Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Tag Archives: books

Book Excerpt:Worse Than Watergate by John W Dean


Book Excerpt: Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Book Excerpt: Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Book Excerpt from Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush by John W Dean

The George W Bush administration will probably give historians something interesting to discuss for decades to come, easily longer. Love him or hate him, he changed America. Starting with 9/11, two occupations, a global war against islamic extremism, and a crippled economy. Here’s a book excerpt from several years ago detailing the more secretive side of the Bush Administration. I thought it was appropiate in relation to the current wikileaks controversy. Read more of this post

Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama


Book Excerpt: kabuki democracy by Eric Alterman

Book Excerpt: kabuki democracy by Eric Alterman

“The self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating,” Barack Obama told Rolling Stone magazine in the fall of 2010. Progressives need to keep this in mind, particularly in light of the amazing series of interlocking challenges that faced Obama’s presidency in merely restoring some sensible form of equilibrium to the governance of the United States. What’s more, he was attempting to work with a minority party with no strategic stake whatever in sensible governance.

When, for instance, the unemployment figure reached 9.5 percent—or, more accurately, 16.5 percent if we include the people who had given up looking—in the summer of 2010, some of the lost jobs could be attributed to the failure of Congress to appropriate funds to replace lost state and local revenue in time for localities to retain their needed staffing levels of police, firefighters, schoolteachers, and the like; a legislative package was purposely delayed in the Senate by a combination of single-senator holds and party-line obstructionist votes. But bad employment numbers were actually good news for Republicans, as they were roundly interpreted as evidence of the failure of the Obama administration’s economic policies and therefore increased the likelihood of strong Republican showings in the coming November midterm elections.

As a matter of fact, the worse things got for the country, the better they looked for Republican candidates. And given that Republicans can plausibly claim to be ideologically in sync with just about any nonmilitary budget cut no matter what the ultimate effect, what possible incentive do the Republicans have to cooperate with the Democratic majority to pass legislation that will actually improve economic conditions? The two parties are demonstrably different in this respect. Democrats, even in the minority, participate in solutions designed to improve governance. They cannot help themselves. A commitment to the principle of good governance is the primary reason most Democrats tend toward politics in the first place.

One might argue that this faith in government’s ability to improve people’s lives is misplaced, or that it becomes easily corrupted over time by the temptations of power and privilege, but few serious political observers would deny its initial presence. This is rarely true of Republicans, who are suspicious of government on principle and opposed to successful programs in practice and therefore happy to see government programs fail and, ideally, disappear entirely.

Ironically, given the deeply contested manner in which George W. Bush ascended to the presidency in 2000 despite his second-place finish in the popular vote and a transparent power grab on his behalf by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is Obama’s, not Bush’s, legitimacy that has come under attack by mainstream Republicans. As environmental reporter Dave Roberts describes it, “At the federal Congressional level, the Republican Party has become tight in its discipline, extreme in its ideology, and utterly unprincipled in its tactics.”

To be fair to the Democrats, they are a far more ideologically diverse party than the Republicans and contain many moderates, many of who, in past Congresses, would easily have been conservatives. To further complicate matters, the more conservative or “centrist” representatives are almost always the most vulnerable because they do not represent reliably liberal districts (many were recently recruited for the purposes of winning in “purple” districts). As NPR’s Ron Elving observed following the publication of yet another poll predicting a Republican landslide, House Democrats were divided between their safe “sitting pretty faction” and “the more fragile ‘scaredy cat’ faction that could be carried off by even the gentlest of anti-incumbent breezes.” As a result, the Democratic leadership in both houses is forever forced to compromise with its own side rather than its opposition.

Now add to this the fact that, as Roberts rightly notes, “Congressional Republicans exercise far more party discipline, are far more extreme ideologically, and are far more willing to twist and abuse procedure than are Congressional Democrats.” It’s true, as pundits like to claim, that both sides “do it,” but Republican conservatives do it better, more often, and to far greater effect. As New York congressman Anthony Weiner wryly observes, too often Democrats arrive at “knife fights carrying library books.”

Again, to offer just one relatively insignificant example, when Democratic congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii announced his plans to leave Congress to run for governor, he picked as his date of departure February 28, just before the big make-’em-or-break-’em series of votes on health care reform. Barely a week later, Republican congressman Nathan Deal of Georgia made the same announcement regarding his ambition to occupy his state’s governor’s chair, but his Republican colleagues prevailed upon him to stick around long enough to vote against health care.

Meanwhile, and I wish I were making this up, Abercrombie’s Democratic colleagues not only let him run away from the fight but also gave him a going-away party. Too bad Abercrombie was already gone. (And in an almost too-fitting ending, the Democrats lost this bluest of blue seats—temporarily at least—in the May special election, owing to their inability to settle on a single candidate in time for the vote.)

Take the example of health care reform, for instance. Clearly, the American health care system demanded an overhaul for reasons of both equity and efficiency. Per capita health spending in the United States had been increasing at nearly twice the rate as that in other wealthy countries; by 2004 U.S. health care spending was two and a half times per citizen that of the median amount for its competitors and far more than any other country as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). And what do we get for all our money? Given that about one-third of the spending went into wasteful and counterproductive bureaucratic shuffling and endlessly redundant layers of administration, not nearly as much as one would have had a right to expect.

