Politics & Social Issues


THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY
DAVID BRIN

Basic Books
$18.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: �In New York and Baltimore, police cameras scan public areas twenty-four hours a day.
�Huge commercial databases track you finances and sell that information to anyone willing to pay.
�Host sites on the World Wide Web record every page you view, and "smart” toll roads know where you drive.

Every day, new technology nibbles at our privacy.Does that make you nervous? David Brin is worried, but not just about privacy. He fears that society will overreact to these technologies by restricting the flow of information, frantically enforcing a reign of secrecy. Such measures, he warns, won’t really preserve our privacy. Governments, the wealthy, criminals, and the techno-elite will still find ways to watch us.

But we’ll have fewer ways to watch them. We’ll lose the key to a free society: accountability. The Transparent Society is a call for "reciprocal transparency.” If police cameras watch us, shouldn’t we be able to watch police stations? If credit bureaus sell our data, shouldn't we know who buys it? Rather than cling to an illusion of anonymity-a historical anomaly, given our origins in close-knit villages-we should focus on guarding the most important forms of privacy and preserving mutual accountability. The biggest threat to our freedom, Brin warns, is that surveillance technology will be used by too few people, not by too many.

A society of glass houses may seem too fragile. Fearing technology-aided crime, governments seek to restrict online anonymity; fearing technology-aided tyranny, citizens call for encrypting all data. Brin shows how, contrary to both approaches, windows offer us much better protection than walls; after all, the strongest deterrent against snooping has always been the fear of being spotted. Furthermore, Brin argues, Western culture now encourages eccentricity-we’re programmed to rebel! That gives our society a natural protection against error and wrong-doing, like a body’s immune system.

But "social T-cells” need openness to spot trouble and get the word out. The Transparent Society is full of such provocative and far-reaching analysis.The inescapable rush of technology is forcing us to make new choices about how we want to live. This daring book reminds us that an open society is more robust and flexible than one where secrecy reigns. In an era of gnat-sized cameras, universal databases, and clothes-penetrating radar, it will be more vital than ever for us to be able to watch the watchers.

With reciprocal transparency we can detect dangers early and expose wrong-doers. We can gauge the credibility of pundits and politicians. We can share technological advances and news. But all of these benefits depend on the free, two-way flow of information.

My Review: In his blog, Contrary Brin, the author posted a wonderful article today, called A Transparency Tsunami!, treating the latest advance in malefactor detection--and not coincidentally, social control. It's face recognition technology, using public database images and traffic cameras and surveillance videos from all imaginable public places to build a file of your very own physog. For, of course, your comfort and convenience. After all, you're safer when Big Brother knows where you are, who you're with, what you're getting up to. Right? And, since *you* aren't doing anything wrong, nothing criminal, what's the problem?

Tell that to the cops who come haul you to court for feeding the meter. Tell that to the IRS agent who demands to know where the money for that bracelet you bought at the mall came from when you're behind on your taxes. (And best hope your wife doesn't overhear.) Look (!), they already know what kind of porn you watch via your ISP and even how long it takes you to...get there...since no one watches past the, uh, crisis point. You want them to know you chiseled a Girl Scout out of an extra box of Thin Mints, too?

Brin's point, in this book and in that blog post, is that they know it and they ain't gonna un-know it. He wants our surveillance state, so heartily endorsed by the best Republican president we've had since 1956 by the name of Obama via his reauthorization of the USA-PATRIOT Act, to be looked BACK at: Sousveillance, the only practical protection against surveillance:
The article in the New York Times spirals downward into a list of begged-for impossibilities, never once considering the real issue…which is not how to blind elites (a utopian notion never achieved by any society in history and impossible today, as cameras proliferate faster than Moore's Law.) Rather, the solution is to limit what authorities can do to us with such systems. And to accomplish that, we need only get into the habit of looking back. Of embracing the tech waves and ensuring that no cop, no public official, goes un-recognized, unwatched.

