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Roger J. Buffington RSS Feed (Huntington Beach, CA United States)
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The Kennedys Season 1
The Kennedys Season 1
DVD
Price: $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced look at the Kennedy family, May 3, 2016
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This is probably the most realistic look at John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, and old Joe Kennedy that you are ever likely to find. It also gives the viewer some idea as to what Joseph Kennedy Jr., the Kennedy who was killed during the war, was like. Most pieces, rather book or film, that deal with the Kennedys tend to be at various extremes. Most are celebratory, a few are very much the opposite. (Read Seymore Hersh's "The Dark Side of Camelot") for one of the latter. Here, this miniseries is brutally honest and does not burnish the Kennedys' flaws or overlook their virtues. While not perfect, after viewing this miniseries I had a much enhanced perspective over these influential people. Incidentally, Ted Kennedy is completely ignored in this miniseries. No doubt a Season Two was planned, but it never saw the light of day. The Kennedy family is said to have bitterly opposed this miniseries due to the fact that it does not at all overlook JFK's legendary infidelity. In recent years this side of John F. Kennedy's personality has been extensively documented and there can be no doubt that it was a significant part of his persona. Nor does the miniseries overlook old Joe Kennedy's connections with the mob, although mostly this is portrayed in a light mostly favorable to John and Robert Kennedy.

This miniseries focuses almost exclusively on the John F. Kennedy administration and its immediate aftermath. Certainly this was a momentous time in American politics, with an unusual number of both international crises and national issues such as the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement.

No history buff should miss this miniseries. RJB.


Cold Choices (A Jerry Mitchell Novel)
Cold Choices (A Jerry Mitchell Novel)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping submarine military-political thriller, May 2, 2016
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This is the second novel in Larry Bond's "Jerry Mitchell" series. In this one, Mitchell has gotten his coveted dolphins, and is the Navigation Officer on the Seawolf -- a first-line US attack boat. The storyline is very compelling. The Seawolf collides with a harassing Russian submarine, and the latter goes to the bottom, with only days to live. Seawolf tries to coordinate a rescue, but the Russians are seemingly more interested in national pride, being angry, and posturing than they are in rescuing their submariners. (Much as in the Kursk incident.) All of this makes for a fascinating and gripping storyline. This is a very good novel.

For whatever reason, Larry Bond has no interest whatever in telling the reader much of anything about Jerry Mitchell's personal life or anything like that. There was the beginnings of this in the first novel, but Bond did not follow through and did not do so here either, which is a real shame.

No matter. This is a fine novel and is highly recommended. RJB.


Dangerous Ground (A Jerry Mitchell Novel)
Dangerous Ground (A Jerry Mitchell Novel)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel about the challenges of a junior naval officer, May 2, 2016
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This is one of the best novels I have ever read dealing with the early career of a professional naval officer. In this novel, the protagonist, Jerry Mitchell, suffers a physical disability that disqualifies him from his chosen career as a naval aviator. He then transfers to submarines where he is under intense pressure to qualify for the coveted submariner's qualification dolphins. His success is far from assured, and there are those who do not want him to succeed. Anyone who has ever been a junior officer has experienced some of what goes on here (I did) and this all makes for a very engrossing story.

All of this takes place in the context of a somewhat ill-conceived covert mission into Russian-controlled international waters, and this adds to the intensity of the storyline. While some have criticized this novel for its slow pace, I did not find it so. Jerry Mitchell is a bright, compelling character and this is a very good story.

For whatever reason, Larry Bond remorselessly refuses to tell the reader anything whatever about Mitchell's personal life or develop this part of the character. This is a shame. RJB.


Inequality for All
Inequality for All
DVD
Price: $3.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful., April 30, 2016
This review is from: Inequality for All (Amazon Video)
Pass the puking bowl. Basically a paen to Socialism by a hard-Leftist. When you have a political system that allows people to decide for themselves how hard to work, and how hard not to work, how can everyone have equal economic outcomes? It is impossible, and of course there is that little problem that some people are more talented or smarter. Equal outcomes are impossible. This little bit of logic completely eludes Reich, as does the fact that all that his beloved Socialism ever accomplishes is to spread lots of misery equally among everyone other than the political elite.

Reich's ideas are a disease called Socialism that has caused untold misery in the world. Reich would like to bring it here to America. No thanks. RJB.


11/22/63: A Novel
11/22/63: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King's best novel to date, April 20, 2016
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This review is from: 11/22/63: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
I've read most of Stephen King's books and actually have not liked several of his more recent ones. But this one is a home run and showcases King's considerable talent as well as his development as a writer. This novel features a linear plot that is easy to understand, but which nevertheless contains many surprises, zigs and zags that will surprise and shock the reader. I will admit that there were a few times in the storyline that I did not like where the story was going and I was even tempted to put down the novel. But persistence will reward the patient reader because really, this is an excellent novel and a compelling story.

Besides a well-developed storyline, this novel creates characters that the reader truly comes to care about. If I had to pick one outstanding aspect of this novel it would be the complex characterizations.

