An assemblage of admirably forthcoming first-person essays about the practice of American legislation.



A former Republican congressman recalls a lifetime of public service.

Debut author Stearns served as the U.S. representative for Florida’s 6th Congressional District for 24 years, his longevity alone a notable accomplishment. He wrote this memoir episodically over the course of eight years, while still in office, and it’s less a linear history than a series of reflective essays on his experiences and the inner machinations of American legislation, as well as the general nature of freedom, democracy, and religion. Much of the book serves as an instructive primer on American governance, an insider’s civic tutorial. Stearns not only explains the basic structure of the nation’s legislative branch—with emphasis on the function of the House—but also the mechanics of fund-raising and campaigning, the extraordinary significance of committee membership, and the often mercenary character of intraparty competition. The author unabashedly shares his opinion, even when it’s forcefully critical of a colleague; he excoriates Dennis Hastert’s reign as speaker of the House, especially for his misguided contributions to the economic catastrophe that visited the country at the conclusion of George W. Bush’s presidency. Stearns also denounces the Bush administration’s bailout of the banking industry, a strategy, the author contends, that undermines the Republican Party’s commitment to free market principles. (Stearns takes a hard stand against both socialism and Keynesian economics, which share the aggrandizement of government at the expense of individual liberty.) Some of the remembrances are directed analytically at special policy proposals (ObamaCare turns out to be incorrigibly bad) or major events in recent political history (President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and the Iraq War provide fodder for memorable discussions). But some of the best of Stearns’ ruminations are surprisingly erudite—he often cites intellectual luminaries like Aristotle, Kant, Seneca, and Herodotus, to name a few—and philosophical. He deeply ponders the nature of freedom and divine law, and the relation both have to the fallible dictates of majority rule. It’s not fully clear where Stearns finally lands in that theoretical thicket—he champions limited government, but also favors a robust place for religion in the public square. Even for those who count themselves the author’s ideological adversaries, this work delivers a thoughtful appraisal of American democracy and an edifying peek into the corridors of political power.

An assemblage of admirably forthcoming first-person essays about the practice of American legislation. 

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8760-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2016

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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