Recently Read Books

  • A Delicate Truth- John Le Carre (fiction)
  • Perfect - Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
  • The Expats - Chris Pavone (Fiction)
  • An Event in Autumn - Henning Mankel (Fiction)
  • Winter in Madrid - C.J.Sansom (Fiction)
  • The Brothers - John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles - non-fiction
  • LIfe Among Giants - Bill Roorbach (Novel)
  • Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman (non-fiction)
  • Woodrow Wilson (non fiction)
  • Lawrence in Arabia (Non-Fiction)
  • In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helpren (Fiction)
  • Lesson in French - Hilary Reyl (fiction)
  • Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction)
  • Venice, A New History- Thomas Madden - (Non- Fiction)
  • Life is a Gift - Tony Bennett Autobiography
  • The First Counsell - Brad Meltzer (Fiction)
  • Destiny of the Republic - President James Garfield non-fiction by Candice Millard
  • The Last Lion (volume III)- William Manchester and Paul Reid (non-fiction, Winston Churchill)
  • Yellowstone Autumn -W.D. Wetherell (non-fiction about turning 55 and fishing in Yellowstone)
  • Everybody was Young- (non-fiction Paris in the 1920's)
  • Scorpion - (non fiction US Supreme Court)
  • Supreme Power - Jeff Shesol (non-fiction)
  • Zero day by David Baldacci ( I read all of Baldacci's Books)
  • Northwest Angle - William Kent Krueger (fiction - I have read 5 or 6 books by this author)
  • Camelot's Court-Insider the Kennedy Whitehouse- Robert Dallek
  • Childe Hassam -Impressionist (a beautiful book of his paintings)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Government Spying - Lets Stop It.

I for one think the National Security Agency has gone completely overboard in spying on citizens and others.  Currently the big outrage is that the NSA has tapped the phone of the German Chancellor and other foreign leaders.  To be honest, I could care less about tapping the German Chancellor’s phone. What I do care about is the unprecedented invasion of US Citizens' privacy.  In 2002, a year after the 9/11 attack, the Lovely Sharon and I had a small dinner party in Palm Desert. On that evening I got into an argument with some of my Republican friends about my concern over the Bush administrations warrantless invasion of email, phone calls and other personal matters of privacy.  I understood the fear we all had over terrorism but it appeared to me that the government was involved in a mass violation of constitutional rights.  I didn’t like it.  On that even in 2002, many of my friends said they had nothing to hide and they were ok with the government intrusion.  I said that I had nothing to hide but I was not ok with this government intrusion.

Eleven years later, under a new president, it appears to me that this government intrusion has not gone away but has gotten worse. The intrusion, the spying is worse than ever. It is as though we have abdicated civil and constitution rights in an effort to combat terrorism.  It is too much, the government (the NSA) has gone too far.   We need to stop this.  Our elected leaders need to stop this. Forget about Chancellor Merkel. Let’s worry about us, the American Citizen.

Do you remember the Japanese internment camps during World War II when the US Government rounded up US citizens of Japanese heritage and moved them to what were essentially concentration camps because of the fear that some might be working for Japan.  Our citizens sat back and allowed that to happen. Outrageous. We now seem to be in the same position of ignoring citizens rights for some other reason.

This massive NSA spy program is  outrageous.  It frightens me and appalls me at the same time.  At what point to we say enough is enough.  Are you ok if the government installs cameras in your house, in your bedroom?  Are your really ok if some NSA government worker reads an email you send to your wife or husband?

I just read the following:

The NSA's data-collection activities are so resource-intensive, the agency can't complete its new server farms fast enough. But when it does, a significant share of what gets held on those servers could wind up being worthless spam. We now know the NSA collects hundreds of thousands of address books and contact lists from e-mail services and instant messaging clients per day. Thanks to this information, the NSA is capable of building a map of a target's online relationships.

Sometimes, however, that process goes awry — such as when one Iranian e-mail address of interest got taken over by spammers. The Iranian account began sending out bogus messages to its entire address book. This included a number of Yahoo Groups addresses that in some cases represented thousands of other e-mail users. So the NSA dutifully flagged not only the fake messages that got sent out, but also the inboxes of all the thousands of people who were receiving the spam. And then the NSA started downloading information on them, and their inboxes, and their address books even if they weren't of interest. Worse, the spam that wasn't deleted by those recipients kept getting scooped up every time the NSA's gaze passed over them. And as some people had marked the Iranian account as a safe account, additional spam messages continued to stream in, and the NSA likely picked those up, too.

This caused huge amounts of unimportant information to flow through the NSA's systems, according to a chart in a top secret NSA presentation. Every day from Sept. 11, 2011 to Sept. 24, 2011, the NSA collected somewhere between 2 GB and 117 GB of data concerning this Iranian address. The exact numbers aren't clear because details of the chart have been redacted.

