It's June - Bring on the Heat and the Air Conditioning for a Perfect Time to Read


By David Kaiser

Far too often we have heard the squeals from the right about how FDR was "responsible" for the attack on Pearl Harbor that compelled us into World War II. In this volume we learn that FDR had the courage to buck the isolationists and begin preparing our nation for the greatest challenge of the 20th Century. A well-researched book that provides an insight into the planning and leadership that led to the Allied victory over the Axis is well worth a read by anyone who actually wants to understand how we came to be prepared for war at a time when the nation was leery of engaging - once again - with the Germans.

FDR had to deal with an obstructionist Congress in translating his vision for what the United States would have to do, despite tremendous political opposition by never bending and practicing the art of the possible. It was Roosevelt's single-minded purpose to prepare government mobilization to fight a global war prior to Germany's invasion of Poland until finally the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He knew we would be embroiled in conflicts in Europe and then later discovered we would have to fight in the Pacific as well.

Faced with having to control those who wanted to drag the U.S. into the war until the time was right, Roosevelt had to maintain their passion and experience in mobilizing for war, while attempting to win over the isolationists. His answer was to allow the flow of events to break down the isolationist resistance.

The president knew the heart of mobilization would be national will, but first there had to be preparation before we could enter the war. Using the same strategies employed with the New Deal devices to fight the Depression FDR moved ahead with efforts to prepare the country for war in advance of a motivation to fight.

Interestingly the book brings forward how well-prepared we were for the Japanese attack which, although a surprise, FDR had anticipated without knowing exactly where or how that attack would come.

NO END SAVE VICTORY is a well referenced report of the events primarily involving FDR and the executive branch in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor.

* * * * *


by David Goodman

Author Goodman takes the reader through the labyrinthine history of broadcasting in the 1930s that saw the passage of the Communications Act in 1934 that opened the airwaves for commercial broadcasting in opposition to the reformers who wanted the air waves reserved for non-commercial use.

Although considered a win by the commercial interests, who reached for the "average" American with "pop" and "country" music, the truth soon became evident that they were now faced with having to broadcast "in the public interest" along with the various fake malady treatments and guarantees of reaching Heaven by sending cash so your name could appear in the BIG GOLDEN BOOK. The latter resulted in many of the charlatans escaping across the Mexican border (in the broadcast sense) where stations pushing as much as a half-million watts of power (aka Border Blasters) boomed their messages of false hope for a cure or salvation into the United States.

Following the 1934 law an extraordinary range of programs, from classical music broadcasts to lively multi-opinion radio forums, were designed to promote civic engagement and individualization. By the later 1930s it was felt that commercial broadcasters would provide a variety of civic functions, including encouraging local community, strengthening democracy, fostering talent, and producing tolerance for other points of view. Alas that concept quickly collapsed as stations fell into line with (usually) the right wing generated hysteria of their owners, filling the airwaves with a combination of hate and untruths that would go unchallenged. In my opinion the worst thing that ever happened to radio was the so-called talk show (and I should disclose here that for many years I was a talk show host) that allowed anyone, to say anything, virtually unchallenged by the host (again I should point out that I always demanded a caller provide substantiation for their nonsense - usually resulting in them hanging up).

This is an excellent history of commercial broadcasting in the United States and for anyone fascinated by the history of radio - beyond a list of programs - this is a must read.

For more on the Mexican Border Blasters I would suggest BORDER RADIO by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford that covers the 1930's from "Goat Glands Brinkley" through Wolfman Jack in the 1960s.

* * * * *


by Mark Owen (pseudonym) with Kevin Maurer

"The only easy day was yesterday" - Navy SEAL philosophy.

We have listened for years as right-wing conspiracy theorists maintain that President Barack Obama had nothing to do the capture and ultimate death of Osama bin Laden. This book, written by a member of SEAL Team Six (MORE accurately DEVGRU), proves those statements were - not surprisingly - totally false.

But let's cut to the chase, "None of us were fans of Obama. We respected him as the commander in chief of the military and for giving us the green light on the mission," summed up the feelings of the men who took out bin Laden. Despite not being "fans" of the president they all recognized that had he not provided the impetus to follow through with the mission bin Laden would still be alive.

"Owen" is one of those men we all should respect, because he makes it clear early on in and often throughout the book that his success is the success of the men around him. He constantly compliments others and downplays his part.

NO EASY DAY goes deep into another world that is rarely mentioned or understood - the world of DEVGRU, the Navy SEALs highly secretive counter-terrorist group. The author describes the unexpected physical tryout for DEVGRU, his acceptance into Green Squadron (the selection training in order to enter into DEVGRU's command) and his final acceptance onto the team. His description is fascinating, including how candidates are required to write down whom they think are the five best candidates and five weakest candidates.

