Of all the crime/thriller writers working today, Richard North Patterson is one of the best. He becomes interested in a subject - whether it be U.S. nOf all the crime/thriller writers working today, Richard North Patterson is one of the best. He becomes interested in a subject - whether it be U.S. national politics, Palestinian/Israeli relations, or in this case, the war in Afghanistan and the physical and psychological devastation being inflicted on U.S. troops - and winds a mystery around the topic. By the end of the book, not only has the reader experienced a really good story, usually with a strong plot twist,but also learned something substantial about the topic which caught Patterson's interest.
In this case, an Army court martial is at the center of the story. I just finished working on a real trial where several potential jurors had served on a Board of Officers, so this was of particular interest to me. I did not know that each side in a military trial only gets one peremptory strike, or that the number of people on the jury varies depending on how many potential jurors are removed for cause. I also did not know that the officers on the jury have to be superior in rank to the person on trial.
I gave the book four stars, because it was a satisfying story and because of what I learned. It did not get the highest rating, however, because at times the dialog was too literary, and not authentic to the voices of the characters. This minor quibble aside, Richard North Patterson has delivered again, and I look forward to reading his next endeavor....more
The subtitle of this book is, "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," and that pretty well sums it up. I found this to be an interesting subject becThe subtitle of this book is, "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," and that pretty well sums it up. I found this to be an interesting subject because of my work with juries, and also because human psychology is so damn fascinating.
He begins by describing an ancient statue that "didn't look right," and turned out to be a forgery, and then moves on to a psychologist and mathematician who can predict with 95% accuracy whether a married couple will still be married 15 years later. Much of this ability in both cases has to do with the idea of "thin-slicing," the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based upon very thin slices of experience. Gladwell also discusses snap decisions, why they are so accurate, and why we are unable to describe why we made a particular snap decision. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is an interesting part of the study of snap decisions. Try it for yourself at http://www.implicit.harvard.edu
Two other big stories in the book: one is about Marine General Paul Van Riper, and how he was able to outwit the most advanced military technology using expeience and insight and some very fine thin-slicing. Another is about an ER surgeon, Brendan Reilly, who was able to optimize time chest pain victims spent in the ER by reducing the amount of information upon which decisions were based.
Perhaps the most useful section of the book for me was the discussion of the FACS, Facial Action Coding System. By learning the musculature of the face and the roughly fifteen hundred micro expressions a face can make, it is possible to know what someone is really thinking. Lucky for us, only fifty or so people in the world are completely versed in this art. This discussion occurs in the chapter on police shootings. Gladwell makes the point that when the brain is flooded with too many sensory perceptions, it begins to shut down and makes bad decisions. In a sense, we become temporarily autistic.
There are many useful ideas in this book. Gladwell is a chatty sort of writer, never losing his audience's attention. What could have been a rather boring, scholarly tome is instead suffused with energy. Highly recommended....more
For years now, I have heard people saying things like, "Doesn't it seem like the country is becoming more divided?," or "I feel like people just don'tFor years now, I have heard people saying things like, "Doesn't it seem like the country is becoming more divided?," or "I feel like people just don't try to get along any more." This book reveals the growing chasm between liberals and conservatives in the U.S. through extensive use of statistics.
That might not sound like a very interesting read, but it is. Bishop and his slightly-less-than-co-author (listed on title page but not on the front of the book) Robert G. Cushing are journalists, and began thinking about the Big Sort as an off-the-wall series of articles in an Austin newspaper. What they discovered is that since the mid-sixties, the American population has been sorting itself geographically, politically, religiously, and in terms of lifestyle into more and more homogeneous enclaves. When this happens, people who think alike tend to reinforce each others' opinions, leading eventually to more radical opinions that individual community members originally held, and less ability to tolerate conflicting opinions.
The last paragraph pretty well says it all:
Beginning thirty years ago, the people of this country unwittingly began a social experiment. Finding cultural comfort in "people like us," we have migrated into ever-narrower communities and churches and political groups. We have created, and are creating, new institutions distinguished by their isolation and single-mindedness. We have replaced a belief in a nation with a trust in ourselves and our carefully chosen surroundings. And we have worked quietly and hard to remove any trace of the "constant clashing of opinions" from daily life. It was a social revolution, one that was both profound and, because it consisted of people simply going about their lives, entirely unnoticed. In this time, we have reshaped our economies, transformed our businesses, both created and decimated our cities, and altered institutions of faith and fellowship that have withstood centuries. Now more isolated than ever in our private lives, cocooned with our fellows, we approach public life with the sensibility of customers who are always right. "Tailor-made" has worked so well for industry and social networking sites, for subdivisions and churches, we expect it from our government, too. But democracy doesn't seem to work that way.
I found this book fascinating, and very useful in thinking about the challenges facing this country. The reader will find many interesting tidbits, whether finding out that for every twelve doorbells that political volunteers rang, one additional voter cast a ballot in this country, to discovering that the Republican Party based George W. Bush's second campaign for President partially upon the merchandising success of the Applebees Restaurant chain. Since I write a lot of juror questionnaires for criminal trials, realizing that asking four questions on childrearing can accurately predict party affiliation and that asking someone their attitude on public land use was an accurate indicator of their core beliefs probably topped my personal list. ...more
Angela Davis was fired from the UCLA faculty in 1969, under the pretext that she was a Communist. When the Courts ordered her reinstatement, she was eAngela Davis was fired from the UCLA faculty in 1969, under the pretext that she was a Communist. When the Courts ordered her reinstatement, she was eventually fired again, this time for speaking at rallies. Ms. Davis was arrested a second time on more serious charges: during an attempt to free a group of Black Panthers from a Marin County jail, a judge was killed. Weapons belonging to Professor Davis were found at the scene. Davis escaped, and two months later, was extradited from New York.
Mary Timothy was the foreperson of the Angela Davis jury. This book is unique, because unlike the "tell-all" approach that jurors in subsequent high-profile cases chose to employ, Timothy gives a compelling view of jury selection, a tension-packed courtroom trial, and the machinations that go on in the jury room once the jury has been sequestered for deliberation.
Among a sea of contenders, this book stands out for its clarity, its honest assessment of the criminal justice system, and the even-handed approach of its author....more