Going into 2009, the United States and South Africa were the only two developed countries in the world that did not provide health care for all of their citizens. Nationally, roughly 30 percent of American children were without health insurance, and it was not unusual for them to receive no checkups or vaccinations for the entire year. The United States ranked eighty-fourth in the world for measles immunizations and eighty-ninth for polio. Childhood-immunization rates in the United States were lower than average. Infant-mortality rates were in the nineteenth percentile of industrialized nations. And children were hardly the only problem. American life expectancy was lower than the Western average. According to the World Health Organization, the United States ranked twenty-eighth in the years its citizens could expect to live healthy lives.

Republicans never bothered to come up with an alternative proposal to Obama’s health care plan. Actually addressing these issues could hardly have been less relevant to their political agenda. All they needed were the words “socialism,” “government takeover,” “death panels,” and, most of all, “no.” (“We’re the party of ‘Hell, no!’” cried Sarah Palin to a crowd of cheering southern Republicans in April 2010.) When Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced a GOP stimulus plan, authored by the Heritage Foundation, it consisted in its entirety of making the Bush tax cuts permanent and adding to them additional tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Americans. If enacted—never a serious possibility—this plan would have cost roughly three times what Obama’s plan is estimated to cost over the next ten years. Even DeMint found it necessary to admit that the plan was “not innovative or particularly clever. In fact, it’s only eleven pages.”

Republicans stuck to this line throughout Obama’s first two years in office, deriding the impact of the stimulus, complaining of out-of-control deficit spending, and yet demanding the retention of the enormously costly Bush tax cuts aimed primarily at the extremely wealthy. They did so despite the fact that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the short-term effects of eleven potential options for dealing with the present unemployment crisis and found that retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy offered the least powerful “bang for the buck,” owing to wealthy people’s proclivity to save, rather than spend, additional income.

But when on a Fox News Sunday program in late July 2010 Chris Wallace inquired of then-GOP House minority leader, now House Speaker, John Boehner as to whether he was aware that “a number of top economists say what we need is more economic stimulus,” the Republican leader replied with apparent pride in his ignorance, “Well, I don’t need to see GDP numbers or to listen to economists. All I need to do is listen to the American people, because they’ve been asking the question now for eighteen months, ‘Where are the jobs?’”

This is an excerpt for the next book on my to read list. 🙂 That list is quite rediculously long, so good luck to me. Maybe my libray has it. If not, maybe I’ll get it as an ebook.

Presidents and Near Presidents I have known: Summary (chapters 7-9)


This is the book summary of Presidents & Near Presidents I have known. It is a digitial book I was given a chance to read. What follows is a summary (a fair non-biased summarization of the content of the chapter) and then a review of the chapter. The idea is that you can read the summary and reviews in about fifteen minutes and get the gist of the book, if you think you’d like it, go buy it.

Presidents & Near Presidents I have known

By: Lionel Rolfe

Chapters 1 – 3

Chapters 4 – 6

Chapters 7 – 9

Chapters 10- 14

Reviews

Quotes

Chapter Seven
Sarah the Impaler

“In one way, she is like Vlad The Impaler, also known as Dracula, a Romanian ruler in the 1500s who dealt with his enemies in extremely cruel ways.”Letter to a new President, Page 36“The Apocalypse might even be a good thing because it will reward the true believers and punish the rest of us sinners. Such a person should not have her fingers, no matter how lovely, on the nuclear button.”Letter to a new President, Page 40

“I do not think that we as a nation can afford any more of that.”

Letter to a new President, Page 96

Sarah Palin is a celebrity, fierce in retaliation, and legendary for her madness. There is a hysteria just slightly hidden in her voice. The hysteria shows when she threatened to fire a librarian for not banning books she didn’t like, or firing a top state official because that official wouldn’t fire Sarah’s ex-brother-in-law over a messy divorce.

Her family life, lifted up to demonstrate her appeal to values-voters, backfired as people saw through the hypocrisy. Her daughter had no desire to marry the father of her baby, and neither did he. Her first interview, with Charlie Gibson, helped people see through the fluff to realize she knew nothing about the world stage, pushing both for war against Russia and Iran. Which was odd, because of the hints of anti-Semitism in her past.

As her political career started she moved her family from the ultra-fundamentalist Pentecostals, a group that scares even other fundamentalists with their quasi-sexual rituals and healing-of-the-hands. Her religious oddities, from forcing children on rape victims to believing the world is only 6000 years old is important because she also believes the Apocalypse is a good thing.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Sarah Palin

B-Note | Posts | Wiki

Pete Stark

This was one of the better chapters. It could use some cleaning up, (really, the whole book could) but this one ends really well and the ending is carried forth by the majority of the chapter. Essentially, Sarah Palin is an opportunistic hypocrite who believes in hardcore Christian fundamental tenets. I immediately got an image of Ahmadinejad grinning in the face of annihilation.

Which of course leads to the thought, is that anti-religious view fair? Is it fair to view her fundamentalism as a mark against her? What politician doesn’t use Religion to get votes? Pete Stark is who. Still, it strikes me as both a good question to ask, as well as a complicated one. Can you chastise someone for anti-Semitism while also chastising someone for their own religious beliefs? How extraordinary does someone’s fundamentalism have to be before you can use it against them, without being a bigot? I don’t know. But the author has decided that Sarah Palin many moral infractions is open and fair game, and that her religious background makes those moral infractions worse.


Quotes

Chapter Eight
Does Being A Very Good Writer Guarantee Obama Will Be a Great President?

