Tuesday Reads: Bookstores and Bad News

Left Bank Books, St. Louis

Good Afternoon!!

When I first moved to Boston in 1967, I lived in an apartment a block outside Harvard Yard. In those days, Harvard Square was a wonderful bohemian place, with bookstores on every block; and I mean that literally. The Paperback Booksmith (“Dedicated to the fine art of browsing”) on Brattle Street was open until midnight. Lots of stores and restaurants were open that late, and there were always people out doing things at all hours. It was a wonderful place, and I remember those days fondly. Over the years, I spent many happy hours browsing for books in the Square.

But times change. Those days are gone now. There are still bookstores in Harvard Square, but not very many. The Harvard Bookstore is still in the same place on Massachusetts Avenue that it’s been since 1932. It’s an independent bookstore, not connected with Harvard University and it’s still a wonderful place.

What happened to all those great bookstores? Barnes & Noble, along with Borders and Waldenbooks, came along and offered discounts, driving many independent bookstores out of business. Then along came the internet and Amazon, and it’s Barnes & Noble’s turn to struggle. David Leonhardt of the NYT wants to save it.

Sorry, but I’m not going to weep for Barnes & Noble. I can get an endless variety of books on line, and I like being able to do that. I love reading on my Kindle. I hope there will always be bookstores for people to enjoy, and there will be if young people patronize them. At my age, I don’t have the energy to go out to bookstores like I used to, but I’m glad they’re still out there. Maybe if Barnes & Noble goes out of business, other people will take up the slack. And of course Amazon is starting brick and mortar stores now.

Times change. I’m not sorry we have the internet now, and cell phones, and so much more technology that I couldn’t even imagine in 1967. Human creativity will live on, and I’ll bet some creative people will still run independent bookstores.

Writers Block, Las Vegas

The photos in the post are of independent bookstores around the country from the Literary Hub: 11 authors recommend US bookstores worth traveling for.

I guess I’m thinking about bookstores, because they have always been place I went to escape and find some peace and quiet when I felt stressed or depressed. And right now the world is looking increasingly stressful and depressing to me.

I can’t begin to cover every stunning thing that happened yesterday. It’s like that most days now. But here are some suggested reads.

Last night’s shocking scoop came from The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow: Four Women Accuse New York’s Attorney General of Physical Abuse. I’m not easy to shock when it comes to descriptions of abuse. I’ve read too many. But this one shocked me. I’m not going to post excerpts. Read it if you think you can handle it. There was no way Schneiderman could have survived this.

The New York Times: Eric Schneiderman, Accused by 4 Women, Quits as New York Attorney General.

Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general who rose to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, abruptly resigned on Monday night hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them.

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me.

“While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

His resignation represented a stunning fall for a politician who had also assumed a prominent role in the #MeToo movement.

Of course Schneiderman at least had the decency to step down immediately, unlike the pussy grabber in the White House and the Republican Governor of Missouri.

Liberty Bay Books in Pouslbo, Washington

Trump is expected to pull the U.S. out of the Iran deal today. The Washington Post: Trump expected to end waiver of sanctions on Iran, endangering nuclear deal.

The decision follows the failure of last-ditch efforts by the three European signatories to the agreement to convince Trump that his concerns about “flaws” in the 2015 accord could be addressed without violating its terms or ending it altogether.

While the deal itself contains no provisions for withdrawal, Iran has threatened to reactivate its nuclear program if the United States reneges on any of its obligations under the pact’s terms.

France and Germany, whose leaders visited Washington in recent weeks to appeal to Trump, have warned that nullification of the agreement could lead to all-out war in the Middle East. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in Washington on Monday, said that as far as he knows, the administration has no clear “Plan B” for what to do next.

Trump tweeted Monday that he would announce his decision at 2 p.m. Tuesday. He is free to reimpose all U.S. sanctions, and even announce new ones. But he is expected to stop short of reneging on the deal altogether. ­Instead, he will address a portion of the wide range of sanctions that were waived when the deal was first implemented, while leaving in limbo other waivers that are due in July.

The affected sanctions, imposed by Congress in 2012, require other countries to reduce Iranian oil imports or risk U.S. sanctions on their banks and their ability to conduct Iran-
related financial transactions. Waivers on those sanctions must be signed every 120 days, and the next deadline is Saturday.

Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts

The New York Times has a piece up about the efforts by and Israeli company (the story was first broken by The Guardian Observer) to dig up dirt on Obama administration officials who worked on the Iran deal:

For years, opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran have accused Benjamin J. Rhodes, a top national security aide to President Barack Obama, of scheming to sell the diplomatic agreement on false pretenses to the American people.

Now, just as President Trump appears likely to announce his decision to withdraw from the deal, evidence has surfaced that the agreement’s opponents engaged in a sophisticated effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Rhodes and his family that continued well after the Obama administration left office.

A detailed report about Mr. Rhodes, compiled by Black Cube, a private investigations firm established by former intelligence analysts from the Israel Defense Forces, contains pictures of his apartment in Washington, telephone numbers and email addresses of members of his family, as well as unsubstantiated allegations of personal and ethical transgressions….

It is unclear who hired Black Cube to prepare the report on Mr. Rhodes and a similar report on Colin Kahl, the national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., which were obtained by The New York Times from a source with knowledge of their provenance.

The Guardian, which first published the existence of the reports on Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Kahl, said aides to Mr. Trump hired the firm, but there is no evidence in the documents that indicate any connection to anyone in Mr. Trump’s administration. A spokesman for the company vehemently denied any connection to the president.

Word Books, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

The latest from The Guardian on another person targeted by the Black Cube operation: Iran deal: prominent backer says he was warned of Trump bid to discredit him.

A prominent Iranian-American supporter of the Iran nuclear deal says he was warned by US intelligence during the presidential transition that his communications would be targeted by the Trump camp in a bid to discredit him….

Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), was also the target more recently of an Israeli private security company, Black Cube, aimed at gathering personal information about the deal’s advocates among senior figures from the Obama administration.

The Guardian has obtained the transcript of an interview with Parsi conducted last summer by an operative working for Black Cube posing as a journalist, probing him for any ways Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl – top foreign advisers to Barack Obama and his vice-president, Joe Biden – might have benefited from the 2015 agreement, in which Iran received sanctions relief in return for accepting strict curbs on its nuclear programme.

“I thought it was strange that he was pushing this financial angle, which I hadn’t heard before,” Parsi recalled.

According to the transcript of the interview, conducted in the early summer last year, he told the interviewer that, far from reaping rewards, US companies on the whole were frustrated that they were getting nothing from the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite the unusual line of questioning, Parsi thought no more about the interview until the transcript was read to him over the weekend.

Read the rest at the link. I have a feeling we are going to keep learning more about this story and I predict it will be connected to Trump.

Coral Gables Books and Books, Miami

I have the feeling we’re going to hear more about Trump’s payoffs of women too. Take a look at this interesting piece at New York Magazine: Here’s a Theory About That $1.6 Million Payout From a GOP Official to a Playboy Model.

On May 2, Rudy Giuliani revealed that the Trump administration has been lying for months about the fact that Donald Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he fronted to buy porn star Stormy Daniels’s silence about her affair with Trump. Until then, Trump had been claiming that he didn’t know about any settlement, and that he hadn’t had a sexual liaison with Daniels. (The official White House line continues to be that Daniels is lying about having sex with Trump, but almost no one believes this.) Giuliani has claimed that Trump gave him the okay last week to contradict several months’ worth of denials, by revealing Trump’s payments to Cohen.

In journalism this is known as getting out in front of a story. After federal law-enforcement officials raided Cohen’s office on April 9, they surely had documentary evidence of these financial transactions, which meant it was inevitable the truth would eventually come out.

We should consider the strong possibility that the same tactic — i.e., shameless, baldfaced lying — may have played a role in the exposure of yet another Trump-related sex scandal. The Wall Street Journal published a story on April 13 revealing the existence of another nondisclosure agreement involving an affair between an adult entertainer and a client of Cohen’s. The NDA employed the pseudonyms David Dennison and Peggy Peterson — the same names used in the Stormy Daniels NDA — and was otherwise very similar to the Trump-Daniels agreement.

