Sunday, February 28, 2016

Drug Addict Reality Check

Free Refills – Doctor Confronts His Addiction – Peter Grinspoon, M.D. (Hachette Books)

Full disclosure up front, my day job is in the healthcare field so I had a natural inclination to gravitate towards this book and I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of drug addiction on patients and families.

The advanced publicity for Free Refills – Doctor Confronts His Addiction, by Peter Grinspoon, M.D. is chock full of comments about the honest, brave, moving account of Dr. Grinspoon’s facing off with his addiction and the good humor that he applies to it in the recounting of this story. That and all of the talk of how Grinspoon’s story should serve as a reminder that “doctors are people too” and subject to all of the foibles and faults of “ordinary” people.


Sorry, but I took none of that away from my reading of Free Refills. The notes I scratched out as a worked through the book are more like; arrogant, smug, liar, snide, snarky, high and mighty, whinny, and finger pointing liberal asshole. This guy could be the one of the least sympathetic characters I have ever been confronted with.

I can only conclude that people are somehow confusing his condescension with humor. This guy is nothing more than a typical drug addict; capable of lying to and deception of, not only family, friends and colleagues, but sadly even himself. He carries all of the stereotypical God complex qualities of way too many physicians; which is especially sad when you consider the amount of anti-religious bigotry and proclamations of his atheism that he peppers the book with.

While Grinspoon decries the lack of fairness and the troubles with the system and laws and the negative impact they have had on his life, I still get the feeling that this guy has never really scraped rock bottom and realized the he is to blame for his problems. The medical profession is all too often complicit in letting dangerous doctors to slide by; here’s hoping this guy’s self-proclaimed sobriety remains intact and he doesn’t end up doing serious damage to a patient.    

 

Losers Unite

United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists – Peter Bergen (Crown Books)

Peter Bergen is the go to guy when it comes to understanding the mindset of Jihadist terrorists. Bergen has authored or co-authored a shelf full of must read books on the subject; his latest, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists, tries to delve into the minds and actions of terrorist actors who have signed on to the Islamic Jihad either on our shores our exported themselves to take part in terror overseas.

Bergen tries to help us understand what makes these people tick, what motivates them act out as lone wolves or to travel to far flung places to plan and or participate in mass murder or suicide attacks. Along the Bergen is careful to examine what actions law enforcement and homeland security have taken to try to identify these budding Jihadis and prevent them from taking action.


Bergen makes the case that the multi-billion dollar National Security Agency program undertaken by the Obama administration, of spying on our phone calls and e-mail in an effort to sweep up Jihadist planning has been an abject failure and despite the administrations claims that the program derailed many terrorist attacks before they started, that simply doesn’t match the reality.

Bergen lays out the threads of commonality that many of these angry, losers who sign on to the Jihad share. His chapter on the Boston Marathon bombing Tsarnaev brothers had me concluding that they were the participation trophy winners of the terrorist world; two losers who had everything handed to them when they relocated to the U.S. and yet always managed to come up short—then blame everybody but themselves for their failures.

As with Bergen’s prior books, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists, is a thoroughly research and well crafted examination of not only the history of these homegrown Jihadis, but also the current and future state of what will be an important focus for the war on terror.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hey Mike, Who Wizzed in Your Corn Flakes?

The Deep State- The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government – Mike Lofgren (Viking Books)

I can’t quite manage to put my finger on it. After 28 years as an allegedly highly respected Republican Congressional staffer, including time with then Congressman John Kasich, Mike Lofgren walked away from Washington, penned a lefty friendly manifesto that popped up on liberal whack-a-mole Bill Moyers website and has since made a career out of being a darling on the left, popping up regularly in places like the Daily Kooks, HuffPo, AlterNet and entertaining the eight readers of Salon.com.

What I can’t quite grasp is, is it the fact that Lofgren barely managed to register a blip in 28 years on the Hill among the Republican political animals or did someone manage to piss him off by wizzing in his Corn Flakes? Now Lofgren earns his keep by peddling all too familiar liberal clap trap to fix the countries problems.
 

