear makes it go down easy as he unabashedly poses and attempts to answer a fundamental question: "Why has Judaism failed?" In a free-spirited but well-structured argument speckled with personal anecdotes, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Orthodox Shir Hadash congregation outlines the purpose of Judaism as the dissemination of ethical monotheism - that is, ethical behavior in the service of God - on a global scale, and the Jewish people as the messengers of this cause. He defines and describes the importance and advantages of this philosophy, and goes on to show how a halachic lifestyle is the ideal method of training Jewish adherents to embody and thus adequately spread this message. Read more ..

Book Review

Collapse of Distinction: Move Up While your Competitor Fails

April 13th 2009

Book Covers - Collapse of Distinction

Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails. Scott McKain. Thomas Nelson. 272 pages.

It's a strange time, uncertain and frightening. But it's a logical outcome for an economy fueled by funky credit, inflated real estate, cooked books, regulatory dereliction and more. Add the Internet, the commoditization of, well, nearly everything, and sundry international instabilities and you have quite a mess. We have quite a mess but life goes on and so does commerce, one of the surest expressions of human behavior.

Mindful of this context, the author of a new book implores us to discover ways to make our products and services (and the marketing thereof) more relevant and compelling by being different.

This is familiar ground. Seth Godin immediately comes to mind, with his purple cows and meatball sundaes. But Scott McKain takes a slightly different approach, starting with a trip to his hometown (in common with John Mellencamp) -- Seymour, Indiana. He visits some local businesses and notices the scant variation among the offerings of the various (though unvaried) chains of restaurants, insurance companies, whatever.

For some people, that's a good thing. A sales rep I knew confounded his more adventurous colleagues by insisting upon dining only at chains during their frequent road trips. One of his frustrated fellow travelers complained that they'd hit cities like Memphis and New Orleans with great local grub and this guy (senior in rank, alas) would invariably gravitate to the ubiquitous and familiar. But if you're not a chain, what can you do to survive and succeed? Read more ..

Book Reviews

David Ogilvy: King of Madison Avenue

April 6th 2009

Book Covers - King of Madison Ave

King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising. Kenneth Roman. Palgrave Macmillan. 304 pages.

For anyone serious about the craft of advertising, there are several essential books. Two of them, Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising have permanent places in my own ever-shifting library. The author of both volumes had been a cook, a spy, an Oxford dropout, savior of Masterpiece Theatre and chairman of the United Negro College Fund. He grew up in England (and considered himself a Scot), made his name and fortune in the United States, but never became a citizen (though the head of the CIA offered to make it happen).

When David Ogilvy, the most famous advertising man of his era, died, it merited front-page notice in the New York Times. He introduced the range-riding Marlboro Man, the eye-patched Man in the Hathaway Shirt and Schweppes' Commander Whitehead (and ''Schweppervesence''). He turned Dove (``one quarter cleansing cream'') into a powerhouse brand, catapulted American Express from a charge card for travelers into a multifaceted worldwide brand and established one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world. He's also credited with creating a ''corporate culture'' decades before the term was coined. Read more ..

Holocaust History

Nazi Nexus Powerfully Tracks American Corporate Connections to the Holocaust

March 30th 2009

Book Covers - Nazi Nexus

Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust. Edwin Black. Dialog Press. 192 pages.

Author Edwin Black is a child of Holocaust survivors. When he first saw an IBM card-sorting machine as part of an exhibit at the United States Holocaust Museum, he vowed to learn more about this machine and the role of its manufacturer. The result was 2001's IBM and the Holocaust, a devastating account of the venerated American firm's hand-in-hand collaboration with Adolf Hitler's Nazi government in identifying, organizing and exterminating Jews and others who were deemed non-Aryan and undesirable. Black's exhaustive investigation, abetted by an international research team, resulted in worldwide headlines—and stonewalling, obfuscation and denials by its subject—which continues to this day.

Black's next book, War Against the Weak (2003), studied the role of the fake science of eugenics and its rise in the United States in the early 20th century, which provided the rationale for Hitler's racial policies. In shocking detail, Black related the subjugation, sterilization and murder of thousands of Americans solely on the basis of their race, country of origin or failure to pass culturally biased ''intelligence'' tests. This was fueled by xenophobia and ignorance, and supported -- astonishingly--by corporate names like Carnegie, Rockefeller and others.

New Work

Black's new Nazi Nexus uses these earlier works as primary sources. But this new volume offers a compact and highly concentrated dose of history that powerfully demonstrates the deleterious effects of the convergence of avarice and ideology, American-style. Read more ..

Book Review

United in Hate: Leftists Love for Tyranny and Terror

March 23rd 2009

Book Covers - United in Hate

United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror. Jamie Glazov. WND books. 264 pages.

After 9/11, the social-democratic political philosopher, Michael Walzer, asked the readers of Dissent magazine a tough question: “Can there be a decent Left?” His essay was in reality an appeal for its creation, since Walzer was smart enough to realize that so many who spoke in the name of the Left that horrific year were anything but. But now, so many years later, little has changed. If anyone has any doubts about this, there is no better place to start than Jamie Glazov’s important new book, United in Hate.

Glazov discusses both the philosophical underpinnings of the leftist world-view and the current form it’s taking in the U.S. Starting from the premise that existing reality in democratic America has to be destroyed and that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” large segments of the left today seek to forge an alliance with America’s enemies, once the Communist world, now the forces of radical Islam. Glazov traces and seeks to analyze the causes of this movement from the left’s support of “the red flag of proletarian revolution” to that of the “black flag of Islamic jihad.”

In many cases, Glazov shows how the same people who once sang the praises of Stalin as an anti-fascist leader now praise Islamic terrorists who seek to attack the West. While many learned from 9/11 that the West had real and very dangerous enemies, major figures of the once pro-Soviet Left apparently felt rejuvenated, viewing the attack on the twin towers as the revenge of the masses for American oppression of the Third World. For these people, Glazov writes, 9/11 was a “personal vindication,” since they saw “only poetic justice in American commercial airplanes plunging into American buildings packed with people.” Read more ..

Tracking the Nazi Nexus

American Corporate Complicity Created Undeniable Nazi Nexus

March 9th 2009

Book Covers - Nazi Nexus

This article is based on the just released book, Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connection's to Hitler's Holocaust (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Adolf Hitler was completely responsible for the Holocaust. But Hitler had help.

