I reread this recently in anticipation of shenanigans and a scare somewhere with the recent 2008 election. It is absolutely fascinating. Jeff Toobin mI reread this recently in anticipation of shenanigans and a scare somewhere with the recent 2008 election. It is absolutely fascinating. Jeff Toobin makes the ins and outs of archaic Florida election law accessible to even the most amateur reader of law (read: me) and the resulting material is tremendously compelling. The disgusting advantages afforded to each side on a daily basis; the tenuous connection that Dems and the GOP had on winning the battle to recount the votes; Gore's meekness in fighting against James Baker's cutthroat team of lawyers, judges, and volunteers; and, inevitably, the incendiary and purely political ruling from the so-called Supreme Court of the United States, which serves as a terrifying reminder of how personal bias can taint even the greatest minds.
There are episodes that were ignored, too: the absentee ballots in Duval county, for example. The "caterpillar" ballot elsewhere in Florida. Theresa LaPore's role in designing the butterfly ballot and the early reaction to it. Plus an excellent table detailing the chronological votes at both a national and county level serve as an easy reference....more
A deeply researched work with profoundly un-intellectual conclusions
Religious moderation is the preachment in these pages. To disavow religion in publA deeply researched work with profoundly un-intellectual conclusions
Religious moderation is the preachment in these pages. To disavow religion in public life would be contrary to the delicate balancing act performed by the Founders, who were occasionally agnostics but more likely Christians or Deists, and skeptics all. Our greatest minds were motivated to varying degrees by religious faith – and now we have a work where Meacham boldly supports it as a core of the American experience (i.e. nothing substantive needs to change in our public discourse). But 18th century knowledge of evolution and cosmology and physics and biology and germ theory was hopelessly primitive! We have abandoned these regressive ideas and surely Meacham’s thesis reflects this! the reasonable among us might rejoinder. Shhh say the promulgators of religious moderation, Meacham unfortunately among them. It’s part of our history. Hush now.
Curiously, he makes no mention of the current public support enjoyed by religious organizations, most visibly in the form of tax incentives. It would prove enlightening to see how he squares this fact with the sentiments of the book. “God” should not be stricken from public life, he argues. Americans are deeply religious. They are not consummate followers of church doctrine, but Americans’ faith remains important to the daily lives of a majority in this country. The separation of church and state and the freedom from religion would seem to exclude religious organizations from public support. It is why churches of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FMSism) do not enjoy tax breaks.
Meacham makes a host of platitudes towards the cause of ecumenism, tolerance, and maintaining our collective faith. This tepid religious moderation provides no easy answers for the most pressing of real-world, modern questions to which the faithful among us have no useful things to say. Perhaps facing hard questions was simply too ambitious for a work of this kind. The axiomatically praised Reagan and Carter are not carrying the torches of the Deists Jefferson and Lincoln, with their unhelpful apocalyptic theology. Our next generation of American heroes in religious thought needs to have ideas compatible with modernity. That is to say: nonreligious thought. ...more
"..as tempting as it is to singularly ascribe all of Sigmund's revolutionary ideas to his cocaine use, this tack ultimately co The depths of the mind
"..as tempting as it is to singularly ascribe all of Sigmund's revolutionary ideas to his cocaine use, this tack ultimately constitutes as simplistic and unsatisfying explanation. The "Interpretation of Dreams" covers a skein of thoughts and ideas beyond those set in motion by the Irma episode. Freud's psychological constitution was marked by multiple compulsions, perfectionism, risk taking resentments, loneliness, alienation, emotional pain, traumatic family experiences, phobias, neuroses, depression, denials and secretiveness about his sexuality, a possible sexual relationship with his sister-in-law, a brief flirtation with excessive drinking, and his self-documented cocaine abuse, to name some of his demons. What makes Sigmund Freud's life and work so remarkable is that instead of sinking under the weight of these psychic challenges, he was able to process them all through his formidable intellect and thereby create a means for exploring the depths of the mind." (p.184-5, hardcover)
Markel's book offers a clear window about Freud's personal life and his vice of cocaine. We get to see one of the early lights of modern medicine and psychiatry through his toughest professional times, when he wasn't a household name: his book only sells a few hundred copies in the first six years, he gets passive aggressive in correspondence to his wife (because she's holding him back), he stunningly asserts and reasserts that cocaine is not addictive, he becomes irrationally jealous when ophthalmologist Carol Koller is credited with discovering cocaine's anesthetic properties, and drug abuse itself threatens to derail him at every turn. Freud had a number of years wherein he treated morphine addiction by cocaine administration (this in his early career as an aspiring neurologist) and he himself was subjected to repeated nasal cauterization procedures to control swelling and bleeding from so much use of the latter. Much of the 1890s seem to be spent draining large amounts of pus from his nasal turbinates.
