Category: Activities (page 1 of 12)

Activities are gatherings that occur on a regular schedule, usually weekly, to enjoy a specific pastime.

Good Read: Richard Nixon: The Life By John A. Farrell

Thoroughly Researched Biography Tapping Recently Available Sources

Until Donald Trump, no one in American presidential politics had come so far, so fast, and so alone in exploiting the politics of grievance as Richard Nixon.

John Farrell’s biography is very thoroughly researched and has gained notoriety because at the Nixon library Farrell discovered notes from Nixon aide Bob Haldeman, contemporaneous to the 1968 election. Haldeman’s notes substantiated the rumor that, through an intermediary, Nixon reached out to South Vietnamese President Thieu to scuttle South Vietnamese participation in President Johnson’s peace initiative. The message: South Vietnam could get a better deal once he, Nixon, was President. Nixon’s goal was to eliminate any chance that his opponent, Hubert Humphrey, would benefit from the prospect of US withdrawal from Vietnam. More than 20,000 American soldiers died as US combat participation in the war extended from 1968 until Nixon left office in 1974.

Farrell is at his best in describing the events leading to the Checkers speech which dissuaded Eisenhower from dropping Nixon as his running mate in 1952. In his first term of office, according to the author, Ike did not feel that Nixon was growing in terms of perspective (“He lacked the grandness of vision and spirit to unite a great country”) but at the same time Ike cynically used Nixon for tactical offense so that as president he could stay above the fray.

The author reminds us of all the disgusting characters that formed the political culture of the 1950s and 1960s. These included Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohen, George Wallace and the southern power brokers such as Strom Thurmond and Richard Russell. America was roiled by the assassinations of JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the race riots of the inner cities, and the polarization of opinion regarding the Vietnam War. The dirty tricks of Nixon’s House and Senate campaigns were by no means the exclusive purview of Richard Nixon. Indeed the author notes the vote counts in Chicago and Texas which may have illegally tipped victory to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election and which likely persuaded Nixon that no one would ever again outdo him in employing dirty tricks to win.

Farrell highlights one difference between the postwar period of Richard Nixon and our current political environment: Victory over Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II showed Nixon’s generation what government could do. With the end of the war, the US population doubled with the baby boom and there was great demand for the expansion of government services. Farrell makes the point that Nixon believed in government, and that he was more progressive than Kennedy on Civil Rights in 1955. The government social safety net was expanded under Nixon’s presidency, including tax reform for low income individuals, increased aid for education, and a 20% hike in Social Security payments. The problem with right-wingers, Nixon said, was that, “they have a totally hard-hearted attitude where human problems and any compassion is concerned.”

Nixon was an excellent student of the mood of the electorate and in 1968 was able to reach out to the conformist middle and working class which had become disillusioned with Democrats who took their traditional supporters for granted. Farrell says that Nixon won the “gut vote” — a precursor of what Trump did in 2016.

Nixon was an introvert in an extroverted profession. As president, he used Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman to wall himself off not only from confrontation, which he hated, but even from one-on-one interactions which made him uncomfortable.

The President was given to angry outbursts and ill-advised orders, which his top advisors (Kissinger, Laird, Haldeman) learned to ignore. “Bomb Damascus” didn’t mean that he intended the order to be carried out.

Unfortunately, as Farrell lays out in a particularly good chapter, “The Road to Watergate”, lower level aides were all too eager to please the President and the Watergate burglary and other dirty tricks went forward with implicit rather than explicit approval. “The way to Presidential favor was to bring a dead mouse to his door,” notes the author.

Will the hubris (or insecurity) that brought down Richard Nixon serve to bring down Donald Trump? Farrell seems to suggest that the answer is no. As the Watergate scandal grew, with damaging testimony from John Dean and others, the public was becoming bored with the “he said, she said” allegations. But then the discovery of the White House tapes changed everything and forced Nixon’s resignation. Whatever emerges from the Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian involvement in the election, it seems unlikely that the special prosecutor will uncover evidence that is so specific, irrefutable, and damning as the Watergate tapes.

This is an excellent biography of the most controversial of presidents, and readers will benefit from John Farrell’s study of primary sources that have only recently become available to Nixon biographers.


