Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
818 pages [Hardback], 2004.
Lantana Public Library Call No.: B Ham
“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” ― Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers
How extraordinary and yet not at all surprising that one of our most forgotten Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, observed the dynamics of post-9-11 America, the War on Terror, and a very realistic grasp of the way individual nations often choose to live or co-exist.
It’s extraordinary that Hamilton’s observations resonate, because for many of us not as well-read in American colonial history or American government, Alexander Hamilton and his legacy remain widely misunderstood, elusive, and ambiguous. Although he’s featured on our $10 bill and was our first treasury secretary and creator of the Federal deficit or national debt, he was vilified as our first “bankster,” plutocrat, monarchist, and war-monger. Hamilton did not lead the Continental Army against the British as Washington did, nor write our now famous Declaration of Independence or deliver the Louisiana Purchase to us as Jefferson did. He did not write the U.S. Constitution and shape the powers of Congress as Madison did. Hamilton died infamously in a pistol duel with Vice-President Aaron Burr.
Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who revitalized the Federal government in ways that perhaps no other 20th century President before had done, blamed Hamilton and his disciples for the Great Depression. One can only wonder what Hamilton would have thought of the 2008 financial crisis on Wall Street and our growing national deficit, now in the trillions.
But after reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, it is not surprising at all that Hamilton observed what he did about tyranny and excesses of power — as he came of age in the Caribbean where the most brutal forms of slavery were practiced, as well as helped his commanders wage under-funded American wars with the British to establish our republic. He too was familiar of the excesses of French Revolution as it descended into a Reign of Terror, never romanticizing it as Jefferson did. Simon Johnson observes in his November 2011 article in Vanity Fair, “Debt and Dumb” that Hamilton’s legacy — of a stable, secure, powerful country with a strong Executive branch, with a sturdy system of U.S. Treasury securities, credit, and power to tax us — remain with us today, and mostly for our betterment — our common defense, infrastructure, and so much more. What a refreshingly bold and accurate observation to make in this day and age, when we have a dysfunctional Congress and Tea Party conservatives, of course, who consider taxes for all and large government as our downfall, and who aim to take power back to the states.
Chernow claims Hamilton as the father of the Federal government, and in his wonderfully written and researched biography, he makes an extraordinarily convincing case for it, while showing us how Hamilton remained a person of his time, flaws and all.
We owe Hamilton for the institutional blueprint of the United States’ Federal government, our modern banking and financial markets, and a seemingly egalitarian meritocracy. No other single person could have created the first federal Bank of New York and the speculators of Wall Street, negotiated our first trade agreements with the Europeans and the Caribbean and create our customs and tariff system, as well as founded West Point and our first Coast Guard, as well as the Manumission Society to abolish slavery.
But who else, in turn, could have thought that our country was continually under threat of anarchy, disorder, sedition, and even invasion, but Hamilton?
A Creole/West Indian child prodigy born in Nevis/St. Croix, of illegitimate birth, a partly self-taught bilingual orphaned child later apprenticed to a merchant company, Hamilton eventually came to New York as a young immigrant and enrolled at Kings (later Columbia University). Beginning in the mid 1770s, he had a rapidly rising and distinguished military career in the American Colonial War both in the field and as Washington’s aide behind the lines, while educating and training himself in law and in particular helping to draft the Constitution and its ratification at constitutional conventions. He evolved into probably the most incredible administrator and dedicated public servant this country has ever seen, well-read, and loyal to his adopted country to the last. He could be this because he started from scratch — the small scale of the Federal government of Washington’s day could not even be imagined today.
Alongside his contemporaries, no one else would rival Hamilton’s ability to bring into reality institutions justifiable and underpinned by the newly-written U.S. Constitution – except perhaps James Madison. Hamilton’s origins in the Caribbean, and his relations with Madison (an early friend but a later critic and political enemy), Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, and Burr, and others, as well as his wife Eliza and family and intimates, are researched extensively by Chernow, along with his scandalous misconduct and incredible series of arrogantly blind, political miscalculations.
Before I read Chernow’s work, I understood little of the historical context of the American Federal government system. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to understand its historical origins and to understand what the United States later in the 20th century would become. Moreover, Chernow’s account can help readers understand, no doubt, how Thomas Jefferson’s folksy populist, idealized vision of confederate, independent states and an austere, rustic/agrarian, free America came to prevail for much of 19th century America, culminating, of course, in the American Civil War that nearly toppled the Union and the country.
Chernow also talked further about this work on C-SPAN on May 26, 2004. Enjoy!
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
by Moshin Hamid
[Hardcover] 228 pages
Lantana Call No. F Ham
What a strange, funny, jaw-dropping read this book was. It’s a story of a young South Asian man in twelve acts doubling satirically as a self-help book.
The twelve acts or parts sum it all up far better than anything I could write here in this review. Some of these should sound familiar:
One: Move to the City
Two: Get an Education
Three: Don’t Fall in Love
Four: Avoid Idealists
Five: Learn from a Master
By the story’s end, simple beginnings have become complex lives (only perhaps to end suddenly).
