Friday, August 22, 2014

The Right Stuff

Stuff Matters – Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World - Mark Miodownik (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I don’t have what I would describe as a scientific mind; frankly it was never one of my favorite subjects, so I came away with just enough knowledge to make me dangerous. What I do bring to the table is a high level of curiosity and the desire to dig deeper and learn more about the things that interest me.

It is from that perspective that I approached the book Stuff Matters – Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World, from author Mark Miodownik. When I learned that Miodownik was a university professor by trade, I had an increased level of trepidation about what I would be confronted with in the pages of Stuff Matters; would it be some bone dry dissertation full of formulas and scientific blather?

What I got, what Miodownik delivers, is and an easily accessible, clever slice of a times down right funny detail about how stuff gets made! Miodownik avoids periodic table wonkiness and actually sounds like he enjoys what he’s spelling out. It’s easy to sense his own level of curiosity in the pages of Stuff Matters.

Miodownik doesn’t bog you down in information overload, he gives you a solid primer in the form of easily digestible segments; if you feel the need to know more he gives you a solid jumping off point. The book is broken down so you don’t need to read it in order to comprehend what is going on; that jumpable content allows the reader to dive into what interests them most first. That’s great, but take from me you’ll want to tackle the whole thing. Makes a great read to hand off to your kids or any kid who loves to ask the question why?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Obama’s Serial High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Faithless Execution – Building the Case for Obama’s Impeachment Andrew McCarthy (Encounter Books)

The concept; isn’t really all that difficult to understand, yet liberals can’t or most likely won’t wrap their heads around the straight forward idea that former federal prosecutor, bestselling author and political commentator Andrew McCarthy lays out in his new book, Faithless Execution – Building the Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Like any good criminal prosecutor, it isn’t McCarthy’s job to determine whether or not to move forward with prosecuting a case; it is his job to simply gather the raw materials; evidence, timelines, the DNA trails and all of the building blocks that going into “making” a case. Once that case is built it falls to the district attorney or the Attorney General to determine if the case will go to trial.

In the case of Faithless Execution, McCarthy isn’t building a criminal case, but instead is tasked with making the political case of impeachment against President Obama. In this case Congress, or at the very least the Republican party, would play the role of district attorney. Because McCarthy has stated publicly that politically he doesn’t think Obama should be impeached and Liberals have jumped on that saying that he somehow contradicts himself.

Nothing could be further from the truth! McCarthy successfully lays out a detailed and compelling case not only for impeaching Obama for his serial high crimes and misdemeanors against the U. S. Constitution, but he goes on to detail why impeachment shouldn’t happen without the clear will and support of the American public. That is clearly not going to happen, no matter how strong the case.

Faced with a media savvy, public manipulator in the Oval Office, who somehow managed to earn reelection after an outright and utter failure of a first term in office; the Republican “leadership” lacks the testicular fortitude to even ponder an attempt at impeaching Obama. Left unsaid is the all out fear of the outrage that would naturally be fanned by the liberal media over the “racist” impeachment of our first black President.

It’s clear why McCarthy had such a successful track record as a federal prosecutor. He develops seven very specific prosecutorial lines that would make for viable options for impeaching Obama, any of which could stand on their own, but given the shear breadth of evidence and the serial disregard for the Constitution that Obama placed his hand in the Bible and swore to defend, the true crime may be in the decision not to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Striking, eye-opening and deeply detailed, Faithless Execution will leave you disgusted by the lack of true leadership in Washington and hopeful for the day when Attorney General Andrew McCarthy could become a reality.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All The President’s Men

The Greatest Comeback – Patrick J. Buchanan (Crown Forum Publishing)

The Nixon Defense – John W. Dean (Viking Books)

The Invisible Bridge – Rick Perlstein (Simon and Schuster)

The President’s men spied on fellow citizens, he allegedly used the IRS to harass political opponents, he waged war without the consent of Congress and he utilized the machinery of government in an effort to hide these crimes. And for all this he faced impeachment and eventual removal from office, except for the fact that members of his own political party stepped in and told him, for the sake of the country, he had to go.

No, this is not a conservative dream scenario of what should happen to Barack Obama; instead it is the reality and the story of what actually happened to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal that ended his Presidency. The comparison between the Nixon Presidency and the Obama Presidency, as pointed out by many political insiders is striking.

To try to understand the seismic political shift that has taken place over the last 40 years and to try to put into perspective the magnitude of politician’s indifference to the public and their craven lust for power it helps to look back at a time in our history when we actually held these politicos to account for their actions.

To get a better understanding of Richard Nixon and his rise to the Presidency there is no better source than Patrick J. Buchanan, one of a very small handful of advisors who worked with Nixon prior to his initial election to the White House, who later made the transition to advise the President after he assumed office.

Buchanan’s new book, The Greatest Comeback- How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create a New Majority clearly details how Nixon rebounded from a pair of blistering political defeats, first in the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy and 1962 California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown.