Here is another article:

“There is no spying on Americans,” Obama told late-night comedian Jay Leno in an interview earlier this month.

But as more details emerged about the government’s extensive surveillance network last week, the National Security Agency admitted that there had, in fact, been “willful violations” of its own restrictions on spying on Americans, but that those instances had been “very rare,” according to Bloomberg News.

This weekend The Wall Street Journal reported additional details: Its story suggested NSA analysts broke the rules to read their love interests’ e-mails and other communications often enough that the behavior was given a nickname — LOVEINT. (The intelligence community tends to attach -INT to their intelligence monikers. Information gleaned from people, for example, is called HUMINT.)

The NSA says it punished these transgressions with administrative sanctions, and in some cases, termination.

In the past year, the NSA has repeatedly denied that it is collecting data on U.S. citizens. In March 2012, NSA chief Keith Alexander told Congress that his agency doesn’t even have the ability to collect data on Americans.

This past March, James Clapper, the director of the Office of National Intelligence, the top intelligence official in the country, testified that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect data on Americans. After the Snowden leaks he sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, apologizing for his “clearly erroneous” testimony, because he “simply didn’t think” of a major provision of the Patriot Act.

Officials had even told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the legal entity set up to oversee it, that the NSA gathered no communications between people in the U.S.

In a declassified FIS Court filing last week, the court said it had since learned that was not the case. “There is no question that the government is knowingly acquiring Internet transactions that contain wholly domestic communications through its upstream collection,” the ruling found.

The NSA gathers intelligence under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act, which allows the NSA to gather data on non-U.S. citizens outside the U.S. It also gathers tens of thousands of “domestic communications” by and from Americans in its normal gathering of foreign surveillance, according to Wednesday’s declassified court finding.

According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the government has also been collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk, and scooping up their emails, browsing history and social-media activity.

Since 2011, the NSA has determined on its own that it has the legal authority to search within the data it collects using U.S. citizen names and other identifying information, according to an Aug. 9 report by the Guardian, citing a document from Snowden. The document said analysts wouldn’t be able to start those searches until the NSA developed an oversight process, but it’s unclear when or whether it did so.

In the wake of Snowden’s leaks, the Obama administration has set up a review board to examine the NSA’s policies that is mostly composed of former Obama administration officials. It will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of the year.
Look at this photo of the massive new NSA "data" center in Utah.  A data center is where they keep information the NSA obtained by spying on us.
These actions ought to frighten and outrage all of  us.  Let's stand up to this. Let's fight this.  This is wrong.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Autumn Leaves

The Lovely Sharon and me in the backyard with the grandkids on a perfect Utah autumn day.
If I was any cuter I would need a license.

A couple of other autumn photos of our backyard from previous years:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1940's New York

Here are some black and white photos of New York I ran across on the internet:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chandra's Favorites

My dear cousin Chandra's Favorites:

1.       Favorite place to spend a day?
          Answer:  On the beach any beach

 2.      Favorite person in history?
          Answer: Harriet Tubman

 3.      What simple thing makes you happy?
          Answer:  Watching my grandson play sports

4.       Favorite Magazine
          Answer:  People   
 5.      1920’s or 1950’s?
          Answer: 1950’s

6.       Favorite Restaurant for breakfast?
          Answer:  Moore’s in Ogden

 7.      Rome or Paris?
          Answer: Paris

8.       Symphony, ballet or opera?
          Answer:  Symphony

 9.      Favorite Book Store?
          Answer: Any Barnes and Noble

 10.    Mountains or seashore?
          Answer: Seashore

Monday, October 14, 2013

Favorite Stuff

 I like lists of favorites.  Favorite books, favorite movies, favorite places and so on.  I like my favorites and the favorites of others.  Written below are 10 questions and my answers to the questions.  I would like to receive answers to these questions from readers.  If I do I will post some of them.  Here they are:

1.         Favorite place to spend a day?
            Answer:  Ironwood Country Club in Palm Desert, CA

 2.         Favorite person in history?
            Answer: Winston Churchill

 3.         What simple thing makes you happy?
            Answer:  Running errands and shopping with the Lovely Sharon:

4.         Favorite Magazine
            Answer:  Vanity Fair.  

 5.         1920’s or 1950’s?
            Answer: 1920’s

6.         Favorite Restaurant for breakfast?
            Answer:  CafĂ© Beaux Arts, Palm Desert, CA

 7.         Rome or Paris?
            Answer: Paris

8.         Symphony, ballet or opera?
            Answer:  Symphony

 9.         Favorite Book Store?
            Answer: Hatchards in London

 10.       Mountains or seashore?
            Answer: Mountains

 If you want to give me your answers email them to me at

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Empty Mansions - Huguette Clark

I am reading a book called Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman.  The book is about heiress Huguette Clark, her family, her mansions and her doll collections.  Huguette Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104.  After her death there was a battle over her $300,000,000 estate that was resolved in September 2013.  Mrs. Clark had no children and was married for a short time in the 1940’s.  She had mansions in Santa Barbara, California and in New Canaan, Connecticut.  She also had apartments in an apartment building on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  Although she was not ill, she lived the last 20 years or so of her life in a hospital in New York. 

