Monday, July 22, 2024

Nicole Wallace, MSNBC Strategist Presents an Exciting, Extraordinary Trilogy! Honing in on Characters... Eighteen Acres, Madam President, It's Classified!

 


It's been awhile since I read this funny, ironic and simply unbelievable set of stories... Yet, it is now when it seems the best time to talk about these books... You see, the books, which are clearly character driven, spotlights women in politics... A female president, for instance... She's in office as the trilogy begins... And, it is quite possible that a female president will be elected later this year. Will she have the same stamina and guts as the female president in this book? I enjoy watching Nicole Wallach's news program and was not surprised that she had a much-needed handle on the entire political process to be able to craft a realistic setting...

Melanie

Call me Charlotte—I insist,” she’d said. She was smart and funny and self-deprecating. She’d seemed to have been handed a briefing paper so detailed about Melanie’s career that Melanie wondered if the FBI had been involved. After some small talk about the current unusually cold temperatures for Washington, Charlotte had told Melanie that she’d seen her on the Today show years earlier and that she had admired and tried to emulate her cheerful toughness in her own television appearances. She’d praised Melanie’s decision to have the president do weekly press conferences in media markets around the country instead of from the White House. She’d said she agreed with the outgoing president’s decision not to campaign on her behalf because of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which she must have known had been Melanie’s advice to the president. Melanie’s defenses had been down. She was feeling more and more flattered by the minute. And the idea of being the highest-ranking staff person for the first female president in America’s history did capture her imagination. Despite the fact that in the recesses of her mind, she understood that it was all part of an elaborate scheme to entice her, she’d said yes on the spot to serving as chief of staff to the nation’s forty-fifth president. That was three years ago. Melanie fingered the smooth gold chain around her neck and stared at the reflection that the diamonds made on the wall of the Oval Office. “If you’re still in there, Melanie, you’re welcome,” the president said, waving her hand in front of Melanie’s face. “I’ll see you tonight. We need to talk about the campaign. I’m sorry I’m missing your party, but at least I’m taking Ralph off your hands.” “Party? What party?” Melanie groaned. “I told them you’d hate it, but as usual, nobody listened to me. Act surprised. Sam and Annie have been working on it for weeks.” The president turned back to her desk. “Sam, please tell the speechwriters to get on the helicopter. We have to write a new speech.” Melanie turned to leave and smiled sympathetically at the speechwriters who were huddled in front of Samantha’s desk. “Good luck, guys,” Melanie said. “I’ll throw Ralph under the bus later. She’s just being melodramatic. Roll with it.” Melanie endured the senior staff singing “Happy Birthday” to her at their seven-thirty meeting. She took calls from most of the Cabinet members, wishing her a happy birthday and from many of the reporters she’d known from her eight years as press secretary for the previous president. Her parents sent a dozen white roses mixed with white tulips, her favorite flowers. But nothing could have prepared her for her own reaction to the slide show that the White House staff assembled to pay tribute to her fifteen years of service. Thank God the lights were dimmed and the music blaring. Against a soundtrack of depressing spinster ballads from Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos, the images flooded the room. There she was at twenty-three—in the group photo of all the White House interns—smiling and oblivious to the three chins she’d had in those days. President Phil Harlow was the first president Melanie had worked for. She’d lied about being a student to get the internship, since the White House intern program was only available to college students earning credit for their free labor. When a spot opened up for a junior press aide, she’d confessed about graduating the year before, and they’d given her the job. She spent nearly three years in the same cramped fourth-floor office in the Old Executive Office Building, across the driveway from the West Wing. The next images were from her days as a campaign aide to President Harlow’s nephew, Christopher Martin. He’d surprised everyone when he announced a run for the presidential nomination during President Harlow’s last year in office. Melanie had signed on as his campaign press secretary. Everyone was shocked when he won the nomination and, eventually, the presidency. President Martin made Melanie his first press secretary, and at twenty-six, she’d been the youngest White House press secretary in history. The pictures of Melanie as President Martin’s press secretary made her cringe. Fortunately, her clothes, hair, and figure improved with age. There were pictures of her sleeping with her mouth wide open on Air Force One, plenty of shots of her fielding questions from the podium in the White House briefing room, and images she recognized as having been Photoshopped to remove all evidence of Matthew, her husband for a brief period during the Martin administration. Photos of Melanie as Charlotte’s chief of staff made up the last and longest part of the slide show. She’d been around the photographers so long that she didn’t notice them anymore, but there she was: speaking to Charlotte as they walked across the South Lawn to board Marine One, being summoned by Charlotte as she stepped off Air Force One, whispering in her ear in meetings with foreign leaders, hiking with her at Camp David with the dogs, and laughing with her in the Oval Office over one of their many inside jokes. Melanie stood and applauded when the slide show finally came to an end. “Thank you so much. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve this president alongside all of you. Thank you for this great surprise. I don’t know what to say, other than thank you, from the bottom of my heart.” She stayed and thanked everyone for coming and asked the stewards to bring the leftover cake to the residence. She and Charlotte would eat it for dessert. Fifteen years, three presidents, and seven executive assistants later, Melanie thought to herself as she walked back to her office. “And all I’ve done is move forty feet.” Around eight P.M., Melanie heard the sound of Marine One as it neared the South Lawn. She loaded her BlackBerrys and phones into her purse and walked down the hall toward the residence where she and Charlotte would have dinner. Charlotte had been bugging her for an answer about running her reelection campaign for weeks. As the chopper came closer, her mind flashed back to her first ride on Marine One. It fell on her twenty-sixth birthday, and she had been nervous and excited about joining the elite group of top staffers who rode on the presidential helicopter instead of driving the short distance to Andrews Air Force Base. They’d been traveling to Detroit that day to talk about the economy, and President Martin’s poll numbers were almost as battered as Charlotte’s. More than a decade later, Melanie still remembered how her stomach had churned and the sweat from her underarms had soaked her blouse that day. She had heard the sound of the helicopter as it neared the South Lawn, and she’d raced down the hall to the Oval Office. President Martin had looked at her, clearly enjoying her anticipation. “You ready?” he’d asked. “I’m ready,” she’d said with a grin. He’d flung his arm around her and walked out to the South Lawn, where the helicopter was parked. He’d waved to the cameras and the crowds and mouthed “Thank you” to the friends and staffers who had gathered to see him off. Melanie had walked on her toes to keep her heels from getting stuck in the muddy grass, but it wasn’t enough. She lost one of her Stuart Weitzman pumps in the mud and was too afraid to stop and pick it up with the cameras rolling. She’d boarded Marine One and taken a seat across from the president. “You sit here—you won’t bump into me the way these thugs would,” President Martin had ordered, referring to the male staffers who would bump into his knees if they sat in the seat across from him. “Yes, sir,” Melanie had agreed as she sat across from the president and peered out the window of the helicopter. Melanie had no idea what to do about her shoe. She hoped that no one would notice. She’d send someone to buy her a new pair in Detroit. Ernie Upshaw, President Martin’s deputy chief of staff, noticed her bare muddy foot first. “Where is your shoe, Melanie?” he’d asked. “Uh, it fell off.” “Where?” the president had asked. “Somewhere between the Oval Office and the helicopter,” she’d admitted, her cheeks and neck turning hot. The president had howled with laughter and sent Buckey, his personal aide, out to find her missing shoe. The shoe was wedged so deep in the mud that it took Buckey about five minutes to find it. The helicopter pilots had eventually powered down Marine One, and all three of the cable news networks had carried the shoe hunt live. Melanie’s BlackBerry had filled with new messages. Her assistant: “They aren’t looking for your shoe, are they?” Her mother: “All the news stations are calling you Cinderella. Why didn’t you wear flats?” The White House chief of staff: “Way to go—the president will be late, but you will have your shoes.” He is such a jerk, Melanie had thought.  Buckley had finally returned to Marine One with Melanie’s muddy black pump in his hand. The president thought the whole episode was hilarious. As they lifted off from the South Lawn of the White House and flew over the Washington Mall, Melanie had felt as if she’d been transported to a different world. The Tidal Basin glistened in the morning sun, and the Washington Monument jutted out of the ground. The flags that surrounded it flapped in the wind below her window, and the tops of the buildings on the mall looked like doll houses. “It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it?” the president had said. “Amazing,” Melanie had replied, not moving her eyes from the sights below. “How could that have been eleven years ago?” Melanie thought, not realizing she’d muttered to herself until one of Charlotte’s agents spoke to her. “Ms. Kingston, is everything all right?” “I’m sorry; I’m fine. Losing it, perhaps, but fine. Is she upstairs yet?” “Yes. She said to tell you to come on in.” Melanie walked past the table...

~~~

But, first, I was saddened by Joe Biden's decision to not continue to run for 2024. I believe he would have and frankly, if his own party members had not turned against him. I am wondering about the democratic party for the future. Of course, I have found that I would never vote republican based upon all that I have discovered from political-related books. So, we now have a woman who, in essence, is beginning her candidacy for the president, with such a short time to gain the required support needed... Joe Biden had said that only the Lord All Mighty could stop his running. I believe that Joe did hear His guidance. I know it was a hard decision and I am so proud of President Biden for putting our country first...

Eighteen Acres gave me new information in that it is exactly Eighteen acres of land upon which the White House is located. The books are written from the POV that changes constantly as the story moves forward. Charlotte is the president and is a rich blend of smarts, guts and, sometimes, coldness... Toward her husband. Melanie has taken the Chief of Staff position. They are a well-tuned thinking machine that almost speaks on behalf of the other... But, Melanie is a better writer and Charlotte has come to depend upon her to guide her through those difficult times when she's not quite sure what to say... Melanie then takes over with the speechwriters and succeeds quickly to meet the needs of the president... 

Charlotte has a good reputation and so when she decided to run again, her campaign seemed to be a piece of cake...until two issues exploded across the nation. It was reported that Charlotte's husband was having an affair... And, at the same time, her closest security adviser made a tragie error in judgment. Charlotte had to ask him to leave his position...

So, how does a president and her campaign staff save her from failing?

What happens next could never have been predicted even in a great mystery book...

Charlotte decided to make another first in history... When her VP decided it was his time to step down, he recommended that she work to make a splash... She hired the first female VP! Tara is almost the opposite from Charlotte. She dresses sexy, talks quickly and often and becomes the most popular person in this administration... Melanie had already explained to Charlotte that she would not continue as Chief of Staff and planned to retire. But Charlotte offered Melanie a job she could not refuse! She became, probably the first, Secretary of Defense! And the troops loved her as she spent time traveling and meeting with our soldiers who were stationed overseas... At the same time, Charlotte was still not sure she could live down the loss of her senior advisor who committed suicide!

“Just tell me when your go time is and I’ll have her down here,” he said. “I guess five A.M., so we aren’t too rushed. Is that too early?” “No, of course not. She can do this, you know. I mean, she just needs to get through this adjustment period and she’ll be fine,” he said. It was the first nice thing he’d said about his wife all evening. “I think she’s doing just fine now,” Dale said. 
“What are you guys talking about?” Tara asked, appearing suddenly in black sweatpants and a matching hoodie. She was wearing socks but no shoes and Dale hadn’t heard her come down the stairs. She wondered how long Tara had been listening. “How you are going to knock these interviews out of the park tomorrow, baby,” Marcus said with a phony smile. Tara walked to his side and said something Dale couldn’t hear. He nodded and said, “I’ve got it. You get back to your prep. You need it.” Before he left the room, he grabbed a roll of fat from around Tara’s stomach. “After we conquer the morning shows, we’re going to focus on this,” he said, looking at Dale while he spoke. Tara looked mortified, and Dale could hardly keep the horror off her face. She couldn’t decide which one of them was more shocking: Marcus for being so mean, or Tara for standing there and enduring his abuse. Dale felt like hurling her empty coffee cup at him. “Dale here doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her, do you, Dale?” Dale looked at Tara sympathetically and tried to think of something funny to say to deflect Marcus’s verbal assault. “I have a mouth full of cavities and stringy brown hair. I’d kill for your wife’s perfect teeth and gorgeous head of hair.” Tara smiled gratefully and Marcus let go of her. Dale continued. “Mr. Meyers, while we are honored by your company, we have a lot of work to do tonight before we can all go to bed,” Dale said. “No problem. It’s time for me to spin off a cool thousand calories. The music doesn’t bother you does it? Helps distract me from the pain.” “No,” Dale said. Her eyes were on Tara as he made his way down the stairs in his spinning shoes. As soon as the door closed behind him, Dale heard him turn up the volume on the stereo. Eminen started blaring from the lower level. Tara looked like she might cry. Dale wanted to tell her to ignore the asshole she was married to, but she knew better than to insert herself. Tara had taken a seat on the same sofa where she’d been sitting before. She looked like she was trying to pull herself together. “I have an idea,” Dale said. Tara looked up. “Shoot the prick?” Tara said, with such a straight face that Dale was too stunned to say anything. She laughed. “Insanity defense,” Tara added with a sly smile. Dale laughed it off but filed it away in her I-can’t-believe-this-is-my-life file. “That wasn’t what I was going to say.” “I know what it must look like.” Tara sighed. Dale waited for her to continue. 
When she didn’t, Dale spoke. “Madam Vice President, the American people are trying to figure you out. People are mostly interested in you because you seem too normal for politics. That makes you more intriguing and appealing, in a lot of ways, than President Kramer,” Dale said. Tara contemplated this. “That’s why I tried to work some of your struggles—with weight, with motherhood, with work—into the answers. I think that’s how we dig out of this little hole we got you into. Let the American people inside the struggles and maybe they’ll help pull you out.” Dale was trying to sound reassuring. She didn’t like what the meat grinder was doing to Tara. She prayed that the vice president would regain some of the grit she’d displayed during the campaign. “Can I tell you something?” Tara asked. “Sure.” Dale thought for a second that she’d confide in her about whatever was going on. “I am such a huge fan of Caroline Carter. I’ve watched Wake Up, America since I was in college and I feel like I know her, you know? You must think I am so lame. I mean, you know all these people.” “I don’t want to shatter your image of her, but Caroline is dumber than my shoes,” Dale said. Tara looked crushed. Then she started to laugh. “Take that back, Dale. I won’t let you take away all my heroes.” Dale laughed and breathed a sigh of relief that Tara’s sense of humor had returned. “How about another round with the index cards? No theatrics. We will just go through all of the questions and answers until you’re comfortable with the content?” Dale asked. “Let’s do it,” Tara replied.
~~~

