Patterico's Pontifications

1/11/2010

Steve Oney Packs Up Half of His Life

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 12:01 am

Steve Oney is an acquaintance of mine and the author of one of the best true crime books I have ever read: And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank.

Steve Oney
Steve Oney

I once planned to write a full review of the book, but a search of my archives reveals this to be another one of my projects that never got off the ground. I can tell you only that I avidly read it over a vacation 2-3 years ago, after meeting Oney at a Dodger game that Scott Kaufer had invited us to, and spending most of the game transfixed by Oney’s story of writing the book.

Oney gives a taste of this in this piece at the L.A. Times (h/t Kevin Roderick).

With emotions wavering between relief and regret, I remove a battered spiral notebook from a metal file cabinet and place it in an acid-free cardboard box open on my office floor. The notebook contains an interview I conducted in December 1984 at a VA hospital in Johnson City, Tenn., with 85-year-old Alonzo Mann. Some seven decades earlier, he told me, he’d seen a murderer carrying a girl’s body through the lobby of an Atlanta factory, but he was only 14 and too scared to call the police. As a result, an innocent industrialist was convicted of the crime and later lynched.

Mann’s assertion goes to the heart of an enduring debate about a great historical mystery. To me, however, the notebook possesses more than just documentary value. It contains the first research I conducted on a project that consumed nearly half my life.

The intense research that Oney did for the book leaps off the page. But the book is more than a well-researched story of bigotry and injustice. It is a period piece that brings to life Atlanta, Georgia in the years just before World War I. An important part of Oney’s book recounts the amazing story of how Tom Watson helped railroad Mr. Frank, even as Watson advocated the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. I believe that Watson’s statue still stands proudly in a place of prominence in front of the Georgia state capitol building.

Tom Watson Statue

I can’t recommend Oney’s book enough. Go read his piece, and then buy his book.

8/3/2009

Amazon Kindle

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 7:20 am

Last night I took the leap and ordered the Kindle.

It should arrive this week. I already know what my first purchase will be: Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies, by Michelle Malkin.

Why should I be different from everyone else on Amazon?

9/20/2008

NYT Editors Allow Article To Include Quotes From Wall Street CEOs That NYT Sources Admit They Weren’t In The Room To Hear

[Posted by WLS]

This correction published in the New York Times yesterday should cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up — and not simply because the reporting of these “quotes” might have impacted the market.

Here’s what the correction says:

An article about the effect of the Wall Street crisis on Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs cited two sources who were said to have been briefed on a conversation in which John J. Mack, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, had told Vikram S. Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, that “we need a merger partner or we’re not going to make it.”

On Thursday, Morgan Stanley vigorously denied that Mr. Mack had made the comment, as did Citigroup, which had declined to comment on Wednesday. The Times’s two sources have since clarified their comments, saying that because they were not present during the discussions, they could not confirm that Mr. Mack had in fact made the statement. The Times should have asked Morgan Stanley for comment and should not have used the quotation without doing more to verify the sources’ version of events.

This correction immediately took my thoughts to this review by Jack Goldsmith of New York Times’ reporter Eric Lichtblau’s book “Bush Law: The Remaking of American Justice.”

Lichtblau was the reporter who broke the story of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and the story on the cooperation of the international bank consortium SWIFT in tracking terrorist financing through international banking transactions. His book recounts his reporting on both these subjects in detail, as well as his and James Risen’s struggle with the New York Times’ editors to get his blockbusters published on the front page of that paper.

Goldsmith’s is an extremely thoughtful article, and those interested in the implications of the New York Times‘s decisions to reveal classified intelligence programs on its front page should take time to read and consider Goldsmith’s thoughts. I only came across this article in the last few days — it was published in The New Republic back in August — but it’s very sobering in its analysis.

