How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes

How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes

Once at the centre of the American conservative movement, bestselling author and radio host Charles Sykes is a fierce opponent of Donald Trump and the right-wing media that enabled his rise.

In How the Right Lost Its Mind, Sykes presents an impassioned, regretful, and deeply thoughtful account of how the American conservative movement came to lose its values. How did a movement that was defined by its belief in limited government, individual liberty, free markets, traditional values, and civility find itself embracing bigotry, political intransigence, demagoguery, and outright falsehood? How the Right Lost its Mind addresses:
*Why are so many voters so credulous and immune to factual information reported by responsible media?
*Why did conservatives decide to overlook, even embrace, so many of Trump’s outrages, gaffes, conspiracy theories, falsehoods, and smears?
*Can conservatives govern? Or are they content merely to rage?
*How can the right recover its traditional values and persuade a new generation of their worth?

How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes

It’s very hard to keep up with the political landscape at the best of times, but in the chaotic era of Donald Trump, it’s downright impossible. This becomes even more the case when someone wants to write a book about it, but I found Charles J. Sykes’ take on the situation fascinating (and fact-filled, which is always nice).

Not being American, I had no idea who the author was when I received and began to read this book (he’s a *conservative* political commentator who goes by the name of Charlie Sykes). What makes this book so fascinating is that it is written by a man on the Trump/Republican side of things, and it’s an honest look at a conservative movement self-imploding and becoming a personality cult.

While I sympathise with domestic American causes that have come under attack since 2016, for me, as a foreigner, my two main issues with Trump and his supporters are the hatred he fosters for anyone without US-of-A on their passports, and his support for Russia (my now-homeless family members in Ukraine would really like him to stop supporting Putin’s war).

I suppose the most hard-line right-wingers will detest this book and label Sykes a “loser” and a “traitor” and every other word Trump likes to throw his critics’ way, but How the Right Lost Its Mind should be read by people on both sides of the political divide.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Stacey Abrams – Selena Montgomery: a romance author runs for Governor

Author and Politician Stacey Abrams Selena Montgomery

With the elections in the US taking place this week, I thought I’d mention Stacey Abrams, who is running for Governor of Georgia (and attempting to become the first black woman in the country to achieve such a position).

Why? Because Abrams also happens to be romantic suspense author Selena Montgomery!

The Washington Post had an interview with her a few days ago, where she discussed her books.

I have a subscription to the newspaper, but I’m not sure if you can access it without, so I’ve copied a couple of the questions here:

Q: How has writing romantic suspense novels prepared you to run for — and hold — office?

Leadership requires the ability to engage and to create empathy for communities with disparate needs and ideas. Telling an effective story — especially in romantic suspense — demands a similar skill set. Effective storytelling takes the reader into a life that is both familiar and foreign, enough of both to make space for others to feel empowered to tell their stories.

When I began writing novels, I read Aristotle to learn how to perfect structure, Pearl Cleage to sustain tension and Nora Roberts for characterization. Good romantic suspense can never underestimate the audience, and the best political leaders know how to shape a compelling narrative that respects voters and paints a picture of what is to come.

Q: Many readers find it easy to make fun of romance novels. What do you have to say to critics of the genre?

Telling a well-crafted story is hard. Full stop. Regardless of genre, good writing is good writing. Romance is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, and I’m honored to be in the company of extraordinary writers.

#SAD! Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by G. B. Trudeau

#SAD! Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by G. B. Trudeau

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist whose acclaimed Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump blew up the bestseller list, comes the sequel millions prayed would be unnecessary. #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump tracks the shocking victory, the inept transition, and the tumultuous eternity of POTUS’s First 500 Days.

Citizens who rise every morning in dread, braced for disruptive, Randomly Capitalized, atrociously grammarized, horrably speld, toxic tweeting from the Oval Office, can curl up at night with this clarifying collection of hot takes  on the First Sociopath, his enablers, and their appalling legacy. Whether resisting or just persisting, readers will find G.B. Trudeau’s cartoons are just the thing to ease the pain of remorse (“Could I have done more to prevent this?”) and give them a shot at a few hours of unfitful sleep.

There are worse things to spend your tax cut on.

#SAD! Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by G. B. Trudeau

We all know that Donald Trump is throwback to the days of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. We all know he is an outspoken misogynist, proud racist, enthusiastic supporter of murderous Vladimir Putin – and an idiot to boot.

Well-known American cartoonist G. B. Trudeau has covered Trump for years. As he writes in this book: Trump is severely sensitive to ridicule. Anything anti-Trump isn’t going to change the minds of his cultists, but it is a surefire way to get to him when nothing else will.

Unfortunately, the review copy I had of #SAD! was nearly inaccessible (I got mostly scrambled pages with a bit of text), but Trudeau’s work can be widely found, and is worth seeking out.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Nineteen Years

In light of the increasing number of  – and increasingly deadly – mass shootings in the United States, it is worth remembering today is the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine High massacre. Sadly, things have only got worse since then.

When it happened I was in my final year of school, and the same age as the victims, so it had a huge impact on my generation. At the time nobody could think of anything worse.

