An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.

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HOW THREE ORDINARY AMERICANS UNCOVERED WALL STREET'S GREAT FORECLOSURE FRAUD

Salon contributing writer Dayen illuminates how, during the past 10 years, home buyers ended up illegally evicted from their residences as the result of dishonesty, greed, and heartlessness involving mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, investment bankers, and unscrupulous lawyers.

Because the painstakingly documented scheme consists of highly technical maneuvering related to mortgage documents and land records, the author tells the saga mainly through the individual cases of three home buyers—originally strangers to each other—who educated themselves to fight back: Lisa Epstein, a cancer nurse; Michael Redman, an auto dealership employee; and Lynn Szymoniak, a lawyer who investigates insurance fraud. Dayen chronicles their financially and physically draining campaigns to save their homes from illegal foreclosures and battle on behalf of millions of additional individuals. The author begins with Epstein's case, followed by Redman’s; one-third of the way into the narrative, the two of them meet Szymoniak, and Dayen describes how they pooled their meager resources to raise public consciousness at huge personal sacrifice. The author populates the book with hundreds of other individuals, many of them villains, cowards, or clueless men and women, many of whom had the authority to halt the fraudulent behaviors. In addition, the author occasionally addresses readers directly about the mechanics of the foreclosures, which have affected all 50 states but have been concentrated in Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Wisely, though, Dayen rarely shifts the focus from the instructive, compelling sagas of his principals. Although the efforts of the whistle-blowers have educated countless citizens facing foreclosure—including the massive reach of a 60 Minutes episode—hundreds of thousands of houses remain empty as the former residents scrape by in what they hope are temporary quarters. Dayen relates how prosecutors, judges, and the Department of Justice have caved to powerful mortgage industry donors while illegal foreclosures continue.

An inspiring, well-rendered, deeply reported, and often infuriating account.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-158-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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