And everybody was shocked when Tara had hired her own news rep without talking about it to anybody--Dale was the woman with whom Charlotte's husband had had an affair... Wow... Can it get worse? Yes, it can... For one, when Dale took the job in the White House, rather than accepting the home which had just been bought for her, the relationship with Charlotte's ex-husband got cooler and cooler... Dale had been working with Tara to handle meetings... But when Tara was left to hold down the fort and went AWOL too many days without explanation and when she showed up, she was not, shall we say, able and ready to do her job? Something had to be done... Secrets, Secrets, Secrets... Politics is full of them!

Family life for Charlotte was, really--well, it sucked, mostly. Peter had been involved with Dana for years and even Charlotte knew it before it exploded... But, what really bothered her was her daughter's response to her and then her actions...

Peter was about to say something when Brooke and Mark barged into the Oval Office. Sam followed close behind and tried to redirect them into the Cabinet Room next door. “It’s fine,” Charlotte assured Sam. Brooke and Mark wouldn’t have stayed out even if she’d asked them to. “Char, it’s not that bad,” Brooke offered. “You saw it?” “It’s on the Internet,” Mark confirmed. “Anyone who has ever had a teenage daughter will totally sympathize with you,” Brooke added. Charlotte smiled ruefully at her friends and recognized that their arrival had guaranteed that the simmering tensions between her and Peter would have to be addressed another time. “Sam?” she called. “Yes, ma’am?” “Please ask Craig, Dale, and Marguerite to come back in here.” They appeared instantly, and Charlotte wondered if they’d heard everything that had transpired. “Madam President?” “Craig, I think we should be as blasé as possible about Penny’s statement. Say that she’s a young adult with her own opinions about politics and policy and everything else. Maybe we wrap it into a larger statement about just how difficult it is to be the child of a president. We could touch on the fact that the debate around reproductive rights can divide, and sometimes unite, families. Have the press office say something about how I appreciate Penny’s feelings about this issue and the other issues she raised on Facebook.” Dale and Craig looked at each other. “What’s wrong? That covers everything, doesn’t it?” Charlotte asked. “Madam President, the first thing the press is going to want to know is whether you’ve spoken to Penny,” Dale said. “Oh. Right.” She glared at Peter. “We’ll call her now,” he said. “I need to do this alone,” Charlotte told him. She walked into her private dining room. The call went straight to voice mail, and Charlotte dialed again. This time, Penny picked up. “Dad?” “It’s your mom,” Charlotte said calmly. “Before you say anything, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I thought the Secret Service would keep my page private. I didn’t think that anyone other than my friends would see it.” Charlotte resisted the temptation to scold her for blaming the Secret Service. It was something a ten-year-old would say, not a college student. “Are you ready for the media attention that’s about to come your way?” “What? No. That’s not why I did it!” “Well, you should turn on MSNBC or CNN in a few minutes, because it will be all over the news. You will be the big story today.” “That’s not what I wanted.” “Really?” “No!” She sounded panicked, and Charlotte was starting to feel sorry for her. She rubbed her forehead and listened to Penny’s pathetic excuses as her mind played through all the instances in which she’d ignored her responsibilities to the twins to do one more thing at the office. She felt a hundred years old all of a sudden. “Listen, Penny, the press will move on to something else by tomorrow so let’s not lose perspective.” “I’m really sorry, Mom.” “I am, too, for whatever I did to deserve this.” “It’s been building up,” Penny confessed. “Obviously.” They were both quiet for a moment, and it sounded like Penny had started to cry. Charlotte felt herself soften a bit. “Do me a favor, and stay off Facebook today.” “I will.” Charlotte felt her heart twist into a different shape inside her chest. She desperately wanted to rewind the last ten years and get a do-over with Penny. Charlotte would change everything. She’d be there each day when Penny got home from school to hear about her day. She’d be the mom who drove the carpools so she could listen to Penny and her friends talk. She’d be the mom who took all of the kids skiing or to the beach. She’d be the mom who all the other kids knew they could talk to. She wondered which mom had been there for her daughter when she wasn’t. Despite her anger at Penny for taking her hostilities public, she felt a dam break inside her chest. “Mom?” “I’m here.” “Don’t blame Dad. He asked me not to write anything.” “I know.” “It’s not his fault.” “I’m not mad at Dad. I’m still mad at you.” “I’m really sorry,” Penny said. “You’re not a little kid anymore. You can’t just say sorry and move on.” “What do you want me to do?” “For starters, a lot of reporters are going to write stories about what you wrote, and they are going to want to talk to you about it. They will find your e-mail address, and they will figure out how to reach you through your friends. Some might even show up at Google or outside your apartment. I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t talk to any of them.” “I won’t.” “I’m going to have someone from the press office call you in a few minutes. I’d like for you to do exactly what they tell you to do.” As she uttered the words, Charlotte realized that Penny must have suspected that it was possible her post would receive attention from the press. Most likely, it was also why she’d overheard Peter explaining to Penny earlier that morning that Dale’s e-mail address was the same as it had been. It made Charlotte wonder: Had Dale had an e-mail relationship with her daughter while she’d been romantically involved with Peter?” The thought had never entered her mind, but upon reflection, it was possible. Charlotte felt nauseated by the thought, but she did her best to sound the perfect combination of disappointed and forgiving as she hung up with Penny. Even though she was already late for her speech, she allowed herself to wallow for an extra moment about the fact that Penny had become so distant. She wondered exactly when and how it had happened. Charlotte was racked with guilt about the huge chunks of her children’s lives that she’d missed. Where had all the years gone? It felt like just yesterday that she’d brought the twins home from the hospital. They’d been so tiny, but even as a newborn, Penny had demanded so much of Charlotte’s attention. She would use her teeny fingers to grab onto Charlotte’s hand, and she’d cry whenever Charlotte put her down to take care of Harry. Penny did everything before Harry. She walked first. She talked first. She was the first to join in with other kids at the playground. Harry liked to watch his sister. He watched Penelope walk around their small Pacific Heights apartment for weeks before he took his first steps. And he let her do all of his talking for months before he opened his mouth to say “Mama.” Where in God’s name had eighteen and a half years gone? Charlotte wondered. She was already late for her speech at the Women’s Museum, but she wanted to make one more call. She dialed Harry’s cell phone. He was probably still asleep. “Hi, sweetie,” she said. “Hi, Mom,” he said groggily. “Can you call your sister today?” “What did she do?” “Go online when you wake up.” “OK.” He yawned. “I’m going to be out there in a few weeks. We’ll have lots of time to visit, if you can make time for your boring old mom.” “Of course.” “Go back to sleep. I love you.” “You, too.” He was still sweet. He didn’t get straight As like his sister, and he didn’t do a dozen extracurricular activities like Penny did, but everyone loved him. Charlotte retouched her lipstick and smoothed her hair with her fingers before she returned to the Oval Office. Peter was sitting on the sofa with Brooke and Mark, and Craig, Dale, and Marguerite were huddled near her desk. “How’d it go?” Peter asked. “Fine.” She didn’t want to rehash the conversation in front of her staff. “Dale, you can tell the press that Penny and I spoke and everything is fine. We plan to spend some time talking politics when I visit later this month. I also spoke to Harry.” Dale was scribbling furiously in her notepad. “Do you want us to address whether she intended for the post to be made public?” Dale asked. Charlotte thought for a moment. Penny had said that she intended the post for her friends, but certainly, she must have known that it would get out. “You’d better not,” Charlotte said. “Madam President, would it be all right with you if we touched base with her to make sure that she and her friends know how to send every inquiry from the press to us, no matter where it comes from?” Craig asked. “Yes. I told her to expect a call from the press office. Peter, maybe you can hold her hand through the process?” Charlotte asked. “Sure,” he said. “Mr. Kramer, we’ll need you to make clear to her that she needs to be highly suspicious of every e-mail, text, and Facebook message she gets today. The press will be relentless in their efforts to engage her. Perhaps Dale can jump on the line for a quick second just to assure her that the press office is here to field all of the calls on this today,” Craig suggested. Peter nodded and looked at Charlotte. “That’s fine,” she said. “Madam President, Marguerite and I will come with you to the speech. We should leave as soon as possible,” Craig said. “I’m ready.” Sam handed Charlotte a fresh copy of her speech, and a Secret Service agent held the door open. Brooke and Mark headed straight to the president’s limo, affectionately called the Beast, for its size and weight.

~~~ 


When I started reading the first book, my mind went back to the excellent show, that I loved, "Madam Secretary." I so enjoyed watching a woman have a significant post in our Government... And, to a great extent, the character that played the Secretary of State had a personality much like Charlotte, our President of this Trilogy. A president, no matter what sex, has a life outside of the position... Yet, it doesn't. Both must be considered. Sometimes that is impossible and a family breaks apart. Most of the time, I believe that when an individual chooses to serve their country, it must be on the basis of the Country coming first... 

I've purposely left out a lot of narrative of these books. There are many other reviews that you can check out. I found that, this morning, after having the loss of my president's decision sink in, my mind went to this trilogy and what happened... That book ends by Madam President going to the opposite party and seeking suggestions for her new Vice President, which would be another woman...

