Mormon Rivals: The Romneys, the Huntsmans, and the Pursuit of Power is an engrossing political drama, an in-depth look at the lives, families, historyMormon Rivals: The Romneys, the Huntsmans, and the Pursuit of Power is an engrossing political drama, an in-depth look at the lives, families, history of and connections between two of the biggest names in politics to come out of Mormon ranks in a generation. Authors Matt Canham and Thomas Burr are masters of their subject, weaving a fascinating look at how the two families took parallel paths to rise from pioneers on the American frontier to leadership on the national political stage.
For political junkies, Mormon Rivals, published by the Salt Lake Tribune, is like opening a bag of Cheetos: You promise yourself that you're going to just read a page or two and then put the book down, turn off the light and go to bed. Hours later, you're still reading, gripped by a saga that is as dramatic as that of any modern political dynasty. Before you know it, morning light is filtering through the bedroom windows and you realize that you've got orange dust up to your elbows and the Cheetos are gone. Oh, and you know far more about the Romneys and Huntsmans than you ever thought to ask. Canham and Burr carefully document not only the family history of both of the former presidential candidates, but detail the path that each took to political prominence, and the combination is both fascinating and informative.
Here are the “saloon keepers and rabble rousers” in Jon Huntsman’s past on father’s side and the “ministers and proselytizers” on his mother’s. We watch Mitt’s father’s quest for the White House and the poorly conceived comments that ended that campaign for the Republican nomination. And there’s more, with the authors tracing both families’ history into their past as pioneers of the American west. I thought I had done a pretty decent job of following the presidential race in 2012, reading numerous stories about both Mitt and Jon, but I found much that I had missed, or had been unclear, a more thorough and less loaded picture than most accounts provided of the candidates during the heat of a presidential campaign.
It’s also clear that Canham and Burr know their subjects, if not personally, well enough to provide appropriate context, whether the reader is a political debutant or veteran. As if it weren’t clear from the title, a major part of the friction between Huntsman and Romney that the authors are examining is the common religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mitt and Jon come at their religion differently from each other, with Romney seeming, apparently sincerely, the more orthodox of the two, while Huntsman’s dedication to the LDS faith seems at times to be more cultural. The authors are able to use a deft hand to explain the faith to non-believers or the uninitiated, demonstrate how the faith impacted and was demonstrated by both Romney and Huntsman (and their families), but without the mistakes or faux pas that often characterize the writing of journalists from outside of the mountain west. It’s a style that neither flaunts not flogs the faith. Instead, it merely explains Latter-day Saint history and doctrine with sufficient information to provide a framework for the world from which Romney and Huntsman emerged.
In many respects, the Romney and Huntsman families come from different places and have made distinct choices that set them apart. Both have strong good looks, beautiful wives, and large families, but similarities fade from there. Romney may be culturally closer to Utah, but is more a child of Michigan and Massachusetts. Huntsman, a Salt Lake City native, often seems to have more in common with an east coast prep school crowd than with the social and economic conservatives of his home state.
There are other differences, as well. Both owe much to their fathers for help in building their careers, but Huntsman career seemed to rely more on his father’s connections, and large financial donations, to political elites. Whether in his appointment to the USTR or employment with Huntsman Corp, Jon’s biggest benefactor has always been his father Jon Huntsman, Sr. It’s hard to argue that Romney was as reliant on his father for Mitt’s immense success in business or in politics. On the other hand, the influence of George Romney on his son’s choices in life cannot be underestimated. However, it was an influence that is born of Mitt’s admiration for his father, not based on his father’s money.
And, of course, there is the 2012 campaign for the White House. Canham and Burr tell the story that is still fresh in the public’s mind with a thorough look at the ups and downs of the campaign.
