THE BIG FAIL

WHAT THE PANDEMIC REVEALED ABOUT WHO AMERICA PROTECTS AND WHO IT LEAVES BEHIND

A damning report card presenting a distressingly exhaustive array of pandemic fumbles.

The authors of All the Devils Are Here examine how plutocratic government agencies and self-serving politicians critically mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic.

In their latest eye-opening collaboration, Nocera and McLean document countless mistakes and their consequences in a “series of cascading dominoes.” In the early months of the pandemic, Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force’s obsession with repatriating Americans abroad in China, combined with a marked lack of urgency and transparency from Chinese government officials, delayed deployment of much-needed testing and quarantines. Since then, with death tolls reaching more than 1 million (and counting), supply-chain shortages, hospital overflow, and black-market equipment fraud have persisted. Conveyed in cogent prose, with an impeccably researched timeline, the authors’ analysis includes scathing profiles of a host of characters, particularly Ron DeSantis and Andrew Cuomo, who both bungled with rollout of lockdowns and masking. It became a scenario with innumerable variables related to health and illness outcome disparities determined by race, insurance level, income, and age. As the authors show, nursing homes were particularly vulnerable, with many facing lethal staffing shortages. Exacerbated by a reckless, indifferent Trump, masking choices became “a symbol of one’s politics,” like social distancing and vaccination, while slanderous personal attacks prevented scientists from sharing professional insights. Nocera and McLean also fairmindedly highlight a successful enterprise embedded beneath the pandemic-year failures: Operation Warp Speed, an initiative aimed at accelerating vaccine distribution. This endeavor demonstrated the governmental capacity to work cooperatively with the biomedical industry and develop firm leadership roles and real solutions. At the same time, the hotly debated mistakes were epic, and the authors’ text emphasizes how deep and damaging they became. Interestingly, though their report is very much about America’s failure in a crisis, it also frighteningly addresses how “the mores of capitalism have encroached upon the morals of society, most notably in caring for the sick and the elderly.”

A damning report card presenting a distressingly exhaustive array of pandemic fumbles.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9780593331026

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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