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Enter Stage Right's Best Books of 2010

By Steven Martinovich
web posted January 3, 2010

Given the past year has seen economic turmoil, an American president rapidly losing popularity, and a multitude of issues engaging us all, I personally found 2010 to be a relatively weak year for the publishing industry. Despite that, as the web site's books editor, I've still managed to put together a list of books I think you should have read over the past year. If you haven't had the chance to read them all, I'd highly recommend checking out those that you missed.

Doubtless some of you are wondering why George W. Bush's Decision Points wasn't reviewed by Enter Stage Right or why it isn't on this list. Unfortunately the book's publisher, Crown, refused to provide a review copy of the book -- as is their right. ESR
Complicit

Our ongoing economic difficulty was always guaranteed to produce at least two things: politicians ducking blame and a tide of books ready to lay it. Given the popularity of mushy populism today, it's probably not a surprise that big business bore the brunt of the blame while sainted politicians detailed their impossible claims of jobs saved even while unemployment roles exploded. As hated as politicians are, it seems it's still easier to hate the fat cats of Wall Street.

Bloomberg News bureau chief Mark Gilbert's attitudes towards politicians isn't very clear but his contempt for financial industry executives is apparent in Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable, one-part diatribe and one-part chronicle of how the United States and the rest of the world managed to get themselves into the economic mess that they did. While there is much to glean from his account, there is also a side of the story missing.

Read on.

The Fairtax Solution

When Mary Josephine Ray died this past March 7 at the age of 114 years and 294 days she had three remarkable achievements to her credit, though only two noted by the media. They dutifully reported that at the time of her passing Ms. Ray was the second oldest person in the world and the oldest in the United States. What they failed to mention was that she was one of seven or so Americans who could clearly remember the day when there was no federal income tax. It was a constitutional amendment ratified in 1913, when Ms. Ray was but 17 years old, which introduced a system that is universally despised by Americans today, one that will likely survive any supercenturians born today.

That is, unless Ken Hoagland fails in his attempt to overthrow the current regime. Hoagland is a proponent of what has been dubbed the "FairTax", a replacement for the federal income tax system that promises transparency and less pain for Americans. Outlined in his engaging effort The FairTax Solution: Financial Justice for all Americans, the FairTax is an idea that seems almost too good to be true, probably why most hearing about it their first time are understandably sceptical that such a simple scheme could replace the byzantine federal tax code, eliminate the IRS and boost the U.S. economy.

Read on.

The Seven Events that Made America America

History, it is said, is written by the winners. If that is indeed the case, it would appear that liberalism long ago won the day in the United States. Over the past two centuries the American experiment has drifted away from its founding principles to the extent that philosopher Leonard Peikoff once argued that America was at least half-way on the road to tyranny.  Whether that is true or not, it is a very plausible argument that America's Founding Fathers would likely be appalled at the nation's current state of affairs.

Larry Schweikart's thought-provoking and fascinating Seven Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along presents seven historical events – not all of them well known today – that he argues mostly run counter to the America that the Founding Fathers dreamed of. Some were responsible for seismic changes in the social-political landscape, such as the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, while others, such as the founding of the Democratic Party, precipitated a fundamental change in the American political system.

Read on.

Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One

For every decade that Rush Limbaugh has been broadcasting there have been two things we can count on: That he will have the largest listening audience and that critics will gleefully predict that this will be the year when the EIB juggernaut finally collapses. While the later prediction has yet to show any signs of coming to pass, Limbaugh continues to own and define talk radio in the United States. With commercial success also comes the crown of being the de facto leader of the American conservative movement.

Outside of the occasional news item, however, the private Rush Limbaugh remains a bit of a mystery to both fans and foes. The marriages and divorces, the pain killer addiction, the enormous contracts and the controversies are all well-known but the man behind the Golden Microphone – the real man – is still largely unknown. Hoping to remedy that is Zev Chafets' Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, a largely sympathetic enquiry into the Limbaugh mythos.

Read on.

