Taking One for the Team: Crippled America- How to Make America Great Again by Donald Trump

Crippled_America_-_How_to_Make_America_Great_AgainNow do you really think I could take one for the team without reviewing a book by the GOP’s presidential nominee Donald Trump? Of course not. Initially, I thought of reviewing Trump’s classic The Art of the Deal. But decided to check out Crippled America: How to Make Great Again because this idea of making America great again is Trump’s campaign slogan, and according to the bloviating Cheeto, only he is capable of making the good old US of A great again.

And boy, in Crippled America Trump never fails to remind you of this…

Now I’m not exactly naïve. I know damn well Donald did not write this book; he can barely handle writing a decent Tweet. Most likely he hired a ghost writer to write Crippled America basing this tome on Trump’s speeches, interviews, and yes, his Tweets.  Well, I can say one thing good thing about Trump; he’s keeping ghost writers in business. They can use the paycheck.

Okay, onto the book…

After a preface called “You Gotta Believe”, Crippled America is divided into 17 short chapters focusing on several key issues: 1) Winning Again 2) Our “Unbiased” Political Media (the quotes are in the text of the book) 3) Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbors 4) Foreign Policy: Fighting for Peace 5) Education: A Failing Grade 6) The Energy Debate: A Lot of Hot Air 7) Healthcare is Making Us All Sick 8) It’s Still the Economy, Stupid 9) Nice Guys Can Finish First 10) Lucky to Be an American 11) The Right to Bear Arms 12) Our Infrastructure is Crumbling 13) Values 14) A New Game in Town 15) Teaching the Media Dollars and Sense 16) A Tax Code That Works 17) Making America Great Again

Now I have to give The Donald some credit. He is quite right on certain things that need attending to here is the good old USA, including our schools, our healthcare system, our infrastructure, our economy and our treatment of our returning veterans. However, these are mere talking points and he never gives us solid, key evidence of how he can solve this other than using the Trump Brand.

You might ask yourself, “Okay, Donald. Just what is crippling America?” And unless you’ve been taking a very long nap, what’s crippling America are the very things Donald has been spewing about ever since he threw his hat into the political ring last year. And pretty much what he says are the same things political pundits spew about on everything from FOX News to AM radio to various Sarah Palin’s word salads vented via her social media. They include:

President Obama, Hillary Clinton, most Democrats and other assorted liberals, Congress, Muslims, immigrants, unions, the media, public schools, science and scientists concerned with climate change, and big government (well, any form of government actually)

Not surprising President Obama isn’t Trump’s favorite person. After all, Trump was a total birther who doubted the validity of the President’s birth here in the United States even after Obama presented his long-form birth certificate. He pretty much hates Obama, blaming him for everything from our relations to foreign countries to our healthcare woes to our piss poor public schools.

Other conservative talking points Trump pukes up within the confines of Crippled America is the threat of China’s booming economy and American companies outsourcing jobs to China (like Apple) without taking responsibility for outsourcing many Trump-related products to China. He just says they are good practices for him because they help him save money.

His take on energy is pretty much the same as Sarah Palin’s, “drill baby, drill,” while dismissing various green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines. He is also a denier of climate change and doesn’t seem to give a rip about anything environmentally-sound.

His only solution when it comes to our troubled healthcare system is to completely repeal and dismantle the Affordable Care Act while not offering any valid concepts and ideas on how we can offer good healthcare options that serve the public’s best interests.

At blame for our educational systems is mostly teachers and teacher unions. He blames government interference for our troubled economy, and doesn’t even brooch the issues of Wall Street greed, big business malfeasance and stagnant wages hindering the average American’s spending power. He talks about religious freedom but only how it affects good Christians like himself. As for Muslims? Well, you don’t have to read Crippled America to know how feels about Muslims. And his take on immigration is pretty much “Mexicans suck. Close the borders.” He is a huge fan of the second amendment and brags about having guns and doesn’t even want to discuss the most benign arguments for gun control.