Buchanan brings the reader behind the scenes, utilizing his own personal goldmine of memos to Nixon which feature the candidate’s scribbled responses. Those memos combined with Buchanan’s recollections lay out how Nixon managed to coalesce a fractured Republican party and unite Barry Goldwater’s conservative wing with the liberal factions of George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller, along with the nascent New Right of Ronald Reagan to build a majority that swept him to victory in the 1968 Presidential election.

Buchanan paints a portrait of a masterful politician who took the pieces of a broken down political career and took a disparate political party to victory. Once again the Obama/Nixon parallels are striking.

John W. Dean worked as the White House legal counsel to Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973 and was described as “master manipulator” of the Watergate break in, who later stuck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to a single charge related to the cover up of the crimes, in exchange for becoming a “star witness” for the prosecution of the case.

Since that time Dean has seemingly made a career out of writing books about Nixon, Watergate, and other books trying to compare acts of alleged political wrong doing to those of Watergate. Now with the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, Dean takes another run and Nixon/Watergate in what he claims will be the “definitive” account of the story, The Nixon Defense is culled from a collection of recordings and transcripts of “never before heard” conversations on the topic.

If you’ve never read another Watergate book, then you may find this to be an interesting dissertation on the subject, but students of the time and those at all versed in the detail, will likely find this “new” effort from Dean to be a bit shop worn and redundant of other accounts that have come before.

For some, myself included, there is still a level of distaste and sliminess that seems to be part and parcel of Mr. Dean’s self-interested lack of loyalty.

Transition and change are certainly a focus of today’s political circumstance. So what form would change take as we transitioned from Nixon era politics to the failed Presidency and malaise that marked Jimmy Carter’s time in the White House?

Author Rick Perlstein offers up his take on things in The Invisible Bridge – The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. In the end The Invisible Bridge turns into an epic (880 pages!) flail; a disjointed account, chock full of questionable “facts” and liberal characterizations of Reagan that end up sounding like verbal caricatures.

It seems clear based on the outlandish overreactions from liberals trying to defend Perlstein’s obvious bias that this is not a balanced historical take on the era or the players involved.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Closing Shots – Wrapping Summer Reads 2014

Bravo – Greg Rucka – (Muhlholland Books)

Author Greg Rucka has quietly built a collection of highly entertaining characters that span a whole pile of great books, that for some reason I can’t quite explain have flown under the radar.

His latest entry, Bravo, featuring tough guy, shooter, Jad Bell runs at a breakneck pace, weaving mysterious players who drive the story while hanging around the edges of the action and the hunt for answers to prevent a terrorist attack on the homefront. This follow up to Rucka’s first shot of the Jad Bell character, Alpha has me re-considering my list of favorite authors to make room for this highly skilled writer.

On Scope – A Sniper Novel – Jack Coughlin, USMC Retired (St. Martins Press)

Spain, like much of the free world, is teetering in the brink of economic collapse, when a group of Islamic bankers offer up a seemingly no strings attached solution. Their hidden agenda is to break off a chunk of the European Union to create a new Islamic stronghold. In an effort to protect their interests and hold off United States sticking their nose into things, these Islamists launch a brazen attack on the U. S. embassy in Madrid.

The plan backfires and brings the group of six Islamic bankers squarely into the sites of Task Force Trident and ace sniper Kyle Swanson. In On Scope from author Jack Coughlin, the latest entry in the ongoing Sniper Novel series, Swanson and company take the fight directly to the terrorists, picking off the bad guys one by one. Given the world economic climate and the terrorist’s desire to find new ways to bring the world to its knees, this story chillingly all to real.   

Days of Rage -Brad Taylor (Dutton Books)

Former Delta Force operator/commander Brad Taylor continues his string of successfully calling the shots when it comes to new terrorist threats in his latest entry in the Pike Logan thriller series, Days of Rage. When you consider the average timeline for writing and publishing novels, Taylor would have had to put words on the page about a year prior to the average person ever even hearing of the terror group Boko Haram, who have been making headlines the past couple of months.

But, that’s exactly what he has done; preemptively offering up an advance warning of this new threat. The fact that Taylor also choose to heat up the cold war, with the Russians using the Boko Haram terrorists as a proxy to launch a weapon of mass destruction attack on the United States and you’ve got to wonder what else Taylor has up his sleeve.

While Logan and the rest of the Taskforce team are used to playing the role of the hunter, this time around not only do they have to put a stop to the attack, but they also find themselves facing a challenge that has them squarely in the sights of a hunter. High entertainment at a blistering pace.

Walking the Thin Line

Do Not Sell at Any Price – The Wild and Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records – Amanda Petrusich (Scribner Publishing)

I have told my wife for years; there is a thin line between collector and hoarder. As a one who considers himself to be firmly planted on the collector side of that line, I can still admit to the obsessive nature that author Amanda Petrusich delves into in her latest effort, Do Not Sell at Any Price – The Wild and Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.

