Monthly Archives: October 2014

No Politics Are Local – Republican Mantras


Folk wisdom usually tells us that “all politics is local”, but this year, because of Citizen’s United; I believe we should say that “no politics is local”.

Republicans have mantras. Lately they repeat these mantras over and over regardless of whether an election is national or local. We have called these talking points, but they are really mentioned by Republicans with an almost religious or magical quality, each word or sentence intended to call to mind an entire political stance, uttered daily on Fox News and understood by all Republicans. These devotees don’t pay any attention to contrary evidence, evidence which should make these mantras obsolete, powerless to enchant anyone. GOP constituents are so brainwashed that they do not care about the lack of evidence. They have been turned into the “Walking Dead”, GOP zombie propagandists.

We all know these mantras but they hold no power over many of us, except the power to frustrate our every logical proof that these are empty words. This week we were treated to a debate on local news. It was supposed to give us an idea of where each candidate stands. We have been down this road before. Last time we elected a Republican to the House she held inflexibly to her Tea Party line but made no allies on either side of the aisle.

Now people here seem rabid to change from Democrat Dan Maffei to Republican John Katko. However, the press has been so easy on Mr. Katko that he seems a saint. No one has asked Katko if he signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes or if he will sign it when he gets to Washington or any hard questions at all.

He says that he will reform the tax code and lower taxes for everyone. He means the middle class but he also means the wealthy and corporations. Cuts are the only tax reforms he can recommend because that is all his party will allow. He wants to get rid of the Department of Education.

Where have we heard all this before? Why are we just going down a road we already went down that leads nowhere. The points he makes are all on that list of GOP mantras. Here are some of those worn out and useless mantras:

Sign the Tax Pledge

Keystone will save America

Frack everywhere. Who cares if we look like one big sink hole; it won’t ruin our fresh water (lie). Fracking will save American.




Out of control debt

Small government

Education Block Grants

Medicare Vouchers

Raise SS age, lower payments

No public healthcare, only private health insurance

Climate change is not real. Who cares what scientists say? If our Congressmen and the churches say science is wrong, then science is wrong [sarcasm].

Jobs will be plentiful if we just frack everywhere and let the Keystone Pipeline cross America’s pristine aquifer.

and many more…

Why are these tired mantras still offered up daily on Fox News? Fox News knows that Americans love rude, trashy nonsense, that’s why. Fox News is the new Ricky Lake Show; the new Jerry Springer Show except it’s a whole network.

I understand why Democrats can’t do this phony crap; I respect them for it, but it may be a losing strategy. Still I think the higher road is the correct one. Maybe if all these so-called middle class Republicans get their way and see what happens when the Republicans put their fantasy agenda into place then the trance will finally be broken.


Will it be too late then?

Well, whoever you favor; remember to VOTE next Tuesday,  November 4th.

By Nancy Brisson

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The Book of Mormon – Broadway Show

the Book of Mormon

I went to see The Book of Mormon on Sunday (the touring company). The show was at an elegant old theater restored due to its landmark status. It has the most purgatorial seats and I vow to never sit in them ever again. We were packed into the balcony (which offered excellent sight lines to the stage) like sardines and if there had been a fire we would not have been able to get out safely. And I still enjoyed the play, so you know it had to be good.

It doesn’t take long to realize or remember that this show was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone who write South Park. The show is irreverent and the humor is full of f-bombs and humor related to bodily fluids like poop (s-h-i-t) and awful tropical diseases (not Ebola but Ebola would fit the show perfectly) however the epidemic of that moment was AIDS.

We open with young, ramrod-straight, purposeful white guys who have just finished their Mormon training. They show how ready they are in the first tune – a young man in a brilliant, white, carefully-ironed shirt and tie with black pants rings a make believe doorbell, holds up a black Book of Mormon and says, “Hello, I’ve come to offer you this book today” (perhaps not an exact quote). More young men, beautifully groomed, come forward to ring that bell and offer their message.