According to this newly revealed NDA, Dennison agreed to pay Peterson $1.6 million, in exchange for Peterson’s promise not to reveal the affair or her claim that Dennison had impregnated her. This NDA, like the Trump-Daniels document, was negotiated by attorneys Keith Davidson, on behalf of Peterson, and Michael Cohen, on behalf of Dennison. Payments were also delivered through Essential Consultants LLC, the same LLC created by Cohen to facilitate payments in the Stormy Daniels deal.

But supposedly Cohen took care of this problem for GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Could it be that Broidy took the fall for Trump for some reason? I’ve certainly suspected as much. Read on at the New York link.

Now, what stories are you following today?

58 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Bookstores and Bad News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The New York Times has a story on something that really worries me and caused me to vote against legalization–the dangers of marijuana.

    • NW Luna says:

      I’m especially concerned when marijuana is recommended to help depression and/or anxiety. A subset of patients are made even more severely depressed and paranoid by it. I think marijuana still has the cachet of being cool and so people overlook risks.

      • dakinikat says:

        I’ve known people totally dependent on pot on a daily basis and they self medicate for all kinds of things with it. I don’t see them as being the least bit functional either. They manage to get through the day but lord, they space stuff out all the time and I think it dulls theiir ability to empathize but that’s pure observation. Chronic potheads really seem in a world of their own imho. But, like alcohol, if you can do it recreationally and not become dependent, I don’t see much wrong with that. Problem is that most of the folks I see any more are highly dependent on it for mood adjustments and anxiety control and unlike a drink, most don’t see anything wrong with using it outside the cocktail hour. That being said, I’d have never made it through 6 months of grueling chemo without it. It stimulated my appetite and helped me deal with the nausea.

        • quixote says:

          I’ve discovered I’m a bit allergic to mixing 3D-me and web-me, but in the old 3D world yours truly wrote what the academics call a “seminal paper” on the medicinal uses of cannabis. (You can even download a pdf of that ancient paper if you have a bit of the antiquarian in you :D) I’ve kept up with the field and, as you’ve all already said, yes, it’s complicated.

          The single biggest factor is dosage. The plant and the THC and cannabidiols it contains bear the same realtion to each other as coca leaves and cocaine.

          One is pretty much harmless and gives a useful boost when needed. (Also much the same difference as a cup of coffee and mainlining caffeine.)

          As an adjuvant to chemo, as dakinikat says, it’s a real boon. It’s very useful, usually, to help people with glaucoma.

          When it comes to active ingredients, yes, people are self-medicating and, really, overdosing in ways that are bad. But that would be true of any unregulated concentrated substance (including sucrose!).

          One of interesting points to come out of research in the last decade or so is that cannabinoids can promote neuron growth and connections in the brain.

          This can be bad in the developing brain because neuronal pruning (pruning connections back to the most effective ones) is an important contributor to cognitive development.

          But it can be very good for people with severe PTSD, where neurologically what can happen is that connections are lost and the same circuit keeps firing (to oversimplify) in unhelpful ways. Depression, likewise, can benefit from the effect of cannabinoids. They’ve been looking at whether the increased neuronal connections might be useful against dementias.

          So, tl:dr; cannabis is an excellent social drug. It’s a very useful medicine for a wide range of conditions. It can be overused and abused and there needs to be (useful!) regulation in place to prevent that.

          • bostonboomer says:

            But the article said there has been no research on ingestion of cannabis in candy, etc. What are your views on that?

          • quixote says:

            The big issue with ingesting cannabis is it’s hard to control dosage. The big issue with putting it in candy is (well, duh…) kids are going to eat it. The first doesn’t have to be a problem, approached sensibly. The second is massive, esp, see above, developing brains, etc. etc. In short, cannabis in candy? Nooooooooooo.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Ronald Brownstein argues that what will get Democrats elected in 2918 is focusing on Republicans’ efforts to take health care away from Americans.

    The connection that may decide 2018 isn’t what you think

    …in the district-by-district battle to retake the House, many Democrats are focusing less on condemning Trump’s character than on discrediting the Republican agenda. Central to that mission is arguing that the GOP has benefited the wealthy, and burdened the middle class, with its twin legislative priorities of the past 17 months: passing a large tax cut and attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
    Most political professionals and journalists talk about “the health care repeal and the Trump tax plan as two different issues,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic consultant working with outside groups supporting the ACA. “The voters see them as ways Washington isn’t looking out for them. … On both of them, it’s basically the same: they [Congressional Republicans] have been giving tax breaks to health insurance companies, to pharmaceutical companies and those come at the expense of people who work for a living. It means higher health care costs, eventually higher taxes, more debt for your kids, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare as you get older.”

