Monthly Archives: February 2013

Trayvon Martin, One Year Later

 
It has been a year since Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida. I have my suspicions about why it is taking so long to bring George Zimmerman to trial. Perhaps the delay has to do with waiting for the “stand your ground” decision. Perhaps the delay is about letting emotions die down. However, given the strong support for gun owners right now, this may not even be the best time for this case to be tried. Can we expect to see the kind of objectivity that is needed to sort out this emotionally-charged scenario?

 There are three points I would like to make about this case in which we are trying to attribute guilt to a teenager walking to a convenience store to get a package of Skittles, apparently just because he did the unthinkable thing; he defended himself.

1.       Why doesn’t “stand your ground” apply to Trayvon Martin as well as George Zimmerman? He was in his own neighborhood or at least a neighborhood where he spent part of his time with his father and his father’s girlfriend. And if “stand your ground” applies to both of these young men then it should be eliminated as a consideration because it won’t help either the living George Zimmerman or the deceased Trayvon Martin. Set “stand your ground” aside in this case.

2.       Everyone seems to accept the reasoning that because George Zimmerman is a member of a minority group there couldn’t possibly be any racism involved. But George Zimmerman is a very light-skinned Hispanic man and he was looking for the thieves who had been around the development who obviously had darker skin than he did. He did assume that since Trayvon Martin had darker skin than he did and was traversing the neighborhood that he was probably one of the thieves or that he was guilty of something. He was so upset when police did not respond immediately to his call that he took the law into his own hands. If it looks like racism and smells like racism, it probably is racism.

3.       Did Trayvon Martin defend himself too well? We will never know what was going through Trayvon’s head when he caught George Zimmerman following him and then realized that Zimmerman had a gun, but in the culture we live in, Trayvon’s response to this stalking might be considered a normal reaction.

George Zimmerman killed an innocent man because he jumped to some incorrect conclusions and acted on them – a set of circumstances which, historically, has led to much injustice. He is guilty not of standing his ground, but of vigilante justice. Sometimes good people do bad things.

As for the Martins – America still feels your loss and we are sorry for it.
 
 

Behind the Scenes- Changing America

 
 
If you don’t think that the Republicans, in their current incarnation, are extreme then you need to concentrate not just on what they are saying, but on what they are doing. They are using stealth tactics that they hope will fly under our radar to achieve their agenda through “creative” and small, but still legal strategies that are wiping out years and years of gains in the civil rights of Americans. They are tweaking local and state laws to achieve ends they have not yet been able to achieve on a national level. Consider the following:

  1. They are undoing decades of hard-won freedom for women that has allowed women to make decisions about their own health. Mississippi, Alabama and North Dakota are all passing or trying to pass laws that require Ob/Gyn’s who do abortions to have hospital privileges near their clinic and then the states set it up so that these physicians will never have hospital privileges. End effect – they get rid of abortions without technically breaking federal law. Nullifying federal laws by using tricks doesn’t sound exactly kosher. If the courts won’t shut these tactics down then I hope we keep really good statistics about the effects of blocking accessibility to abortion, wherever it occurs.
  2. Union busting is already gaining popularity. However, we remember the sacrifices our ancestors made to make unions possible and the important role they have played in ending bad practices in the work place. Again, if these actions against labor unions are not overturned, let’s collect data to see how this loss of power for unions will affect the pay and benefits of workers and the workplace treatment of workers. Let’s also determine how long it takes for significant changes to occur.
  3. Some states are voting to allow a broader interpretation of topics taught in schools. Ostensibly, this is meant to give student ideas more leeway in terms of creativity, but many fear that this is another of those tricky Republican strategies to wedge “Creationism” into school curricula.
  4. Voting rights are also under attack. We know Republicans have advocated passing voter ID laws in a number of states and have made voting more complex in other ways. The Voting Rights Act is being challenged in the Supreme Court right now because it is being argued that the protections offered by this law are no longer needed. If such protections are no longer needed I see no reason to challenge the law.
  5. Watch for a Republican push to change the way electoral votes are counted. Although this tricky strategy has already been exposed on TV and in the news, Republicans seem to be continuing to work quietly behind the scenes through their political support groups and PACs to accomplish their voting goals.
  6. Republicans continue to defy the tradition of separation of church and state. They argue that America is in a moral decline and that only Christian values will turn things around. It looks like the GOP would like the American government to become an evangelical Christian theocracy.

And then there is this really fringe nonsense. Get a load of this video.
 

 I do not want to become paranoid. If you watched the video you saw where that can lead. But I do want to be prepared and to keep a tennis racket handy to divert the bats. (It’s a metaphor.)

Thanks for the image, Google.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

Silly Advertising Nonsense or Semiotics?

 
 
Now that M&M’s have faces and attitude, are we cannibals if we eat them? Recently M&M’s found out that we intend to eat them. Was it easier to eat them when they were unaware of our intentions?

Now that geckoes and pigs are spokes-animals for an insurance company is it illegal to run over the former and eat the latter? Will it be illegal to eat bacon? I only ask because what is life without the hope of an occasional slice of crispy bacon.

Now that toe fungus is a tribe of tiny people are we murderers if we medicate?

Why is a woman “coming on” to a pig in the Geico commercial?

Why is a woman “coming on” to a gecko in a Geico commercial?

Is cross-species flirting the newest advertising gimmick and will it sell products or start a trend towards bestiality?

How can we treat a cold when we know we will be evicting a whole family of mucus, even if they are squatters and lovable low lifes?

Should we feel as happy as we do when the horrible snotty “cold” monster gets hit by that truck?

Why must everything have a face? Instead of having humans sell products are advertisers trying to get products to sell themselves?

