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Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

What I liked.

This is a smart story. It’s action packed for those who like the genre. It is also suspenseful and stuffed with dramatic confrontations. It isn’t just smartly told. The prose is easy to follow with a good bit of humor for such a serious subject, an act of cyber warfare on the United States. This is one of the highly charged current topics up for debate as the modern world becomes more and more dependent on artificial intelligence and we realize how much of the essentials we take for granted are interconnected in an invisible cyberspace that has little, if any, existence in a tangible form.

Why is this an important issue all of us should think about? Here are some reasons. How much money do you have? What is the source of your income? Your savings? Your investments? Your health benefits? What physical proof of them exists? How much of our basic needs, water, electricity, communication, depend on the electronic grids that help facilitate them? How vulnerable are we individually and collectively as a society if we do not protect them well enough from potential enemies?

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All of these ideas and more are addressed in this novel. But it’s all done in a very entertaining fashion. It doesn’t preach, lecture, or promote an ideologically biased point of view. It delivers the news. Then lets you, the reader figure things out for yourself.

On a deeper level the story is strong in the way it touches on key themes such as trust, integrity, political animosity, and prejudice. I applaud that effort because I think it’s true that if we don’t work on removing stereotypes and establish priorities that put the common interests of most people first so that we avoid trying to create winners and losers in every important area, we may wake up to find out that we have already lost what few other nations have ever had, a secure republic that works for every American who is willing to work hard to live with liberty and pursue what makes them happy.

What I didn’t like.

Some of the characters were not developed well at all. They were primarily present to move the plot along without delving deep enough into their motives or moral dilemmas. I’m not sure they even had any! So the problems a world power like the U.S. faces from external threats aren’t going to be fixed by such a simplistic worldview that is barely defined. I will admit that we have to figure out our internal problems before we can best understand foreign threats. So I hope the next novel following this, if there is one, makes an effort to look at where our enemies come from and what we can do to mitigate their creation.

What you should know.

This is a book for the average everyday reader. It isn’t full of technical, high level complexity. Although it has a message that everyone should consider. There is nothing wrong with simplifying things in order to make the story more enjoyable for most. If you are looking for the intricate details found in some of the more intellectual offerings from other authors, try not to be too disappointed. Think of it as a fun summer read.

Recommendation: Must Read

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Undergrad Summer Reading

How to get the most out of your online college class.

I’ve been teaching undergraduate courses via computer for about a decade. Here are some tips based on my personal experience that can help you get the biggest return on the investment of your time and energy within this type of learning environment.

Because it is so foreign to the traditional face to face classroom model that students have learned to navigate most of their lives, students often arrive in an “online” class unprepared. This can create the kinds of obstacles that lead to less that the ideal conditions for learning excellence.

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The traditional class has set days and times where the student is present and focused primarily on receiving new information and knowledge about the subject material. Their complete attention is committed to listening to the direction of an instructor and they face immediate consequences for not having prepared in advance by reading, studying, and note taking. Questions are addressed in a manner that allows for immediate clarification and professors are able to offer multiple examples which can help cement the learning of new concepts. Students can also employ multiple learning modalities in one setting by vocalizing their thoughts, hearing the information spoken, seeing visual representations of the content and writing down cogent facts that have significance.

The typical online class has no set day, no set time. Students must make a conscious decision about when, where, and even how they will engage with the material. That engagement is first and foremost, reading, reading and more reading! Any writing, listening, speaking or visualization are primarily brought about by the student deciding to add those aspects by introducing each of them on their own. Would the typical student know how to? Would they even recognize the need to do it in order to learn better?

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Tip: if offered, attend an online orientation course.
These courses are designed specifically to educate students on the unique challenges online classes present so that students can equip themselves with appropriate strategies to do well.

Tip: Plan to study the first available day that you have for each learning module.
Each online class is divided into modules that take place over a number of days. Students who perform best start their work on the first day that the module is assigned. They read the assigned material. They take notes. They learn the definitions of new terms and they quiz themselves on key concepts that they have identified. Verbal quizzing – saying the answers out loud – is a good way to add 2 modalities. Reading and taking notes or highlighting is not enough by itself to retain a large enough amount of the information. By studying early, you allow yourself time to absorb new knowledge. In a few days you can review the material and find out how much you have already retained. This is critical for an online student. You can then take the remaining available time to focus on the parts you’ve yet to memorize. Also, you can ask questions or ask for any help from the instructor. Students who wait until the module is almost over to begin working have lost the ability to benefit from any of these practices.

