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Book Notes

September 26, 2013

"This Town" examines D.C. corruption

I saw a recent poll where Congress has a public approval rating of 12 percent. That figure is shocking only because it should be closer to zero.

Let’s face it. The primary goal of an elected politician is to get re-elected. Actually accomplishing anything is secondary. It’s no surprise that Washington has become a cesspool of hypocrisy that defines polarization and self-promotion. If our so-called public servants really had a conscience why would they want to remain in such a convoluted torture chamber when they can’t get anything done?

We’ve had so many sexual and monetary scandals in Washington that it hardly raises an eyebrow anymore. Some politicians have managed to survive their bad behavior, and their persistence has encouraged other sleaze-balls to re-enter the fray. It’s almost impossible to write a sentence about politics these days without including the words “hypocrite” and “liar.”

If you’re sitting outside the Washington “bubble” and wondering how such an atmosphere could perpetuate itself, turning apparently well-meaning public servants into greedy egomaniacs, there is a new book that explains it all. “This Town,” by Mark Leibovich, describes what Washington is really like. Leibovich doesn’t reveal any illegal activities but underscores the idea that D.C. itself is one big scandal.

It goes far beyond elected representatives. The lobbyists and journalists are in cahoots with the politicians. They’re either members of “The Club” or trying to join it. It’s a name-dropping and “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality. Journalists are constantly trying to rub elbows with the politicians and vice versa.  

Lobbyists are just a subset of the former, usually retired or defeated politicians who say they hate Washington but are willing to stay for the right price. They are considered valuable to special interests because they provide access to lawmakers.

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Book Notes
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    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

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    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

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    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

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    May 29, 2014

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    May 22, 2014

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