I find it laughable on its face that Lofgren embraces liberal yet bemoans the death of the Constitution! Anyone with an iota of common sense can point to liberal policy and liberal jurisprudence that has decimated the Constitution. Lofgren mines familiar tropes like George W Bush was in over his head when he became President; apparently Barack Obama was well versed enough after nearly two years in the Senate to be the leader of the free world. Like I said, laughable at best.

Lofgren has served up a litany of liberal red meat in the form of a series of reforms he feels will “put America back on the right track.” Among them are things like the elimination of private money from public elections; wonder if that would include union dues? The downsizing of the military and intelligence systems; because that worked so well in the lead up to the events of 9/11. Adopt single payer healthcare system; because that has worked so well for places like Canada and Britain…just ask the folks streaming south from our neighbors to the north in pursuit of timely healthcare. I could go on, but what would be the point of recapping these tried and failed policies?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Portrait of Genius

What Happened, Miss Simone: A Biography – Alan Light (Crown Archetype)

Inspired by…a companion to…the acclaimed Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone, author and veteran music journalist Alan Light has penned a dynamic, and engaging biography of legendary singer and activist Nina Simone.

As is his history, Light plowed into a veritable treasure trove of archival material to build the compelling portrait of a complex artist and a challenging figure who was at the cutting edge of a nascent civil rights movement.


Light captures not only the artistic spirit of Nina Simone, but also her troubling history that was as much responsible for shaping her life as was her eclectic artistry. It almost seems unfortunate that the battle she waged with her internal demons and external forces may have caused her musical brilliance to be overshadowed.

Light balances an even handed approach to the writing while keeping things focused on the subject at hand and ends up leaving the reader with a clearer picture of the misunderstood genius that was Nina Simone.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Different Perspective on Football

I have to give columnist, author and football fans Gregg Easterbrook credit; when it comes to writing about football he brings a different perspective to the game. He avoids the clich├ęs of being a drooling, face painted fanboy or a moronic, shouting sports talkshow host’s mind numbed blather; instead he delivers an at times well-considered, almost intellectual approach to delivering his thoughts on the game.

While in his prior book, The King of Sports, Easterbrook reasoned that the game and the NFL was in need of reform, his latest outing, The Game’s Not Over – In Defense of Football, his premise appears to be that the game and the league are on the right track and he is coming to the defense. And it is that that point that the premise goes off the rails.


He offers up reasoning for saving the NFL and the game itself, from the issues it faces; issues that in many instances the NFL has either created or brought on itself. Easterbrook makes an interesting case that the NFL is merely a microcosm of the world it inhabits, turning a mirror on it merely reflects what is going on in society.

Easterbrook’s claim that the NFL is the recipient of what amounts to public financed corporate welfare falls apart quickly. His ridiculous comparison between the 2008 Obama campaign paying the city of Chicago for the costs of renting Grant park for its victory celebration and attendant police costs, while the NFL negotiated a rent free, cost free use of the same park for the NFL draft a few years later as some sort of a corporate shake down. The simple fact is no one forced Chicago to agree to the deal, they could have just as easily said no and watched the NFL take their traveling circus to another locale and all of the millions of dollars of revenue to restaurants, hotels, bars, retail, etc, etc, with it. Chicago wanted that economic impact and it was willing to make the investment to get it. I have major doubts that anyone can place a similar economic impact on an Obama campaign event.

The same is true for those municipalities that pony up HUGE money to build monolithic stadiums for NFL teams to play in. The simple fact is there are currently 32 NFL franchises and likely upwards of 50 or more cities that would be willing to vie for a team and shell out the dollars needed to build an even bigger and better, and by that I mean lucrative to the franchise owner, stadium on the taxpayer dime.

The same holds true for the concussion argument. Does anybody really not know the risks involves in playing a high impact sport and the consequences it has for the human body? Oh and those elite athletes skilled enough to play at that level receive compensation that meets or exceeds the inherent danger. Sorry hard for me to feel sorry when you knew the risks going in.

Living the Dream

A Thousand Naked Strangers – Kevin Hazzard – (Scribner)

Like so many people in the post 9/11 United States, writer Kevin Hazzard was confronted with the fact that he felt there was something missing in his life. Seeking to fill the void and contribute something to society, Hazzard left his gig as a newspaper reporter and sought a role as a first responder first seeking his emergency medical technician (EMT) certification and later as a paramedic.

