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  • Miles - Though I disagree with some of his basic assumptions, I enthusiastically agree with most of his argument and his conclusions.

    I'm not convinced that the well-being of conscious creatures can form an objective foundation for a science of ethics, and I don't think he spent enough time and effort trying to establish that in a rigorous philosophical way. For instance, if we discovered that intelligent machines that were conscious but felt no pleasure or pain greatly outnumbered humans in this universe, I think that would throw a monkey wrench into his argument. I doubt that any ethics can transcend culture and history, and have yet to hear a convincing argument otherwise. But given our specific culture and history, I agree with Harris that we need more logical and scientific thinking in the cultural, political, and religious arenas. I'm also glad that this book explores new areas and doesn't just rehash the easy bashing of religion's absurdities like his previous two books. I especially enjoyed his accounts of free will and belief.

  • Timothy D. Naegele - Nonstop recklessness

    First published in 1997, this book is a companion to Thomas C. Reeves' equally fine book, "A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy," which was published in the same year. To have two truly outstanding books introduced at the same time, on the same subject, is interesting unto itself. My earlier review of the Reeves book for Amazon.com appears online as well.

    Like Reeves, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hersh lays bare the myth of "Camelot" for all to see. The Kennedy family and its sycophants have attempted to perpetuate that myth since the day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas--as well as myths surrounding the entire family, which is surely the most dysfunctional family ever to achieve significant political power in American history. Indeed, when one finishes reading both books, one wonders whether there was anything decent or moral about the family, certainly the male Kennedys.

    Unlike Reeves, Hersh does not mention Ted Kennedy's culpability in the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969, just as she was about to celebrate her 29th birthday, and the ensuing Kennedy cover-up. Similarly, Hersh makes scant mention of Marilyn Monroe, with whom both JFK and, after him, Bobby had affairs, nor does Hersh discuss the possibility that she was murdered. Instead, he discusses JFK's long-time relationship with Judith Campbell Exner, as well as his affair with an East German "prostitute" by the name of Ellen Rometsch. The thread that runs through Hersh's writing and through JFK's life is utter recklessness--which not only endangered his life, but the lives of those with whom he came into contact, and every living American.

    Perhaps the most vivid example is the "Cuban Missile Crisis" that Hersh documents in considerable detail, which might have been averted if JFK and Bobby had used their back-channel communications effectively with Nikita Khrushchev and the Kremlin. Instead, the two Kennedy brothers turned it into a grand display of American military might--to further JFK's political ambitions--which constituted recklessness that might have brought about a "nuclear winter." Hersh states emphatically: "[Jack] Kennedy did not dare tell the full story of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, because it was his policies that brought the weapons there" (p. 343).

    Those Americans who believed in JFK, as yours truly did--and to a lesser extent, Bobby--were deceived with respect to almost every issue. The public perception bears almost no relationship to the actual facts. Indeed, thirty-four years after his death, the American people finally learned the truth about JFK (and his "hatchet man," Bobby) from these two books and other sources. Even then, as Hersh describes in considerable detail, Kennedy operatives may have destroyed large amounts of documents; and massive amounts are still held by the Kennedy Library with respect to both JFK and Bobby, which have never been made available to the public. Not the least of these are medical records about JFK's health, which have only been reviewed by a handful of Kennedy "sycophant-like" writers.

    The failed "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba, where Fidel Castro humiliated JFK and "the Kennedys," led to more than 40 years of enslavement for the Cuban people and repeated attempts by the two Kennedy brothers to have Castro assassinated. This fiasco has potential relevance today--to the Obama Administration--because, as Hersh describes, there was a "prevailing sense that Kennedy could do no wrong" (p. 202). In fact, the Kennedy brothers ignored advice from the CIA and the military; and like Lyndon Johnson vis-à-vis later stages of the Vietnam War, they ran the "show" themselves and then tried to blame others when it failed colossally.

    Ample mention has been made of JFK's perpetual "thirst" for women. However, Hersh uses statements from Secret Service agents to describe the president's penchant for prostitutes, and how they and other women were "procured" by Dave Powers and some of Kennedy's other "New Frontiersmen." Jackie Kennedy's travels were carefully monitored so that she would not return to find the president and women "frolicking" in the White House swimming pool or in the family quarters. What went on in hotels and private homes, wherever JFK traveled, is described as well. The book also discusses JFK's venereal disease(s) (p. 230); and the risks that he and Powers took by cavorting with women who had been waived through routine Secret Service checks without prior clearances, and who might have carried weapons, listening devices or something similar.