(more…)

9/15/2008

Continued Debate Over The Legacy Of David Foster Wallace (UPDATED)

Filed under: Books,Current Events,Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 7:08 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

John Ziegler posts his views on author David Wallace Foster’s suicide here. He is clearly challenging much of the standard narrative coming from the admirers of Wallace.

Ziegler also manages to make reference to a previous Patterico post (written by me) found here (which contains a link to Wallace’s article on Ziegler at issue).

— Justin Levine

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I am getting a lot of negative reaction to this post. I have asked some of the correspondents if they would like their negative feedback posted as an update. I’ll post some of it here as that feedback comes in.

It feels wrong to take the post down, since it’s been up for a while — whether I would have posted it or not. But I certainly believe in airing any criticism of the post. Send it on and I’ll post it.

UPDATE x2 BY PATTERICO: Scott Eric Kaufman has this reply to Ziegler. It appears clear that Scott doesn’t think much of Ziegler’s piece.

UPDATE x3 BY PATTERICO: I don’t really know anything about Wallace but I’ll add this as a general observation about depressed people who commit suicide. In my view, they are simply ill. Mental illness is a disease like any other. I don’t think depressed people should be faulted for being ill.

And I don’t like speaking ill of the recently dead.

And it would have been more courageous for Ziegler to write this post while Wallace was still alive and had the chance to defend himself.

UPDATE x4 BY PATTERICO: Eric Blair writes:

I have long been impressed by a story about Abraham Lincoln. When angry with someone, he would write an angry letter, detailing how he felt in every lurid detail. Then he would put the letter in a drawer. Soon he cooled off, and never actually sent the letter. The story goes on to relate that Lincoln had several drawers full of such unsent letters, which he felt showed him at his worst.

So it is with John Ziegler’s rant about the recent tragic suicide of David Foster Wallace. So it is with Justin Levine’s linking to that post. Unnecessary. Hurtful to the bereaved survivors of that tragedy. And perhaps most importantly, it changes no one’s mind, while inflaming further partisanship. I’m not saying that John Ziegler is wrong to be angry at David Foster Wallace’s article. Nor am I saying that David Foster Wallace was a great man. The tragedy of suicide is that we will never know what David Foster Wallace had in his future. And more to the point, his surviving friends and family do not either. Instead, they get to read someone saying unkind and angry things about their loved one, perhaps even before the funeral.

I was heartsick at the comments made by the Kos and DU types with the death of Tony Snow. John Ziegler’s unkind and hurtful words are not as bad as that, no. But many good people on the Left stood silent, and did not condemn those statements. I am writing to say this: we are supposed to be better than that. We should not be part of that kind of thing, in any way.

Justin Levine should have known better than to post that link. I’m deeply disappointed.

UPDATE X 5 BY JUSTIN LEVINE: Since I didn’t offer any editorial opinion on this matter either way, I am utterly baffled by the reaction of Patterico, Eric Blair and others. Is the policy that blogs such as this shouldn’t even link to items that people find objectionable?? If you want to criticize Ziegler for what he wrote, have at it. That is why I still have pingbacks engaged on all my posts to allow for such feedback by those who want to take the time to post differing views. [I don’t allow comments because my experience tells me that it is far less conducive to intelligent debate than actual blog posts which are usually more carefully thought out.] But I’m bewildered by the “blame the messenger” mentality directed at me. Is the suggestion that Ziegler’s post should have been ignored? Will this be the new ground rule for all incendiary posts at Kos, Huffington Post, etc.? Are you directing the same criticism to Eric Kaufman who also links to Ziegler’s post and is giving it more attention? Of course Eric criticizes Ziegler. That’s fine. I just don’t get why people have a problem with my choosing to draw people’s attention to the Ziegler’s comments in an editorially neutral fashion.

I am equally disappointed by the reaction towards my merely choosing to link to the post and alert people to it.

UPDATE x6 BY PATTERICO 4-2-09: Having spoken to Ziegler recently, I come away with respect for him as someone who speaks the truth as he sees it, regardless of the consequences — and that causes me to view this controversy with new eyes. I still think the criticism would have been better leveled during Wallace’s life, but I am more receptive than before to the idea that Ziegler’s criticisms may nevertheless have been on target.

