Democrat’s First Priority

I have been thinking about what item should be the Democrat’s first priority. I would like to see Democrats focus on problems of poverty, both urban and rural. I would like to see America deal with substandard housing, substandard pay, food deserts, opportunity deserts, IT deserts, lack of supports for workers with children, addiction, and with making sure that we find a way to provide good health care for everyone. I also think a case by case reappraisal of the needs of people serving long sentences in jail for fairly minor crimes needs to result in freedom if sentences are unfair, if sentences are the result of poverty, or if sentences seem racially biased. These issues are all related.

We need to tackle infrastructure but we don’t need to make that our first priority. We can put up with a maintenance program for now. We hardly know what our infrastructure needs will be in the not-so-distant-future. But our cities and towns are in need of our immediate attentions. It would be beneficial also to put a group to work deciding and publicizing how the Democrats want to tackle climate change if they get voters to back them in 2020.

We have a big problem and our problem is money. Corporations once lived in our communities with us and they contributed to the tax base and the quality of life. We can no longer rely on absent corporations to fill these economic needs. Corporations must now be bribed to locate in our cities with tax breaks and PILOTS. We have come to count on groups like Catholic Charities and other religious charities to take care of people with disabilities and people who are poor and/or homeless.

These corporate folks just don’t seem to understand that the expenditures they made on our cities and towns were the very things that made America look so good in those old days they keep yearning for, and, further, that investing in our cities and towns once again would probably produce similar results. I don’t understand why these leaders aren’t challenged to bring their innovative minds, their education, their intelligence to bear on finding ways to get America ticking again instead of relying on one old con man to do it for them.

Republicans just cut the tax base all over the United States in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which gave huge cuts to businesses that we need to look to for assistance with the health of the American economy. The GOP gave these enormous tax cuts to the very people who have been distancing themselves from America, who have taken their profits away to tax shelters. There is no money to find new ways to tackle poverty. Everyone is pinching pennies. The states cannot invest in their citizens without funds. The cities and local government are often in even worse shape. We also have enormous national expenditures on military matters and security matters, although we are not actually on a war-time footing.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget is pretty much a done deal. I hope the House Dems will study our federal budget very carefully along with our tax structures and find some ways to bring some balance back to the distribution of tax receipts and expenditures. Since it will be difficult to get anything through the Senate it would be a good year to knuckle down and get innovative about finding ways to get more tax dollars to local governments.

It would be a good year for designing new poverty programs to replace those that were designed for another decade when cultural realities were slightly different than they are now. Having a set of bills based on really enticing ideas for tackling urban and rural problems would be great for reelection campaigns in 2020. Showing ways that lifting up some of us would lift up all of us would be the gravy on the mashed potatoes. (Sorry it’s Thanksgiving.) I am thankful for the 2018 election results, for all the hard work of the candidates and their supporters, and for the dedication of those at the core of the Resistance. In fact our new people in Congress have local roots and could ask for the participation of the passionate Americans in the Resistance movement in generating ideas.

I know we have a lot of issues and they all seem like priorities and Dems will have to stay tuned in and react immediately to threats against immigrants, the press, and anyone who is under attack by this administration. But some good old-fashioned research, combing the practices that actually have been tried in small towns or in cities and then making lists of approaches that have worked would be time well spent. Brainstorming sessions around stubborn problems areas with someone recording the mix of ideas that emerge, both good and bad, might produce some out-of-the-box approaches.

Thinking what we can give to schools and neighborhoods instead of how we can keep them under control could offer ways to change negative attitudes, adopted for self-protection, into the curiosity and interest that young people usually exhibit when they are learning things they want to know. Let’s lavish some care on people who have been neglected, overcharged and underpaid.

Paul Krugman talked about this in today’s (11/20/2018) NYT about the urban/rural divide offers this caveat:

“We can and should do a lot to improve the lives of Americans in lagging regions. We can guarantee access to health care and raise their incomes with wage subsidies and other policies (in fact, the earned-income tax credit, which helps low-wage workers, already disproportionally benefits workers in low-income states).

But restoring these regions’ dynamism is much harder, because it means swimming against a powerful economic tide.

And the sense of being left behind can make people angry even if their material needs are taken care of.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/19/opinion/economy-trump-red-blue-states.html

I’m sure that everyone has a priority list for the new Democrats in the House and I, for one, would like to oust a bad leader first of all. However we are assured that tossing out the “tosser” (Harry Potter reference) is practically an impossibility (too bad we didn’t win the Senate too) (too bad voters sent both Ted Cruz and Marcia Blackburn to harass us). Let’s hear your lists now – we have until January to solidify our priority lists. But I think I am right on this one so you will have to put forth really good arguments.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Merriam-Webster

A view from the cheap seats.

Thoughts on Veteran’s Day 2018

It’s Veterans Day, 2018 when we remember the real people, men and women, who had to put their lives on hold to defend our nation, our values, and our way of life. There was pride in this and love of America that gave our soldiers and our citizens a sense of community and common purpose. While wars were killing men and tearing them away from everything they loved about being alive, they were also forging bonds between soldiers that seemed unbreakable. Until the Vietnam War the nation bonded also to offer a united front of love and gratitude to our fighting forces. Even in the Vietnam War someone could protest the complicated and questionable reasons for the war and still love family members who went so far away to fight in a war that was tearing Americans apart at home.

