Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Next Great Migration (The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move)

By: Sonia Shah

Narrated by Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah (Journalist-born in NYC to Indian Immigrants.

Sonia Shah takes a broad look at migration.  She personalizes her view and, at the same time, writes about the broad tableau of nature’s migratory imperative.  Myths and misunderstandings are exposed by Shah. 

The lie of Disney’s lemming suicide documentary is largely forgotten in the 21st century.  Disney implied overpopulation leads to a deep-rooted impulse to compel millions of lemmings to jump off a cliff to their death.  She notes the documentary is a staged lie.  The only truth is that scarcity and fear compel animals to migrate.  There is no mass instinct for death.  There is only an instinct for species survival.

Shah notes the fundamental motivation for migration is survival.  Whether writing about butterflies or human beings, the animal kingdom chooses to migrate because of changes in their environment that degrade their way of life.  It is not an easy choice to move. 

Shah explains humans fear change.  One imagines what it is like for a young adult to move to a foreign country that speaks a different language, is exposed to a different culture, knows only a few fellow countrymen, and is thrown into a job market that makes or breaks their future. 

Shah correctly identifies the idiocy of Trump’s classification of migrants that are “…bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people”. 

That is true of all people in the world, whether American or foreign born.  Human nature “…is what it is” as Trump’s callous comment about Covid19 deaths reiterates.  

A young person may have left his home country because of economic, environmental, or political changes that threatens life, but it is a life he/she understands.  Shah notes, that is the “…Terror of Life on the Move”.

Though it is cliché—America is founded by migrants.  Even Trump’s parents were migrants. Shah’s parents are doctors from India that migrated and made a life in America in ways that serve the needs of their new home.  They gave birth to an American-born daughter who has contributed to America’s understanding of migration’s beauty and terror. Migrants are not America’s burden.  They are America’s hope.

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983, American architect, systems theorist, author, futurist.)

Shah’s purpose in “The Next Great Migration” is not to solve the world’s problems but to explain all life migrates to survive.  As Buckminster Fuller noted, we live on “Spaceship Earth”.  Human life on “Spaceship Earth” depends on how humans are treated if we are destined to survive.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Skeptics’s Guide to Alternative Medicine

By: Steven Novella MD

Great Books Lecture Series


Many listener/readers will be disappointed, if not outraged, by Steven Novella’s criticism of alternative medicine and medical treatments.  He notes that many such treatments are untested by properly conducted experiment, and replication.  He notes many alleged medical treatments and cures either fail clinical tests or are not tested at all. 

The significance of Novella’s argument strikes at the heart of anecdotal evidence used to advertise unproven cures for minor, as well as major medical conditions.  With freedom of advertising, unproven claims of miracle cures are fed to the public.  Their claims are to improve health for everything from fatigue, to joint pain, to erectile dysfunction. 

Over the counter supplements and game playing are alleged to improve health and memory. Their only proof is anecdotal experience.  Some advertisements of the OTC’ treatments claim to improve memory, abate Alzheimer’s, and reduce the negative effect of dementia. Support in the media comes from anecdotal stories from users of these alleged remedies. 

One of the most heavily advertised health supplements for brain health today is Prevagen.  Prevagen is dosed with a protein found in jelly fish.

Novella takes on the vitamin and herbal industry by noting vitamin supplements, plant and animal extracts are an unregulated industry.  The FDA gives free reign to manufacturers, advertisers, and sellers of supplements which:

  • 1) vary dramatically in their alleged ingredients, and
  • 2) have no clinically proven benefits. 

Novella explains (and most have heard this) that a balanced diet is the best prescription for healthy living.  Novella notes the only exception is when there is a vitamin deficiency revealed in a blood test.

Many OTC drugs are supported by lab-coat wearing and white-shirt-and-tie actors.  No reputable clinical trials are required to sell Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Echinacea, and other herbal medicines.

Next, Novella takes on the Chiropractic and Acupuncture industry.  Novella argues these two industries have never had clinically proven benefits.  Novella implies Chiropractors talk of “vertebral subluxation” as a cause for disease that can be cured with manipulation of the body. He suggests that is quackery.  Novella implies this is junk science foisted on an unwary public. No clinically reproducible experiments of this Chiropractic diagnosis and treatment have proven such a claim.  Novella attacks the validity of acupuncture with the same argument.  His conclusion is that any positive results are from the placebo effect, not from clinically reproduceable tests.