Once training is done the trainees, now known as “Elders” are paired up and given their missionary assignments. We follow (Mr. Perfect) Elder Price and (Mr. Sloppy/Nerd) Elder Cunningham. Elder Price has long prayed to be sent to Orlando (yes, that Orlando) but these two are sent to a downtrodden rural village in Uganda that is being terrorized by a gang of thugs who, among other things, are circumcising women (which is not nearly as nice or as harmless as circumcising men).

Talk about sending babes to the slaughter; how can these young white men, taught to politely ring doorbells and extol a hard-to-swallow religious message help these poor, bullied Ugandans? Doesn’t sound much like a comedy but it is the stock-in-trade of Trey Parker and Matt Stone and it works. It even manages to be both humorous and profound.

There is one scene where Ugandans tell the Mormon story (supposedly) in their own vernacular, as shared by Elder Cunningham. Parker and Stone seem to have stolen the entire production of this play within a play from the play within a play in The King and I when the Siamese tell the story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This actually works very well as satire just as the scene in The King and I worked to get a message across to the King.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone say they wrote this show as “an atheist love letter to religion”. And then there is that last scene with the Ugandans walking up to imaginary doorbells saying, “Hello, please accept this book – except this time the book is red and the title of the book is F*** You God. It’s astounding that the Mormon Church is not unhappy with this play but have embraced it and, in fact, Mormons hand out copies of The Book of Mormon and pictures of Jesus after each performance.

About the play, I say bravo and unless you really hate satire and bad language you most likely will too. It is my favorite two things; funny and a “thinker”.

By Nancy Brisson

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Chris Matthews, What ‘s Gotten Into You?


Chris Matthews, you have been disappointing me so much lately. I thought you were more enlightened than other “semi-old white men”. I thought you had experienced things in your life that gave you a more liberal perspective and, despite the kernel of racism which remains in most of us white folks, you had learned long ago to fight back whenever these remnants reared their ugly heads. But perhaps you are finding it more difficult to ignore the less than acceptable feelings that pertained when we were young.

It is said that most of us get more conservative as we get older. I think you are harkening back more and more to the halcyon days when you were so close to Tip O’Neill. The Vice President is getting into trouble for using outdated lingo. You are guilty of unleashing your outdated feelings.

You showed us all your hawkish side recently. You certainly got exercised over Obama’s approach to Syria and ISIS. Your perception that Obama is weak and is harming America’s position in the world came across loud and clear. I guess you can’t help judging Obama in 2014 by things that happened in the 1980’s with that paragon Ronald Reagan and your pal Tip O’Neill. I guess you felt that Obama should have jumped into the situation in Syria back when that red line was crossed.

You clearly express your feelings that Obama waffles and looks weak, but since we hardly triumphed in any war since World War II, since we have spent billions and had many of our soldiers killed or maimed, do we really want to have a President who takes us into war because his ego was damaged and that might make America look weak. I am happy to have a President who is reluctant to commit American lives to wars we clearly don’t fully understand.

Now Chris Matthews, you are nervous about Ebola and you apparently feel that Obama should do something (although I am not sure what). How could Obama have helped the situation in Texas? We do not have an epidemic of Ebola. We have one case that came from abroad and several cases which may suggest that our medical people are not adequately protected against this disease in its most critical stages. You, Chris Matthews, went into a long tirade (which is actually a repeat of past tirades) about Obama’s poor schmoozing skills.

I find it hard to believe that there is any action Obama could have taken that would make these stubborn Congress people treat him with the respect which should have been automatic. Their behavior has been abominable, a terrible example to younger generations. These folks made a decision to shut Obama out from the very beginning. Perhaps Obama could have been more obsequious or more obstreperous or more congenial, but still he would never belong to the old boy’s club which both your Reagan and your Tip O’Neill (and in fact even you) belong to because you were born white and male.

To me the criticism you hold forth with and the passion with which you do it sound like you are holding Obama responsible for the behavior of the haters. It sounds like you are saying that it is Obama’s fault that they are haters. Well that’s just crazy. I’m not sure that such criticisms by white guys can offer us any insight into the experiences of our first African American President. Then you go on to praise an article by Charles Krauthammer and you recommend that we read it too. What would he know about this situation?