Already, this white male, that white male, or this other white male has been named as a possible candidate... If I had any way to recommend what was to happen, I would whisper to Kamala that she might want to consider a woman, Liz Cheney... Another person whose life was destroyed by the former president... And, if we are ever going to move forward beyond what has/is happening in America, we should try to move away from the republican cult and restore our two-party system. It may have been troublesome sometime. But at least it would still be a democratic nation... Cheney has the credentials and the spirit we need to win... And it would be a move forward by having both the president and vice-president filled by women... Especially after the destruction of women's health care via the republican-appointed Justices. No, I didn't get the idea from these books, but they certainly combine family and the political world in an outstanding, informative manner... Thoroughly enjoyable... Check them out!

GABixlerReviews

Friday, July 19, 2024

Gary Hart, Retired Democrat Senator, Presents The American Republic Can Save American Democracy - Getting Back to the Basics!

 






This particular publisher, perhaps because of its being an essay and shorter than most books, does not permit sharing an excerpt even in reviews. I hope you will take the opportunity to listen to the videos I found related to Gary Hart's latest book. What I do in my excerpts is try to share one or more of the most important parts of nonfiction writings--sometimes, I know, it may be the only opportunity for my readers to know what so many writers are saying during this chaotic and, I have to agree with many, dangerous time in America.

Hart concludes his book by spotlighting what happened on January 6th! How many of you remember that time--to me it was worse than 9-11 since those on 9-11 were from another country, while it was homeland terrorists incited by a former president on January 6th.


Hart stated that after 12 years within Congress, he watched the "barbarians" who invaded the Capitol. He wept... Going on to clarify, "it was worse than a bad movie!" He then talked about the "barbarians" sitting at his, or a very near desk of his, rifling into papers, throwing them around, reading and screaming... Further, they demeaned the desk of the presiding officer... and then finished that "vulgar" acts were also committed there... I can see why he cried... It was his life being destroyed by "barbarians" Me, I just got angrier and angrier... Especially, knowing that the VP at that time had refused to do one last thing for his president...overthrow the election... We all know that there were fake electors named and attempted to get to the VP...

I thought it was quite ironic when Hart went on to describe the US Capitol as the "temple of democracy." Why? Because as Christians, we are told that God's Holy Spirit abides in each of us if we accept His love. Now we watched as many carrying or wearing shirts supporting the Nazis and other white supremacists garb, using the American flag to maim or kill... As Hart talked about it being a temple not only for Americans, but also for many world-wide citizens who look to the United States as a country they wanted to be like... Now, as recently as within the last month, three countries--Iran, U.K. and France have voted to remove those far-right extremists from holding office... Will they now be succeeding in working toward a stronger or firm democracy? While some Americans strive to destroy our democracy? What a catastrophe for all of us!

Hart begins his book with what many writers are talking about--retaining our republic as a democracy! And why shouldn't more be talking? Indeed I did have a civics class when I was young. For whatever reason, surely a political reason, that class has been removed from our educational system? Why? Now we are in a mess when our young people don't even know what the Bill of Rights are... Our Constitution? Doubtful... It had never been important, it seems, because all of our past presidents, prior to 2015, was dedicated to the Constitution. 

What occurred during the past administration was bad enough as many of our regulations for safety of our citizens who work in dangerous environments, for instance, was eliminated... Anything that could affect the bottom line of major corporations was stopped, apparently. Nobody could do anything about it, especially when it was instigated by the president, and supported by one political party, and then later, after having added 3 Supreme Court Justices, was able to even remove laws! Hart knew what would happen if America was controlled by an authoritarian president. In essence it would result in no government other than as controlled by that office. Think Putin's presidency which is a controlled election in which he always wins... And if, the last opponent who tried, he was imprisoned and "died" there... Hart is specific, authoritarian leaders undermine and subvert the principles of government. And that the best ways to avert that is to be found in the republican principles and ideals as expressed in our Constitution. So, as a reminder, here's a quick or full presentation of our Constitution...



If you do listen to the original you will learn that, at that time, some people living in America were not even considered a "whole person..." Many changes have been made to improve individual citizens standings since then. Thank God! But at least you will learn how things began...

Hart does a great analysis starting with Civics 101, you might say... "We The People..." and all that... In my opinion, he was so upset (as most Americans were) that when he saw January 6th incited by a president, that he quickly began to germinate just how he was going to write another book...  You might say, that when a former Senator sees that overthrowing an election had been planned, implemented and resulted in an insurrection, he felt that he'd have to start from the beginning...for these "Barbarians." (Again, his word not mine, but you don't see me disagreeing, do you?)

Then Hart starts talking about the threats to our democracy. Wait for it... we all know that it would be "Equal Rights! Or at least the majority of our citizens, especially those that had to fight for rights (and are still fighting--you know, women who have just lost control of our own bodies; Indigenous citizens and All Non-White citizens who are still harassed, hated and often killed just for being the color they are! Or having a different religion than some people...) And, People, Citizens, Let me Tell You It Can Get Worse! Have you heard of Project 2025? I recommend you do some research on this 900-page plan of action if the past president gets to be our next president!

Hart goes over a little history, such as the McCarthy period--no, not the first leader of the house, who was quickly removed, etc as well as the second... Anyway, the first political McCarthy who made a name for himself was calling everybody communists...and the government spent a lot of time and money "policing" who was accused... He points out that both parties have had some problems, but it was most the far right who really got into who had/did support Hitler and a Fascist government... Funny thing is this seems to have reversed this time... That last big chaotic shakeup didn't work, so this time they'll try something else... like, White Supremacy/Hitler's dreams... Then Hart gets specific pointing out that Donald Trump was doing exactly what had already been tried, but in the opposite game... His closure is simply, An authoritarian, strong leader's solutions are always simple, draconian--of great severity), and wrong... And, that they are wrong, simply because they are outside the bounds of democracy, where we the people are guaranteed certain inalienable rights--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Hart's ending is also expected... We MUST save our democracy! He notes that he is writing this book simply because many have not been involved (like me, pre-2015) and are not aware of the very real loss of all of our promised rights under our constitution if an authoritarian--a dictator is elected... I, for one value my freedom for myself and for all other citizens. For me, that means all of God's children--red and yellow, black and white they are precious in his sight!

Hart joined Keep Our Republic. I just checked and they have general info but also for the 3 swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin... I've asked for more information to share here if possible... 

Hart's book may not be new in content. What I found most important was that a retired Senator openly admitted that he cried as he watched January 6th...  I was in shock during the actual activities, but had been so involved in news and books related to what was happening, I, just like Gary Hart, turned to activism... I hope that each person who stops by Book Readers Heaven will talk about what is happening. Perhaps referring to something you have learned here. No, I refuse to read books sharing the opposite viewpoint. I no longer am a reviewer that accepts books for review, so have no limitations on what I read--only on what impacts my life, my friends and family's lives and the country that has been good to all of our citizens, even if we had/have to keep fighting those who have different viewpoints... For me, I've read books by people of many races and/or religion. I think I have a good handle on the way the majority feel about their lives and how they feel about what is happening. I believe in the Democratic party now in Office. There may be issues that could be of concern, as I read in my last book about Identity Politics. But, having learned that, I took time to listen and include, for instance, Biden's speech at the NAACP... As Biden says, I believe he has become wiser as a result of his last eight years with President Obama and in our present Administration with Kamala Harris. Specifically, I believe he is so adamant about continuing because he knows that we are already going backward as a result of Trump's court changes and does not want to see more of the America he has supported all his life be destroyed...

A final note, when a comedian's monologue as he begins his show is not funny, you know he and many others are concerned... I've included some of my favorite and most relevant videos for me, in my life... What do you think? Want to share about your concerns? Let's talk via Comments below...

GABixlerReviews








Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Zerlina Maxwell, MSNBC Analyst, Presents The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide - An Excellent Nonfiction Book! Open Memoir





If you do not know we've got trouble in the United States, then this book is not for you!