Santa Barbara Home

 Connecticut Home

Her homes were vacant the last 50 or 60years of her life but were well maintained with permanent staffs.

Her father was W.A. Clark, a miner in Montana who eventually became one of the richest men in America.  It was W.A. Clark that spurred development of Las Vegas. He also was the developer of the first railroad line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. W.A. Clark was also Senator from Montana.

Here is a review of the book I found on the internet:

Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?

When Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.

Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.

The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.

Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.

I am almost finished with the book.  It really is a good read.  I have also been following the recent settlement of her estate and have read the Settlement Agreement filed in Court in New York.  The Settlement Agreement is as interesting as the book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Woodrow Wilson Biography

I just finished the Woodrow Wilson biography by Scott Berg.  The book is long, over 700 pages, but it was a terrific read.  I have read at least one other book about Wilson over the years but  this book by A. Scott Berg is the best I have read.  For a review in the New York Times see:

Excerpts from the review

Wilson took the presidency two years later, only the second Democrat to capture the White House since the Civil War. He possessed a rare instinct for power and how to use it. Once in Washington he put his theories to the test, audaciously choosing to rule more as a prime minister than a traditional chief executive. Within 10 months he had passed a progressive agenda that had been stalled for a generation, slashing tariff rates that protected monopolies, passing the first permanent federal income tax and creating the Federal Reserve system to end the bank panics that continually ravaged the American economy. More reforms — to bolster antitrust laws, discourage child labor and inaugurate the eight-hour day and workers’ compensation — followed. 
Handsome and charismatic, Wilson was our first modern president, holding regular news conferences, complaining about having to live in Washington and delighting in popular distractions like baseball games, detective stories, golf and especially the new moving pictures. He adored women and had remarkably modern partnerships with them, sharing every aspect of his work and his ideas with his wife, Ellen, and, after she died, with his second wife, Edith. He also had a longtime — and apparently platonic — female friend.
Both his temper and his injudicious selection of advisers were indicative of flaws that would come to devour his presidency. Wilson attracted some of the most talented figures in American political history to his administration and his causes — Franklin Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, Herbert Hoover, Walter Lippmann and Bernard Baruch, among others — but too often he failed to delegate well, routinely writing his own speeches and even typing his own policy papers. Absolute loyalty was valued over candor. Again and again, Wilson broke with his closest associates when he felt they had betrayed him.
Despite these tendencies, he managed much of the war effort brilliantly, delivering a surprisingly effective army of more than two million men to France by the end of 1918. The United States stumbled onto the world stage a full-blown colossus, turning overnight from the world’s largest debtor nation to practically its sole creditor. Arriving in Europe to negotiate the peace, Wilson was greeted with an ecstasy no American president had ever matched, hailed as the savior of mankind.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another Delusional Congressman

Here is another wonderful  example of how our congressmen are delusional.  Check out the video.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer's (R-Tex.) Wednesday confrontation of a poor park ranger on the scene -- who was doing nothing more than her job -- blaming her for the closure he voted for and telling her that she should be ashamed of herself.

The congressman voted in favor of the government shutdown and then harassed a park ranger for turning people away.

Government Shut Down - Give Me Your Money or I will Shoot This Dog

The government shutdown as a strategy to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (known as “Obama Care”) is joke.  I think to a great extent republican politicians want to stop anything President Obama does.  Whether you like the Affordable Care Act or don’t like it, it is the law of the land. In 2010, the law was passed by the US House of Representatives, it was passed by the Senate, it was signed by the president and subsequently it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

There is no question that this law, like the tax code, labor laws, heath laws, and all other laws, needs to be tweaked.  There is a process for revising and amending law.  A constitutional process.  The US House of Representatives passes a bill making changes to Affordable Care Act, the Senate passes the bill and the president signs it.

The republicans in the congress have taken a different approach, they have shutdown the government in an extortion effort to first eliminate the Affordable Care Act, when they were unsuccessful at that, then they wanted to delay it, and when they unsuccessful with that they demanded something else or the government would be shut down.

One of the late night talk shows interviewed people on the street.  Several people said they hated “Obama Care” and thought it was wrong and should be stopped.  The same people then said that they did not object to the “Affordable Care Act”.  Duh, Obama Care is the Affordable Care Act.  Its not the Act they object to, its the Obama.

