On August 5, 1962, newspapers around the world relayed the news of the death of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) the night before at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of thirty-six. The cause of death was listed as suicide from an overdose of the drugs Pentobarbital and chloral hydrate. However, decades after her death, several question still remain regarding that tragic night of August 4, 1962. What really happened that night and why was she paid a visit by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford (1923-1984)?
The image we have been given of Monroe is a drug-addicted sex symbol, starved for validation from the opposite sex and unable to cope with the rigors of Hollywood. Her previous suicide attempts gave credence to this perpetuated image and for many, it was the ending that they expected for quite some time. Her life reads like a tragic novel of a heroine unable to fully come to terms with herself and seeking love and affection in all of the wrong places. However in just thirty-six years, she lived a live that some can only dream of. At at one point in her life, she was the most desired woman in the world. Donald H. Wolfe takes us back in time to the those final days in August, 1962 to piece together what really did happen and why.
The book opens by revisiting the night of August 4 and the pandemonium that ensued following Monroe’s death. Immediately we learn of several disturbing facts that set the tone of the book. Wolfe does an incredible job of keeping the suspense going and the reader engaged. And rightfully so, he not only explores her death but also provides a concise biography that sets the stage for events that took place later in her life. Behind the facade of a starlet singing happy birthday to the President, lay a woman raised in a childhood which could best be described as tragic. However, in order to understand Monroe’s life and her death, it is necessary to explore her beginnings which Wolfe presents to us without breaking the momentum of the book. And I can assure you that once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down.
Although the book is about Monroe’s final days, there are many sub-stories that are told which gives us an inside view of the inner-workings of Hollywood and politics in the middle of the twentieth century. As she moves through one circle to the next, some of the biggest names in show business, sports and politics make an appearance in her life such as John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Clark Gable (1901-1960), J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999). However, among all of the people who cross paths with her, her life takes a much darker and tragic turn through her association with the Kennedys and their associates and it is this relationship that forms the crux the remaining third of the book. After you have finished the book, you may come to see the administration in a different light. Today it is public knowledge that an affair did take place between Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. And if all accounts are correct, Monroe and Robert Kennedy also had their intimate moments. The sexual content is fodder for gossips and tabloid magazines. But what was critical was the true nature of their relationship and the many secrets Monroe possessed about the most powerful man in the country. In fact, it is quite possible that she did have the power to bring down a presidency. Was this the reason for the urgent visits by J. Edgar Hoover to the White House in May, 1962 and that last visit by Robert Kennedy on the day she died? Or was this the reason for the heated arguments that took place between Monroe and Robert Kennedy in the weeks leading up to her death? And how much did she know about their association with Frank Sinatra and mobster Sam Giancana? Certainly, many of their discussions which were likely picked up by the FBI may never be known. Other recordings by the President are locked away in the Kennedy library. A little over one year after Monroe’s death, John Kennedy himself was cut down in a hail of bullets in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Several years later, Bobby would be gone as well, also the victim of an assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968. In death they joined a long list of political figures and stars that died during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.
Marilyn Monroe remains a sex icon decades after her death. Young women still hang posters of her on their walls and purchase t-shirts with her image. In death, she became a legend whose left this world far too soon. Her life was in some ways a soap opera with affairs, fairy tale romances, political scandals, drugs, mental health issues and tragically, broken homes. Sadly, many people in her life failed her not just on one but on several occasions. But if there is one inspiring aspect of the story, it is her resiliency to move forward in life and command respect even in the most difficult of times. And had her life taken a slightly different course, then perhaps she might still be alive today well into her senior years and full of knowledge about Hollywood’s golden era. This is the story of the life and final days of Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood icon.
Previously, I reviewed Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 and The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, investigative accounts into life under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976). In the first volume, Tragedy of Liberation, we learned about the transformation of China following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975) and his Kuomintang Nationalist party. In the third volume, The Cultural Revolution, the behind the scenes political battles are put on display revealing the dysfunction that had engulfed Mao’s inner circle. Here in Mao’s Great Famine, Dikötter takes us back in time to the Great Leap Forward and its catastrophic failure between the years of 1958 and 1962. I feel the need to point out that by far, this part of the trilogy was the most difficult to read. As usual, Dikötter’s writing style is to the point and very concise. The difficult part is the material at hand. Today we know a fair amount about the Great Leap Forward and how it failed to transform Chinese society. The famine that ensued is known but what may not be known are the facts about what really happened behind the closed doors of China as a government struggled to move a nation forward as widespread hunger decimated its population.
