BLL Book Reviews -June 2018 - Brewster Ladies' Library

BLL Book Reviews -June 2018
Brewster Ladies Library
1822 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631

In this issue…
Out in Blue Fields by Janice Riley and Stephen Spear (Jim Mills)
The Quantum Labyrinth by Paul Halpern (Doug Wilcock}
Square (Picture Book for 4-8 year-olds) by Mac Barnett and Jon Klaassen (Nori Morganstein)
I Have Lost My Way (Young Adult by Gayle Forman (Angie Howes)
Space Odyssey: The Making Of A Masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clark (Don Boink)
Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve Coll
  (Don Boink)
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Sue Carr)
Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey (Jim Mills)
Democracy In Chains:The Deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America
    by Nancy MacLean (Don Boink)
Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures by Roma Agrawal (Jim Mills)
A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 by Kevin Peraino (Jim Mills)

Out in Blue Fields
      by Janice Riley and Stephen Spear
 reviewed by Jim Mills

          There are few farms left on Cape Cod these days but a fascinating one located very near to us is
the Hokum Rock Blueberry Farm in East Dennis. This year the long-time proprietors of the farm,
Brewster residents Janice Riley and Stephen Spear, have written a compelling account of the annual
cycle of tasks necessary to bring in each summer’s bounty of blueberries. This account is broken down
by month and describes the natural life cycles that impact the growing of blueberries. This includes the
wide diversity of plants, birds, insects, reptiles and mammals encountered at the farm each year.
          The authors shed light on the numerous tasks, throughout the year, required to successfully farm
blueberries. With the aid of a dozen or so assistants, they proceed through cycles of pruning, weeding,
fertilizing, and irrigating the delicate blueberry bushes. Another major task is protecting the plants from
natural antagonists. A massive net that covers all sides of the field including the top is erected every year
to protect the berries from birds and ground critters. The netting must be continually repaired throughout
the year and in the fall be stowed safely for the winter. Protecting the plants from insect pests can also be
very challenging. The final barrier, insecticides, are used sparingly and in a manner to limit the impact
on other wildlife.
        The text is beautifully written and is replete with literary quotes that depict beauty of the the
natural world. In addition to the description of the yearly cycle in the blueberry fields, a history of
agriculture on Cape Cod, of blueberry farming in general and of the Hokum Rock Farm in particular is
also provided. The text finishes with twelve scrumptious recipes for blueberry filled delights. The book
is printed on glossy paper and is tastefully filled with beautiful photographs of various aspects of the
farm and with drawings of indigenous wildlife.
        Janice Riley has worked at the BrewsterLadies’ Library as a volunteer and as an employee and she
and Stephen are well known members of the Brewster community. Many of us have enjoyed the tasteful
fruits of their labor each summer. Out in Blue Fields is a delight to read and a joy to peruse through its
beautiful illustrations and would be a welcome addition to anyone’s library.

                                               Page 1 of 10
The Quantum Labyrinth
      by Paul Halpern
 reviewed by Doug Wilcock