Halsted is actually the more fascinating character. He is institutionalized early in his career and treated unsuccessfully for cocaine dependence at Butler Hospital in New England. He proceeds to become the foremost surgeon at the nascent Johns Hopkins medical school and his irascible, often absent persona is given pardon because of his unparalleled surgical skill (when he arrives to work, that is). He is credited with the sterile technique of scrubbing in to a case, wearing gloves and gown during surgery (gloves from the Goodyear rubber corporation are the subject of a fantastic anecdote and his future wife), and he trains some of the fathers of modern surgery in the late 19th century. The form and function of the surgical residency, something about which I know a great deal, was given first shape under Halsted's wing. Later in life he becomes addicted to morphine in quantities of 200mg/day, an exceedingly high dose that would cause the average postoperative patient to become apneic. And biographers have continued to deny his drug use throughout history.
The comination of these two mens' tales makes for a powerful narrative, and Markel seems to fall in the sympathetic column of medical historians. Plus their tale is the more interesting because of reader context - cocaine is merely wicked and evil and its users deadbeats, or so we are taught to believe. Markel euologizes these men and their achievements in the face of such considerable vice. The level of notoriety and place in history achieved by Freud and Halsted is not available to the average coke-addict of today. That is something to celebrate....more
“Starting the war in Iraq took deceit and trickery on the part of the Bush administration (and severe chickenshittery on the parSevere Chickenshittery
“Starting the war in Iraq took deceit and trickery on the part of the Bush administration (and severe chickenshittery on the part of the Congress.)” [p.203]
The military-industrial complex has been growing insidiously throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, and Rachel Maddow can trace that path of change ably for the lay reader. The mechanism by which we declare war has transformed from a difficult decision by elected officials into the think-tank backed prerogative of a (perhaps) insular chief executive. There has been a consistent ideological “drift” in the way the way war is framed for the public eye, to the point where the Abrams Doctrine (the obligatory calling up of Reserves in wartime as a deterrent to capricious conflict) has been steadily eroded by the rising employ of private contractors. There simply isn’t a need to rile the public by calling up reservists anymore. Companies like DynCorp now make our weapons, train our allies, and work with semi-legal governmental agencies and operate without oversight. Any illegal activity will often reside outside the bounds of international, American, or host nation law.
Not least, America is in a state of perpetual conflict wherein most of us feel none of its ill effects. I certainly don’t. Maddow terms this “frictionless war.” An all-volunteer military allows us to remain in ceaseless combat as business-as-usual. One of the most illuminating passages in Drift comes with Ed Meese’s Senate hearing and his responses to Senator Tom Inouye (D-HI), about the checkreins, or lack thereof, on the executive’s power to bring the United States to war (hardover, pages 119-21).
There is an underlying theme that pervades all of this Drift: an anti-intellectual streak. A willful ignorance that characterized certain leaders in the latter half of the last centry. And where did this all begin? To some extent with LBJ and massaging the Vietnam war in the public's eye. But to an even greater extent, this believe in unilateral executive power to wage war started with the Great Communicator. As Tip O'Neill would say about Reagan vis-a-vis an illegal military supply mission in Grenada:
I'm worried about the effects of this. Where do you go from here?... He only works three and half hours a day. He doesn't do his homework. He doesn't read his briefing papers. It's sinful that this man is President of the United States. He lacks the knowledge that he should have, on every sphere, whether it's the domestic or whether it's the international."...more
John Gilkey stole books from rare book collectors all over the united states, usually using fake credit card numbers or thos"You can’t stop, can you?"
John Gilkey stole books from rare book collectors all over the united states, usually using fake credit card numbers or those he stole from customers when he worked at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. There are a number of vignettes in which Gilkey explained how he accomplished these costly thefts.