My Dad did not go to war. He had an eighth grade education. He had very flat feet. An army “runs on its feet”. He also was the sole support of his parents and of his brand-new wife, my mother. And he was employed in a war industry. My sister and I were born while most men were still in Europe or fighting in the Pacific. My father’s personality was never complicated by having to live so close to death as many others had done. But his life was complicated by the guilt he felt about the rather mundane roots of his good fortune and he was always sidelined by not belonging to the fraternal orders created by and for veterans. Vets did not talk much to their wives and children about the war, but they did seek the comfort of the company of other soldiers.

We lived in a city when I was born, and we learned the story of why my parents, already older than most couples in those days, did not have children for almost three years after they married. They married in 1941 and my sister was born in 1944. My father worked nights. My mother worked days. The busses they were on passed each other in the morning and they would wave and get on with their next piece of business, either sleeping or working. They were very poor as they both gave money to their parents. Once they began having babies they did not stop. Two of us were the same age for 5 days with not even a whole year between our births. Soon we had seven people living in a two-bedroom city apartment. By then everyone was home from the war. Housing boomed, but my Dad was not a vet.

Finally, Dad found a house for us in a small town that was almost rural but destined to become a suburb. We had fresh air and frog ponds and empty lots to roam. We had bikes and skates and although we never had enough bedrooms, we did not feel cramped in these early years. The babies kept coming though. When I was around eight I began to see the effect war had had on those who fought it.

Next door to us, a tiny house sat so far back from the road that it was right next to our back yard. In this house lived Mrs. Crabtree.  Mrs. Crabtree scared us children to death and I’m sure that our boisterous play outside her windows annoyed her no end. Occasionally she would experience some kind of psychotic break; she would open her front door and stand in the doorway in her slip and tell off the neighborhood. She would rant and rave, and we came to believe that she was a sort of witch, a person to fear and tiptoe around, except that a “clowder” of children have a hard time remembering to keep it down for long. Later, as a teen, I learned that Mary Crabtree was a soldier in WWII (actually a nurse) and that she had a metal plate in her head covering the hole in her skull from when she had been hit with mortar. She drank to deaden memory and pain. My dad was kind to her and we felt guilty that we had been so clueless.

Across the road was another house of strife, a mom and dad who drank and fought their way through the days of their silent children’s lives until one child fought back and exhibited signs of rebellion, which never died out and caused her to choose things that were harmful, and led to her early demise. The father in this family was a vet. We all met these parents many times and we did not find them unfriendly. The mom and other moms came to visit around our dining room table because my mom was tied down by children. But the men never came to visit my father, although they did not shun him. Dad just did not fit in. My Dad did not drink. This across-the-road dad was a drinker. When the fighting at home reached a crescendo that was intolerable, he left for the VFW and the comradery of fellow soldiers.

So two examples of what war can do to those who fight it, lived their lives before my eyes, and finally, after the Vietnam War we as a nation began to talk about treating the problems of physical and mental adjustments that men (and women) had to deal with after wars. Those vets I knew fought in a war that we were proud to fight in, a war against a monster who could not be allowed to spread his hate any further than he already had done. The problems vets faced became even greater when soldiers had to come home to a country that did not support the war in which they had just fought.

Just this past week a vet used his skills with a gun to kill young people enjoying themselves dancing in a country bar in Thousand Oaks, California. We are not good at helping vets who are mentally twisted by the things they are asked to do in a war.

And yet we go to war time after time. There are always seemingly valid reasons to subdue a leader or a nation that thinks taking on the world will allow this leader or nation to dominate a larger chunk of the world. People will continue to go off to war unless we begin an era of all robot wars, or all drone wars. (It is quite different to be the nation that sends a drone than it is to be the nation that receives a drone however, and as drones become more common our own nation may become a target for drones.) Even in the case of robotic war or drone wars, soldiers will still be necessary I am guessing. In fact, soldiers who send drones to kill distant bad guys sometimes also kill innocents, and we are finding that this has mental repercussions despite the fact that the soldier is not in physical jeopardy.

Well this is a weekend to remember all of this. It is a time to remember how wars make it possible for family members who are at some distance from a war to live in relative safety. It is a time to remember what soldiers sacrifice to fight for us in wars. It is a time of gratitude. It should also be a time to teach ourselves better ways to help warriors heal when they return home from wars. Short of wiping memory it may be impossible to be totally unaffected by fighting other humans in a killing war. Perhaps all we can hope for is to ameliorate the problems of those who seem to be affected the most by being sent into situations that require you to kill or be killed.

Veterans Day is also a perfect time to remember to do all in our power to keep our world at peace.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, CNY Vets Parada and Expo

Year One by Nora Roberts – Book

 

Nora Roberts, author of Year One usually writes romance novels. I do enjoy a good romance novel. It doesn’t necessarily give your brain a workout but it sends you on an emotional journey that often ends in a happy sigh and a temporary uplift in your spirts. Lately I forgo the brief jolt of endorphins offered by fake joy for books with a more mental punch. But I will say that I think even fake joy can make your day. This time Nora Roberts goes off the chart and gives us an apocalypse. Even if it still encompasses a good deal of romance, there is also suspense and grief and magic and black magic, and this is only the first book of a trilogy, The Chronicles of the One. One of my sisters passed this book on to me.

