THE HONORED DEAD

A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, MURDER, AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH IN THE ARAB WORLD

An improbable pursuit of a strange murder in Casablanca segues into a moving study of cross-cultural friendship.

Journalist Braude (The New Iraq, 2003) procured an “embed-style access” to a police precinct in Casablanca to observe the interaction between an authoritarian state and its people—or, “how a government and its people conspire to become a society.” The Judiciary Police, an FBI-like agency, were extraordinarily open to the author’s observations and questions, proud of their low crime rate compared to the United States, although bedeviled by a pesky sect of Islamist militants. Braude was tolerated largely because of his rare background: An American born to an Iraqi Jewish mother, he speaks Arabic fluently (also Hebrew) with an Iraqi accent thanks to a close youthful friendship with an Iraqi called Ali, from whom he had become estranged due to an unfortunate run-in with the federal police some years before. (Braude, who worked for five years with the FBI on Islamist terrorist cases, gradually reveals the sad, incredible story.) The particular murder that fascinated the author during this period involved a 41-year-old homeless Berber man, Ibrahim Dey, who was beaten to death in a warehouse where he had been sleeping for five years—ostensibly for theft. Dey was well liked and considered a majdub, or someone who brings fortune to others, and his best friend, Muhammad Bari, whom Braude befriended, swore to vindicate the suspicious murder. Like a good murder mystery, the plot thickens as details flesh out, including the activities in the precinct, the family of the victim, the history of Berber and Jewish oppression in the Arab world, the ideological struggle over Islam and the close friendship once enjoyed between Dey and Bari, which reminded the author of his own with Ali. Moreover, the book is infused with the author’s sense of loss and tenderness for his mother’s native land and language, rendering this one of the most affecting, sympathetic accounts of Arab culture in recent memory. Despite the murky title, this is a beautifully composed, deeply felt journey inside Morocco.

 

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-52703-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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