When zealous Nazis were motivated to wage war against an imaginary generation-to-generation Jewish conspiracy… when Nazis created ghastly extermination plans to help ensure their master race would rule the world… when the German military was enabled to smash across Europe with lightning speed in heavy Blitz trucks, bomb mercilessly from the air in advanced JU-88s, and create carnage across the seas with deadly torpedoes… when Josef Mengele saw the scientific need to undertake heinous medical experiments on twins in Auschwitz… when the Reich was enabled to identify the Jews everywhere in Europe and then systematically pauperize and destroy them… when all these terrible things were done, the shape and scope of the horror was pivotally determined by major American industrial giants.

Now the dots can be connected. They create an undeniably Nazi nexus between iconic American corporations and the greatest crime of the twentieth century: the Holocaust.

Who gave Hitler the initial basis for transmogrifying centuries of outgroup religious hatred into a new twentieth century political anti-Semitism? It was Henry Ford, acting directly through the Ford Motor Company. In 1920, the gullible but mercurial Ford acquired a forged typescript convincing him of an evil international Jewish cabal determined to subjugate the world through devious manipulation of the world’s governments, newspapers, and economic systems. The revelations were contained in the notorious and fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

To purvey this new brand of Jew hatred to the world, Ford purchased a failed newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which serialized The Protocols for 91 weeks. His company then published the series as a book, The International Jew. Using the techniques of mass production, Ford was able to escalate the Protocols from a negligible, randomly circulated irritant to a national sensation of 500,000 copies. Devoting the national sales force and the assets of the Ford Motor Company to the task hatred made Henry Ford the first to organize political anti-Semitism in America. Indeed, he was the hero of anti-Semites the world over. Read more ..

Book Review

Inside NEST: America's Secret Nuclear A-Team

March 9th 2009

Book Covers - Defusing Armageddon

Lawrence S. Wittner. Review of Jeffrey T. Richelson's "Defusing Armageddon: Inside NEST, America's Secret Nuclear Bomb Squad". Norton. 2009.  416 pages.

The vast destructive potential of nuclear weapons is not limited to wars, for nuclear devastation can be triggered by accident or by determined individuals. The good news purveyed by Jeffrey Richelson's new book, Defusing Armageddon, is that the U.S. government has been hard at work for decades seeking to prevent such devastation. The bad news is that, in a world bristling with nuclear weapons and other nuclear materials, the possibilities for nuclear catastrophe are immense.

Richelson, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, has employed declassified documents, interviews, and published materials to produce a full-fledged history of NEST, the Nuclear Emergency Search (later changed to Support) Team that began to take shape in the mid-1970s. Drawn from government agencies, government and corporate nuclear labs, and think tanks, NEST members specialized in everything from detection of radioactive material to geography, from explosives to psycholinguistics. They were soon jetting about the United States and the globe in response to a variety of nuclear threats.

Much secrecy still surrounds NEST's operations, many of which involved very limited communication with local officials at the time. Indeed, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist acts, NEST was placed on alert for a nuclear attack on midtown Manhattan without any notification to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, his police commissioner, and senior FBI officials. Read more ..

Book Reviews

The Origins of the Cold War and How We Grew to Love the Bomb

March 3rd 2009

Book Covers - Atomic Bomb

The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War, Campbell Craig and Sergey Radchenko, Yale University Press. 2008. 232 pages.

Probably the last occasion which directed the attention of most non-specialist historians, and certainly most lay folk, to issues related to the motivations and impact of American “atomic bomb diplomacy” during and after World War II was the 1965 publication of Gar Alperowitz’s metaphorically “explosive” book, Atomic Diplomacy from Hiroshima to Potsdam, which argued that the primary drive behind the use of nuclear bombs against Japan was to politically intimidate the Russians in the postwar world.

Published on the verge of major American escalation in Vietnam, when at least in retrospect, historians, the news media and the general public, often lived in an age of political innocence (but then, was it not ever thus?), this argument that the bomb’s use had any goal other than to end World War II as quickly as possible and with the least possible loss of American lives was a concept that left many “shocked, shocked.”

Adding to Alperowitz‘s mixed reception was the lack of availability of key government records, which made it difficult to even “trust but verify” his account, which was heavily based on interpreting scattered fragments of statements and documents.

Adding to Alperowitz‘s mixed reception was the lack of availability of key government records, which made it difficult to even “trust but verify” his account, which was heavily based on interpreting scattered fragments of statements and documents. Read more ..

Book Review

Neocons Knew They Were Right From the Beginning

February 23rd 2009

Book Covers - They Knew They Were Right

They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons. Jacob Heilbrunn. Anchor Books. January 2009. 336 pages.

“I myself was once attracted to neoconservatism,” Jacob Heilbrunn tells his readers. “As a teenager and adult, I found that it supplied me with a beguiling but ultimately artificial clarity about the world.” Why he abandoned the faith goes unexplained but “They Knew They Were Right” is, despite some unnecessary characterizations, an astute and comprehensive group portrait of men and women who think of themselves as neocons.

Some of the book draws on the familiar (see, for example, Peter Steinfels’s earlier and more critical book “The Neoconservatives,” 1979), such as the early neocon generation’s City College years when Communists and Trotskyists, eating brown bag lunches, positioned themselves in rival cafeteria alcoves and taunted one another while the vast majority of students ignored them. The Trotskyists rightly expressed their revulsion at Stalin’s mass murders but also managed to overlook Trotsky’s authoritarian bent. After graduation they continued fighting while splintering into minuscule, ideological sects.

The neocons who emerged from that cafeteria never had any use for liberalism and never understood why Jews consistently vote Democratic. (78% voted for Obama). But liberal and moderate Jews have always been a mystery to neocons. It was the late Milton Himmelfarb, a Commentary contributing editor who famously wondered why Jews lived like Episcopalians yet voted like Puerto Ricans.  Read more ..

Book Review

Who's Ga-Ga for Google?

February 16th 2009

Book Covers - Google Book

What Would Google Do? Jeff Jarvis. HarperCollins. 2009. 224 pages.

Unless I missed an earlier one, this is the first religious tract about Google. Jeff Jarvis, a high-profile blogger, journalism teacher, entrepreneur and editor preaches that with few exceptions, businesses ought to embrace and embody the qualities that he calls (ugh!) ''Googley.'' Essentially, this involves total transparency and user empowerment through blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet conveyances.

For many industries, following Google's lead is a great idea. As detailed in numerous books, aggregated intelligence is a powerful force and by enabling it, businesses can enhance and accelerate product development, marketing and other vital functions. It's also an ideal way to handle customer support and service.

Jarvis cites his own case of being burned by computer manufacturer Dell and his subsequent (and oft-linked) blog posts, which he humbly suggests might possibly have contributed to the company's fall from grace (and profits). He followed up with measures to address his concerns and prevent others from suffering as he did. Ultimately, Dell adopted a number of Jarvis's ideas, though he extravagantly disavows any responsibility for their implementation.

