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Monday, February 15, 2016

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Dark Money

It's Monday, What are You Reading? 
Dark Money:
The Hidden History of the Billionaires
Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
by Jane Mayer

This post is the one-hundred and fifth entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

This book was recommended on the Bill Moyers blog. I’m very happy that I chose to read it. It is an eye-opening experience, for sure. I am reading the Kindle Edition.

Book Description from Amazon:

Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
     The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. 
     The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom—are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.
     The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights. 
     When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to banking and oil fortunes, had the brilliant insight that most of their political activities could be written off as tax-deductible “philanthropy.”
     These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its apotheosis with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the Citizens United decision—a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.
     The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied. 
     Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
     Dark Money is a book that must be read by anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Henry Clay

It's Monday, What are You Reading?
 Henry Clay: America’s Greatest Statesman
by Harlow Giles Unger
 This post is the one-hundred and fourth entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

This is the last of the three books from my Christmas Wish List - Thanks, family! ;-)
This one was useful, as I expected. I’d read a much larger bio of Henry Clay. This one was easy to read and great reminders of events of the first half of the 19th Century.

Book Description from Amazon:

n a critical and little-known chapter of early American history, author Harlow Giles Unger tells how a fearless young Kentucky lawyer threw open the doors of Congress during the nation's formative years and prevented dissolution of the infant American republic.

The only freshman congressman ever elected Speaker of the House, Henry Clay brought an arsenal of rhetorical weapons to subdue feuding members of the House of Representatives and established the Speaker as the most powerful elected official after the President. During fifty years in public service—as congressman, senator, secretary of state, and four-time presidential candidate—Clay constantly battled to save the Union, summoning uncanny negotiating skills to force bitter foes from North and South to compromise on slavery and forego secession. His famous "Missouri Compromise" and four other compromises thwarted civil war "by a power and influence," Lincoln said, "which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times."

Explosive, revealing, and richly illustrated, Henry Clay is the story of one of the most courageous—and powerful—political leaders in American History.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

It's Monday, What are You Reading? 
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates:
 The Forgotten War that changed American History
by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This post is the one-hundred and third entry for this meme suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books. [Entries 22-25 in the series were posted at  the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories]

This is the second of the three books from my Christmas Wish List - Thanks, family! ;-)
This one was more substantive than I expected… frequently overlooked events because at the same time as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, among other events in the U.S.A.

Book Description from Amazon:

This is the little-known story of how a newly indepen­dent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.

When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America faced a crisis. The new nation was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa’s Barbary coast routinely captured American sailors and held them as slaves, demanding ransom and tribute payments far beyond what the new coun­try could afford.

Over the previous fifteen years, as a diplomat and then as secretary of state, Jefferson had tried to work with the Barbary states (Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco). Unfortunately, he found it impossible to negotiate with people who believed their religion jus­tified the plunder and enslavement of non-Muslims. These rogue states would show no mercy—at least not while easy money could be made by extorting the Western powers. So President Jefferson decided to move beyond diplomacy. He sent the U.S. Navy’s new warships and a detachment of Marines to blockade Tripoli—launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status.

As they did in their previous bestseller, George Washington’s Secret Six, Kilmeade and Yaeger have transformed a nearly forgotten slice of history into a dramatic story that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Among the many sus­penseful episodes:

·Lieutenant Andrew Sterett’s ferocious cannon battle on the high seas against the treacherous pirate ship Tripoli.

·Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s daring night raid of an enemy harbor, with the aim of destroying an American ship that had fallen into the pirates’ hands.

·General William Eaton’s unprecedented five-hundred-mile land march from Egypt to the port of Derne, where the Marines launched a surprise attack and an American flag was raised in victory on foreign soil for the first time.

Few today remember these men and other heroes who inspired the Marine Corps hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.” Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates recaptures this forgot­ten war that changed American history with a real-life drama of intrigue, bravery, and battle on the high seas.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Bill  ;-)