5/18/2008

New Book by Tobias Wolff

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 11:05 am

I recently bought a (relatively) new book by American author Tobias Wolff, called “Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories.”

I am a fan; I have read every book Wolff has published. Wolff is best known as the author of “This Boy’s Life,” a memoir of his days growing up in the Pacific Northwest. It was made into a movie with Robert DeNiro, who plays Dwight, Wolff’s abusive stepfather.

I had the privilege of hearing Wolff give a reading in the late 1980s, and asked him afterwards whether he was worried about Dwight attacking him in retaliation for the brutal was the book portrays him. (Dwight has since died.) Wolff said that he wasn’t, really — but not because Dwight wasn’t a violent man; he was. Wolff wasn’t worried because in the entire time he had lived with Dwight, he had never once seen Dwight pick up a book. So he figured Dwight had no idea the book had even been published.

The new book has 21 of Wolff’s previously published stories, and 10 new ones. This excerpt from a Publisher’s Weekly review captures the essence of the collection and of Wolff’s style:

The 10 spare, elegant new stories here, collected with 21 stories from Wolff’s three previous collections, are as good as anything Wolff has done. In most, there is a moment of realization, less a startling epiphany than a distant, gradual ache of understanding, that changes how the character looks at the world.

In a “Note from the Author” Wolff says that he has taken the liberty of improving the old stories if he saw ways to do so. I’m alternating between reading new stories and rediscovering old ones.

I don’t know how many of you are Wolff fans, but if you enjoy fiction where every word means something and every observation and portrait rings true, Wolff is your man. He’s one of the best writers in the world, in my estimation, and a new book by him is something to celebrate. Pick it up at Amazon here, or get it at your favorite bookstore.

3/30/2008

The Bin Ladens

Filed under: Books,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

According to a new book about the Bin Ladens, eldest brother Salem wanted to buy America:

“The Arab millionaire is charming but determined. He has made a bet to persuade four young Christian women from four different Western countries to become his wives simultaneously in accordance with the Islamic law that allows polygamy. The girls are American, British, French and German.

The man making the collective proposal is Salem Bin Laden, eldest brother of the better-known Osama, the al Qaeda terror mastermind. The girls are not streetwalkers or run-of-the-mill gold diggers. They come from “good families.” One is even a trained medical doctor.

And yet: None reject the offer.

After all, the Saudi suitor is offering luxury villas, jewels, and expensive cars. Having won his bet, Salem dismisses the girls. He has proved that, provided you have money, you can buy anyone and anything in the West.

Steve Coll’s marvelous new book, “The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,” which relates the episode, is presented as a collective biography of the infamous family, some 50 or so sisters and brothers begotten by a single illiterate, poor, one-eyed Yemeni bricklayer, later a Saudi millionaire, from his numerous wives and concubines.”

The book is Steve Coll’s “The Bin Ladens” and it sounds interesting.

Younger brother Osama also has a goal: He wants to bankrupt America.

— DRJ

3/20/2008

Feminism in a Small Town (Updated)

Filed under: Books — DRJ @ 1:53 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I can’t imagine putting a bumper sticker on a new car but I saw one today that caught my attention:

Brand new black SUV.

Driven by a young, very pretty (female) brunette.

Bumper sticker: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

I wonder if this driver is a devotee of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? Ulrich first wrote a similar statement in 1976 as a graduate student and now she teaches at Harvard. Amazon summarizes Ulrich’s quote this way (from a Washington Post review):

“At the beginning of her career as a historian of early America, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published an article entitled “Virtuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735.” Could anything sound more narrowly academic than that — a scholarly examination of a small subset of Puritan funeral sermons? But Ulrich’s paper was destined to have a long history. It opened this way:

“Cotton Mather called them ‘the hidden ones.’ They never preached or sat in a deacon’s bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven’t been. Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Great quote. Is it true?

