Sunday, March 18, 2018

History and the Human Condition: Reflections on Kate Bowler’s 'Everything Happens for a Reason'

By Kristen Du Mez
February 22, 2018
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I remember the day a couple years back when my Facebook feed was suddenly overtaken with grief. Kate Bowler, the preeminent historian of the prosperity gospel, but more importantly beloved friend to so many in my circle of religious historians, had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. As she broke the news to all her “dears,” with characteristic grace and wit, the sorrow was palpable.
At that time I hadn’t yet met Kate, but for at least a couple of years mutual friends had kept insisting that we really must meet. It wasn’t long before our paths did cross, at an academic conference. What most amazed me wasn’t that Kate was giving a keynote address while battling cancer while raising a toddler while writing two books. But it was Kate herself. She has an uncanny power to make you feel like her best friend. It wasn’t just that we had read each other’s books, or that we both had an academic interest in the caffeine intake of Christian women bloggers. No, she has an enviable and extraordinary way about her that makes you feel smart and cherished and like you’re sharing a joke together, even if only for a minute.
But Kate had cancer. She was no longer a “shiny” person, a person for whom everything had fallen in place in a charmed sort of way. The irony was impossible to ignore. The historian of the prosperity gospel, the author of Blessed, had come up against something that all the positive thinking in the world couldn’t cure.
Kate wrote about this irony, about coming to terms with her prognosis in light of her research, in a New York Times essay two years ago. That essay ended up being one of the most popular essays the Times ran that year, and it’s now been expanded into a beautiful book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, just out from Random House.
Having just experienced a loved one’s illness and death, I had been eagerly awaiting the release of Kate’s book. When it arrived, I read it cover to cover.
As a religious historian, I ought to have been drawn to Kate’s reflections on the prosperity gospel, to how her expertise in that tradition shaped her own encounter with catastrophe. And it’s true that her scholarly background brings depth and unique insight to this book.
But in truth, I really just wanted to listen to Kate talk. I’m not sure if her reflections on life and death are more profound because she knows everything there is to know about the prosperity gospel, or if she wrote such a powerful book about the prosperity gospel because she has a depth of insight, because she has a heart for what it is to be human. I think, perhaps, the latter.
I’m not the only one drawn to her work. Her book has shot to #8 on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction books. She’s been on NPR’s Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and I’m sure a host of other places, and her book has been reviewed pretty much everywhere in its first week. Over and over, she’s been peppered with merciless questions: Tell us about dying. Tell us again, this time in more detail. Let’s talk again about your imminent death…
I have to admit that, at a certain point, this started to make me cringe. Why are we all so fascinated with Kate’s story? What are our motives? My motives?
I remember one of her early blog posts, not long after her diagnosis, where she wrote of standing on one side of a glass wall. The rest of the world was on the outside, looking in. I am on the outside. What compels us to stare at those behind the glass? Surely compassion, but perhaps something more? Relief? An almost voyeuristic sense of relief that we are on the outside, that we can walk away when we tire of looking, or when the reality of what we’re glimpsing becomes unbearable?
But mixed with that relief is something more, I think. Deep down, we all know that we are only a stabbing pain, a dreaded phone call away from being relocated to the other side of the glass. In the words of Kate’s doctor, we’re all terminal. Some just have more information.
And so we want to know how to think, what to do, when that day comes. And it’s hard to imagine a better guide than Kate.
At the end of her book, she provides a helpful “short list” of things that should absolutely never be said “to people experiencing terrible times” starting with “Well, at least…” and ending with “How are you really?” Chances are you’ve stumbled into at least one of these, and probably several. I know I have. Happily she also offers another appendix outlining better options.
But more than what to say, the book offers us a guide for how to think, how to feel, in a world that is more broken than shiny.
“What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, ‘You are limitless’? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here,” she writes. “What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of ‘the gospel’ meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”
We sense the truth in her father-in-law’s words, that “life is a series of losses.” Those who are privileged to live long enough already know that “with age we slowly lose our senses and even our pleasures, our parents and then our friends, preparing us for our own absence.”
Kate helps us see that, whatever our stated theological convictions, we all cling to the illusion of control: “Control is a drug, and we are all hooked, whether or not we believe in the prosperity gospel’s assurance that we can master the future with our words and attitudes. I can barely admit to myself that I have almost no choice but to surrender, but neither can those around me.”
And she puts words to the disorienting reality of grief. “There must be rhythms to grief, but I do not know them,” she concedes. Yet she is able to capture the gnawing pain of grief in just a couple of sentences: “I used to think that grief was about looking backward, old men saddled with regrets or young ones pondering should-haves. I see now that it is about eyes squinting through tears into an unbearable future. The world cannot be remade by the sheer force of love.”
Kate offers us words to live by, too, reminding us not to surrender too much of ourselves to “someday,” because “someday” might come before we’re ready. And, she advises, “Don’t skip to the end.”
The same week I devoured Everything Happens for a Reason, I came across another reflection on death and grief written by a historian. Two days before Kate’s book was released, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an essay by Stéphane Gerson, “History in the Face of Catastrophe.” Gerson’s catastrophe was the tragic death of his son in a whitewater rafting accident. In the aftermath of the tragedy, he found that the enormity of grief changed the way he approached his scholarship. In some ways, the scope of his questions, “their conceptual reach,” and his “engagement with other scholars and students had narrowed.” But in other ways, he found himself “returning to the past with an urgency” he hadn’t possessed before. “Without realizing it,” Gerson writes, “I grieved not only as a father and husband, but also as a historian. And this, I later came to understand, broadened my relationship to history. It made me a different kind of scholar.”
He was no longer concerned with historiographical contributions, with solving questions about “grief across the centuries,” for instance. Instead, he found himself seeking companionship. “I wanted to know these men and women who…kept ‘the uncertainty of this life ever in view.’” In Gerson’s words, “Though history had lost its scholarly luster, it came alive in other ways. The past provided solace and companionship, immediacy and distance, inklings of understanding and a finer appreciation for what I could never understand.”
Gerson goes on to wonder if we might imagine a scholarly practice that “acknowledges that what speaks to us may also be what moves us?” To consider that “the historical actors and events we deem important may be the ones who touch something inside us?”
I wonder, too, if much of the conversation around “Christian scholarship” in recent decades hasn’t missed something vital. Attention to epistemological questions and questions of purpose are certainly valid, but perhaps there’s something to be gained by thinking more broadly about the human condition. How can the past help us speak to that condition, to live in the reality that we inhabit a world where everything doesn’t always happen for a reason, where we can’t control our futures, or hold on to those we love?
In Kate’s words, “Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”