Does our insensitivity to the plight of the M&M and other advertising “characters” spill over into insentivity to each other in our daily lives?

Can we blame some of the violence in the world on rampant and doomed anthropomorphism in advertising?

I am now watching a talking cow talking “street” to a family of middle class Americans on an ad for California milk. Apparently California cows are hipper than New York cows even though in order to get milk from California it must travel thousands of miles and New York’s dairy country can be reached in an hour. If we drink the milk from these California cows will it turn us into cultural icons? At least if we drink the milk from either the California cow or the New York cow, the cow, I assume, will not suffer.

If an electrical outlet is really a little face are we shocking it every time we plug in?
 
(I just learned the word semiotics. I hope I am using it correctly)

 

It’s the Middle Class v. the Wealthy, Still

 
Do not covet. Isn’t that one of the Ten Commandments? After watching Ali Velshi on CNN this morning and all day Saturday, it became clear that everyone has their eyes on safety net money and they covet it. They have $ signs in their eyes and have had for some time.

Well my response is, “You cannot have that money, it is already promised! Find another way to finance your budget cuts.”

Mr. Velshi is an economist, I guess, or he specializes in economic commentary, but his solutions will only work if you take humanity out of the equation. He is a numbers man. He says that rich people are paying more and more. Not true. What is true is that a greater percent of what they pay is going to pay for safety net programs which to them means they are supporting us, we are taking a free ride on their coattails, but which to me only says that most Americans are poorer than they were. To the wealthy this means that we, the people, are getting lazy and shiftless, but to me this means that all the money is rising to the top.

Rich folks – stop whining, start hiring and the % of safety net costs paid with your taxes will decrease and shift back in the other direction.

Just because some expert says something on CNN with charts and graphs does not mean it is true or that the data cannot be interpreted in another way. The wealthy need a new perspective. They are not paying for us; they are paying for a civilized, peaceful, orderly society (which is already showing cracks and will totally disintegrate unless we maintain our safety net programs throughout our troubles). You who were the business leaders may not need us anymore because you have taken your business elsewhere, but you need order and you need a healthy and free society and you need it in America because you are America through and through. You could follow Gerard Depardieu’s lead and ask for Russian citizenship, or you could become a Brit, or Canadian, or live in one of the Virgin Islands with the hurricanes, but you will always feel like an exile, even though no one asked you to leave. Stop moaning, stop trying to undo the social safety net, and invest in the things America needs to prosper once again. Our wealthiest Americans are apparently very wealthy and can afford to contribute most to America’s future.

Obama is trying to save the American middle class from those who want to balance the budget by cutting middle class programs. They say that they do this in the name of smaller government, but if we were still needed in their factories I doubt that those who favor small government (the GOP) would be making it such a key issue as they have in recent years. Obama has recommended a program called American Family Economic Protection according to John Avlon writing in The Daily Beast this morning, February 25, 2013. His plan recommends cuts of $110 billion, split between actual spending cuts and new tax revenues. $55 billion in cuts would be split between defense and agriculture and $55 billion would come from revenues gained by implementing the “so-called Buffet rule” which would raise the tax rate to 30% for those with incomes over $1m. Notice Obama’s recommendations do not require any contributions from middle class families by messing with safety net programs. Obama’s plan attempts to avoid “kicking us while we’re down” which the Republicans gleefully recommend.

Perhaps this is now or never time. Obama feels that he must stand firm for tax revenues from tax reforms, which, by the way, Republicans offered up over and over again before the election. Republicans have crossed their loser arms and pursed their loser lips and have said that the door to any new tax revenues is closed, and apparently locked. They are apparently America’s self-appointed doormen, acting like they are protecting us from ourselves, but really acting on behalf of powerful lobby groups and wealthy businessmen.

What the sequester battle comes down to is whether we support Obama to stand firm in his quest for more tax revenues through tax reforms and his unwillingness to raid the social networks in these difficult days; or whether we support those who say that we must make sacrifices and we must back those who have the bucks so that they will generate jobs for us (jobs that pay a living wage we assume)(the GOP in case you didn’t know who I was referring to).  I thought we already decided this one. I thought we decided that trickle down sucks; it never trickles all the way down to us and I thought we decided that we would go with the guy who wants to try to grow the economy from the middle out. The Republicans are making us decide issues already decided in 2012 over and over again because they still intend to call the shots and continue their bloodless coup.

Stand firm Obama! Fight, fight fight! Win, win, win.!

 

Silver Linings Playbook – Movie

My friend Marie says that we are all weirdoes. I have come to believe that her simple observation has a lot of merit. What made me think of it at this moment was watching the movie Silver Linings Playbook. Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for several Academy Awards and I love to see as many nominated movies as I can before the ceremony which will take place this Sunday, February 24, 2013. In fact there are millions of us madly viewing nominated films in the weeks leading up to the awards. Three of the nominated movies this year are historical films: Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lincoln. I would call Silver Linings Playbook a literary film as I would Beasts of the Southern Wildand Life of Pi. Les Mis is a musical and Django Unchained sounds like a comedy with content.  Amourcomes from the category of art films. Every one of the films I have viewed so far has been excellent. There have been a lot of good movies this year. I honestly don’t know who to root for and am just interested to see who will get awards this year. The movie audiences were the real winners with this group of excellent films and others that were not nominated.

The issue of mental illness is at the core of Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper, our hero, has been pushed over the edge by a cheating wife who he believed was faithful and loved him. Situational madness is familiar to many of us, getting temporarily (or not so temporarily derailed) by the traumas that afflict our lives. The dissolution of a marriage is often traumatic, especially if one party is taken by surprise and people often lose jobs, alienate friends, and exhaust their families by the time they get a grip on their sorrow and anger and hurt. Bradley’s reaction is further complicated by undiscovered bipolar disorder. Apparently his anger at Nikki’s betrayal is so extreme that it requires her to get an Order of Protection and Pat (Bradley) ends up in an institution.