What could be more obvious? To work with tech trends instead of (futilely) against them? But the well-meaning activists, though properly worried, never stretch their minds in a new direction. The only direction that can work.
Contrary Brin 26 September 2013, "Face Recognition Has Arrived...Smile!"
What Brin advocates is NOT LYING STILL, not shutting up or shutting down or shutting out reality, but engaging in the business of being a citizen and calling the Powers That Be to task by doin' unto them others what them others is doin' to you.

I expect that has a familiar ring to it. It's always been good advice. It's never been more crucial to follow.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President
Candice Millard

Doubleday
$28.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. 

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his con­dition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet. 

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White Cityand The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

My Review: I knew next to nothing about this president. I'd sort-of known he was assassinated, but not much about why. “Oh, the one in the 1880s? Didn't some nut kill him?”

What a story this is. What a gargantuan loss to the USA his non-Presidency was. What an interesting, interesting man! We hear reams about people significantly less interesting than Garfield was. It's not right. But it makes sense...all he did as president was get killed a couple months after he was sworn in.

Garfield was a self-made man, from a poor family, with a troubled marriage. (Ring any more recent bells?) His wife was a chilly intellectual on whom he cheated once. (PLEASE tell me you've got it now.) And even more like Clinton, Garfield entered the race for the White House with powerful people strongly opposed to his winning. He was thwarted and stymied and made to do battle over things that were deeply entrenched and very wrong with the political culture of the day, and he only sort of won.

I trust my parallel is made.

So I was surprised to learn that Garfield was a Republican, and a populist progressive reforming one. (That sentence gave me vertigo to type. I'm not used to saying nice things about Republicans.) My, how things have changed! And the system he fought against actually, literally ended up costing him his life. In that time, presidents controlled all government jobs, and so the people who wanted to get security got in good with the party and made their case for a job to one harassed man, with maybe a secretary or two to assist him...good people got jobs, I'm sure, but more bad ones got good jobs than the other way around. In denying a very bad applicant a “spoils” job, Garfield signed his own death warrant.

Charles Guiteau, who shot Garfield in the back as he was to board a train in order to visit his recuperating wife, isn't his murderer. That person is the doctor who cared for him in the most backward possible way, Dr. D. Willard Bliss. Of evil memory ptooptoo. Despite Dr, James Lister's empirical proof of the germ theory's truth by means of reducing post-surgical mortality via sterilization of instruments and rooms, Bliss held to the old-fashioned view that it was falderol to say something you couldn't see could kill a man. Bliss, if you can believe this, stuck his finger in the bullet hole in Garfield's back in the train station, on the floor, with no washing!

It's a wonder he didn't die a lot sooner, with this kind of “care,” isn't it? As it is, the almost obnoxiously healthy and virile Garfield was shot on 2 July and didn't die until 19 September. Months of infections, months of idiot Bliss being wrong about everything (he said categorically that the bullet was lodged on the right side...it was on the left, it turned out...and he refused to even investigate the left side), and the potential great president died in agony. His vice-president was Chester Alan Arthur, that monadnock of probity and intellect. Oh dear, I fear my sarcasm gland is dripping again.

Well, okay, so it's clear I liked the story. I also liked the book. The author also wrote a book on Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican progressive and all-around fascinating man, called River of Doubt. It's a really good story, and a very good read. She has an affinity for real-life drama, Madame Millard, and she has an excellent ear for the phrase that will illuminate it. In Chapter 14, entitled “All Evil Consequences,” this phrase in particular wrung my withers:

Had Garfiled been shot just fifteen years later, the bullet in his back would have been quickly found by X-ray images, and the wound treated with antiseptic surgery. Had he been able to receive modern medical care, he likely would have spent no more than a few nights in the hospital.

Such are the vagaries of history...the good wand worthy die, the evil and vile get new hearts at taxpayer expense.

