Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Research for Election Year Has Kept This Reader UP-TO-DATE on Issues - Check out Four Books!

Being a constant reader, I found myself turning to some of the books that have been published during the last few months regarding the political environment we are now facing in America... I had already read Mary Trump's outstanding biography which shared her relationship within the Trump family... (See my review). It had provided me with the "why" of Trump and I was better able to deal with his colossal failure as our president.

Nothing prepared me for this book! The name of the author is probably a  pseudonym, but I knew the publisher so bought the book. It is probably too late for many voters, including me. But it is well worth reading to confirm whether or not you voted correctly in this year's election. Where Mary Trump's book left off, the first part of the book took over... It was so realistic that I had a hard time reading and would stop and put it aside for awhile.  Issues that most of us are fully aware of as they have been discussed during the last four years. However, in satire form, coming from the present president, it is mind-blowing. Just as we have come to know the scatterbrain method by which the president speaks, the words, some of which were actually repeated from dialogue of the incumbent, presents an almost maniacal flow of words spewed or twittered in his obsessive and sometimes violent behavior at his rallies, or when he is interviewed by somebody other than Fox staff. We have all seen this at various times...but the full regurgitation from "The Mind of a Dictator..." has to acknowledge in everybody what exactly has been happening in America...

A dictator’s mind that creates a climate of chaos, hate, racism, and division. If these are thoughts of the leaders, you will elect. STOP! You are making the wrong choice. 
MY PREDICTION "I said this once, many years ago before I became president, 'If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican politician. They are the dumbest political party in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie, and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.' If you don't believe me, read People Magazine of 1998. That was when I said it. I was right then, and I am right now. “Dumb people deserve an authoritarian leader, the kind that leads by leashing a tight rope around their necks and dragging them around. I am that leader. I can say the things Republicans fear to say and do the things they fear to do. That's why the Republicans Party establishment chose me. I do their dirty work, and they get to pretend like they had nothing to do with my choices. This approach makes leading easy as I do not have to assume any responsibility...
I would have much more to say about this book in a full review, but needless to say, I was overwhelmed...and couldn't wait to give you my "My must read" recommendation on this one!

The book that was the most revelatory of new information for me was
HOAX by Brian Stelter who some of your know from watching CNN. His program there, Reliable Sources, is about how news concerns may be considered, handled and possibly changed via research and consideration. I'm a fan... I had heard about "Fox News," but my main reason for not watching was that the head of the network had been fired due to harassment of women. That was bad enough...but what I learned both shocked, dismayed and, frankly, still think is unbelievable in today's world... 

"Everybody can be bought” In 1996, while Donald Trump was buying up buildings and beauty pageants, Rupert Murdoch bought Roger Ailes. Murdoch hired the GOP political operative and gave him a pile of money to build a news channel from scratch in the basement of the News Corp building in New York City. It was one of the most fateful decisions in modern American history. A
iles had both political and personal motivations for partnering with Murdoch. He wanted the Republican Party to win on television the way Rush Limbaugh was winning on radio.  Ailes showed up to the Television Critics Association’s press tour in July 1996 and officially announced the name of his new channel. Before he took the stage, reporters received a handout portraying poor public opinions of the press. It was a “fake news” manifesto twenty years before Trump turned “fake news” into a mantra. The handout cited one poll where only 14 percent of respondents gave journalists positive marks and another where 67 percent said TV news was biased. Ailes said Fox News was the solution: He swore he wanted Fox reporters to “just give the viewers the facts and the information.” He knew exactly what he was really doing, but he insisted, “I’m just announcing balanced and unbiased coverage. If that’s traumatizing some people, so what?” Ailes’s bombastic bromides were irresistible to television critics. He was practically writing their columns for them. “He says rude, obnoxious things that make for more interesting newspaper stories,” one writer admitted after the press tour appearance. Remind you of anyone?
Ailes and Trump ran in the same New York media circles for decades. To hear Ailes tell it, “Donald and I were really quite good friends for more than twenty-five years.” And to hear Trump tell it, “Roger owed me.” The two men had a lot in common: Similar fears of crime. Similarly racist views about immigration. The same generational references, since Ailes was just six years older than Trump. Both men were tail-chasers and wife-cheaters. Both had a taste for conspiracy theories. Both had paranoid streaks. And both ran their businesses as fiefdoms. With Ailes, Fox hosts were reminded to lavish him with credit whenever writing a book or giving a speech. With Trump, lieutenants were reminded that hismind wandered whenever conversations weren’t about Trump. Both men also appreciated the power of public relations—whether they were building up their own brands through puffy magazine profiles or knifing a rival in the back through a well-placed hit piece. Trump never saw any distinction between the press and PR. Whenever he could, he used the press to score points and further his own interests.

