Sunday Morning Open Thread: It’s A Gift

Okay, it’s a box. But all boxes belong to cats, by divine right.

Betty had a wonderful thread earlier this week asking for gift ideas and highlighting the artists among us, but Sunday morning tends to be a quiet time for those of us who’re still contemplating our options.

There are a bunch of Balloon Juice jackals who have books to sell, among them Dorothy A. Winsor, who taught me something I didn’t know:

…If you read something and enjoy it, you give the author a big gift by reviewing the book on Amazon and/or Goodreads. The review can be very short (I enjoyed this book). It doesn’t have to 5 star. The issue is that Amazon uses the sheer number of reviews as part of its algorithm for which books to promote. Also some sites ( Book Bub, frex) require that a book have a certain number of reviews before you can promote on there.

So… Who’s got works to promote (yours or others?)

What other great gift ideas should we know about? (Out-of-the-ordinary good causes to support, for instance… )

Wednesday Gratitude Post: One Good Thing

For escapism, I’m reading and re-reading mysteries by my favorite authors. (Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell’s The Brimstone Wedding is so good, I’m having trouble putting it down long enough to post!)

Many years ago, I did some sketchy calculations and came to the conclusion that I’ve been tithing the publishing industry ever since I first had my own money. Since that indicates my level of devoutness, obviously I’m grateful for stories like this one in the Washington Post that let me know I’m not alone:

For more than four decades, October Books has been a fixture in Southampton, England…

Last November, the co-op’s members gave their landlord notice that they would be leaving their Portswood Road space and began seeking a property to buy. As fate would have it, a former bank just down the road went on the market — at 189 Portswood Rd. — and it was perfect for what October Books’s members had in mind.

A series of small miracles happened. A nonprofit organization that supports the homeless agreed to go in on the new property with October Books. In January, a bank accepted its proposal to buy the building in question…

There was one lingering logistical hurdle: How would they move thousands of books from one storeroom to the other?

A radical idea was put forth: What if they formed a human chain and simply passed books, handful by handful, down Portswood Road?

With the two properties about a tenth of a mile apart, co-op members estimated that they might be able to pull it off — if they could persuade at least 150 people to show up at once…

What one good thing are you grateful for, this week?

Wednesday Gratitude Post: One Good Thing

What I’m grateful for this week is the pleasure of re-discovering books I first enjoyed many years ago… and also, the ease of internet shopping. Some time ago, I decided to start purging my fiction collection; so far I haven’t actually reduced the number of volumes significantly (donated all but my two favorite Catherine Airds, added the couple dozen Robert Barnards I didn’t already own) but at least I’ve shifted the content around a bit. It’s somehow very freeing to realize, given the internet, I no longer need to hang on to novels I won’t read again for another twenty years, because if I change my mind, I can hunt down a replacement from the comfort of my pajamas.

What one good thing are you grateful for, this week?

Michael Lewis on THE FIFTH RISK: “I think [Trump] moves through the world avoiding colliding with information”

Christie volunteered himself for the job: head of the Donald Trump presidential transition team. “It’s the next best thing to being president,” he told friends. “You get to plan the presidency.” He went to see Trump about it. Trump said he didn’t want a presidential transition team. Why did anyone need to plan anything before he actually became president? It’s legally required, said Christie. Trump asked where the money was going to come from to pay for the transition team. Christie explained that Trump could either pay for it himself or take it out of campaign funds. Trump didn’t want to pay for it himself. He didn’t want to take it out of campaign funds, either, but he agreed, grudgingly, that Christie should go ahead and raise a separate fund to pay for his transition team. “But not too much!” he said.

And so Christie set out to prepare for the unlikely event that Donald Trump would one day be elected president of the United States. Not everyone in Trump’s campaign was happy to see him on the job. In June, Christie received a call from Trump adviser Paul Manafort. “The kid is paranoid about you,” Manafort said. The kid was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law… The Kushners apparently took their grudges seriously, and Christie sensed that Jared still harboured one against him. On the other hand, Trump, whom Christie considered almost a friend, could not have cared less.

Christie viewed Kushner as one of those people who thinks that, because he is rich, he must also be smart. Still, he had a certain cunning about him. And Christie soon found himself reporting everything he did to prepare for a Trump administration to an “executive committee”. The committee consisted of Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions. “I’m kind of like the church elder who double-counts the collection plate every Sunday for the pastor,” said Sessions, who appeared uncomfortable with the entire situation. The elder’s job became more complicated in July 2016, when Trump was formally named the Republican nominee. The transition team now moved into an office in downtown Washington DC, and went looking for people to occupy the top 500 jobs in the federal government. They needed to fill all the cabinet positions, of course, but also a whole bunch of others that no one in the Trump campaign even knew existed. It is not obvious how you find the next secretary of state, much less the next secretary of transportation – never mind who should sit on the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation…

The first time Trump paid attention to any of this was when he read about it in the newspaper. The story revealed that Trump’s very own transition team had raised several million dollars to pay the staff. The moment he saw it, Trump called Steve Bannon, the chief executive of his campaign, from his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, and told him to come immediately to his residence, many floors above. Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?
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The 2020 Commission Report – Review

If you want to know what the next nuclear war will be like, read Jeffrey Lewis’s The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States.

Nuclear weapons have been used only once in war, by the United States against Japan at the end of World War II. Nuclear war was imagined many times, however, through the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. As the two countries’ nuclear arsenals grew, the common understanding became that in a nuclear war, hundreds of multi-megaton nuclear weapons would be exploded, and the direct damage would destroy the countries involved. Most of us would die immediately, more in the aftermath. It looked like the end of civilization.

We don’t know exactly how many nuclear weapons North Korea has, but it’s in the tens, rather than the thousands of the Cold War. That changes the leaders’ calculations. If they face a war in which using those weapons is a serious possibility, they must use them before they are destroyed. So they must be alert to signals from their enemies that an attack might be coming.

Unless the United States responded with nuclear weapons and somehow Russia and China also sent their missiles flying, the result would look more like what Lewis describes than the Cold War imaginings.

The 2020 Commission Report reads not quite convincingly as a government report. It too many emotional words. But the format allows a view into how decisions are likely to be made in such a war.

When people write serious articles in serious journals about deterrence or nuclear war, they assume rational, fully-informed decision-making. After a war starts, emotions come into play. Communications are broken. Erroneous impressions or understandings of what the other side may do have been there all along. Read more

Open Thread: Hope Never Dies

Oh, thank heavens for jackal Dorothy Winsor for bringing this book to my attention. It’s on my kindle now. If only for the laughs.

The New York Times Best Seller

“[Hope Never Dies is] an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration, longing for the Obama-Biden team to emerge from political retirement as action heroes.”—Alexandra Alter, New York Times

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama team up in this high-stakes thriller that combines a mystery worthy of Watson and Holmes with the laugh-out-loud bromantic chemistry of Lethal Weapon’s Murtaugh and Riggs.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted: the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.

And shame on you if you knew about this and didn’t email me immediately.

Open thread.

Late Night Open Thread: FEAR of A Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward is the Establishment’s Guy. Most of his big fat doorstops-with-indexes are launched to certify that All Is Well In This Best of All Possible Worlds. Occasionally, as with the book that launched his & Bernstein’s journalistic careers, the message is This Individual’s Become A Problem That Will Be Dealt With As Harshly As Required.

His new book seems to fall squarely in the second category. The question: Does Trump understand the verdict that has just been passed upon his “presidency”? Or perhaps it should be phrased: Will any of Trump’s staff bother trying to explain the situation to the Oval Office Occupant?

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