The body naturally fights disease with one’s own immune system.  People get better and feel better because their immune system cured them. Novella explains feeling better after taking a herbal supplement may be a result of the placebo effect.  Feeling better is reinforced by testimonials of those who say it worked for him or her.  The obvious risk of the placebo effect is that someone who needs medical treatment will choose an alternative medicine that delays proper treatment by a qualified medical professional. 

Novella suggests feeling better is not a measure of efficacy.  Feeling better may be from getting over an illness. 

The public is forearmed by Novella’s critique of alternative medicine.  Be skeptical about what your friend, an acquaintance, a mother, a sister, a brother suggests is a remedy for your malady. Be particularly skeptical of an industry unsupervised by the FDA.  Everyone should be wary of unqualified medical treatment, prescribed medicines, vitamins, and herbs.  Companies in the field of alternative medicine are not in the business for your health. They are in the business of making money.

It seems prudent to suggest one should reserve a measure of skepticism for all purveyors of cures, even medical professionals.  As is true of all humans, medical professionals can be seduced by the desire for money, power, and prestige–even at the expense of those who seek care.

This book is written before Covid19. Politicization of science is a danger to humanity. Science is never perfectly right. There should always be some level of skepticism about new medical or drug treatments. Freedom to choose whether one should get a jab for Covid19 pales in comparison to death statistics of those who ignore the science.

After listening/reading Novella’s book, it seems prudent to be skeptical of all who prescribe cures for mental and physical illness.  However, death statistics from Covid19 are compelling evidence to prove those who choose not to get the jab threaten the lives of others, not just themselves.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Night Watchman

By: Louise Erdrich

Narrated by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich (Author, National Book Award winner plus other honorifics.)

(Louise Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Erdrich’s parents, a Chippewa mother and German father, taught at the “Bureau of Indian Affairs” in Wahpeton.  She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and her husband was the director of “Native American Studies” at Dartmouth.)

Like Ellison’s “…Invisible Man”, Louise Erdrich offers “The Night Watchman” to show how invisible native Indians are in America. 

The headline in the 1/4/21 “New York Times” National page is “Indian Country Loses a Hospital at a Crucial Moment–Tribe Members Feel Abandoned as the U.S. Turns a New Mexico Facility Into a Clinic”–today’s example of Indian invisibility.

“The Night Watchman” is not Erdrich’s first attempt at explaining Indian’ invisibility.  She also wrote the best seller “The Round House”.  Both reveal the ignorance and unfairness of Indian reservation life and American government attempts to subsume Indian culture.

Erdrich notes “The Night Watchman” is a true story with names changed to hide American political shamefulness and abhorrent treatment of a young Indian woman. 

Erdrich offers a distinctive picture of Indian reservation life and reminds one of American power’s ill treatment of Indian people.

America’s history of violating contractual agreements with Indian tribes is well documented.  A part of Erdrich’s story shows how those contractual agreements are broken.

(This is a photo copy of a Senate Agreement with Crow Indians for Sale of Their Reservation in Montana-1891)

An elected official submits a bill to a state legislature suggesting native Indians have achieved equality before the law and that they have become Americans who should not be restricted to reservations (a euphemism for break-up of Indian culture and land confiscation).  The submitted bill gives no value to the tradition and history of Indian culture.  The bill might offer compensation to a tribe for the taking of the land, but at an unspecified price.

The people of the reservation are legally notified of the prospective legislative bill.  People on the reservation are offered a public hearing to discuss the bill. 

There is no offer of financial help for traveling to the hearing or for legal defense of Indian contractual rights to the reservation land. 

In Erdrich’s story, effort to organize and pay for travel and legal expense is left to reservation people who have no money to spare. What money they have is to survive, to have a roof over their head, and food on the table.

“The Night Watchman” is a story of big government against “invisible” Indians. 

The bill is created by a Mormon legislator in the state whose family settled in the area in the 19th century.  He argues reservation land was a temporary holding until Indians were integrated into American culture.  The legislator reasons the day for full integration into American culture had come.  He reasoned job availability, education, and welfare of tribal populations had reached the same level available to all Americans.  It is the same lie offered to women and minorities in the history of the world.

Erdrich’s story begins with vignettes of Indian life on the reservation.  This is somewhat confusing but gains momentum as her characters are fully developed.  The night watchman is an Indian named Thomas Wahhashk.  He works off the reservation at an industrial plant.