If you are a reader with a sensitive stomach or easily disturbed, this may not be the book for you. But if you are a reader that is able to digest material that is emotionally and mentally difficult to accept, then this book will be one that you can add to your reading list. Some may wonder why a book such as this is needed. I believe it is important because it reveals to us what many probably did not and do not know. The details are sometimes gory and all around tragic. At several points in the book, I wondered to myself how human beings could do the things that they did to each other. The policy of collectivization and the labor mandated by the government devastated the country in ways from which it is still recovering. Mao’s grip over China was relentless and his failure to first grasp the severity of the situation and his lack of action to halt the descent is mystifying and infuriating. And considering what was known to have occurred in counties across the country, I am astounded that he was able to sleep at night with the blood of millions of Chinese on his hands. Perhaps towards the end of his life and in closed-door meetings, he did voice concern and repulsion about what was transpiring. But if that did happen, those facts have remained secret and are locked away from public view. One day we may find out more of the truth but for now we can only assume.
In between the descriptions of famine and violence, I did pick up a possibly unintended message in the book; we should all be grateful for the privileges and comforts in life that we have. I personally have never had the experiences detailed by Dikötter. And I can only imagine what life for them was like. Through his work, I now know their stories and can see their pain but I can never say that I know their struggle. Daily episodes of gratuitous violence, sexual assault, exhaustion, inhumane living conditions and death occurred with no reprieve. And when people did try to make their voices heard, they were met with severe resistance by cadres unwavering in their adulation to the Chairman. Lives were ended and others had their career ruined as the Red Guard made its presence felt throughout the country. Those who did not succumb to violence, often had to deal with extreme hunger, disease and mental degradation. The number of deaths that occurred is not known for sure but as we see in the book, it is believed that over 40 million Chinese people died during the Great Leap Forward. It is by far the worst case of systemic mass murder the world has ever seen and hopefully never will see again.
Today, Mao’s picture can still be found across China and his tomb in Beijing is open to the public. But as we come to know more about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, we will be forced to reexamine what we thought we knew about the Chairman and the legacy that lives decades after his death. This book is a hard look at the Great Leap Forward and all of its infamy.
Assault On The Liberty: The True Story Of The Israeli Attack On An American Intelligence Ship- James M. Ennes, Jr.
On June 8, 1967, the USS Liberty was on a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean Sea near Sinai, Egypt. The morning started off normally until members of the ship’s crew noticed Israeli fighter jets circling above. The process was repeated several times more before a full-scale attacked was launched upon the unsuspecting ship. Thirty-four men perished in the attacks. Nearly all of the survivors were severely wounded with injuries that could only be described as horrific. The attack caused international outrage as the American and Israeli governments acted to contain the fallout from the nefarious attack. The official statement was that the attack was a grave error committed by Israeli forces upon a ship that allegedly had no clear markings identifying it as a United States Naval vessel. Members of the crew disputed this and some have made their voices heard in an attempt to tell what they know about that day tragic day in June, 1967. James M. Ennes, Jr., was a member of the crew and survived the attacked with a severely broken leg and other mental and physical injuries. He was one of the lucky ones and never wavered in his conviction to tell the truth about what he remembers from that day. Here he tells us the story from his recollections on record for the reader to digest and form an informed opinion.
The book was published in 1979, roughly about twelve years following the attack. Mysteries of that day still remain but it is here that we have a more accurate picture of what really did happen and a possible explanation as for why it happened. Ennes states that there are some aspects of the incident that will probably remain unknown for a long time. But what he does reveal about the incident is shocking and confusing. Perhaps the biggest question is why would Israeli fighter planes attack a U.S. vessel clearly marked and not on a combat mission?
The story begins before the Liberty arrives near the coast of Egypt. Orders were dispatched for the Liberty to change its position but were never received by the ship due to poor communication channels. If the orders had been received, then maybe this book would not exist. Ennes’ memories are very candid and show some what life is like for men on the seas, far away from home and surrounded by water on all side. The anecdotes at the beginning of the book are entertaining and slowly we are introduced to the characters in the story. Their mission appears to be moving along slowly until June 8, when all hell broke loose. It is at this point in the book, where we reach Defcon 1 and the fallout is horrifying. Readers with sensitive stomachs may find the latter part of the book highly uncomfortable to read. The descriptions of the injuries sustained by survivors and the deaths of other crew members are told in detail giving a graphic picture of the carnage that ensued. And what is even more appalling is the lack of support from Washington and the conflicting orders given to military personnel that sought to provide assistance to the critically injured ship and its crew.