UPDATE: What about men: Do well-behaved men seldom make history?

— DRJ

3/10/2008

Breaking New York State News (Updated x2)

Filed under: Books,Politics — DRJ @ 11:04 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

According to the New York Times, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has told his senior aides he is involved in a prostitution ring:

“Gov. Eliot Spitzer has informed his most senior administration officials that he had been involved in a prostitution ring, an administration official said this morning.”

The Times’ article adds these details:

“Just last week, federal prosecutors arrested four people in connection with an expensive prostitution operation. Administration officials would not say that this was the ring with which the governor had become involved. But a person with knowledge of the governor’s role said that the person believes the governor is one of the men identified as clients in court papers.

The governor’s travel records show that he was in Washington in mid-February. One of the clients described in court papers arranged to meet with a prostitute who was part of the ring, the Emperors Club VIP on the night of Feb. 13.

Mr. Spitzer appeared on a CNBC television show at 7 a.m. the next morning. Later in the morning, he testified before a Congressional committee.”

Spitzer, a former New York Attorney General, ran for Governor by pledging to “bring ethics reform and end the often seamy ways of Albany.” He is expected to issue a statement today.

Perhaps Glenn Greenwald should consider adding a few Democrats to his newest book, Great American Hypocrites. Gov. Spitzer might be available for the book tour.

UPDATE 1: Rumors abound that Spitzer will resign. Beldar weighs in here.

UPDATE 2: A suggested resignation speech from XRLQ.

— DRJ

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: DRJ suggested that Glenn Greenwald might actually be put out by Eliot Spitzer’s amazing hypocrisy in denouncing prostitution even as he sought out prostitutes.

OK, she didn’t really believe Greenwald would care about Spitzer’s hypocrisy. And, as it turns out, he does not. Spitzer’s hypocrisy is merely an inconvenient fact that Greenwald knows he must acknowledge — so he can move on to the real point, which is that what he did isn’t that bad, that the prosecution seems political, etc.

I’m sure Ellensburg would react the same way if it were a conservative who had been caught.

Jeez, what a hack that guy is.

3/3/2008

Another Memoir is Exposed as a Lie

Filed under: Books — Jack Dunphy @ 10:02 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

In “Love and Consequences” author Margaret B. Jones wrote of her experiences growing up in foster care in South-Central Los Angeles. She joined a gang and ran drugs, she even received a revolver for her 13th birthday. The book received great reviews in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Jones was scheduled to begin a book tour next week.

She is now free to make other plans.

She made it all up. Jones never lived in South-Central, never sold drugs, never belonged to a gang. The revelation comes a week after another celebrated memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was also revealed as a fraud.

The first chapter of Jones’s book is available on the New York Times website, and it’s clear from reading it that the book was never vetted by anyone with a knowledge of gangs in Los Angeles. In the fourth paragraph, Jones describes an “Original Gangster” named Kraziak, who drives a “candy-red 1969 Chevy Chevelle Malibu Super Sport with two black racing stripes up the middle and a red flag (bandana) neatly folded and tied around the rearview mirror.”

One might see a gangster flying his colors like that at a gang funeral or some other setting where he is surrounded by and protected by friends, but no one, least of all someone as savvy as this Kraziak is portrayed as being, would dare drive around South-Central L.A. with his Blood rag tied to his mirror unless he had a death wish.

It’s a sad story. Jones clearly has talent as a writer, and had she submitted the book as a novel she might now be on her way to fame rather than infamy. It was her own sister who tipped off the publisher, raising the question of how she thought she would ever get away with it.

1/4/2008

Review of “My Grandfather’s Son” by Clarence Thomas

Filed under: Books,General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 12:01 am

Over the Christmas vacation I read Clarence Thomas’s memoir “My Grandfather’s Son.” I recommend it highly. The people who most need to read it are the very people who never will: the leftists who have bought off on the idea that Thomas is a conservative bogeyman who is evil and never should have become a Supreme Court Justice.