What is wrong with you? Why all those negative Obama tirades just before the midterm elections. Are you trying to tip the scales to the right? Well you are getting on my last nerve and I plan to stop watching Hardball. You have disappointed me too many times lately. Maybe FOX News will hire you.

Perhaps we can fault Obama for being overly zealous in deporting people or continuing to let the NSA invade our already sadly depleted privacy. Harangue him about these if you must, but the rest is not suited to your audience. I have found your recent hawk-fest embarrassing and then your analysis of Obama’s troubles with Congress smacks of racism or at the very least of that sin which names the recipient of gauche behavior as the cause of that behavior. When we blame women for the things men do to them we recognize that that is wrong. But you are doing the same exact thing to Obama and it is badly done, Chris Matthews.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

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Right Track, Wrong Track – Take Two


The dumbest poll question of all time is to ask people, “Do you think America is on the wrong track” without asking any follow-up questions that would pin down any specifics. In unspoken political lingo this question really means, “Do you think we should change the party in power?” In the case of the 2014 election it means “Do you think we should throw the Democrats out and elect Republicans?”


It’s a loaded question. It is intended to elicit two things: a “yes” answer and an implied intention to “throw the bums out.” Pollsters deliberately omit a “why” question that might get at the specifics. It would be simple to include a list of reasons and request the person being polled to check all that apply, but the media seems to like the more vague response that sticks it to the party in power. Perhaps the media gets bored covering the same administration and they know that Americans are fickle and also crave constant stimulation. By asking this open-ended question the media can actually lead voters to make changes. I hear that Obama has not been very nice to the media. It is possible that there is an element of revenge, but this “wrong track” question is hardly a new polling question. Pollsters ask it all the time and sonorously intone the results as if they actually mean something.

What does the individual responding to this poll feel must be done to put America back on the right track? By asking specifics we could actually get a bead on which party has the more popular take on the issues of the day.

Which would you pick?

More jobs by stimulus, or More jobs by tax cuts for corporations A   or   B

Fix the tax code so it cuts down on income inequality, or Taxes must not be raised-cut safety net programs to lower debt   A     or     B

There should be a minimum wage, or There should be no minimum wage A     or     B

Reform higher ed. costs and student loans, or Higher ed. is a state’s right – let state’s decide   A     or     B

Keep the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), or End the Affordable Care Act   A     or     B

Government should help the less fortunate, or Government should be very small – churches can help the less fortunate     A     or      B

Keep Roe v Wade, or Overturn Roe v Wade     A     or    B

Keep schools public, or Use vouchers and privatize schools   A     or     B

The Federal government should have some regulatory control over guns, or The Federal government wants to disarm Americans   A     or     B

Fair elections with limited outside money, or Citizen’s United, free speech for corporations and other institutions, unlimited outside money  A     or    B

We must deal with climate change and alternative energies, or Climate change is not a real problems and bring on the Keystone Pipeline   A     or     B

If you pick more A’s then you lean Democrat, more B’s Republican. These are just a few issues that, if feedback was collected, would help us understand what people really mean when they answer “yes” to that very disingenuous polling question “Do you think government is on the wrong track”. Please stop collecting drivel and reporting on it as news.

By Nancy Brisson

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A Love Story, Etc.


This Monday I did my political groupie routine once again. This year Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States showed up to endorse Dan Maffei for the House of Representatives. These political stars fly into our airport which is practically in my Mother’s backyard and a rally is set up in an airplane hangar (a small one intended for private planes). This way the VP can fly in and fly out without having to wreak havoc on traffic in our small city and he is not delayed. Washington is only an hour away. Security is also easier to handle.

There were plenty of Secret Service men and policemen. They lined up along the straggling line of people filing into the hangar and they trained their eagle eyes on the tables where we had to empty our electronics to be examined and hand over our purses so they could be inspected.

This time the organizers did have a program. Although we had to get to the rally before noon, Joe Biden and Dan Maffei did not arrive until 2 pm. An airplane hangar, which sounds like a cool place to hang out, is actually quite uncomfortable. Everything is either concrete block wall or poured concrete floor or corrugated metal roof. It’s cold. It’s damp. After a while your knees and your feet beg for mercy, but the chairs are for the VIP’s and the high school kids and for the people invited by Dan Maffei’s campaign staff. Standing next to me on the hard floor, I learned, was a local barber who used to cut Joe Biden’s hair when he was in law school here.

