CORONAVIRUS DIARY: November 1, 2020

November 1, 2020

Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now

My boss sent me this article on Acedia, which I had never heard of but boy, did it hit home. 

Acedia: a strange combination of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate.

As far as I’m concerned, this is my word for the pandemic. It is exactly how I’m feeling, and I’ve been feeling, for months now. I do have spurts of energy now and then, but for the most part, I feel like I have to force myself to do the most basic things. Laundry. Making the bed. Cleaning.

On the other hand, little things bring me joy. My daughter getting an A in her drawing class. Being able to “polish” my nails – I’m using stick on polish, but hey, it makes me happy. Black kitties for Halloween!

Other small joys – talking to friends on the phone or Facetime. My co-workers and my boss have really been a lifeline for me. And I swear work has kept me sane. It forces me to know what day of the week it is! I’m still working remotely most of the time, but I go into the library three mornings a week. It’s nice to see people! Even if it is behind masks and plexiglass.

I was really nervous about Halloween. I wanted to just put out a table with candy on it, but my husband wanted to answer the door. Masked, of course. I do love seeing the little ones in costume, but isn’t that what our security cameras are for? I have to say this holiday is my husband’s favorite and this was the first time I’ve really seen him down about the pandemic. He went old school on carving the pumpkin, and we did get a few trick-or-treaters, so that made him feel a little better. But then it started to rain, so that put an end to it all.

I still don’t go out much. I have been to Costco a few times with my husband, and a few weeks ago I started going to Trader Joe’s again. There is no TJ’s nearby, but it is not too far from work, so I sometimes go after work on my lunch hour, maybe every 2-3 weeks. They haven’t been that busy in the middle of the day, they are constantly cleaning the carts, everyone wears a mask, and for the most part, people keep their distance. Plus it doesn’t take long to go through the store, it is a small grocery store. And they take Apple pay. Can I tell you how much I love just tapping my Apple watch to pay? Handsfree! Even Publix finally started taking it, and I’ve been there a few times as well. Once at 7:00 am on a Sunday when they opened, a couple of times around 6:00 pm, dinner time, and it was pretty quiet. 

The only other trip that I take somewhat regularly is to visit my mother-in-law. She’s 95 years old and lives in an assisted living facility. With all the horror stories out there about these places, I have to give kudos to Acts Retirement Life Communities. They have done an outstanding job keeping everyone safe, both the residents and the staff. There have been a few Covid cases, but nothing like I keep seeing on the news. For a long time, we couldn’t visit at all, then they started letting us visit through a glass door using Facetime. They also did a questionnaire at the guard gate and took our temperature. Then they let us visit inside, but first, they gave us the 15 minute Covid tests. Once we got negative results, we were able to visit face to face. My mother-in-law has been a real trooper through all of this. 

Covid cases are on the rise in Florida, as they are in most parts of the country. This is usually the time of year when it is finally cool enough to sit outside, but not this year. It’s been raining like crazy for weeks – we’ve been under a flood watch, off and on, for days now. And when it does stop raining, it’s hot and muggy – high 80s, low 90’s hot. I live in Palm Beach County and the county keeps extending the mask mandate, thank goodness. Not that everyone complies. Trump was here to vote the other day at the Main Library in West Palm Beach. He walked through, no mask, of course. And brought his special lighting???

Our sycophant governor has forced open everything so restaurants and bars are packed, people are going to the gym again, the public libraries are now open regular hours, and the kids are back in school. And guess what – Covid numbers are rising!

The election is in a few days. My husband, daughter, and I all did mail-in ballots. We do have early voting, but even at 7:00 in the morning, the lines have been hours long. The supervisor of elections put waiting times at each location on their website, and after checking several times a day we decided to stick with the mail-in ballots. They actually put “ballot vans” at each early voting location, but our intrepid local news reporter followed up on some voters who used the van and it was taking days before the election office received their ballots. So we went directly to the supervisor of election’s office and used their dropbox. It’s like a small mailbox right outside the building. A day later, our votes showed that they had been received and were problem-free. So three votes for Biden-Harris!

I have this platform and as we are mere days away from what is probably the most important election of my lifetime, I’d like to say a few things. Feel free to comment if you like.

