Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bess W Truman by Margaret Truman

Cover Leaf
Read this November-December 2017, another from my shelf, another book sale find, another keeper for my Presidential shelf ,another book proving that there are plenty to read from past years, no need to buy new.  Hardback, published in 1986, 432 pages.  The introductory paragraph on the leaf, "the untold story of Bess and her love for her husband.., as only their daughter could tell it."  In my opinion it is as much about Harry as Bess, often using his letters written over the years to Bess and his mother and his journals. Perhaps Margaret could not help herself with so much already written about Harry there are some things she disputes that other authors have written, I am inclined to believe her.  I enjoyed every page having long been a fan of Harry Truman.  What makes it endearing are the letters that he wrote to Bess over the years, from a young man, to World War I, to his Senate and Presidential Days when they often lived apart, Bess in Missouri and Harry in Washington.  

One of the precious letters is the anniversary letter Harry wrote to Bess June 28, 1957 where he details each year anniversary beginning June 28, 1920, "One happy year" , June 28, 1937 "Grand time in Washington", June 28, 1940 "Senate fight coming.", June 28, 1944 "Talk of V>P> Bad business", June 28, 1949 "President again.  Another happy day.", and ending with June 28, 1957, "Well here we are again, as Harry Jones (an old friend) would say.  Only 37 to go for the diamond jubilee!"  

Pages 128-129 detail from Harry's reflections the airmail he faced deciding to run for the Senate and his continuous fight against corrupt politicians, some of who tried to befriend him, some  in his party, some not. He summarizes the major events of his life from meeting Bess Wallace in kindergarten through his struggle on the farm to joining the army in World War I. He would maintain a lifelong respect and friendship with the men with whom he served.    "My mother and sister came to see me at Camp Doniphan.  My mother was 65 years old but she never shed a tear, smiled at me all the time and told me to do my best for the country.  But she cried all the way home and when I came back from France, she gained ten or 15 pounds in weight.  That's the real horror of war.  I believe that the great majority of the country were stirred by the same flame that stirred me in tose great days.  I was a Gallahad after the Grail and I'll never forget how my love cried on my shoulder when I told her I was going.  That was worth a lifetime on this earth."     Page 129  he philosophizes "I have always believed in Santa Claus I guess.  It was my opinion...that most men had a sense of honor.  Now I don't know.......Who is to blame for the present conditions but swindling church members who weep on Sunday, play with whores on Mondays, drink on Tuesday, sell out to the Big Boss on Wednesday, repent about Friday and start over again on Sunday...And now I am a candidate for the US Senate. ...I am going to pray as King Solomon did, for wisdom to do the job."  Bess was not with him when he wrote his lonely sounding meditation.  Margaret writes, "But even the closest, most enduring marriage is not always idyllic.  Perhaps the difficulty of perfect union between a strong man and a strong woman, even the impossibility is an important truth--it might even be the central truth of this book.  Perfect union suggests that there has to be a surrender of one self to the other self, usually the woman to the man.  Bess Truman never did that.  But she never forgot the promise she had made to Captain Truman in 1919."  
Margaret, Harry and Bess victory, VP nomination. 

The story of Bess reveals her athleticism and sense of competition as a young girl and her absolute devotion to her mother, widowed by Bess' father's suicide, and to her brothers.  Harry is usually always optimistic, Bess could be more realistic.  She was with him all through his political ups and downs, a counter balance to some heavy weight influences and often more skeptical and a better judge of people and their unstated motives than Harry.  Bess also tried to shun a lot of campaigning and reporters in particular.  Sometimes she merely refused to talk with them.  Still her political instincts were amazingly astute and very helpful to Harry over the years.  Pg 229, "..there was an invisible line in their partnership that Bess never crossed--a line that divided a wife's power over her husband between influence and control.  Bess never hesitated to try to influence...decisions.  But she never attempted to control him, especially in those lonely moments when he confronted his deepest self, the instinct that drove him to risk the pain and sacrifice of meeting history head on. While Bess had adjusted and become content with being the wife of Senator Truman she dreaded the vice presidency but she did not try to dissuade Harry from accepting responsibility.  It would change history or perhaps history indeed changed them.   Pg. 230 Margaret describes that Bess could barely get a smile for the photo above, "She was losing the serene, comfortable life of a senator's wife, which she had worked so hard to master.  She was fifty nine years old and all her life she had been making sacrifices for people, putting herself and her concerns second to her mother's peace of mind, her brothers' welfare, her daughter's health her husband's career.  " 