  3. bostonboomer says:

    David Ignatius discusses the Gina Haspel nomination at The Washington Post:

    Gina Haspel is tainted by her torture involvement. But she understands Russia.

    The argument against Gina Haspel’s nomination to be CIA director is simple and, in some ways, compelling: The Senate shouldn’t approve someone who was involved, however tangentially, in the torture of al-Qaeda suspects authorized by the George W. Bush administration.

    There’s one counterargument that resonates, and it’s worth pondering as Haspel prepares for her confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. At a time when the United States is transfixed by the investigation into Russia’s covert influence operations in the 2016 presidential campaign, Haspel is probably the senior intelligence officer who best understands the Russia threat.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    The same Russian hackers who attacked John Podesta also targeted military wives.

    AP: Russian hackers posed as IS to threaten military wives.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    What a wonderful treat to read about the bookstores: my at one time huge passion!

    I am getting ready to move from my home of 46 years and am really surprised at the amount of “stuff” that has accumulated over time,

    One example: I had over 80 boxes filled with books that I could not get rid of. Nobody wanted them! I ended up donating the entire collection to Goodwill since there was not one person interested in taking them off my hands.

    In contacting the various libraries I had to abide by their rules: all boxes had to be placed in the driveway as the drivers were not allowed to enter the home. There was no way I could take 80 boxes of heavy books out to the driveway on my own but then I was told that they were unable to take that many books at one time.

    My son borrowed a truck, loaded all 80 boxes, and drove to Goodwill who were only too glad to accept them. At least they could make a few dollars from them as they were all in great condition.

    What I found was, like you and me, most people today love their Kindle! I cannot imagine anything else. So easy and convenient. And we are not crowding the universe with books no one reads. Give me my Kindle any day and I am as happy as a lark!

    People like us who grew up reading appreciate the pleasure of learning and experiencing the world through words.

    I have been to few places in my life but I feel I have been all over the world from reading books.

    Sad to say I believe we are a dying breed.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I was able to bring more books with me than I expected, but I had to let a lot of them go. I did sell quite a few in the years leading up to my move, so I feel good about that. These days I have a hard time holding a heavy book because I have arthritis in my fingers. The Kindle is a wonderful solution.

      • joanelle says:

        es, BB my arthritic hands pushed me to the Kindle and my husband’s failing eyes have benefited from the ability to enlarge the font on his kindle – which we would now not live without.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Greg Sargent at Plum line:


    There’s a narrative about our politics right now that you constantly encounter on social and political media. It goes like this: Democrats are too obsessed with the Russia investigation, or with Stormy Daniels, or they’re just too focused on “not being President Trump,” and as a result, they aren’t articulating an affirmative agenda and risk getting caught flat-footed by Trump’s supposedly rising popularity.

    But this narrative is entirely wrong, and two new pieces this morning help set the record straight. Taken together, they point to a much more accurate version of what’s happening: Trump’s unpopularity does in fact remain historically abysmal. This and Trump’s many scandals are in fact helping Democrats — but not in a way that is immediately apparent and not in a manner that betrays any unhealthy Democratic obsession with those things.

  7. dakinikat says:

    okay, and now for some good stuff:

  8. NW Luna says:

    Front page WaPo just now as “Breaking News”

    Trump to announce plans to pull out of Iran nuclear deal

    The president’s decision follows the failure of last-ditch efforts by Britain, France and Germany to convince him otherwise

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Trump is talking now. His face and voice make me sick. What a fucking asshole he is.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    He’s claiming Iran has been developing nukes. As in 2002, the U.S. president is selling lies to get us into war.

    • bostonboomer says:

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Pompeo is on his way to North Korea and he told the press he has no idea who he will meet with.

    • bostonboomer says:

  13. Sweet Sue says:

    Gee, I hope Barnes and Noble doesn’t go under. What will that mean for my Nook? My husband has a Kindle but I prefer a Nook.

