Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Agent Storm

By: Morten Storm, Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister

Narrated by Neil Shah

On the one hand, “Agent Storm” outlines terrorism; its origin, its practitioners, and where it comes from.  On the other, “Agent Storm” sounds like a comic book.  With co-authorship of two CNN newsmen, Morten Storm’s story offers insight, but its credibility is challenging.

Morten Storm is “Agent Storm”. He is a Danish citizen who becomes a religious convert as a young man but abandons his Muslim faith in his late twenties. Storm is born into a family broken by a father’s abuse.  He turns to religion for refuge.

Morten Storm looks for a substitute home. He finds it in a thobe (long dress worn by Muslim men).

Morten Storm’s story is like many told about lost children–looking for belonging and acceptance in the world.  Abused children look for solace by finding substitutes for uncaring parents.  

For lost children, finding religion is one end of a spectrum: the other is gang life.  “Agent Storm” is a story combining both ends in religious zeal and gangsterism.

The authors of “Agent Storm” show how a young person can become a Jihadist.  One wonders–is Storm’s journey different than what one may find in the Catholic crusades of the eleventh and thirteenth centuries? 

Religion has been a rallying flag many times for children who are lost and wish to be found. Religion attracts the highly educated, as well as the unschooled, based on wanting to be part of something greater than oneself.

Storm attaches himself to the sport of boxing but either because of lack of discipline or skill, Storm becomes attracted to religion. 

The Muslim faith is under attack in the 20th century and today. The Muslim religion offers a refuge and acceptance to Storm. His acceptance connects him to radical practitioners of the faith that terrorize the world.  Storm’s early world view is the view held by Osama bin Laden and other distorters of the Muslim faith.

 The killing of innocents appears to be a turning point for Storm who becomes a spy for the English and then American governments.  Storm becomes an agent for identification of terrorists that hide behind interpretations of Koranic teaching.

To some, Storm’s sudden conversion may seem disingenuous.  However, he does help Denmark, England, and America in its fight against terrorism.  What is somewhat galling about Storm’s story is its formulaic meme of changing sides. Storm’s story might be told of any converted religious zealot who finally rejects false interpretation of religious text.  Whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Protestant, killing or harming innocents is wrong.

Though Morten Storm may have become a better person, he sounds more like a lost boy-man.  How many Jihadists, Catholic crusaders, or Protestant reformers will come to the realization that their way is not the only way?


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Inevitable (Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future)

By: Kevin Kelly

Narrated by George Newbern

Kevin Kelly (Author, co-founding executive of Wired magazine).

Kevin Kelly’s book is a Libertarian’s guide to minimalist government. Kelly paints a clear picture of today’s internet of things and the direction in which it seems to be heading. If sharing replaces ownership, American Democracy must change or die. 

Kelly implies the evolution of technology will make all but defense of country the sole purpose of government.  This is a Libertarian dream.  What Kelly glosses over is the disinformation system of a sharing economy that misleads the public and foments anarchy.

Kelly argues block chain technology decentralizes the last bastion of government oversight by producing value (bit coin) based on an algorithm. Kelly infers there is no need for a Federal Reserve, or a bureaucracy to assure value of exchange, if currency is based on a mathematical formula.

Without the oversight of government, which includes bureaucratic regulations, a sharing economy diminishes the role of checks and balances.  Kelly correctly outlines what is happening in this technological world, but his extrapolation is frightening. 

In Kelly’s vision of a sharing economy, democracy is at risk of anarchy like that seen on January 6, 2021.

The public puts its head in the sand if they ignore Kelly’s view of the 12 technological forces in play today.

He describes flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning as the twelve technological forces that make the public codependent.  His observations reflect the “now” that presages a future.

The terror in Kelly’s observation is that human nature is not going to change in a sharing economy where nothing is owned but only shared.  Humans will game the system either by raiding the block chain vault or manipulating code to enrich their lives at the expense of others. 

Without a degree of centralized oversight (government), anarchy replaces equal rights and rule of law.

Any realization of codependence is anathema to the tradition of America. Human beings do not interpret the truth of facts in the same way.  Each has their own view of the world and their place in it. 

There will always be climate deniers, tree huggers, gun lovers and gun haters.

Kelly acknowledges there is need for some oversight of a sharing economy but implies the inclusion of everyone’s expression or belief will result in balanced self-governance and companionable A.I. for societal improvement. One may have a difference of opinion based on the events of January 6, 2021. That event’s aftermath will offer further clues to American Democracy’s future.