Page344 summarizes Bess' major accomplishments as first lady.  In 1949 Denmark invited the US to send a company to perform Hamlet at Elsinore Castle.  Bess facilitated the way for Blevins Davis a former Independence Missouri English teacher who became a successful Broadway producer and a wealthy widower, to gain State Department approval.  Blevins production which included a previously unknown actor, Ernest Borgnine and the  tour was a hit. In the mid-1950's the State Department created a division to routinely send artistic companies abroad.    In the 1948 campaign Bess met Florence Mahoney wife of a relative of a newspaper publisher. Mrs. Mahoney suggested that the National Institutes of Health(NIH) become the center  of a massive effort to conquer major diseases such as cancer.  Bess was fascinated by this and went to work making it a reality by urging Harry to increase funding for the NIH  By 1952 when Harry left the presidency the budget for NIH had increased to $46 million , twenty times what it was when Harry first became president.   

Pg 179 describes how he disliked FDR whom Harry believed was not able to keep his word and not interested in doing so.   Pg 214-215 summarizes the Truman Committee investigation of the Navy Bureau of ships in 1942, the contract for the Higgins boats and his concern over corruption especially in the war effort. .  I could write on and on about this book, but will stop here.  It is a worthy read for a history on politics, how perhaps the country changed and how things were still the same.  Another 5 ***** read. 

Cover jacket flaps

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Term Limits by Vince Flynn

Before 2018 gets along much farther, here is another book I read in 2017, but just now posting a review.  The late Vince Flynn has been one of my favorite political/espionage/thriller authors.  "Term Limits" published in 1997 by Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster, although I find that comical as my copy picked up at a book sale somewhere the past year or so, is a hardback, hardly pocketbook size and 403 pages of another excellent read.  I saw on the front page another reader, initial "B" read it January 2016.  I will also initial and then donate along  to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army because the local library doesn't have the where-with-all nor space to maintain and offer much selection of decent older books for their monthly sales.  Pity as this is a good read and rather timely today as much as when written.  That is a phenomena of Vince Flynn, sometimes his novels were predictive. But you can research him yourself.  This book came without a cover so there is no scan photo. 

 As with every Vince novel I give this 5 stars *****.

I scanned three pages to share here, the first, page 91 deals with the difference between politicians and commandos, or the military especially Special Forces and politicians.  The discord is understandable, the distinction between these two professions is an understatement.  "Commandos live by a warrior's code honor and integrity and politicians say whatever will keep them in office. ."  

To give a better brief idea of the story line in Term Limits, I copied this paragraph, review from the Goodreads site,
"In one bloody night, three of Washington's most powerful politicians are executed with surgical precision. Their assassins then deliver a shocking ultimatum to the American government: set aside partisan politics and restore power to the people. No one, they warn, is out of their reach—not even the president."

A joint FBI-CIA task force reveals the killers are elite military commandos, but no one knows exactly who they are or when they will strike next. Only Michael O'Rourke, a former U.S. Marine and freshman congressman, holds a clue to the violence: a haunting incident in his own past with explosive implications for his country's future ..

And copied this from the Vince Flynn site.  
"What if America's leaders were held accountable for their broken promises -- and made to pay for their corruption?   Vince Flynn brings to life a chilling scenario of Washington under siege -- in the provocative, edge-of-your-seat political thriller that stormed onto national bestseller lists..."

Pg 197 reflects interesting thoughts  about the complicated corrupt political system system we have endured.  And I believe this is why men and women with good intentions, honor, integrity do not make it in today's politics, in fact they avoid it like the plague. 

And the last page I scanned pg 222 below has a very true statement that is useful in many areas of life and could be remembered.  The through that it is easy to say you understand something but the truth is you cannot really understand unless you have experienced it.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Brutal Feeling by Louise Penny 2017 read

Read and absolutely enjoyed this in October, 2017, sent to me by a friend who found it at a booksale.  Louise Penny is a new author to me, but one very familiar to Canadians although she is an American.  I have ordered another of hers on my Kindle.  This was published in 2009.  I look forward to reading more.  I do not know when I have been so delighted readingan excellent mystery.  

Although  classified as a mystery this novel has intrigue,  enjoyable plots and revolves around excellent characters.  Chief Inspector Gamache is a central character in several of her books but it is not necessary to read them in any particular order.  I was immediately fascinated with the setting and the characters in this story set in the wilderness outside of Quebec, Three Pines, a fictitious village that has seen better times but now some newcomers hope to revive it as a tourist spot.  A tramp is murdered and left in the local bistro.