As Mormon Rivals draws to a close, Canham and Burr look at the scions of the Romney and Huntsman clans, evaluating how the next generation has participated in their fathers’ political lives and whether a second generation of rivalry might continue the rivalry. Whether Abby Huntsman and Josh (or Tagg) Romney will enter politics, though, remains an open question, and the book closes with an eye on the future. ...more
At some point while reading Ashley's War, I started to read faster, flipping pages, and almost skimming. It must have been shortly after I realized thAt some point while reading Ashley's War, I started to read faster, flipping pages, and almost skimming. It must have been shortly after I realized that Ashley--the title character, but by no means the only female soldier documented in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's book--was going to go to Afghanistan to serve on the front lines with special forces and wasn't going to tell her parents any more than that she would be an "enabler." They thought she was doing humanitarian work; Ashley was actually participating in raids with U.S. Army Rangers to capture insurgents in the dark of night.
As the father of three daughters, it scared the living daylights out of me. If I wasn't gripped by the book before, I was after this. I couldn’t put the book down, and it was closer to sunrise than it was to sunset when I finally closed Ashley's War on the last page.
Indeed, the entire book is gripping, fascinating reading, and Ashley’s War is a story that should be read by anyone seeking to understand American military policy, as well as the war in Afghanistan. The women Lemmon depicts in the story are admirable, incredible, and inspiring, and they deserve credit for their sacrifices. Ashley's War documents the creation of Cultural Support Teams by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield to "enable" Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan.
Simply put, aspects of Afghan culture prevented U.S. Special Forces—comprised entirely of men—from interacting with Afghan women without offending and alienating the population they were sent to protect. Because women in Afghanistan play an important role in the community and were aware of the movement of insurgents, American soldiers missed out on vital intelligence gathering that could have helped their efforts. In contrast, American women are seen as something of a third gender by Afghans, being neither men (and so prohibited from seeing, communicating, or being seen by Afghan women) nor Afghan female. Cultural Support Team members--women--could build relationships with women in ways that men could not. They could go where American men could not.
In great detail, Lemmon tells the stories of the women who heard about and applied to join the teams, the rigorous physical testing required of the applicants, and the bonding and friendships that grew during the experience. Lemmon is thorough and detailed in her reporting, relying on first-hand interviews with both the women and their families. The women are tremendous, every bit as brave, courageous and strong as the men they were joining on the front line. Lemmon’s writing is easy to read and understand, and she provides a level of background that allows anyone with any level of understanding about military affairs (or none at all) to read and enjoy.
In 2016, the United States moves to full integration of women in the Armed Services. When the history of women in the military is written, the Cultural Support Teams and Ashley's War may be seen as a critical moment and test in the policy shift.
That said, it was hard for me to read Ashley's War and not experience some reticence about America's foreign wars in recent years. Do America’s best and brightest need to be spending their best and formative years fighting, bleeding and dying in a faraway land? Has their sacrifice made America more secure? I believe in the men and women that have gone so far and given so much, and I was moved by the realization that far too few of us recognize or acknowledge the enormous burden that those few individuals have carried as a result of the war.
I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher....more
If you're a novice, beginner, starting a blog in a new market, this might be the book for you. As it is, though, I've been blogging for half a decade.If you're a novice, beginner, starting a blog in a new market, this might be the book for you. As it is, though, I've been blogging for half a decade. Much of the advice in Born to Blog feels like rehashed advice, stuff I already know.
That said, if someone asks me how to start, I'll hand them this book, recommend they read it, and then suggest we get together to discuss how to apply it to their situation. There's no way to beat experience, but this can help provide a lay of the land for getting started. ...more
Previous to 500 Ways to Write HarderI'd never read anything by Chuck Wendig, and I still may never. But if you're looking to kick start your writing hPrevious to 500 Ways to Write HarderI'd never read anything by Chuck Wendig, and I still may never. But if you're looking to kick start your writing habits, Wendig has the weirdest, most energetic, and, well, most kick butt ways of telling you to write...harder. Yes, harder.