Ironically, Google itself largely fails to embrace the transparency Jarvis says is so vital. The company, he writes, ''is as opaque and as secretive as the Pentagon.'' Guess Google isn't sufficiently ''Googley,'' according to its acolyte. Read more ..

Edge on Museums

A Museum's 'Visible Vault' Shows off Hidden Treasures

February 9th 2009

Art Topics - LA Museum relic

Museum collections are mostly kept behind the scenes, with only a small part of a museum's holdings on display at any time. But a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History is shedding light on ancient treasures from Latin America, once hidden away in the museum's vault. The exhibit is called Visible Vault.

The exhibit was a response to two dilemmas. Extensive renovations required temporary removal of the museum's permanent exhibit on ancient Latin America. Many other artifacts were seldom seen by the public, a problem for all museums with large collections.

The solution combines a conventional exhibit with an innovation. Behind modern display cases are storage containers with more than 600 items from the museum's permanent holdings. The container fronts have been removed and the contents can be seen, but otherwise, the objects remain as they would in storage.

The exhibit showcases ancient treasures from Latin America, from such well known civilizations as the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, and lesser-known ones, including the Toltec, Mixtec, Moche and Nazca peoples. The objects include an Aztec stone carved as a human skull, gold Inca drinking vessels and a ceramic pot from Teotihuacan - the ancient site in Mexico, with its front molded in the shape of a jaguar. Read more ..

Book Reviews

Woodrow Wilson: From Princeton to the Presidency

January 27th 2009

Book Covers - Woodrow Wilson book

W. Barksdale Maynard. Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency. Yale University Press. 2008. 416 pages.

Woodrow Wilson’s time at Princeton—as undergraduate, faculty member, and, most notably, president—has hardly been neglected by his biographers.

Years ago Hardin Craig and Henry Bragdon devoted individual volumes to the subject; single volume biographies and, of course, Arthur Link’s multi-volume biography have also highlighted the importance of Wilson’s academic experience to understanding the patterns and passions of his political career. Most recently, James Axtell’s excellent “The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present” (2006) pays considerable attention to the subject.

Despite all these predecessors, however, W. Barksdale Maynard’s “Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency,” is a most welcome addition to the literature. It examines in detail Wilson’s formative undergraduate years, as a member of the Class of 1879; his tenure as charismatic professor (1890-1902); and his initially successful, ultimately failed term as Princeton’s president (1902-1910), which placed him on the road to the New Jersey governorship and then the presidency. Maynard demonstrates that Wilson’s Princeton experiences were central both in shaping his ideas about education (ideas which often ran counter to increasingly important trends in this era of the “emergence of the American university”) and in providing an arena where he could test and try to realize those ideas. Read more ..

Book to Film

Star-studded Release of War Against the Weak--The Movie

January 26th 2009

Entertainment - War Against the Weak Movie Poster

War Against the Weak – The Movie was released on January 24 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the film based on investigate reporter Edwin Black’s opus on the origins of the eugenics movement in the United States, and its connections with Nazism. Hollywood luminaries Clint Eastwood, Kate Winslet and Mickey Rourke will be attending the festival and receiving awards at the prestigious event being held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, California.

Following in the footstep of the award-winning book, War Against the Weak – The Movie has already been nominated by the festival for its Social Justice award. After years of intense research and collaboration with author Black, and painstaking filming from Long Island to Auschwitz by noted director Justin Strawhand and producer Pete Demas, the gripping film version of the groundbreaking investigation into the eugenics movement comes to the big screen. The production company's announcement comes as the movie begins the film festival circuit in preparation for mass distribution.

Based on the best selling book by Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Black, the film brings together thousands of hours of research in seven countries to tell the horrifying story of Eugenics -- the quest to create a master race and eliminate 90 percent of the world’s people. A new Dialog Press paperback edition of the book is now available at bookstores everywhere. Read more ..

Book Review

The Man, the Myth, the Real Rupert Murdoch

January 19th 2009

Book Covers - Rupert Murdoch Bio Cover

The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. Michael Wolff. December 2008, Broadway Books. 464 pages.

Scan the online comments accompanying most current stories about the travails of the newspaper business and you'll invariably encounter declarations that most problems are caused by a dearth of "conservative" views. Forgetting for a moment that the definition of this ideology has become amorphous (believe it or not, "conservative" once included small government, individual freedom and lack of government interference in personal issues!), the idea that media in general and newspapers in particular are "liberal" is laughable. Most are owned by large corporations whose interests are hardly radical, socialist or anything other than determinedly capitalist. They are in business to earn revenue, not for ideology.

A few big city daily newspapers that lose tons of money are, indeed, kept afloat for mostly ideological reasons. Both are "conservative" and one, the New York Post, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the subject of this new biography by journalist and sometime-entrepreneur Michael Wolff. According to the author, the money-losing Gotham tabloid is less a propaganda vehicle than a means of providing its freewheeling CEO with a political presence in that media capitol. But with the company's acquisition of the Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, owning the Post, which bleeds an estimated $50 million a year, may be an unnecessary extravagance.


Book Review

Kennedys, Castros, and Murder

January 5th 2009

Book Covers - Kennedys, Castros

Brothers In Arms. The Kennedys, The Castros, and the Politics of Murder. Gus Russo and Stephen Molton. Bloomsbury. 2008. 560 pages.

Gus Russo and Stephen Molton have produced a well-researched and compelling study of the role Cuban, Soviet, and American intelligence agencies played in keeping track of Lee Harvey Oswald, the self-styled revolutionary credited with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in the years before Dallas. Brothers in Arms provides details of how the Soviets passed information about Oswald on to the Cuban intelligence agencies, who in turn decided Oswald may be of some use in their attempts to hit back at the United States for its efforts in trying to topple the Castro regime. Their investigation into the movements of Cuban Intelligence agent Fabian Escalante Font--before and after the assassination--is also central to their thesis that the assassination can be placed firmly at Castro’s door. The authors have utilized hundreds of documents from KGB, Cuban, Mexican Secret Police, and recently unredacted U.S. government files, and combined them with their own interviews of the players in the JFK/Castro conflict to support their thesis.

Additionally, one would have thought that there was nothing more to learn about Lee Oswald, especially in his relationship with his wife Marina, but Russo and Molton have done exactly that, and they also provide the reader with additional insight into the character and motives of the assassin. The authors are particularly informative about Oswald’s activities in the Soviet Union and his friendship with Cuban students in Minsk. Particularly revealing are the snippets of information about Oswald which reveal how the assassin manipulated Cuban and American intelligence agencies into believing he had an important role to play in what turns out to be his own fantasy game of building himself up to be some sort of important figure. Read more ..