Remember, I was reading this book when it was published this year. However, I have been watching and listening about the incitement of all negative things by this administration for four years... What I didn't know was that there was such a close tie to people like Hannity and Trump, that they spent much time talking and it would be hard to say just where each idea or confusion point came from. Specifically, I was not only unaware, I was totally surprised that an information program would be permitted to...lie...to the people.  Perhaps it was what they wanted to hear? I'm not sure. Myself I preferred to hear the truth, discussed and to formulate my own opinion. Not so with Fox... And it has gotten progressively worse during this administration's tenure...

I consider this a must-read book as well! If you have been totally unaware, as I was, that a television station with news reporters can also have "talk" shows that are apparently free to do anything they want, to lie, initiate and perpetuate those lies...Well, I consider reading a book that can specifically document such corruption of the truth is well worth your time...

"I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do.”  Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016, at the Old Post Office Pavilion, Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C.

I had already heard the news that the president had known about the Coronavirus early in the year... But, for me, I wanted a copy of the latest book by Bob Woodward, an award-winning journalist, on his interviews with the President. The first book had been written with just research but no interviews. This time, Woodward spent hours with the President...And he willingly told Bob Woodward what he would not tell the citizens of the United States... That he knew how deadly the virus was...

About halfway through the lengthy speech (State of the Union), Trump mentioned coronavirus in one short paragraph. “Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China,” Trump said. “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” That did not, however, include sharing any part of the warning he had received with the public.

Woodward asked the president about an earlier report from his own staff members, he was told by the president that he didn't recall it... Of course it had been part of the daily briefing, with a spotlight, but, as usual, Trump wasn't paying attention... Indeed the president rarely reads what he is provided routinely in daily reports. Only this time, it would lead to the biggest mistake Trump had thus far made. Trump's reasoning was that he didn't want to panic Americans...
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told me. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Woodward covers the discussions held between he and Bob Woodward in this book. Bob often pointing out or discussing his concern about not sharing with the people...to little avail.   

“And I think he’s going to have it in good shape,” Trump said, “but you know, it’s a very tricky situation.” What made it “tricky”? “It goes through air,” Trump said. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” “Deadly” was a very strong word. Something was obviously going on here that I was not focused on. Over the next month I would make trips to Florida and the West Coast, oblivious to the mounting pandemic.

While discussing Fear on television, I was asked for my bottom-line summary of Trump’s leadership. “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis,” I said.

And so it was that Bob Woodward, along with most of America, had no idea it was "deadly..." Indeed he has not been willing to speak of this even though the book has been out and thousands have died and millions have been infected in the States...

Much of the book includes interviews with Tillerson, Mattis, Comey, Sessions,  Rosenstein, and other individuals no longer in the administration. They were candid and informative, some of which we had known about but details were important. I had garnered most of the topics covered in this book from my almost obsessive news watching during that time period. Nevertheless there was many background details that I used to fill in earlier accounts which provided a sometimes new perspective. For me, this was well worth reading and I can highly recommend to others interested in this extraordinary administration...

Of the four books, in addition to the one by Mary Trump, I found the book by Michael Cohen to be the most readable and, in turn, the most heartwarming... Once again, most of what was included had been covered on the news. However, I found the personal perspective of this true story, this memoir, the most telling.  The most sympathetic. For instance, Michael shared that none of his family were happy with his working for Donald Trump and were constantly trying to get him to quit or, at least, not be at his beck and call constantly...