Patrice Paranteau is an Indian who works at the same plant as Thomas.  She has a sister named Vera who has left the reservation to live in the city.  Vera disappears.  The disappearance of Vera is one of the drivers of Erdrich’s story.  What happens to Vera is unconscionable.  She is kidnapped and held in a ship’s hold to be abused by its sailors. Patrice goes to the city to find Vera but only finds Vera’s baby who appears abandoned. 

There is a burgeoning love story threaded into Erdrich’s story that reflects the striving of Patrice to become an equal partner in life.  Patrice chooses her own path to become an independent woman in a world defined by government and men.

Erdrich’s story reminds one of Ellison’s invisible Black who identifies with a personal culture while wanting to be treated as an equal in American culture. 

Minorities do not wish to lose their identity but to be equal participants in a wider culture. It should not be difficult to be a Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, or other American and enjoy the benefits of democracy’s freedom.

Erdrich combines the theme of cultural identity with a story of human relationship, hardship, success, and failure.  Erdrich offers a glimpse of how hard it is to be an Indian in a culture dominated by a largely white culture. 

Erdrich, like Ellison, shows how multiculturalism is denied by a country that purports to believe in equality of opportunity for all. 

Like Ralph Ellison pictures what it is like to be Black in America, Louise Erdrich tries to write what it is like to be Indian in America.

Poverty’s Song

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Sing, Unburied, Sing

By: Jesmyn Ward

Narrated by Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chris Chalk, Rutina Wesley

Jesmyn Ward (American Author, associate Professor of English at Tulane University)

Songs about poverty are hard to listen to.  Like Whitehead’s story about “The Underground Railroad”, one wonders “Is this America”?  It is and it is not.

Jesmyn Ward’s song is about an American family.  In one sense, the story is unrelatable because most American families escape dire poverty.  But Ward’s depicted family is poor with the added burden of being a minority of a minority.

Though every family’s story is unique, there are familial lessons to be learned from Ward’s story. On many levels, the story is about troubles of every poor American family.

Poverty amplifies good, bad, and indifference in all families. 

Ward introduces a black family headed by a patriarchal grandfather, a wise and wizened grandmother, a grown daughter, and two grandchildren living under the same roof. The daughter is in a committed relationship to a young white man who is about to be released from prison.  He is the father of the two grandchildren.

The boy grandchild adores his grandfather.  The girl grandchild adores her brother.  Both children are ambivalent about their mother because of her self-absorption and inability to comfort either of them.  As her grandmother explains, it is not that her daughter does not love her children. She just does not know how to express her love.

The grandmother is nearing death with regrets about her daughter’s inability to comfort her children and raise them with the values she and the grandfather live by.

The grief of her daughter when her mother dies is palpable. It is a grief borne of self-pity but also of deep love for what her mother knew and tried to teach her.

Life seems bleak.  The only ray of light comes from the grandson who copes with the indifference of his mother, and fear of a father he barely knows.  This ray of light comes from stories told, and examples set by his black grandfather.

This grim story describes a poverty trap made in America.  The father who is being released from jail is estranged from his family because of his relationship with a black family.  He is damaged by his experience in jail and the irony of being the son of a bigot. 

The downward spiral of this father’s life and his companion appear set in motion.  The mother of his children loves and depends on him, but their destiny is bleak.  Ward ends her story with the grandmother’s death, and the parents leaving the children with their black grandfather. 

One presumes the boy will grow to manhood with the moral compass of his black grandfather, but the fate of the daughter seems as bleak as her parents.  Without the guidance of a loving mother or grandmother, it seems the daughter is destined to remain in poverty.

Being black is a struggle not understood by white America.  Even with a powerfully good moral compass, a young black boy-man or girl-woman bares the burden of being black in a world of white authority.

This is a beautifully written book of a tragedy, made and remade in America.

COVID19, (From the Strip to the City of Las Vegas to Sammy Davis Jr. Park.)

As many know, the City of Las Vegas is different from the Las Vegas Strip. The City is the city. The Strip is outside the city but in the same county, connected by extensions of north/south streets.


During the pandemic, some take a walk through the city. With Covid19, some residents visit the park.

Like the Strip in Clark County, Fremont Street is deserted. (The distance from the Strip to Fremont Street is 5.4 miles.)

Not far from the City is Sammy Davis Jr. Park. Sammy Davis Jr. Park is 3.2 miles from Fremont Street.

Las Vegas is a destination city for the world. How long it will remain a capital of entertainment is solely based on belief in personal safety. Las Vegas is the capital of the gambling industry in America but few want to risk their lives on Covid19 in April of 2020.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Midnight Line

By: Lee Child

Narrated by Dick Hill

Lee Child (British Author of the Jack Reacher novels.)

