‘The Meanest Man in Congress’ – #bookreview

The Meanest Man in Congress

Jack Brooks and the Making of an American Century

Timothy McNulty and Brendan McNulty
New South Books

The Meanest Man in Congress should be essential reading for anyone interested in U.S. national politics and 20th-century American history. The book is a richly detailed, solidly researched, well-written biography focusing on the life, public-service career, and key achievements of a Democratic Congressman who served under ten presidents while representing Texas’s Ninth Congressional District for 42 years, until 2004.

Brooks, a World War II Marine combat veteran, played noteworthy roles in the passage of some of LBJ’s landmark Great Society legislation, as well as in Richard Nixon’s impeachment (Nixon called Brooks his “executioner”), plus the investigation of Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

The Southeast Texan avoided running for higher office. But, capping his Congressional career, he served for six years as chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. Along the way, Brooks also became “a guide and a friend” to a newly elected Californian, Nancy Pelosi, plus some other politicians still prominent today.

Despite being a staunch fiscal conservative, Brooks helped keep the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) alive at critical funding junctures and singlehandedly saved the International Space Station program from being defunded.

U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX) spent 42 years in Congress including six as head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. He also championed NASA and the International Space Station.

The authors write that “Brooks’s legislative productivity was without parallel. Whereas many senior members might settle into a rhythm of what could be passed without much fuss, Brooks took on bigger and bigger legislative fights, going directly after lobbies that had successfully stalled reform in Congress for decades.”

While reading this intelligent, enlightening portrait of Brooks amid twentieth-century Washington politics, it is easy–and unnerving–to see what, and just how much, has been lost during our current era of Congressional rancor, suspicion, and deep partisanship. It is also easy to see where the bitter turmoil began and why it led Jack Brooks to later call Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich “scum.”

Si Dunn

P.S.–My thanks to New South Books for sending an advance reading copy for review.

#

Advertisements

Become a web app developer using Node.js with JavaScript

Get Programming with Node.js
Jonathan Wexler
Manning Publications

This is one of the best written and most useful Node.js how-to books I have read. Yes, the publisher’s cover choice is goofy, but the author’s text is well organized and well illustrated with code examples and other graphics. Also, Jonathan Wexler wisely focuses on how to set up good development and deployment environments first. Then you are shown how to use Node.js as a vital player in the somewhat-complex process of creating, building, testing, and deploying JavaScript web applications.

Wexler’s project-oriented book focuses on how to put together, expand, and launch a recipe-sharing web application called Confetti Cuisine. The process unfolds in 37 well-presented lessons organized into nine major topics:

  • Getting Set Up
  • Getting Started with Node.js
  • Easier Web Development with Express.js
  • Connecting to a Database (it’s MongoDB)
  • Building a User Model
  • Authenticating User Accounts
  • Building an API
  • Adding Chat Functionality
  • Deploying and Managing Code in Production

Along with Node.js and JavaScript, the reader encounters the basic use of several additional software packages, tools, and sites, including Git, Heroku, Mongoose, and Socket.io, among others.

If you have been wanting to learn how to be a web app developer and JavaScript programmer, Get Programming with Node.js offers a complete course in how to get started toward those two goals, using Node.js as one of your most important and most versatile tools.

Si Dunn

Destroyers: ‘Tin Cans and Greyhounds’

Sailors who served aboard destroyers (or other ships), and general readers of military history may want to check out this new book, “Tin Cans & Greyhounds: The Destroyers That Won Two World Wars,” by Clint Johnson. I have read several books that have highlighted the role of destroyers in naval combat. This is one of the very best.

“Other warships [ especially battleships and aircraft carriers ] may have won the fame and glory, but the versatile—and unheralded—destroyer deserves a special place in naval history,” Walter R. Borneman recently wrote in his review of Johnson’s book in the Wall Street Journal.

In Tin Cans & Greyhounds, there is no mention of my ship, USS Higbee (DD-806), nor of other Gearing Class destroyers which came out of American shipyards late in World War II (and also served in the Korean War and Vietnam War). But Johnson’s coverage of the older tin cans that served in World War I and World War II (and bore the brunt of a lot of combat) is fascinating, heavily researched and well-written.

Si Dunn

An #APRS #hamradio memo

I have #DireWolf packet software transmitting/receiving #APRS with a Baofeng UV-5R handheld transceiver, Easy Digi sound card adapter by KF5INZ, old Windows PC & fixed QTH setting. PC & UV-5R audio levels are touchy, so do not set them too high. Take the time to experiment with the audio levels. Decoding may not occur if the audio levels are set too high. Or, you may get a DireWolf error message: “Audio input level is too high. Reduce so most stations are around 50.” That is a bit easier said than done. One nearby digipeater generated that error message at an audio input level of 200, but more distant stations were down around 20 or 30. Just try to find a UV-5R volume level that decodes some APRS stations. Then test the results and try slightly lower or slightly higher settings to see if they produce better consistency.

