I have been reading about Roosevelt and his presidency for the last few months. There are many books about Roosevelt and his leadership, but where some of them are weak, it is that they focus too much on the man, and too little on those with whom he worked, and sometimes too little on policy.
Nothing to Fear is an account of the fabled first 100 days of Roosevelt's first term, and the characters who came together to make it.
Nothing to Fear exemplifies good story telling, with policy and human interest finely balanced. While we are introduced to the origins and development of Henry Wallace, Stevens, Perkins, Hopkins, Moley, etc, we are then, in the epilogue learn about their diverse fates.
In one review the author was taken to task for not assimilating more recent views of Hoover into his account. This doesn't hold up. There is an ongoing discussion about Hoover, his limitations, and his belief in the role of government.
These profiles indicate that the reforms of the New Deal were not merely the work of a great man, but resulted from the coming together of many who reached similar conclusions about the role of government. Despite Hoover's brilliance, he did not share the view that government should intervene in the economy, and this transformation could not have happened during his tenure.
The profiles of Frances Perkins and Henry Wallace were especially interesting, and despite my previous reading, I had no idea of the important role of Frances Perkins as an architect of Social Security.
I hope the author is working on a follow up.
This book is about the vital relationship between investigative journalism and a meaningful democracy. Besides giving an incisive overview of contemporary journalism, highlighting the social importance of journalism in creating awareness about racism, the dangers of tobacco, the lies that make war possible, and accurate knowledge of the state of society, it is a homage to the stubborn courage and tenacity of investigative journalists. He sketches the many journalists who have sought independence in order to maintain integrity, such as George Seldes, I.F. Stone, Morton Mintz, etc, while highlighting the career of Edward R. Murrow, who as a mainstream journalist of WWII in the 40s achieved the pinnacle of respect from governments and CBS, but who lost support when in the McCarthyist 50's, political conformity and commercial considerations outweighed the need for the public to be informed. Lewis's own experience working on 60 minutes, when he felt corporate loyalties would conflict with the freedom to investigate news stories. This inspired him to leave corporate journalism and strike out on his own, and found the Center for Public Integrity.
Though the Center's history provides a practical example of how investigative journalism could be supported by an institutional framework without sacrificing integrity, this audio book becomes a rather dry listing of accomplishments,drawbacks, and associations. It provides important reference material and leads, the type one would like to read, but not necessarily what one would like to listen to, nor are the acknowledgements. Therefore most of the appeal of 935 Lies as an audiobook is in the first seven chapters, and in its concluding chapters on the possibilities of investigative journalism.
Lewis's reflections on the historic potential and limitations of TV journalism, and the emerging possibilities of news gathering in the fast changing information age isn't academic, he has practical solutions. Lewis suggests that a new multi-disciplinary academic discipline be created: accountability studies. The lack of accountability of public institutions is an ever increasing threat to the public good, and Lewis provides the germ of a remedy. Much of this tacitly assumes that investigative reporting will not have large audiences in the future, but niche audiences. Yet this is a limited remedy in a mass democracy where authority to formulate policies goes exclusively to the winners of elections,and the corporate interests they usually represent.
Master of the Mountain is more than a study of Jefferson and his treatment of his slaves. Jefferson defined the aspirations of liberty and human equality of the American revolution. But his ability to give expression to those worthy aspirations contrasted sharply with exploitative and oppressive practices that he quietly encouraged and in some ways made unavoidable by his reluctance to regard the enslaved as anything but property, (with few exceptions). Part of this story is the running, building up and financing of Monticello. Another part is his relationship with Sally Hemings. Still another part of this story, is how historians have colluded to burnish Jefferson's image, by sanitizing accounts of his relations to his slaves, and his policies. How the relationship between Hemings and Jefferson became practically irrefutable is explained (I was not previously aware of the controversy). The treatment of this relationship by biographers since Jefferson is related, but especially the story of the breakthrough in the 1990s, is told, and is fascinating in itself. The narration was excellent. I couldn't put it down.