Let Lee Child entertain you. 

“The Midnight Line” is Child’s latest chapter of the Jack Reacher series.  This is the first Lee Child novel for this reviewer.  Reacher is put at risk by a drug dealer who tells a hit man to be on the lookout for “big foot” or the “hulk”.

Child suggests 6′ 4″ Lawrence Dallaglio (Retired English Rugby Player) is the image of who he thought of as Jack Reacher.

Having seen a Jack Reacher movie, one understands why many Reacher fans are disappointed with Tom Cruise’s billing. The diminutive 5′ 7″ Tom Cruise does not fit Child’s characterization, but Cruise became Reacher in a film from Child’s book, “One Shot”.

In two senses, Lee Child is a spartan writer.  He writes short, clear, precise sentences, and creates a Herculean “spartan like” character.  “The Midnight Line” is a guilty entertainment for mystery and action addicts.

Jack Reacher is a loner.  Reacher is a combat veteran with an investigator’s curiosity.  He is a West Point graduate who left the military after 11 years.   He is a former major in the Military Police. He lives in the moment.  He travels the roads of America without a suitcase and often without a ticket to ride.  He hitchhikes.  He wears one set of clothes until he needs a new set.  He discards the old and buys new. 

The story begins with a tiny ring that Reacher happens to see in a pawn shop.  The ring is from a former cadet at West Point.  From there, the listener hitches a ride with Reacher to South Dakota and Wyoming.

Reacher is a phenom.  Not only because he is big but because he forgets nothing and sees everything.  With remembering and seeing, he intuits what is going to happen next. Whether in a fight or personal crises, Reacher assesses details and sees the future.

Lee Child places Reacher in a story of addictive drug manufacturing, illegal distribution, and human destruction. 

The author’s dialog is short and to the point.  Reacher is almost supernatural but just believable enough that a listener identifies with his heroics.  Child adds mystery to his characters.  His terse sentences makes listeners want to know more. 

“The Midnight Line” is partly about a missing person (a twin of a beautiful woman).  The missing person is a former graduate of West Point that has pawned her ring. Reacher knows something is wrong because he knows how difficult and psychologically rewarding it is to graduate from West Point.

The missing person is involved in an interstate illegal drug trade for reasons that are not clear until the end of Child’s story.  It’s a good guy, bad guy story with twists. 

A listener learns something about the illicit drug business in the United States. How and why it works.  Particularly how it feeds off a culture that insists all human pain must be medicinally treated.  And, how an injured veteran of war, with a distinguished service record, can become an addict.

In the end, “The Midnight Line” is an entertainment.  However, it also says something about addiction–its causes, its consequences, and the amoral businesses that serve it. 


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Good Economics for Hard Times (Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems)

By: Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Narrated by James Lurie

Abhijit Banerjee’s and Esther Duflo’s book, “Good Economics…”, seems like a play book for Bernie Sander’s, and Andrew Yang’s campaigns for President.  It is not, but much of what they write resonates with their campaigns.

These two authors are professors of economics at MIT.  They received a Nobel Prize in 2019 for their work on an “…experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. Both are obviously well respected for their research and economics acumen.  Professor Barnerjee  is a research affiliate of Innovations for Poverty Action. Professor Duflo specializes in Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics.  Their credentials speak for themselves.

Now, with the election of President Biden, one wonders if Banerjee and Duflo’s ideas will be tested. The leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is quoted as having said “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration”.

McConnell’s comment suggests the poor and lower middle class should be left on their own, a kind of Marie Antoinette view of life.

Sadly, this is a somewhat ponderous work for a layman interested in the future of American prosperity.  In the face of supporters of Reaganomics and today’s Trumpist’ “trickle down” economics, a listener hopes for a definitive answer to inequality, rising poverty, and homelessness in the United States.

With the defeat of Trump, a new economic plan is proposed by President Biden. As expected, Republican leadership argues “hands off” on the American economy that appears to be improving without government help.

The concern one may have with a “hands off” approach to a weakened economy is that it offers little hope for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Those who have a job (namely congress men and women) seem to have little empathy for the poor. It is a view based on belief that the poor are poor because of their failure to take advantage of American opportunity to work and prosper.

Banerjee and Duflo note that a rising tide does not lift all boats.  “Trickle down” economics do not work. 

Banerjee and Duflo cite several studies that suggest there might be a solution, but the scope and conclusions of the studies seem ill-suited for the largest economy in the world.  The authors’ conclusions are based on small social experiments that show mixed results.