As we make our way through the book and the attack is over, the period of recuperation and investigation comes into focus. This is the point in the book where shock turns into anger. Nearly all of the major political figures involved are deceased and unable to answer questions we may have. But what did happen as Ennes shows us, is that a cover-up was initiated at the highest levels of government for reasons which eluded the crew. Citations for bravery and reparations by the Israeli government followed but the manner in which they occurred will stun even the most hardened readers. The lives of the surviving crew members were changed forever and few have been able to fully tell their stories without repercussions from military brass and the White House. Even today, fifty years later, secrets remain about the motives behind the attack. We may never know all of the details of the attack but we do have a place to start here. Ennes deserves an additional acknowledgment for being able to distinguish between the actions of the Israeli government and people of the Jewish faith. Having survived an attack of such nature, it would have been fairly easy for him to cast all Jews as perpetrators of an unthinkable crime. But Ennes avoids the pitfall and makes it clear that the attack was carried about by Jewish people but by individuals with motives of their own.
Towards the end of the book, Ennes touches on the possible motive behind the attack. And while there is no conclusive evidence that his belief is correct, it is a highly plausible explanation. In time his words may prove to be true but for now, we are still saddled with a number of unanswered questions surrounding the attack. But with this story of tragedy and perseverance, we are closer to fully understanding the events of that day.
There is a saying that a fine line exist between genius and insanity. Some would argue that they are one in the same. The greatest minds in history were possessed by those who could have been described as unorthodox to say the least. But creativity needs a foundation, one that encourages and allows the creator to tap into all of their gifts. Musicians tend to stick out the most when it we think about this for their industry is not only fiercely competitive but without creativity, you have no career. Those who understand this concept and master it, go on to become great and in some cases, legendary. When Rick James (1948-2004) died from a heart attack on August 6, 2004, a light was extinguished and a musical great was lost forever. During his lifetime, he created a persona for himself and composed music that is still played to this day. His hits Super Freak and Give It To Me Baby are dance classics that sound as good today as they did when they were released. Prior to his death, he found himself in the spotlight when actor and comedian Dave Chappelle created a skit based on James’ life. In the skit, Chappelle takes on the role of James as Charlie Murphy recalls his Hollywood stories. In one of the skits, James remarks “cocaine is a hell of a drug”. It was a part of his life as was much more as can be learned in this brutally frank autobiography of one of the music industry’s most extreme characters.
But just who was James Ambrose Johnson who we came to know as Rick James? And just how crazy was his life? I can tell that you his life was a wild ride and once I started this book I could not put it down. It was a miracle that he lived as long as he did. His life was anything but boring and there is no point in the book where there is a calm moment. His story is told with the help of David Ritz, whom some readers may recall, is the author of Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. The difference here is that this is James telling us his story whereas in Gaye’s case, Ritz is telling us about Marvin’s short life. Regardless, both books are enjoyable and shocking to read but necessary in understanding the character behind the musical geniuses we came to love. And no matter what we think about their lives, we can agree that they saw and accomplished things that many of us never will. Tragically, both died before reaching sixty years of age. As Rick tells it, he did not want to meet the same fate as Marvin, but ironically drugs would play a part in his demise. And although he outlived Gay by a few decades, his lifestyle caught up to him. The only difference is that Gaye was murdered by his father whereas Rick’s heart could not keep up.
His story is simply incredible and filled with names that we all know such as Steven Tyler, Carrie Fisher, and gridiron great Jim Brown, among others. And his feud with Prince is both hilarious and confusing. Prison, the military and even assault make appearances in his recollections. I warn readers that James holds nothing back and tells us what he went through in some gritty terms. But as you read the book and come to know him, you will understand that it could only have been written that way. He was not one to sugar coat things and be politically correct. With Rick James, you either take him or leave him and fortunately for us, most of the world took him and his songs that have moved many dance floors. This book is rough and at times he can be quite vulgar. The incidents are shocking but the key is to remember that James and many artists. lived in a completely different world than the average person. To be successful, it was sometimes necessary to view the world through very different lenses. The fast life becomes the norm with drugs, money, sex and power readily at your fingertips. The seduction of that life is often too strong for many to resist and as James tells us himself, he could not escape his inner demons or what it is called in the book, the Me Monster. In fact, at one point, Ray Charles flat-out states that he wrote some of his best material when he was high. But the pull of the devil is stronger than gravity forcing the abuser to use all of their might to escape rock bottom.
