Saturday, May 23, 2009

Book Report: "Ornament of the World" by Maria Rosa Menocal

"The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain"asserts that the history of modern life passed through medieval Andalusia and does a good job of making the case.

The subtitle to Maria Rosa Menocal's engaging volume is "How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain," but that doesn't say the half of it.

Which is fine, because the subtitle that can do justice to this alternately sweeping and efficient book probably doesn't exist.

In fact, the featured period of tri-partite harmony is but a brief one in the book, shattered by the kinds of antagonisms that sustain our state of violent tension today.

In those days of European ignorance and atavism, Menocal writes that, "Arabic beckoned with its vigorous love of all the things men need to say and write and read that not only lie outside faith but may even contradict it -- from philosophy to erotic love poetry and a hundred other things in between."

Menocal explains how the prophet Muhammad would not perform miracles, given that the Quran, the book off God's revelations, was the true miracle.

Latent in the Arab's linguistic passion was a respect for the Christian and Hebrew reliance on scriptures.

Pagans subjected to the Arabic invasions covered in this book were required to convert, while the two "Peoples of the Book," were granted religious freedom under a covenant known as the dhimma.

Under the prescriptions of the visionary Abd al-Rahman, founder of Al-Andalus (Arab moniker for the region of southern Spain),"the Muslims did not remain a ruling people apart. Rather, their cultural openness and ethnic egalitarianism were vital parts of a general social and political ethos within which the dhimmi could and did thrive."

If it doesn't sound much like the Afghani Taliban you know only too well, that's because there are Muslims, and then there are Muslims.

The good ones were the Umayyad.

How they became the faction they did (descendants of Muhammad's brother-in-law's sister's mother or something) is not so important as the fact another faction, the Almoravids, did them in on behalf of an Islamic intepretation more in-line with that which mystifies today.

The authoress maps out the rising tide and recession of ambulant Islam, the countercharge of Christian warriors, the religiously confused alliances of enemies when battles of family succession and greed intervened to rent the otherwise clear lines of battle asunder.

And the point of these events, for Menocal, is how the cultures involved were affected and transformed.

"Ornament of the World" is mostly about an assortment of intellectuals, dreamers, poets, and philosophers who informed these transformations, mostly forgotten, but sometimes lionized down the years.

"Ornament" details the Jewish intellectual Hasdai's rise to the exalted position of foreign secretary in the Cordoban caliphate because he, "spoke and wrote with elegance and subtlety, and because the vizier possessed a profound knowledge of everything in Islamic Andalusia culture and politics that a caliph needed in his public transactions."

Much the same happened to a wealthy merchant of Malaga now known to history as Samuel in the taifa of Granada. Another star of Arabic letters, his appointment as The Nagid established him as leader to the city's Jews.

South and West of Granada, in the hamlet of Niebla, lived Ibn Hazm, a contemporary of the Nagid, and an exile from the Almoravid sacking of Cordoba's imperial city, Madinat al-Zahra.

Ibn Hazm remained dedicated his countless writings to the tolerant glories of Umayyad Cordoba, where he had thrived in younger days.

Considered alternately by scholars as embittered or sad, "He was, in any case, an astounding intellectual, his life a fitting tribute to and a noble and melancholy end point for the caliphate he never ceased to long for and lament, as if it had been a lost lover."

That caliphate fell to a malevolent force that, Menocal writes, "was often rooted in what they considered the Andalusians inappropriate relations with the Jews and Christians."

Which is not to single out Arabs as the sole possessors of intolerant habits.

Upon the Christian conquest of Granada, the famed Ferdinand and Isabella granted dhimma-like rights to their Muslim subjects. But they turned out to be paper promises.

Unfortunately for us, hundreds of years on, the results are still being reaped.

Menocal demonstrates the cultural contortions involved in this subjugation by dissecting Miguel de Cervantes' strange set-up to "Don Quixote" as the work of an Arab historian, found in the Jewish quarter of Toledo, and translated for him by a Christian Arab.

She turns something most of us shrug and pass over into a stark political statement on Cervantes' part, and necessarily alters one's consideration of El Quixote. It is worth the price of the book.

