“Imagine you have a country and no one to run it.”

Book review: The Man Without a Face, by Masha Gessen Amazon / Book Depository “Imagine you have a country and no one to run it. This was the predicament that Boris Yeltsin and his inner circle thought they faced in 1999.” What do we really know about Vladimir Putin? What beyond the carefully orchestrated and controlled images, crafted to underscore his macho masculinity and infallible … Continue reading “Imagine you have a country and no one to run it.”

Devil In The Details: The Darkness of Steve Bannon

Book review: Devil’s Bargain, by Joshua Green Amazon Trump, for his part, seemed to recognize that Bannon alone could focus and channel his uncanny political intuition with striking success. Bannon didn’t make Trump president the way Rove did George W. Bush – but Trump wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Bannon. Together, their power and reach gave them strength and influence far beyond what either could … Continue reading Devil In The Details: The Darkness of Steve Bannon

Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

Book review: I Was Told to Come Alone, by Souad Mekhennet Sometimes a reporter is simply lucky enough to pick the right restaurant for tea. That’s one way journalist Souad Mekhennet, a contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, and a veritable force in modern journalism, describes her experience in 2001, listening in on conversations of the regulars in a Muslim neighborhood in Hamburg. Some of … Continue reading Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

What Makes the Russians Tick

Book review: Russians, by Gregory Feifer “Russia has no need of sermons (she has heard too many), nor of prayers (she has mumbled them too often), but of the awakening in the people a feeling of human dignity, lost for so many ages in mud and filth.” – Vissarion Belinsky on the Russian Orthodox Church in a letter to Nikolai Gogol, 1847 This quote opens a chapter of Russians titled “Cold … Continue reading What Makes the Russians Tick

Dispatches from an Occupied Land

Book review: The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State, by Samer, translated by Nader Ibrahim Samer (not his real name) is a Syrian hoping to begin his studies when Assad’s regime is overthrown and the Islamic State (referred to here as Daesh, another of its names) rolls into the country, taking Raqqa as a de facto capital. The citizens have a brief glimmer of hope that things … Continue reading Dispatches from an Occupied Land

Losing its Collective Mind

Book review: Almost Home by Filipp Velgach (Amazon / Book Depository) Almost Home is the memoir of Filipp Velgach, an American of Ukrainian heritage. He was recruited to translate in the Ukraine for a group of documentary filmmakers in 2013, at the time of major unrest and protests revolving around then-president Yanukovych and Ukraine’s relationship with Russia. These are complicated politics, and even while following the … Continue reading Losing its Collective Mind