Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump

"The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" is not shocking, unless you've been living on a desert island with no Wi-Fi for the past year.

In this book, 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts, plus a bunch of other people, assess Donald Trump's mental health, and guess what: They find what we have all (all who have not been living on a desert island) known for the past year: the man is unfit for office.

I'm not even recommending that anyone buy this book. Check it out of your local library, like I did, and skim through it, like I did. A careful reading will not be any more informational than a quick look.

In fact, you could just look at the chapter titles to know what each contributor is going to write.

Here, let's do that now:

The introduction reminds us of why shrinks aren't supposed to "diagnose" someone without talking to that person for some time; you can't really judge a person's character from someone else's description. Right? Usually, yes. But the introduction also reminds us that this is a unique case, and there is enough known about Donald Trump from all his interviews, tweets, and, of course, the Access Hollywood recording, where he was caught bragging about how he assaults women.

In Part 1, the first chapter is titled "Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism: How the Leader of the Free World Has Proven Time and Again He Is Unfit for Duty." The next chapter, "Pathological Narcissism and Politics: A Lethal Mix" gives us more of the same.

The third chapter isn't written by a mental health professional but by someone who did spend a lot of time with Trump, a year, in fact, writing his so-called autobiography for him: This is Tony Schwartz, whose chapter is titled "I Wrote The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump: His Self-Sabotage Is Rooted in His Past."

And so on.; There are six more chapters detailing Trump's unfitness for the job that less than half of the people of the U.S. thought he could do well.

Part 2, "The Trump Dilemma," gives more of the same: six chapters on what anyone can possibly do to protect our country from this unhinged and dangerous personality.

And Part 3, "The Trump Effect," consists of nine chapters with the same depressing diagnosis, summed up nicely in the last chapter, titled "He's Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger: The Twenty-Fifth Amendment Solution."

You'd have to be much more of an optimist than I am to believe that the swamp-creatures of Trump's cabinet would ever make use of the 25th amendment, so I don't understand why anyone is still invoking it.

Anyway....Don't read this book. But get involved in local and state politics so you can help our country start in a new direction as soon as possible.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Monday Book Review: Fantasyland

"New York Times Bestselling Author" Kurt Andersen has put together a 462-page (counting the index) screed against religion in America.

"Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History" is mostly about this author's hatred of all religions.

I should have realized, before even opening it, that the very idea of a 500-year history of America in less than 500 pages was some kind of fantasy in itself. And it is.

Andersen's fantasy is that he can trace everything he hates about America to various religious movements, beginning with the Puritans and continuing with Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and then all the way through contemporary "born-again" believers and Scientologists.

As he really gets into the subject, at the end of the fifth chapter, he writes, "America was a primitive outlier. Individual freedom of thought in early America was specifically about the freedom to believe whatever supernaturalism you wished. Four centuries later that has been a freedom, revised and unfettered and run amok, driving America's transformation" (p. 36).

I have NOT read the entire book, and I can't imagine wasting any more time than I've already wasted on it.

Don't buy this book. Don't even check it out of your local library (which is what I did). It's a waste of time and money. It isn't history; it's a bloated diatribe against everything this author dislikes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Banned Books

It's Banned Books Week, and my friend Jodi at the super Book Warehouse in the Columbia Gorge Outlets mall along I-84 in Troutdale, Oregon, told me this:

"It's weird, the books that people have banned. Charlotte's Web, can you believe it? That's where I learned big words, like FABULOUS, SPINNERETS, SALUTATIONS, FURTHERMORE, and PHENOMENON. All those multi-syllabic words!"

And Jodi gave me as many "Read a Banned Book" pins as I wanted, so I can give them to my friends.

Is it true that banning books marginalizes children? I think so. Read this article and see if you agree.

Here's a list of frequently banned and challenged books. Amazingly, books on this list include:

Animal Farm
The Sun Also Rises
The Awakening
Their Eyes Were Watching God
A Farewell to Arms
To Kill a Mockingbird

What's your favorite banned book?

And what banned book will you be reading this week, in honor of our American values, and our Constitution's expression of these values, of freedom of expression?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: Bugged

The subtitle of this amusing book is "The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them." And that's what it's about, disappointingly: the clever and nerdy entomologists that people like to make fun of because they're "different" from the rest of us.

There are a few facts about how bugs live and work, their contributions to the ecosystem, and so on, but I finally put the book in my "Return to Library" bag because I was sick of the cute little stories about the bugologists in their labs, the autopsy people in their mortuaries, the silk-worm people in their silk-worm places, and so on.

But if you have a lot of time on your hands, and you enjoy reading about interesting and unusual people, and you're not squeamish, you'll enjoy the book.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: Red Notice

Bill Browder has made it his mission to draw the world's attention to the abuses of power the Russian people suffer every day.

With his book, "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice," he puts the world on notice: The Putin regime will ruthlessly go after anyone and everyone who dares to take issue with their policies or with their murderous defiance of all ethical and moral behavior.

I became interested in this story when I heard an interview with Bill Browder about the Magnitsky Act, which Browder had worked tirelessly to bring to Congress and get passed by Congress and finally signed by Pres. Obama in 2012.

This Act, named for Russian citizen Sergei Magnitsky, was written "to punish Russian officials who were thought to be responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky by prohibiting their entrance to the United States and their use of its banking system," as Wikipedia puts it.