           In the epilogue to The Quantum Labyrinth, Paul Halpern describes the last time he saw John
Wheeler, one of the two physicists that the book focuses on. Halpern relates that their meeting was at a
symposium honoring Wheeler. Reading that, I flashed back to another wonderful quantum physics
book, Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn written by the science writer Amanda Gefter in 2014. For her that
same symposium was the starting point of Einstein's Lawn. So, in strange time juxtaposition, the ending
of the 2017 book becomes the beginning of the 2014 book, a nice parallel to the temporal weirdness that
permeates the quantum world, the subject matter of Labyrinth.
          The Quantum Labyrinth is about the collaboration of two of the leading physicists of the 20th
century, John Wheeler and Richard Feynman. They first met at Princeton in 1939 where Feynman had
come to be a teaching assistant after completion of a degree at MIT. Originally assigned to another
professor, Eugene Wigner, Feynman was, at the last moment, switched to Wheeler. Though contrasting
in style-- Wheeler was always the speculative thinker while Feynman wanted to ground his (and their)
work in experiments-- they complemented each other brilliantly. Their first collaboration produced
Wheeler- Feynman absorber theory. As author Halpern writes, their work demonstrated that "certain
processes in the quantum world seem to defy causality, … that positrons are electrons moving in an
opposite temporal direction," all of which "decoupled particle physics from any semblance of an arrow
of time." (85-86)
           The most important result to come out of the Wheeler- Feynman collaboration is arguably the
sum over histories approach for understanding quantum mechanisms. Halpern explains that this concept
placed quantum mechanics within the context of why objects travel along the paths that they do. In
doing so he makes the analogy to using a map or GPS to find the most efficient route, all the while
aware that there are alternate routes, quantum ghosts, to reach the same goal. Consistent with sum over
histories, instead of viewing time as an arrow or a cycle, it could be viewed as "a labyrinth of bifurcating
possibilities." To illustrate this idea Halpern takes us back to the story of the Minotaur, the labyrinth of
Daedalus, and Theseus's solution and rescue of Minos's daughter, Ariadne. Halpern notes that as
Feynman was developing the sum over histories concept the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was
publishing "The Garden of Forking Paths," a story with time as a labyrinth.
            While Feynman became the more famous of the pair, it was Wheeler who often began the
collaborative process with speculative leaps. He also furthered Feynman's work by working to meld
ideas such as the sum over histories approach with something like Einstein's general relativity and to
push the melded concepts into unexplored areas. Wheeler was also a wonderful teacher, the initial point
of contact between the pair. Wheeler's approach was to make meticulous lecture notes for any course
that he taught. These then became a resource for continued research into a subject. His notebooks were
scattered with speculations, speculative questions that he might ask of his students or consider himself.
Feynman adopted this technique, his meticulous preparation giving him a reputation as a dynamic and
entertaining lecturer.
              The book is loaded with many of the giants of physics, and of related fields. Einstein, who
was a neighbor of Wheeler's, plays a major role, as do many of the Manhattan Project participants.
Claude Shannon and Marvin Minsky of information theory fame make appearances when Halpern
delves into quantum computing. When Wheeler joked that he should toss his coffee cup into a black
hole to hide the evidence of any entropy gained, his student Jacob Beckenstein suggested that the
surface area of a black hole might be a way to define black hole entropy. This caught the skeptical
attention of Stephen Hawking who worked out that black holes did in fact emit radiation, a phenomenon
now known as Hawking radiation. Much like sum over histories, the story of quantum mechanics is that
of seemingly serendipitous twists and turns leading to a classical story.
            This is not an easy book to read. Its subject is often counter-intuitive and deep. But, in the
capable hands of Paul Halpern, it comes alive. If we cannot imagine ourselves traveling the path that
quantum physics has taken over the last century or so, we can still marvel at the ingenuity, perseverance,
and brilliance of those who have. To those willing to undertake the journey, The Quantum Labyrinth is a
rewarding read.

                                              Page 2 of 10
Square (Picture Book for 4-8 year-olds) (Candlewick Press, 2018)
        by Mac Barnett and Jon Klaassen
 reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