Tip: Engage in the class as often as possible.
Many classes attempt to simulate the face to face dynamic that occurs with discussion groups and professor led seminars. This is done by allowing students to ‘text message’ one another during the module to exchange ideas about various topics. Instructors know how important this community building is for student success so they often provide detailed written guidance on how to interact with other students for maximum benefit. Many students do not follow the instructions. Instead they assume a level of participation that they think is required and commit to do only that much. That falls far short of the engagement needed to help not just the particular student but everyone else in the class as well. Imagine that you are in a traditional face to face classroom and the three other people assigned to your small group discussion do not say a word to you during the entire class. Even when you ask each of them a specific question, they just look at you and stay completely silent. Finally, after you have reached the point where you have given up all hope after patiently waiting for a reply – the instructor announces ‘time’s up’ and asks each group to report out on your discussion – your classmate whispers to you, ‘I agree with what you said’. What did you get out of that?

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Tip: Reader; know thyself.
How good of a reader are you? What is your reading comprehension? There are reading strategies that teach how to get the most information in the shortest amount of time from textbooks. Did you know that? Do you use any of them? Colleges typically have the ability to score textbooks on their level of readability – how hard it is for the average student to read it and understand it. You should find out the readability of your class textbook and compare it with your own reading level. This will tell you how much work you have cut out for you. Ultimately, an online class will be based on how much reading you do and how much you are able to learn from reading.  Here are 3 reading systems that I share with students. Try each of them and test your results. You can also modify them or combine the best parts, tailoring them to what suits you best.

SQ3R

P2R

S-RUN

Excerpt from The President is Missing

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Why you want to read The President is Missing:

Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the  twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells—conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony. It reminds me of the old political joke: Why do you take such an instant dislike to people? It saves a lot of time.

What happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting? That’s hard to even define anymore, as the lines between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, gets murkier every day.

We can’t survive without a free press, dedicated to preserving that fine line and secure enough to follow the facts where they lead. But the current environment imposes serious pressures on our journalists, at least those who cover politics, to do just the reverse—to exercise their own power and to, in the words of one wise columnist, “abnormalize” all politicians, even honest, able ones, often because of relatively insignificant issues.

Scholars call this a false equivalency. It means that when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias. The built-up molehills also have large benefits: increased coverage on the evening news, millions of retweets, and more talk-show fodder. When the mountains and molehills all looks the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade. Everybody knows it’s wrong, but the immediate rewards are so great we stagger on, just assuming that our Constitution, our public institutions, and the rule of law can endure each new assault without doing permanent damage to our freedoms and way of life.

I’d say this novel is a must read.

From Chapter 8 The President is Missing (Bill Clinton and James Patterson) © Little, Brown and Company

Faith

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
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Matthew 16:18
Upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it
Observation
Faith is a foundation of Christianity.  An aspect of that faith is the belief that God has given Jesus as the savior of mankind.  Faith in that truth is the basis of being a Christian
Application in my life 
Jesus tells me that this concept is the victory in the spiritual battle between good and evil.  In the next verse Jesus refers to the keys of the kingdom.  For me I understand these keys to be repentance, prayer, praise, service, and discipleship.  Evidence of my repentance includes removal of sinful thoughts and sinful actions and also by my focusing on Godly thoughts and sacrificial behavior (doing things more for the benefit of others than myself).  Prayer is a daily communication where I open myself up to God and allow myself to hear from Him.  Praise is audible exhortation to God when I am alone or with other believers. The purpose is to please Him as a form of worship.  Service is something I do for other believers as exemplified in Paul’s teachings. Giving to and working for people in the world, both believers and non believers, are acts of service.  Discipleship includes witnessing – sharing my life and my beliefs with others, bible study, having accountability relationships where I help others mature as Christians and others help me, fellowship – spending time together, and counseling.
My prayer
Dear God, thank you for providing victorious kingdom living and the abundant life.  Let my gratitude be expressed in genuine repentance, true service to your children, and submission to your will during my daily walk.

Love

Personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.
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John 13:35
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.
Observation
Disciples of Christ are to be identified by the love they demonstrate towards each other.
Application to my life
In my life the best testimony that I will have to anyone else will be the expressions of love between myself and others whom are fellow believers and have the desire to follow Christ’s teachings.  
How are these interactions able to be seen?  
What form do they take?  
Perhaps an example is by helping them out in an area of need.  Or it happens by spending time with them.  Doing things for them.  Establishing a close relationship with them and caring about the things they care about.  But should I cause them hurt or offend them somehow, I need to quickly recognize my fault and express my sorrow and ask for forgiveness.  I also would be quick to forgive them should I be hurt by something said or done to me.
The love that this depicts is a sacrificial love.  This love is not a selfish emotion.  It chooses to place others equal to or above our own interests.  This is something that isn’t human nature.  We are selfish by nauture. That makes this something that is most challenging.  Is that why Jesus gave this command?  Jesus was giving a command that could only be accomplished with the power of God.  By being obedient to God we as fellow believers can express this kind of love.
my prayer
Lord let me obey your command every way possible, Amen.
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A Story about Mom

I am in a discussion group for the book Recovering from Loss in Life, by H. Norman Wright.  I believe we have much to benefit from reading and talking ala book club like.  I even created an online book club on Goodreads.com, though it hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Have you experienced good results from book discussion groups?  If so, to what do you attribute their success?  I feel determined to pursue them out of an expectation that the effort will be well rewarded.

At this stage in my current group, I am applying one of the questions in Chapter 2 – healthy things I will do to respond to my next loss – by writing about my mother.  Her late stage dementia is a loss I want to cope with.  So, for my healing, and for her honor, I am remembering some good times that she created in my life.  I’m quite sure some fond memories will be a safe destination.

Once upon a time…

My senior year in high school, we lived far enough away that walking from home would not work.  I had a zero hour (7am) class because I played saxophone in the performance band.  As a member of the cross country and track team for the school, my team workouts wound up anywhere from 5 to 5:30pm before heading home.

We could not afford for me to have car, and I did not have a job.  What did mom do?  I drove her to work by 6:30am for her job that started at 8.  After dropping her off I would head to school in her car.  After work, she would get rides home from co-workers.

This was our routine, done with no fanfare, with no big discussion about sacrifice nor any acknowledgment that anything was special or extraordinary.  It just was.

This example reflects a myriad of the shared experiences which she contributed in our lives.  The nature of how my mother treated life and family can be imagined, I hope, from considering her role in this story.  I love you mom.

Why The Dark Knight is to blame for our current political quagmire.

It’s been 8 years since the epic Detective Comics based mega motion picture exploded into neighborhoods across this great land.  Hardly seems like it.  Yet the damage wrought by the creative carnage has spread like a malignant tumor into the very fabric of the American ethos. Spread to the degree that our political system sits precariously now, perched over a terminally ill cliff, with a diagnosis of death by self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Let me explain.  When popular culture crowns a product with a tiara of success, it generally conveys some level of artistic achievement that transcends genre.  Our addictive obsession with film and the cult of stardom which parasitically attaches to it pay homage to the idea that is espoused with the cliché ‘life imitates art’.  So when $1 billion is earned in box office revenue alone, not to mention DVD/Blu-Ray and merchandising, consider that more clue than hint.  When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences changes its award eligibility criteria, take that as more coronation than concession.  Multitudes of fanboys attending multiple theater viewings aside, both dinner debates in the homes of moguls and agent provocateurs, along with power lunches turned hushed lecture sessions in see and be seen west side eateries, speak to the level of penetration Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s experiment had into the collective consciousness of Americana.

Hyperbole!  You say.  Allow me to add wax.  What we have here is not a failure to communicate.  Our society has done nothing less than exemplify a failure to educate, to motivate, to compete, to shake loose the bourgeois trappings of prosperity a priori obesity, to care enough about each other, our children and ourselves.  And, for lack of a better phrase, to thrive.  As a result our institutions begin to topple.  Schools, private industry, the Congress, the White House, and SCOTUS, all frayed at the edges.  Forget about apple pie.  What happened to the foundation of our democrapitalism, organized labor?  Ask a millennial to define pension.  Don’t panic when you get a description of Orange is the New Black.  Symptoms.  Gotham City, USA has never looked so bad.  There isn’t anyone left that matters apparently, who can compare current events with the 1930s or the 1860s.  Are the recent 60s and 70s now thought of as the good old days?  Great revisionist history, Batman!