Cervantes' literary arrangement demonstrates how, in the end, the Catholic monarchs, "chose to go down the modern path, the one intolerant of contradiction. The watershed at hand was certainly the rise of a single-language and single-religion, a transformation that conventionally stand at the beginning of the modern period and leads quite directly to our own."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mesopotamian Wordplay

I have a secret day and nobody knows about it.
You mean polka dot day?
Hey! and Polka dot night. How come you knew?
I saw you telling Medina.
I think she's the only other one who knows.
It's too bad. She's got some Jihad. She's got to wear a veil every day.
It doesn't matter. She can just dream, then. Anyone can dream
anything, even you. I do.
Yes, all the nights are polka dot nights for me.
I like you Tigris, and your friend Persia, too. It's the way you two say silly things.
And I like you, Euphrates. Your whitefish and your date palms and
your centuries old limes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

David Brooks' "Hare" Raising Spectre

If your life is the subject of a book, you may not want to have lived it.

This truth was slow in coming to the highway scribe who spends less time each year on the highway and more time on scribery. The goal is to be an artist known more for his work than his public exploits.

A matter of substance, if you will.

Lives that are worthy of a literary recounting are exceptional things. In rare cases, extraordinary biographies can consist in a litany of experiences kissed by the Gods and sun alike.

But usually, what makes for a good read are those rollercoaster rides spiked with irony, tragedy, movement, and setbacks answered with victories and then succeeded by sudden drops in fortune again.

That's how life is. The more you go for, the more you are subjected to and the vast majority prefer things even-keeled so that their life trajectory rarely becomes the stuff of bestsellers.

"New York Times," columnist David Brooks has scripted "In Praise of Dullness," which posits that the story of American business is not much told, nor well understood, by writers.

The piece focuses on recent studies regarding what makes a good corporate Chief Executive Officer.

The results favored a humdrum personality: "The C.E.O.s that are most likely to succeed are humble, diffident, relentless and a bit unidimensional. They are often not the most exciting people around."

Which is well and good and something we knew thanks to Aesop's fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare."

It is one reason (the other being money) why highwayscribery spends less time bounding through fits of international adventure and more time eating Orville Redenbacher's "old-fashioned butter" popcorn in front of a Dell.

Providing good information on running a company, should it ever come to that, Brooks runs the boat aground with his subsequent assertion that these Tortoise types demonstrate why, "people in the literary, academic, and media worlds rarely understand business. It is nearly impossible to think of a novel that accurately portrays business success."

highwayscribery would suggest Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" fits the bill, just not in the way a profit-focused guy like Brooks is looking for.

But that's neither here nor there. Our beef is with Brooks' separation of art, literature, market, and business into separate rarified environments.

An artist himself, the columnist reasons that "the market" -- that Gilded God of all pinstriped and serious folk -- demands a tortoise run the business.

What interests writers, on the other hand, is "self-expression and self-exploration."

But these endeavors are personal goals of novelists and not necessarily the subject of their work, which involves a search for, and construction of, the good yarn.

Artists are subject to markets, too. And these markets are more particular, less democratic or meritorious than anything the newly minted MBA will experience upon emerging from the Wall Street subway station

The very nature of their craft condemns writers to the tortoise's way. In a variation on the them Gore Vidal's "Palimpsest" refers to the "bovine" character of the novelist slowly masticating his cud, his subject.

Brooks, who works in Washington D.C., notes how monotone business leaders don't fare well in a place where political leaders brandish their "charisma, charm, personal skills."

But business is the story of American politics as this piece on the Employee Free Choice Act's dwindling chances, in spite of a Democratic president and majority, will attest.

Brooks' earlier March 16 piece "The Commercial Republic" suggests much the same.

For every Obama or Reagan that struts his term upon the national stage, there remains behind a Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) or a Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), humble (maybe not so much), anonymous, and busy as bees.

The columnist perceives the Obama administration's "interposing" of artistic temperaments upon industrial management culture and fears it is unleashing "a revolution in values" damaging to American business.

But Brooks is interposing a "hare" mythology onto noncorporate types that doesn't fit well.

Every endeavor cultivates its slow-pokes, passionate in their pursuit of incremental progress, and committed to the long haul in a way Wall Street has rarely been in recent years.

So we should be alright.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Report: "Mayor" by Ed Koch

New York. If you can make it there, you can't make it anywhere else.