Since I wrote an editorial that favored Dan Maffei for the newspaper (which was published), I was invited by Dan Maffei to attend the rally, but that did not qualify me for a seat. Just saying – a political rally would be much more enjoyable if the attendees were a bit more comfortable. But they did entertain us. We had local speakers, we had the high school band from Dan Maffei’s high school, we had “Steppers” from Syracuse University and we had a jazz group from another area high school. Then we had Bruce Springsteen canned music over the loudspeakers to take us up to that 2 pm arrival hour.


I almost didn’t stay because my knees were so unhappy but I was glad I did. Dan Maffei seemed livelier than he has appeared in the media and he had a great smile which said that he was honored to have Joe Biden beside him. He did not really have to do much speaking because Mr. Biden was there to speak for him. Biden has roots in the small city where I live. He told us a love story about the first time he saw his wife right here in our hometown when he was in law school. She was just crossing a street I believe he said. He was talking about his first wife so it was also sad because he lost his first wife and child in an accident.


I loved hearing Joe Biden. He is a natural speaker with a very expressive face but there is still something of the jock about him. All of the candidates and their supporters seemed hoarse, as if they have been using their voices too much for too long. Our Vice President looked weary but he talked about all that the middle class has lost and he talked about the ground that has not yet been recovered. He talked about the way the laws are skewed to keep sending profits up to those who already have plenty of money. He talked about people who work 40 hour weeks and cannot make a living wage.

He talked about our infrastructure falling to 26th place among the nations of the world. (One of Dan Maffei’s babies in the House is an infrastructure bill.) He talked about how parents feel when they cannot afford to send their children to college and he laid the responsibility for all of it against the intransigent Tea Partiers who are holding the feet of more moderate Republicans to the fire. It was great! I finally found a small, miserable, damp, cold, hard square of concrete where I felt at home. Joe Biden’s message was clear.

You must vote and you must elect Democrats in 2014!

By Nancy Brisson

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Is American Exceptionalism Dead?

American Exceptionalism

When people say America is on the wrong path I don’t think they ever say what that specifically means. Perhaps because they just have a vague sense that this is so but not a truly concrete grasp of the details. It is difficult to be sure that all the folks who passionately agree with whoever is voicing this rather vague indictment of our government are even thinking about a similar set of specifics or, indeed, if they are thinking about anything at all. Perhaps this has become one of those bandwagons people jump on. But I have been thinking about what the specifics might be and how people came to decide that we are on the wrong path (whatever that means) and there are some historical signs of the slippage of those laurels we believed we wore.

American Exceptionalism2

After World War II America experienced a peak time when we felt “golden”, we were “winners”, we had beaten evil and our optimism knew no bounds. Our economy was also in a post-war boom and when we took our businesses out of war production mode all that efficiency and productivity was turned to rewarding ourselves. We had won the way to freedom once again and could now set our minds to achieving “the American Dream” and this time the American Dream was “stuff”; stuff that would make our lives easier, provide us with the leisure to play and enjoy our families, provide us with comfortable homes, and with transportation. And despite the Korean Conflict in the 50’s the world was still licking its wounds after the terrible war and the awful truths we learned about the genocide hidden behind that war, so it was a relatively peaceful decade.

Whenever people want America back on the right path, that decade from the 50’s to the 60’s (although not as perfect as we remember it) is the one Americans wish to recapture, the peace of it accompanied by the economic prosperity and the hopefulness of it. However, soon after that decade ended we began to lose our confidence. We had the fierce and unequal battles in our own nation over Civil Rights (a battle that apparently is still not won). We lost a young, popular President to an assassin, and then the President’s brother, and we lost a Civil Rights leader to an assassin in shockingly rapid order. We lost a war (Vietnam) and barely got away without being captured. These events took slices out of our confidence as a nation.