“Our next president needs to be great, because the times call for it and the country is a mess..”Letter to a new President, Page 42

Obama isn’t just President, he may be one of our greatest African American writers. His story, both American and foreign, quintessential and exotic, merged with superb writing skills makes for one good yarn. I hope his writing skills and his past give us a great president, my only doubt is Mao Tse Tung, who was also a great writer, China‘s greatest poet even.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Kwanzaa (wiki)

Obama Book Note

The Audacity of Hope

Review | Summary

Short chapter. There’s an odd bit in the middle that could probably have been summarized as “I have black friends” but that would have been unkind. I don’t really know the point of the middle where he discusses some black friends he’s had. I don’t see how they tie into Obama, except that they’re black and the author apparently knew the inventor of Kwanzaa. Frankly, Obama being a good writer is more obvious and less interesting that the fact the author new the guy that invented Kwanzaa. A white-guy’s take on that guy would have made for a much more interesting chapter.

Regardless, the chapter was about Obama, and the author compares him to other great writers and hopes that that makes him a more successful president than a monster like Mao Tse Tung.


Quotes

Chapter Nine
Politics, Economics & The Presidential Elections

“Our next president needs to be great, because the times call for it and the country is a mess..”Letter to a new President, Page 42

John McCain, Ronald Reagan got it wrong on education and the economy. John McCain made a big show in two debates about attacking Obama for getting money for a planetarium. These two, and Republicans like them having been pushing for a return to extreme monopoly-based capitalism that will march us towards economic collapse.

The New Deal was the era of Keynesian economics, who though wasn‘t a socialist did steal their ideas. A form of social-democracy, a mixture of capitalism and socialism. It was his idea that a government could spar an economy on by spending on public works. It was his economics that got us out of the Great Depression. His economic theories have been abandoned by the Republicans in favor of Milton Friedman’s Trickle Down economics of Capitalist-excess.

We should move into an economy that merges socialism and capitalism. One that isn’t afraid of taxes and government help funding education, a market where greed isn’t the overruling impulse.

More Information

Review, Critique, Thoughts

Know Nothings

Milton Friedman

John Keynes | Posts

The End of Prosperity

Summary | Review

The start of the chapter threw a few bombs at John McCain and Republicans in general on education funding. This is something that can be argued as Republicans have increased educational spending on many occasions. That said, the broader point about Republicans embracing ignorance is a more important point. Another term of it is “Know-Nothings” a political party was anti-immigrant, religious zealots and existed back in the 1850’s. Obama accused the Republican party of just this on several occasions. The accusation that Republicans choose blissful ignorance over facts on matters from Evolution, to Abstinence programs, from economic theory to foreign policy, is a topic that could be discussed at length, and is scratched at a bit here.

The rest of the chapter is about the competing economic theories of John Maynard Keyes and Milton Friedman. I enjoy discussions of economics, so I found the chapter intriguing. It would have benefited from diagrams and examples. Of course, you could write a trilogy on the clash between trickle up vs. trickle down and still not cover everything, so I can’t mark the author too bad for not handling the subject in its entirety.


Audacity of Hope: Review


This is the Review of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented nillegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The Summary is also done, links to it are below. 


 

• Book Review •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

 Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

 Review

Brief summary (full summary in links above)
The book, The Audacity of Hope, is wide-ranging book covering topics as controversial as abortion, race, partisanship, politics, religion, morality and values. It reads more like an autobiography than a political tome. A lot of it is cheesy, not in a horrible way, but still cheesy. Stories about his wife asking him to buy ant traps and his daughters mocking him for handshaking are nice, they put a human face on politicians who are inevitably hated by everyone.

Was it a good book?
The book reads easy and quick. The meaty political side is sparse. It’d be easy for most people, regardless of party, to read this and like both the man and the politics. Until you think a bit and realize that he says very little about specific policy. Reading this book will probably help you guess which way he’ll go in most policy debates, but it does nothing to argue for or win those debates. 

The good?
I think the goal was to paint Obama as a relaxing, calming, middle-of-the-road family man with strong moral values. It does that well and achieves that goal. I definitely liked the man and the policies by the end. He comes across as a very friendly, clam and intelligent father-figure. Being a black guy with a Muslim name and past (living in a Muslim country) he knew he had to present himself to America as the opposite of radical. This book does that exceptionally well. 

Additionally, I personally really liked that he did cover so many controversial topics. There is an expression in America about not discussing politics or religion at the table. I’ve felt for a long time that that is wrong, that nothing affects us more than those two topics. A democracy with a people that self-censor themselves to the point of ending the discussion altogether will shortly lose their democracy. 

The bad?
At many points his thoughts on bipartisanship comes across a bit smarmy and naïve. In most policy questions he describes the far extremes of each party, rebukes both, and then suggests the mainstream democrat platform. It’s really pretty smart, at each step along the way he comes across as intelligent, reasonable, fair-minded and open to the other side. Yet, in the end, the book never really tries to argue for much. It’s a political biography, and to that end, it works very well. 

By that I mean Barack Obama intended to write a book that would make people agree with him, without offering any ammunition to those who don’t, and without picking fights that would alienate people. However, to do that, he had to gloss over specific policies and end-games. So I’ll be specific, he keeps suggesting a middle ground without specifying what that middle ground would look like. Most people are in the middle on these issues, so most people would like what he says. Since he never nails down exactly where he is (other than the very broad and vague middle) he never risks alienating possible voters. 