Yesterday I went to the doctor about a possible knee replacement. My caretaker went with me to ensure we both heard the same thing. The first individual that came in was probably a resident who worked with the surgeon... He was Black. He was wonderful to interact with... After we left, I asked my caretaker, who is in tune with my opinions... Wouldn't America be a sad world without our Black residents? Folks, I've heard enough about Project 2025 to know what is planned for the future. It will result in many non-white individuals being placed under scrutiny and possibly relocated from America! Please plan to vote in November...

Maxwell's book was published in 2020. It is my opinion that some of the book does not reflect an up-to-date evaluation of our president. That does not mean that I question what was being said. What it means is that, from the period during which he wrote a paper on what then became law under President Clinton, I believe that, as he says himself, he has grown wiser. Of course, that does not change his history, rather it is, in my opinion, to be taken as a measuring stick for all readers of this book, to what he did during the Obama eight years and now with Harris as his VP. You all know my support for which presidential candidate I will be voting for in 2024.

Now, let's get into the book. Some of you may have read The Author's Note that I shared earlier. If not, check it out by looking in my right column of do a search for the author... First, let me tell you that I had a Black best friend from 7th grade onto graduation from high school. Afterward, I was on the West Virginia University campus for 37 years and had routine interactions with all students, faculty and administrators... They included non-white individuals.

I recognize that I may have a unique perspective from others (or not, I really don't know). What I do know is that, when the Black Dean of Libraries and I, one of the rare female higher level administrators were both relieved of their services, at the change of presidency, I knew it was discrimination even though we couldn't do anything about it. We had positions that were not classified, but served at the pleasure of the president. And if that president wants to fire somebody at that level, it is permitted under policy. Even if there was no problem with our performance.

Let's specify immediately that almost no or few women and non-whites have been in control of almost all organizations since the beginning of America. Each advancement was fought for rather than considered routine. Many white men were fighting against us. And, so, we who were part of fighting for those rights, are very upset and angry...

Maxwell spotlights the problem as identity-based politics...

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman to be elected to Congress in the history of the state of Massachusetts. Pressley’s campaign slogan, #WeCantWait, emphasized the need for a shift in leadership for Massachusetts’s seventh district, a diverse, working-class constituency that includes the cities of Boston and Dorchester. When I interviewed Pressley for this book, she acknowledged how much pushback she got from the white political establishment about her focus on women of color. They wanted her to be less focused on women and girls of color; they bristled at her insistence that she wear her hair in Senegalese twists and traditionally black hairstyles. Her presentation needed to be more palatable to the white mainstream, especially in a city like Boston and a state like Massachusetts. 

Yet, her message prevailed because voters of color understood her connections to their communities and stood behind her. Pressley’s unorthodox run focused on the fact that the systems that kept so many people down weren’t invented by Trump. She made people aware that the focus on only certain segments of American voters, while others are ignored, is in need of a fundamental transformation. “This is not just about resisting and affronting Trump,” she declared, garbed in a flowing red jumper. “Because the systemic inequalities and disparities that I’m talking about existed long before that man occupied the White House!” When Pressley won and shocked the political establishment nationwide, she said, “I’m accountable in working for more than just who voted for me, but you know, each morning I’m thinking specifically about those who we effectively and successfully engaged or reengaged who had been ignored, left out, or left behind.” 

The traditional white male consulting class didn’t know what to do with an outspoken black city councilwoman from Boston who unapologetically ran her first race for city council on a message of protection and advocacy for women and girls of color. 

“I also had a multigenerational [strategy], you know, multicultural, every sexual orientation, gender identity—and that mattered. That informed everything. It’s to ensure that you don’t have blind spots.” That’s just never been done before in politics. Politics, in this day and age, is all about blind spots because, traditionally, the people who craft our candidates’ messages don’t look like the people they are speaking to. They don’t always know what it’s like to be a victim of racial prejudice when they’re crafting messages to communities of color or what it’s like to experience workplace sexual harassment when they’re crafting messages to women. We have not made it a prerequisite for our speech writers and campaign managers to actually be of the constituency that the candidate is looking to speak to, so it’s no wonder that, even today, we’re still hearing candidates speak in a way that doesn’t fully engage all of their constituents. These messaging blind spots have created a need and an opportunity for candidates like Pressley to use their own experiences to speak directly to those Americans that share them, rather than just parroting what their out-of-touch campaign strategists tell them to say. That was her strategy, to speak what she knew from her own lived experiences—and from the lived experiences of those she was seeking to represent—rather than just listening to what her campaign consultants told her to do when she knew it wasn’t right for her constituents. Pressley’s challenge of Mike Capuano, a veteran, ten-term incumbent, ruffled the feathers of establishment insiders. Incumbent candidates for Congress tend to win reelection 90 percent of the time, so any challenge to them that can upset the balance of establishment power is seen as an unnecessary annoyance to the party. Running against a reliable incumbent Democrat—someone who votes on policy the way the majority of Dems want them to vote, someone who’s unlikely to challenge the status quo in return for being able to keep his or her seat of power—is normally seen as something that isn’t worth the effort. You’re probably going to lose, and for what? But Pressley didn’t see running her campaign as something not worth the effort because, in her view, it’s not just about voting the way the party wants you to vote, and it’s not just about having someone in office who is a Democrat—a warm body who isn’t actively working to help his or her constituents. It’s about having someone who can speak truth to power and loudly advocate for constituents too at risk or too vulnerable to speak for themselves. Pressley’s vision harkens back to the true meaning of representative democracy. In Pressley’s eyes, “The people that are closest to the pain need to be closest to the power.” When Pressley announced her candidacy, the advice from some of the consultants was to play it safe and smooth out some of the edges to appeal to a more moderate and probably white electorate; she shouldn’t make explicit appeals to communities of color by running on the protection of women and girls of color. She was told that identity-based politics wouldn’t and couldn’t work. Imagine all of the women of color who needed to hear that message, who were moved to vote for Pressley because of the truths she so bravely spoke in her campaign. She spoke about overcoming her own history of abuse and trauma to become an outspoken advocate for girls of color who were living through those same experiences—an unorthodox message. In a time when politics focuses on messages of economic prosperity, Pressley focused instead on the most vulnerable and unprotected people in her constituency, speaking out against physical abuse and speaking up for gender equality. This all gets down to the systemic ways in which we come up with “the message” in the first place and how that system needs a complete overhaul. 

How will political consultants, who shape political candidates and their messaging, know how to speak to the people in the candidates’ constituency when they themselves may not understand the people? A huge part of learning to harness this power correctly lies in learning how to articulate one’s message to the people. Each demographic is different—they have different lived experiences and are searching for the fulfillment of different needs in public policy to help shape their lives. We are not a one-size-fits-all coalition, so a one-size-fits-all message is doomed to do more harm than good, alienating entire factions of the Democratic base with a single ill-fitted mantra or campaign slogan. Democrats need to be able to speak to men and women of color of all walks of life. They particularly need to be able to speak to black women. Black women will play an especially crucial role in determining the election outcome in the 2020 Democratic primary race because, as Fortune magazine noted in a June 20, 2019, article by Melanie Eversley: “In the wake of the general election last year, black women stand out as a demographic group with one of the largest voter turnouts. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 55% of eligible black women voters cast ballots in November 2018, a full six percentage points above the national turnout.” That part of the Obama coalition also needs to be understood as a persuadable yet pragmatic bloc that does regularly participate in elections. The key to harnessing the votes of any member of yesteryear’s Obama coalition is tailoring a message to tackle the specific issues of the voter demographic while making it clear that they and their lived experiences are seen, acknowledged, and included in the mix of the political conversation. 