Kate Bowler: Things We Learn in the Dark -

Prosperity Gospel Scholar Says Belief That Pain Will Always Bring Reward is a 'Beautiful Lie'-

Kate Bowler: I Reject the Prosperity Gospel but I Still Crave What It Promises-

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Waco: The Untold Story

March 17, 2018

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Smoking fire consumes the Branch Davidian Compound during the FBI assault to end the 51-day standoff with cult leader David Koresh and his followers. Greg Smith/Corbis via Getty

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Waco atrocity, the bloodiest and most expensive law enforcement operation in the history of the United States.  The gun battle, siege, and lethal fire have already been the subject of three commemorative documentaries and docudramas on the subject, with more to come.  The sad fact is that the documentaries to date contain major errors.  I know this because I spent three years in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits in a quest for the truth.
The 1993 operation was begun by the then-Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and directed at a religious group sometimes called the Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh.  The basis for the raid was flimsy evidence that the Davidians possessed unregistered machine guns.  On February 28, eighty agents, backed by three borrowed military helicopters, tried to storm the Branch Davidian center near Waco, Texas.  Shooting broke out that left four agents and six Davidians dead and led to a 51-day siege.  The siege in turn ended with a fire that killed more than 80 additional people.
There were, of course, official investigations and congressional hearings.  The documentary films released to date largely parallel the government's "official line" voiced during these.  David Koresh was a government-hating fire-eater, he could not be arrested peacefully, and the fanatic Davidians raked the approaching agents with machine-gun fire.
The FOIA lawsuit turned up evidence contradicting all of this.  Just to take three major points:
The official explanation for why the ATF did not peacefully arrest David Koresh was that he was a paranoid recluse who never left the Davidian building; a sudden, forceful, raid was the only way to root him out.  The ATF had installed undercover agents in a house across the street from the Davidians, but they weren't sure what Koresh looked like and never saw him leave.
This explanation was a complete fabrication.  An ATF "Report of Investigation," filed by the undercover agents in the nearby house, reports how they spent February 19, nine days before the raid.
They had gone shooting.
With David Koresh.
At the outset, the agents had all the guns (until they loaned Koresh a pistol – he was, after all, providing them with ammunition).  The report was approved all the way up to the special agent in charge, who would command the raid.  ATF management knew that a peaceful arrest would have been easy to arrange – if they wanted it that way.
ATF management did not.  At this point, it was a beleaguered agency, wracked by scandals, with a new administration promising to "reinvent government" by doing away with small, inefficient agencies.  The beginning of the ATF's appropriation cycle was under two weeks away.  ATF management desperately needed lots of good publicity, the type that a dramatic raid would generate and a quiet arrest would not.
Second, the official position was that the Davidians had deluged the approaching ATF with machine-gun fire.  At the surviving Davidians' criminal trial, agents testified to being fired at from multiple positions that employed six different types of machine guns, and as a result, five Davidians received long sentences for illegal use of machine guns.
This, too, was a fabrication.  The FOIA lawsuit forced release of an ATF audiotape that picked up sounds of the gunfight.  Only one burst of automatic fire is heard, followed by a radioed message to ATF snipers to shoot, followed by ATF cheers of "Yes!  Yes!  We got the machine gun!"  There had been only one machine gun, and its user was quickly killed; he could not have been among the five Davidian survivors who received 40-year sentences for use of machine guns.
Third, the official position was that when the Davidian residence was consumed by fire, FBI did all it could to rescue those inside.  Regrettably, it couldn't let fire engines approach for fear that the fanatical Davidians would shoot the firemen.
Here the infrared videotapes, made by an FBI aircraft circling the scene, are revealing.  The tapes' soundtrack revealed radio traffic between the two highest-ranking FBI supervisors during the fire.  The one at the scene is shouting, in increasing frustration, for the fire engines to be let through.  "If you have any fire engines, get them out here right now!"  "I want the fire engines up here at the scene!"
His superior, who was detaining the fire engines at a checkpoint a mile away, responds with stony silence; four minutes pass.  Then the superior asks, "Our people focused on the school bus area for the kids – is that what we're doing?"  "That's what we're trying to do" is the reply.
The superior responds coldly, "No one else, I hope."  His tone suggests that he saw the Davidians as cop-killers who were getting what they deserved.  At that, the fire engines were held up for four more minutes, by which time the blazing building had collapsed.  Twenty-four children and fifty men and women had died in the flames.
All this evidence has been available, largely on the internet, for over a decade.  We are left to hope that some journalist or documentarian will pick up the ball.
David T. Hardy is an attorney and a New York Times bestselling author.  He devotes a chapter to Waco in his recent book, I'm from the Government, and I'm Here to Kill You.  The audio and video mentioned in this article can be found at

Friday, March 16, 2018

The High Price of Denial

March 15, 2018

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel (N-TV)

Is it possible that mainstream politicians and the mainstream media are finally recognising what the European public can see with their own eyes? Two recent occurrences suggest that this might be so.

The first is a concession by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who almost half a year after her party's embarrassment in national elections has finally managed to put together a coalition government. Last September saw not only Merkel's party and her erstwhile coalition partners suffer a historic dent in their vote-share, but also saw the entry to Parliament of the five-year old anti-immigration AfD (Alternative for Germany) party, which is now so large that it constitutes the country's official opposition. If German voters meant to send a message, it could hardly have been clearer.

Perhaps it was even listened to. On Monday February 26, Merkel gave an interview to the German broadcaster N-TV. In it she finally admitted that there are "no-go areas" in her country: "that is, areas where nobody dares to go." She continued: "There are such areas and one has to call them by their name and do something about them." The Chancellor claimed that she favoured a "zero tolerance" attitude towards such places but did not identify where they were. Two days later, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert stressed that "the Chancellor's words speak for themselves."

Although the Chancellor chose to use few words, that she said these things at all is significant. For years, German officials, like their political counterparts across the continent, have furiously denied that there are any areas of their countries to which the rule of law does not extend. Denials have also issued forth from officials in, among other countries, Sweden and France. In January 2015, Paris's Mayor Anne Hidalgo threatened to sue Fox News after the station said there were no-go zones in her city. Hidalgo claimed at the time in an interview on CNN that "the honour of Paris" and the "image of Paris" had been harmed. It was a typically extraordinary claim, which ignored that if the "image of Paris" had taken any battering around that time, it might have been due to the massacre of 12 journalists, cartoonists and policemen at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the slaughter of four people in a kosher supermarket two days later. So concessions like Merkel's -- as opposed to cover-ups like Hidalgo's -- are to be applauded, slightly, when they occur.

