The Woman Behind The New Deal

Kirstin Downey

I was moved beyond comprehension after reading “The Woman Behind The New Deal“. Kirstin Downey’s presentation of her life gave it character, substance and brought into focus the magnificent talents of a woman who gave so much and yet received so little. The many Federal programs she envisioned and brought to fruition live on with us today,and they are a testament to her memory. The unswerving dedication, loyalty and prescient observations did not warrant the innuendoes and verbal abuses she received from her male colleagues. She had to endure this and much more in a country, at the time, ravaged with sexism, racism and chauvinism.

As I initially began to read the book, I was nonchalant as I read page after page and then, by page 50, I was vividly jolted to learn that this was an awesome woman! For the next three days, I went along with “Frances” on her journey–feeling her pain, languishing in her sorrows, rejoicing in her triumphs. I remember Frances Perkins from past readings but became reacquainted with her in Kirstin’s book,which provided a more in-depth history of her achievements and her remarkable accomplishments.

I think Frances Perkins would be pleased and proud of the manner in which Kirstin Downry portrayed her life.

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A time to Betray

Reza Khalili

You do not want to miss this book! This modern day cloak-and-dagger drama provides a suspenseful caper about Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. As a planted CIA operative, an Iranian-born citizen was instrumental in providing information concerning the day-to-day activities of the Guard and the atrocities associated with its operation, including suppressing and mistreating its citizens in the name of “Allah”. To support the Spiritual Leader and honor the tenants of the Islamic religious code, no sacrifice was too great, including dishonoring his friendships and kindred relationships. This book will give you an insight into the duties of the “Guard” and its member assignments in cities around the globe, especially its relationship to Hezbollah and beyond. Reza Kahlili, a “James Bond figure”, had to relinquish close ties with his family and friends in order to carry out his mission to the “Guard” and the CIA. These personal sacrifices had a negative impact on his views of Islam and his determination not to be overcome by this outlandish display of blind obedience.
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Shia Revival

Vali Nasr

The “Shia Revival”, by Vali Nasr, was a terrific book which provided a thorough and objective analysis of Islam. His book outlined the history of Islam (which is deep, sensitive and complex), a chronology of Islamic events, hierarchical theologians and legends of dynastic rulers, saints and imams which should serve to enlighten the curious reader. The negative perceptions many westerners have of Muslims, in general, is skewed when compared to other major religions. Islam’s culture and theology, founded in the 7th century, is the least known and quite possibly the least understood.

The “split” during the early years of Islam severed the followers of The Prophet Muhammad into two sects; Shia and Sunni. This caused an implosion within its ranks which created violence, hostility and an intense animosity that endures today. Attempts by past leaders to initiate pan-Islamic nationalism in order to showcase Arab unity, which could have assuaged the internal conflict, failed. In fact, in some instances, the reverse was true. The sectarian divide continues unabated. Islam has not had a reform movement in its religious doctrine since its founding. The feeling, I believe, is that to “modernize” is to “westernize” and that, I also believe, is anathema to their basic religious principles and esoteric philosophy.

Vali Nasr’s book provided detailed information concerning the tensions and hostile feelings exhibited by Iran leaders towards the West and the causes attributed to outbreaks in international relations. Further, he produced evidence that Muslim terrorists in Arab countries are engaged in wars on two fronts; one against the West and one internally against extremists of each religious sect. Fifteen percent of the Muslim population are Shia, with the largest group living in Iran, whose influence in Iraq and, in particular, the Middle East, is keenly felt, given the political environment that currently exists. Shias, living in other countries, dominated by a Sunni-controlled majority, are a distinct religious minority even though they are as ethnically Arab as their religious counterpart.

A rear view look at Iran’s history in early 1920, saw its concessions and patrimonies sold off by formerTurkish tribal leaders to the British and Russian governments who, at the time, considered Iran’s leaders to be inept and backwater culturally and politically. During the early 1950’s, when Iran’s President attempted to gain control of their oil fields, the U.S. Government intervened, at the behest of the British, and deposed him. Those actions set the stage for much of the present day anger which produced a “fundamentalist” movement that created an Islamic Theocratic Republic. Prior to that outlandish coup d’etat, Iran was headed towards a democratic government. The world will never know what could have been as the political environment in the Middle East continues to embroil.