My review policy is to eschew spoilers, but essentially the theme of this novel is that the protagonist stumbles upon a time portal, which is a door between 2015 and 1960. He determines that the future can be improved by preventing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. How the protagonist goes about this, and the problems it entails, are one of the main themes of the story. King has researched Lee Harvey Oswald and his odd past and personality, and I can attest, having read fairly widely on the subject, that King definitely did his homework.

In my opinion this one is Stephen King's best novel to date. Highly recommended. RJB.


Murder in Brentwood (American Crime Stories)
Murder in Brentwood (American Crime Stories)
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Detective's Insider's Perspective on the Simpson Trial, April 19, 2016
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This is a very interesting look at the famous OJ Simpson trial by Detective Mark Fuhrman, who was the LAPD Detective who found the famous glove at Simpson's residence, and who was one of the policemen called early on in the morning when the crime scene was discovered. Fuhrman, of course, was later branded a racist by the defense and the furor over his alleged use of the "N-word" came to dominate the latter portions of the trial. Fuhrman was vilified in the press, shunned by the prosecution, and found guilty of perjury by the court. This book was written not long after the trial concluded with its infamous verdict. Accordingly, this book is in very significant part an attempt by Fuhrman to rehabilitate his reputation and explain his own actions.

In the first portion of the book, Fuhrman does a stellar job explaining the errors and omissions of the LAPD when it investigated the Simpson crime scene. Fuhrman also does a masterful job of explaining why it is the case that despite these errors there is really no doubt that the murderer was OJ Simpson and no one else. As many knew at the time, the notion that Fuhrman and/or other LAPD persons planted evidence to wrongly implicate Simpson simply cannot withstand scrutiny.

Fuhrman then discusses his relationships during the trial with Clarke and Darden. It is obvious that Darden and Fuhrman never clicked, and the reader can make his or her mind up as to why. I don't see racism here but race was undoubtedly a factor. I do see two very different people from very different backgrounds who did not work well together developing friction in a high pressure and high stakes situation. Fuhrman was a cop, and Darden was a prosecutor who had worked for years prosecuting LAPD cops. No huge surprise that the two of them did not get along. Marcia Clarke, by contrast, as a more conventional prosecutor naturally tended to view the police as her allies, as criminal prosecutors normally do. Thus, no big surprise that while Darden did not like Fuhrman as a witness, Clarke absolutely did.

Fuhrman explains in a manner which I have not read about elsewhere his long history of enmity and antagonism with Judge Ito's wife, Margaret York, who was an LAPD Captain. There is no question but that prior to the trial the two of them knew and detested each other. In my opinion York lied on the questionnaire in which she stated (under penalty of perjury) that she had little or no recollection of her interactions with Fuhrman. The two of them had a long and cordial history of mutual hatred. Fuhrman suggests that this enmity influenced rulings by Judge Ito. He further suggests that the defense, and to a lesser extent the prosecution, both knew about this long history and held it over Ito's head as a means of disqualifying Ito from the case and causing a mistrial. Some of this is too far-fetched for me, but I agree with Fuhrman that Judge Ito was a spectacularly bad judge who made indefensible rulings in the glare of the publicity that Ito so clearly relished.

In the latter portion of the book, Fuhrman engages in a frank attempt at rehabilitation. One cannot blame him for this. One can only imagine the psychological pressure that Fuhrman was under, his professional reputation in tatters and his name vilified day and night in the national media. Obviously, Fuhrman's making of the notorious tapes was absolute idiocy. No one should ever put something on tape, in email, or on the internet that he or she would not want on the side of a bus or on a billboard sign. (I have written articles on the subject.) I don't buy Fuhrman's explanation as to why he did not disclose the existence of the tapes early on, although he is 100% right that they should never have been admitted as evidence given the fact that they were part of the background of a fictional screenplay. Well, thanks to the stupidity of Fuhrman and Ito they were, and the rest is history.

Overall this is a good look at the Simpson trial from one insider's perspective. Unfortunately that insider, Mark Fuhrman, has a heavy burden of self-justification and rehabilitation that he seeks to undertake in the book, which really makes it hard going in the latter sections. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and no student of the OJ Simpson Trial should miss it. RJB.


The Lost War: A  Japanese Reporter's Inside Story
The Lost War: A Japanese Reporter's Inside Story
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The war on the Japanese home front, April 16, 2016
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This book was written shortly after the Second World War by a Japanese newspaper reporter who was in America when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred, but was quickly repatriated to Japan. His book is essentially a narrative of a dysfunctional Japanese government, and of defeat. Mr. Kato explains the complete censorship of bad war news or dissenting views in wartime (and prewar) Japan; these were such that the Japanese people really had no idea that Japan was losing the war until America began bombing Japan in earnest. The war was hard on Japanese civilians, and Mr. Kato thoroughly describes what wartime Japan was like.

If you want to know what the war was like from the Japanese side, this is the indispensable source. RJB.