Back cover
A local character, Ruth Zardow with her pet duck is fond of leaving clue via poetry.  Page 58, "Are you deaf? "she shouted at Gamache, Beauvoir and Clara. " Dinners getting cold get inside."   Beauvoir felt his rectum spasm as he hurried past her.  Clara followed Beauvoir to the dinner table, but Gamache lingered.  It took him a moment to realize he wasn't alone.  Ruth was standing beside him, tall rigid, leaning on her cane, her face all reflected light and deep crevices.  "A strange thing to give Oliver, wouldn't you say?"The old voice sharp and jagged cut through the laughter from the village green.  "I beg your pardon." Gamache turned to her.  "The dead man.  Even you can't be that dense.  Someone did this to Olivier.  The man's greedy and shiftless and probably quite weak, but he didn't kill anyone.  So why would someone chose his bistro for murder?"  Gamache raised his eyebrows, "You think someone chose the bistro on purpose?"  "Well it didn't happen by accident, the murderer chose to kill at Olivier's Bistro.  He gave the body to Olivier."  ...."Nothing I ever gave was good for you," quoted Gamache. "It was like white bread to a goldfish."  Beside him Ruth Zardow stiffened, then in a low growl she finished her own poem.  "They cram and cram, and it kills them, and they drift in the pool belly up, making stunned faces and playing on our if their own toxic gluttony was not their fault. "......Was Ruth right?  Had someone chosen the bistro on purpose?  But this meant Olivier was somehow implicated.  Had he brought this on himself?  Who in the village hated the tramp enough to kill him and Olivier entough to do it there?  Or was the tramp merely a convenient tool?  A poor man in the wrong place.  Used as a weapon against Olivier? 

I could not determine who would be guilty and changed my mind several times reading this through until the last page, 372.  From the very beginning the author builds a character and then has a twist, the first being the relationship between Gabri and Olivier two men.....

 I readily give this one 5 *****

Monday, November 27, 2017

Silken Prey by John Sandford

I read this in July, although it was published in 2013, I found it at a book sale and could not pass it by.  I have read several of John Sanford's Prey series featuring investigator Lucas Davenport, all set in Minnesota and most on my Kindle.  I seldom include a review of my kindle reads here.  the entire 406 pages reads along nicely, and true to Sandford, I can never figure out the way the crime will be resolved. In this a MN political "fixer" is kidnapped.  Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads him to the disappearance and then back to the Minneapolis Police Dept.  A treacherous dangerous female  with grand political aspirations including running for president with specific ideas of how the world should be, is central to the story.  Ruthless does not adequately describe the character Taryn Grant. Pg 123, "..she had the money wrapped up, she looked terrific, she had a mind that understood the necessary treacheries, a silken Machiavelli." 

A few quotes, pg. 16,  "You're saying the media is dangerous, immoral, and antidemocratic?"   "Well,,,,yes" Henderson said.  "They don't recognize it in themselves, but they're basically criminals.  In the classic sense of that word."  I am not a fan of mainstream media and found that appropo. 

pg. 135, "She wore it like a gown.  He'd seen it often enough in government work, people who felt that they were better than their job, and better than those around them; a princess kidnapped by gypsies and raised below her station."

Pg 399...lameduck session and complain all he wanted about Taryn Grant, but nothing would be done, because Grant was a winner.  In Lucas' opinion, a good part of Congress seemed to suffer from the same psychological defects that afflicted Taryn Grant......
their bloated self-importance, ther disregard of anything but their own goals, their pre-occupation with power..."  Oh another fitting description of Congress.

Another winner by Sandford,  5  *****.

Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Add caption
Another very  interesting historical book by O'Reilly.  I read this several months ago but I am a laggard at posting my reviews.  As with all his Killing books, the author includes fascinating sidebars to emphasize the historical content.  The only slight criticism I have about this book is there are so many footnotes on most pages especially in the first half of the book, that I found those disruptive.  I read each one as they appeared and that resulted in then rereading the passage referenced with the additional information.  All the footnotes were compelling reading and I wondered why the authors did not merely include them along in the main body of the page as they amplified understanding.  This is by no means a solid negative about this work, just a comment.  Otherwise I absolutely enjoyed every page.

 I have not read much about the Pacific in WWII, and have  been fascinated with Truman and MacArthur. The background information on both makes this all the more interesting.  The maps that are included, especially of the Philippines in 1941 were very enlightening to me to begin to better understand the sieges, battles and strategies of the war over there against the Japanese.  I knew little about Peleliu before so the details about the importance of that island and its airstrip were educational to me as well.  The authors explain very comprehensively the culture of the Japanese and how the emperor was considered  a god to the Japanese people, this clarifies how surrender was considered disgraceful to them.

