Review of former DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s new book titled “Hacks”

Photo credit DNC from The Atlantic.

Donna Brazile’s latest book,”Hacks,” is very well written and I have no doubt, from her heart. It was also very interesting and easy to read.

Yet, nearly every single page rings of fear, paranoia and, to a certain extent, a delusional view of the 2016 election result.

It is as though Brazile and her Democratic colleagues cannot look at the real reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat and that was the candidate herself.  In fact, I believe that had Brazile herself run, she might have won because she comes across as real.

Nevertheless, Brazile’s slanted view of the 2016 election is right on the front cover of her book as her sub-title is:  The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.

MeaningBrazile believes that the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server and Wikileaks releases influenced the voting results — even though she admits no votes were directly changed by the hacks.

And, to be fair, the constant dribble of Wikileaks releases did get a lot of press. Yet, at no time through the almost 300 pages, does Brazile look at the DNC candidate in a meaningful way. In fact, I did not read one negative thing about Clinton. Just the opposite. Brazile said, at least once, that she believed Clinton was honest. That view I found astounding!

All that said, Brazile did not have an easy time when she took over the DNC as Chair and I don’t blame her for writing this book. In fact, on her first day when she arrived in Washington at the DNC office, the staff were openly hostile to her. In fact, there were two employees that were basically Brooklyn spies (where the Clinton campaign was run from). No matter what she did, the Brooklyn campaign senior staff always knew about it.

Not only that, from Brazile’s point of view, the entire campaign was a struggle for power and money — because as we all know now, the Clinton campaign held the purse strings. I have to tell you though, Brazile had to have been deeply committed to Clinton to take the crap she took.

Of course, we knew before Brazile released her book that the DNC server was hacked. But, what we didn’t know was that the FBI was involved in fixing the problem, as were some extremely well qualified volunteer technicians. In other words, the complaint that the DNC should just have given their hard drive to the FBI right at the start is not accurate. The DNC apparently couldn’t because the drive was full of confidential information on donors that would have been lost had they removed it. As a result, their computer operating system and software had to be cleaned in-situ.

Anyway, I may be a conservative but, in spite of her ability to spin like a top, I like Brazile. She is feisty and dedicated to her cause. Moreover, while I may disagree with her point of view, I respect her for having the guts to tell what she experienced as DNC Chair for those few months before November 8th, 2016.

The crux of the matter is that Donna Brazile and the Democratic Party, and probably most of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, really and truly believe the Russians are at fault for Trump winning the Electoral College vote. Meaning, that until liberals face the reality that it was Hillary Clinton herself who was the problem, they are going to continue to want to impeach a President who won fair and square given the existing U.S. constitutional rules.

Lastly, I would give Brazile’s book 5 stars out of 5 on the basis that, even though I disagree with her point of view on many topics, she has written her own story well.

Endnote: While I am a Canadian, I have been following the U.S. political situation for years. In fact, there are many things Canadian conservatives can learn from the U.S. electoral situation. Our Liberals, under PM Justin Trudeau, like the Obama Democrats, also truly believe that they are the natural governing party and any other point of view is just plain wrong. Not so, of course but the difference in views splits both our countries down the middle.

Christ Church in Va imposing today’s politically correct values on 1790s

Quote: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” (George Washington)

Without a doubt, political correctness and a “philosophy of grievance” is running rampant across the U.S. and Canada in 2017 with politicians and activists judging people who lived centuries ago by today’s values and social standards.

The latest U.S. example is the membership of Christ Church, located in Alexandria Virginia (link here and here). They represent a lovely historical church that wants to remove memorial plaques honoring both George Washington and Confederate Leader Robert E. Lee. And, that is in spite of the fact that Washington himself attended that church for twenty years!

As with the current hysteria to remove all historical monuments in the U.S., the reason the church wants to remove any reminder of both men is because they were slave owners. True, the issue of slavery is repugnant today. But, it was the norm in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In fact, as everyone knows, a civil war was fought over the issue long after Washington’s time.

In my opinion, it is fruitless to judge Washington, or even Lee, by today’s standards. Surely, people in 2017 can forgive those who came before us for their ignorance and cruelty. Remember, Washington disagreed with slavery and was the only Founding Father who freed his slaves in his Will.

Of course, the U.S. is not the only Western country going through such politically correct introspection. Canadians are supposed to be celebrating our 150th anniversary as a country. But, Aboriginals and others say they have no reason to celebrate anything. So, apart from a program in Ottawa on the lawn in front of the Parliament Buildings on July 1st, not much else has been done.