I have been horrified on a daily basis since our president took office. It started with his descent down the escalator calling Mexicans rapists, and it still hasn’t ended. Every day is another shit show. Packing the courts with conservative judges so majority rule has become minority rule, with judges and justices weighing in on decisions that they have no business interfering in. Pushing through a new Supreme Court justice days before the election – 38 days after RBG’s death – after Republicans stole the seat from Obama ten months before the election. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling!

Charlottesville. The president calling white supremacists “very fine people” as they were shouting “Jews will not replace us.” I’m Jewish, by the way. The horrific practice of separating children, even nursing babies, from their parents and putting them in cages. And now, four years later over 500 children whose parents the government can’t find.

Black Lives Matter! The president has fueled the systemic racism in this country and sought to divide us. He throws gasoline on every fire while proclaiming himself to have done more for the Black community than any president since Lincoln. (Actually, Johnson holds the honor of having done the most for the Black community.) The president compares himself to Lincoln, yet ignores one of the most important things Lincoln ever said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It breaks my heart to know that Black parents have to teach their children to be so careful when they leave the house, while they are outside, while driving, while living. It’s wrong on so many levels and this president derides the protestors. He had peaceful protestors tear gassed so he could take a picture in front of a church, holding a bible. A church that he never attends. I was surprised that the bible didn’t just spontaneously burst into flames in his hands.

Family values from a man three times married, who cheated on all his wives, lusts after daughter, has been accused of sexual harassment and rape, not just by one or two women, but more than a dozen. Caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. These “values” voters really need to re-examine their values.

The impeachment. Russian collusion. He’s trying it again now with that bullshit story Rudy Giuliani fed the NY Post, a tabloid, not a newspaper. The writer of the article refused to put his name on it. The president’s minions would not turn over the supposedly egregious emails to newspapers to fact check them. Even the news people on Fox News are not talking about it – only the talking heads, the commentators are talking about it. Night after night. And I’m happy to add, to little or no avail.

Suburban women are not the stupid followers our president thinks they are. I love this commercial from “Red, Wine & Blue Ohio,” a group of suburban moms. At his rallies he “threatens” that if Biden gets into office, he will send Cory Booker to the suburbs, trying to incite fear of low-income housing and race-baiting, circa the 1970’s and “All in the Family.” Instead, these women fought back and showed how they really feel.

There’s so much more. I read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal daily and I get news alerts on my phone. Literally every day, there is some story about something this administration is doing or has done that enrages me. Every. Single. Day.

Our standing in the world as a superpower is teetering on the brink. We are a global laughingstock due to this president and his temper and his lack of any kind of self-control. His Twitter account!

Can we talk about his taxes? THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES: Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits How he paid more taxes in China than he does here? He’s not that smart, he’s that crooked. And thanks to the New York Times, now we know. He and his family have taken the office of the president and turned it into a cash machine. Also the Washington Post: Ballrooms, candles and luxury cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties

Foreign governments know they just have to spend a bit at one of his hotels to get anything they want. He brags about how dictators like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea all want him to win reelection. That is NOT a good thing! They want him to win because they know he will do anything they want, and that, more than almost anything else, frightens me.

I love the billboard the Lincoln Project put up in Times Square, using the picture Ivanka had posted with a can of beans in her hand after Goya kicked in some serious money to the president. Because that’s what this administration does, free advertising for anyone who makes a sizeable donation.

The environmental laws he’s had rescinded. He’s ignored science all the way through his administration, from global warming to the pandemic. I cannot and will not overlook the elephant in the room: Covid-19.

It’s time to talk about the Coronavirus. The very reason for this series of essays I’ve been writing. The president knew how deadly it was in JANUARY and chose not to tell the American people. He’s still playing it down, calls it “boring”. Chose not to have American factories gear up to produce PPE or masks or any other supplies needed to protect our front line and essential workers. Used the provisions in the law already in place, renamed it Project Warp Speed or whatever and takes credit for rushing a vaccination through. He tried to get at least one manufacturer to say they would have it ready before Election Day, but no one would promise that. Meanwhile, almost 225.000 Americans dead. As far as I’m concerned, this president is a mass murderer.

Life as we know it has changed. So many small businesses gone while many of the small business loans Congress approved went to big companies who weren’t entitled to the money. Companies that received loans that were designed to cover payroll and instead, took the money and laid off their employees. So much abuse. So little oversight.

