ALL THAT WE CAN BE

BLACK LEADERSHIP AND RACIAL INTEGRATION THE ARMY WAY

A down-to-earth briefing from a team of sociologists on the US Army's achievements in affording equal opportunity to all comers, suggesting what other American institutions might learn from it. Before assessing the details of what they call a success story with caveats, sociologists Moskos (Northwestern Univ.) and Butler (Univ. of Texas) provide a once-over-lightly survey of the African- American experience in the US military, from the colonial era to the present. Getting down to business, the authors offer by-the- numbers summaries on the incidence of African-Americans in the enlisted, NCO, and commissioned ranks (one in nine members of the Army's officers corps is black). Liberal complaints about cannon fodder to the contrary, there's no evidence that blacks are overrepresented in front-line units, which suffer the greatest casualties under fire. Moskos and Butler characterize the Army as a race-savvy, not race-blind, service that pragmatically subordinates trendy peripheral concerns (ethnic diversity, multiculturalism) to its primary goal of combat readiness. The authors go on to argue that ``the Army does not patronize or infantilize blacks by implying that they need special standards in order to succeed.'' Instead of lowering its standards, they point out, the Army elevates veterans as well as recruits with a wealth of instructional courses and programs. Among the lessons to be learned from the accomplishments of the Army and its black soldiers, they cite the need to focus on opportunity and to link affirmative-action efforts to supply- rather than demand-side exigencies or aspirations. In a concluding chapter, the authors call for a national service corps to offset the loss of opportunities caused by downsizing of the US military. An important, eye-opening study that delivers fresh, matter- of-fact perspectives on a divisive issue in need of more reason and less rhetoric.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-465-00108-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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