Wikipedia has to be careful with its wording, thus "Russian officials who were THOUGHT to be responsible for..."

We do not have to be this careful, as we can see, by reading the book: These officials were indeed, as shown in "Red Notice," responsible for Magnitsky's death, as they sentenced him wrongly to be imprisoned and made sure that he was transferred from one hell-hole to another, starved, tortured, and denied medical treatment.

The response of the Putin regime and the 22 oligarchs who have made millions and billions of dollars off of the misery of the Russian people over the past few years has been a massive, collective shrug of the shoulders. Ah, so what?

Except that they're mad, really mad, so mad that Putin made it impossible for American citizens to continue to go to Russia to adopt orphans, which they had been doing for years. Oh, and, then to blame the American government for the fact that Russian orphans are languishing in hellish conditions throughout their country. (Unfortunately for Putin et al., the Russian people are well aware of the plight of these children and the reasons for their plight, and have dared even to demonstrate in the streets, finally forcing the Russian government to build some more orphanages. Not enough, though.)

Dear Readers, I hope you will read this book. It's even better than the one I reviewed last Sunday. In fact, it's much, much better, because even though it deals with a sad and painful and tragic experience, it's about people, like Sergei Magnitsky and the author himself, and many others, who have bravely fought evil. (In contrast, "Devil's Bargain" is about two people, and many others, who come close to embodying evil.)

I want you to read this book because I don't have time to summarize its contents. If I did, I would, because Sergei Magnitsky and the other martyrs (yes, martyrs) who have been killed by Putin and his henchmen are so brave it makes your heart ache.

On the other hand, I can't summarize the writing style of Bill Browder, who makes every detail count, starting with his own life and the lives of his parents and grandparents. (His grandfather, Earl Browder, was head of the American Communist Party and ran for president representing that party in 1936 and again in 1940.) They were all remarkable people: intellectuals with courage and grit, hard working and determined to do what they believed to be right.

So there are two reasons to read the book: It's so full of the honest but painful truth about life in today's Russia, and it's so well written.

So, you don't care about life in today's Russia? But you should. Because this is impacting our life here in America right now. The Russian government is using the Magnitsky Act and its own response to that Act in order to persuade ignorant Americans (like Donald J. Trump and his entire family and retinue, apparently), AKA "useful idiots," to try to influence our past and future elections.

I checked the book out of my wonderful local library, The Camas Public Library, after putting a hold on it weeks ago,  but I'm going to buy it from Amazon as soon as I can, and will thereafter press it on my unwitting but willing friends to read.

(I see it's available on Amazon for just under $13.00.  Also at Walmart for $3.99---really? I'm going to check that out!)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fiction Friday: The Rosie Effect

Product DetailsFirst, there was The Rosie Project.

Now, there's The Rosie Effect. It's almost funnier than the original project. Funny, with a tinge of sad and edge of hysteria.

Don Tillman, having won the affection of Rosie, now has to figure out how to stay married and to deal with the birth of a child.

Mr. Tillman is not at all average, and he himself doubts that he will make it as a father. Poor Rosie does, too, as do all the people who know him. But (spoiler alert) he eventually proves that he's fit for the job.

Product Details

First, though, he has to figure out just what Rosie needs of him as the father of their child. It's not to take over her dietary needs and exercise schedule. It's not to design a sound-proof crib and accident-proof baby stroller. It's not to learn how to deliver a baby.

No spoiler alert here. You, Dear Reader, will have to figure out for yourself what Don Tillman figures out about being a father.

And you really, really, REALLY should read both of these books. First, The Rosie Project, and then The Rosie Effect. No kidding. You'll love them both. I promise.  Both are available from Amazon and every other bookseller on the planet. If you can't find them, let me know, and I'll loan you my copy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Sunday Book Review: Devil's Bargain

Joshua Green has put together the complete, and completely unnerving, story of Donald J. Trump's association with Steve Bannon and how Bannon and his minions got Trump elected.

The subtitle of "Devil's Bargain" is "Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency." One of the first and last and most important and repeated elements of this "storming" of the presidency is Bannon's hatred of Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, by the way, was right about the "vast right-wing conspiracy," which Bannon had a huge hand in starting and continuing. The rest of the book is about Bannon's life and political and social views, which are abhorrent; and how Trump connected with him.

This is another book I'm glad I didn't pay money for. It's a good book, but it's about a painful subject and its two main characters are deplorables.

I placed a hold on it at my local library as soon as I heard about it, so it took me about four weeks to get it, because so many other people had placed holds on it. Obviously I'm not the only person in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library's area who is fascinated by the dirty laundry of the Trump campaign and the unscrupulous, lying, foul-mouthed trolls who struck more than one bargain with the devil to get Trump elected.

There, I've summed up the book for you so you won't have to even go to the library to read it. It's not worth your time and gas money to drive there, and certainly not worth your time to do more than skim through it, now that you know the gist of it.

But if you're fascinated by the history of this disastrous election, go ahead and read through it as carefully as I did. It's really well written, factually correct, and journalistically sound, i.e., unbiased.

It even has chapter notes and an index so if, for instance, you've forgotten by the end what's so significant about Benedictine College Prep, you can look it up and find the reference at the beginning.

But, really, don't bother.