          Square is a wonderfully silly story. It follows the picture book,
Triangle (2017) done by the same author and illustrator. You don’t have to
have read Triangle to enjoy Square. This book can definitely stand alone with
its quirkiness, odd sense of humor, and unique plot. Barnett and Klassen have
become a sort of dream team in the picture book world. Both are famous in
their own right for remarkable picture books. However, over the years, they have truly become
renowned for the books they have made together. Other books they have done together include: Sam and
Dave Dig a Hole, Extra Yarn, and The Wolf, The Duck, and The Mouse. Personally, some my all-time
favorite picture books are done by Jon Klassen. I take I want My Hat Back on many school visits.
          This all being said, I knew going into this book that this was going to be good. I’m always taken
aback by how funny they are. Upon reviewing this now, I’ve read the book several times, and I will
laugh out loud each time I read it. The plot is rather simple. It’s not so much the words that will make
readers laugh out loud, so much as the subtle facial expressions of Square and Circle. The shifty eyes
and looks of surprise are spot-on.
          Square works every day, moving giant square stones out of his cave and depositing them at the
top of a hill. One day, Circle floats by and tells Square, “You are a genius!” Circle thinks Square is a
sculptor who makes sculptures that look like him out of the stone. Circle demands that Square make a
sculpture of her too. Of course square then attempts to make one of his square blocks of stone into a
circle. He really struggles with it, but he keeps working, even in the rain. He ends up working so hard
that all the pieces of stone block have crumbled into little pieces, surrounding a puddle of rain water.
When Circle comes back, she looks into the puddle and sees a reflection of herself, and says, “It’s
perfect.” Circle leaves thinking Square is a genius. However, the last words of the book are: “But was he
         One of the great things about all the books by these authors is the discussions they generate. Was
Square really a genius? Why did Circle find the puddle surrounded by rock debris to be perfect? Is
Square really a sculptor? What makes something art? How can one person look at something and see a
big failure, while another can look at it and see something beautiful? Can a person not know if they are
a genius? This simple, lighthearted story can bring to light some rather deep and creative conversations.
I could see this book being used in art classes and being read to children before going on a field trip to
the art museum.
          This book can also just be read for pure fun. Kids will get a kick out of the shapes. They’ll love
Circle’s demanding nature. They will feel empathy for Square, who just seems to have no idea what’s
he’s managed to get himself into. Readers will laugh at the facial expressions, and be drawn in by the
artwork. Everyone will have their own opinion by the end. I recommend this one to everyone. There is a
reason Barnett and Klassen are considered a dream team.

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                                              Page 3 of 10
I Have Lost My Way (Young Adult)
     by Gayle Forman
 reviewed by Angie Howes

           Gayle Forman is a YA author known for crafting sentimental stories. The author of If I Stay,
she doesn’t shy away from confronting her readers with gut-wrenching plots, troubled characters, and
scenes that will make you cry ugly tears for hours on end. So when I picked up I Have Lost My Way,
Forman’s latest tear-jerker, I knew exactly what I was getting into. And then, I didn’t.
          The novel opens with a bang, literally, as the lives of three teenagers collide in a coincidental
accident on the streets of New York City. And this isn’t your typical fender-bender; one of our main
characters falls off a pedestrian bridge and lands on our second protagonist, while the third plays the part
of reluctant witness. That is, until he realizes that the girl who fell is a famous vocalist – and his ex-
boyfriend’s favorite singer.
          It’s a clever opening that pulls you in from the very first page. A moment of magical realism
where the stars align and destiny prevails. But be warned: this is not your feel-good YA story where lives
are restored and everyone lives happily ever after. It takes only a few more chapters for the darkness of I
Have Lost My Way to creep in, and the true vulnerability of these three teens to shine through.
            In reality, these three strangers have all been through a terrible loss. Freya, the sole girl in the
group, woke up a few weeks prior realizing that she could no longer sing. Without her voice, her career
was over. And for Freya, the adulation of her fans is the number one factor in determining her identity.
Without them, she is lost. Harun, a homosexual Muslim boy, recently ruined his relationship after
refusing to come out of the closet and be honest with his parents. Expected to travel to Pakistan and find
himself a wife, Harun is caught between the person his family wants him to be and the person he is –
with no idea how to rectify the two. Finally, Nathaniel is grieving the loss of his father, a man with
mental illness who became his whole world. Unsure how to keep going without him, Nathaniel heads to
New York City with his heart set on ending his life.
             These are the circumstances that surround our main characters at the start of the novel.
Forman turns back time just long enough to provide their backstories, and then forges ahead in a series
of events that transpires over the course of a single day. Between the fast pace of the writing and the
point of view switches at each chapter, I Have Lost My Way holds readers’ attention from beginning to
end. While many books don’t utilize multiple points of view effectively, Forman’s novel succeeds by
bringing together distinct voices, a character-driven premise, and a raw, heartfelt tone that underlines the
entire story. Each character is uniquely relatable and impossible not to love. When you get inside their
heads and realize the magnitude of their troubles, you can’t help but become invested in the outcome.
Furthermore, relationships are at the center of this story – from familial bonds between sisters and father
and son, to romantic entanglements between boys and girls and boys and boys. This diversity sets I
Have Lost My Way apart from so many other books in its genre, and makes reading Forman’s novel a
refreshing experience. As promised, the ending will have you in tears, but also leave you with a
newfound hope that no matter how lost you become, there are people out there who will help you find
your way back.