Now how would Trump solve these problems that cripple our Nation? Well, he doesn’t exactly offer any salient policy, thoughtful ideas and solid evidence other than the various buildings and golf courses he has built around the world as if that is the same thing as running the United States. Though he does offer some ideas on making our tax code simpler, you’ve probably heard or read of these ideas elsewhere. Trump hardly breaks new ground.

Trump’s ego is all over Crippled America. He brags about his business acumen, never bringing up the failures of Trump University, Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka and other Trump-related beverages, Trump magazine, Trump’s line at Macy’s, various casinos and not to mention, his bankruptcies. He also brags of his family values, which is rather rich coming from a man on his third marriage and a known adulterer.

Crippled America is pretty much one big brag fest for Trump. As I mentioned offers no policies, ideas, evidence and careful research on how he would truly act if he was President. Furthermore, Crippled America is devoid of any endnotes or footnotes pointing out solid proof of what plagues America and why these issues plague America. If I handed in an essay in college written is such a flimsy manner I would have received a much deserved grade F.

You know, if Trump wasn’t running for the most important job in the world, I would just laugh over this book. But Trump is running for president and this chills me to my tailbone. The President of United States is not the same as being at the helm of a cheesy reality show. It is a job that requires wisdom, an open-mind to differences in race, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, religious affiliation and differing ideas and opinions, diplomacy and empathy, the ability to see several sides to an issue, the aptitude to handle a crisis, excellent communication skills (especially listening), and other skills Donald just doesn’t seem to have or is willing to develop. Oh, being the President also requires a full understanding of the Constitution and its amendments, the Bill of Rights and how the three branches of government work. Wait, does Trump even know we have three branches of government?

When you think about, running for President is a job interview, the most important job interview I can imagine. Do you think you’d get a job if you spent your entire interview saying horrible things about women, Muslims, immigrants, your competition, or made fun of a disabled person?

I didn’t think so.

Trump sums up Crippled America, not with his tax returns, but with his so-called personal financials, and offers an “about the author” page that goes on for 17 pages. Yes, 17 pages. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount wasn’t 17 pages long.

In the end I can sum up Crippled America in 17 words: I survived reading Donald Trump’s Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again. No liquor was involved.

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Book Review: Under the Affluence-Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America by Tim Wise

under the affluenceEvery once in while there comes a book that makes me want to shout from the roof tops, “Everybody, please read this book if you truly care about humanity and society!” Tim Wise’s book Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America, is one such book. And though it may sound melodramatic, I truly think Mr. Wise’s book is an excellent primer on exactly why our nation seems so skewed, confused and messed-up, especially during one of our most scary, yet important presidential election years ever.

Scholar, activist and writer, the aptly named Tim Wise, has focused on societal issues since college and one of his first jobs was working against former KKK grand wizard, David Duke’s presidential bid. Since then Wise has worked on behalf of many progressive causes and has written several books, Under the Affluence being his latest.

In 2016 Wise wonders why do we (as a nation and a society) shame the poor (and let’s face it, anyone who isn’t mega wealthy) while praising the super-rich? And what does that say about us and what impact is this having on society?

Wise calls this detestable movement “Scroogism,” and, yes, based on Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. And it is a theme that has shaped our thinking about the haves vs. the have-nots and have-lessers, much of it encouraged by big business, Wall Street, billionaires and millionaires, CEOs, the radical right political pundits, the current state of the GOP, conservative Christianity, mainstream media and often, ourselves. And yes, that includes the have-nots and have-lessers. And Wise offers evidence through nearly 40 pages of end notes to give gravitas to Under the Affluence.