As well, many angry Canadians want to remove plaques or change school names that honoured our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Why? Because they say he was a racist and the architect of Aboriginal genocide.  What they don’t say is that we wouldn’t have a country without Sir John A. making sure that the 1867 British North America Act was passed. He also presided over the building of the first west to east railway. Actually, in my opinion, the real problem with Macdonald today is that he was a conservative.

Anyway, the attempt to revise the facts and reality of history is not a new phenomenon. We know, for example, that it happened in Ancient Egypt. To those living at that time, the way to remove a person’s existence after death — as though they had never lived — was to never repeat their name and remove their name and physical likenesses from monuments after they had died.

Two such attempts were made during the 18th Dynasty. First, there was Pharoah Hatshepsut (who reigned from 1479 to 1458 B.C.). Then, there was Pharoah Akhenaten (who reigned from 1351 to 1334 B.C.). That’s three and a half thousand years ago.

Hatshepsut was a woman who pretended to be a man and her descendants made sure nothing of her reign remained visible after her death. For centuries, she was, in fact, not known. It is only modern archeology that brought her memory back to life.

Similarly, Pharoah Akhenaten, husband of Nefertiti and father of Tutankhamun, abandoned the main Ancient Egyptian religion in favor of the Sun God, the Aten. He also built an entirely new capital city, called Armarna — which was totally destroyed after his death. However, as I said in the previous paragraph, thanks to modern archeology, many sculptures of both Akhenaten and Hatshepsut exist and are displayed in museums across the world today.

The crux of the matter is that, while issues surrounding history can be twisted, the facts themselves are not revisable.  The facts about George Washington are not only that he was a slave owner, but that he was also the first president of the United States and that he also arranged to free his slaves after his and his wife’s death. As such, Washington has a special place in U.S. history regardless of his upholding social practices we may find repugnant today.

Math is NOT about white privilege but intellectual skill

Truly, liberals and progressives are trying to turn the western world upside down by claiming that just about everything we do is socially constructed. Intellectual relativism.

Never mind your gender. Never mind your race. Never mind your natural intellectual strengths and weaknesses. You can change anything you want.

Now we have Professor Rochelle Gutierrez claiming that if you have a preference for studying or teaching math, you are displaying, not only your white privilege, but your “unearned” white privilege.

What absolute anti-intellectual, racist and politically correct nonsense!

Yes, many of the early mathematicians were white. So what? Many of the great writers of literature were also white. But, that is ignoring the reality that all cultures have intellectual giants, including from such countries as Africa, India, Japan and China.

In my opinion and experience, being good at math is not socially constructed or subjective relativism. It is about doing whatever is necessary to acquire the skills needed to work in the math field or to teach it.

In other words, you can’t leave out intellectual ability, motivation and perseverance. Those abilities and traits come from within. Yes, someone evaluating whether someone else is working hard is subjective, but working hard itself is not. In fact, in the field of education, having the ability in a subject, but not working hard is called “underachieving.”

Yet, Gutierrez says knowledge is relational and subjective,  that it cannot be known objectively. Good grief! It is as though Gutierrez looks only at what goes on around her and completely ignores what goes on in her head. In other words, she is completely ignoring her own intellectual abilities and the strenuous effort she put in to get where she is today.

Look, I am a learning specialist and have a Ph.D in the field. While I was in private practice in the late 80s, 90s and 2000s, I administered psycho-educational tests on a regular basis. The results of those tests were both factual and objective.

Anyway, let’s stop beating around the bush and call this so-called Gutierrez theory what it is — a racist attack against whites. Just change the skill and context — “that teaching basket ball skills perpetuates black privilege” — and you will get my point

People would be furious if Gutierrez made that claim because we all know that some people are better than others at sports and those reasons do not, or should not, include race. In basketball, for example,”the height of the player,” “his or her speed of movement” and “quick thinking” should be more important than race. Similarly with figure skating, bicycle racing or football. In each case, a different kind of physical and intellectual set of skills is required.

The crux of the matter is that there are physical and intellectual realities that progressives like Gutierrez ignore in their rush to condemn all things white, including her racist claim that acquiring math skills perpetuates “unearned” white privilege.

Cursive writing making a comeback!

Credit theottoolbox.com.

While I have written about this topic before, I am thankful to hear that cursive writing is making a comeback. Last spring, in March of 2017, Karen Matthews of the Associated Press wrote a column on the topic that was published in Business Insider.

Apparently, educators are finally becoming aware that children need to learn how to write if for no other reasons than having a signature and being able to read what others have written cursively. I

I mean, Matthews gave the example of a young man, old enough to vote, who when asked, couldn’t sign his registration to vote card because all he had ever been taught was how to print in block letters. Humiliating? Possibly. Certainly embarrassing, if nothing else. And there is no excuse for the education system to have let him and millions of other young people down.