Questions? Comments? Post on this site, or contact me at k5jrn@arrl.net. (P.S.– Easy Digi sound card adapters can be found on eBay.)

#

Python and Machine Learning

One of the first online courses I took and completed was “Learn to Program: The Fundamentals” from the University of Toronto. It focused on key aspects of basic programming, using Python. Back then (2012), Python often was considered a beginners’ language and a steppingstone to more “sophisticated” languages such as Java, JavaScript and numerous others.

I managed to fight my way to a B- (or C+) finish and concluded I had no great future in the nitty-gritty aspects of modern software development. But I did enjoy the course, even if logic is not my strong suit. Since then, I have learned how to work with several other programming languages, while focusing on technical writing, book reviewing, and other endeavors.

Nonetheless, I still have fond memories of learning and using Python (and getting my brain’s butt kicked by some of the exercises in the online course).

That beginner’s course is still around on Coursera.org. Here’s the link: https://www.coursera.org/learn/learn-to-program

Meanwhile, as Joe Eames, CEO of Thinkster.io, writes in a new article:

“Python [now] is the language of Machine Learning, but it’s also a very common language for Web Servers. Even for JavaScript purists, learning Python can be a big benefit as it not only gives you familiarity with one of the most popular web server languages, it also gets you started on the path of working with Machine Learning and AI.”

Thinkster is now offering a free “Better Way to Learn Python” course. Here’s the link: https://thinkster.io/tutorials/a-better-way-to-learn-python

To be honest, I do some non-programming tasks for Thinkster, so I am guilty of doing a bit of free promotional work here. But to be doubly honest, I still like the University of Toronto’s online course, too. If you are wanting to learn Python, I’d say give both a try, even at the same time. You might also try some of the Python how-to books available online from Amazon (https://amzn.to/2HT8GH1) and other sources.

To be triply honest, absolutely nobody’s going to hire this 75-year-old geezer to use Python or any other programming language in Machine Learning, AI, or web server support. But I can still use Python to exercise my brain and keep mental cobwebs at bay. And I still get a kick out of making my clunky programs run and answer such questions as: “What is the meaning of life?”

>42 (https://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-the-meaning-of-life)

I bet you can find reasons to check out Python, as well.

Si Dunn

Evil Personified

The biological, psychiatric & related factors that give rise to modern violent crime, including mass shootings.

THE NEW EVIL: Understanding the Emergence of Modern Violent Crime

Michael H. Stone, MD and Gary Brucato, PhD
Prometheus Books
Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2UGDTjk

The New Evil is eye-opening and informative reading, especially if you have an interest in how criminal minds work and how people attempt to justify the horrible violence they have unleashed.

The book offers important insights useful for readers involved in law enforcement, the legal and judicial systems, mental health, and government. Other readers, such as crime novelists, journalists, and counselors, also

Published last November, The New Evil is a follow-up to Michael H. Stone’s 2017 book, The Anatomy of Evil (https://amzn.to/2Oc6QkH ). The new book is a well-researched and fascinating study of modern violent crime since the 1960s.

A strong caution is warranted: Some readers may be shocked and disturbed by the gruesome details of just how depraved some human beings can be while committing violent crimes.

The authors–Michael H. Stone, M.D., is a professor of clinical psychiatry and Gary Brucato, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and researcher–examine how certain biological, psychiatric and related factors have had important bearings on serial killings, serial rape, torture, killing sprees, and mass-casualty events such as school and church/mosque shootings.

To help bring clarity to what they define as “evil” and “violent” crimes, they present a 22-point scale that ranks “an individual’s crime or repeated criminal acts” by their severity.

Their scale is subdivided into six categories: (1) Killing in Self-Defense or Justified Homicide; (2) Impulsive Murders in Persons without Psychopathic Features; (3) Persons with a Few or No Psychopathic Traits; Murders of a More Severe Type; (4) Psychopathic Features Marked; Murders Show Malice Aforethought; (5) Spree or Multiple Murders; Psychopathy Is Apparent; and (6) Serial Killers, Torturers, Sadists.

The New Evil offers numerous case studies that help illustrate these categories. But, in the graphic details of the case studies, some readers may encounter manifestations of evil that are much more disturbing than they wish to confront.

— Si Dunn