Candice Millard writes a good yarn. If all you want is an exciting and interesting story, this book will satisfy you. If you're interested in history, it will enrich you. If you're excited by the odd pathways of fate, this could be the best of 2012 for you. I'm all of the above. I was sucked in from the get-go, and came out a happy, happy angry man.

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THE OTHER WES MOORE: One Name, Two Fates
Wes Moore

Spiegel & Grau
$25.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3* of five

The Book Report: Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.

Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?

That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that have lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.

Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

My Review: Chronic overachiever and Marine Wes Moore gets captivated by the fate of his fellow Baltimorean and convicted murderer Wes Moore. They meet and become friends, leading to this book.

More's the pity. This damn thing is like getting a sunshine enema. One feels far crappier about disliking this book than a mere novel, or a tendentious political screed from some libertarian or conservative wingnut.

The author's breezy, anecdotal style is perfectly adequate to the task of telling his story. It's in no way unique or even very interesting, but the points are made, the language is limpidly clear, and I never once thought the publisher was crazy for acquiring but not copyediting the book. This is an increasingly rare feeling on my part.

So what's with the curmudgeonly reaction to it? I loathe being preached at. This book feels preachy and smug to me. I can almost feel Jesus in every word, and this is a most disturbing and disagreeable sensation to me.

I didn't like it, and I doubt I'd like either Wes Moore in the flesh either. I'm glad I read it, but I don't recommend it to anyone not in search of the Wonderbra experience: Uplifted beyond that which is natural (not to mention deisrable).

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MORE BATHS, LESS TALKING (Stuff I've Been Reading #4)
Nick Hornby
Believer Books
$14.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: “Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” Nick Hornby tells us. That simple, liberating, and indispensable directive animates each installment of the celebrated critic and author’s monthly column in the Believer. In this delightful and never-musty tour of his reading life, Hornby tells us not just what to read, but how to read.

Whether tackling a dismayingly bulky biography of Dickens while his children destroy something in the next room, or getting sucked into a serious assessment of Celine Dion during an intensely fought soccer match featuring his beloved Arsenal, or devouring an entire series of children’s books while on vacation, Hornby’s reviews are rich, witty, and occasionally madcap. These essays capture the joy and ire, the despair and exhilaration of the book-lover’s life, and will appeal equally to both monocle-wearing salonnieres and people, like him, who spend a lot of time thinking about Miley Cyrus’s next role.


My Review: What fun. What a perfect way to smile and wile a few hours away. What a terrible thing to do to myself, read a book of a book-lover’s book review columns. By dint of the most severe self-talk imaginable, I held myself to requesting one—ONE—book from the liberry after reading Hornby's review of same.

A biography. Of Charles Dickens.

Yes, that's right, Nick Hornby the Book Incubus, the Boy-Siren, has convinced me, the arch-hater of Chuckles the Dick, to eat his turnips and read a book about the horrid bore. If I'm honest, which depressingly enough I am, I must say that Claire Tomalin's disparagement of several of the Great Satan's novels played a large part in my willingness to put myself through this misery.

So if you don't know me at all, let me assure you that there are several jaws now being scraped off of floors on several continents and a selection of islands. Hornby? He got the goods, my man, he got the goods if he can convince Richard to read about Dickens.

And he does. Hornby's mix of personal life, professional writing career, and lifelong reader-of-stories is perfect for a grazing read, pieces of just the right length to amuse without burdening the pleasure-seeking reader with interesting but useless information. His sharp eye for the way books work, what makes Novel X miss where Novel O works brilliantly, and why biographies only ever get fatter and fatter as a person's life is serially biographized, and how history could be improved by thinning the cast...well, all that's so much a part of his observed world that it's merely the scaffolding he hangs funny, wise, glib, snarky sentences on.

Fourteen bucks retail. Worth every one of 'em, too.

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ZEITOUN
Dave Eggers

McSweeney's
$12.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared.

Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.