We meet Pat when he is released into his mother and father’s custody at the end of the treatment period and we get the rest as back story. We see that Pat is only pretending to take his medication and that he is still very angry, and still determined to win Nikki back, in spite of the fact that he will end up back in treatment if he calls her or tries to see her. Pat has a support system. His caring parents, who have their own issues, but also a happy marriage, are so great and so concerned that it will be difficult for Pat to disappoint them. His therapist had talked about getting a “silver linings playbook”. Pat is trying, but his idea of what that playbook would involve, since his strategy is limited to getting Nikki back, is too dysfunctional. One of his friends who knows him from when they taught at the same school, has him over to dinner to meet his wife’s sister, to start him on a path that will give him some distance from Nikki. Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence has recently lost her husband and is grieving, angry, and acting out. She appears to be exactly what Pat doesn’t need. But she, at least, has a plan. She wants to dance in a dance competition. As Pat’s therapist is telling him to get a plan, a strategy, he eventually signs on with Tiffany to dance in the competition although he cares nothing about dance (she blackmails him). Will mental health ensue? Will love develop? That I cannot say, but these two are more antagonists than lovers as they work through their separate issues. However, they are both also very appealing people.

Pat’s parents played by Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver are part of what makes this movie so real and so enjoyable. There are always issues between parents and children, even mentally healthy children. We see that Pat’s dad has an addiction to gambling which has sometimes jeopardized the family finances and we also see that Pat’s father is also pathologically superstitious and that he tries to rope his son and his wife into being part of the involved ritual of repetition that he feels leads to a successful bet. If he wins then the elements that were present at the win must be present at subsequent sports contests until he loses, at which point he will revise his set of necessary good luck elements (much like an athlete who will insist on wearing the same unwashed underwear during a winning streak). Pat’s dad has never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, never been institutionalized, but we see that he is suffering from a mental illness of his own. The mom who enables her husband’s gambling addiction also qualifies by current standards as having a mental disorder. The friend who taught with Pat and introduces him to Tiffany is being driven to the edge by his demanding wife, but we watch him deny his true feelings and shove them deeper and we know they will someday explode or they will be relieved every day in little passive aggressive ways. So who is the mental patient here? Pat doesn’t seem nearly so nutty after we meet everyone else in his world. And these people are no different from us. What made Pat different is only the degree to which he expressed his emotions and that these actions seemed capable of harming others; and also the fact that they had already led to personal harm. We are all eccentrics. We are, in the words of my friend Marie, weirdoes. Our own issues, which we are very aware of, made the movie very real, but I cannot tell you the feelings I had at the end of the movie, because that would be a spoiler. A worthy winner here, but so is every nominee I have viewed so far. Winner or not this movie will probably be a classic.

Count Down – Eight Days to Sequester

 

Sequestration will begin in March 1st unless Congress and the President call it off or make a more considered agreement about cuts and revenues. That puts us in countdown mode. Counting today, sequestration will happen in 8 days. Everyone seems most upset about cuts to the military and to national security, but the real killer here to me is more cuts to schools.

Our schools have borne the brunt of budget cuts every year for far too long. Teachers and staff have been cut so drastically that some schools are becoming dangerous places. Teaching children with special needs often depends on a complicated team of teaching staff, aides and even, sometimes, requires one-on-one supervision. Schools are cutting back on the numbers of staff on the team because of budget cuts. Teachers have no back up. When stressed teachers get sick or take “mental health” breaks schools have to scramble to find good subs to take their places. Sometimes, in situations where the staff members who are present every day have a tenuous hold on control, placing a substitute teacher, who has no history with the situation, can put the student, the sub, and even others in the school in actual danger. Teachers in our schools are injured by students “acting out” more often than you would think. If we cut our schools anymore than we have already we might as well send our students home, hold a giant conference and come up with a new way to teach our children because we will not be able to sustain current schooling patterns.

In today’s Daily BeastI read an article called 8 Ways the Sequester Could Ruin Your Life by Caitlin Dickson which describes some other areas of our lives which could become problematic under the sequester. However, news commentators have been accused of choosing “worst case scenarios” and others say that these agencies will not necessarily have to cut the services that are mentioned, that they are using fear tactics to try to rile up Americans so that they will fight the sequester. We, the American citizens, appear uninterested. Or perhaps we welcome the sequester. Or it could just be that we have reached a point where the activities of the clowns in Washington have little or nothing to do with our everyday lives.

Anyway, here is the list of 8:

·         Cuts in the Food Safety and Inspection Service will put the safety of our food supply in greater jeopardy.  We are talking here about “the people paid to make sure your burger is made of beef and not horse”.

·         Small business loan guarantees will be cut by up to $902 million, causing greater stress for small businesses.

·         Cuts would impact national parks.

·         Cuts of 10% of the FAA’s workforce such as air traffic controllers will make travel a nightmare

·         “If you’re a parent, a student, or a teacher, there’s a good chance you’re going to get screwed.”

·         Cuts to FEMA will make it dangerous or at least expensive to live in disaster-prone areas.

·         The AIDS Drug Assistance Program will be cut – fewer tests, fewer drugs, more HIV – Yikes!

·         Cuts to OSHA will jeopardize workplace safety.