But that’s disingenuous. Its easy to say you’re in the middle because you can define the middle to be 98% of America. The devil’s in the details. Where exactly in the middle are you? Oh, on the very far left of the middle. Why did you just say so? Oh, because you wanted to be elected President. Right. 😉 

Okay, I’m just teasing him a bit. He’s a politician, and his book is politically minded. I find that political motivation a bit sneaky, but that’s the game of politics I suppose. If the worst I can say is that he intentionally paints his personal political views in broad colors of middle-ground non-partisanship to hide his more liberal colors, that’s not so bad really. 

Conclusion
Someone reading this book will have a far greater understanding of the President, but you won’t really know exactly where he stands. Close, but not exact. It’ll be just enough about him and his policies that you’ll vote for him in November and then not be happy with him a few months down the road. 😐

Audacity of Hope: Summary of chapter 9 and Epilogue


This is the summary of chapter9 and the Epilogue of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days, followed then by my review.


• Book Summary •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

Review

Chapter 9: Family

“I hung up the receiver, wondering if Ted Kennedy or John McCain bought ant traps on the way home from work.” – page 327

“I have little sympathy for those who would enlist the government in the task of enforcing sexual morality.” – page 335

“When it comes to my daughters, no one is buying the tough guy routine.” – page 346

In the final chapter Obama talks about his family life, how he met Michelle and what her family is like. The decline of the traditional family is discussed, and the value of the a traditional family is espoused. Many of the problems facing families and society can be agreed by us all, whether it is teen pregnancy or high divorce rates or kids growing up with their dads. Some blame feminism for women leaving the home, but with today’s economy, for many women not having a job means less safe neighborhoods and less competitive schools.

After the births of their two kids his family life got harder, and in hindsight he realizes how much his wife sacrificed for their family. The difficulties inherent in two professionals managing their daily lives and caring for their young children were a constant source of stress for both. Their situation though was vastly better than most, as they had money to have day care, babysitters when needed, the flexibility to take time off to care for sick children and a healthy mother-in-law that lived nearby.Parenting is hard, and Obama offers several suggestions on how America can work to help families, from subsidized childcare to longer school hours. He also offers his personal fears and insecurities with being a father, as well as his happiness and successes at it.

Epilogue

“It was my first day in the building; I had not taken a single vote, had not introduced a single bill-indeed I had not even sat down at my desk when a very earnest reporter raised his hand and asked, ‘Senator, Obama, what is your place in History?’ Even some of the other reporters had to laugh.” – page 354 Obama ends his book with a few amusing anecdotes of the weeks leading up to his swearing in and his keynote speech. DC is an odd place, he finds his sudden fame amusing and he finds his position, at the center of American politics a daunting task. He thinks of men like Lincoln and King who died making America a more perfect union, and for love of country, he wants to join in on their work.

 

Audacity of Hope: Summaries of chapters 6-8


This is the summary of chapters 3-5 of the Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like him, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days, followed then by my review.


• Book Summary •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

Review

Chapter 6: Faith

“It is a truism that we Americans are a religious people.” – page 198

“If I have any insight into this movement towards a deepening religious commitment, perhaps because it’s a road I have traveled.” – page 202

There are certain things that anchor my personal faith, “The Golden rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace.” – page 224

 

The chapter starts with two stories about conversations he’s had with pro-life supporters. The resulting conversations led him to realize that not all opponents of abortion are ideologues, and though he may be fully against those who block abortion clinics, he intends to “extend the same presumption of good faith to others that” others had extended to him.

This chapter is a continuation of his conversation about the polarization of politics. Most Americans 95% even, believe in god. During the 60’s numerous judicial cases, from desegregation, to the removal of prayer from schools, the sexual liberation and Roe v. Wade all came together to give Christians the feeling they were being mocked and were under attack. As those Christians, in their view, fought back against a far distant federal power attacking their way of life, they grew to be the heart and soul of the Republican party. As Republicans have embraced the “Religious Right” many Democrats have had a knee-jerk reaction to move in the opposite direction.

To maintain a balance between our collective religious views and our politics, a sense of proportion is required. Americans intuitively understand this. Minor uses of the word God in the public domain do not oppress children and do not threaten our democracy. There are certain things that anchor my personal faith, The Golden rule, the need to battle cruelty in all its forms, the value of love and charity, humility and grace.

When I visited Birmingham Alabama for a speech, I remembered the deaths of four little girls killed by a bomb. I remember my mother on her deathbed and the fear in her eyes, and I remember the way my daughter told me she didn’t want to die, and I know I hope that somewhere my mother is some how capable of embracing those four girls.

Chapter 7: Race

“There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America– there’s the United States of America.” – page 231

“my family get-togethers over Christmas take on the appearance of a UN General Assemble meeting.” – page 231

“As much as I insist that things have gotten better, I am mindful of this truth as well: Better isn‘t good enough.” – page 233

Two months after Katrina hid the Gulf Coast, I sat in a church for the funeral of Rosa Parks. We commemorated her death with presidents and American leads from all across our country. As I sat there, I thought of the legacy of Katrina, and what that woman would say of our actions and inactions.

I have a black Kenyan father and white mother, a Indonesian sister who looks Mexican, a neice of Chinese decent, blood relatives who look like Margaret thatcher and Bernie Mac, I’ve never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race. I understand the troubles of African Americans, and share in the many petty slights, but I also have seen enormous progress in race relations in my lifetime.

I am convinced, partially through viewing Illinois politics and the success blacks have had at statewide office, that any preconceived notions white Americans may have, the overwhelming majority can look past race when making judgments about people. Much prejudice isn’t fundamentally race-based, but simple unfamiliarity.