In Contempt
In Contempt
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent perspective on the famous trial, April 16, 2016
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This review is from: In Contempt (Kindle Edition)
I have read widely on the famous OJ Simpson trial, and I was very interested in seeing what Christopher Darden had to say about it. Like many Americans, I knew very little about Mr. Darden other than something about his role as a co-prosecutor in the famous trial.

This book did not disappoint. It begins with Darden giving the reader a frank and candid summary of his hardscrabble past. Mr. Darden's childhood did not involve anything like a privileged upbringing, and he bootstrapped himself into college and law degrees in a manner that can only be described as commendable. Clearly, to accomplish what he did and get where he was, Mr. Darden is a bright guy with a lot of drive and intelligence.

Mr. Darden's observations and narrative concerning the Simpson trial are on-point in my opinion. The Judge in this trial allowed the defense to take control of the courtroom, and there is plain evidence of bias that Darden discusses here frankly but without a lot of rancor. The jury selection and the decision to allow television cameras in the courtroom all combined to almost guaranty a travesty of justice. As Robert Shapiro of the defense team later famously said, not only did the defense team play the race card, they dealt it from the bottom of the deck. Darden explains the famous glove incident in the trial, and while I (like almost all attorneys) still regard it as a mistake on his part, he at least explains the logic underlying his decision to have Simpson try on the gloves.

Overall, I found this book to be a gripping and informative read that any student of the Simpson trial, or of criminal justice in general, will not wsant to miss. As entertainment this one is first rate.


The Fall of Japan
The Fall of Japan
Price: $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last word on the Japanese decision to surrender in 1945, April 6, 2016
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This review is from: The Fall of Japan (Kindle Edition)
This piece contains essentially anything and everything the reader will want to know about the final weeks of the Pacific War and the run-up to Japan's tortured decision to surrender. As such it is fascinating, and the fact that this book is very well-written makes it hard to put it down.

The book notes a number of fascinating themes. Firstly, the Japanese emperor had a lot more power than he admitted to in the post-war era. The notion that Hirohito did not have a direct hand in planning Japan's aggression is simply incorrect. And when Hirohito decided to surrender, Japan surrendered.

Secondly, and most fascinating to me, is the odd political structure of World War Two Japan. Essentially the military constituted the controlling branch of government, and civilian rule was largely, although not completely, subordinate to it. But it goes even further than that, and to the American reader (or for that matter, the modern Japanese reader) it gets weirder than that. For within Japan's military, especially the Army, there was a strange culture of insubordination. Relatively junior officers posed a continuing threat of assassination against senior officers and Japanese politicians who they deemed to be insufficiently aggressive or militant. Thus any peace faction within the military-government complex within Japan was in constant danger of elimination by assassination. Given the legendary savage discipline within the Japanese military it seems odd that this kind of indiscipline would exist in the military, but exist it did.

This book brings out the fact that the Japanese government prior to the end of the war was a complex web of competing forces and interests, and it was very difficult for it to reach a consensus on a matter so momentous, and which so cut against the grain, as the decision to surrender. Here, the Japanese government can be seen to be a study in dysfunctionality, because rarely or never has a country been so thoroughly vanquished as was Japan in 1945. To the modern reader the decision to surrender seems obvious. But at the time reaching such a decision, even in the face of the threat of continuing atomic bombing (and even more deadly conventional bombing) was almost beyond the capability of Japan's government.

This is an excellent well-written piece about a fascinating subject. Highly recommended. RJB.


The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson
The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and comprehensive analysis of the OJ Simpson murders, April 5, 2016
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This is a highly readable and in my opinion very accurate analysis and telling of the OJ Simpson murder trial. The author does a pretty fair job of analyzing the personalities involved in the case, and while many readers may not learn anything new from reading this piece, the book really pulls it all together. In particular, the author does an excellent job of briefly telling the story of the subsequent civil wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Browns and Goldmans against Simpson and relating and contrasting the evidence and jury in that trial with the Simpson murder trial.

The author quite accurately presents the theme that the real failure of the prosecution (and there were many) was the composition of the jury. Despite receiving what appears to have been highly competent advice from jury consultants that black jurors were hostile to the prosecution and the LAPD, Marsha Clarke rejected this advice and in fact acted directly contrary to this advice, sure that she had a special rapport in particular with female black jurors. (The author relates that in reality it was this demographic that tended to dislike Clark most intensely.) It is depressingly obvious that the mostly black jury was extremely disinclined to finding Simpson guilty, and was highly susceptible to Johnny Cochran's brilliant execution of the race-baiting strategy. Decades of LAPD injustice to the black community came home to roost in this trial. The LAPD and Mark Fuhrman were the villains. Simpson, and by extension all black people, were the victims.

The author in particular does an excellent job in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the lawyers (and judge) in the case. Clark is shown to be stubborn and pigheaded although essentially competent within limits. Darden was inexperienced as a trial lawyer and emotionally immature. Johnny Cochran was, well, Johnny Cochran. Read the book and you will find many useful insights into the various personalities.

Overall this is a pretty comprehensive analysis of the Simpson murder affair, and most readers will find it to be enjoyable and an excellent read. RJB.


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