Beneath the conservative-versus-liberal parrot-speak is a coherent, timely conversation about the power and relevancy of...



An entrepreneur’s account of building a nationwide cleaning business and undergoing an attempt by Service Employees International Union to unionize his workers.

If readers skip the prologue—which compares union organizing tactics with Nazi Germany—they can start with the many issues that merit discussion. Bego (Devil at My Doorstep, 2009) launched a commercial cleaning services company, Executive Management Services, in 1989. Based in Indianapolis, the company grew to more than 5,000 employees in locations throughout the country. Its increasing visibility attracted the attention of Service Employees International Union, and thus began a five-year battle for the hearts and minds of Executive Management Services’ workers. Labor unions’ historical efforts to protect workers from unsafe working conditions as well as ensuring fair wages and job security account for positive changes in many American industries, and that’s not disputed here. The core questions Bego raises, however, are: What should the unions’ role be in this era of global economy; what are American workers’ rights regarding unionization; and what are the rights of entrepreneurs pursuing the American dream of business ownership? Bego posits that modern unions aim to increase their dues-paying memberships in order to sustain their own viability and influence legislation, regardless of workers’ genuine needs. The author also emphasizes a push to pass the Employee Free Choice Act—legislation that eliminates secret ballot elections used by workers to choose union representation—in light of the tactics used by SEIU to unionize employees who had not necessarily even invited SEIU to represent them. He asks excellent and valid questions, which elsewhere can often be obscured by partisan labeling. Bego notes in a statement to Congress, “Americans need to demand more nonpartisan openness, research, dialogue, and civility from their elected officials on both sides of the aisle.” Why wait to be elected?

Beneath the conservative-versus-liberal parrot-speak is a coherent, timely conversation about the power and relevancy of today’s labor unions.

Pub Date: April 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1439285220

Page Count: 332

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A well-organized and helpful primer.


A concise but thorough introduction to working in civic technology in the United States.

Civic design consultant Harrell observes that the civic tech movement—a “loosely integrated” shift of private-technology-industry skills into the public sector—commenced in 2008, with the “the aim of making government more responsive, more efficient, more modern, or more just.” The author understands the movement on a 50-year arc, asserting that it’s still young and maturing into its “adolescence”; confusingly, however, this timeline seems to indicate that perfect efficiency and justice will be achieved at its end. Nonetheless, Harrell furnishes a brief but impressively comprehensive overview that lucidly describes its challenges and its promise, including helpful advice for those looking to enter the public sector for the first time. She also discusses the stark cultural differences between the public and private sectors, especially regarding the swiftness of project completion, bureaucratic entanglements, and approaches to budgeting. At the heart of the book is counsel on the most effective ways to improve public services without trying to simply impose private models upon them; for example, the author cautions against a reflexive idolatry of innovation, arguing that it can be inconsistent with public goals of continuity and long-term stewardship. Harrell’s astute and accessible work will be especially valuable to newcomers, as it draws deeply on her own considerable experience as a product director, user-experience researcher, and chief of staff. However, the author’s treatment of privilege in the technology sphere feels like bland cant, and sweeping declarations such as “the motives behind the regulations are almost always good and important” display excessive idealism. Still, Harrell’s effort will be useful to many, including experienced workers who are simply looking for a synoptic distillation of civic technology’s objectives.

A well-organized and helpful primer.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73528-650-1

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Five Seven Five Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

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