Illinois has always been a bastion of black business, in the past, there were few wealthy by the standards of white Americans. That has changed, and though the many black doctors and businessmen can tell of roadblocks they faced, none of these men or women allow race to be a crutch or excuse for failure. So even as we have to continue to progress as a nation past racial inequality, African Americans have to give up our past victimhood and embrace the American entrepreneurship and accept the simple notion that one isn’t confined in one’s dreams.

Chapter 8: The World Beyond our Borders

“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Queda.” – page 295

“If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, the United States would still be a target.” – page 304

“Once we get beyond matters of self-defense, though, I’m convinced that it will almost always be in our strategic interest to act multilaterally rather than unilaterally” – page 309

 

Growing up in Indonesia, I got a good look at how people in other countries live and view America. We helped liberate them, brought about a democracy that didn’t like us, viewed their actions through the schism of the Cold War, and fought hard to push American-styled capitalism. Our actions had mixed results. An understanding of Indonesia and her history can’t be used as a blanket understanding for every other country, but it can be a useful tool to understand Americas foreign policy successes and failure over the past fifty years.

In the years since World War two, our focus has been on the giant movements between us and Russia, with little left for the rest of the world. With the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Americans refocused on domestic issues. Despite the foreign policy successes of Bill Clinton and the first George Bush, few in America saw or understood an overreaching foreign policy guiding our actions. That all changed with 9/11.

He argues that American military and foreign policies have not yet well adapted to the post-cold war and emerging state of world affairs. Americans need to become more aware of global and international affairs, and that as a country we need to take a more forward looking view at our foreign policy, rather than a shortsighted one. We need to make sure our actions abroad strengthen us today and leave us stronger tomorrow, while helping those countries we interact with.

Book Summary: The Audacity of Hope


This is the first few chapters of Audacity of Hope, written by then Senator now President Barack Obama. Like, love him, or even if you think he’s an undocumented illegal, he’s the President so you should educate yourself about him. This is a good place to start. The rest will follow over the next few days. Followed then by my review.


• Book Summary •

200px-AudacityofHope

The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream

Chapter 1-2

Chapters 3-5

Chapters 6-8

Chapter 9 and Epilogue

 Review

 

Prologue

“You seem like a nice enough guy. Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics?” – Page 1

 

“I told them they were right: government couldn’t solve all their problems. But with a slight change in priorities we could make sure every child had a decent shot in life and meet the challenges we we faced as a nation.” – Page 7

 

 “Some readers may find my presentation of these issues to be insufficiently balanced. To this accusation, I stand guilty as charged. I am a Democrat…” – Page 10 

After graduating law school , Obama moved to Chicago to begin work as a community organizer in the city’s poor African American neighborhoods. This was the beginning of his political career. Whereever he went, people asked about his odd name, and his odder choice to enter politics. During this time he also taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. While campaigning he crossed his state many times over and listened to many Americans, their concerns modest. He also notes without apology that he is biased towards Liberalism and is a proud Democrat. That liberal slant, and the conversations he’s had with voters is what leads to this book.

Through his career in Illinois and the Senate, he has tried to work in a bi-partisan manner, and has achieved some success. We all fear that our national politics have become a dead zone, when what we really need is to move beyond the small arguments and embrace a new politics than will pull us together as Americans. That is the topic of the book, beginning the process of changing politics and our civil life. 

 

Chapter 1: Republicans and Democrats

“What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics…” – Page 22

“We know that the battle against international terrorism is at once an armed struggle and a contest of ideas… But follow most of our foreign policy debates, and you might believe that we have only two choices– belligerence or isolationism.” – Page 23

“Unless political leaders are open to new ideas and not just new packaging, we won’t change…” – Page 40 

In this chapter, Obama discusses the animosity between the Democrats and Republicans. There is a whole list of issues upon which Americans and their representatives disagree, and we do so vehemently. More so than at any point since WWII we are divided by our politics. For 8 years in the State Legislature of Illinois we fared little better. Republicans exercised the same rules of minority suppression as Newt Gingrich. After six years, Democrats took over, and treated the Republicans the same. But no democrat has reached the level of zealotry that ensnare Rove and DeLay.

Democrats have become the party of reaction. Democrats have begun to react negatively to everything Republicans off. The voters see the difference between dogma and common sense. They are waiting for us to catch up with them.

 

Chapter 2: Values

” The gap between what we deem appropriate behavior in everyday life and what it takes to win a campaign is just one of the ways in which a politician’s values are tested.”– Page 65

“No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.– Page 68

Obama acknowledges that many Americans feel that politicians have lost their moral compasses. However, while he makes no excuses for blatant acts of ill will, bribery, or corruption, he contends that the political system itself makes it very difficult for politicians to remain true to their values. In this age of constant scrutiny and 24-hour news cycles, even the smallest, most seemingly trivial action on the part of a politician can be posted to the Internet and held up for criticism.

Obama calls for a return to a political sphere in which ideas, values, and action plans matter more than, for example, which type of mustard a candidate requests at a restaurant. He contends that the Democrats’ recent loss of power in Congress and other elected offices have left the party particularly vulnerable to these kinds of issues. Obama claims that many Democrats have morphed into caricatures of themselves, and that part of this charade has been the propagation of even more divisiveness with the Republicans.

He concludes that a successful political system demands compromise and collaboration, and that those factions that decry political compromise are too consumed with strategy and minor victories to be truly interested in the overarching benefit of the nation.