I began reading Justice Thomas’s book as I waited in line to meet him at Chapman University, and my overwhelming impression of the first 20-30 pages was: “Man. This guy was poor.”

Some of the stories in the book were already familiar to me from the reviews I had read, such as the inspiring story of his training for (and running) a marathon:

A young black Marine was handing out water to the exhausted runners. “God, this is hard,” I told him. “That’s what you asked for,” he replied without a trace of sympathy. I shook off my self-pity, picked up my pace, and crossed the finish line three hours and eleven minutes after I’d started.

But many stories were new to me. For example, at Yale Law School, Thomas lost his wallet one day, and learned that it had been turned in by John Bolton. That was the beginning of a friendship with Bolton. Thomas also relates that Lani Guinier helped him get a job with a black civil-rights law firm.

Yup, Thomas wanted to work for a black civil-rights law firm. He was something of a leftist in his younger days.

That leads me to another story I hadn’t heard until I read the book: Thomas applied to and was accepted at Harvard Law School. But after visiting the school, he decided to decline the invitation to attend, even before he had received his answer from Yale. You see, after visiting Harvard, he decided it was too conservative.

Thomas also voted for McGovern — although he did so with misgivings, believing that McGovern was too conservative a candidate.

Thomas’s intellectual movement from angry black radical to conservative Republican is an important part of the book. He describes reading the words of Thomas Sowell for the first time: “I felt like a thirsty man gulping down a glass of cool water.”

One thing that people might not know about Thomas is how tight money was for him. While at Yale, he had no idea how he was going to repay his student loans, so he signed up for a “tuition postponement option” — which he clearly needed, as he was living in roach- and rat-infested surroundings even during his tenure at EEOC. This led to one of the more amazing tidbits of the book. The emphasis is mine:

I didn’t know what else to do, so I signed on the dotted line, and spent the next two decades paying off the money I’d borrowed during my last two years at Yale. I was still making payments when I joined the Supreme Court.

Wow.

Thomas has some choice words for the media. He describes how an Atlanta reporter investigated his home life during his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The reporter got a personal tour of Pinpoint from Thomas’s mother.

The reporter later told me that his doubts were laid to rest that day, but his editor refused to let him say anything favorable about me in the piece that finally ran.

The slanders against Thomas during his confirmation hearings are too numerous to list, but here is one good example. While working for the Attorney General’s Office in Missouri, Thomas wanted to make a point to a colleague about race. So, returning from one of his trips to Savannah, Thomas had brought back “a miniature Georgia flag — the same one that had been adopted in 1956, with the Confederate flag and the Georgia state seal displayed side by side — and asked him to try to imagine how he would have felt growing up under a flag like that had he been black.” When Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, this turned into a story that he had kept a Confederate flag on his desk.

The media, of course, jumped all over the story, tracking down so-called experts who’d never met me and inviting them to sound off about the psychological implications of this nonevent.

The cynicism of Washington politics that Thomas describes isn’t particularly surprising, but readers may be taken aback by the cheerful openness with which some politicians admitted to him the naked political calculations that governed their decisionmaking. In interviews during the Supreme Court nomination process, Thomas says:

Bob Packwood, on the other hand, was direct: he said that he liked me, agreed with many things that I had said, and thought that I would be a fine member of the Court, but that he couldn’t vote for me because his political career depended on support from the same women’s groups that were opposing my nomination. Al Gore was equally candid when a friend of mine approached him, saying that he’d vote for me if he decided not to run for president.

You might think Thomas would be appalled by such crass political considerations, but he says he appreciated those politicians who gave such honest answers “instead of making up some transparent excuse.”