                                               Gayle Forman

                                                Page 4 of 10
Space Odyssey: The Making Of A Masterpiece
        by Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clark
 reviewed by Don Boink

           This is a very complete account of the trials and tribulations of the making of one of the most
ambitious motion pictures attempted up to that time. Stanley Kubrick was a famous film maker and
Clark a famous sci-fi writer. The two had never worked together before and both were very independent
minded. In this project however they were able to cooperate and come to agreement on the infinite
details that required solutions. Actually it was Kubrick who called the shots in the final analysis.
          Selecting a title for the film was difficult. Finally it was called,” 2001 Space Odyssey.”
The research that was necessary took them in many directions and into very esoteric fields. In the final
analysis the production process became an actual lab for anticipating the future. Nothing was rushed,
they seemed to take vast amounts of time as they thought their way through the scenario. Set building
was one aspect of the matter that required great planning and imagination. It also occurred in a number
of different locations, both in England and the U.S
         It was felt that a certain mood was required that was somewhat in a sense surreal. It must be kept
in mind that this was many years before space travel was as common as it is today. In order to achieve
the desired effect one feature was the presence of a monolith that traveled enigmatically through space
along with the spacecraft the astronauts occupied. Great attention and deliberation was given to the color
the monolith was to be. It eventually was black.
Complicating everything was the endlessly mutable story line. In spite of the gargantuan nature of the
undertaking- the giant, complex sets, the big budget, the risk MGM was taking and many sundry aspects
devoted to his vision- Kubrick was winging it. “We had a basic idea....but never a finished script”
          In order to create the visual effects the sets became monstrous contrivances. “It really worked
well”. It also began filming in an abandoned bra factory. The book alludes to the odyssey of Odysseys in
Homer’s tale. There are many such allusions throughout the story. These are all described. The film was
presented in Washington, DC. over 50 years ago and at first was a complete flop. People walked out at
intermission, no one clapped. They were stunned by the strange effects. Months later critics changed
their minds and it was recognized as a classic futuristic masterpiece.

Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
       by Steve Coll
 reviewed by Don Boink

             Here is 680 pages of history covering the long and futile war our country has been engaged
in since 2001. The episode that brought it about was the destruction of the Trade Center in the heart of
New York City by Al-Qaeda agents using air liners leaving New York airports. The title of the book
refers to the Pakistani secret service, the I.S.I, which plays an enigmatic role in working with the CIA.
The section involved is known as Directorate S. The book covers the period leading up to the 9/11
catastrophe as well as the ensuing conflict. Steve Coll was a reporter for the Washington Post at the
time. His account is a monumental effort of well researched details. One reviewer is quoted a saying
“Coll never simplifies a complex situation.....”
            One of the exasperating thing about the Pakistanis is their policy of protecting the Taliban
elements in their country. The Taliban is the protector of the Al-Qaeda faction led by Osama Bin Laden.
The war in Afghanistan followed closely on the ousting of the Russian forces which had occupied the
country for a number of years. The government was in shambles and the fractious tribal nature of the
population made the selection of an appropriate leader a difficult matter.
           The first order of business was the elimination of the Taliban. For a time this objective seemed
to be very possible. The Bush-Cheney administration however was losing patience with the way things
were going and had their eye on another objective, namely Iraq. Bush’s father had previously gathered a
coalition to fight the Gulf War to thwart Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Now the son was bent
on finishing the job by eliminating Hussein. The shifting of attention from the Taliban allowed them to
recoup. This turn of events has caused the entire scenario to degrade into a standoff. The withdrawal of
American forces partially has not produced a positive effect. There is now little support for continuance
of the war. This book covers the entire sequence up to the present. For history buffs it is a treasure of
information and details, otherwise it is a tedious grind.