Decentralization of culture by the internet of things and A.I. dependence may be as “…Inevitable” as Kelly suggests.  The question today has to do with what can be done to allay its negative consequences.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Night Watchman

By: Louise Erdrich

Narrated by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich (Author, National Book Award winner plus other honorifics.)

(Louise Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Erdrich’s parents, a Chippewa mother and German father, taught at the “Bureau of Indian Affairs” in Wahpeton.  She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and her husband was the director of “Native American Studies” at Dartmouth.)

Like Ellison’s “…Invisible Man”, Louise Erdrich offers “The Night Watchman” to show how invisible native Indians are in America. 

The headline in the 1/4/21 “New York Times” National page is “Indian Country Loses a Hospital at a Crucial Moment–Tribe Members Feel Abandoned as the U.S. Turns a New Mexico Facility Into a Clinic”–today’s example of Indian invisibility.

“The Night Watchman” is not Erdrich’s first attempt at explaining Indian’ invisibility.  She also wrote the best seller “The Round House”.  Both reveal the ignorance and unfairness of Indian reservation life and American government attempts to subsume Indian culture.

Erdrich notes “The Night Watchman” is a true story with names changed to hide American political shamefulness and abhorrent treatment of a young Indian woman.  On the one hand, her story may be distorted because of truth written as fiction.  On the other, Erdrich offers a distinctive picture of Indian reservation life and reminds reader/listeners of American power’s treatment of Indian people.

Erdrich offers a distinctive picture of Indian reservation life and reminds one of American power’s ill treatment of Indian people.

America’s history of violating contractual agreements with Indian tribes is well documented.  A part of Erdrich’s story shows how those contractual agreements are broken.

(This is a photo copy of a Senate Agreement with Crow Indians for Sale of Their Reservation in Montana-1891)

An elected official submits a bill to a state legislature suggesting native Indians have achieved equality before the law and that they have become Americans who should not be restricted to reservations (a euphemism for break-up of Indian culture and land confiscation).  The submitted bill gives no value to the tradition and history of Indian culture.  The bill might offer compensation to a tribe for the taking of the land, but at an unspecified price.

The people of the reservation are legally notified of the prospective legislative bill.  People on the reservation are offered a public hearing to discuss the bill. 

There is no offer of financial help for traveling to the hearing or for legal defense of Indian contractual rights to the reservation land. 

In Erdrich’s story, effort to organize and pay for travel and legal expense is left to reservation people who have no money to spare. What money they have is to survive, to have a roof over their head, and food on the table.

“The Night Watchman” is a story of big government against “invisible” Indians. 

The bill is created by a Mormon legislator in the state whose family settled in the area in the 19th century.  He argues reservation land was a temporary holding until Indians were integrated into American culture.  The legislator reasons the day for full integration into American culture had come.  He reasoned job availability, education, and welfare of tribal populations had reached the same level available to all Americans.  It is the same lie offered to women and minorities in the history of the world.

Erdrich’s story begins with vignettes of Indian life on the reservation.  This is somewhat confusing but gains momentum as her characters are fully developed.  The night watchman is an Indian named Thomas Wahhashk.  He works off the reservation at an industrial plant.

Patrice Paranteau is an Indian who works at the same plant as Thomas.  She has a sister named Vera who has left the reservation to live in the city.  Vera disappears.  Patrice goes to the city to find Vera but only finds Vera’s baby who appears abandoned. 

The disappearance of Vera is one of the drivers of Erdrich’s story.  What happens to Vera is unconscionable.  She is kidnapped and held in a ship’s hold to be abused by its sailors.

There is a burgeoning love story threaded into Erdrich’s story that reflects the striving of an Patrice to become an equal partner in life.  Patrice chooses her own path to become an independent woman in a world defined by government and men.

Erdrich’s story reminds one of Ellison’s invisible Black who identifies with a personal culture while wanting to be treated as an equal in American culture. 

Minorities do not wish to lose their identity but to be equal participants in a wider culture. It should not be difficult to be a Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, or other American and enjoy the benefits of democracy’s freedom.

Erdrich combines the theme of cultural identity with a story of human relationship, hardship, success, and failure.  Erdrich offers a glimpse of our hard it is to be an Indian in a culture dominated by a largely white American culture. 

