This book was touted as an explanation of Trump's America, but I didn't gain fresh insight into the people who preferred a KKK-approved candidate to aThis book was touted as an explanation of Trump's America, but I didn't gain fresh insight into the people who preferred a KKK-approved candidate to a highly qualified and experienced woman. Vance had a tumultuous childhood in Ohio as the son and grandson of Appalachian natives who moved to find work and escape poverty. He served in the Marines after high school, then went to college and Yale Law School. As Vance tells his story, he reiterates how it took a combination of hard work, luck, and random chance for him to leave his life in the working class. He also had his grandmother, who pushed him to succeed and provided stability when his parents could not.
He makes a couple of observations about social class, neither of which is new. Poor people don't just lack financial capital, they often lack the social capital to succeed. Also, while poor people often vote against their own interests, the elite liberals don't necessarily have a better handle on what will help solve poverty and related issues. We are too quick to put people in boxes. This isn't a fresh idea but I appreciated the way Vance used his own story to express his views; unfortunately, the book made the problems feel intractable.
Recommended for the personal story but not for political insight.
Fun fact: Vance's Yale Law advisor was Amy Chua, of Tiger Mom fame....more
I am not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. Coates writes a wrenching and extremely personal letter to his teenage sonI am not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. Coates writes a wrenching and extremely personal letter to his teenage son in which he outlines the individual and familial and social and political consequences of living in a black body. Every American should read this. It will make you angry and frustrated and sad, and still you should take a couple of hours to read and absorb Coates' voice. I have a copy if anyone wants to borrow it....more
Most of us wouldn't visit a Mumbai slum. Katherine Boo spent more than four years with the residents of one such community, gaining the trust of the rMost of us wouldn't visit a Mumbai slum. Katherine Boo spent more than four years with the residents of one such community, gaining the trust of the residents and hearing their stories. The result reads not like a social studies treatise but like a novel filled with the intertwined lives of people struggling to survive one of the most desperate environments imaginable. Boo forces you to see the slum and the choices people must make in a place where empathy is an unaffordable luxury, and she raises the question of whether this type of community is unavoidable in our current global economy.
I read all the time and it is not unusual for me to learn something new from a book. It is less common for me to find a book that changes the way I loI read all the time and it is not unusual for me to learn something new from a book. It is less common for me to find a book that changes the way I look at my world, and The New Jim Crow falls into that category. Every American needs to give up five or six hours of his or her life to read at least part of this book.
Law professor Michelle Alexander argues that the death of Jim Crow laws gave rise to a new racial caste system in which people with black or brown skin are routinely convicted and imprisoned for mostly minor drug charges. White people commit the same crimes at the same (or higher) rates but are not given the same lengthy prison sentences. The structure of the War on Drugs, which Alexander deems unnecessary and racially charged, is designed to incarcerate huge numbers of people for nonviolent crimes.
The impact on poor communities and communities of color is stunning and devastating. In 2006, one in every 14 black men was in prison, compared with one in 106 white men, although most of the drug crimes are committed by whites. These men are branded as felons and relegated to second-class status even after they have served time in prison: denied federal housing and food assistance, denied jobs, and in some states denied the right to vote.
Alexander's solution is no less than a complete transformation in the way we view race. The notion of a colorblind society is unrealistic and likely even more damaging than segregation, she says. Instead, we need to recognize that we all have racial prejudices, and find ways to create policies that compensate for those prejudices instead of perpetuating them.
From the book: Today, no less than fifty years ago, a flawed public consensus lies at the core of the prevailing caste system. When people think about crime, especially drug crime, they do not think about suburban housewives violating laws regulating prescription drugs or white frat boys using ecstasy. Drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals -- at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white. It is this failure to care, really care across color lines, that lies at the core of this system of control and every racial caste system that has existed in the United States or anywhere else in the world....more
In 200 pages, Dr. Offit summarizes the history of the anti-vaccine movement and the current and future consequences of refusing these life-saving shotIn 200 pages, Dr. Offit summarizes the history of the anti-vaccine movement and the current and future consequences of refusing these life-saving shots. Dr. Offit relies on statistics and medical research to make his arguments but he also illustrates them with stories of individuals whose children have suffered, and sometimes died, because they or their peers were not vaccinated.
Vaccination alone will not protect all children. Vaccination is a social compact; there will always be babies too young to receive vaccines, and some people's bodies will never develop the appropriate antibodies even with vaccination. Immunocompromised patients, such as those in chemotherapy, lose the immunity they developed from past vaccines.
One of the most heartbreaking sections of the book is a long list of cases in which parents were acquitted after withholding life-saving medical treatment from their children. Apparently, you can't leave your kid in the car while you run into the grocery store, but it is fine to let a diabetic child die because you don't believe in insulin treatment. Why is this relevant to vaccines? Offit believes that in light of these legal cases, the courts will never deny parents the right to refuse vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds. He sees two possible scenarios that will increase vaccination rates back to safe levels. One is for parents to talk to each other about the absolute necessity of vaccination. Science and stats don't convince anti-vaxxers but sometimes parental encouragement is successful.
The other scenario is to wait. Wait until vaccination rates drop even lower and the United States experiences an epidemic and hundreds or even thousands of children die from a preventable disease. Then, maybe, the anti-vaxxers will realize the value of immunization. Let's try not to get there....more
If you want to be reassured about the safety of the world's nuclear stockpile, find another book. As General George Lee Butler said in the 1990s, "I cIf you want to be reassured about the safety of the world's nuclear stockpile, find another book. As General George Lee Butler said in the 1990s, "I came to fully appreciate the truth...we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion." Butler was the newly appointed head of Strategic Air Command at the time and had recently reviewed the SAC's history and reports.
Eric Schlosser, whose "Fast Food Nation" encouraged Americans to rethink McDonalds, turned his formidable research skills on the U.S. nuclear program. He spent ten years studying the history of nuclear weapons and the Cold War and wrote a detailed but very readable account of our journey from the Manhattan Project and Hiroshima to detente to our current state, in which rogue nations are a little too close to unsupervised thermonuclear bombs.
This is not "The Day After," and Schlosser spends very little time on the real and imagined civilian horrors, the underground shelters, or the classroom duck-and-covers. His history is framed around a specific accident in Damascus, Ark., in 1980, and relays a story that illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of SAC and the Air Force.
"Command and Control" is not brief and it is not cheerful, but it is an important piece of journalism that will make you rethink your memories of the Cold War, and increase your appreciation for the military and civilian personnel who woke up every morning and supervised weapons that could have, but did not, destroy the world. Yet....more