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December 2015

Photo - Supply Signal


U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Fabiochi signals the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman for more cargo during a replenishment at sea with USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 7, 2015. Fabiochi is a boatswain’s mate. The Carney is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support U.S. national security interests in Europe. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

Book Review - "The Hunting Trip: A Novel of Love and War" by William E. Butterworth (W.E.B. Griffin)

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9780399176234_p0_v1_s192x300The Hunting Trip by William E. Butterworth III, aka W.E.B. Griffin, is a humorous novel, in the same style as his previously written MASH books. People who need an escape from today’s dark times might want to read this novel.  He pokes fun at the future CIA, the OSS, military graduates, and Southern small towns. 

Butterworth III told blackfive.net, “I started out writing a serious story of a hunting trip that had sexual implications.  But it was not working so I decided on a funny book like when I wrote the MASH books.  I thought it was funny and hope readers get a couple of laughs from it. They can take their minds off of Obama, Kerry, and Hillary for a few hours.”

The novel begins in 1975 with an attempt by a bunch of wives of prominent citizens, living in Muddiebay Mississippi, to convince their spouse to go on a hunting trip in Scotland, while they go on a shopping spree in London. It then flashes back to Philip W. Williams III who is expelled from boarding school for committing a prank, and on the train home naturally wonders about his future. It never enters his mind that he will become a world-class marksman and a special agent of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in postwar Germany, play a key role in the defection of a Soviet officer, and then court danger as a courier for the CIA. He marries a beautiful Austrian ballet dancer, becomes a renowned bestselling novelist, and meets his lover on a hunting trip to Scotland.

Readers might question how this book parallels Butterworth’s life. People may recognize that he was actually writing about the small town in Alabama where he now resides part time.  Yet, those who think that Phil Williams’ Austrian wife is based on Butterworth’s first wife would be wrong.  He noted, “Yes, my ex-wife was an Austrian ballet dancer, but she was a good woman and I would never write anything nasty about her.  My son Bill would never let me get away with it.  Although she did have a red Mercedes convertible who did believe the car had two speeds, on and off.” The other similarity is that he went on a hunting trip to Scotland, as shown by the picture on the back cover. He further commented, “I wanted to zing my friends who were former OSS and those graduates of West Point who are a little stuffy.”

Another interesting point about the book is that for cuss words he substitutes “expletive deleted.” When asked why, he stated, “I didn’t think the dirty words were appropriate.  It is much more crude when you read them than when you hear them.  I wanted to let people’s imagination go to work.  I don’t think they will have a hard time understanding what I meant.”

Readers will enjoy the lighthearted spirit of The Hunting Trip.  This story will allow them to take their minds off of their problems and this country’s problems.  Fans of Butterworth III will enjoy a raucous series of adventures across Europe and the United States that will have them immersed in laughter.

Book Review - Tom Clancy's "Commander in Chief" by Mark Greaney

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780399176760_p0_v1_s192x300Commander In Chief, a Jack Ryan novel, written by Mark Greaney has all the ingredients of a Tom Clancy story.  There is action, technology, a lot of world politics, and characters that many wish actually existed.  This book can be seen as a follow-up to Command Authority, the last book actually written with Tom Clancy.

Greaney noted to blackfive.net, “When I wrote Command Authority with Tom Clancy Putin had attacked the Ukraine and was in a position of strength.  We decided to have Volodin as a literary Putin figure, never trying to mask it. Now because of the repercussions of sanctions he is in a weak position, which is why I put in the quote about Russia not having a better military, economy, geography, or ideas than the West. I decided to bring back the Putin-like villain, Valeri Volodin, who uses the threat of force in a move of desperation.  He is playing poker with a bad hand, but is a very good bluffer. Russia still sees the Baltic States as their territory.”

The plot includes two themes: a geographical political war between NATO and Russia, which is where President Jack Ryan has a major role. The other features Jack Ryan Jr. who attempts to find out what the Russian leadership is up to by following the finances involving money-laundering schemes.   The plot has Russian President Valeri Volodin planning to expand his power and territory by covertly taking over Lithuania.  US President Jack Ryan recognizes this action but needs proof to get the European nations on board.  With the help from the Campus, a clandestine small operations unit, President Ryan must move swiftly to stop Volodin’s grand plan of global conquest that could change the balance of power.

Readers realize that this relates to today’s events.  The story is almost the direct opposite of what is happening.  The US President, Ryan, actually want to win wars and takes aggressive action.  He is attempting to get the passive European nations to help in the fight.  Compare that to today where the French President is asking for US support.

Greaney also commented about his status in writing future Clancy books. Currently he is not contracted to write another Ryan novel.  It would be a shame for those who are fans of Jack Ryan, because Greaney writes such action packed plots, while maintaining the flavor of a Clancy story. When asked about it he stated, “I had a conversation with my editor about a grand idea I have for another plot.  I just want to make sure I have enough pieces of the plot to make it interesting.  I want to make the stories realistic to the contemporary world while being honest to the characters.”

Currently the author has his own book coming out in February.  His “Gray Man” series has a former CIA, para-military type chased by the CIA. Having worked as a contract killer around the globe he will come back home to confront the CIA leadership.  With the next book going forward, he will be moving in a new direction.

Whether writing his own series or the Jack Ryan series, Greaney combines enthralling characters with realistic plots.  He seems to be able to foreshadow events in the real world.  Commander In Chief is a riveting book that readers will not want to put down. 

Opening Combat To Females

Let me start by saying I don't care about wrappers, or who does what to whom how or when (so long as there is consent).  By wrapper, I mean the outward manifestation that is the amazing human body.  What matters to me is if a person can and does do the job, be it serving in the military or any other occupation, and if they are what I consider a good person.  Yes, that order is deliberate, as I know some people that are great at what they do, but frankly are assholes outside of that.  So long as they don't move beyond being "Do-Che's" as Uncle Jimbo has called it, I would use them for their proven abilities and expertise at need. 

Being able to do the job is what counts.  Right now, our all-volunteer force is -- in my opinion -- the finest fighting force ever to exist.  It is such because of a combination of training, professionalism, and high standards for any number of specialties, from combat to nuclear engineering/technical operations. 

That said, there are a lot of people of progressive bent that would like to see that force be eliminated, or otherwise degraded.  

Those points being given, the Secretary of Defense has ordered -- over some valid objections -- all military occupation specialties to females.  

So, I have one basic question for SecDef Carter:  

How does this improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. Armed Forces?

After all, that is the bottom line, is it not?  That one question does raise a host of sub-questions for me. 

While the order states open to those who meet the current standards, how long before the standards are changed to ensure diversity?  After all, many of those current standards are difficult for females (and a large number of males) to meet.  They were set high for a number of reasons, the majority of which come from experience in what is required to physically and mentally meet the demands of that specialty.  If they are to be changed, what will be the driver for that change, reality or social engineering?  

The order also appears to come with a dearth of planning for how to implement this effectively, which often means a number of preventable problems.  My question here is if that is considered a bug or a feature?  Will the problems be used to create real solutions designed to improve the situation, and the effectiveness and efficiency of our forces to do their job of bringing death and destruction to our enemies, or will it be used to enact further changes to appease the Social Justice Warrior crowd?  

While I agree with Jonn that many years of study were ignored or wasted, was any review or consideration given to examining the operations of countries that have already allowed females to serve in a variety of combat specialties?  While Israel is not alone in this, most have not allowed females into ALL specialties for a variety of reasons.  If these were not examined or considered in deciding to open to all, why not? 

To reiterate for the regular trolls and other idiots:  I don't care about the wrapper.  I care about competence.  

I would love to have detailed answers from the SecDef to my questions, but estimate the chances of that are on par with my winning both the PowerBall and MegaMillion lotteries this week. 

Now, what are your thoughts on this? 

San Bernardino: Did We Dodge A Bullet?

Edited:  More added below, as promised.

In examining the data coming out on the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, some quick thoughts and an invitation for discussion (by other than the regular trolls).  

First, as to the claim that the wife 'radicalized' her husband.  Bullshit.  I strongly suspect he was radicalized before, and that the marriage was an effort to strengthen that.  I hope that competent people are looking into who helped facilitate that, and how.  If memory serves, this would not be the first time a wife was chosen to help facilitate terrorist acts.  

Second, it would appear that they did have a plan, and had primary, secondary, and possibly even tertiary targets planned.  They were loaded for bear, and headed somewhere else to do more mayhem when intercepted. 

Third, as Moe Lane points out (hat tip Instapundit), it seems clear to me that the holiday party was not the primary target, but rather a target of opportunity.  No, I am not convinced he left angry and that caused this (too many people there, including one who was sitting with him, said he wasn't angry when he left).  Why they went to snap count, however, is not that important, but rather that they moved before plan, off plan -- and I think we dodged a huge bullet by them doing so.  Think about it:  the number killed by weapons was not nearly as high as it could have been, and the IEDs, which could have put this on par with the Paris attacks didn't work.  Did they move ahead of testing/rehearsing stage?  It also would appear to suggest that any control working with them was not local.  And, yes, right now I do think they had a control. 

Fourth, who financed this?  He made $50k a year in one of the most expensive places to live in the US.  On that salary, there is no way he/they could have afforded all the weapons and gear they had.  It would seem that they had to have help, on finances if nothing else.  

Fifth, people did see things before, but were scared to say anything.  My own thought is that a lot of effort has been given to vilifying/intimidating people who see something and say something.  Gee, think there might be a reason for that?  Thank goodness someone did say something after, which led to police intercepting them on the way to a secondary target.  

There is more, but that's all the time I have right now.  Please do sound off in the comments.  BTW, Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll on this one, hope to have time to post some links (or that he does so) later this weekend.  

Edit 1:  Nicki at The Liberty Zone had similar thoughts (great minds think alike).  If you are not regularly reading The Liberty Zone, you should be.  

Edit 2:  The President will address the nation tonight.  Anyone want to start a pool that 1 percent will be about the terrorist incident, and that he will not be able to bring himself to call it Islamist/Islamic/other-term-of-your-choice; and, that 99 percent will be about disarming Citizens via executive order?  

Edit 3:  Uncle Jimbo has been on a roll, appearing on O'Reilly three days in a row!  Working to add good links for all three days.  Some good food for thought in the following: 

Day 3

Book Review - "Blessed Are Those Who Mourn" by Kristi Belcamino

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780062389411_p0_v1_s192x300Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Kristi Belcamino is a non-stop action packed novel involving murder, mind games, and a parent’s worst nightmare. She has come into her own as an author with great character development, showing their emotions, fears, and strengths.  

Almost from the very beginning of this plot, readers are drawn into the character’s anguish. Bay Area crime reporter, Gabriella Giovanni and her live-in partner, Detective Sean Donavan confront evil when their child is kidnapped. She suspects that the same person who kidnapped and murdered her sister is behind the nightmare she is personally facing now. Detective Donovan is frustrated when he cannot protect those he loves, his girlfriend and daughter. The story’s suspense never lets up, as it becomes a race with the clock to find the child before time runs out.

Belcamino uses her experiences as a crime reporter to add realism to the plot making her main characters jump off the page. She noted to blackfive.net that in a New York Times Op-ed both her worlds as a reporter and parent sometimes conflict. “As a mother and crime writer, I’m two people every day. One is an Italian American mother who carts children to soccer and softball, making pancakes and acting silly. The other sits down and writes about terrible people doing terrible things to others. And sometimes those others are children. I wonder how I can tell my own daughter that the monsters she reads about are not real, when I know better than most just how real they are?”

A powerful quote from the book exemplifies this feeling, “At work, I’m pulled into the depths of darkness talking to people who are grieving or coaxing information out of convicts. When I return home at night, I’m confronted with innocence in the form of my small child who knows nothing of the evil in this world.” Americans tend to forget that policemen, those serving the military, reporters, and first responders must reconcile having to deal with the darker side of humanity.

She wants her readers to understand, “As a crime reporter I understand all those who must confront evil and then go home to hold their children. I began to find it very difficult to do both. I have put in all my books the theme of a child kidnapped and killed because I was haunted by the reality in a story I covered as a reporter. The dedication in my first book is to every girl and young man kidnapped and killed. Unfortunately, the details I draw from are my real life experiences of sitting with parents in the first few days as the search went on for their taken children. Now, as a reporter, I am more guarded, and try not to get as emotionally involved.”

It becomes obvious after reading Belcamino’s books that her character Gabriella is her alter ego. Besides writing a strong, smart, and sassy character; a riveting and intriguing plot; she also writes about the inner workings of a large Italian family, their loyalties and devotion towards each other.

Book Review - "What You See" by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780765374950_p0_v3_s192x300What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan blends suspense, humor, and issues of the day. With multiple storylines told by numerous narrations, readers come to understand the workings of a crime scene. These sub-plots include murder, child abduction, and treachery. Also explored are the characters loyalties, having to decide between family and their career.

As with all Ryan’s books Jane Ryland investigates a story while Detective Jake Brogan is solving a crime, bringing both together by the end of the story. The plot begins with Jane having quit a job based upon principle. She interviews for a new job with Channel 2 and is given the task of covering a stabbing in Curley Park, Boston. Once again Jane is put into a position of covering a case her boyfriend Jake is investigating.

Ryan noted to blackfive.net, “Both Jake and Jane are honorable, determined, search for the truth, and believe in justice. In real life there must be a hard line between a law enforcement officer and a reporter, each has a job to do, and each have to protect their interests, their information, and their investigations. But Jake and Jane sometimes cross that line. So what I love about my books is that Jane and Jake in their professional lives are incredibly honorable, but in their personal lives their passion has sometimes overruled their professionalism. Throughout all the books they are trying to figure out how to deal with that ongoing struggle. What will happen to their relationship or how they will deal with it going forward? I have no idea. It’ll be fun to find out.”

The plot insightfully explores the current issue of privacy. With cameras everywhere, including in cell phones, on buildings, and on streetlights, can a crime be easily solved? A powerful quote says, “Life never just happened anymore. Memories had to be indelible, every event captured. And shared.” Because the murder takes place in front of City Hall there must be some surveillance. But this video leads into a dark conspiracy where what you see is not always as it seems.

Having to deal with the political fallout from City Hall Camera Surveillance, Catherine, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, must juggle her job responsibilities with her family. Something any parent can relate to is this powerful quote, “Geographically, her daughter was inches away. Emotionally? Right now, Catherine didn’t have time to fix it.” But Jane also had a conflict between family and her job. While investigating the crime, her sister calls asking for help in finding her future stepchild who appears to be abducted. Ryan vividly writes how Jane is being pulled in multiple directions, forced to switch tasks and put family first. Interestingly when asked hypothetically the title of a future autobiography Jane responds, The Juggler. It is fitting since she must decide when to put family ahead of her job, something most people struggle with constantly.

Readers will also be amused with some of Ryan’s well-placed humor. In a scene there is definitely a take off on the famous “who is on first, what’s on second” skit. More than anything the humorous interludes allows for a relief from the tension packed story.

Ryan noted to blackfive.net that many professions including the police, investigative reporters, and those serving in the military need humor in their lives.

“Oh, gosh, if there’s no humor in our lives, how would we manage? As a reporter, I see relentless sorrow, injustice, violence, and fear. As a journalist, that's the drumbeat every day, sometimes feeling as if television and newspapers are full of only bad news. I was on the job during the marathon bombings, reporting live, within moments of the second explosion. How do we manage to keep equilibrium? On the air, we focus on the story, the listeners, and our responsibility.  A journalist is documenting history, I think of that every moment of the day.

As a result, reporters must be careful not to let fear rule our lives, or sorrow drag it down.  As a reporter, there is a need for a sense of humor, or else the world becomes relentlessly dark, bleak, and sad.  Jake Borgan, as a law enforcement official, just as those who serve in the military, have the same dilemmas: they are putting themselves, as all those in public service do so bravely, in the line of fire, in the path of danger. They run toward the problem, not away from it.

So in my books, I try to leave a little room for humor, pleasure, love, and redemption, because that’s what we need in real life. I am careful to find a way for some of the characters, which as in real life, are faced with danger and grief and situations that are difficult to understand. I want them to be able to look at the world with some hope, and laughter, with love, and a sense of humanity.”

Besides humor, What You See has believable plots based upon Ryan’s experiences as a television investigative reporter who has won over thirty Emmys. Readers become enthralled and engaged with a story that has a hectic pace involving child abduction, murder, surveillance, and political secrets.