TCEN Journal of Genocide Review

Disappointing Business For Michael Thad Allen’s Attempt At Holocaust Business Research

December 29th 2008

Book Covers - The Business of Genocide

The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor and the Concentration Camps by Michael Thad Allen. The University of North Carolina Press, 377 pages, 2002.

Hitler’s WVHA ran the concentration camps. Known in German as SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt, and sometimes misreferred to in English by several equally vague terms, including the “SS Economics Administration,” this almost innocuously named agency administered and organized hundreds of camps and sub-camps into a machinery of misery and death. Responsible for the “Extermination by Labor program,” the WVHA’s mission can best be discerned by Himmler’s 1943 exhortation, “Whether or not 10,000 Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany.”

Even though several authors, most notably Johannes Tuchel, have thoroughly documented the working of the WVHA, additional in-depth revelations would be welcome. I had hoped to find such depth in Michael Allen’s The Business of Genocide. Instead I found a shallow, often superficial, attempt, touching on much, penetrating little.

Unhappily, Allen distracts us with many pages exaggerating the importance of bureaucratic in-fighting, and glossing over how this relatively small but pivotal SS organization exercised its enormous life and death power over the millions trapped within its merciless grip. Hence, across 285 pages, we learn much about the tedious organizational evolution of the WHVA—consolidations and rivalries were common throughout all Nazi structures—but not enough about the real business of genocide to justify the book title. How the WVHA, especially its Office DII, interfaced with other Reich agencies and the camps to implement its day-to-day terror is not explained. Indeed, what Allen omits about the WVHA’s operations could fill a book--the book he tried to, but did not write. Read more ..

TCEN Journal of Genocide Review

Kristallnacht Paved The Way To The Holocaust

December 22nd 2008

Book Covers - 48 Hours of Kristallnacht

Mitchell Bard. 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust. September 2008, The Lyons Press. 256 pages.

In an orgy of anti-Semitic violence and hatred, mobs ran amok throughout Germany and newly annexed Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938burning 1300 synagogues, vandalizing schools, institutions, and cemeteries, wrecking some 7500 Jewish-owned businesses, killing nearly 100 Jews, and injuring hundreds more.

In the end, 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps during Kristallnacht, an ugly precursor to the Holocaust which broke out in Germany about 70 years ago.

Even by Nazi standards, it was a horrifying event. According to British historian Ian Kershaw, “It was the only occasion during the Third Reich when the German public was confronted directly, on a nation-wide scale, with the full savagery of the attack on the Jews.” He adds, “Never before and never again did the persecution of the Jews stand at the forefront of the public’s attention…”

This telling quotation appears in Mitchell Bard’s illuminating book, 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust. Largely based on eyewitness testimonyoften previously unpublishedthese chilling accounts are supplemented by Bard’s supple analysis of what came before, during, and after this shocking, brutal outburst of primitive anti-Semitism. Read more ..

America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

The Confrontation Requires Adopting “The Plan”

December 8th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

Storm petrels are birds renowned for warning of forthcoming cataclysmic tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons. Those who tried to warn the West in general and the United States in particular of threats lying ahead are identified as "human storm petrels" of our times.

In the late 1940s, a diplomat assigned to the U.S. embassy in Moscow saw the rise of a Soviet menace. He warned Washington about it. He was ignored.

In the 1990s, along with a number of experts on Jihadism, I tried to warn America about the gathering clouds of Salafism and Khomeinism. The strikes of September 11 vindicated those whom I called the "messengers" in my latest book, Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.

Today, new storm petrels are warning us about another type of storm—a sudden vast crisis in oil supply. One of these leading commentators is Edwin Black. In his recently published book, The Plan, the author informs the nation that an abrupt cessation of oil flow to the United States is more than possible—and America is not ready. It has no plan.

Black states it clearly: If events in the Middle East stop oil supplies, the United States and its economic underpinnings as we know them will be transformed. Our way of life will be radically affected. Back in 1973, OPEC waged a boycott on Western consumers in the wake of the October war between Israel and the Arab countries. Europeans remember the dramatic consequences during their cold months. Americans remember the long lines at the pumps. Today Westerners can project the magnitude of a repeated crisis on industries, social structures, and daily lives. The meltdown is only a reminder of the precariousness of capitalist societies when deprived of their needed energy. Read more ..

Book Review

Brooklyn Navy Yard With Steel Blood And Tenacity

December 8th 2008

Book Covers - Brooklyn Steel

Frank J. Trezza. Brooklyn Steel-Blood Tenacity. September 2007, Publish/America. 189 pages.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard has had a long life. A shipyard along the East River, it was owned and operated by the United States Government from 1801 to 1966, purchased by New York City in 1967, and then reopened in 1971 as an industrial park.

Two years later, Frank Trezza found a job there as a marine electrician for Seatrain Shipbuilding. Under conditions that he describes in vivid detail in his autobiography, Brooklyn Steel-Blood Tenacity, he worked on four VLCCs (very large crude carriers), an ice breaker barge, eight ocean going barges, and two roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ros) until two herniated discs and nerve damage along his right leg incurred on the job forced him into retirement from Seatrain.

Determined not to be sidelined permanently, Trezza later worked at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire, and a European defense contractor in South America. In 1999, at age forty-six, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Southern Maine, interestingly, at the same time his son received a BA in political science from the same school.

Trezza provides a brief historical perspective on the Yard toward the end of his account, yet what he essentially presents is autobiography--the story of how he and his wife, Milagros, managed to survive with three children through difficult circumstances. Read more ..

TCEN Journal of Genocide Excerpt

The Shards of Kristallnacht

December 1st 2008

Book Covers - 48 Hours of Kristallnacht

An Excerpt from: 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust; The Lyons Press, 256 pages, 2008.

Kristallnacht. November 9-10, 1938. The night of the broken glass in Nazi Germany.

It is difficult to say that the destruction of buildings and books were more catastrophic than the physical attacks on Jews, the arrests, and the incarceration of men in concentration camps. But the destruction of synagogues, Torah scrolls, and prayer books attacked the very spirit and the soul of the Jewish people. Although the treatment of Jews varied from time to time and place to place in Germany, the existence of houses of prayer for decades and, in many cases, centuries, were symbols of the longstanding Jewish roots in Germany.

As the birthplace of the Reform movement of Judaism, Germany also represented one of the cradles of Jewish religious intellectualism. For Orthodox Jews, the attacks on the synagogues were devastating blows to their hearts. Jews who were not observant, however, were also shocked and hurt by the devastation because they too understood the importance of the symbols to their religion and peoplehood.