The story begins in Scotland where Ross MacLeod, who now resides in NYC, visits the family farm in Dumfries, Scotland which has been in the family for over two hundred years. Ross goes for a walk on his land and changes the world when he shoots a pheasant that lands in a magic circle and activates an old blood sacrifice he accidentally contributed to fifty years earlier, simply by tripping and scraping a hand on a stone that sits in that ancient stone circle on the property. Ross is a bit freaked by the circling of crows above the site but he is no believer in magic. When he gets very ill he thinks it is a flu virus. Then he dies. Soon this untreatable and incurable disease, named the Doom, begins to spread as rapidly as people move around the globe these days.

The grief people feel is enormous. Max and Lana, newly in love and experimenting with some talents they seem to possess which indicate they might be witches, do not sense the enormity of the escalating depopulation right away. For a moment they are a spot of joy in a city that is being devastated by disease and looting and violence. Lana is a chef, Max a writer. Arlys, a newscaster on a popular NYC stations has been promoted to the main news desk by default. She offers daily news to anyone who is still listening. Fred is an intern who works with Arlys and who has a secret which might help explain her effervescent personality. One day Arlys is given reasons to tell her listeners the real news, which is far more frightening than what she is used to offering. Rachel is a doctor, Jonah an EMT. They are trying to run a hospital with fewer and fewer staff, and patients they are unable to save.

When these New Yorkers finally accept that they must leave their beloved city and travel to more rural areas we see them depart in pairs to look for more people who have survived the Doom. Why some people survive while others do not is something that has no satisfactory answer. Some survivors have found that they now have magical talents. Fred’s secret is that she is a faerie with wings and a sprightly spirit that makes her quite lovable. Max and Lana find that they have become more talented witches than they ever were before. Some people find they are elves. And yet some people like Rachel and Arlys have no discernible magical talents and yet they survive.

Getting out of New York is not an easy thing for anyone. It turns out that magical people, like normal people can use their talents for good or for evil. Many survivors have turned to evil and can harm magical people who strive to be good if they catch them off guard or if their talents are unequal. There are also the usual gangs that thrive on chaos. Traveling is scary and dangerous and there is more safety in numbers. Eventually all these New Yorkers meet, not quite by accident in a new community that is taking shape in New Hope, Virginia.

There is social commentary here. The Uncanny, as the magical humans are named, become “the other” and are feared by intolerant humans who cannot accept people with magical talents as neighbors. They taunt them and troll them and make sharing a community uncomfortable and sometimes worse things happen when the intolerants do more than use their words.

As soon as the internet is partially restored this message is posted:  “If you are reading this, you are one of the chosen. No doubt you have lost those dear to you and have felt, many still know, despair. No doubt you have witnessed firsthand the abominations that have desecrated the world Our Lord created. You may believe the End Times are upon us. But take heart! You are not alone! Have faith! Have courage! We who survived this demonic plague wrought by Satan’s Children face a Great Test. Only we can defend our world, our lives our very souls. Arm yourselves and join The Holy Crusade.” The Purity Warriors

The Purity Warriors pretend to save the world in the name of religion but they actually spread terror and violent rape and death, especially targeting the Uncanny. But Lana is carrying The One. Will she bear the child in safety to grow to her full powers? How will she change the sad equation in a ruined world? Good stuff for real, even if it seems to have a bit too much sugar on top.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Parade

Find me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

The Heist by Daniel Silva – Book

Daniel Silva’s 14th book featuring his reader’s favorite Israeli spy is The Heist. Gabriel Allon kills the people who do evil in the world (Europe and the Middle East for the most part). Gabriel is an unlikely hero, slight of build, not very tall, with a full head of dark hair graying at the temples. He has aged some through the years and is somewhere in his fifties but he has a new young wife, Chiara, who also works for “the Office”. Gabriel feels regret for the killing he does but he doesn’t let that govern him because these are villains, exhibiting some serious anti-social behaviors.

Gabriel is an unusual spy because he is a great art restorer (who perhaps would have been a great artist except for his mentor, Ari Shamron). Shamron recruited him and he wants Allon to agree to become the head of Israeli Intelligence. Gabriel has resisted this role but has recently promised that he will do that when Uzi Navot’s term ends.

Art heists have become common in Europe. Security in museums is often fairly lax or spread a bit thin. Art thieves have many ways to trick museums, but one of the safest is to employ a great forger. Empty spaces tend to attract attention, but it often takes time to identify a really good forgery as a fake. One painting, missing for a long time, is a Caravaggio painting of a mother and child. Gabriel may be Jewish but he specializes in restoring Renaissance religious art. He hopes to find that Caravaggio, but the painting seems to have fallen into the hands of a dictator who gases his own people.

So, there is a Syrian connection in this story, and Silva provides an informative backstory of the origins of the regime of Bashar al Assad, which is now in Gabriel’s sights. Gabriel cannot assassinate Assad, but he can try to make some of his ill-gotten fortune turn up in other bank accounts. There is a woman involved who works for a Saudi man who hides Assad’s fortune in lots of places where banking secrets are seen as sacred, and where laws can’t reach, such as the Cayman Islands. Gabriel doesn’t let women off the hook as sources and allies in matters of conscience. He has only lost one of the women he enlisted to help so far, although she was already ill and dying. Does the woman he recruits this time live through this op?