Republicans will not do anything to avoid the sequester because they are adamant that America cannot have any more increases in revenue, especially increases that target the wealthy. Although they loudly called for tax reform throughout the election they now inform us that they are so disgusted with the tax rate increase on those who make more than $400,000 a year that they are done with revenues and will not even discuss tax reform. In other words, although they did not win the election, they want their way and they want it now and they are willing to let the rest of us “dangle over the pits of hell” in order to get their way (OK, perhaps a bit dramatic, but basically true). I am willing to go with the sequester because it leaves our safety net completely alone, but I do see that this is quite selfish, especially when I think about the effects on our schools. While it makes me very angry that Republicans are once again using the numbers they have in the House to bully everyone, what makes me angrier is their refusal to entertain some tax reforms, which they favored, just from spite. If we stop paying them will they go home and take their tedious stonewalling with them. It is clear that our economy need stimulus as well as cuts, but we cannot make that happen because the party that lost is controlling policy.

David Brooks, who skews Republican, wrote an article this morning Feb. 21, 2013) in the New York Times about the sequester. He obviously feels the sequester is a bad idea. Here is some of what he had to say in his article called The D. C. Dub Step:

On July 26, 2011, Jack Lew, then the White House budget director, went to Harry Reid’s office for a budget strategy session. According to Bob Woodward’s book, “The Price of Politics,” Lew told the Senate majority leader that they had come up with a trigger idea to force a budget deal.

 “What’s the idea?” Reid asked.

“Sequestration,” Lew responded.

Reid folded himself over with his head between his knees, as if he were going to throw up. Then he came upright and gaped at the ceiling. “A couple of weeks ago,” he exclaimed, “my staff said to me there is one more possible” enforcement method: sequestration. Reid said he had told his staff at the time, “Get the hell out of here. That’s insane. The White House surely will come up with a plan that will save the day. And you come to me with sequestration?”

Sequestration may have seemed insane back then. But politicians in both parties are secretly discovering that they love sequestration now. It allows them to do the dance moves they enjoy the most.

These two dance moves, the P.C. Shimmy and the Suicide Stage Dive, when combined, are beautifully guaranteed to cause maximum damage to the country. What’s America’s biggest problem right now? It is that business people think that government is so dysfunctional that they are afraid to invest and spur growth. So what are the parties going to do? They are going to prove that government is so dysfunctional that you’d be crazy to invest and spur growth.

In a normal country, the politicians would try some new moves. For example, if they agreed to further means test Medicare they could save a lot of money. Democrats would be hitting the rich. Republicans would be reforming entitlements.

But no. Both parties love their current moves. It’s enough to make Harry Reid put his head between his legs and throw up.

 

Paul Krugman, who skews left, also wrote an article about sequestration in today’s NYTs called Sequester of Fools:

They’re baaack! Just about two years ago, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of the late unlamented debt commission, warned us to expect a terrible fiscal crisis within, um, two years unless we adopted their plan. The crisis hasn’t materialized, but they’re nonetheless back with a new version. And, in case you’re interested, after last year’s election — in which American voters made it clear that they want to preserve the social safety net while raising taxes on the rich — the famous fomenters of fiscal fear have moved to the right, calling for even less revenue and even more spending cuts…

The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing. America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order.

Unfortunately, neither party is proposing that we just call the whole thing off. But the proposal from Senate Democrats at least moves in the right direction, replacing the most destructive spending cuts — those that fall on the most vulnerable members of our society — with tax increases on the wealthy, and delaying austerity in a way that would protect the economy…

House Republicans, on the other hand, want to take everything that’s bad about the sequester and make it worse: canceling cuts in the defense budget, which actually does contain a lot of waste and fraud, and replacing them with severe cuts in aid to America’s neediest. This would hit the nation with a double whammy, reducing growth while increasing injustice.

I say it sure would be nice to see our Congress compromise and make the sequester go away or I could also go along with “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.

Eight days – we’re going there, the place we did not think we would ever go and our only comfort is that everyone says it will not be all that bad and we will not have to live with it all that long. We shall see, won’t we?

 

 

 

Worse and Worse in Washington

 
OMGosh! As if Washington were not dysfunctional enough and already loaded with plenty of haters, now we have this unpleasant and self-righteous new Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Let’s allow Texas to secede from the union. Maybe we do need to split into two nations since we already are two different nations. I thought I could not get any more depressed about the directions some people insist on for America’s future, but after watching Mr. Ted Cruz I am more depressed. I don’t have a clue about what to do to get this Congress to move and stop obstructing everything. I thought an election that resulted in a win would stop the madness, but I was wrong. How many years will this impasse last? The GOP plans to keep change at bay until they get re-elected and can put their plans into effect whether they have to manipulate the next election or not. They do not seem to mind the idea of winning by trickery or by bending the rules. Perhaps Democrats should do the same in 2014, but I hope they don’t because these kinds of moves will dismantle America as we know it.

Should we march on Washington and insist that Congress either work across parties or disband? I am so disgusted with our Representatives and Senators. I would never have foreseen that the Democracy I have always been so proud of could be subverted and co-opted or that any group of Americans would actually want to do this. It is frightening to watch people who want what they want so badly that they will betray the rules by which their government is supposed to operate. I am so tired of the nasty rhetoric. Our children are not only tuning into antagonism that is programmed into gaming media and television shows; they are seeing it every day on the news.

