Very Stable Genius, A: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America; Philip Rucker & Carol Leoning; 2020; Penguin Press; 416 pgs; notes, index
This was a much awaited book when it showed up. It covers the Trump history from getting elected (when the first thing he did was lie and claim he won the popular vote) to just after the infamous July 25th phone call to the president of Ukraine. Like books from other reporters like Bob Woodward, this book is heavy on basic facts. It is clearly written and as the title of the book implies, the authors know about whom they are writing. Unlike Woodward's books, which I found dry and dull, I rather enjoyed reviewing the events of the last few years in one compact reference.
Trump fired Comey -- who he knew was on the west coast -- by sending a letter a letter through one of his henchmen. He also torpedoed him on Twitter. When told that he had screwed up in sending the letter as he did, he replied "I know, fucking incompetence. Drives me crazy!" (referring to his staff). Trump never errs. Period.
The material in the book is largely familiar to anyone who has followed the election of the Mango Mussolini. If you had negative opinions of him, and who doesn't, this book will be satisfying and scary at the same time. If sheds some light on the Mueller report and why it fell so flat. It also illuminates the mind of Trump.
He is a petty, pompous, pugnacious, pinhead (at that is just the "P"s) in charge of a country he does not understand. Every person who has been in contact with him for any length of time has walked away from him covered in bullshit and fleas. Some still serve, but most have been arrested or driven from office.
In years to come, this book will become a reference for the times. The only unsatisfying aspect of the book is that it ends before the story is over.
As a skeptic, I have read a lot about cults. We had at least two ex-cult members lecture the BC Skeptics . I spoke with them in person. The difference between a cult and a religion is often subtle. In this case, we are talking about a political figure who demands utmost fealty and believes he can do no wrong. The is nothing subtle about Trump , and the parallels between the Trump movement and the rise of Nazi Germany continue to trouble me.
This was a read of a different nature. I wanted to learn a little more about feminism and a friend recommended this and one other book. It is different for me because it views the world from a perspective that I might try to empathize with, but cannot experience. It is worth noting that the book is 30 years old now, and some things have changed. I also note that Ms Wolf is very "beautiful", or at least she was in 1990. How much beauty-bias she personally suffered is hard to say.
The book has six chapters: Work, Religion, Culture, Violence, Sex, and Hunger,
There are many examples in every chapter (too many at times) of the various burdens women must bear… some external and some internal. For example: the intro points out that the average American woman would rather loose 10-15 lbs than any other goal. That is really sad. It certainly has a strong external component to it. You can blame Twiggy et al for that, but surely part of this issue is internal.
She introduces the concept of the PBQ (Professional Beauty Qualification). She argues that the PBQ is a way to discriminate against women in a safe, litigation-proof way. The standards for on-air female personalities are quite different than for men. One woman lost a case where her employer said she was too, old, too unattractive, and not deferential enough to men. Yikes! The PBQ, Wolf argues, is the currency of womanhood.
Here is a shocking statement from the book: Young professional women spend up to 1/3 of their income on their appearance. Or to put it slightly cruder: Want to keep your job: get your boobs done.
Culture obviously has shaped women. Women's culture is driven by women's magazines and the advertisers who support them. The advertisers are constantly telling women how they should or could look, and assure them that if they buy their goop, all their woes will go away. In fact they create the woes first, and then fix them. And they deliberately promote competition between women. The author suggests that "adornment" is a huge part of female culture, and I am sure she is right. But I wonder if that aspect of female culture is not part of the problem. Putting such a heavy emphasis on adornment seems rather shallow to me, but I am a guy.
Women and weight is always an issue. Weight Watchers tells women "Always wear your makeup. Even to walk the dog. You never know whom you are going to meet." That says a lot. About appearance issues and weight. The author's Religion chapter focuses primarily on the cult aspects of beauty and make-up. She spends quite a bit of time focusing on the bullshit of skin creams that promise rejuvenation. One marketing line caught my eye: "A lipstick you can have a lasting relationship with." I wonder if it comes with batteries.