Does Gabriel Allon get Assad’s money? Does he find the Caravaggio? Does Chiara lose the twins she is carrying? Fourteen books later, still good stuff.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, NewsOK

November 2018 Book List

November 2018 Book List

What I noticed about the books published in October (which are on this November book list) is that there are many enticing biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies just in time for finding a lamp, a chair, and a blanket this winter and getting lost in someone else’s life. Here’s a list of some of the people’s lives you can immerse yourself in: Marie Colvin, Johnny Rosselli, John Marshall, Edward Gorey, the Beastie Boys, Churchill, Henry Worsley, Michelle Obama, Sally Fields, Ghandi, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Babe Ruth, John Williams, Chopin, Bing Crosby, Philip Johnson, Saul Bellow, Benjamin Rush, Andrew Johnson, and John Kerry. That is quite a list. Surely almost anyone can find a great read for November, or way too many great reads for November. Stay toasty.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel by John Boyne

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer

Insurrecto by Gina Apostol

Wolves of Eden: A Novel by Kevin McCarthy

Tony’s Wife: A Novel by Adriana Trigani

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

Mystery and Thrillers

The Best Bad Things: A Novel by Katrina Carrasco

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Night Town (A Junior Bender Mystery) by Timothy Hallinan

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

Dark Sacred Heart by Michael Connelly

Wolves of Eden by Kevin McCarthy

Past Tense (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child

Debris Line (Gibson Vaughn) by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Seventeen: A Novel by Hideo Yokoyama, Louise Heal Kawai

A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel by John Boyne

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens

Someone Like Me by M R Carey

Nonfiction

The White Darkness by David Grann

Nashville: Scenes from the New American South by Ann Patchett, Heidi Ross

Heirs of the Founders (The Epic Rivalry of Henry, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants) by H W Brands

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond, Adam Horowitz

Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes by Chris Impey

The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen (Essays)

Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome by Venki Ramakrishnan

The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-LászlóBarabási

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’ Hollywood by Karina Longworth

Biographies and Memoirs

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli; Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, Assassin by Lee Server

John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court by Richard Brookhiser

Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

Why Religion: A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels

The White Darkness by David Grann (Henry Worsley)

Becoming Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before a Game of Thrones by George R R Martin, Doug Wheatley

Someone Like Me by M R Carey

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby

Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal by Forthright

Vita Nostra: A Novel by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

New York Times Book Review

Oct 7

Nonfiction

American Prison by Shane Bauer

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Farsighted by Steven Johnson

Attention: Dispatches From a Land of Distraction by Joshua Cohen (essays)

The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams

Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain

The Imposter: A True Story (Enric Marco) by Frank Wayne

The Shortlist

Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator by Jason M Colby

Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson

The Last Lobster: Boom or Bust for Maine’s Greatest Fishery? by Christopher White

Eye of the Shoal: A Fisherman’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything by Helen Scales

Fiction

Crime

Wrecked by Joe Ide

Holy Ghost by John Sanford

Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry

Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Boomer1 by Daniel Torday

The End of the Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada

Crudo by Kathy Acker

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Best New Fantasy Novels

Witchmark by C L Polk

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Half Witch by John Schoffstall

Every River Runs to Salt by Rachael K Jones

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (YA)

Oct. 14

Fiction

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Patient X by David Peace

Deviation by Luce D’Eramo

Nonfiction

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

In Pieces by Sally Field

Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry

If You Love Me by Maureen Cavanaugh

Ghandi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 by Ramachandra Guha

You’ve Been so Lucky Already by Alethea Black

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor

Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple

Unwanted: Stories of Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (YA)

Oct. 21

Nonfiction

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum

Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald

No Property Man by Sean Wilentz

Grand Improvisation by Derek Leebaert

Every Day is Extra by John Kerry

Fiction

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Children of God by Lars Petter Sveen

Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor-Johnson

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Tamil)

CoDex 1962 by Sion

Crime Novels

Shell Game (V I Warshawski) by Sara Paretsky

The Stranger Game by Peter Godol

The Darkness by Victoria Cribb

The Midnight Witness (Louise Rich) by Sara Blaedel trans. from the Danish by Mark Kline

Oct. 28

Thrillers

The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Find Me Gone by Sarah Meuleman

Horror Fiction

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Little by Edward Carey

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

True Crime

Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky

The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer by J Reuben Appelman

In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators by Jeffry L Rinek

A Tale of Two Murders: Guilt, Innocence, and the Execution of Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson

The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

Blood and Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard by Paul Collins

Fiction

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Shortlist (Crossover YA Novels)

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

A Heart in the Body of the World by Deb Caletti

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Nonfiction

The Sky is Falling by Peter Biskind

Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint

Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman (Essays)

University of Nike by Joshua Hunt

Nov. 2

Fiction

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lake on Fire by Rosellen Brown

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

The Shortlist (Family Sagas)