My Review: Okay. I herewith open my piehole for the crow to be inserted. I have said nasty, judgmental things about Eggers's writings, and I meant each and every one of them. I still do.

But this book is excellent, and this book is Eggers's, so it is obvious that the old adage about a stopped clock being right twice a day applies to writers and writing as well.

It's a direct, elegantly simple telling of the nightmare side of the American Dream. It's powerfully focused, unlike every other one of Eggers's overpraised books that I've read, and it's superbly structured, with no room for improvement in pacing and character development that I can find.

I don't believe I'm typing these things, someone reassure me that this is *me*! Every criticism I've leveled at this guy's previous writing is out the window! Will they turn off the gravity next?

But truth is truth, and honesty compels me to say: I haven't enjoyed a book this much in ages. Well, enjoyed is a strange term to use for the true and factual, and awful, story of a decent, honorable man made the butt of scoiety's opprobrium for no reason other than his religion and origins. But the book is deeply enjoyable, because at every turn, Zeitoun's decency and honor and integrity shine through. That alone makes the book worth buying and reading. Add to that the fact that, rare in this world failed of kindness, Zeitoun summons the best and the most positive people to him in his desperate hours.

I am disappointed that Twilight *shudder* and The Life of Pi *retch*, vastly inferior books to this one, and to name but two of the many, many books this applies to, have more copies on the site.

Please...do your part to change this, and go buy a copy. Then read it. It will, contrary to any expectation you might have, leave you uplifted and happier for having read a book about Hurricane Katrina and an Arab immigrant. Very strongly recommended.

And, thanks to my friend Terri for making me read this...even sending me a copy...one it will be extremely hard to release back into the bookosphere. That I will *have* to buy a replacement is a small economic price to pay.

********Addendum in 2013: Yes indeed, Zeitoun has been arrested and accused of crimes recently, and many have taken this as an invalidation of his post-Katrina experiences. Apparently no thought is given to what these experiences of injustice in The Home of The Free might be expected to do to a man is irrelevant to those who hold this opinion. That's just bad, sloppy thinking. What happened to Zeitoun after Katrina is still real, and his story of that time is still one of a horrifying miscarriage of justice using "race" as a flimsy, transparent attempt at justification.

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PREDATOR NATION: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America
Charles Ferguson

Crown Business
$27.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: Charles H. Ferguson, who electrified the world with his Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, now explains how a predator elite took over the country, step by step, and he exposes the networks of academic, financial, and political influence, in all recent administrations, that prepared the predators’ path to conquest.
Over the last several decades, the United States has undergone one of the most radical social and economic transformations in its history.
· Finance has become America’s dominant industry, while manufacturing, even for high technology industries, has nearly disappeared.
· The financial sector has become increasingly criminalized, with the widespread fraud that caused the housing bubble going completely unpunished.
· Federal tax collections as a share of GDP are at their lowest level in sixty years, with the wealthy and highly profitable corporations enjoying the greatest tax reductions.
· Most shockingly, the United States, so long the beacon of opportunity for the ambitious poor, has become one of the world’s most unequal and unfair societies.

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York.

This radical shift did not happen by accident.

My Review: I am second to none in my passionate love for and gratitude to the United States of America for the astoundingly amazingly wonderfully free-from-want life I lead.


And as that life is, day by day, taken from me piecemeal by the rich, the greedy, and the stupid, I am going to shout and point and wave my arms a lot to get the attention of the few, the many, the unwilling or willing, to see if I can't effect some small change to build on.


Count on it.

This liberry book was a fourteen-day loan, and I've had it seventeen days. I couldn't read much at a time because it made me furious, hysterically angry, livid to the point of stroke. I am disabled by a chronic, genetically transmitted condition that causes severe and painful acid buildup on my joints and near areas that have tendons. (Check the photos on my profile...that claw-lookin' thing is my left hand.) I have tried for several years to get disability benefits so as to have health care again. And now, with a real shot at getting these benefits (thanks to the advice and assistance of an old and dear friend), I might at last be able to get prescriptions for the medicines that ameliorate the condition, given under regular supervision, to avoid the problem of renal failure that comes with the medication (not to mention horrible gastric consequences, which I just have to put up with).