Erdrich, like Ellison, shows how multiculturalism is denied by a country that purports to believe in equality of opportunity for all. 

Like Ellison pictures what it is like to be Black in America, Erdrich shows what it is like to be Indian in America.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

All It Takes Is Guts (A Minority View)

By: Walter E. Williams

Narrated by Peter Kjenaas

Walter E. Williams (1936-2020, Economist, essayist, political pundit)

Walter E. Williams addresses the conflict between what he perceives as “reality” and “darkness” in essays on Libertarianism.  Williams essays were written in the 1980s, but they resonate with Libertarians today. 

The focus of Libertarians’ is on individual freedom and objection to any coercion by government to compel actions of an individual for the good of society. They generally endorse individual liberty and private property. They defend civil liberties like equal rights for all; some argue for decriminalization of drugs, and open borders. They oppose most military interventions.

To some, Williams is a hero of democratic, capitalist freedom. To others, Williams is a nihilist like Kurtz in “The Heart of Darkness” who implies there is little difference between most government representatives (“civilized” people in Kurtz’s world) and savages.  Williams argues that government regulation distorts the American constitution’s explicit guarantee of freedom.

Williams consistently argues that any government tax collections promoting the general welfare of Americans is stealing from one American to give to another.  He suggests individual liberty and defense are the only Constitutionally mandated requirements of American government. To Williams and many Libertarians, taxes should only be collected for those two fundamental purposes. 

However, in 1937 the Supreme Court defined “the welfare clause” of the Constitution as a right of the federal government to legislate welfare for American citizens.

Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870- 1938, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Wrote 7-2 majority opinion on the welfare clause of the Constitution.)

Williams joins an elite cadre of educated Black Americans that have achieved success in America. Like avid abolitionist Frederick Douglas, fellow economist Thomas Sowell, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Williams is a convert to Libertarianism.  They feel they have the right to their Libertarian arguments because of their achievement.  They infer their success is available to anyone who exercises their right to freedom of choice.

Libertarian Americans believe American government should not legislate or promote equality based on race, ethnicity, or any measure of human difference. Government should only legislate or promote based on public defense and individual freedom.

Williams argues public education, food stamps, care for the homeless or disabled should not be paid by government because it denies individual freedom of choice and reinforces perpetual economic dependence. Williams’ argument is based on the belief that American economic prosperity and common good come from capitalists’ freedom to choose. 

Libertarians argue for no government legislation that provides help to the unemployed, homeless, and indigent. They suggest legislation that supports such service should be abolished. Libertarians believe that “individual freedom of choice” made America the richest country in the world. Libertarians believe any infringement on individual rights diminishes America’s competitive spirit, innovation, and economic opportunity.

To a Libertarian, a rising economic tide raises all boats. 

Williams implies the poor are poor because of their choices; not because of their genetic makeup, economic circumstance, or discrimination. Williams and other Libertarians argue that choices made by government to help others diminishes freedom and steals money from tax-paying citizens.

One must ask oneself, what would have happened to America without President Roosevelt’s government intervention in the depression? What would have happened without George Bush’s decision to bail out America in 2007? What would have happened without Barack Obama’s rescue of General Motors, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac in his first term in office? What would have happened if the federal government had responded more forcefully when the pandemic infected America?

What would have happened if President Trump had managed the beginning of Covid19 better?

Some are pleased by William’s argument; others are appalled.  The “some” that are pleased are those who have overcome life’s challenges.  The “some” that are appalled suggest genetic circumstance is a matter of luck and birth.

Drive for equality of opportunity and treatment is affected by genetics and how one is raised. Genetics, family love, and life’s challenges are affected by economic well-being, homelessness, education, and health that can be positively influenced by good government.

Overcoming adversity is the sine non quo of Williams’ argument. Williams aptly observes the waste that is inherit in America’s legislative system.  Pork barrel negotiations between the Senate and House of Representatives create legislation that reminds one of blind men touching an elephant. Each describes a different image–a tree trunk, a hose, a feather duster; with none realizing it is an elephant. 

Omnibus Congressional legislation regularly stretches to more than 1,000 pages which few elected representatives fully read or understand. 

This is a part of a Libertarian’s objection to use of tax dollars for the common good.  It often benefits the few rather than the many, and inevitably has unintended consequence.

One might agree with the legislative’ waste argument of a Libertarian, but legislation that serves the homeless, the hapless, the ill, and the hungry throws out valuable help when circumstances are beyond their control.

The Covid19 pandemic is an example of circumstances beyond individual human control. 

America is the richest country in the world.  Capitalist democracy is messy, but freedom is only part of America’s history of economic prosperity.  We are free but freedom has always been qualified. 

Every American who survives and prospers from American democracy deserves their success, but each has an obligation to help those who are failing.   Democracy is too complicated for a singular person or company to provide for health, education, and welfare of a nation. 

Williams essays leave out good government as an essential ingredient of success for any Democracy. Taxes are the obligation of every American to insure that success. There should be no homeless, uneducated, or hungry citizens in America, the richest nation in the world.


Personal Observation

Author: Chet Yarbrough

Qualifications: None

Idealism is a fine quality within the borders of one’s own country.

America should drive to be the best democracy in the world. However, idealism outside the borders of one’s own country leads to disaster, not peace or prosperity.

Barack Obama’s tenure as President of the United States made America a better country.

Because of idealism, Obama succeeded in improving race relations, medical treatment for millions of uninsured citizens, and return of some American’ international respect.

However, Obama’s success in international intervention is arguably less exemplary. That is true of many Presidents of the United States who fail to gain the explicit cooperation of other sovereign nations when intervening militarily in another country.

Our intervention in Libya had 4 U.N. abstentions for U.S. bombing of the country. After America’s intervention, Muammar Gaddafi is murdered by the Libyan people. This is not to say Gaddafi did not deserve his fate, but American intervention left Libya a failed state that remains failed 9 years later.

With the exception of WWI and WWII, America’s history of military intervention is abysmal. One must ask oneself–are Bosnia/Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or Korea better off today than before American intervention? Idealism is not exportable, whether it is America, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, or any other militarily powerful sovereignty.

Though people of the world may have similar ambitions and motivations, they are raised in countries that have their own cultural traditions, religions, legal systems, and histories. Even if all humans have a desire for money, power, and prestige; they are bound by their own country’s history and culture.

One might argue Khadafy, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hosni Mubarak, Xi, Putin, and Kim Jong-un either led or are leading the most repressive and authoritarian countries in the world. Their reigns are readily associated with imprisonment, torture, and murder. (Some would argue America has a history of the same transgressions.)

In America’s recent history, with the exception of H. W. Bush’s ejection of Hussein from Kuwait, American Presidents have improperly intervened in other countries’ sovereignty.

H.W. chose not to eliminate Hussein once America achieved its objective of removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia/Herzegovinian, George Bush’s intervention in Iraq, and Obama’s intervention in Libya are three examples of countries that remain in turmoil. America had little effect on meaningful change from American intervention in these countries.

Sovereign idealism is not exportable. Only national examples can be set for sovereign nations to show how their form of government is better than another’s. “Example” is the best one country can do for another. In the world of realpolitik military intervention, without overwhelming international cooperation, is a fool’s errand.

This is not to argue that international influence and political diplomacy should not be used to fight against false imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder but sovereign nations must be respected for their own choices. Only a sovereign nation’s citizens can make right or wrong decisions about their country’s leadership.

This is not to argue for isolation but to realize no nation has a right to invade another nation’s sovereignty. It is up to each nation to choose their own path.

Every sovereign nation has a right to condemn another through national example, economic sanction, economic support, or political persuasion. But, American military intervention in a sovereign country is an error of immense consequence. In the case of Iraq—American soldier’s deaths, injuries, and American dollars are wasted. The evidence of that waste is in the Iraqi government’s continued dysfunction.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

A Promised Land

By: Barack Obama

Narrated by Barack Obama

Barack Obama (44th President of the United States.)

One does not have to be a fan of former President Obama to appreciate his authorship and presentation in “A Promised Land”. Putting aside animosity about political parties, Obama rings America’s liberty bell. Americans have lost their trust in democracy.

“A Promised Land” is a clarion call to every politician to quit bickering. Being a President, Congressional leader, or Supreme Court justice should not be about self aggrandizement but about representing the American public. Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, President Trump, and President-Elect Biden have one more chance to return trust in government to Americans.

Obama is a great orator and writer who offers insightful thumbnail opinions about the character of elected officials in American government. He may not be objective but he is extraordinarily persuasive. He argues Mitch McConnell is more concerned with power than any other motivation for being a representative of the United States. In today’s headlines, that opinion seems prescient.

Mitch McConnell (Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky)

McConnell chooses to obstruct the Covid relief legislation until after the decision in Georgia. He wants a Republican controlled Senate to approve Covid relief legislation. He cares not a whit for Americans who are suffering. It is about power, power that corrupts his judgement.

The Georgia race for the Senate is a calculated maneuver by McConnell to exercise power that might slip out of the Senate’s hands.

Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

The case might be made that Nancy Pelosi plays the same game for power. That might be true except it seems Pelosi has been consistent in her belief that another Covid19 relief package is necessary for the good of all Americans. In contrast, the leader of the Senate at one point argued that no additional assistance is required because the economy is getting better.

What makes “A Promised Land” interesting is its candor about the office of the President of the United States and the limitations of a President’s or any human being’s judgment. Unlike the tenure of Trump, Obama consistently demonstrates empathy for the people of America. In one sense, some may interpret that as a weakness. Others will see it as the greatest strength of democratic government.

When a President makes life and death decisions for the American people, one presumes he/she is driven by something called the “greater good”. Of course, “greater good” is interpreted differently by every culture, every individual, and every political leader.

“A Promised Land” is a summary of Obama’s vision of the “greater good”. History will be the final arbiter of Obama’s contribution to America as President of the United States.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Eye of the World (Book 1)

By: Robert Jordan

Narrated by Kate Reading, Michael Kramer

James Oliver Rigney Jr. aka Robert Jordan (1948-2007–American Author, Born in Charleston, South Carolina)

Robert Jordan explains “The Eye of the World” is about myth.  He recreates a cast of characters that brings tales of the past into a “wheel of time”.  Jordan draws on myths told and retold to glean a perception of world history before history became an academic discipline.  He suggests there is an element of truth in all myths, though retelling changes their truth. 

Jordan creates an integrated mythology made up of 14 books and a prequel novel.  The renown science fiction writer, Brandon Sanderson, finishes the series upon Jordan’s death.

Jordan’s underlying theme is wrapped in the “wheel of time”.  The idea comes from India in a philosophy alluded to in Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.  He argues history continually repeats itself in changing ages.  This “wheel of time” gets its energy from conflict between good and evil.  As a circle, it has no beginning and no end.

“The Eye of the World” is the first book in Jordan’s 14 book series.  It begins in a rural setting and introduces the theme of conflict between good and evil.  Though Jordan might be offended by the comparison, it is reminiscent of “Lord of the Rings” with the added dimension of a “wheel of time” that never stops turning.

The main characters are Rand, Mat, Egwene, and Nynaeve with an introduction of Moraine, Mandrogoran, and Thom.  They represent forces of good.  Evil is in a caste of characters led by the “Dark One”.  Though there is a clear line between heroic and nefarious characters, the good are tainted by evil and mystery.

From an attack on Rand’s hometown, a long voyage of self-discovery begins for Rand, Mat, Egwene, and Nynaeve. In their journey, Jordan shows there is good and evil in the best of us. 

Humans are layered with beliefs and circumstances that proffer choice.  At different times and different circumstances, we choose the good and sometimes the bad. Jordan infers no one is exempt from evil.  

Jordan implies the energy of life comes from conflict between good and evil.

The wheel turns as the wheel wills.  It turns in a pattern that repeats itself in good’ and evil’ conflict within and between us, our cultures, nations, and galaxies.  It is the wheel of time.  In never stops turning.  Presuming time is a fundamental quantity, the wheel will always exist.

Jordan’s story begins somewhat ponderously but gains momentum and interest that will lead some to read more of “The Wheel of Time” series.  For others, “The Eye of the World” satisfies one’s curiosity about Jordan’s popularity.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Volume 1)

By: Phillip Pullman

Narrated by Michael Sheen

Phillip Pullman (English Author)

 “The Book of Dust” is a surreal story told by a master narrator.  Pullman combines magical fantasy with speculative science.  The drama of Pullman’s story captures your attention with a story about a boy and girl struggling with maturity in a world turned upside down by a disastrous flood. Phillip Pullman’s extraordinary imagination is amplified by Michael Sheen’s oral presentation. 

Human nature is on display.  People are not always what they seem.  Every person has an image of themselves and others that is revealed by what they do; not by how they look, or what they think.  Pullman implies there is a presence in each of us that is illustrated by an individualized demon. 

In Pullman’s imagination that demon is attached to our being and cannot be separated except by death or extraordinary circumstance. 

The demon is like a talking spirit that changes form in ways that reinforce feelings and thoughts of its companion.  It advises, directs, and illustrates contradictions and affirmations in its companion’s life.

Volume 1 of Pullman’s trilogy sets the table for an ongoing story with three principal characters.  Lyra is a baby in Volume 1 but seems destined to be the main character that carries secrets and mysteries to be revealed in future volumes. 

Lyra holds a mysterious power as an offspring of an estranged husband and wife who are on opposite sides of a political divide.  One side appears to be autocratic: the other loosely democratic.

Volume 1’s hero is an eleven-year-old boy named Malcolm.  Alice is Malcolm’s fierce companion in a dangerous escape from a mad scientist, a horrendous flood, and an autocratic government agency.  The two young protagonists struggle in their relationship with each other. They have a pact to protect Lyra. Both are pursued by the mad scientist who is determined to murder Malcolm, ravage Alice, and either kidnap or kill the baby.

Pullman’s appeal is partly in the adventure but also in the sprinkling of “dust” that seems to have something to do with quantum unpredictability. 

Both threads of Pullman’s story appeal to a reader/listener’s fascination with the adventure and puzzles of magic, religion, and science.  A third interest comes from those who just enjoy well told fictional stories.

 The first volume will lure many into the second and third of Pullman’s trilogy.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Manhattan Beach

By: Jennifer Egan

Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz, Heather Lind, Vincent Piazza

Jennifer Egan (American novelist)

“Manhattan Beach” is a mystery.  Egan tells the fictional story of Anna, raised in an Irish family, among New York Italian mobsters during WWII.  The story unfolds with revelations about its characters.  “Manhattan Beach” reveals the contradictions of human life.  It exposes the good and bad of every human life, whether male or female, law abiding, or criminal.

Manhattan Beach in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Anna grows to adulthood from a childhood interrupted by her father’s disappearance.  She is 14 years old when he disappears.  Her father left some money to the family, but without a word about where he went or what had happened.  Egan adds to the mystery with Anna’s father’s meeting with an Italian mobster, two years before her father’s disappearance. Anna is at the meeting.  She is 12 years old.

Anna’s father has an eidetic memory.  That skill leads him to be hired by the mobster.  The mobster uses Anna’s father’s detailed memory to keep tabs on employees and operations of a nation-wide gambling syndicate. 

The mobster is the biggest financial contributor to the boss of the syndicate.  Anna’s father’s eidetic memory helps the mobster, but it also creates a potential risk to the syndicate.  It could be used to reveal the details of its criminal activity.

Later, Anna meets the mobster her father worked for, but she is now in her early twenties.  She chooses not to reveal her real name.  She thinks she might find some clue about what happened to her father.  She and the mobster begin an affair.  She reveals her real name, and the mystery begins to unfold. 

A listener wonders is her father dead or alive?  The mobster believes he is dead, but Egan reveals the father’s life as an officer in the merchant marines, after his disappearance.  A listener now begins to understand what might have happened.  One becomes interested in how the story ends.  That is what makes Egan’s story interesting and worth completing.

This is not the greatest story ever told but it is entertaining. It illustrates how similar and equal men and women are–both in good, bad, and ethical qualities.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

By: Thomas Sowell

Narrated by Hugh Mann

Thomas Sowell (Author, Economist, Political Pundit)

Thomas Sowell offers a scholarly and cogent history of discrimination, and slavery, but like all who report facts of the past, Sowell’s book narrows the complete story.

Thomas Sowell seems to have agreed to a book title to create sales; not promote an insightful analysis of discrimination.  He fails to convince one of an inheritable “Redneck/Liberal” meme that permeates the American South to perpetuate human discrimination.

Sowell’s argument is a Redneck culture and White Liberals explain the plight of Black Americans.  It is a false theory because of his selective collection and use of facts.  Unequal treatment and opportunity are based on difference, a much broader human label than redneck, liberal, or conservative. 

The color of one’s skin is such an obvious difference; it magnifies discrimination. 

This is not to say, as Sowell notes, that history shows Blacks did not victimize their own people.  It is that color of one’s skin entails a host of false assumptions about people of color, particularly by those in positions of power.

Sowell is certainly correct about culture as an identifiable difference that causes discrimination, but skin color magnifies difference, particularly when those in power are white.  Putting aside that disagreement, Sowell’s book is a first-rate history of what has happened to minorities who are different from those in power. 

“Rednecks” and “White Liberals” are only a minority in political twitter. Any human being might be classified as “Redneck” or “White Liberal”. There is no categorization that fully describes “Redneck” or “White Liberal” in Thomas Sowell’s book.

One might agree with Sowell that both Blacks and whites can be “Rednecks” but there is no “Redneck” culture.  There are rich who live in fine houses. There are poor who are homeless.  There are unemployed looking for work.  There are unemployed not looking for work.  There are able-bodied and disabled; some of which work, some not.  Any of them can be “Rednecks”, “Liberals”, or “Conservatives”.  Many came from Europe, England, South American, Africa, and Asia to settle in America.  There cultures, and indigenous Indians evolved in America from what they were in the countries in which they were born. The circumstances of America changed them.  What did not change is human nature’s habit of discrimination based on difference.

Sowell suggests that “Redneck” culture originated in parts of England. He characterizes the culture as uneducated, mean-spirited, and violent.  In the dictionary the definition of “Redneck” is defined as “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”.

Sowell suggests poor education, meanness, and violence are inherited by the American south’s settlement by English immigrants.  This is a distortion of the South’s history, England’s lower economic class, and the south’s environment.

Many abolitionist thinkers and doers in the world came from the American South.  Some were white.  Robert Carter III, the grandson of a Virginia land baron manumitted 500 slaves in the 1700s, Robert Purvis born in Charleston, South Carolina helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, the Grimke sisters deplored slavery in the south and limitations on the rights of women, Francis White founded the Nashoba Commune in Tennessee that was formed to prepare slaves for emancipation, John Brown led the insurrection at Harpers Ferry Virginia because he believed “moral suasion is hopeless” in abolishing slavery.  

Some were black. Martin Delany, born in Virginia, insisted on Negroes controlling their destiny, James Bradley from Kentucky, who was a transported slave from Africa. He purchased his freedom and became an anti-slavery advocate in the Arkansas Territory.

Sowell is on firmer ground when writing about the middlemen merchant class.  The middleman and woman are between producer and consumer that rise from an industrialized and now technocratic society.  This middleman is the manufacturing and distributing class.  These middlemen and women are workers, and intermediaries who package, deliver, and sell product.  They are a cohort that includes “Rednecks”, “Liberals”, and “Conservatives”. 

Middlemen and women are not the superrich, but they grow into cultural groups that wield power.  They create different cultures that clash with each other because they can be identified as different.

They are different because of their religion, their wealth, their profession, their use of language, their ethnicity, or their skin color.  It is those differences that create an opportunity to act against, or in support of those in power.  It is difference, not exclusively one thing but anything that sets a minority apart from the majority.

Sowell enlightens listeners with information about the history of slavery, the details of difference among populations in countries where Jews, Armenians, Africans, Pakistanis, Indians, and many more ethnic groups were tortured, enslaved, raped, and murdered. 

Today, it is Blacks in America, Uighurs in China, castes in India, Armenians in Eastern Europe, Christians in Turkey, Palestinians in Israel, Chechens in Russia, and so on, and so on. Not because they were “Redneck”, “Liberal”, or “Conservative” but because they were different, clannish, and semi-independent.

“Suppression of equal opportunity” is another name for slavery. What is galling about Sowell’s selection of facts is the idea that slavery has always existed in the world.  That is true but how does that justify today’s slavery by another name. 

Sowell goes on to suggest “Brown vs. Board of Education” ruined high achieving schools for Black Americans by destroying neighborhood schools.

Some would argue America’s public school system is simply getting what it pays for.

Without contesting Sowell’s research on Black schools that deteriorated because of the “Brown” decision, he chooses to ignore what improvement there may have been for Black students that went to public schools that were largely white.

Good teachers are underpaid and often leave teaching because they can find better paying jobs in other professions. America’s public school system is becoming more of a child care system than a teaching institution.

Integration is meant to ameliorate inequality. Sowell’s research is more a criticism of the quality of public schools than the goal of ameliorating inequality

A conclusion one draws from Sowell’s history is the human need of tolerance for difference.  Not everyone wants the same thing out of life.  Not everyone lives life in the same way.  The Wall Street Journal editorializes on October 10, 2020 that tolerance is the bane of the 21st century.  It argues that tolerance allows equal rights for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals’ as though they are something less than human beings.  This is conservatism at its worst. Lack of tolerance is the sine non quo of slavery and discrimination.