In Your Hands by Inês Pedrosa

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr

News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

Transgender Literature

Freshwater by Akwaeki Emezi

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Chen Thom

Nonfiction

On Sunset by Kathryn Harrison

American Dialogue by Joseph J Ellis

The King and the Catholics by Antonia Fraser

She Wants It by Jill Soloway

Melting Pot or Civil War by Reihan Salam *

Capitalism in America by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge *

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jane Sherron DeHart *

The Corrosion of Conservatism by Max Boot *

Never Ran, Never Will by Albert Samaha

We Are the Nerds by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Publisher’s Weekly

 

Oct. 8

What if it’s Us? By Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (YA)

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly – Thriller

The Witch Elm by Tana French – Mystery

99 Ways to Die by Ed Lin – F

Death of a Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery by Laurie Loewenstein – Mystery

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – F

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan trans. from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan – F

Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Martin Riker – F

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang – Essays

Bridge City by Markus Zusak – YA

Oct 15

Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones – F

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese-Anne Fowler – F

Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson, trans, from the German by Damion Searls – F

The Darkness by Ragnor Jonasson – Thriller

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver – F

Heavy – An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon – Memoir

The Big Fella by Jan Leavy (Babe Ruth) – Biography

The Library Book by Susan Orlean – NF

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – F

Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W Scott-Poole – NF

The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’, and the Writing Life by Charles J Shields – Biography

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar – Fantasy

Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times by Alan Walker – Bio

The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy by Stephen M Wait – NF *

Oct. 22

Of Love and War by Lynsey Addario – Photos

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – Short stories

Little by Edward Carey – F

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay – F

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and its Weather by Christopher Dewdney – NF

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz – Illus. Bio

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth – Thriller

Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father by Stephen Fried – Bio

The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics by David S Heidler and Jeanne T Heidler – Bio

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – F

The Line by Martin Limón -Mystery

Astounding: John W Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee – NF *

An Empire for Ravens: A John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery by Mary Reid and Eric Mayer – Mystery

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E Weymouth – YA Fantasy

Oct. 29

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly – F

Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin – NF

Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star – The War Years, 1940-1946 by Gary Giddens – Bio

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris – Fantasy Thriller

Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck and a New History of America’s Origin by Joseph Kelly – NF

Elevation by Stephen King – F

Bastard by Max Radiguès – Graphic Novel

The Hole by Jose Revueltas, trans. from the Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson and Sophie Hughes – F

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 2 1956-1963, Edited by Peter K Steinberg and Karen V Kukil – NF

Family Trust by Kathy Wang – F

Nov. 5

The Day that Went Missing by Richard Beard – F

Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin (pub. Posthumously) – short stories

An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere by Mikita Brottman – True crime

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child – F

An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan – Short Stories

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster – Bio

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 by Zackary Leader – Biography

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Thriller

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – Fantasy

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts – Bio *

We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress by Craig Morgan Teicher – NF

Beyoncéin Formation: Remixing Black Feminism by Omise’eke Tinsley – NF

A Shot in the Dark: A Constable Twitten Mystery by Lynn Truss – Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do We Think Republicans are Good for the Economy

Why do we think Republicans are good for the economy? Republican talking points were hammered into our heads for just about the entire eight years of the Obama administration. One such talking point said that we need to shrink government (code for we need to do away with social programs: Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, Food Stamps, CHIP, WIC, Medicare, and now the ACA). These things are not the business of the federal government GOPers would declare.

Then they would argue that programs like these perpetuate poverty by institutionalizing dependence. They would argue that these programs have done nothing to end poverty. Look at the data. How many people have actually been lifted out of poverty they pontificate? Perhaps these people who claim to be devoutly religious forgot that Jesus said there will always be poor people.

There is also data to suggest that if you were able to leave a poor neighborhood, or get a good education or both, it is possible that your fortunes did improve. And we know that this is not quite as true for black and brown people who were often not welcome in white neighborhoods or suburban schools with larger budgets that provided better educational experiences.

Recent studies tell us that housing discrimination played a greater role in placing limitations on minorities even when other inequalities were legislated away. Realtors found ways to keep minorities out of more upscale white neighborhoods. Look for an article with the title The Architecture of Poverty. Read Eviction by Matt Desmond. Subscribe to the Daily Beast which is doing a series of articles about this.

We have seen the underlying racism and white nationalism lurking in the Republican Party since the parties switched platforms during the Civil Rights movement of the late 50’s and early 60’s. We thought that this was a line of prejudice that did not run through everyone in the party. We can no longer say that here in 2018 with Donald Trump at the head of the GOP.

But aside from this abiding hate and bigotry and long-nursed resentment, aside from a firm belief, against all scientific evidence that people with darker skin are inferior to people with white skin; the key policies of the Republican Party all center around money, economics, business, Capitalism (and military power). Prominent Republicans have even said that they know God favors them because he has blessed them with great wealth. So now the wealthy are more beloved by God than the poor. But if my Sunday school religious education is correct, I believe Jesus said that it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The litany of the Republican talking points included all the things they would do if/when they took over in Washington; all the things they are doing right now. Deregulation was near the top of the GOP wish list. If businesses were allowed free rein the economy would fly, they promised, all the factories would return, and the American economy would be fixed forever and ever. Climate change considerations were declared bad science and the GOP has been overturning safety rules left and right. Mercury no longer a controlled substance; asbestos perfectly fine. Now the Republicans were able to allow drilling everywhere and fossil fuels would flow like water and reset the health of wealth around the planet, melting ice caps be damned. Keystone, yes; drilling in the Arctic, AOK, fracking, the more the merrier. The GOP said they would trade coal mining jobs for votes and they have.