So, how do you harness and secure the votes of blacks, Latinos, and the younger generations? Here’s a thought that rarely occurs to the Democratic old guard: What are the lived experiences of black and brown people? The simple answer is you have to first ask this question before you can realize that the answer is that it’s something very different from the lived experience of a white male leader. Often, data gurus on campaigns come up with a message they think might resonate with the most people based on feedback from focus groups that they set up to get a pulse on what the constituents are feeling. These focus group administrators are all well-meaning experts with stats and numbers, but that doesn’t mean that they are actually of the constituency they’re trying to learn more about or that they understand them beyond what is said within the confines of the focus group setting. Going forward, campaigns need to understand that cultural biases cannot be learned and accounted for within a single focus group session. Using this focus group data, campaigns then poll the candidate’s policy positions and messaging to see what gets the highest marks. 

But this ivory tower approach isn’t the best way to win. Data can show only so much, and it can’t tell lawmakers what people are thinking and feeling. The PowerPoint presentations and graphs don’t reflect human impulses and biases like sexism and racism, which impact voting preferences and which are best spoken to through shared lived experiences. This is why, as Democrats, we need to convene focus groups in real communities, not in manufactured settings, where candidates can get our feedback, or the candidates should be creating these groups. The listening sessions that these groups provide candidates and their staff are essential in opening up the line of communication between the people and those in power. But that line of communication often closes as soon as the data is collected or utilized instead of creating a feedback loop that persists as long as that person is representing the public. On campaigns, this feedback loop is necessary because political messaging needs to consider factors like bias that may impact the behavior and the needs of the people candidates are trying to reach and represent. Pressley’s candidacy and model in Congress are a template for the future. She represents what is possible when the people in power have been through some of the same obstacles that they are in Congress to legislate against. 

If the political strategists who are giving candidates advice are not people of color and they are not on the election consultancy team, we need to look for a new lawmaker. Symone Sanders, the press secretary for Bernie Sanders in 2016, was a senior adviser for Joe Biden in 2020. The campaign manager for Julián Castro moved over to advise Elizabeth Warren’s campaign once he dropped out of the race. These people of color are advising candidates who haven’t lived their experience but who want to understand it deeply so they can put forward workable policy solutions. Without the expertise of people of color, the plans these candidates hope to implement could seem out of touch with the constituency’s lived reality. The folks working beside government officials need to be diverse, as diverse as the voters the officials hope to represent, much like Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns were. 

I’ve been on the inside, and a lack of diversity in a candidate’s campaign directly relates to campaign messages and whether they are in or out of step with the people. If you want a diverse coalition of voters to support your candidate, you’d better hire people who look like the coalition you are trying to build. But there’s no campaign school for little black kids. There’s too little infrastructure in place to train young people of color to intern or work on a campaign, and young people who work on campaigns are better positioned to become future candidates. Democrats can gain a big opportunity and build up a pipeline of candidates if they work to include young people from the community in political campaigns. The old way of listening to a white man in khakis who has only seen the city of Baltimore because of the Stringer Bell character in The Wire is over.

I was 18 when I took my job in the Office of Personnel at WVU. I was the records clerk that did the paperwork for all classified employees hired. The people ranged from service staff, such as custodians and mail carriers, up through to professional and technical personnel, some paid as much or higher than some faculty. I was quickly interacting with people of all people--no matter who they were. I helped them understand their benefits and get them on the payroll. Many of them I worked with through my years on campus. And, when I began to supervise others, I took each employee and learned enough about them so that I could help them do his or her job. It is quite easy for me to recognize what Maxwell is talking about! And I wholeheartedly agree. All of us are American citizens. We should all be just the same in being represented effectively!

To me, this is just logical! I was elected to Staff Council at West Virginia University. Individuals were chosen based upon their job classification. ALL classified positions at the University were included... So, I have to ask, why aren't representatives elected based upon some type of identity for purposes of politics?!

Maxwell begins the book with the chapter called, "Demonized Politics." It is not hard to imagine what might be covered first... But let's be very specific. Pay differentials!

One of the most important things we have to remember about identity politics is that it essentially creates a broader spectrum of politics, a framework that establishes new parameters for the people whose issues we consider and the person who is elected to represent those interests. Equal pay is an issue that illustrates this point. The often-cited statistic is that women make only 77 cents for every dollar a white man makes. But that’s the statistic for white women. Black women actually make only 64 cents on the dollar, and Latinas make only 54 cents. That disparity illustrates how race and gender can affect economic status, and thus, policy solutions must take that into consideration. No policy to solve equal pay can truly be effective unless every aspect of people’s lived experiences is taken into consideration, and those differ depending on what color skin we were born with. I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is, and we have to deal with it. What most detractors to identity politics fail to realize is that in 2016, Donald Trump ran on identity politics too—white identity politics. If not explicitly, he certainly ran on prioritizing the interests of white Americans over everyone else. “Trump went against the traditional Republican platform by promising to expand government, to protect Social Security, to protect Medicare and basically to provide government benefits that white people wanted.… Trump’s appeal is about whites wanting to feel like they’re getting some share of government benefits and support. This is of course wrong: White Americans receive a disproportionate share of resources whether that’s from the government or just the overall economic, social and political resources in the United States,” Duke University professor Ashley Jardina explained in an interview with Salon magazine. Jardina defines “white identity politics” as “the group of voters who feel attachment to their whiteness as a thread of solidarity and belonging.…

How sad that this same issue was addressed in the 1960s when Civil Rights was addressed resulting in Equal Pay for Equal Work... But that only works in, perhaps, non-corporate organizations. And, even at the University, I was quite aware that, for my level of responsibility, I came into another department where young and unclassified staff were making more than I was... Part of this was that, new people coming in would have a chance to negotiate their salaries, while if you were promoted internally, there was a standard percentage increase across the board. Yes, many new people were being paid higher salaries than those in similar positions who had years of experience! The point is that we--women and non-white individuals have known for decades that white men were paid more! Surely the question must be asked--WHY? And, everybody knows that the minimum wage rate hasn't been updated for too many years!

Readers, I'm not going to spend more time on this book, not because it doesn't deserve it. But because, I do have one critical point I want to make. Having lived in the 1960s and seen the improvements that were being made by the federal government, only to now see just how easily white men have worked to move us backward rather than forward. I want to close with this. Zerlina Maxwell is right on point on what needs to be said and even how to begin to look at things... I highly recommend this book, if you are younger, to all non-whites. Further, if you are white, but very concerned, such as a female white individual, I also recommend this book. Women have also been forced to fight in the area of employment and equal rights, even though it has been worse, in my opinion, for non-white, especially in the area of salary...

Now, without giving specifics, I want to spotlight, finally, what Maxwell shares about racial/sexual discrimination within politics! Apparently it is rampant... In my opinion, although I haven't been in the work field for a very long time, but I DO know that when our former president started calling names of women such as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, you can be sure that all men saw it as open season for all those harassments that had been calmed down through the earlier improvements in federal regulations, which are now being questioned once again. So, to me, I see this period of time as a "reinvention of the wheel" once again if indeed we get the wrong party in office. 


What do I mean? In my opinion, normal communication has been so corrupted since 2015, that if we don't at least move back to that level where we had achieved some level of success in many areas, then we cannot possibly hope to achieve what Maxwell has rightly said must occur. Instead, if our former president is elected, we would be moving backward until cave men were once again pulling their captured females back to their caves... NOT trying to be funny...

It was quite clear that our former president favored big-money corporations in relation to taxes and regulations and eliminate many safety and financial constraints...for those same corporations to whom he gave major tax cuts... Also, two major issues about guns and women's bodies will continue to deteriorate until women are not working but kept pregnant and working in her kitchen, waiting for her husband, the breadwinner to come home... Or, taking the oldest job of women who were not married and providing the always-required services that all men must have, no matter from whom that would be... Sarcasm intended. We will be back in the 1950s or maybe even in Bible times where harems were popular... What do you think? Did God really plan for the human race to move backward rather than forward in our lives? I seriously doubt it!

GABixlerReviews



Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Francis Hamit Presents Epic Historical Novel--STARMEN! A Personal Favorite for 2024 - Who Are the Starmen?!

 



McLean heard the middle stair creak and felt Frazer come cautiously in the door. He turned, smiled at him reassuringly, and then said, “This is Mr. Frazer. Jim, meet William Pinkerton, the President of our company. William, Mister Frazer is a scholar from England with the Ethnographic Survey.” He raised his eyebrows significantly, but William did not catch the meaning behind those words. “Really?” William stood up and offered his hand. “And where do you study?” Frazer looked from one to the other, slightly confused. “Well, for the moment, here. I’m collecting tales of native cultures. But I read at Trinity. Cambridge.” William looked suitably impressed. “I’m a Notre Dame man myself.” 
McLean decided to jump in. “Jim needed a connection to someone in a local tribe. We have a young lad helping us who was able to help, and settled on a price for that service. It’s a per diem.” William Pinkerton, who was stout, with a big square head crowned with black hair, accented by a small mustache, and bright blue eyes, nodded. “How much are you paying the boy?” “Yet to be determined,” McLean said. “It depends on the client’s satisfaction.” Pinkerton nodded. Was it worth asking further? He decided not. Harry McLean was already irritated enough. And could simply take his pension and retire to a comfortable life in Denver if pushed too far. Fortunately, William knew, he loved the work too much to do that. “Well, I’ll leave that to you. Are you satisfied so far, Mister Frazer?” 
“Jim, please. Yes. It’s going very well. Harry has also been very helpful.” William Pinkerton smiled. “Glad to hear it.” McLean nodded. He cleared his throat. “Uh, Jim, I think we will have to pick this up later. William and I have agency business to discuss.” Frazer looked slightly surprised. “Of course,” he murmured. “Perhaps tonight?” “I will find you,” McLean promised. Frazer was quickly gone. 
The two detectives stared at each other. “What the Hell are you playing at, William?” McLean finally exploded. “This is one diabolical liberty, just showing up like this!” “Why are you surprised?” Pinkerton leaned back. “I do the same with other branches now. It keeps people on their toes. And with the current political and economic situation, we need to be sharp. Got the big Centennial celebration next year, and the election.” McLean stared at him, and then sighed. “Working as hard as I can, Boss. You don’t like it, then send me back to Denver and my wife and kids. Run this yourself.” 
Pinkerton held out both hands before him as if pushing back an invisible wall. “Now, Harry, I meant nothing by it. You know that we miss you in Chicago, and we need someone we can trust here. This is a great location. It gets us into Mexico.” McLean began to make a pot of coffee. “Not sure we want to go there, myself. Different system of law. Napoleonic Code. Different language, and, by the way, about a hundred thousand Indians in various tribes that don’t recognize that border or any White Man’s authority.” “We go where the business is.” Pinkerton looked at the journal again. “Explain this bit of correspondence. Why are you writing Elmer Washburn about a balloon?” McLean’s face relaxed into a smile. He chuckled. “Now that is a mystery. You’ve not been over to the Mercado? The big square near the cathedral?” Pinkerton shook his head no. McLean set the coffee pot on top of the pot bellied stove, lit the fire and sat down in the chair at the next desk. 
“Yesterday, a big hot air balloon appears there and lands. Bigger than you have ever seen. Now young Frazer and me, we’d struck up an acquaintance the day before, and he’s told me about Mademoiselles Pompadour and her traveling show. I thought he was having me on until I saw this prodigious balloon appear, and this very attractive blonde lower herself over the side, wearing pink tights that did nothing to conceal her figure. Quite an entrance.” 
Pinkerton stared at him, and then nodded. “Young Frazer has been hired by them as an advance man, and there is a big greeting with a band, and he introduces me to the lady. She sees my badge and wants to know, right away, if I’m from the Government. I explain that we are and always have been a private enterprise. She says you must come to dinner. So I do that.” The coffee was ready and McLean got up and poured two cups. “Be careful not to burn your hand,” he cautioned. Pinkerton took his cup and set it on the desk to cool. “And?” “They are staying at the Excelsior. Best hotel in town. And the name of the lady is actually Rose Green, and she’s from Liverpool. And the pilot is Sir Percy Wyndham, who does not have his trademark mustaches that he wore when he commanded the First New Jersey during the War. The others are a mixed lot, Italian and French scientists. The crew are dressed like French sailors, but King Victor Emmanuel is the sponsor.” Pinkerton nodded slowly. “I am going to have to read up on this, because I’m understanding only about half of what you are saying. Cut to the chase, Harry. Why write Washburn about this?” McLean shook his head. 
“Come on, William. Ethnographic Survey? That’s a British Secret Service cover most of the time. Jim Frazer’s research may be on the up-and-up, but the rest of it stinks like fish that’s been left out too long. And why the big show to cover what they are really doing? Rose Green’s real name is Rose Greenhow.” Pinkerton was startled. “Like the famous Confederate spy?” “Her daughter. And reputedly the bastard child of her and Jose Limantour, the current Minister of Finance for Mexico. As crooked as they come, and Rose’s paterfamilias in England is Judah P. Benjamin. She was a little drunk and feeling sorry for herself, and just babbled on. Or so it seemed.” “You think it was an act?” 
“They were trying to recruit me, William. Pull me back in. I came here for them before the War. Your Dad knows all about it. He worked for them, too.” “What?” McLean sighed. “You ever talk politics with Allan? Back then, we were Chartists, rebels against the Queen. We got caught. Given a choice between a rather grisly traitor’s death and working here for Percy Anderson at the British Legation helping the Abolitionists. Well, that suited us just fine, and we joined the Chicago Police and became detectives, and then Allan set up the agency, and then found another lost cause, the Presidential campaign of a railroad lawyer by the name of Lincoln. 
Railroads made us what we are today, but Lincoln, and Judah Benjamin, who was, back then, one of his law partners, got us started.” William Pinkerton shook his head. “Dad is writing his memoirs, but he’s left that part out.” He took a sip of his coffee. “So, how did you get out of it?” “Helping run the Underground Railroad helped, and then we spied against the South. Had to take the Oath of Allegiance, and become American citizens. With Judah Benjamin running the other spy service, the, as we called it, ‘adversary party’, we had to make a choice. In 1862 you were either a patriot or a traitor. Traitors got hung. It helped that we suddenly had money, lots of money. Our fortune was here and we cannot go back, on pain of death. I’m sure that warrant is still valid. And we saw how England was trying to break up the country and wanted no part of that. So we’re Americans now. And you and your brother and sister were born here. Natives. So I never considered it for a moment.” Pinkerton nodded. “You are right, of course. What else bothers you about the balloon?” McLean looked upwards, trying to remember something. “Ah! Something Frazer said. They are armed. Gatling guns. In case they set down and have to defend themselves from unfriendly natives. They don’t display them, but they are there. And the crew has the new Winchester rifles.” 
“That is troublesome. You might call it ‘overkill’.” McLean laughed and nodded. “Think about it, William. It’s a massive craft for what it is, and, aside from having a 21-year-old woman in charge, seems to be very military. Or maybe naval. Sir Percy Wyndham is a star soldier, a mercenary, which means while his title comes from King Victor Emmanuel, he’s also British Secret Service. He said he was on ‘detached service’.” “And if it traveled on the water instead of through the air as some kind of amusement, it would cause alarms to be sent up. Have we been invaded?” McLean shook his head. “I think it’s more in the nature of a reconnaissance. They say they are searching for minerals and land to buy. But the Confederate government angle troubles me. The Confederate Treasury had four million in gold that’s never been found. Judah Benjamin burned all the Secret Service records in Richmond as they evacuated the government. There’s a whole network of traitors in the North that’s never been found out.” “And an amnesty in ‘72. They can’t be prosecuted.” 
“That don’t matter. Exposure would bring social and financial ruin. They can be blackmailed. James Buchanan was.” “The President?” William looked shocked. “How?” “He liked men, not women. This was well known before the war, and tolerated because he was a very able politician. Yet he sat on his hands and did nothing as the nation came apart, and we had the worst war in history. Rose Greenhow was his beard. He visited her at night so everyone drew an obvious and wrong conclusion. She worked for the French and the British and anyone else who’d help finance those elaborate balls she put on. Senator Judah Benjamin was one of them. Seems the Confederate Secret Service was operating before there was a Confederate government. The Brits again. Ol’ La Fayette Baker was right, the treason was years in the making. ‘The South will rise again?’ Reconstruction has not really pacified the South. 
Imagine those balloons coming against what’s left of the Union Army now, invading Texas and rallying all those poor bastards who saved their Confederate money to the cause. Throwing down grenades and Greek fire in bottles? Percy Wyndham was a Brigade Commander during the Italian War. Just the man to make it happen. He could be making military maps with that crew of his. Planning a march in from Mexico of a mercenary army.” William looked very grave. “So this is why you are writing to Washburn?” “Yes. If we are Americans, then I think we have a duty. It’s not a pitch for business. He has his own detectives. Leave it to them.” William smiled. “Write the letter and I will sign it. It will have more weight coming from me.” “How do you make that out?” “I’m the President of this agency.” 
McLean smiled kindly. “And he remembers you in short pants, getting caught stealing apples from a neighbor’s tree when he was a beat cop in Dundee. You’re new, and haven’t proven yourself in his eyes.” Pinkerton blushed and looked offended. He looked away and murmured, “Have it your way. We both can sign.” “Whatever you like, Boss,” McLean said, twisting the knife a little.
~~~