Now the administration admits it has given up. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows went on CNN and said “We are not going to control the pandemic.” The president is taking advice on a deadly pandemic from a radiologist with some crazy ideas about killing another 200,000 people to achieve “herd immunity,” while doctors who specialize in infectious disease want us to wear masks – the very doctors our president called idiots. Governor Cuomo in New York proved that the virus could be contained with leadership. “It is what it is” is what the president has said and that is not leadership. We need a leader, more than ever, not someone who gives up and is fine with more Americans dying.

The Washington Post has a three-part documentary on how this administration has failed America on the pandemic. I highly recommend it, even though it is totally depressing:

America’s failed response: A Post documentary analyzes how Trump politicized the pandemic and ignored decades of preparation. This three-part series explores the failed response to the coronavirus pandemic that has left 225,000 Americans dead. It also examines the role of past U.S. presidents and the steps they took to prevent such an event from debilitating the nation’s economy and health-care system.

Finally, the lies. OMG, the lies he tells over and over. Telling a lie multiple times doesn’t make it true, but it convinces some people there must be truth to it. Those people are morons. Trump is averaging more than 50 false or misleading claims a day according to the Washington Post, who has been fact-checking and tracking his lies since he took office. There have been so many that they are eight weeks behind! “As of Aug. 27, the tally in our database that tracks every errant claim by the president stood at 22,247 claims in 1,316 days.” That is INSANE! Oh, and while I’m talking about reporters doing their job, the only “fake news” is what the talking heads on Fox are spouting. The media is NOT the enemy of the people; freedom of the press is one of the founding principles of this country. I wish all those people who are so fervent about the 2nd amendment would hold the rest of the amendments so dearly.

Please vote. We need normalcy again. I’ve had enough hysteria and drama and insanity from this president. We need an administration that won’t end up with so many staff in prison. Someone in that oval office who cares more about Americans than lining his own pockets. Someone who wants to bring us together instead of tearing us apart. Someone who will surround himself with smart people and listen to them – what a concept!

We need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


March 9, 2020


A Matt Drake Thriller, Book 1

From the publisher:

After surviving a clandestine operation that went tragically wrong, Matt Drake escaped Syria with his life, but little else. Now, to save the life of another, he must return to Syria and confront his biggest failure in a debut thriller Lee Child calls “sensationally good.”

Defense Intelligence Agency operative Matt Drake broke a promise. A promise that cost three people their lives and crippled his best friend. Three months later, he’s paralyzed by survivor’s guilt and haunted by the memories of the fallen. Matt may have left Syria, but Syria hasn’t left him.

In the midst of his self-imposed exile, Matt is dragged back into the world of espionage and assets that he tried to forget. A Pakistani scientist working for an ISIS splinter cell has created a terrifying weapon of mass destruction. The scientist offers to defect with the weapon, but he trusts just one man to bring him out of Syria alive—Matt Drake.

This is the first book in a new series featuring Matt Drake, a flawed hero, but one with the brains, patriotism and the will to get things resolved. In a mission taking place before the beginning of this novel, three men were killed and his best friend, also with them, was permanently crippled. Matt blames himself for the failure of the botched action.

After three months of feeling sorry for himself and drowning his sorrows, he is unexpectedly called back by his supervisor to undertake a mission into Syria. The task will be to extract a Pakistani scientist working for ISIS who has perfected a new and terrible chemical aimed at killing Americans. He has offered to bring the formula to the United States in payment of being taken out and granted asylum there. The condition put is that he wants Matt to handle the operation.

Matt undertakes the job after learning that an American agent, the only survivor of a raid into the area has been captured and will be beheaded by his captors with the execution filmed to be used as propaganda. There is also a background scenario that takes place in the White House. The president is facing reelection for a second term and there are two high-level officers of the government that are looking to control his actions to control events for their own benefit. The background action is a great piece of writing to underline the actual scheming, plotting and double-dealing that occurs in government circles. And of course, plans are laid, discarded and done again by the people working behind the scenes.

Unfortunately for Matt, the president and those on his high-level staff are playing off the rescue of the captured American in different ways in order to seek their own gain. Bentley does indeed have a low opinion of politicians and their maneuvering to bring themselves the greater good by just discarding the needs of those caught in their schemes.

