Bookshelf update: Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled”

June 4, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Sharyl Attkisson’s “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

book cover attkisson stonewalled

 

Attkisson is an award-winning investigative journalist who spent roughly 20 years with CBS before leaving in 2014. For her determined pursuit of the truth and information government and corporate officials would rather keep hidden, she’s been called a “bulldog,” a term she regards as a compliment. While Stonewalled deals with the scandals and evasions of the Obama administration and its allies, Attkisson has a reputation as a bipartisan bulldog — a pain in the tuchus to Democrats and Republicans, alike. This is what a good journalist should be.

I’m about half-way through Stonewalled and, so far, it’s been equal parts enjoyable, infuriating, and even frightening. Before discussing scandals such as Fast and Furious and the Obamacare rollout, as well as the almost equally scandalous supine attitude of mainstream journalism toward the administration, Attkisson opens with the story of her discovery that her work and personal computers, and her phone, had been hacked by a government agency during her investigation into the Benghazi massacre. Though she hasn’t yet identified in the book who she believes is responsible, I’ll note that she has filed suit against  the Department of Justice and the US Postal Service. Discovery, as they say should be interesting.

I’m reading her book in Kindle format; it’s also in soft (forthcoming) and hardcover. Regarding the Kindle edition, I’ve spotted just one lone typo and no formatting problems, which is very good for an e-book. Her writing style is straightforward, almost Hemingway-esque in its directness. If Ms. Attkisson reveals any ax to grind, it’s her firm belief that information paid for with taxpayer dollars belongs to the public, not the government.

I’ll post a review when I’ve finished.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


That Terrible Tuchman Woman

May 12, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

I’ve always loved History (in fact, I was once working toward a PhD in it) and, as an impressionable high school freshman way back when, Tuchman’s Guns of August made quite an impression on me. That was then, this is now, and Mr. Schindler provides a searing critique of “Guns…” and a short list of much better books on the events of 1914. If you’ve an interest in World War I or just in good history writing in general, this is worth reading.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Since one of the hats I wear is that of a military historian specializing in World War One, I regularly get asked questions about reading suggestions. With the centenary of that awful conflict upon us, people want to know more and that’s a great thing. The origins of the war and how it all unfolded so terribly in 1914 are understandably a topic of high interest, and at least once as week, often online, I get asked about one book in particular.

That book is Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, which for more than a half-century has been a popular and widely cited work by the public about the disastrous events of the summer of 1914 that transformed a Balkan terrorist act into a continent-wide (and later nearly world-wide) conflict. The Guns of August was a huge best-seller, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1963, and still retains the…

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“Clinton Cash” has the Clintons terrified

May 5, 2015
Above the rules.

No proof

We’re barely into the formal campaign season, and Lady Macbeth has only just launched her coronation march election campaign. And yet the revelations coming from Peter Schweizer’s book “Clinton Cash” —which hasn’t even been published yet— are doing such damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that they’ve put out a video attacking the author and arguing “nothing’s been proved.”

Yeah, they’re wetting themselves:

In the 2.5-minute introductory YouTube video, Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon says the book is “full of sloppy research and attacks pulled out of thin air with no actual evidence.” Fallon goes through all the biggest allegations from the book, cutting to footage from various TV networks, all of which point out the lack of direct evidence or a “smoking gun.” (The new Clinton website also lists “10 Things You Should Know” about the book, linking to media coverage of various sections of it.)

“The bottom line is this: as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made decisions based on her commitment to protecting America’s national security and standing up for freedom and dignity around the world, not the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation,” Fallon says.

For those who haven’t been following the multi-episodic saga of Clinton corruption, the short version is this: Peter Schweizer is a conservative investigative journalist and historian who has written generally well-regarded books on cronyism and corruption on both sides of the aisle. “Clinton Cash” is his latest. It goes into (at least in part) the “amazing coincidences” surrounding big-money foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, big payments to Bill Clinton for speeches, and favorable State Department decisions (1) for those same donors and speech-purchasers. It’s apparently credible enough that those noted right-wing conspiracy rags, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have taken allegations made in advance copies of Clinton Cash, investigated, and amplified on them. Add to this the battering taken over Benghazi and her email server scandal, and it’s no wonder that Hillary’s trustworthiness rating has gone into a death spiral. Like I said, Clinton, Inc., is panicking, and this video is just one sign.