Orders to destroy synagogues throughout Germany and Austria went out on November 9-10, as seen in the following order given by a group commander on November 10: “All Jewish synagogues in the area of Brigade 50 have to be blown up or set afire ... The operation will be carried out in civilian clothing ... Execution of the order will be reported ...” Read more ..

Book Review

A Very French Assessment of the Left and the Right in Dark Times

November 24th 2008

Book Covers - Left in Dark Times

Bernard-Henri Levy. Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism. September 2008, Random House. 256 pages.

The terms Left and Right were coined in 1789 to describe seating arrangements for the National Assembly during the early stages of the French Revolution. Those seated to the podium’s right wanted to preserve parts of the past; those on the left hoped, in the name of progress, to invent a new future. But the maneuverings of politics soon muddied the initial transparency of these terms into an enduring illegibility. The ideas of the bloody minded right-wing reactionary Joseph de Maistre, the intellectual arch-enemy of the Revolution, for instance, became an inspiration for the early socialists—and so it has gone ever since.

The flamboyant French litterateur Bernard-Henri Lévy, widely known in Paris as BHL, acknowledges the problem. In his new book, he writes that “the famous split between Left and Right that has structured French politics... has become harder and harder to believe in.” That is because, to his dismay, much of the Left, cuckolded by history, no longer believes in progress or modernity. He describes the contemporary Left, with its signature scowl of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-liberalism, as “that great backward falling corpse which the worms have already started to chew.”

Despite his disdain for much of the current Left, and despite the fact that many of those closest to his point of view in France endorsed the presidential candidacy of the “right-wing” flag bearer Nicholas Sarkozy, a personal friend, Lévy refused to abandon the Socialist ticket. His dilemma, he told Sarkozy, was that no matter how much he liked, respected, and even agreed with the French president, he couldn’t support him because “the Left is my family.” Lévy’s new book is an effort—part memoir, part essay, part polemic—to explain the nature of those family ties. Read more ..

Book Review

The Mismanagement of America's Great Disaster in Iraq

November 17th 2008

Book Covers - War Without End

Michael Schwartz. War Without End: The Iraq War in Context. 320 pages. September 2008, Haymarket Books.

The Iraq War has been among the greatest disasters in modern American history. Michael Schwartz’ illuminating new book War Without End: The Iraq War in Context provides a comprehensive overview of the ideological roots of the war and its harrowing social costs for the Iraqi people. He argues quite convincingly that rather than it being purely a matter of administrative incompetence and mismanagement, the ideological zealotry of leading neo-conservatives was a principal cause of the American failure to establish political legitimacy after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He shows how neo-liberal policies and the rapid privatization of state resources backed by a doctrine of massive force helped to exacerbate the suffering of ordinary Iraqis who increasingly turned to resistance against U.S. power and rule and remain disdainful of the occupation.

According to Schwartz, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, America’s war aims were clear from the outset: to create a strategic base for the establishment of control over the Middle East’s prized energy reserves and to usher in an economic transition from the “socialist dictatorship” of Saddam Hussein to an unfettered free-market capitalist state capable of serving as a model for the region. In the aftermath of the invasion, Lieutenant L. Paul Bremer and his staff moved to rapidly privatize state resources, including the formerly state-owned oil industry and all sectors of the economy including the health and educational systems. They rewarded multinational corporations like Haliburton and Bechtel with major contracts to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure, which had been devastated during the shock and awe campaign and previous wars and economic sanctions. Read more ..

Book Review

Assassins and Assassinations and their Role in History Examined With Facts Not Conspiracy

November 17th 2008

Book Covers - Assassins

Paul Donnelley. Assassins and Assassinations: History's Most Infamous Plots. February 2008, New Holland Publishers. 192 pages.

Assassins and Assassinations: History's Most Infamous Plots is a compelling study by Paul Donnelly revealing the strange and complex world of the assassin. Throughout, the author shows the shocking ease in which psychopathic, professional or personal assassins can carry out their appalling act of murder---sometimes with devastating effect on the societies they attack. He has also shown how assassination in many parts of the world has not only been a normal and rational political act but has often been effective in the transference of power.

From the Wolf’s Lair of Hitler’s ‘1000-year Empire’ to the inner sanctums of the Kremlin, from the murderous world of organized crime to the political plotting of American and European anarchist groups and Islamic jihadists, assassins have attempted to change the course of history. Donnelley delineates the sinister history of this common and deadly profession with dozens of cases---chosen for their pertinence to world events and the effect they had on the society of the day. Particularly interesting are those cases which are usually not found in books about this subject, including Hitler’s would-be assassin Johann Georg Elser and Irish patriot Michael Collins’ assassin, Denis O’Neill.

Assassins and Assassinations is triumphant in two ways. The first is stylistic. Unlike similar books on the subject Donnelley writes with authority but does not tire the reader with turgid prose. The second triumph is ethical. Donnelley does not allow himself to pander to the constant harpings of conspiracy theorists who see every American assassination as an act of government betrayal. Instead, Donnelley focuses clearly on the facts and treats speculative accounts as nothing more than the efforts of the conspiracy-minded who always prevent facts from interfering with their prejudices. Read more ..

Author's Own Story

Mr. Jefferson's Women--A Look into Colonial Gender Realities

November 17th 2008

Book Covers - Mr. Jefferson's Women

Jon Kukla. Mr. Jefferson's Women. October 2008, Vintage. 304 pages. 

Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Thomas Jefferson’s extraordinary life, genius, and achievements. With few exceptions, however, little was known about the women who figured in Jefferson’s life when I began my research for Mr. Jefferson’s Women. The book become a pioneering inquiry addressing two basic questions: What kinds of relationships did Thomas Jefferson have with women? And, more generally, how did the American Revolution affect the situation of women in society and politics?

As to the first question, my research cast fresh light upon things we thought we knew about Rebecca Burwell, Elizabeth Walker, Martha Jefferson, Maria Cosway, and Sally Hemings. Readers have often expressed appreciation for the care with which I tried to show both sides of these relationships, but the primary-source evidence sometimes led me to surprising, troubling, or controversial conclusions. An angry email message sent after the book was mentioned in the press wondered whether I wrote about Sally Hemings because I was “ignorant or just a pathological liar.”