America: gun control works! By the time Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into that school in Colorado, USA we’d already had it for three years.

Goodbye, 2016.

Good stuff first, because when I get to thinking back on the year I realise I was sick or injured for much of 2016 (more of that near the end), and unfortunately Putin and Trump still exist!

One good thing: I did quite a lot of travel this year, both nationally and internationally.

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One of the houses we rented in Southern Italy. Having breakfast and then evening swims there, on a massive property just for us…? A definite highlight of my travels in recent years. Especially after two months of being sick and injured!

Cool things happened, like the fact we accidentally ended up in Spello in Italy during one of the country’s most famous festivals – the Infiorate, where they decorate the entire town with flower petal designs, and well over a hundred-thousand people attend. And we were there by accident, staying in a building that is actually a tourist attraction and part of the event (we didn’t know that when we booked, either!). So odd to be eating breakfast and having tourists coming in with their cameras!

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Beautiful Lviv, Ukraine. What a pity I was extremely sick for this whole visit!

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Hanging out with soldiers in Lviv. They were on a few days’ leave from the war for Easter, and then heading straight back to the warzone. It’s Ukrainian Easter, as you can see by the giant Easter egg in front of the Opera House!

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Memorials to Ukrainians killed by pro-Russian and actual Russian snipers in the 2013-2014 revolution in Kyiv. The snipers were above the big clock on the ground, and near those trees, and they shot dozens of unarmed civilians.

Building the memorial to the Ukrainians killed by pro-russian and russian dsnipers in Kyiv. Sonya Heaney OKsana. 2016.

More memorials to the dead (it is just being set up in this picture; the Canadian Prime Minister visited soon after). There were also snipers in the hotel on the right of the picture. The brown, wooden, traditional Ukrainian church at the back of the picture is new – part of the memorial – and they had a collection for the war.

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Plus, Ukraine shocked everyone and won Eurovision while I was in Kyiv – which means Moscow is VERY upset and threatening a boycott for 2017. The winner is a Crimean Tatar who absolutely considers herself Ukrainian.

And literal cool stuff happened: Europe had a shocking summer, which meant we got snow both in our month in Ukraine AND in our month in Italy. It was an interesting “summer” trip!

Rex

Gorgeous, SOFT Rex. I miss him very much!

As I seem to every year now, I had some unexpected animal experiences. Rex and Trixie, two gorgeous cats, moved in next door to be looked after by our neighbours for a year, and for months there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wake up with Rex sleeping on top of me (the strangest one was being sound asleep and dreaming about something weird and heavy on my stomach, only to lift the covers and find someone else’s cat sound asleep there!).

Rex Burmese Cat Cute

You can literally SEE how soft he is!

I’ve spent the past few years looking after stray cats – and now these cats – but I’m still yet to have a cat of my own. It would be irresponsible when we travel so much.

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Of course, there were also all our crazy native, wild birds who adopt us every spring and summer. Australian magpies (not the same birds as magpies overseas) live for two to three decades, and they think we are part of their family. If I leave my bedroom curtains open they stand there and stare and sing and bash their beaks on the window at me from about 5:30am, to try and get me up to give them a snack.

And – despite all the racism and anti-immigration sentiment in the world at the moment – my cousin’s Turkish fiancé was granted his Australian residency, which meant they could finally marry.

Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Mia Jacyshyn Nadia's Wedding. Sydney Australia 6th August 2016.

Hanging out after the wedding on Sydney Harbour (duh!). Me, my mother, and one of my aunts.

Even if most elections in the world (USA, Brexit, and Australia’s federal election, for example) all took a sharp turn to the extremist, far-right, at least here in Canberra we voted for sanity and progression. There don’t seem to be many places left in the world where that is the case. It’s the 1930s again, with the fascist attitudes just before the Second World War on the rise again, and nobody seeming to care.

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Me being excited and taking a BAD picture of the TV on Canberra’s election night.

Here, the “Liberal” Party is actually our right-wing, conservative party. Our country is weird. And we spell it “Labor” instead of Labour because more than a century ago some US politician came here and told us we have to use American English if we want to be progressive. And so we did…

Andrew Barr is one of the few openly gay political leaders… well, anywhere, as far as I know. I am proud to be from Canberra when most of Australia is so fascist these days.

I AM thoroughly tired of voting, however. It is compulsory here, and so I have been voting, or been spammed by politics, all year. Even on our trip to Italy they were campaigning for the local elections, and I got caught up in it!

Now, the BAD stuff…

People have called 2016 “the worst year ever”, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. It was a terrible year for people in English-speaking countries who aren’t fans of fascism, but for the people really suffering in the world at the moment, it all began long before this year. The war in Syria has been going a long time. Russia invaded Ukraine 2.5 years ago, and there were already millions of refugees (including in my own family) long before the year began. It’s old news now, but people never care until it is all about THEM, and 2016 was the year bad stuff touched the countries people consider to “matter”.

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However, what a frightening year! I’m thoroughly sick of the whole topic of Trump, Putin and all their cronies. People are becoming more misogynistic, bigoted, and racist. People are becoming more selfish, and care nothing at all for anybody beyond their own countries’ borders.