There have always been trends or fads in education. In the 1950s it was “look/see” spelling which turned out a generation of young people who, for the most part, couldn’t spell. I personally experienced such a trend in the 1970s when, as a new elementary school teacher at the junior level (Grades 4 and 5), I was told to embrace the latest “whole language” approach to language arts.

Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t “whole” at all. However, like many teachers, I continued to teach discrete grammar and spelling and I know of many primary teachers who continued to teach phonics. But, eventually, invented spelling took over actual spelling.

Now, the invented spelling approach works well if what you want are ideas on paper. You want the ideas to flow. But, when a good copy is being prepared, that is when the spelling should be corrected. No doubt different vocabulary is used for these approaches today, like “experiential learning” or “discovery learning.” But,it’s all the same thing. It’s not “whole” language if all the skills are not, somehow, taught.

The crux of the matter is that there are consequences to these well meaning trends which are often implemented without any convincing research to support them. For example, prior to my retirement from teaching prospective teachers at the university level, it became obvious that some students were not able to complete formal exams in the time provided. Let’s face it, cursive writing is much faster than printing and, in fact, is also faster than using a laptop keyboard.

Reviewing Sherry Thomas & her version of Sherlock Holmes

I just finished reading two Sherlock Holmes novels by Sherry Thomas. The first in the series is called “A Study in Scarlet Women” while the second is “A Conspiracy in Belgravia.” I liked both of them a lot but I felt, in the first book at least, it took a long time to get into the story.

I knew from the blurb on the cover that Thomas had invented a new Sherlock, so well into the middle of the book I was still trying to figure things out as I read. Certainly a lot was happening, like Charlotte Holmes allowing herself to be “ruined” so that she could live her life as she wanted. However, given how important Charlotte’s role in the book was, I was suspicious right from the start.

Spoiler alert! Of course, Charlotte turns out to be Sherlock and the second book refers immediately to her as Lady Sherlock.

Both stories are fast paced and have lots of action and angst, particularly in the second book with respect to loyalty. As to the characters, they are so well described and presented I either liked or hated them immediately. But, it is the settings that are amazing because, literally, every house, flat and scene are true to the Victorian Period — particularly with respect to the role of women and what women had to do in order to be able to take control of their own lives.

If I have any complaint about these books it is that having a female Sherlock Holmes aided by a Mrs. Watson, and living at an Upper Baker Street address, very close to Arthur Conan Doyle’s 221B Baker Street, doesn’t seem realistic. But that complaint does not change the fun it was to read them.

I have read several versions of Sherlock Holmes, including the Mary Russell Bee Keeper’s Apprentice series by Laurie R. King.  For those who haven’t read that series, I would highly recommend it as Mary Russell and a retired Sherlock, get married and experience many adventures and mysteries together.

But, while I am not sure a female Sherlock is as believable as Doyle’s or King’s versions, in all fairness to Thomas, putting forth a new version of Sherlock Holmes does have a certain brilliance to it.

The crux of the matter is that both books are good mysteries and fun to imagine. As such, I will give both books 5 stars out of 5.

Both books published by Berkeley, New York. A Study in Scarlet Women (2016). A Conspiracy in Belgravia (2017).

TheDigitalBookmark.com integrating with Crux of the Matter

For some time time I have had two distinct blogs, this one about Canadian and U.S. politics and a book review blog at thedigitalbookmark.com where I have written reviews about contemporary fiction, usually historical fiction, and news related to writing.

However, to make things easier for me, I have decided to integrate the two sites together. I am also going to return to writing about educational and autism controversies as well.

So, the “crux of the matter” will relate to many issues.

Stay tuned.

Update: I have downloaded all the files from Digital Bookmark for those readers who want to check out the book reviews I have already written. You will find them under the author’s name or type of fiction in Categories.

Election of NDP Jagmeet Singh as NDP leader just upped Scheer’s chances

From Wikipedia page.

Given the fact that Jagmeet Singh (Dhaliwal) is now the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) leader, all bets are off as to who will be Canada’s next Prime Minister on October 21st, 2019. Hint: It won’t be Justin Trudeau.

Why? Because neither the liberal media nor PM Justin Trudeau and his senior staff have a clue as to how to run a political campaign against a Sikh. I mean, the Trudeau Liberals constantly tell us that “diversity is their strength.” Which means, they won’t dare question Singh’s religion — like they do Andrew Scheer’s. Even though, oddly, both Scheer and Trudeau are Catholics.

Sure, the Liberals can fight Singh on policy but that likely won’t work either because so many NDP supporters voted Liberal in 2015. I mean, it is no secret that the federal Liberals stole most of the NDP 2015 campaign!

