José Cipriano Castro Ruiz, 1858–1924: Don’t Cry For Me, Venezuela

I see in the papers that the protests in Greece and Spain and Argentina over foreign debts are getting uglier by the day, with much fretting over protests and riots and how are we to get through these times?

Impossible to know for sure, of course, but the past gives us a few cautionary tales of what to avoid.   Consider the case of Venezuela and Cipriano Castro.

Castro was a rural middle class boy who made good in 19th century Venezuela, hitching his wagon to the winning revolutionary side in various internal difficulties.  Enough to say that by age 43 he had seized the presidency, he set himself up as a kind of Central American Medici (without the art) – beating back various revolts and killing political opponents and living the high life as only a dictator can. Continue reading

Theodore Roosevelt, 1858-1919; Bully for Him

 Theodore Roosevelt by Lewis L. Gould, Oxford University Press.

In an age of the kitchen-sink-and-all cinderblock biography,  the art of the short potted life story was for some years neglected.  Then Penguin began to put out the Brief Lives series and rekindled the format.  A good thing, really.  Life is short.

At 78 pages of text, Gould’s Theodore Roosevelt  runs the risk of being a little too brief, not quite Wikipedia fodder, but still, pushing the limits.  Bit of a tour de force, considering all that the author has to include-  Roosevelt forebears, childhood, schooling, stints as New York State Assemblyman, Governor of New York, Vice President, deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory, Police Commissioner of New York  City, U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Lieutenant Colonel United States Army, Vice President, president, and post-president.  Each one is enough for a book, and in some cases have gotten them. Continue reading