Just a week later, another strange milestone was reached. The front page of theNew York Times on March 6 carried a story -- also graced with the page's only pictures -- which nobody could have expected the paper to run. Under the heading "Old weapons rattle Sweden," the paper recorded the recent death of a 63-year old man in the Stockholm suburb of Varby Gard. As the paper records, Daniel Cuevas Zuniga had only recently finished a night-shift as an aide for disabled adults, and was cycling home with his wife, when, spotting a spherical object on the floor he stopped and reached out. It was an M-75 hand grenade; its explosive charge and 3000 steel metal balls instantly killed Mr Zuniga and blew his wife off her bicycle.

As the paper conceded, this is not a one-off event but part of an upsurge in violence -- particularly involving hand-grenades -- caused by the influx of foreign gangs and foreign weapons (largely from the Balkan wars of the 1990s) into the Scandinavian country. The paper quoted a Lebanese asylum-seeker who had previously been a commando in a Lebanese militia. Paulus Borisho, in his kebab shop, heard the blast that killed Zuniga. As the paper recorded:
"That a grenade should be found on the sidewalk outside a kebab shop, a few steps from an elementary school, was difficult for him to take in.
"Now when I think of the future, I am afraid" he said. "I am afraid for Europe".
As well he might be. The paper even had the decency to quote friends of the late Mr Zuniga, who reported that he had complained about recent "changes in Varby Gard" and had been "frustrated that the police did not have better control." Again: as well he might.

Of course, the upsurge in gang violence, and specifically grenade violence, in Sweden has been covered in other media outlets in recent years. These have pointed out the Swedish police's often ridiculous ways of addressing this problem. For instance, that Swedish police chief Linda Staaf recently tried to dissuade gangs from using hand-grenades in Sweden by pointing out that grenade-throwing is dangerous because the person who pulls out the pin could "expose themselves to a huge risk." Papers like the New York Times have taken little interest in such problems -- problems which have got so bad that Prime Minister Stefan Löfven even threatened to send the army into certain Swedish suburbs.

Instead, newspapers like the New York Times have tended in recent years towards the same denialism as Angela Merkel about the problems which mass immigration from the developing world is causing in Europe. They have tended to praise the "courage" of suspending normal border controls while covering over or ignoring the terrible consequences of importing millions of people whose identities are unknown. And of course, like Mayor Hidalgo in Paris, they have tended to shoot the messengers more than report the news, dismissing any such stories as "fake news", "alt-right" or "far right" propaganda.

Just last year, when Donald Trump famously mentioned "what happened last night in Sweden", the mainstream media knew what he was referring to. They knew that he was loosely referencing a report that he had seen on Fox news the night before about the increasingly bad situation in that country. The media, however, chose not to address that problem. Instead they chose -- in the main -- to laugh at the President and ridicule the idea that there were any troubles in the Scandinavian paradise.

Back then the New York Times headlined that President Trump's comments were "baffling", while much of the rest of the media simply pretended that Sweden was a land of infinite peace and Ikea which had been sorely slandered by the President.

The surprise that within days of each other, both Chancellor Merkel and the New York Times have become willing to admit facts which they and their apologists have long pretended to be imaginary could be progress of a kind. It may not, however, be a cause for optimism. Rather than being a demonstration that things are getting better, that they are now admitting what is visible to the eyes of ordinary Europeans may be an admission that things have got so bad -- and are so well-known -- that even the Gray Lady and Mutti Merkel are no longer able to ignore them. If so, one thought must surely follow: imagine what might have been solved if the denials had never even begun?
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
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The real Down syndrome problem: Accepting genocide