Drugs came to America. Young Americans pitted themselves against the hypocrisy of their elders and spread righteous doubt about how well we were upholding American ideals. Unsavory details of meddling in foreign governments for less than idealistic reasons and with often disastrous results explained, in part, why our reputation was becoming less than stellar. Since the “shining decade” that included our “Camelot”, we, as a nation, have absorbed one blow after another. More assassinations or attempted assassinations, losing our corporations, successful terrorist attacks on our soil; these events have given America close encounters with fear and rage. We have never really repeated the success in war which gave us such a high after World War II. Since World War II we have fought non-European wars, in places influenced by centuries of history we do not share, which hinders our understanding of the forces arrayed against us and therefore the tactics necessary for successful outcomes. I think when people bemoan the loss of our “exceptionalism” they may think they are indicting our currently elected officials, but they are really reeling under the reality checks America has endured in the decades since those heady post-war years.

Are we less of a great nation because we finally must get off our high horse and mingle with other nations, because we must accept that nations are made up of human beings and because we are incapable of perfection (as are all humans) except in rare, brief moments? Can we accept that such fallibility is as true of America as of any other country? That does not make us less, but it means we must keep heart not only in good times but also in bad. So when forces in the world once again tilt towards evil, when we seem, once again, to be fighting chaos, hate and economic disorder and then we throw in things like climate change, even disease and poverty, all at once; it will not help us to wish longingly for simpler days when we were temporary heroes.

This time we may have to fight the good fight without that old bravado. We may not be fighting for accolades this time, just for survival; just to preserve a world we all can live in with as much of our freedom intact as possible given the rapidly expanding world population. We’re now grownups and defending our ideals is perhaps a more work-a-day process than it was in those halcyon days of our post World War II high. The things America values and tries to accomplish, along with other nations in the free world, are still quite exceptional. We cannot afford to lose and we cannot let fear hold sway, even in our national politics. “Exceptionalism” is not about our egos, it is about our belief in freedom and equality.

By Nancy Brisson

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Will the Left Lose the 2014 Election – Most Say Yes

2014 election

Ever since the Republicans won the House in 2010 I was worried. However, I did not really foresee how bad things would actually get. There was Mitch McConnell’s vow to block Obama so he could not tick away at the points on his agenda. But the Democrats won in 2008, so I really didn’t have any clue as to the twisted dedication with which the Republicans would pursue the goal McConnell had announced. I’m not sure that we have ever seen any party actually carry out such an anti-American threat since the Civil War when Southern states seceded from the Union.

There were a few times when it seemed like Boehner might rebel, but I believe he would not have stood a chance; his party would have eaten him alive. Still it would have been great to see him take a stand to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Once I saw the twin pincher action of the Hastert Rule in the House and the filibuster in the Senate I knew that this GOP would pursue a long-term strategy to obstruct the Democrats. We always speak as if only Obama was not allowed to act, but President Obama is the current leader of the Democrats and the obstruction was directed at all policies on the left, because, supposedly, America stood to fail without a smaller Federal government.

Apparently, only losing the soul of America, the soul which believes that offering a hand to the less fortunate is an important underpinning of our pride in our nation, only giving up our sense of “there but for the grace of God go I”, would bring our corporations back to our shores and keep America’s budget balanced. Isn’t there also a saying though “what profits a man if he lose his soul”? Still many Americans have decided that they no longer wish to invest their tax dollars in lifting up the less fortunate and that “no good deed goes unpunished.” They like the sound of lower taxes even if the rich get richer as long as the deadbeats are cut adrift. So the American soul hasn’t gone begging yet (well maybe just a few food stamp recipients and the unemployed) but I expect this “soulless” campaign to move forward with all due speed as soon as Republicans wrest back control of Washington.

Many people feel that while we might save the heart and soul of America, the nation will lose its sort of WASPY vibe and we will all soon be speaking Spanish and then the very people who sold out once and gave up control in America will finally win the American Revolution (without a fight) and American culture will no longer favor our Anglo-Saxon roots. Since the Democrats back diversity, or at least accept it as inevitable and probably productive of such very positive outcomes as accrue to mankind whenever inbreeding gets an injection of diverse biological (or cultural) influences, many people who really have nothing in common with Republicans, are with the GOP because they fear the direction taken by the Democratic Party. In spite of the forces against the Democrats, the forces that want to pull back to simpler times, I have fought on the side of those who favor progress, moving forward, into an unknown future because I don’t think backsliding, protectionism, isolationism, fundamentalism, or all of the above will take us anywhere but where we already were, and that, if we do get back there, we will not be allowed to remain in that past for very long.