Donald Trump’s seduction began the way it would continue for years, with flattery, proximity to celebrity and power, and my own out-of-control ambitions and desires. For me, it started on a nondescript day in the fall of 2006. At the time, I was a successful, if little-known, middle-aged midtown Manhattan attorney and businessman on the make, sitting in a tidy nondescript office with two of everything arranged before me on my desk, a function of my obsessive nature: two staplers, two tape dispensers, two phones, two cups with sharpened pencils. I was thirty-nine and I worked for the mid-sized white-shoe law firm Phillips Nizer. As a lawyer I’d long had a busy practice in personal injury and medical malpractice, but my real passion and talent was in dealmaking, and I had accumulated a multi-million dollar fortune in the rough-and-tumble taxi medallion industry. Wealthy, with a beautiful wife and two healthy, happy young children, I had just purchased an apartment in the Trump Park Avenue building for $4.9 million and I tooled around the city in a Bentley and considered myself semi-retired. I had it made, in other words, but I didn’t know that I was on the precipice of a mid-life crisis that would lead to an all-consuming fixation and my downfall.

Michael willingly shares how he was pulled into the seduction. I found myself comparing him to the many who have become followers and members of the cult in which he surrounds his loyalists... The Power, the celebrity... It was not something that had ever interested me, but I found a certain empathy for Michael and other followers... Michael was willing and able to do anything for Donald. One thing he pointed out in the book and on television is that Donald rarely actually says "Do this" or "Do that." What he does is create scenarios where if you wish to follow him, you must accept as truth, no matter how wrong... Unfortunately, we have all seen in during the last four years. 

Ultimately, something happens that forces the follower to begin to question. This exploration of what happened for Michael is poignant. When that happened, Michael was able to see the lawlessness of his actions and the manipulation used to have him, essentially, leave his family and choose his boss, as the primary person in his life. Thank God that he was able to pull away from this cult and return to his family...and to paying the price, legally, for all that he had done for his boss. If you have a need to learn how to pull yourself out of a destructive relationship, I can highly recommend this as an illustration of how you go where you are and how to find yourself again...


Friday, October 23, 2020

Anonymous Insider Speaks Out Against Author-Amazon Relationship...in...Write Off!


It felt like a bizarre irony when I realized I’d put my novels into the hands of villains virtually identical to those within their pages.

Since the inception of Kindle in 2007, the Amazon Corporation has monopolized the book distribution industry, transforming itself into the only viable option for publishers and self-publishing entrepreneurs, alike. Until 2015, Kindle was a dream for writers like me, who’d spent years under the restrictions of traditional publishers. However, the honeymoon period was not to last.

Writers froze in fear in 2016 when Amazon began terminating the accounts of innocent authors in response to the behavior of third party Kindle Direct Publishing scammers. Amazon offered nothing by way of a fair trial to its victims, who either had to quit writing, or initiate global appeal campaigns through social media and Change.org.

Their next attack concerned reviews. This all begins with an insane requirement that readers are unaware of: If a book slips below a four-star average – it’s over! No promotion site will even take an author’s money to promote it.

Writers who live in the real world don’t expect every reader to love their books. However, the ‘four-star minimum’ demands that we must rank up there with Hemingway before we can even inform the world of our books’ existence. I find this to be unreasonable and even obscene, despite, by some miracle, having actually hit the proverbial mark.

Reviews are extremely rare. They come in at an average rate of one for every five-hundred readers, and always represent thousands of dollars in promotional expenditure. While there is an epidemic of fake five-star reviews out there, Amazon didn’t spend any time investigating the culprits. They simply blitzed all of us. Any positivity our books had became suspect. In response, Amazon programmed the algorithm to delete many of our perfectly legitimate five-star reviews, which had been posted by complete strangers who had no connection to us. Amazon offered no reasons for these deletions, nor any appeal process.

