This is an important little journalistic monograph that lays out quite clearly why and how ISIS has arisen in Iraq and Syria, which superpowers and reThis is an important little journalistic monograph that lays out quite clearly why and how ISIS has arisen in Iraq and Syria, which superpowers and regional powers are supporting which Islamic faction in the region, and the muddled and conflicting tactics and strategies of the outside world that has rendered this region a charnel house for the near future. There are no simple solutions where US support for any country, militia, or faction is bound to bite us in the ass in some manner in the years to come. But you can't tell your players without a scorecard, and this small volume at least gives an overview of the political, religious, and military actors in the region, so at least we won't be surprised who is doing what to whom when the next crisis rears its ugly head....more
What is the "voice" of a discorporated soul floating in a murky void outside of time and space? Or maybe not. If you're interested in learning the posWhat is the "voice" of a discorporated soul floating in a murky void outside of time and space? Or maybe not. If you're interested in learning the possible answer to this conundrum, The Unnameable is the book for you. Or maybe not, inasmuch as the book might not exist at all, except for the fact that you're reading it. This was perhaps the most difficult book of fiction I've ever read (Prior winner: The Runaway Soul by Harold Brodkey; I've not yet attempted Finnegans Wake), and to say that I "understood" it might be an exaggeration, but I do believe that I at least "felt" it. Molloy was the most accessible of the three novellas, involving, as it does, questions of identity, memory, and the pure random brutality of existence, articulated in at least the crude outline of a narrative plot by almost identifiable characters. Malone Dies follows the arc of a physically and psychically dissolving "personality" and its tenuous relationship to what we all might refer to as reality. Beckett should not be read by the depressed or suicidal....more
This monograph makes the important point that the U.S. Supreme Court acts far more like a Council of Revision or Veto Council than a court of law. TheThis monograph makes the important point that the U.S. Supreme Court acts far more like a Council of Revision or Veto Council than a court of law. The book, although generally well written, is in dire need of editing....more
This is an excellent historical overview of Congress's approval of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery throughoutThis is an excellent historical overview of Congress's approval of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery throughout the land, as well as the politics and calculations involved in getting the Amendment ratified by 3/4 of the States. This work focuses on the indefatigable Representative James Ashley, a Radical Republican representing Toledo, Ohio, in Congress, who ushered the resolution approving the Amendment to its requisite 2/3 approval in the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865, despite its prior rejection by that body in 1864, and opposition from almost all Northern "Copperhead" Democrats (those who were sympathetic to the Confederacy and sought peace and reunion at any price), a majority of Northern "War" Democrats (those who fully supported the Union's aims in suppressing the rebellion), and virtually all of the border-state Unionists who had previously been Whigs. The resolution to approve the Amendment had easily passed the Senate by a 2/3 majority in late 1864, as it was safely in Republican hands, so there wasn't much drama to that phase of the process, although this work gives a good, succinct retelling of that as well. If you've seen the wonderful movie "Lincoln" and want to know what actually happened, read this book, along with Michael Vorenberg's "Final Freedom." Although Richards gives most of the credit to Ashley and his fellow Radical Republicans in the House, while Vorenberg concludes that several Northern "War" Democrats played a very constructive role in assuring the House's approval, the two books together give a fairly complete narrative of events during the crucial years of 1863-1865. ...more
A very entertaining story combining Pynchon's paranoia and Neal Stephenson's pacing and flavor, albeit without Pynchon's literary skills. The tale invA very entertaining story combining Pynchon's paranoia and Neal Stephenson's pacing and flavor, albeit without Pynchon's literary skills. The tale involves an idealistic Iranian-American twenty-something who, while working for a do-good NGO in Burma, accidentally comes across a hidden mega-computer facility installed by a nefarious consortium of billionaire conspirators and their corporations (loosely based on Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Blackwater, Halliburton, Verizon, Koch Industries, etc.) who, in cooperation with corrupted national intelligence services, wish to access all personal biological, genetic, social, and financial data from everyone, and store it or sell it back to the individuals, as needed, so as to become even more rich and powerful and control all governments and individuals. Chase scenes and family drama ensue as our heroine is rescued by, and joins forces with, an underground collective of hackers, scientists, and botanists, and regular folk, etc., known as Dear Diary (loosely based on Anonymous), who seek to preserve privacy and a necessary modicum of individualism even while attempting to build a more cooperative society. I would have only given the book 3 stars for quality and storytelling (the drug rehab scene involving one of the protagonists was a pale shadow of David Foster Wallace's treatment of the same issues in Infinite Jest), but I bumped it up a star for its timeliness and enjoyment value....more
In the aftermath of the Charleston, S.C., white supremacist terror attack, we are again hearing from some sectors that the South did not secede from tIn the aftermath of the Charleston, S.C., white supremacist terror attack, we are again hearing from some sectors that the South did not secede from the Union because it wanted to preserve slavery. Lest we fall for that tired argument, I would highly recommend the following books: this one---Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War, by Charles Dew---as well as Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860, by William W. Freehling, and The Road to Disunion: Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861, also by William W. Freehling. All of these works look closely at the letters and speeches of numerous Southern secession commissioners, that is, those elected either by Southern voters or state legislatures as delegates to statewide conventions considering secession or as official "ambassadors" from already seceded states to undecided states, as well as the proceedings of Southern state secession conventions. It is clear from these primary documents that those who took the South out of the union were concerned primarily that Lincoln's election portended the end of slavery, despite Lincoln's repeated promise that he would not take any action to end slavery where it existed. While lip service was occasionally given to "state's rights" and against "overweening federal power," these commissioners were brutally honest that what they most desired was to preserve slavery as a way of life and as a political economy. Now, it is true that thousands of Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders, and it may very well be that they had little truck with the elite plantation owners who drove Southern policy. Perhaps, in their hearts, they thought that they were fighting for home, family, and honor. But it strains credulity that even the poorest white Southern upland non-slaveholding farmer who fought for the Confederacy did not know that he was also fighting for the "Southern way of life," which included a defense of its "peculiar institution." Hence, the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which we now know commonly as the "Confederate Flag," was the flag of slavery and, given its more recent usages in the 50s and 60s as the flag of resistance to civil rights and federal authority to enforce civil rights laws, it is hard for anyone with an understanding of history to accept the argument that this flag represents merely the bravery and valor of Confederate soldiers.
This slim book gets 3 stars because, for such a slender volume, it was a tad repetitive. Nonetheless, it's an important addition to antebellum history....more