Keeping It Straight: Summertime ... and the reading is pleasing



By Hillary Rodham Clinton

One thing you can be assured of, any book penned by Mrs. Clinton will be immediately slammed by the right wing shouting heads followed by their parrots repeating the fantasies. One of the most humorous following the publication of HARD CHOICES was a low-intellect type making the statement that the "book was a total failure and not selling at all." This was at the time the book was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (where it remains in the top 10 even now) and held No. 1 positions on Amazon in numerous non-fiction categories. It is almost sad to watch these pathetic righties always making fools of themselves.

I was fascinated by how well written, insightful and what a good read HARD CHOICES was. Anyone claiming the book is boring must have the attention span of a gnat. It should be irrelevant if you love or hate Mrs. Clinton, this book provides wonderful points on the making of history and how hard decisions are made.

This is a must-have if you are a Democrat, and if you are a Republican with an open mind (oh, disregard that last part). Mrs. Clinton has what it takes to be president of the United States with an amazing record to back her up. Former First Lady, former highly respected Senator, and former highly respected Secretary of State. Now the righties will bring up Benghazi which of course is a manufactured "scandal." One question that must be asked - how can a Secretary of State stop a terrorist attack? And reading Mrs. Clinton's account of what took place during the crisis should (but won't) put to rest the hyperbolic nonsense spewed by the right.

I enjoyed reading HARD CHOICES. It is well written and full of interesting points about the background workings of the political world. I would call it a "Living History Book" and everyone should read it. Hillary Clinton is one highly intelligent and capable woman and this really comes through in the book. It is not a fast read because there is so much information to digest, but I feel you will come away from it feeling knowledgeable about the inner workings of global politics and the people who practice them.

Conservatives do themselves a huge disservice by not reading this book with an objective eye. If you don't wish to contribute to her monetarily, check the book out of the library. But don't be willfully ignorant.

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by John Nichols

John Nichols' THE "S" WORD is a history of socialism in America. Numerous other books on this topic describe an America where socialism was never really able to take hold, Nichols' has written a history explaining why it's impossible to talk about the U.S without discussing socialism. Nichols posits the two are intertwined and how socialist ideas and concepts have been integrated into America almost since the founding of the nation. It is part of our culture, economy and everyday life.

For the majority of the past 150 years, the word socialism has been a loaded term. Detractors from the right use it as an insult meant to taint an opponent as un-American and extreme. As Obama began his first term in office with a $700 billion stimulus, a government bailout of failing banks begun under President Bush and the beginning of a debate about health care reform, it became clear that his opponents favorite attack on him would be the dreaded "S" word. Obama's reaction was to reiterate his commitment to the free market and accused the previous administration of using socialism to rescue Wall Street.

THE "S" WORD clears away the fog caused by a dumbed down news media and an ever more extreme right wing, while explaining why socialism is an American tradition. Despite what the latest goofiness on the right - the ridiculously misnamed tea party - would have us believe, this country was indeed very receptive to the idea of socialism. As Nichols explains, many of the founders of the Republican Party were socialists, with Abraham Lincoln having corresponded with Karl Marx.

The author points out that Thomas Paine, the American Patriot and icon of the right, was indeed a radical who espoused many ideas which would be articulated by Marx and other socialists, including old-age pensions, a guaranteed income and government provided universal health care. Nichols also goes into detail about the Socialist Party in the United States, led by Eugene Debs, and its role in shaping 20th century America and some of the most popular government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Nichols succeeds in crafting an interesting and thought-provoking history of socialism in the United States. Check it out if you like history and want to learn about an idea which has been unfairly demonized.

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by Garry Jenkins

Was Hatfield a "snake-oil salesman" or a true rainmaker? Unfortunately that question is never answered because the secrets of his methods for attracting and wringing moisture from the clouds died with him. What is known is that as he worked diligently to meet a contract to fill the Morena reservoir above San Diego, the city was ravaged by more rain than it had ever seen - or seen since.

With an excellent writing style, Jenkins brings to life the mood of Southern California in the early 1900s, creating an atmosphere of a community that pressed the concepts of a businessman who offered a simple proposition - He would fill a reservoir to its 15 BILLION gallon capacity for $10,000, or the city would owe him nothing. How could the city possibly lose?

Beginning on Jan. 5, 1916, a series of torrential storms filled the Morena Reservoir and flooded the surrounding area. The Lower Otay Dam overflowed, washing out farms and causing dozens of deaths. Dams were breached, lives lost, farms lost, cattle washed into the sea and San Diego heavily damaged at the time it was trying to make a success of the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.

To no one's surprise Hatfield was stiffed by the city because, trusting in the words of the city council, he had never obtained an actual signed contract. Was he a charlatan? Or just someone who could quietly predict the weather and use that to his advantage? That will remain a mystery. However, his successes prior to San Diego and after in "making it rain" speak to his abilities.

An interesting read about a man who was called "the Frankenstein of the air" by the Los Angeles Times.

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by Capt. Charles Moore

This is a must read for anyone concerned about the destruction of our oceans, written by a sea captain who inadvertently stumbled on our modern civilizations dirty little secret - plastic waste clogging the ocean.