The Post-American Presidency

Only a year and half into President Obama's administration, Pamela Geller of the blog Atlas Shrugs, along with Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, have already found enough deeply disturbing information about Obama's presidency to fill a book. No relevant subject is left untouched. The book covers in detail his close ties to radical Islam, his unsettling views on Israel and Jews, his socialist leanings, and his attempts to subvert U.S. authority to internationalism.

The theme of The Post -American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America, is how Obama has at best changed, at worst destroyed the presidency; he has taken American exceptionalism (which ironically got him where he is today) and replaced it and the concepts of good and evil with equivocation and moral relativism. (p. xiv) In characteristic Geller style, the book is sprinkled throughout with predictions from Ayn Rand that are now taking place.

Read on.

Bringing America Home

Talk about self-evident patriotism! In Tom Pauken's latest, Bringing America Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back, here is a writer who's heart and mind unabashedly rings out 'God! Family! Country!' from cover to cover. So does his commitment to striking a balance between faith and reason and a roll up your sleeves work ethic as he easily moves from broadside bursts of "We've got trouble!" to revelatory reminders of the Providential story and destiny of America and our need to get to work restudying, and yes, reapplying our Judeo-Christian and constitutional heritage of limited government and state rights if winning is what we hope for.

And here's some cheery news, though Pauken's resume spells "R-e-p-u-b-l-i-c-a-n" from start to finish — appointments in the Nixon and Reagan Administrations, State Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, current Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission under Republican Governor Rick Perry — this is not another lame 'Go Red Go!' piece of partisan fiction, about how "Life would be so good if it weren't for them dang Democrats!"

Read on.

Poor Lenin's Almanac

Pity the poor writer who sees their work become known enough to be parodied or used as inspiration by those far less talented at pushing words around a piece of paper. For every clever entry in Ambrose Bierce's Devils Dictionary, for example, must exist one thousand regrettable efforts by others. So to it must be with Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack, a brilliant annual effort which included a generous helping of his maxims and proverbs.

Given the number of failed attempts at aping Franklin's genius, it's a pleasant surprise that Bruce Walker's Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftist Proverbs for Modern Life, is not merely a success but a rousing one at that. A collection of several dozen expressions that are corruptions of well-known proverbs, inspired by song titles and popular modern sentiments, among other sources, Poor Lenin's Almanac casts a scathing eye on the progressive leftist legacy of Vladimir Lenin, a man Walker argues "laid the practical groundwork for much of the mischief in the world today."

Read on.

The Economic Dependency Trap

In 2009, AIDS activist and former NDP politician Stephen Lewis spoke to an audience at the University of Lethbridge about global health. During questioning, someone asked Lewis about famed Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo. Moyo, in her book Dead Aid, criticizes government-to-government aid to African countries, pointing out that after $1 trillion in aid over decades, Africa is poorer. Lewis scoffed and attempted to refute the arguments of the Oxford and Harvard educated African woman, claiming that she did not know what she was talking about.

Part of the problem was Lewis' dislike of free markets. Lewis' hasty dismissal illustrates the problem with economic dependency today: it is dominated by well-meaning Westerners who try to insulate minorities from criticism and are enemies of market solutions to poverty. The problem of 'White liberal guilt' is as visible in the area of indigenous dependency as it is in international aid. Calvin Helin artfully identifies the problem in his new book The Economic Dependency Trap: Breaking Free to Self-Reliance.

Read on.

Bought and Paid For

It is taken as gospel that the Republican Party is in the pockets of the wealthy – especially the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street. Like a good many "truths", reality doesn't correspond to that assumption. Over the past few election cycles, high net worth individuals have actually tended to favour with votes and money the Democrats. And among Barack Obama's biggest and earliest supporters, before he even captured the Democratic nomination, were the titans of lower Manhattan. There is a reason, after all, why it seems like half of Obama's administration is made up of former Goldman Sachs' employees.

Charles Gasparino's Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street explores the deep connections between Obama, his administration and the biggest financial services firms on the planet. If only half of what Gasparino chronicled were true, and there's no reason to discount any of his charges, it is an ugly story of how Obama and Wall Street used each other for mutual gain; Obama to become elected president and Wall Street to power themselves through the recession and come out even stronger and more powerful than before. It is crony capitalism that would make China's communist regime look on with pride.

Read on.

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