Another 5 ***** book which I heartily recommend, especially for a somewhat  brief presentation about the war with the Japanese, dropping the A-bomb and the dismissal of General MacArthur by President Truman.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Recent Wall Street Journal Article about Used books

I have often said and thought the same, and it is why I enjoy book sales, browsing through old books.  Besides as I posted int he review of See No Evil here, there are many not so current books that I have yet to read, not every great read is a current bestseller.  Some good books like classics are timeless, after all.   For a long time I stopped making my own peculiar or insightful comments along the margins of pages of books I have been reading.  I was trying to not spoil the page for whomever would get the book next, sometimes I pass them along, sometimes I donate to sales..  Finally I have resumed doing so, because I enjoy it and why bother to get a separate sheet of paper for my own notes.  One woman told me years ago that she always enjoyed getting the books I read at local used book sales and she could tell because of my underlinings and margin hand written commentary.  When I read this in the Wall Street Journal, I knew I had to post it here.

A Secondhand Book Is a $3 Time Machine
Danny Heitman
June 27, 2017 7:17 p.m. ET
My 16-year-old son loves to read as much as I do, but unlike me, he prefers to savor his nonfiction and novels on an electronic reader. Although I’m thrilled when any young person enjoys reading regardless of format, I wonder if my teenager is missing out on the joys of used books.
This came to mind recently when I attended a used-book sale. I go every year, and I often spot complete sets of Dickens, Twain or Poe labeled with the personal library seals of their former owners. When I find several volumes from the same donor, I can’t help but wonder if a household bookshelf has been emptied, perhaps because someone died or moved into a nursing home. I’ve come to regard the hints of personal history in these books as a sheltering presence, like lingering in an old church for an hour or two.
This year, for three bucks, I took home a first-edition copy of the American anthropologist Loren Eiseley’s 1975 memoir, “All the Strange Hours.” The first page bore an inscription: “To Gar. Christmas 1976. From Mickey.”
“Gar” sounded like a nickname, which made me feel as if I were eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. Within the fourth chapter, I found a longer message from Mickey, written in cursive on a yellowing sheet of loose-leaf paper: “Gar—I ended up having to send you my very own copy (still crackling new) of this because, believe it or not, I haven’t been able to get to the bookstore to get you a copy. Getting ready to wrap it for you, I started reading parts of it again. I know you will enjoy reading every page of it. Have a nice Christmas. Hope to see you soon. Greetings also to Peggy. Love, Mick.”
Secondhand books remind me that the world of reading spans time as readers reach across the years to shake hands with each other. Eiseley isn’t read much today, but before his death in 1977, he was a big deal. His books sold well and were eagerly anticipated, which Mickey’s note conveys. My vintage copy of “All the Strange Hours” had landed me in a yuletide some four decades ago, when Jimmy Carter had just defeated Gerald Ford for the presidency, and readers raw from raging inflation and Watergate would surely have found respite in reading a naturalist’s memoir.
In “84, Charing Cross Road,” Helene Hanff celebrated old books as torches passed between generations. “I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest,” she wrote. “The day Hazlitt came he opened to ‘I hate to read new books,’ and I hollered ‘Comrade!’ to whoever owned it before me.”
Like Hanff, I’ve opened old books and found some path a prior pilgrim has worn through the text. In my tattered copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” a reader I’ll never know penciled “integrity” throughout one chapter, inviting me to consider to what degree that single word might summarize Woolf’s sensibility.
I’ve been thinking about how I might extend my own greeting to some future soul through the books I’ll leave behind, as I turn each page of my old Eiseley, hoping, as I always do when I read, to touch the eternal.
Mr. Heitman, a columnist for the Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., is author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
Appeared in the June 28, 2017, print edition.

See No Evil by Robert Baer

Picked up this in Port Isabel,Texas, February this year at a library sale, one of the library books cleared  from the shelves, a lucky find for me. This  2002 memoir by Robert Baer about his career in the CIA as a case worker/operative, is a paperback, 279 pages and reads as a good intrigue.  Once again this book proves that there are many good books out there not on current best seller lists, books from the past that I have not read. Fascinating, well written intrigue, timely today just as when it was written an released 15 years ago  If anything the political maneuvering by federal bureaucrats and politicians has likely become worse than what the author encountered.  It is frightening to think that we no longer have an effective CIA.   