Moreover, use of 2nd person narration (where the man/narrator addresses readers as “you,”) renders the views of events ironic and somewhat impersonal, and yet other times unexpectedly peculiarly funny or touching. At times it seems as if the “you” the narrator refers to is really himself.
Certainly, the man’s story allows readers a view of individuals who are swept along by modernity in a part of the world many of us may know less about.
By Tom Shirley
[Hardcover] 288 pages
Lantana Call No: Fla 363.68 Shi
South Floridians…who remembers when water stretched everywhere we looked or stepped, in the savannahs of sawgrass, as well as hammock islands of pine, palm, mahogany, and cypress, brimming with life?
Or remembers beautiful intra-coastal lagoons of lush mangrove and the fresh or sweet waters Miami, Loxahatchee, and St. Lucie rivers?
Or remembers the rollicking life of Hialeah, the poachers of Homestead, and the famous Opa-Locka airport?
Tom Shirley remembers, of course. He recalls much of it for us with gusto in his memoir of his service in the Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission, from the 1950’s into the 1980’s.
With South Florida’s urban sprawl and the Everglades in retreat, it is impossible to know of the drained wetland and coastal shelf we actually live on, its shifting boundaries with the natural world, as well as the dangers and challenges it once posed, as the Seminoles and glades people once did or perhaps still do.
While working his own businesses and while in service with the Commission, Shirley was one of several pioneering men to re-design and improve on Glenn Curtiss’s famous Scooter airboat and recreational vehicles, first introduced to Florida in the 1920’s. These airboats and RV’s enabled modern travel into one of the last unknown areas of the United States.
Shirley and fellow patrol officers spent thousands of hours tracking, chasing down, and arresting armed and dangerous poachers and monkey fisherman, rescuing wildlife including distressed and stranded deer and ornery alligators. When not out in the glades, he also traveled widely — including trips with his family to the Amazon.
Readers also learn of Shirley’s efforts for the restoration of the Everglades. (See his website, Evergladesrestorationfear.org).
See also the Sept. 6, 2012, article in the Tampa Bay Times article by Terry Tomalins, “A man for wilder times.”
Last night’s Friends of the Lantana Public Library’s first Quarter Auction at the Lantana Recreation Center was a great success, with plenty of laughter, food, prizes, bids, bargain purchases, and donations. Mayor Dave Stewart started the Auction and Friends President Teresa Wilhelm presided as Auctioneer, with assistance. Library Director Sid Patchett was also in attendance.
*Table raffles and bids for luxury items were priced at no more than a dollar — yeahh!
*Local businesses garnered new customers — awesome!
*The Friends and the Library received renewed support — cool!
*Friends, family, and associates reconnected — nice!
Doors opened at 6pm sharp. After paying the modest admission fee, the public stopped by vendor tables and displays to view, purchase, and enter raffles for wares or merchandise. The latter included designer handbags, jewellry, clothes, shoes, delicious snacks, cookware and gourmet foods, thermal lunch totes, spa items, glassbottle creations and lighting, natural/handmade scented candles, as well as healthy teas, coffees, and luxury cosmetics.
Thanks to the vendors and volunteers who came out last night — their names will be listed as they become available. Also, of course, a warm thanks to our supporting public. The biggest cheer goes to Teresa Wilhelm for organizing the Auction. Another will take place in July — mark your social calendar. Be sure to bring your $, family, and friends!
The Filter Bubble:
What the internet is hiding from you
By Eli Pariser
[Hardcover], 293 pages
Call No.: 004.67 Par
The Net Delusion: The Dark Side Of Internet Freedom
By Evgeny Morozov
[Hardcover], 432 pages
Call No.: 303.4834 Mor
Eli Pariser is a well known activist and a founder of Moveon.org, a liberal leftwing political action committee (PAC). In The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Pariser briefly explains how he became aware of the “invisible algorithmic editing” and filtering of his personal search results using Google and his Facebook newsfeed. How will such editing, filtering, and personalization likely hinder what we as informed people need to see, Pariser asks. Are we, the users, even aware of how our “information diets” are not balanced but instead are based on our own keystrokes and wants, tracked by the internet, and fed back to us? Pariser claims we largely aren’t.
I had never understood how personalized search results are actually based on induction — on many of our previous searches, as well as a multitude of other factors, including our IP addresses/locations, of course.
Watch Pariser’s TED Talk in March of 2011 to promote his book and then check the book out at Lantana Public Library. Evgeny Morozov also writes a thoughtful review of Pariser’s book, as well, titled “Your Facts,” on the New York Times website, June 10, 2011.
Morozov’s The Net Delusion: The Dark Side Of Internet Freedom analyzes internet freedom in recent history and criticizes recent political attempts to reinvent it as a new form of the Cold War.