And in this rich nation, would you like to know what the princely payout will be (assuming I succeed in getting on the dole) to me, to enable me to survive? A little under $1000 a month. Food stamps, $150 a month at most. Medicaid, which here in New York State is more generous than most places (for now...more on that anon.) Were it not for the charity of friends, not please be assured my family members, oh nay nay nay, never dare even to ask them for help (well, now, one aunt handed over $4000 as I was losing my house, which put off the evil day for several months). I live rent-free with my former partner. Will that last forever? No, it can't, and shouldn't.

And then what? I don't know.

And I am not alone in my predicament. I am, in fact, a reasonably common-or-garden recipient of the fucking that corporations and CEOs and banks are doling out to each and every one of us not in their club. It's not new, this phenomenon. It was for millennia the norm. Then, one day in 1773, a group of rowdy, angry, sick-of-it colonists in Boston (of all places) said “oh fuck you” to king and church and country. Go Massachusetts!

Now, 240 years on, the rotten sleazy fucks we kicked out of power are back with a vengeance, thanks to 1) greedy politicians, 2) evil, evil, evil preachers, 3) stupid, complicit conservatives and “libertarians” (aka the Authoritarian's Best Friends League), and last but not least the laziest, most astoundingly selfish population of “future millionaires” (tip: if daddy wasn't a millionaire, you won't be either, sure as the sun rises in the east) ever fattened up for the slaughter on the American Dream (for whom?).

No. I don't mean the immigrants. I don't mean the union workers. I mean you. The person who doesn't know who his/her state senator is. Who the county tax assessor is. Who watches fucking idiot-box crap and not presidential debates because it's too hard, it's boring, it doesn't matter anyway.

Welcome to what happens when you're not paying attention.

And you deserve it.

I, on the other hand, who have voted and shouted and waved my arms about this shit since 1980, do not. But here I am in the same goddamned boat as the lazy, the stupid, the religious, the conservative or libertarian. Is that in any way fair? No. It sucks wookie balls. (Nobody likes hair in their teeth.)

But still, there it is. Hate is written into state constitutions because the Jesus Brigade for Tradishnull Fambly Valyews (aka Focus on the Family, et alii) doesn't like faggots. State senators, the same goddamned fucks in the GOP who authorize spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on casinos, want to cut funding for public health. (Told ya we'd get back there.)

And this book details how it got this way, why it stays this way, and, in one short ending chapter, what possible means there are to combat it. I am not, by nature, an optimistic person. I sincerely believe that humans love one thing more than hate, and that's group hate. Food, sex, money...all down the list. Hate is the killing ape's favorite pastime. What else is fandom, sports or TV or celebrity? What else is religion, politics? So I expect things will get worse, because the haters like that. Everyone should suffer!

And so we do. In our billions, we suffer. Unnecessarily, inexcusably, preventably. And so it goes.

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THE OBAMA HATE MACHINE: The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks on the President--And Who Is Behind Them
Bill Press

Thomas Dunne Books
$26.99 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In Toxic Talk, Bill Press exposed the ways in which the extreme right-wing media has done an end run around the American voting populace by exerting a disproportionate control over open political debate. In The Obama Hate Machine, Press returns to show how the Right has taken rhetoric to slanderous new levels in attacking the nation’s forty-fourth president.

While presidents and presidential candidates routinely have been subject to personal attacks, the outright disdain Obama’s extremist opponents have for the facts has inspired an insidious brand of character assassination unique in contemporary politics.

