Month: May 2016

974In the 240 years that the United States has been in existence, the feats and accomplishments of this nation have been nothing short of history changing and in some case earth shattering.  As one of the world’s superpowers, the United States continues to be a prime destination for immigrants all over the world looking for a new opportunity in the land of the free and home of the brave.  And while the public face of the country touts freedom, liberty and justice for all, there’s a much darker side to the country  rarely seen by many of the people wishing to immigrate to America an those who currently live in the nation.  Incarceration rates have been on the rise in the United States since the start of the 1980s. And shockingly, the United States continues to incarcerate people at a higher rate than any other country on earth.  The rates show no sign of slowing down or even declining and as a result, more prisons are being constructed and more Americans of all backgrounds are entering prison cells than ever before.

I vividly remember as a kid in the 1980s, the government’s commencement of the war on drugs.  Television commercials, posters, documentaries and news broadcasts regularly reminded us of the dangers of narcotic use.  Nancy Regan famously reminded us to just say no.  In 2016, the  war on drug continues, but its success and consequences remain the topic of fierce debate.   While the primary focus of the war may have been the elimination of illegal drugs, there was a heavy price to be paid by those on the wrong end of the campaign. The laws passed as a result of the anti-drug campaign have resulted in some the harshest prison sentences in the world for drug use.  Young African-American and Latino make up the majority of all drug convictions pursuant to those same laws and the system of mass incarceration has appropriately been called by Michelle Alexander in this phenomenal book, the ‘New Jim Crow’.  While the Jim Crow laws that cast a dark cloud on the United States were struck down many decades ago,  the systematic incarceration and ostracism that convicted men and women find themselves in, is some ways equally as dangerous as the former system of legal segregation.  Those who do enter the system, often find that they carry a stigma for life as a felon and sometimes never fully re-integrate into society thus becoming the unwanted and living with the shame and neglect as many minorities did during the violent and regretful Jim Crow era.

Alexander has done a masterful job of bringing to light what could be considered an epidemic in American culture.  The fallout from the war on drugs and high incarceration rates among Black and Latino youths, has resulted in the continuation of the destructive cycles in the ghettos across America that were responsible for their lifestyle from the beginning.  Thoroughly researched and thought-provoking, her investigative report challenges us to re-examine our own opinions about convicted felons and drug use. She also forces us to considered the economic benefits from the incarceration of millions of Americans and the financial black hole that has resulted from the war on drugs.  Her reporting is shocking and infuriating for it reveals many dark secrets about the American penal system and the American attitude to crime and punishment. And as someone who was raised in an environment that produced many young men and women who have fallen victim to the new Jim Crow, this book is a brutal reminder of the life long consequences of a life in the street and the cost of the mistake for many Americans that are otherwise productive members of society.

This book should be required reading in homes and classrooms across America in the effort to prevent young men and women from entering a life long system of discrimination and oppression. Michelle Alexander has done a great service to the citizens of this nation who are unaware or unwilling to face our fear of topics of race, prison, poverty and politics.  Only then, can we begin to dismantle the new system of Jim Crow and successfully rehabilitate those in the penal system and help end the decades long poverty that has plagued neighborhoods all across America.

ISBN-10: 1595586431
ISBN-13: 978-1595586438

Investigative Report

278593-_uy475_ss475_Reymundo Sanchez, the author who brought us his incredible life story in ‘ My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King’ returns with this follow-up book about his final defection from the Latin Kings and the phase in his life that begins.  At the beginning of the book, he is still entrenched in the gang life but desperately trying to find a way out.  That way out would come in the form of arrest and subsequent incarceration.  The time he spends in prison opens his eyes and minds to the harsh realities of the gang life and the preciousness of freedom.  The dysfunction and hopelessness he witnesses inside the walls of a prison serve as the catalyst for his final defection from gang life and onto the path of redemption.  The events that follow and his response and adaptation to them, form the nucleus of this incredible story. His perseverance and success in confronting his past demons are some of the best parts of this fascinating story.

In the first book, we witnessed the dysfunctional childhood endured by the young Sanchez, complete with a neglectful mother, abusive stepfather, sexual predators, violence, money, drugs and tragedy.   Some of the same characters make an appearance in the second part of his story but the nature of the relationships are much changed from what they once were.  However, they all play in part in the events that happen and the changes he makes in his quest for a new life.  The new aspect of his life on display here for the first time, is love.  In this part of his life story, we are witnesses to the first real relationship he has with a member of the opposite sex not based on drugs, money or just sex in general.  And as the author points out, this relationship is what finally allowed him to face the demons that haunted him for so many years.   Those same demons however, would not go away quietly and rear their ugly heads at more than one point during the book as the author struggles to keep his composure as he tries to break old habits that insist on dying hard.