By George F. Will
March 14, 2018

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Agusta, now age 8, a citizen of Iceland (CBS News)
Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem? To help understand why some people might ask this question, meet two children. One is Agusta, age 8, a citizen of Iceland. The other is Lucas, age 1, an American citizen in Dalton, Ga., who recently was selected to be 2018 “Spokesbaby” for the Gerber baby food company. They are two examples of the problem.
Now, before Iceland becomes snippy about the description of what it is doing, let us all try to think calmly about genocide, without getting judgmental about it. It is simply the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people. So, what one thinks about a genocide depends on what one thinks about the category involved. In Iceland’s case, the category is people with Down syndrome.
This is a congenital condition resulting from a chromosomal abnormality. It involves varying degrees of mental retardation (although probably not larger variances than exist between the mental capabilities of many people who are chromosomally normal — say, Isaac Newton and some people you know). It also involves some physical abnormalities (including low muscle tone, small stature, flatness of the back of the head, an upward slant to the eyes) and some increased health risks (of heart defects, childhood leukemia and Alzheimer’s disease). Average life expectancy is now around 60 years, up from around 25 years four decades ago, when many Down syndrome people were institutionalized or otherwise isolated, denied education and other stimulation, and generally not treated as people.
Highly (almost but not perfectly) accurate prenatal screening tests can reveal Down syndrome in utero. The expectant couple can then decide to extinguish the fetus and try again for a normal child who might be less trouble, at least until he or she is an adolescent with hormonal turbulence and a driver’s license.
Lucas Warren with parents Cortney and Jason (Splash/Reuters)
In Iceland, upward of 85 percent of pregnant women opt for the prenatal testing, which has produced a Down syndrome elimination rate approaching 100 percent. Agusta was one of only three Down syndrome babies born there in 2009. Iceland could have moved one-third of the way to its goal if only Agusta had been detected and eliminated. Agusta’s mother is glad the screening failed in her case.
An Iceland geneticist says “we have basically eradicated” Down syndrome people, but regrets what he considers “heavy-handed genetic counseling” that is influencing “decisions that are not medical, in a way.” One Icelandic counselor “counsels” mothers as follows: “This is your life. You have the right to choose how your life will look like.” She says, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended.” Which makes Agusta and Lucas “things” that were not “ended.”
Because Iceland’s population is only about 340,000, the problem (again, see the photos of problem Agusta and problem Lucas) is more manageable there than in, say, the United Kingdom. It has approximately 40,000 Down syndrome citizens, many of whom were conceived before the development of effective search-and-destroy technologies. About 750 British Down syndrome babies are born each year, but 90 percent of women who learn that their child will have — actually, that their child does have — Down syndrome have an abortion. In Denmark the elimination rate is 98 percent.
America, where 19 percent of all pregnancies are aborted, is playing catch-up in the Down syndrome elimination sweepstakes (elimination rate of 67 percent, 1995-2011). So is France (77 percent), which seems determined to do better. In 2016, a French court ruled that it would be “inappropriate” for French television to run a 2½-minute video (“Dear Future Mom”) released for World Down Syndrome Day, which seeks to assure women carrying Down syndrome babies that their babies can lead happy lives, a conclusion resoundingly confirmed in a 2011 study “Self-perceptions from people with Down syndrome.” The court said the video is “likely to disturb the conscience of women” who aborted Down syndrome children.
So, photos of Agusta and Lucas are probably “inappropriate.” It speaks volumes about today’s moral confusions that this — the disruption of an unethical complacency — is the real “Down syndrome problem.”
Read more from George F. Will’s archive or follow him on Facebook.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: 'The Terminal List' by Jack Carr

By Ryan Steck
November 13, 2017
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A potential new star of the genre emerges in Jack Carr’s debut thriller, which introduces a lethal protagonist in the same vein as other iconic literary heroes such as Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath. 
While carrying out a high-stakes mission near the Khost Province in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Commander James Reece and his men inadvertently walk straight into an ambush, and only Reece survives. 
Following the carnage, Reece reflects on the orders that came down the pipe, forcing him and his men into a situation they had little time to prepare for. Noting that he never felt right about the mission from the very beginning, Reece starts asking questions upon returning to Bagram Air Base. Though his initial efforts are stonewalled, Reece–whose never-quit attitude helped shape him into one of the top operators in America’s arsenal of super soldiers–doesn’t give up. Continuing to probe for answers, Reece is given some disturbing personal news that, astonishingly, he then discovers is something the other men on his SEAL team all had in common.  
Sent home to Coronado, California, Reece plans to race off to see his wife, Lauren, and their young daughter, Lucy. Instead, he’s delayed and forced to answer additional questions and see a military doctor before he’s allowed to take off. By the time he finally pulls his Toyota Land Cruiser into his driveway, Reece is horrified to find his house crawling with police officers. Inside, his family lays slain in their living room, their bodies riddled with bullet holes. 
It doesn’t take long for Reece to realize that his getting closer to the truth about what happened to him and his men in Afghanistan caused the deaths of his loved ones. The enemy, by taking away everyone he loved, sent Reece a painful message. At the same time, they just took away the only thing keeping his anger and brutality in check. . . a move they’ll soon regret.
With nothing left to live for, James Reece chases the conspiracy unfolding before him, which reaches all the way to the very top of the United States government. Carefully crafting a list of everyone involved, Reece then sets out to do the one thing he’s exceptionally good at. . . kill everyone who played even a minor role in the deaths of his men and his family. 
The government spent a lot of time and money turning Reece into a killing machine for his country. Now he’s coming after them. 
There have been some really promising new heroes introduced to readers over the past several years, but few have the potential moving forward that Carr’s protagonist radiates from the onset of this exceptional story. On top of the daring, well-written plot, Carr packs in a ton of tradecraft to go hand-in-hand with his above-average character development. Readers will enjoy learning a few tricks of the trade, and the action–though one scene in particular is especially gruesome–is on point. 
Jack Carr proves to be a formidable new voice in the political thriller genre, making a bold statement with his lightning-quick debut novel. The Terminal List is a can’t-miss, must-read, relentless action thriller that reads like a cross between Vince Flynn’s Term Limits and Mark Greaney’s Back Blast
Book Details
Author: Jack Carr
Series: James Reece #1
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501180819
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10 
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THE TERMINAL LIST: Five Questions with Jack Carr