On the one hand, self-interest and freedom have made America’s standard of living among the highest in the world.  On the other hand, it seems self-interest and freedom mitigate against fairness in the American economy. 

The problem is self-interest and freedom have brought out the worst in human nature—greed.  Greed has left middle class and poor Americans poorer than they were in the 1960 s and 70 s. 

Banerjee and Duflo cite studies of the Reagan years that show wealth became more concentrated with tax cuts for the rich. 

Human nature gets in the way of understanding what lower income Americans need to survive Covid19. For the President of the United States to say “It is what it is..” reflects on our lack of empathy for a loved-ones’ death caused by the pandemic.

The Senate drinks from the same trough when they argue the economy is getting better. Over 1,000,000 Americans remain unemployed. It is getting better for whom? Certainly not for restaurant workers, small business owners who closed their doors, or the nurses and teachers who are compelled to go to work despite the risks of a deadly virus. (That is not to mention the children who are going back to congested class rooms with potentially catastrophic consequence for their families and others.)

Trump and the Republican party continue to believe the wealthy will reinvest their wealth to benefit the poor and middle class with jobs. 

Job creation benefited the rich after Reagan’s tax cuts.  Wages of workers did not increase but the stock market rose, corporate executive salaries skyrocketed, and dividends to stockholders increased. Workers in the middle class and the poor were left behind.  Banerjee and Duflo argue that tax cuts for the rich are unfair and they exacerbate the gap between the rich and poor. 

The rich get richer; the middle class lives paycheck to paycheck, and the poor remain poor.

Both Banerjee and Duflo infer there is a path to economic equality, or at least fairness.  They argue for incentivizing corporate interests for the common good, disincentivizing executive compensation, modifying the federal tax structure, and subsidizing employment for the unemployed (or those who are soon to become unemployed because of technology).  They argue that taxes should be increased to create public works programs that benefit the general welfare of the nation. 

Banerjee and Duflo go on to suggest a guaranteed basic income (like that proposed by Andrew Yang) should be considered.

Banerjee and Duflo go on to explain how technology reduces jobs.

They argue that America needs to realign their employment objectives.  Service jobs are outgrowing manufacturing jobs. 

Environmental concerns reduce jobs. 

Through a combination of public works projects and improved public services (childcare, elder care, environmental clean-up; etc.) the unemployed, and soon to be unemployed, should be bolstered by a basic minimum wage and retrained to take 21st century jobs. 

A guaranteed basic income is to mitigate the hardship of retraining and leaving areas of the nation that cannot sustain economic growth.

Banerjee and Duflo argue that most Americans associate jobs with identity and self-respect.  Without a job, Americans lose a part of their identity and self-respect.  With a guaranteed basic income, the unemployed will continue to seek employment because of their need for self-respect.  As they become employed, their guaranteed basic income could be reduced in proportion to their rising income.

Without income, people are fearful of leaving the areas they have lived in for most of their lives; e.g. a coal camp in Virginia. 

The authors cite studies that show economic improvement correlates with worker mobility.

There is a great deal to commend Banerjee and Duflo’s ideas. 

Whether the American government is willing to act as a change agent is unlikely without perception of a clear and present danger.  Political change comes with perceived threat.  The current Senate’s discounting of environmental threat to the world does not bode well for change. 

Believing in a “rising tide theory” of economics continues to distort the truth of qualified freedom and unregulated self-interest. Freedom has always been qualified in America. The intent of the founding fathers is to provide freedom for those who do no harm to their neighbors. Unregulated self-interest harms our neighbors.

Banerjee and Duflo offer an economic plan to America, but it is founded on sociological studies that are often small in scope. When the economic theories are tested on broader scales, the conclusions are mixed. Though belief in a guaranteed basic income makes sense in light of the studies shown by Banerjee and Duflo, the impact on American innovation remains unknown. On the other hand, the many jobs the government could create–from public works, to environmental clean-up, to elder care, to medical care, and housing for the homeless–are widely needed in America.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Assad or We Burn the Country

By: Sam Dagher

Narrated by Gary Tiedemann

Sam Dagher (Author, senior correspondent for the Wall Street Journal)

Humanity is at war with itself.  Sam Dagher’s examination of Syria and the Assad government exposes the depth of humanities self-immolation.  Bashar Assad’s atrocities in Syria represent the indecency of power and money in the hands of autocratic leaders.  Autocrats are never exactly alike but each is corrupted by money and power.