And yet, as Noah Rothman points out, the whole Clinton defense amounts to personal attacks on critics and cries of “You got nuttin’ on us!”

Heck of an argument for being made president, that.

PS: You know what the fun part is? I mean, aside from watching Lady Macbeth see Birnham Wood come slowly closer to Chappaqua Dunsinane. It’s the realization that, beyond Hillary, the Democrats have no one. Nobody. Not a soul who is a credible candidate. Martin O’Malley? Please, his chances went up with Baltimore. Senator Warren? I doubt her act will play well outside of Massachusetts and Berkeley. Governor Cuomo? He’ll be too busy organizing his defense in criminal court. Nah, the Democrats have tied their fortunes to Hillary, for better or worse.

And “worse” is still to come.

Footnote:
(1) Such as letting a Russian company that surely does Vladimir Putin’s bidding gain control of  20% of the US’ uranium supply. I wonder if the donation came in 30 pieces of silver.

UPDATE: Jay Cost disagrees with me about Senator Warren. And, on reflection, I think he’s right.


A new book in which I have a chapter: Climate Change: The Facts

February 14, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

I think I shall be ordering this. (Just to be clear, the title is from the linked post. *I* don’t have a chapter in it.)

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

climate-change-facts-bookFrom Steynonline:

Climate Change: The Facts has been put together by our friends at the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia, edited by Alan Moran, and features 22 essays on the science, politics and economics of “climate change”.

[It features Mark Steyn on the Mann Hockey Stick debacle,] Joanne Nova on the climate-change gravy train; Britain’s former Chancellor Nigel Lawson on the economic consequences of abandoning fossil fuels; Patrick Michaels on the growing chasm between the predictions of the IPCC and real-world temperatures, Garth Paltridge on the damage such failed forecasts are doing to science, and Donna Laframboise on the damage the Big Climate alarmists have done to the IPCC; professors Richard Lindzen, Bob Carter and Willie Soon on climate sensitivity and factors such as greenhouse gases, natural variability, and the role of the sun…

Oh, don’t worry, Michael E Mann and his “hockey stick” are in the book…

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Sunday Book Review: Paul Johnson’s “Churchill”

January 25, 2015

book cover johnson churchill

It’s less fashionable in the practice of History these days to study the lives of great men, those individuals who by their words and deeds change the course of the world for better or worse. At one time, History was about these men: Alexander, Caesar, Washington, Napoleon, and others. Then that fashion fell out of favor and, in reaction, the role of Great Men was largely supplanted by the study of “impersonal forces,” those societal and intellectual trends that move History along, individuals being less important, often replaceable. This view was popular with progressive historians of the early to mid-20th century, seeing its extreme in Marxist historians.

But the study of Great Men lives on, in this case in the form of Paul Johnson’s “Churchill,” a brief biography of Sir Winston Churchill, the British statesman, soldier, parliamentarian, and his nation’s Prime Minister during most of the Second World War.

Johnson’s biography of Churchill is of an older school, which seeks not just to analyze its subject, but draw from it moral lessons for the reader. In this manner, it is comparable to Plutarch’s “Lives .” As Johnson writes at the start:

Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical , moral, and intellectual. How to dare greatly, to reinforce success, and to put the inevitable failures behind you. And how, while pursuing vaulting ambition with energy and relish, to cultivate also friendship, generosity, compassion, and decency.

Churchill’s life is well-known, and Johnson glosses over the details to cover the important points the reader needs to know: his early childhood with a vaguely disapproving father; his military career , which established the young Churchill as a popular journalist; his political career with his rise to Cabinet rank as First Sea Lord during World War I; his role in laying the foundation for Britain’s welfare state, and his fall from power; his “wilderness” years out of government, when even his fellow party members rarely wanted him around and during which he warned incessantly about the rise of the Nazis in Germany; his return to power when the Nazis started World War II, again as head of the British Navy and then Prime Minister; and his postwar life and career, with one more pass as prime minister, until his death in 1965.