By Ryan Steck
March 5, 2018

Image result for jack carr terminal list
Debut novels like this don’t come around too often. When they do, you better take note, because it’s a lot like seeing a shooting star. . . you’re not too sure when you’ll catch another one.
In Jack Carr’s case, it’s more like watching a star in the making. A former Navy SEAL, Carr has an intimate knowledge of the scenarios and skill sets often found in action thrillers and the genre’s fictional heroes. He’s the real deal, who, it turns out, can really write.
Carr’s protagonist, James Reece, is a good man with a lethal set of skills. Call it whatever you want — revenge, retribution, payback — Reece wants it after the government intentionally had his men, and later his family, killed. And when a man trained to kill suddenly has nothing left to live for, well, as readers will soon find out, he becomes a pretty serious problem for the bad guys.
As most Book Spy followers already know, this book is special because it’s actually my very first selection for the soon-to-be-launched Real Book Spy online book club! (For more info on that, click here.) I chose to kick things off with this book for a reason, which is actually pretty simple. 
Without question, I think Jack Carr’s The Terminal List is the most daring, controversial debut political action thriller since Vince Flynn’s iconic novel, Term Limits. Coincidentally, Carr is actually with the same publisher who launched Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series. And, he works with Emily Bestler (of Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books at Simon & Schuster), who happens to be the only editor Flynn worked with in his career.
I’m not saying Carr’s Reece is the next Mitch Rapp, because the two do have major differences, but the comparisons are there and, believe me, they’re valid. 
Leading up to the release of The Terminal List, which comes out tomorrow (Tuesday, March 6th, 2018), I’ve gotten to know Jack Carr, who is a great guy. He and I will be hosting a Facebook Live session on Monday, March 19th, where I’ll interview him before turning it over to a reader Q&A session, so make sure you get this book right away, and that you get it read in time to take part in our scheduled event! 
Even though Carr is getting ready for his first book tour, he was nice enough to go on the record for our Five Questions segment. Check out the interview below, then keep scrolling to learn more about The Terminal List

The Terminal List: Five Questions with Jack Carr
TRBS: You’ve said you always wanted to be a Navy SEAL and an author — and now you finally get to check off both boxes. How long did it take you to write your first book, The Terminal List?
Carr: “From putting pen to paper, or in this case fingers to the keyboard, it took about a year and a half. Then the real work started: the re-reading, the editing and then more re-reading and editing before it was finally at a point where it was ready for submission. I remember how nervous and excited I was to finally mail it to Emily Bestler at Emily Bestler Books in New York. That was a day I’ll never forget.”
TRBS: Your hero, James Reece, is awesome. As a reader, who are some of your favorite protagonists, and who was your inspiration for Reece?
Carr: “James Reece is a combination of all sorts of people, both real and fictional, though not intentionally.  His career mirrors mine in that he was a prior enlisted SEAL who transitioned to the officer ranks, but that is where the similarities end.  I took quite a bit of artistic license to make him much tougher, stronger, smarter, wittier, skilled, and better looking than I ever was, or could ever be.  I wanted him to be likable and have flaws just like we all do.  I didn’t want to make him a stereotypical SEAL as is sometimes portrayed in the media.  I think one of the reasons he is resonating so well with readers is that I took the emotions I’d felt through different experiences over my time in the SEAL Teams and applied those feelings to a fictional character and narrative.  He’s a real guy that can flip the switch and get the job done when he needs to.
“I’ve been reading fictional thrillers as long as I can remember.  My mom was a librarian, so I grew up surrounded by books and was instilled with a love of reading from a very early age.  I felt a connection with Tom Clancy’s character John Clark very early on because of his SEAL lineage, so when Without Remorse came out I was thrilled, as it is essentially the John Clark origin novel.  I loved the protagonists created by Nelson DeMille and David Morrell growing up and devoured everything they wrote.  Later I discovered the characters of Scott Coleman and Mitch Rapp, and then Scott Harvath, all legends in the modern thriller genre.  One of my favorites is Bob Lee Swagger, introduced to us by Stephen Hunter in Point of Impact.  I can’t get enough of him and eagerly await his next adventure.”
TRBS: What’s it like being with the same editor and publisher as Vince Flynn and Brad Thor — two thriller icons who helped shaped the genre into what it is today?
Carr: “It is difficult for me to put into words exactly how humbling it is to be part of Emily Bestler Books.  I have looked up to both Vince and Brad since I first cracked the covers of their books.  To now be an author working with Emily Bestler is an honor I can’t quite describe.  I was fortunate enough to meet Vince Flynn before he passed away and I will always treasure the time we were able to spend together.  And I certainly would not be where I am today without Brad Thor.  I’ll never be able to thank him enough for opening the door for me and for welcoming me into the company of scribes.”
TRBS: Any chance readers might one day see James Reece on the big screen, and who would be your dream casting choice to play him?
Carr: “Funny you should ask, we are in talks right now with the exact person I always envisioned playing James Reece, but for now, I am sworn to secrecy…”
TBRS: Do you plan to make Reece a series character, and what comes next after The Terminal List?
Carr: “There is another book in the works right now scheduled for release in March 2019 with characters from The Terminal List, but which ones and in what capacity, that’s a secret…”

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hillary Clinton, Pride of Radcliffe

March 13, 2018

Image result for hillary clinton radcliffe
(Getty Images)
The Harvard Crimson last week announced that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would receive the Radcliffe Medal on May 25 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Past recipients of the honor, given annually to individuals (usually women) who have had “a transformative impact on society,” include U.S. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, the tennis player Billie Jean King, the writer Toni Morrison, and another former secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright.
Lizabeth Cohen, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute, noted the award to Clinton was being made “in recognition of her accomplishments in the public sphere as a champion for human rights, as a skilled legislator, and as an advocate for global American leadership.” Dean Cohen went on to describe Clinton as “a model of what it takes to transform society: a lifetime of relentless effort combined with the vision and dedication to overcome one’s inevitable defeats.”
The Crimson omitted any specifics about Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments as a “champion for human rights,” her prowess and achievements as a legislator, or the results of her advocacy of “American global leadership.” Nor did it dilate on her role as a “model” of someone whose efforts had transformed society while serving as beacon of hope and propriety for those struggling with life’s “inevitable defeats.”
A full inventory of Clinton’s activities in these areas would be tediously long. But as the Evangelist Matthew admonished (5:15), one should not hide one’s light under a bushel but rather let it “so shine before men, that they may see” one’s good works. So let me at least partially redress Dean Cohen’s unaccountable oversight, which was doubtless predicated upon Hillary Clinton’s native reticence, and mention just a few of the accomplishments that qualify her for this signal honor.
Many readers, dazzled by the memory of Clinton’s recent presidential campaign, may be a bit shaky about her long history of private-sector accomplishment and public service. Here, without pretending to anything like completeness, are a few highlights.
  • In 1973, she failed the D.C. Bar exam, a fact she concealed for 30 years.
  • Fresh out of Yale Law School, she worked on the Watergate impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Jerry Zeifman, chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during the inquiry, described Clintonas “a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
  • Following her then-boyfriend Bill Clinton to Arkansas in the late 1970s, she managed to get a job at the Rose Law Firm only after Bill became state attorney general. She was described as a “trial lawyer,” but as Betsy McCaughey notes in an article on Hillary’s “coattail career,” none of her former colleagues can remember her ever having tried a case.
  • Also in the late 1970s, Hillary demonstrated her prowess as an investor. She parlayed a $1000 investment in cattle futures into $100,000 in just nine months. How did she do it? She later said it was from reading the Wall Street JournalPerhaps she also got a little help from James B. Blair, a Clinton friend and top lawyer for Tyson Foods, one of Arkansas’s largest businesses and a conspicuous donor to Clinton.  “During Mr. Clinton’s tenure as Governor,” the  New York Timesreported, “Tyson benefited from several state decisions, including favorable environmental rulings, $9 million in state loans, and the placement of company executives on important state boards. . . . The commodities trades were the most successful investment the Clintons ever made. The nearly $100,000 profit enabled them to buy a house, invest in securities and real estate and provide a nest egg for their daughter, Chelsea.”
  • When Bill became president in 1993, he invested Hillary as the chair of a task force to revamp the nation’s health care policy. Barring the press and the public from the committee meetings, she presented her recommendations to Congress as a fait accompli. Betsy McCaughey recalls that “Within four months, a federal judge ruled the Clintons were violating federal open meeting laws, and The Wall Street Journal ridiculed her meetings as ‘an exercise in Soviet-style Kremlinology.’ Hillary’s M.O. was to vilify critics (including me) as ‘extremists.’ Her mismanagement sabotaged the momentum to get health reform done, even in a Democratically controlled Congress.”