It's a fun, foul mouthed list of 500 thoughts, insights and ideas to help the budding writer. Wendig divides the 500 bite size thoughts into lists of 25, dealing with character, ideas, stories, publishing, agents, critics, editing, and more. Truth to tell, I didn't really read this straight through. Rather, I have it on my mobile phone and iPad, and I would pull it out between...stuff. Outside the elevator, waiting in line, and on the porcelain throne. I'd read a couple of Wendig's "ways to write harder" and recharge my motivation to write, be awesome, and to create. I'll keep it on there, too, because writing doesn't seem to get easier, just better, with practice.
The 500 ways all seem to have one thing in common: write, write, and write more. Reading a book about writing is not writing. Writing is writing.
Which is why this review is shorter than as is typical for me. I'm going to go write.
PS. When I say "foul mouthed," I really do mean it. Wendig likes to cuss. ...more
Spoiler alert: the trick to writing productivity is writing all the time. And you have a lot more time than you think. I promise.
I picked thSpoiler alert: the trick to writing productivity is writing all the time. And you have a lot more time than you think. I promise.
I picked this gem of a book up at Salt Lake Comic Con after a panel that included the author was asked a question along the lines of how they avoid writer's block. Without missing a beat, one of the panelists (Larry Correia, I think) said there's no such thing as writer's block, and each of the panelists agreed. Now, I've never had a problem with writer's block, per se, but there have been times when I've questioned my own ability to accomplish much writing.
Sure, I can bust out a 140 character long tweet without two brain cells, and I can click 'like' on about 19,000 Facebook posts of LOL Catz and cute little babies without losing a single calorie. But writing something substantive? A blog post? Finishing the fourteenth short story that I've begun this summer? Rounding out the outline of that space opera novel I've been working on since my first child was born (alright, it's not the same novel anymore, but the point remains)?
Then it's a bit more difficult.
Back to Salt Lake Comic Con and the author's panel. The panel was a list of fairly illustrious--if also fairly local--authors, including the not unproductive Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, Dave Farland/Wolverton, and the currently being reviewed book's author, Kevin J. Anderson. Somewhere in that discussion about writer's block (which was not the panel topic, by the way), Anderson noted that a lot of times it was a productivity problem, not a lack of material to write about, and if you keep working, you manage to blow through the block. Coming from a guy who has busted out 125 novels--a number of which a bestsellers--and doesn't look like he's been parked on the couch consuming potato chips for the last five years, I was interested.
(Did you see the subtle way he plugged his book there? Yeah, me neither.)
So, naturally, I bought it as soon as the panel was over and I could make my way through the crowds over to Anderson's Wordfyre booth.
I read it that night. The book is short because, let's be honest: you should spend more time writing than reading about how to spend more time writing.
I won't give away the million dollar secrets here, because that's how Anderson's going to make his million dollars, but the $10 I dropped on the book was worth it, even if just to inspire me to change my habits and behavior to write more.
And I have: the last half week has been substantially more productive and useful than in a long while. Productivity is a fantastic thing; it builds on itself and creates more productivity and more success. That's worth way more than $10. ...more
Perhaps we’re doing third world development all wrong.
That was the thought that stuck with me most after I finished reading James Tooley’s The BeautifPerhaps we’re doing third world development all wrong.
That was the thought that stuck with me most after I finished reading James Tooley’s The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into How the World’s Poorest are Educating Themselves, a surprisingly readable book about the role of private schools in education in some of the world's poorest neighborhood. In The Beautiful Tree, Tooley tells his story about discovering private schools in some of the world’s poorest neighborhoods and discovering that in case after case they are doing well, are educating the poor, and are often, if not always competitive with the much better funded government schools that are found nearby.
It’s a proposition that surprised me, and for good reason: the private schools in my neighborhood—which is already among the higher income brackets in the state—are prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, I have a high degree of confidence in the public schools available to my family, but what about in places where public schools are failing or are inadequate? What choices do those who live there have?
