A compelling tale of the haves of the past and the “inverted Constitution” they created.

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AGE OF BETRAYAL

THE TRIUMPH OF MONEY IN AMERICA, 1865-1900

Remember President Jay Gould? Of course not—the billionaire industrialist never occupied the White House. But, writes Atlantic Monthly editor Beatty (Colossus, 2001, etc.), he ruled the country all the same.

“This book tells the saddest story: How, having redeemed democracy in the Civil War, America betrayed it in the Gilded Age.” So Beatty writes as an opening salvo in what becomes all-out war on the robber barons, arrivistes and idle rich of the late-19th century. Their fortune was at the expense of ordinary workers, courtesy of elected officialdom’s eagerness to give the rich the keys to the kingdom. Thus, the railroad conglomerates, having once imposed their will by rationalizing America’s 80-odd local time zones to serve their industrial needs, now found that the government was throwing huge sections of the public domain their way. In some instances, the vain hope was that the railroads would actually use that land to bring civilization to the lonelier corners of the country; in others, Beatty suggests, it was mere bribery. Whatever the case, the bestowal of billions of dollars’ worth of the public domain on a handful of owners was a passing scandal in its own time, while the government’s failure to enact land reform during Reconstruction to compensate former slaves was scarcely noticed at all. While the Democrats of the era concentrated on keeping power in the hands of white men, the Republicans stacked the Senate by admitting into the Union states that did not meet the constitutional criteria for statehood, allowed the wealthy to dictate the terms of their own laws and otherwise constructed “a chummy heaven of businessmen and politicians.” As Beatty’s damning story continues, the parallels between then and now mount—save, as he notes, the undemocratic inequalities of the Gilded Age were nothing compared to those of today.

A compelling tale of the haves of the past and the “inverted Constitution” they created.

Pub Date: April 16, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-4028-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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