I believe that it took an extraordinary amount of courage to write this book. What I found striking is that for all of his antics, he never ceased to love his mother who figures prominently throughout his autobiography as the grounding force to Rick’s increasing erratic life. She and others would do their best to set him on the right path but in the end, he lived his life on his terms whether for better or worse. He is long gone but left behind many great songs , interviews and television appearances. This autobiography is a gift, allowing us to read his story as he wanted it told. And when you have finished this book, you will understand what he meant by the glow.
Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds-Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
The Second World War remains the most brutal conflict in history. The number of those who perished is still up for debate and there are many secrets of the war that have been lost to history forever. In the United States, foreign-born citizens with roots in any of the countries part of the Axis powers, found their selves under suspicion and in the case of the Japanese, placed into concentration camps. Although not as inhumane and deadly as the camps in Germany and Poland, they resulted in the rise of resentment among Japanese-Americans toward the United States Government and the country they called home. The dropping of the Atomic bombs further heightened the feeling of resentment and was the first and only time a nuclear weapon was used in warfare. Survivors of the bomb attacks can still be found today, advanced in their years but tragically familiar with the barbarity of modern warfare. Across the pacific, Japanese-American veterans of the war remember the tragedy that befell Japan, the nation to which their families trace their origins. But what happens when half of a family is in Japan and the other half is in the United States? Or what do you do when one son is part of the Japanese Imperial Army and the other is part of the United States Armed Forces? And when the war is over, how do you come to terms with the effects war has had on your family and yourself? This is the story of the Fukuhara family whose lives are the answer to those questions. Written by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto and containing snippets of interviews conducted with those relevant to the story, Midnight in Broad Daylight is a heart wrenching story of a family struggling to survive, having been affected by a war in more ways than one.
Following the death of the family patriarch, a widow is faced with the daunting challenge of raising several children on an almost non-existent budget. Her plight is compounded by the social climate of strong prejudice against Asian-Americans. Seeking a better quality of life, she makes the decision to relocate to her homeland of Japan where several other children reside. There, they are briefly reunited and their situation forms the nexus for the remainder of the story as we follow Kino, her children Harry, Victory, Frank and Mary as they move through life and encounter war on a scale unlike anything ever seen before. Harry (1925-2015) and Mary eventually move back to the United States leaving behind Kino, Victor and Frank. Life moves along for each until December 7, 1941, the day that lives in infamy, when the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into the war. From that point on, none of their lives would ever be the same again. Harry became the most popular of the siblings, earning his induction in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1988.
The East and West still have much ground to cover in completely understanding each other. Foreigners who move to the United States often face the challenge of enforcing native traditions on their American children. Generational and cultural gaps are formed making the path to understanding and compromise seem as if it is completely out of reach. But if we take the time to read the story of the Fukuhara’s, we can find solid footing allowing us to examine the fears and concerns about culture being lost. Today, it is probably impossible for any of us to begin to understand the inner conflict a person must have had if they were Japanese during World War II. The attacks at Pearl Harbor caught nearly all by surprise including Japanese-Americans. But following the attack and the United States entry into the conflict, life became harder and the prejudices against Japanese far much stronger. With hindsight we can easily find fault with government policy during that era but today we would be hard pressed to say if some of us would do otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a hawk or a dove, this story is moving and one that should be widely read. As I made my way through the book, I found myself rooting for the Fukuhara’s, hoping that they all make it through the war and reunite with a happy ending. This did not happen. The book is not easy to read in some parts, in particular with regards to the concentration camps and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We should never fail to comprehend the level of devastation caused by the devices known as Fat Man and Little Boy. The effects of the blast and subsequent radiation sickness are on full display and reinforces my belief that Japan’s resurrection after the war was nothing short of miraculous.
