January 22nd, 2012

_Rule and Ruin_, Geoffrey Kabaservice (kindle)

Subtitled: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party

Published by Oxford University Press, USA

The kindle page says the print length is 505 pages and I'm inclined to believe them. About 30% of the book is notes, but this is still an undertaking on the order of Daniel Okrent's _Last Call_, the only book I can think of off-hand that I've read that is remotely comparable to this. For the record, I liked _Last Call_ better.

Both books are political history. I don't mean, history told with a political slant or agenda. I mean a history of politics. In Okrent's case, it was Prohibition. In Kabaservice's case, it's post-WW2 Republican Party. Kabaservice traces internal politics (mostly at the national level, but with some discussion of state and local) in the Republican Party with particular emphasis on the 1964 Presidential Election. Most other attempts to explain the current state of the Republican Party resort to the Moral Majority, Movement Conservatives, the rise of Pro-Life etc. Some of those attempts get into "The Southern Strategy". I've never seen anyone develop a timeline as comprehensive as Kabaservice; you can't really ask him to have a longer timeline because that would make the work even more unwieldy, even if it would have helped elucidate how Republicans moved from protectionism/isolationism to Free Markets/interventionism, a point almost entirely unaddressed in this work.

The definition of moderation is not nailed down, which is appropriate, because it has always been amorphous in practical use: it is part style, part substance, and that substance has tended to be defined in part (but not entirely) by reference to the Extremists of the Day. Kabaservice succeeds in finding a consistency in Moderate Republicans that may or may not have actually been there organizationally, but was almost certainly there in the form of persons, both active members of parties, the larger electorate, and elected officials.

The best bits in the book for me were the quotes throughout from Republicans who saw the worst in their party in action (notably, the intra-party revulsion generated by Goldwater's followers in 1964). Immoderate partisans piss me off; it's a lot easier to deal with a group that can recognize that it screwed up than one which only changes its behavior because of pressure but never really changes internally. And Kabaservice found a lot in the not-really-a-movement he was documenting that I found personally appealing. It's good to be reminded that whatever the polarization of the day, when things are working well, groups that differ dramatically on some issues can still work together on others.

Reading the book made me feel better about party politics in the US (hey, for a _long_ time moderate Republicans have been partially defined by taking multiple stances on the same issue -- that's not new and not necessarily something to get too agitated about) while at the same time feeling a little disturbed by the pervasiveness of dynasty (didn't realize that Gov. Paterson's dad had run for lt. gov. in NY back in the early 1970s! And that's just the most obscure of the batch. At times, it felt like everyone in the book had parents, grandparents or adult children today running for offices very similar to the one they were running for in the 1960s/70s). Kabaservice ends on a bit of an apocalyptic note, however, worrying that moderates are truly gone from the party and if one of the party completely implodes it could destabilize the country.

I think that might be a little paranoid. I, personally, harbor some suspicions that the party has gone way too far right and will implode, but quite often, things look like that just before they take a turn and we adopt a new dichotomy to argue with another side on.

Whatever the future might hold, Kabaservice has done a great job of turning Republican intra- and inter- party politics and policy in the 1960s and 1970s into a riveting and informative read. I bought this because Bloomberg excerpted some of it and I liked the author's tone. Several hundred pages later, I've got no regrets. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Cover Art

Yesterday, I was wasting time online. I read a bit over at the SB blog and found this:

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/links-and-news-and-a-few-coupons

Which led me to this:

http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/

Which made me laugh and laugh and laugh and remember that I own at least one book by Jim Hines and I really ought to read it because every time I run across anything involving Jim Hines I laugh and laugh and laugh and he seems like a completely wonderful human being.

From there, you can go lots of places, but don't miss the follow-up post:

http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/follow-up-to-the-fantasy-poses/

He also says this:

"A few covers which I feel do a pretty good job of conveying strong, capable female characters: The Gaslight Dogs, An Artificial Night, The Darkest Edge of Dawn. Other suggestions and general discussion are welcome, as always."

The Charlie Madigan book is book 2 in the series and I hadn't read any of it yet. Looked like fun, tho, so I picked up _The Better Part of Darkness_ last night and read it on the kindle. Review to follow, however, I enjoyed it enough to think that I might try out a "pick a book by its cover policy" with a tilt towards covers that do a "pretty good job of conveying strong, capable female characters". As opposed to a really stupid job of same.

Charlie Madigan books 1-3, Kelly Gay

_Better Part of Darkness_: Charlie Madigan is a nominally human cop with the Integrated Task Force in Atlanta after Titus Mott has opened portals to Charbydon and Elysia. Her partner is a Siren from Elysia. Some months ago, Charlie found out that her husband had been secretly engaged in "black crafting" after he fessed up to cheating on her after being coerced by a fellow practitioner when he bragged that he was so good no one could possibly control him. Charlie smacked the fellow practitioner, who had her killed by a ghoul. Titus brought her back from the dead and that's more or less the backstory to Charlie figuring out how Not Human she is and why and then trying to rescue her kid from Very, Very Bad People.

_Darkest Edge of Dawn_: takes place pretty soon after the events of Book 1. The Ash production operation is shut down, and there's some reason to believe that the Darkness isn't actually going to actually spread or even last forever. However, just because Charlie dealt with one bad guy does not mean the evil from book one is completely dealt with. This outing deals with what the drug operation was really intended to accomplish, there's an Elysian serial killer on the loose, etc. The Dragon is Super Cool.

_The Hour of Dust and Ashes_: In this outing, Charlie has something new tailing her whenever she tries to use her power. It's pretty scary but not obviously damaging. To her. Charlie goes back to the Oracle who puts her in touch with the Sylphs to try to figure out who is controlling the Ash victims. When Charlie oopses and lets one of the victims know they've got a plan to actually figure out who/what is controlling them, antics ensue: Charlie, Hank, Rex and Brim all go to Charbydon to deal with a Situation, barely ahead of a kidnap squad looking for Hank because of involved-backstory-making-me-worry-a-little-about-the-author-and-child-abuse-themes.

Characters do grow and change over the course of the books. The world building is not bad. Gay is having a ton of fun building sexual tension between Charlie and Hank. The development of the Sian character is tortuously slow, but I'm really hoping that will pay off at some point. I will continue to buy more books in this series; they are Candy.

ETA: If you've read the Elantra chronicles, some of the themes (female protagonist slowly turning into a divine being, writing on her body) are going to seem kinda familiar.