Bashar Hafez al-Assad (Syrian President since 2000, son of Hafez al-Assad)

Hafez al-Assad (Syrian President 1971-2000.)

For Syria’s atrocities, every country in the world is guilty.  All are guilty because of apathy, support, or complicity. Dagher spares no one.  America, Russia, Turkey, France, Great Britain, Iran, Syrian generals, and indigenous Syrian leaders are complicit in the slaughter of innocents.

Russian atrocity in Syria is being repeated in Ukraine. The probability of further destruction and terror seem inevitable with the introduction of a Russian military commander being identified by the press as “The Butcher of Syria”.

General Alexander Dvornikov (Taking Charge of the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine)


Hafez first son is groomed to takeover after Hafez’s death. Bassel was a Syrian engineer, colonel, and heir apparent but he dies in a car crash before Hafez’s death.

Seated are Hafez and his wife Anisa Makhlouf. From left to right in the back row are Maher, Bashar, Bassel, Majid, and Bushra.

Dagher paints a picture of a feckless son of Syria’s deceased brutal dictator.  Bashar al-Asaad assumes power as President of Syria after the death of his father. He is characterized by Dagher as an effete leader with poor leadership skill who inherits a job for which he is ill qualified. (Bashar graduated from medical school in 1988 and worked as a doctor in the Syrian army. He had little military training.)  

Dagher suggests Bashar inherits money and power with the sole purpose of aggrandizing himself and his family.  Political, military, and economic wealth and power are bequeathed to Assad family members. Syrian money and power rest with relatives ranging from distant cousins to the President.

Dagher notes that Bashar uses his power and position to order imprisonment, torture, and murder of anyone opposing him. Dagher suggests Bashar sleeps with any woman he wants (married or not). In the mean time, he, his wife, and family live in isolated luxury. 

Bashar al-Assad Palace (aka Shaab Palce overlooking Damascus)

With Bashar’s inherited money, power, and position, he rewards his family, bribes his generals, arrests, tortures, and murders his opposition. To complete Dagher’s picture, he notes Bashar fawns on world leaders who socially or militarily support his rule.  

Dagher reports on Bashar’s murder of Syrians.  Bashar is shown as a vengeful leader playing one faction against another to maintain his power and position.  Today’s Putin threatens Ukraine Invasion and may murder many Russians, as well as Ukrainians–just as Bashar murdered his countrymen.

Religion is used as a tool to hide Bashar’s intent to remain in power.  Bashar paints himself as a protector of Christians from Muslim fanatics when his real motive is to cover brutal treatment of Muslim believers.

Bashar is shown to hide behind terrorism preached by Dash (aka ISIS) to justify gassing of his own people.  Dagher shows Bashar’s duplicity when he encourages Russian and Iranian intervention when his own people will not defend his regime.  Every country, including America, has their own agenda in the Syrian war.  Syrian war victims are fertilizer for Bashar’s ambition.

There are many complicit stories about America in Dagher’s exposure of Assad’s cruelty.  President Obama’s red-line statement about use of poison gas with no response from America; President Trump’s support of Russian intervention in a war that uses chlorine bombs to kill Syrian people; Turkey’s support of Bashar in return for repatriation of Kurdish territory; Iran’s intervention in Syria to put down Dash in return for political support from Bashar. Abu Bakr al-Baghdady-once a compatriot of Bashar and then the leader of Dash (Isis).

Though Obama faced a great deal of criticism for his red-line statement in Syria, his decision not to respond militarily was correct. It is up to the Syrian people to decide what they want to do with the Assad administration.

Dagher paints a frightening picture of Bashar and his wife.  It is a picture of self-delusion that endorses murder of their own people.  Bashar and his wife live in luxury while the Syrian people are murdered and starved.  Dagher contrasts Bashar’s wife’s placation of Syrian mothers with Syrian army atrocities. It reminds one of the French Revolution when Louis the XVI, and Marie Antoinette live in luxury while the public starves.

Asma al-Assad is the First Lady of Syria.  Born and raised in London, a graduate in computer science and French literature from King’s College.

Asma supports her husband’s atrocity.  She sees it as a justified means to modernize Syria.  A cynic would suggest her justification has more to do with Assad wealth and privilege than modernization.

Raslan’s faces trial in Koblenz as the first court proceeding against a senior member of the Assad regime. Raslan is one of two Syrians being tried for crimes against humanity. How long before Assad has to face the same fate?