"Mayor: An Autobiography"has a strange launching point given that New York City was looking at six more years of Ed Koch when it was published and that it came on the heels of his surprising defeat in the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Mario Cuomo.

That loss was only the latest in a series of events described in this autobiography, which must have alerted Koch to the unique limitations associated with his otherwise powerful position.

"Mayor" comes off as the author's stab at "cashing in" before his story was fully told, because it had turned out to be truncated in advance of its termination.

Edward I. Koch assumed office at the city's nadir, in the wake of a rescue plan to save New York from bankruptcy in the mid-1970s. And although his popularity followed the typical politician's arc from novelty to popularity to ignominy, his mayoralty is widely considered to have been a success.

Koch was reelected twice by adeptly turning his gruff, no-nonsense personal style into a certifiable brand for the city itself.

"Mayor" details the idiosyncratic nature of New York City -- our country's financial and cultural capital -- the way Gotham stands apart, stewing in its distinction and, um selfness.

To wit: As mayor of America's largest city, Koch could not be ignored on certain issues of national import.

One of the longest chapters in the book involves President Jimmy Carter's efforts at getting Koch to round up the Jewish vote for his 1980 reelection bid and the Mayor's incessant push-back for certain concessions on the administration's Israel policy.

Having gained those concessions, Koch hit the hustings for Carter who was trounced by Ronald Reagan anyway.

And so it goes. Koch was a big fish in a big pond with no estuary by which to escape it.

Another study in mayoral limitations is Koch's accounting of negotiations with the Transportation Workers Union and the strike through which he successfully shepherded the city.

The Mayor's quandary was that, although the strike was in his city, the entity negotiating with organized labor was the Metropolitan Transit Authority, a feud of New York's governor.

Lacking real policy power, Koch glibly recounts how he used his bully pulpit, his penchant for walking the streets of the ultimate street-walking city, and a sly understanding of how New York's overheated media operates, to pull off a successful negotiation, mostly en absentia, with the all-powerful unions in pre-Reagan America.

But his skills were particular to that magnificent and fascinating city. Beyond its boundaries, whether campaigning in Florida for Carter, or clumsily insulting suburban and rural New Yorkers during the gubernatorial primary, Koch's style did not go over well.

"I'm still Mayor," he said after losing to Cuomo.


highwayscribery can remember Koch inarticulately peddling "Mayor" on Saturday Night Live following its publication, the over-the-top delivery, his brash charm clashing with the Klieg lights before falling flat in both the studio and over the airwaves.

But "Mayor" can be good fun for our politics-crazed, cable news addicted legions. It takes you into that room of players and lofty titles it shows you how it goes down, what they say, and who sorts it out.

The book offers egos, grown-up Kindergartners, well-meaning citizens getting hammered for their efforts, radicals of an era gone by all playing the roulette wheel of American democracy.

Koch performs in an entertaining fashion throughout. Tough, uncompromising, holding course often in spite of his missteps, ready each day to start flailing anew.

Ralph Waldo Emerson warned the poet that, "Others shall do the great and resounding things also. Though shalt lie close hid with nature, and canst not be afforded to the capital or the exchange. The world is full of renunciations and apprenticeships, and this is thine; thou must pass for a fool and churl for a long season."

Although "the capital's" inhabitants leave their imprints on future lives and their names on public works, the fascinating revelation in reading "Mayor" is the anonymity into which the big shots of an earlier time fade.

Who, today, remembers New York Governor Hugh Carey (D), or Koch's sexiest supporter Bess Myerson? Carter honcho Hamilton Jordan died last year while Rep. Bella Abzug (D)and her big hats are buried artifacts.

The cast of characters arrayed throughout "Mayor" could have easily been given aliases because it is their actions, more than their identities, that lend the narrative its thrust.

Vedette Does La Danza Scores at Indie Excellence Book Awards

A short post informing anyone who cares that "Vedette Does La Danza," closed the Indie Excellence Awards contest as a "Finalist." That translates into second place in the Audio Book Fiction Category. It comes on the heels of a second place finish at the London DIY Book Festival, and an outright win in the USA Books News "fiction abridged audio book" category a few months ago.

Omar and the highway scribe invite you to watch a videotaped presentation documenting this unique marriage of poetry from the former's novel "Vedette" with music composed and played by the latter, or visit our My Space Page to hear the tracks and buy the CD.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Romanian Hot Dogs

Agribusiness giant Smithfield Foods, has muscled its way into Eastern Europe and the famed Romanian hot dog will never be the same.