The only comfort I see is that Senator Cruz seems to be antagonizing both Republicans and Democrats which behavior will hopefully defuse any power he might think he has. I hope his rudeness will lead to his ostracism and that he will languish in a back water of the Senate. Perhaps the other Senators will find Mr. Cruz “arriviste” and overbearing and negative responses to his behavior will help to reconcile the two parties and we will see some bipartisan progress. I don’t think the objections we will have to Ted Cruz will have much to do with the fact that he was elected as a Tea Party rep. Our hostility may be because he seems to be “a giant knob”. How could the same Harvard that produced Obama, turn out this guy? I wish the entire GOP would “mellow out” because with recent weather events, the proximity of space rocks, mass shootings and Washington dysfunction it is starting to feel like we are at the nexus of a “perfect storm”, a present that is the exact opposite of where we would like to be.
This is the view from the cheap seats.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book

I put off reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because sometimes circuses creep me out, but I should not have delayed. Once I got my hands on this book and read the first page I could hardly bear to put it down. The Night Circus is a book full of magic and it isn’t all due to the dueling magicians who have lived so long that they treat other people like playthings put in the world for their entertainment. Even these ancient magicians are not sure why they stage the “contests” they wage or what rewards come from winning.

So Ms. Morgenstern pits “old” magic against “new” and young, fresh talent against aged ego and she creates a “ring” in which the contest is supposed to take place. That “ring”, or place, is The Night Circus. And what a circus it is, all in black and white and grey, with stripes and checks and swirls the Night Circus consists of the most creative venues that you will ever find at a circus. Celia is the apprentice and natural daughter of one of the clueless old magicians and Marco is the other apprentice and adopted child of the other “gamer”. These old men play out their game at the circus designed by those who have been attending Midnight dinners together for decades. Celia adds a tent that houses some kind of lovely magic and Marco counters with a tent that he hopes will appeal to Celia and somehow win the game. The tents keep spinning out of their talents and their imaginations and we, the readers, travel through these exotic tents appreciating all the creativity involved.

But Marco and Celia are becoming entwined in ways that those old, magicians with their insane “Voldemort” complexes do not approve of. Celia and Marco are in love with each other and so the Night Circus becomes a love story, and those magical tents become love offerings that they use to woo each other. They are not really trying to win the game; they are trying to win each other’s hearts.

Wherever there is love there is jealousy. Wherever there are old men playing a game there are dark forces at work. Do Marco and Celia understand the game? Can they figure out how to change the game so that they will be able to pursue their love? This book houses an atmospheric story that transports us to the Night Circus and puts us inside of the experience so that the Night Circus clings to us even after we finish reading the book. It reminds me a little bit of the magic contained in the story Chocolat. There are other characters, besides these four, whose fates we care about and who impact the events that unfold. Erin Morgenstern, you did a good job; you told a great story and it does have magical properties. It’s not a “heavy” book and it reads just like a dream.

Legacy

 
 
Legacy – “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” (Merriam-webster.com)

 

We spend a lot of time talking about a President’s legacy because we hope it will remind whoever is the current President to accomplish great things, to avoid being corrupted by power, and to keep our democracy alive and healthy and as true to its Constitutional roots as possible.

But – the President is not the only one we will read about in history books and whose accomplishments will be researched on the web. Congress (the ones in 2008, 2010, and 2014) will also appear in our histories. These people, who we elected to represent us, will also have a legacy.

The Democrats have blown their legacy because they have concentrated more on worrying about re-election than productivity. The agenda we need to deal with is huge. Almost every aspect of our America could use some attention. We need jobs for everyone who is able to work. We need tax reform. We need to figure out ways to have a comprehensive social safety net without “breaking the bank”. We need to pay our debts and cut our deficits without scrapping all hope and progress. We need to figure out how to have our guns and be safe from those who use them for random violence and criminal activity. We must overhaul our educational practices, rebuild infrastructure and keep it up-to-date, and we must sort out what we want to do about illegal immigrants who are already here and about preventing illegal immigration in the future. We also need to be caretakers rather than plunderers of our planet. And we must keep an eye on other nations whose aggressive actions threaten world peace. This is an historic agenda, an agenda that only pops up in a pivotal age. And yet, Democrats spend too much of their time trying to decide whether they can afford to have Obama’s back or whether they need to keep their distance.
However, Republicans spend all their time in thin-skinned whining about their mistreatment at the hands of our President in order to distract us from the way they are mistreating the President. Our President, as far as I can tell, simply suggests agenda items and asks his Congress to write the laws that will help America progress. When they will not write the laws he tries to find ways to get something done without the Congress. The Republicans deliberately place obstacles in the path of this President (see the articles that follow) because I guess a) they don’t like him, b) they can’t agree with him c) they don’t trust him d) they don’t care that the American people approve of him e) they don’t trust the American people, and/or f) they refuse to do anything (except whine) unless the idea, bill, plan originates with Republicans. Because Obama is our first African-American President Congress will find even more attention than usual given to its legacy when future generations discuss Obama’s two terms in office.

We can already see what the legacy of Obama’s Congress will be in the history books and it won’t be pretty. The Democrats will come off as wimps, but the Republicans will come off as bigots and traitors. The policies Obama recommends are not all that outlandish. He outlines commonsense approaches and asks Congress to flesh them out. The Republicans stoke their anger, which is obvious to all of us, and keep it at white-hot strength. They have no mechanism for letting go of their anger and they find a billion little slights and details to feed it. It is poisoning America.

Today, February 18, 2013, someone leaked what is, supposedly, Obama’s plan for illegal immigrants. There is nothing extreme about this plan yet the buzz in Washington is that Republicans are irate. Obama has betrayed them again. They insist that Obama offer a plan and then they are insulted when he offers a plan. There is no way Obama can please these people. Just because Obama has set down an immigration plan does not mean that he is trumping the plan being designed by Congress in what is a rare bipartisan endeavor.

Too bad we can’t time travel so we could read about your legacy now, Congressmen and women. It might change your behavior since no one seems able to hear what the American people are telling you here in the present.

