Category Archives: Books

The History of Political Polarization in America

By Michael Bryan

On the excellent podcast, The Ezra Klein Show, hosted by Mr. Klein, the editor-at-large of Vox Media, former reporter Sam Rosenfield gave some excellent recommendations for further reading for those who want to better understand America’s polarized politics. Sam himself is the author of “The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era”.

The discussion on the podcast is well worth a listen and the books Mr. Rosenfield recommends are an excellent backgrounder for how we got to today’s political moment. To see those recommendations follow the “continue reading” link…

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Putting America Last: The Historic Failure of Walls

Historically, walls separating nations do not work as well as intended over the long term. Photo of Gaza/Israel boundary courtesy of the New York Times.

Walls delineating boundaries between nations or barriers for defense have stood since the dawn of human history. Wall Street in Manhattan, for example, received its name because Dutch settlers erected a walled defense against the Native American tribes they had wronged with unprovoked genocidal type raids.

If one wants to visit Christopher Columbus’s house in Genoa Italy, not far from it is the old city walls of Genoa, which is now surrounded by modern buildings. Everyone has heard of the Great Wall of China, the walls of Jericho and Troy, and the Berlin Wall. All of these barriers were created for either defense, to keep people out, or to keep people in. What does history tell us about these walls?

It tells us that while walls may be necessary to preserve boundaries and prevent invasion, they are not foolproof and eventually doomed, thanks to human ingenuity, to failure.

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Comey’s Higher Loyalty: A Must Read

I’ve noticed over the years that media coverage of books can be wildly at odds with my own impression, more so than media coverage of just about anything else.

There’s a logical explanation for that. It would be pretty much impossible to write a 300-page book and not get something wrong or include material that perhaps should have been left out.

The textbook case of this was the criticism of Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. Alan Dershowitz (yeah, the pseudo-liberal currently defending Trump) and others found a handful of items Carter had wrong. Carter actually admitted to getting a few things wrong. Reading that criticism, I lost interest in the book, as Carter’s view also clashed with my own beliefs at the time about Israel-Palestine. Eventually, however, I read it. For everything Carter got wrong and for which he was lambasted by the pro-Israel American media, he got about 50 things right. Ultimately, the book had a profound influence on my own views.

We’re seeing a repeat of this with the media reporting on Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. In this case, it’s not as much things Comey got wrong, but passages he included that the media have labeled spiteful or petty. When you read A Higher Loyalty, however, you see that Comey’s critics are the ones engaged in spite and pettiness. Continue reading

An Evening with John Nichols of The Nation, March 10 (video)

John Nichols, Pamela Powers Hannley, and Phil Lopes

Author and historian John Nichols, Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, and former Arizona Senate Minority Leader Phil Lopes at PDA’s John Nichols event in 2017.

The Tucson Festival of Books brings hundreds of authors to Tucson each year. For politicos, one of the hottest tickets at the Book Festival is author and historian John Nichols of The Nation.

If you want to hear Nichols speak in an informal setting– away from the Book Festival crowds, come to the IBEW Hall on Saturday night, March 10. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA Tucson) and the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) are hosting their annual An Evening with John Nichols. I am proud to be the warm-up act for Nichols again this year. Doors open at 6 p.m.

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Donald Trump unravels after ‘Fire and Fury’

If you have not obtained a copy of Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” — it has sold out everywhere because of Trump’s attempts to ban publication of the book in violation of the First Amendment, which only makes people want to read it all the more — Wolff has provided an extracted column from his book at the Hollywood Reporter to hold you over. “You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House.

This passage struck a particular nerve with Dear Leader:

There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.

Wolff said in television interviews about his book, everyone around the president “questions [Trump’s] intelligence and fitness for office.” ‘Everyone’ in White House Says ‘He’s Like a Child’:

“Let me put a marker in the sand her,” Wolff said. “100 percent of the people around him” question his fitness.

“I will tell you the one description that everyone gave, everyone has common. They all say, he is like a child,” Wolff said. “And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him…He just has to be satisfied in the moment.”

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One White Man’s Apology (Along With a Book Review)

I’ve long been confident that I’ve had my eyes open wider to the mistreatment of black Americans than at least 90%, and likely 99%, of white Amerinca.

And I still am. In fact, probably more confident.

But I’m also coming to grips with my own ignorance of how horrific, how systematic, how diabolical, how treacherous, and how brutally persistent the persecution of black Americans has been from the end of the Civil War through the present day. Continue reading