An enlightening biography, it started well, and became increasingly better. It is a book that one might call a "tour de force," as it is not only a fascinating biography of a fascinating life of Thomas Paine, but it is also highly informative about his times, serving as a valuable guide to the European enlightenment, the American and French Revolutions and the controversies of the day, and also the evolution of democracy in England. There are times when in listening to a historical biography that one feels one is getting distracted by personal minutiae which would be better not to know. But that wasn't the case in this book because the relevant history of the period was so adroitly integrated into the personal narrative of Thomas Paine. It is certainly a book worth listening to again. The narration was superb.
Very moving account and biographical portrait of Frederick Douglass and his relationship with Abraham Lincoln. The focus on the winding path of the civil war toward emancipation, and the hardships and difficulties of the emancipated slaves, coupled with the drama of the prospective soldiers caught between bloody war and a hostile society, made this a gripping book to listen to. The narration made it easy to concentrate on the text. This book has much to recommend it.
I learned much more from this title than I expected. I am interested in understanding the dynamics of anti-slavery politics that took place prior to the civil war, but I have found the topic daunting. I had read about John Brown before, with interpretations of his efforts being mostly negative, which do not explain well why he would be the subject of an anthem, or his historical stature. This biography puts John Brown in the context of his times making understandable the shortcomings and contrasts of other abolitionists, the urgency created by the fugitive slave law and the growing influence of the pro slavery politicians and jurists. This portrait explains well the reasons for the high regard he has been held, and his historic stature. The story of John Brown is one of a fascinating struggle with adversity, faith and the struggle of morality in politics when received opinion is resolutely opposed. The voice of Michael Prichard, with its special grit, provides a powerful and engaging performance.
Michael Hiltzik has produced an excellent New Deal History. He brings to life New Deal personages, such as General Hugh Johnson, Harod Ickes, Adolph Berle, Benjamin Cohen and Terence Corcoran, Ferdinand Pecora; the agencies and events and professional relationships & politics they were involved in and the social climate that made their decisions, for good or ill, so urgent. The book is convincing in explaining the limits of the New Deal, and pointing out, where, with hindsight, it could have done better. The chapter on race in the New Deal years,"The Most Forgotten Man", was especially sharp and insightful. The concluding chapter is an excellent review of the politics of the New Deal, and reminds the reader why the history of the new deal is especially relevant to understanding the process of political change today. The book is beautifully written, and the gravel tinged voice of the spoken narration was perfect.
This was quite an extraordinary history book. It has been a few weeks now since I've listened to it, but it left a good impression. I remember thinking that the United States has an impressive pantheon of historians. Scholars who not only write disciplined prose, but present judicious, comprehensive and thoughtful accounts of the American past. Though I did not approach this book with grand expectations, at its conclusion I looked back at it as a grand listening experience.
The reader's authoritative voice moved the narrative along at a good pace
Generally, the available variety of good books to listen to is stunning and overwhelming.
Though one cannot expect an answer, the question suggests itself, because the contrast between the scholarly realm and the realm of politics on television is so vast. Given the existence of such a vast quantity of quality writing in so many humanistic fields, why is it that in the American political arena the variety of voices are so meager, and the discourse so base, and so awful?
This book is a lucid and clear disquisition on what goes for "free market" thinking. It examines 23 commonly expressed platitudes about economics and where they fail to explain economic and financial processes. It thereby provides interesting insights to the financial failures of 2008 and the present days. The reading matches the writing, making it difficult to put down. I now want to review the arguments on paper, as they are worthy of closer study.
The Last Days of Innocence was a revelation and I am pleased I listened to it. In addition to being a window on an age, it provided pertinent background explaining why Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and the Progressivism he purported to represent, failed to realize the hopes that it inspired.
I was surprised by the power and passion of Al Gore's case against the policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. He has provided a cogent reminder of the assaults on reason, science, society and international law that that administration represented. Perhaps if the transgressions of that era had not been swept under the carpet, but subjected to proper legal investigation, there would be a sense that Change (for the better) was realizable. Instead there is the same old, same old. Nevertheless, it is important to be reminded, as it provides grounding and perspective. The Assault on Reason is an exceptionally penetrating political book. The reader did a fine job.
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