    There is no question that Kennedy launched this nation into Vietnam; and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, was the architect of that lost war and the enormous suffering that it produced. Almost 60,000 brave Americans died, some of whom were friends of mine; and it impaled this nation's honor on the horns of a tragedy that still haunts policy makers and citizens alike. What was not known generally until Hersh's book is that JFK "had a chance in 1961 to disengage from an American involvement in South Vietnam" (p. 265). Instead, he chose to go to war, and to spend the blood of young Americans in a war that made no sense. Hersh states, again emphatically: "Whatever Jack Kennedy's intentions were, Vietnam was his war, even after his death" (p. 437).

    Hersh also describes the constant pressure especially on CIA operatives, which was brought by the two Kennedy brothers to have Castro and other foreign leaders killed. Mob operatives were used with Bobby's knowledge and involvement, even though as the U.S. Attorney General he was ostensibly prosecuting the Mob. The patriarch Joseph Kennedy's ties to the Mob are also detailed, as well as his ruthlessness and penchant for women. JFK's first marriage to Durie Malcolm is also described, as well as his father's efforts to expunge the record.

    Hersh also discusses how Bobby and Jackie believed that JFK was struck down by a "domestic conspiracy," probably involving Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana or others (p. 450). However, Hersh states: "Robert Kennedy did nothing to pursue the truth behind his brother's death [in 1963]. . . . The price of a full investigation was much too high: making public the truth about President Kennedy and the Kennedy family. It was this fear, certainly, that kept Robert Kennedy from testifying before the Warren Commission" (p. 456). Aside from prostitutes and other women, and close Mob ties and health issues, and a stolen election in 1960, Hersh details "cash payments" that JFK requested and received--which monies were ostensibly used to buy Ellen Rometsch's "silence."

    A footnote in history, perhaps, but a very important one is that JFK hurt his back cavorting in a West Coast swimming pool. He was "forced to wear a stiff brace that stretched from his shoulders to his crotch." And Hersh concludes: "The brace would keep the president upright for the bullets of Lee Harvey Oswald" (p. 439). Hence, JFK's sexual escapades may have contributed to his tragic death.

    Finally, John F. Kennedy is not someone to look up to, much less deify, as many of us thought when he was president. That conclusion has been reached reluctantly by lots of Americans, years ago, with a sense of sadness rather than anger. Greatness is often achieved in times of war, and Kennedy never won the war with Cuba, much less the Vietnam War that he started, nor did he win the Cold War--which Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush won. Kennedy was a tragic Shakespearean figure who may be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history, in no small part because of the question of character that both Reeves and Hersh described brilliantly in their terrific books.

  • johnny7s - Secret Luxury of China

    I've been intrigued by the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer for years. It probably started as a childhood dream or one of those "if I won the lottery" conversations. I just didn't feel like I lived the sort of luxury lifestyle that justified having such an elegant utensil. I mean if I were to get it what's next, a mega yacht, Bugatti car, and brushing my teeth with Cristal?

    So, during wedding planning I couldn't resist and added the Hutzler 571 to our gift registry. I knew it was one of those items that people would look at and say things like, "yeah right, do they think they're Royalty?"

    So the other day I received one of those cards from the post office that says a package could not be delivered without a signature. The sender was listed as "China." Naturally, this meant that the Top level of Government from the Republic of China had sent me a package and they were taking no chance of it falling into the wrong hands. I eagerly went to the post office and my package was in the international delivery section of the sorted mail. Was it a secret microchip, nuclear launch codes, a secret recipe from General Tso? I nervously opened up the package and the Hutzler 571 fell out. What a surprise! And so much better than those other things! I immediately went to the grocery store and bought a plethora of bananas for my slicing pleasure.

    After using the Hutzler 571 for one week, my life has been enhanced beyond previously known levels. I started getting to work 2 hours earlier! Breakfast is now that efficient! My potassium levels have never been higher! My boss has noticed and that promotion is right around the corner! I have the Hutzler 571 to thank for all of it! Thank you China!!!