Some moments in the book are a tough read but necessary to understand the dramatic transformation that the author goes through. Perhaps the most tragic part of the book aside from family relationships and intimate relationships with women, is that even though you leave a gang, sometimes that life never fully leaves you.  And he realizes that once a king, always a king, even if unwillingly.  And it this message that is conveyed in this eye-opening personal account. Today, Sanchez is no longer a Latin King, but he continues to carry the many scars from his early life, some of which will never fully heal.  He freely admits that he does the best he can but at times, it is far from easy.  His story and message should be read and heard by all young women and men interested in the gang culture and a life of crime and parents wishing for their children to have as normal of a life as possible.  Sanchez’s story is tragic, violent and at times tough to read, but his life and transformation is rare among many of his peers.   It took enormous courage for the author to write these two books, but his story has become a personal favorite of mine and I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the Latin Kings and the brutal life that exist within a gang.  And in addition to his own story, he also wrote the story of a female gang member, the incredible book ‘Lady Q: The Rise and Fall of a Latin Queen ‘, with former gang member Sonia “Lady Q” Rodriguez.

ISBN-10: 1556525532
ISBN-13: 978-1556525537

 

 

Biographies

chiang-kai-shekApril 5, 1975-Chiang Kai-Shek dies at the age of 87 in Taipei, Taiwan from the effects of renal failure enhanced by cardiac malfunction.  His death marks the end of the life of one of the most important figures in the history of modern-day China and the 20th century.   As leader of the Kuomintang Nationalist Party, he oversaw efforts to resist the Japanese occupation of China and the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party, led by a young Mao Tse-Tung, to seize control of the Chinese government.  Mao finally succeeded, formally declaring the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. In the years that followed, Chiang’s role in the history of China was often diminished and overshadowed by Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, the controversial plan that brought China to the brink of disaster.  In recent years, Chinese society has seen a surge in freedom movements and the efforts the youths of China to bring change to a system in place for decades.  And as the country continues to see itself transformed as new ideas are presented, many may reflect back in time to a period in which a nationalist was fighting to bring democracy and avoid a Communist empire.

Emily Hahn presents to us this biography of the late leader which follows his life from the small village of Chikow up until his exile to Taiwan following the push forward into mainland China by Mao’s Chinese Communist Party.  Known as the  Generalissimo, the rise and fall of the KMT marked a tragic time in Chinese history in which the nation was caught in a battle between several nations to control the future of China.  His decisions and actions were often questioned and even his loyalty came under scrutiny by officials in the United States government.  However, this is the real Chiang Kai-Shek, the good, the bad and even the mysterious.  A complex figure as all world leaders are, there is no single adjective to accurate describe the late leader.   However, Hahn’s account is an informative and valuable look into his life and the many trials and tribulations that afflicted the legendary figure.   The relationship between the Generalissimo and his foes and allies in the U.S. is a case study in the controversial U.S. foreign policy prior to, during and following the second World War.  Hahn’s account also sheds light on the roots of the Cold War that eventually developed between the United States and Soviet Union.  For a good read on Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese Communist Party and the alignment and eventual disconnect between America and Russia, this is a good place to start.

ASIN: B0007DLT00

 

 

 

 

 

Biographies

27858869In 1994, Alonzo Fields died at the age of 94, having lived a life that was nothing short of fascinating. Fields is best remembered for having served as a butler and then Chief Butler at the White House for 21 years under four Presidents.  In 1960, he wrote this short but intriguing memoir of his time in Washington and the many important historical figures that he encountered during his time at the White House.  As a book about the behind the scenes workings of the White House kitchen and support staff, one may be tempted into thinking that the pages of the book will be filled with curious tidbits of gossip about the personal lives of the occupants.   This is book is anything but that.  Never intended to be a gossip account, Fields stays away from rumors and the secretive lives of the presidents and their families.  He mainly recounts his encounters and his opinions regarding his day-to-day interactions with the presidential families.

While Fields’ account does not contain any provocative information, students of history will pick up things here and there throughout the book.   And the foreign leaders and ambassadors that visit provide additional  memories that Fields fondly recalls.  The encounters with Sir Winston Churchill are nothing short of humorous and support the common notion of Churchill being one of the most grand leaders in world history.   More often than not, a common misconception about the presidency is that the holder of the office has unlimited power and lives in the most grandest fashion.  From Fields’ eyes, we see that isn’t always the case and level of frugality varied from one President to the next.  Additionally, the President serves as the top-level head of the nation but his job and the job of the First Lady also dedicates a significant portion of time hosting others.  And supporting these endeavors is an amazing and highly tuned supporting staff which Fields proudly recalls having been part of for 21 years of his life.   Some of the best witnesses to history are often the silent ones for with the eyes and ears open and mouth closed, they are able to observed and analyze almost everything they encounter.  Fields, who remained friends with President Truman and is mentioned in the records of the Truman library,  held one of the most important positions in the nation and as a result left us with this good read of what it was like working for the President of the United States.