 

Here’s some backup for the points I have been making, and there are many more examples on the web:

Article 1:

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I downloaded Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal earlier this week, but I haven’t yet fired up the Kindle to start reading it. Greg Sargent, on the other hand, has found some tidbits already. One of which is confirmation of the Republican move to ensure exactly what the party’s shadow leader, Rush Limbaugh, started saying he wanted back in January 2009—Obama’s failure. Rush’s foot-soldiers enlisted in the cause.

Sargent points us to the relevant passage, page 207:

Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.

The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.

Grunwald goes on to cite former Sen. George Voinovich:

“He wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”

And there was the insider:

“People were pretty demoralized, and there were two totally opposite thoughts on how to approach the situation,” a McConnell aide recalls. “One was, `we don’t like the president, we ought to pop him early.’ The other was, `he’s really popular, we should work with him, because that’s what people want us to do.’ The boss’s take was: Neither.” McConnell realized that it would be much easier to fight Obama if Republicans first made a public show of wanting to work with him.

Sargent cautions that Biden has been known to exaggerate. But Grunwald has a lot of corroborative evidence here. And there’s plenty of other evidence that this is not just loose talk. Republicans have thrown up blockades every step along the way since Jan. 21, 2009. From repairing the economy to protecting consumers against predatory financial institutions, from bolstering the nation’s clean energy infrastructure to cooperating on the federal budget, Republicans have stood in the way.

What they haven’t been able to stop outright, they’ve diluted. All focused on making the president fail. Even past Republican ideas were shot down. It hasn’t mattered to them how much damage their strategy caused to the country, to the American people. Everything was focused on undermining Barack Obama. Patriotism, modern GOP style.

And the fruits of their efforts? Barack Obama on the verge of becoming a two-term president.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 10:47 AM PDT.

 

 

Article 2:

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

The conversation got only more specific from there, Draper reports. Kyl suggested going after incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while at the International Monetary Fund. Gingrich noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) had a similar tax problem. McCarthy chimed in to declare “there’s a web” before arguing that Republicans could put pressure on any Democrat who accepted campaign money from Rangel to give it back.

The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:

Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it—please?’)

Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)

Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)

Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.

“You will remember this day,” Draper reports Newt Gingrich as saying on the way out. “You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

Draper’s timeline is correct. On Jan. 21, 2009, Kyl aggressively questioned Geithner during his confirmation hearings. On Jan. 28, 2009, House GOP leadership held the line against the stimulus package (Senate GOP leadership would prove less successful in stopping defections).

The votes, of course, can be attributed to legitimate philosophical objection to the idea of stimulus spending as well as sincere concern that the secretary of the Treasury should personally have a clean tax-paying record. But what Draper’s book makes clear is that blunt electoral-minded ambitions were the animating force.

Whether or not that’s shocking depends on the degree to which one’s view of politics has been jaded. What’s certainly noteworthy is the timing. When Mitch McConnell said in October 2010 that his party’s primary goal in the next Congress was to make Obama a one-term president, it was treated as remarkably candid and deeply cynical. Had he said it publicly in January 2009, it would likely have caused an uproar.

By extension, however, the Draper anecdote also negatively reflects on the Obama administration for failing to appreciate how quickly congressional Republicans would oppose the president’s agenda.

Article 3:

Republicans had it in for Obama before Day 1

I have long told President Obama’s most ardent supporters to read Charles Krauthammer. He’s a guaranteed angry read. But if you set aside his rhetorical rage and focus on the substance, Krauthammer does a good job of making the right’s case against the president. Think of him as Chris Christie to George Will’s Tim Pawlenty.

Today’s Krauthammer column is a fine example of what I’m talking about. The headline says it all. “The case against reelection.” In it, he argues that Obama’s presidency has been a failure and that Mitt Romney should make the “ideological” case rather than the “stewardship” case against him. “Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.”

Thanks to a new book by Michael Grunwald, we know with certainty that what Krauthammer argues is a load of bunk. Republicans are complicit in the failures they rail against.

At first, we thought organized Republican recalcitrance against the president started in October 2010 after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) famously said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Then came Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” this spring. As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported in April, the book reports on a dinner of leading Republicans held the night of Obama’s inauguration.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy [R-Calif.] as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

And Stein highlights this useful passage from Draper’s book:

The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:

Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it — please?’)

Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)

Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)

Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.

Now Greg Sargent at The Plum Line is sounding the alarm over a revelation in “The New New Deal” by Grunwald. Vice President Joe Biden told the author that during the transition, “seven different Republican Senators” told him that “McConnell had demanded unified resistance.” This was after the 2008 election but before Obama and Biden took office.

“The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’ ” Biden says.

Nevermind the nation was falling off the fiscal cliff. Nevermind the global economic system was hanging in the balance. Nevermind we were on the verge of another Great Depression. When the nation needed single-minded focus, the Republican political establishment put power over the national interest.

So, the next time you hear Republicans and conservatives bloviating about the “failures” of the Obama presidency, remember the role they played in them. And remember how their resistance hurt the country they are elected to help govern.

By Jonathan Capehart | 04:07 PM ET, 08/10/2012

Article 4:

Republican Racism Will Make Party Obsolete

Posted: 10/29/2012 2:32 pm

Well I guess this puts all the talk about a “post-racial America” to rest.

The Associated Press released a report on Saturday that shows a majority of Americans, in fact an increasing number, still harbor prejudice against blacks and Hispanics. 51 percent of all Americans expressed anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in 2008 when the president first won election. Another AP survey showed 57 percent of Americans expressed anti-Hispanic feelings.

The results were not actually surprising. Once we got past the euphoria of Obama’s historic win, which was only possible with a multi-colored and multi-ethnic coalition, it became clear that the progress we gained was also going to result in a significant and predictably ugly backlash as well. Those who were not ready to see the long line of similarly pigmented men in the most powerful position on Earth were surely not going to sit back and not try to stir things up a bit.

