Reviews of Books by William P. Meyers
Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings &
by Stephen Pizzo, Mary Fricker and Paul Muolo
Now that another Bush family clone is likely to become our next President, it's a good time to read again about the 1980's. Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in an election by committing an act of treason: betraying American prisoners in Iraq. Then Bush, Reagan, and their gang of thieves pushed through the deregulation of the savings & loan industry. Their friends and associates looted the banks and left the taxpayer with a $500 billion tab to pay. Ain't unfettered free enterprise wonderful? Read all about it, who knows, you might want to loot a bank some day. You'd get 20 years in jail for getting caught taking $1,000.00 with a six-gun, 20 days community service for getting caught taking $100,000,000.00 through loan fraud.
February 28, 1999
by Frank Herbert
Berkley Publishing Company
This book won the first Science Fiction Writers of America novel award, but today probably could not get published. It is basically a scientific/philosophical rant about the nature of consciousness. Herbert apparently felt free to mix in nonsense with from some of the characters; he apparently was not at home with higher math. As a novel it sucks, but back in the days of free love, marijuana, and LSD, when some men still treated science as a religion that might lead us to utopia, it was a very interesting literary work. Consciousness is still the black box that science cannot pierce; if you are interested in the problem, the book is worth a read.
February 18, 1999
A History of Modern Japan
copyright 1960, 1968
A standard style academic history of Japan, which taught me some things I did not know. Most interesting of all was Japan's offer, after WWII had started in Europe but before Pearl Harbor, to join the Allies against the Axis powers. Britain and the United States refused the offer, hoping to grab back China and maybe reduce Japan back to third-world status. They also embargoed Japan; since Japan had no oil of its own, this was understood by all involved as a declaration of war. So the "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise only in the sense that the US expected the Japanese forces to attack US forces in the Philippines, rather than make such a long-distance attack.
February 14, 1999
by Steven Milloy and Michael Gough
This is a piece of anti-environment propaganda put out by people who go to some length trying to sound no right wing, not beholden to big business, and not against science. In fact, they hate any science that shows that humans have to care for the environment. Totally discredits the Cato Institute, which has published better books. See my longer review.
February 10, 1999
Be Cool by Elmore Leonard
My first by Elmore, but I want to read more. His Get Shorty (I did see the movie) constructs another movie out of his life after watching an old acquaintance get gunned down by mobsters. This book focuses on the music business and how stars are born. Occasional lapses in editing are more than compensated for by tight prose and fine characterization.
February 5, 1999
by Ben Bova
Avon Science Fiction
If you have never read near-future, hard-science fiction, this will be fine. But for my taste it had 250 pages of reading buried in 500 pages of text. The plot involves corporations funding terrorists to attack the World Government, and mankind's salvation through space exploration. Lot's of potential here, but just too padded to be recommendable.
February 1, 1999
The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need
by Andrew Tobias
Harcourt Brace & Company
copyright 1978 & 1998
Funny and pretty good book on basic investments. The key is to spend less than you make and don't invest in anything you don't understand.
January 26, 1999
Father, Son, & Company: My Life at IBM and Beyond
by Thomas J. Watson Jr. and Peter Petre
The writing is horrendous the ability to bore is stupendous in this personal narrative. The redeeming points are the Thomas Watson Jr. does not try to gloss over his bad points. He was a poor student and a playboy who rose to the top of American society for one reason alone: he was the son of the President of IBM. There are a number of interesting points in the book: the way the old punch-card machines dominated American business until the advent of the electronic computer; the way IBM almost refused to make computers, believing they could not replace punch-card machines; and the way Thomas Watson Sr. built up a company that he was appointed to when it was headed towards bankruptcy. Not really recommended unless you are particularly interested in the history of IBM. One more point of interest: the resemblance of IBM's anti-trust problems and practices to those that Microsoft is on trial for today.
January 22, 1999
Stonewall in the Valley, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign Spring 1862
by Robert G. Tanner
Doubleday & Company, Inc.,Garden City, New York
This is not the kind of book I would usually pick up, but I have been getting biography and history books at the Point Arena Community Library recently, and pickings are slim. But it turned out to be a very well-written and interesting book. Notably, as important as the Shenandoah Valley was to the Confederate cause in the Civil War, there were almost no slave in the Valley, boosting support for the contention that the Civil War's primary cause was the resistance to the establishment of a Fascist state by Lincoln and the Republican party, rather than a war over slavery. Stonewall Jackson, the best-known southern general after Robert E. Lee, did not own slaves. His men fought for the liberty of Virginia against overwhelming odds, and in 1862 proved that they were warriors of the highest quality.
Military strategy and tactics dominate the book, so on the whole it would mainly be of interest to people who are interested in warfare or its history. Of particular interest is the use of letters from soldiers of all ranks to show how peaceful farm boys gained the skills necessary for modern warfare.
January 16, 1999
Original Intentions, On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution
by M. E. Bradford
University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia
There are two theories of the Constitution and Law in the United States. The mainstream theory is that the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means. The alternative theory is that the Constitution means what it says, which is what the people who wrote it and ratified it meant it to say.
For those of us that believe the Supreme Court was never intended to be an unelected dictatorship, the second theory, sometimes called the strict-construction theory, is preferable, though it does present us with a practical problem: amending the Constitution when we want to give the Federal Government more or less power.
Original intentions summarizes the debates at the State level conventions that were called to ratify the Constitution. As both the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers also make clear, what the conventions ratified was acknowledged by all to be a Federal Government of limited but defined powers. The "necessary and proper" clause was only meant enable the Federal government to carry out its assigned powers; it was not meant to give it the power to do anything it felt necessary and proper.
Most of the states ratified the Constitution with proviso's that it must be amended to more specifically say with what the Congress could not meddle. In particular the 10th Amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
The anecdotes Bradford presents are numerous and compelling, but I have not read the minutes of the State conventions myself, so I can't testify as to whether the examples he gives are typical or exceptional.
Even if you believe that the President, Congress and the Supreme Court can change the meaning of the Constitution without bothering to amend it, you may find Original Intentions to be an interesting window into an important era of American history.
January 8, 1999
The Life of Andrew Jackson
by Marquis James
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis/New York
What struck me as most remarkable was the utter transformation of life in western North Carolina and Tennessee from Jackson's childhood to his old age. Even when he left for Tennessee as a young man (to be its first D.A.) it was dirt paths and skirmishes with Native Americans. When he retired from the presidency it was railroads, steamers, and carriage roads.
Many of the political issues that arose in Jackson's time are still with us today. States rights was a tricky question. Jackson was for states rights when the states were grabbing Native American land against the orders of the Supreme Court; he refused to enforce the Supreme Court ruling, thus guaranteeing Indian removal. But he fought vigorously for federal authority against the Nullifyers in South Carolina who did not want to enforce the federal customs tarriff, raising an army to invade SC if necessary (they backed down).
Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party; Clay of the Whig Party; both evolved out of the Republican Party after the death of the Federalist Party. His main battle in office was against the Bank of the United States, which threatened to become more powerful than even the Federal Government.
Jackson owned slaves but is reputed to have treated them well. He did not liberate them on his death, but bequeathed them to his adopted son.
On the humorous side, we had the Margaret Eaton affair. Margaret was a young woman of questionable reputation who married Jackson's friend John Henry Eaton, who became a cabinet members. But the ladies of Washington, including wives of other cabinet members, refused to call on Mrs. Eaton, or attend dinners that she attended.