ISBN-10: 1530072379
ISBN-13: 978-1530072378

Biographies

97084356_com-blacklisted-by-history-the-untold-story-of-senatorOn May 2, 1957, Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy dies at the age of 48 in Bethesda, Maryland from the effects of acute hepatitis.  The late Senator from the state of Wisconsin is famously remembered for his campaign to extricate employees from positions within the United States government suspected of being members of the American communist party, under the direction of the Soviet Union.  During his campaign and for many years following his death, McCarthy was viewed as being  paranoid about communism, intent on ruining the lives and reputations of honorary citizens and a self-destructive force who died in part due his own personal demons.  One of the beautiful things about history is the ability to look back and re-examine events in the quest to find out what really happened.   More than 50 years after his death, McCarthy’s name is still mentioned in conversation and used as the end of jokes about anyone who is suspected of being overly concerned about any type of foreign influence on the domestic policies of the United States.  But just who was the real Joseph McCarthy? And was he the out of control hunter of communist who attacked his targets at all costs?

M. Stanton Evans answers these questions and more in this definitive look into the life and actions of the late Senator.  Painstakingly researched, Evans’ account is both eye-opening and sobering for it reveals the true Joseph McCarthy and his beliefs regarding communist ideology in American society and the espionage that had been occurring throughout the U.S. government by agents of the Soviet Union.  Through Evans’ research, a new picture of McCarthy emerges that is in stark contrast from the historically jaded image that we’ve come to recognize.   A new McCarthy is seen, as man who through patriotic beliefs, leads a crusade against what was then a threat to the national security of the United States.  Targeted by enemies in the State Department and the Truman administration, a war was unleashed to discredit McCarthy at all costs.   Fabrications, missing evidence and evasive testimony would serve as the foundation for endless attacks upon his credibility and beliefs.   The Watkins committee and its final result remain the darkest time in McCarthy’s life next to his untimely death.

Evan’s account is a masterpiece of investigative and contains a full roster of some of the most remembered names in history, many of them making an appearance in the book.   He was hated by some and loved  by others, but his name and crusades remain a critical part in U.S. history.  Judgment is often passed quickly upon him, but most fail to see the true Joseph McCarthy and the patriotic battle he waged against an enemy within.   The most tragic part of his story, is that it took decades for his vindication to take place.  We now know that not only was he right about his beliefs but the hunt for Soviet moles within the U.S. government continued for decades after his death and would reach its culmination under the direction of the mysterious CIA Chief of Counterintelligence, James J. Angleton.  Harry Truman once remarked that the only truth is the history we do not yet know.  Truer words have never been spoken.  For the real story on the crusade of Joseph McCarthy, this is it.

ISBN-10: 1400081068
ISBN-13: 978-1400081066

Investigative Report

71osgnowlrlChief Curry had been in the lead car of the motorcade making him a crucial eye-witness to the events in Dealey Plaza.  He gave his testimony before the Warren Commission on April 15, 1964.   This limited collector’s edition of Curry’s book reveals the beliefs of the former chief and sheds slight on several interesting parts of the crime that have never been fully explained. Curry is frank and to the point making it clear that the book is not intended to support the Warren Commission’s conclusions or any other conclusions that have been made about the crime.  He further states that it is up to each person to make up their mind on what they think really happened on that day.   Provided in the book are miscellaneous pieces of evidence such as documentation taken off of Oswald, homicide reports and statements of officers of the force regarding the custody of Oswald and the alleged relationship between Jack Ruby and the Dallas Police.

In the years that have passed since the release of Curry’s book, a staggering amount of information has come to light regarding the events of that day.   And what we know now conflicts with some of the statements in Curry’s book.  But whether Curry was unaware of these facts or misstated certain facts is knowledge he took with him to the grave.  In fairness, the book was never intended to be a smoking gun about the crime but rather the recollections of the top office in the Dallas Police at the time.  With that being said, I think it’s a good read and unquestionably relevant to the growing amount of literature regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

ASIN: B0006CZR8M

Assassinations Uncategorized

sleepWhen Heriberto “Eddie” Seda was apprehended on June 18, 1996,  the residents of East New York, Brooklyn and the detectives tasked with finding him breathed a sigh of relief.  For six years Seda terrorized East New York and the City of New York in a murderous rampage intended to mimic the infamous Zodiac Killer that terrorized California in the 1960s.  When Seda was arrested, I was 16 years old and lived several blocks from the 75th Precinct, which was tasked with patrolling the neighborhood that had become recognized as one of the worst parts of Brooklyn.  The shootings became the topic of discussions among my father, friends and classmates in school.   We had been warned by our  parents to be vigilant and report anything we saw or heard that was out of the ordinary. Kieran Crowley, a former reporter for the NY Post, was assigned to cover the story and spent hours in East New York interviewing witness and countless more hours reviewing documents and articles.   He has put together the only account of one of the most heinous killing sprees to terrorize New York City.