    • bostonboomer says:

      The company has struggled for years. They would have been better off investing in on-line sales instead of brick and mortar. I hope they don’t go completely out of business. I wonder what would happen the all the university bookstores they control?

  14. quixote says:

    Oh my goodness. Paperback Booksmith. I grew up there, given all the hours I spent wandering around their bookshelves.

    And you tell me it is no more?

    Just no words.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It hasn’t been there in decades. For awhile it moved around the corner across from Wordsworth, which is also long gone. The only remaining Booksmith is the one in Brookline, pictured in the post. It think it was also the original one.

  15. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      And she knows whereof she speaks.

      Man, it’s like watching a dust storm approach. You can’t see into it, it’s bearing down, and it’s going to be dreadful. You just don’t know exactly how it could kill you.

  16. bostonboomer says:

    Michael Avenatti just posted a bunch of suspicious financial info about Michael Cohen, including that Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was recently stopped and questioned at an airport by Mueller’s FBI guys and had all his electronics taken away deposited $500,000 in the account that was used to pay off Stormy Daniels.



  17. bostonboomer says:

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  20. RonStill4Hills says:

    My first grown up job was at B. Dalton Booksellers in the Dayton Mall. I was still in college, working and going to school full-time. we opened a new store there. When I moved to Atlanta I worked at a B. Dalton in the Cumberland Mall. I remember when Barnes & Noble bought us from the parent company of Target I think.

    I will always have a love for brick and mortar bookstores. I love my kindle but I make a point of also buying real books, audiobooks, movies and things from B & N simply because I do not want them to disappear.

    Bookstores and toy stores are the only shopping I actually enjoy. That is why the demise of Toys R Us has me a bit bummed.

    There used to be a used bookstore called “The Paperback Supermarket” on Main street in Dayton. I used to spend hours there, picking up complete series of books for next to nothing.

    Good times.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    Oh yeah, Old Fat Joffrey is still President.

    • dakinikat says:

      Gosh, i used to love the old B Dalton’s. They had special issue books of all the classics that were like down sized paperbacks but with these wide hardcovers. I spent many of my mall paychecks from the little dress boutique down the way at B Dalton’s !!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for the memories, Ron. I love bookstores and also libraries! I’ve been a bibliophile all my life.

    • NW Luna says:

      I love bookstores and have spent many happy hours in them. I still prefer real books over the e-versions. Easier to read, easier to find info in. E-readers only show 1 page at a time and as I read fast I dislike the interruptions between 1 page to the next.

  21. dakinikat says:

    Okay, I wondered about this as I’ve seen SARS too in my days at the Fed dealing with Treasury agents …


    I work as an Anti-Money Laundering and Bank Secrecy Act Specialist at a financial institution. Every bank/credit union/etc will have someone who’s responsibility it is to examine transactions and file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with FinCEN, a department of the Treasury. This is what I do.

    Upon reading Avenatti’s document, it’s obvious that he has his hands on (multiple, I think) SARs that have been filed on Cohen. They are structured almost exactly as we write them. The KYC information at the beginning is a huge tipoff. This is something every bank is required to compile when a business account is opened, and it’s what AML staff would refer back to it when examining transactions to see if the account is “behaving” differently than expected. This KYC information would never be included in a bank statement or a ledger. It would only come from a financial institution, and is what is included in SARs narratives to justify their filing. Furthermore, there’s info in the document from multiple banks. Unless Avenatti has people at multiple different banks leaking him info on Cohen (he doesn’t) it comes from a SARs.

    We know from the WSJ that at least one bank has filed a SARs on Cohen:


    These are things nasty old Pat Boone rants on about in that ad on TV about the Federal Government spying on you when you spend cash. It only deals with extremely large deposits which are a dead give away for money laundering. If you get one or two, the bank can usually brush it off by saying, cashed in IRA or sold house/bought house, college loan proceeds, etc. It’s the repetitive ones from odd sources that raise flags and I could see Cohen getting a jillion of them. Same with Manaford and likely any of the Trump crime syndicate’s subsidiaries. They usually float around in weird LLCs.

    • bostonboomer says:

      People familiar with this are saying that Avenatti would have to have access to SARs from multiple banks to write his report. They’re arguing that someone in Treasury must have leaked them to Avennati. Also, he took down the report last night. I wish I have copied it.