Friday, July 7, 2017

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Adult nonfiction
These days, whether they post it themselves as in the
prolifically tweeting Trump or have it revealed by someone else,
people are treated to a surfeit of politicians' (I'm not sure if there
is anyone in elected or appointed office today I'd call a public
servant) thoughts, words, deeds, and misdeeds. Before social media,
however, a lot got swept under the rug. Today we are going to look at
a trinity of volumes (one on politicians in general, one on the
foibles of the Supreme Court "justices", and one on oval office
inhabitants) of not so well known info on the politically powerful.
Some of it is just funny. Some of it is alarming. Think Supreme
Court members far enough into dementia to not understand the
arguements on a case, the outcome of which could effect millions of
people, or addicted to hallucination inducing pain killers. But it's
all interesting.
Erin McHughes Political Suicide: Missteps, Peccadilloes, Bad
Calls, Backroom Hijinx, Sordid Pasts, Rotten Breaks, And Just Plain
Dumb Mistakes In The Annals Of American Politics (Is it possible to
pass up a volume with a title like that? McHughes had me hooked at
peccadilloes.) looks at just about every way politicians and wanna bes
shot themselves in the foot. (Some, BTW, do involve guns. For quite
awhile duels were an accepted way of acting on animosity). The sordid
tales are grouped by category. You can look for your favorite type of
misstep, be it finances, conspiracy, or that perrenial favorite, sex.
Or you can read the book cover to cover like I did to catch the whole
messy tableau.
Robert Schnakenberg's Secret Lives Of The Supreme Court: What
Your Teachers Never Told You About America's Legendary Justices gives
us the low down on robe wearers. (No, not the KKK, although at least
one jurist boasted dual membership). Taking a chronological approach,
he introduces readers to the quirks and misdeeds of jurists from John
Jay, the first chief justice who roused enough anger in those pre
Facebook days to unite the states in hanging him in effigy (read the
book to discover why), to people still sitting on the bench.
I wasted no time looking up my most detested (Oliver Wendell
Holmes Jr.) and my favorite (Louis Brandeis, of course). I realize
some of you might not have made such designstiond in regard to
SCOTUS. Then a cover to cover makes for a fascinating
read. Holmes, the social Darwinist who
Wrote in regard to Buck v. Bell (1937): "It is better for all the
world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for
crime, or to let them starve for their imbicility, society can prevent
those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind", would have
been a big fan of President Trump, Governor LePage, and gubenatorial
candidate Mary Mayhew who share a desire to make it more difficult to
the destitute to get help. In his own words, "I have no respect for
the passion for equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy."
Brandeis, in contrast, reasoned, "We can have democracy in this
country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the
few. But we can't have both." His votes in his twenty-three years on
the bench were well aligned with this philisophy. He established the
Brandeis briefs which incorporated sociologic data as well as legal
precedent. He was also a lot less pompous than Holmes. In regard to
his Supreme Court nomination, he wrote, "I am not exactly sure that I
am to be congratulated, but I am glad the president wanted to make the
appointment and I am convinced, all things considered, that I ought to
I'd just started that book when I had the great good fortune of
discovering a companion volume among the piles of student abandoned
goods we were sorting out for Clean Sweep. Cormac O'Brien's Secret
Lives Of The U.S. Presidents certainly lives up to its subtitle: What
Your Teachers Never Told You About The Men Of The White House. Want
an example? Here's a scoop on the dude they called Old Hickory:
"As a young man, Andrew Jackson "studied law" in Salisbury,
North Carolina, adopting a curriculum of reading, clerking, fighting,
drinking, and vandalism. Stories of his besotted hooliganism abound.
When asked to organize the local dancing school's Christmas ball, he
secretly invited two of the town's most experienced prostitutes,
causing a scandal. On another occasion, he and his fellow miscreants,
in an advanced and increasingly rampageous state of drunkenness,
actually demolished a local tavern, beginning with the glassware,
advancing to the furniture, and concluding by setting the building
ablaze. (Boys will be boys!) Jackson was also known to complete many
of his wild nights with a practical joke or. His favorite: moving
outhouses to where they couldn't be found."
Oh my!
One of Jackson's adult hobbies, combining impulsiveness with
anger management issues (not to mention incredible luck), was dueling
with guns. He engaged in over 100 duels, one of which left him with a
bullet that would remain close to his heart the rest of his life.
Booze, affairs (some of which involve the Secret Services
spiriting in mistresses under the radar of first ladies), vendettas,
vanity--one sees the whole range of human vices and shortcomings
played out on the stage of the White House. This makes for quite
entertaining and enlightening reading. But don't be surprised if it
leaves you approaching the voting box with an attitude of caveat
emptor (Let the buyer beware)!
On a personal note, I am royally ticked off with ticks and the nasty
diseases they spread. Already it's been quite awhile since I've been
to the hubby's camp which I really like. It's in the heart of tick
territory. Any time I spend significant time outdoors (like at the
community garden or Rick Charette's concert) I douse myself in Chanel
number Deep Woods Off and wear uncomfortably warm skin covering
clothes. Then at home I take a hot shower and throw the clothes in
the dryer on high. And they say this year is shaping up to be a bad
one in terms of tick proliferation. Yikes!
Now why were ectoparasites as in pestilence packing blood suckers the
first think that popped into mind while I edited this review?
A great big shout out goes out to the scientists who are hopefully in
their labs and out in the field working on ways to cut down on the
tick population without screwing up the web of nature (recall Rachel
Carson's Silent Spring) and vaccines to protect humans from Lyme and
worse. You're rock stars!
jules hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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