It should be pointed out here that by no means do I believe all people who are against Obama are so inclined because he is part black (which to most means he is all black). Certainly the president has enough liberal and progressive ideas to make conservative folks cringe regardless of his skin color and ethnic background. I also don’t believe all Democrats, in every corner of the country, are cool with a black man running things. So this isn’t just about Republicans being racist.

But with that being said, there is no doubt that the Republican Party, and Mitt Romney, are aware that a great many people in their party, do harbor, let’s call it, discomfort, with the different-looking man who sits in the White House. Which is why there have been so many efforts from some on the right to question Obama’s “American-ness,” his religion, his belief in and loyalty to our country, and even his intelligence, which is what Trump is alluding to in his silly $5 million offer for the president to release his college transcripts and application.

The Republicans are not stupid in their appeals to the people that the AP survey indicated are out there who have negative feelings about brown skinned people. There is simply no way that the subtle racist codes being thrown out in the last week alone are not intended to get a rise out of those voters who harbor resentment or discomfort at that man in the White House who is one of those people.

John Sununu’s comment that Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama was due to them sharing skin color is one example. It meant that intelligence and reasoning couldn’t possibly be a factor. It also said that Powell wasn’t to be trusted because remember, he too is black. Sarah Palin’s “shuck and jive” comment was another thinly veiled harkening to the stereotype of the shiftless and lazy negro. And as I mentioned there was The Donald getting all kinds of attention by bringing up the none-too-subtle idea that President Obama would have never gotten into Harvard without affirmative action, which of course is another issue that brings up that anti-black and anti-Hispanic feeling in many on the Right.

How anyone can think all of these incidents are just pure coincidences is amazing to me. More telling is that in none of the cases did we hear Romney himself stand up and say such talk was not welcome on his behalf and in his name. Of course not. Romney will welcome any vote he can get, even if it means it comes as a result of appealing to the racists in his party. Which, according to one of its own members, includes a lot of people.

“My party is full of racists.”

That is what retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said on Friday, a Republican and former chief of staff to Colin Powell. He added, “My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.”

Well there you go.

What this mostly boils down to, why I think for those who are just plain going crazy seeing Obama in the White House, is that for the 51 percent types, that group that harbored negative feelings towards blacks, there is a strong sense that they are losing the America they fantasize about and expect it to be. They don’t like seeing so many people of color in places they didn’t expect, they don’t like seeing gays being so out in public and demanding equality, they didn’t expect to see women not asking for, but demanding equal pay, and still having the power of choice for themselves.There is just this overall sense that the America they envision in their heads is not the one we are and are becoming.

This to me explains all the posters and yard signs and phrases we hear along the lines of “We want our America back.” What they don’t get or don’t want to get, is that we are not ever going back to what we were. And that is a very good thing. Our country has come a long way to get to where we are as far as beginning to actually allow our multiculturalism to become more out there. We have come too far to go backwards on gender equality and women’s choices. Too far to ever want to be a nation that doesn’t give people a chance to love who they want and marry who they want. America is not going back. And even if Romney could win this election, it won’t change that. The genie is out of the bottle and won’t go back in.

The Republican Party has a lot of good people in it, people who are in it simply because they support the basic principles of small government, at least when it comes to government’s role in people’s lives. For those people, all the racist codes and attitudes that are coming from their party are not representative of them. But here is the thing. If you are a member of that party and you see this happening and do nothing or say nothing to call your own party out, then you are in essence standing with those idiots. I have always heard people on the Right try to call out all Muslims for not standing up to Islamic extremists, insinuating that they must agree or condone the actions of the extremists, proof being their silence. Well back at you. What does Romney’s silence mean? Or the silence of non-racist Republicans.

We may not be post-racial yet as a society, but what Barack Obama’s election four years ago symbolized can never be lost. No matter what those in the 51 percent who harbor negative views of blacks may think or feel, it was a message that America is moving forward. And the days of only seeing white men dominate our politics and discourse are not long. A lot of us, including many white Americans, who support this forward progress, know that we are far better off as a country because of who we all are. We all benefit from a much more diverse group of people running things and adding to the discussion. That is what the young lady at the University of Texas at Austin doesn’t get in her Supreme Court case where she is charging UT’s efforts to have a more diverse student body violates her rights as a white woman.

The world is diverse and we are only going to become more so. Those that don’t get that or accept that are going to become less and less relevant. And that is a very good thing.

 

 

 

 

February, 2013 Book LIst

February Book List, 2013

Some of these February titles do not seem quite as compelling to me as the titles released in previous months perhaps because I have so many books from older lists that are still priorities. If I ever catch up, which seems impossible, I may get to some of these. I do like mysteries and I do like thrillers but it is hard to add new authors because I find it difficult to keep up with the authors I already follow. I think the nonfiction titles on this list look more interesting than most of the fiction titles. A few of these books have had some buzz and that has piqued my interest so I will put an asterisk in front of those.
Summaries are from the library card catalog unless otherwise noted. Some of these book picks came from the independent booksellers, some from Amazon, and some from my niece through Goodreads.