I chuckled out loud because I could totally relate to Petrusich as she detailed the early days of her career at the outset of the book, talking about the sheer joy of the daily trek to the mailbox to pull out the hoard of reviewer copies of albums and CDs that she received. It brought to mind the day I came home to find that the UPS driver had somehow carefully stacked a couple dozen 12 inch square boxes behind my screen door, filling the entire doorway from top to bottom and how they came crashing down when I open the door.

I could also relate to that joy, transitioning to disillusionment when the realization hot that there weren’t enough hours in the day to get through listening to all that music. I still consider myself a collector, so I can easily identify with the characters that Petrusich laces throughout this tale. Most people may not understand that it’s not just the end result, owning the item(s) they seek, that drives collectors; the magic of it is in the hunt.

While most collect things that can be easily defined by catalog and list, the driving force of this band of 78 collectors, a secretive society to say the least, is the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know. The true rarity of these discs can’t really be measured; there is no authoritative catalog detailing these early recordings. This is a story of cultural archeologists and true detectives; on the hunt to track down and preserve a small slice of our history one disc at a time.
Petrusich infuses the story with not only the personalities and the naturally obsessive nature these folks bring to bear on the search, but also the almost built in time pressure that is the untold part of this story; as years pass and we get farther and farther away from the original source of these recordings it become more and more difficult to track down the details, the stories associated with these recordings, which is part of their natural attraction. It certainly make for one of the most intriguing stories I have read this year.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Attention Republican or Conservative Candidates: Required Reading

Assault and Flattery – The Truth About The Left and Their War on Women – Katie Pavlich (Threshold Editions)

Let me state this as clearly as possible: If you are a Republican or Conservative candidate, running for statewide or national office, or if you are advising or working for the campaign of a Republican or Conservative candidate; THIS BOOK IS REQUIRED READING!

Assault and FlatteryThe Truth About The Left and Their War on Women  by bestselling author and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich lays out in chapter and verse the facts about which party is conducting an all out war on women. Pavlich explores not only the current state of that war but delves into the roots of the of the left’s expedient transition to laying claiming to being the party of women purely for elective purposes.

From equal rights to equal pay and from advancing the cause of women to the sacrament of left wing “healthcare” (meaning abortion) Pavlich cuts the liberals tall tales down to size. She also highlights the outright and utter ineptitude of the Republicans when it comes to responding to the lefts unfounded attacks and claims that conservatives are waging a war on women. In their seemingly never ending quest to be liked by the liberal media, Pavalich points out the lack of testicular fortitude to call out liberal mouth pieces like ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, who pulled a Republican “plot” to ban contraceptives out of his backside and dropped squarely in the lap of candidate Mitt Romney during a Presidential debate.

Pavalich makes the case and arms Conservatives with a boatload of facts to respond to these unfounded creations. Until Republicans and conservatives find a way to systematically respond to these ridiculous attacks they run the risk of being pounded into submission, pummeled by liberal lies and kept out of the White House and control of Congress.    

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Brad Thor Should Scare the Crap Out of You

Act of War – Brad Thor (Emily Bestler/Atria Books)

Simply put; Brad Thor’s new book Act of War, should scare the crap out of you.

Thor’s thirteenth entry in the Scot Harvath series reads like a scenario that could have come from one of the Department of Homeland Security’s, Red Cell brainstorming sessions. Red Cell was a group of creative thinkers, that included Thor, who came from outside the Beltway and traditional intelligence circles, to dream up potential terrorist scenarios and targets.

In Act of War lays out an unconventional attack under the umbrella of “unrestricted warfare” where the Chinese could literally bring the United States to its knees, killing off millions, without ever firing a shot. While I think Thor is a pretty smart guy; if he can think of this kind of scenario, then you know the bad guys can too. Hence the heavy duty pucker factor.

Thor laces just the right amount of “current events” into the story line to give it a believable quality; like the NASA outreach program to be inclusive of Muslims being used as a method to get terrorists into the country. It is that kind of simplistic thinking that politicians have given us for years that makes Thor’s plot all the more chilling; we spend billions to build bigger, nastier weapons or have the TSA pat down kids and grandmothers at airports, while we leave our borders basically wide open.

With the bad guys in place and their objective in play, the dominoes start to fall quickly and it’s up to Harvath and his band of usual suspects to play beat the clock and save the country from itself. If you needed a geographical depiction of how this “unrestricted warfare” attack to “remove the country’s technology” would play out, just grab a copy of the county by county “Red vs. Blue” voting map from the last Presidential election and know that the focus of the attack would be on the blue and the populace that believes food comes from the grocery store and can’t function without their I-Phone an infusion from Starbucks.

The plot certainly strikes a chord and Thor hits on the right mix of facts and action to keep the pace crisp and the thrills on point.