Under the Affluence and its theme of Scroogism is divided into three well-researched, scholarly, yet audience friendly, maddening, heartbreaking and in the end, cautiously hopeful chapters. These chapters include:

  1. Pulling Apart-The State of Disunited America
  2. Resurrecting Scrooge-Rhetoric and Policy in a Culture of Cruelty
  3. Redeeming Scrooge-Fostering a Culture of CompassionIn Resurrecting Scrooge,

Wise carefully researches how in the 21st century the United States is a society that bashes the poor, blames victims, the unemployed and underemployed, embraces a serious lack of compassion and celebrates cruelty while putting the wealthy and the powerful on a pedestal. And Wise examines the origins of class and cruelty in the United States, the ideas of the Social Gospel and FDR’s New Deal, the myths and realities of the War on Poverty from its inception to Reaganism (and how liberals responded), and the concept how culture of cruelty affects who receives justice and who receives nothing at all except horrifically de-humanizing insults, both in rhetoric and reality. It is probably these two chapters that truly stirred my rage, and at times, I had to put Under the Affluence down and take a few deep breaths.But just as I was about to chuck Under the Affluence across the room and spend a week in the corner rocking back and forth, I read the final chapter, and felt a bit of hope. Perhaps, as nation things aren’t as bleak as they seem. In this chapter, Wise reminds us to look for possible roadblocks on the way of redemption. He also mentions that besides facts, use storytelling because behind every fact there is a very human face with a story that must be heard. He behooves us to create “a vision of a culture of a compassion” and how we can help communities to control their destiny.

Now, I am a realist. I know for the most part Under the Affluence is a book that preaches to the choir, especially in 2016. But maybe, just maybe, Under the Affluence will open minds, soften hearts and act an agent for, as Elvis Costello so aptly put it, “peace, love and understanding.” Under the Affluence is not only one of the most important books to come out in 2016; it is one of the most important books to come out in the 21st century.

Wise also takes a look at the world of the working poor and the non-working rich, the myth of meritocracy, horribly mean-spirited remarks, much of it coming from the radical right, including pundits and politicians, excessive CEO and big business pay, the devaluing of work that truly benefits all of society-nursing, teaching social work, protecting the public, improving our infrastructure, creating art, taking care of the elderly and disabled, and so on. And let’s not forget the very valuable work that doesn’t pay-parenting, eldercare, volunteering, etc.

In Pulling Apart, Wise takes a hardcore look at our current state of joblessness, wage stagnation, underemployment and how they affect us in this stage of “post-recession recovering” America. He investigates today’s realities and the long-term effects of income and wealth inequality. Wise contemplates who and what caused these problems and how race, class and economics are involved.

Book Reviews: 50 Things Liberals Love to Hate About America by Mike Gallagher

50-Things-197x300Okay, liberals, tell me the things you hate. Off the top of your heads you probably mentioned the biggies like racism, sexism, homophobia and all sorts of bigotry. You hate environmental degradation, corporate greed, and the growing chasm between the haves and the have nots. You’re also probably not fond of the Bush administration, Fox News, the religious right, and the Tea Party.

However, according to Mike Gallagher, liberals hate things like apple pie, John Wayne, small businesses, and the American workforce. And he gleefully ruminates upon these topics and other things that inspire a liberal’s hatred in 50 Things Liberals Love to Hate About America.

You’re probably wondering, “Who is Mike Gallagher?” According to the radio industry magazine “Talkers” Mike Gallagher is one of the top talk radio hosts in America. He proudly calls himself “a happy conservative warrior.” He is also a contributor to Fox News and has been published in the New York Post, National Review, and Townhall.com.

So what do liberals hate about America?

One thing liberals hate is the retail juggernaut Wal-Mart. Why? Because according to Mike “Wal-Mart works and liberalism doesn’t.” Why Mike is comparing a chain of big box stores to a political and social point of view is beyond me. There are quite a few reasons to not like Wal-Mart—its regressive employment practices and plundering of local businesses. But to this liberal, one reason to hate Wal-Mart is because the service is often surly and every single Wal-Mart I have patronized has been completely trashed!