The tragedy of Syria is graphically portrayed in the new television series “Transplant”.

On the one hand it tells the story of highly talented Syrians who are compelled to leave their home country. On the other, it reflects on the hardship faced by immigrants in the U.S. that are struggling to reestablish their lives.

Humanity is at war with itself.  There seems no end to violence in the world.  What is the solution?  Neither real-politic nor “let it be” answer the question.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

American Carnage (On the front-line of the Republican Civil War and the rise of President Trump)

By: Tim Alberta

Narrated by Jason Culp

Tim Alberta (Author, Politico reporter, contributor to the National Review, National Journal, and Wall Street Journal.)

Alberta welcomes reader/listeners to a grudge match in American Carnage

Alberta details the rise of President Trump. 

In Alberta’s analysis of the rise of Trump, he details Republican discontent with the idea of a Trump nomination.  Some Republicans object to Trump’s rise.  However, there is greater discontent with the direction of American government than the election of a President. 

In the best light, the rise of Trump punches American government in the face; in its worst light, it denigrates the institution of Democracy.

Some Americans will be offended by Alberta’s book. 

Americans might argue Alberta impugns the reputation of the “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” President.  In their minds, government deserves a punch in the face.  Trump gives voice to many American workers. Particularly, Americans who have been marginalized by corporate America.

Some say American Democracy needs reform because Americans are being left behind by their political leaders.  Many support Trump for his political speeches identifying that truth.

Others are appalled by Trump’s unfair characterization of American government workers and tacit support of extremists.

Trump is characterized as a “showman” with no moral center who panders to the ugliest instincts of humankind. Democracy judged Trump’s performance in November 2020, but he refuses to acknowledge his defeat. Trump demeans himself and American Democracy by falsely claiming election fraud

Arguably, American government does deserve a punch in the face.  However, even if true, Democracy remains the best form of government in the world.

Alberta implies Trump’s punch to government fails to address the real causes of job loss. Creating a trade war has not, and will not, increase American manufacturing. 

Contrary to Trump’s belief that the balance of trade will improve with increased trade sanctions, America’s balance of trade worsened during his term of office. Other countries are exporting more while America is exporting less.

Reality suggests re-education of workers are what America needs; not trade-wars, and border walls. 

Trump’s ubiquitous tweets offer titillation and news coverage without providing solutions. Technology is displacing manufacturing which means job skills must be changed.  Alberta, in detailing Trump’s rise, shows Trump is more show than go.

In 2008, loss of homes from unscrupulous lenders hurt working Americans who could not fight back. They lost their jobs and could not pay their mortgages.  Countrywide Financial became the face of lenders accused of misleading marketing to sell mortgages to people who could not afford them.

Angelo Mozillo (Former Chairman of the Board and of Countrywide.)

One might argue Obama, Bush, and their administrations manage to keep American out of a deep depression but at the same time–banks and corporate America were bailed out at the expense of most Americans. 

In the 2016 election, Trump capitalizes on worker discontent while Democrats ignore their grievances as something in the past that will be changed in the future.  To every person who lost their home or job, the future is now.

Hillary Clinton and most Democrats, in the previous election, failed to understand how working middle class and lower income Americans felt let down by their government.    One might argue many Trump votes were simply anti-Clinton votes. 

Today, the Republican party is unquestionably standing behind Donald Trump.  He might even be re-elected.  But Alberta illustrates there are Republicans, like Cindy McCain, who decry many of Trump’s racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments.  These Republicans will not disappear.  Their time may not be a majority today, but they will carry water in future elections.

Whatever happens in the next election, Democracy will prevail.  Tim Alberta offers many facts that illustrate the resilience of American Democracy.  There are, and always will be, good people on both sides of the political aisle in America.  One hesitates to use that phrase in view of Trump’s ugly remark about the South Carolina conflict between white supremacists and the public.

History shows the Democrats will rise again; and so will Republicans. That is the strength and weakness of Democracy in America.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Lincoln in the Bardo

By: George Saunders

Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, and others

GEORGE SAUNDERS (American writer, winner of many awards including Booker Prize and National Bood Award for Fiction.)

The New York Times gives high praise to George Saunders’ book, “Tenth of December”. There are reviewers that disagree with Kakutani’ and Cowles’ laudatory comments about Saunders’ book of short stories but once a listener steps on the cracked ice of “Tenth of December’s” last story, he/she becomes a Saunders’ fan.

