Recent Book Reviews: Death, the 70s, and Spies

Keeping the flame of literacy alive, here are some recent book reviews I did for the Dallas Morning News:

Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right by Dominic Sandbrook

 The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death by John Gray

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming


As the Meaningful Dialogue Continues. . .

Dear Charles,

The GOP only needs four seats to make their radical ideas become reality. Support the Rapid Response Project. Left to go: $50,000 Deadline: April 30. Contribute.

The radical ideas the Republicans have been putting forth are downright frightening.

But what’s really scary is this: Only four Senate seats stand in the way of those ideas becoming reality.

We Democrats are working round the clock to stop them, but the GOP is not going to let up. They’re going to keep on trying to cut Medicare, eradicate women’s rights and give tax breaks to millionaires instead of helping everyday Americans. That’s why our Senate firewall is so important.

But we have to act now. If we don’t all come together, the GOP extremists could topple the Democratic majority. Please give to the DSCC Rapid Response Project today – before the April 30 deadline. This project is our best defense against GOP extremism.

Click here to make your contribution of $5 or more to the DSCC Rapid Response Project today and help us reach our goal of raising $48,532 before the April 30 deadline. 

The DSCC knows that answering GOP attacks quickly and forcefully is absolutely crucial to winning elections. Their Rapid Response Project is completely focused on doing just that. So when the Republicans come up with another radical bill or they start concocting lies about our candidates, we’re ready to fight back.

The GOP vision for America’s future goes against everything we stand for. It’s about taking away from the many and giving more to the few. And as we all know, the Republicans have a way of recasting the facts – using any means necessary.

But if we’re going to make this work, we’ll need adequate resources. That’s where you come in. We count on you to keep this engine running, to make sure we do everything we can to stop the Republicans from taking over the Senate and implementing their terrible vision for our country.

Won’t you please make a contribution today – before the April 30 deadline – so we can reach our goal of raising $48,532?

Quote of the Week: How Truthers Think

“In every society preceding the American Revolution (and in many non-Western societies, still),  a man’s life largely was governed by factors beyond his control–by birth order, ancestry, guild, caste, religious edicts, and the feast-or-famine vicissitudes of nature. Every major decision of his life –whom he would marry, where he would live, what profession he would follow–was decided by others: parents, priests, clan patriarchs.

The modern Western mind recoils at such strictures. But it is important to remember that they at least served to confer some measure of dignity upon society’s bottom rungs.  A low-caste nineteenth-century Indian latrine cleaner or corpse handler may have had every reason to curse his fate as an “untouchable”–but he could not feel responsible for his own failure to rise up in society. The rules precluding him from advancing in life were explicitly articulated and enforced by a very real conspiracy of high-caste elites.

In America, on the other hand, life’s losers have no one to blame but themselves. And so the [belief] that they are up against some all-powerful corporate or government conspiracy comes as a relief: It removes the stigma of failure, and replaces it with the more psychologically manageable feeling of anger.”

–from Among The Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground by Jonathan Kay

Why Taxing the “Rich” and Gutting Medicaid Are Not Enough

Former Reagan finance guy David Stockman makes the case for facing reality, however painful,  here.  Key quote:

Washington’s feckless drift into class war is based on the illusion that we have endless time to put our fiscal house in order. This has instilled a terrible budgetary habit whereby politicians continuously duck concrete but politically painful near-term savings in favor of gimmicks like freezes, caps and block grants that push purely paper cuts into the distant, foggy future.

Send in the Drones

Obama Approves Armed Drones in Libya

To the tune of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”

As a solitary piano begins the melody, a tuxedoed Obama walks to a pool of shimmering light at Las Vegas’ Palladium Club. He sings:

Isn’t it………strange? 

Isn’t it………queer? 

I said Quadafy must gooooo, 

But he’s ……..still there. 

Where are  the drones? 

We have to have drones.

second verse: 

I won the Prize, 

A man of Peace. 

But all these damnable wars! 

Will they never cease? 

Where are the  drones?

Send in the drones. 

Be careful–they’re here. 


Just when I thought I could make… domestic hay

Shredding Republican plans and Medicade lies, 

Making an eloquent speech, with my usual flare

Carefully droppin’ my g’s

For the regular guys. 

repeat first verse and fade out….

And here’s another version you might like.

It’s National Poetry Month Again

This being National Poetry Month, I’m reprinting some past  posts on poetry, that forgotten art most of us leave behind forever once we leave school, perhaps because we were forced to memorize Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” in 8th grade English.

Oh, well. . . Get your poetry party on  with a list of booze-related poems  here.  Some fine stuff in the list, but it somehow ignores what may be the grandest poetry/booze mashup (sour mashup?) ever written,  Housman’s “Terence, This is Stupid Stuff,” with such immortal lines as

Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:

Here’s a link to this great poem. I’ll have more to say about “Terence” in my  forthcoming memoir of poetic tippling, tentatively titled Down in Lovely Muck.

Three years ago at this time, I did an NPR/KERA radio piece in which I bemoaned my declining interest in poetry and vowed to go looking for its charms again. Here’s what I said at the time. (I recommend listening rather than reading the copy.)

OK. I didn’t strictly keep my promise–some weeks I read one poem, some weeks five, some none–but I did put poetry back on my mental radar screen.

As National Poetry Month slips away, it’s time to revisit “April Inventory,”  W. D. Snodgrass’ lovely  poem about aging, self-knowledge, and the elusive promise of renewal.  A poem to ponder here.

Want more great poetry? Check out Two Years Ago on MUSE MACHINE