Weirdly enough, liberals don’t just hate Wal-mart; they also hate small businesses and workers. Really? There are quite a few small businesses in my mostly liberal neighborhood, and they’re much appreciated. And I don’t think it was conservatives who were out supporting Wisconsin’s public workers fighting for their collective bargaining rights. But to Mike liberals hating small businesses and workers is more about him hating government regulation and unions, which he believes are things that completely destroy small businesses and harm workers.

What else do liberals hate? Well, we hate conservative women. Funnily, Mike doesn’t mention conservative women like Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Dole, columnist Kathleen Parker or the late Jean Kirkpatrick. A lot liberals of might not agree with these ladies, but Mike doesn’t mention them. Nope, instead he mentions conservative women like Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Malkin, truly vindictive, hateful women who seem to be more about contributing to their wallets and being famous, than America. Heck, I know conservatives who don’t like these women.

Liberals also hate Christianity, which is odd to me because there are quite a few liberal Christians and Christian denominations. But to Mike the only Christians that matter are radical right Evangelical Christians and more mainstream Christians don’t seem to exist in his world.

Charity is another thing liberals hate. Mike came to this conclusion by observing a few tax returns of some notable individuals, as if that’s going to tell the whole story on why liberals hate charity. I hardly think a handful of tax returns are a good gauge on how liberals view charity. And most of us know charity goes beyond donating money to a good cause. Charity is also about donating time, skills, and much needed supplies. And charity is not the same as social justice, and we all know how some conservatives feel about social justice. But that’s a topic for another book.

When it comes to entertainment liberals hate George Bailey, John Wayne, and talk radio. Liberals hate George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life? George Bailey is a film character beloved by people—liberal and conservative. And why would liberals hate John Wayne? Liberals hate John Wayne because he wouldn’t compromise himself to play a character he didn’t agree with. Well, call me crazy because but to me great actors take on challenging characters they might not totally like (see Julianne Moore’s brilliant performance as Sarah Palin in Game Change), but I don’t hate John Wayne. However, Mike may be on point with talk radio, especially considering talk radio is rife with truly toxic types like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dr. Laura, and Sean Hannity.

Amongst the other things liberals hate is success, steakhouses (I guess all liberals are vegetarians), patios and pools, V-8 engines, science, the suburbs, both the West and the South, bright lights, boys and girls, and algae. And yes, liberals hate apple pie. Why? Because apple pie represents America and the number one thing liberals hate about America is America itself!

50 Things Liberals Love to Hate About America is a book that is too ridiculous to get all enraged about. I have an inkling Mike might not completely agree with what he’s written but he has to appeal to a certain base, the mouth breathers who think Fox News is credible journalism, Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11, and Michelle Obama’s toned arms are a Socialist plot.

I tried to think of books that list the things conservatives hate about America. And though I’m sure there’s a few, but I couldn’t think of any. However, what would one such book cover? What do conservatives hate? Well, if I’m going to stereotype I’d say conservatives hate President Obama and the rest of the Obama family (including Bo and Sunny). They hate gay people, Democratic women (“Hillary has cankles!”), sensible gun laws, and non-Christians (especially those trifling Muslims). Conservatives hate vegetarianism, PBS, both coasts, “elitists”, libraries, and recycling. Typical conservatives hate film festivals, hip-hop, and art galleries. In fact, a conservative’s idea of art is a black velvet painting of that weeping Cheeto, Speaker of the House John Boehner.

What should we liberals do to counter Mike’s attacks? Well, enjoy a thick, juicy steak. Move to a red state. Watch Nascar. Wear a flag pin. Buy a gun. All of this would totally blow Mike’s mind!