The only way to describe this book is to quickly say, that it must be experienced! This multi-genre novel is awesome in breadth and scope of the storyline. It blends historical reality with bits of whimsy and sorcery/witchcraft and pulls it off wonderfully. It moves back in history much further than the 1800s and makes a clear statement about how history can be destroyed intentionally, as well as routinely. It throws in the sexual trade historically as well as a romance or two. More importantly, I don't know whether on purpose or not; but, it shares much about the actual background of what happened in America which has led, in my opinion, to the situation we now face.

What did I mean by that? Well Hamit has done much research for this and his other historical book. When you read a novel that uses dialogue that might be a problem, you suddenly realize that this is what was happening then...and what has led to our present life in America... We have been too quick to try to "whitewash" that history...

The primary character--Harry Elliott McLean--called McLean--moves from beginning to the end and is one of the Pinkerton Detectives. He has been sent by the home office to work in the creation of a new office near the Mexican border in a city called El Paso. He was not thrilled to be sent there, but with his experience, he had been the logical choice, especially since the son of the original man who had started the company, has now taken over and is still...quite... inexperienced. We meet him and you'll see the difference in the two men.

You will also meet another primary character by the name of Jesus--pronounced Hey-seuss... He is an Apache and young as the book started; however, at one point he asked "How old do you want me to be?" when he was asked to take on a new role in the office. Watch this character closely or you might miss some of his activities!