This was followed by a variation on that theme when they allowed the reviews to appear, but removed stars from them. I had a review that expressly stated, “I give it four stars” . . .  and yet only one star was checked. The very next review that came through was titled ‘Five Star’, yet only three stars showed. After investigating the review histories of these customers, it was abundantly clear that they knew how to use the review system. They showed no confusion about what the stars were. All of my appeals to Amazon were rejected, and all attempts to contact the reviewers through the review comments option were blocked.

Recently, my flagship novel experienced a flood of five-star ratings – only to then get hit with as many one star ratings within five weeks as it had previously received during its entire six-year history. The anonymous nature of these new, silent, one-click ratings makes it impossible to know if it’s a troll attack, or if the algorithm is stripping stars away. I had to temporarily unpublish the book in order to protect it from further harm. 

No book marketing guru will ever address the true dangers of the dreaded ‘one-star’ review. They focus solely on how to deal with the emotional angst it causes. While it’s true that it does cause that ‘sinking in the stomach’ feeling, that’s actually the most irrelevant factor. A one-star review/rating is virtually impossible for the average rating to recover from. Amazon weighs them heavier than five-star reviews, which means it could take up to twenty consecutive ‘fives’ to repair the damage caused by a single ‘one’. Amazon also suppresses the visibility of a book each time a ‘one-star’ appears.

In the meantime, the four-star minimum promotion requirement remains.

It’s a well-established fact that human beings are drawn to negatives, one-hundred times more than they are to positives (which is why bad news sells.) Regardless of how negligible in number an author’s negative reviews might be, Amazon’s ‘Most Helpful’ voting system was always guaranteed to send negative reviews soaring to the top of the list on a book’s product page. My ‘two-star’ reviews make up a mere 5% of my overall review tally. However, they dominate the visible reviews on the product page of my flagship novel, leaving the 65% ‘fives’ mostly hidden in the shadows. This almost certainly deters readers, who would have most likely enjoyed the book.

The algorithm is also programmed to devalue reviews that are over a year old. A book might have a 4.0 average at night, and be a 3.9 by morning – effectively knocking it out of the game.

Amazon seems to accept book promotion grudgingly and goes out of its way, with the most arbitrary measures, to impede an author’s marketing efforts. One of the most effective tools is to have a quality book video trailer on the relevant book’s product page (via the ‘Related Video Shorts’ feature.) But authors aren’t allowed to use it. Rather, Amazon defers us to our Author Central pages to upload videos, knowing very well that this feature is utterly useless. Casual, browsing customers are highly unlikely to go searching through Author Central. If, by chance, they decided to do so, they would only see a row of black video screens with no thumbnail images and no titles. They wouldn’t know what video they had clicked on until it started playing. 

Whenever we seek help from Amazon on any of these issues, their responses are invariably unhelpful, meaningless, and usually show that the operative hasn’t even read our query.

There have been so many other types of rug-pullers enabled by Amazon’s unrepentant policy of zero-accountability. Unfortunately, it would take a book in itself to list them all.

Writers put their hearts, souls, and years of their lives into their books, and that’s before going to the expense of cover design and marketing. But writing has become a no-win venture. Positive reviews are essential for promotion, but if we get them, Amazon will take them away. The abusive treatment this cruel, totalitarian monster inflicts upon us has rendered it a futile proposition, for which enormous monetary losses will be on the horizon.

In retrospect, this was always destined to be the case, since, in Jeff Bezos’ own words: "Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle."


Wow! I've always supported Whistle Blowers!!! Even in these days when they can be fired under an incompetent administration...

However, for as long as I've been reviewing at Amazon, I have tried over and over to have them differentiate books from any other product! Instead, placing them within an entire spectrum of products has resulted in...the above... Ultimately, the value of the work of the creator of a book has become of less value than any movie that might have evolved from that original BOOK!

So...I ask is the above true? Is the Insider right? Can you provide examples, affirmations, or other comments? 

All can remain anonymous... They can be left as a comment on my blog... or sent to me at GABixlerReviews@aol.com... No names will ever be used, although I would appreciate knowing sources if you trust me enough...