 

*Wise Men by Stuart NadlerAlmost overnight, Arthur Wise has become one of the wealthiest and most powerful attorneys in America. His first big purchase is a simple beach house in a place called Bluepoint, a town on the far edge of the flexed arm of Cape Cod. It’s in Bluepoint, during the summer of 1952, that Arthur’s teenage son, Hilly, makes friends with Lem Dawson, a black man whose job it is to take care of the house but whose responsibilities quickly grow. When Hilly finds himself falling for Lem’s niece, Savannah, his affection for her collides with his father’s dark secrets. The results shatter his family, and hers. Years later, haunted by his memories of that summer, Hilly sets out to find Savannah, in an attempt to right the wrongs he helped set in motion. But can his guilt, and his good intentions, overcome the forces of history, family, and identity? A beautifully told multigenerational story about love and regret, Wise Men confirms that Stuart Nadler is one of the most exciting young writers at work today

Schroder: A Novelby Amity GaigeA lyrical and deeply affecting novel recounting the seven days a father spends on the road with his daughter after kidnapping her during a parental visit…From a correctional facility, Eric surveys the course of his life to understand-and maybe even explain-his behavior: the painful separation from his mother in childhood; a harrowing escape to America with his taciturn father; a romance that withered under a shadow of lies; and his proudest moments and greatest regrets as a flawed but loving father.

After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael HaineyA decade in the writing, the haunting story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death—a universal memoir about the secrets families keep and the role they play in making us who we are.

Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn. And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family—and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood. Finally, roughly his father’s age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? At the heart of his quest is Michael’s all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity—and a steely determination not to look back. Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father’s buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he’d imagined with the one he comes to know—and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.

A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, After Visiting Friends is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.

Thank you Amazon.

Autobiography of Us: A Novel by Aria Beth SlossA gripping debut novel about friendship, loss and love; a confession of what passed between two women who met as girls in 1960s Pasadena, California…Autobiography of Us is an achingly beautiful portrait of a decades-long bond. A rare and powerful glimpse into the lives of two women caught between repression and revolution, it casts new light on the sacrifices, struggles, victories and defeats of a generation.

*The Dinner by Herman Koch“The Dinner,” Herman Koch’s internationally popular novel, is an extended stunt. Mr. Koch confines his story to one fraught restaurant meal, where malice, cruelty, craziness and a deeply European malaise are very much on the menu. The four diners can leave the table occasionally, headed to the restrooms or the garden or the handy room of flashback memories. But mostly they sit and seethe at one another as a miserable night unfolds.

Thank you Janet Maslin in NYT’s Books section, February 6, 2013

A Week in Winterby Maeve BinchyStoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy…Sharing a week with this unlikely cast of characters is pure joy, full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin – a mystery involving cold cases and missing persons.

The Fifth Assassinby Brad MeltzerArchivist Beecher White discovers a connection that may link the individuals responsible for the only four successful assassinations of American Presidents after discovering a modern-day killer who is recreating the assassins’ crimes.

Me Before You by Jojo MoyesLouisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life–steady boyfriend, close family–who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for a former athlete and adventurer who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident. Soon his happiness means more to her than she expected.

The Painted Girlsby Cathy Marie BuchananIn belle époque Paris, the Van Goethem sisters struggle for survival after the sudden death of their father, a situation that prompts young Marie’s ballet training and her introduction to a genius painter.

The Death of Beesby Lisa O’Donnell – In their desire to avoid foster care when their parents die, Marnie and Nellie bury their parents in the back garden. Their next door neighbor keeps an eye on them but their lives are fraught with opportunities for exposure of the girl’s precarious situation.

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica BauermeisterNational bestselling author Bauermeister returns to the enchanting world of “The School of Essential Ingredients” in this luminous sequel. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind–and links that break–it is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

1356 by Bernard CornwellThe rascally Thomas of Hookton, aka Le Batard, and his band of not-so-merry mercenaries are bidden by the Earl of Northhampton to unearth the lost sword of Saint Peter in this recreation of the Battle of the Poitiers in 1356 wherein a severely outnumbered English army defeats the French and captures the Poitiers and French King John II.

The Good House by Ann LearyAn exceptional novel that is at turns hilarious and sobering, The Good House asks the question: What will it take to keep Hildy Good from drinking? For good”– Provided by publisher.

Proof of Guilt by Charles ToddWhen the clues in a hit-and-run investigation lead him to two families famous for producing and selling the world’s best Madeira wine, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge is pitted against his new supervisor who, dismissing the evidence, has his own suspect.

Cover of Snow by Jenny MilchmanWaking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide…Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for an explanation–but finds a bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer.

A Deeper Love Insideby Sister SouljahPorsche Santiaga is a reality action star and the Brooklyn born middle child and forgotten sister from “The Coldest Winter Ever.” Porsche is young and beautiful and unafraid to fight and love with the same extreme intensity. It is a coming-of-age journey from the throne to the gutter to the throne, told with deep emotion and shocking scenes.

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley – A Flavia de Luce mystery

The Aviator’s Wifeby Melanie BenjaminIn the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Insane City by Dave BarryAstonished by his imminent marriage to a woman he believed out of his league, Seth flies to their destination wedding in Florida only to be swept up in a maelstrom of violence involving rioters, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, and a desperate python.

Suspect by Robert CraisStruggling to reclaim his career after the devastating murder of his partner eight months earlier, LAPD cop Max Kent is teamed with a traumatized military canine named Maggie who assists Max in an effort to track down his late partner’s killer.

The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers – Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein – In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm-an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert – Young Rachel Kalama, growing up in idyllic Honolulu in the 1890s, is part of a big, loving Hawaiian family, and dreams of seeing the far-off lands that her father, a merchant seaman, often visits. But at the age of seven, Rachel and her dreams are shattered by the discovery that she has leprosy…But Rachel’s life, though shadowed by disease, isolation, and tragedy, is also one of joy, courage, and dignity. This is a story about life, not death; hope, not despair. It is not about the failings of flesh, but the strength of the human spirit.

 A few Non Fiction titles that sound promising:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

This Explains Everything by John Brookman

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond