A valuable guide for individuals and policymakers who want to act when they see the lights of an oncoming train.

THE GRAY RHINO

HOW TO RECOGNIZE AND ACT ON THE OBVIOUS DANGERS WE IGNORE

An analysis of “highly obvious but ignored threats”—from failing infrastructure to financial crises to climate change—and what can be done to prevent disastrous outcomes.

“Of all the tricks that human nature plays on us, inertia is one of the most powerful forces preventing us from getting out of the way of a known challenge,” writes policy analyst Wucker (Lockout: Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong When Our Prosperity Depends on Getting It Right, 2006, etc.), a former vice president at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Drawing on interviews and research in behavioral economics, she details the “willful collective failure” to act on warning signs that preceded the 2008 financial crisis, the Enron debacle, the collapse of a Minneapolis bridge in 2007, and other events. She calls these highly probable, high-impact threats “Gray Rhinos,” as opposed to the rare, unpredictable catastrophes that author Nassim Nicholas Taleb dubbed “Black Swans” in his popular 2007 book, The Black Swan. Throughout her book, Wucker describes the many reasons people fail to respond to obvious dangers—e.g., denial, avoidance, procrastination, and calculated self-interest. Many reasons are emotional or irrational. Others are encouraged by the imperatives of political and financial systems, which seek short-term results or profits rather than investing in long-term solutions. Wucker makes a strong case, but she is often long-winded and perhaps overly optimistic that an awareness of the quirks of human nature shaping our decisions can spur decision-makers to respond effectively to obvious threats. However, she provides solid examples of government action on such gray rhinos as water shortages and the need to plan for future disasters in the wake of floods. She urges readers to avoid the panic stage of an impending threat by “quickly moving from recognition to diagnosis to action.”

A valuable guide for individuals and policymakers who want to act when they see the lights of an oncoming train. 

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-05382-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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