Increasingly, U.S. political leaders hurl jingoistic rhetoric and unwarranted aspersions at Iran, which may have galvanized the populace to push back against the USA, thus creating negative attitudes within the American psyche against all Muslims. If Islam is to change, it will be the decisions of its leaders and not by outside influences. With the Muslim world population standing at 1.5b, that seems highly unlikely.

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Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China

Peter Kessler

If you want to read a book about China and its people, told as a personal travelogue, read “Oracle Bones” by Peter Hessler. It is a beautifully written history of China by a freelance writer who lived among the people. The book runs the gamut of fascinating stories and interesting people. Chinese history is viewed and interwoven through personal stories from a variety of people to include students and scientists and academicians from China and the USA.

One main feature of the book is his continuing dialogue with former Chinese students, taught in English classes, at a local college. These vignettes provided insight into the social, political and economic conditions of their personal lifestyle. The history, life and culture of the Uighurs, the largest minority in China, were especially poignant given the recent tensions generated from the clash with the Han Chinese in Urumchi.

His contact with indigenous Chinese, who were “eye witness” to various aspects of Chinese historical events, as well as those who experienced the political changes in the country, was informative and exhilarating. Interviews with these sages amounted to story-telling. Experience the stories of the tattered lives and dreams of old men reminiscing about their triumphs and failures.

Life in many parts of China revolved around jobs and housing for many young immigrants from the interior taking English classes, making friends and living in newly transformed cities. The government’s “Reform and Opening” policy created a nation-on-the-move as millions of people flooded these cities in search of a new life. With such vast movement of people comes the additional problem of languages and dialects. A sense of “community” was difficult to ascertain as families were disrupted and left behind.

The fast pace of life and modernity did not always turn out positive as fraudulent teaching credentials, unregulated building codes, bogus identities and other improprieties were uncovered. Factories were mismanaged and improperly maintained.

Chinese history was not revered by the communists as the winds of political change blew in 1949. The transformation of villages and neighborhoods displaced people and stifled the class structure into a meaningless blur. Recent archeological digs have uncovered layers of ancient artifacts that revealed a plethora of oracle bones and bronzes that shed light on the written language of past dynasties.

A heart-warming anecdote is the focus on the Chinese language and the scrutiny given to the number of characters, radicals and the need to simplify the language.

Read this book and enjoy the immense history of China.

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The Warmth of other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson

Book Review of “The Warmth of Other Suns”

 

 
A truly remarkable book! Reading about the turmoils of racial segregation and the wanton treatment inflicted upon these unprotected people only encouraged, often hastily, their decision to leave their ancestral homeland of the south. The ravages of discrimination and brutality, heaped upon decades of mistreatment and unequal justice, plagued many families to relocate to safer grounds. Local authorities erected barriers and “hired guns” in an effort to keep them from leaving—this, in a country that espouses “freedom, democracy and justice”. This book recounts the untold story of a bold and courageous people who, for the sake of decency, took their talents and planted them in “The Warmth of ‘another’ Sun”.
 
Because of this great migration, today we can enumerate stories of “giants” who have moved this country forward militarily, athletically, politically and educationally. Even though they endured shame and disgrace, they brought honor and glory to the “Flag” and to their beloved country. This has proven, as Hank Aaron once said, “man’s ability is only limited by his lack of opportunity”. Their journey, north and west, did not prove to be a haven but granted opportunities unavailable in the south. They continued to endure cramped and segregated housing as well as menial job offers, but in a less harsh and brutal environment. The spirit to survive, and the support of family and the kinship corporation, kept most of them intact and grounded.
 
One can feel the sadness and built-up emotions as words pour out, page after page, of the yearning and the desperate attempts to reconcile the dilemmas they faced. Southern states’ authority endeavored to keep a social order, a civil society and laws based on servility, acrimony and an environment structured on dystopia.
 
