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RIGGED

AMERICA, RUSSIA, AND ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF COVERT ELECTORAL INTERFERENCE

A useful addition to the discussion though unlikely to change Mitch McConnell’s mind on election security.

Journalist Shimer turns in a thoroughgoing account of the many ways in which Russia and the U.S. have tinkered with each other’s voting processes.

Russia has been attempting to sway American public opinion since the days of Lenin, who knew that his government’s survival hinged on being accepted in the outside world. But when Barack Obama was informed that Russia was gaming the 2016 presidential election, he looked only at the short term—and only at the question of whether Russia was directly changing ballots. “They were not focused at all on what we knew had been very effective elsewhere,” said an adviser, “the influence campaign, changing public opinion.” Obama retaliated with sanctions that were undone by Donald Trump. By Shimer’s account, Russia has rigged plenty of elections before, including many in Eastern Europe, when brigades of Soviet agents literally stuffed the ballot boxes to promote supposedly freely elected communist candidates in Poland and East Germany. But then, so has America, if in less direct ways, as when the CIA poured millions of dollars—by Shimer’s reckoning, about $107 million in today’s dollars—into the promotion of the Christian Democratic over the Communist Party in the Italian elections of 1948. The CIA’s interference in the Chilean elections of the 1960s proved less effective, leading to the election of the Communist Salvador Allende, who was deposed by an Ameican-backed military coup in 1973. As an aide to Henry Kissinger admitted, the U.S. attempted to sway that election by “creating false propaganda” and “overthrowing the constitution,” and it worked. Shimer offers a fascinating counterfactual in the case of Willy Brandt, who, aided unwittingly by Soviet agents, urged détente between East and West Germany and the superpowers behind them: If the election had not been swayed in his direction, “the very arc of the Cold War…might have been transformed.”

A useful addition to the discussion though unlikely to change Mitch McConnell’s mind on election security.

Pub Date: July 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65900-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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