Doreen Carvajal and Stephen Castle of the "The New York Times," wrote May 7 that, "For centuries, from the Hapsburg Empire through Communist dictatorship, peasant farmers here have eked out a living from hogs, driving horses along ancient pocked roads and whispering ritual prayers on butchering day."

No more. The factory farming conglomerate's move into the backward and rustic region, "ranks among the continent's biggest agricultural transformations."

The kind of company President Obama recently promised to kneecap by doing away with offshore tax shelters, Smithfield's devastation of the Romanian countryside was subsidized by the European community, and abetted by national leaders.

As locals who opposed their invasion found out, big is necessarily better.

Factory farming became a reality in the United States before we ever really called it that or were aware of its evils. And while there are movements afoot here to reign in the waste and cruelty, Eastern Europe lacked the environmental regulation and oversight to handle the newfangled hog hell.

Which is just how Smithfield wanted it, according to Chairman Joseph W. Luter III who has described its global strategy as moving in a "very, very, big way, very fast, very fast."

Calibrated to a smaller and slower existence, Romanian hog farmers never stood a chance. But Smithfield, bathed in the Anglo-American profit-driven understanding of all things bright and beautiful, insists it has been a boon to U.S. consumers because of lower pork prices.

The point of the "New York Times" article is that, in Eastern Europe, they are not quite sure that a reduced price for the Romanian hot dog is worth the imposition of factory farming systems and the disappearance of traditional agricultural structures.

In Romania, the article states, the number of hog farmers has dropped in the four years spanning 2003 to 2007 by 422,000, which is a statistic that speaks for itself.

"Ex-farmers," the article reads, "overwhelmed by Smithfield's lower prices, often emigrated or shifted to construction jobs," replacing scenes like the top one, by Romanian painter Theodor Aman, with something like that below it.

Environmental concerns, in particular over air quality, have arisen. Smithfield's 40 factory farms in western Romania are equipped with metal manure containers "to inject manure into the ground."

highwayscribery is not sure what that means, but for Aura Danielescu the upshot is that, "We go crazy with the daily smell."

Mmmmm. Pass the mustard!

To be fair, the reporters gave the company a chance to respond, which its lawyer Charles T. Griffith did through an e-mail citing its contributions to Romanian life including (but not limited to!) "acquisition, renovation and construction of meat processing plants, swine farms, feed mills and cold storage facilities...networks of independent farmers that are contracted to shelter and feed pigs to market weights."

In these benighted facilities, "every stage of a hog's life is controlled. With assembly line efficiency, sows churn out litters three or four times a year. Withing 300 days, a 270-pound pig is ready for slaughter."

Oh you lucky Romanians!

The article offers an especially appealing -- and timely -- account of the mass murder and waste of pigs last year when swine fever broke out at its operations there.

Mexicans living in the environs of Smithfield's hog farm at Perote think it's where the recent outbreak of swine flu was born. Clearly there is precedent for this suspicion.

So why do we re-present this article to you?

highwayscribery believes in a politics that respects the delicate fabric of local food-related customs in places fortunate enough to have eluded the various waves of industrial mechanization which have buffeted those of us in the "developed" world.

Farming, for centuries, went hand-in-hand with a culture informed by the turn of seasons, the cycles of family existence, and a mutual relationship between beast and human.

Reducing these eternal rhythms bankrupts the societies long-guided by them and releases a new generation of youths into a world without direction, signposts, or native symbolism.

As for the animals, it can be said that, were they not to be consumed, they would not be bred and raised. But reducing their functions to those of machines with hearts, is to deny they possess those hearts and to unleash a karmic sin into the universe not all of us are willing to pay.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Obama: The First 106 Days

It's a good thing that, as a blogging outfit, highwayscribery decided to stay clear of the "first 100 days" traffic and waited patiently for the no less important FIRST 106 DAYS milepost.

On top of highwayscribery's little peep being overwhelmed by the roar of outlets both mega and minor, President Obama's ensuing stand against offshore tax havens and unequivocal nod to industrial syndicalism might have gone unremarked.