Pages 229- 230, discuss the downward spiral consuming the CIA beginning with the FBI arrest of Rick Ames on February 1994...."I was in Dushanbe.  Watching on CNN as Ames stood handcuffed by the side of his new Jaguar XJ-6, my first reaction was that no one at the CIA owns a Jaguar......The officers who once could have afforded one--the investment bankers and lawyers who fought with the OSS in World War II and the few who'd stayed on to establish the CIA in 1947 were all gone.  Ames Jaguar must have been the only one in the CIA parking lot.  How could security have missed it?   But the lapse of internal security was just the beginning of the misery.  Rick Ames wasn't your average spy.  When he gave away a dozen Soviet agents at one liquor soaked lunch, he established himself as one of history's greatest traitors, in the company of Benedict Arnold, the Rosenbergs, and Kim Philby.  Just as Britain's M-16 would never live down Philby, so the CIA would never live down Ames.  He had ratted out our crown jewels, the reason we existed.  ......The CIA had screwed up so badly with Ames that it could no longer be trusted to clean its own house..... Woolsey, turned the CIA over to its worst enemy in Washington--the FBI.  Way back at the beginning of the cold war, J.Edgar Hoover had wanted to keep all national security operations domestic and foreign under his heavy thumb.  Now it looked like his ghost was about to get its way......The executioner the FBI picked for the task was Ed Curran, a serving FBI agent.......His first act was to fire anyone who knew anything, especially the little old ladies in tennis shoes--the CIA's institutional memory on Soviet espionage...The idea was to spread fear and paranoia through out the CIA and in that he couldn't have been more successful." ." 

it was difficult to read all the Arab  names, but his story is centered in that part of the world and the author is very specific about names along with iterating the culture of tribalism and  family clans.  It is just one of the reasons why we are failing against the terrorists, their bloodline alliances are entrenched.   

Page 279, the last page last paragraph is haunting still today, 2017.:"  ..concerns me that I hear so little talk about doing something about future Ziyad Jarrahs and the groups they belong to.  They are our real problem. ...compounded by the fact that we know so little about these groups and have virtually no intelligence on how they are structured.......No doubt going after Saddam sounds like a good idea around the conference tables of Washington's think tanks and in the hallowed office suites at the National Security Council, but is he that enemy?  Are we not hitting the target we can rather than the target we should?  Shouldn't we be pulling from the roots the people who hit us on September 11 rather than going after the Gulf's bogeyman?  It seems to me it's always the evil we refuse to see that does us the greatest harm."

There are many reviews online  and I have copied this from Wikipedia :
 "See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism is a 2003 memoir by Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Directorate of Operations. Baer begins with his upbringing in the United States and Europe and continues with a tour of his CIA experiences across the globe. Approximately the first two-thirds of the memoir focus on the various experiences of Baer's two-decade (1976–1997) career at the CIA, while the last third depicts the growing cynicism brought on by the corruption and obliviousness encountered in Washington.
One of the main focal points of the story is Baer's obsession with uncovering the perpetrators of the unsolved 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Baer's memoir describes his own solution of the mystery.
The overall theme around which the memoir is built is his view of the CIA losing its prowess due to increasing diplomatic sensitivity in Washington's foreign policies in the aftermath of political fiascoes from active American involvement in foreign politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Baer describes how he believes the CIA steadily degenerated from a potent human-intelligence resource that often saved or spared lives, to a people-shy, satellite-obsessed, and politically oriented branch of a centralized government.
Other topics Baer discusses in the book include: the extent to which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been involved in anti-American terrorist activity, most publicly in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (a death toll of over 300), but allegedly in a far more diverse range of terrorist operations. Baer also writes about how he believes the CIA failed in forecasting the September 11 attacks on America. Baer's story clearly lays out how the CIA came to the point of not even having a useful agent in the Middle East in the period leading up to the attacks. He goes on to describe the loss of effectiveness of the CIA in the mid-1990s, in the wake of the catastrophic treason of CIA agent Aldrich Ames, and the CIA's failure to identify the mole before lethal damage had been done to many of their operations worldwide.
The final section of the memoir deals with Baer's experience with oil politics in Washington, and the extended reach granted to oil's agenda by the politically fixated and strategically oblivious American government. At one point, Baer is stunned at being asked to approve the sale of a sophisticated American defense weapon to a former Soviet-bloc country as an incentive for participating in an oil deal, while that same country had recently obstructed the investigation of the murder of an American diplomat on their soil. Baer recalls his unwilling association with infamous oil businessman Roger Tamraz and the uneasy realities he extracts from his period of involvement in Washington politics.
The film Syriana (2005) was loosely based on the book."

I gave this 5 *****