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THESE ARE THE PLUNDERERS

HOW PRIVATE EQUITY RUNS―AND WRECKS―AMERICA

A well-documented, maddening book that cries out for legislative reform and regulation.

The troubled story of private equity, which is anything but equitable.

Private equity, write financial journalists Morgenson and Rosner, typically builds nothing. Instead, it leverages troubled companies, loots what assets they have, trims expenses to the bone, and often leaves acquisitions in bankruptcy or ruin. One philosopher the authors quote calls it “asshole capitalism,” and while the authors are a touch more genteel, they don’t hesitate to call the practitioners of “this rapacious form of capitalism” pirates and worse. By way of example, they look into the private-equity acquisition of nursing homes, a favorite target. In those cases, equity ownership equates to a far higher death rate, more visits to emergency rooms, and increased Medicare costs. Private equity has also absorbed huge chunks of the medical sector, laying off doctors and cutting out essential services even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. On that note, the authors observe, private owners took great pains to use the cheapest possible ventilators for Covid-19 patients in critical care, which finally resulted in a federal fine of $40.5 million, a fraction of what they made. As Morgenson and Rosner clearly show, the pirates are flourishing; while there were but three “debt-fueled billionaires” in 2005, there were 22 in 2020. Much of this wealth comes from self-dealing, for apart from owning medical providers, private equity is also heavily invested in insurance, ripe with the possibilities of conflict of interest. No matter what the sector—and equity is now moving rapidly into education—the modus operandi is the same: “slash costs, eliminate higher-paid union workers, and reduce employee benefits; shut down less profitable divisions; or acquire competitors to bolster the pricing power of the company they own.” In addition, these firms, which have doubled in number in the last decade—are well protected in Congress.

A well-documented, maddening book that cries out for legislative reform and regulation.

Pub Date: May 9, 2023

ISBN: 9781982191283

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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