Offshore tax havens are the things that people who don't get 10-99 or 1040 forms at the end of year use to avoid paying taxes the people who get 10-99 or 1040 forms can't use to avoid the annual tithe.

Like, say, Warren Buffet.

When the Oracle of Omaha was asked by "New York Times," business columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, why his empire was structured as a conglomerate when he advised other investors to "keep it simple," Buffet responded, "We've got this ability in terms of moving money around into various opportunities without tax consequences."


Jackie Calmes and Edmund Andrews at the "New York Times," (NYT) reported that Obama's is a move which, "appeals to growing populist anger among taxpayers but that is likely to open an epic battle with some major powers in American commerce."

To quote a very unpopular former president, "Bring it on."

The new President, you see, is fulfilling a campaign promise to end tax breaks for American companies that send American jobs overseas.

John Castellani of the Business Roundtable gave the reporters a canned reaction: "This plan will reduce the ability of U.S. companies to compete in foreign markets, which will also cripple economic growth here in the U.S."

The obvious question is what is it that makes these countries "American"? You also have to wonder if other companies in other countries pay taxes and, if they do, how they compete.

Finally, while blessed with all these neat tools for avoiding taxes, why has economic growth been crippled anyway?

If the NYT reporters are to be taken at their word, Obama merely wants to fix provisions that no longer serve the original purpose of protecting multinational corporations from being taxed twice: once overseas and once by the Internal Revenue Service.

But according to the same article, in 2004, the last year for which there are figures, corporations deferred reporting earnings and wracked up tax credits that led to a paltry 2.3 percent contribution on what is supposed to be a 35 percent tax rate.

In short, they didn't come even close to paying their fair share.

the highway scribe, by the way, is still being forced to pay his.

The Obama plan has left open one big, fat loophole, according to Lynnley Browning, also of the "New York Times" (which should give you an idea of what political blogging's future will look like when all these "real" newspapers go under).

The Obama plan, apparently, doesn't do away with "transfer pricing," a concept we feel no need to explain since most of you aren't going to need it and because the outcome is essentially the same, where multinationals and taxes are concerned.

There's a pattern developing with the president, who seems to throw big punches, but them dance off into a corner when battling the big boys.

Robert Reich at thinks the president throws a lot of stuff out there, and keeps some close to his chest, because he's trying to affect great changes in American society. More often than not, Reich believes, he will run into the same people at the negotiating table and all of these plans and provisions will serve as so many bargaining chips on its coffee-stained surface.

For example, when the American car industry started going belly-up, there were complaints from people the scribe has coffee with that the bankers were bailed out, while unions were being required to eat their contracts in most usual and inequitable fashion.

But lo-and-behold, at Chrysler Obama practically went syndicalist, which is a philosophy that believes unions, workers councils, and others cooperative labor groups are best-suited to running industrial entities.

On May Day itself, "NYT" subscribers awoke to a headline that claimed "Chrysler Files for Bankruptcy, UAW and Fiat Take Control."

True, it's not the revolutionary syndicalism preached by Pierre Prodhoun, but it's still United Auto Workers control with $8 billion in government grease for the wheels.

Or as Jim Rutenberg and Bill Vlasic, again, of "The Times" noted, "It was a stark moment, and one unseen in modern times..."

Micheline Maynard, of (yes) "The Times," penned "In Chrysler Deal, Union Takes Rare Front Seat," and observed that Chrysler's Chapter 11 could end up being the "Cadillac" of bankruptcies for the United Auto Workers.

Apparently Chrysler didn't have a luxury model that could make the analogy workable.

Quoted in the piece was an expert in bankruptcy restructuring of Washington-based Arent Fox saying, "This is extraordinary, truly extraordinary. I never would have thought a year ago that this would occur. These are truly unusual times."

Change indeed.

Maynard noted that the United Auto Workers is not just any union thanks to its heavy political contributions, but that's a narrow conclusion that lacks a back story.

Which is why you come to highwayscribery.

The UAW is the holy grail of democratic trade unionism in this country with a not inconsiderable reputation around the world as well. The union's dramatic history is woven into labor lore. The auto workers have cut a noble and progressive profile in countless fights since their formation by the Reuther brothers in the 1930s.

In 1986, when the highway scribe was a cub reporter, he was assigned to cover the union's national convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Now reporters are a pretty jaded lot. We've got to sift through a lot of buffalo chips to get at the truth and many events we cover are shows concocted especially for our delectation and/or distraction.