The book concentrates on the mission to get Osama. One might expect more, but that would take away from the main story about the bin Laden raid. The author did reveal his involvement in the Maersk Alabama hijacking operation and how that operation was welcomed by the SEALs as a respite from the routine of Iraq and Afghanistan. Most fascinating was his parachuting into the ocean with a Navy communications man attached to him who had never done a parachute jump. The stories of the amount of sleeping pills consumed and their weird hours during deployment (aka "Vampire hours") should make everyone appreciate the toll this life takes on these men.

From the standpoint of a military biography, combined with operational history, I thought the book was quite good. It is a historical account of a major segment of our history that will close a bitter chapter for Americans who lost loved ones on 9/11 or since that fateful day, to fulfill a promise - not kept by Bush but honored by Obama - to capture and kill Osama bin Laden.

* * * * *


by Jennifer Burns

Having been sucked in during High School into reading ATLAS SHRUGGED and finding it severely wanting in both style and literary value, I was rather taken aback when the GOP choice for VP in the last selection was an admitted disciple of the cult of Ayn Rand. So much so in fact he gave copies of ATLAS SHRUGGED to his sycophants and demanded they read it as he waxed enthusiastically about how Rand "knew" how Americans should live their lives.

I was puzzled having remembered just what an opposite to so-called "conservatives" Rand truly was. With the publication of GODDESS OF THE MARKET I was more than ready to seek some understanding of this woman - from a source other than the Nathanial Branden Institute. And I was not disappointed.

It is true that bad writing has never impacted her cult-like following with hundreds of thousands of copies of her works selling each year. I just wonder how many of those volumes are actually read - particularly the over one thousand pages of ATLAS SHRUGGED - let alone understood. I had to smile during the failed campaign of Mitt and Paul when the ever disingenuous FAUX News devoted an hour to Rand and her...hmm, not sure what.

Ayn Rand was amazing in the contradictions of her life, insisting upon truth while having a long adulterous affair she kept hidden from her cult, as sex with both genders became a driving force in her life. As one who touted individualism she lived surrounded by conformity and while insisting that women engage in "manworship" she emasculated her own husband.

Her concept of Democracy was a disdain for giving equal rights to all, believing there should be a "Democracy of superiors only." Her support of a woman's right to choose was emphasized with her comment "an embryo has no rights." Her basic tenets melted down to the poor have no rights and when they can longer provide for the superiors should be eliminated. Caring for others was a weakness in Rand's world and needed to be stopped - at any cost. And of course - like so many hypocrites - she insisted upon receiving that socialist inspired Social Security check each month.

Many times the value of a book can be determined by its source material and author Burns provided 45 pages of highly detailed notes, along with a 16 page bibliography.

This is one fascinating volume that finally lifts the veil on Ayn Rand and leaves the reader wondering, how in the hell can conservatives hold this woman up as a shining example of their vision for our country?

* * * * *


by Joe McGinniss

With the reemergence on the scene of this pathetic, ignorant egotist, I decided to rerun the review of McGinnis's book that originally appeared in 2012.

On the day the sad little man from Arizona announced this heretofore unknown woman from Alaska as his running mate I went from "Sara who?" to "Sarah why?" It was more than obvious as we watched Lil John scurrying away from reporters while mumbling "She's been vetted" that the GOP was going to lose - big time. And as she went off on irrational rants about "death camps" and "death panels" it became very obvious we were seeing a true sociopath in full bloom. Her actions from surrendering the governorship of Alaska, to canceling bus tours and ducking anyone but FAUX News was evidence that she demands authority and power without responsibility, obligation or actual work.

Joe McGinness, the author of many best selling books, decided the American people deserved to know what Palin's neighbors, co-workers and business associates think of Sarah, so McGinniss moved into a house next door to the Palin's, setting off a fire storm of vindictiveness, hate and - no surprise to anyone - a litany of falsehoods from the Palin camp (along with the right-wing shouting head media).

THE ROGUE alternates the story of Palin's adult life with McGinniss's own harrowing experience of researching it, while talking to enough people close to her to develop a compelling, and frightening portrait of her true character. What emerged is the study of an ice-cold, greedy, amoral, and utterly self-absorbed woman who is unable to develop normal relationships even within her own family. It is obvious Sarah never cared about anybody other than herself.