So I have fought what I felt was “the good fight” on behalf of my chosen party, the Democrats, who are often quite Conservative themselves. It has been a roller coaster thrill ride of a battle and the Republicans have been truly nasty adversaries, willing to skirt the laws of the land in the name of saving it from the invasion of “barbarians” and in pursuit of their dream of returning to the Golden Age of the Industrial Revolution. The election is 3 weeks away and it looks like I will lose my battle and then we shall see what we shall see. We most certainly live in interesting times; frustrating, but not boring.

By Nancy Brisson

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October, 2014 Book List


It’s raining books, but at least it’s not snowing books yet.

Publisher’s Weekly

Fall Debut Novels

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Last Days of Shanghai by Casey Walker (Dec.)

Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

The Bishops Wife by Mett Ivie Harrison

Picks of the Week – Oct. 13

The Doubt by Paolo Bacigalupi

Without You There Is No Us: A Memoir by Suki Kim (NF)

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot

On the Edge by Edward St. Aubyn

International Publications for Fall

The Waste Tide by Stanley Chan (sci-fi) (China)

A Foolish Virgin by Ida Simons (relaunch) (Dutch)

Where Four Roads Meet by Tommi Kinnunen (Finnish)

The VIP Room by Jen Lapidus (Swedish)

The Chile Bean Paste Clan by Yan Ge (Chinese family saga)

Picks of the Week – Oct. 6

Lamentation by Joe Clifford

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizon (Iranian-American narrator, two young people “come out”)

The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. by Gina B Nahai (also Iranian and Iranian-American)

More Picks

Lila by Marilynne Robinson (3rd in set of novels in fictional plains town Gilead, Iowa)

Some Luck by Jane Smiley (1st volume of planned trilogy)

Book Deals (week of Sept. 26)

Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (1st novel by UK Journalist, Spring 2016 release)

Picks for Week of Sept. 22

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (tongue-in-cheek murder mystery)

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton *

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Afterworld by Scott Westerfeld

Picks for Week of Sept. 29

The Zone of Interest by Marin Amis (“soul-crusher of a book”)

The Prince of LosCocuyos: A Miami Childhood by Richard Blanco

A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel by Marlon James (Jamaica, Bob Marley)

Love is the Drug by Allaya Dawn Johnson (coming of age)

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian (coming of age)

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (YA) (10th graders – emotionally fragile –Slyvia Plath connection)

Independent Booksellers

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (“Horan’s beautiful novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny”)

Personal by Lee Child

The Paying Guests by Sarah Winters

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

The Secret Place by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad)

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon (Mitford novel)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (eerie days of civilization’s collapse)

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

The King’s Curse of Philippa Gregory

Perfidia by James Ellroy

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

10:04 by Ben Lerner

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot by Reed Farrel Coleman

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rose Gold by Walter Mosley

The Eye of Heaven by Clive Cussler

Proof Positive by Archer Mayor

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan


Nora Webster: A Novel by Colin Toibin

A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel by Marlon James

The Remedy For Love: A Novel by Bill Roorbach

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

A Sudden Light: A Novel by Garth Stein

Electric City: A Novel by Elizabeth Rosner

The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec

Stations Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Bones Never Lie: A Novel by Kathy Reichs

A Sudden Light: A Novel by Garth Stein

The Girl Next Door: A Novel by Ruth Rendell

Cobra: A Novel by Deon Meyer

Spark: A Novel by John Twelve Hawks

The Ploughman: A Novel by Kim Zupan

You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes

The Boy Who Drew Monsters: A Novel by Keith Donohue

The Life we Bury by Allen Eskens

Tunnel Vision by Aric Davis

Sometimes the Wolf: A Novel by Urban White

Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura and Allison Markin Powell

Brood by Chase Novak

Science Fiction

Of Bone and Thunder: A Novel by Chris Evans

Compiled by Nancy Brisson

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“When I’m Sixty-Four”

seniors on ice floe2

If our culture loves to make old people feel bad because they are old, then why keep finding ways to make us live longer?