I hope that the world never experiences a conflict on the scale of World War II. If we do, it might be the world’s final war. As the people of Japan were preparing for the Allied invasion, I am sure that they too thought that the war would be Japan’s total demise. For their relatives here in the United States, there was only waiting and uneasiness as news of the atomic bombs spread across the globe. The Fukuhara’s lives are a case study of what happens to those families caught on both sides of a conflict regardless of their personal beliefs or character. For the rest of their lives, the events of the 1940s remained with them as reminders of a dark period in world history. If you are a student of world history and/or a World War II buff, then this book a welcomed addition.
The name Idi Amin remains among the most infamous our world has ever known. Following the overthrow that removed Milton Obote (1925-2005) from power, the late despot ruled Uganda with relentless brutality as he enriched himself at the peril of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans. In January, 1979, the Ugandan National Liberation Army forced him into exile with the help of the Tanzania People’s Defense Force and former Libyan dictator Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011). Amin spent the last years of his life in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he died on August 16, 2003. Today, nearly fifteen years after his death, he is still reviled by those who remember a dark period in the history of Uganda.
Henry Kyemba (1939-) served under Amin in several high positions including Minister of Health. On a trip to Europe, he defected from Ugandan and was reunited with both of his wives and his children thereafter. He first wrote this book in 1977, shortly after he made his life changing escape from Amin’s domain. Twenty years later, the book was republished with a foreword by Godfrey Lule (Godfrey Binaisa, 1929-2010). This is Kyemba’s account his time serving under Amin and the nightmare that ensued. And what is contained in the pages of this book is a story that is not for the faint at heart and a critical inside look into the reign of the man who dubbed himself “The Last King of Scotland”. And for those familiar with Amin, the story is still fascinating and at times just mind numbing as Kyemba reveals the insanity that engulfed a doomed regime.
Kyemba begins this story by teaching us about Uganda’s history and the division of tribes that remains in place today. The names and places come together like a puzzle giving us a large image of the country. At first it may be challenging to follow along but as the story moves along, the reader will be able to remember the most important. He continues by introducing us to his life and his role under the administration under Milton Obote who is removed from power early in the story. From that point on, it is all Amin and the madness that came with him. Kyemba’s escape is the “happy ending” that can serve to uplift the spirit, but in reality, his heart and the hearts of others who escape Uganda bleed for the thousands who were brutally murdered.
The book is at times, tough to read and Kyemba does not sugar coat anything. Violence, racism and incompetence combined to for a cesspool from which many would never recover. Kyemba also discusses the major events that highlighted Amin’s rule including the death of his wife Kay, whose gruesome demise was documented in the film The Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker, the death of Dora Bloch following the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 from Tel Aviv and the expulsion of Indians and Asians from Ugandan soil. In each case, Amin’s delusions and failure to grasp the situation, marked yet another tragic point in an already bizarre story. In one of the most touching moments in the book, Kyemba remarks on Bloch’s death and how it has stayed with him.
An extraordinary amount of courage was required to write a book of this nature. For Kyemba, Uganda will always be home and his memories will be with him for the rest of his days. For those of us who did not live under Amin, books like this give us an idea of what life was like under a regime that stood on the verge of spiraling out of control nearly every day. Amin escaped justice dying in his older years in Saudi Arabia. For thousands of Ugandans, his ability to avoid punishment and answer for his crimes is one of the true tragedies in the nation’s history. Dictators live in a world removed from reality with their power having blinded them to the reality of their situation. Amin was no different and in fact stood out for his relentless brutality and lack of comprehension of even the most basic government concepts. Kyemba’s story is similar to other survivors of murderous regimes but I assure even the most hardened readers will be moved. If you are curious about the notorious Idi Amin and his regime, this book will show you a side that needs to be shown.
The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election-Malcolm Nance
The 2016 presidential election remains an event that bordered on the surreal and shocked not just American citizens but people around the globe. Donald J. Trump, the political outsider and least likely candidate to win, secured the Republican nomination and the electoral votes needed to become the 45th President of the United States of America. As we begin 2018 we can look back on his first year and office and reach various conclusions depending on our political outlook and beliefs about the state of the nation. What is certain, is that from the start, his administration has been plagued with allegations of collusion with nefarious figures hailing from Russia. Prior to his election, he often showed admiration for Vladimir Putin and since taking office, has taken a passive stance on the country that is believed by intelligence experts to have interfered in the elections of several nations. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed Special Counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and as of today, the investigation is still ongoing. And while there is no fire yet, there is a lot of smoke.
Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer in Naval Cryptology with over thirty years in intelligence and counter-intelligence decided to put together a short book that puts the known pieces of the Russia hacking scandal together giving us a clear and concise picture of what did happen and when. The book is not a smoking gun linking Trump directly to any Russian hackers and Nance does not imply such. However, there is a lot of potentially incriminating evidence and we know today that at least four people of Trump’s inner circle have pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and money laundering. The recent news of the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury in which he interviews former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon has added more fuel to the fire and has mad the future grim for the 45th Commander-In-Chief. But what exactly did happen prior to November 8, 2016? And what did authorities know for certain? Further, Nance reveals a lot of interesting information, but how much more is there that is still unknown?
Nance takes us back to the beginning when officials realized that the servers of the Democratic National Convention had been hacked. Unlike Watergate, there were no intruders with flashlights who would later stand trial and attempt to extort the White House. This was all done through cyber warfare and the fallout would be staggering. Some may even say there is still more to come. As an IT Administrator (IT), I have experienced cyber threats on several fronts and can say with certainty that if the average person knew just how many cyber threats there are in existence, they would be scared nearly to death. To read the book, you do not need a background in Information Technology, Nance presents each topic in an easy to read format for the layman to follow. If you do have experience in IT, then you will nod your head at many of the things that he discusses. Regardless of your technical aptitude, what is revealed in this book should open the eyes of every American that cares about our electoral process.
Supporters of President Trump may be quick to dismiss the book as fake news or left-wing smear tactics. However, Nance does not take any sides politically and makes no direct accusations against Trump. What he does declare is that without a doubt, Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election and there is strong evidence that the orders came from Putin himself. At first it sounds like a very bold statement but Nance supports his conclusions with sound evidence that is thoroughly explained. And throughout the book, he reminds us that more investigations are needed to see if there was in fact direct collusion and/or espionage between Trump’s team and Russia operatives. According to Bannon, the answer is yes. But before we accept the proclamations of an individual that is as cunning as they come, it is imperative that a full investigation is conducted. We may not like what we find and the truth is rarely pleasant. No matter which party you belong to or how you voted in the election, what transpired prior to November 8, 2016, should be of grave concern to you for if it happened once, there is the fear that it could happen again. Nance gives us a dire warning imploring us not to make the same mistake again and to proactively fight cyber attacks in the future. But with a Commander-In-Chief who doesn’t believe in cyber attacks or seek to understand them, how safe will we be?
The title of the book sounds like it could be a television special or motion picture. But I assure you it is not fiction, this is a real as it gets. The United States and its democratic institutions were attacked and the depth of the crime is something that many people still do not fully understand. But with books such as this one by Nance, a clear picture emerges that can be used as a reference guide in understanding what really was the plot to hack America.
When I first saw the title of this book, I felt my body slightly recoil. In fact, the book was recommended to me by my boss who is a White-American. Previously, Amazon had placed the book on the list of recommended titles for my purchase but I had yet to take the plunge. This time around, I gave in and decided to see what was contained in the pages of this book. Having finished, I can say without a doubt that Nancy Isenberg has produced an eye-opening account of what truly is the untold 400- year history about class and race in America. At first glance, it may seem as if the book is a racist attack on people perceived to be of a lower social class. But in fact, the opposite is true. Isenberg brings light to the suffering and exploitation of a social class that is still disdained and mocked even today. The 2016 Presidential election brought the subject back into the public light provoking fierce debates about the success of the Republican Party and the election of Donald J. Trump. But the question truly remains, what does it mean to be called white trash?
History books typically portray the American Revolution as a movement bursting at the seams with a new-found patriotism as former colonies sought independence from Great Britain. It is a graceful and inspiring story but the reality is that the truth is often uglier and stranger than fiction. The story at hand begins as America is in its infant stages and Jamestown is established as the first settlement with immigrants formerly of England having made their way to North America. But what is often forgotten or in some cases ignored, are the many levels of class distinctions that existed then and still exist now. Slavery overshadows other dark parts of American history but as we see here, there was another class of people who were viewed just as poorly or in some cases, even worse than enslaved Africans. These issues and several others pushed the United States to the breaking point resulting in the Civil War that split the country in half and gave rise to the South, the region that became home to Jim Crow legislation and some of the worst cases of racial violence ever witnesses by American citizens. Isenberg brings even more clarity to the issue taking us back in time to relive the past with figures such as Presidents Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and the infamous Andrew Johnson. Other historical figures such as Davie Crockett, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and the Bakkers (Jim and Tammy Faye) also make an appearance.