Charles G. Salmans

Also, from the NYT’s Book Review: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/books/richard-nixon-biography-john-a-farrell.html?_r=0

Book Discussion: Jan 10, 2018A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles

A New York Times bestseller “The same gorgeous, layered richness that marked Towles’ debut, Rules of Civility, shapes [A Gentleman in Moscow]” – Entertainment Weekly   “Elegant… as lavishly filigreed as a Fabergé egg” – O, the Oprah Magazine   He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.   From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel  In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. “And the intrigue! … [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery… a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.” – The San Francisco Chronicle From the Hardcover edition

Book Discussion: Nov 8, 2017 Midnight in Broad Daylight
A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

midnightMeticulously researched and beautifully written, the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II—an epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption—this is a riveting chronicle of U.S.–Japan relations and the Japanese experience in America.

After their father’s death, Harry, Frank, and Pierce Fukuhara—all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest—moved to Hiroshima, their mother’s ancestral home. Eager to go back to America, Harry returned in the late 1930s. Then came Pearl Harbor. Harry was sent to an internment camp until a call came for Japanese translators and he dutifully volunteered to serve his country. Back in Hiroshima, his brothers Frank and Pierce became soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army.

As the war raged on, Harry, one of the finest bilingual interpreters in the United States Army, island-hopped across the Pacific, moving ever closer to the enemy—and to his younger brothers. But before the Fukuharas would have to face each other in battle, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, gravely injuring tens of thousands of civilians, including members of their family.

Alternating between the American and Japanese perspectives, Midnight in Broad Daylightcaptures the uncertainty and intensity of those charged with the fighting as well as the deteriorating home front of Hiroshima—as never told before in English—and provides a fresh look at the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Intimate and evocative, it is an indelible portrait of a resilient family, a scathing examination of racism and xenophobia, an homage to the tremendous Japanese American contribution to the American war effort, and an invaluable addition to the historical record of this extraordinary time.

Book Discussion, Oct 11,2017
Killers of the Flower Moon : the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history         In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.       Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.       In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.        In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War by Ben Macintyre

The incredible untold story of WWII s greatest secret fighting force, as told by our great modern master of wartime intrigue

Britain’s Special Air Service or SAS was the brainchild of David Stirling, a young, gadabout aristocrat whose aimlessness in early life belied a remarkable strategic mind. Where most of his colleagues looked at a battlefield map of World War II s African theater and saw a protracted struggle with Rommel s desert forces, Stirling saw an opportunity: given a small number of elite, well-trained men, he could parachute behind enemy lines and sabotage their airplanes and war material.

Paired with his constitutional opposite, the disciplined martinet Jock Lewes, Stirling assembled a revolutionary fighting force that would upend not just the balance of the war, but the nature of combat itself. He faced no little resistance from those who found his tactics ungentlemanly or beyond the pale, but in the SAS’s remarkable exploits facing the Nazis in the Africa and then on the Continent can be found the seeds of nearly all special forces units that would follow.

Bringing his keen eye for psychological detail to a riveting wartime narrative, Ben Macintyre uses his unprecedented access to SAS archives to shine a light inside a legendary unit long shrouded in secrecy. The result is not just a tremendous war story, but a fascinating group portrait of men of whom history and country asked the most.

Washington Post, Top 10 Title for 2016
NPR “Best Books of 2016” – Staff Picks and History Lovers selection

Recommended by Jim Phillips

September 13, 2017
Book Discussion:
The Things They Carried
Tim O’Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carriedis a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. The Things They Carrieddepicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. Taught everywhere from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing. The Things They Carried won France’s prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award., A classic, life-changing meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling, with more than two-million copies in print Depicting the men of Alpha Company-Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three-the stories in The Things They Carried opened our eyes to the nature of war in a way we will never forget. It is taught everywhere, from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing, and in the decades since its publication it has never failed to challenge our perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, and courage, longing, and fear., Tim O’Brien’s modern classic that reset our understanding of fiction, nonfiction, and the way they can work together, as well as our understanding of the Vietnam war and its consequences.