“The Warmth of other Suns” is a story of courage, resilience and persistence. The author, born in the north, of immigrants, interviewed many of the immigrants and hundreds of their descendants to tell this story. The great migration of thousands of African-Americans from the south, highlight the inevitable axiom, that slavery and segregation have been the bane of this country’s existence and posits their tremendous resolve to create a new beginning.
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Liberty’s Exiles

Maya Jasanoff

Liberty’s Exiles

 

 
A terrific book, informative and interesting! “Liberty’s Exiles” provides information that was never known, concerning the tension and violence that existed between patriots and loyalists before, during and after the American Revolution. The author pulled no punches as she laid out all scenarios related to the demise of British control of the American colonies and its aftermath of sheer terror and bewilderment. Detailed descriptions were mentioned of uprooted families, along with poignant and compelling stories of lost love and shattered lives, which were both revealing and disappointing. Not so rewarding were the black and Indian loyalists who demonstrated their oath of loyalty to the monarchy through their war heroics. This was indeed a story that has many sides and is told with great conviction and assurance. The British lost control of their own destiny, making idle promises they failed to keep and failed in their attempt to provide for those whose loyalty was without question. Their desire to free the enslaved blacks to support their cause was paradoxical and ambivalent, knowing that their empire’s economy was slave-based.
 
The conditions, under which many of the disgruntled loyalists had to endure, were hostile and inescapable. Comprehensive research further revealed the migration of thousands of loyalists to other British protectorates. Those environments reflected lives that turned to extortion and strife and rifled with dissension and anarchy. Some of the newly-planted white loyalists became important figures in their new land and formed the majority population in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Bahamas. However, once there, they generated the same negative resentment towards free black loyalists and enslaved blacks, as the patriots generated towards them in the American colonies. This was exemplified by the location and size of land grants. Black loyalists throughout the British protectorates were on-their-own. They were subjected to brutal attacks and mob violence; they also struggled to eke out a meager living under extreme racial and biased circumstances. Some were re-enslaved as indentured servants.
 
Indian loyalists suffered through idle promises fighting with the British against the patriots. Their leaders made unsuccessful trips to England, to redress these promises, to no avail. The support of an “Indian confederation” was never realized as the British maneuvered to secure the boundaries between American Colonies and British North America.
 
Eighteenth century Britain was more concerned about their “sugar islands”. They had little or no concerns for the loyalists, who, for love of the king, were a political non entity. The unrelenting abolitionists would play a large role in the shape of the British protectorates in years to come.
 
This book is a must read for those interested in history and, more especially, the American Revolution. All the same “old players” are there, along with sections dealing with endurance, sedition, loyalty, displacement, mob rule, racism and the subtleties of chauvinism and blind obedience.
 
Bruce McLeod, Jr.
Las Vegas, Nevada 15 July, 2011
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On the Grand Trunk Road

Steve Coll

On the Grand Trunk Road

 
Steve Coll’s book “On the Grand Trunk Road” reads like a Robert Ludlum novel interlaced with intrigue, deception and brute force. His investigative reporting and personal interviews with military generals, politicians and clerics, amid the violence, corruption and backstabbing were vividly described. He recounted the internecine wars that were being fought in villages and towns along the “Grand Trunk Road” where innocent people were its victims. 

India’s multifaceted culture, including dialects, religion and ethnicities, was damaged by British colonialism and, in 1947, by the partitioning and its aftermath. The physical grouping of Hindus and Muslims, into two separate countries, continues to fester with religious and ethnic hatred spewing across borders, in all directions, which accounts for much of the animosity and venom depicted in his book. 

The book also describes the history of the Taliban and its relationship with the ISI and the Pakistani military, as well as the involvement of the CIA. Tribal sentiments account for the kindredness between groups in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tribal laws were established in north Pakistan, where Afghan fundamentalist groups reside, conducting raids against other tribes with impunity, notwithstanding the sovereignty of the state and its military presence. In an effort to support the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan was used as a “staging area” for US military weapons, which were being moved secretly over the Peshawar trail. 

Steve Coll’s biographical and historical report of India and Pakistan political leaders was very enlightening. He cited other events taking place in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, which provided pertinent information on the condition of life in these South Asian countries. He also presented detailed descriptions of child soldiers and separatist groups, who conducted insurgent plots against the Sri Lankan government. Readers will gain insight into the precarious and volatile political environment that exists in South Asia and its impact on the economy and the domestic life. The picture he “paints” is not pretty. The average citizen in South Asia faces a world of poverty, uncertainty, violence and a political system that has run amuck. 