One man who didn’t pass the honesty test was lyin’ Joe Biden, who promised Thomas that he would open the hearings with some softball questions to set Thomas at ease — and then asked a blatantly dishonest question right out of the gate. (Biden ripped a Thomas quote out of context to suggest that he supported judicial activism, when the full quote in context showed Thomas making the exact opposite point.)

Thomas’s treatment at the hands of the Democrats turned his mom off of Democrats for life:

Never before had I seen her as angry as she was in the fall of 1991. All her life she’d assumed that Democrats in Washington were sensible leaders — but now she saw these men as single-issue zealots who were unwilling to treat her son fairly. “I ain’t never votin’ fo’ another Democrat long as I can draw breath,” she told me as we walked out of the Senate building on what should have been my final day of testimony. “I’d vote for a dog first.”

Heh.

I gained new respect for a couple of people besides Thomas reading this book. Larry Thompson, whose name was batted around as a possible replacement for Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, was one of those people. Thomas relates that Thompson attended the University of Michigan Law School, but left his race off the application. Thompson proved to be a reliable friend when Thomas needed help during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Thompson was working at a law firm in Atlanta when Thomas called him for help:

“Larry, I need your help,” I said.

“I’ll be there on Monday.”

“It’ll all be over by then.”

“Then I’ll be there in the morning.” And that was that.

Now that’s a stand-up guy.

I also gained a new respect for Juan Williams, whom I had always thought of as the rather soft-headed liberal on Fox News, who regularly gets beaten up by Brit Hume for being so utterly clueless.

But it turns out that, whatever his faults, Juan Williams is an honest guy who writes accurate columns with truthful quotations. The first big splash Thomas made in Washington was when Williams reported some off-the-cuff remarks Thomas had made to Williams about race. Thomas (rather naively) hadn’t realized his statements to Williams would be printed in the paper — but when they were, he says, he saw that Williams “presented my opinions accurately and fairly.” (They still created something of a firestorm. It was not popular for blacks to publicly say what Thomas had said.)

There is some anger in the book reserved for the bigots who attacked Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This anger makes for some of the better quotes in the book, so I’ll give you a taste of a couple of them.

The mob I now faced carried no ropes or guns. Its weapons were smooth-tongued lies spoken into microphones and printed on the front pages of America’s newspapers. It no longer sought to break the bodies of its victims. Instead it devastated their reputations and drained away their hope. But it was a mob all the same. And its purpose — to keep the black man in his place — was unchanged.

And this:

As a child in the Deep South, I’d grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult, I was starting to wonder if I’d been afraid of the wrong white people all along. My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony.

In case you’re thinking that Thomas is the only one who feels this way, let me quote Juan Williams, to show you why I have such new respect for him:

To listen to or read some news reports on Thomas over the past month is to discover a monster of a man, totally unlike the human being full of sincerity, confusion, and struggles whom I saw as a reporter who watched him for some 10 years. He has been conveniently transformed into a monster about whom it is fair to say anything, to whom it is fair to do anything. President Bush may be packing the court with conservatives [a joke of an argument given what we know about Souter — Patterico], but that is another argument, larger than Clarence Thomas. In pursuit of abuses by a conservative president the liberals have become the abusive monsters.

Nicely said, Juan — and as true today as it was in the early 1990s.

Luckily, the public mostly saw through the Democrats’ smoke and mirrors. Thomas tells the moving story of finishing his Anita Hill testimony and going to a very public dinner at Morton’s of Chicago in D.C., joined by Robert Bork and his wife, Ted Olson and his wife, and Orrin Hatch. Thomas says that “though I briefly felt exposed and uncomfortable,” he had an enjoyable dinner, capped by this:

When we rose to leave at the end of the evening, the entire restaurant erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation. We also found out later that several patrons had offered to pick up our very substantial tab, but Senator Hatch had insisted on paying.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for that. But I recently got to participate in another standing ovation for Justice Thomas, at Chapman University. And that was pretty good.

I hope readers of this site will buy this book (or borrow it from the library) and read it. If you do, please let me know.

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