But the sight of 5,000 UAW delegates, sitting at long tables across the sprawling convention floor, rising to their feet and singing "Solidarity Forever" stamped a memory in the scribe's mind that 23 years have barely dimmed.

And that's part of what is behind this move. A progressive president standing by a blue chip labor union and assuring its members get a fighting chance rather, rather than sacrificing them to the cold and heartless logic of the marketplace.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Book Report: "Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician" by Gerald Meyer

Emerson said an institution is the shadow of a single man, a lesson Gerald Meyer learned during research on the history of the American Labor Party (ALP).

In his "Acknowledgements" to the book under consideration here, Meyer confesses, "In the process of accomplishing this formidable task, I fell in love with Vito Marcantonio. The ALP was an important institution, but Marcantonio loomed over it."

"Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902-1954"represents the skillful and thorough response to a series of questions posed by Herbert Gutman, the sponsor of Meyer's proposed doctoral dissertation: "Who voted for him? Why did they vote for him? What was East Harlem like? What did people do for a living? Who owned the stores?"

Meyer's work succeeded two earlier efforts, "Vito Marcantonio: Radical in Congress," by Alan Schaffer and "Vito Marcantonio, The People's Politician," by Salvatore John LaGumina.

Schaffer's effort placed Marcantonio in the national firmament of the times, 1902 to 1952, and LaGumina added some anecdotal history and a slightly different angle than that of his predecessor.

But it is Meyer's book that places Marcantonio in the New York of his day and, specifically, the East Harlem neighborhood that produced him.

Here is Marcantonio diving off a truck into the street mob during a speech, arms flailing. There the Congressman confessing unconditional trust in his grandmother who attends rallies with an umbrella under her coat in the event of fisticuffs.

And here is the "retail" congressman delivering coal and Christmas baskets to troubled neighbors, a guy who empties his pockets to the hard luck cases that pock his district.

Meyer's work goes where the other two did not in regards to the Marcantonio Papers archived at the New York Public Library on 42 St. and Fifth Avenue.

In these 85 boxes can be found dusty, flaky records of "Marc's" public life and work, but more importantly, the voices of his constituency, which Meyer has culled for insightful passages from letters both handwritten and typed.

Yes, Meyer meticulously details the complicated nature of New York City's "fusion" politics and the skill with which Marcantonio navigated them to unique projection as a national leader of far left-wing forces.

But the author also renders the radical politician's story an organic whole.

Rather than the narrative of some anomalous oddity out of time, we have in this book a man fleshed out and brought to life by the environment that produced him and to which he gave so much form, through his leadership.

In his conclusion, Meyer laments Marcantonio's slow fade into anonymity and argues that, "his story deserves to be known, because it contradicts so many of the platitudes which pass for American history and therefore suggests new ways of thinking about the present."

"Radical Politician" takes the first, bold steps in this effort, loyally transcribing the voices of desperate constituents seeking assistance of every kind and often beyond the natural purview of the congressional representative.

Meyer began his project just in time to provide his work with an important layer of oral history extracted from residents of East Harlem, now mostly departed.

Through these voices we gain the story of progressive and communist movements during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s and begin affixing them to real faces; faces worn with lines wrought by terrible struggles.

And through these same voices, we hear Marcantonio's, because they were one and the same.

Thanks to Meyer's rendering of the fighting congressman and his world, we realize that, beneath the Jazz Age's glamorous narration, people were being crushed by the inequities in American life.

We witness how the annihilation accelerated with the next decade's economic miseries so that these movements appear not so much as insidious viruses inexplicably invading the body politic, rather as natural responses to a clamor for redemption.

And through Marcantonio's story, we can see how the ensuing repression was not the result of some lightning-strike catharsis which brought Americans to their senses, but the product of a brutal rollback to darkness fueled by American capital's resurgence after the healthy profit-making venture that was World War II.

"Radical Politician" renders a multifaceted talent: a lawyer, political street fighter, parliamentarian, neighborhood Don, leftist commissar. A man who had affairs, yet was sainted by those who knew and were affected by his labors, a man who switched tacks to accommodate the shifting sands of mid-century politics, and committed enough mistakes to make him more human and beautiful than so many that populate our historical memory.