Taibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, ITaibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, I wish he would cool it a little, because as a reader I'm wary of being manipulated. And there's plenty of stuff in this book where the bare clinical facts are entirely sufficient to produce outrage, and I don't need the author metaphorically poking me in the ribs saying, "Hey! Hey! Are you angry yet?"
And this book will definitely make you angry (and depressed), but it's an important read. Taibbi does an excellent job of dissecting two trends in the American justice system. First, the extent to which corporate fraud and other financial crimes are prosecuted very gingerly, if at all, and second, the extent to which (often poor, often non-white) individuals can routinely have the full force of the court system thrown at them for relatively minor offenses. The causes behind this are many. There's a big dollop of flawed legal precedent: the tale of the Holder memo is an amazing case study in unintended consequences from a policy that wasn't thoroughly thought through. There are lots of skewed institutional incentives: it turns out that if you evaluate police performance on a metric of number of arrests, police will find ways to make arrests at any cost. And if you tell the Justice Department that the thing that matters most is successful prosecutions, you can pretty much guarantee that the Justice Department will only prosecute slam-dunk cases. There's a whole lot of political theater in the form of politicians scoring cheap points by going after welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants. And a great big chunk of simple racism.
I don't think that there are simple solutions to any of these causes, but having read this book, I now feel much better informed about what the causes are, and ready to join the discussion of how to address them. ...more
This is a nice, short, generally readable introduction to the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
I did struggle a bit with the author's decision to tell the stoThis is a nice, short, generally readable introduction to the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
I did struggle a bit with the author's decision to tell the story out of chronological order. I understand why he did it, because it allowed for easy contrasting of geographically or thematically similar events that occurred at different times, but I really think I would have found the book easier to follow if events had been presented chronologically. (Although the book does have a handy timeline at the front that helps keep things straight.)
Second, I would have liked a book that really delved more into the nuances of Japanese politics at the time. The book makes it absolutely clear that Tokugawa was very good at using a judicious combination of military force, political influence, and personal connections to build up his power and the legitimacy of his rule, so that over the course of his lifetime he was able to rise from being a relatively minor political player to the founder of a shogunal dynasty that lasted over 2 centuries. But if you asked me, "Why did a particular daimyo decide to throw in his lot with (or oppose) Tokugawa at a given point in time?" I mostly wouldn't be able to tell you.
Third, for a lot of the book, Tokugawa's personality doesn't come across all that vividly in this biography. That may not be the author's fault - it's clear that while Tokugawa was a voluminous correspondent, he wrote mostly about practical matters and was pretty cagey about revealing himself. Honestly, Oda Nobunaga comes across as a much more vivid personality even in the brief glimpse we get of him in this book. Alas, I think good English-language biographies of Nobunaga are even thinner on the ground than those of Tokugawa. ...more
**spoiler alert** For the most part, a good solid action-packed story with some good performances. Some of the plot twists I saw coming, some were gen**spoiler alert** For the most part, a good solid action-packed story with some good performances. Some of the plot twists I saw coming, some were genuinely surprising.
It would have gotten a much higher rating from me if it weren't for two problems: 1) Aliona's plan is to slaughter Kylo's entire family using a weapon that homes in on their DNA. Aliona and Kylo are, unless I've misunderstood, first cousins and share some DNA. It barely seems plausible that her side could have devised a weapon that would wipe out all of Kylo's family and leave hers untouched, but that could have been hand waved.
2) A more seriously WTF moment - Kylo is pushed out of an airlock of shuttle that is nearly at the edge of the atmosphere and survives his fall to the planet's surface. There is no way that is remotely plausible. My suspension of disbelief just snapped at that point. It's a small thing, plot wise, because it happens in the post-credits sequence at the end of the play, but it still soured my enjoyment, because it's just so ridiculous. ...more
This is a short read, and a lot of it will not be new to people who have been following the issues around online harassment. But it's a good thoroughThis is a short read, and a lot of it will not be new to people who have been following the issues around online harassment. But it's a good thorough summary of the issues for anyone who wants to catch up, and I thought there were two particular elements of the book that I thought were particularly valuable: * First, Jeong makes the excellent point that harassing activity on the internet has two components: content and behavior. Most of our attempts to control harassment currently focus on content - deleting or blocking objectionable posts - but to really effectively combat harassment, we need to also focus on behavior. The author provides some excellent examples of how the online game League of Legends has effectively addressed harassing behavior. * Second, the comparison of efforts to fight spam with efforts to fight harassment were interesting in terms of looking at how the internet currently handles two different types of "garbage" content. It's particularly interesting to recall that many of the same types of "free speech" worries that we see raised about anti-harassment efforts now were raised about attempts to control spam in the past. (And, the free speech concerns aren't entirely unwarranted - one of the problems with spam control is how hard it can make it to receive bulk communications that you actually want to receive.)
I also really appreciated that the Kindle (and I presume other e-book editions) are chock full of hyperlinks to relevant content on the internet. In a book about the internet, it's great to have instant access to so much of the primary source material, and I really appreciate that the author and the publisher went to the effort to include that. ...more
This isn't really the kind of book that you sit down and read cover to cover. I once saw someone describe trying to read straight through a collectionThis isn't really the kind of book that you sit down and read cover to cover. I once saw someone describe trying to read straight through a collection of haiku as being like "being repeatedly pecked by doves," and that's kind of an apt description. You're much better off dipping in and reading just a few poems at a time.
The poems in this book run the gamut emotionally: some are passionate, some are sad, some are funny. Considering how old the poems are and how different the lives of the women who wrote them are from our own, they feel very fresh and relatable. There is a very good essay at the front of the book which gives some historical context for the poems and some biographical information about the authors. At the back of the book, there are transcriptions of all of the poems in romanji accompanied by some notes on the language and the translation choices made by the translator. These are well worth reading - lots of the poems involve wordplay that no translation, however good, can capture, and these notes give a non-Japanese-speaking reader a little taste of how that works. ...more
This comes pretty close to everything I could want in a mystery series. It has an interesting historical setting (Laos in the 1970s, just after the CoThis comes pretty close to everything I could want in a mystery series. It has an interesting historical setting (Laos in the 1970s, just after the Communist takeover). It has a protagonist with a sharp sense of humor, and a supporting cast of characters who are interesting and likable. The crimes to be solved range from personal crimes of passion to political intrigues. And there's an interesting hint of the supernatural which manages to walk a fine line between "yes, something that can't be explained by science is happening here" and "this guy's intuition has really interesting ways of operating." It's something I've seen other writers attempt, and it's often annoyed me, but in this case it works.
I don't think these books are nearly as well known in mystery reading circles as they deserve to be. If you like mysteries, check this one out. ...more