                                              Page 5 of 10
Educated: A Memoir
      by Tara Westover
 reviewed by Sue Carr

          Educated is Tara Westover’s story of growing up as the youngest child in a survivalist Mormon
family in Idaho. Her father was consumed with fear of the end of the world and they were prepared to
head for the hills on a moment’s notice. She begins her story with an important memory from her early
childhood – Her father’s telling of his fantasy…The family’s huddling in the kitchen, without lights,
hiding from the Feds who’ve surrounded the house. There is the sound of a gunshot and a woman falls –
Tara thinks it’s her mother. This scene illustrates the unusual factors of life in her family – the paranoia
of her father; her fear of loss; the surreal ideas that surrounded them.
          Tara’s father, did not allow his children to attend public school. “Dad said public school was a
ploy by the Government to lead children away from God.” Nor did he believe in seeing doctors. Any
accident or illness was treated at home with her mother’s home made remedies. They were very isolated
on a farm in the mountains. When Tara was quite young her grandmother determined that she needed to
go to school. She worked out a plan to smuggle Tara along on their winter trip to Arizona and enroll her
in school. Tara planned to go along with the idea, until at the last minute, she realized that her father
would be filled with sorrow from her running away.
         Back and forth, this tug-of-war persisted, between her longing to be “normal” and the
expectations of her rigid family. She had a lovely voice and when she was eleven she was asked to sing
a hymn in church. With this, she was “discovered.” The church choir was the next step and then she was
given the lead in a local performance of Annie. Although hesitant about all this, her father was very
proud of her success and was always in the front row at her performances.
She made friends. She learned to read books other than the Bible. She studied for the ACT (American
College Testing) with help from her brother and with the results from that test, received a scholarship to
Brigham Young University, then the University of Cambridge, England – all without grammar or high
school. (Don’t tell Betsy DeVos!) But this did not happen without considerable struggle, anguish, and
courage, as this search for knowledge outside the Mormon philosophy, ran counter to the teachings of
her family.
         This is an amazing story and a compelling read. The force of religious extremism, mental illness
unattended, and the conflict over education exacted a tremendous toll on everyone in her family Tara
was not the only one who was conflicted. Her mother must have been in turmoil constantly, caught
between her husband’s demands and her concern for her children – It would be fascinating to hear her
side of the story. All told, this is a heartbreaking yet inspirational tale and a testament to the human
spirit. Highly recommended.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
     ….. Nelson Mandela

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest…… Benjamin Franklin

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with
   education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a
   process of learning. Jiddu Krishnamurti

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every
   society, in every family….. Kofi Annan

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence
   plus character - that is the goal of true education…. Martin Luther King, Jr.

                                              Page 6 of 10
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership
        by James Comey
 reviewed by Jim Mills