Saunders seduces a listener with simple phrasing–pulling one into a story and then ambushing the unwary with crystal clear insight to human foibles, self-delusions, and false dependencies. Saunders sees that measuring one’s success by possessions defines you as an inanity, an empty symbol of humanity. What we do; not just what we think is what we become.

Like “Tenth of December”, George Saunders surprises with a new way of looking at ourselves– where we have been, and where we are going.  Lincoln in the Bardo reflects on a Tibetan Buddhist belief in a “…state of existence between death and rebirth”. 

A host of humanity is represented by voices of famous and not-so-famous actors.  They assume the roles of rich, poor, educated, and unschooled Americans living and dying during the Civil War.  The two major characters are Willie (Lincoln’s dying son) and the great man himself.  The ugliness of discrimination, the desire for freedom, and the trials of living are embodied in Saunders’ netherworld.

Willie Lincoln (Third son of Abraham Lincoln.

As Willie nears death from typhoid fever, listeners are introduced to a Bardo civilization. 


It is a community of disparate characters who believe they are alive but must, for unknown reason, return to their “sick boxes” (graves) every night.

In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to the idea of a sick box when a man in his forties marries a woman of 18.  It seems unclear why such a marriage should take place. But the reader/listener hears a confession of the groom that he would be a companion, rather than a conjugal partner, of his new wife.  As their relationship progresses, the young woman expresses her desire to consummate the marriage.  On the day of the intended consummation, the husband is struck dead by a falling beam.

Saunders leaves the story of the struck groom and introduces many voices that reflect on the mood and experience of America during the Civil War.  You hear from people who lived lives as slaves, merchants, politicians, miscreants, preachers, prostitutes, and soldiers.  Some are rich; some are poor.  All exist in the Bardo.  A common understanding among these characters is that they are alive but constrained from acting on the natural world around them. 

In one sense, many of these people remind one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” in which hell is described as eternal life with other people you cannot stand.  However, the Bardo is not hell. 

The Bardo seems a place between heaven and hell.  Something is keeping people from leaving the Bardo.  Willie is the key to the door by which one may leave. 

As history records, Willie dies.  Willie is the first to tell those in the Bardo that he, as well as they, are dead.  Willie found he was dead by entering his father’s mind.  After dying, Willie hears of his death in the grief of his father.  Willie explains the truth to all those who did not know they were dead. 

Those who live in the Bardo cannot leave until they recognize they are dead.  In that recognition, they can leave but they do not know whether it will be to heaven, hell, or (in the Hindu sense) some form of reincarnation.

The beauty of Saunders creativity is expressed by his creation of a nether world of lives who have an ability to occupy the minds of those still living.  The occupation of the living is more as receiver than transmitter of information.  It offers a literary tool for reading the mind of historic figures. It also presents the idea of lost historic figures, friends, or family influencing the living.

Lincoln and his wife are devastated by Willie’s death.  Lincoln is consumed by early failures of the Civil War which occupy his mind as Willie nears death.

However, Lincoln’s desire for unifying the country is unbent by the tragedy of his son’s passing.  In a return to the cemetery, Lincoln is riven with remorse over the death of Willie. Willie enters Lincoln’s living body and realizes his father is grieving for him. Willie realizes he is dead.

The consequence of being a receiver in the Bardo, rather than transmitter of action or information. is that those in the nether world cannot reliably change the livings’ thoughts or actions.  There is a hint in Saunders’ story that there is a chance of a Bardo resident changing a living person’s mind, but it is only a slim chance. This is made clear by a Mulatto woman who has been beaten, raped, and murdered by many men. She desires revenge and chooses to remain in the Bardo to accomplish that end.

Living in the Bardo is not necessarily unpleasant because it is like living in the world except you must return to your sick box every night.  The possibility of affecting the real world’s direction, though slim, still offers some appeal to Bardo residents. 

Some flee the idea of knowing they are dead because of the choice that must be made once they acknowledge their death.  All who acknowledge their death must weigh the risk of heaven, hell, or (in Hindu belief) reincarnation.  If they choose to stay in the Bardo the only negative is having to return to their sick box every night.  Otherwise, life in the Bardo is like living in the world except for a limited effect you have on the world you have left.

Many ideas are exercised in Saunders’ creative story.  An insight plainly explained by Saunders is in many quotes produced from other books about Lincoln.  Saunders shows how facts of history change based on a writer’s perception of histories events, places, and people. 

In Saunders’ creative mind, there is life after death in the Bardo. He opens a door to heaven, hell, or reincarnation.  On the other hand, Saunders may be wrong. Death may just be death.