If we are working too long and so there are no jobs for younger people maybe we need to stop funding medical research, get rid of health insurance, and let nature takes its course.

Perhaps pharmacies are trying to hurry the old and sick off the stage and that is why they are not making a large enough quantity of certain key meds.

If health care for seniors will deprive Millenials in the future, again, why keep increasing life span?

Increased life spans are not really intended for us “peasants”, only for the wealthy, but pharmaceutical firms won’t see enough profit from the treatments they discover to make the research cost effective. If they can’t offer these new cancer drugs and surgical implants for heart attacks and for wear and tear on joints, and for perking up sagging body parts to a larger group of consumers they can’t justify the costs involved, or having their lobbyists tap into our tax dollars. Even if middle class users can’t afford their medical bills, even if they must go bankrupt to be treated with the newest therapies; the portion the insurance companies pay probably keeps the pharmaceutical companies happily raking in the dough.

Serendipitously, just as I was chewing over these thoughts about our life spans, Ezekiel J. Emanuel published an interesting article called Why I Hope to Die at 75 in the Atlantic, an article about how he would rather just end his life at 75 while he was still healthy than become a burden on his family and incur enormous debt that would undo all his careful financial planning. I am guessing quite a few people can relate to this – and probably an equal number cannot.

As it turns out the pharmaceutical companies are beginning to find it difficult to keep producing some cancer treatments, some of the meds required for diabetes and for dialysis in the case of kidney failure. Some middle class people, not wanting to face financial ruin, are opting out of treatments that may extend their life for only a short period.

I do not think the boomers will be as long-lived as their parents. There is something about living through two world wars and a Great Depression that made people tough, and then lots of medical improvements came along just in time for the boomer’s parents also.

My Mom, for example, is now 97, but we could have lost her a couple of times along the years. She had a disease called “temporal arteritis” which caused her to develop over-sized red blood cells and caused the veins along her hair line to enlarge. This condition is treated with a lengthy course of massive doses of steroids. This disease can be fatal but since the development of steroids it usually is not.

Then one day her heart rate began to slow and after about one week it was beating only 38 beats per minute (about half speed). Finally we forced her to let us call an ambulance (what will the neighbors say) and she came back home with a pacemaker and carried on with her laundry and her dish washing activities by which Mom measures her usefulness and justifies the days of her life.

We could have lost her at least twice then without modern medical science. Still she often asks in a plaintive voice – “why am I still here”. Perhaps she is bored by her limited repertoire of daily entertainments and her deafness and by all the other bodily systems which often fail to function quite up to snuff. When I go to visit these days, although we enjoy going over the past and moaning the difficulties which face each of her children and their offspring, and guessing what will become of the world, I always get the feeling that we are waiting for something. I wish I thought we were really just looking forward to those three more years until Mom turns 100 because we all enjoy Mom and would keep her forever, but the feeling I get from my Mom is that three years sounds pretty long to her.

What point is living a long life if it becomes circumscribed in so many ways is the question that mom confronts us with. I feel that I understand my Mom. I feel that I understand the man, Mr. Emanuel, who would like to quit while life is still good. This may be the next moral conundrum that the American people will insist there be a ruling on. Who, in a world where we are free to choose our own morality, should be in charge of deciding when and how we die; the church, the government, the individual?

Can we continue to prolong life given the current costs: the financial cost and the cultural costs of our increasingly unequal access to health therapies? Will it become clearer that the poorer you are the shorter your life: the richer you are the longer your life? Will the senior bashing continue? Will it escalate? If so why don’t we halt research into longevity for a while and see when life with just the therapies we now have ends? What is our new natural life span?