Free trade was an ask that big business did not get. Trump got his tariffs by decree. Those tariffs are still a bone contention, but the GOP has taken a wait and see attitude. All can be forgiven because of that glorious corporate tax cut. Trickle down, supply side, voodoo economics in action. The Republicans are in GOP economic nirvana and many Americans still believe that Republicans are great at boosting the American economy, even if the whole ship of state may prove to be less seaworthy than they have been led to expect.

An enormous deficit is looming. If the economy doesn’t meet standards of progress that are considered totally unrealistic by almost every numbers-man-and-woman in America, drastic cuts will have to be made. Those social program cuts were part of the GOP talking points all along. The whole apparatus may have been designed to make Americans so frightened about the American economy that they will make little fuss when they lose their benefits, which Mitch McConnell is salivating to cut as I write. Then the GOP will have achieved every one of the points on their “small government” list and Social Security will be gone, the government will not be involved in health care and there will be no safety net for people who cannot work. How does this hold any appeal for Americans who are not wealthy?

 

The really big question is why are we pursuing a Republican economic agenda which has never worked and how on earth did Republicans get a reputation for being good with economics. The data does not support this assertion nor does it back up the faith Americans have in the Conservative Way. Wealthy people do get richer but, in a Republican administration we actually get further and further from a balanced budget (which is also on the GOP wish list, hypothetically) and the middle class loses ground it cannot afford to lose. The Republican Party is not a champion of workers.

Republicans have been no pikers when it comes to making debts. https://ritholtz.com/2011/10/us-debt-accumulation-by-president/

 

The deficit numbers are even bigger and were often dependent on historical events during any given Presidential term/s. For example, there are bigger deficits in times of war.

 

“Republicans point to the Reagan Administration as an example of how their policies worked. Reaganomics ended the 1980 recession. It suffered from stagflation, which is both double-digit unemployment and inflation.

Reagan cut income taxes from 70 percent to 28 percent for those earning $108,000 or more. He cut tax rates on middle-class incomes to 15 percent. He cut the corporate tax rate from 46 percent to 40 percent.

But Reagan also used non-Republican policies to end the recession. He increased government spending by 2.5 percent a year. He almost tripled the Federal debt. It grew from $997 billion in 1981 to $2.85 trillion in 1989. Most of the new spending went to defense. But trickle-down economics, in its pure form, was never tested. It’s more likely that massive government spending ended the recession. (Source: William A. Niskanen, “Reaganomics,” Library of Economics and Liberty.)”

https://www.thebalance.com/do-republican-economic-policies-work-4129139

 

“The Bush Administration also used Republican policies to end the 2001 recession. It cut income taxes with EGTRRA. That ended the recession in November, despite the attacks on 9/11. But unemployment continued rising to 6 percent. In 2003, Bush cut business taxes with JGTRRA. It appeared that the tax cuts worked. But the Federal Reserve lowered the Fed funds rate from 6 percent to 1 percent during this same period. It’s unclear whether tax cuts or another stimulus were what worked.

Another problem with the Reagan and Bush tax cuts is that they worsened income inequality. Between 1979 and 2005, after-tax income rose 6 percent for the bottom fifth of households. It rose 80 percent for the top fifth. Incomes tripled for the top 1 percent. It appears that prosperity didn’t trickle down, it trickled up. (Source: Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze, pp.6-9.)

Both trickle-down and supply-side economists use the Laffer Curve to prove their theories. Arthur Laffer showed how tax cuts provide a powerful multiplication effect. Over time, they create enough growth to replace any lost government revenue. That’s because the expanded, prosperous economy provides a larger tax base. But Laffer warned that this effect works best when taxes are in the “Prohibitive Range.” Otherwise, tax cuts will only lower government revenue without stimulating economic growth.

Republicans who say tax cuts always create growth ignore this aspect of supply-side economics.”

https://www.thebalance.com/do-republican-economic-policies-work-4129139

Obama also added a fair amount to the debt, although not as much as George Bush, and he had to clean up a mess with mortgage foreclosures, bad banking practices, and a Great Recession all inherited from George Bush and the Republicans. Obama did get to pass a number of regulations to protect consumers from bad business practices but they have pretty much all been overturned by the Trump administration. After the first two Obama years a red wave swept away his majority in Congress and he was constrained on economic policy (and every other policy also). Because of some nasty obstructionism I find Republicans responsible for the debts of the Obama administration.

 

And I give you the Voodoo graphic.

http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

 

And now we have Donald Trump – a newly-minted Republican who never ran a government or a national economy even with help from colleagues in Congress, who has declared bankruptcy 6 times, and who does things just because he concluded perhaps in the 1980’s (based on strictly his own opinion) that he could fix the American economy and MAGA. He had his father’s wealth to back him up when he failed. America doesn’t. I have no faith at all in Republican economics and the historical facts do not favor those who do. But all the political ads make it sound like Trump and the Republicans are a bunch of economic geniuses.

