My remix cup runneth over! I got Fundamental Frequency, by filenotch, a remix of Only Sweeter from Castiel's point of view. Then I got The Ties that Bind, by ColetteCapricious, a remix of Vagabondage from Sam's POV. My own remix was One More Coal (Coals of Fire Remix), a remix of One More Coal by StripySock, in which S9 Dean goes back in time and encounters a young Sam; in my version, it's the same in reverse.

Steven Brill, America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight To Fix Our Broken Healthcare System: If you want a detailed account of how broken even good ideas get in America’s toxic political culture, bought and paid for by moneyed interests, then I have a book for you! We got health care reform without cost control because it was politically impossible to do otherwise, Brill agrees, even though somehow every other developed nation has managed to do it. I’m not saying he’s wrong, exactly, just that this is not a book to pick up if you want to feel hopeful about the American future.

Sarah Chayes, Theives of State: Fascinating book about the terrible costs of corruption in developing nations, and also about the costs to America of supporting corrupt regimes and systems in the name of stability (and patronizing assumptions that the citizens of those regimes are inured to corruption so it’s not a big deal). Chayes has extensive experience in Afghanistan, but also discusses various Middle Eastern countries where she identifies similar dynamics, and says that other experts saw similarities with narcoterrorism etc. in other afflicted countries. The basic argument: when corruption reaches down into citizens’ everyday lives, such that they can’t plan on going to market or getting a business license without paying a bribe—and maybe without even any certainty about how much the officials/police will take—they are outraged, and willing to listen to radicals who promise that only strict religious control can fix the worldly corruption in government. Corrupt regimes then use the threat of religious extremists and separatists to extract more support from the US, which support they use to strengthen their power networks and to validate their legitimacy. Chayes tells a terrifically depressing story of American officials who were either ignorant of the corruption going on in their names (as she initially was) or indifferent, not understanding corruption’s devastating long-term effects on security. It’s hard not to read books like this and think that we should really just get the hell out, and not just militarily; Chayes has suggestions for constructive engagement that pushes in the direction of reform, but her experience indicates that the political will to implement tough stances against corrupt officials is generally lacking in American representatives abroad.

Adam Benforado, Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice: Free early review copy. Readable overview of the multiple problems with criminal investigation and punishment in the US from an empirical/behavioral science perspective. From the unreliability of eyewitness testimony (turns out it’s only right half the time!) to the just world hypothesis (our self-protective desire to believe that bad things only happen to people who deserve them!) to the biases of judges at sentencing (they’re more lenient right after they’ve been fed!) there are numerous problems, only some of which are amenable to science-based reforms. Here’s a great one: “two groups of students were asked to draw a young man’s face while looking at his photograph, but one group was told he was black and the other was told that he was right…. [T]hose who believed that traits like race are immutable and useful in predicting behavior drew portraits that distorted features to align with the racial category they had been given.” Less great for me: creativity is related to the likelihood/levels of cheating.

Benforado insists that we’re all responsible for crime when we ignore its structural causes: “When we decide not to regulate weapons, when we elect to leave swatchs of our neighborhoods bligthed or cut nutrition programs for women, infants, and children, when we provide young inner-city men with few options but to join gangs, we become implicated in the crimes that eventually result.” But that’s so hard to address in the US that his other proposals are much more modest; along with making prison more reintegrative, Benforado largely suggests that the solution to the machine is in the machine—e.g., more cameras recording more interactions to avoid eyewitness testimony; more trials by internet conferencing to make them go faster.

Suki Kim, Without You, There Is No Us: Memoir of a teacher who taught at a religiously sponsored (but unable to proselytize) school in North Korea that served the sons of the best-off North Koreans. Their isolation and willingness to lie, because lying was so common, was heartbreaking, especially since in other ways they seemed to be polite, ambitious, mostly respectful, and bright young men who would have better futures anywhere else. I was struck by the way that the bubble of state-mandated ignorance and faux claims of North Korean superiority resembled the bubble of American-centricity that we as Americans live in largely by choice. Being able to opt out of ignorance is a huge difference, but how many of our assumptions of superiority to other democracies are just as wrong?

Unfair Commercial Practices: The Long Road to Harmonized Law Enforcement, ed. Tihamér Tóth: European legal scholarship tends to be more descriptive than American, but since I need to learn a lot of European consumer protection law, that was a helpful thing here.
froganon: two painted giraffes on a structure at a playground (Default)

From: [personal profile] froganon

Very interesting stuff there.
The health care book sounds a bit scarey and I'm already scared. But then again there are reasons to be and it's better to know than not to know.

The rest of them all sound like great books, crime from different perspectives than what I usually read. The cognitive fallacies and biases present at any trial detract from fairness to all sides I think. The more advanced our society gets, the more of this unfairness will happen until we find ways of implementing the technology in order to guard against these slants. We know there are people who are wrongfully convicted just as there are folks who plead to lesser charges [though innocent] in order to avoid a trial.

Thanks for these.
ceares: cookie all grown up (Default)

From: [personal profile] ceares

I always enjoy these reviews, even if the book isn't something I'm interested in but I'm curious, do you speed read?
ceares: cookie all grown up (Default)

From: [personal profile] ceares

lol. I see. I wondered because you review a lot of books pretty quickly. I'm a fastish reader but I've been wanting to learn speed reading for school. I'm just worried it will interfere with how much I enjoy savoring what I'm reading, so I was curious if that was your technique.


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