Here's a picture Shag painted of my friends Sheila Parks(that's her designated driver who always buys her jewelry next to her) and Marlene Mattsson(she's checking to see if she can get a bargain). Don't forget ... the Shag show starts September 1st and the theme is Los Angeles By Day By Night.

Barone Books and Blogs

I am a huge fan of Michael Barone. 4 or 5 years ago I bought his book The New Americans. Until reading this book, I had never realized that the Irish had more than their fare share of Deadbeat Dads. My mom rarely talked about her father ... bitter because he had left her mom when she was 13. Not to run off with another woman, but because he didn't want to work hard enough to support a family of five. He looked down on Irishmen who worked as cops or firemen, but never could make a living as an insurance salesman. It's the story of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I had never realized that it was a somewhat typical Irish experience.

Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report is one of the smartest political writers in the country. In addition to his journalism, Barone is the coauthor of the biannual Almanac of American Politics--an essential tome for inside-the-Beltway pundits and other political junkies--as well as the curiously underappreciated Our Country, an excellent history of the United States from FDR to Reagan. In The New Americans, Barone brings his vast knowledge and sharp talents to the ever-present dilemmas of race and ethnicity.

As millions of immigrants stream into the United States from around the globe--including many countries that traditionally have not served as sources of immigration--Barone helpfully calms jittery nerves about cultural transformation: "We are not in a wholly new place in American history. We've been here before." In fact, we were here at the last turn of the century, when newcomers from Ireland, southern Europe, and elsewhere flocked through Ellis Island. "Many learned savants predicted a hundred years ago that the immigrants of their day could never be assimilated, that they would never undertake the civic obligations and adapt to the civic culture of the United States. History has proven them wrong," writes Barone. "We need to learn from America's success in assimilating these earlier immigrants, as well as from the mistakes that were made along the way." The bulk of the book is a set of comparative studies outlining the surprising similarities as well as the differences between Irish immigrants and today's African Americans, between Italians and Hispanics, and between Jews and Asians. In each instance, Barone believes the experiences of the former reveal something about the latter as its members struggle to adapt to their new home. The approach is like the one Thomas Sowell took many years ago in his landmark book Ethnic America; in many ways, The New Americans is a much-needed update of that pioneering work.

Next I purchased Hard America, Soft America. I work for a Seriously Big Corporation. Their management style is very Hard - aggressive and unsympathetic and under the previous management is was Soft - supportive and cooperative. As a worker, I'd love a little more softness.

From Publishers Weekly
In his latest book, Barone, a writer for U.S. News and World Report and a well-known political commentator, describes America as comprising two diametrically opposed characteristics: hard and soft. "Hard America" is characterized by competition and accountability, while "Soft America" attempts to protect its citizens through government regulation and other social safety nets. While Barone's book is not without its political overtones-he identifies Hard America with the political right and Soft America with the left-his book should not be seen as the latest installment in the conservative-liberal cultural wars. Rather, Barone provides a deeper look at the way in which ordinary people live and work and the meaning behind the decisions they make. His concrete historical examples highlight the advantages and disadvantages of Hard and Soft America, creating a compelling picture of two very different ways of looking at the world, without degenerating into mudslinging or name-calling,. Although Barone, a conservative, clearly favors Hard America, he appreciates the necessary difficulty that comes with balancing the two Americas. He concedes that a society without some softness would be a cruel one, but warns that "we have the luxury of keeping parts of our society Soft only if we keep enough of it Hard." Despite his conservatism, Barone (The New Americans) writes with moderation and insight. Even those who do not agree with his normative conclusions can enjoy his thought-provoking and perceptive analysis.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Now I'm reading Our Country - The Shaping of America from Rosevelt to Reagan I've just begun, but so far it's as good as his others. I had to buy it used on Amazon, since it's out of print.

The big picture and the small picture, March 7, 2000
Reviewer: Todd Weiner (Gambier, OH) - See all my reviews
Two warnings: First, the book is long. Second, the author is conservative and doesn't make an effort to hide it. If these facts don't disturb you then I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is a wonderful story of twentieth-century American politics, crammed with polls, stats, and insightful commentary. Why has ethnicity been a more important factor in politics than class? How did the political pendulum shift from conservatism to liberalism to conservatism again? Who are some of the most important statesmen in history that you've never heard of? And much, much more. If Michael Barone's "The Almanac of American Politics" is the Holy Bible of politics, then this work is a book of prayer.

Michael Barone is a fascinating writer, and now he's a blogger. You can check his site daily for interesting bits.