More interesting and less predictable reactions came from well-informed scholars dismayed by the loss of a favorite story (such as the highly romantic version of the Maria Cosway flirtation) or skeptical about the loss of a cherished assumption. “Do you find Jefferson any more sexist that any other of the founders?” a distinguished historian asked. We need to know more about the others, but the answer (especially after Jefferson’s experience in France) is probably “Yes.” Clearly Mr. Jefferson’s Women does contradict the hopeful essayist who assumed that an “enlightened view of women’s abilities” prompted Jefferson “to extend his democratic ideology to embrace women.” Read more ..

Book Review

How the Iraq War Aided America's Enemies

November 10th 2008

Book Covers - Unintended Consequences

Peter Galbraith. Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies. September 2008, Simon & Schuster. 224 pages.

The last time Peter Galbraith wrote a book about Iraq, the title summed up the problems of the entire volume: based on his own, highly idiosyncratic reading of Iraqi history, Galbraith prematurely announced “The End of Iraq." However, in his new book on Iraq, the title is nothing short of brilliant: Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies. That is by all accounts a crisp summary of some of the main problems that have afflicted U.S. policy in Iraq ever since 2003. So does it mean that Galbraith’s latest offering is an improvement on his previous one?

The beginning of the book is a little ominous. Included in the front matter is a page titled “Iraq’s Ethnic and Sectarian Divisions.” In the description of the “Shiite South,” Galbraith comments that “Iraq’s Council of Representatives has enacted a law permitting Iraq’s nine southern Governorates to form a single Shiite Region [capitalization as per the original] with the same powers as Kurdistan.” There is nothing wrong in the statement as such. It’s just that the law Galbraith refers to also happens to permit more than 100 other federalization scenarios. Basra can become a region in its own right with the other governorates remaining governorates; Maysan can become a region in its own right; Basra and Maysan together may become a region, and so on and so forth. None of these scenarios is mentioned by Galbraith and this is quite typical of his approach: he leaves out information he does not like and instead uses those few bits and pieces that appeal to him. The result is an outdated fantasy image of what politics in Iraq is like. Read more ..

Book Review

A Much Too Promised Land

November 3rd 2008

Book Covers - The Much Too Promised Land

Aaron David Miller. The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace. December 2008, Bantam Publishers. 416 pages.
After years of disengagement, the Bush Administration seems bent on brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord before President George W. Bush leaves office. But could such an ambitious plan do more harm than good? In his new book, The Much Too Promised Land, alumnus Aaron David Miller puts the Bush Administration’s attitude toward the Middle East into decades of context, and plots the complex and tangled roadmap to peace in the Middle East.

In August 2004, Aaron David Miller, a senior Middle East adviser to six American secretaries of state, brought 200 Arab and Israeli youngsters to the White House to meet the president. They were members of Seeds of Peace, a nonprofit organization that trains promising youths from regions at war to become future leaders.

George W. Bush came out on the steps of the Old Executive Office Building, grinned for a group photo, then turned to leave. When Miller asked for a word of encouragement to the kids, the president said: “Gotta go, gotta go.”  Then, looking back over his shoulder, he called: “Gotta implement that road map. Gotta do it.”  Read more ..

Book Review

The Method, Morality, and Madness of Killing Civilians in Warfare

October 27th 2008

Book Covers - Killing Civilians

Hugo Slim. Killing Civilians: Method, Morality, and Madness in War. Columbia University Press. 300 pages.

“War is cruelty and you cannot refine it,” Gen. William Sherman proclaimed in self-justification to the civilian population of Atlanta a few days before taking the city. In Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer doubted and resisted Sherman’s dicta, especially the refusal to refine or restrain. War may be hell, Walzer explained, but “[e]ven in hell, it is possible to be more or less humane, to fight with or without restraint.”

In Killing Civilians: Method, Morality, and Madness in War, Hugo Slim provides a panoramic perspective to this debate. Some readers will decide that the book is not their cup of tea when, early in the second chapter, he sets forth his seven-part categorization of civilian suffering. To abandon the book, however, would be to miss out on an illuminating, if necessarily superficial tour of the costs of war.

To take Slim’s catalogue of horrors at face value, more wars have been fought in Sherman’s mould—less humanely rather than more. While most religious traditions, including all three of the great monotheisms, have longstanding traditions of just war, it has been in only the past 150 years that governments have made concerted, coordinated efforts to restrain themselves in advance. The 1863 Lieber Code, adopted by the Union army, and the First Geneva Convention of 1864, mark the modern advent of coordinated efforts to make war more humane, first by establishing minimal rules of humane conduct, and then by putting the force of (international) law behind those rules. Most recently, international tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court have added potent muscle to law. Read more ..

Book Review

Edwin Black's "Plan," a Much-Needed Rational Roadmap For Oil Interruption

October 20th 2008

Book Covers - The Plan

The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops — or the Day Before. Edwin Black. Dialog Press. 192 pages.

I was expecting a dark tale of gloom and doom, a post-apocalyptic tableau of a born-again, prehistoric oil-free society. After all, Edwin Black is the author of the chillingly revelatory IBM and the Holocaust, a disheartening exposé of America's disgusting attraction to the racist pseudo-science of eugenics, War Against The Weak, and other sobering and impeccably researched investigative works.

Surely Black's new book about ending our country's self-destructive addiction to fossil fuels would be brilliant, but dark and deeply depressing.


Black states the problem clearly and without hyperbole or hysterics. He then presents a sane and remarkably rational step-by-step scheme for quitting our fossil fuel dependency. Along the way, he cites published, noncontroversial works plus his own primary research, which keeps the proceedings well out of the realm of science fiction, except perhaps for one element (I'll get to that in a bit).



The fact that this unending and expanding thirst for oil is the world's economic and political choke point is no accident, as Black recalls from his previous book, Internal Combustion. Throughout history, fuel has been controlled by political and commercial interests that were, as now, two sides of the same coin. And despite the fact that oil pollutes, affects all other prices and forces us to play nice with interests that are antithetical to our own, a huge socioeconomic infrastructure supports and promotes its perpetuation. But rather than pound the obvious, Black calmly sets the table, then moves on to his recommendations for extricating ourselves from the nightmare. Read more ..

Book Review

Hotel California: The True Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young...and Their Many Friends

October 13th 2008

Books - Hotel California

Hoskyns, Barney. Hotel California: The True Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends (Wiley&Sons, New Jersey, 2006).

In Hotel California: The True Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends (Wiley, 2006), esteemed music historian Barney Hoskyns provides an intelligent, engaging chronicle of the “singer-songwriters and cocaine cowboys” of the Los Angeles canyons, circa 1967-76. “This is an epic tale,” Hoskyns declares, “of songs and sunshine, drugs and denim, genius and greed…It’s about the myriad relationships, professional and personal, between these artists and the songs they wrote…(and) it’s a narrative of rise and fall…from the hootenanny innocence of boys and girls with acoustic guitars to the coked-out stadium-rock superstardom of the mid-1970s.”