The book is presented in an easy flowing chronological format allowing us to follow the development of the United States and continued deplorable existence of the lowest class of White Americans. As a Black-American, I am all too familiar with exploitation and discrimination. It is part of the history of this nation and something that we still struggle to fully confront. At times we have heard the term white trash, always used with a negative connotation. But what we should seek to understand is how the term originated and why. Further, it behooves us to understand how politicians, corporations and others with vested interests have manipulated, stoked fear and paranoia and ultimately exploited one of America’s most unwanted. Eugenics, greed and pseudo-science became the tools of the trade as one class pulled out all the stops to eradicate another.
From start to finish I literally could not put the book down. It pulls you and refuses to let go as the pages reveal a side of America you may be unfamiliar with. Breaking the facade of all White Americans being well-off, Isenberg brings the reality home that class is as important as race and is fully intertwined. This is a book I wish I had read in history classes in school. For an unfiltered and brutally honest look at the social structure of the United States, this is a good place to start. You will not only learn more about America but about yourself as well and what prejudice and exploitation really mean to those who employ it and those who suffer from it.
Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy-David O. Stewart
The American Civil War remains a key turning point in United States history. The nation nearly tore itself apart as the Union and Confederacy engaged in deadly conflict over several issues including States’ rights, secession, and the system of slavery. Prior to its conclusion, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) met his tragic end on April 15, 1965, falling victim to assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Andrew Johnson, then Vice-President and Democrat, succeeded Lincoln as the 17th President of the Unite States of America. He would only serve in office through 1869 when Lincoln’s term would have ended, but in that short period, his administration would be the center of one of the most critical trials in United States history.
David O. Stewart takes a look back in this well-researched and well-presented investigative account of the trial of Andrew Johnson, who faced impeachment by the Radical Republicans led by U.S. House of Representative Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868). From start to finish the book is spellbinding and Stewart writes in a style that never bores the reader while presenting the material in an easy to read and streamlined format. And as a result of his work, we now have one of the finest books on the attempted impeachment of a President who nearly pushed the nation into a second Civil War.
The book begins after Lincoln has passed and Johnson has become the next Commander-In-Chief. And nearly instantly, the dark side of Johnson is put on full display as he commits the first of several acts that will turn the Radical Republicans against him and dictate the course of history for the deep south for decades to come. It is not enough to say that Johnson was unfit for office. Stewart realizes this and details the nefarious policies which Johnson advocated. In time they would come to be viewed as the end of the legacy of Lincoln and an insult to those who truly believe that all men are created equal. Further, we come to learn about the personal side of Johnson or lack of it. Generally viewed as cold and rarely in good spirits, Johnson comes off as vindictive and in some cases delusional and out of his mind. Actions such as circumventing Congress to deal directly with southern states, vetoing the Reconstruction Acts and Civil rights bill of Lyman Trumbull (1813-1896), are just several of many that earned Johnson the wrath of many Americans. But his attempted removal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814-1869) was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the Radical Republicans commencing impeachment proceedings against the despised President.
The impeachment trial is one of the best parts of the book. Johnson came extremely close to impeachment from office, saved only by one vote. Stewart revisits the trial and the events leading up to the trial as each Senator mulls over which way he will vote in deciding Johnson’s fate. For some of them, we see why they voted in the way that they did and for others, the question remains, did they really feel that way or were the allegations of bribery true? It may seem shocking to some to even think that bribery occurred. And while Stewart does not convict anyone with his words, he examines the evidence available reaching a quite startling conclusion.
Today it would be fair to say that the Civil War still haunts America. In the south, it is sometimes referred to as the war of “Northern aggression”. The tearing down of Confederate monuments and the tragedy in Charlottesville remind us of the struggle we continue to deal with in confronting the war that divided our nation. Reconstruction can been seen as a missed opportunity in American history. Millions of freed slaves and White Americans had their lives changed permanently by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Confederacy’s defeat. Congress realizing the opportunity before it, attempted to seize the opportunity but was confronted by a President deeply prejudiced and intent on maintaining the social structure of the south. His efforts would eventually come to pass in the system of Jim Crow that took decades and a Civil Rights Movement to finally defeat. We can only guess what would have happened if Johnson had not only complied but encouraged Congress to pass more legislation to move the nation forward after a brutal conflict and protected the lives of newly freed and disenfranchised Americans.
