Monday, November 14, 2016
What are you reading?
A new trailing thread, dedicated to what we're currently reading.
And. . . we hope. . . with participation from you.
What are you reading right now? Add it down in the commentary section
June 21, 2016
Give Me Eighty Men
I'm presently reading Give Me Eighty Men by Shannon Smith. It's a history of the Fetterman Fight, and a history of the history of the Fetterman Fight. I'll review it when I'm done, but I'll note that the favorable mention of the book by the authors of The Heart of All That Is caused me to pick it up, even though I'd been inclined to previously avoid it.
So far, I'm enjoying it, and its certainly raising a lot questions in my mind about the Fetterman battle, although I'm reserving my judgment on various things so far.
July 5, 2016
Red Cloud's War
I must be stuck on a theme right now. Having read The Heart of All that Is, and having learned about Give Me Eighty Men from that, I am now reading Red Cloud's War by McDermott which I learned about from Give Me Eighty Men. I wasn't actually aware that John McDermott had written a two volume history of Red Cloud's War until I saw it referenced, with a bit of criticism as to his treatment of Fetterman, in Smith's book but I'm enjoying it so far, having just started it today while riding on airplanes and sitting in airports. So far, I'm really enjoying it.
July 29, 2016
The Lost Mandate of Heaven
The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam
I just finished the excellent Red Cloud's War earlier this week and started on this over breakfast this morning. While I'm not far into it, so far its been very readable and very interesting as well.
I just finished this book and I'm left, yet again, wondering why the Kennedy Administration continues to have such an golden aura surrounding it.
Besides Kennedy's personal ickiness, his administration was a foreign policy and moral wreck. Camelot? More like the court of AEthelred the Unready.
October 13, 2016
Blacklisted by History
The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy
by M. Stanton Evans
A good, and very well read, friend of mine has been recommending this book to me for quite some time. I just picked it up, and as I had been getting a lot of airport time, I'm about 3/4s of the way through it, even though its a lengthy book (in excess of 600 pages) and its incredibly dense in cited facts and sources.
Indeed, it's a hard book to describe. It purports to be the "untold" story of Senator McCarthy, and I had some concern that it might be a revisionist essay, but it's neither really solely about McCarthy nor is it so much of an essay (although it is that) as an incredibly detailed example of investigative reporting. Evans, who wrote the book, had a career in journalism and that shows. Given that it is investigative journalism, basically, combined with history, and because Evans knew he was taking on the prior record, it's extremely densely packed with cites to original sources and its also somewhat repetitive. Nonetheless, its riveting.
What the book really is, is a history of Soviet penetration into American government in the 1930s and 1940s. It starts well before McCarthy was on the scene and looks at a lot of data before he ever made his appearance. It then picks up his role in exposing Communists in American government once he arrives.
I'm not finished with the book yet, but while I'll come back with my full opinions when I'm done, I'm satisfied that its not a simple hard right McCarthy fan piece. Indeed, the friend who recommended it to me actually noted that when Evans started the book off he expected to find the opposite of what he did, which may explain in part why the book is so extraordinarily careful in slamming the reader repetitively with original sources. And I also have to note that its slightly, but only slightly, anti climatic (so far) in that the story in this area has really changed dramatically since 1990. McCarthy, however, hasn't really been rehabilitated so far in the public eye.
That's a bit surprising as following the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union and the release of Soviet records, combined with the Federal Government's release of the Army's Venona files we now knew beyond a shawdow of a doubt that Soviet espionage efforts were far deeper than previously believed. Figures like Whitaker Chambers who suffered for sounding the alarm turn out not only to be correct, but in fact the Soviet effort was far greater than was previously known to anyone but the government and its investigative arms. Venona has confirmed that many of the people that left wing and liberal apologists maintained were innocent victims of accusations were in fact Communist operatives, just as they were accused of being. Indeed, people who were only sort of expected turn out to be proven Communist operatives.
Evans builds on that and demonstrates that the individuals on the original McCarthy list of suspects and the amended one, some 60 or so people, were in fact generally what they were accused of being. He also goes on to show that McCarthy clearly had sources inside at least a couple of agencies that were supplying him with up to date information so the period accusations that his stories were old news were inaccurate.
I'll leave it there, and there is more to discuss, but I'll pick that back up when I finish the book.
Update, November 14, 2016:
I finished the book noted above (some time ago actually) and highly recommend it, although it does have a very unusual style. It's author's role as a journalist really shows, as its basically a series of essay points and explorations of evidence.
As good as it is, I still wouldn't say that its the definitive biography of McCarthy. It's really simply an exploration of his role in exploring Communist infiltration into the US government and the opposition that he met in doing that. I'd regard it as slightly partisan, but very well done.
I also think, however, that a full biography that's not biased would be in order, which I understand has not really been done. This book explores McCarthy's early life a bit, although not much, but completely omits anything regarding his personal life upon reaching public office. His marriage to a much younger member of his staff, for example, isn't even mentioned.
All in all, a very good correction to the record, very well researched, and convincingly written.
November 14, 2016
The Secret War
by Max Hastings
Hastings is extremely well known to students of World War Two and has written a number of absolutely excellent books on that topic. The former journalist hasn't focused solely on the Second World War, and recently wrote one on World War One. At the time he wrote that book, he indicated that he was done writing on World War Two, but obviously, he wasn't. He's noted that he's returned to the Second World War after making such statements before, doing so this time to examine intelligence and espionage during World War Two.
I must be on an espionage and fifth column kick, as the book noted immediately above is also basically on that general theme, but when I heard that Hastings had written a new book on this topic, I knew that I'd get it. Due to a series of long flights, I actually started it before I completed Blacklisted By History.
I'm still reading it and still have quite a ways to go, but so far, it meets with Hastings high standards of writing and research. I'll detail more on it when I complete the book.