In addition to examining the private lives of the canyon artists, Hoskyns explores the financial side of the story. He shows how such tough, savvy businessmen as David Geffen, Elliot Roberts, and Irving Azoff guided the careers of the L.A. musicians. Hoskyns also discusses the vibrant club scene where much of the action took place: the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, and Doug Weston’s Troubadour.

Hoskyns paints vivid pictures of his subjects. Consider, for instance, his colorful rendering of Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Linda Ronstadt. “A tenacious Texan with thinning blond hair, Stills had spent time in a military academy and brought the discipline of the place to bear on his musical career.” Young, Stills’s partner in Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, “was skinny and quiet and more than a little freaked out by the bright automotive sprawl of Los Angeles. His intense dark eyes in a face framed by long sideburns mesmerized women…The unearthly fragility of his voice paradoxically gave it strength and intensity. His guitar playing, too, was unique: instinctual, primitive, spat-out.” And Ronstadt “had deep, soulful eyes and a big, gutsy voice. She’d grown up in Arizona dreaming of freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” Read more ..

Book Review

A Lack of Historical Context in The Case Against Barack Obama

October 6th 2008

Book Covers - Case Against Obama

The Case Against Barack Obama. David Freddoso, Regnery Publishing 2008. 298 pages.

David Freddoso is among the young white men who rose out of the National Review-Young Republican farm league where Ronald Reagan is god and hating "liberals" is a way of life. He has written The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate. John O'Neill, of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth fame, blurbs the book, and Freddoso acknowledges and quotes his "former boss" and mentor: the arch-rightwinger Robert Novak. It is another Regnery hit job on a Democratic presidential candidate, the same right-wing publishing house that brought us Michelle Malkin's treatise on how great was the internment of 112,000 Japanese-Americans during World War Two, as well as O'Neill's 2004 partisan screed that defecated all over John Kerry's sterling Vietnam war record.

Freddoso cites as "evidence" emails he received from random people when they heard he was writing a book on Obama, and arbitrary posts from the comments section of the Obama campaign's web site. He quotes a "letter to the editor" from an obscure newspaper, and he cites Fox's "Hannity and Colmes" and "The O'Reilly Factor" as well as Chris Matthews. He cites a blogger from Jamaica, the charlatan Jonah Goldberg, the Harvard Crimson, and writers from the National Review, which give the book an "echo chamber" quality. There are numerous factual errors in the book that Media Matters.org has already documented. Read more ..

Book Review

Business Wisdom Gained From Major Business Stupidity

September 29th 2008

Book Covers - Billion Dollar Lessons

Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last Twenty-Five Years. Paul B. Carroll, Chunka Mui, Portfolio. 320 pages.

It always cracks me up when I'm reminded that hindsight is not only 20/20 but is often magnified as if viewed through the Hubble Telescope, especially true of tales found in business books. Whenever a spectacular yet disastrous deal is recounted, the warning signs are never subtle, always appearing in big, red, bold capital letters of flashing neon, and accompanied by ear-splitting sirens, wailing horns, and thundering timpani.

It's amazing! How did anyone make such stupid moves? That they were doomed to failure was just so obvious! There was no way they could possibly succeed. The executives who came up with the ideas, NS proposed, funded, supported, managed and perpetuated them were colossal dunderheads who should have known better. Big duh!

It's pretty much the same deal with Billion-Dollar Lessons, the new book by Carroll and Mui. The proprietary document fax service Zapmail by FedEx, Motorola's Iridium project, the funeral-home consolidation strategy of the Loewen Group, Ames Department Stores' acquisition of Zayre's, Kodak's stubborn refusal to get into digital photography, Sears' patchwork-quilt assemblage of disparate business—all of these ill-conceived and poorly executed ventures, and more, are recounted, deconstructed and criticized. And all seem doomed to failure, at least in retrospect. Read more ..

Book Review

Presidential Travels--from George to George

September 22nd 2008

Books - Richard Ellis

Ellis, Richard J.  Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush (University Press of Kansas, 2008)

Presidential travel is big news today. George W. Bush’s state visit to Britain in November 2003 filled papers on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet it was not a story pertaining to the “illegal” war in Iraq that dominated the front pages. Neither was it the exaggerated scale of the “Stop the War” march that colonized newsstands. Rather it was the litany of requests from the White House: from diplomatic immunity for 250 Secret Servicemen to blast-and bullet-proof windows installed in Buckingham Palace.

The commander-in-chief and a 700-strong entourage worthy of a traveling medieval monarch flew into London Heathrow. Once Bush stepped off Air Force One, Marine One flew the Bushes to the Palace where they enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the Queen’s hospitality.

How Thomas Jefferson would turn in his grave. The regal six-story jet offends the Jeffersonian image of a citizen’s executive traveling modestly among his people. Unlike the 43rd President of the United States, the 3rd shunned the trappings of monarchy and the “flattery and scheming of courtiers” (p.168). Even at his first inaugural, in 1801, Jefferson dramatized his “republican simplicity” (vii) by refusing the customary horse and carriage, choosing instead to walk the route. Unlike the 3rd President of the United States, the 43rd, at his first inaugural, in 2001, dramatized his “present-day celebrity” (vii) by choosing instead to drive the route, refusing the customary walk — up until the last block that is, after protests even larger than against Nixon, the 37th, in 1969. Read more ..

Book Reviews

The Depressing Truth about the Blindness Leading up to the First World Trade Center Bombing

September 15th 2008

Book Covers - Andrew McCarthy

Andrew C. McCarthy. Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. (Encounter Books. New York. 2008).

Before he was the notorious Blind Sheikh, the spiritual advisor and instigator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers and convicted terrorist in his own right, Omar Abdel Rahman was a guest of the American government. Between 1986 and 1989, the Egyptian-born Rahman applied at least four times for a U.S. tourist visa—such visas typically last 90 days. Already a credentialed militant, in 1987 he earned a place on the State Department’s terrorist watch list for his fatwa years earlier, urging the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and for his relentless preaching of jihadist violence. Only once did the U.S. refuse him a visa. But by then, it was too late.

Andrew McCarthy was the lead federal prosecutor of the World Trade Center bombing conspiracy trial in 1995 and the man who would put Rahman away for life. When he invokes “willful blindness” in the title of his absorbing new book, it is this depressing history—a fatal mixture of bureaucratic bungling and strategic shortsightedness—that he has in mind. Part survey of Islamic terror in the 1980s and nineties, part memoir of the nine-month trial that brought the World Trade Center bombers to justice, Willful Blindness is a bracing chronicle of the first major terrorist attack on American soil and a valuable reminder that radical Islam was a real and present threat to the United States long before September 11. Read more ..