I saw a cartoon in a paper once that had a robber holding a gun that was pointed at the head of a dog.  A man and woman were looking at the robber, the gun and the dog.  The robber looked at the couple and said

give me your money or I will shoot this dog”.

Obviously not a funny cartoon but that certainly reminds me of the republicans in this government shutdown.  “Give me your money or I will shoot this dog”.  Well guess what? They made a demand, they didn’t get what they demanded, so they shot the dog.

I just read the following in Huffington

House Republicans are continuing to play hardball in negotiations over the spending bill that precipitated the government shutdown on Oct. 1, apparently out of fear that compromise would weaken their power.
"We're not going to be disrespected," Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told The Washington Examiner. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

Just think about it. It’s not about what’s best for America, it is not about a lawful process of amending a law, its about being “disrespected”.

"We're not going to be disrespected," We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

Hundreds of thousands of people, government employees and private industry employees, have been and will be laid off, receiving no income because “we don’t want to be disrespected”.

The congressmen and senators still get paid although some have done the right thing and have stated they will donate their pay to charity during the shutdown.

Utah right wing Senator Mike Lee is one of the architects of the government shutdown strategy was asked if he would donate his pay.  He said that he would not. He was blasted for that position and then he cowered off of that position.  Here is an article from the Salt Lake Tribune:

Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Jim Matheson plan to donate their congressional pay during the government shutdown, saying they shouldn’t be paid when federal workers are not. Sen. Mike Lee — after previously telling a reporter he had no plan to do so — also says he will contribute his pay to charity.

They are among dozens of congress members saying they will donate their pay.

“I don’t think that’d be appropriate” to take a paycheck, said Matheson, D-Utah, who says he plans to find a charity that will help Utahns who have been affected by the government closure.

Hatch, R-Utah, says he will give his congressional pay until the government is running to his faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Washington Post listed dozens of members of Congress who have agreed to donate their pay as well. Rank-and-file House members and senators are paid $174,000 and the Constitution’s 27th Amendment forbids changing their pay during a congressional term.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, says he plans to ask the House clerk to delay paying him until the shutdown ends.

Lee, who led the effort to attempt to stop Obamacare by tying it to the budget bill, told KUTV Tuesday night that he would take his salary because he is working and had no plan to donate his pay to charity.

("Later") A spokesman on Wednesday told BuzzFeed that “Lee will donate to charity for every day of the shutdown.” The spokesman told the website that the KUTV story was “wrong,” and that the senator had always intended to donate, although his response may have been somewhat muddy.

KUTV on Wednesday stood by its original report and posted audio of its interview with Lee.

So let me get this. After Lee said he was going to take his pay, he received a lot of bad publicity causing his spokesman to assert that Lee never said he would take his pay. The spokesman was lying.  I just listened to the audio of interview where Lee clearly said he was working and would take his pay.   After being shown as a hypocrite, he now says he won’t take his pay.  What a total chicken shit.

Mike Lee

Give me your money or I will shoot this dog.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Shops Redux

Here is a repost


Thursday, May 7, 2009


I love to spend time in a bookshop. I love to walk up and down the aisles, looking high and low on the shelves for a hidden gem or something that catches my eye. Generally, I am not looking for a best seller, rather my eyes search for some obscure subject or some specific topic that I have a new found interest in. If I am out of town, I look for something of local interest.

It is interesting to people watch in a bookshop. Generally, the customers are not smiling. Its not that they are unhappy, its just that they are serious as they look for a specific title or just browse to see what's there, old or new. I like the shops where there are soft chairs to sit and spend a few minutes glancing through an interesting book.

I read a lot of information on the internet but what pleasure there is in holding a book in your hand, making notes in the margins for items of importance that you know you will never get back to, or just putting in your bookmark when its time to stop reading.

I have been to London five or six times and everytime I have ventured into Hatchards Bookshop on Piccadilly. This wonderful shop was established in 1797 and has four or five levels seemingly containing everything. I always seem to find a couple of English history books that I probably could not find in the US. I once bought a book at Hatchards about walking through the Yorkshire Dales.

Here are a few other book shops that I particularly like:
Denver: The Tattered Cover.
San Francisco: City Lights, Adobe Books, and Borders on Powell Street
Rome: Anglo American Bookstore (near Spanish Steps)

As a native of Salt Lake City I would be remiss if I did not mention The King's English Bookshop. This small, independent bookshop is a wonderful place to spend an hour or two.

Also in Salt Lake is Ken Sanders Rare Books with its extensive collection about the West.

Treat yourself, turn off the TV and find a bookshop to wander through. Buy your spouse something you want to read. Buy your mom a book. Heck, buy yourself a book. I know you will feel good when you walk out of the shop with a book or two in your shopping bag.

If you have a favorite bookshop, leave a comment and I will check out your favorite shop if I am