Don Bentley has done a great job in building Matt’s character. He has his faults, his missteps, but in the final analysis, will do the right thing to protect lives and punish his enemies. An excellent beginning to what I trust will be an anticipated series based on well-described counter-terrorism operations.

3/2020 Paul Lane

WITHOUT SANCTION by Don Bentley. Berkley (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1984805119. 384p.



SEA PRAYER by Khaled Hosseini

September 26, 2018

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From the publisher:

An illustrated book on the refugee crisis that will break your heart in under 48 pages, from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Kite RunnerA Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed.

“Intensely moving. . .Powerfully evocative of the plight in which displaced populations find themselves.”– Kirkus, STARRED Review
“Hosseini’s story, aimed at readers of all ages, does not dwell on nightmarish fates; instead, its emotional power flows from the love of a father for his son.”– Publishers Weekly, STARRED BOX Review

A short, powerful, illustrated book written by beloved novelist Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone.

Impelled to write this story by the haunting image of young Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed upon the beach in Turkey in September 2015, Hosseini hopes to pay tribute to the millions of families, like Kurdi’s, who have been splintered and forced from home by war and persecution, and he will donate author proceeds from this book to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts to help refugees around the globe.

Khaled Hosseini is one of the most widely read writers in the world, with more than fifty-five million copies of his novels sold worldwide in more than seventy countries. Hosseini is also a Goodwill Envoy to the UNHCR, and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit that provides t our list is as varied as our readers.

The synopsis from the publisher is almost as long as the book. Not kidding. This book looks like a children’s book; it’s the same size as many picture books, is fully illustrated across two pages at a time with a sentence or two of text. Parents will have to decide if they want to read this to their children. It is not a pretty story.

It is unclear to me who illustrated the book as Hosseini’s name is listed as the author, and I couldn’t find an illustrator.

I borrowed the e-book from my library through Axis 360 and the formatting was terrible, making it impossible for me to read the fine print on the introductory pages. (I don’t know how it formats on the Kindle.) There is a warning that comes with the ebook:

**Please note that this will work best on a color device and will appear in a horizontal format**

Even reading the text was difficult, I had to enlarge each page as it came up. So if you want to read this, I recommend the hardcover.

I’m not sure why Hosseini chose to write a book like this. I understand the impetus, as explained above, but I don’t understand why he didn’t just write a novel. I suppose this is a very dramatic way of expressing himself. It took me less than 5 minutes to read (even with bouncing back and forth to enlarge) but it has stayed with me. It is a very powerful story.

It was also turned into an illustrated film, available on YouTube. Enjoy.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEA PRAYER by Khaled Hosseini. Riverhead Books (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501173028. 48p.



August 20, 2018

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Presented by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; Forward by Jon Meacham

From the publisher:

As seen on The Daily Show, an illustrated portrait of the Donald J. Trump Twitter account, with analysis and “scholarly” commentary from the writers of The Daily Show and an introduction by Trevor Noah

In June 2017, just steps from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah opened The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, a 4,000-square-foot museum space that gave the 45th president and his amazing Twitter legacy the respect they deserve. In the single weekend it was open to the public, the Library pop-up drew 7,500 visitors and had to turn away countless others.

But the Presidential Twitter Library experience should not be limited to the elite coastal few. Not fair! All citizens, even the Mexican ones, should have the chance to see Donald Trump’s tweets in their rightful context—organized and commented on in the fearless, hilarious, insightful voice of The Daily Show.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition catalog presents the Library’s complete contents, including:

• The Masterpieces: In-depth critical appreciations of history’s most important Trump tweets, from “Very Stable Genius” to “Covfefe” to “Trump Tower Taco Bowl/I Love Hispanics!”
• The Greatest Battles: @realDonaldTrump’s brutal Twitter campaigns against fellow Republicans, Diet Coke, women generally, and Kristen Stewart specifically
• Sad! A Retrospective: a compendium of the many people, events, and twists of fate that apparently made Donald Trump feel this human emotion
• Trumpstradamus: DJT’s amazing 140-character predictions—none of which came true!
• The Hall of Nicknames: the greatest of Trump’s monikers, from “Lyin’ Ted” to “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” accompanied by original caricature artwork
• Trump vs. Trump: You’re going to want to sit for this one. Donald Trump has sometimes been known to contradict himself.
• Always the Best: the greatest boasts of the greatest boaster of all time, ever!