Take, for example, the issue of abortion and homosexuality. In both instances, the media and the Liberals are going to try to portray Scheer and the CPC as social conservative fanatics with a hidden agenda. Hmmm. Where have we heard that lie before? In fact, as this Google source says, abortion is also wrong in Sikhism and there are many differences of opinion regarding homosexuality.

In other words, the election of Jagmeet Singh as NDP leader just made Canadian politics a whole lot more interesting.

In fact, a Margaret Wente column in the Globe and Mail, which was also picked up by Jack at the Northern Phoenix, an online magazine, Jagmeet Singh is going to cause Trudeau an awful lot of trouble in 2019. As the first paragraph in Wente’s column states:

Sorry, Justin. You’re not the fresh young face in town any more. You were hot, for a while. But Jagmeet Singh is hotter. You may have a huge Haida tattoo on your shoulder. But Jagmeet (also known as Jimmy) has a fuchsia turban on his head. You may know how to throw a punch. But he knows Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A few months ago, hardly anyone in Canada knew his name. Now, an entire political party is swooning at his feet, begging him to lead them from the obscurity that seems to be their semi-permanent lot in life. Half your voters could be next.”

I love it. What we are just starting to see and hear, which will get worse during the 2019 election, is called cognitive dissonance — the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. For example, if a liberal voter values diversity, when faced with a handsome Sikh, why on earth would they vote for Trudeau? Of course, the fight for the hearts and minds of progressive Quebecers remains to be seen, particularly given Singh’s views on the niqab and religious freedom.

Credits: Frank Gunn, CP from CBC website.

Nevertheless, I say bring on the dissonance! Because, if the Singh led NDP splits the Liberal vote — Andrew Scheer’s chances of winning a majority Conservative government just got better! And, yes, that is the crux of the matter.

 

Review of Caro Peacock’s “Fool’s Gold”

The novel “Fool’s Gold,” by Caro Peacock, is a very rambling and confusing book. The 8th in the Liberty Lane series about a Victorian era female private detective, it has layered plots, one of which involves a threatened kidnapping and the other stereotypical bad guys and buried treasure.

Without being a spoiler, I can say that the story opens with Liberty, AKA Mrs. Carmichael, since she is now married to Robert, on her honeymoon on a borrowed yacht near the Greek Island of Cephalonia. She and Robert are invited to go on land to have dinner with a Mr. Vickery, his right-hand man Jolly, his friend Geoffrey Panter and Geoffrey’s wife Emilia and Vickery’s teenage ward George.

Liberty learns that George is, allegedly, the illegitimate son of the late British Poet Lord Byron. Given the weather is bad, they end up staying the night in Vickery’s rented villa. Just before returning to the boat, however, they find George distraught because he had been swimming with Geoffrey who has gone missing and is assumed to be drowned.

Born blind, George believes he is cursed because many people have bad luck or die who are near or connected to him. And, now Geoffrey appears to have drowned and George blames himself for not being able to save him.

Mr. Vickery later moves George to London, where Liberty meets up with him again.  Vickery also rents an estate near London, referred to as Muswell Hill, and wants to move George there. He also wants Liberty to stay at Muswell Hill to ensure George is not kidnapped.

Why would George be kidnapped? Apparently there is a legend that Lord Byron buried treasure before his death and many assume George would know where that treasure is hidden.

When the action between London and Musell Hill starts in earnest:

  • We meet a woman by the name of Helena, who claims to be George’s mother.
  • Then, Helena’s body is found, not in London, but in the far edges of the property at Muswell Hill.
  • While Vickery is convinced of a kidnap plot gone wrong, Liberty must find out what Helena had to do with such a plot.
  • Vickery, Jolly and his crooked lawyer friend bury Helena’s body in the garden.
  • The police find out about the death and arrest Vickery and charge him with the Helena’s murder.
  • Liberty discovers more about Helena and that, as a poverty-stricken actress, she was likely trying to get out of the kidnapping plot when she was killed.
  • George then runs away with one of his tutors because another death has occurred near him.
  • Because Vickery is in jail, Liberal is the only one who can look for George.
  • While looking for George, Vickery’s crooked lawyer is found dead.
  • The police know it couldn’t have been Vickery since he was in jail.

Of course, the police were confused. And, obviously so was George and his tutor. So was I. In fact, I would say, that this novel went from a 4 or 5 star book to a 3 because it was so confusing. Buried treasure was just too simplistic and, frankly, unbelievable. And, not surprising, we eventually find out that Geoffrey didn’t really drown and Emilia was not really his wife.

But, even telling you all these points, I don’t believe I am spoiling the story. As a result of that packed plot, I personally think that this story would have been more realistic had Peacock used another reason to be at the root of all the death and destruction other than the belief that there was buried treasure.

My rating for this book is 3 stars out of 5.

Severn House Publishing 2017 (218 pages).