             A Higher Loyalty is not just about James Comey’s experiences with Donald Trump, who
fired him as FBI director in May 2017, but covers his whole life from childhood in the New York
metropolitan area to his immersion in the legal and crime fighting professions. In fact Donald Trump
does not appear until the last few chapters of the book. Comey grew up in Yonkers , NY and Allendale in
northern New Jersey and that experience shaped much of outlook on life about fair play and his
revulsion of bullying.
           His early experience was in the Manhattan attorney’s office. He was involved in the Martha
Stewart insider trading case and felt that her prosecution was not for the trading offense itself but for her
effort to obstruct justice in the case. During this time he was able to observe the behavior of Rudolf
Guliani, the head of the office, in a rather unfavorable light. After several years as an attorney in
Richmond, Virginia, Comey was selected as Deputy Attorney General by the George W. Bush
administration. During this time he was involved in resisting the Bush administration’s efforts to
establish a legal basis for their policies of using torture on suspected terrorists. The Attorney General,
John Ashcroft, was suddenly hospitalized for pancreatitis. Ashcroft named Comey as acting Attorney
General for the duration of his illness. The Bush administration desperate to have Ashcroft sign off on an
extension of the legal justification of these of torture, sent several White House aides to Ashcroft’s
bedside to get the ailing AG’s signature on the extension. For warned Comey along with FBI chief
Robert Mueller got to the hospital first. Ashcroft waking from unconsciousness, pointed towards Comey
and told the White House aides that Comey was the Attorney General. Temporarily deterred, the White
House was later able to circumvent Comey and extend the torture legal justifications. Come had had
enough and resigned retuning to private legal practice.
          In 2013 President Obama asked Comey to be the FBI chief. Comey accepted, was approved by
the Senate and started his ten year term as the head of the FBI. Come enjoyed his position working with
the FBI and took steps to widen the diversity within the agency. His tenure at the FBI brought increased
public attention in the election year, 2016. Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton’s, use of
private Email servers for State Department business brought intense criticism from Republicans that
year and an FBI investigation of that practice was ongoing. That summer, the FBI decided that they
could find no basis for an indictment in the case and Comey publicly announced that decision taking
some of the out of being investigated from the Democratic candidate. However, ten days before the
election, it came to Comey’s attention that more Clinton Emails had been found as a result of separate
investigation. He felt that he had to announce that the FBI was resuming their examination of her
Emails. Much of Clinton’s lead evaporated in the next week and she only won th Presidential popular
vote by 2.1 %, not enough to overcome her opponent, Donal Trump’s, advantage in the Electoral Vote
count. At this point Comey had to face a barrage of criticism that his actions had resulted in Trump’s
election. Just before Obama left office, he asked to meet with Comey. The FBI chief expected that
President Obama would call him out for his actions. Obama told him that he had named Comey to head
the FBI because of his integrity and that nothing that has happened since had caused him to revise that
          As Comey points out in his book January 20th, 2017 brought a very different individual into the
White House. Within several weeks of assuming power Trump asked Comey for his loyalty which
Comey felt was to the constitution and not to any particular leader. Again after another month Trump
invited Comey to dinner at the White House. Comey accepted thinking that many others would be
attending and was shocked to see that it was just Trump and himself. Again the FBI Director was asked
for his loyalty. On another occasion after a White House meeting all of the other attendees were asked to
leave and Trump had a one and one meeting with Comey where the President asked Comey to go easy
on Michael Flynn, a Trump former National Security advisor, who was at that time was under
investigation. Comey could not accede to these requests and he asked the Attorney General, Jeff
Sessions, to never leave him alone with Trump again since Comey reported to Sessions not to Trump. In
May while Comey was visiting the FBI office in Los Angeles, while addressing some of the workers he
happened to see on a TV monitor that Trump had fired him. Shocked Comey contacted his deputy in
Washington ,who was now acting chief, and cleared the right to use the FBI airplane that he had used at
the start of the trip to return to Washington. When Trump found out he was enraged and berated the new
FBI chief for allowing this to happen. (continued on next page)

                                               Page 7 of 10
Throughout A Higher Loyalty Comey has emphasized the need for integrity and honesty in
public life. He uses a quote from an earlier president, Dwight Eisenhower: “The supreme quality for
leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, whether it is on a section
gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Comey also uses a quote from another former
president, Thomas Jefferson, emphasizing the need for honesty: “ He who permits himself to tell a lie
once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual, he tells lies
without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him.” So many individuals have left the
service of this new president during the past year and a half and many are spreading the warning about
what they have encountered with Mr. Trump. At this point we have no idea were this saga will end. The
US has been very fortunate throughout most of its history, the Civil War excepted, so hopefully we will
weather this current dilemma. This experience should come with a necessary lesson about the quality of
those whom we entrust with power and those who will determine our future.

