It's not often that I'm dying to get to the end of an audiobook. This one, however, has everything going for it. Great writing, a compelling story and, for the most part, flawless narration. My small complaint with the narration is the occasional accents he uses. His Arabic accent is downright embarassing. However, I've never heard better "voice-quoting"
The book itself is a straight-forward history of Blackwater. If you don't have a problem with a private army funded by your tax dollars that operates with no oversight and bleeds jobs away from the US Military, the book will infuriate you. If you do have a problem with it, you'll be even more infuriated. Rather than giving American troops money for armor, training and benefits, the Bush adminisistration prefers to throw money at private contractors which inflates the cost of the "War on Terror" and makes its buddies rich.
The Fallujah section boggles the mind - an understaffed group of four Blackwater mercenaries are sent to guard a shipment of utensils get killed and hung from a bridge. The media not only treats them as if they were soldiers but refers to them as if they worked for the Red Cross. And the military needs to revenge the deaths of *contractors*?
If you ever wondered why the US Military isn't good enough to guard the likes of Paul Bremer, this book will tell you why - Blackwater has better guns because the US taxpayer is getting bilked.
I'm not sure why this was narrated as if it were an American Girl story. I'm glad I stuck it out but especially in the early chapters the book sounded like some kind of alt-reality Disney story which took away from a lot of the power.
An amazing overview! Well put together with great narration that kept me listening even after I was done driving. I love books like this that give you history in a context that you may not consider.
The narration is just miserable. Sisco never met a "t" that he liked, which would be fine if the subject's name wasn't "RaspuTin". So, you're treated to hearing "Raspudin". His tone varies between sounding computerized and sounding like the bad dubbing on a Japanese monster movie.
The book itself is fine, if a little low-brow. This is not a scholarly work but will give you an overview.
It's cliche, but I could listen to Robertson Dean read the phone book in one sitting. I love everything about his speech and mannerism. He's simply the best narrator there is.
I ripped through this 26hr book in under a month, which may be a new record. It's that good.
The slow rise from fey, middle class academic to brutal sociopath warrants the time it takes for make the journey. In that way, the structure of the book serves the story. Dictatorships don't happen overnight. They take thought, planning.and careful manipulation of those around you. What's stunning, though, is how this thoroughly unlikable man managed to starve and murder tens of millions of his own people and remain in power. Often, especially in the last half of the book, I found myself screaming at my iPod for the citizens to start an actual revolution against Mao.
If there's a moral to the book, it's that education is the key. Keep the people ignorant and illiterate and dictatorship is easy. Mao continued to read voraciously as he destroyed the books and culture of those he was supposed to protect. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is powerlessness. Get the book and get some knowledge.
If you read The Family, save your time and money. If you haven't read The Family, get that book first. And I *highly* suggest you get The Family.
Long can be easily called the father of the OWS movement. It's somewhat surprising that his name doesn't come up more often. His methods, though, raise thorny questions about how far one can push ethical boundaries to achieve fairness for all. Say what you will about the man, he had the courage of his convictions lacking in politics today. To stand up to Roosevelt because his agenda wasn't radical enough, that took, let's say, testicular fortitude.
The greatest praise I can give this book is that I finished at 32hr book in 10 days which is pretty much a record for me.
The only carp I have - Wiener's accents border on offensively clownish at times. I got used to the Cajun drawls but the Black and Hispanic made me wince.
I was a little shocked to find that McClellan chose to narrate this himself and even more shocked when I heard him speak. He's in my all-time bottom 10 of narrators. The biggest problem was the decision to pronounce "a" as "ay" rather than "uh" as in "The president had AY problem" and, worse, "We talked AYbout how we would deal..." Combined with his flat, monotone style he frequently sounds like he's reading a junior high essay at ay national competition. Odd words, too, come flying out at you, most notably "peccadillo" which given the somewhat hayseed reading sound outstandingly clunky.
The book itself is frustrating. Despite preaching aybout bi-partisanship he rarely misses the chance to dig at the "preceding administration" (aka the Cintons). That's not to say that he spares the Republicans but it feels as if the Democrats started it all and, well, what can you do?
I find the writing atrocious. "The curtains in the president's office could stop ay bullet but they couldn't keep out the sunshine..." Please. That's just hacky and polyana-ish. Which is kind of the message of the book. He was there to work for the president and not think too hard. With Plamegate, he asked Rove if he was involved, Rove said no and that was good enough for him. It's not his fault that he was lied to. And in hindsight, maybe he *should* have asked a few more questions but instead he'll write a book.
The other weird thread comes out in the constant references to Texas as if being a Texan gave you instant street cred with McClellan. Maybe that was part of the problem, too.
McClellan insists that it's not a poison pen letter to Bush. And if you think that this portrait of Bush as a "good man" who really didn't know what was going on is flattering, then I guess it's not.
Palast is a classic muckraker pathologically driven to bring down Republicans and Big Business. That's a good thing, but after writing a review of Janet Folger's shrill book, I realize that it's the other side of coin with the caveat that Palast actually does serious research. Still, it's tough to listen to his hysteria sometimes.
What's even harder to listen to is the rotating cast that reads the book. To move from a male to a female narrator for no real reason makes me wonder if Palast just got bored that day and Garafolo was available. Plus - accents are great...if you can do them, otherwise they just sound stupid and blunt the message of the book.
If you like your Christianity presented in a sneering, sarcastic and mean spirited way, then you'll love this book.
Folger, who is a driving force in Christian Conservatism pulls out the logical stops as she fails to make a case that America is turning into a Nazi state. And, yes, she loves using the Nazi comparison. The vast majority of examples she cites happened in other countries which leads her to end far to many chapters with an ominous - "Could it happen HERE?
Another frequently used phrase is "so much for tolerance, huh?". This is applied to any group attacked by the religious right that fights back. It's the driving paradigm of this book that in a land of religious freedom, Christians demand that Christianity dominate. Thus a Muslim or atheist who protests Christian prayer in school is "persecuting" Christians. Should a Muslim request a Muslim prayer in school, Folger would mostlikely call this "fostering terrorism".
The whole book is filled with bait and switch. The most striking example is a federal judge who was not confirmed because of radical views on race and religion. Instead of acknowledging the actual reasons she sums it up disingenuously by saying the judge wasn't confirmed "...simply because he taught Sunday School".
With her own radio show, Folger is an engaging reader, amply heaping well-textured scorn on those she tacitly condemns to Hell.
I've given it one-star but this book is essential in understanding the methods and tactics used by Christian Conservatives.
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