Comprising hundreds of Trump tweets, and featuring a foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham, and even a place for readers to add their own future Trump tweet highlights—because he is making new Twitter history literally every day—The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library is a unique portrait of an artist whose masterworks will be studied by historians, grammarians, and mental health professionals for years to come.

Regular readers of this blog (and my Twitter feed) know which way my political leanings go. The only way I am surviving this presidency is by reading romance (I need the happy endings,) listening to podcasts (bless you, Crooked Media) and laughing (it beats crying.) Books like this help.

Noah introduces the book thusly:

When Donald J. Trump launched his campaign for president in 2015, I laughed at the idea. If there’s one thing I knew about Americans, it’s that they wanted their presidents to be dignified, intelligent, and black. Trump had none of these qualities. Even worse, Trump had tweets!

That made me sad, but it also made me laugh. So if you don’t find it funny, then this book probably isn’t for you.

Meacham takes his forward seriously, compares Trump to previous presidents like FDR and Woodrow Wilson, and simply nails it: “As president, he has raised narcissism to Homeric heights – a difficult thing to do when one recalls that politicians, as a species, consider public notice to be slightly more essential than oxygen.”

The illustrations are terrific, the graphs and charts intriguing and it all made me feel a little less lost in America. The old saying “misery loves company” is a proven theorem here. Thanks to Trevor Noah and the team at the Daily Show.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY by The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Spiegel & Grau (July 31, 2018). ISBN 978-1984801883. 144p.



July 20, 2018

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A Memoir

This memoir is getting lots of buzz and I can see why. It is compulsively readable, despite the fact that the author is a bit of an idiot. Or maybe that’s why.

Dorey-Stein was one of the White House stenographers under President Obama. I didn’t know there was such a position, and neither did she until she answered a Craigslist ad and eventually was told what the position actually was. My mom was a stenographer in the 1950’s, which meant she worked for a man (it was always a man) and took dictation using Gregg shorthand, writing squiggly lines on steno pads. Then she would type up whatever it was, usually letters I think. Steno pads still live (check out Office Depot if you’re not sure what they are) but apparently their use has changed. The White House stenographers do not take shorthand. They record every utterance the President makes then type it up for wherever it will go, usually the archives and the press. It is an extremely interesting and sensitive job. It makes the Putin-Trump summit all the more remarkable in that the private meeting was not recorded, an extraordinary breach of protocol and history.

One of the reasons Dorey-Stein got the job was because she was a substitute teacher at the Sidwell Friends School. If that name sounds familiar, it is probably because the school is famous as providing the education for many presidents’ children, including the Obamas. Since she already had security clearance to be around those kids, it made her entree into the White House that much easier.

While there, the 25-year-old Dorey-Stein often traveled with the President and was at many, many historic meetings, summits, appearances, etc.; rather Forrest Gump-like in fact. She often ran into the President in hotel gyms where he was always kind to her and often kidded her about her running. Dorey-Stein presents yet another glimpse of the man who exuded charm, intelligence and charisma and was the epitome of grace and civility. Yes, I miss him.

But Dorey-Stein writes about her personal life as well, and that is where the comparisons to “Sex and the City” come in. Not my comparison, but it keeps cropping up when I see anything about this book. Mostly because she has a boyfriend but is constantly falling into bed with a co-worker who is a womanizing pig. But charming. Dorey-Stein falls a little bit in love with him, which is well beyond my understanding but I haven’t been 25 in many years. And by that age, I was already married so what do I know.

While I may not approve of the cheating, and I may not understand why she did it with such an openly sleazy guy, I have to give Dorey-Stein props for the writing, it is amazing. She is truly talented. Here’s a short sample:

We’re always just a few ticks, clicks, updates and pings away from personal and collective disaster, but right now we’re not our titles but our own selves-people with backgrounds and futures and exes and half-dead pets and crazy parents and broken hearts and big dreams; people who are listening to the president as he tells a funny story from two countries back, twelve hours ago, depending on which time zone you’re counting in. We’re so different, but we’re swimming in this same punch-drunk delirium, and we have one major thing in common: We’ve found ourselves, shockingly, amazingly, how-the-fuck-did-this-happen crazily, flying halfway around the world on Air Force One. We are lucky.