Most disturbing is the vision of ignored daughters going dirty and malnourished only to be pulled out as props at political rallies whenever mom wanted to present herself to adoring fans as an all-American "hockey mom." Her relationship with Todd is less like that of husband and wife than that of two business partners who can barely stand each other. One feels almost sadness for Todd who is trapped in an apparently loveless marriage.

More damning than Palin's personal life are details about alliances with extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups openly advocating destroying the Constitution and imposing a religious theocracy on America. McGinniss lifts the veil and makes it clear that Sarah has been involved with the Re-constructionist/Dominionist movement since her days as mayor of Wasilla. Unlike so much else about her, her commitment to this anti-democratic, anti-intellectual, neo-fascist branch of evangelical Christianity is completely sincere. She genuinely believes God called her to lead the nation and purge it of anti-Christian influences - well, her version of anti- Christian influences. And what is frightening are the number of people who genuinely believe she is an actual Christian.

This is probably McGinniss's finest work since FATAL VISION and I recommend the book for anyone willing to see the unpleasant reality beneath Palin's folksy public persona.

* * * * *


By Richard Rayner

The title of the book come from Orson Welles who placed those words in the dialog of Rita Hayworth, the femme fatale in the 1948 classic film "The Lady From Shanghai," and it effectively describes the Los Angeles of the 1920s and 1930s - one of the most corrupt cities in the nation at the time.

"Noir is more than just a slice of cinema history, it's a counter-tradition..." writes Rayner in describing the crimes that took place in Los Angeles under the thumb of The System (the crime syndicate that controlled the city) that wove their web through every aspect of the metropolis. We read noir in the writings of Raymond Chandler who was an oil man in L.A. in the 1920s and saw first hand the corruption that would become a part of his story telling in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the actual cases covered by Rayner became fodder for Chandler's hard-boiled detective stores.

Although covering two decades the thrust of the book deals with the killing of Charlie Crawford in 1931. Crawford was a devout churchgoer who was utterly corrupt and oversaw all the crime within the L.A. underworld. He was killed in his office by Dave Clark, the dapper war hero with movie star looks and a city prosecutor running for judge at the time of the killing. Unfortunately he was too eager to advance in the city and had become involved in the rackets that Crawford oversaw. Although Clark's motives remain a mystery, it makes genuinely compelling reading.

Rayner takes a wide look at not only political corruption but introduces the reader to Fatty Arbuckle (and his destruction at the hands of the media of the day), F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Charlie Chaplin, along with many others with the city of Los Angeles almost a character in the story, with incredible corruption at all levels, that involved the police, lawmakers, preachers, tycoons, and journalists.

If you are a fan to books and films such as "The Long Goodbye," "The Big Sleep," "Double Indemnity," or "Farewell, My Lovely" this book will be a treat, made all the more so because it is all true.

* * * * *


by Ruben Martinez

The author writes a personal and well documented account of the political, economic, cultural and colonial history of the Southwest, an area of stark beauty I have traveled and marveled at for many years. It is almost embarrassing to admit I had little knowledge of the complex history of the region.

In the pages of DESERT AMERICA the reader learns of the not only the emotional richness and the tragedies that provide a history but also the underside of drug addition impacting communities and lives.

Martinez provides a personal look at his love of the desert and his experiences in living in various locations throughout the region. Through impressive research and oral histories he recounts stories of "the wall" and those who die in the desert in an attempt to find work. There are tales of the historic struggles between different groups to remain dominate, featuring First Nations peoples, Spaniards and gringos.

An excellent read from the standpoints of both first person and historic narrative. In many ways an eye-opening look at the Southwest United States for both historians and casual readers.

* * * * *


by Howard Blum

By the end of the 19th century the once infamous Wild West had become tamed. It had become a place where prospectors, trappers, gunmen and prospectors were no longer a part of the landscape as civilization took over the cow-towns.

Then Alaska and the Klondike exploded with the discovery of gold and suddenly the Wild West was once again alive - in the north country of the continent. Thousands booked passage to seek their fortunes.

THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN focuses attention on three men, Charlie Siringo, a cowboy who struggled to settle down, but ended up being a detective with the Pinkertons; George Carmack, an American Marine adopted by an Indian tribe who made the discovery that set off the Yukon Gold Rush, and became very rich; and Soapy Smith, an extremely clever conman who ruled over a criminal empire.

These three men become embroiled in a story that involves a fortune in gold bars. Blum presents a book filled with action that provides a look at the culture of the period and the feelings of those attempting, at virtually any cost, to get rich either in the gold fields or by taking money from those who had struck it rich.

THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN is highly recommended for anyone interested in the Gold Rush of the Klondike and Alaska.

* * * * *