Cults are something I know a little about. And it is all (well, most of it) there. Chanting, purifications, confessions and other mind control techniques are on full display. If the woman is also hungry, that helps as it will impair her reasoning.
Sex will always be an issue. And men control the issue. The book cites several cases where women were raped or brutalized, only to have the legal system tut-tut them, or suggest it was all in good fun. Who can forget the Canadian judge who asked a female victim why she didn't just keep her knees together? Ms Wolf does not approve of pornography and she may have a point, but these are issues that can be resolved academically, which is my only real complaint about this book… It could have used more science to back up its conclusions.
There is no doubt that weight and conditions like bulimia and anorexia are major concerns for women. The author quotes a number of statistics on the subject. If one takes the worst numbers that have been put forward, then 1 in 10 college age women are anorexic and 5 more are bulimic. If the true figures are even close to that, that is very troubling indeed. The rail thin heroin-chic skinny look came in with Twiggie and has never left. Porn and women's magazines are part of the problem, to be sure. They both make people of both sexes feel that their bodies are not as good as they could be.
Cosmetic surgeries have gone through the roof. Joan Rivers had more and more done until the last one killed her. The author argues that this is a form of violence toward women, and it is hard to argue that she has a point. Doctors invade diseased bodies as a last resort. Cosmetic surgeons call healthy bodies sick and then invade them. The industry is huge and largely unregulated. Things may have changed in 30 years, but in 1990, doctors could not tell a patients the risks of cosmetic surgery because they did not know themselves.
I found the book over-long on examples, and short on analysis and statistics. But these are quibbles. I can say this: it is more complicated being a woman in our society than a man. We have a long way to go as a society to level the playing field. And women (and men) need to learn how to be happy with themselves and others.
I recently visited my sister-in-law and complemented her on her looks. I had caught her in a rare moment: au natural (no makeup). She thought I was ribbing her. That should not happen.
A few things you should know before reading this email from my aunt:
This is the story of me becoming an atheist.
In the evening our mother told us stories written by H.C. Andersen.
Among them was the story (The Tinderbox) about the soldier, a tinderbox and three big dogs. And on Sundays, I went to the Sunday school and heard stories about Jesus and his disciples.
And then, in school one day, the teacher rolled down a big map of Palestine and he said: This is where Jesus was walking with his disciples.
I was shocked.
Like I would be, if the teacher had taken us to a tree with a big hole in it and declared that:
Here was the tree, where soldier killed the witch, and got the tinderbox.
But I was living in the 1930’s, and opposite to now, people went to church, so I kept my opinion to myself, until one day I openly declared myself as a nonbeliever, no longer a member of the church (I saved taxes), and none of my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are members.
Churches in Denmark are empty mostly – only a few old people mostly women are sitting there, and some churches are used for other kinds of social events.
And I need no medicine
And remember: No herring on white bread! (no white food at all).
I often wear a t-shirt that reads "Boo I am an atheist". I think it is funny because, at least in the US, atheists are feared more than terrorists. Why? Because atheists do not fear ultimate punishment, and are therefore free to run amok. The atheist might argue "Hey, I am only trying to blow up your beliefs... terrorists want to blow up your house and family!" That logic seems lost on the believer.
Compare this to Catholics. If a Catholic sins (or runs amok), he can talk to a priest, who is bound to silence, and get forgiven by God. They do not even have to apologize to the victims of their sins. Nor do they have to turn themselves into the police if that might be required. Nope... the church gives them a get-out-of-hell-free card. And so does the rest of the world... with a few excepts like Cardinal Pell (may he rot in jail forever, the bastard).
So what is the difference? This is it: A believer gets to walk away, relived of his burden forever; An atheist must carry their burdens until they die.
Of the three groups mentioned (atheists, believers and terrorists), I fear believers the most, mostly because most terrorists are believers, and none that I know of are atheists.
Irony is a bitch.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.