Obama was born in Kenya . . . Obama sympathizes with Muslim terrorists . . . Obama is a communist who wants to institute death panels and touch off class warfare…The extent to which these unfounded assertions have taken hold in the American mindset shows just how ruthless, destructive, and all-powerful the right-wing machine—hijacked by extremists in the media and fueled by corporate coffers—has become. The author reveals how corporate interests such as the infamous Koch Brothers continue to steer political coverage away from fact-based dialogue into the realm of hysteria. Bill Press also observes this phenomenon is not limited to the airwaves and provides an “I Hate Obama Book Club” list, calling out the scores of anti-Obama tomes—and even some from the Left—that have helped drag politics even deeper into the mud. 

In his characteristic on-the-mark arguments sure to appeal to anyone on the Left or in the Center, Press shows how the peculiar nature of Obama-hating subverts issue-driven debate and threatens not only the outcome of the 2012 election but the future of the American democratic system.

My Review: I do not know what to say about this book. The people who should read it won't. The people who do read it will, if not sociopathic by nature, weep uncontrollably for the horrific fate of our country.

I tell myself that it's good, this outrage and pain I feel when reading the horrors perpetrated in the name of partisan conservatism, because when I stop feeling those feelings it will mean that I have given up any hope for change AWAY from the viciousness, the brutal ignorant selfishness, that is characteristic of today's “conservatives.”

Go to the library. Read Chapter 5, “The Brothers.” Sixty pages of documented and repugnant thuggery perpetrated by the Koch brothers against the democratically elected president of the United States of America. If it stirs in you no outrage against the monstrous, vile, and greedy people who pretend to care about the fate of the Americans who do the work that makes them rich, go buy your jackboots and practice your “Sieg heils” because that's the world people like you are passively agreeing to live in.

The Right is WRONG. And their actions against President Obama (not my favorite person, but still he's the president) are very, very, very close to seditious. They talk treason and call it free speech...which they've paid their millions to ensure for themselves and their horrifying, selfish, greedy views.

I tell myself it's good that these betrayals hurt me so, these smacks in my besotted citizen's face, because when they don't hurt anymore, I'll have given up on change, on reason, on life. I skate ever closer to this dread eventuality.

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BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS
KATHERINE BOO

Random House
$27.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: four horrfied, repulsed, politically appalled stars of five

The Publisher Says: I'll keep this short. Boo set out to tell the story of the cost that average Indians are paying for the rapid rise through the capitalist ranks that their country has embarked on. She chose as her lens the small tragedy (in the cosmic scheme of things) of a death and subsequent court case surrounding the death in Mumbai's slum called Annawadi.

Really and truly, this is all one needs to know; names, places, details aren't going to make this any easier to pre-process. One is best advised to enter into this book with little information about the events chronicled. It simply cannot be fathomed by those of us with thirty dollars to spend on a book, with access to a free public library, with an education sufficient to read the text, with lives so easy that we possess time to pass, as opposed to needs to meet, what this story will reveal. I will not steal Boo's thunder with a fuller report.

My Review: I hate this woman's writing. It feels so chilly and so removed from the subject that I can't believe how much praise this aspect of the text has received. It's the kind of gawdawful New Journalism crapola...get in the middle of the story, get all the juice and dirt, and then spew it back at a faux-objective remove...that I associate with Norman Mailer's terrible Executioner's Song, of unlamented memory.

The story is this generation's 12 Million Black Voices. It deserves so much more than it got from its author. It is, quite simply, necessary reading for free marketeers and libertarians and their misguided, often foolishly optimistic, ilk.

THIS IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENS IN YOUR TERRIBLE, UNFORGIVING, “COMMUNITY STANDARDS” WORLD. Read it. Recognize yourselves in the unseen overclass. Your tax-o-phobic refusal to recognize your duty to your fellow human beings leads directly to this world, its injustices and cruelties, its inhumane and indifferent treatment of the innocent-of-any-crime hoi polloi.

If you don't feel deep and humiliating PERSONAL shame after reading Boo's awful story, I fear you are a sociopath.

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