Click here to continue

Book Summary: Hard Call- Great Decisions and the Extraordinary people who made them


 

This is the book summary of Hard Call, a series of stories about the greatest, and most difficult, decisions extraordinary people have made.  In this post I’ll summarize the introduction and the first chapter. More chapters will follow, eventually followed by my review. 

It is written by John McCain and Mark Salter. 


 

• Book Summary •

Awareness | Foresight | Timing | Confidence | Humility | Inspiration 

hardcall

Hard Call

Great Decisions and the Extraordinary people who made them

 

Introduction

“Bud” Day Day was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on February 24, 1925. In 1942 he quit high school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served 30 months in the North Pacific during World War II as a member of a 5 in (130 mm) gun battery with the 3rd Defense Battalion on Johnston Island. – Wiki The first few pages introduce us to George “Bud” Day. He was shot down over Vietnam and captured by the enemy. He escaped his hole, and with a broken knee and thrice-broken arm, crawled 20 miles in 13 days to get within 1 mile of American forces. There, he had to make a decision, he had to make a plan. He could, on the one had, plan to crawl in the dark across a minefield guarded by US soldiers. He was in torn muddy clothing, had dark tanned skin from his trek, and could easily be shot in friendly-fire. Or, he could wait for day. In the light there would be less chance of stepping on a mine and less chance of being mistaken for an enemy. There was also more chance he would be captured in the night. There was also the chance he’d starve before the sun came up, or succumb to the fever than had been burning him.  He decided to wait the night out and make the attempt in the morning. That as his Hard Call. It doesn’t matter what happened next (he was captured in the night) because one can’t know the future. The book will focus on these hard calls and the five qualities
 
  Chapter 1: Awareness: The Mahatma and the Intruder
“In short, the better aware you are, the more sound your decision.” – Page 8  “Mr Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?.” – Jackie Robinson
“I want a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back.” – Branch Rickey – Page 28

“They shook hands on the deal and made their country a better plage.” – Page 34

In 1945 Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Jackie Robinson from the Negroe League into the Major Leagues. At the time, Jim Crow laws in the South and tradition in the north prevented african-americans from a great deal, be it good bus seats, hotel rooms or jobs. Though there was never a rule written preventing an african-american from playing in the Major Leagues, none were ever given a spot in the dug out.  Branch Rickey was a good man and a smart man. He was tight fisted, focused on winning, making money, his family, and his religion. He came to the moral decision that the segregation of blacks was immoral. He decided to use his position to help integrate blacks and whites.

He was aware of how hard it would be to integrate the league, so he went about finding the perfect person. He needed an excellent baseball player both on and off the field. He found Jackie Robinson, and then, being fully aware of the difficulty relating to his decision, he had a confrontational 3 hour interview to drive home the point that Robinson could not react to the bigotry; he had to be perfect. Rickey made his decision, it was a Hard Call, it worked.

Book Review: The End of Prosperity


• Book Review •

The End of Prosperity is a book outlining the decline of the US economy, and the providing a roadmap back to economic prosperity, this it the review and summary. It was written by Stephen Moore, Arthur b Laffer, PH.D., and Peter J. Tanous. 

 Chapter Summaries 

The End of Prosperity

The End of Prosperity

How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy- If We Let It Happen

Brief Summary (Full Summary above)
The book focus’s on how Suppy-Side Economics have in the past brough about economic prosperity, and how retreating from those policies will lead to the End of Prosperity. It is a fact-heavy book with no end of figures, graphs, numbers and data points. The Authors believe that raising taxes, as Barack Obama plans, will doom our economy.

Was it a good book?
Yes. It was an excellent book. It covered the history of the last several decades, and then applied that to the present and the future. I really liked the enormous amount of information presented in the book. In fairness, it made the book a bit tough to read and I had to put it down once in a while to think over what I’d read. That said, a book about economics and fiscal policy that really pushes an intelligent logical conclusion would have to be a bit number heavy. If the book was written without so many graphs and charts and numbers, it’d be purely opinion and meaningless.

Would I recommend it?
Already have. I’d love to reccomend it to Barack Obama and see what his thoughts on the specific points in this book are. Actually, what I’d really love is to see an interviewer sit down with Barack and pick his brain with all sorts of deep probing economic questions. Books like this, as well put together as they are, deserve a really good refutation if you’re going to ignore its advice.

The Good?
I liked the way it used history to prove it’s points. There is very little theoretical opinions in this book, just numbers and lots of them. The result is that it was very hard for me to come up with arguments against what the authors were saying.

I really liked the information on the Laffer Flat tax as well as the comparison between that and the FairTax. I’m a supporter of the FairTax, though the flat tax would be a close second best in my view. The idea of how quickly we could get our economy roaring with the flat tax is just stunning. Imagine getting rid of all payroll and income taxes and just paying 12.1% income tax. That’s it. 12.1%. Can you imagine any bill being more stimulative? This one law would fix the American economy within 3 years. 

It also handles the politics of economics well. Politically speaking, its easy to cast blame. The blame in this book is cast about pretty fairly. The authors chastise numerous politicians of different parties, placing a Republican, Richard Nixon as their example as the worst economic present. 

The Ugly?
They moved too quick to ignore points that don’t agree exaclty with Supply-Side economics. For example, in 1968 taxes were raisesd, and revenues went up. Clinton raised taxes, and revenues went up. During WW2 we pulled ourselves out of the Great Depression with 90%+ income taxes. One could easily argue that Keynesian economics clearly explains that better than supply-side does. Moreover, if you look at the Laffer Curve it’s very clear that sometimes lowering taxes will increase revenue, while at other times, yes, raising taxes will clearly raise revenue.