Tooley found himself in some of these places while researching private schools in India for the World Bank. One day, he wondered into one of the poorer neighborhoods Hyderabad’s Old City and found it overflowing with small, parent-funded schools. At first, such schools seemed to be the exception rather than the rule, but as Tooley began to look for schools in other countries where his World Bank research took him, he found similar schools and similar stories, often existing in spite of the protests of government officials that private schools could not and did not exist for the poor (Tooley finds them specifically in India, Nigeria, Ghana and China, though this latter case is unique from the others).
Ironically, the book is not a critique of what is going wrong in the world, but rather seems expository of something that is going right and without the interference or help of the state. Parents, dismayed at slovenly, under-motivated and underperforming schools, banded together to form schools that are accountable to them, and the results are astounding, providing education to student who would not otherwise have opportunity.
Did I mention that these private schools are not subsidized, let alone acknowledged, by the government? Rather, parents scrimp and save, putting a premium on the education of their children. No one is going to get rich teaching at private school, thought: Tooley quotes fees at $10 per year in some cases, and generally in the range 4-20% of the minimum wage of the country. Some schools even offer scholarships to help students who still cannot afford the fees.
How do private school students rate against their peers? Tooley tested 24,000 students in India, Nigeria, Ghana and China in math and language proficiency. In India and Africa, children in private schools almost always excelled over those in public schools; in China, private schools were more likely to be limited to remote locations where travel to public schools was not safe. The one place that the government did better than private schools was in providing playgrounds for schools.
Tooley seems to attribute the cause to a general lack of accountability among government teachers, whereas private school teachers were held directly accountable by parents. With no incentive to excel among government teachers, they often delivered high rates of absenteeism, failed to teach altogether, or allowed classes to collapse into chaos. Tooley also notes that government inspectors meant to assure teaching standards were easily paid off and kept away from government classrooms.
If there’s more I would have asked from Tooley, it would have been how to replicate the successes that he saw in India, Ghana, and Nigeria. If there’s a way to bring about serious and long-term change to the third world, it should be replicated.
Tooley tells the story in a series of anecdotes that is appealing and makes the reading easy. not to mention powerful. Even if third world development is not your cup of tea (it’s not mine), the story is fascinating....more
Over the years, I've run into Camille Paglia's essays at unexpected times, and I seem to always come away thoughtful and, occasionally, amused. ClearlOver the years, I've run into Camille Paglia's essays at unexpected times, and I seem to always come away thoughtful and, occasionally, amused. Clearly coming from a perspective distant from my own, politically and culturally a member of East Coast academia, I never the less found her insights and way of putting things provocative.
When I heard that her newest book argued that George Lucas was one of greatest, if not the greatest, of modern artists, I was intrigued. First off, because I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a child making light sabers out of wrapping paper tubes. And second, because I've occasionally, like many other fans, wondered if Lucas had lost his way with the Prequels.
How does an art critic find Lucas, who has turned Star Wars into one of the most profitable franchises in history, to be an artist?
Of course, I was intrigued.
Paglia's Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars is a survey of art through history, with each entry a selection of an era. Paglia describes the piece of art, starting in the bronze era and passing through ancient Greece, the middle ages, the Renaissance, and so on. Each entry is two to three pages long and provides background and narrative, analysis and context for the work. The writing is fluid, colorful, and, like I had found in Paglia before, intriguing.
I'm not an art critic, let alone an art historian. At best, I can appreciate a few pieces of well known art. What I found in Paglia was an informative survey of art through the ages. In the introduction Paglia argues that what we are losing in our quest to get to the top of the education ladder is an appreciation of what art has brought us to where we are.
It's fascinating reading, even if there are a few pieces of art from the modern era looked--to me--more like spatters of paint than art.
I recommend it, whether you are an experienced art critic or a novice, as I am.
And Lucas? I'll let you discover on your own why Paglia thinks he is today's greatest living artist.