The book is not about trash, but focuses on the world of disposable plastic and how it works its way into the Pacific Ocean. Captain Moore starts out talking about sailing with his family as a youth and experiencing clean oceans. Moore then moves ahead to getting stuck in the gyre and observing miles and miles of floating debris, mainly plastic. And thus began Moore's personal mission to discover why is there so much plastic in the ocean, and where did it come from? The North Pacific gyre holds tons of end user waste plastic which doesn't degrade and is not inert or benign as we have been lead to believe.

An important read for those who understand the dangers of killing the oceans. However, those who accept the ravings of the right and particularly Ann Coulter, who said, "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours," will never believe the risks we face from the never-ending pollution of our oceans.

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by Deanne Stillman

The author traces the history of violence in Los Angeles County as a prelude to the story of the killing of Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy Steve Sorensen and the six-day manhunt to find his killer, Donald Kueck. It was interesting to read that in 1850/51, Los Angeles had the highest murder rate in the nation at one a day. That, of course, did not include Mexicans, Indians, Asians, and Blacks, because the killing of any minority in Los Angeles was not considered a crime.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool Desert Rat, I read just about anything having to do with the Mojave Desert as one of my favorite places in the world. DESERT RECKONING deals with that area of the Western Mojave that is easily accessible from Los Angeles and is yet one of the most lawless areas, filled with what I like to call the idiot fringe. Plastic bags whip in the wind above mounds of discarded trash and those unfamiliar with the area quickly become lost on the myriad roads that crisscross the desert in no discernable pattern.

Author Stillman draws the reader into the oddly curious world of this high desert region as the almost novel-like (in the Raymond Chandler tradition) true crime saga unfolds to its tragic conclusion.

I have to admit - with my desert bias - that this is an excellent book.

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By M. D. Klaás



by Larry Weirather

In the late 1930s and through the 1940s, deluxe air travel belonged to the huge flying boats and the Boeing B-314 was the most comfortable and opulent of the lot. Surprisingly, only a dozen of the Boeing Clippers were built and unfortunately not a single one remains today. The meager numbers did not diminish the public's interest in the flying boats that flew across the world and in the Pacific established a series of small, isolated, island bases that would provide facilities and runways for military aircraft with the onset of World War 2. And history has proven that was not by pure happenstance.

THE LAST OF THE FLYING CLIPPERS provides an amazingly detailed look at the Boeing giant - its development, successes and ultimate quiet demise as American air carriers began offering luxury air-travel in large land-based planes, such as the Lockheed L-049 Constellation and Super Constellation.

The book is an amazing compendium of information and photographs, including a section of color pictures of the Clippers operating at sites around the world. For the true aficionado of the Boeing Clippers, this one is highly recommended.

The Pan Am Clippers so caught the public's attention that when Pan Am wanted to promote the aircraft, along with the story of earning the first trans-Pacific route to China, Warner Bros. jumped at the chance to produce CHINA CLIPPER starring Pat O'Brien and Humphrey Bogart in 1936. An exciting melodrama featuring virtually unlimited access to the aircraft.

THE CHINA CLIPPER, PAN AMERICAN AIRWAYSAND POPULAR CULTURE is an intriguing look at the world of promotion surrounding all of the flying boats Pan American flew, including Sikorski, Martin and Boeing aircraft. These aircraft came to symbolize the American "Merchant Marine of the Air" and became the chosen instrument of the government along with being the nation's flag carrier both at home and abroad.

During the heyday of the China Clippers, pilots of these amazing aircraft were held in an esteem not repeated until the astronaut's conquered space and went to the moon. This volume is devoted to how the Clipper mystique captured popular culture and set standards still adhered today in the establishment of cultural norms for virtually anything that captures the public's attention.

Filled with a fascinating narrative and images depicting the Clippers featured on just about anything imaginable from place mats to sheet music covers to menus to comics to even car advertisements, this book is a must have for Clipper enthusiasts.

There are many other books of interest regarding flying boats, including, "Wings to the Orient: Pan American Clipper Planes, 1935-1945 - A Pictorial History" - "China Clipper: The Age of the Great Flying Boats" - and for sheer excitement, "Escape of the Pacific Clipper" and "The Long Way Home" tell the story of how a Pan American Airways B-314 flying boat, caught in the South Pacific, made an unplanned flight around the world following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Flying in total secrecy and radio blackout, the 11 man crew flew over 31,500 miles in six weeks, avoiding enemy action in their effort to return safely to the United States.

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By Gareth Murphy

The history of the music industry makes for an interesting read and this book provides one of the most detailed available. Written as a chronology tracing recording history from the earliest sound devises in Paris in the 1850s through the CD and now the digital age, author Murphy has provided an informative and entertaining look at the recording industry. With a comfortable and easy-going style, the reader is exposed to the wheeling and dealing activities of the early innovators, the rise of blues and jazz as people moved across the nation to the effects radio had on the industry.

Mostly taken for granted, the men who formed the record industry were a tough lot who created technologies, chased down performers and worked tirelessly at promoting their product. The author took three years to research, talk with and explore memos and letters long forgotten in boxes stuffed in warehouses, back rooms and basements. With more than a hundred interviews, including some of the legends of the recording industry, Murphy brings to the page the men who brought jazz, R&B, rock and roll, disco and virtually every genre of music to the people.

On the technical side, the reader learns why some formats flourished and others fell by the wayside along with the impact radio had in the 1920s on the record business. But most importantly has been the presence of the independents - the "indies" - on the music scene that brought us both technical innovations and new music. The book is strongly suggested for anyone with an interest in music or the recording industry as a mainstay of both American and world culture.