Cleansing the Palate

I don’t think Mike Gallagher is a horrible person. I’m sure we’d get along if we ever met. Heck, I’d even eat at a steakhouse with him even though I’d prefer a plate of barbecue ribs. But he is part of the world of talk radio, a huge part of the divisive, mean-spirited rhetoric that has polarized our country, most coming from the right. Rory O’Connor writes about this phenomenon in his book Shock Jocks: America’s Ten Worst Hate Talkers and the Progressive Alternatives. Rory bravely uncovers the sleazy underbelly of right wing talk radio exposing the hatred, bigotry, and deep dysfunction of some of our most famous shock jocks while also profiling more progressive radio personalities that counter all the hate. Rory also interviews some hosts—liberal, conservative, and moderate. One host he interviews is Mike Gallagher who admits he knows some liberals. In fact, Mike’s late wife was a liberal. See, Mike, we’re not all bad.

Twenty odd years ago, journalist David Brock was a part of the extreme radical right. He wrote for conservative publications like American Spectator, The Weekly Standard and the Moonie-owned Washington Times. He deemed Clarence Thomas’ accuser, Anita Hill as “a little bit nutty, and a little bit slutty,” And later skewered her in the book The Real Anita Hill thus becoming the radical right’s golden boy. However, not was all golden for David. He found himself tamping down his more liberal social views to advance the conservative cause. He disowned proper journalistic ethics to promote his career. And he lived uncomfortably as gay man in a community that often denounced homosexuality. In his very candid memoir, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative Brock brilliantly captures how the radical right grabbed him and how he left the movement as he came to grip how the current state of conservatism poisoned our political climate. Blinded by the Right is not pretty, but it is an amazing and important read.

One thing that bugged me about Mike’s book is the stupid “group think” liberals supposedly follow. Liberals are a pretty sundry bunch. The book Proud To Be Liberal edited by Elizabeth Clementson and Robert Lasner is a great book featuring essays of many proud liberals including cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, columnist Eric Zorn, journalist and author Eric Alterman, history professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, and comedian, writer, and fellow cheesehead Will Durst. These essays are funny, diverse, and get to the heart of why so many people are proud to call themselves liberal in an age where liberal is a naughty word—and shouldn’t be. The essays are entertaining and enlightening, and make you wish these the Sunday morning political shows would feature these liberals more often and leave Ann Coulter and her slatternly black cocktail dresses in the dust.

Your Country Is Just Not That Into You: How the Media, Wall Street, and Both Political Parties Keep on Screwing You—Even After You’ve Moved On by Jimmy Dore

Your Country_Meet Jimmy Dore. He’s a Midwestern boy, born and raised in Chicago, a recovering Roman Catholic, a very funny guy, a writer with a gifted way with words, and a proud member of the progressive left. In other words, my kind of guy!

Dore makes his living as a stand-up comic. He’s appeared on Comedy Central in his one-man show “Citizen Jimmy,” Last Comic Standing, Live with Jimmy Kimmel and the Late, Late Show. He has his own podcast, The Jimmy Dore Show and brings the funny to the political talk show The Young Turks.

Since the death of the wonderful George Carlin, I’ve often wondered if there is comedian who can discuss our current political state that is both side-splitting funny and thought-provoking (I can only imagine what the late Mr. Carlin would think of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, John “The Weeping Cheeto” Boehner, our corporate-bought politicians and our corporate-owned media). Well, I think I found this person in Jimmy Dore. And now Dore brings his sharply focused wit to his book Your Country Is Just Not That Into You: How the Media, Wall Street, and Both Political Parties Keep on Screwing You—Even After You’ve Moved On.

In this very funny book, Dore skewers the media, religion, Wall Street and corporate America, Republicans and Democrats.

In the introduction of Your Country Is Just Not Into You Dore asks, “Do You pay attention to your fucking life?!” This rather profane question was initially aimed at Dore’s friend Greg who had lost his job, was looking for work and was worrying about taking care of himself and his family. When Dore asked Greg whom he was voting for in the 2008 Presidential election, Greg answered, “Oh, I don’t pay attention to politics.” Hence, Dore’s potty-mouthed response.

In other words, the personal is political.