Book Review

The First Amendment - Creation or Evolution

September 8th 2008

Book Covers - Anthony Lewis

Lewis, Anthony. Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment. (New York: Basic Books, 2008.)

Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment is part of Basic Books’ “Basic Ideas” series in which “a leading authority offers a concise biography of a text that transformed its world, and ours.” The authority here is Anthony Lewis, law professor, former New York Times columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the bestselling 1964 classic Gideon’s Trumpet and the 1992 work Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment.

Writing for a popular audience, Lewis makes no great revelations in this new book, though drawing on judicial opinions and secondary scholarship, he offers a concise, useful volume on one of Americans’ most cherished and misunderstood legal rights.

Lewis delineates his main argument over the course of twelve chapter essays on the judicial history of the First Amendment. He asserts that the amendment did not arrive fully articulated when the Framers added the Bill of Rights to the proposed Constitution in 1787. Rather, its meaning took shape over time through a series of Supreme Court rulings. Not until 1931 did the Court invoke the amendment in order to protect free expression. The First Amendment “has no discernable history,” Lewis explains, meaning that justices have no record of the Framers’ intentions. So calls for original intent hit a dead end. Lewis focuses mainly on judges, who, he maintains, are influenced by their social surroundings when rendering decisions. He also writes about the significance of other actors—political leaders and citizens—in driving debates about the First Amendment. Judges function as the heroes in Lewis’s book, but he emphasizes that they have frequently ignored or upheld legislative and executive challenges to the right of Americans to think and express themselves. Read more ..

The Author's World

Authors as Road Warriors

September 1st 2008

Books - Joseph Finder
Joseph Finder

It's not enough to write a great book. Authors are now expected to play an active role in book marketing and promotion. In this brave new world of always-on media, scribes are expected to either pursue or make themselves available to every potential reader.

Though there have always been opportunities for interviews, reviews, in-store signings, book fairs, seminars and broadcast appearances, now publishers want to make sure no avenue for multimedia exposure is overlooked as a book competes with every other form of entertainment.

Most book companies have full-time staff devoted to pursuing publicity for their books and authors, but nothing is guaranteed.

"Publicity departments are too small and stretched too thin," author Joseph Finder, author of "High Crimes," "Company Man" and "Paranoia," said in a telephone interview from his Boston office. "They do their best, but there’s always another book coming out and I want to make sure that mine gets the attention it deserves before they move on to the next one."

But he notes his publisher, St. Martin’s Press, "was extremely cooperative when I came up with the idea of including an audio CD” to promote his current book, Killer Instinct. “From the CEO on down, they’re totally behind my books. In fact, the marketing director is a fan," he said. 

Still, Finder felt the need to do more. “I paid for my Web site josephfinder.com, hired someone to design it and someone else to run it. It’s impossible to gauge, but I see more and more response from reviewers, journalists and booksellers, and readers communicate with me, too,” he said. “Everyone likes to get inside information and have a connection.” Read more ..

Personal Stories

What Tolkien Taught Me about the Battle of the Somme

August 25th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Martin Gilbert headshot
Martin Gilbert

J.R.R. Tolkien and the Somme were inextricably linked. I learned this forty-four years ago, shortly after I was elected to my first university appointment, at Merton College, Oxford. I was twenty-six years old.

In those days there was a strict seating order at college dinners. The head of the college sat in the centre, the senior fellows on either side of him, and the junior fellows at the far ends of the table. Also at the ends were the Emeritus Fellows, long retired, venerable, sometimes garrulous guardians of the college name. Several of them had served in the First World War. When they discovered a historian, new to his craft, filled with the keenness of a youngster amid his elders, they were happy to talk about those distant days, already more than forty years in the past.

Some enjoyed singing the songs of the trenches, in versions far ruder than those sung today. Tolkien was more reticent, yet when he did open up, full of terrible tales. There was never any boasting. The war's scars were too many, its reality too grim, to lead to self-glorification, or even to embellishment.

In 1916, the twenty-four-year-old Tolkien was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. On the evening of July 14 — two weeks after the start of the Battle of the Somme — his battalion went into the line. He had never seen action before. What he later called the "animal horror" of the trenches was as yet unknown to him. But he already knew that one of his closest friends, Robert Gilson, had been killed on the first day. Read more ..

Book Review

Two War Books Shine a New Light on Crucial Moments in World War II

August 11th 2008

Book Covers - TwoWW2Books

Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. (New York: Henry Holt, 2007).

Holland, James. Italy’s Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-1945. (New York: St. Martin’s, 2008)

It is tempting to say that, just as the Allied campaign in Sicily and Italy in World War II was of less significance and decisiveness than the one that carried the Allies from Normandy to Germany, so the course of the historiography has tended to emphasize the last year of war in northern Europe. And no doubt there have been more books written about D-Day, The Battle of the Bulge, and the collapse of the Third Reich, than about the race to Messina, the Salerno and Anzio landings, the bombing of Monte Cassino, the capture of Rome, and what followed. But it can’t really be said that historians of the war have overlooked the Mediterranean theater. Douglas Porch has recently seen it as The Path to Victory for the Allies; Robin Neillands has followed the British Eighth Army from North Africa to the Alps; Lloyd Clark has revisited Anzio; and Robert Katz has recounted both the military campaign and partisan activity involved in the Battle for Rome. Rick Atkinson won a Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn, about the war in North Africa with an emphasis on the U. S. Army; and James Holland has written about the Italian and German siege of the British-held island of Malta, and the stand of the British and American Allies, they having forged their alliance, in North Africa.

It is now tempting to say that in coming to these most recent World War II histories by Atkinson the American and Holland the Englishman, we can expect to see the perspectives and the prejudices of the wartime Allies researched and represented. Why Britain should have been fighting in North Africa in the first place; and why North Africa should have been the first place in which America would fight, are two points that must be covered in histories of the war in the Mediterranean theater. Whether and why the Allies should have gone from North Africa to Sicily, and from Sicily to Italy, are two more questions that call for historiography. And then it was indeed in the Mediterranean theater that the British and the Americans learned how to fight alongside each other, and to get along with each other as they fought the common enemy. The American troops who came ashore in Operation Torch were quite green; the British troops who had just defeated the Afrika Korps in the Battle of El Alamein had been battling Germans and Italians for over two years. This occasioned a good deal of condescension and resentment between the English-speaking Allies. Read more ..

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