Additionally, I felt very often like they were taking two facts and connecting them together directly as if one was the absolute and direct cause of the next, when in fairness, all that was proved was a coorelation. Just because revenue increased in a year that taxes were cut doesn’t mean the cut lead to the increase. Coorelation doesn’t prove causation.

Overall, my complaint then is that the authors overlooked clear inconsistencies with the historical record, blaming everything that’s gone wrong with the American economy over the past 60+ years on demand-side economics, and assigning the credit for everything good that’s happened to supply-side economics.

Conclusion
I give the book an A-. It is an absolutely excellent book to read that really helps to explain the mess we’re in. It could convert any intelligent person over to their side. I’d have enjoyed a chapter discussing the failed examples of supply-side, but can’t fault them too much for that. It is required reading for any political junky or armchair economist.  


 

 

 

For the whole summary of this book, scroll to the top of the page, or, click End of Prosperity Summary to get started.

Book Summary: End of Prosperity, Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy- If We Let It Happen


Detailing the brutal assault on the US economy by politicians, both Republican and Democrat, The End of Prosperity also serves to offer advice on repairing the damage. The End of Prosperity is my book of the month and was written by by Arthur Laffer, Steve Moore, and Peter Tanous. This post has the summary of the final three chapters 13, 14 and 15. The review will soon follow.

My next book summary, review and critique will probably be a left-wing book as this is a right-wing book and I want to keep it fair. I’m planning on doing The Audacity of Hope of Barack Obama as that seems a good balance to this one.


 

 • Book Summary •

Index | Chapters 13-15 | Review

The End of Prosperity

The End of Prosperity

How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy- If We Let It Happen

Chapter 13: Many Happy Returns

Some people want at tax system based on Robin Hood, where we steal from the rich and give to the poor. In the end, this hurts everyone as the “rich” Robin steals from soon learn to hire body guards, thus reducing the amount Robin can steal while increasing the prices the poor pay.

Why do governments impose taxes:

  1. Raise Revenue. Obviously we need to raise money to pay for running the country
  2. Redistribute Income. While most people agree we need to pay taxes to run the government, the Left also wants to use the tax code as Robin Hood and confiscate money from the wealthy to spend on the poor. Both Obama and Hillary want to raise taxes on the wealthy, they’re not even hiding it.
  3. Social Engineering. The tax code is also used to control behavior through rewards and punishments. Often, we do so without even realizing it. We tax drinking and smoking as a form of punishment, trying to decrease those behaviors. Then why do we think high taxes on capital gains, dividend taxes and income won’t do the same?

The Laffer Flat tax would replace most existing federal taxes with a very low 12.1%. By drastically increasing the tax base, we will be able to drop the tax rate for everyone.

We also like the FairTax. Since the Laffer Flat tax is split between income and corporate taxes, they total 24.2%, remarkably similar to the 23% sales tax envisioned by the FairTax. We particularly like the idea of getting the IRS out of financial records and making our exports more competitive. We however think there will be problems with evasion and noncompliance.

  • Henry George, a ninteenth century economist listed four criteria for judging a tax system.
  • Bear as lightly as possible upon production
  • Easily and cheaply collected
  • That it be certain, so as to limit tyranny and corruption in the collection
  • That it be equal, so as to give no citizen an advantage or disadvantage over anyone else.

The Laffer Flat Tax meets those high standards.

Chapter 14: The Death of Economic Sanity

An economic storm is coming to America.

  • Tax rates are going up, not down. Obama wants to raise taxes on dividends, capital gains, income and death. Taxes in many states will approach 60%.
  • America has nearly the highest corporate tax rates in the world. This is one of the reasons the US dollar is collapsing, and a sign of worse economic problems to come.
  • The dollar is falling relative to other currencies and relative to commodities such as oil and food. Some economists see the devaluing as a good thing, a way to increase imports, but as the dollar drops, everyone’s savings get closer and closer to zero.
  • America is turning its back on trade and globalization. During World Wars I and II the Germans blockaded around Britain to keep out cheap products. We are doing the same thing to ourselves by enacting high tariffs, doing to us in peacetime what our enemies try to do to us in wartime.
  • A masochistic cap and kill idea that will send our factories and industries to other nations that don’t impose so many regulations. Hillary Clinton wants to impose a fence around industries creating a job, to restore “appropriate balance” between industry and government. What she really means is more inefficiency and fewer jobs.
  • The federal budget deficit is spiraling out of control and neither party is serious about halting out multi-trillion-dollar liabilities. George Bush was the worst spender since LBJ, increasing the federal budget from 2.2 Trillion to 3.1 Trillion in only 8 years. Democrats are doing all they can to pass his record.
  • The health care system, which is 1/6th of our economy may be nationalized. The idea that additional government will make the health care system better is pure folly.
  • National energy policies raise prices, limit access to domestic oil and make us more dependant on foreign oil. Price controls didn’t work for Carter, they won’t work now. They will only make our problems worse.

Individually, the US economy could handle a few of these. Combined, they spell certain economic cyclones.

Chapter 15: Protecting your investments in the Troubled Times Ahead

Build a portfolio for the ages with a variety of classes of assets so as to diversify your risks. You should aim twenty years out, looking towards retirement or your child’s college education. Growth stocks are companies with predictable growth and low risk. Value stocks are companies that are believed to be selling below their fair price.