Bret Stephens was on MSNBC this morning (he writes on the opinion page of the NYT). Stephens is a Republican who has joined the resistance against his own party because he is not a Trump fan. Stephens credits the current rise in job numbers and even a small jump in wages to momentum built up in the Obama years. Many economists are nervous about what will happen when the huge deficits begin to pile up from Trump’s tax plan and his tariffs and his belligerence with friendly nations on trade.

It is probably too late for a reality check on Republicans economics to have any effect on this midterm election, especially since half of the nation has already voted early (in New York we can’t). I think even the Democratic Party sometimes (sort of) accepts the myth that Republicans are good with money. Perhaps that is because they are really good at lining their own pockets. But they are not really good with the economics of our nation and more needs to be made of this point. Actually our economy probably benefits most when Democrats spend and Republicans admonish them about their spending. In other words, partisan economics is really not so likely to produce a consistently booming America.

The last time Republicans had a majority this huge was in 1928. Just before the Great Depression.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/1928-congress-last-time-republicans-had-a-majority-this-huge-112913

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches, The Economist, The New Republic, Politico

This is a view from the cheap seats.

Michael Tomasky also wrote about this subject in the NYT today.

 

The English Girl by Daniel Silva – Book

The English Girl by Daniel Silva stands out as a Gabriel Allon book that sort of breaks the mold. It has all the characters we expect to find, but they don’t show up for quite a while. Instead Gabriel teams up with a character who has enticed our interest from time to time, Christopher Keller.

Christopher Keller is a dead man. On the record he died as a British soldier. In actual fact he was the only survivor of a deadly attack. Since his parents in London have already mourned his death, and since he has no official identity he took a job as an assassin in the service of Don Orsati, the “Don” of Corsica. Don Orsati pays well and he treat Chris Keller like a son.

Up to now Silva has used Christopher sparingly in his books, perhaps because he does not always “fight for the right”. But in The English Girl he teams up with Gabriel and we see a social, “bro”-style side to Gabriel that we rarely if ever see. The two men seem relaxed with each other. This may also be because the details of this particular spy tale are a bit unusual.

Gabriel is supposed to be permanently retired but when a young English woman on a Corsican vacation is kidnapped, Graham Seymour of MI5 (soon to be MI6) asks Gabriel for some hush-hush help. Why is this girl more important than your average British subject? Perhaps because she holds the Prime Minister’s career in her hands. Since Gabriel’s trail starts on Corsica, Christopher is a natural choice for a partner in the investigation which seems like it will be quite simple to resolve. Also Christopher owes Gabriel a favor and Gabriel has a token attesting to that debt which he plans to redeem.

Corsica requires certain behaviors that must be observed if one wants to borrow Keller from Don Orsati. Gabriel must always stop by to see Don Orsati first and share a meal and a few intimidating amenities. And, although Gabriel scoffs at superstition, a rather talented seer must be consulted. For some reason she tells Gabriel he will die if he goes to Moscow. How could the kidnapping of an English girl possibly have a Moscow connection? To unravel that mystery you will have to start in Corsica with Gabriel and Christopher. I did not foresee the twist this thriller takes. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: ClipZui.com

Find me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

An American Dirge

An American Dirge

 

Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice

Philando Castile, Michael Brown

And on and on and on and on

Hero cops, and racist cops

Museums that recall genocide

Museums so we don’t forget lynchings

Two towers leveled, thousands lose their lives

Guantanamo

We mourn, tears flow, and on we go.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some.

We’re trying to have a good time here.

Life is beautiful

American is beautiful.

 

Dylan Roof shoots

An African American Bible study group.

Survivors forgive him.

Adam Lanza, blighted boy,

Kills 20 six and seven year olds.

A troubled shooter ends his life

And leaves a nation drenched in tears.

Stoneman Douglas, Columbine

Captive targets, grief abides

More troubled shooters

Express their ire.

Children grow up before our eyes.

 

San Bernardino, Orlando,

Fort Hood, Aurora, Santa Fe,

Boston Strong, and Las Vegas

A marathon, some country songs

Homegrown terrorists

America mourns and mourns.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some

We’re still trying to have a good time here

We’re trying to pretend

(And maybe pretending

Will someday make it so)

That America is still beautiful.

 

Charlottesville, torches

In the night,

A President allows

Displays of spite.

Democrats are demons.

Republicans will save you

(If you are rich and white

And Christian).

A leader says, “I don’t sow hate”

But 14 Democrats get bombed,

And worshippers in Temple

Are slain in prayer.

2 more troubled shooters bound for jail.

 

Freedom made America shine

Now we wallow in mourning and tears,

Again and again, they seem our fate.

Can we save our father’s dreams

And stretch them to our modern needs?

 

Americans still say don’t kill our buzz.

We’re trying to enjoy our lives out here,

And pretending that American is still the home

Of “spacious skies” and “waving grain”

“From sea to shining sea”.

 

[One dirge is not enough. We may need more. It would be great if this was our last dirge, our last moment of national mourning caused by a neighbor’s loneliness, hate, or radical thoughts. People are having a harder time pretending that life in America is basically normal because the blips on their radar are starting to burst their happiness bubble. As for those of us who can’t seem to turn away, we want to understand how to find ways to cure it. If we don’t will this ever end? Isn’t America tired of reanimating itself after each tragedy? Isn’t America tired of tears yet?]