But hey – I’ve been saying that for years!

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

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Poor Norcia, before and after earthquakes. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and now it is destroyed (the top picture is mine, from June this year.)

What makes me sad about 2016 is the destruction. The natural disasters. I am starting to think I’m a curse on famous landmarks around the world. I was in Christchurch in New Zealand right before the city was destroyed in an earthquake. Before that, (though this one isn’t a natural disaster), I was living in Korea right before a madman burnt down their most famous landmark, the Namdaemun gate, a place I visited about every second weekend.

And now? All those earthquakes that destroyed the centre of Italy happened in all the places I visited this year.

2016 wasn’t all bad, but it seems as though my months in Ukraine and Italy happened years ago, not months ago. My family in Ukraine is suffering very badly, and the older ladies in the family are sick or have just died. The Russian invasion continues.

The more I think about it, the more I remember I was badly sick and/or injured for almost the whole year, from a dislocated knee in Sydney, to a broken hand in Italy, to a ruptured eardrum that left me deaf for the whole month I was in Ukraine, to a terrible disease (the Kremlin is importing illnesses into Ukraine as part of their warfare), where I literally could not speak AT ALL for weeks – that made meeting strangers fun (and at a few points it was incredibly embarrassing)! Plus, I had some painful eye problems (my eyesight is so weak, and my contact lens prescription so strong, that optometrists just about have a heart attack every time I go to a new person). Then on top of all of that I’ve started eating a gluten-free diet because I was becoming nauseous and faint from eating like a regular person. I miss all my favourite foods and drinks!

What a mess! I sound like a drama queen…

I guess the best word to describe 2016 is “dramatic”. Or maybe even “melodramatic”. I think we all learnt a few upsetting, hard truths about our fellow humans. From the neo-Nazi murdering Jo Cox – and it still not having any influence over the Brexit result, to the Russian football hooligans who went on violent and murderous rampages in France, to the terror attacks pretty much everywhere, to the fact so many millions of Americans who disrespect women so much they voted for “grab her by the pussy”, this year we learnt that the average human being isn’t as decent as we’d hoped they were.

I’d like to say 2017 will be better, but I’m not so sure about that… I do wonder where all these monsters are, however. Because, from the people I see regularly at my favourite cafés and bars, to the American tourists I met in Italy who are ashamed of Trump (including those from Republican states), I seem to mostly meet decent people. Where is this silent majority ruining it for the rest of us??

Who would have thought Aly Raisman would emerge an Olympic star?!

I kind of did, actually. I can’t believe nobody noticed she existed until she – you know – beat World Champions at every turn and became an Olympic Champion. I knew she had it in her!

(Completely irrelevant, but is she getting prettier every day, or am I imagining things?!)

A big yay to USA’s Aly Raisman for going home from the Olympics with two gold medals and a bronze. Raisman, the gymnast people have been writing off for a couple of years, and who apparently “stole” a spot from a teammate. Good thing, that, as it turns out she’s better at winning medals than the others!

I do prefer more balletic gymnastics, but Aly’s Floor routine was unbelievable, and you could see her pushing herself to complete those split leaps, and grab every last execution point. So happy for her, and also for Cătălina Ponor and Aliya Mustafina. Not everything went the way I wanted, but I’m pretty satisfied.

Floor Medallists

However.

If last night’s Uneven Bars final was the best ever, tonight’s Beam had to be the worst.

Poor Deng Linlin pulled out a fantastic routine, only to have it overshadowed by her teammate’s temper tantrum over winning silver. The (Chinese) telecast I saw showed her pulling off her silver medal no less than three times from the medal podium through the photo shoots, and then trying her best to run away from reporters.

She put her teammate – who did outperform her – in a position where she felt like she couldn’t celebrate.

Beam Medallists

And then there was the fact another score was contested, taking the bronze medal off Cătălina Ponor and handing it to Aly Raisman. I’m not going to get into whether or not that should have happened, as I’ve been a Ponor fan since back in 2003, and so probably biased. But I’m happy for Aly.

The rest of the beam final was characterised by crash and fall and fall and wobble. Not a very solid final for most! Viktoria Komova just gave up. You get to the Olympics and you give up, fall, then give up and fall again? I know this wasn’t the Olympic experience she wanted, but two silver medals is nothing to be ashamed of.

And poor two-time gold medallist Gabby Douglas seemed to just run out of steam over the last two days. Oh well. Two golds? Not too shabby!

And congratulations to the men. Couldn’t be happier with the results from their two finals tonight!

A special mention has to go to Channel Nine, for the worst Olympic coverage ever. Australian gymnast Lauren Mitchell has been hyped and hyped, and then they didn’t even show her final – choosing instead to show us Australia losing a water polo semi-final. They then showed us Lauren’s routine, and only Lauren’s, later and pretended it was live.

But as I’d already seen it on Chinese television I knew better. Hell, they couldn’t even bother showing their beloved (and boring) cycling live. Yet they pretended that was too.

The commentary is stellar too. The dickhead here said American Aly was Romanian, and that the Chinese gymnasts won all the floor medals (there weren’t even any Chinese gymnasts there!).