After the introduction, Dore takes a hard-hitting look at what’s wrong with our media, or as Sarah Palin likes to call it, “the lame stream media, you betcha.” A lot of people think the mainstream media is liberal. Yea, right. Dore comments how hard it is for the media to be liberal when so much of it is owned by corporate overlords like Disney, Time Warner, General Electric, and an Australian guy you may have heard of named Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch owns several newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Post, and get this…The Village Voice. The Village Voice?

And when it comes to the medium of TV and film, Murdoch owns Fox News, Direct TV, and Twentieth-Century Fox. He even owns the Dow Jones!!!! Dore envisions a scary moment when Murdoch decides to buy the alphabet, even that pesky letter Q.

Sure, it’s common knowledge that Fox News is very conservative, but Dore also convincingly mentions how CNN and MSNBC aren’t exactly as lefty as we may think.

Dore also doesn’t waste time skewering such media super stars like Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, and that member of the lucky sperm club, Luke Russert. Dore is also fearless when discussing David Gregory (recently let go from “Meet the Press”), various Fox News fembots, Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews.

After ripping apart the media, Dore rips up the current state of the Republican Party. When writing about the GOP in the 21st century, Dore doesn’t fail to call out the usual suspects—George W. Bush, John Boehner, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, New Gingrich-and their policies, ideas and concepts on what’s wrong with this country and how they make things “right.” Many of these issues include race, women’s rights, the environment, the economy, the military, and big business. Dore isn’t also afraid to call out the Tea Party for their bigoted shit. And he wonders how so many people can vote for a party that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. I found myself both nodding my head and holding my sides in from all my giggling. His “phone call” from Rick Santorum’s sweater vest had me reeling.

However, despite being a commie pinko homo who probably eats babies, Dore isn’t afraid to take on his fellow Democrats, also known as, “Republican Lite.” Dore mentions his disappointment with President Barack Obama and laments how the liberal, populist candidate Obama got replaced by a more conservative, Wall Street-owned President Obama. Dore calls out other disappointing Democrats like Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. He gets us to admit the Democratic donkey looks oddly like an elephant these days. And let’s be honest; the Democrats are owned by big business as much as the Republicans.

Dore also shares this wonderful quote by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of the private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”

Can you imagine any modern day Democrat saying that in 2014? Well, maybe my girl crush, Elizabeth Warren.

Further along in Your Country Is Just Not That Into You, Dore targets Wall Street, religion and everything else under the sun, which includes the evisceration of the poor and the struggling, Occupy Wall Street, school teachers, unions, common sense gun control and Edward Snowden.

Dore is one very pissed off man, granted a very humorous pissed off man. But he proves that not is all lost in his final chapter “P.S. America, I Love You.” In this chapter, Dore proudly mentions what is right about the United States. We created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are a nation of immigrants who continue to shape this nation in so many positive ways. We gave the world rock and roll, jazz, the blues, and hip hop. Justin Bieber? Nope, you can blame our friends to the north, Canada, for that little punk ass.

And Dore proudly states it is right here in the USA where stand-up comedy was born. Thank goodness, or else Dore might be asking, “You want fries with that?” I kid, I kid.

Our country produced the likes of Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs, whose technological genius revolutionized the globe (and yes, sometimes bug us, but you’ll get my smart phone out of my cold, dead hands).

In two generations we went from bombing black churches to electing a black man as president. And my grandmothers were born in a time when women couldn’t vote and now our next president just might be a woman.

Dore proudly mentions our country is becoming more progressive all the time, and you know what? He’s right. Less than fifty years ago, homosexuality was seen as a psychiatric disorder and now several states have legalized same sex marriage. A few years ago I interviewed a young woman who formed a gay/straight alliance at her high school. There is no way we would have formed a gay/straight alliance at my high school. Well, actually we did have a gay/straight alliance; it was called forensics.

America is a nation of people who are willing to stick their necks out and fight for what we believe in and will do whatever we can to make this a better place for everyone.