It was also a very nostalgic read and I was reminded time and again of how Obama handled all the nightmares during his presidency; crying while talking about Sandy Hook, singing “Amazing Grace” at the black church where people were shot and killed for no reason, all the mass shootings in fact. I’m assuming that some of the names have been changed in this book but I did enjoy the touches of reality, the David Plouffe stories, Jon “Fav’s Abs” Favreau’s brief mention, and more.

Dorey-Stein did work briefly for Trump as the stenographer is not an appointed position. In fact, the woman in charge of the department had served under many presidents. But the chaos that ensued with the new staff was enough of an impetus for her to leave.

If you have any interest in what it is like to work for the President of the United States, and travel on Air Force One, this is your book. It was a fast read and I couldn’t put it down, I finished it in one night (your speed may vary) and it was mostly enjoyable.

Bonus: On July 17, 2018, Dory-Stein wrote an op-ed in the NY Times, “I Was a White House Stenographer. Trump Wasn’t a Fan.”

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL by Beck Dory-Stein. Spiegel & Grau (July 10, 2018). ISBN 978-0525509127 . 330p.


YES WE (STILL) CAN by Dan Pfeiffer

June 19, 2018

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Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump

From the publisher:

From Obama’s former communications director and current co-host of Pod Save America comes a colorful account of how politics, the media, and the Internet changed during the Obama presidency and how Democrats can fight back in the Trump era.

On November 9th, 2016, Dan Pfeiffer woke up like most of the world wondering WTF just happened. How had Donald Trump won the White House? How was it that a decent and thoughtful president had been succeeded by a buffoonish reality star, and what do we do now?

Instead of throwing away his phone and moving to another country (which were his first and second thoughts), Pfeiffer decided to tell this surreal story, recounting how Barack Obama navigated the insane political forces that created Trump, explaining why everyone got 2016 wrong, and offering a path for where Democrats go from here.

Pfeiffer was one of Obama’s first hires when he decided to run for president, and was at his side through two presidential campaigns and six years in the White House. Using never-before-heard stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, YES WE (STILL) CAN examines how Obama succeeded despite Twitter trolls, Fox News (and their fake news), and a Republican Party that lost its collective mind.

An irreverent, no-BS take on the crazy politics of our time, YES WE (STILL) CAN is a must-read for everyone who is disturbed by Trump, misses Obama, and is marching, calling, and hoping for a better future for the country.

Regular readers of this blog (and my twitter feed) know which way my political leanings go. I am a huge fan of Crooked Media and their podcasts, especially Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It, and when I have time Pod Save the World, Pod Save the People, an occasional Crooked Conversation and more. I swear they have saved my sanity over the past year. So when I heard Dan (I hope it’s okay to use his first name, I feel like I know him!) had written a book, I immediately grabbed a review galley and I was off to the races.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I didn’t expect it to be such an easy read, and a fast read. It feels like a friend telling you stories over a couple of beers, and these stories are good. Fifty pages in, I had already laughed out loud and cried, and I just kept going until I (digitally) turned the last page.

It starts off with a bit of Dan’s background, how he got into politics and some of the campaigns he worked on prior to Obama. I knew he was a really smart guy and he illustrates how hard work can make all the difference. I didn’t know a whole lot about how campaigns work so I found that very interesting.  Then it’s on to the White House years, with a president who is intelligent, disciplined, thoughtful and yes, competitive. To his credit, Dan doesn’t really rip into Trump for a few chapters and I admired his discipline.

If you’re a Trump fan, this is probably not your book unless you want your world blown apart. If you miss Obama, you will definitely enjoy this read. It’s a warm look back, as well as a look forward – hoping Millennials, especially, can get us out of this Trumpian nightmare by going to the polls. Feel free to comment, but maybe read the book first?

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

YES WE (STILL) CAN by Dan Pfeiffer. Twelve (June 19, 2018). ISBN 978-1538711712. 304p.



September 6, 2017

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Englander gives us a novel that describes the ambiguity of the Arab-Israeli conflict via a series of contacts between members representing the two sides.  First, there is the General who has led attacks and wars against Arabs living in territory next to Israel. He is merciless, brilliant and has little guilt about the effects his actions protecting his country cause. He is a beloved figure and we meet him as he lays dying in an Israeli hospital.

Next is the man that the General imprisoned years ago in a secret cell.  No one except the General and the man guarding the prisoner knows where he is kept and why he is there.