 

Side reads:

“Dispatches” by Michael Herr.  According to John Wolcott, who served in Viet Nam, this accurately captures the life of a grunt.  One of the greatest examples of war journalism ever written, Michael Herr’s clearheaded yet unsparing retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, finding clarity in one of the most incomprehensible events in our modern era. A National Book Critics Circle finalist and highly acclaimed upon its publication, Dispatches still retains its resonance as America finds itself amidst another military quagmire.  

 

 

 

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad.  Charles Marlow is a steamboat captain on the River Thames near Gravesend England. He and his crew work for an ivory trading company. One day he recounts to his fellow crew the story of his life and how he became a captain for the steam boat company. The focus of his story involves the journey Marlow undertook to the outer reaches of the company’s operations. Here he tells of his wild encounters with Mr. Kurtz, a man with a great reputation for bringing in the most ivory for the company. Kurtz is widely respected by the natives, yet Marlow has some differing opinions as he struggles to understand Kurtz’s way of life, while uncovering secrets about the strange way Kurtz conducts his business.

This book inspired the movie “Apocalypse Now”.

 

 

Golf

Do you enjoy a round of golf with friends? The DMA golf club is open to players of all handicaps. See the posts below for upcoming events.

Happy Wanderers: City Island, June 22, 2017

This will be the last wandering of the spring season.

We will carpool to City Island, departing from the Darien Community Association on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 9:45 a.m.

Please gather in the back parking area near the Green House. We will set up the carpooling there and leave the empty cars in that same area.

Driving directions will be provided for each car. For GPS users, the address of the location where we will park our cars is 150 Rochelle St., Bronx, NY 10464.

City Island is part of New York City but has a small-town atmosphere. Located at the western end of Long Island Sound, the island is about a mile long, with multiple side streets leading off of City Island Avenue, the island’s main street.

Sites along the way are boatyards, scenic overlooks, yacht clubs and many other interesting neighborhoods with restaurants, gift shops and numerous nautical attractions.

Our tour of the island will take about three or four hours, with time for lunch.

The weather is supposed to be sunny, so everybody should slap on the sunblock and bring a hat. After all, it is the start of summer.

For questions, contact Joe Spain (203) 655-1264 or jhspain@sbcglobal.com.

Golf Outing: Country Club of Darien, Thursday, August 17, 2017

A great day.  28 players!  Host: Tom Lom.

Golf Outing: Woodway Country Club, Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The next DMA golf outing is at the Woodway Country Club, 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, July 19.

The fee of $135 includes golf cart plus tax, payable by credit card.

We would like to get an indication of those DMA golfers who wish to participate.

To sign up, email Denny Devere, dgdevere@optonline.net with the following information:

Name
Email address
Handicap

Let There Be Water : Israel’s Solution for a Water-starved World by Seth M Siegel

As every day brings urgent reports of growing water shortages around the world, there is no time to lose in the search for solutions. The US government predicts that forty of our fifty states-and sixty percent of the earth’s land surface-will soon face alarming gaps between available water and the growing demand for it. Without action, food prices will rise, economic growth will slow, and political instability is likely to follow.Let There Be Water illustrates how Israel can serve as a model for the US and countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities.Even with sixty percent of its country a desert, not only doesn’t Israel have a water problem; it has an abundance of water. Israel even supplies water to its neighbors-the Palestinians and the Kingdom of Jordan-every day.Based on meticulous research and hundreds of interviews, Let There Be Water reveals the methods and techniques of the often off-beat inventors who enabled Israel to lead the world in cutting-edge water technology. Let There Be Water also tells unknown stories of how cooperation on water systems can forge diplomatic ties and promote unity. Remarkably, not long ago, now-hostile Iran relied on Israel to manage its water systems, and access to Israel’s water know-how helped to warm China’s frosty relations with Israel. Every town, every country, and every reader can benefit from learning what Israel did in order to transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower.Beautifully written, Let There Be Water is an inspiring account of vision and sacrifice that will long be admired by government officials and engaged citizens facing water shortages and other seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Recommended by Jim Phillips. The Library has a copy.

Golf Outing: Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 10 a.m.

The first outing this year is at Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 10 a.m.

To sign up, email Peter Carnes at picarnes@gmail.com.

Provide your handicap to facilitate pairings.

Fee is $46. Includes cart.

Confirmation and coordination will be via email during the week prior to play.

Link to Sterling Farms: http://www.sterlingfarmsgc.com/

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