Most first responders tend to be a different breed of cat; anyone who runs toward the danger rather than away from it would have to be. In his memoir about his time as an ambulance jockey, A Thousand Naked Strangers, Hazzard will force you ponder that the folks who answer the bell and respond to life and death emergencies do so after only a hand full of weeks of training. There is something deeply profound to be found when you think about the rag tag band of misfit toys that Hazzard was a part of answering that call.


Hazzard serves up his tales with an economical style, that is long on humor and chock full of the characters he confronted on a daily basis during his time on the frontlines of first response. Hazzard delivers not only the dark humor that is part and parcel of dealing with what EMTs are confronted with on a daily basis, but also delves into the self-doubt, the fear and adrenaline rush that comes with dealing with folks when they are often at their worst moments.

While the details Hazzard presents over a series of short essays, that he pieces together skillfully, often focus on the details of the various calls, it is his descriptive tales of the characters, the homeless man who sluices the blood and other bodily juices out of the back of the ambulance, cleaning up after a particularly messy ride or the folks on the receiving end of his care that are his bread and butter as a writer. Descriptive, detailed and often laugh out loud funny, A Thousand Naked Strangers rings with a real authenticity.

 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Unique Perspective…A Wakeup Call

The Fight: A Secret Service Agent’s Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine – Dan Bongino – St. Martin’s Press

Almost certain to tie a sizable knot in the panties of liberals everywhere for not only the directness of his approach, but also for his insider’s, unique perspective; The Fight: A Secret Service Agent’s Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine, by former Secret Service, Presidential protective detail agent, NYPD police officer and political candidate, Dan Bongino pulls no punches when delivering his assessment of the country’s current state.

Not your typical bomb throwing pundit, Bongino comes at things from a been there, done that reality of a guy who has been on the front lines of the War on Terror (NYPD), the internal workings of government (Secret Service) and politics (twice a political candidate.) Bongino offers up not only his wholly unvarnished take on the utter failings of the current resident of the White House, but also the sorry state of his own political party, the Republicans.


Bongino stuck to his guns, refusing to sellout to the Republican establishment as he fought not only to overcome incumbent candidates in runs for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The comparisons he draws between the don’t rock the boat bureaucracy of government and the strikingly similar world of politics should be chilling to any voter who still thinks the Constitution stands for something.

Liberal panty-boys and blind to reality supporters of Hillary Clinton will vainly try to pawn this off as the work of a bitter clinger, conservative, Neanderthal, but the reality is, Bongino has delivered a clarion call to all Americans who are concerned not only about the current state of the country but for the future that seems set on a vicious downhill slide. Truly a wakeup call for the masses.

From Nowhere to Target

Over the course of the nearly two decades since he made his debut, Gregg Hurwitz has quietly filled a bookshelf with 15 engrossing thrillers with memorable characters, breakneck speed paced plots and armloads of twists and turns. I say quietly, even though he has found his way onto the New York Times bestsellers list, because his name never quite rises to the level of the David Baldacci’s, the Brad Thor’s or the Lee Child’s of the thriller world.

With Orphan X and his new lead character Evan Smoak, Hurwitz is here to make the case that he has certainly earned his way into that much vaunted group of writers.
 
An off the books operation, ala Robert Ludlum’s Treadstone that spawned Jason Bourne, is taking a group of parentless children and molding and training them to be skilled operator’s. Hence the Orphan tag. Smoak is Orphan X in the alphabetical batting order. Once his “father”, in reality is training officer is killed, Smoak melts into society and becomes the Nowhere Man, a highly skilled Samaritan who puts his special set of skills to work trying to help people who feel they have nowhere else to turn.

In return for his assistance all the Nowhere Man asks, is that you pass along his number to someone else who may need his skillset. Along the way Smoak moves from being the hunter to the hunted; someone is out to take out the Nowhere Man and that someone has a surprisingly similar set of skills and a different entry in the alphabet.

Placed squarely in the crosshairs, Smoak’s skills are put to the test as he must save not only those in need, but also himself. Hurwitz has once again set the table for a great series, much like he did with the Tim Rackley, Troubleshooter set.