At one time, the US stock market was by far the largest and most liquid market in the world. Today, you should put about 20% of your portfolio into foreign companies. You should also get some bonds as ballast against fluctuations in the market. Consider splitting your bonds between regular and TIPS (inflation adjusted bonds) to help negate the effect of inflation.

Which stocks should you buy? None. Leave it to the professionals and get a mutual fund. Moreover, get an index mutual fund. It is very hard for a mutual fund manager to beat the index, and most never beat it enough for the risk, or at all.

Should you get gold? That’s tricky. It peaked at $850 an ounce in 1980, then dropped. For most of the 80’s and 90’s, it would have been a bad investment. Gold is however a great hedge against inflation and has been used that way for centuries. Put no more than 10% of your money into gold. Putting another 10% of your money into oil may also help guard against the coming storm.

Over time, the economy will continue to grow. Political leaders who promote harmful economic policies will be removed and better policies will replace them. But in the meantime, it makes sense to protect one’s assets.

A society of of Sheep must in time beget a government of wolves



“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” – Dr. Adrian Rogers, (1931-2005)

“A society of of Sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” – Bertrand de Jouvenel (1903 – 1987)

I just thought these were two great quotes and really wanted to post them. I’m thinking of setting up a quotes page, or maybe calling it a Passing On Wisdom page, something a bit classy than Random Quotes. Either way, here they are.  

Part of the reason I like them is how well they relate to the book I’m currently reading and almost done reading. I’ve only got the last two chapters to go. The End of Prosperity is basically a long and analytical attack on the ideas that go against those two quotes. I’m actually writing the last three chapter summaries right now.  So I’ll just leave you to think on those two bits of wisdom. 

St. Augustine Unfairly trashes the FairTax


Why do both Barack Obama and Fred Silva of the St. Augustine Record hate the FairTax? I actually like the idea of a real low, real simple flat tax that removes corporate and other anti-growth taxes. I love the idea of getting rid of the IRS. I love the idea removing loopholes from the wealthy. In a debate between FairTax and the flat tax, the only losers are high priced tax lawyers and backroom dealing lobbyists and politicians. The American tax payer wins either way.

Taxation is a horribly complicated political football. The simplist and most honest summary of our current tax system is that it cripples us. I’ve read several books on taxation, no one, not one single person anywhere argues that the current system is good. Most people, like Barack Obama, agree it’s a mess and then offer really obnoxious Band-Aids like raising the top marginal income rate about 5%. Others think we need a flat income tax, others a flat sales tax, others the FairTax. I think the FairTax is best. In this post, I’ll focus on just the specific attacks leveled against it by Mr. Fred Silva.

 


 

 

* We’ll have a black market like other Third World countries, probably new business opportunities for drug dealers.

Drug dealers already have an entire black market. But when they take their money out of the black market and go to WalMart or KFC or BMW to spend their drug money, through the FairTax (which is a consumption tax) they will be taxed their fair share.

* It’s regressive.

Absolutely not. The Payroll taxes are regressive. Sales tax is regressive. Loopholes, tax lawyers, tax shelters, off-shore bank accounts and lobbyists are regressive. The FairTax (with prebate) is the most progressive thing around.

* We are in a depression and it will discourage purchases.

It will encourage employment and savings. It will remove disincentives to investment and entrepreneurship. It will put more money in the hands of everyone, and then it will pull us out of the recession.

* It’s great for super rich, more money to spend overseas on vacation. Why would they buy anything here?

Firstly, prices will not go up as high as you imagine they will. By removing all corporate, dividend , capital gains, and property taxes, US companies will be able to compete better and drop their prices. Second, the super-rich already spend vacations overseas.

Should help Canada and Mexico. Everything should be cheaper there.

Actually, it’ll hurt them because our products will be more competitive than theirs because they’re companies pay higher taxes and have to charge more to cover those taxes. Our exports will go through the roof.

* Why would anyone vacation here? It will kill Florida tourism.

Why would anyone stop? But for every vacation dollar we lose, we’ll get back 10 times that in money from people who work here illegally and fail to pay any income or payroll taxes at present.

* Foreign workers can send more money to South America, the Mideast or wherever, tax free.

They already do. Only now, illegal immigrant/foreign workers will pay their fair share of taxes before that money leaves the country.

“I get to pay tax again if I spend my savings I already paid tax on. That sounds like double taxing to me. Great for the retired.”

This is the only charge that is somewhat legitimate. I don’t know how this will be handled. With all the extra time the IRS will have on their hands, I’m sure an accounting method can be discovered to handle this temporary and one-time problem. But don’t let the “double taxing” thing scare you, we are already double, and triple taxed or more.

 


 

 

The big question to consider is, do we tax income or consumption. A Flat Tax (which would be vastly superior to our current system) punishes people for working. The FairTax punishes people for spending. That’s the big difference. Now yes, on the surface, if everyone stopped spending it’d be bad, but really, think that one through. Will everyone stop buying stuff? That’s ridiculous. Even when people are out of work they buy stuff. It is absolutely silly to think people will stop buying stuff. Moreover, any decrease in the desire to spend will be remedied by the increase in take-home money.

I’ll make a simple ending point, if you are a fiscal conservative, if you think Reagan saved our economy, if you agree with the Laffer Curve, then you have to agree that a tax rate must be as low as possible and as broad as possible. A consumption tax is the broadest tax base possible, thus it can be the lowest one possible. That is Supply-Side economics.

Read the original article here.