The book was written in 1997, roughly a year after Seda’s capture.  And at the time it was published, Seda was still waiting trial.  Since then he has been tried, convicted and is currently incarcerated at Great Meadow Correctional Center in Comstock, New York.  He will not be eligible for parole until 2081 and will never again roam the streets of Brooklyn..   For the younger generation of East New York, Seda’s name is unknown but to the older generation, his name conjures up memories of a dangerous time in East New York to which they never hope to return.  Crowley’s investigative report is the definitive account of the crimes and Seda’s life and the wave of terror he inflicted.  The dysfunction and mental instability and degrading relationship between Seda, his mother and sister are covered in detail providing the necessary back story to the infamous crime spree that gripped a neighborhood.    Many years have passed since East New York was paralyzed with fear but Seda’s reign of crime remains with us reminding us of the many horrors that once plagued New York City.

ISBN-10: 0312963394
ISBN-13: 978-0312963392

Investigative Report

61nm4hsx32l-_sx331_bo1204203200_June 19, 1975-Former boss of the Chicago mafia, Sam “Mooney” Giancana is shot and killed in the basement kitchen of his home in Oak Park, IL.  Giancana had been extradited from Cuernavaca, Mexico and was scheduled to give testimony to the newly formed Church Committee.   Some have speculated that his murder was to silence the old mafioso in the fear that he might reveal an unknown number of secrets about the American mafia and its relationship with the Unites Government.  His death shocks the nation and raises many more questions about the events in Cuba, Chicago and Dallas, Texas.  For several decades, he ruled Chicago with an iron fist and was privy to nearly every major event to occur in the Windy City.

‘Double Cross’ is the inside story of Giancana’s life by his younger brother, the late Chuck Giancana, Sam’s nephew also named Sam and Bettina Giancana, a published author and recognized expert in the field of organized crime.  The book is written like a novel but it is far from fiction and this story of the mobster who controlled America is one of the most revealing books I have ever read and helps to reader to understand just how powerful the  mafia had become in the United States.   Years before the RICO act was designed and used by prosecutors to break the backbone of organized crime,  the mafia controlled nearly every aspect of American society.  And among these power players was none other than Sam Giancana, whose reach stretched from all corners of the country, countries abroad and even to the oval office.  The son of Italian immigrants learned the tricks of the trade through the hard knocks of life on the gritty streets of Chicago which at the time, was the city known to be a haven for organized crime featuring such characters as Hymie Weiss, Al Capone, George “Bugs” Moran and Dion O’Banion to name a few.   And his stint in Joliet prison served to toughen his character making a more hardened and remorseless gangster.  His brother Chuck, at his brother’s side for most of their lives, recalls their discussion about the events of the day and the secret world of the Syndicate.  And as we listen to Chuck while he tells us what he remembers, we begin to see a very dark portrait of a dangerous, power-hungry, merciless  and intelligent person fully entrenched in the underworld where he would remain for the rest of his life.

When John F. Kennedy’s election campaign began to pick up steam, it became evident that some states would need more attention than others.  An Irish-Catholic had never been elected President and many of the toughest states were Protestant strongholds.   One more than one occasion, it has been alleged that Joe Kennedy bought the election for his son.   We do know that Richard Nixon’s campaign wanted a recount, but their efforts were nipped in the bud by officials in Illinois.   If Chuck’s words ring true and other sources are to be believed, then this book’s revelations about more campaign secrets will serve to undercut all that we thought we knew about past elections.  Those familiar with the Kenned family  and the history of Joe Kennedy’s wealthy empire will be fully aware of the bootlegging of illegal liquor that helped him amass such a staggering fortune.  But what is often unknown, are the deep connections to the Chicago mob all leading directly to Giancana.

After Kennedy took office and made his younger brother Robert Attorney General,  a war was unleashed on the American mafia.   It was a war that Giancana called nothing short of a double cross and the number of victims would be staggering and include the late Marilyn Monroe.   The truth about Dallas is still completely unknown but after reading this book, you might find yourself with more answers than questions and view the crime in a completely different light.

ISBN-10: 1510711244
ISBN-13: 978-1510711242

Biographies Mafia