When we can stop being resentful of the burden seniors and the elderly pose for younger generations and for the budgets of national governments, then we can continue our adventures in immortality. In the meantime we could have lots more discussion about why euthanasia is off the table. Although it would be as difficult to hammer out the terms as to write an acceptable Sheldon Cooper roommate agreement, I’m guessing what would really stop us is those same loud voices which insist that we take abortion off the table. God wouldn’t like it they say.

By Nancy Brisson

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The Federalist Revolution, Maybe


Imagine if this was true:

I have been thinking that Republicans needed to get elected to effect their quasi-Federalist revolution but perhaps I was more right when I described what they are doing as a bloodless coup.

Republicans and their minions want a smaller Federal government. They have been acting already to shrink our Federal government. This is one of the reasons they were so upset about the Affordable Care Act. It is a big government program that sets back their plan to cut government. Republicans want more power to go to the states. That plan is also underway. There are 23 “rebel” or red states stuffed with so many Republicans that it is simple to get the bidding of the GOP “generals” done. There are only 27 states to go and then hello to the new Federalist States of America.

This is being led by Ted Cruz and Grover Norquist, if I had to take a guess, and we will wake up very soon to find ourselves living in a very different America. These guys believe they are activists and Constitutional scholars and purists and they are convinced that they must do what they are doing to save the purity of our forefathers’ governmental intentions. They are the ideologues.


That each state will supposedly be able to pass its own laws sounds reasonable, but it is not. Each state will only be able to pass the laws that Republicans want because they will have wormed their way into control of the whole shebang. Old mostly white men may be a dying breed but there are still enough of them around to accomplish this, and they really don’t want to give up power, at all. They are not all ideologues.

That is why Republicans won’t let any legislation through. It is not because of laziness or outrageous behavior. It’s a plan to whittle away our Federal government. Kiss Medicare good-bye, no more Social Security, no more Social services of any kind, the “entitlements” will be gone. There will be no safety net if you get in financial trouble. Education and Energy departments will be gone, perhaps even the IRS will be closed, but, I think, not the NSA.

There will be no more discussion of climate change and the charge to find all the fossil fuels in America will spread across the nation and out into both oceans. There will be no Federal minimum wage at all, there will be no more talk of equal pay, Roe v Wade will be overturned, and no there may be no contraception. There will be no Immigration Bill and there will be plenty of deportations and we will be at war all the time because that is all the Federal government will be allowed to do.

There are people in the GOP who have decided to go around, over, and through the American people. They do not care what the American people want. They are running our government from behind the scenes. If they have their way, and they are well on the way to meeting their goals, American will become one huge factory town from greasy sea to coal mines to coke piles to pipelines to oil trains to oily sea, all the time pumping dollars to those at the top of the heap.

This is not going to happen in the future. That is what I got wrong. This is already happening, as inevitable as plate tectonics and a lot faster. America has already been shut down.


Do we have any ways to fight back and by that I mean do we have any political and strategic plans that Democrats and Independents could come up with, not actual fighting. Of course, I could be wrong. Or I could be right. Or everyone could label me a crackpot and ignore this. Or perhaps it is not too late to come up with some pushback plans that would get us back to regular order. I know our traditional American system had flaws but by opening the door to liberal reform we may have activated groups with much different reforms in mind.


Maybe we are already the bodies in the floater chairs and so lost in the American Dream that we just will not see when people are trying to rip those chairs right out from under us. Surprise, it’s a new day. Moral behavior will henceforth be defined by your very small central government. And where are the courts in all this. Well we have seen where the courts are. They won’t help us. The courts are stuffed too. In order that no one object, the Supreme Court was not stuffed with Conservatives, it was loaded instead with Catholics with moral views very similar to Conservatives.

And besides practicing mandated good behavior you will be working morning to night for all the days of your life after your brief, and very Christian, education. Gone will be the days of two cars in every garage and two chickens in every pot although perhaps the memories of a summer house and a boat will carry you through for a while. It looks like we will have baseball, football, and lots of NASCAR, and BBQ but, alas, no time to enjoy it. I sincerely hope I am wrong about this whole construct. I just offer it to you for your consideration. Perhaps if we are able to keep this internal power struggle from getting too explosive we can turn this plan around and keep America to the forms we recognize and revere.

By Nancy Brisson

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