Review: Twilight of Democracy

Twilight of Democracy

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum. New York: Doubleday, 2020.

Summary: An extended essay considering the shift to authoritarian leaders in Europe and the United States, analyzing both why such leaders are attractive, and the strategies they used to gain power.

Anne Applebaum’s book might be subtitled, “The Tale of Two Parties.” It is bookended with a party in 1999, and one in 2019. Many on the guest list of the first would not be on the second, or even on speaking terms with the author. Applebaum is a center-right neo-conservative, married to Radek Sikorski, a Polish politician. For much of her career she has written award-winning books documenting Soviet-style totalitarianism. The time of 1999 was a heady one, with former eastern bloc countries embracing Western style liberal democratic ideals (at least to some degree).

The book begins with Applebaum describing the fate of three of those on the list, one who had drawn close to Poland’s Law and Justice party leader and would no longer speak to her, another who had become an internet troll, amplifying American alt-right proponents, while a third had become engrossed in conspiracy theories. Throughout the book, Applebaum moves between trying to understand what has happened to her friends, and what is happening in a number of European countries, from Poland and Hungary, to England and the United States, where shifts have occurred to authoritarian ideas and leaders.

She explores how contemporary movements differ from fascism and Communism. Instead of the “Big Lie,” these leaders use the Medium-Size Lie designed to play on fears and offer simple explanations for complex realities–immigration explains economic woes and crime, for example. Sometimes it is a conspiracy, for example “the deep state,” when in fact the real conspiracy lies with the networks of people fomenting these ideas. She describes how this works for example in Viktor Orban’s Hungary, where all of Hungary’s woes can be attributed to non-existent Syrian refugees (to whom Hungary never opened their borders) and George Soros, whose conspiratorially funded the immigrant hordes. All of this buttresses a corrupt, self-serving government where power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of its leader. Chillingly, Applebaum observes that studies show roughly one-third of the people in most societies to be susceptible to authoritarian leaders, particularly in times of upheaval.

She discusses the appeal of nostalgia, the longing for some idealized past when those appealed to dominated the culture as an alternative to the pluralistic, multi-ethnic cultural landscapes that increasingly characterize both Europe and the United States. She describes how Boris Johnson leveraged this nostalgia in the run-up to Brexit, even though the English had led the initiative forming the European Union. Particularly dangerous, she believes, are the “restorative nostalgics” whose “memory” of the past is often selective, and whose vision for restoration reflects those gaps in an idealized version of the past.

She portrays the manipulation of digital media streams to promote the narrative, including the characterization of established media as “fake” and part of the “conspiracy.” She writes:

This new information world also provides a new set of tools and tactics that another generation of clercs can use to reach people who want simple language, powerful symbols, clear identities. There is no need, nowadays, to form a street movement in order to appeal to those of an authoritarian predisposition. You can construct one in an office building, sitting in front of a computer. You can test messages and gauge the response. You can set up targeted advertising campaigns. You can build groups of fans on WhatsApp or Telegram. You can cherry-pick the themes of the past that suit the present and tailor them to particular audiences. You can invent memes, create videos, conjure up slogans designed to appeal precisely to the fear and anger caused by this massive international wave of cacophony. You can even start the cacophony and create the chaos yourself, knowing full well that some people will be frightened by it. (117-118)

She describes the shift she saw in once-friend Laura Ingraham. I think one of the most important insights Applebaum offers here is the increasing concern Ingraham, and others like Pat Buchanan have over the evidence of American moral decline. Ingraham decries various forms of extremism from “cancel culture” to overreach into religious communities, breaching First Amendment protections. These signs of decline have led her and others to conclude that they cannot be fought by “politics as usual” but require more extreme measures and justify “undemocratic” means.

I wish Applebaum would have done more with what I thought a perceptive observation. I know people like those Applebaum describes, and one thing that is overlooked is that most of these feel that figures like our current President are the first to take them seriously. Many of these people live in America’s heartland. They probably are more religious. Most work hard and pay their taxes. And they feel patronized by many politicians, overlooked, treated as part of “flyover” country. Like Laura Ingraham, they also feel they are witnessing a “twilight of democracy.”

While I am deeply sympathetic to Applebaum’s concerns about authoritarianism, all her talks about toney parties with fellow refugees from the neo-con movement don’t really address the concerns of the time adequately. She concludes by addressing some vague hope in the cycles of history to right things, which seems to me a hope that, after a time, the “right” people will regain power. My observation is that we are in the midst of more and more violent pendulum swings, with winners and losers becoming increasingly energized against one another. What I do agree on with Applebaum is that democracies are not indestructible. Might our common care about the future of democracy be a starting point for a different kind of political conversation? Might this common, and urgent concern bring people together from across the political spectrum who all perceive the abyss toward which we are hurtling? I cannot help but think that this next decade may be decisive in many ways for our country–and for humankind. Will the twilight we are in give way to night–or a new dawn?

Review: Democracy May Not Exist, But We Will Miss It When It’s Gone


Democracy May Not Exist, But We Will Miss It When It’s GoneAstra Taylor. New York: Metropolitan Books, (Forthcoming May 7,) 2019.

Summary: Explores what we mean when we speak of democracy, argues that real democracy has never existed, and explores the balance of paradoxes or tensions inherent in the idea of democracy.

All kinds of people toss around the language of democracy. We may contend that part of American greatness is its democratic institutions. A movement toward democracy has offered hope for many countries. The official name of North Korea is The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Astra Taylor poses the question in this book of what it is we mean when we speak of democracy. On its face, it seems simple, the word is a compound of the Greek terms for “people” (demos) and “rule” (kratia), hence the idea of the rule of the people. Taylor’s argument in this book is that a perfect democracy has never existed, that the best we have are approximations, but that striving for closer approximations is worth the struggle and something significant would be loss if we yield to the forces that diminish democracy.

Taylor resorts to an analysis of tensions within existing democracies that reflect the struggle between its ideals and its shortcomings. The book explores eight tensions:

  1. Freedom versus equality. Often some have been free-er than others, who sometimes are losers in the system, sometimes branded as inferior and marginalized.
  2. Conflict versus consensus. Rule of the people seems to imply deliberation leading to consensus, yet on many things people conflict, and “consensus” simply reflects what those in power enact.
  3. Inclusion versus exclusion. The question here is, “who are the people?” Often, supposed democracies have excluded or marginalized groups of people within a state. Women, blacks, LGBTQ persons, those of lower economic status may argue that they have lacked a voice in the deliberations of democracy.
  4. Coercion versus choice. While we speak of government exercising its power by the consent of the governed, this often results in behavior that is coerced in subtle and not so subtle ways. There are roadways I would be crazy to try to navigate on a bicycle or as a pedestrian. The rule of law reflects ways we have structured our economic life that shape our behavior in certain directions. At times, acts of civil disobedience are the only choice one has in the face of an unjust coercive law.
  5. Spontaneity versus structure. Often existing structures (for example gerrymandered districts, or restrictions of voting rights through efforts thwarting voting registration or voting) only change in consequence of spontaneous actions uprising against structures that are apparently “democratic.”
  6. Expertise versus mass opinion. Can a “Socratic mob” rule? Don’t we need experts for the complicated decisions that must be made in a society? Shouldn’t parents just defer to “trained educators” on what is best for their children?
  7. Local versus global. We live in an increasing global village, and yet, is not democracy most achievable at the local level? Do not local decisions have ripple effects all the way up to a global scale?
  8. Present versus future. What are the rights of those yet to be born in our democratic system, weighed against those currently alive, or even those who lived in the past whose influence may still be felt (for example, the limiting of inheritance taxes to all but the wealthiest estates that concentrate wealth among a few). Likewise, our environmental policies have implications for generations we will not see.

All of this is delivered in a lively style, translating political philosophy into easily understood prose, and illustrated with contemporary as well as historical examples.

While Taylor distinguishes her analysis from a strictly Marxist approach of identifying contradictions leading to the collapse of the system, her solution seems to rely on Marxian and Gramscian analysis, and in fact, a kind of uprising of the proletariat, that is a reform from below and admits that her economic vision is one of socialist redistribution of resources. There are suggestions in this book that it is time for a new form of constitution. I find all of this troubling, in some ways a modern equivalent of the French revolution of 1789. Democracy can disappear in a variety of ways, whether through nationalist plutocrats or liberal revolutionaries with their own statist solutions.

What this points up however is that these ideas become popular precisely when supposedly democratic leaders move away from democratic ideals–the importance of all of our citizens, a determined focus on social inequities and the limiting of rapacious capitalism. Books like Taylor’s are a wake up call to those who may least like what she is saying to take a hard look at how well all “the people” are served by our government. It is also a challenge to every one of us who calls themselves a citizen to take a hard look at what is taking place in our democratic institutions, and what it means for us to exercise responsible citizenship in this present time.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: These Schools Belong to You and Me

These schools

These Schools Belong to You and MeDeborah Meier and Emily Gasoi. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.

Summary: An argument for public schools where democracy is not simply taught but practiced by including teachers, students, and parents, as well as administrators as active participants in the educational process.

It might be argued that both public schools and democracy are under serious attack in this country. Political figures including the president and current Secretary of Education have argued for at least reducing and displacing public schools by private enterprise charter schools as more efficient education delivery systems.

The co-authors of this new book, defending the idea of democratically run public schools, argue that one of the reasons we seem to be inclined to democratically elect leaders with autocratic tendencies is that, while we may formally teach democracy in our schools, the practices that shape public education are top down and autocratic in practice, and this is what students really learn. Their rejoinder to the criticism of public schools and the rise of privatization is to offer an extended argument based on actual successes of democratically operated public schools where teachers, students, and parents all have an active role in shaping the educational experience.

Deborah Meier has been a leader in educational reform for nearly fifty years, starting a number of democratically organized schools around the country, especially in New York City. She was the founding principal of Mission Hill School in Boston, where Emily Gasoi was hired as one of the founding teachers of the school. The co-authors take turns contributing chapters of the book, with Emily Gasoi introducing the book and Deborah Meier concluding it. In these openings and closings Gasoi and Meier argue passionately for public schools as a treasure all of us should care for, especially if we care about equity among different classes and ethnic groups in society. And they argue that the best way to educate citizens to sustain a democracy is to practice it in the schools.

In the body of the Meier tends to speak to the bigger picture issues and the history of her involvement in education reform, from her initial experiences as a substitute teacher in South Chicago, her efforts in Harlem and other parts of New York to found democratically run schools, and her role at Mission Hill School, including the tension between being an education leader with so much experience, and giving teachers, students and parents a real voice in shaping the schools.

Gasoi describes her own conversion to democratic practice and how this changed her own educational practice as she learned how to teach an integrated, project-based curriculum instead of discrete subjects. She goes in depth in how students determine the particular focus of projects, integrate different subject areas into their research, and cultivate communication and presentation skills as they share their work with parents and the local community.

Together, the two of them take on the “accountability” movement which has teachers teaching to the assessment tests. They point to the Mission Hill example that focuses on depth rather than breadth of coverage, that teaches students how to learn where students do the work and teachers coach. Assessment involves the presentation and defense of an individualized portfolio, similar to a dissertation defense, rather than standardized tests. They express concern that privatized education may give parents “choice” but no real voice as they might have with a public school in their neighborhood.

It seems in our public discourse, we only hear about the private option versus poorly performing public schools. These two educators represent a group whose voices are not being heard. They think there is a better form of accountability than the top down accountability of national and state politicians making ideologically shaped decisions about education. It is to give educators, parents, and the students themselves a real stake in shaping their schools. The truth that Gasoi and Meier don’t acknowledge is that this is what religious schools and the home school movement have been saying for years (perhaps because this also is perceived as a threat to public education).

Behind this is an “educators know best” attitude that cuts parents out of the picture. They acknowledge that in the Mission Hill model, they needed to learn how to better include parents’ voices. What they really are talking about is learning how to return democracy to the neighborhood, to local communities, rather than ceding control to state and federal governments. What they don’t answer is what happens when you don’t have the good school leadership and community buy-in that was apparent at Mission Hill. Nor do they deal with the inequities of the funding models of schools and the dependency on state and federal funding to mitigate these inequities, and the corollary that with control of the purse strings come expectations of accountability.

What they do show is that there are a number of committed public educators out there who care for students, who care for quality education, and who should not be an “excluded middle” in the discussion of the future of public primary and secondary education in this country. These are people who have a proven track record of educational excellence. Both I and my son benefited greatly from such educators. If we care about the future of education and the future of our democracy, it seems we must also listen to people like Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Daring Democracy

Daring Democracy

Daring Democracy Frances Moore Lappe’ and Adam Eichen. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.

Summary: Responding to the concentration of political power within monied elites, the authors expose their strategy, and advocate a growing Democracy Movement to recover American democratic institutions.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing consequences of politics in the post-Citizens United era is the enlarged role that hidden financial donors in what I would propose are rival plutocracies play in our national politics. That is also a concern of the authors of this work, although they only acknowledge the plutocracy of the right. While I think that is a defect of this book, the broader case they make for an active citizen’s democracy movement to challenge the hegemony of wealth in our politics is an important one. These rival plutocracies have created a polarization of the extreme right and left that doesn’t reflect the broader center of the country that has been dis-enfranchised because of the power of money, and the rippling developments that have made it more difficult to elect candidates who do not represent one of these extremes.

Frances Moore Lappe’, who I first encountered in the 1970’s in her Diet for a Small Planet teams up with young Democracy Movement activist Adam Eichen to expose the anti-democratic developments that have brought us to this place, and the need for and promise of a grassroots Democracy Movement to recovering and preserving democracy in America. There are three “powerful ideas” upon which this book is based:

  1. Democracy is essential to address public needs and advance public goods.
  2. Democracy is possible–a real democracy accountable to people and not narrow, private interests.
  3. Each of us has a rewarding and exhilarating role to play in making democracy real.

After describing the powerful ideas that have arisen to respond to what they call “the anti-Democratic movement, the authors trace the development of this monied anti-Democratic movement. They begin with a confidential memo by Justice Lewis Powell commissioned by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce prior to his nomination to the Supreme Court. Powell expresses great concern for “free enterprise” and outlines a strategy to save it by 1) discrediting critics, branding them all as Marxists, 2) avoiding use of the word “capitalism,” substituting the rhetoric of “free” enterprise, 3) promoting a conservative presence in education, from campus speakers to textbooks, 4) gaining control of media outlets. They then describe two sets of strategies that arose from this memo. The first set of four strategies were to control the culture’s mindset:

  • Strategy 1: Command the Narrative. Think tanks pump out anti-government and pro-market gospel.
  • Strategy 2: Delegitimize Democracy’s Norms and Institutions.
  • Strategy 3: Quietly create a parallel political operation pushing the anti-democratic message with hundreds of front groups, community by community.
  • Strategy 4: Build big donors’ common purpose and coordinate their efforts to achieve the three strategies above.

The second four strategies then rig the rules to favor the monied elites:

  • Strategy 1: Open doors ever wider to big-money influence in our political system.
  • Strategy 2: Expand an army of lobbyists and usher anti-democracy forces into government.
  • Strategy 3: Reduce the voting power of those most likely to be hurt by, and therefore opposed to, the anti-democracy agenda.  Curbing voting rights and access and the ruthless gerrymandering of districts.
  • Strategy 4: Where possible, wipe out local democracy altogether. Eliminate local control, destroy worker protections.

Part three of the book outlines the agenda of the nascent Democracy Movement and gives examples of the kind of impact citizens can have. What must clearly be focused on is finance reform, limits to the power of lobbyists, and redistricting reforms, along with bringing increased transparency about funding sources. The last several chapters are motivational, describing what the authors see as a growing and diverse grassroots movement that came together around a march from Philadelphia to Washington, around resistance to anti-democratic actions in North Carolina, the Women’s March, and other actions. The final chapter is a call for daring engagement in the pursuit of democracy, and outlines additional strategies each of us might pursue. Generally, these strategies combine individual courageous initiative, finding like-minded individuals via events and social media, joining forces with similar movements, and thus amplifying one’s voice.

One thing I think these writers get right is the need for an engaged democracy–that there are a number of us who are not being heard in our highly polarized political discourse. I call us “the adults” who believe a good society has to work for all of us, across race, social class, economic status, religion and gender. We realize it won’t be perfect for anyone, but that good solutions don’t leave anyone out, and the contributions of everyone are considered vital to our society’s health. It has to address concerns of both conservatives and liberals. Most of us are not extremists in any form–Marxist, fascist, anti-facist, you name it. We’re Americans who still think a democratic republic is worth preserving and enhancing, and it won’t be if a monied plutocracy controls it. We are the people we’ve been waiting for, whether young or old, and it is time to make our voices heard and not leave our politics and governance to the extremes.

At the same time, this work left me with two concerns. One is that the authors, (and Lappe’, a veteran activist should know better) do not adequately articulate a long term vision of pursuing democracy. The “anti-democracy” movement they describe was a disciplined, long-term effort by highly committed and focused alliances of individuals, and not simply the influence of a lot of money. Unless there is similar long-term discipline and focus to the democracy movement they envision, their efforts will be little more than attention-deficit disordered emotivist ventilation.

More concerning is that this work at best makes passing references to major funding of progressive causes, which was eclipsed in 2016. But to authentically represent “the adults” in the middle, the authors needed to denounce and expose the monied interests on both extremes in American politics, the elites on both extremes that have controlled our political conversation. Not doing so exposes this movement to the charge of being “stalking horses” for these progressive causes, particularly when they move beyond questions of electoral reform to social issues supported by the left while concerns of thoughtful moderate conservatives are ignored. I would suggest that until the writers do so, this proposal is not democratic enough.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.




Review: The Father of Us All

Father of Us All

The Father of Us All, Victor Davis Hanson. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.

Summary: A collection of essays arguing from history that war is a tragic but persistent feature of human existence that explores some of the particular challenges that democracies from Athens to the present day United States face as we are faced with the prospect or reality of war.

It seems that, along with the poor, we will always have war. Victor Davis Hanson would say that this is in fact one of the lessons of history. Hanson, in this collection of essays draws upon both ancient history going back to the wars between Athens and Sparta, and the wars of a post-9/11 age to make this point.

In his opening essay he sounds themes that recur throughout this collection. Military history is an oft-neglected but useful discipline of study. It shows us that war is indeed a persistent feature of human nature. Efforts of appeasement to avert war often only make the situation worse. The idea of war as a miscommunication is mistaken–the fact is there are adversaries who are only too clear concerning their malevolent intent. Asymmetrical methods, such as IED’s versus Humvees are hardly a new invention, but rather the inevitable resort of an inferior but determined foe. Those who make war must always be aware of political considerations. At the conclusion of this essay, Hanson introduces the unfamiliar reader to the riches of military history writing, from the ancients to contemporary.

The essays, originally articles or presentations, are grouped under four headings. The first part, as already alluded to, explores the “orphaned” discipline of military history. The second considers war writing from Thucydides through the battle of Lepanto in 1571, a critical example of conflict of east versus west. Part three then looks at the contemporary phenomenon of war–how we as a nation like to fight battles, and the result in a post 9/11 war of asymmetrical conflicts between the west and radical terror organizations. The last section explores the unique challenges of democracies in war-making, and that often we are our own worst enemies, and yet also, that a democracy aroused, mobilizing the full resources of free peoples is a fearsome foe.

As you may be able to tell, Hanson speaks against a prevailing progressive notion that if only we communicated better, understood our enemies better, and so forth, we would not fight wars. He would contend we engage in far too much self-criticism, and far to little moral assessment of the evil of the ideologies of radical elements in the world. Paradoxically, he observes that often, Democratic presidents such as Roosevelt have often done a better job of leading in war, explaining both their reluctance to make war, and its necessity rather than engaging in sabre-rattling. What this should reveal to us is the persistent character of war in the world, and like it as little as we do, that if we are confronted with war, the worst thing that can be done is to shrink from it, but rather meet it with resolve.

I do think that Hanson’s essays challenge progressive notions cogently. But I wonder if he insufficiently wrestles with what Barbara Tuchman once called “the march of folly.” Perhaps it is also part of human nature that we often pursue foolhardy courses of bellicosity that make war inevitable, but must we? Is not war often a failure of political leadership, as in our own Civil War, or the bellicosity and incredible build-up of arms that led to World War I? Likewise, the argument that war must be fought such that foes are utterly defeated and humiliated seems to be the argument at the end of World War I that gave us World War II out of the grievances of the German people, played upon skillfully by Hitler.

In the end, Hanson has history on his side in arguing war’s persistence, and that this is a reflection on human nature. What he doesn’t explore here, which I think perhaps is more curious is why we are this mixture of noble ideals as well as malevolent motives? If this is indeed the human condition, then what hope is there for us?




Review: The Religion of Democracy

The Religion of DemocracyThe Religion of Democracy, Amy Kittelstrom. New York: Penguin Press, 2015

Summary: This book traces the “American Reformation” of Christianity through the lives of seven key figures spanning the late eighteenth to early twentieth century, in which adherence to creed shifted to the dictates of personal judgment and the focus shifted from eternal salvation to ethical conduct reflecting a quest for moral perfection and social benefit.

It seems that part of the American story is that religion and politics have been inextricably interwoven. As I was preparing to write this review, I listened to John Kasich invoke the biblical imagery of “the city on the hill” and many more personal references to faith in his announcement of his candidacy for the President of the United States. Kasich, from what I can tell, represents the reformed/evangelical stream of Christianity in America. This book represented what might be considered the other major stream in American political life, a stream that is less interested in creed, which tolerates a plurality of belief ranging from a Unitarian view of God to a god within to some form of spiritual consciousness that drives a deep personal quest for moral excellence and ethical behavior that benefits the wider society. In some sense, this stream may incorporate any other religious or secular views as long as they are not insistent upon a particular creed. It is a stream informed by the classical liberal humanism of the Enlightenment which in the twentieth century has been transformed into a social and political liberalism.

Amy Kittelstrom describes for us the development of this stream from the time of the American Revolution down through the early twentieth century by profiling seven key individuals and their contribution to what she calls “the American Reformation” and “the religion of democracy”. This latter seems appropriate because it is the kind of public and civil religious perspective that arose out of the New England context that has shaped so many of our political and cultural institutions. The seven figures and their contributions (taken from chapter titles) are:

  • John Adams: The Protestant Moral Ethic and the Spirit of Independence (personal judgment over creed)
  • Mary Moody Emerson: The Culture of Lived Virtue and the Fight against Bigotry
  • William Ellery Channing: Universal Inner Divinity and Self-Culture (Channing was a leader of the early Unitarians)
  • William James: Practical Idealist, Man of the World and the Method of Nature
  • Thomas Davidson, Liberal Freedom, Fellowship and the Socialization of Self-Culture
  • William Mackintire Salter, New Liberal, Ethical Culture, and Social Progress
  • Jane Addams, Social Democracy, Universal Needs, and the Cooperative Road to International Peace

Each chapter explores the life and thought of the particular individual, and their intellectual circle. This latter is especially important because of the intellectual community each of these individuals sought out. But these communities were not simply about ideas, but also the personal more development of each person. Over time, this is transformed to the social and moral uplift of the poorer, working classes, most evident of course in the work of Jane Addams. A common thread throughout is a religious perspective that prioritizes “personal judgment” over external creeds. Some never embraced these. Some, like Adams, formally identified with churches that did while quietly adhering to personal judgment. And some, like Channing and Addams, moved from  Reformed and evangelical roots to embrace this broader liberal perspective.

She concludes by exploring the contribution of the liberal religion of democracy over the last century, in its extension of rights to women, racial minorities, and LGBT persons and believes this will continue to be a potent force in shaping democracy’s efforts to advance human rights.

I believe this is am important study even though I would disagree at a number of points with what I think is the implicit creed of “the religion of democracy”. It exchanges a Triune God of Holy Love for the “god within” and salvation and the obedience of faith for moralism, among other things. Yet, whatever your take on “the religion of democracy” it is important to understand the intellectual hegemony it has achieved, the intellectual community it has fostered, and the public rhetoric of equality, tolerance, pluralism, and inclusion that has captured the American imagination. Kittelstrom’s book is an important contribution to that understanding.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as an ebook via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”