There is a meeting and a short love affair between a character known as Z and a waitress. The waitress is actually a rich woman who says she does service work to retain her identity. She takes Z to meet her father in Italy but it is in reality to take him

A love affair develops between an Israeli woman who is a resident of a kibbutz and a Palestinian constantly mapping out Israeli territory in order to present his maps to his Hamas colleagues for use in an attack against the Jewish state. The two decide that they want to experience a dinner date but find that the only place they can have it would be in one of the tunnels dug by Hamas. These, of course, are to be used to invade Israeli at the proper time.

Each of the short vignettes used by Englander in the book illustrates the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Both sides have a point; fight for their point, and refuse to recognize that the other side also has a point which could lead to settlement if everybody would give in a little.

The author is not presenting any other argument other than that the conflict that has gone on for years could be settled if both sides listened to the other and tried to get a solution based on discussion and coming onto common ground.   Very well done and certainly an argument for reason instead of conflict as the only answer to this grave conflict.

9/17 Paul Lane

DINNER AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Nathan Englander.  Knopf; First Edition edition (September 5, 2017).  ISBN 978-1524732738.  272p.




June 30, 2017

Click to purchase

Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Not sure how I missed this when it came out last year, but I found it now. Put out by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, it is much more parody than children’s book. I thought I might enjoy a little political levity while stressing out about politics but I am too far gone for this book to reach me.

WARNING: if you are a fan of the “dotty old racist”* in the White House, then this is not the book for you.

*Thank you, Jon Lovett, for this. Listen to “Lovett or Leave It, a week in review recorded in front of a live audience. It’s great,” a podcast from Crooked Media.

From the publisher:

What do you do when you spot a wild Trump in the election season? New York Times bestselling author and comedian Michael Ian Black has some sage advice for children (and all the rest of us who are scratching our heads in disbelief) in this perfectly timely parody picture book intended for adults that would be hysterical if it wasn’t so true.

The beasty is called an American Trump.
Its skin is bright orange, its figure is plump.
Its fur so complex you might get enveloped.
Its hands though are, sadly, underdeveloped. 

The Trump is a curious creature, very often spotted in the wild, but confounding to our youngest citizens. A business mogul, reality TV host, and now…political candidate? Kids (and let’s be honest many adults) might have difficulty discerning just what this thing that’s been dominating news coverage this election cycle is. Could he actually be real? Are those…words coming out of his mouth? Why are his hands so tiny? And perhaps most importantly, what on earth do you do when you encounter an American Trump?

With his signature wit and a classic picture book style, comedian Michael Ian Black introduces those unfamiliar with the Americus Trumpus to his distinguishing features and his mystifying campaign for world domination…sorry…President of the United States.

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6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A CHILD’S FIRST BOOK OF TRUMP by Michael Ian Black. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (July 5, 2016). ISBN 978-1481488006. 32p.


HALF WORLD by Scott O’Connor

February 18, 2014

From about 1953 until 1973, the CIA clandestinely conducted methods of mind control on both U.S. and Canadian citizens without their consent. It wasn’t until project MKUltra, as it was termed, became public knowledge due to national headlines based on the release of thousands of declassified documents in 2001, that the public became aware of these activities.

Scott O’Connor has written a compelling book about characters caught up in the illegal operations and destroyed by the knowledge of what they were doing to the people that unwittingly became subjects of the experiments. Henry March is the first individual to head up a project in San Francisco selecting people and then drugging them in order to warp their minds.

Two generations later Dickie Ashby, a young CIA agent, is sent to Los Angeles to try and infiltrate a group of bank robbers that claim they have all been abused in a government brainwashing operaton. O’Connor is excellent in setting the mood of the events, and describing the damage done to the individuals that are put in charge of the experiments. First Henry March is shown trying to come to grips with the horror of what he is forced to do and unable to do so and then Ashby facing the results of the experiments two decades later both with the subjects as well as with the families of the planners and their lives.

This is compelling reading and an indictment of a government agency going beyond the pale to prove a point. O’Connor is very good at creating the moods and atmosphere of the events depicted in addition to outlining what are most likely to be the facts of the occurrences during the experiments. Knowing that these experiments were actually carried out makes the book a more fascinating read.

2/14 Paul Lane

HALF WORLD by Scott O’Connor. Simon & Schuster (February 18, 2014). ISBN 978-1476716596. 432p