  • In 2000, when a Senate seat in New York became vacant, Hillary tugged again on Bill’s coattails. Neither Clinton had ever lived in New York. But it was the work of a moment to buy a house in Chappaqua. Hillary then set about parlaying her husband’s celebrity and influence into the tangible dispensation of a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • In her eight years as senator, Clinton’s activity as a “skilled legislator” resulted in exactly one bill that she introduced becoming law. That “transformative” piece of legislation provided that the U.S. courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York City be renamed the “Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.”
  • After failing to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton became Barack Obama’s first secretary of state. In that position, she presided over many signal instances of “American global leadership.” Consider, for example,
    • Her “reset” with Russia, an initiative that we are living with even today.
    • Her savvy diplomatic dealings with Israel, not least her endorsing a demand that Israel return to its 1967 borders.
    • Her clever engagement with Iran over its nuclear program.
    • Her deft handling of the emergency in Libya, resulting not only in the murder of Colonel Gaddafi, the descent of Libya into near anarchy and an entrepôt for terrorist activity, and the attack on our diplomatic enclave in Benghazi, a planned terrorist attack that left our ambassador and three other Americans dead but which she dismissed as a “spontaneous uprising” sparked by an anti-Islamic internet video.
  • As “a model of what it takes to transform society,” Hillary Clinton can boast many initiatives. For example, she endeavored to transform her Chappaqua house through the simple expedient ofshipping tens of thousands of dollars of government property from Washington, D.C. to her New York demesne.
  • When it comes to Hillary Clinton as a “champion for human rights,” is there anything more telling than her activities through the Clinton Foundation in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake in that unfortunate country? Hillary, then secretary of state, and Bill, heading up a Haiti reconstruction fund, funneled tens of millions of dollars to Haiti for “relief efforts.” But the money never went to the Haitians. It went instead to a wide network of Clinton relatives, friends, and cronies, often via the Clinton Foundation. The Haitians themselves initially regarded the Clintons as saviors. They soon learned otherwise and now routinely protest outside the offices of the Clinton Foundation.
  • Since the Radcliffe Medal is so intimately associated with higher education, it also worthremembering Laureate Education’s Walden University, a Clinton-backed, for-profit university that paid $16 million to Bill Clinton to be honorary “chancellor” (no work required) while the State Department funneled $55 million of taxpayer funds to Laureate when Hillary was Secretary of State.
  • These days, no account of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments can omit her many logistical innovations while secretary of state in the realm of communications. Imagine, setting up a private email server in your home and using that unsecured server for your official email correspondence while secretary of state. Imagine destroying more than 30,000 emails when subpoenaed by Congress. Or having your server professionally wiped before turning it over for scrutiny (and then feigning that you didn’t know what it meant to “wipe” a computer’s hard disk.)
These few items merely scratch the surface of Hillary Clinton’s many “transformative” activities. No one, at any rate, can doubt her success in transforming the Clinton bank account. When Bill and Hillary left the White House, they were in debt to the tune of $500,000. Over the next 15 years, they raked in some $240 million.
Perhaps the Radcliffe Institute is hoping some measure of that pelf will be sent their way. My observation is that, when it comes to the Clintons, money flows in only one direction. Be that as it may, this little list, incomplete though it is, may help the multitude who will assemble this May to pay homage to Hillary Clinton’s “transformative impact on society” gain a deeper appreciation of the nature of her “lifetime of relentless effort.” How proud Radcliffe must be.