Morozov criticizes the Western media’s claims that Twitter, along with widely available gadgets and internet connectivity and foreign support, helped to coordinate the Iranian June 2009 election protests by the Green Movement. Citing credible sources, Morozov reveals that U.S. State Department requests to Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance of its website minimally helped the protests; Iran had proportionately fewer Twitter users actually in Iran, and Twitter feeds were probably not needed to inform Tehran residents of street protests.
Indeed, Morozov is critical of the Google Doctrine – best expressed by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in January 2010 as the optimism that internet freedom is essential to fighting authoritarian governments. Morozov observes that the three activities of Orwellian-style authoritarianism – propaganda, censorship, and surveillance – are not ultimately overturned by the 24 hour information news cycle, social networking, or the high speeds offered by internet. Undemocratic governments persist, not rendered illegitimate either: extreme nationalism, economic prosperity, and other developments may used by such governments to rationalize their actions.
Morozov isn’t entirely pessimistic, however. He prescribes cyberrealism, in the form of decentralized regional policies, non-technological solutions to political problems, and recognition that the internet doesn’t automatically bring democracy.
These are must-reads for anyone who wants to understand other perspectives on the internet!
Coming to one of the 50 states you reside in – affordable health care insurance? Retail medical services?
Here’s wishing everyone a safe, healthy new year in 2013. Are you any better informed on what the new health law/Affordable Health Care Act will bring? Perhaps like myself, you may have questions like these:
*Where is there affordable health insurance as a part-time/un(der) employed worker, who does not expect to be eligible to receive it via his/her employer or expect to continue to coverage via their ex-employer?
Depending on your individual situation/income, you may wish to seek…
a) Medicaid for yourself and/or family members
(See Fla Dept. of Health Care or Fla. Department of Children/Families
b) Medicare (if 65 yrs and over)
b)Palm Beach Health Care District Insurance
(See http://www.pbchd.com/centers/healthcenters.html, Vitahealth.org)
c) Other private medical insurance
*What will be some likely pros, cons, or costs of having to purchase insurance versus paying a tax penalty beginning in 2014?
Individuals need to weigh or compare how much they’ll be likely to spend in health insurance coverage against what they may have to pay in federal income tax.
As I understand it, beginning in the federal tax year 2014 an uninsured person will have to pay the greater of a penalty/flat rate per person or a percentage of one’s taxable income. That rate will be phased in/stepped up and eventually capped each year to the national average cost for purchasing a health insurance plan. (By 2016 the flat rate will be the greater of $695 for each adult person without medical insurance. Thereafter, the penalty will be indexed/linked to the rate of inflation. There will also be various exemptions from having to pay the penalty, however.)
See Devin Dwyer’s “Health Care Law Mandate ‘Tax’: How Much Is It?” at ABC News, June 28, 2012.
*How will uninsured Floridians be able to purchase health insurance if the state of Florida will not set up a health exchange for them, as required by the Act?
This is one question there may be no answer for at this time.
I have found little mention on the Federal government setting up a Florida health exchange in the absence of the state of Florida doing so. More information on the creation of the health exchange will likely be available in the spring.
Meanwhile, I’ve been coming across other interesting news stories, such as retail pharmacy chain CVS and retail giant Walmart expanding to offer health clinics in their stores:
Bruce Japsen, New York Times, “More Health Clinics Pop Up Inside Retailers,” January 9, 2012.
You may also wish check the following websites periodically:
The Advisory Board’s ACA’s Medicaid expansion website at http://www.advisory.com/Daily-Briefing/2012/11/09/MedicaidMap
Are you wondering where Florida stands on expansion of Medicaid compared to other states? The Advisory Board has a current Medicaid Expansion map. The Advisory Board is “a global research, technology, and consulting firm partnering with 150,000 leaders in 3,700+ organizations across health care and higher education.”
AHCA/Florida Agency for Health Care Administration at http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us/#aa
This agency administers the State of Florida’s Medicaid program for 3 million Floridians and 41 health clinics. It also offers current news and alerts on health care provisions and changes. On the site you can search for a facility near you.
HealthCare.gov at http://www.healthcare.gov/index.html
This is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website for the new Patient and Affordable Health Care Act. On the site, you can search for private medical insurance in your state, find out basic information on insurers and understanding insurance coverage, learn more about how the new health care law will impact you, comparing providers (in terms of coverage, physicians, home health agencies and nursing homes, as well as dialysis facilities. There is also a news section on prevention and wellness.
Internal Revenue Service Information on Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Affordable-Care-Act-Tax-Provisions
On this portion of the IRS website, there is a list of proposed/issued Affordable Care Act provisions that will impact taxpayers. This page is continuously updated. One particular provision individual uninsured adult Americans should watch is the Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit.
The Congressional Budget Office’s information on Payments of Penalties for Being Uninsured Under the Affordable Care Act at http://cbo.gov/publication/43628
The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate about 30 million non-senior Americans will be uninsured in 2016, but many of them will not likely be affected by the tax penalty. For more on this, please see the CBO report and also the short April 22, 2010 statement below at