That Johnson can cover all this in just 170 pages while telling a fascinating story and educating the reader is a mark of how good a writer he is. “Churchill,” if it was a joy for him to write, is also a joy for us to read. Johnson’s style is delightful, and he deftly weaves in small details and observations that humanize for us a towering figure who might otherwise be lost behind the noble statues and stern portraits. For example,one that sticks with this reviewer is the revelation that Churchill found happiness in, of all things, bricklaying. So much so, that he tried to join the bricklayer’s union. (He was declined.) Most people know that he was an accomplished painter, but a bricklayer? That such a common, workaday craft should bring satisfaction to a man born in a palace and who dealt regularly with kings and presidents, who commanded his nation’s armed forces in a global war, can’t help but build a bond between reader and subject, reminding us that Winston Churchill, for all the statues and portraits, was still a mortal man.

“Churchill” is not without its weaknesses. A degree of superficiality is inevitable, given the task of compressing so full a life into such a short work. And it touches very lightly on his flaws, such as his Romantic fixations on strategies of dubious worth, for example his attempted defense of Antwerp in the First World War, or his obsession with invading Norway in the Second. A late Victorian in a rapidly changing 20th century, his attitudes toward non-European people were often at best patronizing, sometimes downright bigoted.

But, to dwell on these lacks would be to criticize “Churchill” for not doing what it was never intended to do: to be a “balanced, modern” biography. As much hagiography as biography, Paul Johnson’s goal was to introduce us to the life of one of the greatest men who ever lived and show how it could serve as an example and an inspiration, especially for the young. In this, he has succeeded admirably.

Highest recommendation.

Format note: Churchill is available in both Kindle and softcover formats. I read the Kindle edition and can recall no problems with editing or formatting. And I do get a few pennies from each purchase made through the links in this review.

UPDATE: Catching up on my reading at Power Line, I came across historian Steven Hayward’s post quibbling with the idea of Churchill as “the last lion.” I think what he says about “Great Men” and how they differ from their contemporaries is pertinent to this review:

The tides of history and the scale of modern life have not made obsolete or incommensurate the kind of large-souled greatness we associate with Churchill or Lincoln or George Washington. Of course all of us are powerfully affected by our environment and circumstances, yet the case of Churchill offers powerful refutation to the historicist premise that humans and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history. Lots of Churchill’s contemporaries were also products of the late Victorian era—many of them from the same schools Churchill attended. But no one else had Chruchill’s courage, insight, and capacities. Why was Churchill virtually alone among his contemporaries? The answer must be that they transcended their environments and transformed their circumstances as only great men can do, and thereby bent history to their will. Which means we are contemplating a fundamental human type. Leo Strauss wrote of Churchill in a private letter to the German philosopher Karl Lowith: “A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalophysis [the great-souled man] exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century B.C.” (In other words, as the idea was presented in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.)

Churchill was indeed a “large soul.”

 

 

 


Bookshelf update: Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”

January 22, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.”

 

book cover applebaum gulag

I’ve only just started it, so I can’t comment on my impressions of the writing or the quality of the Kindle formatting, but the topic is compelling: a complete history of the Soviet prison camp and slave labor system from its foundation under Lenin to its final dissolution in the 1980s. Like reading a book on the Holocaust, I suspect this is the kind of history that will have me hating humanity by its end. Gulag is available in both Kindle and softcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


Bookshelf update: Paul Johnson’s “Churchill”

January 11, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Paul Johnson’s “Churchill.”

book cover johnson churchill

 

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it’s been an easy to read introduction to and survey of the life of arguably the most important man of the 20th century. This is a short work, as much hagiography as biography, and Johnson is a delight to read. It is available in both Kindle (1) and paperback formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found very few typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.


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