Of course, he only refers to himself as a thief once. Rather, any means of acquiring a book, even the most dastardly, is fairly normal for him. That other people can have access to rare and expensive books while he cannot is unfair in his eyes.
Although there were times when Bartlett’s prose ran a little thin, this is a worthy tale of an obsessive and mentally ill collector and habitual offender. See if you can sympathize with him. He certainly cannot help himself. ...more
Vowell takes her title from a letter the Hawaiian David Malo wrote to friends, referring to the big, unfamiliar fishes (the AmerFishes of the shallows
Vowell takes her title from a letter the Hawaiian David Malo wrote to friends, referring to the big, unfamiliar fishes (the Americans) coming to swallow up the fishes of the shallows, the native Hawaiians. And so it was.
"Unfamiliar Fishes" traces the first contact with the island by British explorer James Cooke to the annexation of Hawai’i by the United States by a stroke of legislative evil genius in 1898. Throughout, she incorporates her first-person experiences hiking the island, talking to natives and native historians, and infusing her mirthful wit. She has a worthy and incisive eye for historical irony, and I found this journey through Hawai’i’s history a quick and fascinating read. Moreover, I have a newfound respect for Grover Cleveland. I now know one thing about him: he vehemently opposed the imperialist tendencies of some fellow Americans, and was able to block annexation and maintain Hawaiian sovereignty for a few years. And of course, the natives were somewhat complicit in the subversion of their language, culture, agriculture, and religion. Such a truth makes the turn of events all the more heartbreaking.
This is my first Vowell read. Points against for organization: there are no chapters, only periodic ellipses, for the full 200+ pages. Anecdotes and historical tangents spring up every couple pages, linking events in multiple centuries before springing back to the main, somewhat chronological narrative. The reading can be jarring and the flow is poor at times. Without chapters or an index, it is almost impossible to return to the text to remind oneself of an event or quote (i.e. “who is this again?”). Not a problem for me, as the title pages and margins of all my books are littered with notes and underlines. But for some, this small discursive story, interesting though it is, may feel random and unfocused. ...more
Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s righNumber one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. ~Neill Franklin, policeman
Noticing (or not) the militarization of our police is critical, I now realize. The change in the nature and scope of police power has changed insidiously prior to and during my lifetime. Radley Balko gives a well-researched, focused look at the inflexion points of this change. He offers sharp contextualization of the history of American police in the wake of the earliest western police forces. And the book is brimming with interesting facts.
Sheriff? Comes from the reeves (law officials) overseeing English shires = shire reeves.
Bobbies? Robert Peel was an early English sheriff who consolidated the first true police forces. His men were “Bobbies”.
Little Rock, Arkansas had federal supervision of its compliance (or lack thereof) of the ruling Brown v. Board of Education until 2007!
And so on.
He also establishes first principles: how and why are police constitutional?
Now is a critical time to read and appreciate this book. The tide is turning on social issues (equality in marriage) and on decriminalizing non-violent behavior, like marijuana use. Much of the first half of “Rise” deals with the Nixonian/Reaganite crusade to dismantle the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) and its corollary the Exclusionary Rule (illegally obtained evidence – i.e. no warrant – is inadmissible). There are many examples of needless killing, beating, arresting, or scaring nonviolent drug users. In other cases, innocent citizens have their homes raided, at gunpoint by S.W.A.T. teams, because they might be growing marijuana or cooking LSD. Dogs are shot. Children are shot.
Both political parties raced in the 1980s to empower police and dismantle personal liberty. The War on Terror, so called, has birthed a new era of police power and armament, and every effort is made to convince the American people that such is necessary and that the world is growing more dangerous. This books serves as a thesis to the contrary.
Donald Santarelli, deviser of the “no-knock raid” (the evil of which will be obvious should you read this book) would regret his role in polite brutality, having this to say:
“I don’t think it’s possible to roll any of this back now . . . It would take leadership, probably from nobody less than the president. It would take a huge scandal, which doesn’t seem likely . . . But we’re not given to revolutionary action in this country. Each generation is a little more removed from the deep-seated concerns about liberty of the generation before. We just don’t seem to value privacy and freedom anymore.” ...more