America now finds itself at a crossroad as we grapple with a political climate that borders on surreal at times. But regardless of what happens, America will survive as it always has. But while we continue to maintain the nation that we have, it is imperative that we do not forget the dark legacy of Andrew Johnson and remember why it is imperative to have a President that is able to unify us all and serve each and every citizen of the United States of America. Stewart’s book is an excellent place to start in understanding the rise and fall of Andrew Johnson.
The title alone is enough to grab a person’s attention. Because of the subject matter, it was bound to stir controversy for it touches a topic that remains taboo thirty-seven years after its publication. And with the events this past week regarding the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the contents of this book are as important now as they were then. Before you attempt to read this book, it is critical to understand the difference between Judaism and what is referred to as Zionism. There is a fundamental difference between the two that is often forgotten as charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias are leveled against those who dare to speak out. However, what I have learned from this book, is critical to understanding how our world functions and why peace is seemingly an impossible objective to accomplish in the Middle East.
For those who are of the Jewish faith, before reading this book, you must understand that you will learn many things that are not pleasant. And the temptation to feel or believe that the author is an anti-Semite might rise to the surface. But I caution you that any notion of Paul Findley (1921-) being anti-Semitic is far from the truth. In fact, Findley was U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1960-1982 and supported Israel at many times during his career. I firmly believe it is underestimated by many Americans, how much power and influence the Israeli lobby holds over the U.S. Government. Foreign policy and aid is highly scrutinized by the lobby and anything deemed to detrimental to the existence of Israel is quickly condemned and crushed, even at the expense of possible peace with its Arab neighbors.
I can only imagine how much pressure Findley had to endure to see this book all the way through. He discloses the difficulty in finding a publisher for a subject which many were reluctant to touch out of fear of severe backlash. In staying the course and braving the opposition, he has compiled the book that should be read by every American concerned with the past and future of the United States. You might ask yourself, is I agree with the material in the book, does it make me anti-Semitic? No it does not. Personally, I have Jewish friends and even dated a woman of the Jewish faith. I was never taught hate growing up and my parents invited everyone into their home regardless of creed, ethnicity and even sexual orientation. However my parents did teach us to examine all sides of an issue and make a decision based off of what is known and not by what is assumed. And it is for that reason that I believe this book is a critical read.
The book is not only an account of Findley’s difficulty in taking a strong stance on the Israeli lobby, but other politicians throughout history who have taken on the machine. Some of the names will be familiar to readers such as Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) and William J. Fulbright (1905-1995). Other names will be known only by few but their stories are as important as the rest in understanding the costs associated with speaking the truth about U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel. Careers were destroyed and lives ruined by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power hold over legislation and the media. The stories are too high in number to reveal here but I can say is that you might be surprised at how many people have had their lives ruined by the Israeli lobby for even questioning U.S. foreign aid to Israel of the occupation of the Gaza strip. Others have had their lives ruined for even meeting Arab officials from the PLO including Yassar Arafat (1929-2004) himself.
Findley has provided a staggering amount of information which is bound to confuse and in some cases anger the reader. But it is imperative that the reader recognizes that difference between the Israeli lobby and ordinary Jews in America who do not support what Israel does but are obligated to remain in silence and show unwavering support. As with any story, there are multiple sides and what sometimes seems to be black and white, will be revealed to have many shades of grey. The truth is rarely pleasant and in some cases upsetting. But if that is what the reader seeks, then books such as this are a necessity. The courage exemplified by Findley and others who have dared to speak out has give us the knowledge we need to make informed decisions before we lend our support to movements and causes.
As the book approached its end and I continued to digest everything that Findley had disclosed, I was haunted by the thought that there may never be true peace between Israel and Palestine. But if that is the ultimate goal then the first step is re-examine U.S. foreign policy. And doing so does not make anyone anti-Israel or anti-Semitic but an advocate of genuine and long-lasting peace. Furthermore, we are forced to remember that Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, observed by millions of great men and women and unrelated to many of things we learn through Findley’s words.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple” – Oscar Wilde