The scope and magnitude of the demographic and geopolitical spectrum of South Asian countries makes it an interesting and exciting book to read. However, at times, it was difficult to comprehend the complex issues involving deep-seated emotions and the mind-set of those with political and tribal connections. I was also disappointed that maps were not included for easy reference–even with this updated edition. To follow the story better,I retrieved a detailed map from a National Geographic Magazine article, issued in May 1990, entitled “Searching for India: Along the Grand Trunk Road” which, after reading it, was the basis for my interest in purchasing his book.

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“In No Uncertain Terms” by Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman

Book:  “In No Uncertain Terms” by Helen Suzman
 
 
This is truly a great story about one woman who made a difference in South Africa’s politics and her efforts to bring about change in a country ravaged by racism. She was outspoken against the Apartheid system of racial separation and resettlement. This book is a memoir of Helen Suzman’s life of 35 years as a member of The House of Assembly in South Africa’s Parliament; a terrific book recounting the many outrageous and horrific abuses heaped on black people and the deplorable conditions they had to endure. She was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the Apartheid system and deserves much recognition for her great humanitarianism. She also describes the relationships between herself and the many political comrades who opposed her views as she stood her ground and spoke of the unwarranted atrocities and their lack of decency for humankind. This brave woman was at one time a “lone” champion for equal rights for all South Africans and dedicated her life for justice and egalitarianism.
 
 
Book Review by:  Bruce McLeod, Jr.
Las Vegas, NV
24 February 09
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Letter to Steve Wynn

Letter to Steve Wynn

 

This letter is in response to an article printed in the “Las Vegas Sun Newspaper”, dated 26 October, 2009 entitled, “Government doesn’t do much for Wynn…or does it”?
 
 The article was distasteful to read. Steve Wynn has been a recipient of the Bush Administration’s tax cut for eight years. Then, as I read further, it was interesting to identify the thread he weaves throughout the article which has a partisan bent, i.e., Eisenhower and the Interstate highway system, Hoover and the “Hoover Dam”. While these accomplishments are certainly deserving of our recognition, they should not be mentioned to espouse his narrow view of the current administration’s policies, while being myopic about the progress and advances made by millions of working class people, who benefited from the G. I. Bill; Social Security; Civil Rights Bill (which included “Title Nine”, granting athletic scholarships for women, equal to that of men, at the collegiate level; discrimination against people due to age, religion, color and national origin, as well as discrimination against the handicap); Rural Electrification; Food Stamps for the disadvantaged; The Fair Employment Program and many more Federal programs, which gainfully employed people after World War 11, with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Project Administration (WPA), which not only built roads and other structures, but painted murals and promoted the Arts.
 
 It is an immutable fact that no single political party can save this country from its economic woes or a foreign invasion. Only “We”, the People, from whom government receives its just powers, can together, make a difference. These differences include all political parties, all ethnicities and all genders.
 
My question to Steve Wynn is, why now? Why did he not openly discuss and refute the trillions spent for two wars from 2001 to 2008, which wrecked our economy and sent it into a downward spin, accounting for the current massive unemployment? Where was his voice when Wall Street and the financial Institutions were running amok?
 
The vast disparity, and the ratio between corporate CEO salaries and the people who work for them, is a travesty. As I see it, and apparently what Steve Wynn wants to keep, is the unequal distribution of wealth between these two groups. As much as he purports to believe that the government gets its wealth from the “people”, his underlining view is that the wealthy should continue to “Feed from the trough” of the poor and the working class. The United States has a population of 300 million people and 2% of that number (6 million) has, or controls 95% of the wealth of this nation. That said, the rest of the 295 million people are a mixture of working class folks and professionals; lawyers, bus drivers, teachers, food service workers, medical staffers, doctors, etc.
 