  • Semper Fi "Rockanimal" - Always works

    I have alway used norton products. My subscription expired and I dint renue it since I used my ipad more than anything. I stareted to usemy pc one day an got infected by (AV Security Essentials), a very nasty mix of spayware aided by powerful trojans that do changes to root files and system 32. Well I downloaded this version of norton was cheap and instant acces no wait for delivery. Installed it, thesoftware new right away without evenscaning the pc because of the virus attacking norton. Norton gave an error number downloaded an eraser tool, scaned system 32 and root files found the abnormal files and wiped them clean. Autsanding work saved my personal confidential info and works on 3pc. Cant beat that for under 40 bucks. I recomend you this product. Dont let norton haters tell you otherwise, the days of norton slowing your computer down are long gone. Save your self from some major headaches. SEMPER FI.

  • Noname - UPDATE: Tagg Found My Dog!!!

    Length:: 0:25 Mins

    I chose the Tagg for my cat. The product description mentions it can be used for pets 10 pounds and larger. The website registration lets me choose whether my pet is a dog or cat, so despite the photo on the box being that of a dog, I assumed this product could be used for cats.

    My cat is 13 pounds, so she meets the weight requirement. She normally wears a collar with a small Loc8tor Pet - Ultimate Wireless Pet Locator tab, so she's used to collars and can wear a small locator. However, the Tagg is so much larger than the Pet Loc8tor. She noticed right away and was not happy at all with the size of the Tagg. I had to remove it because she was so uncomfortable with the Tagg, but I did manage to put the Tagg through some tests.

    SETUP

    To set up the Tagg online, go the the manufacturer's website. Although the Tagg comes with 3 months of service, we still need to give our credit card number and choose a payment plan.

    On the Tagg site, we can choose our location and the zone our pet is allowed in. There is a limit to how small that zone can be. In my suburb, the zone extended to my neighbors' houses on all sides of my house. So, my pet can wander a few houses down before the Tagg will notify me.

    Before I began using the Tagg, I charged it on its charging station. When it was fully charged, it notified me through email and text.

    The Tagg comes with a couple of clips, and two large and two small silicone bands to attach the clips to the collar. Choose wisely. Once the bands are in place, they are impossible to remove without ruining the bands. The Tagg attaches to the clips for quick and easy attachment and removal.

    USAGE

    Not really wanting to lose my cat in a real world test, I put the Tagg in my purse and drove all over town. Every half an hour, I would get an email telling me my cat was out of the zone. Through my Tagg iPhone app, I was able to view my location and the location of my "cat" in relation to me. I was surprised by the accuracy of the Tagg, especially considering the GPS was not seeing sky. It was always in my purse.

    I further tested the Tagg by putting it on the cat collar and securing the collar to my daughter's ankle when we went camping. Now, the Tagg company specifically says it is not to be used on children, but I didn't see the harm. She went all over camp with her friends and I would be notified when she was outside the specified zone and I could view her location any time. It worked very well. It held securely through all sorts of activity. I was happy with its performance.

    OVERALL IMPRESSION

    Tagg is an incredible product. I think it would work better on medium to large dogs than on cats. The subscription fee can be a deterrent, but if you have a dog that likes to get out, it might be worth it.

    ____________

    UPDATE 3/25/13: I now have the Tagg on my 20 pound cocker spaniel. It looks much better on her, not awkward at all. When I take her for walks, we go outside the boundaries I set for her online and Tagg sends me all sorts of texts telling me where my dog is. It's peace of mind when I have to leave her in the backyard.

    There's a new feature I wasn't able to test with my cat the first time around: the activity tracker. So cool. Now, I can feel like I'm getting full use of the tracker even when I haven't lost my dog. The activity tracker is like the fancy pedometers and other such devices for humans, giving me a little chart showing how active my dog was during the day. It breaks it all down by the hour or we can check the pie chart for the day. Did she mostly sleep all day? Was she hyper? Just for this feature, I'm going to raise the star rating.

    _____________

    UPDATE 9/17/13: I had my first real world test today. My gardener let the dog out while I as at work. Tagg notified me via text. Fortunately, I work near home and I have an understanding boss. He let me go look for her. She was many blocks away, across a busy street in a completely different neighborhood. I drove at least two miles. If not for Tagg, I wouldn't have found her. The map lead me right to her. Where it said I'd find her, there she was. Thank goodness she had her Tagg on and it was charged.