Back to the Caped Crusader, as you were.   Consider Bruce Wayne, with power nonpareil – as masked and armed – and financed the same.  Does that bring to mind President Barack Obama?  Then compare how our public is led to scorn the vigilante when he dares use his assets to do battle for the home team.  Why, some want him prosecuted!  Our hero.  Don’t they realize his intentions are to act in the best interests of those he would protect?  Metaphorically going halfway across the globe to rein in Wall Street villains in the persona of mob bagman Lau, he is thwarted by bosses Gambol, Sal Maroni, and the Chechen, when they take a contract out on him with The Joker himself, who we’ll call ISIS for arguments sake.  Gambol aka public education, Maroni aka an intransigent Congress, and the Chechen aka the exodus of middle class wage careers, conspire against him to attack his Achilles heel, foreign policy.

While his attention is diverted by an old flame Rachel Dawes, none other than Hillary Clinton, he’s hit with one sucker punch after another; Benghazi, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Israel, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations with Iran.  But who can blame him?  Rachel has a new rival for her attention, Harvey, the real Donald J. Trump, Dent.  He is the savior.  The man with a plan.  So easy, so easy, so easy, let me tell you.  So quick, so quick, so quick.  The Great White Hope, riding in on his white horse, is a stark contrast to our Black Knight.  AND light minded PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM.  Why he’s the legitimate offspring of E. F. Hutton and the most interesting man in the world.

But he’s not alone.  Championing his cause as the true blue representative of the people is Coleman Reese, who follows the Joker’s lead and attempts to expose Batman for the fraud he is, not addressing the fact that we never learn anything about our Joker other than what he cares to share in his fable-like musings. Stunt doubles for Reese include the Sean Hannity lead Fox News Network, backed by the understudies Limbaugh and Coulter et al.

Smack in the middle of this standoff is The RNC or Gotham PD, helmed by Commissioner Gordon – Reince Priebus.  Forced to carry the torch for Dent, Gordon, surrounded by corruption within the ranks, falls on his sword to save the convention ceremony and takes a bullet for the cause.  Laid up, he is helpless to prevent Dent from revealing his two-faced nature long hidden beneath the surface.  A latent xenophobic tendency which The Joker exposes with every hospital bombing and nightclub massacre.   Yet Gordon’s fate is sealed when he makes a deal with the devil to perpetuate a lie so that the public is convinced of Dent’s integrity.  Dent can’t be a fraud.  Everyone knows the Batman is to blame.  Don’t they?

In the end the Joker is defeated, and declared the loser.  Or is he?  At what cost to society was this victory purchased?  Has the interim damage opened such a crack in the foundation that constructors will be forced to start over with new blueprints?  Check back in November for the next episode titled: Doctor Strange.  Pray to God that this time art imitates life.

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Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

 

Excerpt of Ken Burns Stanford Commencement Address

Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.

“We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization.”

—KEN BURNS

For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and – they feel – powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that – as often happens on TV – a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.

And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must “disenthrall ourselves,” as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then “we shall save our country.”

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide. This is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents, members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, have declined to support him. And I implore those “Vichy Republicans” who haveendorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.

The next few months of your “commencement,” that is to say, your future, will be critical to the survival of our Republic. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty.” Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish – and hope to leave intact to our posterity. Let us “nobly save,” not “meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

Let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice.

Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Try not to make the other wrong, as I just did with that “presumptive” nominee. Be for something.

Be curious, not cool. Feed your soul, too. Every day.

Remember, insecurity makes liars of us all. Not just presidential candidates.

Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that “careerism is death.”

Do not descend too deeply into specialism either. Educate all of your parts. You will be healthier.

Free yourselves from the limitations of the binary world. It is just a tool. A means, not an end.

Seek out – and have – mentors. Listen to them. The late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie once said, “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.” Embrace those new ideas. Bite off more than you can chew.

Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit our national parks. Their sheer majesty may remind you of your own “atomic insignificance,” as one observer noted, but in the inscrutable ways of Nature, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self-regard.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the smartphone.

Make babies. One of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry – I mean really worry – about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating. I promise. Ask your parents.

Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means simply, “God in us.”

Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government, as Lincoln knew, that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Governments always forget that.

Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country – they just make our country worth defending.

Believe, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, “believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.”

And vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship – and our connection with each other – when you do.

Good luck. And Godspeed.

 

Text of Commencement address

Source: Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

Washington Post: John Kasich Will Take On Hillary Clinton

The Washington PostBy Jonathan Capehart  April 20, 2016

img_0192Before the 2016 presidential primary season kicked off, I told Democratic friends that of all the people lining up from the Republican Party, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the only one who could give Hillary Clinton a serious run for her money. Wednesday morning, Kasich perfectly demonstrated…

https://www.johnkasich.com/blog-posts/washington-post-john-kasich-will-take-hillary-clinton/