Tamara Draut's argument is that 30-somethings, Gen Xers, have the financial deck stacked against them. Education, the key to the middle class, will dr...moreTamara Draut's argument is that 30-somethings, Gen Xers, have the financial deck stacked against them. Education, the key to the middle class, will drive them into crippling debt. Starting a family will saddle them with medical costs, daycare costs, etc. Buying a house puts them at the mercy of a predatory financial industry (see also student loans). And a serious injury or a cancer diagnosis will very likely drive them into bankruptcy. Basically, unless they're trust fund babies, they're screwed.
I'm mostly in agreement with Draut on all of this. The problem with the book is a lot of other people have written similar books. If you've read much of anything by Paul Krugman, et al, none of Draut's contentions will seem particularly shocking. Draut's methodology is to outline the problems facing young adults and support these with a series of anecdotes about the financial hardships her subjects face as a result of trying to achieve the American dream. While the stories are compelling, the book is weak on statistics or other objective evidence.
Draut limits her examination to middle and working class in their 30s, people finished with college and maybe grad school and ready to embark on adult lives. She does not deal with the dilemmas of the poor, nor does she look at the way these same problems are faced by many people in middle age. She justifies not examining the poor as that would have made her book unwieldy. Also, rightly, she argues that those in poverty face a completely different set of problems.
This book came out prior to the economic crisis that began in 2008. The financial crisis, the housing crisis, the recession, the pernicious concentration of wealth, and the growing lack of opportunity for most Americans have certainly affected 30-somethings, but people in the next age cohorts have been even harder hit. Unemployment has hit men in their 50s as hard as 20-something liberal arts grads. Careers have foundered a decade out from retirement. Retirement savings have evaporated. The suicide rate amongst baby boom-era men has gone up.
Draut can't be faulted for not seeing what was coming a few years out from her book's publication date. However, the roots of the dilemma of the middle class 50-somethings were developing well before 2008. If Draut had looked outside of the box to which she limited her study, she might have had something remarkable.(less)
This book begins with a dead Roman centurion left in the toilet of Hector Belascoaran Shayne's office building. The third, and presumably last, in the...moreThis book begins with a dead Roman centurion left in the toilet of Hector Belascoaran Shayne's office building. The third, and presumably last, in the series featuring the laconic engineer turned private eye. As in the other entries in the series, Hector faces off against shadowy, powerful forces of corruption and evil. As usual, his only support is his small circle of friends and his gun.
In Shayne, Paco Ignacio Taibo II has created a character both cynical and principled, depressed without being depressing. He inhabits a Mexico City rife with corrupt officials, murderous police, and the decadent rich, where everyone is on the make, and it is crucial to know whom to trust. It's like Philip Marlowe's Los Angeles, crossed with Oz. Shayne isn't sure he really wants to be a detective; he should probably mind his own business, but he can't stand it when the powerless have no one on their side.
This book received some very prestigious awards, and I feel bad about giving up on it. I just couldn't get into it. Perhaps the translation isn't as g...moreThis book received some very prestigious awards, and I feel bad about giving up on it. I just couldn't get into it. Perhaps the translation isn't as good as it should be. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it. I don't know.
There's a police investigation into the death of a journalist who was looking into an earlier investigation into the serial murders of young girls. There's police corruption. The detective investigating the journalist's murder is threatened and involved in an accident, which sends us back in time to the original investigation into the child killings.
I'm not saying don't read it. I might get back to it myself, at some point. Just not now.(less)
Mostly, I enjoyed this book, though I found some of the characters underdeveloped and their actions simplistic. Also, things resolve themselves far to...moreMostly, I enjoyed this book, though I found some of the characters underdeveloped and their actions simplistic. Also, things resolve themselves far too quickly and neatly to my mind.
I thought that Ignatius did a decent job of capturing the attraction that the Levant has for people. He also portrayed Arabs and Arab culture sympathetically, which if one has read any Vince Flynn, comes as relief. There is a cogent critique of American foreign policy and the way we advance our interests in this book that I find myself agreeing with more and more.
Ignatief is a good writer with knowledge of his subject, and I intend to read more of his fiction. I did think that the film, in this case, was better than the book, more emotionally powerful, with a more believable ending. Still, this book is better than the dreck spewed forth by hacks in the genre. (Clancy, Flynn, I'm talkin' 'bout you!)(less)
Simply put, John McNally is a hell of a writer. In all of these stories, the characters are either in trouble, trying to avoid trouble, or compelled t...moreSimply put, John McNally is a hell of a writer. In all of these stories, the characters are either in trouble, trying to avoid trouble, or compelled to rush headlong into some bad decision-making. Like a lot of us, McNally's protagonists suddenly look up and wonder how they got to where they are. In some of the stories, there is a sense of resolution; in others, a feeling that just getting to the next day is a victory in itself. (less)
Readers of this book probably fall into two main groups. One group is made up of those who are already in agreement with its argument: that the second...moreReaders of this book probably fall into two main groups. One group is made up of those who are already in agreement with its argument: that the second Bush administration pushed the country into a war based on faulty intelligence that was, itself, based on lies. Further, key members of that administration came into office already determined to invade Iraq. The other group of readers will throw the book aside in disgust because they still believe the invasion of Iraq was a necessary decision.
At the time, I didn't really believe the administration's shifting rationales for war, or for its timing. But I did think that the overthrow of Saddam was desirable. While I still think Saddam's overthrow was, on balance, a good thing, I recognize that it brought about several undesirable outcomes - instability, a strengthening of Iran's position, and ironically an erosion of rights for sectors of Iraqi society (women, homosexuals, ethnic and religious minorities). I also see the Iraq war as one of the biggest blunders of American foreign policy since Vietnam, marked by corruption and incompetence.
The conduct of the war is not the concern of this book, however; instead, Michael Isikoff focuses on the run-up to the war. He looks at the decision-making process, the desire for war on the part of many officials, the use of 9-11 to manipulate public opinion and highly skewed intelligence to link Saddam to al-Qaeda. Isikoff also examines the way the news media was manipulated by the administration and the way the media allowed itself, even eagerly became a mouthpiece for administration propaganda.
This is an exhaustive account, well-argued and well-written. It's only problem is that the impact has dulled a bit over time. (less)