 

 

 

 

 

If Democrats Lose – A Trumpian Fantasy

If Democrats lose the fight to take back the majority in at least one house of Congress then what, a Trumpian fantasy? Trump would like us to stop resisting, to praise every little thing about him, to smile while he does what he does. He wants the media to reflect his glory, and it might also be mandatory for Americans to attend weekly praise sessions where 45 can bask in adoration and acclaim as we attest to his genius and thank him for MAGA. He has to refill his ego regularly as his I’m-the-best tanks get empty quickly and often. When resisting gets exhausting it is almost tempting to sink back into an unquestioning limbo with a sickly smile plastered across our faces. Perhaps all will be well if we all just bow before the golden one. Small g, small o.

After all we can probably make it without coverage for preexisting conditions for 6 years and we can probably live with watching Putin preen on the world stage for a while longer. We need customers but we don’t need friends. We can probably live without any friends for 6 years. We can deal with being an exploited work force employed at the whims of the marketplace and paid as little as our employers can get away with. We can deal with a stagnant or dying economy as we lose business from abroad and become an economy that sells to and buys from only each other. That should be a really booming economy (not). Isolationism has consequences. Withdrawing from global affairs definitely has consequences. (Didn’t we already try this?) (Yes.)

I’m not so sure how we will deal with training guns on troubled migrants who arrive at our southern (and perhaps our northern) border. That might cause the smiles plastered to our faces to quiver a bit. We probably will not hear much about it anyway because a Trump-centric media will not speak of it. We will only hear rumors passed along in garbled fashion from person to person. Easy to ignore as we try to keep our heads above water in a deepening economic depression. We will only wish that abortion was legal if someone we know has to deal with an unwanted pregnancy or a dangerous pregnancy. But there will be no more demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood buildings because there will be no Planned Parenthood buildings.

How will we whitewash a colorful America? It could be as simple as forcing brown and black folks onto “reservations” which we would only know about as these Americans disappeared from our communities. Is that smile still in place? Better not let it slip. Our leader needs ever more positive reinforcement. Have babies, have lots of babies. If they are sexually different, not safely male or female Trump will have a plan to whisk them off to another country perhaps. Our lives will be trouble free as long as we give in to whatever the leader wants and keep grinning. Unless someone decides that we are weakened enough that this would be a good time to attack. We could end up at war with almost any nation on the face of the earth. Could it be a nuclear war? Smile, a giant national security apparatus, loyal to the President is watching. Do something patriotic. Sell your beach property if you can and go camp out on public land with a long gun until you are called upon to fight. What if 45 decides that 6 more years in power is not enough?

Will our “peerless” leader be happy with idolatry? He is a restless one. He does not enjoy peace and quiet. He does not crave time to contemplate the universe or even to play with his grandchildren. He is a mover and shaker. Having nothing more to move and shake will not work for him. Adulation will simply offer new scope for his creative talent for inciting chaos. It will be harder to rile everyone up. He will probably have to go ballistic, get a designer to invent a uniform just for him, go out across America in one of those military style vehicles to poke his nose into every corner of the nation to be sure of what is going on now that the media no longer does more than offer endless approval. Trump will not be able to enjoy a Trumpy America one bit because he thrives on opposition and paradox.

Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

Photo credits: From Google Image Searches, NYT, Institute for Policy Studies

This is a view from the cheap seats.

 

 

Mind Games

What I really hate about lies is what they assume about our minds. Republicans are playing mind games. They are trying to tell us they did the opposite of what they actually have done. They insist that we all have some kind of collective amnesia and we don’t recall how they voted or how they have treated many of their constituents. Trump insists that Democrats are responsible for things Republicans did or would like to do. We are the ones inciting violence, we are the ones paying immigrants to walk, 7,000 strong, to the border between Mexico and the US. Democrats are the ones who want to get rid of insurance that covers preexisting conditions and Medicare. Democrats are responsible for the deficit. Democrats are to blame for violent riots in California because of sanctuary cities. Wow, we are really terrible people. Except none of this is true. It is just people using Trumpian double speak to make us crazy.

Which anti-fact do we combat first? Which misdirection will hurt us the worst in the midterms? Will any of this psychobabble change any outcomes in the midterms? How many Americans believe this mumbo-jumbo? Why do I constantly feel like gnats are buzzing around my head? Isn’t it already too late to change anyone’s mind about their vote in the midterms, unless you have a bully pulpit as big as the one Trump has?

I know that there are records about this stuff, news stories, videos, interviews, panel discussions, but it has been made clear that records can be changed, edited, photoshopped, like those photos of Trump’s election crowds. This president uses mind games against his own citizens. Two more years of this sounds endless, six sounds impossible. When we look back on this 4 years or this 8 years, if we survive this Trump administration as the intact American Republic, I think that these years will seem like a big old black hole in space.

So I will reiterate one more time the reasons that we need to vote for Democrats besides the ones where we save our sanity and save Democracy at the same time. I found this meme on Facebook. It is not mine but it sums up policy differences between Democrats and Republicans in a very concise way. I tried to trace it back to where it originated because I suspect it was captured and pasted to Facebook, but I could not find the correct attribution.

Photo Credit: Odyssey from a Google Image Search