Democracy In Chains. The Deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America
       by Nancy MacLean
 reviewed by Don Boink

          This is the book I have been waiting for, for someone to write this book like this.The author has
ferreted out the grand strategy of who and what is behind the way things have been going, what is ,in my
way of thinking, has been so wrong for so long. This is not a diatribe or anti-Trumpist.
          It all got started way back in Virginia as a reaction to the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs
Board of Education. The award winning economist James McGill Buchanan put on the desk of the
president of the University of Virginia a proposal to thwart the effect that ruling would have on the way
of life in Virginia. It was the beginning of a long chain of circumstances and events that are currently
stealing our Democracy.
           The book goes to great length to follow Buchanan’s trail through the years. His notion caught
the eye of Charles Koch,the billionaire coal magnate. He poured millions of dollars into the movement.
Interesting is the interpretation that they give to the constitutional language which proclaims freedom
and liberty for all. To them liberty is freedom from the confiscation of their money by the Federal
Government through taxes. Their mantra is “ Smaller government, lower taxes”.
           To implement the grand plan required electing Republicans to as many elective offices as
possible. This has been quite successful during the past several years. There are more Republican
governors and more state legislators across the country than Democrats. Also there has been more
repression of unions and more voter restriction laws enacted and proposed. Gerrymandering to ensure
reelections has proliferated. In this way the minority effectively prevents the majority from legislating
“self serving laws”.
           How far this plan can go is problematical in as much as much social legislation has been
enacted in spite of it through the years. The Civil Right Act, Voter Registration Act, even the Affordable
Care Act. The vast majority of Americans are amenable to the betterment of society’s welfare. They are
progressive rather than regressive. They also want equitable taxation. One citation concerning Ronald
Reagan’s economist, David Stockman, is to the point. Americans needed a “a moderate social
democracy”, and to get this they had to pay higher taxes. It was that simple: higher taxes could solve the
problem, without permanent deficits or economic disaster,”
On the other hand the wealthy capitalists are willing to spend millions of their dollar to influence
legislation in ways to save them billions. One development that militates against the ”shackling “ of
Democracy is the emergence of a Democratic Socialist movement to combat the vast inequality that has
become so prevalent.
            The most interesting part of the book to me was to learn what the basic notions of Buchanan-
Koch are. It is right out of Ayn Rand’s books. The seemingly unrecognized importance, and superiority
of the entrepreneur. The self made man. All others are takers, not makers. Of course the emergence of
Trump has thrown the Republican Party into a tailspin where they don’t know where they are. Even
Koch’s coal empire is languishing.

                                                Page 8 of 10
Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures
        by Roma Agrawal
 reviewed by Jim Mills