With those two characters highlighted, let's start at the beginning... when a hot air balloon arrived in town--with passengers! One of those individuals was a passenger who was an Ethnographer, which is the study of native cultures. He had traveled from England and had also agreed to assist the remaining members on the balloon in getting to know the area... Now, these individuals are looking for riches that could be found... And, indeed, they do find something that was extraordinary... only to become lost.. Yes, the entire balloon and its occupants had dropped of Frazier and was (almost) never seen again... 

Frazier had arranged to meet with the Apache tribe, and would be led and introduced by Jesus. This part of the book was fascinating. It was Frazier's hope that he would be permitted to live with the local tribe and learn their stories. Not only did he succeed, but after some period of time, he was asked to leave the tribe, as if he had graduated. He came back to El Paso a completely different man in looks... Can you guess why? I loved this, what you might call, a subplot, as Frazier soon leaves and goes back to England...

In any event, we do catch up with the balloon's occupants as they cry, "Where the devil are we?" And one of the occupants looked around for Jesus...and another timidly said, "he flew away..." do...do... do...do... no scary movie music...this is in the 1800s when real Apache magic was alive and well...

But it gets even spookier... By the way, a reminder, the author said he decided to have fun with his book! Well... I had lots of fun reading it...even if with just a hint of what's really happening???

A new case has been assigned to McLean. The family has asked them to find their son who had last been seen in the El Paso area... Another agent, Blake Talman, has been assigned to the office and they plan to start out, not knowing where they will wind up. These two have completely different personalities, so the trip should prove interesting... But not as interesting as it really turned out to be... Oh, yeah, it was discovered that the local postmaster was a thief, so they'd be looking for him along the way... And, by the way, McLean's wife and daughters have shown up and the two daughters have already been trained and accepted as Pinkerton Agents... Now, it is really going to get complicated... Especially when William Pinkerton shows up and plans on staying awhile... And, wait for it, they have been notified that one of the gunmen McLean had formerly captured and had been convicted, was now free and heading...for... him...

So, folks, we got a posse being put together to go out into the wilds of the area... With a group of the Apaches as guides and a few Mexican police and a few caballeros who wanted to make sure if the posse may need to cross the border (which, of course, was not clearly marked those days!) And maybe a few that they picked up along the way... Because they were soon hearing about a new town and as they got closer, they began to hear loud noises that they couldn't place...

Until they came to the first body... The smell told them what the noise was. The man was recognized as a criminal on their wanted list... As they moved on, now carrying the dead body, the horses were getting restless as another loud bang came... Soon, they saw another body. The man was still alive, but managed to say "they're not actually human!" Jesus later pointed out at one point that if they were not human, then it may not be a sin or a crime... 

Finally they reached the town and located the sheriff's office. Jesus was in charge of the jail (yes, the same man--he get's around a lot) and they had found Derek Seaton, the missing son... In Jail... for murdering a guest of Jake Martin, the mayor, and owner of just about everything in the town. By the way, one of those guests was "Sheriff for the Day." Think the Ok Corral...


Yes, the town had been turned into an old west town where gun fights occurred daily, there were saloon girls available, and even a card shark came to town..

Thing is, all of the "new residents" had been invited by the Mayor... most of them were criminals now out of jail, or high-priced call girls from big cities who were now branded... Only, the girls wound up being mostly matched up with those criminal-type that wasn't like the gentlemen criminals of the real early west like, say, Doc Holliday...LOL, at least in our movies... Frankly the stranger guests really weren't interested in that type of participation. 

They were interested in the gun fights, and they normally occurred about once a day... probably about the time when their spaceship came and hovered to see how the guests were doing... or to pick up the first group of guests and drop off the new guests...

So, who exactly were the STARMEN? Well, you're going to have to read the book to find out...  Because even I am not sure just which were the ones for which the book was named... So, let me know your opinion after you read this fabulous, extraordinary and, yes, fun book! Don't miss it!

By the way, finally, one word was used in this book that was prominently used during the time period.  The authenticity of Hamit's history is very clear and confirming of what those of us who have accepted what really happened already knew... And, it is no wonder that many came to disdain white men in general. At that time, it was white men who were murdering our indigenous americans... and our non-white americans as well... See Hamit's earlier post on this issue.

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