This letter is not intended to defend the current administration but to objectively and tenaciously drive home the point that each one of us has to stop and think: what kind of America do we want? one that is divisive and disruptive, splitting our loyalty and esprit de corps, or do we want to save our humanity and our country, by pulling together in a more meaningful way, by “banding” together to bring about cohesion, solidarity and peace? If the latter, then we can start now to negate the mean-spirited discourse that’s being spewed across the networks. We can try to change the disingenuous attitudes of people who discredit the working class across this country, and who continue to support their own cause to amass riches at our expense.
 
Take a look at some former Presidents who continue to push for the working class and the underprivileged around the world: President Jimmy Carter has traveled extensively, on several continents, to ensure that voting rights of indigenous people are administered justly and fairly and that the poor in this country receives adequate housing. President Bill Clinton built a Foundation that provides medical assistance to those who can least afford it. Former Vice President Al Gore has spent many years working to save our planet from the dangers of excess carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere, and cautions us about the precipitous decline in atmospheric changes in and around coastal regions.
 
There are many people who do not see any reason to get involved since they are not active supporters of political discourse. I hope that the type of negative discussions, being voiced on all networks, will stimulate all of us to reject these recalcitrant views that disrupt the intent of those who seek to bring about better living and working conditions for America.   
 
We live in a country where political exchange has been tolerated.  The varying degrees of differences between parties are not endangered but are fostered. Somewhere something went terribly wrong, and now we single out personalities with innuendoes, negative shibboleths and pejoratives that are purposely intended to harm and destroy.
 
Our country is slowly becoming more fractured and polarized. We cannot let this happen.
 
 
Let’s create a new beginning…
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The Discovery of India

Jawaharlal Nehru

The Discovery of India

 

India’s Extraordinary History… and more!
 
India’s ancient past is riveting and awe-inspiring. This massive
book contains a vast storehouse of knowledge, historical facts and fables evolved over many centuries.  It is particularly challenging to embrace the depth, scope and magnitude of this monumental piece of history, replete with India’s discovery and early history, warring Princely States and ancient empires, and nearly two centuries of British colonialism.
 
British imperialism planted the seeds of disunity and sectarianism which led to political upheavals, social unrest and generated tensions between Muslims and Hindus alike. The British also controlled India’s economic, social and political systems and instituted a blockade to isolate India from Central Asia and her Border States where trading partners were established and cultural and ethno-linguistic patterns existed since the fourth century BC.
 
Nehru described the conditions during his years of incarceration, India’s struggles with the colonial rulers, the blighted disease of abject poverty, a social structure that mandates compliance and his views of and early childhood participation with the epic poems and religion.    
 
Islam was brought to India in the 7th century which added to the secularism of their religious life. The spiritual message of India’s multi-religious culture has transcended the ages and initiated a way of life for millions of followers the world over. 
 
Interspersed throughout this historical ‘montage’ are anecdotes concerning the intermingling and merging of foreign cultures with that of India’s which contributed immeasurably to Indian society, scientifically, geopolitically and demographically, creating a mosaic of cultures and races.
 
It was fascinating to read and enjoy India’s culture and her ancient past, especially the epic poems, and the Vedas, from which Buddhism sprang and whose teachings and philosophy I admired, but infrequently followed. Nehru did not seem so enamored by the Buddha’s passivity and preaching which he said did not fit into his approach to life.
 
The old Epic poems, Ramayana and the Mahabharata, whose views are majestic, whose sentiments and expressions are shrouded in extant reasoning, where lifestyles during ancient times depicted a love of nature, the cosmos and metaphysics, all of which served to enlighten Indians of all castes and families to celebrate the rich traditions and legends of storytelling as well as ancient folklore-like literature.  
 
India’s contributions to mathematics are legendary. The zero number, the decimal place value system, the minus sign and the use of letters of the alphabet were added to algebra.
 
Nehru based the “caste” system on color, the social structure and on the sequestering of laborers. Further, he stated that the caste system should be eliminated. According to Nehru, the light-skinned Aryans came from the north into India with no mention of the origin of the Dravidians, the aborigines or tree-dwellers who were all pushed further south. He frequently used the term “race” with no defining demarcation.
 
Nehru’s book “The Discovery of India” will stand the test of time as an informative document of ancient Indian folklore, heritage and history from which other cultures have benefited. India’s position in the world of other cultures of antiquity only adds to heighten her remarkable contributions and influence. 
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