Your Country Is Just Not That Into You is a must-read for every liberal, and I think even some conservatives folks out there will find something valuable between its covers. I’m really glad I chanced upon Dore’s book and I recommend it to everyone who cares about this little patch on the planet call the United States of America.

An Atheist in the Foxhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right Wing Media-by Joe Muto

Foxhole_Joe MutoGet ready for a shocker, readers. Ann Coulter is a nice person. Don’t take my word for it. Take Joe Muto’s word. According to Muto there is “Green Room Ann” who is warm, friendly and remembers the names of everybody she meets. And then there is “On-Camera Ann” who is, well, you know.

But how does Muto know Ann Coulter is a nice person when she isn’t facing a news camera? Muto knows because he used to work behind the scenes at Fox News and he lived to tell the tale in his enlightening memoir An Atheist in the Foxhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right Wing Media.

At first glance, Muto hardly seems like the type to join Fox News. As you can tell from the book’s title Muto is both an atheist and a liberal. But with a huge desire to live in New York City, a worthless degree in film studies from Notre Dame and desperate need to find employment, Muto sends out a cover letter and his thin resume to Fox and gets hired as a production assistant for a whopping $12.00 per hour. As a production assistant Muto is basically a go-fer making sure shows run smoothly, doing tedious tasks and trying to navigate a world where his lefty ideology doesn’t quite match up with his corporate overlords.

Muto soon learns that at Fox News not everything is what it seems, like the aforementioned Coulter. Sure, plenty of his fellow staff members are die-hard conservatives, but most are moderate and there are quite a few liberals, too. However, staff is committed to working hard and getting things done even if it means dealing with delicate egos or woefully out of date equipment. Fox News makes a lot of money but it’s unbelievably cheap. When Muto started in 2004 Fox News was still using old-school VHS tapes instead of upgrading to digital.

As for the Fox News people in front of the camera? Muto speaks highly of Shep Smith, one of the few Fox personalities who leans a bit more to the left. He has nothing but praise for Megyn Kelly who he says is ambitious, hard-working, very smart and completely free of diva-like behavior. Glenn Beck’s on-air shtick is not an act; he really is nuttier than squirrel poop. Sarah Palin is even better looking in person and wildly charismatic. She’s also willfully ignorant, lazy and a total pain in the ass.

And then there is Bill O’Reilly. Muto spent the last few years of his tenure at Fox News as an assistant producer for O’Reilly’s show. While acting as assistant producer, Muto suffered through production meetings (often facing O’Reilly’s wrath) and ambushed Rosie O’Donnell at one of her book signings. And yes, Muto was there when O’Reilly faced a huge sexual harassment lawsuit (and somehow got loofah and falafel mixed-up).

Muto claims he found O’Reilly to be demanding, cantankerous, abrasive and very cheap despite his huge Fox News salary. However, Muto does have a lot of respect for his former boss for his strong work ethic, his devotion to his children and his notable media savvy.

But finally, Muto had enough being caught up in Fox News’ far right spin and he leaked some videos to the gossipy website Gawker.com. Sadly, his time as a muckraking mole didn’t last long and his employer found out about his media malfeasance. They were not thrilled with Muto’s betrayal, and Muto was served his marching papers.

Atheist in the Foxhole isn’t so much an indictment of the right-wing media juggernaut as much as it is Muto’s memoir of a particular moment in his life and his career. Muto is honest and fair about his time at Fox. And he’s also open about his own short-comings and contrite about his becoming a mole for Gawker.com (he naively thought he’d end up getting a job at the website-he did not). Muto intersperses his memoir with tales of partying and drinking, trying to live in New York on a paltry salary, and the difficulty of maintaining a good relationship (the news biz can be a killer on one’s dating life).

Atheist in the Foxhole is a fun, entertaining read. Muto has an amusing, self-deprecating writing style that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. This book is not so much an indictment of Fox News, but a very honest tale of a young man coming of age, facing his own shortcomings and trying to get his footing in a very rough business. I highly recommend it.