      Through the centuries architects and those in the civil engineering profession have time and time
again achieved construction feats that seem to defy the limits of what is humanly possible. Starting
thousands of years ago with the massive Egyptian pyramids, followed by the expansive Roman
aqueducts and graceful medieval cathedrals, and continuing today with modern engineering marvels,
there seems to be no limits to the ingenuity and creativity of those who erect magnificent structures. In
Built, Roma Agrawal provides a fascinating and readily understandable descriptions of the development
of architecture through the years. Roma, who describes herself as a Structural Engineer, has worked on
many of our modern structures, including the current tallest building in Europe, London’s Shard.
      The ingenuity of structural engineers has grown hand in hand with the development of new
materials and new devices that assist and replace the limitations of human and animal power. For
example, the invention of the elevator was critical to the 20th century surge of taller and ever taller
buildings epitomized by the name skyscraper. The use of steam power and the ability to distribute power
readily with electricity completely revolutionized the construction industry. New materials such as
concrete and structural steel and now carbon fiber allowed an expansion of construction capabilities. The
author delves into the advances in bridge and tunnel technologies as well as the vast improvement in
sanitation facilities in recent centuries.
      Agrawal describes the real world problems that engineers have faced through the centuries.
Solutions have ranged from the arch and dome to underwater caissons that allowed the construction of
major suspension bridges such as the 1880’s Brooklyn Bridge. The author has the knack of explaining
complex technical issues in a clear understandable manner. All architectural structures must deal with
the basic forces of compression and tension and matching these forces with substances that can best
cope with them over extended periods of time and to do so with a minimum of weight and cost is the job
of architects and structural engineers. As the author describes we are in an age where buildings are still
reaching for the sky with the 828-meter (2,717 ft) tall Burj Khalifa tower built recently in Dubai and
new constructions that will assuredly break the one kilometer high level. Future technological advances
will insure that new architectural structures will continue to amaze and inspire us.

                                            London’s Shard

                                             Page 9 of 10
A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949
        by Kevin Peraino
 reviewed by Jim Mills

      1949 was a landmark year in post-World War 2 history. Over the period of the year the Chinese
Nationalist army battling the Communist forces in the decades long civil war collapsed. The victorious
communists lead by Mao Zedong overran all of the nation’s major cities such as Beijing, Nanjing and
Shanghai. In October of the year Mao confirmed this dramatic shift in power in China by announced the
formation of the People’s Republic of China.
       In January of that year Harry Truman began his second term as President after his upset victory in
the 1948 election. That same month he named Dean Acheson as his new Secretary of State replacing an
ailing George Marshall. For several years the Truman administration had been providing the Nationalist
forces with substantial military support as the US had during WW2 in the battle against Japanese
invasion forces. The rapid collapse of the Nationalist forces during the year involved wide-spread
defections to the other side and the loss of much of the US supplied weapons to the communists.
Considering these factors it was the opinion of the Truman administration that providing any additional
support for the Nationalist forces would be wasted and that the battle against the the communist was a
lost cause.
        During WW2 the Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek had borne the brunt of the war
against the Japanese. Following the end of the war the communist forces rapidly gained strength and
increased their support against an increasingly corrupt Chiang regime. Chiang was supported in the US
by his wife Madame Chiang. In the early part of the century she had been educated in the United States
and had attended Wellesley College. As a result of this experience she spoke excellent English and was
very familiar with American culture. Madame Chiang became an effective spokesperson for her husband
and became an ally of the Republicans in their battle against the Truman Administration.
       The reverses encountered in both Asia and Europe in containing the communist world in the late
1940s, the testing of the first Russian Atom Bomb in late August 1949, followed by the Korean War in
1950, created an atmosphere in America that led to the Red Scare and to the spread of McCarthyism in
the nation. This scare tactic enhanced the career of some politicians, Richard Nixon being one, but
destroyed the careers of countless others in the literary or entertainment fields as they were blacklisted
for their perceived political beliefs. The American response to communist expansion overseas was an
attempt to restrict freedom of thought at home. Harry Truman left office in 1953 an unpopular and
somewhat discredited figure. Today most historians rank Truman as one of our best presidents.
American generated institutions and strategies initiated at the time have stood the test of time. The
communist containment policy promoted by George Kennan and adopted by Acheson and Truman
eventually won out.
      A Force So Swift tells this regrettable story so well. This reviewer, a grade schooler at the time,
remembers that era fairly well: the Berlin Airlift, the fall of China and the war in Korea. It was a tense
time and a somewhat fearsome time, but democratic principles and freedom of speech did survive.
Today, after the fall of communism in Europe, we know the outcome of this long struggle. China has
adopted a Capitalist economy but North Korea still remains a closed, threatening society. In 1949 the
outcome of that struggle was very much in question.

                             Mao Zedong                                Harry Truman

                                             Page 10 of 10
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