Archive for December, 2008

Dec 23 2008

The Price of Loyalty

Published by under Books

by Ron Susskind

A political history of of Paul O’neill’s two year tenure as Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury told from O’neill’s point of view and with O’neill’s cooperation. So it is O’neill’s version of history and paints him wearing a very white hat. That bias acknowledged, it is probably close to the truth as it is very consistent with other descriptions of the way Washington has “worked” during the disastrous Bush presidency; driven by ideology, isolated, and politically controlled (in the worst sense of that phrase – do anything to win an election; implications be damned).

The descriptions of how the top level officials interact and communicate was fascinating. Alan Greenspan as a realistic, clear thinking, straight talking official. Dick Cheney is portrayed as the silent man behind the mirror; rarely displaying his position, often intimidating others, and acting as a dispassionate hatchet man. Bush a captive of who knows what; Rove, Cheney, lack of confidence, lack of intelligence, or what was once known as the Peter Principle? Almost all meetings with him involved scripted exchanges in which the “White House staff” tells attendees in advance what to talk about and for how long. Bush then sits and listens. Depressing but interesting!

Out of the gate, Obama seems to be heading in a better direction with his seemingly better grasp on what the job entails and his choice of a diverse group of senior advisers. But, we’ll have to wait and see what he and they come up with in the way of proposals, policies, and actions.

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Dec 10 2008


Published by under Books

by Elizabeth Hand

If this book’s version of Maine is accurate, I don’t want to spend time there. Though I’ve been there on vacation, I’ve never visited or lived there in the winter. I’m from “away” and will stay “away”. Those that grew up and live there are a mix of odd balls and practical but poor characters if this book is to be believed. Their way of life is being destroyed by over use of resources and most of all by moneyed people from “away”.

I don’t remember what I read that interested me in this book which the jacket describes as a “literary thriller” which will do as a category. It has a mystery at its core and a protagonist who some what accidentally wants to determine what the mystery is about and eventually answer the ‘who done what to whom’ question. Atypically, that protagonist is a 50 ish, female, hard bitten, NYC junkie & alcoholic, ‘has been’ photographer of dead and dying. She is tricked by a friend to go to an island off the coast of Maine to interview another out of the game photographer who is a recluse on the island and doesn’t want to be interviewed. Interesting events ensue.

The story is built on artistic photography and early, even crude, photographic techniques; film or earlier. No digital cameras are allowed. Artistic photography on the fringes; raw, city ugly. The main protagonist’s early claim to fame was photographs of dying people and nudes with skeletons. Then that went out of fashion when the NYC punk scene imploded.

I’ve never read Steven King, but I believe he’s from Maine which seems to inspire stories of weird people and weird event. Nothing else to do on long cold nights? At times, I didn’t like this story and considered putting it down, but in the end it was worth reading if you don’t mind a lot of ugliness and a little violence. Good book for vacation reading.

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